While viewing this TED Talk by Mike Rowe (“Dirty Jobs” host on the Discovery Channel) I could not help but think of the Hindu (& related) philosophies.
Traditional Hinduism places great emphasis on people living their lives within groups that they were born within. These groups, or Castes, can be further subdivided into specific occupations: Teacher, Mortician, Domestics, etc. You are taught to pursue livelihoods in those fields. So important is this rule to stay within the group of your birth, that to violate it has religious, and thus eternal, ramifications.
In the Western World, we think of these traditions as uncivilized, primitive, demeaning, misogynistic, abusive, etc. However, as a lover of History, I have been taught by my teachers to investigate both sides of every issue and do so from a macro and micro perspective. Rather than finding the answer to “why do these societies do this?”, we should also attempt to explore the ramifications if such a system did not exist at all.
South Asia, home of the Hindu philosophy, has been one of the most-invaded places on Earth. What we know is that invasion occurred as early as the 16th C. BCE and have continued to do so up to the present day with US Special Forces infiltrating Afghanistan and Pakistan via ancient mountain passes. I am willing to bet money that invasions have occurred prior to the Aryans and will occur again in the future.
The turmoil generated by events such as this has brought down great civilizations in the past (Babylonia, Persians, Graeco-Macedonian, Roman, Ottomans, Han Dynasty, and on and on…) and continue to change the map of nations today (Central Africa, Former Soviet Union, Armenia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and on and on…). But, Hinduism and its people appear to have found a remedy for the negative affect of Human aggression. What if everyone knew what role they are to play in society from the very first day of life? What if they spent the rest of their lives perfecting their occupational skills so that they can do their work to the best of their ability? In times of chaos, those who survive will still have their skills and still know what their social roles are. Society can rebuild and resuscitate itself in the absence of a central governing authority. To put it in perspective, the Hindu culture has seen every single one of the civilizations listed above come and go. In the ‘lifetime’ of Hindu philosophy and culture, much of what makes us what we think we are has occurred. Yet, the only thing that remains is Hinduism.
Mike Rowe’s talk made me think of all this. All work; all occupations; have vital roles to play in our daily march through time. Their is no shame or loss of respect because your job requires you to get your hands dirty or mine restricts me to an office. Both contribute to the success and longevity of our society, our culture. The United States has lost this perspective. We teach our students to believe that one type of occupation is a mark of success, while another is proof of our failure. This is wrong. In many ways, the Hindus knew of this before the era of civilization.
Yes, it is true: History teachers have no social life. To think that a person would have all these thoughts flashing through their minds while listening to a speech about a mundane topic like ‘Dirty Jobs’, will challenge modern sensibilities. Now I know why many of my friends and family don’t want to see a movie in a theatre with me. While they want to enjoy a shoot-em-up action flick, I will see how that film is reflective of human societal degradation.
I guess that’s all for know. Enjoy the video below and allow yourself to think deeper thoughts. I, instead, will go to the movie theatre by myself.