Sikhs and the City

7 thoughts on “Sikhs and the City”

  1. Yes, Sikhism is an amalgamation of Muslim-Sufi and Hindu influences; but please note that Sikhism’s founding gurus were themselves Hindus and were in fact butchered by the Mughal Muslim rulers of north India of that time. To this day, many Punjabi Hindu families raise their first-born child as a Sikh. So even though it’s not quite Hindu and not quite Islamic, Sikhism the way you’ve so beautifully described it in this article sounds very similar to the way Hinduism’s varna-jati system operates in society (what Western educated people wrongly term “caste” system). Like Sikh’s langar, there are varna-jati associations and association temples and halls where everyone is fed and taken care of. Some larger sects within Hinduism, such as BAPS, are wildly successful even in the U.S., because of their internal social cohesion. I’m not an expert, but I’d venture a guess that Sikhs’ langar system is similar to these Hindu varna-jati associations. You may look into BAPS’ temples nearby and see how they operate.

  2. The power of tribes are a theme discovered by lots of my favorite thinkers. Daniel Quinn first really exposed me to the explicit idea of *living* in a tribe, in contemporary society. Personally, I really miss living with roommates (the ones I really liked anyway), or living with other friends in the same building. Making time to get together otherwise is very difficult, especially with children. Alas, I have had no luck convincing anyone else of any of this.

  3. Important points. My personal inclination is atheist and individualistic. I instinctively cringe when I hear “community” and “faith” because I associate it with social conformity and anti-science views.

    But the contrast between isolated suburbs and tight knit communities is really striking. A local example: San Bernardino is a byword for civic failure, crime and drug use. I remember a local morning show DJ referring to the 909 as the “Valley of the Dirt People.” when I lived in LA.

    Meanwhile, next door Loma Linda (Seventh Day Adventists) has some of the longest lived and happiest people on earth because of their diet & community. I don’t want to join them, but it’s interesting what can be done with the exact same environment.

    1. This goes back to my argument that desert suburbs aren’t all universally doomed. Henderson, Nevada is a collection of random people who moved to the wasteland because big new houses were cheap, taxes were low, and they wanted sun in winter. But they tend not to know their neighbors, there’s no social cohesion, and no physical public realm. The place is doomed. The same exact kind of desert suburban sprawl populated by well organized Mormons will somehow rise to the challenges of the future. I don’t personally don’t want to live in such a place, but I see the value in collective action organized around faith.

    2. Interesting article. It mostly talks about their healthy, vegetarian diet, regular exercise and avoidance of tobacco, alcohol, and other mind-altering substances. Amazingly, developing healthy life habits appears to be an actual a tenet of the Seventh Day Adventist religion. I’m sure community plays a part in their long life and happiness, but there are reams of studies that show that healthy diets and regular exercise alone create health and happiness at far higher levels than the average American experiences. (Indeed, someone visiting from outer space would likely conclude that Americans voluntarily cut their lives short and make themselves miserable on purpose.)

      I know very little about the Sikh religion. However, just yesterday I spent four hours at a public Transit Authority meeting where I heard approximately 40 angry cab drivers yell at the SFMTA board of directors for two minutes each, furious that their livelihood was going up in smoke. These were all men who had driven cabs for over twenty years, some as long as forty. With a few exceptions, all the white men looked in terrible shape–overweight or obese; discolored, swollen extremities; sagging and flushed skin; you name it. From them I would conclude driving a cab is an extremely unhealthy job. In contrast, the two Sikh cab drivers (who had also driven for more than twenty years and who were also quite unhappy with the SFMTA but didn’t actually yell) didn’t look an ounce overweight or unhealthy at all. Community? Diet? Exercise? I don’t know, but it was quite a contrast.

  4. Delightful description of a minority religious group.

    “gorgeous architecture, art, and music”
    “constructive work within a larger supportive group”
    “close knit subculture”
    “a reputation for pragmatism, social justice, and collective prosperity”
    “virtually no unemployment within the group. If a job is needed work will be found somehow.”

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