HistoryBits: India

HistoryBits: India

Bits and Pieces of History


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Society

Society/Indus/Environment

The environment is just about everything, in the final analysis; either we co-exist with Mother Earth on her terms, or not at all. It’s very likely that the early Indus River civilizations of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa—both of them prosperous civilizations whose affluence depended upon extensive irrigation of their surrounding farmlands–met with the same fate as Mesopotamia, as irrigation led to salinization of the soil… which in turn led to oblivion. In another environmental sense, the absence of geographical barriers to invasion presented an invitation to Aryan intruders to come, conquer, and instill their quasi-religious Vedic values in the civilizations of the Indus Valley; the panoply of early Vedic ritual and its caste-based society laid the foundation for Hinduism. This same story was enacted on a grander scale with the Turkic and Afghan invasion of India that led to the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate in the 1100s, and to the iron grip of Islam on much of northern India thenceforth.

Society/Aryans

The absence of geographical barriers to invasion presented an invitation to Aryan intruders to come, conquer, and instill their quasi-religious Vedic values in the civilizations of the Indus Valley. It was that panoply of early Vedic ritual that laid the foundation for Hinduism and for India’s caste system. The division of Hindu society into Brahmins, warriors, traders, untouchables, and some 3,000 sub-castes has produced a system of segregation that far surpasses apartheid or anything ever seen in the American South in its ability to render society immobile. While it has not produced open hatred among the different castes, it has restricted political power, cultural innovation, and socio-economic mobility in a way that has hobbled India and its ability to flourish and compete globally. It’s hard to square all of that with India’s status as the world’s largest democracy, but what’s truly worrisome is that with social immobility comes a sense of helplessness, and the handmaiden of helplessness is violence—the last resort against oppression. Those who are unable or unwilling to strike out against the oppression of the caste system may well adopt another target against which to vent their frustration, and the recent Hindu riots against the Muslims in Gujarat state that killed—in the most hateful and horrible fashion—some 2,000 people make the lethal implications of this social dynamic abundantly clear. Nothing sows such terror and savagery in the human breast as the enemy within—the perceived threat of a society that stands apart from the shared values that form culture and the rules by which the host culture safeguards itself. The cruel repercussions of caste are such that a system that so rigorously divides the people of one society against themselves causes them to exercise the same intolerance toward the people of another society… with consequences that are both blatantly murderous and subtly insidious. How well named was Hitler’s racial doctrine of Aryanism!

Society/Caste

The division of Hindu society into Brahmins, warriors, traders, untouchables, and some 3,000 sub-castes has produced a system of segregation that far surpasses apartheid or anything ever seen in the American South in its ability to render society immobile. While it has not produced open hatred among the different castes, it has restricted political power, cultural innovation, and socio-economic mobility in a way that has hobbled India and its ability to flourish and compete globally. It’s hard to square all of that with India’s status as the world’s largest democracy, but what’s truly worrisome is that with social immobility comes a sense of helplessness, and the handmaiden of helplessness is violence—the last resort against oppression. Those who are unable or unwilling to strike out against the oppression of the caste system may well adopt another target against which to vent their frustration, and the recent Hindu riots against the Muslims in Gujarat state that killed—in the most hateful and horrible fashion—some 2,000 people make the lethal implications of this social dynamic abundantly clear. Consider the annihilation of the Jew and the American Indian, as a result of the utter impossibility of integrating them into their host cultures; the bloody persecution of the Muslim minority by the Slavic majority of the Balkans; and of the overseas Chinese by host-country Indonesians, Malays, and Filipinos—while here in modern America, immigrants of diverse cultural provenance get along as well as they do because everyone more or less subscribes to the same American Dream and cultural standard. Nothing sows such terror and savagery in the human breast as the enemy within—the perceived threat of a society that stands apart from the shared values that form culture and the rules by which the host culture safeguards itself. The cruel repercussions of caste are such that a system that so rigorously divides the people of one society against themselves causes them to exercise the same intolerance toward the people of another society… with consequences that are both blatantly murderous and subtly insidious.

Society/Women/Guptas

Our modern, high-minded notions of romantic love and the fairer sex meant absolutely nothing in traditional societies such as India. Marriage was purely a tool of alliance with another family, and was negotiated at a very early age with all the flinty-eyed obsession with the bottom line that the barter of a camel for a herd of goats commanded; such matters as sexual morality and child-bearing were viewed with a cold eye fixed on the bottom line. Women were expected to be good wives and mothers, but no matter how good, they were worse than nothing without their husbands. Widows were disdained as bearers of bad luck, and many chose to follow their husbands into death by flinging themselves onto the flames of the funeral pyre—a practice that affords us some insight into the harshness of life for women who had no life of their own, apart from that of their husbands.

Society/Women/Sari

The sensuous and enchanting fashion statement of the sari bedazzles and tempts us to overlook the dark underbelly of the status of women in India—much as the Muslim woman’s veil lends an air of mystery and intrigue to their oppressive circumstances. Our modern, high-minded notions of romantic love and the fairer sex meant absolutely nothing in traditional societies such as India; marriage was purely a tool of alliance with another family, and was negotiated at a very early age with all the flinty-eyed obsession with the bottom line that the barter of a camel for a herd of goats commanded; such matters as sexual morality and child-bearing were viewed with a cold eye fixed on the bottom line. Women were expected to be good wives and mothers, but no matter how good, they were worse than nothing without their husbands. Widows were disdained as bearers of bad luck, and many chose to follow their husbands into death by flinging themselves onto the flames of the funeral pyre—a practice that affords us some insight into the harshness of life for women who had no life of their own, apart from that of their husbands.

Culture

Culture/Ajanta Caves

The panoplies of the Ajanta Caves provide one of those rare windows into the living, breathing heart of Buddhism whose perspective brings us to reflect upon a religion as a way of life, rather than a spiritual construct or sterile abstraction. India has, above all, always been a riot of the senses, living life in defiance of the Great Divide between mind and body that has governed Western intellectual life since Descartes. Mother India brings us back to earth again, and confronts us with the realization that the flesh and the spirit are but two sides of the same coin.

Culture/Taj Mahal

One of my favorite recordings, called “Inside”, was made by flutist Paul Horn, who was given the opportunity to play in one of the innermost chambers of the Taj Mahal; the acoustics are as exquisite as the building itself, and the result would melt the ears of a brass monkey! Only an earlier, heroic age such as what built the Pyramids, the Great Wall, and the Taj Mahal could have defied the supremely wasteful and extravagant economics of their endeavors to build such monuments.

Culture/Kali

The ferocious and ravening sexuality of the goddess Kali seems to have been largely wishful thinking as a role model for Indian womanhood. Our modern, high-minded notions of romantic love and the fairer sex meant absolutely nothing in traditional societies such as India. Marriage was purely a tool of alliance with another family, and was negotiated at a very early age with all the flinty-eyed obsession with the bottom line that the barter of a camel for a herd of goats commanded; such matters as sexual morality and child-bearing were viewed with a cold eye fixed on the bottom line. Women were expected to be good wives and mothers, but no matter how good, they were worse than nothing without their husbands. Widows were disdained as bearers of bad luck, and many chose to follow their husbands into death by flinging themselves onto the flames of the funeral pyre—a practice that affords us some insight into the harshness of life for women who had no life of their own, apart from that of their husbands.

Religion

religion/Vedas

A society’s holy texts speak volumes as to its focus, whether in directing everyday life; in contemplation of immortality; in commemorating the subservience of man to his Maker; in forming a community’s sense of right and wrong. Consider the preoccupation of the Hebrew Torah with the arcana of man’s very personal relationship with Yahweh; the otherworldly Buddhist teachings of the cyclicality and moral balance of human existence; the social ordering of the Confucian classics; and the moral precepts of Christianity. In a society as jammed to the rafters with humanity as India, it’s no surprise that the Vedas—with its rituals and spells, ceremonies and social amusements, celebration of legend–dealt so extensively with the minutiae of social interaction and the incredibly rich texture of the here and now.

Religion/Buddhism

The worldview that Siddhartha Gautama contemplated his navel on behalf of came about largely as an intellectual revolt against the emptiness of all this ritual and the oppressiveness of the caste system, and offered a path to release from earthly travails and complications without all the bells and whistles of Vedic ritual. Its approach was in a sense the diametrical opposite of Hinduism’s embrace of ritual, and decreed that the ultimate reward of nirvana lay in following a blueprint—the Eight-Fold Path—for the extinguishment of desire for illusory power and happiness. With that, one can begin to appreciate its appeal, in light of man’s constant frustration in trying to gratify his endless cravings for this, that, and the other thing. But then again, what’s the point of coming here to Planet Earth, if not to fulfill those values that are near and dear to us, and to improve ourselves in the process of overcoming the endless challenges that lie in the way?

Religion/Hinduism/Nirvana

Buddhism decreed that the ultimate reward of nirvana lay in following a blueprint for busting loose of one’s karma: the Eight-Fold Path for the extinguishment of desire for illusory power and happiness. With that, one can begin to appreciate its appeal, in light of man’s constant frustration in trying to gratify his endless cravings for this, that, and the other thing. But then again, what’s the point of coming here to Planet Earth, if not to fulfill those values that are near and dear to us, and to improve ourselves in the process of overcoming the endless challenges that lie in the way?

Religion/Buddhism and Hinduism

Hinduism was perhaps too much of a way of life. Alienated by its excessive ritualism, concentration of power in the hands of the priestly class, and pervasive cultural dominance, the better educated longed for another, less stultifying path to God. Buddhism came about as an intellectual revolt against the emptiness of all this ritual and the oppressiveness of the caste system, and offered a path to release from earthly travails and complications without all the bells and whistles of Vedic ritual. Its approach was in a sense the diametrical opposite of Hinduism’s embrace of ritual, and decreed that the ultimate reward of nirvana lay in the extinguishment of desire for illusory power and happiness. With that, one can begin to appreciate its appeal, in light of man’s constant frustration in trying to gratify his endless cravings for this, that, and the other thing. But then again, what’s the point of coming here to Planet Earth, if not to fulfill those values that are near and dear to us, and to improve ourselves in the process of overcoming the endless challenges that lie in the way?

Religion/Hinduism

More than a religion, Hinduism is a way of life populated by a pantheon of ferocious and florid deities—Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, Shiva the Destroyer, and a host of lesser lights such as the Ravening Goddess Kali. Its extravagant ritualism, concentration of power in the hands of the priestly class, and pervasive cultural dominance caused India’s older and wiser souls to long for another, less stultifying path to God. Buddhism came about as an intellectual revolt against the emptiness of all this ritual and the oppressiveness of the caste system, and offered a path to release from earthly travails and complications without all the bells and whistles of Vedic ritual. Its approach was in a sense the diametrical opposite of Hinduism’s embrace of ritual, and decreed that the ultimate reward of nirvana lay in the extinguishment of desire for illusory power and happiness. With that, one can begin to appreciate its appeal, in light of man’s constant frustration in trying to gratify his endless cravings for this, that, and the other thing. But then again, what’s the point of coming here to Planet Earth, if not to fulfill those values that are near and dear to us, and to improve ourselves in the process of overcoming the endless challenges that lie in the way?

Religion/Jainism

The Jains—in their face masks to avoid harming so much as a single insect through accidental ingestion—stand in contradistinction to the murderous hatred that exists among Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs in the world’s largest democracy in the world. The myriad deities of Hinduism would suggest tolerance of whichever way God becomes known to man, while Islam brooks no such possibility for creative interpretation. But it seems that it’s not the difference of faith that accounts for the hatred between Hindus and Muslims that Mahatma Gandhi tried so hard to prevent, but the refusal of the minority to integrate with the culture of the majority. Consider the murderous hatred of the Jews by ancient Romans and modern Germans alike; of the Muslim minority by the Slavic majority of the Balkans; of the overseas Chinese by host-country Indonesians, Malays, and Filipinos—while here in America, people of all faiths get along because everyone more or less subscribes to the same American Dream and cultural standard. Nothing sows such terror and savagery in the human breast as the enemy within—the perceived threat of a stand-apart society to the shared values that form culture and the rules by which it safeguards itself.

Religion/Laws of Manu

With its dicta on the role and responsibilities of women, family members, and caste, the Laws of Manu anticipated the division of Hindu society into Brahmins, warriors, traders, untouchables, and some 3,000 sub-castes that has produced a system of segregation that far surpasses apartheid or anything ever seen in the American South in its ability to render society immobile. While it has not produced open hatred among the different castes, it has restricted political power, cultural innovation, and socio-economic mobility in a way that has hobbled India and its ability to flourish and compete globally. It’s hard to square all of that with India’s status as the world’s largest democracy, but what’s truly worrisome is that with social immobility comes a sense of helplessness, and the handmaiden of helplessness is violence—the last resort against oppression. Those who are unable or unwilling to strike out against the oppression of the caste system may well adopt another target against which to vent their frustration, and the recent Hindu riots against the Muslims in Gujarat state that killed—in the most hateful and horrible fashion—some 2,000 people make the lethal implications of this social dynamic abundantly clear. Consider the annihilation of the Jew and the American Indian, as a result of the utter impossibility of integrating them into their host cultures; the bloody persecution of the Muslim minority by the Slavic majority of the Balkans; and of the overseas Chinese by host-country Indonesians, Malays, and Filipinos—while here in modern America, immigrants of diverse cultural provenance get along as well as they do because everyone more or less subscribes to the same American Dream and cultural standard. Nothing sows such terror and savagery in the human breast as the enemy within—the perceived threat of a society that stands apart from the shared values that form culture and the rules by which the host culture safeguards itself. The cruel repercussions of caste are such that a system that so rigorously divides the people of one society against themselves causes them to exercise the same intolerance toward the people of another society… with consequences that are both blatantly murderous and subtly insidious.

Religion/Religious Conflict

India is the largest democracy in the world, yet it is plagued by implacable hatred between the Hindus and Muslims. The myriad deities of Hinduism would suggest tolerance of whichever way God becomes known to man, while Islam brooks no such possibility for creative interpretation. But it seems that it’s not the difference of faith that accounts for the hatred between Hindus and Muslims that Mahatma Gandhi tried so hard to prevent, but the refusal of the minority to integrate with the culture of the majority. Consider the murderous hatred of the Jews by ancient Romans and modern Germans alike; of the Muslim minority by the Slavic majority of the Balkans; of the overseas Chinese by host-country Indonesians, Malays, and Filipinos—while here in America, people of all faiths get along because everyone more or less subscribes to the same American Dream and cultural standard. Nothing sows such terror and savagery in the human breast as the enemy within—the perceived threat of a stand-apart society to the shared values that form culture and the rules by which it safeguards itself.

Religion/Sikhs

The imponderable weight of tradition makes change an almost implausible proposition in India. On one hand, India is the largest democracy in the world, yet it is plagued by implacable hatred amongst Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs. What’s more, the division of Hindu society into Brahmins, warriors, traders, untouchables, and some 3,000 sub-castes has produced a system of segregation that far surpasses apartheid or anything ever seen in the American South in its ability to render society immobile. While it has not produced open hatred among the different castes, it has restricted political power, cultural innovation, and socio-economic mobility in a way that has hobbled India and its ability to flourish and compete globally. It’s hard to square all of that with India’s status as a democracy, but what’s truly worrisome is that with social immobility comes a sense of helplessness, and the handmaiden of helplessness is violence—the last resort against oppression. Those who are unable or unwilling to strike out against the oppression of the caste system may well adopt another target against which to vent their frustration, and the recent Hindu riots against the Muslims in Gujarat state that killed—in the most hateful and horrible fashion—some 2,000 people make the lethal implications of this social dynamic abundantly clear. What’s more, the tinderbox of Kashmir smolders with the embers of Sikh aspirations for autonomy. Sadly, yet predictably, both Mahatma and Indira Gandhi fell victims to the same sort of sectarian violence that has plagued their nation at large.

Power

Power/Maurya/Trade

The Mauryan Empire is a wellspring of considerable pride in the annals of Indian history. It proved equal to the challenge of barbarian incursions, while not begrudging its own provinces their political freedom—something that spoke to the strength and confidence of the Empire. In an economy based on farming and trade, goods like sugar, cotton, pepper, and cinnamon proved to be hot commodities and the stuff of riches. But rice was the stuff and substance of the average farmer’s lot, and the copious quantities of water needed to irrigate rice became the source of constant controversy over its control and distribution. As it was later said of the Industrial Revolution that “steam is an Englishman”, so water was the gentleman that facilitated the civilizations—and their incredibly rich cultural legacies–that were built on wet rice-based economies throughout Asia.

Power/Maurya/Ashoka

The greatest success stories of Ashoka’s reign were a product of his own wretched excess. Appalled at the bloodshed he had wrought in the battle of Kalinga, he became a devout pacifist and Buddhist. And whaddya know, unprecedented prosperity ensued! Go figure!

Power/Guptas/Agrarian Society

The Gupta Empire is a wellspring of considerable pride in the annals of Indian history. It proved equal to the challenge of barbarian incursions, while not begrudging its own provinces their political freedom—something that spoke to the strength and confidence of the Empire. In an economy based on farming and trade, goods like sugar, cotton, pepper, and cinnamon proved to be hot commodities and the stuff of riches. But rice was the stuff and substance of the average farmer’s lot, and the copious quantities of water needed to irrigate rice became the source of constant controversy over its control and distribution. As it was later said of the Industrial Revolution that “steam is an Englishman”, so water was the gentleman that facilitated the civilizations—and their incredibly rich cultural legacies–that were built on wet rice-based economies throughout Asia.

Power/Guptas/Achievements

The Gupta Empire is a wellspring of considerable pride in the annals of Indian history. It proved equal to the challenge of barbarian incursions, while not begrudging its own provinces their political freedom—something that spoke to the strength and confidence of the Empire. The accomplishments of the Guptas in achieving a stable and intellectually progressive society flew in the face of the traditional political strife that has rent much of India’s culture and history. And the fact that the inhabitants of the Gupta period still had enough land to farm and food to eat preceded India’s enduring nightmare of overpopulation. Unburdened by India’s usual preoccupation with land and food, the Guptas were able to turn their attention to the arts and sciences: Sanskrit was adopted as a sacred literary script, new dimensions in mathematics were opened by the invention of the zero concept, the decimal system, and Arabic numbers, and Gupta achievements in pharmacy, surgery, and internal medicine were unexampled. All of this should serve to remind us that civilization is a luxury that can seldom be contemplated by man who is made to become a beast of burden.

Power/Mughals/Akbar

As the offspring of the Mongols and other such rough trade that had been raiding north India for several centuries, the Mughals introduced a cultural perspective into India that derived from the Islam practiced by their Afghan, Persian, Turk, and Mongol forebears. Akbar’s handle “the Great” did not exaggerate his resume of accomplishments: his regime was the first to establish centralized control of the sub-continent since the Mauryan dynasty of way-back-when, and it was a regime that proved surprisingly well-run, enlightened, and tolerant of other religions. He was a rare Muslim indeed, allowing Christianity and other faiths to compete with Islam for the hearts and souls of his subjects. What’s more, the Muslims remained an island in a Hindu sea, and relations had never been good. Akbar took steps to not only heal the breach between Hindus and Muslims, but his cultivation of the Persian language and culture served to bind together a Hindu community that had remained fractious and without a cultural identity for more than a thousand years. How’s that for innovative! Extraordinary as all this was, it wasn’t surprising, coming as it did from a man whose love of learning led to the building of the world’s largest library, and who understood that free and open dissent is the best way to prevent the sort of murderous discord that India has since fallen victim to.

Power/Mughals/Akbar

Akbar’s handle “the Great” did not exaggerate his resume of accomplishments: his regime was the first to establish centralized control of the sub-continent since the Mauryan dynasty of way-back-when, and it was a regime that proved surprisingly well-run, enlightened, and tolerant of other religions. He was a rare Muslim indeed, allowing Christianity and other faiths to compete with Islam for the hearts and souls of his subjects. What’s more, the Muslims remained an island in a Hindu sea, and relations had never been good. Akbar took steps to not only heal the breach between Hindus and Muslims, but his cultivation of the Persian language and culture served to bind together a Hindu community that had remained fractious and without a cultural identity for more than a thousand years. How’s that for innovative! Extraordinary as all this was, it wasn’t surprising, coming as it did from a man whose love of learning led to the building of the world’s largest library, and who understood that free and open dissent is the best way to prevent the sort of murderous discord that India has since fallen victim to.

Power/The Raj

India’s destiny waited for the usual pattern of imperial overstretch to fulfill itself; by the end of the Second World War, Britain had once again proved the experience of every other empire in history. Conquered peoples do not readily accept subjugation and an empire founded on the resentment of its subjects is one that is built on a very shaky foundation. Imperial overstretch is inevitable. The spoils of empire are never sufficient to offset the expense of safeguarding and administering the empire, unless that empire provides for all its subjects in a way that enables them to become prosperous and self-supporting. Anything less results in an operating deficit that will inevitably prove ruinous, while the attendant dissatisfaction of the empire’s subjects attracts predators who sense weakness and blood… leading to yet more expense in defending the empire. These are lessons that we Americans should keep in mind; if we should escape them, ours would be the first empire in history to do so (and there have been many).

Power/Mahatma Gandhi

It seems that it’s not the difference of faith that accounts for the hatred between Hindus and Muslims that Mahatma Gandhi tried so hard to prevent, but the refusal of the minority to integrate with the culture of the majority. Consider the murderous hatred of the Jews by ancient Romans and modern Germans alike; of the Muslim minority by the Slavic majority of the Balkans; of the overseas Chinese by host-country Indonesians, Malays, and Filipinos—while here in America, people of all faiths get along because everyone more or less subscribes to the same American Dream and cultural standard. Nothing sows such terror and savagery in the human breast as the enemy within—the perceived threat of a stand-apart society to the shared values that form culture and the rules by which it safeguards itself.

Power/Post-Independence

How has Nehru’s vision for India endured under his successors? India’s destiny waited for the usual pattern of imperial overstretch to fulfill itself; by the end of the Second World War, Britain had once again proved the experience of every other empire in history. Conquered peoples do not readily accept subjugation and an empire founded on the resentment of its subjects is one that is built on a very shaky foundation. Imperial overstretch is inevitable. The spoils of empire are never sufficient to offset the expense of safeguarding and administering the empire, unless that empire provides for all its subjects in a way that enables them to become prosperous and self-supporting. Anything less results in an operating deficit that will inevitably prove ruinous, while the attendant dissatisfaction of the empire’s subjects attracts predators who sense weakness and blood… leading to yet more expense in defending the empire. These are lessons that we Americans should keep in mind; if we should escape them, ours would be the first empire in history to do so (and there have been many).

Power/Indira Gandhi

Indira Gandhi bumped up against the imponderable weight of tradition that makes change an almost implausible proposition in India. On one hand, India is the largest democracy in the world, yet it is plagued by implacable hatred between the Hindus and Muslims. What’s more, the division of Hindu society into Brahmins, warriors, traders, untouchables, and some 3,000 sub-castes has produced a system of segregation that far surpasses apartheid or anything ever seen in the American South in its ability to render society immobile. While it has not produced open hatred among the different castes, it has restricted political power, cultural innovation, and socio-economic mobility in a way that has hobbled India and its ability to flourish and compete globally. It’s hard to square all of that with India’s status as a democracy, but what’s truly worrisome is that with social immobility comes a sense of helplessness, and the handmaiden of helplessness is violence—the last resort against oppression. Those who are unable or unwilling to strike out against the oppression of the caste system may well adopt another target against which to vent their frustration, and the recent Hindu riots against the Muslims in Gujarat state that killed—in the most hateful and horrible fashion—some 2,000 people make the lethal implications of this social dynamic abundantly clear. Sadly, yet predictably, Indira Gandhi herself fell victim to the same sort of sectarian violence that has plagued her nation at large.

Nepal/Power/Political Maturity

Nepal may well need to take a detour into Maoist despotism to learn for itself just how odious a way of life that is, but in the fullness of time the Nepalese will find their own way, as other nations have, on their own time and terms, in ways that make sense for them. At the end of the Second World War, only six nations were democracies; today, some 120 are, and most of those have come around in their own way, once the benefits of participating in the community of nations on the enlightened and transparent terms demanded by globalization became clear to them. Political maturity must be grown into.

Economy

Economy/Repatriates

While outsourcing much of our service industry jobs to India no doubt is causing a certain amount of heartburn to Americans, it’s a blessing for Indians, and an inevitable consequence of globalization’s leveling the playing field and redistributing global wealth as America continues to fit itself into a global economy. As we increasingly come to compete with low-wage economies like India and all the others that are struggling to emerge from the Third World, American companies are forced to compensate by developing ever-higher productivity. All this is bad news for American workers who find themselves working 60- and 70-hour workweeks for dwindling wages, but good news for workers in India who are at long last able to climb out of destitution and into the burgeoning ranks of the middle class. America, with 6% of the world’s population, commands 40% of its resources, and the fact of the matter is, we’ve been way less than generous in sharing that wealth with the one out of four people in this world who live on less than a dollar a day. Painful as they are, the harsh economics of globalization may ultimately be for the best, since if we don’t accomplish a leveling of the playing field one way or the other, we’re going to continue to be reminded of this enormous disparity in ways that—like 9/11–are likely to be pretty ugly.


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