Monday, February 24, 2014

Don't cry for me, Parsi

An old article on how the Vulture Program has been started by the Parsis.
Like the vultures on which they once relied, Parsis are disappearing. Their religion, Zoroastrianism, once dominated Iran but was largely displaced by Islam. In the 10th century, a large group of Zoroastrians fled persecution in Iran and settled in India. Fewer than 70,000 remain, most of them concentrated in Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, where they collectively own prime real estate that was purchased centuries ago.
Among the most valuable of these holdings are 54 acres of trees and winding pathways onMalabar Hill, one of Mumbai’s most exclusive neighborhoods. Tucked into these acres are three Towers of Silence where Parsis have for centuries disposed of their dead.
This contrasts quite well with a more recent article, Your Ancestors Your Fate:
Inequality of income and wealth has risen in America since the 1970s, yet a large-scale research study recently found that social mobility hadn’t changed much during that time. How can that be?
The study, by researchers at Harvard and Berkeley, tells only part of the story. It may be true that mobility hasn’t slowed — but, more to the point, mobility has always been slow.
When you look across centuries, and at social status broadly measured — not just income and wealth, but also occupation, education and longevity — social mobility is much slower than many of us believe, or want to believe. This is true in Sweden, a social welfare state; England, where industrial capitalism was born; the United States, one of the most heterogeneous societies in history; and India, a fairly new democracy hobbled by the legacy of caste. Capitalism has not led to pervasive, rapid mobility. Nor have democratization, mass public education, the decline of nepotism, redistributive taxation, the emancipation of women, or even, as in China, socialist revolution.
Elite cultures are difficult to dispose of and sometimes can masquerade as small minorities (especially trading ones like Jews, Parsis, Jains and Phanariotes). 

1 comment:

  1. There are also many Parsis in Karachi, and smaller populations in some other Pakistani cities. Two well-known people: The novelist Bapsi Sidhwa and the Late, much lamented columnist Ardeshir Cowasjee. The engineering university I went to in Karachi, the N.E.D. University, was names after its founder (as a college), Nadirshaw Edulji Dinshaw, who was a Parsi. I had several Parsi friends growing up in Karachi, and visited the city's main Parsi enclave, where our family doctor lived. I think Parsis bring a lot to any society they are part of. They are among the most civic-minded, philanthropic communities in Pakistan and India. From a broader perspective, the history of the Zoroasterian faith is an extremely important part of world history, though little remembered outside of small groups. It has even been argued, rather speculatively, that Zoroasterianism is the intellectual parent of all three Abrahamic religions - remember, the Jewish exile in Babylon, ended by the Zoroastrian Cyrus, was ome of the crucial periods in the development of Jewish theology. Whether true or not, it certainly influenced all three faiths, especially in the esoteric forms.