Friday, April 9, 2010

H is for Hitler

[This post is partially dedicated to Marvin Wilson. A couple of months back, one of his comments was swallowed by Blogger, but he thought I had deleted it, and was nice enough to ask me why I did so. I'd assured him that I would never delete a comment unless it was so offensive as to cause distress to too many other people, and even then, I would inform before deleting.
If today's post doesn't convince him that I meant what I said, nothing will.]

Last November, I had reviewed a book written by a wildly popular Indian author chronicling the love story of a Punjabi boy and a Tamilian girl. I dismissed the book as a collection of stereotypes and clich├ęd situations, but it was perhaps for those very reasons that it went on to become a runaway bestseller. The book, after all, was not written for me- it was written for the less discerning reader- the literary equivalent of the audience of a David Dhawan Bollywood movie.

Thought the author of the book claims it is based on his own love affair, even if he had set out to write a completely fictional story, it is likely he would have chosen protagonists from the same communities as the ones he actually wrote about.

The stereotypical South Indian and the stereotypical North Indain are at two extremes of the spectrum.
The nerdy Madrasi (because that is what the stereotypical South Indian is referred to as), in his ill fitting, shabby clothes, using his fingers to eat curd-rice from a banana leaf and speaking in an accent nobody can understand. He wouldn't recognise a joke if it danced naked in front of him, and his philosophy would be "simple living, high thinking" .
The crass North Indian couldn't be more different. Everything about his is loud, flashy and boisterous - his music, his clothes, his car, his wife's jewellery, his house. He's never seen without a leg of tandoori chicken in one hand and a glass of single malt in the other, and when he is not swaying like a maniac to music, he's cracking non-veg jokes.
The book was the success it was precisely because it did not deviate from either stereotype, but my review made it amply clear that I found the book distasteful in the extreme.

I'd posted the review five months back, and was rather surprised to find that someone had commented on it a couple of days back. When I read the comment, I was stunned by the vitriolic attack -
I'm a north indian male and it's really flattering to see the south indian females marrying the north indians males. After all the south indian males are ugly black monkeys, who are poor in every department of manhood. In looks and physique the south indian males are pathetic compared to the north indian males.The south indian males are the ugliest specimens in india and even the toilet cleaners in north india look more handsome than them. My only advice to south indian females is to marry north indian males so that they can improve the gene pool of the future generations by having beautiful children.

How dare he contaminate my blog with such trash, was my first and only thought.

"Ugly black monkeys"? Excuse me! While the average North Indian is fairer than the average South Indian, I know of several individual South Indian males who are much fairer than most North Indians. And in any case, does the variation of a couple of shades in skin colour matter at all?
"poor in every department of manhood"? If I choose to interpret this the way it is perhaps meant to be, I can only wonder how a seemingly heterosexual male knows. But perhaps he means that the stereotypical North Indian male is the life and soul of the party unlike this South Indian counterpart. If that is what he means, he can keep it. The South Indian male would rather conquer Silicon Valley than waste time on parties.
But what perhaps got me most angry was his statement that " even the toilet cleaners in north India look more handsome than....". What's wrong with being a toilet cleaner? I clean my toilets, and that doesn't make me inferior to anyone. To make someone else do the jobs that you don't want to do, and then to make them out to be inferior creatures because they work for you, that's precisely the sentiment that Indians need to shed before the country can take its rightful place among the top nations in the world.

I happen to be a South Indian married to a North Indian which makes me the person he is talking about when he mentions "improving the gene pool by having beautiful children". But despite the fact that he was complimenting my kids, the comment made my blood boil.

There are few things I detest more than intolerance, and racial/ religious/ regional parochialism. Despite our deep seated need to label ourselves, we are all human beings. We have the right to disagree, we even have the right to hate, but it is a human being we should be disagreeing with (or hating), not the label we choose to put on them. It was precisely this kind of hatred that led to the Holocast, and it is this kind of hatred that is responsible for so much of what is wrong with the world today.

If I could, I would like to press the delete button and exterminate the parochial sentiments of the person who posted the comment, but delete his comment, I could not bring myself to do. After all, while I think I am right, he too thinks he is right, and who am I to deny him the freedom of speech.

I did not, however, have the energy to counter his statement with facts, so all I said was -
I believe in freedom of speech, which is why I am not deleting your comment, but if you feel looks are the only thing that matters, you probably have a few hard lessons coming your way.
He is unlikely to come back and read my reply, and I would rather he not, because I am not sure I have the energy to engage in a war of words with him. But I do hope he sees the error of his ways soon.

Image from Wikimedia Commons.


Mason Canyon said...

Very inspiring post. Hopefully he will see the error of his ways, but sadly he probably will not.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

This post drew me in and held me. I love the way you wrote it. It was exactly right (in many ways, IMO), but I don't think that's what got me. You were passionate but open-minded, informative but descriptive. Your writing was lyrical and beautiful and compelling. FANTASTIC POST!!!

Rohini said...

This is my first time here - came over from Dipali's. I think what you wrote was much better than deleting his post.

Ron said...

MY blood was boiling just reading that comment. I have had troll attacks in the past, some of who left nasty personal comments. The best way to deal with them is your way...don't delete the comment and strike back. They usually don't reappear to continue the argument.

Al said...

A thoughtful post as always.
You are absolutely right about where prejudice leads.
Unfortunately, recent history in Former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Darfur and so many others show just how readily we (humans) submit to our baser instincts.
It is an endless tragedy that a species that can reach such heights can also sink so low.
Whoever we are, whatever labels we wear (or are imposed on us), in the end we are all the same.

One thing that inspires me is that while this medium does allow those who hate to spread their message, it also lets us share across this ever so small world.

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

Oh my goodness, that comment was awful. You know, you have written a really brilliant post here. I usually cringe at really long posts and randomly choose sections of them to read, because there are only so many hours in the day, but THIS, had me reading every word.

You're a really great writer. I know I don't know you personally, but I'm proud of you :) Really enjoyed reading this - and so great to see another fellow writer not afraid to speak the truth. Well done!

Elisabeth said...

Good to meet you here. I suspect I would have had difficulties with such a comment, too.

It's good that you have tackled the subject of bigotry and racial vilification here, complete with comment, as much as it leaves one gasping for breath. Thank you.

Cruella Collett said...

Natasha, yours isn't the only blood boiling at this. I can't even fathom how people can make themselves say things like that! Imagine how awful it must be going about hating so many people, and for such a ridiculous reason!

Today it is exactly seventy years since Hitler's troops attacked Norway, which was the start of a five year long occupation. It is sad that there still exists the kind of attitudes that enabled this attack. But it is good that there also are people like you out there, who knows how to conquer it.


I have been a follower of Marvins for some time and always found him fair in his comments.

I enjoyed reading about this dreadful man(Hilter not Marvin) and found it very interesting,
Much research must have gone into this write and I congratulate you.

Have a good day.

The Old Silly said...

Idiots like that are not to be taken seriously, although ... if they are propogating, it is a serious threat to the gene pool, hmm? Thanks for the mention, at first I thought you were going to use my zapped comment as the example! LOL, but not really. I can sense from half way around the planet that we are of very similar minds on many things, be it social, political or spiritual.

I understand and appreciate your well thought through position on this subject. This is definitely by far my favorite post of yours I've read, and I've read quite a few and liked all of them.

What it comes down to is still, sadly, a global conundrum: rampant racism, the non-acceptance of each other between peoples of differing ethnic, religious and social backgrounds, and elitism. Elitists who vary from the relatively harmless snotty-nosed and condescending rich to the scheming, fabulously wealthy and powerful with designs on a New World Order where there will be (they want) two classes of people: them, the ruling class, and us, their servants, the poor and lowly minions.

Good to know you "crossed over" and married a northerner. I learn a lot from reading your blog. Each country has its particular issues, it seems. I married an African American woman back in the 70s when it was still a huge "no-no" here in the states, interracial marriage. But screw that. We are all one race, one people, one family, one and the same, all God's children, and it saddens The Old Silly's heart that after having lived 60 years on this planet, I still see so many people still living in a state of fear and hatred toward other people who are not - on the surface - exactly like they are.

Long comment, but this subject gets my ire and muse up. Again, I appreciated your thoughts on this, you are right on, Rayna, a good person to have discovered here in the Wonderful World of Bloggydom.

Marvin D Wilson

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Wow, that's prejudice to the extreme. Such narrow thinking!

Jan Morrison said...

Natasha - how good you are to not only let the comment stand but to feature it in your blog. Stroke of genius that! You don't need to do more than that because his pathetic comments paint him in a very unsavoury light. Being awake is hard work and you do a VERY good job of it.

Grammy said...

A wonderfully well-expressed posting. I read every word and felt your pain and disgust as you wrote it. Racism and prejudice are two of the worst things for people to endure> They are definitely alive and well in the U.S. as well as other places. Kudos to you for your wonderful posting!

Ginny the Sock Monkey said...

Yuck. Sometimes people's ignorance really sucks.

I took a class on the History of Modern India in college and it made me realize how ignorant I am of the tensions, racial or otherwise, that exist in India. I sometimes forget that America is not the only nation struggling with these issues. Thanks for the informative reminder, and for your thoughtful blog.

Anonymous said...

"We have the right to disagree, we even have the right to hate, but it is a human being we should be disagreeing with (or hating), not the label we choose to put on them." -- This is truth.

A wonderful blog... I love the fact that you featured and replied to a provocative blog comment in your blog as well. Racism and prejudice abound here too.

Me-Me King said...

Thank you for stopping by my place yesterday, I do appreciate your visit.

This is a very profound post and a great way to address this ongoing issue which stretches around the globe.

Not enough hours! said...

@ Mason - I hope he will, but like you, am not too sure.

@ Shannon - thank you. You made me blush under my tan :-)

@ Rohini - welcome, Rohini. A friend of Dipali is always a friend of mine. More than anything else, but not deleting his post, I have found that there are so many people who agree with me. Which is good...

@ Ron - prejudice is terrible, isn't it? We both married Panjus, but I am sure looks were the last thing either of us were looking for. Sick!

@ Al - it is sad, isn't it. But the happy side is that though prejudice is everywhere, so is good sense. May we prevail ultimately.

@ The Alliterative Allomorph - thank you. Though I must confess I went into an unnecessary rant in my story, and then deleted it because I would rather not stir up controversy if any when the book is published. Not that I don't want to speak up, but perhaps not in a story.

@ Elisabeth - it is difficult to decide what to do, isn't it? Specially when the comment is so coarse.

@ Cruella - 40 years! When will people realise that all people are just people?

@ Yvonne - thank you.

@ Alex - ridiculous, isn't it? As if any of it would even matter if man eating aliens dropped down on the world

@ Jan - I know he is not returning, but when he does, I would love him to see how many people from around the world are talking about him, and hoping he sees sense someday.

@ Ruby - and I always thought that the US had to a large extent tackled most of the issues. I guess not.

@ Ginny - I was insulated from the worst of this for most of my life, which is why I find it even harder to deal with it. I don't think anyone can find as many reasons to divide as can Indians.

@ melodygreen - that is so beautifully put, I just have to say it again - "We have the right to disagree, we even have the right to hate, but it is a human being we should be disagreeing with (or hating), not the label we choose to put on them." -- This is truth.

@ Me-Me King - I drop by often, but don't often leave a comment. Thanks for the visit.

dipali said...

What an utterly stupid and disgusting comment to make. The saddest part is that so many people have loads of totally irrational prejudices, and are unfortunately not ashamed to air them either.

Not enough hours! said...

@ Marvin - your comment definitely deserves a reply of its own!

So many things that we find to divide us - colour, religion, gender, language.... why don't we spend as much time in counting the ways we are similar? If we did, we would find that the only difference between us is "Opportunity", and that has nothing to do with who we are, only of what we were born with and is not necessarily something we should be too proud of.

The good thing about the blogging world is that while there is one person who posts a comment like that, there are 16 people who disagree enough to leave a comment. Agreed the people reading my blog are likely to be doing so because they agree with me, so cannot be considered representative of the population as a whole. BUT, there are still people who are willing to stand up for looking at the things that count.

And you married a woman with a different racial heritage in the 70's - that is incredibly gutsy of you.

~ Rayna

Trevor Peck said...

Always a pleasure to read! Your posts that is...figured I would just make that clear.

Doli said...

Wow a very good retort! I'm so pleased at the way you answered him.

Ann Elle Altman said...

Bravo, Rayna! I'm so glad you gave him your two cents. That sort of thing happens here in Mexico. I'm not Mexican, I'm Canadian and so I'm white. There are some really white Mexicans down here and they view darker skinned Mexicans as lower class citizens. I'm not rich but because I have fair skin, I'm considered better and treated better than them. It make me sick. Great post. I'm sad there are some Hitlers still around.


Ann Elle Altman said...

I just want to add, not everyone is Canada is white. Canada, as a country, accepts those from all nations. Some of my best friends are those from other lands.

So, I want to change my statement of, "and so I'm white." to "and I'm white."

Didn't mean to offend.


Lisa said...

It's sad that people live a life of such ignorance and intolerance. I love your response to him. "A soft answer turneth away wrath..." Proverbs 15:1

Jemi Fraser said...

Yikes! Really? Hard to believe people can hold such things in their hearts. It doesn't make any sense. What does such a sad spirit bring a person like that? I feel sorry for him, and angry that he's probably spreading such ridiculous sentiments in this world.

Lady Jayne said...

This is one of the things that I hate most about the internet. It's so easy for people to troll and flame and spread hate, especially when they can remain anonymous and not have to face up to the consequences.

You are a better person than I, Rayna. I would have moderated a comment like that right into the trash bin where it belongs.

Ellie said...

So sad, this person is so negative and has such a narrow view of the world. You are right, he has a hard lesson coming his way! Sorry you had to deal with this~

Not enough hours! said...

@ Dipali - they seem almost proud of having such views.

@ Trevor - thank you! And even if you hadn't clarified, I would have known you did not mean the comment! Good people, wherever they are in the world don't think such thoughts, much less express them.

@ Doli - thank you!

@ Ann - my husband's aunt (and family) are Canadian, so I know what you mean:-)
And it is so sad that you are judged by your colour, or other such superficial stuff, isn't it? Sad there are still so many Hitlers, but glad too that so many do not agree.

@ Lisa - thank you. That proverb is so true.

@ Jemi - I too feel sorry for him that he is having to carry so much negativity inside him. If only he opened his heart, the world would become such a nicer place for him.

@ Jayne - the anonymous thing is so true. The man has a name (which is how I know he is a man, but the profile is not public). Can't he at least have the guts to show himself?
And I was tempted to delete the comment too, but then I remembered what I had told Marvin all those months back, and realised it was time for me to walk the talk.

@ Ellie - I'm not sorry at all, because in dealing with him, I have discovered how many people are against what he stands for. And we are the more articulate bunch, so our view has to prevail eventually.

Marjorie said...

Wow Natasha, We really did write our blogs on very similar subjects. You don't know how much it pains me to see how much hate there is in the world. It really does weigh me down sometimes. Thinking about it and seeing it like that spewing from the mind of someone so full of hatred just really saddens me.

Raquel Byrnes said...

I think you behaved graciously and with class. Bravo.

Not enough hours! said...

@ Marjorie - very similar themes, aren't they. And despite us often disagreeing, we have both said much the same thing too. Wish there was less hatered- it is so pointless :-(

@ Raquel - thank you.

Slushpile Slut said...

I think you handled this beautifully and with regal class. I'm impressed. I, myself would have waved my middle finger at this commenter...but I don't claim to be classy ;)Keep up the great posts!

Anonymous said...

What is utterly depressing, of course is that he'll never learn--until someone lighter-skinned than he is calls *him* an "ugly black monkey".

You responded with such restraint to that little shit. I'm going to raise my glass to you tonight, Nutty!

Not enough hours! said...

@ SS - easy to be graceful over the internet. Had I seen this happening, I may just have done what you say you would have done.

@ Niranjana - sick, isn't it. How he would like being called a stupid, illiterate monkey, I don't know. Though I am pretty sure he is not illiterate because his English was decent - which actually only makes it worse. Had he really been a illiterate person, one could perhaps have excused him...
And, thank you.


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