Shaken, because of a stir

We have demonstrably been shaken here on earth, because of a stir in the cosmos.

The measured peak strain was 10^{-21} [^].

For comparison: In our college lab, we typically measure strains of magnitude like 10^{-3} or at the most 10^{-4}. (Google search on “yield strain of mild steel” does not throw up any directly relevant page, but it does tell you that the yield strength of mild steel is 450 MPa, and all mechanical (civil/metallurgical/aero/etc.) engineers know that Young’s modulus for mild steel is 210 GPa. … You get the idea. …)


Einstein got it wrong twice, but at least eventually, he did correct himself.

But other physicists (and popular science writers, and blog-writers), even after getting a full century to think over the issue, still continue to commit blunders. They continue using terms like “distortions of spacetime.” As if, space and time themselves repeatedly “bent” (or, to use a euphemism, got “distorted”) together, to convey the force through “vacuum.”

It’s not a waving of the “spacetime” through a vaccum, stupid! It’s just the splashing of the aether!!


The Indian credit is, at the most, 1.3%.

If it could be taken as 3.7%, then the number of India’s science Nobels would also have to increase dramatically. Har Gobind Singh Khorana, for instance, would have to be included. The IAS-/MPSC-/scientist-bureaucrats “serving” during my childhood-days had made sure to include Khorana’s name in our school-time science text-books, even though Khorana had been born only in (the latter-day) Pakistan, and even if he himself had publicly given up on both Pakistan and India—which, even as children, we knew! Further, from whatever I recall of me and all my classmates (from two different schools), we the (then) children (and, later, teen-agers) were neither inspired nor discouraged even just a tiny bit by either Khorana’s mention or his only too willing renunciation of the Indian citizenship. The whole thing seemed too remote to us. …

Overall, Khorana’s back-ground would be a matter of pride etc. only to those bureaucrats and possibly Delhi intellectuals (and also to politicians, of course, but to a far lesser extent than is routinely supposed). Not to others.

Something similar seems to be happening now. (Something very similar did happen with the moon orbiter; check out the page 1 headlines in the government gazettes like Times of India and Indian Express.)

Conclusion: Some nut-heads continue to run the show from Delhi even today—even under the BJP.

Anyway, the reason I said “at most” 1.3 % is because, even though I lack a knowledge of the field, I do know that there’s a difference between 1976, and, say, 1987. This fact by itself sets a natural upper bound on the strength of the Indian contribution.

BTW, I don’t want to take anything away from Prof. Dhurandhar (and from what I have informally gathered here in Pune, he is a respectable professor doing some good work), but reading through the media reports (about how he was discouraged 30 years ago, and how he has now been vindicated today etc.) made me wonder: Did Dhurandhar go without a job for years because of his intellectual convictions—the way I have been made to go, before, during and after my PhD?

As far as I am concerned, the matter ends there.

At least it should—I mean, this post should end right here. But, OK, let me make an exception, and note a bit about one more point.


The experimental result has thrown the Nobel bookies out of business for this year—at least to a great part.

It is certain that Kip Thorne will get the 2016 Physics Nobel. There is no uncertainty on that count.

It is also nearly as certain that he will only co-win the prize—there will be others to share the credit (and obviously deservingly so). The only question remaining is, will it be just one more person or will it be two more (Nobel rules allow only max 3, I suppose), what will be their prize proportions, and who those other person(s) will be (apart from Thorne). So, as far as the bettors and the bookies are concerned, they are not entirely out of the pleasure and the business, yet.

Anyway, my point here was twofold: (i) The 2016 Physics Nobel will not be given for any other discovery, and (ii) Kip Thorne will be one of the (richly deserving) recipients.


[E&OE]

 

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Why I won’t be writing for a while…

Why I these days can’t find the time to write blog posts:

As you know, I have joined a private engineering college as a professor (though it’s a temporary appointment). I have a lot of work-load. While in the interview I had insisted on a work load of 8 hours + ME projects from the computational mechanics field, this is what I have been asked to carry out, after joining:

  1. A course on Thermodynamics (the first course on the subject) to SE (Mech.) students (4 hrs/week)
  2. An elective course on Operations Research to final year BE (Mech.) students (4 hrs/week)
  3. Guidance of three project groups (of 4 students each, i.e. 12 students in all) of final year BE (Mech.) program (technically, “only” 2 hours/group/week)
  4. A course on Advanced Thermodynamics and Combustion Technology to first year ME (Mech.) students (3 hrs/week)

Furthermore, for the first three items (and probably also for the fourth), I basically have been asked to fill in for an associate professor who quit the college (he said “for better prospects” during our brief interaction), mid-term.

Jumping in after someone has taught half-way through (more or less exactly half-way through) a course is always difficult, and it has especially been difficult for me, for two–three reasons: (i) The management and the students expect you to continue at the same pace even if you have had no time to mentally prepare for a course in advance. Even in the private engineering colleges, people typically do get to know what course they will be teaching the next semester some two-three weeks in advance, and that’s the minimum time period for the teacher to get into the right mental frame. But, in an on-going semester, three weeks means about 1/4th of the entire semester’s portion. (ii) Since a course usually builds on the material covered earlier, students expect you to know the answers, and, in the live class, while you do have a vague feel, since you haven’t had a chance to review the contextual material, you either make mistakes or at best end up only hand-waving. (iii) I haven’t taught thermodynamics before. In my last job, I had filled in someone else for this course during a re-org, but that my effort back then too was not fully satisfactory even to me, let alone to students. And, even back then, I hadn’t had a chance to review all the material well. The quick mental recall of formulae and all (so prized by students in any country, and also by professors when it comes to India) isn’t there. It takes time. Not years, not months, but at least a few weeks. Which you don’t get when you are asked to jump in. (Unless you have been one of those deadwood professors who have nothing in life except for “teaching” (i.e. not even innovative student projects let alone research, but just “teaching” by the heart, and only for learning by mugging up)—the category so highly prized by the Indian education system.)

From my last job, I know that if I am going to teach a course for the first time in my life, I need about 3 hours of preparation per hour of the actual lecture delivery. That is, about 4 hours in all. By that reckoning, I am already doing: (4 X 11) + (2 X3) = 52 hours per week.

Even if I cut down on preparation, it would still be about (3 X 11) + (2 X 3) = 39 hours.

And then, there are administrative things like meetings (3 hours at the college level which I must attend because I am a “senior” professor and a PhD holder), 1 hour at the departmental level, and 1–2 hours for my faculty groups (I am a mentor to 4 junior faculty)). And, I haven’t counted in the time spent on grading in-semester examination papers for the three courses.

On top of that, many topics of both Operations Research and the ME course on Thermodynamics are completely new to me. (About 60% part, and about 30–35% part, respectively.)

Clearly, I am putting in way beyond the norm of 40 hrs/week. In fact, about 58–45 hours, it is, at the minimum. The calculation is right. Mid last week, I had to take an extra half tablet for angina, because I was getting up at 4:00 AM for teaching two consecutive classes of two different courses both of which were new to me.

I therefore don’t have any time left for blogging.

The situation is going to continue for quite some time. Mid-October for UG and Mid-November for PG is the time to which the current semesters respectively run.

On the other hand, the ME course on CFD (though compulsory for the ME (Heat Power) program) has not been given to me. “Orders from the top” is the only reason I have been made aware of, in this connection.

The faculty member who left (and thus created a vacant slot leading to my hiring) was an Associate Professor (yes, he too had a PhD; he was about 35 years old). Here as an Associate Professor, he was making the same amount of money which I was making at my previous job in Mumbai as a Professor (at my 50+ age). However, now, for filling in his shoes in the middle of the term, they offered me 15% less salary. This offer they accommodated by not adopting the UGC scale in my case. (That was because, they bluntly asserted, I wouldn’t be approved for a Professor’s position at the Savitribai Phule University of Pune because I don’t have the required experience. It also is conceivable that they thought that the empty shoes left behind might be too big for me to fill in.)

I was given a choice: accepting the UGC scale as an Associate Professor, or choose the same Rupee payment as a gross/lump-sum salary but with a Professor’s title. I chose the latter. Reason? so that at the time of any future University approvals for a Professor’s position, I would not have to explain a discontinuity in the title of the full Professorship.

Why did I do that? Accept this offer?

Two reasons: (i) This way, I had hoped, I would get to teach CFD right in Pune. Teaching CFD would be in line with my research interests, and being in Pune would be convenient to both me and my father. (ii) I knew that professors of the Savitribai Phule University of Pune (and also their “management”s) are quite well organized a lot. With the “shikshaNa shulka samitee” i.e. the professional body deciding the fees for the private engineering colleges choosing be its members, almost each private engineering college knows everything that goes on in the other private engineering college. I therefore was sure that now that this offer was actually made by this college, not a single other college would ever make any better offer to me. As it turned out, no one made any other offer at all—better, or worse. (The Executive Director of the Trust of a better reputed college in Pune happens to be a past student of a friend of mine, and the former still respectfully returns every call the latter makes to him. I had approached the Director through this friend of mine. While my friend was honestly hopeful that I will get a good opportunity there, even though this friend is a man of the world, I still thought nothing of the kind is going to happen, once I received this offer. Turns out that I knew better. (Yes, sometimes it is a hassle in life to even know better!)

So, I accepted it. This offer.

(Dear CapMag.com and Objectivist sites, yes, the period spanning the last week of August and the first week of September is coming to an end; so kindly run a few articles highlighting the employer’s rights. You too, dear Hoover. Very, very capitalistic and/or Republicans, it would be. As to the Democrats: raise the questions as to why a woman candidate was not given a chance in my place.)

Anyway, while the payment issue can be kept as an aside (in private colleges, they do have the flexibility to offset such issues later on (I told you I know better)) what bothers me is this part: Going by the absence of any comments on the interviewers’ part during the interview, I assumed that they would give me only two courses. But they still passed on three courses to me.

Similarly, I also truly believed that I would get to teach CFD. (Unlike Mumbai university, in Pune, final year BE students don’t get to learn FEM.) But here they instead gave me Advanced Thermodynamics and Combustion Technology. The combustion technology is the latter is the part I’ve never studied, though I know its importance through my six months’ stint in Thermax (and which experience the UGC and the Savitribai Phule University of Pune anyway don’t formally count in, because I have lost the experience certificate for that job). The topic is simple, but remember the Indian requirement: being able to rattle off an answer on the fly and instantaneously—whether accompanied by understanding or not.

Similarly, I also truly believed that I would get ME students to guide. But I didn’t get any. On this count, their reasoning seems right: there are only 4–5 students in two ME programs put together.

I also truly believed that when a couple of distinction class final year undergraduate students came to me, and were enthusiastic about doing a CFD project under me, the required project group reshuffling would be possible. (Their entire group of four soon became eager to join me.) However, the students’ request was declined out of the apprehension that it would lead to “system collapse”: every one would want to work with someone else, it was feared.

BTW, this was the same idea which I have been having from 2010 or so. In 2013, I was going to use it for an ME level project at YTIET Karjat, and so had submitted the abstracts for two papers in an international conference in July 2013. Both abstracts were accepted and the full-length papers were in preparation. I had to soon later (in August 2013) withdraw the papers’ proposal because I had in the meanwhile lost that job. As to the current job: Despite two months, not a single student had yet submitted a single project proposal. So, it wouldn’t have been the case of my jumping in, in the middle of an on-going project. The project would have started from the scratch anyway. But then, the apprehension that the system would collapse could faithfully be applied in this case, but not in the case of asking me teach subjects that are new to me, in the middle of a semester, after half the portion had already been covered by someone else.

So, you can see that things don’t always go the way I truly believe they would. I, too, don’t always know better!

(Even though, almost predictably, students supposedly have already begun giving a good feed-back about my teaching, in comparative terms, that is. When a professor remarked this part in an informal chat, I actually was blank: emotionally, as well as cognitively. I was too worried about ending that chat in a polite way as soon as possible, so that I could continue taking out notes for my upcoming class.)

Anyway, that’s how I don’t have any time in hand for blogging.

Further, until III week of September, all our weekly offs have been suspended (compensatory offs will be given later) because of some definitely valid reason (accreditation-related documentation work). That’s yet another reason… (To my mind, the only valid reason by which an extra load can be justified. But then, as I said, it comes on the top of the above mentioned 58–45 hours/week, and so, I really can’t care for the justifiability of this further additional component.)


An idea for a brief paper:

The silver lining is this. I (after two weeks) have (barely) begun somewhat enjoying teaching Operations Research (OR). It’s not exactly my field, but at the BE level, the subject seems to be such that even as the models are somewhat simpler to deal with, they also have enough potency by way of supplying some food for thought. Possibly, also some new research paper ideas.

For instance, while commuting by bus (it’s a 25 kms one-way commute for me; 1 hour to, and 1.5 hour fro due to the heavy evening traffic) I stumbled on an idea related to the topic of Queuing Theory—an OR topic which I am currently teaching. I had never studied (or even run into) this topic before, and so, while it added to my harder work, I still have managed to find this topic to be a bit of a fun.

And, I could still stumble on an idea of building some toy computer models about it. … It’s just that I am weak in mathematics and so, I have to study harder. Which means, I have to work on this idea later, after this semester gets over. 

… In the meanwhile, if you can’t suppress your curiosity, here is the idea: Hopefully, you know that the normal distribution is a limiting case of the binomial distribution. Hopefully, you therefore know that Galton’s board can provide a neat toy model to introduce the normal distribution. Hopefully, you also know that the Poisson distribution is sort of derived from the binomial distribution.

The idea is to build a similar sort of a suitable toy model (either physical or, better still, in software) for the Poisson distribution. And, to prove the convergence from that toy model to the Poisson distribution.

So, in short, the idea we are looking for is this:

Galton’s Board : Normal distribution ::  ? : Poisson distribution.

And, to supply a neat (fairly rigorous) mathematical proof.

I tried to find such a model via 3–4 quick Google searches, but failed to find any. There are any number of texts and papers connecting networks and the Poisson distribution. But what they always discuss is the use of Poisson statistics in network models—but not a finite network/graph/similar model leading to the Poisson distribution (in appropriate limits). The “Galton board” is missing when it comes to the Poisson distribution, to speak loosely.

Spoiler Alert: Here’s a hint—a very loud hint IMO. So, skip the next line appearing in the very fine print if you want to work on it yourself. (Further, the topic also is out of the syllabus of the Savitribai Phule University of Pune, and of every university syllabus that I came across during my searches on this topic—that’s why I believe this can be a good topic for a brief research paper):

The detection times of photons, and the arrival times of taxi-cabs at an arbitrary square in a city.

No, the hint may not be sufficient to you. But then, I do intend to write a paper on this topic, or at least: search better, using Scopus and other indexing services, during my next visit to IIT Bombay, and then, if the suitable paper has not yet been written, to write it.


Am too busy to be in the right frame of the mind even to just listen to music, so let me skip the usual “A Song I Like” section….


 

The noise pollution and the government-running people’s explicit, loud and strong support thereof:

However, of course, with the upcoming “GaNapati” festival and all, you know that I will have to listen to at least 10 hours of very loud “music” every day, in blatant and rampant violation of my relevant rights as an Indian citizen.

What you might not know is that both the parties in the ruling coalition in Maharashtra, viz., the BJP (the state education minister Mr. Vinod Tawade) and Shiv Sena (the party chief Mr. Uddhav Thaakare) have openly and strongly declared that if festivals (“utsav” was the term they both used) cannot be celebrated by “getting on the road,” what’s the point?

Yes, that is the point they had, concerning this issue. These are the people who are running this government. (And, government, you know, associates to “gun.”)

Another point you would not know is that every year, about 2–3 police officers on the “bandobast” duty in Pune (alone), and also about 2–3 senior citizens in Pune (alone), die because of the noise pollution (alone). Yes, police constables and even officers have suffered cardiac arrest and collapsed on the spot, after 20 hours of continuous policing in front of the loud-speakers walls that are erected in violation of the Supreme Court of the land.

There is no Kasab involved here, and I am certain that the honorable politicians must be looking at some … greater… social cultural… good, …. what do you say?

The solution usually discussed is, what else, “yoga.” (Which word is pronounced (by the proposers) as “yogaa”).) “Yoga” classes for the police, to combat their job-related stress. And also for the rest of us.

The Times of India, the Indian Express, the Marathi-language newspapers, and the TV media in general, have not isolated this above-mentioned bit. They do report such news, but only in a piecemeal manner, i.e. as the death events separately occur over some 12.75 day festival—i.e. the 11 days from the Chaturthee to Chaturdashi, both inclusive, and an additional day or two days for the final day “festivities” that, because it’s “utsav,” must run into the “pitru pandharwaDaa”—after it involves sending off the “baapaa” doesn’t it?.

Thus the media people tend to report the “incidents” as un-correlated occurrences.

(Marathi) “gaalboT” is the most they (and the politicians) are ever willing to ascribe to such incidents—incidents in which people die out of noise pollution. [“gaalboT” is the black mark mothers apply on the cheek of their infants. The idea is that the presence of a black mark distorts the beauty of the infant, and thus, by pre-satisfying an evil onlooker’s desire to destroy the beauty, it preempts the evil’s power, and so, the child remains safe. Yes, the “susanskruit” puNeri applies the term to incidents of deaths by noise pollution—after all, it’s a Hindu festival and not a Quranic prayer coming on a loudspeaker from a mosque, right? So, it has to be just a “gaalboT.”

As to me, loudspeakers should be banned for not only “gaNapati” “music,” but also the mosque prayers, the “jai bhim”/“aNNasaaheb saaThe” “festivities”, the loud crackers cracked in the middle of the night for a random marwaari/Punjabi marriage, and every other “religiosity” or “festivity” of every kind. Men may observe their religious rituals or practices, but only without affecting others’ objective rights. Sound is not a laser light; it travels also to unintended locations, and with these loud speaker walls, it travels well over half a kilometer radius to acutely disturbing levels.

But coming back to the “puNeri” culture in particular, none has bothered to study or even think of the loss of time and the non-fatal health injuries, so such things don’t at all get reported.

However, to be fair, the media have, at times, shown the due sensitivity to run news articles about the ill-effects that the loud crackers have on pets such as dogs. Such articles usually make it to the print at the time of “Diwaali,” near the end of that season: both the “Ganapati” and “Navaratri” festivals are, by then, fully over, of course. Also the “laxmi pujan.” (Each festival has, by then, been covered highlighting the due presence of foreigners, especially the white-skinned ones. Apparently, these white people come to India at the time of the Pandharpur “waari” and then they stay put until “Diwaali”. And then, almost as if on a cue, these visiting whites suddenly disappear as the Christmas approaches. At Christmas proper, only the white people working in the Pune IT industry (“expats”) get coverage, apart from the Indian-born native Christians. But not those aforementioned visiting white. At least not in Pune. … I suspect that it’s then time to shift the focus towards the Goa beaches…. But I digress…

And, I also write too long posts…

OK, some time later (after a month or so).

[If I at all find time, I may streamline a few places in this post, but I can tell you that it won’t be more than a 10 minutes’ editing. So, this post isn’t going to change a lot from its present shape. Take it or leave it. But no, I really won’t be able to come back to write blog posts on the topics such as what I mentioned the last time or so. So, bye for now, and for quite a few weeks.]

[E&OE]

 

My loud thinking concerning the recent questions about Narendra Modi

Recently, I felt like writing a response to the following questions [^] as soon as I read them:

“What is Narendra Modi? A visionary and a statesman? Or a demagogue and master orator who can tailor a speech to his audience?

And there is another question too. One that I believe is even more important. What do Modi’s supporters really want? Development or Hindutva?”

The answer I wrote on the fly [and as usual, at a great length] appears below, but, first, an important note: I am just copy-pasting my answer. It certainly needs to be edited, but in the meanwhile, there was a kind of medical emergency at home and so, I will do the editing/expansion later. [My mother had to be hospitalized soon later, on Feb 11th; she still is in hospital—and, BTW, this is a reference which I am going to remove in the subsequent editing.]

As far as editing goes, in particular: the form of the answer needs to be changed from a personal reply to an independent blog-post in general; certain points need to be put in a slightly better context; and, as usual, some words need some qualifications or need to be changed; etc. Also check out on the “Applying philosophy…” blog my subsequent elaborations: [^] and [^].

Also, to keep the perspective/context (which often is lost days, weeks, months or, more understandably, years later, and which often is deliberately dropped as a part of the “follow up”), make sure to also check out the recent flurry of media articles/opinion pieces (some of which appeared just days after the above-referred discussion in the blogosphere), e.g.: Chetan Bhagat and Swapan Dasgupta’s pieces in the last Sunday’s Times of India, Tavleen Singh’s piece in the last Sunday’s Indian Express, and most recently, the blog-post by Pritish Nandy at Times of India.

[Links to all to be added.]

Anyway, here is the answer I had written on the fly:

* * *

He is not a statesman, that’s for sure.

We have had mixed economy for such a long time that it would be next to impossible for any one of his or younger generation to rise to that level. The cultural trends have been mostly taking a downturn for such a long time that, these days, all politicians are all driven by the compulsions of democracy—the actual, *systemic*, compulsions imposed by the rule of the mob, within a constitutional framework that contains too many contradictions and so succeeds in giving only a semblance of cohesion or integration to the polity. For instance, the constitution prohibits changing parties, thereby inducing the herd effect to a greater extent. Gone are the days of being true to “conscience.” In fact, conscience is a word which one would run into at least once a week some three decades ago, but doesn’t find mentioned anywhere for months together, these days.

Still, about the cultural downturns, I said “mostly.” That’s observation-based, not an expression of a general pessimism.

The only noticeable cultural *up*swings have been those in the wake of the *political* liberalization in the early 90s (which itself was driven by the *economic* compulsions and the better, liberalizing, terms set by the somewhat better, i.e. the Western, elements in the World Bank, when we had gone bankrupt due to our socialistic political pursuits). Though liberalization was a political process, in reducing shackles and exposing India to the (whatever remaining) better elements in the West, it also allowed betterment in *culture*.

However, these accompanying *cultural* upswings have been countered by the other cultural *down*swings, in particular, those of the religious kind.

BTW, I don’t think we have had a *cultural* downswing of the communist/socialist kind since the 1970s. All the recent downswings in India have been of the religious kind. Sonia Gandhi’s NAC-inspired socialistic programs, or, to a lesser extent, Vajpayee’s populist programs, have been downswings on the economic side, not cultural. For that matter, even when the left was a part of the power at the Center in UPA1, they were completely ineffective in promoting the leftist trend in the *culture*. Bollywood continued with the pelvic thrusts, and even artsy “socially conscious” cinema chose themes like Peepli Live, Shwaas and Deool, rather than a glorification of egalitarianism, of redistributing poverty.

So, the main thing to worry in today’s India, as far as *cultural* degradation is concerned, is: religion, not socialism. Notice the lack of any enthusiastic coverage in the urban, well-educated, middle classes about the movie: Deool. Its theme contains too many undercurrents uncomfortable to the religious mystics of the modern Indian variety.

Incidentally, despite India being a mystic country for such a long time, the execution model they (the religionists) have tried to follow in recent times is not indigeneous in origin; it’s a recent import from America. The recent Indian model is based on the upswing of religion in America, which itself is a rather recent phenomenon (gaining ground after 1970s, and consolidating during the Reagen years).

Thus, Jansangh, for instance, would never have put up a rippling-muscles, six-pack abs kind of a portrayal of Shri Ram on those wide-view flex boards in the cities; it would take the BJP to do that. The traditional Indian portrayal, in fine arts, sculputre and literature, of this God, even if he was a “kshatriya”-born, is that of a middle-aged deity with a somewhat roundish body and carrying a vague, almost nurturing kind of a smile, with the deity situated in a rich, opulent, but peaceful settings, together with family—not that of an angry, young warrior, taking aim with a tautly stretched bow-and-arrow, with his clothes flying in the strong winds as he stands alone on a treeless strech of brownish land, with anger uncontrollably shooting out of eyes. (With all that evident anger, it would be difficult to hold aim to the target, one wonders.) The traditional Indian portrayal of this deity—qua deity—has been different, the history of there actually having been a major war notwithstanding.

The elder Indian even today sometimes does an involuntary double-take at the spectacle of “teertha” (holy water) being sprayed onto those wildly dancing, hysteric masses from a high platform as in the rock concerts, using water-pumps and hose-pipes to spray the “teertha”. To the earlier generation of the religious Indian, “teertha” is always taken in a small quantity using the right hand. A small bamboo “pichkaari” is acceptable at the time of Holi, but it’s not a religious event. Using a *hose-pipe* and a *pump*, for *spraying* “teerth” is too much.

Before these trends spread elsewhere in India, they had begun in those massive religious gatherings in Gujarat, during the times of Modi’s rise to, and assumption of, the political power.

One reason the elderly Indian winces at such sights is: an Indian, true to his color, would in principle be averse to any grand-scale show on the material side. Especially so, when it comes to the matters related to religion. The Indian tendency, particular in the spiritual matters, is to turn the gaze inwards, not outwards. The Indian is not averse to the bodily power; but in his view, either the bodily power is to be subjugated to the spiritual wisdom, which is all outwordly, or the entire matter is superfluous to him simply because it pertains to this world. There is a reason why the “gopur”s of our temples may be grand on both artistic and spatial scales, but the “garbha-griha” is spatially so small as to hardly admit only a few people at a time. When it comes to temples, the idea of a vast space or a large auditorium accomodating a large gathering, with a high pulpit for the priest, is specific to the Abrahamic religions, not to the Indian ones. Clearly, “event management” of *this* kind is a recent import. (We have always had massive religious gatherings, e.g. Kumbh Mela or Wari, but these have been more noticeable for their messyness, randomness, than for masses being coralled together and aroused to a common passion by an organized priesthood. The Indian religious philosophy is far too outworldly to ever care for any organization or purpose in this world, especially that on a large scale. Our temples may have large spaces surrounding the main building (“aawaar”), but these spaces noticeably lack the pulpits to address the assemby—in fact, there never is an assembly, only a random and overcrowded collection of people.)

We have only recently imported the more effective, large-scale, techniques of management of mobs on the basis of religion as a uniting force.

Modi’s management style seems to reflect his times; it seems to be a mix of an upbringing in the traditional organization mold of the old RSS (itself based on an awkward mixture of the European fascists of the early 20th century for the most part and some Scouts-like activities thrown in for good measure), *and* these modern techniques of religion-based political management imported from America.

In short, there have been cultural betterment in certain areas. For example, today, we can openly advocate capitalism in India, without any fear of ridicule, which was not possible as late as when I was in my 20s, i.e. in 1980s.

However, overall, the net cultural change has been to go on to the down side.

Since, as you observed, culture (in the broad sense of the term) does drive politics, the culture of politics also has been going down. (I never thought it stinks to the extent you and many others do.) It’s in the recent atmosphere that it’s difficult to produce statesmen. Try to think of a successor to Jamshedji Tata, in today’s world. Or even to JRD, for that matter. Politics is hardly different. You don’t expect a Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan or even a Shankar Dayal Sharma, in today’s world; the alternative to Pratibha Patil was Bhairo Singh Shekhawat. Even if IMO politics does not stink to the extent you seem to think it does, it is very obvious that we can no longer expect statesmen to rise in today’s India.

So, the smart spin of Modi’s internationally outsourced image consultants aside, he simply can’t be a statesman. The very suggestion is ludicrous, and a direct product of his spin-doctors. (He is not alone in employing/benefitting from spin-doctors; his anticipated 2014 opponent, Rahul Gandhi, supplies an easy example.)

Is Modi a visionary? Ok. Can you use that word to describe a fascist? To clarify this issue, let’s take a more extreme example of a fascist: Can you use that word for Mussolini? If yes, then, sure, Modi is a visionary. He has the “vision” of unleashing the Hindu religious kind of irrationality, on India (and if possible, elsewhere, too), and to preside over the accompanying political power in an executive capacity. That’s his “vision.” (He might succeed in “achieving” it—simply because Rahul Gandhi is what he is.)

Is Modi a demogogue? In view of his political success in Gujarat, he must be. But then, of course, there are so many demogogues, even within his own party. Rajnath Singh, for instance. An array of them could be witnessed during the recent FDI issue. That hardly makes him special.

Is he a master orator? I don’t think so. I haven’t seen the video you refer to, but from whatever his earlier speeches I have seen, they seem to indicate skills lesser than those of a master orator. A master orator is different. Balasaheb Thakarey? Yes. Narendra Modi? Not really. Of course, he does have that ability to deliver effective speeches, often with a lot of punches. But then all politicians routinely do that. When you say a master orator, the person has to go beyond that level. I would certainly put Lalu Prasad Yadav ahead of Narendra Modi in that department. This is not humour; I mean it. When it comes to superior oratorial skills, just the way Vajpayee is (rather was) a master orator, so is Yadav.

Rather than pieces of superior oratory, Modi’s speeches seem to be like *events* that are quietly and masterfully coordinated in the background. The actual speech seems like just the tip of the icebert. The silent coordination is palpable. Right from creating the atmosphere for an upcoming speech, including coordination in the media (not just locally, not just in the neighbourhood or with the people in the city, but specifically within media), to the necessary followup capitalization on what(ever) he said.

The only way to explain the extraordinary effectiveness of this not-so-extraordinary personality is to make reference to the quiet work done for him by those “swayamsevaks.” Take away the aura they impart him, and then, judging him for himself, Modi comes across a far more ordinary personality—not just in speeches but also in every respect. There are times when I wonder if he could be described as a pigmy. He is said to divide all people into two camps, and evoke extreme passions of either admiration or loathing in them. The description is accurate except for the starting word: you have to replace “he” the person by “he” the image—nay, the rather seamless sort of an enormous collage—built up by all those collectivist “swayamsevaks.”

As to demoguery, I think more than being just a demogogue, he is a shrewd “organization man,” capable of slowly but surely advancing over his competition, especially internally. Here, I think a definite credit is certainly due to him. Not just in a value-neutral sense. I think he has put in very honest and very hard efforts in rising through his organization. To a certain extent, esp. for politicians, personal honesty *is* compatible with a contradictory or irrational political agenda.

He is not a typical BJP leader. Nope. He is more pure-minded on their agenda, more hard-working on that agenda, than any others from his party. Compare him with your ordinary, compromising sort of a guy like, say, Ram Naik, Nitin Gadkari, or even Rajnath Singh. When it comes to the BJP agenda, Modi would be more ruthless compared to any other BJP leader. Not because he lacks emotions, or controls them better, or manages to suppress them. Not even because he wants to be ruthless with people—in fact, quite the opposite is very likely, from whatever I can gather from his coverage on TV in general (never saw him in person at a close distance). It is easily possible that he is responsive and sensitive.

Still, he will end up being more ruthless simply because he would be morally more unshakeably convinced about the moral worth of the BJP agenda.

I think that it is possible to imagine Modi’s developing inner doubts privately, when it comes to his assessments of his own abilities, his own capacity to lead and to rule. He certainly does seem to be both sensitive and intelligent enough to be able to develop such doubts, at least some times. But what he seems entirely incapable of doing is: ever challenging the moral worth (to him: the moral *superiority*, nay, *infallibility*) of the *moral* agenda of his organization, of his party. It’s this greater—moral—conviction which would make him more ruthless. And it is this emphasis on the moral agenda rather than a political agenda which permits him enough flexibility to be a chamelion on many political issues or to even strike some compromises—the reason why so many Muslims do in fact support him. They too are religious, like him, but too short range, unlike him.

It’s Modi’s moral convictions that set him apart from the others in his party. It’s not any particularly superior personal set of qualities, except for being a better organization-man among them. Honest hard work, a lot of them do. Shrewd, a lot of them are. May be, he is slightly more shrewd, that’s all—though I honestly doubt that. From all that you can gather about him, he is very shrewd, but he could even be more sincere than shrewd. So, the real difference setting him apart from his colleagues is his willingness to go all the way down along the path of their shared morality. And the real reason why he can make that contradictory morality work, is: using his superior skills as the organization-man. The burden of the contradictions is calculated to fall on those outside the organization, the enemy camp (whoever they may be), and, since a contradiction nevertheless has a way to also run in the opposite direction, i.e. internally, the burden then has to fall on to those who have lesser skills to make the organization work for them. (One reason for this last also is the lesser strength of the same morals. There does seem to be a feedback loop here.) And so, when it comes to his individual assessment, the actual reason can only be ascribed to the depth to which he carries his (wrong) moral convictions.

Finally, coming to his supporters. In wondering about what *Modi*’s supporters want, if you are at all going to set up an *alternative,* esp. an alternative between Hindutva and “development” (whatever that means)—or, for that matter, between Hindutva and anything else—then, I would say, you are politically so naive, so very naive, that I have a suggestion for you: consider abstaining from voting regardless of where you are (i.e. even in places/elections where the BJP is weak/absent), for, when it comes to politics, you obviously cannot be trusted to choose wisely. :-) [This last was just a joke, BTW.]

Too long, in fact longer than usual. Hope you tolerate. (It was just a writing on the fly.) Guess one of these days I should write a slightly better organized piece on Modi, at my own blog. I wanted to do one well before the heat of the campaign begins, and right now might as well be a good time to do that. So, unlike my comments on spirituality and all, this time round, this comment might actually move very quickly to my blog. Though, guess I will let it begin its course here.

[E&OE]

An Important Comment I Just Made at iMechanica—And, (Much) More!

0. The title says it all!

Go, check out this comment I just made at iMechanica: [^].

1. Now, on to the “more” part of the title. Noted below are a few more things about my research.

2. My Researches on QM:

2.1 Since the publication of my QM-related results, I have moved on considerably further. As mentioned earlier on this blog, I have since then realized that my approach—the way I thought about it, as in contrast to what I (happened to have) published—always could handle the vector field equations of electromagnetism, including those for light. That is, including the angular momentum part of the EM fields. (Paddy, Suku, are you listening?) … However, I decided against publishing something in more detail to cover this aspect. A good decision, now it seems in retrospect.

(Yes, Jayant, you may now try your best to prod me towards publishing, including emphasizing how unpublished research is non-existent research. Just try it! Any which way you wish. … Precisely just the way I don’t give a damn to wannabe physicists turning JPBTIs turning entrepreneurs, I also don’t give a damn to the Statism-entrenching advices coming off the Statism-entrenching scientists, esp so if they also are the State-revered ones. So, just try it!! Also others, like, say, Sunil!!!)

2.2 I had also resolved the entanglement issue, and have chosen not to publish about it. As I stated earlier here [^], Louisa Guilder reports that Bell’s inequality paper has garnered the highest number of citations in physics literature so far, an astounding 2,500. The paper # 2,501 (or greater, as of today) must have concluded that the entanglement issue cannot be resolved—possibly out of the position/conviction that there was nothing to be resolved.

So, basically, I have resolved what an enormous number of misguided (and, possibly outright stupid) people could cite but not resolve.

Aside: Of the hundreds of papers on this topic I have come across, I know of Dr. Joy Christian’s position to be most reasonable—and in my knowledge, only his. Now, there are some minor differences between what he says and what I have always known and never published. But these differences are, in a sense, minor. The important part—and aren’t we concerned only with the important things here?—is that I knew about it, and have deliberately chosen not to publish about it. (If holding this position makes it possible to tick me off via certain lists such those maintained by a John Baez or a Scott Aaronson, I couldn’t care less about it—and both (and all) of them, I suppose, should know/could get to know, how (I care so less about those lists).)

BTW, as a matter of progression in time, I had thought that the issue would have to be first resolved in the context of photons, not of electrons. I am not very sure about it, though. In any case, that was the sequence in which I did it. First, photons; then, electrons.

Go, try your best to prod me towards publishing something on it! Just try it!! … BTW, my resolution had happened years before I had publicly offered an Indian PhD physicist on a “LinkedIn” group that I could explain my results if she (or anyone else) could meet me in person at Pune. This public offer of mine has just ended, right now!…. So, go ahead! Just try it!!!

3. My Researches on Other Topics

3.1 I have had some definite ideas for research on other topics from computational science and engineering and allied fields (including a numerics). I have kept these aside for the time being, because many of these are well-suited for guiding PhDs. Which brings me to the last couple of points for today (or at least, as of now, in the first version of this post).

3.2 As to student projects, I have decided not to accept anyone unless he is remarkably bright, and hard-working. (For those who seek to do truly independent PhD research, I cannot make myself available as a guide, as of now. Also see the point 3.3 below.) Roughly speaking, this means that rough level as would be understood by one or more of the following: GRE (V+Q) scores of at least 1350; GATE score of 95+P; throughout distinction class (or in at least 5 semesters out of 8) in BE of University of Pune (or equivalent).

3.3 The University of Pune has a stupid requirement for becoming a PhD guide: you (i.e. a fresh PhD graduate) must wait for at least 3 years after his own (successful) defense before he can become a PhD guide himself. The three years, in my case, end on September 20, 2012. (They—the Indian government(s)—probably arranged the date to numerically coincide with the date on which I first entered USA: 2nd September, 1990. Yes, the same government that whispered the UK government to give Rahul Gandhi’s brother-in-law all security clearance at UK airports, on par with the President and Prime Minister of India.)

Recently, someone reminded me a further requirement that I had forgotten. You also need to have two publications in those three years, before you can become a guide. Since I have mentioned the Gandhi’s and the defence-date here, I am sure that they would now interpret the sufficiently vague rules to imply that those two must be journal articles—peer-reviewed conference proceedings won’t do.

I, therefore, have decided to try to publish two journal articles in the near future of a few months. (Hey Elsevier, take notice!)

At least one, and probably both of these two articles would be on CFD.

Those of you who know me, would know that once I get going, I get going. I don’t disappoint (these of) you, not this time around at least: I have already installed Ubuntu 11.10 (natty) inside Oracle’s VirtualBox running on top of Windows (32 bit XP and 64-bit 7), and have already installed OpenFOAM v. 2.0.1 in that Ubuntu (32-bit, as of now). I also have installed other software. I have shortlisted the niche problems I could work on. I have contacted a couple of IIT Bombay professors, not for collaboration, but merely for sounding out. I knew that being employed by the IIT Bombay, there would be no collaboration, though a collaboration could have been perfectly OK by me. I also knew that once I wrote an email to them, it would get trapped (as all my emails are), and then, even the sounding things out over a 30 minute session would soon become impossible. And, that the impossibility would never be communicated explicitly via any means, esp. via an email. This  supposition of mine has indeed come to pass. (Congratulate me for being a good judge of the IIT Bombay, of the Indian government(s)—all of them, today’s and those of the past under the BJP regime as well, of Indians, and of humanity in general.) I knew all that, right in advance, and had prepared myself mentally for it. And, thought of plans B and C as well. I am executing on these.

And, no, I couldn’t care a hoot for how many freaking citations those two journal papers generate. As far as I am concerned, these two papers would allow me to fulfill the stupid requirements whereby I can become a PhD guide. And whereby, a slim chance does exist that I might get some good guy (gals included) for PhD supervision. (Chances are, it could be someone I already knew as a friend—numerically speaking, most of my friends are without PhDs.)

So, there. For the next few months, that’s the sort of research I am going to do—in my spare time, of course. Hey Elsevier, take notice (once again!!). As to others: If you consider yourself my friend, help me publish it in an easy and timely manner, ASAP.

That’s all for today. For this first version, anyway. As always, I might come back and correct or add a few things. …. Might as well add a few political comments right here.

4. A Few Comments on Politics and All:

Just noting down a few comments on politics (i.e. that politics which is “larger” than the one in S&T fields) in passing (and I will take liberties to pass comments on people without alerting them):

To ObjectivistMantra and Others:

Tavleen Singh’s article on the slap to Mr. Pawar was the best. However, it fell short on the count of completeness. On this count of completeness, she does far, far better (actually excellent) with her next article in the Indian Express’ Fifth Column. Why I say she fell short. In an entrenched mixed economy such as ours (i.e. India’s as in the past and as of today, and of USA’s in near future), the whole system has already become so statist, so mangling of individual rights, that it is impossible to systematically assign blame on any one systemic part of it. In my twenties and early thirty’s (i.e. 15–25 years ago), having known this, I used to argue that it would be impossible for the Indian army (i.e. defence services in general) or the Indian courts to be singled out as being clean. Time proved me right. Indeed, it’s at least since my X standard (i.e. for ~35 years now) that I have argued that you can’t blame politicians—indeed that far too many politicians, from the village through the national level enjoyed much more of esteem in my opinion than what salaried class (say, my “Brahmin” friends) would allow them. Sometime while I was in SF Bay Area, I further realized that the trend to say: “It’s all polltishuns; common people and businessmen are clean” had originated not in India, but in the middle-east and Pakistan etc., and that our Punjabi’s, Gujarathi’s etc. settled in the USA and UK (e.g. Kanwal Rehi, Vinod Khosla and their friends there and here) had been simply rubbing the characterization (actually applicable in the middle-east and Pakistan etc.), expectedly witlessly, on to India’s scene. Since Shobha Dey makes many frequent visits to Dubai, she was expected to have picked it up, too. And, she has shown over the years  that she has. Her latest column springs from that faulty position as regards India. Tavleen Singh is better. (That’s one basic reason why a link to her columns features in the my blogroll here.) Singh did stop short of stretching on that line. However, she did get overwhelmed by the dominant presence of that erroneous idea in our present culture. That’s why, she couldn’t think of a single example on the following lines: Taking a symmetrical case, should I be allowed to put a slap on the face of a Kanwal Rekhi or a Vinod Khosla, for not giving me a job in SF Bay Area in late 2000/early 2001, so that my green-card processing could have been completed? Should I be permitted—morally, even if not legally—to land a (Marathi) “saNsaNit thappaD” (nearest English: a resounding slap) on the face of a Ratan Tata, not just for never giving a job in his company (in Ratan’s case, Tatas) but even allowing my harassment (e.g. as stated on a LinkedIn thread re. VSNL/Tata Indicom Broadband)? Would it be morally justifiable? Why, Ms Tavleen, speak of the emotions of common man but refuse to discuss the issue on more clearly and more on specifically moral terms? So, you see, even if Ms. Singh is far better—and here I thankfully recall all her wonderful articles in the recent past, esp. the courage she has shown in taking on the urban twittering “middle” classes in the “Gandhian” Anna Hazaare “movement”—it is obvious that she overlooked something. Mind you, it’s just plain omission (and as far as I am concerned, it seems to be a very honest one). But still, an error is an error. On omission is an omission. Since I enjoy and admire her columns as much as you do, I hope that she addresses the moral aspects of the emotional issues rather than emotions. In any case, what she wrote was otherwise far better, far superior to what I could have written. This is exactly like Swapan Dasgupta’s recent article. Except for that one error, the rest of the article is excellent! But, hey, you don’t design or manufacture 99 components of an engine well, and leave 1 component out of either good design process or actual testing. As to Ms. Dey, I think I am going to stop reading her now. Some time ago, she was wondering when certain people had kissed last, in the context of—and who else: Indian “poltishun”s. (In case someone finds it intriguing, realize that she is a daughter of an Indian central bureucrat, and as far as I can make it out, has had no explicit rational philosophy to guide her writings, though she is a lady of enormous culture and composure in her own right too. Oh well, even explicit rational ideas do make a difference—think what a whole rational philosophy can do!)

I think I will stop here, and add possibly add other points via other blog posts. For the time being, as far as politics goes, I am enjoying (“loving it”) watching the BJP more than anyone else in the opposition/government, as far as the issue of retail FDI goes.  However, I am not going to support Walmart for the simple reasons that (i) their country has unreasonably failed me in the PhD and unreasonably denied me green-card/citizenship, (ii) they are too big to need my support anyway, and (iii) supporting a big company against government—Microsoft, in the DoJ case—was one among many things that got me a heart condition, I know. (How do I know? Well, it’s the same guy who has known how to resolve the QM wave-particle duality in the context of light, and about angular momentum in EM, and then, a resolution of the riddles of quantum entanglement, as well as many other unpublished, even un-discussed topics.)

One final point, again going back towards research. For the past several years I could not fathom the reason why people might be so unenthusiastic about my approach—I mean, honest people (apart from all the dirty things and “political” issues I have mentioned/indicated above.) Well, it was while reading Sean Carroll’s blog at Discovery magazine that I happened to realize one important (technical) reason why this might be (or must be) so! Hmmm…. Nice to know. It’s always great to know. Though, I am not going to divulge here what that thing was—or how it not only doesn’t contradict my approach but rather helps me be even more confident about my approach (if I ever needed such help, in this context!) And, as you know, I am not going to discuss it or publish about it either. Try to get me to do otherwise. … Just try!
Ok. Enough is enough. As usual, to be edited/streamlined later—perhaps!

* * * * *   * * * * *   * * * * * 
A Song I Like:
[RIP, Dev Anand!]
(Hindi) “gaataa rahe, meraa dil…”
Music: S. D. Burman (perhaps with R.D. looking after the orchestra (??) if not also the tune. (I have read somewhere that he was involved in “Aaraadhanaa,” but have no such idea when it comes to “Guide”)
Singers: Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar
Lyrics: Shailendra

[E&OE]

That’s One Farmer-Suicide One Couldn’t Care Less About!

The farmer in question, you must have guessed, is none other than Anna Hazare.

This is one guy about who I had wanted to write for a long time. However, for some very good reasons, it kept on getting out of my mind. His latest fast-unto-death episode just served to remind me. … Not that I have a lot to write about him—his persona just doesn’t permit one. But still, here we go.

First of all, let’s recognize that you cannot escape considerations of moral and political philosophy in this issue. A fast-unto-death is a means of putting a moral pressure, which, in this case, is for achieving not just social objectives but also certain specifically political ones. Further, since it’s a fast-unto-death, the issue demands that we must bring to the issue as much ruthless kind of honesty as we can. That is the only way we can assure ourselves a clean conscience. In particular, a wooly sort of hope, a blind kind of optimism, simply won’t do. And, finally, since it is Hazare’s fast-unto-death, we must also look at his person, as an individual—including at least a sketchy kind of moral evaluation of him, against an objectively validated code of ethics. For convenience, let’s begin with the man, his background, work and convictions, and then to the objectives he explicitly seeks to accomplish through his current fast.

So, who is Anna Hazare? Since I come from the same region that he does (had early schooling in, and have relatives in, the rural parts of both Ahmednagar and Pune districts of Maharashtra state), and since he has been profiled so profusely in the media, one didn’t really have to dig up anything. Still, out of interest, I read up his biography at his (presumably official) Web site: [^]. This biography notably lacks any mention of his education—formal, or informal (as gained via reading of books in an extracurricular manner). Which, incidentally, is precisely what one would have expected. A guy who can bask in the glory of being described as a crusader doesn’t think it’s important for him to let us have any clue of any kind of conceptual thought his mind is capable of conducting, if any.

Per the biography, he joined Indian Army in 1963. Began some social work in his home-town, Ralegan Siddhi, in 1975. Retired from the Army after 15 years (which makes it in 1978). Devoted himself to full-time social work after retirement.

He showed some great initiative and did some really good social work initially, in his home town. The work included watershed development as well as multifaceted development of his village.

One began hearing about him a few years later, say around mid- or late-1980s. The reports usually were full of praise for him. Perhaps it was around this time that one derived the impression that he was given the Magsaysay award. A search at the official Magsaysay award site [^] fails to confirm that he did receive that award; however, Indian media seems intent on saying so; e.g., see this search [^].

In Pune, one heard a lot of stories: of how the village had been transformed; of how a once barren land had been transformed into greenery rivaling Mahabaleshwar; etc. etc. A casual drive through the area in late 1990s, and I failed to spot even outstandingly thick greenery let one rivaling that at Mahabaleshwar. (One then realized, a prominent guy among them was a BJP+RSS-wallah PuNeri Brahmin. These characters always rely on spinning stories—the primacy of consciousness is their basic premise—they actually believe that the same thought repeated enough times can actually bring about change in physical reality without recourse to anything else.)

OK, but that digression was about the BJP-RSS-wallahs. But as far as Hazare himself goes, so far, so good. No arguments about his good work in Ralegan Siddhi.

Another piece. As I said, I have many relatives and acquaintences in rural parts, and I now recall a talk years ago (perhaps in late 1980s/1993–94 times) with some of them. The topic was: How farmers can improve their lot. My position was that the farmers were perhaps not helping themselves enough. To buttress my argument, I gave the example of Anna Hazare’s work in Ralegan Siddhi.

In Ralegan Siddhi—one of them emphasized. “Has he been able to do similar work in any other village?” he continued. Turns out, Hazare has always been a one-village wonder. He has not been able to similarly transform even a single other village. For whatever reasons, he has not been able to. He has been offered help by IAS officers and all. Funds have been arranged. They do run workshops in Ralegan Siddhi, on watershed management. OK. But that integrated sort of transformation? “Nowhere else,” I was informed. And, then, I was asked: “What do you think? Don’t we want to better ourselves? Aren’t there enough people in our villages to replicate Ralegan Siddhi?” And, then, what then was a shocker (which, then, I didn’t believe in.) “Do you think Anna Hazare even bothers to go to other villages, if not to work then at least to inspire people? Do you know how arrogant he is?” There was no personal enmity between the people informing me of ground reality and Anna Hazare. No rhyme or reason for them to hold any. Why would they say the way they did? I could not figure out, and left the question at that.

It took a few years more, and I ran into people, even stranger, casually telling me (or discussing among themselves, in ST (bus) journeys and all) that Anna Hazare does not even like to discuss the issue of why his social experiment has not worked out in any other village. He gets angry. He begins calling people in the non-honorific (Marathi) “are ture” sort of way, once anyone raises the issue. He insults them as lazy bums who cannot do anything to help themselves. He can insult people, but won’t stop to face the fact that indeed that there is a failure of replication. Naturally, no analysis is even permissible: What might have led to the failure. And, no betterment: Having understood the reasons for failure, what can be done to overcome them and remedy the situation. None of that is possible. The way he behaves, people indicated, is to enjoy his senior status in his village, to bask in the media glory outside it, and to refuse to even consider the possibility that even very honest applications of his approach might encounter failures elsewhere—let alone suggest ideas to overcome them.

Ideas—outside of the media-adored Ralegan Siddhi experiment—seems to be anathema to this man. That was an inescapable (though a tentative or intermediate) conclusion I drew.

A few years passed by, and I was in the USA and all, and so had lost touch with the everyday sort of happenings taking place in India. But, after I returned in 2001, I heard that this guy (Hazare) had progressed far too ahead on that line. He had not been able to control the Ralegan Siddhi success go to his head. This accusation seemed to be true.

No longer were people questioning anything about his approach, I observed. Instead, people, notably those from the BJP and Shiv Sena, were egging him on to take ever bigger role, riding on his brand-name as a social crusader (much of which was anyway generated only via the media-hype), and many “middle-class” variety of social workers also were running after him. He had established a group/forum/NGO against corruption, and the clever BJP folks were using him to tactically gain political advantages against their enemies: the Indira Congress, but even more notably (given their predominance in the areas where he primarily operates): the NCP.

Ok. That’s so much about politics. But one thing was for certain. Given his combative style, his inability to introspect, his inability to reach out to his critics—and, what the heck, I will name it—his plain stupidity, he simply couldn’t be a Gandhian. (To call someone a Gandhian is not the greatest compliment in the world, IMO. But for all their flaws and inconsistencies, one still associates names like Yashwantrao Chavan, and many many other, small village freedom-fighters who need not be named, and why, even Sardar Patel and Morarji Desai, with the term “Gandhian.” One has heard the first in public meetings more than once, and read about the other two.) And, yet, his (implicit) media managers were now portraying him as a Gandhian. And, the retards that Indians are, none was raising even a suspicion. His wearing “khaadi” dress and Gandhi “Topi” was enough to make him a Gandhian. Undestandably so. If a usual Indira Congress moron could be a Gandhian, why not this guy. And, after all, how many “Gandhian” sort of people could BJP wouldn’t mind hooking into and magnifying (if you discount Vajpayee himself—who, for obvious reasons, couldn’t be portrayed as a Gandhian, of course!)

In short, Hazare had already become a useful pawn to political parties, and a fond avancular figure for the wooly-wishy sort of social workers (some of them retired IAS/IPS types too), by mid or late 1990s. That is, about a decade or more ago.

Ok. So, that’s the man we are talking about, here. Now, what are his convictions? And what does he bring to the table?

The first question is very easy to answer. As far as his convictions are concerned, whatever bunch he does carry around, they are not very consistent. Let alone sucsceptible to be any serious scrutiny (let alone a thorough, objective validation).

If you don’t believe me, consider these facts. Ok. Before that, let me state what is it that I do consider to be an objectively validated set of ideas. The prime part of the answer is: Ayn Rand’s philosophy—Objectivism. Politically, the answer is: the actual motivating spirit (and most of its articulation as well) which led to the creation of the American political system—the spirit of Enlightenment. Given the spectacular success of that original American political revolution, I do not think it is necessary to stress here that any individual or group who addresses the government in India, and asserts his moral authority to the extreme degree of fast-unto-death, must remain open to have his convictions examined against that golden standard: The original American political innovation, and the complete (and consistent) integration with philosophic fundamentals as found in Ayn Rand’s philosphy. Is such a process of judgment difficult to undertake? Not at all. Consider the following.

If Anna Hazare can hold India’s government to task, what is his position vis-a-vis Capitalism? Is he a Capitalist? Any answer? … Nope. Perhaps, he doesn’t even know the word. But since so many of his group-mates do, and since none of them has ever publicly spoken of any unreservedly good remark about Capitalism, we may take it that this guy Anna Hazare, when the chips are down, is likely to go/wither away from Capitalism. That’s his “conviction” no. 1. As always, the more fundamental an issue, the better judgment we can have. So let’s go to a bit deeper level.

Ok. So, consider this: What does Anna Hazare think about Individual Rights? Blank out. How about his having a crusade for restoring full property rights by amending the amendment forced on us by the semi-dictatorial Indira Gandhi? Blank out.

On the other hand, does he have the usual socialist sort of ideas? Hint: Don’t check with him—he is too stupid (I told you so!). Check with his associates (both in and out of the political “right” in India). They will tell you. If not, consider that in the last set of elections, BJP was equal to everyone else in promising Rs. x/kg of rice, wheat, “tur daal”, etc. etc. etc.

Hmmm. Now, how about his metaphysics and epistemology… Boy, are you insistent or what? I have already begun yawning here…. I think I will not entertain your request to enquire into these aspects of Anna Hazare’s set of convictions, explicit or implicit. Not at all necessary. What we observed above is enough to draw a rational conclusion.

Namely, that this guy has basically never bothered too much with ideas despite his burning ambition to do something at the national, constitutional etc. etc. levels. He is that stupid. And, he evidently, is easy to get misled (which is not surprising if he hasn’t bothered to have a firm and consistent set of convictions—consistent with reality, that is).

Now, I haven’t at all discussed anything about that supposedly people-friendly “Lokpal” bill, and its provisions. The point is: I simply don’t know enough about it, and am still in the process of reading and absorbing what say different political parties have about it. And, that, incidentally, leads to the conclusion of this post.

If someone like me—someone who at least browses through all the headlines and all the titles on the edit pages of at least 3/4/5 newspapers (both in a local langugage and in Englihs) on a daily basis, apart from browsing on the net—still doesn’t know enough about the Lokpal bill, obviously, the “civil society” (in the true sense of the term) hasn’t even begun discussing it. Newspaper editorials have barely begun doing so. (For a couple of good pieces, see today’s Indian Express, and a bit of half-hearted piece by DNA’s V. Rao, on the front-page.)

If, absent sufficient discussion in the “civil society,” this guy goes all the way out and jumps into a fast-unto-death, can we, applying any proper standards, consider it a major issue? A national issue? I mean, shouldn’t his action be taken as a rather open way of committing suicide? And, given the absence of any consistent and solid intellectual and moral positions, and given the absence of his jumping ahead to the last resort prior to the occurrence of any national debate, is there any reason why one should care about him?

There is only one point you may validly raise. And, it deals with “corruption.” Given the way my mind works, it is impossible for me to tear out of context anything like “corruption” and start beating the chest about it. Sure, corruption is bad. But if thinking of Hazare and, say, “crusade … to end … corruption” is at all permissible, then surely it also must be permissible to think of such issues as: the kind of the working morality whose realization a given kind of government facilitates; the proper nature of government, the principle of checks and balances, and the fine ways in which it has been realized or deterred in a given system of government; the role of constitution in shaping the life of a nation—including introducing artifical stresses and strains in the fabric of its life if not serving to tear it apart; the systemic reasons for corruption; etc.

Surely, if you can give the idiot that is Anna Hazare so much of a latitude, you could give me some, and allow me to post on these matters at my own pace, some time later on in future.  … I think I will open the next post on these matters, esp. corruption, by observing not corruption itself directly, but something different (which, hopefully, you will find relevant to the issue corruption, the way I think it is). A small example not related to legalities, constitutionality, national issues, etc., but one that I think is relevant anyway.  … I am too busy (both in my day-job and my leisure-time work), and so, please excuse if I don’t write that next post immediately.

* * * * *   * * * * *    * * * * *

A Song I Like:
[NB:  I do like this song, but not all of its associated aspects… If you know me, you could easily figure out why; just read on to see why I say so 🙂 ]

(Hindi) “Aana mere pyaar ko naa tum…”
Music: Jatin-Lalit
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultaanpuri
Singers: Kumar Sanu, Alka Yagnik

[PS: I have just written, but not read even once after writing, this post. If I find time (and I hope I do), I will streamline it a bit.]

[E&OE]

Three (Present-Day) Americans: Two, Morally Morbid, and One, Coarse

The two morally morbid Americans are: (i) Warren Anderson, and (ii) James Laine. The coarse one is: Joel Stein.

I don’t have much to write about the first two except for clearly stating that both, indeed, are morally morbid.

(I) James Laine, the Present-Day Maharashtra Politicians, and, the Freedom of Speech

In recent times, if the justice didn’t appear to have been served in the first case (that which did not involve Anderson but should have), the judicial system of India did itself good by clearly upholding the principle of the free speech in the second case (that of Laine).

I would have liked to be able to “source” Laine’s book, at least on the Internet, just to see for myself precisely what was the objectionable matter contained in it. One indirect account in an English (Indian) national daily a few years ago had said that the objectionable matter, which James Laine had heard on the streets (and which he proceeded to include in his book) was a remark made by a Dalit [sorry, can’t easily find a link to that piece]. Last week, a piece in the daily DNA attributed the same remark to a Brahmin [^]. … What’s going on?

A more important matter is the view of Laine’s book taken by the above-mentioned DNA writer, Amberish K. Diwanji. The piece prominently says that Laine’s book is an attempt of the scholarly” kind. I fail to see how.

Perhaps Diwanji mistakes any writing coming from any professor of a theological background to be a piece of scholarly writing. Perhaps, such indeed are the standards followed in those two particular vocations, theology and journalism, esp. as practised in the theological departments in the American universities.

But if you look at that field of knowledge which actually made the word “scholarly” respectable, i.e. science, you would immediately notice the difference. There is this enormous amount of rigour, discipline, propriety of attribution, etc., that goes into writing [the rational kind of] a scholarly work.  As a general rule, anecdotes are not even mentioned under the category of “private communications” let alone elevated to the status of “sources” or “references”—or made these a part of the main text, without sufficiently clarifying commentary! Now, if you subtract most prominently science, and then more generally rationality, from academic settings, then you would still be left with universities. But there wouldn’t be any need to identify anyone as a specialist scholar in theology, because irrational speculation and empty Rationalistic debates (as the number of angles that can dance on the head of a pin) is all that would be left under the name of “scholarly.” I am not offering a speculation; this actually was the state of the European universities during the medieval Dark Ages; also in India—e.g., refer to the times of Dynaaneshwar. Now, certainly, that kind of a scholarly enterprise is not what Diwanji had wanted to attribute to Laine’s book—the DNA writer did mean “scholarly” in the sense of the term that we now understand—after Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, Science, etc. If the term is to be taken in this sense, then one doesn’t have to read the objectionable matter to arrive at the conclusion that Laine’s work is not scholarly—the methods of “research” he follows are by themselves a sufficient ground to throw his text out of the limits of the scholarly. It must be clearly understood that there is no need to elevate Laine in order to uphold the principle of free speech.

While Laine is despicable, his case still does not qualify for legally banning the book. Indeed, for that matter, no case ever does! Book-burning (in principle indistinguishable from a government-enforced ban) is a method that fits the primitives and the authoritarians. And, in between the last two, the former are more innocent—their action results rather from ignorance than from a deliberate desire to dictatorship, to wrench power over others via the force of the muscle.

I am not at all surprised that certain political parties in a wholesale manner, and some politicians from the entire range of the parties, should try to grab this issue; and then feign to possess an anger that none can actually feel in such a case; and then proceed to use this excuse towards blurring the boundaries between the moral and the legal, and thereby either try to advance their justifiably floundering political careers—or follow the trend established by the worst offenders of Free Speech by appeasing them!

In the above paragraph, there is only one matter on which I might perhaps be misunderstood, and it is: feigning the anger. So, let me explain at some length.

I happen to have been born a Jadhav, which, in a certain relevant sense, makes Jijau a grand^n “aatyaa” (paternal aunt) to me, certainly a daughter in the family, so to speak. (While my immediate ancestors come from a village near Baramati, both the oral tradition in our family and also some documentary evidence indicates that this was  not always so; a grand^n father of mine had immigrated to and settled down near Baramati only in the mid-19th century, about 150 years ago; but he, in turn, came from Sindkhed Raja—the same family-town of those Jadhav’s in whose family Jijabaai was born. This happenstance makes Jijaabai even a shade closer to me, ancestry-wise! But again, though knowing this “root” momentarily feels nice, I hardly care for it one way or the other. And I mean it. It’s the individual free-will, the individually chosen action that matters. Genetics are, properly, relevant only in biology and medicine, and nowhere else, certainly not in deriving a better moral evaluation via a genetic relation—or worse! (I do sometimes hear Australians to be sons of outlaws—and the same principle applies also to their case.)

Yet, I mention this part about my ancestry for two reasons: (i) The first reason is to highlight the fact that even if one is related to a great personality, if the relations are as distant as to be centuries away, with no direct context being applicable for one’s own life as an individual, then neither praise nor criticism really can evoke any significant emotional reaction. Those who say it does, are outright liers: do they twist in their sleep for some unjustified manslaughter, raids, untouchability, that some or the other of their ancestors would undoubtedly have committed? Of course not. (ii) The second reason is that identifying ancestry here is convenient to me. Given the level of the current climate of  “debates,” and all sorts of methods of the muscle actively being depoloyed at every small excuse, and given the fact that I am publicly criticizing these “goonDaa”s, I feel that immediately stating my ancestry might perhaps provide me with a measure of protection from them. That’s why.

So, coming back to the main issue, though a Jadhav myself, I completely fail to see how can a slur, as on the part of a modern American humanities professor of the pathological variety of Laine’s kind, possibly can reflect on the character of any lady, let alone a lady as great as Jijaabai. If you are clear about the respective moral characters of the individuals  involved—hers, and then, also of anyone like Laine—then you don’t really feel all that much of an anger—as in my case.

You see, if one of these politicians-cum-“goonDa”s visits a mental asylum and hears some patient blurt out some sly or swear or allegation at him, would he feel offended? Angry? To the extent of taking sticks in hands and going about destroying property? No way. A similar consideration applies here. That’s why I think that that anger is feigned—the supposed anger purely is a political convenience to some.

Of course, this allusion to the mental asylum does not mean that Laine is a mental patient. He emphatically is not. Indeed, this fact precisely is what makes it possible for us to pass a moral judgment on him—and that’s why I call his moral character morbid.

But consider what are the implications of reaching such a moral judgment. All it means is that one should expose that morbid kind of a writing, morally denounce it, perhaps also give Laine a verbal one or two as required, perhaps simply because some people can’t understand a writing at one’s own level—as the popular Marathi saying goes, you can wake up someone who actually is asleep but you can’t wake up someone who is merely pretending to be asleep. You may even do that, perhaps. And what you ought to do is to make public your admiration of the heroes in question: Shivaji and Jijaabai.

But that’s about all! It does not mean that you go burn books, destroy private and public property, beat up the people who won’t agree with your “goonDaa” methods—or, on a more polished level, seek to impose a legal ban on the writing.

Ideas cannot be fought except by means of better ideas.

The typical of our present-day politicians are internally well-aware that they are thoroughly incompetent in the world of ideas. Reason is not predominantly their method of functioning or reaching conclusions; emotionalism is. Just open any newspaper, the smaller and more concretes-bound the better (e.g. regional language or city-specific newspapers), and note down the number of times our working politicians use terms like “public sentiments” vs. “the arguments put forth.” You can easily see the glaring contrast between them, and the working, active politicians from that glorious period of the Freedom Movement. Reason and ideas typically are alien to the routine mental workings of our present-day politicians. The only method they work on, and therefore can recognize, is: government-enforced something. Naturally, if they wish to express their disagreement, or wish to convey this to the general public in a strong manner, all that they can think of doing is to impose a legal ban. They can’t care that this way, wittingly or unwittingly, they stifle also any voices of reason—and thereby, help pave the way for a dictatorship. As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Indeed, the principle of Free Speech applies in all cases: Laine’s book, as well as that infamous book on “Tejomahaa-aalay” or something like that, by a certain Hindutva sort of a guy from Pune (is his name Oak?) who was arguing that the Taj was a Shiva temple. A lot of portion of that book is outlandish, and yet, he also has a lot of plausible kind of argumentation in that book. But then, someone from the Indira Congress didn’t like it (perhaps felt that it was anti-Muslim), and so, it was banned. I have always maintained that regardless of political orientation, that book still should not be banned. I am an intransigent critic of the entire BJP and Hindu Cultural Nationalism movement. Yet, I have no issues seeing that book in print. Ditto, for the Communist Manifesto. Or, the books glorifying Hitler. None of these should be banned. Even if their contents are outright outlandish, bad, or pathetic.

It’s a complex matter as to what kind of material may properly be banned. Off-hand, I can think of manuals for making atomic bombs, or biochemical weapons, or even the more ordinary sort of bombs—whether for that Japanese movement (“Shinto”?)  or for the Jihadi purposes, etc. Note, such material can objectively be said to be parts of criminal conspiracies, terrorist attacks, and worse. The normal rules do not apply in such cases. But, still, politically, such materials is almost a non-issue; far more important is the idea that you cannot sue someone for possessing or proclaiming bad ideas.

We have enough good ideas to replace bad ideas. But the point is that whether you like it or not, this is a matter of principles. If you suppress one type of ideas—rational or irrational—then, you in principle introduce a way to suppress any type of idea—rational ideas included—ideas as such. Only dictators can fancy that (to their own peril and that of their subjects).

I would better leave the CM of Maharashtra Ashok Chavan “free” to have consultations even for settling this issue with his “High Command.” I really can’t tell him anything and expect him to listen—you see, even if I do tell him, I know that it would always be overridden by whatever it is that his “High Command” “advises” him. If so, why bother him? (And spoil our good relations? (LOL!))

But I certainly can tell others. I can tell the Maharashtra Home minister, R. R. Patil, this much: (Marathi) “Aabaa, hyaa baabtit tumach_ “judgment” chuklel_ aahe” English translation: (“Aaabaa” is the common pen-name by which Mr. Patil informally gets called), as far as this issue goes, your judgment is in the wrong.

The judgment by the court is the right one; there is no need to get into further legal proceedings to continue having a ban on the book—or pressuring the publisher, The Oxford University Press, in any way.

And yes, I also believe that Indians should also be left free to write books concerning Laine’s own family—should they feel the need to do so! … Personally, I don’t, but the point is that the freedom should be available. … One gets into the muck only to the extent of throwing it out; no more! (And that is one of the reasons why I don’t quote Voltaire here—these days, it’s easy enough to be made a martyr for others’ causes; look up the psychic attacks-related posts I have made here!)

(II) Warren Anderson:

Enough about Laine. On the other hand, what’s the news on the Anderson front? Have they got anything/anyone—from the side of the American government and politicians? Or, from the side of Indian government and politicians?

(III) Joel Stein

That leaves us to address the third American, the coarse one (but not a morbid one even after factoring in his recent controversial article): Joel Stein.

I have written a long comment on Stein at Atanu Dey’s blog [^], which, for the time being, I copy-paste here. I will improve it with one more update either today or tomorrow, and then, this post will be done. [And yes, I do remember the promise to complete the series on homeopathy—which I will do, but not in a hurry. … In blogs, I write more or less on the spur of the moment.]

Today [i.e. on July 15, 2010, evening, IST], I first took the link to Stein’s column and then went through the reactions by the Americans of Indian origin. Guess I could add a bit here because though I am firmly in India these days, I have spent some 7 years in the USA. (In the ordinary circumstances, I wouldn’t want to go back to the USA.)

Anyway, two points first:

(i) For the most part of Stein’s write-up, I did not at all feel offended. In fact, quite on the contrary, I found a bit of humour underlying most of his lines, even a sort of friendliness. It was coarse, to be sure, but it was there. Why, while in graduate school at UAB, I have heard many Indian students talk in worse terms about both India and Indians.

To be sure, his reference to “dot-heads” was somewhat surprising because the connotation to “dot-busting” would be so nearby. One could enjoy it on a blog or in an email from a friend, but not for a column in Time. Yet, it was a minor thing. There was another line that really caught my attention—made me think of writing back. I will come to that line later on. Before that, I want to touch on the second point.

(ii) I was really impressed by the response by Srivastava and Bhatt. None of their points had occurred to me on my own, and after going through them, I just couldn’t think about the issue in the same way again. They showed how to give back a firm reply, in a civil manner, without nit-picking and without losing one’s temper or points.

I also enjoyed reading the reactions by Kap Penn, Sandip Roy, and others.

(iii) Now, once again back to the one point by Stein that I want to take up i.e. address.

The point is Stein’s remark concerning having Gods with multiple arms etc.

This was not the first time that I had run into this kind of a remark by a Westerner, and we all know that it wouldn’t be the last. Why, the first time I ran into this issue was while reading Ayn Rand. Off hand, I think that she was writing in the context of primitive societies—sacrifice of man and worship of insects was the point (or something like that). Taken both together, of course, I have no issues with it. But the reason I mention it here is that right the first time I read that, I remember, I had suddenly thought of what she would have thought of the more cultured Indian people also offering prayers to Gods that also looked like animals/insects. And, further: I could easily see how the lesser Westerners could “love” to make an issue out of it.

I would like to note a few points in this regard, in no particular order. (May be, I will also post this at my blog later on.)

1. At least some of the prominent images of the multiple-arms-types are obviously derived from the Indian dance forms. For example, consider Durga with many arms, and the front view of a group of dancers waving the arms with differing phases. Not every group action qualifies for a collectivist or primitive interpretation. Indeed, as in this example, there can be beauty to it.

2. I had read of an interpretation that Ganesha’s elephant form with the long trunck is symbolic of the major anatomical features of the nervous system: the brain with the spinal cord. Even if having such an origin, one still does read something of a tantrik sort of practise to it. On the other hand, brought up in Marathi culture of “Ganapati Bappa Morayaa,” even if I can approach it thusly at an intellectual level, it doesn’t at all affect my appreciation of such a form.

3. A lot of this has to do with the things spiritual—many of which most of us don’t even have inkling of.

In general, in spiritual symbolism, the correspondence isn’t meant to be made with the material forms and what that suggests—instead, it is to be made with the actual spiritual experience that a Shishya’s Guru has managed to convey him. [I must add: this is only one simple observation; I don’t mean to imply infinite regress. In principle, it would be always possible to have the spiritual experience on one’s own, without a Guru—that’s how the traditions could at all have begun. The Guru simply makes the process easier and faster, as in learning and mastering any other type of knowledge.]

Science and culture and every field of progress has had similar blurry, halting, mistaken beginnings. The difference is that the grasp of the material phenomena being easier, we have been able to correct these mistakes more easily. For instance, can you imagine that in the millions of years of development of the human race, it was as late as barely 2000 years ago that people had a radically wrong model of visual perception: they thought that when you see an object, something emanates from your eyes, hits the object, gets reflected and comes back into the eye. The early thinkers were mistakenly taking the mechanism of texture to apply that for vision. We have had easier progress about the material world; not so about the spiritual matters.

(And, no, I, for one, don’t believe that all spirituality ends with intellectuality. No. One has to intellectually approach anything before it can be properly understood and brought under control, of course. But this does not mean that starting with the intellectual level resolves alone you might experience those experiences which have come to be bundled under “spirituality.” In other words, you shouldn’t abandon intellectuality or thinking; however, you won’t get the referents of the concepts pertaining to spirituality simply by thinking about it alone—that, indeed, would be Rationalistic (i.e. a false way to approach such things).)

So, one can generally advocate evolution and progress even for the symbols part of it.

Yet, it must be understood that symbols aren’t primary—referents to certain mental states are. That’s what, as far as I know, (at least the civilized, cultured) Indians understand and focus on when they practise religious worship.

And, indeed, similar is the case for all other religions/regions too. Which brings me to my final point.

4. How would a Stein (i.e. either Joel himself or others, worse) think of this: What Indians worship is at least animate—living—forms: a group of girls dancing in unison, a man (Buddha), and decidedly animate forms (or likeness) of the elephant (Ganesha) or the monkey (Hanumant). But how about the others? How about the Jews and Muslims (“just a wall,” “just an empty hall facing a certain direction”)? How about Christians (“a hanging corpse”)? I am sure many readers would feel that this is a flame. But it is not meant to be. It’s just meant to be a dramatically direct confrontation.

It looks like a flame simply because we lose the context. The context is that it isn’t the “external” i.e. material symbols that are really important to a spiritual person—the actual referents are within the consciousness. If so, at a certain basic level, most any symbolism is more or less acceptable. Of course, within limits.

Here, since we still don’t understand the essence of those spiritual things, the best course of action is to approach the best practitioners of a given culture with a certain authentic good-will, and try to learn—if you care. I of course don’t advocate egalitarianism, not even in the spiritual regard. But, frankly, there really is no other way—other than following this kind of an “enumerating” sort of approach. And, if anyone thinks there is an objectively better way to approach these things, well, let them present the case!

= = = = =

A Song I Like:
(Marathi) “tujhe roop chitti raaho, mukhi tujhe naam…”
Singer: Sudhir Phadke
Music: Sudhir Phadke
Lyrics: G. D. Madgulkar

Some random thoughts on USA and its 2008 elections…

This evening and tonight, people of USA will go out and vote.

Today, it is safe to state that the long-form of “USA” is: United Stupids of America. … I say it safe, because no matter who wins, today, about half the USA will certainly agree with me 🙂

In my opinion, all the recent USA elections have clearly demonstrated that, these days, *anyone* can get to be a president of USA. (Pun intended.)

OK. Jokes apart. Some serious stuff now.

—–

My Election Advice: No matter which side you wish to vote for, do go out and vote.

But why don’t I tell which side I am on?

Simple. I have no side to take. Not because I am “side-less” on principle (or out of stupidity) or so, but because of some other considerations…

(i) Neither candidate is going to change immigration laws significantly (i.e. not along the rational lines, as indicated by, say, the Objectivist philosopher Harry Binswanger: see here).

(ii) Neither party has, as a matter of facct, shown enough of civility to refrain from attacking me personally, including every “legal” means available to them such as the psychic means (see here)… The governments run by both the parties—the Democrats just as well as the Republicans—have done so… Perhaps, it all has been as a part of the pressure tactics following the nuclear tests by India. But the nuclear thing has often seem to be only an excuse though… That simply cannot be the main reason… A power lust arising from wanting to dictate terms to significant Indians could very well also be a motive too, behind such psychic attacks on me… By making an example of sorts out of my case… The psychic attacks (and USA cannot deny their part in it) have included psycho-somatic damage (including induction of extremely pathological bad dreams of the kind I had never had before July 1998, spikes of explosions waking me up, etc.), and their follow-up in day-time (e.g. via door-to-door “vendors” selling certain items, via articles in newspapers written up with preferential selection of words, via photographs selected to reflect peculiarities of the day before, etc.)… Neither American party can wash off the sins against me that they *have* committed… It’s not always the Russians (or others), you know…

—–

Now, if [some] Americans say: “Come on now, we aren’t that bad, are we? Why don’t you just let bygones be bygones and tell us who you would have voted?”

My first comment: Yes, many Americans *are* that stupid, as well as careless of the suffering of others, that they could blithely assume all their general goodness and proceed to ask the question.

Now my answer: If you wish to talk friendly, that’s fine by me. By my philosophy, individuals can be better (or worse) than averages and national policies. More importantly, thinking individuals can be better—even if they are Americans.

But, the point is: bygones cannot be bygones if Americans have willingly cut away a part of your earnings, repeatedly cut short your career goals, helped cut short your life-span, your happiness… In short, your life.

… But still, choosing to look at the better Americans and the better among the things they have done (both for me in particular and otherwise in general), I will say two things:

The decisiveness with which Americans acted with respect to the nuclear deal was a good thing, a positive sign. Even if it came as late in 2005 onwards… If I had to single out just one (or a few) person(s) rather than attribute the success to something as nubulous as “the American administration” or even “the Bush administration,” then that person would have to be, not George Bush, but, Condolizza Rice. Good job, Condy! Well done!! You should have been given much more credit than they have. The Indian side, really speaking, owes you appreciation by way of a special award or so… May be, a prestigious visiting fellowship at JNU or the University of Pune (rather than at one of the IIMs or IITs or so)… May be in the years to come… (If a sufficiently prestigious fellowship does not exist, it’s high time that Indians created it.) This one “girl” has been excelling so consistently (from high-school onwards), without hyping too much about it, and despite being in politics, that it has to be specially acknowledged…

But anyway, returning to the main thread, that—the nuclear deal and the American bi-partisan decisiveness about it—was about the only positive sign coming from the American side in the past so many years, perhaps the whole decade since 1998.

So, we don’t have much good to look at, but we do have something… So, keeping that in mind, I might jot down my random (and not too deeply thought of) thoughts here… So, here we go…

Though I have (and had) no preference at all about presidential candidates, that doesn’t mean I have no comments to make.

When Hillary Clinton lost the nomination, I did feel, dimly and partly, good. Not because I had (or have) something against Hillary herself (or against her party), but because there is a group of “asshole” [TBD insert URL to a Stanford prof as Biswajit Banerjee recently did] Indians, (esp. in the SF Bay Area,) who have perfected the art of getting their hands on a lot of undeserved spoils (and also passing some of it to some Indians here in India), during the 8-year long presidency of her husband. They have even gone so far as to tell us Indians in India, during the mid- and late-1990s, that today’s USA is capitalist, that they themselves are capitalists (say, of the venture capitalist kind), that they have made it big on the basis of their talent alone, and not by way of political pulls and favors, etc. etc. etc.  And, they have been, despite their Indian roots and all, absolutely thick and completely unapproachable by any ordinary engineer like me…. When Hillary lost, presumably, they lost too… And this last part was “enjoyable.”

Now of course I do realize that despite defeat of some people, the principle of pulls as such, will still continue to work in the USA because today’s America is overwhelmingly mixed economy—it’s not capitalist. (Telling us that it is capitalist precisely is a part of the same gameplan to pull it further towards statism.) But my point is, there will at least be a bit of novelty in who makes noises, and who exploits ordinary engineers like me in their dirty games… After all, psychologically, it is sickening to see exactly the same individuals make exactly the same noises again and again for years… And, existentially, there is hope that, one might, after all, escape having to suffer on their behalf if the people “calling the shots” change… With Obama’s nomination, there already is a visible change. This particular group of assholes [TBD insert link] has not been making as much of noise as they would have. I am personally “happy” about that. One has to be if they arrogate so much as to say that “XYZ (an American) is good for India” when, the fact has been, Indians like me have been made to suffer.

And, though I did not (and do not) care for US elections (for both kinds of reasons stated above—the immigration- and personal attacks-related), I, nevertheless, also do think that Obama is going to win.

Further, I think that if this indeed comes to pass (and we will get to know the results right within the next 24 hours), the chief architect of Obama’s victory would have been not he himself or his party but the person of George W. Bush and his party.

That’s right. The chief architect of Obama victory should not be found within the Chicago school of socialists who now will be flooding the Democratic party, but within (i) the religious streaks within the Republican party, and (ii) the socialist streaks within the Republican party—as exemplified by the recent unprincipled decisions concerning those bailouts… (This is a very serious and very prominent example, but it is, unfortunately, not the end of the story… There have been other examples too…)

So, that’s that. I think Obama will win.

I also think that if this financial mess were not to happen, and if Osama bin Laden were to be captured or killed, then today’s Americans would have, despite everything else, still gone ahead and elected the Republican candidate. That is, despite knowing that such action of theirs would give the religious rights (and the Republican socialists as well) a more free rein to dictate they themselves. … Whether you like it or not, today’s Americans *are* like that. They wouldn’t mind being dictated. Not so long it is done in some specific situations and not others… (The definition may change from an American to another, but most Americans of today’s certainly wouldn’t mind being dictated—-almost none is *consistently* against dictatorship in principle in that country: USA.)

And that’s why, I also think that today’s Americans would have even very easily ignored the financial mess (complete with the CEO parachutes and the bureaucrat’s double-game) and brought the victory in the presidential race to the Republicans (or at least brought the race to even odds) if the republicans could have shown a convincing victory abroad (say, via capture of bin Laden or a victorious conclusion of the war in Iraq or so)… That has not happened, and so, the race has gone, as far as I can tell, with the alternative, namely, Obama.

Of course, this is not to say that the Obama campaign or the Democratic party did nothing to ensure their victory or that they have nothing positive by their side at all. That’s not my point here. The point is, despite all their political savvy and support and strengths, once Hillary lost, the Republicans still could have defeated them. After all, Obama is no Bill Clinton or JFK. And, after all, that’s how Americans *are*. They could easily be swayed over to the Republican side despite the latter’s socialist items. (Socialism is not only on the side of the left, and things like principled fight against socialism have ceased to be the main motivators of Americans in their politics.)

Of course, as I said, the fact of my writing this all still does not mean that I care (or have cared) for US elections. Whatever I have written is something that is damn too obvious to anybody, without even thinking for half a minute about it….

And tell me, if I were to care for these elections, what would it change for me? Think honestly. Am I of the sort to be bought if the bread-crumbs like, say, a tenured position are to be thrown at him? LOL! Stock Options in a sure-shot success Start Up? ROTFL… If not, then ask yourself, what is there in it for me? The answer is plain and obvious: Nothing… There indeed is nothing in it for me… Not even a purely verbal talk of high principles… After all, none—neither the candidates (their speech-writers) nor column-writers nor the ordinary party supporters on either side—has been talking about any of the principles that made America what it is… So, there’s not even a purely empty sort of talk, purely a lip service being paid to the high political principles.

I (indeed) wish Americans were less stupid. … (“Dumbed down” if you prefer.)

—–

On second thoughts, there *is* a matter that I can care about. It is this.  Since I take it that Obama is going to be the president, carrying a good majority in the house of representatives, therefore, I think, that if Americans are even half-smart, they should not give the Democrats more than a 55-vote majority in the senate.

After all, though everyone is talking about the presidential elections, there also are a lot of senate (and house) seats being contested for. Not that I am against Obama. Or the Democrats. Not at all. But there *is* something that I am for: limited, rational government. And there is something that I am against—statism, esp., that in the (superpower) USA.

Democrats are expected to take both house and the senate in these elections. One can’t care so much for the house—it is what it is, but the senate—the American senate—even today, is different.

If the balance between the two variants of statism hangs precariously in the senate, and therefore, if it makes it difficult to pass statist bills pass easily, then that is good for America, and for free markets, for limited governments in general (and therefore, good for the rest of the world too).

The statists won’t be able to pass a slew of small bills, precursors to major changes down in future, if the senate remains almost evenly divided. Today, the US senate has the 51D-49R composition. The senate will lose its effectiveness to check the progress of numerous small statist bills if the balance tilts in a major way, say, if it goes over 55D-45R. Or some similar figure, I don’t know—that’s for political experts to know, I don’t care. What I do care is that the march of statism at least got speed-breakers even if it could not be arrested…

Do this much in these elections, Americans, will you? Or is it too much to ask (of your (real) stupidity)?

How Our Parliamentarians Behave—And Why

There is an excellent article by Professor Dipankar Gupta in yesterday’s Times of India.  An article like this was both timely and necessary.

I hardly watch TV. However, I did watch some part of the debate in parliament on July 22, and was just about wondering whether the kind of worthies that Professor Gupta highlights (the elected members of India’s parliament) should not be crane lifted off the floor of the house and immediately thereafter fully dipped in an adjoining water pool, by way of punishment, if they do not just behave. (Should this fantasy of mine be taken up for implementation, I am willing to be simultaneously both the judge and the crane operator.)

However, despite all the enormously perceptive observations he makes regarding our politicians, I think Professor Gupta fails to hit on the reason that our politicians behave thusly.

For instance, I remember here the n number of “GBM”s we used to have in COEP hostels. “GBM” is the long form of (usually, annually held) General Body Meeting of the student-run hostel mess. At COEP, the student mess consisted of 4 different clubs, each club being run entirely by students themselves. Each club had an elected body of student volunteers to manage all the aspects of running the mess. The clubs would run without any interference from the rectors or wardens. (Remarkable, given that 19 and 20 year old students would run a budget of some Rs. 1.5 lakhs of those times—25 years back—with a rare efficiency.) OK. Enough about the background. The relevant thing here is the GBMs. At GBMs, the meeting agenda mainly used to include presentation of the balance sheet and its approval. Naturally, things such as the appointment of cooks and more importantly, of grocery contractors, the prevailing market rates of vegetables and supplies versus their actual purchase costs, with more than hints of corruption by the mess managers, etc. used to be part and parcel of it all.

Notice, many of these people (the then COEP students) have now come to occupy very responsible positions in our society. They have become, e.g., public sector or government officers, V/Ps and CEOs in MNCs, entrepreneurs, Partners in V/C firms, etc.

Yet, their behavior on the floor of the house during GBMs used to be remarkably different. The entire show used to be very remarkably similar to the usual proceedings in the Indian parliament.

Later on, I came to see something quite similar happen even at the Student Affairs Council (SAC) of IIT Madras. Being watched over a little more closely by the faculty, the proceedings at the SAC were not always as crass as the COEP GBMs, to be sure.

But still, the tendency to be over-emotional in both speech and gestures, with physical posturings of aggression, gesticulations, melodramatics, etc. following every word uttered and every “dialog” rendered, were all present even at the SAC. (For those 1985-86 IIT Madras alumni who now read this, and want to disagree with these observations, please remember the “debate” that had then occurred over whether the house carry out the “censure” motion or not.) At the SAC, the English words being used were, certainly, more sophisticated. The reason is not very difficult to guess either—the words would then be fresh in short term memory, being taken off those GRE verbal guides. Of course, the subtle nuance would not always match, but that precisely is the point under the present discussion. The improper use of the words and the accompaniment of all those emotional dramatics to go with those rather sophisticated words, were very similar to what would happen in Marathi at COEP.

So, not just the largely rural (and Marathi-speaking) population living in COEP hostels, but even the predominantly metro-based student population at the SAC of IIT Madras also displayed a behavior pattern which was very similar to what we just saw last week on the floor of the parliament.

And, whether in parliament, or in the student bodies at COEP or IIT Madras, there always were a few members who preferred to remain plain onlookers. They simply did not get worked up over __any__ thing. And committed to nothing. In principle. And there were few who were influential, but did behave right/properly. And there were some who spoke passionately, and yet, did it just too well. All these kind of people were there too, though they did not define the main behaviour pattern on the floor. Ignoring such people for the time being, however, the question still remains:

Why does the phenomenon of that over-emotional or plain improper kind of behavior seem so wide-spread?

I mean the phenomenon does cut across: (i) age, (ii) educational background, (iii) family background, (iv) IQ, (v) general social sophistication, etc. Not just a third-class-matric-pass half-criminal from the rural areas of one of the BiMaRaU states in his late 50s or 60s, but also the otherwise geeky kind of a bespectacled 20 year old IITian coming from the best English-medium high schools of India also showed remarkably similar behavior pattern—the pattern mentioned above.

Here, Professor Gupta’s explanation does seem to fall short. If so, what is it that can explains this curious phenomenon?

I think the answer could perhaps be found in things like the following: (i) the underlying basic ideas of what a democratic setup constitutes and entails—the mob rule always being a very definite and nearby possibility, in principle; (ii) the subsequent recognition by each “debating” member that it is emotions rather than reason which would truly rule in that kind of a setup (at least to a dominant extent even if not exclusively so); and so (iii) words (i.e concepts, reality) assuming a _subservient_ role to the needs of expressing merely emotionally done up affinities; (iv) the consequent idea that to fail to emotionally over-dramatize is to fail to pull the floor towards one’s own position (whether one’s own position was reasoned one or not being a secondary consideration); and (v) a kind of psychoepistemology that kicks one’s person into everything (action, gestures) which would be required to make “a killing” in that kind of a setup.

I think it is some factors of this kind which could better explain the subject of Professor Gupta.

Of course, the above ideas of mine are not all that well thought out…. I don’t think I really got a good handle on the specific issue.

And yet, I think that what I have jotted above is extremely relevant. I mean, democracy, by itself, only means the rule by the numbers. In such a game, the blind mob rule is a possibility that is never far too behind. That is something which our intellectuals must realize better, i.e., more consistently.

Also, I am sure there is a lot to be said about other subtle ideas too. For instance, the very Indian version of the ideas of altruism in the family and social contexts of the politicians; the very deeply en-rooted and ancient Indian ideas of what metaphysical role can the state (i.e. “Sarkar”—not exactly the government, but the state) have in citizen’s life; etc. I think ideas like such, too play a vital role in creating the “texture” of the kind of discourse we have in our public debates and in parliament. (For instance, just observe the difference of Oprah Winfrey’s Show from, e.g., Barkha Dutt’s “We the People” show, or one of Rajdeep Sardesai’s political debates/shows.)

And still, yes, there are a ton of other points which Professor Gupta so deftly touches on, even in this brief article of his. So, go ahead. Do read it in original if you have not done so already. (And then, perhaps, come back once again here, and read this one once again!!)

Just one passing comment. For quite some time I have tought that Professor Gupta is a curious case. He is a rare “tweed coat” who, despite teaching sociology (of all places, at JNU), manages to remain readable, even reasonable, in a straight-forward kind of way. That’s rare, don’t you agree with me?

I mean, one does not agree with Professor Gupta’s positions many times. But that’s not very important. The important point is: Unlike a whole long queue of socialist academics in the Indian universities, Professor Gupta does often write in a refreshingly observant sort of way. (By way of comparison, pick up virtually any column in “Frontline” e.g., any position on any issue taken by Ms. Jayati Ghosh (or Ghose—I am not sure about the spelling of her name.)) And then, the other side of the typical writers. with globalization and privatization, there has been a new breed of writers who declare themselves to be pro-free-market. But only rarely does their writing acquire depth—the kind of depth which is achieved only with serious thought, the academic rigour (not always a bad thing), a humane kind of concern with the issues being discussed, and an easy kind of “culturedness” (if that’s the word for it). Gupta’s or Swamy’s (of Swaminomics column in ToI) typical writing does show it. Also, sometimes (but far more frequently than is generally acknowledged) the writing and the journalism of Shekhar Gupta does show it. But my concern here is not to create a recommendation list of sorts.

The really important point is this: Today’s India needs such writers—those who can write with depth, but remain readable and understandable by the layman. However, we fall woefully short on the supply of such writers. … Asking IITians to write is not the solution. And neither is asking the IIM graduates to do so.

The job squarely belongs to the humanities professors. … Writing, they have always been doing. The point is, they should begin writing with depth—and with reason.

If the ideas that the humanities department professors keep on advocating begin to be more pro-reason, then, as a matter of a causal law, the society in general and the parliamentarians in particular, will, necessarily, also begin to show a more reasonabe behavior. It’s not all an accident that our best behaved parliamentarians also have been the men who were actually brought up in, or were influenced by, the more pro-reason institutions or universities or cultural backgrounds: Nehru did his university studies at Cambridge; Vajpayee, a university graduate even in his times, spent his early time in newspaper journalism—which is a specifically Western innovation that, by its essential nature, very delicately depends on and facilitates reason; Sharad Pawar was sent right in his university-student days to the UN cultural fora, and is a product of Pune—a city which is distinguished for education (a city which, among other people, had once also produced Namdaar Gokhale, the political Guru of Mahatma Gandhi)…. It also is no accident that our Rajyasabha members are, as a rule of thumb, far better behaved in public and on the floor than are our Loksabha members. In comparative terms (alone), reason has a better chance in Rajyasabha appointments whereas the demos, i.e. the sheer numbers (which, in today’s cultural context, directly translates into blind, emotionalist masses) has a far better chance with Loksabha elections.

Despite what our humanities professors tell us, “democracy,” by itself, means nothing. It requires the cultural context of reason to make its power effective in the direction of social progress. Otherwise, social downfall is the direction in which its powers operate. The behavior shown by the British parliamentarians versus our MPs provides another example of what even an implicit culture context can do on the floor of the house, i.e. if the contrast of our own Rajyasabha vs. Loksabha is not enough.

It’s high time that __a majority of__ our humanities professors began being more pro-reason. Just an exception here and there (especially in the English media alone) won’t do. A majority of them must uplift themselves, completely on their own. There is a social challenge which is growing big __on them__.

(This version: 1.0. I may change the flow of the argument here and there, or change the selection of the words a bit (English _is_ my second language, not first), but the overall arugment here will remain as is.)