Atanu Dey On India's Development

Blaming People for Natural Disasters

| 23 Comments

What do Pat Robertson, Priyanka Chopra, Jerry Falwell and Mahatma Gandhi have in common? If you thought that they were all religious nutcases, you are wrong. Priyanka Chopra’s nuttiness doesn’t belong to the religious variety. So think again. Give up? OK, they all blame people for natural disasters.

Let’s start with the extreme religious nuts, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. In 2001, they put the blame for the 9/11 Islamic terrorism on “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and lesbians.” Jerry Falwell, alas, died in 2007. (The very naughty Mr Christopher Hitchens casually commented that if Falwell had been given an enema, they could have buried him in a match box.) But Robertson was at hand after the recent Haiti earthquake, and put the blame for the devastation and the awful loss of lives on some pact that Haitian slaves had made with the devil around two centuries before.

Then comes the Feb 27, 2010 quake in Chile which left half a million homeless and around 800 dead. Not as bad as the Haiti quake that killed an estimated 230,000 people, 300,000 injured, and 1,000,000 homeless.

Priyanka Chopra concluded that the cause was anthropogenic. Well, not in those words as I doubt she can spell that word. She put it across as a rhetorical question and tweeted, “400,000 people left homeless by quake in Chile..R we putting too much pressure on our planet..My prayers for the victims and their families.” I suppose the Chileans had to pay for the sins of humanity in pressuring the earth (whatever that means.) Perhaps people are overeating and the resulting obesity caused the pressure.

But who the hell knows who Priyanka Chopra is. I certainly didn’t until my friend Rajan pointed her tweet (not to be confused with twat) out to me. Her opinion and analysis of natural disasters does not amount to a hill of beans. That’s not the case with Mr Gandhi, aka Mahatma.

You recall the Bihar 8.4 magnitude earthquake of January 15, 1934? You don’t! Well, neither do I. The wiki informs me that it was one of the worst in India, and 30,000 died. Mahatma Gandhi visited Bihar and after due deliberation declared that it was divine retribution for the sins of Indians. That strikes me as one of the most perverted statements made by the man — and that’s saying something considering that he sort of specialized in that category of statements.

If A were to commit a crime, and the police were to give an entirely innocent uninvolved person B a thrashing of his life saying, “I am doing this to you because A committed a crime and I think it is right and appropriate that you be thrashed,” would you say that the police were good, holy, enlightened and bow down in front of them in deep devotion? You would not do any such thing.

Gandhi did. The god that he was devoted to by his (Gandhi’s) admission was killing Biharis for crimes committed by others.

I have always been intrigued by the idea of scapegoating — “the practice of singling out one child, employee or member of a group of peers for unmerited negative treatment or blame”, as the wiki puts it. Gandhi searched for one and found a scapegoat. Why? Because it suited his personal agenda.

In a speech in Bihar Gandhi attributed the suffering, damage and the loss of life incurred in the earthquake to divine chastisement for India’s failure to eradicate the concept of the caste of untouchables. [Source.]

As I am not a huge fan of Gandhi (which is clearly an understatement), that did not come as a huge surprise to me. Normal people would be horrified at conceiving a vengeful mean irrational stupid god but for Gandhi, it was a no-brainer. The great thinker Rabindranath Tagore, however, gave it to Gandhi good and proper.

Here’s a bit from Bidyut Chakrabarty’s “Social and political thought of Mahatma Gandhi” (2006)

. . . an interesting debate took place following Gandhi’s characterization of the Bihar earthquake in February (sic), 1934 as ‘divine chastisement’ for the great sin committed against those known as harijans. Tagore took a serious view of this by saying that ‘it has cause me painful surprise to find Mahatma Gandhi accusing those who blindly follow their own social custom of untouchability of having brought down gods’ vengeance upon certain parts of Bihar’. Coming from the most revered political leader of the country, the statement, he felt, was most devastating for its obvious impact on the interpersonal relationships between harijans and others. So it should not go ‘unchallenged’. Tagore prefaced his critique of this superstitious view of Gandhi’s by saying that ‘it is all the more unfortunate, because this kind of unscientific view of things is too readily accepted by large section of our countrymen.’ Emphasizing that ‘physical catastrophes [like earthquakes etc] have their inevitable and exclusive origin in certain combinations of physical facts’, he further argued that:

if we associate ethical principles with cosmic phenomena, we shall have to admit that human nature is morally superior to Providence that preaches its lessons in good behaviour in orgies of the worst behaviour possible . . . What is truly tragic about it is the fact that the kind of argument that Mahatmaji uses by exploiting an even of cosmic disturbance for better suits the psychollogy of his opponents . . . [He thus felt] profoundly hurt when any words from [Gandhi's] mouth may emphasise the elements of unreason . . . which is a fundamental source of all the blind powers that drive us against freedom and self-respect.

Gandhi responded to Tagore saying, “to me, the earthquake was no caprice of God nor a result of blind forces . . . Visitations like droughts, flood, earthquake and the like, though they seem to have only physical origins, are, for me, somehow connected with man’s morals. Therefore, I instinctively felt that the earthquake was visitations for the sin of untouchability. . . [I believe] that our sins have more force to ruin the structure than any mere physical phenomenon.”

Now read that in the context of the burning of witches — which happens even today in many parts of the world. Ignorant superstitious people believe that someone is responsible for the crop failure or the drought and that they have to kill the person responsible and their problems will be solved.

Those people who burn witches are not driven by reason. They say, like Gandhi, “that to us, somehow, it seems . . .” and “we instinctively feel” and get on with setting things right by torturing confessions and burning witches.

The evidence is overwhelming that Gandhi was a superstitious person ignorant of basic scientific understanding of the world available even at the time when he did his schooling. Gandhi had a instinctive understanding of how to manipulate the superstitious illiterate ignorant masses, however, and they revered him with the devotion that they had for their other gods. Gandhi was cunning if he was anything at all. I have argued before that he blackmailed his followers, and that it was violence cloaked in the pious garb of non-violence.

I am repelled by Gandhi’s arrogant insistence that his instinctive feelings that somehow arise within him gives him the right to attribute causes to natural phenomena and dictate that to his followers.

Gandhi is revered by the masses in India. That is the most damning evidence I see of my conjecture that India is largely a nation of retards. That and the clearly related fact that these retards vote for the Gandhi-family led Congress party.

  • RJ

    You can add Laloo who recently blamed the severe drought in Bihar on Nitish Kumar eating biscuits during the solar eclipse. Of course, he is not alone.
    Btw., had heard of devastation of Bihar earthquake from elders and seen the ruins of only pucca house in my village.

  • Amit

    There are many more of those evangelicals in USA who blame natural disasters on human sins. However the Christians are not alone in this sort of tomfoolery. Religious people of all shades and hues make similar statements when it comes to explaining natural disasters.
    Religiotards always seem to know god’s mind as if he speaks to them one on one.

    As for Priyanaka Chopra, there is not much that I have to say. She is a C grade actress with pitiful acting skills and not a very beautiful face either.

    Gandhi was a class one religious idiot who summoned his god in times of urgencies. Personally I feel that whoever takes religion really seriously should not be taken seriously at all.They are blaberring idiots who make no sense at all when it comes to finding a solution to the problems of this plannet.

    Just the other day I read an article written by the New Age con-man Deepak Chopra in which he had claimed that all the world’s problems can be solved by spirituality. I wonder how he plans to feed and provide medication to those who have no acess to either of them through spirituality.

  • gajee

    the dumbest is priyanka chopra…tehe

  • Nirvikar

    I know not many people will agree to what I say. SO here it is – no matter how bad or good we think of Gandhi the matter of fact is he was one individual on which the whole nation looked up for direction and he has to be wrong at a whole lot of places. I cant find a single leader who commanded so much power over such a large number of people. He was able to command people to go and face armed men empty handed and not respond to. That sort of power comes with its own set of problems. And arrogance being one of them.
    As far as his superstitions are concerned we have to see the time he was in and the ideology he followed. He was of the opinion that people can live simple life in villages and the country doesn’t need villages. So although being wrong in stating that earthquakes are anything more then physical phenomenon but that doesn’t put him in retards or even remotly evil. In fact politically that might be right as he used superstition to attack superstition (again purely my view point)

    As far as following him and retard thingy – Indians dont follow or worship Gandhi. We follow the flawless image of him projected by the party which claims his heritage. That too for purely vote purposes. We as indians, not retards, have one thing in common. we always find someone to blame for everything – problems, superstitions, radicalism etc etc. I think its time we grow up and realise that Gandhi was not this heaven/hell sent messanger who blessed/screwed us, but that he was as much a human as anyone of us with as many flaws.

    I am not a gandhi fan but I hate when we start blaming problems of today on past and forget all that our past did for all.

  • http://doshiamit.net Amit Doshi

    I used to enjoy this blog, when it focused on development issues, the importance of urbanization, free speech as a paramount right and so on. I stopped reading regularly a while ago, but the blog still pops up in my google reader and i have fond memories of your urbanization articles so I will read through. But I think I was right in getting this out of my regular list. The tones gotten terribly offensive.

    Did you really have to call Priyanka Chopra a twat? Just calling her a moron or dumb wasnt enough? Why the misogyny? Havent we enough stupidity from any number of “celebrities” male and female?

    I dont disagree with what your saying, but the manner of saying it is starting to get to me.

    Hey its your site do what you will with it, but I cant be the only one who is starting to feel this way.

  • http://www.deeshaa.org Atanu Dey

    Amit:

    How you feel is up to you. But please don’t misquote me.

    The joke was that I parenthetically distinguished between tweet and twat.

    That is not the same as calling her a twat. Now that you have wrongly accused me of misogyny, may I suspect that you are misogynistic and therefore reading into the text what does not indeed exist?

  • http://www.deeshaa.org Atanu Dey

    And oh just btw, Amit, I am very careful with words. I don’t say something unless I really mean it. I take care to mean what I say. And I take care to say what I mean.

    If I wanted to be misogynistic, you would not have to read between the lines. It would be apparent all over my writing. You may have noticed that I don’t hint obliquely at things.

  • http://doshiamit.net Amit Doshi

    I thought I was describing a particular word as Misogyny, i.e. Why the misogyny? Similar to how if someone used the N Word, Id ask why the racism? But your right it can be taken as calling you a misogynist. Bad word choice and I apologize for that. My point though wasnt that you are a mysogynist. It was that the tone of this blog has been getting nastier. Its feedback, make of it what you will.

    And the “I know you are but what am I” response was unexpected.

  • Pranav

    Dear Atanu,

    Gandhi-Tagore dialogues have always been fascinating. With respect to this particular incident in Bihar — I must point out that there are elements of thought that are beyond what science can capture that one must see. I would not mind even if you call me superstitious.

    Indian thought has this thought deeply part of it that if Dharma (generally embodied by a cow) was standing on all its four legs — such as the Krita Yuga, then the gods including Indra and his subjects — would ensure that the rainfall was normal, no ecological disturbances and there would be happiness all over. When Dharma declines, as is depicted in the number of legs on which the cow stands — (three in Treta, two in Dwapara and one in Kali) — then evidently, the gods are not pleased and as a matter of a Pauranic telling, the Bhoodevi cannot stand the Adharmic acts so much so that she shows her most repulsive face — that includes the eruptions of Volcanoes, earthquakes among others.

    Gandhi may have a convoluted sense of his understanding of tradition – and of course Dharma. But contesting that need not require us to take to ‘scientific’ thought. Gandhi’s attribution of the earthquake to Adharmic acts happening in the country in general would not have faced the same amount of flak as his attribution of that to his agenda – of challenging ‘untouchability’ in the country in the traditional discourse. Tagore’s ‘scientific’ approach is one side of the critique of Gandhi’s position, but Gandhi broadly has this instinctive thought about how Indian mentality thinks about Dharma. That is what he was appealing to. Was he clear about Dharma? Well, well.

    Gandhi as a politician and a philosopher had his own limitations – but the underlying idea of the rule of Adharma – and adharmic acts by people resulting in natural disasters (including unnatural deaths) – is a thought that has weight independent of any scientific consideration. One must note that this is beyond the realm of science.

  • Oldtimer

    >>I certainly didn’t until my friend Rajan pointed her tweet (not to be confused with twat) out to me.

    I am assuming that you meant the use of the word as a joke (and it is funny), not really to help the reader avoid confusion. I don’t read the misogyny that Doshi read into it, but methinks it comes across as sexist, because in the context in which it appears it will most likely be interpreted as ‘pussy’. I’dn’t mind sexist deployment of the right word once in a while either, but the target has to be some real nasty twat to have to deserve that kind of treatment. Priyanka is only silly, not nasty.

  • Chandra

    @Pranav

    >>but the underlying idea of the rule of Adharma – and adharmic acts by people resulting in natural disasters (including unnatural deaths) – is a thought that has weight independent of any scientific consideration. One must note that this is beyond the realm of science.

    That’s cowardice. Just because we don’t fully understand some natural disasters, we don’t have to hide behind illogical reasons like: a few bad people = natural disasters with lots of innocent people dead. Life on Earth is not easy and it is not fair. Deal it with. If everybody thought like you, we wouldn’t have things like fire stations, emergency rooms in hospitals, weather stations which warn ahead of cyclones, earth quake resistant buildings (which prevented a lot of deaths in Chile) and so on.

  • Pranav

    @Chandra

    I doubt if you understood what I meant. I never said one mustn’t do all that science offers in preventing ‘greater’ damage (through prediction, or through some other means, whatever that might be). You do what best you could. That is a different thing.

    What I said was this: Any adharmic act shows up in terms of some undesired effect. And if that adharmic act can be prevented, then naturally, that undesired effect is averted — because you have taken care of the root cause.

    It is in this sense that the argument must be understood. I hope that clarifies.

  • http://www.jatkesha.wordpress.com Jatkesha

    Atanu,

    Just a quick question. How is the book you mentioned in this post by Bidyut Chakraborty? Is it a good book which offers a sane and sensible criticism of Gandhi?

    Please let me know.

  • Chandra

    @Pranav

    I did misread you. My apologies.

    But I still disagree with your attributing adharma as a cause for natural disasters. To a certain extent, preventing acts of adharma will prevent bad effects. But there are things which will happen regardless of dharma or adharma. Events like earthquakes and volcanoes have been happening on Earth before there was any life on it. Humans have an obvious effect on earth, but saying that we can cause large scale disasters is thinking a bit too highly of our capabilities.

  • Amit

    Look Nirvikar, Gandhi was not the only or the first who could hold millions in sway and awe and make them follow him. Hitler, Mussolini, Lenin, Genghis Khan and a vast multitude of people like them have done similar things on much bigger scales in human history.
    What was common to all of them is that they employed voilence as a tool to meet their ends. Some of them perpetrated voilence on others while others perpetrated it on themselves. Gandhi’s blackmail and his fanatical belief in non-retaliation are classical symbols of a perverted mind.

    Now I am not saying that all those who have united people for a cause have been evil, but sadly most of them use similar techniques to influence public opinion in their favour. This is what a cult is all about. Gandhi for sure was a fanatical cult leader who made others to suffer for his beliefs.

    Just think about it, how many times did gandhi get beaten up by the British employed Indian goons in uniform. His life in prison was no different from out of it. Ultimately Gandhi lost nothing and gained everything at the end of it.

    Finally to say that gandhi gave us freedom is a grave insult to the millions who laid their lives without fighting back and to those who lost their lives in the search of a homeland in India.

  • Srinivas

    With such superstitious people as Gandhi leading India, is it any wonder that India is heading towards the standards prescribed by 7th century Arabian desert.

    How is it that America is blessed with leaders like Thomas Jefferson, and we end up with the likes of Gandhi?

  • Rohit

    Going by this blog’s conclusion (?) everything is Karma neh ?
    May be India got Gandhi because that is what she deserved .. May be people are really retards… well most of them and those who are NOT retards cannot fight with those who are !! May be it is just majority Vs Minority issue or maybe it is issue of lack of courage. Lack of really saying what Non retards mean and stand by it no matter what situations they might get into. Gandhi was not the one who started National Congress. How the hell someone like him reaches to that position in National(? ) party despite coming so late in the scene ? May be the leaders at that time were also bunch of retards ? Or could it be something very different other than being retard ? I hope we are not missing the point in indentifying why people followed him. Subhash Chandra Bose/Savarkar were equally knowledgeable, charismatic people and around the same time. Then why didn’t people follow them ? And how can we blame the ruler ? The blame always has to go to subject no ?
    On related note I wonder why 1857 did not work out ? If it had worked out , this Nehuru-Gandu dynasty would never have been established in the first place. When I was in school they taught us that few of the major reasons of the failure of 1857 freedom struggle was A) lack of appropriate technology to fight British 2) There was no collective effort. Everybody was fighting their own little battle which was easier to stop for British. I think current fights against government or politician or corruption are also like this.. Many activists are fighting their own little battle and no real nationwide struggle. Same goes for illiteracy , political awareness etc etc. Fortunately this time subject has easy access to technology and something can really be done about our problems .. including evolution of retards to non retards ?
    What do you think ?

  • http://Satyameva-Jayate.org/ B Shantanu

    Atanu: You may have missed this!

    Nation of Islam’s Farrakhan cites earthquake, warns America: ‘You will not escape’:
    March 1, 2010

    Calling this weekend’s earthquake in Chile a divine precursor to his planned speech, controversial Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan predicted on Sunday that America will face its own imminent disaster and must prepare.

    Delivering a message titled “The Time and What Must Be Done,” Farrakhan addressed thousands at Chicago’s United Center as part of an annual celebration of Saviours’ Day, marking the birth of W. Fard Muhammad, who founded the faith 80 years ago.

    “It’s not an accident that a great earthquake took place in Chile,” Farrakhan, 76, said an hour into his three-hour address. “It was a precipitate of what I have to tell you today of what’s coming to America. You will not escape.”

  • Sid

    Everyone seems concerned about Priyanka’s twat.
    These same guys pop up from time to time and complain that there is no freedom of speech in India … f-ing pussies or shout I say twats.

  • Sundried Atheist

    Rohit you sound like someone who has not really spent a lot of time reading history or philosphy. Your arguments are pretty childish at that.
    Are you aware that while Muhammad was preaching there were several other prophet pretenders in the same area. He was not alone at that time neither were the several other prophet pretenders in his day and age. Who suceeds is a matter of probability and we should not assign sypernatural causes to something like that, nor should we glamourise cult leaders like Gandhi.

  • http://picksam.wordpress.com mxyzptlk

    Atanu,

    While I’ll admit that Priyanka Chopra’s tweet was ill informed, I wouldn’t say that she hints that the people of Chile ~brought it themselves as a result of humanity’s sins against the earth~ . An attack upon her understanding of plate tectonics may be well warranted, but the subsequent strawman leading to insinuation (while being an appreciable attempt at humour) is unbecoming of the topic. Unless ofcourse, the whole point of the post is mockery, in which case, kudos, spot on target.

    • http://www.deeshaa.org Atanu Dey

      mxyzptlk:

      The point was that Priyanka Chopra attributed the Chilean earthquake to what people were doing to the earth. It was a generalized blaming of a natural event — clearly nothing that people are responsible for — on humans. That’s asinine and deserves to be mocked for the stupidity it is.

  • http://www.themaanga.com Nilu

    If stupidity had to be mocked, well..