Gibson misinformed on Hinduism
April 28, 2004
Dr. Kean Gibson's book "The Cycle of Racial Oppression in Guyana" has the capacity to peddle and spread racial hatred between Guyana's principal ethnic groups because of the author's misinformation on Hinduism, presenter Raymond Trotz said.
He was responding to a question from the Ethnic Relations Commission as part of a hearing into the allegation by the Indian Arrival Committee that Gibson's book is "peddling and spreading racial hatred between Guyana's principal ethnic groups."
Trotz, who is a member of the Brahma Kumaris organisation, while noting that the caste system is present only on a low secular level, says Gibson apparently favours a framework of equality but her work falls victim to the concept of dualism that she condemns.
Trotz's submission came during his address on Monday. But he said Gibson's book should not be condemned, rather its limitations improved and the concept of equality that it advances further developed.
"...We must strive not to condemn [Gibson's] work but to transcend its weakness and build on the concept of equality which she espouses."
Trotz contended that central to Gibson's method of inquiry are the concepts of dualism and equality. He noted that Gibson quotes the view of John L Hodge on dualism (of good and evil) as "a prelude to proving Indian oppression of Africans in Guyana."
He pointed out that Gibson, in reference to Hodge's theory, says on page 6, 'The framework of dualism places the moral worth of people on a measuring scale with good at one end and evil at the other...[on the other hand] The framework of equality is a moral notion of human worth, their differences raises no moral questions'.
But Gibson's work flounders, Trotz declared, since from the inception the accusations of prejudice are reversed by the tone and thrust of her work and by the end of it, Gibson fails to move beyond a position of condemning dualism to one of constructing equality.
According to Trotz, there is a traditional perception in Christianity, a religion that has mostly African Guyanese followers, that Hindus are 'heathens' falling outside the pale of a 'humanising' Christianity and "into a category of mere materialists and idol worshippers."
He said Gibson's work reflects this perception and quoted the author's comments on page 28 of her work: "Hinduism allows utmost freedom of thought - one is free to choose the material side or the spiritual side of life or both, and all are treated with equal respect."
It is on this basis, adopted by Gibson from her source 'Vishwanathan', that "the Bhagavad Gita...never commands one what to do. It gives the pros and cons of every issue and the final decision is left to oneself. There is no "Thou shalt not".
Trotz continued that important to the context of the afore-mentioned comments by Gibson is that the Gita, like the Bible, places emphasis on man's free will to determine his salvation.
"It is an allegory of man's struggle to overcome his vices and attain salvation. In Christian thought this has to be achieved in one lifetime through maintaining the in-dwelling power of the Christ Spirit; in Hinduism and other eastern traditions it takes several lifetimes to achieve this but the goals are essentially the same, that is, salvation of the soul from its enslavement to vices or the carnal plane of consciousness."
Gibson's work, meanwhile, is an important and significant contribution to the dialectical process of conflict resolution, according to Trotz. Its importance lies in the fact that discourse in the public domain is essential for our social evolution into nationhood while it is significant because such matters are usually discussed behind closed doors and in inner circles, Trotz further pointed out.
Society, Trotz suggested, must be able to distinguish between the vernacular perception of Hinduism and Hinduism in its essence.
Suggestions provided by Trotz to ensure this level of development include education in schools on comparative religion to create a deeper awareness and more structured understanding of our many religions; education at the tertiary level involving inter-religious studies for theological discourse with a view to finding common ground in spirituality over narrower/cultural views; awards offered for achievements on the theme of "race" such as a Guyana Prize for works of different categories in this area; voluntary testimonies of harmony in the form of soap operas and radio plays and published through the mass media with focus on successful inter-racial relationships; and the establishment of a department for cultural studies rooted in Guyanese interests and falling under the Faculty of Social Sciences or Humanities with the aim of fostering an approach of cultural psychology in our political education to balance the more popular political economy approach of power sharing. The hearing is continuing.
No longer a member
Thursday, April 29th 2004
I wish to clarify one small but important point in your article entitled "Gibson misinformed on Hinduism" published under the 'General News' section of your Wednesday, April 28 edition. Instead of "Trotz, who is a member of the Brahma Kumaris" the clause should read "Trotz, who was once a member of the Brahma Kumaris."
While I have benefited from its teachings, I left the organization formally about 20 years ago and have returned to a path of seeking unity in diversity. My references to the organization were in the context of a cultural entry to India made by me about 28 years ago.
Raymond F. Trotz