No Indian is a coolie by birth
Source: Great Soul by Joseph Lelyveld, p.9
Many of you coolies have directed your ire at us when we hurled the epithet coolie at y’all.
Your anger has been gnawing at our vitals since.
So in our search for answers, we did what a lot of sensible Indians do – look to the Father of the Nation for answers and guidance on the subject.
Here’s how Gandhi treated the term coolie:
During his South African days, Gandhi voiced his objection to the use of the term coolie to refer to Indian traders and the former indentured laborers who stand on their own feet after their contract period ended.
Lelyveld writes that Gandhi did not mind the term coolie being applied to contract laborers, i.e. the dirt-poor Indians who came to South Africa under contracts of indenture (p.9 of Great Soul).
Wonder what Gandhi would have said about the software coolies in India and U.S who toil for their American masters. After all, isn’t the H1B Visa a form of indentured contract?
Well, since SI has always used the term coolie to refer to those software programmers on H1Bs and the bozos in India toiling at lower wages (compared to Americans) isn’t it fair to say that Gandhi would have agreed with your favorite blog SI. 😉
By extending Gandhi’s logic, Green Card holders and Citizens would not be coolies.
So, the next time any of you schmucks feel the urge to insult us as coolies in retaliation, remember by the Gandhian logic we’re not coolies since we’re not under contract (H1B) and furthermore we’re traders.
pinished reading the book? how was it
Got it just the day before…reading it now.
Will cover Gandhi till our readers get tired!
SI has the right to use the word Coolie in any context and to interpret its meaning in whatever way it wishes to. Nevertheless, it doesnt change the meaning of the word or make SI right.
Sensible people refer to the dictionery not Gandhi for meaning of a word. Here is what the online dictionaries say: –
coolie, cooly [ˈkuːlɪ]
1. (Social Science / Peoples) (Historical Terms) a cheaply hired unskilled Oriental labourer
2. (Social Science / Peoples) (Historical Terms) Derogatory an Indian living in South Africa
[from Hindi kulī, probably of Dravidian origin; related to Tamil kūli hire, hireling]
Noun 1. coolie – (ethnic slur) an offensive name for an unskilled Asian laborer
coolie, (from Hindi Kuli, an aboriginal tribal name, or from Tamil kuli, “wages”), in usually pejorative European usage, an unskilled labourer or porter usually in or from the Far East hired for low or subsistence wages.
an unskilled laborer or porter usually in or from the Far East hired for low or subsistence wages
offensive + old-fashioned : an unskilled Asian worker who is paid low wages
The common themes are “Unskilled laborers”, “someone who carries others luggage” aka “porter” and the word itself is derogatory, offensive and somewhat racist.
Let us ignore the derogatory aspect for now.
1. The desi H1B/L1 workers do not carry other people’s luggage as part of their job or as a means for living.
2. By the definition of the visa category H1B /L1 workers are executives, managers or people with specialized skills.
Refer http://www.murthy.com/h1bvisa.html & http://www.murthy.com/l1visa.html
“The H1B Visa (Professional in a Specialty Occupation) allows a U.S. employer to fill a position requiring the minimum of a baccalaureate in the particular field with a qualified worker from abroad.”
“Overseas companies that have or wish to establish U.S. offices may need to transfer executive, managerial, or specialized personnel to the U.S. The L-1 Visa (Intra-company Transferee) enables these key employees to be posted temporarily at the U.S. parent, subsidiary, affiliate, or branch office. The foreign professional must have worked for the foreign company for at least one year within the three years prior to coming to the U.S. in an executive, managerial, or specialized-knowledge capacity, and the U.S. position must also fit into one of those three categories.”
With the english dictionary and visa classifications as guides, it is clear that H1B/L1 workers were/are not “coolies”.
If we were to expand on SI’s usage of “Coolie” then Green card holders and immigrants who became US citizens were coolies at one point… ex-Coolies.
Now, some desis (H1, L1, GC, Citizens, A1, B1, C1, D1, E1, F1,…..) behave cheap. They don’t lose a single opportunity to showcase the depths they are willing to plunge. That is a different story.
1. Languages evolve and were Gandhi to be alive, given his evolving positions, he’d have most certainly extended the meaning of coolie beyond laborer to executive or wannabe executive too, who are often paid less than other Americans. The Labor Dept parity checks are a joke!
2. Folks, notwithstanding what some commenters may delude you into believing, the H1B/L1 Visas as they currently stand are for the most part nothing but coolie visas to kick out Americans and employ cheap South Asians.
Come on, which business would pay thousands of $$ in Visa fees, Attorney fees, Labor Dept fees to import a worker from South Asia unless there is a financial benefit over the medium/long term. It’s farcical to pretend otherwise. H1B/L1 Visas/Green Card processing are nothing but a modern version of bonded labor.
Let’s not forget the countless number of TCS employees who used to quit soon after landing here because they were paid lower wages.
As with everything in life, there are exceptions. But for the most part, H1B/L1/Green Card processing are nothing but tools deployed by large corporations to throw American workers under the bus.
A point we’ve made often is that if well-paying Indian jobs in India were to be offered to Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans or God Forbid Pakis, Indians would unleash their inner Ravana and set fire to the whole place. Only when that day arrives i.e. when Indian jobs in India are offered to Bangladeshis, Pakis, Sri Lankans – and we wish it does – will Indians understand the pain and grief they have caused American workers.
3. In a couple of hours, we’ll do a post on how one Coolie Visa fraudster is going to Prison. 😛
SI – You have said nothing that factually justifies the usage of term “Coolie” for H1B/L1 workers. And, please stop sitting on Gandhi’s lap. What Gandhi/Godse/Sardar Patel/Nehru/Jayalalitha/Jyothi Basu said / would/could/may say doesn’t matter one bit. Language has evolved but the meaning of “Coolie” has not changed. The dictionaries are current and updated in some periodicity.
Your inclination to use the term “Coolie” seems to stem from your anger and frustrations at H1B/L1 policy rather than logic. You may continue to call them Coolies out of spite. That is fine. But, your real anger seems to be against your government and your corporates. Why don’t you and your fellow citizens go to your Government and change your laws to protect your jobs? Why are you blaming poor South Asians for your internal problems? :p
Immigrant workers in US are a result of Americtan Capitalism and Globalization trends. As you say, the H1/L1 etc. are being used purely for the selfish purposes of American Corporates and supported by the American government. South Asian (and others), Indians included have richly benefited from it but that does not make them unskilled or porters and hence not Coolies.
I agree with you 100% on policy abuse by desi firms, American corporate greed, intent of visas vs how it is being used etc. I agree 100% that regulations must be increased and criteria must be more stringent. I agree that desi firms who abuse visas must be black listed for a decade or more. I agree with all that goodness. I don’t agree with calling people names for no fault of their own.
By the way, the thing about bonded laborers is hillarious. H1B workers are bonded to nothing but their hourly rate. They can switch jobs at will. L1 workers are internal transfers meant to go back after some time but even they are not restricted from jumping jobs after getting a H1 visa. And, they all can return to their home countries at any point.
//A point we’ve made often is that if well-paying Indian jobs in India were to be offered to Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans or God Forbid Pakis, Indians would unleash their inner Ravana and set fire to the whole place. Only when that day arrives i.e. when Indian jobs in India are offered to Bangladeshis, Pakis, Sri Lankans – and we wish it does – will Indians understand the pain and grief they have caused American workers. //
This hypothetical scenario is unlikely to happen in India as India is not a capitalist country. If it happens then you are correct about what may happen.
Sorry for the long post but I think the topic deserves it.
1. You write: Why don’t you and your fellow citizens go to your Government and change your laws to protect your jobs? Why are you blaming poor South Asians for your internal problems?
Our way of highlighting the non-necessity of H1B/L1 Visas under the current circumstances is by writing about it.
Some American blogs have also linked to our writings on H1B and while we’re not optimistic things will change, we’re happy that we’ve not shirked our duty in asking for reduction/elimination of H1/L1 visas that are detrimental to American employees.
Every country’s first obligation is towards its citizens not to some distant country’s workers.
2. Sure, it is anger that prompts us to call these workers Coolies because they have no business being here when American workers are struggling to find jobs.
In our not-so-humble view, these workers are as complicit as the employers. The best analogy would be the Jewish settlers building homes on Palestine land because of Israeli govt policies and proclaiming their innocence. No surprise that angry Palestinians have started attacking the Jewish settlers who are building on their land. 🙁 While Americans have so far been meek and docile so far that could well change any day.
That said, we’ve also defended our use of the term in terms of the lower wages. Let’s not kid ourselves, they would not be here but for the lower wages/benefits or the fact that they are unlikely to jump ship at the first opportunity compared to Americans. Add Green Card processing and they are with you for at least 3-4 years depending on the state. Also, these H1B/L1 are not as lawsuit friendly as Americans.
3. You write: This hypothetical scenario is unlikely to happen in India as India is not a capitalist country. If it happens then you are correct about what may happen.
India not capitalist? Whatever weed you’re high on, please do FedEx some to us. 😉
Come on, India threw Socialism under the bus long back.
//Sure, it is anger that prompts us to call these workers Coolies// That is all I was trying to point out. I am in agreement with all other evils you say about these visas.
//Every country’s first obligation is towards its citizens not to some distant country’s workers.// COMPLETELY AGREE
//these workers are as complicit as the employers// That also means all Americans were complicit with the mass murders committed in Iraq, Afganistan, Vietnam and wherever else they set foot. The topic is different but the logic is same. So many firms/employers/employees follow the stated process rigorously to get visas. As far as I know the L1 visas undergo greater scrutiny than H1. There are several big firms which have a stated policy against processing Green Cards. I would not insult the vast majority who are law abiding because of the small minority who earn these visa holders a bad name,
//Come on, India threw Socialism under the bus long back.// True. But India never really adopted Capitalism completely either. Everything in India is a complex mixture of contradictions and compromises. Isn’t it? Irrespective of Socialism / Communism / Capitalism, do you really see India outsourcing its high paying jobs to more low cost nations in the next 25 years?
There was an article about how India tightened visa norms for Chinese laborers being used for constructions wherever Chinese firms were contracted in India. I will try to find that and post it here.
1. If India has indeed tightened visa norms for deploying Chinese laborers at constructions sites wherever Chinese firms were contracted in India, it’s acting in its enlightened self-interest.
Wish America would do the same.
2. In a democracy, all citizens are ultimately responsible. That’s why many of the violent attackers, be they Al Queda, Palestinians or other agents of death, do not make a distinction between the ‘innocent civilians’ and the soldiers.