Kean Gibson Dualism of Good and Evil
By Veda Nath Mohabir
Kean Gibson, a senior lecturer in Linguistics at the University of the West Indies, has followed up on her racially controversial 2003 book The Cycle of Racial Oppression in Guyana with a recent, January 2006, article in the Journal of Black Studies (2006 Sage Publications) The Dualism of Good and Evil and East Indian Insecurity in Guyana wherein she writes in the preamble:
for East Indians in Guyana, fear is motivated and justified by the belief that Black people are evil by nature. This belief is legitimized in the Hindu scriptures in the caste system that is based on the dualism of good and evil. She continues: the violent consequences [are] due to East Indian need to justify their perception of themselves as the morally superior good people who are entitled to rule.
This rebuttal challenges and exposes the weaknesses in her statistical and scriptural premises; her gross misreading of Hindu scriptures and festivals; her false representation of political and racial conflict in Guyana and thus her ill-conceived, dangerous and incendiary thesis that East Indians dehumanize Blacks, coupled with references to elimination of African-Guyanese, pogroms and genocide.
Part I: Statistical hocus-pocus
To substantiate her claim of the dehumanization of the Black population in Guyana by East Indians, Gibson cites a calculation from a C.Y. Thomas table of ethnic distribution in Guyana that is wholly at odds with the statistics provided by the official Guyana 2002 Census of Population and Housing, which was regionally coordinated with the CARICOM Secretariat playing a central role [and with] significant assistance from other International and Local Agencies. Gibson never questioned the likely unreliability of the measures used that Thomas ruminated about, but unscholarly accepted them on faith, and states: In my view, the decrease in the Negro/Black category and the increase in mixed category (sic) is related to the dehumanization of Africans by the East Indian PPP. Gibsons argument (and Thomas insinuation) is that it is more profitable for Africans to redefine themselves as mixed rather than Negro/Black under the PPP rule.
According to Thomas/Gibsons figures, over six years, Negro/Black decreased 7.9 percentage points, from 35.6% (1993) to 27.7% (1999) of the Guyana population whereas the mixed category jumped from 7.1% to 17.7% (9.8 points) and, significantly, East Indians remained virtually the same, from 49.5 % to 48.2% (1.3 points) over the same period.
The 2002 Guyana census provides a much different picture. Negro/Black declined by only 2.1 points over the almost twice as long, eleven year, period from 32.3% (1991) to 30.2% (2002). Mixed category increased only 4.6 points, from 12.1% to 16.7% but East Indians declined, significantly, 5.1 points from 48.6% to 43.5%. What is more, if we step back further in time to the 1980 census, East Indians were 51.9% and Negro/Black 30.8%. Whilst Negro/Black increased 1.5 points East Indians declined 3.3 points under the last eleven years (1980-1991) of the Negro/Black-dominated PNC rule. As well, over the 22-year period (1980 to 2002), the Negro/Black category declined only 0.6 points, whereas East Indians declined 8.4 points. In absolute (rounded) numbers, whilst the African/Negro population declined only 7,100 from 234,000 to 226,900 over the 1980-2002 period East Indians declined 67,400 from 394,200 to 326,800. Furthermore, if any group chose to redefine themselves during the eleven-year (PPP) period, 1991 to 2002, it is more likely the East Indians, since their numbers dropped 24,900 from 351,700 to 326,800 when the Mixed increased 37,900 from 87,600 to 125, 500. On the other hand, Blacks fell just 6,900 from 233,800 to 226,900.
These census statistics overwhelmingly demolish Gibsons perception of Black oppression at the hands of East Indians. The exact opposite is borne out by the statistics it is the East Indians who are fleeing Guyana because of Black mistreatment and violence, in spite of the East Indian dominated-PPP in government which some aver attempts to appease Blacks to appear fair, and because of the governments Marxist/socialist ideals. As well, the more adaptable East Indians, flowing from their more inclusive major religion Hinduism together with their awareness of the need to conform in the marketplace with anglicized and Western values and religions (notably, Pentecostals, now second only to Hinduism as religious affiliation) appear to be partly responsible for the significant increase in the Mixed population.
(Anecdotally, anyone who has spent time in the large North American metropolitan centers, such as Toronto and New York will not require censuses to reveal the significant decline in the East Indian population. Its as if one-half of Guyana East Indians live abroad.)
Thus, Gibsons questionable statistics, analysis and conclusion smack of jiggery-pokery scholarship in order to advance her inflammatory thesis of Indian dehumanization and elimination of Africans-Guyanese.
Part II: Dualism A red herring misapplied
For 220 years, since the first translation of the Bhagavad Gita (Gita), in 1785, for Western audience, innumerable well-developed minds have extolled its profound and imperishable message for all ages and peoples; or, have dissected the Gita (not unlike the Shakespearean Hamlet) to understand and absorb the meaning of life and the yogas (paths) prescribed for enlightenment. Minds such as those of Schopenhauer, Thoreau, Emerson and Gandhi have found solace in the Gita. Today, Kean Gibson comes along and trashes the message to fit into her simplistic paradigm of her newly discovered dualism of good over evil. Normally, when philosophers and renowned commentators talk about dualism in the Gita and Hinduism, they mean something quite different, as in dvaita (dualism God and matter) advaita (non-dualism all is God) or traita (three-fold division of God, mind and matter), and other declensions of these.
It would seem, that, in order to develop her thesis that Hindu scriptures legitimizes East Indian superiority over Black people, Gibson saw in a shallow read of Hindu scriptures and commentaries, that dualism was ascribed to the Gitas message and so believes its the same dualism that saturates the literal Judeo-Christian religions. Otherwise, no sophisticated thinker would reduce the Gitas message to a good over evil dualism. Gibson writes: In the Bhagavad Gita
Lord Krishna persuades Prince Arjuna to kill his relatives and friends to be able to enjoy the kingdom; to not fight means Arjuna would lose fame and good name and prepare his road to hell rather than attain the heavenly planets (sic). Thus violence is rewarding... And, because the soul is not slain, there is no moral problem in killing.
Is she serious when she talks about such things as:
to enjoy the kingdom;
rather than attain the heavenly planets (what planets?); Thus violence is rewarding; and, there is no moral problem in killing?
First of all, Arjuna was fighting his cousins, other Kshatriyas (thus, an intra upper class conflict). As such, Gibsons dualism schema of white over black does not apply. Gibson should also note that Lord Krishna, himself, was dark-skinned (as was Princess Draupadi) as well as he was God incarnate. In the Gita, Arjunas Pandava brothers were cheated, wronged and exiled for over a dozen years by their Machiavellian cousin, Duryodhan; escaped his plots to kill them; and most of all, their Princess Draupadi was stripped naked and called a prostitute (not unlike the stripping and hair-cutting treatment of Indian women in Guyana (by Blacks); and their cousin refused to concede even after the intervention by Lord Krishna who was sought out to negotiate a peaceful solution. Hence prosecution of a war was the appropriate next option.
At the theological level, the Gitas context war was well chosen (where fears and raw emotions abound) to deliver a most profound message that, we live in this world and we have to do things that are sometimes very disagreeable to our senses and nature (even killing, in a war) but are nevertheless necessary to further humanity. The key to understanding the motivation provided to fight and thus kill is centered on the concept of Dharma or right action. But, first, Lord Krishna used practical and psychological motivations on Arjuna, which were unsuccessful. On the battlefield, and as a member of the warrior (Kshatriya) class, the die was cast. Arjuna was there to fight to defend the Pandavas rightful claim, but more importantly, dharma. To not do so, the Lord advised, would brand him a coward and bring ignominy and shame on Arjuna and his family. When that didnt work, the Lord explained that Arjunass dharma must be followed to inherit salvation. Because Hindu theology sees the world/universe organically and ecologically, each must perform his/her assigned duty for the furtherance of all; and for spiritual growth and eventual God-realization.
But, action should be done without expectation of a reward, selflessly and dedicated to God. This way, no violence is committed even though killing takes place. Violence would follow only from self-interested action, ill will, anger and attachment to reward for gain. So, what Gibsons cursory read reveals to her is exactly the opposite of what is intended in the Gitas message. Gibsons literal mindset has missed the whole lesson, besides misrepresenting the facts and issue at stake.
Furthermore, Gibson seems to feel that maintenance of the social order in a society according to law is wicked. In other words, she is condoning criminal behavior. She finds fault with an excerpt by A. Prabhupada, on the Gita: The ksatriyas duty is to protect the citizens from all kinds of difficulties, and for that reason he has to apply violence in suitable cases for law and order. Therefore he has to conquer the soldiers of inimical kings, and thus, with religious principles, he should rule over the world.
All civilized societies prosecute wrongdoers; and sometimes put them to death if the crime warrants that punishment. So, why is Gibson isolating and castigating Hindus along with, vilifying the Gitas message? A word of clarification about religious principles in that excerpt is warranted. The Gita is dealing with behavior in Bharata (India) in an earlier epoch; and religious principles refer to dharmic principles or action/conduct becoming.
To further expose Gibsons sophomoric analysis, here are excerpts from a sample of commentators on the Gita and Hinduism.
Aldous Huxley (the intellectuals intellectual) wrote that the Gita is one of the clearest and most comprehensive summaries of the Perennial Philosophy ever to have been made. Hence the enduring value, not only for Indians, but for mankind.
Regarding the absence of duality and the tolerance for diversity in Hinduism, Gary Zukav writes in The Dancing Wu Li Masters An Overview of the New Physics: In Hindu mythology, Kali, the Divine Mother, is the symbol for the infinite diversity of experience. Kali represents the entire physical plane. She is drama, tragedy, humor and sorrow of life. She is brother, father, sister, mother
monster, beast and brute.... In a particular story, Kali
is Sita, the wife of God (Rama)
. Zukav goes on to say that: These powerful metaphors have application to the developing drama of physics, and, The Wu Li Masters know that physicists are doing more than discovering the endless diversity of nature. They are dancing with Kali, the Divine Mother of Hindu Mythology.
The lesson to grasp is that in Mother Kali, all dualities (diversity) merge, which is also the essence of the Perennial Philosophy of the Gita.
Whilst the concept of Heaven and Hell falls squarely within Gibsons dualism paradigm, it is wholly uncharacteristic of Hinduism. Oxford professor R. C. Zaehner in his Hinduism, wrote about a 13th C. Hindu commentator, Madhava, who described himself as a dualist (mixing both the dvaita and Gibsons concepts). He differs from all Indian thinkers in that he distinguishes three classes of souls
(thirdly) souls of such hopeless depravity that they can only expect eternal punishment in hell
is generally thought to be due to Christian influence. It is certainly wholly untypical of Indian thought.
E. Viswanathan, whom Gibson quotes, writes about the Gita: The Gita has an answer to every problem a man may face in his life. It never commands anyone what to do. Instead, it discusses pros and cons of every action and thought. Throughout Gita you will not come across any line starting or ending with 'Thou Shalt Not'. That is the reason why Gita is the darling of millions of seekers of truth throughout the world. And, on salvation, he says: Hinduism never ever boasts monopoly on salvation. In fact, as per Hinduism, any one, even an atheist, can attain salvation. A Jew, Christian and Moslem can attain salvation, irrespective of whether they read any Hindu scriptural book.
This latter encapsulates the message of the Gita. Ones dharmic actions or works, done without a self-aggrandizement motive (the yoga of action), is a key for salvation. War is just the occasion, the opportunity, not the end, to deliver a profound sermon about the importance of ones dharma (right conduct) in the overall scheme to salvation. As well, the noted inclusiveness of Hindu teaching is highlighted one doesnt have to wear a badge of Hinduism to achieve salvation. It is why Hindus are relatively more easy-going and un-dogmatic, and not as demonstrative as other faith believers. Hindus dont claim a monopoly of faith, unlike the Gibsons unsubstantiated and minority depiction.