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December 15, 2021


I'm not at all sure that caste (as currently practiced in India) is a useful way to look at American society. The Indian government has lately been encouraging inter-caste marriages. But they are still socially disapproved, and so unusual.

In contrast, in the US marriages among people of different social or economic classes are not generally disapproved. Individual cases may be disapproved, particularly if one party is seen to be driven by greed rather than emotional attachment. But the general case isn't a problem.

Also membership in a particular economic group isn't rigidly tied to one's parents' class. Granted, wealth can be inherited. But if someone builds their own fortune, that is generally regarded as just as good. Or better. Some who are "old money" may look down on the nouveau riche, but it only takes a generation to get past even that hurdle.

There was some similarity, when it comes to marriage, in racial relations in the US thru the mid-20th century. But today, while a minority still disapproves of "race mixing", most of the population doesn't regard it as a big deal. You can be Senate Minority Leader for a seriously reactionary party, and the fact that yours is an interracial marriage won't even raise an eyebrow among your constituents.

(What race you claim to belong to seems to be as much a matter of personal preference as anything else. The question of which race you regard yourself as part of appears in various places. But there is rarely anything resembling an independent check.)

In short, categories in the US are far more flexible. And an ambition to move up** is not disapproved, but admired.

** Or down, actually, although that is considered a bit odd. If your family runs to attorneys and doctors, but you want to be a carpenter, you won't be automatically rejected and disinherited.

wj, I think it still makes a bit of a difference, whether the male ot the female in a 'mixed race' (or class) relationship is from the 'superior' race/class. The male/white person is given far more leeway in that matter (stud vs. slut, Horatio Alger vs. golddigger etc.).

[In other words, sexism is still very much alive and available in different flavors.]

I don’t think the twitter thread is about the applicability of the Indian caste system (which I don’t have any detailed knowledge of) to American society but to anti-vax sentiment, which I don’t think can be analyzed as a class phenomenon, as comforting it would be to some.

Members of the dominant caste view it as important that you treat their views as the correct ones. This is a very different energy from a genuine desire to hold correct views. When you tell members of the dominant caste to get vaccinated, all they see is your lack of deference.

I was initially taken aback by his use of the word "dominant" here, (I was skimming, and might have no time to do more for a few hours, so I hope I understood properly) it took me a second to understand that he may have meant numerically dominant as opposed to dominant in the "ruling elites" sense. Although of course, presumably in their own minds (as he may be characterising them) they are dominant because "white and proud of it"?

FWIW, regarding the discussion of caste being "a more modern phenomenon", I know I have previously mentioned the Cagots in France and environs, with records going back around a thousand years, and their final disappearance only taking place in the 20th Century:

Huh, after posting that, I looked again at the Twitter thread and finally saw the definition of "dominant caste" he is using. (I am having a lot of trouble with Twitter threads at the moment - don't know if it's me or Twitter.) I am not at all sure that caste is a helpful way of looking at this, or even applicable, you may as well call it "tribal identification" or "us and them", where "our" tribe or "us" is by definition superior, wiser, braver etc etc.

But on the historic development of caste, I am very interested in this, and will try to read more, although I think my counter-example of the Cagots stands.

From GftNC's wiki link, without further comment:

The Cagots were not an ethnic nor a religious group. They spoke the same language as the people in an area and generally kept the same religion as well. Their only distinguishing feature was their descent from families long identified as Cagots.

The way it looks to me is that there is definite a social distinction between folks who DO NOT WANT to get vaxed, and most other folks. But I'm not sure 'caste' is an accurate description.

Some folks don't get vaccinated because they don't trust the medical care system. I think a lot of people of color fall in this category, as do a number of white liberal fans of various kinds of woo.

Some folks don't get vaccinated because they are sort of marginal, in social terms. They are homeless, or have substance abuse or mental health issues, or just generally live outside the mainstream.

Some folks seem to see Covid as just another one of life's hazards, and figure they'll take their chances. Surprisingly large number of these, actually.

And a lot of folks don't get vaccinated because they resent smarty-pants experts telling them what to do.

Some folks are some combination of the above.

GftNC, it's Twitter. You have to buy into reading stuff on twitter it is pretty opaque. I'm trying to follow Japanese stuff on twitter and I cannot make heads or tails of it and I can only vaguely follow the stuff in English because of background knowledge.

And yes, it is hard to tell if the twitter author is using caste as a metaphor or actually making an argument that they are parallel. All my reading to keep up with my student suggests to me that the idea of caste is something that gets supercharged when you move to the nation-state and at the village level, the contextual knowledge you have of people (and the ability to pick up and move somewhere else as a new person) makes it less virulent.

But I do think that he's on to something that it is an expression of not wanting to be told what to do. I think this is why Japan's experience with the pandemic has been so anomalous. However, while COVID hasn't been the focus, I'd suggest that we see those pressures appear elsewhere. Like this

I'm not convinced about the link between anti-vaxx and 'caste', whatever that might mean in the context.

This Atlantic article provoked much negative comment, but I do think it's the authentic voice of a large element of anti-vaxx sentiment - which is simply an attitude of complete denial towards the pandemic.

...the take I had on the caste system was that it was something very old in Indian society..

Following a few of the links, it's a very interesting debate, which I'd never really considered before.

Would it be correct to say that forms of caste systems were reasonably widespread before the western colonial period (certainly something along this lines seemed prevalent in Japan, for example), but the understanding of caste heirarchies was adopted, simplified, strengthened and solidified by the colonialists ?

(A similar process seems to have happened in Rwanda with the distinction between Tutsi and Hutu under the Germans and Belgians.)

From the Atlantic cite:

But outside the world inhabited by the professional and managerial classes in a handful of major metropolitan areas, many, if not most, Americans are leading their lives as if COVID is over, and they have been for a long while.

Those silly urban elitists!

I’m waiting for the day when folks who congratulate themselves for not living in the coastal urban hellholes figure out that most people who live in cities - coastal or not - aren’t wealthy. Are not only not ‘elite’, but have no particular power or influence over anybody else’s life, at all.

And I’m waiting for the day when folks who congratulate themselves for not living in the coastal urban hellholes figure out that things that don’t make sense in their idyllic rural Arcadia not only make sense, but are essential, in places with higher population densities.

If your daily life requires you to ride a subway, bus, or commuter train, or ride in elevators, or stand or walk in crowds of hundreds (or more) of total strangers, you should probably wear a mask and get vaccinated.

If you live in rural southwest MI, it may be less of an issue.

Do whatever the fnck you like. All I ask is that, if you haven’t been observing COVID protocols and you come here where I live, stay the hell away from me. Thank you very much.

All the things that people out there in flyover land complain about - those big city people don’t understand us, don’t like us, look down on us - are the exact same things they do, each and every day, just in the other direction. The smug, superior tone adopted by the article’s author is exactly what he claims to hate about coastal ‘elitists’.

If people think the ‘elites’ only live in cities, they’re deluded.

If people think people living in large cities and/or coastal areas in general are wealthy and privileged to any greater degree than folks who live in rural south-western MI, they’re deluded.

I can’t think of anything less self-aware than writing a supercilious big of smug fluff about the silliness of ‘professional and managerial classes’ who live in ‘major metropolitan areas’ in the freaking Atlantic magazine.

Don’t want to wear a mask, don’t wear a mask. But stay the hell in rural south-west MI, please.

The dude has a doula from NYC and is published in the Atlantic, and wants to talk about 'elites in big cities'.

A little self-awareness goes a long way.

He never says elite. He actually recognizes the classes in those places that he explicitly references. His point is as true in Fall River as kt is in rural Michigan.

His point is as true in Fall River as kt is in rural Michigan

you make my point.


the future, at least in major metropolitan areas, is one in which sooner or later elites will acknowledge their folly while continuing to impose it on others.

right? who do you think he's talking about?

some people wear masks, some don't. if you live in a densely populated area, the risks you incur by not wearing a mask are greater than if you live in a rural area.

because you are probably going to be around more people, and more people you don't know and whose health status you don't know.

I don't care if the guy wears a mask or not. I think he's an idiot for traveling extensively and being out in public areas without observing protocols, but that's mostly on him and the people he's around.

If they're cool with exposing themselves and the people around them to the virus, there is bugger all I'm gonna be able to say or do to persuade them otherwise. All I ask is that they stay away from my area.

Over 800K people have died of COVID in this country so far. A lot more have caught it, and a lot of those people are gonna deal with related health issues for the rest of their lives. I know some of them. This isn't a class thing, or a geographical thing. It's a freaking virus. The virus doesn't care if you live on the coast or not.

I'm not the one making this a "real Americans vs the coastal elites" thing. This dude is. I object to it.

1 of every 100 Americans over 65 has died from coronavirus, CDC data shows

I wonder what the Atlantic article dude thinks about COVID among meat-packing employees in rural south-western MI.

I wonder what the meat-packing employees in south-western MI think about COVID and vaccinations and mask-wearing.

No 'dear friend doulas from NYC' for them, though, is my guess.

i love how "conservatives" can't be elitist because they've defined it to be yet another synonym for "Democrat".

i love how "conservatives" can't be elitist because they've defined it to be yet another synonym for "Democrat".

Especially since, on any real definition of "elite" (wealth, education, etc.) they qualify at least as well.

... and 90% of the millionaire Fox News hosts are from, and still live in, those coastal enclaves themselves.

it's all a scam.

I wonder what the Atlantic article dude thinks about COVID among meat-packing employees in rural south-western MI.

He doesn't. But that's the point - just getting on with 'normal life' (a desire I quite understand) for now means being in denial about what is afflicting millions of people.

Nigel, sorry, I missed your question. From my reading, what you say is correct in the case of India. I also believe that the case is similar for Japan, buraku discrimination because formalized during the Tokugawa period.

The issue also emerged recently when Mark Ramsayer wrote about comfort women and a look at his previous writing found articles about buraku which were dissected here

I think there are interesting parallels to the English rag and bone man

and it is the disjunction from an era where that kind of work is needed to where it is gone that leaves the prejudice behind it without giving a chance to work itself out.

A factoid.

Ignore it, conservatives, and die please.

And then you can steal every future election and attempt to govern with even a smaller minority of your fascist selves than you do now, which might make the Civil War a bit shorter, say only ten years long, until what needs to be done is finally done and America can finally live without any of you to fuck every good thing at every turn, you Manchin suckers.

We'll call it the Killabuster.

Be woke. Be armed.

And heck, I'm hardly woke at all, but I know who America's mortal domestic enemies are.

Here's yet another of the filth, but we've known for two decades and counting:

Remove Texas from the living:

This is how. Then feed them to their own starving dogs:

Covid related... I have a clear feeling that the NFL's changes to their Covid protocols to get vaccinated players back on the field more quickly is because they looked at the early Omicron numbers and see the playoffs vanishing when teams can't field enough players.


This: Trump: Getting Vaccinated Helps Owns the Libs

Could it possibly be that Trump has noticed that killing off his own supporters is bad for trying to win future elections?

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