Nicholas Kristof visits the Dalits!


Teaching American history: Go figure!

Somehow, Nicholas Kristof decided to run for governor of Oregon (his home state) without checking to see if he was eligible to do so under Oregon law.

It turned out that he wasn't! As evidenced by his column in today's New York Times, Oregon's loss was the journalistic world's gain.

Kristof writes from Tilonia, India. He isn't frisking the latest minutia concerning the round-the-clock effort to throw you-know-who in jail.

Instead, he's describing an attempt to create a better world for some good, decent people who deserve one. At the start of his column, he introduces to the kind of person who will never be mentioned on our self-impressed blue tribe's repulsive multimillionaure cable.

Headline included, he describes a good, decent person:

Can’t Read? Here’s a ‘Barefoot College’ for You.

TILONIA, India — It’s the Harvard of rural India, minus wingtips or heels: a 50-year-old institution called Barefoot College that offers lessons for empowering people worldwide. Maybe even in America.

Barefoot College does empowerment as well as any institution I’ve ever seen, and here’s what that looks like in the rural state of Rajasthan: An illiterate woman named Chota Devi who never attended a day of school is hunched over a circuit board, carefully using color-coded instructions to solder resistors and diodes into place.

Chota, who has no idea how old she is, is a Dalit, those at the bottom of the caste system once known as untouchables, and from a particularly low-ranking group called the Valmiki who often cleaned human waste.

“I will have more knowledge than my husband,” Chota noted slyly. When she goes home, villagers now call her “Madam.” It’s partly a joke, partly a show of respect.

Chota is a good, decent person. According to Kristof, she has five children, none of whom are currently attending school, but she wants that to change.

“I’m working with women who know how to read and write, so now I want my children to learn as well,” Kristof quotes her saying. You will never hear about people like this from our own blue tribe's millionaire hacks.

Chota is a Dalit, Kristof says. The leading authority on the topic offers this overview:

Dalit (from Sanskrit: meaning "broken/scattered"), also previously known as untouchable, is the lowest stratum of the castes in India. Dalits were excluded from the four-fold varna system of Hinduism and were seen as forming a fifth varna, also known by the name of Panchama. Dalits now profess various religious beliefs, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Christianity, and Islam. Scheduled Castes is the official term for Dalits as per the Constitution of India.

The term Dalit is a self-applied concept for those called the "untouchables" and others that were outside of the traditional Hindu caste hierarchy. Economist and reformer B. R. Ambedkar (1891–1956) said that untouchability came into Indian society around 400 CE, due to the struggle for supremacy between Buddhism and Brahmanism (an ancient term for Brahmanical Hinduism)...

In the late 1880s, the Marathi word 'Dalit' was used by Mahatma Jotiba Phule for the outcasts and Untouchables who were oppressed and broken in the Hindu society. Dalit is a vernacular form of the Sanskrit... In Classical Sanskrit, this means "divided, split, broken, scattered."

Untouchability came into Indian society around the year 400. In our view, such facts should be an inherent part of teaching our brutal American history to our American public school kids at an appropriate age.

Our nation's brutal racial history is one part of the frequently brutal human history which has prevailed around the world since the dawn of time. To wit:

In this morning's New York Times, Troy Closson profiles a bunch of kids at Brooklyn Tech who are taking the College Board's Advanced Placement course in African American studies. The good, decent kids in that high school class deserve to know the global context of the brutal American history they're currently learning about.

Those good, decent kids will instantly know how to care about "the wretched of the earth." Kids like them are decent and good. They will want to be told about this.

Along the way, they will learn that the suffering inflicted on the American group with which they identify was part of a much wider human moral problem. You must resolve not to be this way, a trusted teacher may tell them.

Kids like them will understand the meaning of this larger lesson. On the other hand, you will never hear about any of this on the clown-like corporate "cable news" channel devoted to pimping the Storylines which please our own self-impressed tribe.

Let's save those good, decent kids from us and from our wretched instincts! Let's teach them about our world's history. We can guarantee that they'll care.

"We in America could learn from this approach in rural India," Kristof writes near the end of his column about Barefoot College. "The United States as well must do better providing training in technical skills to people who have been left behind."

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. Even within our infallible tribe, our instincts aren't always the best.


  1. Most of 'em scoundrels (as long as they ain't been turned good-decent yet) already know what the real world is like, dear Bob. fact, all normal ordinary humyns know perfectly well that liberal claptrap is meaningless bullshit; a way to dumb them down as much as possible...

  2. "You will never hear about people like this from our own blue tribe's millionaire hacks."

    You will never hear about India's untouchables on Wheel of Fortune either. You will never hear about them on American Idol. You will never hear about them on a cooking show or a sitcom or Survivor or Young Sheldon. Some of the folks on those shows are millionaire hacks and some earn scale, and most earn salaries somewhere in between.

    Why doesn't American cable news talk about India's social problems? Why doesn't it talk about Bolivia's problems, or Montenegro's or Belgium's problems? Because these are shows whose defined purpose is to talk about American news and world news as it touches on American issues.

    Do we have Dalits in the USA? Maybe some have immigrated here, but they are not part of America's caste system. In fact, we do not have the kind of rigid caste system, enshrined in law, that India has now (with quotas), nor like the one it had previous to joining the 21st century.

    Would it make sense to exempt any class of people from public education, to turn a blind eye to their illiteracy, to allow them to keep their kids out of our compulsory schooling, because they are a certain caste? No. Would it be seen as a victory to train an illiterate woman to do hand labor so that she can earn money? Or might that be seen as exploitation? Do we tolerate the extreme poverty seen in India? Not as much. And we don't celebrate business exploitation of the poor. We mostly prefer to have the causes addressed more directly and more to the benefit of the worker. If the company that she makes those circuit boards for changes its business or moves away, she will have no transferrable skills and will be poor again.

    Somerby is a moron to use such a story to bash our own news media. This is a story with so little relevance to American lives that I doubt most readers read Kristof's column at all. MSNBC is not in the business of presenting stories with little relevance and interest to its viewers.

    Somerby pretends that cable news only talks about Trump and the possibility of his going to jail. That is of keen interest across political boundaries, but it is not the only topic on the news. If Somerby wants to claim that it is, he needs to record the topics for a week and present a chart (like Kevin Drum does), showing us what proportion of the time is spent on what kinds of topics by which people. Then he might have a case. Merely claiming that it is Trump Trump Trump (and what about him?) all the time isn't evidence of anything except Somerby's repetitive obsession with a made-up claim that doesn't even reflect badly on cable news (in my opinion, since I want to know what is happening with Trump, much more than about Dalits, even if one of those Dalits may get a job soon).

    Somerby thinks that Americans know nothing about Dalits. I knew who and what they are before Kristof wrote his column, because I am interested in India, read and watch TV shows about it, and enjoy Bollywood films too. Anyone educated will know about India, its strengths and its problems. We don't learn that stuff on MSNBC but from other sources, just as I wouldn't read a book about Trump to find out what is happening among the Dalits in India.

  3. What does the salary paid to media celebrities have to do with anything at all? Nothing. Tucker Carlson is paid $27 million per year. Does that make him a better journalist. No. Anderson Cooper is paid $14 million. Does that make him a better journalist because he is paid so much less? Probably not. When a lesser host earns $2 million, are they better or worse than anyone else because of their salary? Again, there is no reason why they would be. Most journalists earn about $140,000 per year. That is the average for the industry. Do they do a better job for earning so little? I doubt it.

    Cable news hosts mostly get paid based on the audiences they can attract. Unless they are working in India, talking about Dalits isn't going to build audience share. That doesn't make their situation unimportant. It makes them less relevant than the many other things that cable news does talk about, including American worker issues.

    1. Big money in infotainment is fair game
      for criticism, and generally reflects the
      Economic divide in the US.
      But as is pointed out here, it
      only seems relevant to Bob on
      the Blue side. How dim would one
      have to be not to see this?

    2. Infotainment requires big money, just like big money in sports, big money in movies, big money in other forms of entertainment.

  4. "Along the way, they will learn that the suffering inflicted on the American group with which they identify was part of a much wider human moral problem."

    The Dalits have nothing to do with the American slave trade.

    Broadening the topic of morality to the point where all specifics are lost, all context is lost, is not the way to understand moral issues.

    Shrugging and saying that all people everywhere have both good and evil in their lives is not the way to address moral issues, and certainly not the way to change people for the better by encouraging them to behave morally. It is the way to engender apathy, excuse everything and let people believe they are OK, no matter what they do.

  5. It is a misunderstanding to think that the Dalits, a very low caste in India, were abused because of their low caste. They were constrained to the lowest jobs (cleaning up human waste, as janitors and house cleaners do in our society) and denied opportunities to rise in social standing, but they were no mistreated the way slaves were in American history. They were considered to be born into a station in life because of their past deeds, that required effort in the current life in order to progress up the caste structure in future lives. They did not bear personal disparagement because of their birth. In India, all people know where they belong in the caste structure, which dictates what jobs they may do and who they may marry, and what privileges they have, how much wealth, in their lives. This is much the way England was in the 16-20th centuries. People knew their place and stuck to it, giving due deference to their betters. America is different because it does not have such rigid class structures, but many places around the world do. During slavery, the mistreatment of slaves was not the same as caste system in India in crucial ways. Dalits are not slaves. There is arrogance at the top of the caste system, but lower castes are not kicked around to bolster the ego needs of poor white trash, as white supremacists do based on skin color in the USA. It is an entirely different dynamic.

    Equating the two, as Somerby does when he refers to teaching kids that there are moral problems everywhere, is wrong because of the differences involved, the reasons why we are still struggling with race issues here, and the need for change to achieve social justice here, regardless of how India addresses its own caste system (largely by setting up quotas for admission to education, making caste discrimination illegal but without serious enforcement, and giving lip service to change).

  6. "We in America could learn from this approach in rural India," Kristof writes near the end of his column about Barefoot College. "The United States as well must do better providing training in technical skills to people who have been left behind."

    Substituting highly specific vocational training for general education (especially literacy) may benefit certain industries, but it will not help workers improve their family situations. The Dalit struggle to find food and shelter because they are poor. Those seeking vocational education in the US are not seeking food in the hand-to-mouth sense of India's poor. They want a better social position in a changing economy. That requires more flexible skills and a foundation of learning that includes reading and math, even when aiming for technical training instead of a college degree. We should not be emulating India's poorest of the poor and the companies exploiting their poverty. We are not yet a third world country.

  7. We in the US have job training programs linked to unemployment office and community colleges and high schools. Why would Kristof or Somerby think this doesn’t exist already?

  8. "He isn't frisking the latest minutia concerning the round-the-clock effort to throw you-know-who in jail.

    Instead, he's describing an attempt to create a better world for some good, decent people who deserve one."

    How obtuse can one get.

    Arresting, convicting, and imprisoning Trump WOULD create a better world for good, decent people who don't believe that the 2020 election was stolen, that pussy-grabbing is simply an perk to the powerful, that the rabble that invaded the Capitol were tourists or patriots, that the 2018 rollback of stress tests for shadow banks was good for the country, and that stealing classified documents and then lying about it is tolerable.

    1. So why aren’t they charging Trump with all those “crimes”?

    2. First you investigate, then you build a case, then you charge people, then you try them, if convicted, then you impose a sentence. Trump has been actively obstructing such efforts at every point in the process.

    3. Has Trump been charged with a crime? What offense, in what jurisdiction?

    4. Cute, Cecelia You put the word "crimes" in quotation marks. Leading an insurrection, election interference, stealing govenment documents and then lying to the FBI about having them in your possession. These are all crimes (no quotation marks)

      The thing is, Donald J Chickenshit has an army of disposable lawyers who get thrown under the bus when their usefulness is no longer needed. He learned this from John Gotti and his friend the mob lawyer Roy Cohn.

    5. Cecelia, in America it’s easy to arrest and even convict people of color on trumped up charges, it’s a lot harder to do, even when real crimes have been committed, with white and wealthy people. Trump is terrible at business, or any earnest endeavor, but he’s exceptionally skilled at obstructing justice.

      Furthermore, charging, or even accusing Trump of a crime is fraught with bad consequences; not just due to his wealth and power, but also his rabid fan base.

      This is obvious stuff, your question betrays your bias and your bad faith.

  9. Sorry Charlie, but no one is so misguided as to misunderstand Kristof’s intent with his tsk tsk finger wagging at the Left. Kristof is angry and bitter at the Left, and is having little temper tantrums with his crybaby opinion columns. Why is that?

    Neoliberal/right wing/carpet bagger Kristof wanted to avoid facing the criticism he was getting in his wealthy and elite NYC social circle, and so decided he would run, without qualifications, for governor in Oregon! What a clown. Well Oregon wasn’t having it, rejected his attempt by pointing out that Kristof, while owning a vineyard in Oregon, does not meet the requirements for being a resident. Kristof fought back, asserting that he was just the same as those migrant farm workers. Uh, that did not go over well, that kind of elitist smug condescension.

    Kristof can’t be governor, but he did keep the $3 million his campaign raised. What a guy! Imagine if he had raised $3 million for Dalits, he probably wouldn’t be considered such a loser.

    Somerby supposedly just wants truth and accuracy in our discourse, yet he pointedly deleted his post the first time Kristof’s nonsense was revealed in the comments; can’t protect your buddies forever silly Somerby.

  10. Kirstof, a somewhat controversial figure,
    is known to most Americans through the
    New York Times. He occasionally
    also appears on MSNBC.
    Bob often insults and derides the
    New York Times.
    On occasion Bob has insulted and
    derided Kirstof. MUCH of the reporting
    on Trump originates from The New
    York Times.
    They probably covered it when Trump
    called places like India “shithole countries.”
    It is hard to imagine Fox using a piece
    like Kirstof’s, by him or anybody else.
    Bob’s overall point, the emphasis on
    lightweight fluff over serious journalism
    is well taken. But he applies it such a
    laughably selective fashion he makes
    it seem stupid and insincere( which it
    probably is in Bob’s case.)
    Trump says Alvin Bragg is an animal,
    worse then the Gestapo. Bob finds
    Trump “disordered.”
    Bob is a good, decent weirdo.