In a casteist society like India, caste influences metal

mace

The society that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting by fools

Thucydides

Perhaps the most identifiable characters of Indian metal are pusillanimity of sound and attitude. Sycophancy is ingrained in the Indian make-up and often gets a free pass under the name of hospitality and a genial view of life, but to see it practiced to such great extents in a music that prides itself on iconoclasm and ferocity makes for a sad and disillusioning experience. The metal coming from these shores is itself an unimaginative hodge podge of disparate influences. The great majority of these bands don’t play what is regarded as metal by people you would care to discuss this music with but are in any case being gradually absorbed into the global, politically-correct spin on metal. To slam a colored man’s efforts is akin to career suicide for the fair-skinned scribe, as pathetic as the former’s efforts or the latter’s career may be in any context you care to build.

But even ignoring the clueless approach to metal as sound, what has always stumped me is the cloyingly acquiescent, diplomatic mindset prevalent among Indian metalheads, so at odds with the sentiment behind the genre; and yet the same sentiment so readily invoked in person and on internet forums by the same people! The pretense is easy enough to explain: who doesn’t want to belong to a club and appear cool, after all? It feels good to be on the inside of a subculture, to delude yourself into thinking that you’re saying fuck you to the world. Metal provides a ready-made suit of invincibility of sorts; it comes with presets built into its very fabric, unsubtle insinuations that warmly, temptingly  drape over the skin of even the most clueless of listeners, transferring some of the music’s potency to this critter, however devoid of original thought, critical discernment, or self-respect he may be.

But this is no more than a deception. The critter lacks the constitution, arising by nature or through upbringing, necessary for interpreting metal as philosophy. To him it remains little more than a dark, outlier sound he can use to strike the cool, two-penny poses. War! Ave Satanas! Worship this! Hail that! Pure fucken hate! Self-proclaimed metal martyrs compromising everything they said they once believed in now that they’re in the game to earn their pound of flesh. And proud of it. And the apes cheer in unison.

Get the fuck out of here.

These have been my overwhelming observations over time. One might say it’s much the same in other parts of the world, but I’m not concerned about that. I believe India’s situation is unique because of two reasons: (a) metal is a middle and upper middle-class phenomenon here, and (b) our unique caste hierarchy.

The latter in particular is the thrust of this post. Indian society was and still is divided broadly along the lines of the four varnas or castes. These are the Brahmins, priests and erstwhile reservoirs of oral knowledge and liturgy, Kshatriyas, the warrior aristocracy, Vaishyas or the merchants, and Shudras, or the untouchables. There are countless sub-divisions among all these, but this is the gist of it.

Caste is a taboo subject in this country and I’m about to embark on what may seem like generalization, but I firmly believe that Indian metal and Indian metalheads are so craven because a good chunk of bands and fans here consist of Brahmins and Vaishyas, two communities not traditionally associated with matters of martial importance like honor, courage, forthrightness, and spirit, but which have been upwardly mobile either due to their position at the top of the caste hierarchy or through commercial savvy.

In Revolt Against The Modern World, Julius Evola says that these qualities – honor, courage, and spirit – were the personification of the divine on the earthly plane in ancient, monarchical times, best represented by the exploits of the warrior class in their conduct of battle, and in their personal and social lives. The priests, Brahmins in India, were indispensable stockpiles of knowledge, but their ultimate purpose was to anoint the agency of the warrior king as a direct conduit to the heavens. Evola compared them to midwives birthing something holy into the sphere of human affairs; they were the female half of the man-woman duality present in much of nature and mythology, responsible for nurture and stewardship.

Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, the second President of India, a great philosopher in his own right, and a Brahmin, said that the sanctity of the caste system was corrupted gradually down the ages, that it once existed in a naive and pristine innocence where the lowest of the low was happy with his glorious station in life, that of carrying and disposing of his superiors’ feces. Perhaps shit smelled a little different three thousand years ago, but there is no doubting that Brahmins have actively sought to sustain a caste system based not on merit but birth. Shivaji, the great Maratha warrior who staved off the Mughal conquest of India from the West, couldn’t legitimize his new kingdom because Brahmins refused to crown him on account of his birth as a Shudra, an untouchable. He had to bring down a mercenary Brahmin from across the country to perform the ceremony, pay him ten times the going price, and even then bear the ignominy of having his forehead anointed only with the Brahmin’s toe.

None of this should be taken to mean that I don’t advocate a particular form of caste system. I most certainly do, only that it wouldn’t be predicated by birth, or liable to make a future Shivaji the butt of ridicule. A caste hierarchy should live and breathe, be organic and open to revision as a man’s thoughts and actions, during his lifetime, mandate, and over time who’s to say these same living, breathing, organic qualities won’t breed themselves into future bloodlines? But that is a topic of conjecture so far beyond ground realities that it is foolish to spend more time on.

And yet, like the serpent Ouroboros eating its own tail, we return to those same bloodlines, at least somewhat hermetically delivered to us through time, by our present-day caste system, however imperfect it may be. If metal indeed is a warrior-like music as so often suggested here and by other blogs, then what sincerity and honorable conduct can one expect when it is riddled with the Brahmin and the Baniya, or Vaishya, classes? I hear indignant howls of derision as I write this: “how dare he?“, “which world is he living in?” I tell you this: India’s economic and global mobility is of a very recent vintage; while our educated classes take Western liberal dogma as gospel, if and when they pause to think i.e., vestiges of who we are as a people are almost always alive in us and our homes, in one form or the other. And they manifest themselves in our actions, sometimes in ways contrary to all our professed secularism. It only takes a keen eye to spot them when they do.

 

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2 Responses to In a casteist society like India, caste influences metal

  1. Shiva says:

    to be fair, shivaji was the descendant of suryavanshi sisodia rajputs. thus the bagh naka flows in his blood, not just in his possession as a weapon. either way, we all know south asians need some sort of societally-embedded structure to truly thrive, because the vast majority of this vermin populace neither understands, appreciates or can handle the freedom given to them in the name of democracy. ultimately, this phenomenon of metal cliques isn’t specific to india but endemic to the genre – confused, polarizing and contradictory ideals caused by the pursuit of man as a social animal and his quest to belong.

  2. deckard cain says:

    “I’m about to embark on what may seem like generalization..” That indeed sounded like an anticipatory bail. hehe

    If i am to point out the incompatibility in method here, then that would be the essentialist mode of attributing subjective characteristics to certain castes. “honor, courage, forthrightness, and spirit,” and what not. On the other hand the historical development and constitution of the army, barracks, the military establishment all stand proof to the fact that these said characteristics can be instilled and conditioned regardless of the primary characteristics of the individual.

    “A caste hierarchy should live and breathe, be organic and open to revision as a man’s thoughts……” Well a close variant of that that has always happened. A bit of reading into M N Srinivas’ Sanskritization would suggest that these have always happened. But Shudras have largely remained low. And from this stand point when something like a liberal’s version of democracy is thrust upon the country, the status quo would nonetheless remain the same. Wouldn’t then the merit system just perpetrate the already lowly state? Isn’t then a level playing field preeminent for a merit based system to say succeed? I believe caste is just another Freudian ‘Narcissism of small differences’, only forming a community so that one might direct the ‘id’s, that dark cloister of primal passions, on to a foreign object. The ‘other castes’ in this case.

    In the world of metaldom then the upper classes by extension the upper castes might be a claim. And yet one cannot stop to question this sub-belief of a belief that they are only ‘brahmins and vaishyas’, how are the kshatriyas not included. The results might be inclusive of kshatriyas as well. This would demand a survey then. And if in the early days of metal the argument can be made that most of metal’s pioneers in the global north were from the working classes then this would again negate your primary argument that caste matters at all.

    All in the spirit of conversation my friend. And long time man! Dropped by your blog after quite sometime.

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