The global caste system

India has had the caste system woven into the social fabric for more than a thousand years now. I grew up exposed to it and I sometimes wondered what the world might look like without it. Maybe other nations had the answer?

I’ve been fortunate to have opportunities to live in multiple places since I left home for university ten odd years ago. And, guess what – every place has a caste system of its own. Sure, they don’t call it the caste system. But, the caste system is not about castes. It is a vehicle for discrimination. As I’ve been reading in Yuval Harari’s incredible book – Sapiens, discrimination is a necessary part of social order. Human beings have used concepts like pollution and purity for thousands of years to preserve this order. Some people just receive much better treatment at any given time than most of the rest.

We don’t think much of this. If you have a passport from a developed nation, you are treated wonderfully well at any airport around the world. However, everyone else isn’t really all that welcome. Add a non-white skin color and you have a recipe for shitty treatment everywhere you go. Global travel, thus, is a classic example of a global caste system. And, folks from developing countries are the untouchables.

We grow up with these social structures and they’re woven into the fabric of our daily lives. So, it is easy as hell not to question it since it seems like the natural order. Ask some men why there are fewer women in executive positions and you might find them give you pseudo scientific answers about why it is natural, pre-ordained even. Substitute men with other “higher castes” in various contexts. And, the results are similar. Every white supremacist will tell you there’s something impure about the darker person’s gene that doesn’t make them worthy of leadership.

I’d like to believe that these things will get solved over time. We’ve certainly made a ton of progress on various issues over the decades. But, in the current climate, it certainly does seem like things are getting worse.

Then again, maybe it gets worse before it gets better?

TV2 in Denmark has a lovely 3 minute video speaking to just this. It is easy to put people in boxes. We all do, all the time. It is part of being human. But, every once a while, it is perhaps skipping what divides us and looking instead at what we all share.


Being human

There are so many things we want to be at a given time. We’d love to be awesome, to be competent, to be skilled, to be impressive, to be right, and so on.

It is, therefore, really easy to forget the one thing that is most important – to be human.

We’re just bags of chemicals with ideas and purposes. We’ve not got this all figured out and we’re definitely learning as we go. Our life, in some ways, is just a giant collection of experiments. And, that means they’ll come with setbacks, problems and failures. We all have some really big strengths that we need to take time to discover. These strengths often moonlight as our biggest weaknesses – we can’t have one without the other. We also have insecurities. An understanding and appreciation of them helps a lot as they give us the drive to make an impact. Confidence gives us the ability to act despite them.

It is okay if we screw up. We’ll say and do the wrong thing every once a while. Sometimes, we’ll just be in the wrong place at the wrong time. We will be misunderstood. And, not everyone will like us. That’s part of the game.

The good news? We’re alive, kicking, and have an opportunity to put that ding in the universe. Our effort doesn’t guarantee that it will happen. But, it matters that we try. If not us, who? If not now, then? In the really long run (i.e. generations later), almost no one will remember us or know we existed anyway. What really matters is that we live a life that means something to us and brings us happiness. There’s nobody else we really need to please. So, let’s be ourselves, and always remember… to be human.