Could it be genes...? (Perhaps genes + community?)

Miscellaneous topics on Carnatic music
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#1 Could it be genes...? (Perhaps genes + community?)

Post by newid » 17 May 2018, 05:54

So, this is wading deeper into a fraught discussion, but since the "music and caste" topic hasn't completely turned to a heap of insults, I am assuming there is some interest in genuinely thinking about, and at least intellectually, engaging with the topic...

Could the brahminical proclivity to success and excellence be genetic? Perhaps selected and nurtured because of the closed social structure? There is striking similarities between the Brahmin and Jewish cultural traditions, and so is the striking social impact, successes and excellence associated with the communities.

While we debate if 'caste' has bearing on musical ability, or dedication, or access to musical training, I wonder if is only an instance of a broader capability for excellence. No doubt, music was not always the exclusive purview of Brahmins, but it has certainly been enriched by the adoption, possibly appropriation, of the art. While Harimau wonders if other communities have the dedication, tenacity and determination to succeed, he is, objectively, not far from a truthful observation. Could this bias for excellence have been built into the community by careful selection and genetic encoding over the ages? And could an implicit acknowledgement of this bias for success be what keeps the brahminical communities tightly-knit and mostly closed? (I am not saying it is all genetic, rather cultural mores that acknowledge, nurture and preserve excellence, one aspect of which may be conserving the gene pool. I am also not saying the genetic preservation is exclusive to this community... (the concept of caste seems pretty intricately tied to preserving/limiting a gene-pool), simply that some superior intrinsic abilities that are transmitted genetically are nurtured and cultivated within the southern Indian brahminical communities).

[I am not a Brahmin, went to high school where I was the only one who was not a Brahmin (I topped many of my classes, I know excellence is not exclusive to Brahmins), and went to an IIT where I was the only Tamil speaking person who was not a Brahmin. I was raised in a staunch Dravidar Kazgagam household (now reformed) who viewed anything brahminical as fancy, duplicitous, and fearfully foreign. I am happy the Brahmin community is making carnatic music their own. I am happy for TM Krishna to check/question his own privileges. I am happy for people to debate Brahminical superiority (I do fervently wish the wanton persecution would stop). There are simple truths, universal humanity, graciousness and common decency that ultimately should prevail despite what one person or a society thinks, writes or does. Let's hope the Brahmin community in the south is allowed to thrive and prosper so they can continue being vanguards for excellence].

Now, what do you think of the role of genetics in the musical ability and culture within the Brahmin community?
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#2 Re: Could it be genes...? (Perhaps genes + community?)

Post by SrinathK » 17 May 2018, 08:16

We can talk of genes after you've done everything you can and have reached the absolute limits of your ability.

So many people think they're genetically less favourable for gaining muscle and strength - but on the right diet and training they find themselves shocked by the gains they make.
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#3 Re: Could it be genes...? (Perhaps genes + community?)

Post by newid » 17 May 2018, 08:26

We can talk of genes after you've done everything you can and have reached the absolute limits of your ability.
This is an important point... Any genetic component (if there is indeed one, re. Brahmin exceptionalism, I am not fully convinced myself yet..., still wondering) is to naught without the hard work, dedication to education & self-betterment and discipline that stands out in this community. Do not wish to brush aside the blood, sweat and toil in the name of anything else.
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#4 Re: Could it be genes...? (Perhaps genes + community?)

Post by shankarank » 17 May 2018, 09:53

newid wrote:
17 May 2018, 05:54
Could the brahminical proclivity to success and excellence be genetic?
If you definition of excellence is so narrow, you can say these things. A farmer farming to get the best output and do an organic production at the same time is excellence.

If you are talking culture, there may be genetic affinity in a set of people thinking alike and both external and genetics reinforce each other. On the back of that if you define excellence as the excellence in an activity specific to that culture , then you have already compromised the discussion.

The gene based racial superiority theories are debunked, but some people are raking it up, based on current outcomes. If we use numbers and statistics in isolation to make an argument, that is easy. That is effective in silencing critics for the moment. But many times numbers lie, if you ignore certain important qualitative factors.

It has happened in many situations. How many customers behave a certain way - could be a number - to aid a decision. But if some of the customers are large businesses, not factoring them and losing them will result in bigger revenue loss!

The qualitative factors to be considered are this. Economic value was concentrated in urban locations where Brahmins gained historical advantage due to them being Brown sahebs working for the British.

With the result, the only section of the population to have continuously translated all the Western work, from advanced Math to Advanced physics to Advanced medicine into local vernaculars, were instead investing their pride on being English educated. They themselves alienated themselves from the society that was feeding them.

That is why you see people here with open mind trying to receive a professor like David Shulman for extra insights into their own culture.

The real problem is not genetics or our divisions. It is the continuing colonization of the mind even after Independence , forming the Caste system, which have resulted in ghettos and isolation.

Then we can't complain much if others also follow suit and they would rather Westernize first and learn to attack Brahmins before learning anything about our culture.

And when I say our culture , it has been taken to mean the culture held by Brahmins as of today. In reality the liturgy held by Brahmins is one of the several encodings of that culture - others being various artisans (sculptor , jweller) and choreographers and dancers and musicians.
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#5 Re: Could it be genes...? (Perhaps genes + community?)

Post by RSR » 17 May 2018, 16:25

Genes do have effect ,though rather unpredictable. It is not transmitted in a straight line. Especially in body constitution and resistance to diseases. However, genetic properties, good or bad, are not characteristic of a community but of individual persons. There is absolutely no scientific basis for the assumed intellectual or artistic superiority of a community as such. Brilliant people can be found in all the communities and dull-witted with stunted brains too in equal measure.
Let us consider a high-yielding variety seed. Sometimes, we get greatly increased output. but many farmers are reporting that they perish more easily in adverse environment. Certain breeds can flourish only in a given environment. Normal breeds may be better suited in the native environment.
P.Bala had mentioned that CVRaman, Chandrasekar and Venkataraman, ( Nobel-lauretes) were all brahmins. May be but that might have got to do with the gene in that family. They were all related!
Only in a level playing field, we can find the individual potential for growth and achievement.
Can any one honestly assure that all the children in both urban and rural environment have the same opportunities?
Can we compare the well-irrigated land to a an arid patch ?
To the best of my knowledge, we can find hundreds of very average brahmins to each one of an exceptional achiver from the community.
One Educationaist used to say that it is not correct to compare students by marks alone. without taking into account the social, economic ,and residential and family background also into effect. The score obtained by a student from very well educated, well-placed and influential family should be reduced by 20% while that of a student with handicaps in each one of the above factors should be given extra weightage by 20%. and only after such 'adjustment', we can compare the relative 'superiority'.
Poet Barathy narrates an incident. He found a little boy in the street weeping. When asked about the problem the boy said his 'pamparam's nail is damaged and the pamparam is not working. Barathy said, 'that is simple, my child1 why dont you ask your father to set it right? The boy replied sobbing, 'my father can chant manthras but cannot repair anything!'.
How many brahmin music students can really become Nagaswaram players and Tavil players, mind you, not the stage performers sitting in a dais, but playing for hours together standing and walking while playing, during the temple deity's procession. That is not mere vidvath but true piety and dedication.
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