In January 1990, an Avianca Airlines flight from Colombia was heading into New York’s JFK International airport when it ran out of fuel. The pilots told Air Traffic Control at JFK that both their engines had failed and they needed priority for landing. But JFK airport did not give it to them. Out of fuel, the plane crashed into a hillside and 73 people died.
On hearing this story, you might be furious with JFK airport. But air traffic control at JFK got off with a clean chit. You know why? They argued that pilots never used the keyword “emergency.” Instead, the Spanish speaking pilots had used the word “priority.” Yes, JFK airport had a lame defence. But they won the argument anyway, despite clearly being in the wrong and responsible for the loss of 73 lives.
But there is something to learn from this story. To win an argument, you don’t just have to be right. You must also use the right key words.
Let us now take a look at this viral video of a presumably Hindu audience member facing off against Aurangazeb’s PR agent Audrey Truschke. The audience member angrily demands why Audrey is “poking her nose” into India’s history when America itself is built on the genocide of Native Americans.
In response, Audrey cuts him down by saying she is a trained professional historian and suggests that he cannot tolerate to hear things from a woman.
Now, even if you discount the supportive liberal audience for Audrey, it is not hard to see that she won this round.
In fact, this happens a lot. And it’s exactly like that Avianca incident. The Hindu was in the right (pun intended) but failed to use the keywords that matter. And the global elite, metaphorically speaking, gets away with the murder of our civilization.
Let us see how the Hindu audience member could have made the same argument, but using different language. As a white American woman, Audrey has privilege. She should not be telling people of color how to look at their history. She has to ditch the cultural imperialism and be an ally.
I have italicized some words above. These are some of the keywords of “woke” and we need to learn them fast. The most important word in woke is privilege. Generally speaking, whoever says privilege first in any argument wins.
Then, there is the word ally. It means someone who has privilege, but voluntarily goes into the background to let those without privilege take the lead. As someone with white privilege, Audrey must yield the floor to the Hindu audience member.
It’s actually really easy. The Hindu audience member could have deflated Audrey simply with one keyword: asking her to be an ally for people from an indigenous culture.
Wait, you might say. Should we ask Audrey to shut up just because she is white? How is that fair?
I don’t know. Not my job to know. Audrey makes much of the fact that she is a “trained professional historian” and we’re not. Yeah, we have better things to do. Let’s use that to our advantage. So it is not our job to challenge the current academic consensus. The current academic consensus in the liberal arts is that you can’t just look at the argument, you must see the privilege of the person making it. They made the rules, not us. As outsiders, we can only insist that they apply their own rules consistently.
Right now in the United States, they are tearing down statues of Washington and Jefferson. Americans are examining everything about their history, all over again, this time from the perspective of people of color. At the same time, how could white folks be imposing Aurangazeb as a hero on Hindus of India? They are getting away with too much here.
Another example of how Hindu right managed to lose the argument for no reason comes from the recent episode of Sudarshan News taking on the UPSC. People complain about privilege in the establishment all the time. Why is it wrong to do the same for Muslim privilege? Nothing at all. And everyone understands that interviews are subjective, which can only lead to exclusion of the underprivileged.
However, by using the phrase “Jamia ke jihadi” in the trailer, the folks at Sudarshan news handed the victory to their opponents. They got pre-censored. Some achievement, actually.
Here is how the same point could have been made differently. Institutions like Jamia or AMU are “minority institutions” despite the fact that they are fully government funded. As such, they do not provide reservation to members of SC/ST communities. Thus, UPSC coaching at Jamia leads to further exclusion of the underprivileged from the system.
It gets worse. Institutions like Jamia or AMU are actually bastions of “upper caste Muslim” (Ashraf) privilege. Indian law does not recognize castes within Islam and the ruling Ashraf elite use this to maintain their stranglehold on “minority institutions.” This applies to other spheres as well. Did you know that Ashrafs make up just 2% of the population of India but from 1950 to 2014, as many as 4.5% of Lok Sabha MPs were Ashrafs? That’s more than double their fair share. Indeed, the Ashrafs have always been over-represented in India’s power structure.
The Ashrafs claim to be descended from Turks and Persians. They believe this makes them better than the vast majority (85%) of Indian Muslims, who are descended from Indian Hindus just like us. In other words, it is pure racism.
And the Mughal emperor Aurangazeb personifies everything that is Ashraf.
So put it to Audrey this way. Ask her why she as a white person is imposing an Ashraf patriarchal emperor as a hero on an indigenous culture. Let’s see her work her way out of that one.
In the game of woke, we Hindus actually hold all possible cards. We are people of color. We come from an indigenous culture that is different from the organized religions. Our religion is the only one that worships the sacred feminine and even has space for gender fluid identities. We have been persecuted by Abrahamic faiths. We were victims of colonization. How could we not be winning every argument?
We lose because we haven’t cared to learn the language so far. Let’s change this.
Yeah, they will hit back, as they keep doing anyway. Don’t worry about it. Their sponsors are white people from the west. No group in India is packed with as many upper caste males as Indian liberal intelligentsia. Their political candidate is a Hindi/English speaking Brahmin male with three Prime Ministers in his family. Peak of privilege. We are more diverse and more inclusive than them in every possible way. They can’t beat us on the question of privilege. They simply don’t have the cards.
The Hindu right has won the argument on the domestic front and comprehensively so. It took decades but the Hindu right won. The other side is now purely astroturf, sustained by a long supply line from white Westerners. All we have to do is learn “woke” and give it back to them in their own language. Let’s do it.