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?