My last post reminded me of this anecdote from Martha Nussbaum
In the United States, by some estimates fully 40 percent of Indian-Americans hail from Gujarat, where a large proportion belong to the Swaminarayan sect of Hinduism, distinctive for its emphasis on uncritical obedience to the utterances of the current leader of the sect, whose title is Pramukh Swami Maharaj. On a visit to the elaborate multimillion-dollar Swaminarayan temple in Bartlett, Ill., I was given a tour by a young man recently arrived from Gujarat, who delighted in telling me the simplistic Hindu-right story of India’s history, and who emphatically told me that whenever Pramukh Swami speaks, one is to regard it as the direct voice of God and obey without question. At that point, with a beatific smile, the young man pointed up to the elaborate marble ceiling and asked, “Do you know why this ceiling glows the way it does?” I said I didn’t, and I confidently expected an explanation invoking the spiritual powers of Pramukh Swami. My guide smiled even more broadly. “Fiber-optic cables,” he told me. “We are the first ones to put this technology into a temple.” There you see what can easily wreck democracy: a combination of technological sophistication with utter docility. I fear that many democracies around the world, including our own, are going down that road, through a lack of emphasis on the humanities and arts and an unbalanced emphasis on profitable skills.
Guess what liberals–you don’t own total internal reflection! A person can be a whiz at optics or electronics while being a Hindu nationalist who thinks the Muslims are screwing up everything or a Swaminarayan Hindu who thinks the Guru is to be obeyed without question. Notice how what really bothers her is not that the guy is a fanatic, but that he knows our technology. The cartel that’s supposed to keep science and technology away from illiberals has somehow been bypassed. The cure, of course, is “humanities and arts”, i.e. indoctrination.
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