Reason as the Leading Motive


Posted by Jerry on October 29, 2007

I was just browsing through some of the articles on Tehelka, a newspaper that bills itself as “public-interest journalism.” For the most part, Tehelka is the voice of the Indian left and disillusioned socialists who still cry shrill over the injustices of class warfare.

In any case, I found this shocking piece of LTE in response to an article on the site; my impression is that the writer is serious about his view, but I am so eager to be wrong on this. The letter to the editor says:

We know there is complete chaos in society. All of us can now afford cars and add tonnes of CO2 everyday to the atmosphere. Modern amenities are making us lazy. The worst offenders are medicines, which are forcing people to live longer and adding to the geriatric population. But we have democracy. Have a look at Pakistan and China and you’ll know why life in our country is certainly not as bad and hopeless as you make it out to be. Always remember, it is better to be an optimist and contribute to society. Dr Kapil Paliwal, Kanpur [all bold mine]

Did this fellow just say that modern medicines are the worst offenders?! Offenders against whom–the sick and the dying!?! 

I should really stop being so surprised. The newspaper is such that it does attract its crowd of lunatic Malthusians and Marxists.

Nevertheless, some of its articles are thought-provoking–precisely because the writers of this paper understand the value of ideas in a society (like all Marxists do), adhere to an ideology, and write their arguments on the basis of principles they wish to defend. For example, I read an article that argued the view that Indian tradition and ethnic chauvinism were the roots of rampant mob violence in India. While I agree that all forms of collectivism breed violence against and disregard for the individual, I do not see how the author of the article can logically arrive at the conclusion that mob violence can be impeded by correcting social inequalities, which was the point implied throughout.

It’s a naive and superficial view that social inequalities are the cause of struggle and disharmony within a society. The view is itself a collectivist one and therefore assumes what it wishes to prove. It seeks to replace a chauvinism of ethnicity, class, or caste with the chauvinism of an amorphous and undefined collective called humanity. Therefore, while it condemns social injustice arising from classism or religious warfare, it does not mind the sacrifice of an individual if one can engineer social justice for the greater good–for mankind, for humanity.

If one were to check the premises, one would realize that whether the social field is leveled at the top or from the bottom, some will be trampled at the expense of others and the strife will merely simmer right below the leveled surface until the next bloody eruption.

So, is strife inherent in society and one should not bother to tinker with it? Not at all! I am pointing out that the lens with which you look at this situation is itself skewed–because it is collectivist. A society is *not* an irreducible unit: an individual is. A proper concern for social justice, therefore, should begin at the level of an individual, and devise a system of ethics that is based on the realization and maximization of an individual’s rights! What is proper and moral and just for an individual is necessarily proper and moral and just for a society of individuals.

The answer to social justice, therefore, is not to replace the tyranny of one group with that of another (be it of the poor over the rich or of the lower castes’ over the higher) in order to level the playing field, but to discard the very lens by which humans are viewed as interchangeable and disposable units of an amorphous humanity in the pursuit of an engineered social equality.

5 Responses to “Tehelka”

  1. dr kapil paliwal said

    dear sir,
    i myself am aghast at the blatant editing of the magazine which has completely qouted me wrongly. this article was actually written with exactly opposite meaning. if you so wish you may be sent the complete article which has been made to look idiotic by the magazine.
    dr kapil paliwal

  2. dr kapil paliwal said

    Following is the letter I have posted and I was made to look like afool by the distinguished magazine.

    Following writing is in response to Ms Arundhati Roy’s interview. Publication in Tehelka is requested.


    “…there is complete chaos in the society! Everyday we are marching towards our own death. Each day takes one day out of our lives. My grandfather, aged 94, can’t even walk straight. He needs support even to stand. 80% people in my society are pathologically obese. Their arteries are getting clogged with every meal they take. All of us can now afford large cars and add tons of CO2 everyday to the atmosphere. Modern amenities are making us lazy. Worst offender is this new range of chemicals, called medicines, which are forcing people to live longer and longer and thus adding to the increasing load of geriatric population…”

    This doomsday scenario can well be a part of Arundhati Roy’s article/novel. There really is no use of getting the views of a complete pessimist whatever be his/her I.Q. It’s a well known fact that schizophrenics generally have a high I.Q. (no offence intended here, just a fact).

    That we have democracy in India is a boon. Have a look at Pakistan and China and you know why. Life in our country is certainly not as bad and situation not as hopeless as is made out to be. An ordinary citizen of Gujarat, hindu or muslim, lives a better life than in most other states. Indians invariably score high on happiness index surveys. It is better to be an optimist and contribute towards our society. Always remember, there may be a multitude of scams; but then there is Tehelka too.


    Dr Kapil Paliwal

  3. Ergo said

    Kapil Paliwal,

    The editing by the paper is truly shocking! After reading your entire letter carefully and then reading the quoted section, it is difficult to imagine that the paper’s editing was an innocuous oversight. The snippets are from such different parts of your letter that it seems more like selectively picking lines from your quote to make you say something you haven’t said.

  4. dr kapil paliwal said

    Thanks Ergo.
    I had to answer several of my friends for this.

  5. rambodoc said

    This is one reason I stopped writing for papers. The copy desk is usually full of unemployable idiots who think they know English. Ha! When you wrote on your Telegraph interview, Ergo, I knew the copy desk would have screwed up, and then given the usual excuses for the inaccuracies. Of course, the journalist also is often responsible for inaccuracies, bluffs, etc. In India, it is all Chalta hai, re!

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