Monday, December 21, 2009

Religious practices seem out of place in yoga

Integral Ideology An Ideological Genealogy of Integral Theory and Practice Posted by RCARLSON


Although Sri Aurobindo, the founder of Integral Yoga formally eschewed couching his yoga in religion nevertheless, religious practices crept into the practices of its followers. It is in fact the transference of Hindu religious practices on to Integral Yoga which has facilitated a fascination of some of his followers with the fundamentalist rhetoric of todays militant Hindu nationalism (Hinduvta).
Some of his writings from the period in which he was a revolutionary leader of the Indian Independence movement have been been historically decontextualized and appropriated by various fractions of Hindu nationalist in support of their ethnically cleansed view of India. These writings usually referenced by Hinduvta authors, or even Leftist critics of the Hindu Right, are generally those of an early period in his work “between 1901 to 1913” (Heehs 2006 para 7) in which Sri Aurobindo discovered and immersed himself in the text and practices of Hinduism.
In many respects Hinduism for Sri Aurobindo was an indigenous resistance practice to the foreign occupation and value systems of the Raj. In his writings from this early period one finds the identification of the Hindu concept of sanatan dharma -eternal religion- with the self-determination of India itself. [...]
Sri Aurobindo’s life was in many way heroic, his knowledge was both complex and encyclopedic. He viewed his own accomplishments as the result of the efforts of a man aspiring for transformation and transparency to the grace received from above. He did however, speak of his yogic consort Mirra Alfassa (the Mother) as an incarnation of the Divine in its form of Shakti. For her part the Mother referred to Sri Aurobindo as an Avatar (divine incarnation). While it can be said that they both did not actively seek worshipers and were kind to their followers, it can also be said that they did not reject the worship and deification of their devotees.
It is one thing to believe that in a universe in which consciousness is delineated by various graduations, that on some planes of consciousness, expressions of devotion through the articulation of feelings (bhakti) are entirely proper, it is quite another not to comprehend – especially when one otherwise advocates for secular polity and eschewing religious dogma – that some followers will become attached to the forms of worship and inevitably confuse levels of consciousness, as well as secular and sacred, subcultural and cultural, theocratic and democratic values.
While claiming to disassociate his yoga from Hinduism many of the practices of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram during his lifetime (and certainly today) in fact mimic traditional forms of Hinduism. These practices include performance of an audience with the Guru (darshan) and prostration at the feet of the Guru. Moreover, it appears that these practices were deliberately cultivated to satisfy the psychological needs of Indian followers by preserving their religious traditions, because in the words of the Mother : “it gave them the fullness they needed”. (Heehs 2008 p356). Even if uttered with the best of intention this statement is absolutely patronizing. The fact that the Mother was French makes matters somewhat more problematic. Couldn’t Indian followers also adapt to a yoga that eschewed religious practice or were they too unsophisticated?
In short, while the rituals cultivated in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram are indeed indigenous religious practices of India they seem out of place in a yoga which claims to renounce religion and sectarianism. Although a genealogy tracing Integral Yoga to today’s Hindu nationalist politics can not be established, one can certainly find certain affinities with Hindu religious practices. It is this allegiance to Hinduism and the transference of its sectarian values system on to political discourse, that no doubt facilitates the embrace of some Integral Yogis of reactionary Hindu nationalism.
In general fundamentalism of any kind may also include fascistic orientations, chief among these is blind allegiance to a charismatic leader. Participation in an authoritarian culture also involves certain psychological orientations which favor hierarchical structures, linear paradigms of causality, and hegemonic gradients of power which are often expressed militantly. Conference Proceedings: Fundamentalism and the Future

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Managing one's sexual urges continues to be relevant

Home > Opinion > Taming the sexual tiger
Abhay Vaidya DNA, Monday, December 14, 2009

The world has passed through multiple sexual revolutions since and India is just beginning to open up on this front. Sexual freedom is increasingly becoming a reality, especially for urban Indian men and women, and there is ample opportunity for experimentation, be it real or virtual. As our society embraces new attitudes on sex, making it challenging particularly for the youth, the fact remains that howsoever outdated and irrelevant Gandhi's thoughts may seem today, his focal point on managing one's sexual urges continues to be relevant.

All the more for people in the public glare, who have high stakes in carefully cultivated images which are often just facades. Tiger Woods is but the latest in the long string of notables from any and every country whose image has been shattered by the revelation of his sexual escapades. It was Bill Clinton before him who made headline news on the same subject. Both Clinton and Woods projected the image of ideal family men but confessed that they had erred in weak moments.

Our present ethic on fidelity in marriage can be traced to the traditions of the Catholic Church and 18th century America which "condemned sex outside marriage and exalted family solidarity". As it stands, marriage has emerged as more than a practical institution; it is a bond of trust among couples that weakens, if not breaks, with the discovery of infidelity.

The matter of suppressing sexual urges has been central to practically all religions, although virtually all religious orders have failed in trying to keep their priests and pundits celibate, as is evidenced from scandal upon scandal. [...]

The American philosopher Will Durant described sex as "our strongest instinct and greatest problem" after hunger. He strongly disapproved of the gross stimulation provided to this instinct by modern civilisation through advertisement and other means and looked upon marriage as a solution "to take our minds off sex, and become adult".

It may be forcefully argued that the traditional emphasis on suppressing the sexual urge has, on the contrary, fuelled the sex industry and, as a consequence, the trafficking of children who die young or end up as unwillingprostitutes. Legalising prostitution is one way of coming out of our denial and this thought was expressed recently by the Supreme Court.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The larger family mitigates the effects of aggression

A Duet Need Not Be Out Of Sync
Sudhir Kakar, TOI, 5 December 2009
Modern Indian marriages are negotiating intimacy and familial communion

When asked to specify the most important change in middle-class Indian society in the last four to five decades, my answer has been, ''The changing Indian woman!'' More concretely, it is the middle-class Indian woman who i consider the driving force behind changes taking place in many areas of social life. Here, though, i will concentrate only on one such realm: marriage.

The woman's role as the prime mover of social change was made possible by two developments. One, a revision of the traditional view on the education of a daughter, which encouraged higher education for girls and thus made their participation in work life possible. Two, the growing financial needs of middle-class families, partly due to their higher consumption aspirations, which welcomed the woman's contribution to the family income.

One consequence of these developments has been the woman's higher self-esteem and potential for self-assertion which, in turn, have led her to demand greater emotional fulfilment in marriage than was the case with women of an earlier era. In other words, women today feel more entitled and are more vocal in their demand for a universal promise of marriage: intimacy, a couple's mutual enhancement of experience beyond procreative obligations and social duties, a state of being that integrates tenderness and eroticism, human depth and common values.

Even a few decades ago, the nature of Indian social reality and family life was not conducive to the fulfilment of this promise, at least in the first few years of a couple's married life. The dangers posed to the larger family by the development of intimacy in a couple were suggested by such questions as: Will the couple's growing closeness cause the husband to neglect his duties as a son? As a brother? Will the increasing intimacy of the couple turn the woman primarily into a wife rather than a daughter-in-law and inspire the husband to transfer his loyalty and affection to her rather than remaining truly a son of the house?

These were, of course, not either/or choices. However, custom, tradition and interests of other family members demanded that in the redefinition of roles and relationships initiated by marriage, the roles of husband and wife, at least in the beginning, be relegated to relative inconsequence. Today, slowly but surely, the middle-class woman is pushing the Indian family towards a greater acknowledgement, grudging or otherwise, of the importance if not yet the primacy of the marital bond, and a far greater recognition of the couple in the affairs of the larger family. The outcome of the conflict between two different principles of family organisation the importance of the parent-son and fraternal relationships on the one hand and that of the husband-wife on the other is shifting in favour of the couple as the fulcrum of family life.

This shift, however, is imposing its own distinctive strains upon Indian marriages. As middle-class disenchantment with other institutions in our society becomes rampant, there is a danger that the strains placed on the couple as a space that fulfils the quest for authentic experience may prove too much for this still-fragile institution.

For one, the couple is an emotional hothouse albeit one that also grows wondrous plants where, at different times, the spouse is required to be lover, parent, child and sibling. The demands on the partner, mostly unconscious, to fulfil these multiple roles rather than their being spread over the larger family as was the case earlier can certainly become a major source of strain in the emotional life of a young couple.

Another source of strain on the couple lies in its tendency to isolate itself from the larger family. Here, the danger is that the inevitable upsurges of aggression in the life of the couple will have no other outlet than the partners themselves, and thus cause serious damage to their intimacy. The larger family mitigates the effects of aggression by either some of its members serving as the objects of its discharge or by providing the stage where the husband and wife can be hostile towards each other in the relative safety of an intimate audience.

Is the middle-class Indian woman's increasing emphasis on intimacy as a sine qua non (a condition) of married life overblown? I will answer by saying that the movement towards the couple is indeed desirable, a necessary corrective to the excessive 'familism' as i would call the traditional ideology governing intimate relationships. We need to be on our guard, however, that this movement does not cross over to an extreme that is defined by a complete disregard of other family ties.

Whereas we may welcome the modern Indian woman's wish to constitute a two-person universe with her husband, we must also caution against the couple's tendency to become a fortress that shuts out all other relationships. The couple needs to remain vigilant that intimacy does not degenerate into a mutual ego-boosting enterprise; that it does not become a joint self-centredness which is the bane of not just a few European and North American marriages. The writer is a psychoanalyst and novelist.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

More intimacy meant less autonomy. More passion meant less stability

Married (Happily) With Issues Elizabeth Weil
Do you fear the snakes in your own marriage? Are you clearer about your job as a parent than your job as a spouse? Share your thoughts December 1, 2009 (Page 10 of 10)

Monogamy is one of the most basic concepts of modern marriage. It is also its most confounding. In psychoanalytic thought, the template for monogamy is forged in infancy, a baby with its mother. Marriage is considered to be a mainline back to this relationship, its direct heir. But there is a crucial problem: as infants we are monogamous with our mothers, but our mothers are not monogamous with us. That first monogamy — that template — is much less pure than we allow. “So when we think about monogamy, we think about it as though we are still children and not adults as well,” Adam Phillips notes. [...]

In “Can Love Last? The Fate of Romance Over Time,” Stephen A. Mitchell, a psychoanalyst, presents a strong case for the idea that those thoughts you might have about your spouse or your sex life being predictable or boring — that’s just an “elaborate fantasy,” a reflection of your need to see your partner as safe and knowable, so you don’t have to freak out over the possibility that he could veer off in an unforeseen direction, away from you.

Inspired by Mitchell, I decided to try a thought exercise: to think, while we were making love, that Dan was not predictable in the least. Before this, Dan and I were having regular sex, in every sense: a couple of times a week, not terribly inventive. As in many areas of our lives, we’d found a stable point that well enough satisfied our desires, and we just stayed there.

But now I imagined Dan as a free actor, capable of doing anything at any time and paradoxically, by telling myself I did not know what to expect, I wanted to move toward him, to uncover the mystery. For years, of course, I felt I knew Dan well, worried that lessening the little distance between us could lead to collapse. Now I was having the same sweaty feelings I had in my 20s, when I would let my psyche ooze into that of a new lover at the start of an affair.

A better marriage meant more passionate sex, this went without saying. But by now I noticed a pattern: improving my marriage in one area often caused problems in another. More intimacy meant less autonomy. More passion meant less stability. I spent a lot of time feeling bad about this, particularly the fact that better sex made me retreat.

There’s a school of thought that views sex as a metaphor for marriage. Its proponents write rational-minded books like Patricia Love and Jo Robinson’s “Hot Monogamy,” in which they argue, “When couples share their thoughts and emotions freely throughout the day, they create between them a high degree of trust and emotional connection, which gives them the freedom to explore their sexuality more fully.”

But there’s this opposing school: sex — even sex in marriage — requires barriers and uncertainty, and we are fools to imagine otherwise. “Romantic love, at the start of this century, is cause for embarrassment,” Cristina Nehring moans in “A Vindication of Love: Reclaiming Romance for the Twenty-First Century.” She berates the conventional marital set-up: two spouses, one house, one bedroom. She’s aghast at those who strive for equality. “It is precisely equality that destroys our libidos, equality that bores men and women alike.” I can only imagine what scorn she’d feel for hypercompanionate idiots like us.

Still, I agreed with Nehring’s argument that we need “to rediscover the right to impose distances, the right to remain strangers.” Could my postcoital flitting away be a means to re-establish erotic distance? An appealing thought but not the whole truth. [...]

In psychiatry, the term “good-enough mother” describes the parent who loves her child well enough for him to grow into an emotionally healthy adult. The goal is mental health, defined as the fortitude and flexibility to live one’s own life — not happiness. This is a crucial distinction. Similarly the “good-enough marriage” is characterized by its capacity to allow spouses to keep growing, to afford them the strength and bravery required to face the world.
In the end, I settled on this vision of marriage, felt the logic of applying myself to it. Maybe the perversity we all feel in the idea of striving at marriage — the reason so few of us do it — stems from a misapprehension of the proper goal.

In the early years, we take our marriages to be vehicles for wish fulfillment: we get the mate, maybe even a house, an end to loneliness, some kids. But to keep expecting our marriages to fulfill our desires — to bring us the unending happiness or passion or intimacy or stability we crave — and to measure our unions by their capacity to satisfy those longings, is na├»ve, even demeaning. Of course we strain against marriage; it’s a bound canvas, a yoke.

Over the months Dan and I applied ourselves to our marriage, we struggled, we bridled, we jockeyed for position. Dan grew enraged at me; I pulled away from him. I learned things about myself and my relationship with Dan I had worked hard not to know. But as I watched Dan sleep — his beef-heart recipe earmarked, his power lift planned — I felt more committed than ever. I also felt our project could begin in earnest: we could demand of ourselves, and each other, the courage and patience to grow. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Elizabeth Weil, a contributing writer, is working on a memoir about marriage improvement called “No Cheating, No Dying.”

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Germaine Greer, Simone de Beauvoir and Betty Friedman

Home » Opinion » Edit Page TOP ARTICLE
A Date With Reality Amrit Dhillon TOI, 2 December 2009
It's easy to visualise the Pune teenager who arranged to meet her boyfriend the day before Friendship Day recently. Just 15, she must have been flushed with excitement at the prospect of feeling special and desirable, and coming home later from the rendezvous floating in that delicious dreamy delirium that characterises the early days of a relationship. But the boyfriend brought along three friends for some 'fun' and they raped her in turns. The following day, the girl hanged herself. In their tragic interplay, i imagine she was seeking love while he wanted sex. Her humiliation and death reveal how the dating game in India is going horribly wrong because boys and girls are playing by different rules.
Girls are eager to explore their newfound social freedom to experience the headiness of loving and being loved. Physical desire is obviously an important part of this exploration because the hormones of a teenage girl are fizzing just as furiously as those of any young male. But girls venture into this new world almost utterly defenceless and, as mostly small-town ingenues, are vulnerable to the first predator who comes along.
So girls are filmed undressing by their boyfriends. The MMS clips are sent to friends or used for blackmail. Girls who end relationships have acid thrown on them. Girls who reject boys' advances are stalked and threatened. In the West, young girls absorb vast amounts of information about relationships before acquiring their first boyfriend. From TV programmes and debates, magazines, playground gossip and conversations with mothers and elder sisters, they develop a sixth sense for detecting a false note or a whiff of aggression that could endanger them.
More than information, certain ideas have entered their minds. The theories of the feminist movement from the 1970s onwards in the West made women aware of the power dynamic between men and women. The ideas of Germaine Greer, Simone de Beauvoir and Betty Friedman filtered down into popular consciousness. No doubt, they were diluted and reduced to slogans by the time they reached the woman on the street but they nevertheless coloured the landscape of her mind.
This process has been absent in India where such debates have been largely confined to women's groups and magazines such as Manushi. Here, girls plunge into the dating game intellectually blindfolded, groping (excuse the pun) for signposts as they navigate this new terrain. They possess none of the psychological tools to discriminate between genuine and fake interest. Having had arranged marriages themselves, their mothers and elder sisters are of no help.
Quite apart from the limited help available from their families, even the wider culture around them fails to imbue girls either with sense or suspicion. How can it? For centuries, social norms have imposed strict social segregation. The new freedom for the sexes to mix is so new that society has barely woken up to its implications. Whereas in the West, relations between the sexes evolved gradually, over decades, in India, the process has been squeezed into 10-15 years, jumping from Jane Austen to Paris Hilton in the blink of an eye.
As girls, without being forewarned, rush into the arms of their beaux, they misread the signals. Exacerbating their vulnerability is the desire for male attention that virtually consumes girls at this age. Not all young men, of course, are hell-bent on abusing their new access to women. Plenty of them treat their girlfriends with respect. But many, just like the girls, misread the cues.
They see a woman in a bar wearing attractive clothes as 'available' because they have never been educated by literature, films, books and newspapers to grasp the notion that a woman can be drunk, dressed revealingly and behave suggestively but if she says 'no' to sex, it means no. They too are confused. All the old familiar rules have gone and it's a free-for-all. Just the other day, at least in some circles, they were taught to believe that any woman who displayed pleasure during lovemaking, even with her own husband, was a whore. Now they have to learn that women can pose semi-naked, smoke and drink and yet must be treated as respectfully as they treat their mothers.
India has moved from segregation to mingling between the sexes without any of the attendant debates on sex, feminism and contraception. There has been no transition. Many men have leapt from believing that women should be sequestered inside the home to expecting their girlfriends to take responsibility for contraception. Girls pop the 'morning after' pill casually, rather than as an emergency measure. The boyfriends are happy to be carefree and few even bother to find out whether there could be repercussions on the girl's health.
Young Indian women need to realise that many of the new sexual freedoms that were hailed initially as 'liberating' in the West (such as the availability of the pill) turned out to carry a heavy price. When neither side knows the rules because the rules are still being worked out, the dating game becomes potentially lethal. ( The writer is a journalist)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Patriarchal and masculine nature of Max Weber's social and political thinking

Love or greatness (Routledge Revivals) Max Weber and masculine thinking
By Roslyn Bologh

This work, first published in 1990, reissues the first thorough examination of the essentially masculine nature of Max Weber's social and political thinking. Through a detailed examination of his central texts, the author demonstrates Weber's masculine reading of 'social life' and shows how his work advocates a masculine form of life that poses a challenge to contemporary women and to feminism. In particular, she addresses the patriarchal implications of Weber's belief in the need to relegate the ethic of brotherly love to a private sphere in order to make possible rational action and the achievement of greatness in the public sphere. ISBN: 9780415570749 Published October 21 2009 by Routledge.

Nov 30, 2009 Women's Lives in Medieval Europe A Sourcebook
Edited by Emilie Amt

Long considered to be a definitive and truly groundbreaking collection of sources, Women’s Lives in Medieval Europe uniquely presents the everyday lives and experiences of women in the Middle Ages. This indispensible text has now been thoroughly updated and expanded to reflect new research, and includes previously unavailable source material.

This new edition includes expanded sections on marriage and sexuality, and on peasant women and townswomen, as well as a new section on women and the law. There are brief introductions both to the period and to the individual documents, study questions to accompany each reading, a glossary of terms and a fully updated bibliography. Working within a multi-cultural framework, the book focuses not just on the Christian majority, but also present material about women in minority groups in Europe, such as Jews, Muslims, and those considered to be heretics. Incorporating both the laws, regulations and religious texts that shaped the way women lived their lives, and personal narratives by and about medieval women, the book is unique in examining women’s lives through the lens of daily activities, and in doing so as far as possible through the voices of women themselves. ISBN: 9780415466844 Published November 30 2009 by Routledge.

Encyclopedic Examination of the Seemingly Mundane, June 11, 2003
By Jeffrey Leach (Omaha, NE USA) - See all my reviews (TOP 50 REVIEWER) (REAL NAME)

Fernand Braudel is probably the most distinguished historian associated with the Annales School founded by Lucien Febvre and Marc Bloch. This Annales method attempted to revamp historical inquiry by enlarging the scope of analysis to include disparate places and through different times. Annalists were not content to research political institutions; they wanted to delve deeper into the past, to look at social and economic factors in order to reach a deeper, more comprehensive understanding of humanity. In order to be so inclusive, the Annalists looked at historical forces over great arcs of time, recognizing that many human factors change slowly and are not capable of discovery in snapshots of time. The title of this book, "The Structures of Everyday Life: Civilization and Capitalism, 15th to the 18th Century" captures well these two central tenets of the Annales School. "The Structures of Everyday Life" is the first volume in a three volume series.

When Braudel refers to everyday life, he means it in the strictest sense of the word. The topics covered in this encyclopedic volume are seemingly banal because they constitute the backgrounds of our lives: corn, wheat, rice, clothing, buildings, money, and other commonplace items that we take for granted in our day to day existence. Other sections deal with discerning the population of the world in a time when census records were crude or nonexistent, the development of heavy industry and its effect on the world, diseases, and shipping. The emphasis here is on economics and how the growth (or lack of) economies increases or decreases the growth of a society and how that society or region waxed or waned in prominence.

Much of the time, the greatness of Braudel's book is in a detail, or a turn of a phrase. For example, the author concludes that the massive pyramid structures and immense jungle cities of the Mesoamerican cultures resulted not from huge markets or an intrinsic need to construct enormous edifices. Instead, he traces their societal structure to agriculture, specifically the reliance on maize as the staple crop. In the warm climates of Central America, corn does not take much work to plant or maintain. This left the indigenous populations with plenty of time on their hands to build monuments and participate in elaborate religious rituals.

"Structures of Everyday Life" appears to be a huge book, and it is, but there are so many illustrations, maps, and charts that it does not take nearly as long to get through it as one might think. I read somewhere that Braudel traveled and worked abroad in places where he could obtain copies of primary historical documents, whether they were paintings, letters, financial statements, or other relevant documents. He gathered these by the thousands over the years and used them as the basis for his wide-ranging researches. You simply must admire a historian who notices someone picking food out of a bowl with his fingers and then compares this to another painting some years later where the figures are using utensils. Most people just do not think to look at things like this.

Braudel's book is a valuable contribution to historical studies, but I don't think I will read the other two volumes in the series. The amount of information in this volume is so overwhelming that I don't think I could assimilate the vast amount of facts in the other two books. As far as "Structures of Everyday Life" go, even reading one or two chapters is enough to get the gist of what Braudel is trying to say. Reading the whole thing is like reading an encyclopedia; it is fascinating but difficult. Permalink

Friday, October 09, 2009

Are dalit women more “liberated”?

EPW Current Issue : VOL 44 No. 40 October 03 - October 09, 2009 See Full Contents>>

Violence against Women via Cyberspace Anita Gurumurthy, Niveditha Menon
A report on a consultation on women and the use of information technologies that addressed how policy choices need to avoid narratives of fear around new technologies, narratives that can effectively constrain women’s freedom to use digital spaces. [Abstract] [Full Article]

Amchya Jalmachi Chittarkatha (The Bioscope of Our Lives): Who Is My Ally?
Shailaja Paik
This paper questions the commonly-held view by mainstream feminists and some dalit men that dalit women are somehow more “liberated” than high caste women. I argue that dalit women also face patriarchal oppression, though it has a specific quality [Abstract] [Full Article]

Saturday, September 19, 2009

We are manipulated by 'priming' and suggestion

There are now thousands of experiments demonstrating just how open to influence human beings are. We are manipulated by examples of 'priming' and suggestion, such as those above. We fall prey to 'anchoring' and 'availability' (being more influenced by fresh or easily remembered information than by relevant facts). We are strongly swayed by the blandishments of authority, of social pressure (conformity, fashion) and by instincts of reciprocity (giving, trusting and liking). We are too quick to accept shoddy explanations without further investigation, so long as they make superficial sense.
Our perceptions also make a mockery of much of our decision-making. Our judgements about others are routinely confounded by emotional projection and transference. We give value in the hand disproportionately more weight than value we might have in the future; we feel losses disproportionately more than gains; we consistently overestimate our own abilities (including our ability to make good judgements); we are often strangers to our own selves, unable to predict what we will feel like when we are angry, hungry, drunk and so on.
Led by the superficial
We are also acutely sensitive to small changes in conditions, but very quick to adjust to these changes (leaving us without an 'objective' benchmark for decision-making), and we routinely make decisions based on superficial comparisons rather than objective facts. [...]
The more we learn about human beings' predictable irrationalities, the greater the premium that society - consumers included - will place on those institutions, services, frame-works and methodologies that help us adjust, avoid and counter-balance their negative effects. Far from delivering marketers the elusive secret of effective influence and persuasion, ongoing discoveries in human psychology will actually expose advantage-taking, value-destroying marketing ploys to word-of-mouth revenge and punishment, and underline ancient (boring) marketing wisdom. Alan Mitchell is a respected author and a founder of Ctrl-Shift and Mydex. - visit Alan's blog at

Saturday, September 05, 2009

No torture

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Article 5

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

(other language versions Human Rights Day 10 December 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) Adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948

Laws governing religious doctrine cannot be equated with the law of the land

Top Article: There's Space For All At The Party Milind Deora Times of India -5 September 2009

Decriminalising homosexuality marks a critical point of departure in the lives of many across the nation; young and old, gay and straight, rich and poor. And while full emancipation may yet be an unfulfilled desire, it is an important first step in a legitimate struggle along that long arc of justice. To be sure, there will always be a blinkered few who will opt for an over-simplistic "us versus them" dualism but this is where rational argument and nuanced analysis can and should take centre stage in mainstream Indian politics. Moral prescriptions aside, the issue here is less an examination of sexual peccadilloes than about ensuring a vulnerable minority's unfettered access to fundamental human rights enshrined in our Constitution and guaranteed to every Indian citizen. [...]

Self-appointed custodians of Indian culture and the extreme right will always harbour archaic prejudices about anyone not like them but they never did merit serious attention in a free-thinking democracy like ours. Let us recognise that there are sections of Hindu, Muslim and Christian groups that have misgivings about homosexuality but also agree that it should not be criminalised. They would be the first to acknowledge that laws governing religious doctrine cannot be equated with the law of the land in a secular democracy. I find it disingenuous on the part of those who use selective text and inference to condemn someone's sexual preference while ignoring some of the proscriptions in their own teachings. Rather than pontificate on virtue and vice, we really ought to leave all value judgements to a higher power.

In the final analysis, policy and perception feed off each other and a paradigm shift in both is needed for real progress to take place. If my campaign experience across the socio-economic divide has taught me anything, it is that young India is not just a barometer of social change but a determining factor in shaping it. Indians of my generation are not afraid to speak the truth to power. That gives me hope. More so about the poor and less privileged sections of the gay community in both urban and rural India who have neither the financial nor political clout to counter the persecution, blackmail and incarceration they are constantly subjected to. For them, decriminalisation and its proper implementation could be life-altering.

So the next time you see your gay friend, relative or neighbour, think about the rights you were born into and the rights of others for which you've fought. Ask yourself if you can step out of your comfort zone to advocate for the rights of all, regardless of gender, caste, sexuality, ability, or religion, to pursue your freedom and happiness. After all, our convictions mean the most when they include those beyond ourselves. And when push comes to shove, we may still find there is place for us all in Cesaire's rendezvous of victory. The writer is a member of Parliament.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Education shall be free

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Article 26

(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

(Other language versions Human Rights Day 10 December 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) Adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948. Charter of fundamental rights of the European Union: Chapter I - Dignity Chapter II - Freedoms Chapter III - Equality Chapter IV - Solidarity Chapter V - Citizen's Rights Chapter VI - Justice General Provisions Full text of the Charter of Fundamental Rights (PDF files)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Social services and protection

(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Work and trade union

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Article 23

(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

(Other language versions Human Rights Day 10 December 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) Adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948. Charter of fundamental rights of the European Union: Chapter I - Dignity Chapter II - Freedoms Chapter III - Equality Chapter IV - Solidarity Chapter V - Citizen's Rights Chapter VI - Justice General Provisions Full text of the Charter of Fundamental Rights (PDF files)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Social security and dignity

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Article 22

Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

(Other language versions Human Rights Day 10 December 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) Adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948. Charter of fundamental rights of the European Union: Chapter I - Dignity Chapter II - Freedoms Chapter III - Equality Chapter IV - Solidarity Chapter V - Citizen's Rights Chapter VI - Justice General Provisions Full text of the Charter of Fundamental Rights (PDF files)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Government and public service

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Article 21

(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

(Other language versions Human Rights Day 10 December 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) Adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948. Charter of fundamental rights of the European Union: Chapter I - Dignity Chapter II - Freedoms Chapter III - Equality Chapter IV - Solidarity Chapter V - Citizen's Rights Chapter VI - Justice General Provisions Full text of the Charter of Fundamental Rights (PDF files)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Opinion and expression

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Article 19

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

(Other language versions Human Rights Day 10 December 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) Adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948. Charter of fundamental rights of the European Union: Chapter I - Dignity Chapter II - Freedoms Chapter III - Equality Chapter IV - Solidarity Chapter V - Citizen's Rights Chapter VI - Justice General Provisions Full text of the Charter of Fundamental Rights (PDF files)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Thought, conscience and religion

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Article 18

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

(Other language versions Human Rights Day 10 December 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) Adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948. Charter of fundamental rights of the European Union: Chapter I - Dignity Chapter II - Freedoms Chapter III - Equality Chapter IV - Solidarity Chapter V - Citizen's Rights Chapter VI - Justice General Provisions Full text of the Charter of Fundamental Rights (PDF files)