Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dwelling on loss is not necessarily depressing

The surprising claim of this book is that dwelling on loss is not necessarily depressing. Instead, Jonathan Flatley argues, embracing melancholy can be a road back to contact with others and can lead people to productively remap their relationship to the world around them. Flatley demonstrates that a seemingly disparate set of modernist writers and thinkers showed how aesthetic activity can give us the means to comprehend and change our relation to loss.
The texts at the center of Flatley’s analysis—Henry James’s Turn of the Screw, W. E. B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk, and Andrei Platonov’s Chevengur—share with Freud an interest in understanding the depressing effects of difficult losses and with Walter Benjamin the hope that loss itself could become a means of connection and the basis for social transformation. For Du Bois, Platonov, and James, the focus on melancholy illuminates both the historical origins of subjective emotional life and a heretofore unarticulated community of melancholics. The affective maps they produce make possible the conversion of a depressive melancholia into a way to be interested in the world.

Helpful and Insightful, February 4, 2009 By  Edward J. Brunner (Carbondale, Illinois) - See all my reviews
A good deal has been written on melancholy, especially in recent years, but Flatley's book stands out as both a useful introductory text and an insightful application of psychoanalytic theory. At the center of his discussion is an astute reading of Henry James's The Turn of the Screw. As fine as this is, however, it is equaled by the explanatory chapters that establish a theoretical background. An opening chapter that provides a glossary that distinguishes the nuanced meanings of "affect," "emotion," "mood" and "structure of feeling" is outstanding. Flatley goes on to develop his perspective not with any obvious follow-up but with unconventional turns: a chapter on Du Bois's Souls of Black Folk and a chapter on Soviet era writing by Andrei Platonov. This remarkably clear study always presses in serious new directions.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

When the child doesn't demonstrate ambivalence

India's Dilemma on Inter-Parental Child Removal Written by Anil Malhotra   
Inter-parental child abduction is a serious problemconsidering that it induces life-long psychological damage to the tendermind of the abducted child. […]
The world is a far smaller place now than it was a decade ago. Inter-country and inter- continental travel is easier and more affordable than it has ever been. The corollary to this is an increase in relationships between individuals of different nationalities and from different cultural backgrounds. Logistically, the world in which we and our children live has grown immensely complex. It is filled with opportunities and risks. International mobility, opening up of borders, cross-border migration and dismantling of inter-cultural taboos have many positive traits but are fraught with a new set of risks for children caught up in cross-border situations. Trapped in the cross fire of broken relationships with ensuing disputes over custody and relocation, the hazards of international abduction loom large over the chronic problems of maintaining access or contact internationally with the uphill struggle of securing cross frontier child support. […]
We now need a new synergy, a motivated effort and a commitment to the cause of the removed child to shape a law to prevent the unfortunate removal of children. The child should not suffer. A law must be put in place forthwith for the cause of the child.

Dr. Anita Nischal, MD, Womens Healthcare Pavillion and Former Professor, Wagner College, New York
Hostile Aggressive Parenting (HAP) is a pattern of behaviour, manipulation, actions or decision-making of a parent that either directly or indirectly creates undue difficulties in the relationship of a child with the other parent; and/or promotes or maintains an unwarranted unfairness or inequality in the parenting arrangements between the child’s parents; and/or promotes ongoing and unnecessary conflict between parents which adversely affects the parenting, well-being and rearing of a child. HAP is most apparent in child-custody disputes and is used most often as a tool to align the child with one of the parents during litigation over custody or control of the child. 
Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is an abnormal psychological condition in a child which adversely impacts the child’s relationship with a (target) parent in a number of clearly identifiable and dysfunctional ways and the causes of the disorder can be reasonably traced back to the actions, behaviours and decision-making of a person(s) who are interfering with the child’s relationship with the (target) parent. It is one of the most damaging outcomes affecting children as a result of exposure to HAP. The most common symptom of children affected by PAS is their severe opposition to contact with one parent and/or overt hatred toward such parent when there is little and often, no logical reason to explain the child’s behaviour. The effects of PAS can last well into adulthood and may last for a lifetime with tragic consequences. PAS is usually related to highly litigious court cases where there is a “destroy to win or the end justifies the means”mentality.Alienating parents are driven by the overriding need for power, influence, domination and control. They have no internal conflict, because they truly believe they are right. 
If a problem arises, it is always someone else’s fault. Alienating parents find it easy to misuse the law because some family courts do not use mental health experts to assess the psychological underpinnings. If psychological evaluations are conducted on the alienating parent, they often reveal the “borderline, narcissistic, or hysterical personality” disorder. Although they may know how to act the part, they do not have empathy, sympathy or compassion for others. Unlike rational people, they do not distinguish between telling the truth and lying. Alienating parents know that sanctions of fines, jail time, or community service are seldom applied to those held in contempt of visitation orders and hence cases are dragged for years. This jeopardizes the child’s relationship with the target parent, and allows the alienating parents the advantage to continue alienating. The emotional cost of PAS is excessive to the target parent. Legal intervention is a must to remove the alienated child from the custody of the alienating parent, set boundaries for the alienating parent, and have the alienated child deprogrammed by a child psychologist. Without legal intervention, alienated children lose their ability and free will to make rational choices over their lives, experience serious psychiatric disorders, have poor social relationships, and of course pass the problem on to their children.

 Dr Roma Kumar, Clinical Psychologist, Sir Ganga RamHospital (Delhi)
“Nothing stirs up passions more than title controversy generated when parents are at war over the custody of a child.”
The parental alienation syndrome (PAS) is a disorder that arises primarily in the context of child-custody disputes. It’s primary manifestation is the child's campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) parent's indoctrinations and the child's own contributions to the vilification of the target parent. Basically, this means that through verbal and non-verbal thoughts, actions and mannerisms, a child is emotionally abused (brainwashed) into thinking that the other parent is the enemy. PAS is more than brainwashing or programming, because the child has to actually participate in the denigrating of the alienated parent. This is done in primarily the following eight ways:
(i) The child denigrates the alienated parent with foul language and severe oppositional behavior.
(ii) The child offers weak, absurd, or frivolous reasons for his or her anger.
 (iii) The child is sure of him or herself and doesn't demonstrate ambivalence. i.e. love and hate for the alienated parent, only hate.
 (iv) The child exhorts that he or she alone came up with ideas of denigration. The "independent-thinker" phenomenon is where the child asserts that no one told him to do this.
 (v) The child supports and feels a need to protect the alienating parent.
 (vi) The child does not demonstrate guilt over cruelty towards the alienated parent.
 (vii) The child uses borrowed scenarios, or vividly describes situations that he or she could not have experienced.
 (viii) Animosity is spread to the friends and/or extended family of the alienated parent.
 The most common pattern of the mother is to show that ‘she is in control’. She will do that in a variety of ways ranging from ignoring the father to humiliating him. Paradoxically she is able to do it on the basis that the father loves his child so much he will put up with it. In most cases, the mothers do not take the children away with any clear cut strategy in mind, it is usually an extension of normal hostile reactions going through the sequence of:  (1) Arguing (2) Hostile silence (3) Restricted communication (4) No communication (5) Hostile action

Friday, November 12, 2010

Politics requires a lot of narcissism

What we call narcissism is a normal part of every human being. Without narcissism, we are unable to feel good about either ourselves or other people. In the healthy adult, the excessively grandiose side of the self is tamed and harnessed to an appropriate set of ideals and values and is capable of perceiving others as separate sources of action, thought, and feeling. A healthy self with appropriate levels of narcissism--or self love--has two fundamental and equally important parts: […]

Much of the evil that humans do to each other comes as a result of narcissistic rage and/or narcissistic idealism (and they are found often oscillating back and forth in the unhealthy narcissist). In the former case, we hear about or know individuals who manipulate, control, subjugate, hurt or kill others and they are able to do this because they do not consider other people as human or separate from their own self; or because they are so enraged and grandiose they are not capable of empathy. We see stories of this happening all the time on the news, frequently exclaiming, "How could someone do that?" The ex-boyfriend who cannot accept that the woman has dared to withdraw her love and so must kill her (and often himself); the serial killer who does not experience others as really human. The pedophile who abuses then murders his child victim. Every petty criminal who believes implicitly that his feelings and desires are paramount and justify his behavior.

A second type of evil is more subtle, and it comes from the unhealthy idealistic narcissist. This narcissist also does not see other people as individuals; and instead sees them only as fodder for the expression of an IDEAL or as pawns for an Omnipotent Object (e.g., a dictator). People with idealizing narcissism completely reject the needs of the individual and enslave him or her to their IDEAL. Eventually, the enslavement--whether religious or secular--snuffs out human ambition, confidence, energy and self-esteem. These "do-gooders" cause considerable human misery and their ideologies can lead to genocidal practices and unbelievable atrocities on a grand scale, all in the name of the IDEAL or GOD. Needless to say, both the development of normal self-esteem as well as the ability to have appropriate ideals and admiration for others are essential to psychological health. When one aspect develops at the expense of the other it has grave consequences--both for the individual and society.

One could say that the entire psychological process of maturation is one in which the child is able to form a cohesive sense of himself AND at the same time appreciate the separateness of Mother and Father --and by extension, all other people. When this process is achieved, true empathy and benevolence toward others is possible, as is a healthy and realistic appreciation for one's own worth and capabilities. In Wretchard's comparison of Barack Obama and Sarah Palin we see the essentials of how all this plays out in different political personalities. As I noted earlier, there are certain professions that require a lot of narcissism to be successful--and politics is foremost among them. 

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Managing with love is the way to build trust

Love in the workplace? Forbidden! In these days of mandated sexual harassment training, we are constantly warned to keep our even mildly lascivious thoughts and emails, not to mention our hands, to ourselves. But, human nature may trump the law. I make it a practice to hug everyone who works for me and most of those who work around me, both males and females. Read More […]
Managing with love is the way to build trust. It's a no-brainer. So why do so few companies do this? The autocratic "manage with fear" model is what business began with hundreds of years ago when managers whipped employees literally and figuratively to compel them to work. In modern businesses with skilled and empowered employees, the top-down approach is slowly starting to fade away. The open-door policy is replacing the executive suite. For example, my university built me a new lab last year and the builder wanted to know where my office would be. I said I didn't want one. I prefer to embed myself with my team because we work together on projects. Why would I want to separate myself from those I collaborate with?
There is a growing number of successful companies that manage with love. Southwest Airlines is an example: their corporate slogan is "How do we love you? Let us count the ways . ." In fact, their stock ticker symbol is LUV so this is a big part of their corporate identity. (Southwest's first flights came out of Dallas's Love Field so this may have given them the idea). If you have flown Southwest, you know that their employees love working for them. Southwest Airlines has never laid off an employee. Southwest's CEO Gary Kelly was paid $903,000 in 2009, and half of that was a one-time bonus. Compare that to former GM CEO Rick Wagoner who was paid more than 14 million dollars the year before GM went belly-up.
My research shows that the molecule of love, oxytocin, makes us trustworthy and motivates us to help others. Most managers would sacrifice a limb if their employees embodied these virtues at work.
All it takes is love.
Paul J. Zak is a neuroeconomist at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, CA.  His book The Moral Molecule will be published in 2012. more... [12:17 PM]

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Parallels between marriage and citizenship

Despite the many thoughtful critiques of the relationship between family and the state, I have always found it a little surprising that there is very little commentary on the relationship between two strange legal fictions. The first is the idea of the restitution of conjugal rights (RCR), and the other is sedition. The restitution of conjugal rights basically consists of the right of a spouse to demand that his or her- though more often his than her- spouse cohabit with him after she has ‘withdrawn from his society’. Away from the misty world of legal euphemisms, we all know what this means: that you can be forced to sleep with a somewhat less than pleasant person against your wishes. A legal commitment to love in a marriage is a serious thing indeed which only warns us that we must proceed with such a choice very carefully.
But like many marriages, the question of choice is somewhat restricted for many people- as is indeed the case of the choice of loving your country. After all isn’t sedition a crime of passion, and the punishment of an offence of the withdrawal of love for your nation. It is interesting to see that while treason in Sec. 121 of the IPC is about the waging of war against the state, sedition is about a forced love. It is about the creation of ‘disaffection’. As Nivedita Menon points out in her post, Disaffection means “the absence or alienation of affection or goodwill; estrangement”.
A legal commitment to love your nation is also a serious thing indeed, and what then is the punishment of sedition if not, the restitution of the conjugal rights of the state? Posted in LawMedia politics | Tags: Arundhati Royseditiondisaffection « Sedition: ‘The highest duty of a citizen’ RESPONSES
This analogy is absolutely brilliant.
Obligatory love and duty, punishment for failure to love – why didn’t I see the endless parallels between marriage and citizenship before? Thanks! By: Nivedita Menon on October 27, 2010 at 9:16 AM Reply

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Humble serenity of pure intellection

This interior cathedral is where the soul finds its rest. Schuon speaks of "the humble serenity of pure intellection, humble because impersonal and serene because conforming to That which is." […] Schuon discusses the various spiritual types, which are classically divided into ruler, priest, sage, warrior, merchant, laborer and outcaste. Each can be sanctified in its own way save for the latter, which can only be saved. 
Consider Schuon's description of the merchant caste, which includes the craftsman and farmer: there is a "love of work well done -- both the result and the performance -- and of wages honestly earned; an emotional accent on the fear of God and on meritorious works conscientiously and piously accomplished."

Please note that he is not being the least bit condescending. Imagine, for example, if American capitalism were dominated by this mentality -- which it actually is, far more than people realize. Indeed, this is why it "works," because of the American "civil religion" so accurately described by de Tocqueville.

My father was of this caste -- a very pure businessman. In this regard, it is impossible for me to imagine him engaging in any kind of unethical or dishonest business dealing, even though he was in no way conventionally religious. Nevertheless, one can see how his work was a kind of karma yoga, since it was always "elevating." And people loved doing business with him for it. Is living the truth not a kind of implicit knowing it? Or is it actually explicit?

Schuon goes on to say that such individuals can appear superficially "horizontal" and conventional, but there is nothing wrong with being conventional in a just and rightly ordered society. Indeed, it can be "a protection against the lack of a sense of proportion for those not sufficiently endowed with discernment."

For example, consider an Obama, who clearly imagines himself to be of the priestly/intellectual caste, but who is so lacking in humility -- not to mention discernment and conformity to the real -- that he falls far lower than any upstanding merchant in the Chamber of Commerce. It is no coincidence that he so contemptuously attacks the latter, just as he belittles all normal Americans and the civil religion that has served us so well. 

Continuing our little discussion of caste and clue, Schuon notes that the priest/sage and knight/warrior share the common capacity "for spontaneously placing oneself above oneself," the former through wisdom and disinterested intelligence, the latter through heroism and self-sacrifice. In both cases, the person simply responds to "the nature of things" in order to provide what is needed in the moment, whether in the field of intellect or of action.

The third caste discussed yesterday -- the merchant, artisan, or craftsman -- may have more of a challenge in this area, in that it is possible for the mercantile mentality to dominate, thus reducing everything to quantity -- to know the price of everything but the value of nothing.

Nevertheless, it shares with the sage and warrior "an inward incentive toward the good," in contrast to the fourthcaste, which "cannot maintain itself in the good except under a pressure coming from outside and above," the reason being that "this human type does not dominate itself and does not like to dominate itself" (Schuon). […]

Only the first caste is truly lacking in "worldliness." The warrior caste obviously must deal with the world -- and mankind -- as it is. But the priestly caste is aware of the distinction between celestial and terrestrial things, and doesn't allow the Is to obscure the Ought.

Note that our secular class of tenured priests also trucks in the Ought, but this Ought is purely terrestrial and marxmade. It involves what Voegelin called the "immamentization of the eschaton." It also must redound to coercion, since it is not a "truth" that lies outside or above man. God vouchsafes his truth and lures men to it. Man can only enforce his.

Extremes meet, so it is quite possible -- especially in our day and age -- for our sages to actually be outcastes, in particular, if they are in contact with no reality higher than themselves. As Schuon explains, the outcaste lacks a homogeneous center, and is "unbalanced" or "mixed" with all sorts of incompatible and contradictory impulses. For example, imagine a university professor who doesn't believe in objective truth. Such a person cannot be helped, and yet, here he is presuming to help others!

Schuon goes on to say that the two higher castes are "noble," in the sense that their spirit is "free," or "'sovereign,' for it is naturally conformed to the universal Law, whether in 'heroic' or 'sacerdotal' mode." A man is noble "to the extent that he carries the Law within himself," but he is ennobled "to the extent that his obedience is perfect," at first "quantitatively" but eventually "qualitatively."

In other words, obedience is gradually interiorized -- or, as the interior is awakened, the obedience becomes spontaneous.

There is also a hidden relationship between the priestly and mercantile, which recalls Somebody's wise crack to the effect that few things make a man more peaceable than when he is occupied at making money.

Think of the natural contemplativity of the artisan or farmer: "It is easy to see the peaceful character of the peasant, the craftsman, the merchant; none of them has any interest in coming to blows, and each of the three functions possesses an aspect that binds or unites human groups rather than placing them in opposition" (ibid). Which is why capitalist countries are more peaceful within and with each other.

The warrior may fall if he forgets his higher purpose and descends into ambition or mere quarrelsomeness; this results from "an intelligence with too little contemplativity" (ibid). In contrast, the merchant can be afflicted by a "contemplativity with too little intelligence," whereas the intelligence of the priestly caste may become "narrow and pedantic," thereby becoming flaccid and ineffectual. In other words, it is possible for the elect to suffer from electile dysfunction.

In the ultimate sense, the priest/sage should either be "without caste" or encompass the qualities of each of them. Think of the heroic martyr-priests, or those who patiently and lovingly (not to say beautifully) transcribed and preserved all those ancient manuscripts prior to the invention of the printing press. 

Mine’s the Meno, and no changing it. […] In fact, “favorite Platonic dialogue” is probably the philosophical equivalent of zodiac signs.
You have the Timaeus people, who are generally either hipster vitalists or colorful antiquarians.
You have plenty of Republic people, and they could be of all different types because there’s so much in it.
You have the Sophist people, who tend to be grave ontologists with beards.
What other types are there?
Symposium people. Right. It may even be my second favorite. I’m a Meno with Symposium rising.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

दोपहर के वक्‍त महिलाओं से बहस करने से बचना चाहिए

दफ्तर हो या घर दोपहर के वक्‍त महिलाओं से बहस करने से बचना चाहिए क्‍योंकि शोधकर्ताओं ने शोध में पाया है कि दोपहर के वक्‍त महिलाओं के मूड में काफी उतार चढ़ाव आता है। दोपहर के वक्‍त पुरुष अगर महिलाओं से बहस करते हैं तो उन्‍हें हार का सामना करना पड़ सकता है। 
वहीं शोध में यह भी कहा गया है कि महिलाओं को पुरुष से कोई काम करवाना हो तो शाम 6 बजे का इंतजार करें। क्‍योंकि इस वक्‍त पुरुष अपने करीबी लोगों की इच्‍छा पूरी करते हैं। इस स्टडी ब्रिटेन के 1000 पुरुषों और महिलाओं पर किया गया है। 
अध्ययन में यह भी कहा गया है कि जब किसी महिला को तनख्वाह में इजाफे या प्रोमोशन की बात अपने बॉस से कहनी हो तो वह दोपहर 1 बजे अपने बॉस से बात करें । ज्‍यादातर बॉस इस वक्त अच्‍छे मूड में रहते हैं। महिलाओं की मुराद पूरी हो सकती है। लेकिन बॉस अगर महिला है तो दोपहर में उससे बात करने की कोशिश न करें। आमतौर पर देखा गया है कि दोपहर एक बजे के बाद का समय ऐसा होता है जब मैनेजर अपने कर्मचारियों की मांग के प्रति बहुत उदार होता है। इच्छा पूरी करने के लिए शाम 6 बजे का इंतजार करें दैनिक भास्कर 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Brahmin, Muslim, Militant, Migrant, Dalit, & Dance

This book unmasks the cultural and gender stereotypes that inform the legal regulation of the migrant. It critiques the postcolonial perspective on how belonging and non-belonging are determined by the sexual, cultural, and familial norms on which law is based as well as the historical backdrop of the colonial encounter, which differentiated overtly between the legitimate and illegitimate subject.
The complexities and layering of the migrant’s existence are seen, in the book, to be obscured by the apparatus of the law. The author elaborates on how law can both advance and impede the rights of the migrant subject and how legal interventions are constructed around frameworks rooted in the boundaries of difference, protection of the sovereignty of the nation-state, and the myth of the all-embracing liberal subject. This produces the ‘Other’ and reinforces essentialised assumptions about gender and cultural difference.
The author foregrounds the perspective of the subaltern migrant subject, exposing the deeper issues implicated in the debates over migration and the rights claims of migrants, primarily in the context of women and religious minorities in India. About the Author
Ratna Kapur is Director, Centre for Feminist Legal Research, New Delhi and Faculty, Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations, Geneva. Erotic Justice: Law and the New Politics of Postcolonialism by Ratna Kapur (Feb 3, 2005), Secularism's Last Sigh?: Hindutva and the (Mis) Rule of Law by Brenda Cossman and Ratna Kapur (May 16, 2002)
Indian Political Thought: A Reader by Aakash Singh and Silika Mohapatra (Aug 17, 2010)
The Gender Imperative: Human Security Vs State Security by Asha Hans and Betty A. Reardon (Jul 26, 2010)
Democracy, Development and Decentralisation in India: Continuing Debates by Chandan Sengupta and Stuart Corbridge (Jul 21, 2010)
Grounding Morality: Freedom, Knowledge and the Plurality of Cultures by Jyotirmaya Sharma and A. Raghuramaraju (Jul 21, 2010)
Subaltern Citizens and their Histories by Gyanendra Pandey (Jun 7, 2010)
Multi-stories: Cross-cultural Encounters by Kalpana Sahni (May 26, 2010)
A History of India by Hermann Kulke and Dietmar Rothermund (May 24, 2010)
India's Partition by D. N. Panigrahi (Apr 19, 2010)
Ritual Matters: Dynamic Dimensions in Practice by Ute Husken and Christiane Brosius(Apr 14, 2010)
India's Princely States by Waltraud Ernst (Apr 6, 2010)
Dance Matters: Performing India on Local and Global Stages by Pallabi Chakravorty and Nilanjana Gupta (Feb 3, 2010)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Modern but not Western

Makeshift Migrants and Law Gender, Belonging, and Postcolonial Anxieties By Ratna Kapur Price: £65.00 ISBN: 978-0-415-59629-9 Imprint: Routledge India Pages: 256 pages
This book unmasks the cultural and gender stereotypes that inform the legal regulation of the migrant. It critiques the postcolonial perspective on how belonging and non-belonging are determined by the sexual, cultural, and familial norms on which law is based as well as the historical backdrop of the colonial encounter, which differentiated overtly between the legitimate and illegitimate subject.
The complexities and layering of the migrant’s existence are seen, in the book, to be obscured by the apparatus of the law. The author elaborates on how law can both advance and impede the rights of the migrant subject and how legal interventions are constructed around frameworks rooted in the boundaries of difference, protection of the sovereignty of the nation-state, and the myth of the all-embracing liberal subject. This produces the ‘Other’ and reinforces essentialised assumptions about gender and cultural difference.
The author foregrounds the perspective of the subaltern migrant subject, exposing the deeper issues implicated in the debates over migration and the rights claims of migrants, primarily in the context of women and religious minorities in India.

Erotic Justice Law and the New Politics of Postcolonialism By Ratna Kapur
The essays in Erotic Justice address the ways in which law has been implicated in contemporary debates dealing with sexuality, culture and `different' subjects - including women, sexual minorities, Muslims and the transnational migrant. Law is analyzed as a discursive terrain, where these different... 
The Hindu Right has begun to place an emphasis on Indian society being 'modern but not Western', responding to the material and historical shifts of the late 20th and early 21st centuries in India. Hindutva is today being redefined to ...

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Dowry still determines a daughter-in-law’s place

Schools of thought IE: Saturday 07 August, 2010 Shruti Ravindran
Most urban people would like to think of themselves as mercifully distanced from the sort of petty sagas that spur on the subplots of K-serials and their many regional variants — such as vengeful sisters-in-law who foist household chores on new dowry-less brides, or the barely concealed show of hierarchy within the gift-wrapped present from a newly affluent relative. Should you want a field guide to navigate the thorny thickets that lie before the upwardly mobile middle-class, you ought to read Middle-Class Moralities: Everyday Struggle over Belonging and Prestige in India, by Minna Saavala (Orient Blackswan, Rs 495).
Saavala, a Finnish social anthropologist, gathered most of the material for the book from the personal experiences, opinions and habits of a circle of acquaintances — “informants”— that she met during a stint in Hyderabad for a previous dissertation on fertility. The book begins with the fraught, fiercely contested realm of courtship and marriage, pointing out that despite the illusion of choice and flattening of hierarchy that urban life might promise, factors like dowry still determine a daughter-in-law’s place in the household pyramid, and “free choice” or “love” marriage continues to get “camouflaged” within the curious label of an “arranged-cum-love-marriage”.
If you’ve marvelled at the real-estate advertisements that promise some gilded “lifestyle” and the geographical nowhere-ness we aspire to amid the landscaped gardening we like to surround ourselves with, you’ll especially enjoy the chapter on “Imagined Worlds”. This takes us on an excursion to the “heterotropia” of Ramoji Film City, “a mirage out of nowhere”, of mud villages, the Wild West, and Mughal palaces favoured for film shoots in the outskirts of Hyderabad.
In an arid, rocky land, rolling lawns and luxurious fountains are the most potent form of conspicuous consumption, points out Saavala. When one of her friends, who seemed indifferent to the spectacle, later professed great enthusiasm for it to her friends, Saavala observes that more than the excursion, she’d valued the consumption of indicators of the “West” — hygiene, efficiency, predictability, in a vendor-less, beggar-free environment. In other words, Ramoji Film City and your sparkly, new neighbourhood mall are “a huge stage… to be gazed at, and to prove [one’s] middle-classness.”
None of this upward mobility and aspiration-fulfilment would be possible without modern capitalism or the free-market economy, as its tireless evangelist, French columnist Guy Sorman will remind you in Economics Does Not Lie (Global Full Circle, Rs 495). “During the current crisis, it’s especially important to remember the unprecedented benefits that free markets have brought mankind,” says the blurb. Accordingly, the book marches along to this jaunty neo-liberal tune, telling us how the best measure of a good economy is its growth, how competition is desirable and the welfare state ineffective, and how complex financial markets have ushered in progress.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Happiness generally comes from links with other people

William Egginton on theodicy, neuroscience, and free will.
“As much as we owe the nature of our current existence to the evolutionary forces Darwin first discovered, or to the cultures we grow up in, or to the chemical states affecting our brain processes at any given moment, none of this impacts on our freedom. I am free because neither science nor religion can ever tell me, with certainty, what my future will be and what I should do about it. The dictum from Sartre that Strawson quoted thus gets it exactly right: I am condemned to freedom. I am not free because I can make choices, but because I must make them, all the time, even when I think I have no choice to make.”

depression and graduate students from Object-Oriented Philosophy by doctorzamalek (Graham Harman)
George Santayana is an underrated author. In The Sense of Beauty (always the surprise hit of my aesthetics classes whenever I use it) he talks about how beauty and happiness are not the same, that artists (and by extension, thinkers) suffer because they prefer beauty, whereas happiness generally comes from social factors: friends, marriage, a satisfying job, sufficient income so as not to worry, and being held in high esteem in the circles in which you travel. And in fact, it’s a reasonably good rule of thumb. Happiness (though perhaps not self-fulfillment) generally comes from links with other people. Or maybe with animals as well: pets can make us happy too.

The overriding interest is in oneself, not in the means adopted. … Sandwiched between an overwhelming regard for oneself and an inability to control one's circumstances with the precision one seeks, we are looking for newer technologies of the self. New age beliefs may or may not be science but they certainly in technologies in that they seek to manipulate the world around us in order to give us outcomes we desire. … Santosh Desai is a leading ad professional.

Peter on 26.02.2008 at 17:52 (Reply)
From my observations, intelligent people often have a tendency to over analyse certain people, situations, etc. The ability to “switch off” and just enjoy the moment is a key to happiness in my opinion. This is completely different from ignorance btw.
John Wesley on 26.02.2008 at 18:04 (Reply)
I would agree with your point about over analysis, especially if you tend to over think potential problems and can’t appreciate positives.
Definitely different than ignorance, but I also think the point about ignorance helping people be happy is valid. Imagine, for example, someone who has no idea about the U.S. economic problems compared to someone who is constantly fretting about it.
etavitom on 26.02.2008 at 18:47 (Reply)
thanks for the interesting post! i think highly intelligent people are sometimes unhappy because they are more aware of stupidity and absurdity around them…. best, brad
Jacques on 02.03.2008 at 09:20 (Reply)
Also, they are more inclined to see ‘patterns’ – connecting events and realizing something similar happened before – because they tend to hide in reading and history – based on that, you can become rather good at predicting outcomes…
KM on 26.02.2008 at 20:17 (Reply)
I believe the interests of intelligent people cause problems for them as well. While many intelligent people may be interested in some of the same topics, it is difficult to find social activities associated with them. 

Loyalty binds people together.  Friendships, marriages, even nations are built on loyalty.  Try imagining a person who has no loyalty whatsoever to anything or anyone.   Such a person would be friendless, loveless, nationless.  She would feel no devotion to any higher cause or principle – like truth or justice.   … Earlier I said that loyalty unites and that’s a good thing.  But loyalty also divides. And that’s a bad thing.  For example, soldiers at war are driven to kill each other by their competing loyalties.  
From pure self-centered cost-benefit analysis, it can be hard to make sense of loyalty.   You might even call loyalty a form of irrationality.  But without loyalty (and trust) all kinds of relationships wouldn’t be possible.   So if loyalty is a form of irrationality, it may be a darned good thing that we are irrational in that way.    

Charles Fourier developed his idea that
the natural passions of man would, if properly channeled, result in social harmony. He compared gravitational attraction in the physical world to “passional attraction” among humans. Fourier’s calculus of the mechanism of the passions was an interactive system of three distributive passions, the cabalist (or intriguing) passion, the butterfly (or alternating) passion, and the composite (or enthusiastic) passion. Together, these ensured the gratification and equilibration of all other human passions and resulted in the formation of the “passionate series,” the foundation for Fourier’s ideal unit of society, the phalanx.