I came across this ancient magazine article
(ancient, at any rate, as magazine articles go) and it struck me on several levels as ironically symbolic
of the White Christian Westerner
's view of the "Third World
" and its people -- a few strategically placed references to the brownness of the people, and the presumptions that their poor conditions are a product of their lack of Westernization
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF INDIA.
1. The nearness of India
. From London
, by Brindisi
, seems a marvelously short journey, occupying little more than a fortnight
broken up into four sections,— London to Brindisi, Brindisi to the Suez Canal
, thence to Aden
, and thence to Bombay. There is something fresh to be seen every day as far as Aden, and on reaching Bombay you wonder that you have arrived so easily and speedily.
Actually, a fortnight does indeed seem a swift journey to go from London to Bombay in the era before air travel.
2. Its strangeness. In Asia
you seem to enter a new world. The tropical
strength of the sun, the dark skin
s and foreign dress
of the people
, their language
, and ways
, all impress you as utterly different from anything in Europe
Here we go with the darkness of the people. Funny also how a traveler in another country thinks to refer to the native garb of the locals as "foreign."
3. Its vastness. India is nineteen hundred miles in length, and also in its greatest breadth. It is itself a continent
, and Norway
, put together, would scarcely make so large a country.
4. Its populousness. There is an overwhelming impression of almost countless multitudes
, with needs
as important as our own. One is stirred to compassion
, for they are still as sheep
without a shepherd
. India contains one fifth of humanity,
and the bulk are still utterly unevangelized.
First, funny that the dude needs to point out that the "needs and destinies" of these people are important. Second, "sheep without a shepherd" -- I suppose a Muslim would feel compassion for their need to be converted to Islam, and a Zoroastrian for their want of Zoroaster.
5. Similarity of race. Unlike many others, the people of India belong to the same race
as those of England, America, and Europe. Their language
s and features
prove them to belong to the Aryan
race. This fact gives a feeling of kinship
with the people.
Convergent evolution, more likely. Kind of a sad statement in the inverse, as it implies a lack of a feeling of 'kinship' with people of other races.
. This is true of the people generally, and of the Brahman
s, and of the Parsee
s in particular. No audience
s of students in England and America seem to me brighter or quicker in apprehension
than the Hindu
s I have spoken to here.
Dude, maybe you should convert to Hinduism then.
. Hindus exhibit an amount of suavity
, and submissiveness
never seen in the natives of England and America, with a remarkable absence of strong, self-reliant assertiveness
. Their gentleness attracts and awakens sympathy
, for it is largely due to prolonged oppression.
Or maybe its due to a belief system that prizes peacefulness over warmaking.
. This is manifest in fathers as well as mothers, and parental affection is returned. Deep and touching exhibitions of filial love
are met with.
People love their children. Surprise! Also, are met with what?
. They are treated as beasts of burden
. They pass by thousands, carrying fuel
, and loads of grass
, or other vegetable produce, on their heads. They are mostly short, thin, worn looking, lightly clothed, with bare arms
as a berry
, walking with short, quick steps and upright carriage
. In the home the wife
is a servant
, and often little better than a slave
. The treatment of widows
is infamous. Woman is crushed here, and knows not how to raise herself out of ignorance
, and degradation
Sad, but also a bit ironic -- wasn't much longer before that women got the same treatment under Christendom. Folks, this is like twenty years before women even get to vote in the USA. And also, "brown as a berry" -- seriously, what berries have you been eating?
10. Absence of home life. For the majority of the people the houses
are all open to the street
. The rooms
, often of unpainted boards, without ornament
, with scarce any furniture
, mere eating
places. The people sit in the streets. Privacy
can hardly be said to exist, except in the dwellings of the rich
. The effect of this on family life must be tremendous. The inmates
swarm like bees
in a hive
, or ants
in an anthill
are thus loosened at their foundations
, and independence
must suffer in proportion.
Makes me wonder if the dude ever saw poverty-stricken neighborhoods in London. Real poverty is poverty wherever it goes on. And whose virtue and morality are loosened, here?
11. Defective drainage
. The sanitation
of the towns seems deplorable. The plague
at present desolating Bombay has its cause in this. It is no easy thing to get three hundred millions of people, who have lived without proper drains, to mend their ways. The country is hot and dry, or the results would be much worse. Still, under English rule
, a better state of things is gradually being brought about.
Um, hooray for English rule of India? Well that worked out well.
12. Signs of progress
. Magnificent buildings
, good shops
, post offices
, telegraph stations
, abound as evidences of immense progress. English rule in India is rapidly transforming social habits and civilization. The people breathe a free air
, live under just laws
, are protected from civil wars
and cruel massacre
is spreading; and, altogether, a new nation
is being born.
....a new nation that will eventually kick out the English.
13. Presence of idolatry
. This vast people is wholly given to idolatry. Temples
, small, dark, dirty, ugly, and repulsive, stand open everywhere. Vile images
, and elephants
are adored. The mind and conscience of the people are in abject slavery
to the vilest superstition
s. The darkness of India can be felt. It is a world of moral night. Religion
has become animalism
. The immoral priest
washes his senseless idol
, and worship
s it before your face
. The Brahman stands there to argue in his defense. The fakir
sits naked in the sun, smeared with ashes, with wild, uncombed locks
, like a beast
from the woods, and deems himself the most religious of mankind. India worships three hundred millions of divinities. To her, God
, and everything is God, and, therefore, everything may be adored. Snakes
are her special divinities
. Her pan-deism
is a pandemonium
. The things she sacrifices to idols she sacrifices to devils
. O for light! light! Millions grope at noon, and stumble into perdition without a warning voice. They know not the true God, and Jesus Christ
whom he has sent. And we in England and America are content to preach and press the gospel
, time after time, with measureless labor and expense on our home thousands, and leave these millions untaught, unwarned, unshepherded! How is this? Our missionary societies send them a few missionaries
; but what are our churches doing? What right have the churches to delegate this tremendous work of raising up the entire heathen world to a few overburdened societies? Let every church arise and do its share directly for the salvation of mankind, and the problem of the world's evangelization will soon be solved. Let every pastor
, every elder
, every deacon
, every church
-member, every Sunday-school
teacher, every individual Christian, be taught to feel, "This work is mine. I am personally responsible to give the gospel to some part of this unevangelized world. I have my share to attend to in this sacred business. No other can do my work, or answer for me before the judgment
seat of God
. Let me do my personal part in the work of saving mankind, or renounce the name of Christian."
Priceless -- condemning the native idolatry while calling for the introduction of the preferred foreign idolatry. The India described here, where "God is everything" is closer than many theisms to a rational pandeistic view, but its "pan-deism is a pandemonium."
14. Wide-open doors. No door
is shut in India. The cities
are open, the towns
, the villages
, the streets the shops, the zenana
s, the halls
, the market-places, the whole country and population. You may go where you will, and say what you will, none daring to make you afraid. The people sit by the wayside waiting for you. They wait, with their meek eyes
looking out for the advent of the messenger of saving truth. A change has come over their thoughts. They have begun to scorn their priests and suspect their idols. They are willing to hear God's word when it is brought to them. But there are few to bring it. Scarce one Christian in a thousand has the heart to help them. Mammon
is too mighty for our pity and piety. Our small home interests hide from us the immeasurable interests of a perishing world. The millions of the heathen
to most of us are as though they had no existence whatever. Who shall roll away the dark reproach? Let each one roll it from his own door. Our responsibility is individual. As individuals, let us meet it in all its magnitude.
At last it occurs to me that the whole point of this article is not to describe India so much as to convince Christians -- any who might read it -- that India is safe and convenient, and worth the trip because 'unevangelized' native yearning to convert are ripe for the plucking. I can only imagine the converse journal entry, by a Hindu visitor to the US or England fretting over the materialism of the natives and their worship of only a handful of the available Gods, their ripeness for conversion to Hinduism, and their need for Indian missionaries to warn them of the dangers of a poor reincarnation.
The article is by Reverend Henry Grattan Guinness
, apparently originally published in a mag called Missionary Review
. This copy of the article is taken from a collection titled The Medical Missionary
by no less a persona than John Harvey Kellogg
, put together by the International Health
Association in 1897, occupying pages 125-127 of that work, the bulk of it being on page 126.