One hundred and fifty years ago, the United States was still a fledgling nation. The Atlantic and Pacific coasts had long been settled, but the vast swathe of the country in between had not. Then, the settlers began moving inwards. They built railroads across the great plains; hundreds of millions of acres of new farmland was established. There was capital infusion both from within and abroad. Hundreds of new cities, towns, villages, churches and schools were built. The prosperity of the nation grew and so did technological progress. So, is this just a wonderful story?
No, insists the “woke” perspective of today. What about the social and cultural costs of such expansionism? In particular, what about the Native Americans? The supposed treaties that the US government signed with them weren’t really voluntary and the native people never received just compensation. They lost their land, their culture and their way of life. The woke perspective takes these losses into account. In fact, in woke circles, it is common to refer to this age of America’s expansion as a genocide of Native Americans.
Now think about Christian missionary activity in India. Their big impetus came when India was under British colonial rule. What is their objective? To end the traditional Indic religions. To tell the people of India that they are “fallen” and need to be “saved” by a foreign god and his son. This foreign god is represented on earth by a king known as the Pope, who lives in Europe.
The missionaries carve up India into what they see as administrative divisions, or dioceses. Each diocese is headed by an officer, known as a bishop. He must be male; he is not elected by local people, but appointed directly by the Pope. The job of each bishop is to teach local people to bow down to this foreign god and pay tributes to this foreign king.
The missionaries insist that those of Indic faiths have been following the devil. They must give up this ancient culture, including goddess worship, venerating certain animals and forces of nature. They must erase their names. These names contain imagery in their native languages, traces of stories that they have told each other for centuries. They must go. Everyone must take new names, such as John and Mary.
Who funds this activity? Money is pumped in from white majority Western countries. Who does it target? People of color and in particular, the poorest and most vulnerable among them.
You have to wonder. How is the vegan, feminist, woke left not seeing the problem with this? When it comes to India, how come the sympathies of the global left appear to lie with the cultural invaders and not the political resistance being put up by native people, the so called Hindutva forces?
History shows that Christian missionary activity has always gone hand in hand with a mission to “civilize” native peoples. The white settlers who carried out the Native American genocide saw no difference between bringing in the railroad and teaching the natives to worship the Christian god. The same goes with the continents of South America, Africa and Australia. As late as the 1970s, aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their families and placed with church schools as part of the White Australia policy. If people of color could not be turned white on the outside, they could at least become white on the inside. The conversion to Christianity was seen as an essential part of this.
And yet, the modern woke left has little to say about the tentacles of missionary activity still spreading in India.
In fact, Indian people have a long history of recognizing this cultural aggression and fighting it. As a child, Birsa Munda was taken to a missionary school. The price of an education? He would have to give up his name and become Birsa David. As a grown up, he reclaimed his identity and his name. He organized local people to stop paying church taxes and led a violent uprising against the missions. The colonial authorities captured him and he died in jail.
How come the global left is aligned today with the Pope and not with Birsa Munda? Where is the wokeness?
What about the issue of religious “freedom”? If people in India are converting voluntarily, what is there to object?
We have now reached the nub of the argument. As a matter of fact, modern wokeness is all about realizing that “freedom” can be a mirage when faced with deeply entrenched systems of privilege. A multi-national corporation wants to cut down a forest to build a mine or a factory. In return, it promises jobs to the local people. Modern wokeness is all about insisting that this exchange is not really voluntary. The corporation is too powerful. On an individual level, no single person can refuse their deal nor bargain with them. They must organize and reject these inducements, so they can keep their way of life.
This is why the woke left goes into a frenzy against the WTO, the G-20 and the like. Their slogan? Fair trade, not free trade. Because they insist “free” trade is not really free. This is why the left gets all nostalgic about taking on the United Fruit Company in Central and South America in the 1950s and 60s. This is why the left dumped bras, fought the Miss America pageant and Barbie dolls that showed fair skinned blonde women with unnaturally slim body types, with no interests beyond cooking and baking. So what if women and girls were buying them? When you don’t have privilege, then “voluntary” is not really voluntary.
The woke left these days wont even tolerate slightly cooked sushi on American campuses. You can’t “appropriate” an Asian cuisine. You cannot even use pronouns such as “he/him” or “she/her” without permission. How dare you presume someone’s gender or box them into your notion of a gender binary? Don’t presume pronouns, okay? However, what you can do is take the side of the Church as it offers inducements to the poorest and most vulnerable in India to change their names altogether. In other words, there is just one exception to the way global wokeness works. And it is applied to missionaries in India.
The question of caste inevitably comes up here, even though it should not. What is wrong if backward castes and tribals, who have been marginalized within Hindu society, turn to the church? First, just as Hindu society is encumbered by a history of caste injustices, so is the church. The history of the church is tainted by centuries of aggression against native peoples, racism, imperialism, allying with fascists such as Mussolini, exploitation of women and children and much more. So who cast them as liberators?
Second, the lines of privilege often run over each other. For instance, at the time of the British Empire in India, most British whites were industrial workers battling terribly unfair labor conditions. Could their descendants opt out of white privilege? It is entirely possible for the same person to be on the privileged side of one divide and the less privileged side of the other. One does not cancel out the other. This is known as ‘intersectionality.’ You can hardly get more woke than talking about intersectionality. So how can you use the history of caste structure to justify the aggression of the church?
But as with most things about India, the usual woke perspective here is turned on its head. Anyone can see that the carving up of India in 1947, into one fixed deposit and one joint account, was inherently unfair. In this, it was similar to the encroachment by treaty approach of the US government against Native Americans. They were first pushed into reservations. As and when needed, the only choice they gave the Native Americans was to give up their land, bit by bit. Or else.
Just like today, India is being asked to voluntarily give up Kashmir. Because we refuse to do so, we face terrorism. We get bullied by both right and left in the western world. The excuse? They say we don’t respect human rights. Painting the native people as savages is an age old tactic. It made it easy for them to justify imperialism, land grab and genocide. Now Communist China is getting into the act. We may even face military invasion.
In other words, the three great monopolies; Islam, Christianity and Communism against one native culture. Unlike them, we do not have a centralized structure, one god, one prophet or one book. They use this fact to argue that we have no right to exist.
When we organize and try to pushback, the so called Hindutva forces, we are defamed with comparisons to Nazis, Taliban, ISIS and the North Korean regime. Notice that these are in fact the worst excesses created by those three aforementioned monopolies. But instead of reflecting on them, they are used as damaging labels on us.
If there was true wokeness, it would see through this game. It would see our efforts to organize as a great democratic uprising. It would recognize the sustained aggression of the church against Indic faiths. And it would welcome our anti-conversion laws as community action to keep out the big monopoly. Individually, we cannot take on the missionary machine. Taken separately, we may each fall for a mix of inducement and coercion. Just like one worker has no bargaining power in front of a large corporation. That’s why we come together and push back for our collective good.
During his 1999 visit to India, the Pope pointed out that in the first millennium, Christianity took hold in Europe. In the second, it took hold in Africa and the Americas. Now, in the “third Christian millennium,” he announced his plans for a “harvest of faith” in Asia.
That is chilling. We are human beings; we are not to be harvested. That language is dehumanizing. That is the language of genocide and imperialism. Anyone can see that, especially the woke left.
But they don’t see. They side with the imperial project as it hits India with its massive resources. The only freedom they value is for Indians to be harvested, one by one. Ironically, they cast the imperial church as the underdog. Every robber baron knows that they must play underdog. Every robber baron knows they must negotiate with workers separately and that there should be no union. And if local people or the workers try to organize, you have to label them as thugs. This is what they do to Hindutva forces in India.
So why do the woke leftist forces act this way? Because, the woke leftist forces are just as much part of the imperial machine. Their job is to make people feel better after the act. Now that the Native Americans have been reduced to a powerless minority, the woke white leftists can feel good about apologizing to them. This way, they can absolve themselves of guilt and relish their triumph. Rest assured that the day there are only a few thousand Hindus left in India, the woke left will gather around us and give us platitudes. They will build a museum dedicated to our culture. After we are all gone, they will say nice things about us. The key word is after.