Sunday, December 20, 2009

Slave at the helm

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Today I learnt how talking can be so humbling, almost enslaving. You are sitting in front of this girl. You are laughing for no reason but to impress her. All that smile, the ingratiating smile of the slave.

In your mind you are imagining how you can be a laughing stock, her sitcom. In her laughter, your body, the body of a jester is glorified. Your condemnation becomes your honour.

However, this instinct is the herd-instinct, the social law. The individual must conform with the herd. Nietzsche, you were mistaken, or were you? God is not dead. It has only changed its face. It has more heads than Ravana.

The constitution, the bible, Quran, Gita, Kindness, Herd (society) are few of its avataars.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Kiruba Shankar, a salesman in denial

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Kiruba Shankar, a salesman in denial
The story of all humans


Kiruba Shankar, heads the Indian Chapter of Wikimedia. He will tell you that Wikipedia is not for profit, instead people who work at Wiki don't work for money at all, but because they feel good. Like all salesmen and marketers he is adept at hiding his true intentions, which is self-preservation by touting one's species as essential and indispensable.

Now you open a Wikipage and on top you will see in bold, "Wikipedia has always been there for you. Will you be there for her. Make your donation now." Or else it will vanquish, is the caveat in Jimmy Wales' open letter, co-founder of Wikimedia.

In 2007-08, it asked for six million dollars in "donation." In the 2007-08 annual report of Wikimedia that it didn't need that much to maintain its servers. However $170,000 were to be diverted as raise in Executive Director Sue Gardner and Deputy Director Erik Moller's salaries. So much for selflessness.

Now it is asking for seven million dollars, how much will be invested for the community and how much will be absorbed to hike the paychecks of the Wikimedia staff, is anyone's guess. The latest report should give us some figures.

He affirms his techniques - having an email@your own name domain or embedding your website in your email signature. He will go to great lengths to convince you about the necessity of internet and point out the "magical" about his work. "When people come at the bar camp, they magically self-organize themselves. These are unconferences," he speaks with tinkling eyes. He is responsible for a new euphemism for speaker i.e. "discussion-initiator."

He thinks blogs are more transient than websites and therefore get better ranked by Google. They will be more visible in search engines than websites. One of the lessons, he cites to have learnt from the Wikipedia experience is that when you trust people they are well-behaved. I think that when people are trusted they obey because they want to live up to expectations. Humans honor themselves when others see their worth. Kiruba appreciates this human trait and encourages the entrepreneurs to tap in this slavish human and exploit him.

"Google is obsessed with adding value to its products and therefore it makes huge profits out of its products," he admits the worldliness of Google, whose Knol is competing Wikipedia.

Kiruba is the founder of the Knowledge Foundation, Director of Business Blogging and co-founder of F5ive technologies, a website-developing company.

Like all the salesmen, he also feels the need of illusions and masks. Thus, with his retro look he has replicated the contemporary morality of hip. His Tedxchennai conference was sold out, but he will not affirm the drive for wealth, alas his drive is "feeling good."


Saturday, December 5, 2009

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BBC from Matt Smith on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Who is an Indian?

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Secularism was not always the ideal of the Indian Independence project, the Hindu nationalists bitterly contested the idea. The death of the Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel marked the end of the last of veritable voices against the separation of religion from politics. Anyway, secularism was only inserted in the Indian Constitution in 1976, against the backdrop of emergency. Whether planned or accidental, ‘secularism’ was never defined.

Indian identity is an amorphous, ill-defined, floating identity. It was an imposition over the caste and religious identity that defined the individual before British colonization of India, as much it does today. In most third world nations, nationalism emanated from the demand for democratic rights boiled down to freedom from colonization.

With the advent of the ‘Indian’ identity, the religious and caste-based identities were deemed aberrations. Whenever communities united under other identities such as the linguistic have yearned for a nation, the state has swooped down on those communities.

BJP or Bhartiya Janata Party equates the Hindu identity with national identity. It is a form of cultural nationalism, where the national is defined in terms of a person’s primordial identity – caste, religion, language, race, etc. Territorial nationalism is the antithesis of cultural nationalism.

Territorial nationalism recognizes every individual born within the borders of the state as a national citizen. Therefore it does not see any reason in the demand for self-determination made by minorities. The State does not realize that in the world of realpolitik, it is these primordial identities that lead to discrimination against the minorities.

John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham, the founders of classical liberalism, interpreted self-determination as an inalienable right that every individual enjoys over his life.

The concept of cultural nationalism stems from the communitarian theory. This theory holds that national identity should draw upon the common values of the community. Therefore, the community should define the ‘right’ lifestyle for every individual belonging to the community.

The individual is seen as constantly negotiating with the community to exercise his rights. The liberal is seen as culturally ignorant and anti-social.

In conclusion, communitarian nationalism is a relevant and formidable challenge to secularism.

Related article: Amartya Sen: Indian identity is absorptive

Dalai Lama and the theocratic state of Tibet

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Dalai Lama, who is widely accepted as the great spiritual leader is never seen for his interest in maintaining the theocratic Tibet. The life of every Tibetan is centered around the monasteries. Children complete their education in the monastery. The monks hold important posts in the Government as is evident from the current cabinet of the Government in Exile, led by PM 5th Samdhong Rinpoche.

Hitherto, the history of Tibet has been shaped by the various Buddhist monastic establishments – Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya and Gelug struggling with each other to control the political Tibet.

Persecution of Bon, pre-Buddhist religion
Buddhism was born in Tibet in the seventh century through the wedlocks of the then Tibetan King, Srong-brtsan-sgam-po. The king had married Chinese and Nepali royalty, both were devout Buddhists.

Before the arrival of Buddhism in Tibet, Bon clergy predominated the Tibetan pantheon. Bon was more animistic and mystic than Buddhism.

Tibetan Emperor Khri-srong-ide-brtsan became an ardent Buddhist, following his mother, a Chinese princess and a strict Buddhist. He persecuted Bon practitioners, who were not willing to take to Buddhism. The state-sponsored culling of Bon practitioners led to its decline.

It became the official religion under the reign of Khri-srong-ide-brtsan, who was a votary of the Nimgya tradition.

This was followed by civil war, when old aristocratic families fought each other for pre-eminent control of the region. Just like the vacuum prevailing over the royal throne, the civil war gave other traditions of Buddhism the scope for establishing their supremacy without fearing persecution at the hands of royalty, followers of the Nimgya tradition.

Finally, the civil war ceased and it was the Gelugpa tradition that gained political control of Tibet in 1642 by defeating the rival Sakyapa tradition that prevailed in the Tsang province. Gushri Khan helped the 5th Dalai Lama in gaining control by defeating the prince of Tsang, supporter of Sakyapa.

Gelugpa’s objection to reforms
Till today, Tibet has no national army. The 13th Dalai Lama was opposed by the Gelugpa establishment when he thought of putting an army into place. The establishment felt that it would lose its monopoly on force, represented by the hordes of monks at its beck and call.

In 1924, anxious of his own power, the 13th Dalai Lama abandoned the reformist project – the army and the English school at Gyantse.

Suppression of Shudgen practioners and attempts at negating other beliefs
The present Dalai Lama has banned the practice of Shudgen, the Dharma protector of the Geluk tradition, citing him as an evil spirit. However, followers of Dorje Shudgne argue that ostracization of the Shudgen practitioners is purely a political decision. Their defiance of the Dalai Lama’s order to merge with other traditions has brought about their own persecution. They reckon that the Dalai Lama wants to merge all traditions under him and thus strengthen his own office.

Related article: Is the illegal ban on Dorje Shugden politically motivated?


Monday, November 23, 2009

Long-awaited UK Iraq war inquiry to start - 24 Nov 09

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AP Enterprise: Bullet Tears Open Somali Boy's Face

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Gandhi’s communal child: Congress

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It is accepted as a truism that BJP was behind the demolition of the Babri Masjid and Gandhis, who took political sabbath after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination were the hapless secularists, mourning the demolition. So much so that in the run up to the UP assembly elections in 2007, Rahul said that had a Gandhi been at the helm of affairs in 1992, the demolition wouldn’t have happened. It was immediately seen as criticism of PV Narsimha Rao, then Prime Minister of India by Rahul.

However, a mere look-see of history would have deterred Rahul from making such a statement.

As history would have it, Rajiv Gandhi was the one who, in 1986, recognized the political potential of Hindutva, long before Advani envisaged its gains.
In the Indian context, the ‘other’ was located in Pakistan: during the Khalistan movement and the Assam separatist movement, Indira’s Congress had held that Pakistan Government had perpetrated these secessionist movements, wishing to avenge Bangladesh.

The two identities became antithetical when Babri Masjid was opened for the worship of the Ram Lalla idol by Rajiv Gandhi in 1986. Until then, the sadhus were only allowed to enter the Masjid premises once in a year and worship in the temple they called Ramjanmabhoomi.

In 1989, Rajiv Gandhi allowed the Hindu Sadhus and Mahants to perform Shilanyas (foundation laying ceremony) on the disputed site. With the UP assembly elections just a few days away, Rajiv Government dispatched Union Home Minister Buta Singh to oversee ‘Shilanyas.’ Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination in 1991 and Sonia Gandhi’s refusal to join politics removed the Gandhis from the helm of Congress for sometime.

Till 1987, Hindutva had not featured anywhere in BJP’s resolutions or party literature. After the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, Jan Sangh, BJP’s parent party, had further distanced itself from the ideology of the Hindu Mahasabha. In fact when Prachajanya, RSS’ organ questioned Advani over the dilution of the ideology. Advani said that the party’s appeal will only increase to the extent the ideology is diluted.

It fought the 1984 general elections on its “Five Commitments” - “nationalism and national integration”, “democracy”, “positive secularism”, “Gandhian socialism” and “value-based politics”. The elections saw the decimation of BJP, with the party winning only two seats in the Lok Sabha.

In the following years, the BJP realized that the “Five Commitments” had confused the political workers of BJP, the RSS cadres. At the same time it realized that Congress had been successful by playing the Hindu nationalist card. Therefore, at its National Executive Committee meet at Palampur in 1989, BJP adopted the Babri Masjid issue as an election issue. BJP added 85 seats to its tally in the 1989 elections.

When influential leaders like Rahul Gandhi make ahistorical statements, it becomes important to skim over history to save it from political adaptations.

Related article: Soft Hindutva is a part of Congress tradition