Thursday, December 13, 2012

Asimov's 'Strikebreaker' and the Caste System Fractal

Thanks, Sri Aravindan Neelakandan.
This post attempts to use Asimov's 'Strikebreaker' that appeared in 'Anthropology and Science Fiction', 1971 to better understand the caste systems of the world. A Purva Paksha of religious cults based on Asimov's classic 1941 'Nightfall' can be read here.

Elsevere is a totally self-contained planet out in space. Its surface area is very small, but real-estate in that planet is measured in terms of habitable volume. Resources are at a premium, and imports are kept to a minimum, so the planet requires a very high degree of efficiency in recycling waste. Rather than adopting an autocratic or theocratic way of managing such a fragile ecosystem, the society of Elsevere is segmented along hereditary, occupation-based endogamous castes (caste comes from the Portuguese word 'Casta') to efficiently divide up the planet's tasks. The increasing level of specialization achieved by successive generations refining the skill sets associated with the performance of their assigned tasks helps keep Elsevere prosperous. The family of Ragusnik are in charge of waste disposal (including human waste) and are considered 'untouchable' and are ranked at the bottom of their social heirarchy. The rest of the planet do not interact with them or speak face-to-face. To keep the Ragusnik family tree going, the society supplies them orphaned girl babies.

The Strike
Ragusnik does not directly come into contact with the waste disposal and recycling, which is completed mechanized. He just has to push a button and monitor some meters. Ragusnik is housed in the best and most spacious house in the planet with maximum access to resources, but he is a social outcast. He resents this treatment one day, asserts his individualism within the caste system and goes on a strike. Waste continues to pile up, and it is a only a matter of time before the system breaks down, killing all inhabitants of Elsevere. All it takes is a few minutes of training to do the job, but no one in Elsever would even dream of doing Ragusnik's job. It is incredibly repulsive to the rest of the planet. Talks break down, and the planet faces annihilation.

The Observer
Dr. Lamorak is a social scientist from earth, and an outsider, who visits Elsevere on a data gathering mission, notices the dispute and what is at stake, and wants to mediate. He sees the illogical exclusion of Ragusnik from the society, but cannot convince the Elsevarians of their bizarre attitude.
Asimov notes:
"Elsevere is a world caught in a bind. It is limited by its lack of resources, lack of space, and its need to generate its own gravity and power. It is delicately balanced, tightly knit, and everything must fit properly into place. People must fit properly too, for any rocking of this boat is a constant danger. Any changes to the system will most likely be for the worst. This is the reason behind the rigid castes and the justification for the isolation of Ragusnik".

Enter: The Strikebreaker
As it often happens on earth, Lamorak drops his neutrality and takes sides. He has a difficult choice to make. The welfare of 30,000 Elsevarians versus the injustice to one man and his family. As time starts running out, he decides in favor of the greatest good and volunteers to read the manuals and operate the disposal unit himself to save the planet. He operates the waste disposal system and saves the planet.

Lamorak explains to Ragusnik that the rest of the universe does not worry about pushing buttons and outsiders can be hired to this job going forward. Over time, the galaxy will come to know about the injustice done to him, and his future generations can live like normal human beings. Ragusnik is aghast at this intervention since he feels his brinkmanship would have definitely resulted in his winning back his dignity and justice now. He decides to end his strike, much to Lamorak's relief, and gets back to work. He is upset with Lamorak and refuses to shake his hand. In the end, Lamorak is considered an outcast in Elsevere for pushing those buttons. He is thanked for his intervention, but is forced to leave the planet immediately and is not welcome to return.

Whose Responsibility?
Asimov notes:
"Lamorak's choice makes a cogent point in this story, a point about responsibility. The people of Elsevere have been brought up to view Ragusnikhood as repulsive and unspeakable, an attitude learned from earliest childhood. At what point do they become so responsible for his misery that they should have to pay such a terrible price for having supported it? Every individual is born into a cultural system that presents him with attitudes and beliefs read-made - many of them are of current usefulness and others are simply historical baggage, but all of them are part of that system. Who, then, is to blame for the misery of Ragusnik and his lonely attempt to win the status of a full and equal human being?"

Purva Paksha
Much has been said about India's caste system and much of it is misinformed. Few realize that India did not really have a caste system for a long, long time. They had a Jati-and-Varna system (Jati = the group you were born into, Varna = your occupational group, and Varna initially allowed social mobility before it ossified). The colonials merged this two-dimensional social structure into a single-dimensional 'caste', distorting the meaning significantly. Untouchability is illegal in India, and former untouchables have made amazing progress. They have produced powerful political leaders who have an impact on national politics, as well as business leaders, although more needs to be done. However, like every other place in the world, people who choose to discriminate will do so, and India is no exception. Some of the best discussions on caste systems are summarized below.

Anatomy of a Caste System
We will start off with Asimov notes some interesting instances of untouchability in ancient times on earth:
"Lamorak thought of Untoucbhables in ancient India, the ones who handled corpses. He thought of the position of swineherds in ancient Judea".

This tells us that caste systems are or were not present in India alone and so not unique to India.  The findings of Sri. Neelakandan's Purva Paksha of caste systems in the West, and Rajiv Malhotra's P.P of the one in the United States, are simply stunning. We start with Rajiv's work first. In this brilliant essay, he clearly identifies the American caste system (yes). Along the way, he also explains why doing Purva Pakshas are important:

"Understanding this American caste system has important implications for Asian Americans. Indians have traditionally been too introverted and due to that, have not studied the rest of the world. But the dynamics of the West are important to understand, even to deepen one's understanding of oneself. The field of academic scholarship and teaching of Hinduism is dominated by Jews and Christians. Indians have been content to be portrayed by others, and yet complain later when the portrayal begins to play out in society -- be it in the form of peer pressure facing their own kids growing up in the West, or as public opinion shaped by Marxists of Indian origin, or in the form of aggressive proselytizing back in India."

Thus, we have seen an example of a more recent caste system in place. Nor is the caste system in India solely due to a single religion. The Muslims there have a very well codified caste system in place as well. Christianity in India also has a well-defined caste system. To dig deeper, we will refer to a March 2011 discussion in the Rajiv Malhotra forum that is summarized in the other blog I maintain. There, Rajiv's co-author of 'Breaking India', Sri. Aravindan Neelakandan credits Asimov's 'Strikebreaker' as providing one of the best insights into how and why a caste system comes into being and how it operates. You can join the Rajiv Malhotra Forum to read the discussion in its entirety. Here is what Sri. Neelakandan has to say on this topic:

"Now the birth-based multi-layered institutions of pre-modern Europe were supported by Christian theologians and law-makers. This does not make Christianity, in the eyes of modern scholars, a supporter of this system. However with Hinduism different yard sticks are used. An essentialist argument is put forth to say that Hinduism is intertwined with Jaathi. This is simply not the complete picture and is a distorted picture of history. In this connection, with regard to the evolution of untouchability, one of the best insights on the
subject is in an unexpected realm. I suggest the science fiction short story "Strikebreaker," by Isaac Asimov, in "Anthropology Through Science Fiction",
(Ed. Carol Mason, Martin Harry Green- berg, and Patricia Warrick, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1974) Unfortunately I lost my copy of this wonderful collection.:( In the related discussion, Asimov states that caste system evolves
in a society with limited resources and limited mobility.

Veracity of this speculation by the good doctor of science fiction, can be further validated by the fact that pre-Modern Europe also had defiled trades and ritual notions of purity and untouchability.
It is not just an accident that not many works or literature can be found on this subject in the Western curriculum. The one rare book I came across in this regard is "Defiled Trades and Social Outcasts: Honor and Ritual Pollution in Early Modern Germany"  (my comment: I found a free pdf link) by Kathy Stuart (Cambridge University Press 2006). It was not a phenomenon limited to Germany though. Please see the passage below and change some words and one can pass it for the account of an European traveler about pre-Modern India.

"Throughout the Holy Roman empire dishonorable tradesmen suffered various forms of social, economic, leagal and political discrimination on a graduated scale of dishonor at the hands of "honorable" guild artisans and in "honorable" society
at large....Executioners and skinners might be pelted with stones by onlookers, they might be refused access to taverns, excluded from public baths or denied an honorable burial. Dishonor was transmitted through heredity often over several generayions. The polluting quality of dishonor is one of its defining characteristics." (pp.2-3)

So we need not justify or label Jaathi as an uniquely Indic phenomenon. But what one finds unique as an Indian is this:
There is not a single instance of mass movement in Christendom that spoke for these voiceless people of dishonorable trades.  Luther took pride in saying that he was instrumental in the massacre of peasants. As against that all Bhakthi movements were peasant based. One cannot
imagine a medieval Pope or Cardinal or noble-born Christian saint performing the last rites of a defiled person as one's own father. But in India we have the greatest Vaishanava Acharya not only receiving wisdom from but performing the last rites of a man of Pulaya Jaathi.

So caste system can evolve anywhere given the appropriate social conditions
. In India it became rigid with colonial  resource drain. In Europe it withered away with enormous inflow of capital and resources -particularly India- as well as acquisition of vast lands by Europeans in Australia, Africa and Americas. So in a way, it was through the suffering of colonized countries like India that the birth based discriminations in European society was mostly erased.

I also think those who want to somehow preserve the Jaathi and project it in a positive light often fail to see the dark alchemy that this system is undergoing in India.

Western Strikebreakers

Dr. Lamorak intervenes and ends up messing with the planet's social system and ensures that Ragusnik is forced to continue his sub-humanly existence. India is a tragic example of misinformed and often diabolical interference from the west as recorded in 'Breaking India' (although the west does not brook outside interference into its own society). Toward this, let's return to the discussion and see what Sri. Neelakandan has to say:

"... Here let me again quote 'Breaking India' which deals more objectively the situation and the pros and cons of Jaathi. This is from Chapter 5 of the book and is under the sub-heading "Building on Max Muller's work":
Prior to colonialism, the jati-varna system in India had little, if anything, to do with race, ethnicity, or genetics. It was better understood as a set of distinctions based on traditional or inherited social status derived from work roles. Jati is a highly localized and intricately organized social structure. One of the important aspects of jati, which was conspicuously overlooked by western Indologists, was its dynamic nature – allowing social mobility as well as occupational diversification. These rural social structures were more horizontally organized than vertically stratified. It was this inherent feature of the jati-varna system that led Gandhi to postulate the model of `oceanic circle' for the ideal Indian village society rather than the Western pyramidal model. Nevertheless, the colonial imposition of the hierarchical view, coupled with distortions of jati in order to fit it into a racial framework, grossly distorted the characteristics of jati and greatly amplified its negative features. Max Müller, who was largely responsible for entrenching the racial framework for studying jati, had his own evangelical motive. In his view, caste: which has hitherto proved an impediment to conversion of the Hindus, may in future became one of the most powerful engines for the conversion not merely of the individuals, but of whole classes of Indian society. (Breaking India p.52)

Today Jaathi has become an important and effective tool for community evangelism. So those who bat for it should take this worrying aspect into consideration.

The Caste System Fractal
(pic source: /
In fact, a quick look at the how the world is organized itself will tell me that there is little difference between Elsevere and today's earth in some respects - we most likely have a world caste system in place. A Caste system is a fractal, and like fractals, tends to show up everywhere. Within earth we have a country-based caste system (more about that below). Each country or social cluster has its own caste system. Within each such caste, you see sub-castes, etc.. so on until you see formal or informally segregated neighborhoods (like in the US), and so forth.
An alien visitor to earth would surely notice that there is a clear hierarchy of countries, the UN security council, the G5, G20, etc. - those who call the shots, control the world's oil, stockpile nuclear weapons, control human rights groups, act as the global policemen, establish travel and trade barriers, sell Western universalism, and enjoy high standards of living based on a lavish consumptive lifestyle, .. and then there are those who don't do these things, and store the nuclear waste, manufacture low-level goods, and many of whose citizens endure sub-human conditions... I leave it a social scientist who passes by this site to connect the dots to validate/invalidate this hypothesis if someone hasn't already done so.

To summarize, a Purva Paksha clearly establishes that there are caste systems all around us, and at every time in recorded history. Give the right set of conditions, some kind of a caste system is inevitable, and this is not unique to a country, region, religion, or time. However, when a caste system starts to create more problems that it solves, it's continued use must be re-examined. Asimov notes:
"A caste system woks only so long as everyone recognizes the rightness of its structure and realizes a fair share of the benefits thereof. When members of the lower castes begin to complain about their treatment and members of the higher castes begin to wonder about their justness, the system is in trouble".

These are some of the lessons we can learn from 'Strikebreaker', a 13-page sci-fi story written long ago.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Review of Asimov's 'Nightfall' from a Dharmic Perspective

Nightfall (NF) was written by Isaac Asimov in 1941, when the war that was burning down Europe would escalate into a global war. It remains one of the best science fiction stories ever written and won many awards. Reams have been written about this book in the western literature. The attempt here is to subject 'Nightfall' to a Purva Paksha, i.e., examine the ideas in the book from a native Indian (Dharmic) viewpoint, utilizing some key ideas in Rajiv Malhotra's book 'Being Different'. We will rely on the original version (about 20-odd pages) of NF that was published in 'Anthropology through Science Fiction', 1971. (The next post in the TQ blog will cover another Asimov story in this book). You can read 'Nightfall' online here.

(picture source link:

NF visits the human-inhabited planet of Lagash at a most critical point in its civilization, when five of its six suns have fizzled out, and the sixth ("Beta") appears to be in danger of meeting the same fate, leaving its inhabitants to endure 'night' for the first time ever. Archaeologists determine that Lagash has gone through repeated cycles of birth and destruction. Physicists , after applying the laws of gravity and orbital motions, and centuries of analysis, calculate that each boom-bust cycle lasts 2049 years that ends with a solar eclipse of a sole remaining sun. Psychologists explain that the resulting onset of nightfall and its terrifying darkness brings about an extraordinary claustrophobia among the population. Driven insane by fear and chaos, the people will proceed to light up and eventually burn down Lagash to cinder. This fear drives a bunch of scientists to build and move into an artificially lit doomsday hide-out.

On the other hand, Lagash has a group of cultists who follow 'the book of revelations' that pretty much talks about all these effects, but attributing causality to some external divine force. Furthermore, the book talks about an appearance of many stars in the sky in the end, which cult followers have to view to achieve salvation. While the cult cares less about the cause ("they believe it because the book says so"), they share valuable data with the scientists, and in this bargain, the scientists will validate that the cultists were indeed prophetic.
The scientists proceed to provide rational explanations for the phenomena that coincide with that the cult says, but as a result of this scientific explanation, increasing number of Lagashians desert the cult since they do not need the book anymore for supernatural explanations, greatly annoying the cult that accuses the seculars of Blasphemy. The scientists reciprocate this dislike for the cultists and in the end, the cultists attempt to destroy their observatory that is trying to photograph and analyze the final scene, fearing that the scientists were interfering with their moment of salvation. As nightfall descends, the Lagashians go crazy and burn down their civilization, as predicted.

Asimov's introduction to Nightfall
Per Wikipedia, Asimov says that he wrote NF after being introduced to Emerson's quote by John Campbell:
"... If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore, 
and preserve for many generations,
the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown!
Campbell's opinion to the contrary was: "I think men would go mad." "

Asimov writes a two-page introduction to NF in this book and makes the following observations:

a. A cult that at it's core does not address the problems that cause the society's ills will hasten its disintegration.

b. Religion or science? (classical binary choice approach that characterizes the Western frame of reference). Science was successful in explaining why Lagash would burn down, and in that process were able to rescue many cultists from their dogmatic existence. But in the end, neither science, nor the cult were able to save the people from self-destructing, thereby indicating the inadequacy of the cult and science in providing timely and practical solutions for a critical problem.

Emerson's Quote
Emerson, whose quote inspired the book, was greatly influenced by Hinduism. Rajiv Malhotra writes in his book 'Being Different: An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism': "... Europe's encounter with Sanskrit revolutionized the European study of linguistics, and its encounter with Hinduism and Buddhism deeply informed Western philosophy and challenged the Judeo-Christian traditions. Some westerners, such as the American transcendentalists: Thoreau, Emerson and Whitman, broke away from Christian orthodoxy as a result. This process continues today ever more deeply in the mainstream of the West through yoga, meditation, healing sciences, the arts, eco-feminism, philosophy, and pop culture...".

Indeed, Emerson's aforementioned quote is taken from his work 'Nature'. Sanderson Beck notes:

".. In his essay on "Nature" Emerson reveals the essence of his philosophy: "Philosophically considered, the universe is composed of Nature and the Soul." This has been stated before in the Sankhya philosophy of India ... Spirit, or the oversoul which includes all individual souls, is the eternal essence of an infinite absolute reality which creates all the transitory phenomena of Nature The Sanskrit terms are Purusha which means Person and Prakriti meaning Nature.."

Interestingly, Beck says "....the truth may be spoken in any language, and we must not hasten to conclude that he merely adopted the Hindu religion, but rather that he found there corresponding ideas to the illumination he received from his own soul and experience in life. In his essay "Compensation" which describes the spiritual law of karma, or cause and effect in human action, he indicates he discovered this principle himself although it has been known for millennia in India and is similar to Greek notions of justice and retribution .."

This paragraph can be recognized as yet another attempt to digest Hinduism into Western universalism, and amputate critical Hindu ideas from its original body of work. In fact, Emerson's text reads but like an English re-interpretation of the original Sanskrit texts of Hinduism.

Nightfall appears to depict Emerson as the cultists in NF who see the divine in the once-in-a-thousand-year stars but at the same time, also exposes the limitations of science in solving society's most difficult problems. In the end, the scientists of Lagash are shocked to see thousands of stars that they never expected would fit into such a small sky, and as they begin their descent into terror, lose their coherence, and remain unable to find a rational explanation for this final phenomenon. On the other hands, the cultists did have an explanation, however inadequate.

Dharmic point of view
Hinduism, like other Dharmic religions, does NOT see a contradiction between itself and science. Indeed, concepts of Hinduism have not come into conflict with science so far, be it Heliocentrism, Evolution, Quantum Mechanics, or the
Theory of Relativity. The Hindu belief of cyclical time is exemplified in NF by the creative-destructive cycles of Lagash. In contrast, NF's cultists accept their book-ordained fiery end without question and implicitly reject Karma - a mindset that could have potentially changed the end result for the population. They believe that the stars that show up on doomsday are a historically divine intervention from elsewhere (duality). These stars provide, at the risk of madness, a collective salvation for only the populace of Lagash that views them but not others, who will be damned, and is thus not linked to individual Karma or Sva-Dharma. It is clear that NF's cult is not based on a Dharmic thought system but is history-centric, and nearly exactly models any Abrahamic religion.

In the end, neither the cultists (who are not dharmic but dogmatic), nor the atheistic seculars (limited by their senses to incomplete understanding) are able to develop adhyatma vidya (inner sciences, self-realization techniques) required to transcend the limitation of the human sense and the primordial fear of darkness. Doing so would have also enabled them to get past the few hours of darkness due to a solar eclipse.

Nightfall on Earth
Clearly, all religions are NOT the same, not in 1941 when the global war began, not now on earth, or in some futuristic Lagash. Every year, there are many predictions of the end of the world. Every year, the primordial fear of nightfall drives many so-called rational and smart people to believe this may well be possible and call for a collective holding of hands to fight the terror of darkness. This is how cults operate.  Science merely laughs. Dharmic faiths like Hinduism, on the other hand that have no conflict with science by design, talk of timeless, cyclical time and empower you to overcome your fear of eternal darkness.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Hinduism: The Ultimate Anti-Fragile

[as always, this article is a work in progress ...]

Note: This post is not to be viewed as a 'celebration' by the Hindu society of 'succeeding in surviving continually for a very long time'. After all, a cockroach has also survived for a long time. Barely surviving is not a cause for high-fives. Indeed as Rajiv Malhotra says:
"I have too many times responded to this false belief as an instance of what I have coined the Moron Smriti. Dharma's space and share went down by 80% over the past 1500 years. Imagine your company CFO saying, "Congratulations, boss! We lost 80% of our marketshare, share price, revenues, but guess what? We are still not bankrupt! Isn't that cool?""

Rather the attempt here is to recognize the key concept of integral unity present in Hinduism that gives it its unsurpassed resilience and ability to constructively harness 'disorder' in the hope that it helps shape the future of Hinduism in a positive manner.

Reading Naseem Taleb and following this interview is interesting.
"Linda Geddes: In your new book you talk about things being "antifragile." What do you mean exactly?
Nassim Nicholas Taleb: When you ask people what is the opposite of fragile, they mostly answer something that is resilient or unbreakable—an unbreakable package would be robust. However, the opposite of fragile is something that actually gains from disorder. In the book, I classify things into fragile, robust, or antifragile...

LG: How would you make something antifragile?
NNT: If antifragility is the property of all these natural complex systems that have survived, then depriving them of volatility, randomness, and stressors will harm them...


Note the highlighted terms used to represent what to the West essentially is some form of "chaos".  Readers of the book "Being Different: India's Challenge to Western Universalism", will most probably grasp the meaning of the title of this post relatively quickly. Empirically, it is well known that Hinduism and India's Dharmic civilization has managed to not just survive but continually thrive for 5000+ years. There is a lesson to be learned here. Furthermore, Hinduism has withstood the onslaught of invaders who practiced and imposed barbaric versions of Abrahamic ideologies for more than 800 years on India, but remarkably, with relatively little success. Reason: They could not decipher the "chaos" and "disorder" within Hinduism required to cause it to disintegrate. The path of least resistance employed to conquer Hinduism led them into a maze and a series of dead ends. In comparison, almost the entire middle east was converted to Islam within a few decades using similar methods. Similarly, Europe and the United States witnesses a rapid conquest of paganism centuries ago, and presently, a steady decline in Church membership in the last century, despite enjoying a monopoly in the religious market and unprecedented and robust material prosperity. Why?
Although a lot of this post focuses on religion and philosophy, this is not just a religion versus religion comparison on resilience. This is more a civilization versus civilization comparison.

Integral Unity
Dharmic thought systems' organic Integral Unity, as opposed to the Judeo-Christian approach of synthesizing unity makes it anti-fragile. In BD, Rajiv Malhotra points out: "... All dharmic schools begin by assuming that ultimately the cosmos is a unified whole in which absolute reality and the relative manifestations are profoundly connected. Western worldviews, by contrast, have been shaped by a tension between the absolute status of Judeo-Christian historical revelations on the one hand and the knowledge produced by a highly dualistic and atomistic Greek metaphysics and Aristotelian binary logic on the other".

Chapter 3 of this book shows precisely how the organic and integral unity-based Dharmic traditions are anti-fragile in contrast with the Judeo-Christian one that is based on various inorganically synthesized coalition of ideas, which is inherently fragile (i.e. a Jarasandha Model). As far as chaos, Rajiv Malhotra notes: "Sri Aurobindo, the great Indian yogi and philosopher of the twentieth century, said that since unity in the dharmic traditions is grounded in a sense of oneness, there can be immense multiplicity without fear of collapse into disintegration and chaos. He went on to say that nature can afford the luxury of infinite differentiation, since the underlying immutability of the eternal always remains unaffected. In the West, chaos is seen as a ceaseless threat both psychologically and socially – something to be overcome by control or elimination. Psychologically, it drives the ego to become all-powerful and controlling. Socially, it creates a hegemonic impulse over those who are different. A cosmology based on unity that is synthetic and not innate is riddled with anxieties. Therefore, order must be imposed so as to resolve differences relating to culture, race, gender, sexual orientation and so on ..."

Thus is clear from this passage that Rajiv Malhotra perceives this inability of the West to embrace chaos as a major fault line. Interestingly, Gurumurthy, India's brilliant investigative journalist, and Hindu thinker in a recent talk in Bangalore said "the west has nationalized the family and privatized the state". The fear of chaos has breached the western family's living room and bedroom.

The Bandhu Principle
So how exactly does Integral Unity make Hinduism anti-fragile? To that we turn to the Bandhu principle, which is described in 'Being Different' as follows:
"Bandhu is a concept used to explain how the whole and the parts are held together in integral unity. All aspects of the world stem from a common ineffable source, and what we perceive as nature is but a pointer to a higher reality. There is interlinking among the various faces of this reality, such as sounds, numbers, colours and ideas, and this interlinking is bandhu.... 

Furthermore .... Not only does each discipline presume this unity; so does the relationship among disciplines. All the arts and sciences are interrelated and may be seen as manifold ways in which human nature, itself an emanation of cosmic unity, expresses itself. One discipline contains and reflects the others. Delving deeply into any one of them eventually leads to similar integral principles and structures..."

Thus "... Bandhu accounts for the survival of dharmic spirituality, for even when certain disciplines and practices were destroyed, other disciplines encoding the same principles survived and helped revive the overall tradition."

The West is slowly beginning to see the benefits of such highly decentralized 'anti-fragile' designs - something that India always had used, and informally understood for thousands of years. The study of complex network systems in the aftermath of the West's financial collapse of 2007 reveals some interesting preliminary results [see this 15-minute video]. The talker notes the high degree of centralization of ownership as well as the high levels of interactions between the nodes in the network.

This interview reiterates why it is extremely important for Hinduism to survive in its original form and context without bad Western translations, uncredited appropriations, digestion, and new-age makeovers. Among many other things, it also provides crucial answers, feedback, and examples to some of the most complex practical and dire problems facing societies in the world today and in the future. Next, let us look at the nature of the "Black Swans" that Hinduism may face in the future.

Black Swans and the anti-fragile future of Hinduism
The Amazon book description says "Antifragile is a blueprint for living in a Black Swan world." Let's go back to the interview once again.

"LG: Does all this connect to your black swans?

NNT: Those are rare events with extreme impacts that lie outside the realm of regular expectations because nothing in the past can convincingly point to their possibility. The global financial collapse is one example ...

LG: How do we get out of the way of these rare catastrophic events?
NNT: We can't measure the probability of rare events because small measurement errors will cause those predictions to explode. The real point of my book The Black Swan is not to talk about the weird things that can happen but to be able to identify how resistant and robust you are to computationally small probabilities..."

Yes, Hinduism (or more accurately, Dharmic Civilization) has survived a few totally unexpected and incredibly hostile attacks, albeit at a very heavy price paid in terms of a Dharmic decay in Hindu society. The questions that it faces today are 
- can this decaying Hindu society that was once a vehicle of integral unity be induced to implode? 
- what if Dharmic Civilization is attacked by an adversary that simulates the Bandhu principle? This is precisely the method of inculturation being adopted by the Church in India. 
- How can this anti-fragile exemplar survive such a viral attack? 

Broadly speaking, it seems that the Church has employed three different types / stages in their attack on Hinduism:

Stage 1: 1757 - 1857 : Overt Missionary tactics to convert natives as a de-facto  and active government policy. One of the tangible victories of the 1857 war of Independence was to strongly discourage the use of this type of a frontal attack.

Stage 2: 1857 - 1947 : Government-sanctioned methods to impart Church-friendly / Western-Universal, convent-English education and the destruction and marginalization of native traditions, teaching, and training methods. 

Stage 3: 1947 - present: The political freedom gained by India ended the blatantly pro-Abrahamic methods but not the Western-Universalism that Gandhi fought against.  The WU controlled media and educational material contains ample anti-Hindu messaging that largely encourages the rejection of Hindu philosophy using textbooks riddled with straw-man arguments.
Furthermore, distributed stealth-marketing methods employing native force multipliers (inculturation and converted Christian transmitters). This, by far, has the maximum chance of success and empirical results can confirm this. This approach attempts to destroy Hinduism:
a) from the inside-out, by 
b) employing not just a single central agency, but a union of varied agents having diverse talents, and in pursuit of their own objectives, and 
c) outwardly simulates a Hinduism-like integral unity.

Note that (c) is just a simulation and obfuscation since this ploy is merely another (admittedly clever) instance of synthetic-unity at work given the history-centric core of the adversarial sections of the West. In stage-1 and stage-2, the Hindu society, either willingly or reluctantly, joined hands with the India's Islamic society to repel Western universalism, but paid a heavy price in terms of territorial and demographic losses apart from enduring a cultural genocide. How it will be able to defend itself against this novel inside-out attack is an open question. However, the heartening news is that the books "Breaking India" and "Being Different" have 
a) deciphered the mechanism, tactics, and to some extent, also understood the strategy employed by the adversary
b) Prescribed some methods and techniques that can be employed toward preserving the DNA of the ultimate anti-fragile system of the universe.

Update 1 (December 5, 2012)
The video of the brilliant lecture by Gurumurthy in Bengaluru last week (alluded to earlier in the original post above) is now online. The first 15-20 minutes of the talk is especially interesting in that it reveals the "anti-fragile" nature of Indian civilization's native, self-governing, entrepreneurial, decentralized, eco-friendly, pluralistic economy that is neither Darwinian-Capitalistic or Socialist/Marxist. The Bandhu principle appears to extend to the 'Hindu business model' as well. This is contrasted with the West's fear of 'chaos' that inevitably converges toward a centralized ownership model (either the government, or a few private organizations), which is evident from the empirical observations in the 'who controls the west' video in the above post. Per Dr. Vaidyanathan (who also spoke that day), more than 90% of Indian work-force is self-employed. Amazing resilience!

The resilience of this native Hindu economy as described by Gurumurthy is best captured within the first 5-10 minutes of the followup to this talk by M. R. Venkatesh. I have embedded that video as well, below for the sake of completion.


Update 2 (December 13, 2012)
This update comes thanks to the insightful questions asked of the thesis by an anonymous commentator. The robustness and fragility of History-Centric (HC) versus Dharmic cultures are compared side-by-side, and some hypotheses postulated.

Robustness and Anti-fragility of History-Centric Cultures
A HC faith's only but glaring weakness is its complete dependence on history. This results in a Synthetic but not Integral Unity (Ref: 'Being Different' book). All additional theology are derived dependencies and extensions of this HC core. This resembles a "Star-wars Death-Star" model. If the core is damaged beyond a point, the system implodes. History-Centrism is a non-regeneratable resource. If their history is discredited or erased, that culture will disappear. Consequently, it is a strategy that even a low-grade threat to their HC objects (e.g. religious structure/holy book/prophet) must receive a disproportionately severe response. HC faith based cultures are designed to be robust, so their first line of defense is tight. They have the support of oil-rich countries or Western nations with strong military, economic, and information base.
Hypothesis: Working HC-systems are typically very (strategically) robust to make up for the poor anti-fragile properties that make them vulnerable to implosion.

The best way to take down such a system is an open question and is left to the reader.

Comparative Analysis of Hinduism
As already argued, Hinduism has been super anti-fragile in the past. The response to an attack on its religious resources typically elicits a disproportionately muted response. Temples damaged, texts and concepts distorted, Yoga, Ayurveda, Advaita digested, etc..,  eliciting nothing more than a whimper and grumblings. Thus Hindus have been been terribly complacent about their primary line of defense for decades, and this has hurt them badly. Furthermore, a major emerging threat is the systematic attack (Stage 3) on Hindu Gurus all over the world.  Unlike HC theologists whose main task is to memorize 'HC Smriti' (Claim: A machine is sufficient to replicate and teach all necessary HC theology??), the wise Guru carries with her or him, the 'DNA' of Hinduism that can be used to re-generate and propagate Dharmic concepts and inspire future leaders of the nation (Can we even count the number of patriotic Indian leaders inspired by Swami Vivekananda?).

Hypothesis: Working Dharmic systems (e.g. Hindu society) today are typically non-robust that leaves them vulnerable to sustained pressure. They have excellent anti-fragile properties that have been understood by adversarial HC systems.

Update 3: Dec 21, 2012
Perspectives on Indian History: The anti-fragile nature of India's cultural unity (Sanskriti) comes out really well in this insightful and superb presentation (Jijnasa Charcha) by Sandeep Balakrishna. This Google-docs link may look better. In particular note the empirical comparison with HC-dominated Europe. You can view the Jijnasa Charcha on Youtube here (turn the audio way up). This is a 5-part video, that is well worth listening to.

Update 4: January 9, 2012
Updated terminology in a few places.

Update 5: January 11, 2012 
Added introductory note and reference to Rajiv Malhotra's coined phrase "Moron Smriti".

Update 6: August 08, 2014
anti-fragility of Hinduism (and dharmic systems, in general) also appear to be related to its allostatic nature ~ 'unchanging, perhaps even getting stronger, by adaptively changing' without sacrificing dharma. Here's a tweet by the @macroresilience twitter handle:
Update 7: May 3, 2016
Briefly updated content.