Sunday, February 19, 2017

Foreigners Of Every Kind

Percival Spear (yes, his name really was Percival Spear), a 20th-century English historian who spent much of his life living in and writing about India, who taught with distinction both in India and England, including a stint at Cambridge University, who served in the government of India for several years in the 1940's, writes of the Mughal Empire on page 67 of his book India, Pakistan and the West, 4th ed, Oxford University Press, 1967:

"A significant sign of greatness was the welcome afforded to foreigners of every kind from Portugese Jesuits to French jewelers, and the interest shown not only in foreign novelties like watches and mechanical toys, but in ideas as well. Akbar delighted in Jesuit discussions of their faith and Dara Shikoh ordered translations both of the gospels and of the Upanishads."

The Mughal Empire was a regime which ruled much of modern-day India, Pakistan and Afghanistan from the 16th to the 19th century. Akbar was a Mughal Emperor and Dara Shikoh a Mughal crown Prince. The Upanishads are the Sanskrit texts which contain the core philosophy of Hinduism.

All of the most civilized places in human history have been especially welcoming to people from all over over the world. New York City, for example, is brilliant in very large part because it welcomes people from all over the world and celebrates their cultures. The Chinese, Italian, Puerto Rican, Irish, Brazilian, Filipino, Vietnamese, Mexican, Bengali, Hindi, Bangladeshi, Korean, Dominican, Japanese, Cuban, Russian and Ukrainian communities in the city are just a few of the largest examples of the results of this welcoming and nurturing environment.

Imagine someone who lived an entire long life in New York City, exposed on a daily basis to that rich variety of languages, having such a wonderful variety of ethnic cuisines always within easy reach, having the privilege of being able to learn from people of such varied backgrounds -- imagine someone spending a lifetime in such a wonderful place, and still being so dense as to embrace the most primitive and xenophonic parts of American culture. Sad.

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