Why I Love our Commenters

Yes, we disagree.  Yes, most of you even fight amongst yourselves.  Our voices and opinions are as diverse as the people in our community.   So be it.  This is how we learn from one another.

Sometimes you challenge us (the bloggers).  Most of the time you challenge each other (the commenters).  Do I wish the level of discussion with each other could be raised?  At times, yes.  Do I appreciate that you take the time to engage?  ABSOLUTELY!  Why?  Because you care enough about the community, about Gurbani, about our collective future to engage.

In the latest spat, there are differences in perspectives.  About the events in the UK, guest bloggers like Naujawani Sardar and commenters such as Blighty Singh see the events from the perspective of the besieged Sikhs in Southall and other locales, and see the actions as just that – riots, failure by the police, and actions filled by the Sikhs in the UK.  They give special place to the role played by Sangat TV.  They are basking in the special prominence and goodwill the community has generated, unseen in the UK, where Sikhs have rarely attracted much attention, especially much positive, in the post-Satanic Verses UK political geography.

Other commenters such as DeepH, Sahneval, and others are those of the open-minded Sikhs in other countries throughout the world (but not in the UK).  They are questioning the structural issues that led to the rioting in the first place.   Like Blighty, they have a special place for issues of the dispossessed, although it goes beyond only the Sikh community.  Again though, they are not in a besieged circumstance at present.

Despite romantic ideas of solidarity (although the actions of the Sikh community, especially towards the Muslims and other groups, proudly goes far beyond the romantic!), I have a gut feeling that should the events of the UK have occurred in Canada or the US, Sahneval and DeepH would be standing with the Sikhs to protect those spaces, rather than with the uprising (or looters, depending on one’s perspective).

I think both positions can be held and respected, as they are BOTH the product of contingency and circumstance.  Randep touches on this, but in typical fashion is ambiguous and vague.  One can continue to push for the cause of the dispossessed and challenge the structures that oppress.  One can also stand behind one’s community (also oppressed) and make sure that their right to life and liberty is also not trampled upon.  The tent of Sikhi is big enough for all.  That is the Guru’s Grace.  The space of the The Langar Hall is big enough for both views at all.  Let us continue to learn!

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58 Responses to “Why I Love our Commenters”

  1. Randep says:

    Having spent enough time distilling your entries, presenting arguments, and actually engaging you and other bloggers, this brings a smile to my face. Take a look at some of these posts in which put up lengthy and structured posts, trying address you and other bloggers on this website:

    But you folks don't roll. You give up, sticking your fingers in your ears. It's all good on my end, cuz' there's a dearth of sincerity with which blogging on this site gets done. At the end here, all you have is religious sloganeering, stuff like, "The tent of Sikhi is big enough for all. That is the Guru’s Grace," which although may me a nice sound-byte, flies in the face of the entire post. That's alright.

    The underlying problem that seems to pervade TLH thinking is that errant assumption that Sikhs form a community, the trap you are unambiguously ensnared by at the end of your post, in which you say "One can also stand behind one’s community…" That is the defensive instinct that is present in this post, the defensive instinct that pervades the blog itself and what has gone on for Sikhs certainly in the West. So, I leave you with some ideas from the last blog-post I linked to above about the your idea of community:

    But what if we even questioned the very assumption that Sikhs owe allegiance to any communities, even their own. What if we questioned whether Sikhs should even be a community, or whether we have ever been a community. What if we shouldn't even want to be a community. John Caputo, a very brilliant and charitable Christian philosopher, sees this very clearly. He speaks of the philosopher Derrida, saying:

    "What he [Derrida] does not like about the word community is its connotations of "fusion" and "identification". After all, _communio_ is a word for a military formation and a kissing cousin of the word for "munitions"; to have a _communio_ is to be fortified on all sides, to build a "common" (_com_) "defense" (_munis_), as when a wall is put up around the city to keep the stranger or the foreigner out."

    –from Deconstruction in a Nutshell, by John Caputo

    What this brilliant remark shows is that your allegiance to "Sikh" community is part of the process which itself is responsible for being insular and inbred. After all, there is a reason why community and "communalism" are so close together. As long as you are primarily engaged in "simply knowing who we are and what we believe", you make a boundary between you and others. It involves saying "who we _aren't_ and what we _reject_", which will happen to be Christians, Hindus, tyrants, capitalists, the bourgoise, greed, lust, evil, the middle-class, etc. This, in turn, reinforces a sort of insularity and ego-ism, so long as we continue this process of pushing the stink outside our walls, outside of our communities. But, this sly tactic, this "sianpa" will ultimately never succeed.

    That is why The Langar Hall, as you have just demonstrated, is never interested in asking deep and tough questions. But, instead, it is interested in pushing this simplistic ideology of communal identity worship. I am not here saying that Sikhs should no longer be religious. I am saying that Panth is something that requires more risk and less self-worship, something that is beyond the petty matters of "what we believe" that have tortured Christian ideologies and factions. Panth requires more commitment and humility than the self-worship in claiming to be an "ambassador on behalf of sikhism".

  2. Meena says:

    Not sure what the hell you are talking about but human nature is based on being part of a family unit, group and community at large. What we need are people who are going to bring us together not render us apart. I am not surprised you are on Valium, perhaps that is where you truly deserve to be.

  3. deeph says:

    You call it a wonderful diversity, I call it a reason to start labeling this site as the “The Slightly Regressive Hall.”

  4. Jodha says:

    @DeepH – label as you like, but only engaging those with the same opinions seems rather limiting, boring, and narrow-minded to me. Conformity to the same positions that we are all to recite seems the antithesis of Sikhi to me.

    That was the Sarbat Khalsa (or even The Langar Hall) – loud, cacophonous, boisterous, rambunctious, clamorous, and sometimes even obstreperous – still we are Sikhs and see the Guru in each one another, and engage with each other as we should.

  5. Mewa says:

    Jodha – "but only engaging those with the same opinions seems rather limiting, boring, and narrow-minded" – AGREED!

    Randep – Interesting line of thought, maybe will try to write more later. But really quickly – Caputo is wrong. Complete FALSE ETYMOLOGY for the word 'community.' If interested, here you go:

    late 14c., from O.Fr. comunité "community, commonness, everybody" (Mod.Fr. communauté), from L. communitatem (nom. communitas) "community, fellowship," from communis "common, public, general, shared by all or many," (see common). Latin communitatem "was merely a noun of quality … meaning 'fellowship, community of relations or feelings,' but in med.L. it was, like universitas, used concretely in the sense of 'a body of fellows or fellow-townsmen' " [OED]. An O.E. word for "community" was gemænscipe "community, fellowship, union, common ownership," probably composed from the same PIE roots as communis.

    see – http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=commun

  6. randep says:

    Why not? Words have histories, and therefor stories. Words have relatives, kins, and families. They have ancestors and children. Words evolve and die and are forgotten. In this excerpt, Caputo argues that the word 'community' is used in a way that is vicious, in a way that surreptitiously evades our knowing. Communities are in a way treacherous, and he wants to show that by showing how related words color the shares of its meanings. Once again, the quote is:

    "What he [Derrida] does not like about the word community is its connotations of "fusion" and "identification". After all, _communio_ is a word for a military formation and a kissing cousin of the word for "munitions"; to have a _communio_ is to be fortified on all sides, to build a "common" (_com_) "defense" (_munis_), as when a wall is put up around the city to keep the stranger or the foreigner out."

    –from Deconstruction in a Nutshell, by John Caputo

    What do you disagree with here? Do you disagree that related words can tell us something about what a word means? If so, I'm very open to that argument and am open to developing reasons why this is not such a fruitful line of thought.

  7. Stanford Kaur says:

    Does anyone actually moderate this site? TLH disclaimer regarding comments states “No profanity, name calling, or discrimination, please – we try to keep The Langar Halk a clean, open, and hate-free zone. We reserve the right to edit or remove inappropriate comments.”

    What could be more inappropriate than the personal attacks by Blighty and the snide Berkeley Singh against Randep? Does TLH approve of such childish behavior? Is it encouraged?

    In his OP Jodha states he wishes the level of the discussion here was raised but I see no evidence of any efforts from the site’s moderators to raise it. The quality of the discourse only seems to deteriorate exponentially with each successive comment from anyone other than Randep.

  8. guest says:

    i agree wholeheartedly with stanford kaur. the moderators here at the langar hall seem to have left the building while each new thread degenerates into mindless chaos. what are these if not name-calling:

    "Sikhs who acted like little girls and sat at home while other's homes, property and businesses were destroyed have the nerve to call those brave enough to get out there and protect their communities a 'disgrace'."

    "Deeph, you are without a shadow of an ignoramus of the highest order. Your bufoonery of a post reveals that you imagine you've read something before you actually have."

    these are the type of comments one expects at the bottom of youtube videos, not on a community forum like this one. they cheapen the discourse and create an atmosphere that makes it impossible to carry on a reasoned discussion for people who are actually interested in such a discussion. the langar hall moderators should take heed and try actually enforcing the policies they have ostensibly put in place.

    thank you stanford kaur for bringing in a voice of reason.

  9. kantay says:

    Derrida as an original thinker within the mode of the philosophical tradition he was speaking to is fine and must have been truly exciting but the need for his manner of interrogation from within Sikhi and the body of thought from which Sikhi comes is not as great. He is not the same bolt of light and wonder when one is not reacting to the antecedents he spoke to within Christian Enlightenment and liberal philosophy. My dos rupiah (tell me which morphemes you find).

  10. guest says:

    "If you had carefully read my posts, then you would know that 'communities' as such exist only insofar as they establish a core of identity, a core that is monotonous and unable to allow for difference"

    what makes you think that, randep? i would contend quite the opposite. you would be hard pressed to point out a single community that is "monotonic". on the contrary, communities are always of necessity multitonic, various, and stratified. the notion that a community has to be monotonic is an ideological position (grounded in a herderian linguistic nationalism) that has no bearing or relation to any observable reality.

    the fact that you are posting here belies your point. you are posting here to reach an audience that you perceive to share your interest in what you are writing about. that in itself implies a notion of community. in this case, the community is an online one, made up of persons who can read english, have access to internet, and are interested in discussion on topics related to sikhi.

    the fact that the word 'community' has a latinate root is completely irrelevant here, since we are discoursing entirely in english. if you want to shift the discussion into panjabi, we could do that, and we would then find appropriate terms to describe the reality that we perceive around us. panjabi also various words for collectivity, including the gathering that occurs in anandpur sahib each year on baisakhi. the concept of collectivity or community is not the exclusive provenance of a latinate linguistic heritage.

  11. randep says:

    You say the latinate history of the word 'community' is completely irrelevant, because we're talking in English. I'm saying the the connotations of violence associated with the word 'community' are completely relevant BECAUSE we're speaking English. You assume that "terms describe the reality that we perceive around us," but that's not the only view of language one can take up. The theory that "terms describe the reality we perceive around us," is often called "naive realism". The view takes it that 1) there is an objective world that exists out there in itself independent of us, 2) human beings have minds that directly perceive the objective world, 3) language exists as a way to transport 'meaning' from one mind to another. This seems like an intuitive view of things. The mind (if working correctly) mirrors reality and language transports what is communicated across the pond to other minds. This makes the the multiplicity of languages in a way redundant. The various languages are equally capable transporters of meaning, who just happen to have different sounding words many of which 'mean' the same thing because they transport the very same semantic content.

    But I don't think this view is right. For one, were this view the case, learning a language whatsoever would be impossible. The child would have to already see the world partitioned into various objects: tables, chairs, sky, cloud, myst, dirt, semi-porous rocks, worms, buildings, doors, etc. etc. and THEN be able to assign a word to those things afterwords as it learns language. However, this already assumes that the child knows language, it already assumes that the child has a rich vocabulary (and concepts) with which it sees all these various distinct entities as cut off from one another. So, your view of language in which words merely describe the world, must already assume that children know language. They are linguistic beings since zygote. This view seems implausible to me in my honest opinion. But there are other ideas of what language is, of what words are and how we relate to them.

    The question of the being of language is of utmost importance is what you care about is translation, Punjabi, reading Bani, and Sikh identity in general. You say the latinate history of the word 'community' is completely irrelevant, because we're talking in English. I'm saying the the connotations of violence associated with the word 'community' are completely relevant BECAUSE we're speaking English. If Sikhs more often than not exist between languages and the porous spaces within them, doesn't think complicate the relationship between one language to another? Is Punjabi just a type of English and visa versa?

    What if language doesn't merely describe reality, but reality is constituted by the way we use concepts and language to make sense of it? What if language sets the limits of reality itself? This view deserves some consideration. The reason this is important is because if Sikhs want to be able to think politically, about Sikh institutions themselves, and Sikh thought in the West, they have to face up to the way religion, politics, and identity (indeed, life itself) is constructed in the space of Christianity, secularism, and Europe.

    For example, the internal history of Europe, its own internal prejudices, racism, genocides, and dogmatism has forced it to confine religion to a merely private, psychological affair, right? If Catholics and Protestants can't stop massacring each other, the treaties of Westphalia in 1648 _tried_ to keep Europe from killing itself by quarantining religion, keeping it at bay, far from sight, and deep in the private sphere. This is the history of Christian politics in Europe. It is this internal history that is universalized globally.

    Now the question is, can Sikhs simply claim that Sikh praxis contains religion and politics? This has been the conventional slogan. But, I don't think it can be that simple. Sikhs must attend to the language of religion, to the word having been the object of a cleaving, of the word having been contorted, bound, and manipulated to fit a nice, clean box. So, in a way, Sikh thought more often than not resists being religious, insofar as being religious means being restricted and shrunk down to fit the tiny box of private, personal, internal feeling. That is why we must take seriously are words themselves, their texture and hue. Words, like all things, have dimension, extension, and force.

    Returning to your point, simply saying that, " panjabi also various words for collectivity," is once again circular. Punjabi doesn't have words for English words, strictly speaking. No word has another word, no language has another language. Each word, each language, each act, each gesture, glance, and poem is always different from another, ALWAYS. Even the very same word spoken now and 10 minutes from now, even if exactly the same, will be totally different, because it will be said in a different place, with a different force and meaning. Or, to totally go another direction with it, there is no experiment or test we could ever do that would figure out once and for all whether two words "mean" the same thing. Right?


  12. guest says:

    randep, i understand where your sentiments are coming from, but your analysis is misplaced. every argument you are bringing forth is a metacommentary underscoring the fact that sikhs *must* be community by your own logic. to wit:
    1. you are addressing the participants of this forum in your posts. no one posts here to broadcast their thoughts out into the random recesses of cyberspace. we (you included) are posting here to reach a *particular* audience (i.e., a community)
    2. when you use the nominal plural as in "that errant assumption that Sikhs form a community" you are, by the grammatical rules of english, obligatorily referring to a collectivity.
    we can argue about the constitutive features of that collectivity are, or what they are not, or what they should be, but if there was no such entity, you wouldn't be able to refer to "sikhs" in the plural to begin with. your repeated denial of the fact that sikhs form a community does not match any empirical evidence on the ground, whether on this forum, in anandpur sahib on baisakhi, or in any gurdwara around the world on any given sunday.
    i'm glad to see a young person like yourself vigorously engaging with these questions, but you need to account for all of the actual readily observable variability around us to make your arguments cogent.

  13. guest says:

    interesting, instead of removing this comment:

    "Deeph, you are without a shadow of an ignoramus of the highest order. Your bufoonery of a post reveals that you imagine you've read something before you actually have"

    the moderators decided to remove my comment complaining about name calling on this forum!

    interesting moderation policy. "we're not heavy-handed like sikhchic".

    it's ok. you can't silence the truth.

  14. Berkeley Singh says:

    Do you seriously have conversations with yourself? Up the valium dosage! Your comments have been given as much air as anyone else. Jodha did not ‘exclude’ you from the TLH ‘community.’ In fact, I read his post as giving you props to an extent. I question his intelligence for even giving you that.

    Still, I see your victim complex has not left you. I was hoping upon graduation, you would have left it behind. I guess not.

    Much more interesting is to hear about your ‘political organizing’. I would love to hear about your grassroots efforts – get down and dirty with the people! [COMMENT MODERATED BY ADMIN] Let’s hear about the REAL activism of prattle and pontification.

  15. Blighty Singh says:

    When a person (deeph) falsely accuses another here of making a racist remark then please explain to us 'guest' what kind of post is that if not a 'bufoonery of a post' ?
    When a person (deeph) is unable to read properly and misunderstands the mentioning of official USA policy and Commonwealth rights of entry as 'racist remarks' then please explain to us 'guest' what kind of person is that if not an 'ignoramus of the highest order' ?

  16. kantay says:

    This is not only part of this blog, Punjabi culture itself relies on mockery and social ostracism to enforce norms….probably this is so in other south Asian cultures