January 1, 2011


India & the Anglosphere: On the role the world largest democracy can play in the Anglosphere. (Madhav Das Nalapat, January 2011, New Criterion)

If we define the Anglosphere as not simply a geographic or even a linguistic entity, but as an entity that encapsulates the type of thought and behavior that led to Magna Carta, to the movement for the abolition of slavery, to the Industrial Revolution, and to the war against the Nazis’ attempt to conquer continental Europe, then it is a fact that such minds exist not only within the geographical spaces visualized in a Churchillian Anglosphere, but also much farther afield. India, for instance—together with the United States and the United Kingdom—forms the core of a twenty-first-century Anglosphere.

A look at English-language titles in bookstores reveals the increasing participation of Indian writers, while a similar situation can be found in cinema and in the arts more generally. In the academic life of the United States—as indeed in the corporate boardroom—the proportion of those with an ethnic background that is rooted within the Indian subcontinent is no longer derisory. Pepsi’s Indira Nooyi and Citi’s Vikram Pandit exemplify this, as do the thousands of Indian academics in the United States (and, to a lesser degree, the United Kingdom). This is in contrast to the situation in the European Continent, where those of a different ethnicity are seldom given an opportunity to compete—on equal terms—with natives, as the frosty reception given to the possibility of an Indian taking over as the chief of Deutsche Bank indicates. Anshu Jain’s department has regularly delivered more than three-fourths of the profit of the bank, yet his ethnicity has been a barrier to heading a “pure German” institution.

Such exclusivity is in contrast to the United States, which, when looked at from the perspective of the twenty-first century, is a quadri-continental country, infused with the cultural strains of the Americas, Africa, Asia, and, of course, Europe. Far from demanding that those from outside adopt the diction of a British native to be accepted, the population of the United Kingdom has accepted several words that come from afar into their own everyday speech. In their adaptability and openness, in the adoption of trends from different shores, and in their incorporation of these differing strands within their own “mainstream” culture, the people of Great Britain resemble most closely the populations of the United States and India. Such felicity is the consequence of an inner faith in foundational values and identity, what we may define as “core” values.

Those who have joined Angela Merkel—or in the past, Enoch Powell—in inveighing against “multikult” confuse the periphery for the core. The heart of the system of values that binds together the Anglosphere is a shared belief in the primacy of the individual over the state and in the constellation of rights that flow from such a worldview; it is a respect for a code of behavior that recognizes as impermissible the denial to the individual’s right to create a future and a lifestyle of his choice, provided that such a freedom does not place others in harm’s way; it is a recognition of the desirability for each individual to exert himself in the fulfillment of dharma (duty), rather than simply to succumb to an enervating belief in the dominance of fate (karma). If the people of the United Kingdom were fatalistic, they would not have won themselves an empire. If the population of the United States were indifferent to the need to achieve individual excellence through exertion and if they regarded the acquisition of a comfortable lifestyle as a right rather than as a reward for effort, the United States would not have become the world’s biggest economy.

[T]he entry of India into the Anglosphere would be to the benefit of not merely the countries which comprise this union—a list that currently includes the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, and Singapore—but others as well. Over the five millennia of its existence, India has been less a country than a culture. The entry of the British into the subcontinent and the expansion of English-language education, however, have led to the creation of a small but significant class that straddled the country’s divisions and began to adopt the concept of a common nationhood. The close contact with Europeans in the field of battle during the First World War resulted in millions realizing that they too had the right—as human beings—to the same freedoms that were being enjoyed by the citizens of the country that were sending them into battle. The return of more than two million Indian soldiers to their homes in villages and towns across India helped to generate an awareness of human rights that had been absent from the country for much of its existence. Ironically, Anglospheric values created the conditions necessary for tens of millions of inhabitants of the subcontinent to join the struggle against the colonial power, one that sent into the realm of fantasy the claim that a “handful of people controlled the vast empire” of India.

...which is why it's democratic, protestant, and increasingly capitalist.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at January 1, 2011 4:20 PM
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