09 December, 2005


As you may have heard, there is a war on Christmas this year. Not a shooting war, so don't expect to run downstairs on Christmas morn and find Santa's bullet-riddled corpse lying under your tree where your presents ought to be.* Just a war of words. As usual, I go to Michelle Malkin for the goods. The salient bits:

A guy named John Gibson from Fox News has a book out called "The War on Christmas". Apropos! Check out the Amazon page - the book has an average of 2.5 stars, the result of an EXACTLY EQUAL NUMBER of 1-star and 5-star reviews. Holy shit.

Also, conservatives are apparently up in arms about the USPS refusing to sell religiously-themed stamps this year. Self-correcting blogosphere says: um, no.

Finally, Bill O'Reilly, who started this whole business last year, has re-entered the trenches. He fired off a few shots at the Daily Show, which prompted Jon Stewart to respond with a pledge to destroy Christmas: "I will not rest until every year families gather to spend December 25th together, at Osama's Homo-bortion Pot & Commie Jizz-porium." Awesome.

On a more serious note, I'm intimately familiar with the whole idea of 'majority as downtrodden, persecuted group, beset by evil secularists', coming from a Hindu nationalist family. This is a powerful rhetorical device, allowing you to cloak yourself in the righteous anger of the wronged and trample the minority in the name of justice. It's considered trite to offer such comparisons, but all of this smells strongly like the fascistic movement I grew up with.

* If you do, however, be sure and ransack the body. I hear that guy has tons of sweet magical items - Bag of Infinite Capacity, Levitation Belt, 5d8 Reindeer Whip (+2 dex!).


there seems to be a debate whether to refer to this as GWOC or GWOX ("xmas"). could we have a vote? 

Posted by chromo

I'm assuming that my fellow Rhinocratic fans are equally aware of both 1) the grand tradition of progressive American Christians who can walk the walk without blabbing the talk, and who are just fine with a simple "Happy Holidays!" and secular public sphere and 2) items like India's public holiday schedule, India's currently non-uniform civil code, the Sikh Prime Minister & Muslim President, and the extremely wide variance of Hinduism. I spell out my assumptions because I increasingly run into seemingly informed people who are not aware of some subset of these items, and because egotistical elements of any community often obscure the good qualities of their betters.

Yes--majority-driven religious nationalism is a bizarre bully's exercise in self-pity and selfishness. Doesn't matter which democratic secular Republic you're in. Such posturing smells even more when it's pinned on a faith that historically tolerates and incorporates, reeking of a nondevotional combination of insecure ego-stroking and greed, cheaply presented as unselfish dedication. A direct comparison of the Indian situation to the American situation is not trite,but it is easy to miscarry. Nevertheless it's a deep and interesting comparison that can yield some insight, and I think the take-home message is exactly as Stewart nailed it. Demographic bullying is a universal, and it doesn't really matter what label the bullies have on their jacket, or even what labels the victims have on theirs. Just don't confuse the bully or victim with the jacket-label.

If you really think that an out of power minority can tamper with your religious practices, I humbly submit that something is very wrong with the way you're practicing, and why. The Indian mafiosi who masquerade as guardians of the faith (one they're clearly too busy to practice seriously) rival American televangelizing hucksters in proving the age-old aphorism that ego is the greatest obstacle to being a real mystic. An interesting history of Hindu Nationalism which examines out its bizarre rootes and misshapen, chimeric union with more organic forms of Hinduism is The Hindu Nationalism Movement in India by Christopher Jaffrelot.

BTW, Jon Stewart is the first celebrity contemporary of whom I will unabashedly say, "What a hottie!"

Posted by Anonymous

Um, that was me, Saheli. Dunno what happened. Sorry 'bout that.  

Posted by Saheli

Urgh.. I can't read that. Jaffrelot's ideological window is too narrow. He could never give a fair treatment to his ideological opponents. His vision is already colored to see them darkly. 

Posted by saurabh

Hmm? Please explain. It's been several years since I read it, and many other books have flown under the bridge, to mix metaphors badly, so I'm not sure what you mean. What do you see as Jaffrelot's ideaology, and whom do you see as his opponents? I'm scanning the Amazon page, and it seems like his opponents, so to speak, would be the very Hindu nationalists you were just now labeling as fascistic. That seems like dark shading, right there. ;-) No, seriously, I'd be really interested in why you find him unreadable. Enough to even consisder digging my copy out of a box (!!!*) From what I remember, his narrative made perfect sense to me, given my experiences--for one thing, it explained the grave discrepancy between Hinduism as I've been taught to practice it, and Hinduism as being spewed by nationalists then in the news. Perhaps I'm being presumptious, but it's clear from your blog that you don't suffer from blind allegience to faith (and I hope it's also clear from mine that I don't either, though in a different manner), so your critique of Jaffrelot seems particularly valuable to me right now.

Eeeenteresting. Vewwy Vewwy Eeeenteresting. :-)

(* I just paid you the bigggest compliment I've paid anyone on the blogosphere in weeks. You have no idea. None. Just thinking about locating that box makes me whimper with pain. Oy.) 

Posted by Saheli

I'm not sure whether to believe the Indian holiday chart linked above, given that the same website shows US holidays but leaves out Christmas . It must be in league with the Daily Show.

Does India really take more days off for Muslim holidays than for Hindu? I'd love to see Yom Kippur and Chinese New Years as national holidays here. More holidays, please. 

Posted by hedgehog

My bad, I apologize. As I've blogged recently, I'm having surfing issues and haven't yet implemented all the solutions my readers have kindly given me. I had multiple links open for that cite and got confused about checking them up. It's tricky b/c there are so many stupid "travel sites" that list every freakin' minor village festival (which is you know, basically every freakin' day) as a holiday/potential tourist trap. I'll try to find a better cite tomorrow. BUT I will say that I've personally experienced both Christmas and Muhurram as state holidays, at least in Kolkata, so that's two more religions than you get here--plus the Guru Nanak Bday closing of the consulate.  

Posted by Saheli

This looks like a fairly official list , it's from the ministry of personnel.

It is actually totally understandable that there are more Muslim holidays than Hindu holidays. There aren't all that many Muslim holidays so you can get all the major ones for cheap, so to speak. Once you start putting in more Hindu holidays than Diwali and Dussehra, you're going to get screwed. I mean, for me Janmastami is the biggest holiday of the year. But if they give me Janmastami, a Ram-bhakta is going to want Ram-Navami (which I'll happily take), and a Shiva-bhakta is going to want Shiva-ratri and Nava-ratri, and a Ganesh-bhakta is going to want Ganesh Chaturthi, and a Shakta is going to want Kali Puja and Durga Puja. The students will want Saraswati Puja and the merchants will want Laksmi Puja. Now I can argue till I'm horse they all should be content with Janmastami, and I'll also happily observe them all, but neither would work. That's 10 days off already. Meanwhile, the PRC over the hill doesn't have to deal with any of this crap. So, I think the state people get to pick three of the Hindu list, and there are other regional allowances (that would hopefully take care of, say, Yom Kippur in Cochin, or a Zorastrian holiday in Mumbai) and then they deal. So what's the score:
1 Sikh
1 Buddhist
1 Jain
2 Christian
4 Muslim
5 Hindu

And sadly, nothing for the Jews, Parsis, or Bahai. (Well, maybe the Bahai take the Muslim holidays? I don't know.)

Okay, so I guess this now sounds like an argument for leaving well enough alone re:American Christmas, but you gotta give people credit for trying. 

Posted by Saheli

Comrades! Join the Xmas Resistance  and help us with our War On {Christ|X}mas. Remember, you're either for us or agin us! 

Posted by Elf Qaeda

I can't help but mention this: (1+5)/2 = 3.

Also, my favorite review is titled "The plural of 'anecdote' is not 'evidence,' Mr Gibson..."

Posted by aram

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

I wish people would stop mentioning Michelle Malking. I'm hoping that if we ignore her, she'll go away.

btw, kudos for escaping your hindutva family politics. i admire people who can fully extricate themselves from anything like that. 

Posted by Saurav

I hate myself for saying this, but the D&D joke made me laugh out loud.

Though isn't that a blessed bag of holding? Or am I stuck in nethack mode?


Posted by Wax

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