Double Emasculation of the Hindu male

published on November 9, 2005



 [Through a cross-cultural comparative analysis, Dr. S. Menon exposes a malady afflicting present Hindu youths in Kerala.  Dr. Menon has received post graduate training in anthropology and sociology]


What I am about to write is a process of gradual annihilation of the once mighty Hindu community in Kerala.  However, I think it would be useful to draw upon world historical episodes to demonstrate a phenomenon that is silently underway closer home. Perhaps, the word, ‘emasculation’ may send jitters in those who care to read this statement. Of course, I am not here to discuss the castration of men, surgical, or otherwise.  What I am alluding to is a process known to world history for a long, long time.  But, let us not rewind history that far back in time. One only needs to read the infamous episode of slavery in American history, replete with horrid stories of man’s inhumanity to man.  In the erstwhile plantation society of America’s South, there lived a group of men and women (they were not referred to as men and women, though), who, by mere virtue of their skin color, had to endure the worst.  In the plantation society, the Black male suffered the worst of atrocities, not only physically, but psychologically, too.  A slave amounted to nothing more than a commodity for labor, reproduction, and transaction. The male was stripped of his power and identity, not to mention his sense of dignity.


The vestiges of the old linger even today.  The Black male in America today continues to be the worst victim of racial hatred and prejudice.  He is victimized both in the private and the public spheres of society.  Both in education and in employment, Black men are considerably lagging behind Black women. 1 in 4 Black men are incarcerated, with no significant role to play either within the family or outside. He is both economically and socially devalued.  No less than half of all African American families are matrifocal (female-headed), with the conspicuous absence of a powerful, successful male role model. Thus, the American institutions have managed to break the backbone of African American family organization. Well, what’s wrong with a man living in the shadow of a woman? This is the stage of the first emasculation.


In a world overcharged with testosterone, where African Americans have to fight their battle for survival with a virtually all-female frontline against an overwhelmingly male-dominated other, the result is a foregone conclusion. The male suffers utmost rejection in all walks of society. Discrimination in education and at work place in the public sphere marginalizes the Black male and pushes him into permanent dependency at the feet of income-earning women in the community. The Black male experiences devaluation and marginalization in the private sphere of the family. This is also a process of symbolic emasculation which reduces him to a total non-entity. This is the second strike.


The sinister machination silently underway in Kerala points in this same direction. What is happening to many of our Hindu youths in Kerala? Well, one doesn’t need to go very far to find them. Go to any city or town bus stand in the morning and you will see them disembarking from buses, with backpacks and lunch boxes, rushing to their workplaces. And who are those ‘benevolent’ employers who have pretty much sealed the karmic fates of these young blossoms with paltry daily wages and dead-end jobs? You guessed it right; they are flocking to the retail centers that have mushroomed in all cities and towns in Kerala which has, of late, earned the dubious distinction of being the No.1 consumer state in India. The transformation of Kerala into a seemingly (???) postindustrial economy is wreaking havoc mainly in the underdeveloped (impoverished) Hindu community, also because the Hindus are a numerical majority in the state. Have you ever wondered why these young men and women with sandal paste on their foreheads are being drawn to these ‘Mac jobs’? Is a ‘coolie brigade’ in the making? Are we witnessing the creation of a new, permanent underclass with heritage?  This new-born underclass men and women may very well trigger an implosion within the Hindu society; an event that may toll the knell of a parting era. Why is this doom impending? For that, one only needs to gauge the resources of the majority in the state.


With nearly eighty percent of the state’s educational institutions owned and controlled by alien religious organizations that enjoy protected minority rights, not to mention their monopoly over all other major institutions in society, including political and economic, the Hindus have settled for an approved corrupt and dysfunctional constitutional democracy – one in which equality is guaranteed through privilege. When a Hindu male student seeks admission to a minority-operated educational institution, he has to walk away from the disdainful remark of the men in tunic, “What do we gain by helping a Hindu male?”   If this trend is to continue, there will be nothing left of the Hindu social fabric. In one of my conversations with Kamala Das, I asked her to share her views on crime, a phenomenon looming large on our horizon. She said, “When virility is not in the loins, men resort to guns “. This is a universal phenomenon, though, perhaps, unprecedented in our social history. Total marginalization of men has the potential for such social and cultural crisis.


Not to mention those other perilous consequences – alcoholism, suicide, and religious conversion that have historically followed similar social crises and disintegration. To most ‘literate’ folks in Kerala, sheer numbers always suggest power, and the Hindus are indeed, a numerical majority. Does this, therefore, guarantee power, too? In order to determine this, one only needs to look at the case of South Africa before apartheid was dismantled. How did a numerical majority of 28 million black, native South Africans endure subordinate status and institutionalized discrimination under the tyranny of 1.5 million white settlers? There is an important lesson to be learned from this dark episode in history. A group of people can outnumber another and still be controlled by a numerical minority. In political or sociological terms, that group which owns and controls the distribution of scarce resources in a society is the dominant group. Numbers really don’t mean much always.


Contrary to the false claims of many conflict social theorists that casteism was the cause of social stagnation in India, this structured inequality functioned with one noticeable difference. The American anthropologist Oscar Lewis’s theory of the culture of poverty (an oppositional culture of sorts) did not apply to the ‘marginalized’ lower castes in Hindu society since they were part of an advanced intermediate/complex society, as Parsons put it. Each caste was indispensable to the other, which in turn made the whole cohesive and functional. One could not have existed without the other. The difference lay in the fact that the higher castes did not destroy the family organization of the lower castes as they were allowed to enter into the institutions of marriage and the family. The institutions of marriage and the family facilitate a dyadic dependence between a male and a female, especially during the sexually reproductive stage. This resultant dyadic dependence maintains balance, both between the two sexes and within the family and the larger social system. In other words, what this means is that, while structured inequalities based on ascribed statuses existed in our society ( and I do not condone it), the degree of marginality that the subordinate groups experienced then pales in comparison to what the modern, class-based inequalities impose on them. Modern, advanced economic systems have the power to incapacitate men and turn them into the ‘second sex’. The difference between a so-called lower caste male field hand of erstwhile feudal systems and the marginalized ‘higher’ caste male in today’s urban industrial/postindustrial economic systems is that, the former was indispensable both within the larger society and within his family, while the latter, an institutionally discriminated, dispensable underclass male breed of little or no value even to his own kin. What makes matters worse today is the prevalence of legal statutes that justify institutionalized discrimination on the basis of religion (community reservation quota in private institutions) which is also ascribed, unless, of course, one yields to the temptations and enticements of alien, proselytizing agencies. This is why we see a handful few virtually owning and monopolizing all major institutions of Kerala society today. More on this alarming phenomenon, I shall elaborate on another occasion.


The subjugation of the majority in the hands of a numerical minority is counterproductive and at best, dysfunctional in a democracy. I believe, in order for the Hindu majority in Kerala to economically prosper and regain control over scarce resources, they have to pull their strings up quite a bit. And the sooner they do it, the better. There are many success stories of internal economic development for groups in multicultural systems that the Hindus can consider and emulate for their own advancement. In simpler terms, the Hindus of Kerala should contemplate on ways to keep their rupee roll within their own community ten times more than it does at the present. To write less euphemistically would be politically incorrect! This is a good first step towards empowerment. Short of such extreme shifts in the Hindu’s behavior, one can confidently predict an impending internal colonial era.


The time is long overdue for the hapless young Hindu souls to chart a new course.  Even better, let that burden fall on our shoulders, the older generation, to undo the disservice we did to posterity through our own apathy and indifference. When we were young, we looked the other way. Now, no matter where we look, we see remnants of our own past sins. Herein is the wisdom of taking up the pledge, even at this late hour, to herald the promise of a new era. Let us engage in deeds that will bring hope and prosperity to our citizens of tomorrow. Nothing should make us happier than to see them soar to dizzy heights of power and glory.



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