Monthly Archives: January 2020

Human nurture

Let’s turn away from our lesser nature:

We don’t need it;

We shouldn’t want it.

Let’s cast it aside,

So we can grow into–

Our fullest, positive potential!

What U.S.-Iran relations mean for “brown” Americans

What does it mean to be a “brown” American? In 6th grade–this was around Bush Jr.’s administration, after 9/11 when we were strengthening our presence in the Middle East–a Caucasian boy called me “sand nigger”. Said boy seemed to be of middling intelligence, so I was not very offended.

9th grade (my first year of high school) is when my brownness became more explicit, to a point where I felt I should take my identity into my own hands. I was part of frosh/soph soccer at my school: we were a diverse group, but I was one of (at most) two total Indian-American folks on the entire soccer team, including JV and varsity levels

I was subject to a number of brown jokes during soccer. Like before, I took it in stride; this was even easier to do than before, given our team’s cohesion and comfort level. I even went as far as to lead the creation and playing of a “7-11 song”, which is (for better or worse) no longer accessible via YouTube.

Anyway, Bush era came and went. We remained in the Middle East and are still there today. Obama began withdrawing us, once we’d dealt with al-Qaeda’s leader bin Laden. During Obama, I played in an American rock band (high school) and entered college (UC Santa Barbara). Though I was something of an anomaly in the former–I have not known of American-Indian rock musicians playing seriously–I was simply more of a minority at UCSB. Still, as in my education prior, I was able to strike a diverse balance in my social network, and even found myself more surrounded by Indians at UCSB than I’d been since living in Cerritos (from birth on to mid-3rd grade).

During my first job out of college and in graduate school, I still did not really feel my brownness. I’m currently a psychology Ph.D. candidate at the University of West Georgia (UWG). Our department has had its fair share of Indian-Americans*, so despite living in the Deep South for four years, my brownness was not a factor (outside of curious inquiries into my heritage, and a comfort in my first Georgian dwelling place among housemates who were comfortable bantering about our ethnicities).

Now, I’m back home in California. I’d started to feel my brownness in Georgia as a function of my being a Hindu not surrounded by many other Hindus.

It’s hard to say how Indian-Americans will experience their brownness given the recent, increased fallout in U.S.-Middle East relations. I hope no one else is called a sand n**ger. But I also know that we can be a wily and resilient bunch when we need to be: I’m not worried about my ethnic people!


The Muse visits us

If we deserve Her company,

If we should be so


Our lives will be blessed;


Pleasant and interesting:

Pretty, and divine…

Noble, and sublime.

Give her your time–

And rhyme!

Marx, Rousseau, Smith, and Sartre

Marx believed that capitalist working classes would rise up and revolt against the upper classes. Rousseau believed humans join society upon agreement to a “socpopial contract”. Adam Smith advocated for laissez-faire economics, believing that an “invisible hand” could correct such an economy toward equilibrium.

The Qur’an states that the oppressed have rights to defend themselves from oppressors. Are socioeconomic upper classes rightly oppressing those beneath them? Is a Marxist-style revolt justified?

Rousseau’s theory of social contract is existential (e.g., Sartrean) to the extent that being thrown into the world usually lands humans into society.

Given the above state of affairs, can lower classes voluntarily exit their (unequal, and so undesirable) social contracts? If not, and if they are being oppressed–sweatshop labor is an noncontroversial example–then they have the religious right to revolt (per Islam).

Postmodernism and behavior

Let us define postmodernism here as emphasizing nurture (cultural or societal influence) over nature (biological influence).

Where do we ground human behavior? Does nature or nurture determine it?

If behavior is granted to be psychological, rather than only physiological, then we must contend with whether we act with agency.

The more agentically we act, the stronger nurture’s role is.

In other words: the more free will we humans possess, the more postmodern we are.

We shouldn’t ignore our biology. But to what extent does it constrain or define what we do?

Genetics predisposes us toward certain behaviors over others. This equates with tendency, but not hard determinism.

Similarly, our environments play a role in what we can do, should do, and ultimately do.

What do societal and/or cultural influence look like? Society consists in two or more people who agree (i.e., they enter into a “contract”) on certain axioms for living. These comprise said society’s ethics.

Culture, I have argued, consists in preferred modes of being and doing. Such constitutes our style, or “art” of being. We have “tastes” for and against certain modes of living.

Societally, then, our behavior is governed by our agreed-upon ethics. Culturally, what we do should capitalize on our desired ways of being.

Arguably, society is largely a modern construct. Culture may be granted to be more evolutionarily recent: it is postmodern.

Postmodern living is how we freely choose to cope with facticity (including law and the world of physical objects: what we are “thrown” into the world amidst). Societal living consists in fulfilling our formal roles as social beings, e.g. providing for our families and others.

Postmodernity grants us individual freedom, given that we act sufficiently as responsible social agents.