Saturday, November 12, 2011

You Are Racist, Classist, and Xenophobic

This article was circling around my (very educated, well-read) Facebook network last week to much shock and appall. Apparently a holy man in India (yeah, one guy) has developed an unusual cure for sickness in infants that involves standing on them like so:

Here's the awesome non-generalizing, not-in-any-way racist commentary from the article:

"Although an isolated incident, it serves as a grim reminder of the dangerous religious traditions observed by many Hindus in India, many of which are done so for the health of their children."

This admittedly more visually-disturbing photo was used as the lead-in image for the article:

With this quote:

"When asked about [his methods], the guru claimed that he was merely speaking for God, and as such needs no other defense."

Way to diverge attention away from what's actually makes this a more visually unsettling image than the one above it. That baby is fucking starving. Oh yeah, poverty, first-world people. Like, actual poverty. That's sort of like that one time you were in college and had to live off ramen for a week so you could afford to buy weed, except instead of ramen it's your children dying and instead of weed it's your children dying.

Then the article segues seamlessly into a YouTube video of another crazy brown-person Voodoo ritual:

Nevermind that there have been no fatalities associated with this tradition, or that our infallible, forward-thinking Western medical system has a rich history of performing plenty of superstitious rituals on our own infants (check out the mortality rates of neonatal circumcision if you really want to throw up in your mouth), this is just some straight up racist, Orientalizing, Imperialist "Other"-gawking. "OMG look at those crazy brown people and their stupid polytheist, idolatrous traditions! Thank God (and by 'God,' we mean Jehovah, obv.) we have SCIENCE and deodorant. And we can like, outsource our shitty jobs to them and pay them $1.50 an hour and send our spoiled white sons and daughters on post-college month-long backpacking trips through their impoverished villages to 'discover themselves' and buy cheap drugs and silk saris so they can be super interesting and well-traveled at cocktail parties one day. Whoops, I'm late for yoga class!"

One of the posters in the dark abyss that is YouTube comments section actually calls the people in this video "savages." This is one of the comments voted all the way up to the top. Wow, I didn't realize Rudyard Kipling had Wifi on safari. And space-time-transcendent Wifi at that. It really is the future!

Honestly, until we're all making active steps to get modern healthcare/science/fucking food and clean water into the world's thousands of impoverished, parochial 4th world villages, I don't think we have any right to judge the rituals, procedures, and/or tools they've developed deal with disease, famine, and the myriad other unavoidable aspects of human existence.

In conclusion, before you recirculate an article on a social media site, please ask yourself, "Does posting this make me look like a Racist, Classist, or Xenophobic Ignoramus?" If the answer is, "Yes," "Possibly," or "What's 'classism?'" maybe hold off.

See you all in yoga class, everyone! As soon as I get my $90 yoga pants back from the Asians I pay to do my laundry.


DK said...

The problems of neonatal circumcision are indeed problematic, and while not usually lethal, the procedure itself is traditional justified by many tribal cultures precisely because it DOES harm. The harm of MGM is fervently denied only when society decides that harming a child's genitals is a problem. Then the search begins for a problem to solve, while the function of the foreskin is assiduously ignored.

The entire pro vs con frame is itself a pro-circ bias because it looks primarily at disease control after circ.

Yet Another Geek said...

The man is brown, the baby is brown. The man is lower class, the baby is lower class. The man is foreign (to me), the baby is foreign (to me).

So, when I say 'get the fuck off that baby' I am not being racist, classist or xenophobic. I am exercising the general duty of humanity to side with the down trodden. And if you cannot call a baby being stood on by a man downtrodden then who can you call downtrodden?

It is quite probable though that this is a trick and that the man's weight is not actually on the baby. India has a long tradition of fraudulent holy men who use conjuring tricks to impress the poor and uneducated and relieve them of their money.

This is not part of their religion (they stay well away from churches), nor is it a part of their culture (they stay well away from the police too).

So yes, I will say it loud and proud

* Standing on babys is wrong and it needs to be stopped.

* Cheating the poor is wrong and it needs to be stopped.

* Hacking off girls sexual organs is wrong and it needs to be stopped.

* Chopping up albinos for magic potions is wrong and it needs to be stopped.

* Hand-wringing nonsense about 'respecting culture' at the expense or respecting actual people is wrong and it needs to be stopped.