Monday, December 25, 2006

Natural castes exist

Sunday, December 03, 2006 Know Your Caste
posted by Gagdad Bob at 12/03/2006 08:26:00 AM
The great metaphysician René Guenon once mentioned that one of the problems with the modern world is that so few people are “in their proper place.” He made the remark in reference to something that we in the West categorically reject, the caste system, so it should not be surprising that people have no idea what caste they belong to.
But natural castes exist, and if you try to eliminate them, they will just return in a perverse form -- just as you can try to eliminate sexual differences but will end up with weird sexual hybrids and a lot general confusion -- confusion that is then institutionalized and taught as “wisdom” in our universities.... but only because there are so many academics who are in the wrong caste and have no business being in academic life! (As a brief aside, you will also notice that when I have a troll problem -- or more accurately, a “problem troll” -- it is always a caste issue, so that there is really little Dupree can say aside from “pipe down and keep pulling the rickshaw!”)
Let’s review our castes, shall we? But before doing so, let us remind ourselves that this is not a matter of equality under the law, much less before the eyes of God. To be honest, it is actually an issue of compassion, for it is difficult to be happy if one spends one’s life on the wrong path. As the Buddhists say, “another man’s dharma is a great bummer,” or something like that. I hope it goes without saying that I am not advocating some sort of imposition of the caste system, any more than I would advocate stratification of society based upon Jungian typology. Having said that, there is a good chance that you will be happier in life if you know your Jungian typology -- your “psychological DNA,” so to speak -- and pursue a career consistent with it. In fact, in order to avoid any misunderstanding, let’s just stipulate at the outset that we are speaking “mythologically,” in a Jungian sense of the term. One Cosmos Under God Robert W. Godwin
Complements Will Get You Everywhere4 Dec 2006 by Gagdad Bob Yesterday someone characterized my caste as “priest artisan,” but perhaps “laborer priest” is more like it -- a blue backward collar worker. Ever since it came into existence, the United States has been the key to the material and ...
The Flat Cosmos Society and their Junk Metaphysics30 Oct 2006 by Gagdad Bob Now, all of the castes also exist within each caste, and I make no apologies for being a “warrior priest,” as it were, even if atheists end up with hurt feelings because they’re not used to someone above Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell’s ...
Men Without Chests and Women Without Breasts23 Oct 2006 by Gagdad Bob - References ... Jung’s useful system), caste (eg, priest, warrior, menial/intellectual laborer, merchant, etc.), and even zodiacal type (in the archetypal sense, not the debased “predictive” variety found in newspapers and most books on the topic). ...
Hey Baby, What's Your Caste?16 Feb 2006 by Gagdad Bob Now the Hindu caste system was originally based on the banal but accurate observation that individual human beings do indeed belong to different castes--that there are different personality types (for example, consider Jung's...
Cosmic Solidarity, Part One: A River out of Eden24 Oct 2005 by Gagdad Bob The caste system? Very bad. The American constitution? Unsurpassed. American materialism? Troubling. Etc. ***** A primordial fork in the road took place in mankind's evolutionary journey sometime after the 10th century BC, when both the ...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Nudity per se not obscenity: Court

Dismissing a petition seeking a ban on publication of obscene photographs in newspapers, a Bench comprising Justice A.R. Lakshmanan and Justice Tarun Chatterjee said: "Where art and obscenity are mixed, what must be seen is whether the artistic, literary or social merit of the work in question outweighs its obscene content. In judging whether a particular work is obscene, regard must be had to contemporary mores and national standards."
Writing the judgment, Mr. Justice Lakshmanan quoted a U.S. Supreme Court ruling and said: "Articles and pictures in a newspaper must meet the Miller test's constitutional standard of obscenity in order for the publisher or the distributor to be prosecuted for obscenity. Nudity alone is not enough to make material legally obscene."
"While the Supreme Court of India held `Lady Chatterley's Lover' to be obscene," the Bench said, "in England the jury acquitted the publishers finding that the publication did not fall foul of the obscenity test. This was heralded as a turning point in the fight for literary freedom in the United Kingdom."
"The definition of obscenity differs from culture to culture, between communities within a single culture, and also between individuals within those communities," the judges added. "Many cultures have produced laws to define what is considered to be obscene and censorship is often used to try to suppress or control material that is obscene under these definitions."
"A blanket ban on the publication of certain photographs and news items etc., will lead to a situation where the newspaper will be publishing material which caters only to children and adolescents" and the adults would be deprived of their share of entertainment permissible under the normal norms of decency in any society, said a Bench consisting of Justices A.R. Lakshmanan and Tarun Chatterjee.
"The incidence of shielding the minors should not be that the adult population is restricted to read and see what is fit for children," the Bench said.
"In view of the availability of sufficient safeguards in terms of various legislation, norms and rules and regulations to protect society in general and children in particular from obscene and prurient contents, we are of the opinion that the writ at the instance of the petitioner is not maintainable,"

Gagdad Bob of One Cosmos

Who stumbles out of bed each morning at 5:00 AM, seizes the wheel of the cosmic bus, and embarks on a bewilderness adventure of higher nondoodling?
Who loiters on the threshold of the transdimensional doorway, looking for handouts from Petey?
Who, with Cousin Dupree's pliers and a blowtorch, has wrested the ancient sword from the stoned philosopher and stuck it in the breadbasket of metaphysical ignorance and tenure?
Whose blog is the vertical church of the New Testavus for the Restavus, channeling the roaring torrent of O into the feeble stream of cyber-k?
Whose absurcular mythunderstanding blows the locked doors of the empyrean off their rusty old hinges?
Who chucks the first water balloon out the hotel window at the annual Raccoon convention?
Who gets to steer the boat up to Raccoon Point this year? Bob! Can you dig it? My Web Page

Monday, December 04, 2006

Compassion and resolute regard for reality

dilys said... The gender sideline to the discussion simply underscores the taken-for-granted transgressiveness of the pomo/liberal disdain for conventional boundaries, which may need creative adaptation in occasional situations (what practial Christians call the "pastoral"), but which on the whole provide the cartography of human sanity ("right doctrine").
Your beginning meditation on castes has the most subtle resonance of anything of yours I remember reading. I've been thinking about careers, and "class" for years, and the Myers Briggs, but the way you bring them together here wonderfully combines compassion and resolute regard for reality. Ah reality, where we find the good stuff if we look closely, putting away wishful thinking, envy, and complaint, and receive the embrace of the harness of our respective rickshaws.As my spiritual mentor says, "Heigh ho, I Owe, it's off to work I go!" 12/03/2006 02:32:46 PM
Lisa said... Bob is so far off the ground he does have some sense of un-touch-ability!!!
HV said... Thanks for your praise of the warrior caste. Even though I've been an artisan from day 1, I've always admired the true warrior, because he has mastered the fear of death. This is not an exaggeration, because I've known a number of special forces guys in my life, and that's just how they are. How that works, I have no clue. 12/03/2006 06:53:33 PM

Monday, November 20, 2006

Our society still backward, Constitution modern

HindustanTimes.com » Print Editions » Lucknow » Other Cities » Gorakhpur » Story
Our society still backward, Constitution modern: Katju
HT Correspondent Varanasi, November 19
JUDGE Markandey Katju of the Supreme Court stressed the need for women’s emancipation to make India a modern industrial nation.
“No doubt Article 15 (1) prohibits the state from discriminating against women, but it does not prohibit society from doing so, and in fact such discrimination is widespread beginning from the very birth of a child”, said Justice Katju while mentioning about sexual discrimination in Indian society. Justice Katju, who was delivering a lecture on ‘India and the Constitution’ in BHU here on Saturday, said: “Crime against women has increased lately, the courts are flooded with cases relating to dowry deaths, rape, domestic violence etc and all this shows that our society is still backward even though the Constitution is modern.”
“It may be mentioned that I.Q. tests in modern psychology have shown that the I.Q. of an average woman is the same as that of an average man”, he said adding, “If equal opportunity is given, a woman can perform as well as a man can e.g. Madame Curie who was the first person in the world who won two Nobel Prizes-one for physics and another for chemistry, Elizabeth I and Catherine the Great who were great statesmen etc.”
“The stories and novels of great Bengali writer Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay clearly bring out the great oppression which the Indian women were subjected to in our country.
Hence, it is not due to any inherent inferiority but only due to the fact that women were not given education and other opportunities that they could not come up to the level of men”, he said.
“No doubt, by a mere declaration of equality as a Constitutional right discrimination and inequality can not immediately be abolished, but it can certainly set forth an ideal which all patriotic and modern minded nations should strive for”, he observed.
“The great right in Part-III of our Constitution (i.e. the fundamental rights) would be meaningless unless it has a socio-economic content. The right in Part-III becomes only formal empty right unless people are guaranteed certain socio-economic rights e.g. right to employment, right to education, right to housing and medical care etc”, he said.
“A hungry man has no use of the right to freedom, of speech and expression. Similarly, an unemployed man has no use for the right to liberty. Hence, our Founding Father borrowed from the Irish Constitution, the Directive Principles and incorporated them in Part 4th of the Constitution”, said Justice Katju.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Cross-cultural dressing is in

Auroville fashion diversity - Dianna Is Auroville fashion taking on a new dimension?
Is Auroville fashion taking on a new dimension? Clothing in Auroville used to be a matter of covering and cooling, but in these more prosperous times, with space for wardrobes, ironing boards, and maybe even a washing machine, clothes are taking on a new dimension. For the ladies, anyway.
Cross-cultural dressing is in; in the snap of a finger, women can transform themselves for a trip to the Ashram in the discreet layers of a Punjabi salwar kameez and dupatta and then go back to the Californian look with jeans and tees, or better still, shorts and an itsy-bitsy top for tea at New Creation Corner.
The layered look is particularly popular with the older woman, but all that coordinating of bits and pieces of fabric can become quite time consuming. The hazardous bike trip to Pondy needs to be faced with large hats for the sun, goggles for dust, and scarves streaming behind that can double up to wipe sweat from the brow – then one is hardly recognisable.
This constant presence of dust and sweat leaves its mark on the clothes, and demands an almost military regime of laundering, that is, if you've set yourself some standards; if not, all the better. Laundry here is an organic process that is often not about getting things cleaner.
T-shirts and shorts gradually merge into a muddy coloured harmony; white undies turn into a sort of reddish grey. Clothes that would serve you for two years in Europe are exhausted in a season, especially if they are pounded by the amah. A washing machine is definitely gentler, but the process can last a whole day if the power goes on and off.
All is compensated for, however, by that fresh smell of sun-dried clothes and the constant miracle of its drying speed, except during the monsoons, of course. Then it's rush out when the rain stops to hang up the washing, and rush out again ten minutes later to rescue it from a downpour. Later, in full monsoon season, the laundry just sits around the house for days developing a wierd smell.
Monsoon time is also time for a wardrobe change with the magnificent billowing raincoats enveloping rider, bike and rucksack in strange shapes. Some speed by, reminiscent of those dashing couriers in war movies. Others, in the neon rainbow shades of Indian raincoats, ride by on bicycles, precariously balancing large black umbrellas. Peaked caps and goggles keep the rain out of eyes and, nowadays, even the occasional Wellington boots can be spotted.
Talking about footwear, wearing pretty sandals in India always seems pointless as you take them off when you get to your destination, that is, if you haven't broken your left one while kick-starting your motorbike. But unlike chappals (flip flops), they rarely disappear from the footwear piles lying outside the Solar Kitchen; only they look so vulnerable lying there.
Accessories are minimal here, despite the tempting wares of the Kashmiri shops in Kuilapalayam. Silver oxidizes too easily with the humidity and leather belts grow a grey fuzz and patches of mould and even your favourite outfits soon sport nibbled holes.
Thankfully, things are easily and cheerfully replaced at the Free Store in Bharat Nivas. It is Auroville's fashion centre with a constantly changing range of styles, sizes and shapes. Carefully arranged rows of white trousers or little tops invite you to transform your tired self. In a few months you can return them all with a blessing for their next owner.
It is the young tourists who brings a dash of chic with their chunky silver jewellery, voluminous Rajasthani skirts and skimpy tops. But the sudden exposure of white, pink or red sunburnt flesh can shock the eye that has become used to a certain decorous modesty, and respect for the erogenous zones of another culture. But all's not perfect; sometimes their hair reminds you of those long Indian train journeys when dust and sweat have congealed it into a sort of mat.
The fashion scene on the beach is another matter. It can get bizarre with tourists in their g-strings besides the Indian women in flowing saris. A big contrast to the New Creation swimming pool, where modesty and efficiency are the rule of the day, plus those compulsory unisex plastic swim caps that makes every Aurovilian look like an athlete.
But the beautiful Tamil women seem to have none of these dilemmas. They don't have the confusion of labels, the endless selection of styles, or the constant search for miracle fabrics. They have found their style in their sari and they stick with it, always looking fresh, elegant and colourful, and somehow, perfectly right. They are definitely the lucky ones! Home > Journals & Media > Journals > Auroville Today > October 2006

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I chose love

Ned Says: November 15th, 2006 at 10:28 pm I should quickly introduce myself on this forum, since I have been a lurker here for quite a while, but I haven’t contributed anything yet. I’m a friend of Alan’s and have known him for quite some time now. I had a kundalini awakening after being sexually abused. In healing from sexual abuse and dealing with a lot of other issues as well, I discovered spirituality (I was previously a secular agnostic) and Integral philosophy. Perhaps some day I can share my experiences in detail. Two things I have noted about this forum:
(1) Where are the women? Everyone here seems to be male! (I’m a woman, in spite of my nickname. )
(2) Alan is totally right about this forum being over-intellectual. Integral theory is missing the point. Spirituality, at its core, is not about theory. Theory is a very useful tool, but it is just that — a tool. In healing from sexual abuse, I ended up having to make a choice: will I enslave my ability to love unconditionally to my faculty of reason, or will I enslave my faculty of reason to my ability to love unconditionally? I chose love, and that is why intellectual disagreements or challenges don’t threaten my faith anymore.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Pull the right levers in other people’s psyches

Second helpings Richard Morrison Seventy years after it first appeared, Dale Carnegie’s classic self-help manual How to Win Friends and Influence People is being republished in a new edition. Is it still relevant? The Times August 08, 2006
So what was his recipe for success in 1936, and would it still work in 2006? Rather as Jean-Paul Sartre was to do a few years later in Being and Nothingness (but in less pretentious prose), Carnegie put forward the thesis that we can all choose to control our lives if we wish, rather than being buffeted around by the blustery winds of fortune. He believed that most of us utilise only a tenth of our potential, and that the key to unlocking the rest is to develop our skill at dealing with other people.
How do we do that? Well, Carnegie had a brutally mechanistic view of human nature. He believed that words and deeds are largely shaped by genes, upbringing and circumstance. “You deserve very little credit for being what you are,” he tells the reader. “And remember, the people who come to you irritated, bigoted, unreasoning, deserve very little discredit for being what they are.”
This apparent denial of free will may seem chilling. But Carnegie thought it could be turned to advantage. If you know the right levers to pull in other people’s psyches, he argues, you can make them respond in an entirely predictable way, like puppets. Which, of course, is the fundamental principle upon which all cunning salesmen base their techniques — whether they are marketing soap powder to housewives or (at the time when Carnegie was writing) the concept of Aryan supremacy to Germans.
So how do you know which levers to pull? First, says Carnegie, by working out what makes your clients or customers tick. “Think always in terms of the other person’s point of view,” he advises. Rather than talking about yourself, listen patiently to them talking about themselves. Butter them up by lavishing appreciation on their work. Ferret out every personal detail you can about them, then drop this knowledge casually into the conversation; it will show them that you care. (Carnegie commends the American politician who could recall the first names of 50,000 people.)

Glass of whisky, chicken drumsticks and gobi pakoras

Happy Birthday Lord Macaulay, thank you for ‘Dalit empowerment’ Vrinda Gopinath Indian Express Home > Front Page > Story Posted online: Thursday, October 26, 2006
New Delhi, October 25: He’s the Big Mac for the Dalit intelligentsia — reviled as the ugly face of English imperialism by detractors, exalted by intellectual renegades. Lord Macaulay, denounced for trying to dare promote English among Indians, to make them “intellectual slaves’’ of the British Empire, celebrated his 206th birthday today with merriment, joviality and jesting, in the heart of the city.
It was a birthday party organized by Chandrabhan Prasad, Dalit intellectual and activist, who hails Macaulay as the Father of Indian Modernity, for it was after the introduction of his English system of education in 1854, that Dalits got the right to education, he says.
As sodas popped and the whisky poured (aptly called, Teacher’s Scotch) Prasad led his guests - a motley mix of Dalit poets, singers, academia, a sprinkling of the international media, social scientists Ashish Nandy, Gail Omvedt - to the centrepiece of the party’s action. The unveiling of a portrait, English, the Mother Goddess, painted by Dalit artist Shant Swaroop Baudh.
Said Bhan, “Today, English-speaking Dalits and Adivasis are less disrespected, therefore, empowered by Goddess English, Dalits can take their place in the new globalised world.’’ Bhan has three reasons for revering Macaulay - his insistence to teach the “natives” English broke the stranglehold of Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic teaching, a privilege of only the elite castes and, he argued,for the European kind of modern education, with focus on modern sciences. “Imagine, if we had only followed indigenous study,’’ said Bhan, “we would be like Afghanistan or Nepal today.’’ “I certainly do not agree with some of Bhan’s thesis,’’ said an aghast Nandy, “but I certainly support every oppressed community or individual’s right to pick up any weapon, be it political, academic or intellectual incorrectness, to fight the establishment. It’s the sheer audacity of it that makes it so forceful.’’
Dalit poet Parak sang a couplet to the portrait - a refashioned Statue of Liberty, wearing a hippie hat, holding a massive pink pen, standing on a computer, with a blazing map of India in the background - Oh, Devi Ma/ Please Let us Learn English/ Even the dogs understand English, to cheers and laughter, even as Lord Macaulay’s portrait, looking the perfect English buccaneer, gazed below. Bhan then declared his new intention - the painting will be printed on calendars and distributed at all Dalit conclaves and community meetings. “Hereafter, the first sounds all newborn Dalit and Adivasi babies will hear from their parents is - abcd. Immediately after birth, parents or a nearest relative will walk up to the child and whisper in the ear - abcd,’’ he said mirthfully.
“I welcome the fact that English gives access to the world,’’ said Omvedt, “but remember, some of the best English has come from oppressed quarters, like the Blacks in America. Their language, known as rap, their music, poetry, literature, has a dynamism. It’s important to reclaim your regional languages from Brahminism and Sanskritisation,’’ she says. It set the theme for other speakers, and as heaving plates of chicken drumsticks and gobi pakoras were passed around.
“Dalits must no longer see themselves as oppressed and repressed,’’ said Nandy, waving his glass of whisky, “they have their own traditions and knowledge systems which must be preserved. There’s a very powerful tradition of history, music, life, which the younger generation must be proud of.’’ Bhan nodded agreeably - he had certainly hosted an evening of Dalit empowerment and pride. There was no hard luck story here. vrinda.gopinath@expressindia.com

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

To spread the faith majority at the Centre is a pre-requisite

Mayawati to embrace Buddhism Special Correspondent The Hindu Tuesday, Oct 17, 2006 ePaper PHOTO: SHANKER CHAKRAVARTY BLESSINGS: Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati seeking blessings from a Buddhist monk after paying homage to Kanshi Ram in New Delhi on Monday.
New Delhi: Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati and her followers will embrace Buddhism after the BSP gains an absolute majority at the Centre. Ms. Mayawati announced this on Monday at the conclusion of the seventh day rites of party founder Kanshi Ram which were conducted according to Buddhist tradtions at her New Delhi residence.
Addressing the press, she said that although Kanshi Ram did not convert to Buddhism, he was Buddhist by belief. It was exactly 50 years ago, on October 14, 1956, that Babasaheb Ambedkar converted to Buddhism. "It was Manyavar's dream to see the BSP in power at the Centre, and in the States, before the 50th anniversary of Babasaheb's conversion. Unfortunately, that did not happen," she said.
What was the connection between political power and religious conversion? The BSP chief said power was essential to spread any faith. "It is not about me becoming a Buddhist. I could do it today but it would be just me. We have to spread the faith for which absolute majority at the Centre is a pre-requisite."
Ms. Mayawati said she lit the funeral pyre of Kanshi Ram because both she and her mentor strongly believed in gender equality. "It was his view, and also mine, [that] boys and girls are equal in all respects. If a girl can discharge other responsibilities, there is no reason why she cannot perform the last rites of her near and dear. I believe that my gesture is an example for other women; by lighting the funeral pyre of my guru I have laid the foundation of future social transformation."

Saturday, September 09, 2006

One of the controversial forces shaping human interaction

Sex and Pleasure in Western Culture by Gail Hawkes
Gail Hawkes is lecturer in sociology at the University of New England, Armidale, Australia
Book Description: Sex and Pleasure in Western Culture provides the first comprehensive overview of desire and pleasure in western sexual culture. It argues that both have always been seen as socially disruptive and morally dangerous and offers an entertaining account of the methods by which these attributes of sex were managed across the centuries from Classical Antiquity to the present day.
The book develops the hypothesis that, while expressed in very different social contexts, sexual pleasure has evoked very similar anxieties. The text draws on historical, cultural, sociological and contemporary sources and is easily accessible for both the general reader and students of gender and sexual culture. In addition to telling a story of its own, Sex and Pleasure in Western Culture examines lesser-known aspects of sexual history that invite further exploration by the interested reader. These range from sexual aestheticism in the 4th century AD and the sexual meaning of medieval church gargoyles, through to sexual training in the 1950s and 21st century sex holidays. The book will provide a compelling read for both students of sexuality and lay readers who find the complexities of human sexuality a source of fascination.
In-depth and detailed without being lurid or sensational, May 12, 2005 Reviewer: Midwest Book Review (Oregon, WI USA) - See all my reviews Sex & Pleasure In Western Culture is a scholarly and comprehensive survey of sexuality, desire, and pleasure in Western culture, from classical antiquity to the modern day. Sociology lecturer Gail Hawkes discusses such topics as how early Christianity handled the problem of desire, medieval practices, how pleasure and desire are perceived in the modern age, and more. In-depth and detailed without being lurid or sensational, Sex & Pleasure In Western Culture gives a balanced, objective scrutiny of one of the more controversial forces shaping human interaction and civilization since ancient times.

Friday, August 25, 2006

A straw-man argument

straw man : This article is about the logical fallacy. For other uses of the term, see Straw man (disambiguation).

A straw man argument is a rhetorical technique based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position. To "set up a straw man" or "set up a straw-man argument" is to create a position that is easy to refute, then attribute that position to the opponent. A straw-man argument can be a successful rhetorical technique (that is, it may succeed in persuading people) but it is in fact misleading, since the argument actually presented by the opponent has not been refuted.

Its name is derived from the use of straw men in combat training (see [1]). It is occasionally called a straw dog fallacy [2] or a scarecrow argument.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

If reality falls short of the abstraction, it is reality that is at fault

Although I have a Ph.D in psychology and can run circles around most psychology professors, there is no way I could ever be hired as a professor at most universities. And even if I were hired, I would be in deep trouble after my very first class. In fact, Petey would make certain of it. If you can be hauled before the inquisition for the banal observation that men and women have some intrinsic differences, imagine suggesting that some cultures are deeply sick and dysfunctional or that children do better with a mother and father. How about telling the class that they'd better get married and practice a religion, or face the approximate health risk of smoking a pack of cigarets a day? Or let them know that belief in leftism is highly correlated with personal unhappiness?
As Lee Harris notes in Civilization and its Enemies, the conventionally educated man--who is really more of an indoctrinated man--simply internalizes a set of predigested concepts that are presented to him as finished products. The mind is not trained to first deal with the practicalities of the concrete world, but to immerse itself in abstractions, which are then projected onto reality. As a result, reality is constantly coming up short for the leftist, so it becomes his responsibility to “force the issue.” (In case it isn’t clear, I am not talking about science, but the the traditional humanities and the newer subhumanities, such as Gender Theory.) That is, if reality falls short of the abstraction, it is reality that is at fault, and there is usually hell to pay when peace-loving leftist intellectuals are pissed off at reality. And they are very, very pissed these days. You can feel it. Just try dipping into dailykos for a few minutes. posted by Gagdad Bob at 9:00 AM 28 comments One Cosmos Under God Robert W. Godwin

Monday, August 21, 2006

Kakar, the social scientist, nudges aside Kakar, the novelist

To be a mystic PETER HEEHS The Hindu Sunday, July 01, 2001
IN an enquiry into the nature of consciousness, the philosopher Thomas Nagel asked a provocative question: "What is it like to be a bat?" Clearly, bats exhibit some form of consciousness; just as clearly, it is nothing like ours. Sighted humans construct the world largely by processing visual information; bats do the same by processing echoes of their own high-frequency cries. Yet if humans cannot imagine what it feels like to be a bat, they can still be certain that it feels like something; for bats, like people and unlike stones, possess conscious experience.
Sudhir Kakar, in his novel Ecstasy, poses a question similar to Nagel's: "What is it like to be a mystic"? Placing a figure modelled on Ramakrishna Paramhansa in 20th Century Rajasthan, Kakar attempts to track his spiritual development in the hope of bagging that rarest of subjective states: mystical experience. Growing up near Jaipur in the 1930s, Gopal finds that he does not fit in. For one thing he is, literally, hermaphroditic; for another he is subject to unusual inner states. A passing tantric, aware of his spiritual aptitude, initiates him into kundalini yoga. The result is an almost catatonic state, from which he is rescued by a Ramanandi mahant, who shows him the way of bhakti. Further initiations follow, until Gopal, now Baba Ram Das, becomes a celebrated mystic around whom gathers a handful of followers. Chief among these is Vivek, a student at the local college, who is modelled, needless to say, on Swami Vivekananda. Baba Ram Das has high hopes for his protege but, after his death, Vivek becomes not an inspiring prophet but (conditions having deteriorated over the last century) a purveyor of political Hinduism.
Anyone familiar with the biographies of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda will find much that is familiar in Kakar's story: the passages of a mystic's development, with near-insanity followed by ecstasy; the moods of divine love; the mastery of the kundalini; the lonely realisation of Self. We are even treated to some of the master's parables as well as the occasional sermon. What holds the narrative together is Kakar's sympathetic descriptions of religious life - the set piece on a temple that specialises in exorcism is a classic - and his ironic descriptions of middle-class family dynamics. In these, Kakar, the social scientist, nudges aside Kakar, the novelist; but his social science has always been a good read. His prose is clear and evocative, and he cannot be blamed for stinting on his research. It is interesting to see how much this neo-Freudian psychotherapist knows about the bhavas of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. More important, Kakar has an openness to religious phenomena that most psychotherapists would be afraid to display. In The Analyst and the Mystic, he showed us that he was willing to take the experiences of a Ramakrishna seriously, without reducing them all to Freud's neurotic "oceanic feeling". In Ecstasy he looks at them more as states to be embodied than data to be analysed.
Openness and observation are necessary for good social science, and even more necessary for good fiction. But for fully successful fiction, two other things are needed: a sensitive ear and a mastery of voice. Kakar's descriptions are as good as any in Indian English fiction, but his dialogue is rarely convincing. The problem is one that few Indian novelists have solved: how to capture the rhythms of idiomatic Hindi (or whatever) in the different cadences of English? Even more difficult is the creation of narrators and characters whose voices are not contorted by the strain of speaking about Indian things to a Anglophone audience. Kakar at times adopts what might be called the Puranic voice informing us, deadpan, that the only inconvenience a sadhu experienced in a certain place was the need to fly to the Ganga for his bath. This is the natural mode of Indian storytelling from the Ramayana to Rushdie and when Kakar makes use of it, his voice is sure. But too often his narrator butts in with unnecessary details about the socio-economic organisation of a Rajasthani village or the location of St. Stephen's College. Believable narrators and characters must never tell us anything that would not occur to them to say.
The Puranic voice is most necessary when describing happenings beyond the ordinary, like the exploits of a Hanuman or the experiences of a Baba Ram Das. Kakar's attempts to capture his hero's inner life are often remarkably good; but finally we come back to what Nagel said about bats. Just as we will never know what it is like to be a bat from a bat's point of view, so we will never know what it is like to be a mystic - unless we become one.
Ectasy, Sudhir Kakar, Viking, p.251, Rs. 295.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

A pre-sexual, pre-gendered and, also pre-personal “I”

Postmodern spirituality A dialogue in five parts Part III: The Postmodern Mind – And Its Future Roland Benedikter integralworld.net
Take, for example, one of the leading thinkers you mentioned, someone so totally “anti-essential” and radically “deconstructivistic” like Judith Butler of the University of California at Berkely, a very productive stronghold of postmodern theory in the USA (and a very good university, by the way, where my wife studied with the Indian feminist Bharathi Mukherjee). Butler does a kind of radical empirical deconstruction of the classic humanistic “temple of personal identity” (Lex Bos, Jürgen Habermas); and she is widely recognized as a world wide leading “master thinker” (Jacques Lacan, The Four Discourses In The European-Western World / The Four Core Concepts Of Psychoanalysis, in: Seminaire XX / Encore, 2001; Jacques Lacan, Science and Truth, in: Writings II, 2004; cf. Bice Benvenuto and Roger Kennedy, The Works of Jacques Lacan, Free Association Books London 1986, chapter 10) in that.
In her recent book “Undoing Gender”, Routledge 2004, she is, as she says, focusing the process “on the question of what it might mean to undo restrictively normative conceptions of sexual and gendered life.” But the real question coming out of the proceeding of “undoing” (which is, of course, only another name for “deconstructing”), as she herself discovers and points out, is: What remains, when you succeed with this deconstruction, let's assume, totally? What will be then, after the “undoing” is done, with the being you liberated from all its cultural, social and physical “covers”, “sleeves” or “spoils”, so to say?
This being will remain there as a pre-sexual, pre-gendered and, in many ways, also pre-personal “I”, not tied to nothing, in a kind of state of “suspension” or “pending” to the void - consisting of “pure directed attention” (Kuehlewind) or pre-subjective “pure substance of mankind” (Bhaskar), which has been freed of every sleeve and spoil, so to say. There may be, if you allow me to say it in a somewhat extreme form, no man and woman anymore, but only “pure mankind”, pure “humanity” as an ontological “occurrence” (Heidegger).
That is what Butler unconsciously tries to produce: A world where only pre-subjective (and, of course, pre-objective) men live and encounter each other on the basis of equality, not “men” and “woman” with all the restrictive rules connected to those notions. What remains without any cultural, social, and even physical spoils, which have all been demasked by postmodern thought as social constructs that constitute the subject in unlimited rich and complex forms of norming, and therefore have been “undone”, may be a pure activity of being - and of self-consciously being in a sort of pre-subjectivized state.
And if you are very lucky, maybe there will remain even a kind of awareness of the pre-subjective and pre-personal “beeingness” (Ken Wilber, Discourses and Teachings at Naropa Institute Boulder, 2004), of whom my ego is just a temporary kind of condensation in this time and this space and in this culture and in this gender and so on. There may eventually even remain the awareness of a “permanent origin in itself” that is a pure “becoming”, or a deeply inspirational state of consciousness. And that is something truly spiritual or essential, if you consider it as a whole.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Beaudelaire, Barthes, Baudrillard

From: "Kofi Fosu" noreply-comment@blogger.com To: tusarnmohapatra@mail.com Date: Mon, 31 Jul 2006 17:47:58 -0700 (PDT) Kofi Fosu has left a new comment on your post "Philosophy, like art, is the act of bringing truth into being"
Thoughts well expressed. On the subject of humanity in this postmodern world, what we have forgotten is the link of language to everything and everyone. What is being said and how? The unit that forms a quantative thought is bound by "the word". From Barthes we can relate it to art, politics and sex and more. Stop by my blog: http://kofosu.blogspot.com Posted by Kofi Fosu to Savitri Era Learning Forum at 8/01/2006 06:17:57 AM

Monday, July 31, 2006

A right turn in history and the international Left

As the writer puts it, “Paganism has the advantage of being older than Christianity, the faith which arouses most of the hatred of the pseudo-intellectuals of our time.... Much of Islam today seems to have more in common with the pagan religions which preceded its founding in the seventh century. No clearer case of child sacrifice exists now than radical Islam’s cult of suicide bombings...” Who is that voice telling Muslims to murder children--both their own and others'? Could it be the same voice that told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac? No: could it possibly not be?
As a psychologist, I see the story of Abraham and Isaac as a primordial, archetypal tale of how barbarous pagans stopped listening to their psychotic, child-hating God, and instead took a right turn in history, discovered the God of Love, and became Jews. That little crack of light that opened up in antiquity runs in a straight line to us. Another line leads to contemporary Islam and its allies among the international Left. It is so obvious, and yet people do not see. This occasionally causes me real despair, as if the foundations of the West are being eroded in plane sight, on one side by Islamic do-badders, on the other side by Leftist do-gooders. posted by Gagdad Bob at 6:39 AM 1 comments

Saturday, July 29, 2006

This is in the self interest of industry

Inclusiveness, not quotas, best in industry J. J. Irani Indian Express: Saturday, July 29, 2006 SC/ST representation in our workforce will boost industrial growth through multiplier effects on consumption and investment
India has inherited, through centuries, a caste-based society. Our social predicaments are unique, and pose special challenges to inclusiveness. However, given the country’s projected population dynamics, marginalisation of any section of society from the market economy will seriously impact India’s overall competitiveness and economic prospects. In our rapid march towards economic prosperity, inclusiveness and competitiveness are interdependent and one cannot be achieved without the other.
For most of the 20th century, private industry has suffered, through ill-conceived “protection” policies — low productivity, lack of self-confidence and self-esteem, and an inability to compete on its own terms. With economic reforms and liberalisation since 1991, we have developed new abilities and confidence in ourselves. This is one reason why we believe that reservation of jobs in the private sector can have long-term adverse social implications for the beneficiaries...
Private industry can play a large role in this through mentoring fresh entrepreneurs from the SC/ST category. This will create a class of independent and self-directed business persons from SC/ST categories, with the freedom to make their own decisions about their growth and future. Companies can build effective linkages for such entrepreneurs and self-employed persons in their upstream and downstream business partnerships. Further, such businesses will contribute to employment generation. In this context it may be worthwhile to observe that the US programme on “Equal Opportunity Employer” has actually played a strong role in making the US industry more competitive...
Inclusiveness is a matter of priority for industry. I am confident that with the concerted efforts of all sections of society, the government and private industry, we will be able to witness positive results in building an inclusive society with a competitive and expanding economy within a short period. This is in the self interest of industry and, therefore, it is of great importance that this programme takes off and succeeds — the credibility of Indian Industry is associated with it.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Give courtesy freely, without expecting anything in return

DailyOM July 26, 2006 Small Gestures Common Courtesy
We often feel that we don't have the time or energy to extend ourselves to others with the small gestures that compose what we call common courtesy. It sometimes seems that this kind of social awareness belongs to the past, to smaller towns and slower times. Yet, when someone extends this kind of courtesy to us, we always feel touched. Someone who lends a helping hand when we are struggling with our groceries makes an impression because many people just walk right by. Even someone who simply makes the effort to look us in the eye, smile, and greet us properly when entering a room stands out of the crowd. It seems these people carry with them the elegance and grace of another time, and we are always thankful for our contact with them. Common courtesy is a small gesture that makes a big difference.
An essential component of common courtesy is awareness and common sense-looking outside yourself to see when someone needs help or acknowledgment. As a courteous person, you are aware that you are walking into a room full of people or that your waiter has arrived to take your order. Then, awareness leads to action. It is usually quite clear what needs to be done-open the door for the woman holding the baby, move your car up two feet so another person can park behind you, acknowledge your sister's shy boyfriend with a smile and some conversation, apologize if you bump into someone. A third component is to give courtesy freely, without expecting anything in return. People may not even take notice, much less return the kindness, but you can take heart in the fact that you are creating the kind of world you want to live in with your actions.
When you are out in the world, remember to be aware of others, lend your hand when one is needed, and give this help without an ulterior motive. Through these small actions, you make this world a better place in which to live.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Grown-ups are more immature than ever

The theory’s creator is Bruce Charlton, a professor in the School of Biology at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, England. He also serves as the editor-in-chief of Medical Hypotheses, which will feature a paper outlining his theory in an upcoming issue. Charlton explained to Discovery News that humans have an inherent attraction to physical youth, since it can be a sign of fertility, health and vitality. In the mid-20th century, however, another force kicked in, due to increasing need for individuals to change jobs, learn new skills, move to new places and make new friends.
A “child-like flexibility of attitudes, behaviors and knowledge” is probably adaptive to the increased instability of the modern world, Charlton believes. Formal education now extends well past physical maturity, leaving students with minds that are, he said, “unfinished.” “The psychological neoteny effect of formal education is an accidental by-product — the main role of education is to increase general, abstract intelligence and prepare for economic activity,” he explained. “But formal education requires a child-like stance of receptivity to new learning, and cognitive flexibility."
"When formal education continues into the early twenties," he continued, "it probably, to an extent, counteracts the attainment of psychological maturity, which would otherwise occur at about this age.” Charlton pointed out that past cultures often marked the advent of adulthood with initiation ceremonies. While the human mind responds to new information over the course of any individual’s lifetime, Charlton argues that past physical environments were more stable and allowed for a state of psychological maturity. In hunter-gatherer societies, that maturity was probably achieved during a person’s late teens or early twenties, he said.
“By contrast, many modern adults fail to attain this maturity, and such failure is common and indeed characteristic of highly educated and, on the whole, effective and socially valuable people," he said. "People such as academics, teachers, scientists and many other professionals are often strikingly immature outside of their strictly specialist competence in the sense of being unpredictable, unbalanced in priorities, and tending to overreact.”
Charlton added that since modern cultures now favor cognitive flexibility, “immature” people tend to thrive and succeed, and have set the tone not only for contemporary life, but also for the future, when it is possible our genes may even change as a result of the psychological shift. The faults of youth are retained along with the virtues, he believes. These include short attention span, sensation and novelty-seeking, short cycles of arbitrary fashion and a sense of cultural shallowness. At least “youthfulness is no longer restricted to youth,” he said, due to overall improvements in food and healthcare, along with cosmetic technologies.
David Brooks, a social commentator and an op-ed columnist at The New York Times, has documented a somewhat related phenomenon concerning the current blurring of “the bourgeois world of capitalism and the bohemian counterculture,” which Charlton believes is a version of psychological neoteny. Brooks believes such individuals have lost the wisdom and maturity of their bourgeois predecessors due to more emphasis placed on expertise, flexibility and vitality. Source: Discovery News

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Majority of human beings don't make it to psychological maturity

Because America is so affluent, it can tolerate an unusual amount of foolishness, but not an infinite amount and not forever. In my lifetime I have witnessed the corrosive effect of leftist thought on our culture, as it insinuates itself into, and begins to weaken, the uniquely American character. But I am actually more interested in the more general failure to launch that afflicts mankind at large. What is the cause of this? For example, there is no question that this is the problem we face in the bulk of the Arab Muslim world. Something in their cultural DNA has left them mired in an historical and developmental eddy, sitting on the launch pad below, just where we left them 700 years ago. What happened? Why didn't they grow up? Why didn’t they launch? And why do they want us to join them on the launch pad?
As we have discussed in a variety of contexts, humans inhabit a horizontal and a vertical world. Among other things, the vertical world is the world of psychological and emotional development. We are the only animal that comes into the world with an almost infinite potential that may or may not be fulfilled in this lifetime (actually, being infinite, it is never completely fulfilled). Other animals--assuming that they aren’t eaten or die prematurely for some other reason--inevitably reach their developmental goal and achieve maturity as defined by their species. But not humans. Yes, barring some kind of unusual disease, all humans grow to physical maturity. But it is fair to say that the vast majority of human beings down through history--right through to the present day--do not make it to psychological maturity: they do not come close to fulfilling their developmental potential.
This is a question that has always intrigued me, because it goes directly against the grain of any facile Darwinian explanation. That is, I believe that human development is guided by a telos or an end state that we are supposed to achieve. But unlike other animals, there is no way this end state can be accounted for by natural selection, because it never existed in the material world--it remains latent unless or until it is realized. Only human beings can "not be themselves."
In short, while we certainly have our genetic blueprint, we also have some sort of nonlocal “archetypal blueprint” that draws us toward it. But any number of personal, cultural and historical conditions can conspire to prevent us from realizing this blueprint. For example, if you are a woman in Saudi Arabia, what are the chances you will have the opportunity to become who you are? Approximately zero. But if women can't become who they are, neither can men--which is why there are so few developmentally adult men and in the Arab Muslim world. Likewise, if you are a tenured radical in an American university--say Noam Chomsky or Juan "Osama's Pawn" Cole--what are the chances that you will ever grow up and know reality, much less live in it? Probably zilch.
Another way of saying this is that human beings alone among the animals are somehow built for transcendence. Not only do human beings have the capacity to rise beyond and surpass themselves, but this is our essential nature. No one looks at a pig and says, “Why don’t you grow up and start acting like a proper pig?” But we ask this of humans all the time. In fact, it is the question that answers the question of what a human being is. posted by Gagdad Bob at 7:14 AM 30 comments

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A virus is a small collection of genes

What is the purpose of sexual reproduction ? Adel Fattah, Developmental Biologist The Naked Scientists
SEX: A short word. Often used. Often used to sell products in fact. Yet it is one of our base instincts, one of our prime motivations in life. I can't remember how many times I chose a seat on the train because a good-looking girl sat nearby, or bought a magazine because of the attractive woman on the cover. So why do we find the opposite sex so attractive? I mean, the act of sex itself is a pretty bizarre thing to do, all that jigging around and what about the mess? I mean we all look pretty hilarious whilst we do it (and the only reason they don't look daft in films is because they are not really doing it). If we didn't enjoy it so much would we really bother?
Would you go through all that if it weren't for the orgasm at the end? After all, there is a lot more to it than just the act of sex itself. There is the whole elaborate (and expensive) courtship display beforehand: the "asking her out", the "first date", a bit of food, a bit of wine, one thing leads to another... (Not on the first date, of course). Then there's the "I'd like to do this again sometime" and the 'should I call today, or wait a few days? I don't want to seem too keen'. Countered by "I'm washing my hair tonight". And so back to square one, until you get past the 'hair wash barrier'. Now you're in with a chance!
So basically we are all driven with a deep desire to mate and we will go through just about anything to achieve it (girls, the best time to ask a guy for that expensive treat is just beforehand). I remember all the embarrassing episodes that happened when I was a teenager. Many left me scarred for life, but none stopped my adolescent craving to 'go all the way'.
Propagation of Species
So a lot of questions, Adel, but what point are you trying to make? Well, I'm trying to make the point that sex is meant to be all about propagation of species or more specifically, it is all about propagation of our genetic material. But is the theory that we are simply vessels for the propagation of genetic material a little simplistic? As I alluded to above, there is a lot more to finding a mate than simply sex. If passing on genetic material is what it is all about why don't we just clone ourselves? No mess, no fuss, just pure transmission of your own genetic material! Many primitive animals do it every day. Some do it several times a day!
Which begs the question is there an advantage to sex? The whole point of sex is to mix the genes in the gene pool allowing the transmission of 50% your own and 50% your partner's genes to your young. The point of mixing the genes is to allow for variation in the gene pool. As genes are mixed new combinations arise some are useful to the survival of a species, others are detrimental. Those that carry detrimental genes are disadvantaged at mating and are thus less likely to pass on those detrimental genes. In contrast, those that possess genes, which confer an advantage, are more likely to survive predators and beat their competitors in the race to find a mate, and their genes are more likely to be passed on. This is the basis of Darwin's theory of evolution and the mechanism by which it happens is termed Natural Selection.
Monogamy versus Polygamy
So if the whole point of sex is to mix up the gene pool why not have multiple partners rather than a monogamous relationship? Why are humans (generally) monogamous, are we the only creatures to spend the majority of our lives with one partner? Is that what puts us apart from other animals? Not so. Take love birds for example, they remain in lifelong monogamous pairs, but they seem the exception rather than the rule. In contrast, many animals belong to the 'sowing wild oats' school of thought, for example, the male chimpanzee often invites females to mate by typically spreading his legs to reveal a bright red, erect penis that stands out against the black scrotum. Not recommended behaviour down the pub on a Friday. Similarly, some human males are of the 'kebab theory of women': a great idea after ten pints down the pub, but you wouldn't want to wake up next to one every day.
More seriously, creatures such as fish and especially sea urchins release their eggs and sperm into the sea and hope that some of each meet up and fertilise. Not strictly polygamy, granted. But if humans mated with numerous partners their genes would be spread further and as such, is monogamy not a disadvantage? The answer here may be quality not quantity. Monogamy in humans may have evolved because we need to nurse our young for many years before they become independent. A stable family life is important in order to make our offspring high achievers and thus attractive to other high achievers. In other words, by improving the quality of young we increase the chances of propagating our own genes successfully.
What's Love got to do with it?
OK. I've established we need sex and that for humans monogamy is preferred. So where does love fit into all this? Pah! I hear you say. "Love? That's not very scientific, is it? This essay is about the science behind sex, not the spiritual and mysterious nature of love.
"Aha!" I reply. But has love evolved to maintain monogamy? Those possessed by love will do many (often strange) things and unless you experience it yourself, one cannot explain how it can be an incredibly strong motivator. Arguably stronger than lust, and that's saying something! Many people have married 'the One', citing that they just knew it in their heart 'that was it'. Love is strong enough to keep couples together through thick and thin. 'All you need is love'. I wonder if there is some physiological basis to love? Perhaps it could be a balance of hormones that subtly affect our mental perceptions of our chosen partner versus other acquaintances. A little like the release of endorphins during pleasurable activity. But I suspect it is a higher cerebral function modified by social conditioning and cultural values. I'm no neuroscientist so I won't explore avenues I know little about.
What I want to argue is that the whole point of falling in love is a complex form of mate selection. A bit like the female peacock (peahen) that picks the peacock with the biggest and best-kept tail. As I hinted at before, it is women that are the choosy ones; the men are less so (driven by a deep desire to distribute their genes far and wide). So men need to attract women, and women need to choose a good husband and father. It is not something taken lightly and so love has evolved as a mechanism to secure a good mate and keep them together, at least until the kids have flown the nest.
The Evolutionary Arms Race
But why should we evolve? What's the point? Is there some spiritual force behind it all pushing species to evolve to perfection? Possibly, but it is not for the scientific method to explain matters in that way, that is for the philosophers to argue. One interesting theory raised in the book 'The Red Queen' is that sex has evolved as a protection against parasites. Daft, eh? Well, no. Let's break it down a little. Sex evolved to allow genetic variation. Genetic variation allows evolution to select the most hardy. Why do we need to be the most hardy. The answer is to beat infections, especially 'genetic infections': the viruses.
A virus is a small collection of genes that hijacks cells to take over their machinery to reproduce. Cells evolved mechanisms to keep viruses out, the viruses struck back by evolving ways around these defences. Cells retaliate by creating new and better defences. So the arms race continues. Such models have been run through computers comparing sexual versus asexual species and how they cope with a parasite invader. In all cases, asexual populations were wiped out within a few generations whilst sexual populations survived.
Of course there are other theories, such as sex was useful millions of years ago to ensure survival and was something we've been stuck with since, a sort of evolutionary left over. But the parasite theory is one that has a very convincing basis.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

To friend has become a frivolous verb

The most tenacious of taxonomists, Aristotle thought pleasure and utility counted for less than the rare commingling of virtuous character as the basis for friendship. Centuries of varying ideals and fears ensued. Are our close ties becoming shallower and more instrumental? How many are too many, and what is enough? Is friendship a matter of spontaneous sincerity, heartfelt reciprocity, mutual understanding, deep loyalty, moral obligation or shared passion — and can it last? In his new book, “Friendship: An Exposé,” Joseph Epstein quotes the German sociologist Georg Simmel already worrying a century ago that we moderns are destined to drift among “differentiated friendships,” missing out on an all-encompassing connection...
When one-dimensional, functional relationships are ever more accessible, the desire to be known and to know another from all sides and from inside out may be lodged even deeper — and may thrive closer to home. A century ago, another philosopher surveying a modernizing world, George Santayana, had already concluded that “the tie that in contemporary society most nearly resembles the ancient ideal of friendship is a well-assorted marriage.”
The General Social Survey data suggest an inner core that isn’t oppressively clannish but invites rising equality and diversity, narrow though it is. The percentage of people who include a spouse in their circle of closest confidants went from 30 percent in 1985 to almost 40 percent two decades later. And in 2004, 15 percent reported at least one confidant of another race, up from 9 percent in 1985. While to friend has become a frivolous verb, to bond might prove to be one that Americans are taking, if anything, more to heart than ever. Ann Hulbert, a contributing writer, is the author of “Raising America: Experts, Parents and a Century of Advice About Children.” NYTimes.com Homepage

Saturday, July 15, 2006

In praise of the unannounced visit

SANTOSH DESAI timesofindia.com Saturday, 15 July, 2006
Every time we heard the sound of an autorickshaw entering our lane, the conversation would trail off till either it passed or stopped short of our house. In the event that it stopped in front of our house, then of course the conversation was over as we all rushed out to see who it was. Every time the front gate creaked, we expected some new visitor, someone dropping in unannounced. Doorbells ringing at odd hours contained the possibility of a delightful surprise, of some uncle or cousin dropping in for the night en route somewhere else. Growing up in middle-class India meant that one was firmly enclasped in the bosom of a large family with very blurred and decidedly elastic boundaries and this sense of kinship was kept alive by the institution of the Unannounced Visit.
You dropped in on people without warning and usually without purpose. The thought popped into your head that you hadn’t seen someone in a while and that was enough for you to make the trek using the bus, cycle or train and land up unannounced at the doorstep of the remembered one. If it was morning, you got a cup of tea, if it was meal time, you were quickly accommodated and served. No questions were asked about your purpose and in a few cases, no real conversation was also expected. I remember a grand-uncle who for years dropped in for a visit and never said a word; he spent the day with us and left before it got dark.
We lived in a time of an extraordinary elasticity of accommodation. For all the middle-class tightfistedness that one grew up with, there was never any problem accommodating four surprise guests who decided to drop in for a fortnight. There was a mysterious limitlessness of food that I find difficult to explain today, looking back. Along with the tightness, there existed an ability to stretch what you had quite seamlessly. So even when obscure relatives and relatives of relatives dropped by, there was rarely any resentment at being put upon by these visits.
Of course, this also meant that you did the same and as a child the idea of landing up at some distant relative and having to spend hours listening to tales of even more distant relatives was an act of colossal boredom but at that time boredom had no currency; it was bereft of the exchange value it has today.
In fact, relationships were based on the draining out of visible purpose and came without the expectation of any immediate or tangible reciprocity. They necessarily involved large tracts of barren time; it was as if the land was kept fallow so as to underline the fact that it was the land that was important, the crop was transient and would follow. Relationships were built on the rock solid foundation of boredom. Time was a communal property as was space, to a large extent. You could not intrude on someone’s private time or trespass on their personal space because these didn’t really exist. Individuals were the form in which the collective manifested itself and were treated as such.
Technology today has been a key force in changing this conception. Technology individualises us by offering us the ability to stay connected on our terms. The telephone, particularly the mobile phone, offers us the possibility of endless, continuous connection and in doing so frees us from purposelessness. We can call anyone if we want to and we end up doing so more food time for the visit which in turn makes us more circumspect as to whether they are merely being polite. The relationship becomes ordered, it takes on the contours of our mutual expectations. We are in control of the relationship and mould it as we see fit. As a result, last night when the doorbell rang at 11, I didn’t bother thinking who it might be. I knew it would be no one I would be surprised to see. santoshdesai1963@indiatimes.com

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The barbarity of the ancient world

It is almost impossible for us to imagine the barbarity of the ancient world--very similar to how contemporary liberals find it impossible to comprehend the evil savagery of the Islamists with whom we are in a mortal struggle. As we mentioned yesterday, in all other ancient lands, the abuse of women and children, including infanticide, was common. Breiner notes, for example, that On, the King of the Swedes, sacrificed nine of his ten sons in the belief that it would prolong his life. Think about it. It was if the entire ancient world consisted of Palestinians who think that murdering children will lead to their own salvation...

In any event, the story of Abraham and Isaac allows us to assume that, up to that time, the ancient Hebrews were just as barbaric as any other ancient people. This biblical story preserves one of the truly shocking and unexpected “right turns” in human history--when something caused us to empathize with the sacrificial victim and lay down the knife. Not that it wasn’t a struggle afterwards. The Bible chronicles many instances of backsliding and regression, which gives it even more of a ring of authenticity. The struggle against absuing children was (and is) very real. But the benefits were obvious. For the first time in history, Jews were also able to intuit the one God. Not only that, but he was a loving God. Other primitive peoples lived in the psychological fragmentation of polytheism.

In my opinion, they did not know God because they could not know God. Early childhood trauma leads to what is called “borderline personality structure,” in which the mind is subject to vertical splitting and the inability to maintain psychological unity and coherence. Therefore, primitive polytheism was actually an indirect measure of child abuse. Note as well that the gods of ancient Greece and Rome were arbitrary, selfish, and narcissistic, and even got a kick out of lording it over the “little” humans. They were suspiciously simlar to abusive and uncaring parents. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Hebrews began viewing themselves as having an intimate relationship with a benevolent God who took a deep and abiding interest in them, instead of having to live in fear of a multitude of arbitrary and self-absorbed gods...

Breiner speculates that this prevailing attitude--“to take care of and love one’s wife so that she will care for and love one's children”--was “fundamental in determining why ancient child abuse and infanticide were rare among the ancient Hebrews.” The Talmud stated that those who practiced pederasty were subject to stoning. In ancient Greece, pedophiles were subject to being lionized as immortal philosophers. One of the most striking differences was in the attitude toward female children, which is one of the hinges of psychohistorical evolution. Unlike other ancient peoples, the Jews began cherishing and protecting female children. Many laws that we might now look upon as chauvinistic were, as reader Yesterday pointed out tomorrow--I mean Tamara pointed out yesterday--very advanced and innovative for their day. They were meant to protect women and girls, not to degrade them...

Again, it is easy to be historo-centric and view ancient Hebrews as barbaric by our standards, but the punishment meted out in Hebrew courts of law was lenient and humane by the standards of the day. So too their treatment of slaves, of captured enemies, of the poor, the oppressed, the widow, the stranger. They were the first people to achieve nearly 100% literacy, a development which had staggering implications for the way children were raised. posted by Gagdad Bob at 8:23 AM 14 comments Clinical psychologist Robert Godwin is an extreme seeker and off-road spiritual aspirant One Cosmos

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Romantic irrationalism

Harrison cites a couple of scholars who have attempted to quantify the link between child-rearing practices and cultural progress, in particular, progress toward democracy, economic prosperity, and social justice. As I noted in my own book, the further back in history you go, the more evidence there is of abominable child-rearing practices--what we would now call outright abuse.
Perhaps this is why, as Harrison notes, “Early humans were neither democratic nor egalitarian during the first 80-90 millennia of human existence.” Instead, we see ceaseless war, violence, oppression of women and children, and frankly crazy cultural beliefs and practices. The romantic idea that humans were ever peaceful “noble savages” has been thoroughly debunked by anyone who cares to actually look at the evidence.
One of my problems with contemporary liberalism is that around 40 years ago it lurched into romantic irrationalism--cultural relativism, multiculturalism, and the like. For example, Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously identified the pathologies of African American culture in the late 1960’s but was absolutely pilloried by the irrational haters of the left. If only his ideas had been put into practice then, millions of black lives would have been materially and spiritually improved, and saved from prison, poverty and early death. But instead, the left adopted the ideology of victimhood to explain black cultural pathology, with disastrous results.
I don’t think we should shy away from calling this leftist philosophy what it is: child abuse. For to indoctrinate a child with a victim mentality is to murder his soul. Here is what psychologist Jerome Kagan says all American children should be taught in order to grow up psychologically healthy (and remember, this book was written by an avowed liberal--my kind of liberal--Lawrence Harrison). posted by Gagdad Bob at 8:01 AM 10 comments

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Retreat of citizens to private life and private space

Rebecca Solnit Guardian The Hindu Saturday, Jul 08, 2006
The exercise of democracy begins as exercise, as walking around, becoming familiar with the streets, comfortable with strangers, able to imagine your own body as powerful and expressive rather than a pawn. People who are at home in their civic space preserve the power to protest and revolt, whereas those who have been sequestered into private space do not.
More and more I think of privatisation as being not just about the takeover of resources and power by corporate interests, but as the retreat of citizens to private life and private space, screened from solidarity with strangers and increasingly afraid or even unable to imagine acting in public. This is how human beings get downgraded from citizens to consumers. We talk about politicians being in public life, but they seldom appear in the public space where everyone is free to appear as a citizen.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

"What did we do wrong" vs. "Who did this to us"

Anonymous said...Dr. Godwin, what do you see as the key defining elements of
leftist liberalism and rightist conservatism? 9:35 AM
Michael Andreyakovich said...I can't answer for Bob, but I think the difference between attitudes on the Left and Right is summed up quite adequately by the two questions in the Bernard Lewis quote: "What did we do wrong" vs. "Who did this to us".
  • What did we do wrong? is the typical phrase that the right-wing politician asks himself; if a policy in place is not working, he prefers to throw it out and try something else - or at least ATTEMPT to throw it out. There must be a mistake somewhere in the policy itself - and that can be fixed, taking into account the imperfection of the citizens to whom the policy applies.
  • Leftist politicians ask Who did this to us? The failure of a policy is never their fault; they assume that it was sabotaged by their political opponents, or by the failure of society to live up to its full potential. Their response to a failed policy is to try it again, and yet again, until somebody somehow gets it right. The policy is perfect; it's other people that are the only real problem. 10:05 AM
Gagdad Bob said... I don't know that there is one key. If you search through the archives you will see that I have discussed the differences from many different angles. But if I had to pick just one, I would say that leftism in all its forms is a closed system that is alienated from the greater reality of the vertical. In the absence of a transcendent vertical telos, they are condemned to an ideology and existence that are ultimately unworthy of the dignity of man. 10:10 AM

Use of the hands, Opposable thumbs

Don’t keep your head out of the way # Why football goes completely against human nature From an article by Frank Cannon and Richard Lessner in ‘The Weekly Standard’ Indian Express Monday Jul 03, 2006
Another reason why soccer will never enthrall Americans is that the game is contrary to nature. What is it that is unique to the physical makeup of human beings that sets us apart from the animal world? Two things: Our large brains and our grasping hands with opposable thumbs. Our big brain is why we’re called homo sapiens, thinking man. And our ability to use our hands to grasp and manipulate objects is why one of our early ancestors was designated homo habilis, handy man. Human beings are thinking toolmakers. We’re able to imagine the arrowhead in the stone and use our hands to carve it out of the rock. These two uniquely human traits have allowed us to become the dominant species on the planet.
Yet soccer flies in the face of nature. In almost all other sports, the head is protected against injury... But soccer players use their heads, deliberately, to contact the ball. This is contrary to all human instinct, which is to keep the head out of the way of danger. Duck, you idiot! Protecting the head against injury is deeply rooted in our nature. It’s an evolutionary survival response. Sacrifice a limb if you must, give up an arm or leg, but protect your head at all costs. Yet in soccer the player is encouraged, no, expected to hit the ball with his head. This is as stupid an action as a human being can undertake.
Secondly, any game which prohibits the use of the hands is contrary to nature. Opposable thumbs allow humans to grasp things (thumbs on other primate hands such as chimps and orangutans are splayed out the side and are not truly opposable.) This is why the games human beings play involve holding things such as baseball bats, golf clubs and hockey sticks, or to grip and throw objects like a ball or a Frisbee. Soccer denies its players this most basic human ability.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Skilled use of fingers: low-end, labour-intensive manufacturing

India should tread Chinese path: MIT Prof • Tap Women For Growth
Amiti Sen NEW DELHI The Economic Times Friday, 07 July, 2006
INDIA can replicate the Chinese growth experience by educating women and introducing flexible labour laws rather than building highways and roads. According to a China expert Yasheng Huang from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), India’s growth, like China’s, has to be driven by the manufacturing sector. “In India, there is a need for low-end, labour-intensive manufacturing units. It could be achieved if India eases labour laws and invests more in education, especially of women,” he said.
Pointing out that good infrastructure was a sign of prosperity and not a tool for achieving it, Prof Huang said that India could achieve sustainable growth only by investing in the social sector. “About two decades back, India’s roads and railways was much better than China. China has now shot ahead because it made its base strong by investing in education and health,” he said.
Speaking to ET, Prof Huang said that in countries with strong manufacturing bases like China, Japan and South Korea, women out-numbered men by a strong margin in production units. “Women are generally seen to be more productive than men in activities requiring skilled use of fingers. India needs to use its women workforce to its full potential,” he said.

Dual secular guarantee of religious freedom & social justice for all

Temple Tantrums Rajeev Dhavan THE TIMES OF INDIA Friday, July 7, 2006
The Sabarimala controversy tests India's dual secular guarantee of religious freedom and social justice for all. Every citizen has the right to profess, practice, propagate and manage one's own affairs in matters of religion including the myriad of essential practices that define a faith. To strike a balance, the Constitution permitted the state to provide, for "social welfare and reform or the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus" to ensure temple entry for untouchables and others.
But, religious freedom is subject to gender equality. The Ayyappan temple at Sabarimala is undoubtedly a public temple which must normally be open to all including women. The core question is whether temple entry or social reform can override what is sacral to a faith.
The present controversy stems from the latest astrologically based Astamangala Devaprasanam in which the deity was, allegedly, upset by many things, including thefts and favouritism in the temple, de-forestation and a woman having defiled the temple sometime earlier. In a secular vein, the deity also wanted worship at the Vayar shrine managed by Muslims in the vicinity. All these supposed oracular wishes of Lord Ayyappa stand unfulfilled. But, what has attracted attention is actress Jaimala's confession that she had touched the deity in 1987, her defiant stance that she will answer to God and not high priests and her apology.
The high priest refused to admit a dereliction of duty to doubt the Jaimala story. Where do we go from here? As a matter of law, Kerala high court has clearly laid down that the exclusion of women aged between 10 and 55 is essential to the faith as a core 'essential practice' of the followers of Lord Ayyappa. If this is so, the past is secured and the future sealed. Non-believers cannot be told to believe in God. Nor can believers be compelled to deny their faith. But we can ask them to re-examine the validity of their belief. We can go down a partisan bifocal BJP route of preaching a uniform civil code to Muslims in the name of reform whilst defending many irrational Hindu claims to be part of India's national heritage. Such an approach has too many 'Hindutva' contradictions to command secular respect. For the rationalist, on the other hand, empirically unproven beliefs and practices should be allowed as personal belief not social practice.
Religions cannot be compartmentalised into inner beliefs, which are to be protected and external practices which can be reformed out of existence. Faiths come as an integral whole. Believers may well say that the forced entry of women into the temple will render everyone's prayer at the temple valueless. If the Supreme Court's logic is followed, women may obtain entry to the temple but not to the inner sanctum of Lord Ayyappa. The Kerala high court surmised that the reason for excluding women from the Ayyappan temple was to protect them from suffering the privations of the 41-day ordeal of penances. The rest is blind tradition based on astrological conjecture.
Hindu orthodoxy may have social and political reasons for seeking refuge in obscurantism. But Hinduism is no stranger to reform and change. Temple entry of untouchables and other reformist intervention have not weakened but strengthened the faith. Hindus cannot preach gender justice to others and indulge in practices that their own reformers have found wanting. For the moment we must proceed on the basis that the practice of excluding women from the Sabarimala temple lacks critical, moral and religious foundation. That the Kerala high court decided otherwise is hardly the point. The writer is a senior Supreme Court advocate.

There are no mediators in Islam

Women ought to know Humra Quraishi HindustanTimes.com Thursday, July 6, 2006
Lately, not a week passes when one does not hear of a model nikahnama coming up. But there is such an abundance of rights for women in Islam - a definite provision for the woman to ask for divorce, a clause any Muslim woman and her family can include at the very time of signing the nikahnama. Since marriage is a contract in Islam, any one of the two partners can think and talk of dissolving that contract if the state of the marriage is beyond repair and all efforts for reconciliation have failed. The woman also has the right to ask for khula (release from marriage), if she is unhappy in the marriage and is sure that she would prefer to opt out of it.
Not that divorce is encouraged in Islam. Rather it’s the last option if all efforts at reconciliation fail. In fact, there is this hadith which says, “The thing which is lawful but disliked by God, is divorce.” Mind you, even here there is another hadith, which says that parents ought to be good to the divorced daughter, as it states, “Shall I not point to you the best of virtues? It is your doing good to your daughter when she is returned to you having been divorced by her husband.”
The woman also has the right to retain her father's surname or family name or using add-ons like Fatima or Khatoon; so there's little dependence on the husband, not even on his name. She has the right to property, to re-marriage, to mehr (a sum payable to her if divorced fixed at marriage), to playing an active role in society and at work. And above all, the right given to you as a woman, to be answerable to just about nobody except God. No, there are no mediators in Islam. For Prophet Mohammed says, "Do not prevent your women from coming to the mosque." innervoice@hindustantimes.com

The Intent of Varna System

The various stratification of Varna system was meant to settle the Hindu life and regulate the society for a united action. Every society in the world has some form of groups that works for the common cause of social progress and general prosperity. In the various spheres of life, cultural, spiritual, religious, economic, political and social, medical, science and technology and even unskilled workers, there are groups united differently to work for the social cause of all the people. In Hinduism, this division is called Varna System. Each Varna has its social purpose, its own code, norms of behavior and keeps its independent identity. Still each part remains an integral part of the whole. The whole is always present in the part and the part is ever a part of the whole. This is the spirit behind the creation of Varna System. The four Varnas represented the people of wisdom, of action, of compassion and loving feelings, and of service to people. It was not intended to be hereditary and connected with birth. and therefore free interchange and intermixing was liberally permitted.
It is indeed unfortunate that the Varna System came to be connected with the caste System We can not know how and why and when it so happened. It grew up with a sort of spiritual monopoly of a certain group bent upon its material prosperity. It established the class of Brahmin by birth to safeguard their posterity. It is they who created and developed the ideas of inferiority and superiority among the people. This led to discrimination and distinction between various groups of occupations and the degradation of society began and reached so low as there came out people such as untouchables and pariahs. Thus the Varna turned Caste system brought about social degradation and downfall dividing people as low and high and the lowest. The Varna system, so sound and healthy and perfect came to such a pitiable state. It needs a reconstitution at this stage. [extract]