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Reason as the Leading Motive

Archive for the ‘India’ Category

Amen: A Victim of Abuse

Posted by Jerry on April 7, 2012

A word of Hebrew origin, amen means so be it, truly.

Amen movie cover designAmen also happens to be the name of a movie inspired by the life of Harrish Iyer–an enterprising, entertaining, and enthusiastic young man; a friend of mine; and a persistent voice for the rights of sexual abuse victims and the queer community.

The story behind the creation of Amen is almost as divinely providential as the title itself suggests: Amen had to be, hence it is.

With almost no funding and no actors willing to play the daring roles required of the script depicting the evolution of two men as they discover each other’s bodies, souls, and histories, it is no small feat that today Amen is an exemplar of powerhouse cinema created by independent artists and their generous patrons, winning awards and being screened across film festivals over the world.

Apart from the Directors Judhajit Bhagchi & Ranadeep Bhattacharya, it is important to highlight the courage of the two lead actors Karan Mehra and Jitin Gulati. Both handsome and rising artists in the Indian film industry, Karan and Jitin portray characters that many would consider risqué and suicidal in terms of a professional acting career in Bollywood.

Nevertheless, displaying a kind of honest heroism that we rarely get to witness even in our fantastically idealistic Bollywood movies, Karan and Jitin play the role of gay man and child sex-abuse survivor with grit, intensity, compassion and passion, and also, when required, lots of tenderness.

Karan Mehra and Jitin GulatiIndia, however, is the villain in the off-screen tale.

The Indian Censor Board–the Stalinist body that decides what artistic speech Indians are fit to confront and what we are not–has refused to give this film a clearance for screening in movie theaters unless the directors agree to cut scenes and dialogues that they consider to be vulgar and obscene.

While to the right-minded person, it is amply evident as the light of day that what’s truly obscene here is that such a body exists and that such a body dictates–like a God, or a King, or the Pope–the terms and conditions under which adult, mature, Indian audiences are to experience art, for many in India this is the expected, the accepted, the routine, the procedural, and the mundane.

Properly speaking, the battle to get Amen out in theaters is not about fair and equal treatment of all movies with similar mature content; the real battle is about the nature of free speech, artistic freedom, and the right to self-determination.

CensorshipAre we free to create, express, encounter, and consume the kind of art we want? Or, should we have to apply for prior approval from an all-governing, all-knowing, all-seeing body of authority that knows what is best for us better than we do for ourselves?

Are we free peoples? Or are we subjects of a great and benevolent ruler-king, by whose mercy and kindness we exist, we enjoy movies, and read books?

Are we ready for movies like Amen? Evidently not, according to the Indian Censor Board.

But should this fact matter at all? Absolutely not!

The matter is also not be about what happens to the Indian moral fabric if movies like Amen were to be released in all its mature glory. That’s the problem of individuals, their families, their schools, their private spheres.

The matter is about whether or not we can spend our energies, monies, time, and effort making such movies and expressing our emotions without the threat, fear, and result of censorship. The matter is about whether those of us who want to see such movies and elevate our consciousness to beyond just the most petty entertainment have the liberty to do so.

Alas, India is a democratic country. And as such, we do not live by the rule of law, but by the rule of the people. And this is one of the dangers of a democracy: the tyranny of the majority; the rule of the mob, who decides and postulates for the entire nation what they find offensive, what they find palatable, what they permit, and what they censor.

Amen is a story about the smallest minority in the world–the individual.

It is the story of a lonely individual who was abused by his uncle as a child and who grows up to meet another man, who in turn is a victim of his circumstance, tradition, and society.

As luck would have it, now Amen–the movie itself–is truly the victim at the hands of the Indian Censor Board–that great Council of Guardians of the Moral Fabric of the Indian People.

This is life in a democracy without the rule of law.

Amen.

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Posted in Culture, General Work/Life, Homosexuality, India, Movies, Mumbai, Personal, Philosophy of Art, Political Issues, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Pressures of being an Intellectual

Posted by Jerry on November 11, 2011

220

Tehelka Magazine

The pressures of being an editorial columnist, journalist, or some kind of published intellectual can put real strain on your abilities to reach rational, honest conclusions. Because, in this information age, we interact within a massive marketplace of ideas–a market that is constantly and rapidly updating itself with newer, better, more provocative, more sensational ideas.

Thus, to really stand out–to win, to be noticed in this marketplace of ideas–especially, if you are in the business of peddling some and your survival depends on being noticed for your ideas, one has to either be a savant genius and genuinely innovative or be at least an imitative provocateur.

Ashis Nandy of the Tehelka is an example of the latter. It appears that he has succumbed to the pressures of grabbing eyeballs in this fiercely competitive marketplace of ideas by resorting to gymnastics–of the mental and provocative kind. His latest piece is particularly demonstrative and revealing.

In an article titled “The Pursuit of Happiness and other Absurd Ideas“, Nandy picks three ideas that he regards as particularly egregious and poisonous to human civilization: (a) pursuit of happiness; (b) progress; (c) secularism.

Now, if your hoping to encounter some definitions of these terms, you will be disappointed. Nandy proceeds blithely through these ideas without ever pinning down their exact meanings or how he uses them.

To begin with, Nandy makes this highly debatable–even untrue–statement: “Our value systems, even in India, are increasingly based on reason. Which is why, perhaps, we constantly feel like we are a country sitting on a tinderbox — riots, terrorism, insurgency, discontent.”

First, it is unclear what he means by “reason” in the claim that India’s value systems are increasingly based on reason. Next, given a common sense understanding of “reason”–as the faculty of human consciousness to identify, evaluate, and integrate the facts of reality–his statement is squarely false. If anything, the world–and India included–is marching towards irrationality, mysticism, new age spiritualism, whim-worship and hedonism, and overall irrationality than anything resembling reason. The global economic crises and the European bankruptcies are arguably great demonstrations of what short-term, hedonistic irrationality gets you.

What’s more interesting is that three of the four consequences Nandy cites here of the use of reason, namely, riots, terrorism, and insurgency, are all actually variants of the use of force. Now, any sensible analysis of force will reveal to you that force is the destroyer of reason. Nandy would perhaps retort here that it is precisely our reason that has convinced us of some superior “right” to use force against other people. For instance, some religious groups have somehow reached a “conviction” that their use of force is justified.

But that line of argument is fallacious. Force and reason are opposites. The ability to reason (to think, to evaluate, and to choose) ends immediately when a gun is pointed at you. A gun is a command to action, not a syllogism to persuade. It appeals to your fears not to your reason. Indeed, as it is empirically evident and proven for any honest person to see, it is only when reason, dialog, discussion, persuasion, and argumentation is abandoned that force becomes the means of settling disagreements.

Having disparaged reason, Nandy proceeds to attack the three “poisonous” values of pursuit of happiness, progress, and secularism. This is where the article derails from any semblance of intellectual rigor and enters into the territory of the absurd. Indeed, the absurdities leap out of the screen at you. For example, in explaining the origins of the idea of happiness, the author states that “all societies deny the idea of death”. Really? Which one? He does not say.

What he does say, immediately thereafter, is this: “In successful capitalist societies–bereft of religion, afterlife, rebirth, or any of the philosophies that transcend death–the panic [about death] is profound.”

That should qualify as the most uneducated statement of the year. If any country can be considered as a successful “capitalist” country, it has to be the United States of America more than any other–and this is also perhaps of all advanced economies the only country most rooted in the faith of Christianity, in the Protestant ethic, in the belief in life after death, salvation and damnation, and the transcendence of this material world!

Nandy goes on to make another risible claim: that “Both the disease called unhappiness and the determined search for happiness afflict the more developed societies.” Meanwhile, in the world of his own mind, the under-developed societies of repressive Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Nigeria, Somalia, Burma, etc. are veritable paradises of–what?

“Happiness, like school uniforms, has now become compulsory,” he says. Is he implying that the ideal human condition need not be one of “happiness”? Is Nandy suggesting that a human life lived in unhappiness or banality is just as optionally preferable as a life of happiness? If you answered NO to be charitable to the author, you are wrong. He explicitly states his intention, saying: “We need to be practical and reconcile to live in this imperfect world with our normal unhappiness.”

Yes, my dear readers. He just said that we should learn to live happily with our unhappy lives. Whatever that means.

National Socialist Workers' Party of Denmark

Nazism

If you think Nandy is just innocently unwise, again you would be wrong. Nandy belies a high degree shrewdness and sophistry. As evidence, note that immediately after citing history’s two most murderous, collectivist, tyrannical regimes–Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany–as examples of societies that enforced “utopian” happiness and thereby inflected untold atrocities upon its people, he goes on to allude that the modern conception of (poisonous) happiness is an outgrowth of the philosophy of individualism. The mental gymnastics that is required to at once connect the epitome of collectivistic horror with the philosophy of individual freedom, self-autonomy, and liberty is not possible without some intentional sophistry at play.

To be charitable, the author does introduce a brilliantly benevolent, correct, and pleasant thought into his otherwise vapid article; unfortunately, the thought is not his. “According to philosopher KJ Shah, the strength of a human relationship should be measured not by the absence of quarrels, but by how much quarrelling the relationship can take.”

The implication of this view–correctly–is that happy people are not unmoored by momentary disappointments. That happiness is not an experience of the moment, but an orientation towards life. Sadly, however, the author is unable to see that such an orientation towards life as that of happy people is not possible without reason–without a philosophy that promotes the exercise of the rational faculty. As the philosopher Ayn Rand noted correctly, happiness cannot be achieved by the pursuit of irrational whims and hedonistic pleasures of the moment. A rational man projects the task of happiness across the entire span of his lifetime. Thus, he seeks his happiness not in the mindless fraudulent pleasures of the moment (although he may choose to indulge in legitimate relaxation), but in the experience of a joy that comes without penalty, guilt, shame, or contradiction. Happiness is the state of consciousness that comes with achieving the non-contradictory values of one’s life.

Indeed, from a psychological perspective, happiness is an important signal about the successful state of our lives. It is the emotional barometer of human consciousness, which informs us about our success at living life. Happiness and suffering are parallel indicators about the physical issue of life or death, pain or pleasure.

Moving on to his criticism of “Progress,” Nandy states that progress is the major source of violence globally. He says we should “hang our heads in shame when using” the word Progress. Again, his distortions are unbelievably confounding. In his attack on the concept of progress, he raises yet again the repressive regimes of Soviet Russia, China, as Cambodia as examples to fight his case. However, the connection that he wishes to forge between these regimes and progress is one that is founded on non-essentials, and is therefore simply untenable. The common ideology that underlies these regimes is not simply “progress” as a vague, general goal–but a *specific* approach to achieving their own conception of progress, namely, a collectivized, classless, communist society achieved by force and revolution. This is diametrically opposed to the classical liberal and democratic approach, which also had as its goal “progress” for the human condition. The results are evident and history has offered its verdict.

The author conflates the failures of socialist ideologies with the legitimate and praise-worthy goals of human progress–without, notably, ever defining what he means by progress. Then, he identifies a phantom relationship between secularism and the genocides of socialist regimes, such as that of the Soviet Union, North Korea, and Khmer Rouge. Perhaps, he is blind to the fact that National Socialism (Nazism)–the originator of one of the most hateful periods of human history–was virulently anti-secular, anti-atheistic. It

Nazi German propaganda poster: "Danzig is...

was at the same time socialistic and religious. The Reich, or the German State, cloaked in Christianity, was elevated to divine status with the blessings of Hegel, Heidegger, and Nietzsche. If the modern Catholic Church is seen as a benevolent and benign dictatorship, the Nazi regime was an evil and violent one.

One should also wonder if the perpetrators of the Crusades, Inquisitions, Islamic wars, and other religious wars had access to the kinds of modern weaponry, would the scale of their murders be just as vast?

Ultimately, what drives maniacal men to genocide is not and cannot be a “belief in non-belief” — or atheism. It has always been a belief in some assertion–either that of the Divine God or the Divine State or the Superiority of the Collective.

But Nandy is apparently convinced about something that’s paradoxical (and perhaps because it is so, given his antipathy towards reason): he believes that any desirable society must bypass the idea of progress because progress is essentially “anti-life.”

Now, to take that seriously, one would first have to know what he defines as “progress,” because in the general understanding of the term, progress means the general enhancement of the living condition. To illustrate it simply, if the average human life span in the 18th century was 30 years, today it is 70. And that is progress. Period.

Turning to the “third killer in [the author’s] violent lexicon,” we are confronted with an insidious analysis of “secularism.”

SecularismIn a very disconcerting claim, the author argues that one must not keep religion and politics separate. However, quickly, the reader realizes that the author does not really understand the full implications of what he advocates. At one point, you are even confused about the author’s take on secularism–does he hate it or like it? Because after disparaging it for a while, the author appears to defend secularism when he refers to the “hindutva” movement–claiming that Hindutva is actually secular. Wikipedia describes Hindutva as a Hindu Nationalist movement. So, is he implying that Hindutva is as good as secular or as poisonous as secular?

Indeed, much of this article is a (deliberate or not?) mix of conflated terms, inaccurate and ill-defined usages of words, and flat-out contradictions of ideas.

It appears to me that Nandy gunned for a shock-treatment approach to writing this piece, by employing “toxic” vocabulary to describe values that are–in the right spirit–actually some of the pillars of a civilized society. Perhaps he did this so that he could gain some eyeballs, shock a few people, and win a few uncritical nods at the seeming profundity of it all. To this end, the author achieves the goals. But he does so at the cost of exposing the goals themselves and at the risk of our evaluating such pursuits and such methods of trying to appear “intellectual.”

Posted in Atheism, Culture, General Work/Life, India, My Theories and Ideas, On Collectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, Religion, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Why You Should Not Support Anna Hazare’s LokPal Bill

Posted by Jerry on April 7, 2011

As an Indian, I am not in favor of Anna Hazare‘s Lokpal bill in any form.

Anna Hazare wants to form an autonomous authority that will monitor the activities of politicians and bureaucrats (i.e., the existing government) and hold them accountable for their actions.

Against Anna Hazare

Anti-Anna Hazare

In essence, that’s creating a powerful, autonomous, non-representative authority, with a leader at the helm, who will literally have access to the monopoly power of the judiciary and law-enforcement over the democratic government.

In other words, Anna Hazare wants to institute yet another government and bureaucratic body (a non-elected one) to monitor the current, elected government. This is simply creating an extra-governmental body to do the functions which a proper government should be doing anyway as part of its very reason for existing. When a government goes bad, one should not simply institute another government body on top of it! One should work to fix the current government we have.

Moreover, Anna Hazare’s authoritative body can be susceptible to same risks of corruption and bribery that the central government is mired in.

More importantly, however, his solution has the potential to produce a more insidious form of dictatorial corruption of power because of its non-elective, autonomous, and non-accountable nature.

There is no other solution to corruption other than denying the politicians and bureaucrats a monopoly on the “supply” of the goods and services that they currently control. Which means, we need to kick the government out of every aspect of our private affairs and release the supply of goods and services into private, competitive hands. This will ensure that there is no political monopoly on the services or goods provided and the people will decide what to purchase and at what price (such as driver’s licenses, etc.)

The government should have no role to play in cricket, commonwealth games, building metros, railways, banks, hospitals, religion, marriage, etc.

THE SOLUTION TO CORRUPTION: GET RID OF THE GOVERNMENT FROM PRIVATE MATTERS OF CITIZENS. Ask for LESS GOVERNMENT not MORE GOVERNMENT!

UPDATE:

It is frustrating to see this nation plunged into anarchy by the right-wing fascist dictator Anna Hazare.

His strong-arm tactics cloaked in “Gandhian” garb are shamelessly of the grammar of blackmailers. He is holding a democratically elected government ransom to his demands, effectively undermining the process by which we the people of India chose to elect our representatives in the government–thereby not only insulting us in our face but also mocking the entire process of democracy itself.

How can laws be introduced and passed in a nation if conflicting and contradictory sides both sit on suicide-fasting missions? Who does the government bear the responsibility of saving from death?

Those who think Anna Hazare’s tactics are peaceful do not have a clue about who their hero is. He is the man who encourages punishing alcoholics in his village by flogging them in public; he condones chopping off hands of thieves; he believes cable television should be banned because of its “corrupting” influence on the people. Here is an excerpt from an interview with Anna Hazare:

“…in many things, along with Gandhi we have to look towards Shivaji. Patel committed a mistake, and Shivaji had the man’s hands cut off. This policy of Chhatrapati, in many ways, we have to think about. Hundred per cent non-violence is not possible. Sometimes, even this has to be done, and that is why I have been saying that [corrupt] people should be hanged…” Anna

Read more of where this came from: Open Magazine’s brilliant article Spare Us the Gandhian Halo.

I highly recommend the following articles for their clarity of thought and analysis, which is unfortunately missing from the current crop of un-thinking, uncritical Anna followers.

FAQ: Why Anna Hazare is wrong and Lok Pal a bad idea

Jan Lok Pal is no solution

Chasing Black Money: In search of red herrings

Posted in Culture, Economics, General Work/Life, India, Mumbai, My Theories and Ideas, Philosophy, Political Issues, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 81 Comments »

Release of “Atlas Shrugged” in Marathi

Posted by Jerry on February 17, 2011

Professor Mugdha Karnik from the University of Mumbai had undertaken the monumental task of translating Ayn Rand’s epic novel Atlas Shrugged into Marathi — the regional language of the state of Maharashtra–one of the most populous states in the country.

I have personally heard Prof. Karnik read an excerpt from her translation during one of the Atlas Sunday Club Philosophy Salon’s I organize in Mumbai. She read the passage in which Hank Rearden is holding the dying young wet nurse in his arms. It is a stirring scene in the original novel–and listening to Prof. Karnik read it out in Marathi was equally moving.

I remember telling her at that time that I believe she did not just translate the language of Atlas Shrugged but also managed to translate the spirit of the novel.

Anyway, all of this is in preamble to the reason for this post. The new Marathi version of Atlas Shrugged is being released officially in the city. The following are details. All who are in Mumbai or can travel to the city are urged to attend:

DATE

Saturday, Feb 26, 2011

TIME

7 pm to 8.30 pm

VENUE

Shivaji Mandir
Dadar, Mumbai

GUEST SPEAKERS
Veena Gavankar and Sharad Joshi
Dhananjay Karnik will introduce Sharad Joshi

COMPERE

Jyoti Ambekar

For more details and information about the book, you can reach out to Professor Karnik at the following address:

Mugdha D. Karnik,
Director
Centre for Extra-Mural Studies, University of Mumbai,
Vidyanagari, Kalina, Santacruz (E),
Mumbai 400098

Tel: 022-65952761/65296962
www.extramural.org

 

Posted in Ayn Rand, Books, Culture, General Work/Life, India, Mumbai, Objectivism, Personal, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

The Story behind Our Entry into the Atlas Shrugged Video Contest

Posted by Jerry on December 20, 2010

My friends and I submitted the “Sixth Sense” video. Admittedly, the philosophy and concept behind the video is not easily accessible at first–beyond the most obvious message to “Think”; so, I’ll just give a brief explanation of our thoughts that went into creating the script of the movie and then the movie itself.

First, when we decided the enter the contest, we decided to stay away from the political and economic themes of Atlas Shrugged, for the following reasons:

1) These themes are difficult to capture on a personal and emotionally-connective level.
2) It’s easy to get preachy with such themes
3) It’s the most obvious and superficial interpretation of Atlas Shrugged
4) We were sure that political and economic themes would be the ones most commonly captured by other videos in the contest.

Hence, I decided to first identify the core theme of AS, namely: The role of man’s mind in existence.

From there, I began thinking of themes most directly relevant and affecting to me (and my friends) here in India. We thought of themes like the right to free speech (but dismissed it because it didn’t convey powerful images to us in our minds, without being preachy).

We thought of the struggle of Indian youth in asserting their goals and lives in a collectivist society like India (for example, publicly open gay men like myself face some kinds of resistance almost regularly in our lives). We dropped this idea because–again, we didn’t think it hit the core of Atlas Shrugged, would be difficult to execute, may not be relevant to a global or Western audience, and we wanted to avoid an ambitious project that would turn out sloppy.

Finally, I hit upon the idea of contrasting Mysticism versus Reality. Specifically, I wanted to contrast Eastern Mysticism versus a rational view of the world, since Eastern Mysticism is attractive many many people in the West as well. So, I sat through the night and typed up a 6-page long concept paper explaining all the major premises of eastern mysticism (primacy of consciousness, One-ness of Being, illusion of reality, etc.) and debunking their arguments with strong rational, logical, and objective counter-arguments.

Essentially, my concept paper came down strongly and harshly against the side of mysticism and how mysticism makes the act of living effectively and productively impossible–and reiterated the role of the mind as our *only* competent tool of survival in this world.

In the interest of full disclosure, the filmmaker that I was working with is himself a believer in mysticism (as is very common in India). He was very uncomfortable working on such a script. Therefore, the scripwriter in our team tempered the concept-note heavily by introducing a less controversial path to conveying a similar message (albeit, invariably and through no fault of hers, losing some impact of the original message along the way). She conceived of the brilliant metaphor of the five senses–which, when used effectively and in tandem with the “sixth sense”, namely, our minds–can make our life in this world tremendously more efficacious and *human*.

Thus, was born the concept of the Sixth Sense.

The script thereafter went through several more changes by the filmmaker and the scriptwriter.

To explain the final video, the voice over is of the adult character who is reflecting on her childhood. The concept of the five senses is intended to allude to how we generally take the competence of our senses as valid, but *not* the competence of our mind as valid (we accept any truths said by scriptures, priests, collectives, parents, cultures, etc.). Our message is to not surrender the mind to the various “conspiracy theories” of mystics and collectivists. The theme of our video is the competence of our mind, which we have dubbed as “The Sixth Sense” as a deliberate subversion of the mystic’s claim of “extrasensory” or “sixth sense” connection to higher truths.

For successful living, you must trust in the competence of your mind to achieve a successful life.

Watch our video, and if you like it, please do vote for it.

http://wildfireapp.com/website/6/contests/42465/voteable_entries/12473666?order=recency

Posted in Atheism, Ayn Rand, Culture, General Work/Life, India, Movies, Mumbai, My Friends, Objectivism, Philosophy, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Discussing Sexuality on CNN IBN

Posted by Jerry on November 2, 2009

Watch me and my friends discussing sexual minorities on CNN IBN.

Posted in Culture, Homosexuality, India, Love and Romance, Mumbai, My Friends, Personal, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

The Broken Britain Phenomenon

Posted by Jerry on February 18, 2009

Little Alfie from the UK has been making big news around the world: at only 13 years of age, he conceived and is father to a newborn with his 15 year old partner.

This, people claim, is symptomatic of a phenomenon spreading across Britain called “Broken Britain.” From the Associated Press report, I quote:

Sir Bernard Ingham, once press secretary to former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, told the Associated Press that people from across Britain’s political spectrum are in despair over the country’s social breakdown.

“It’s an indication that we’ve lost our way, that people don’t know the difference between right and wrong.” [emphasis mine]

In light of the above quote, I can’t help but be reminded of my own article, written some time ago, titled “Enforcing Moral Values“. In the article, I explained how the government–by interfering in the private affairs of individuals–effectively undermines the moral rudder of a society and erodes the ability of individuals to make moral decisions for themselves. Here’s some pertinent quotes from my earlier article:

Governments have assumed the role of a moral authority and have begun passing down moral laws–what it considers as being in the benefit of the “greater human family.” The government has replaced the individual as the moral and causal agent.

What this has led to is the following:

If an individual has no reason to hold a value other than because it is mandated by law, then he will also have little or no knowledge of how to pursue and maintain that value nor any incentive to discover the reasons; in other words, he will not know what is a virtuous life and how to lead it nor will he care to learn of it. He will seek further mandated guidance in the realm of virtues, thoughts, and actions. This breeding of intellectual laziness entrusts the job of thinking to others.

What we are seeing in Britain is certainly not just germane to that country. The Broken Britain phenomenon has to a considerable extent spread across the entire world.

Posted in Culture, General Work/Life, India, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | 8 Comments »

We Evolve into Preferring Monogamy

Posted by Jerry on November 20, 2008

People generally can’t quite decide whether monogamy is natural–or even possible–for humans (men, for the most part, I think, tend to pose this doubt). There’s usually debate about the morality of monogamy or multiple partners. Some people believe that monogamy is properly moral, but we are weak-willed humans and therefore cannot live up to the ideal in our relationships.

Others argue that monogamy is unnatural–and offer biologically deterministic arguments in their defense.

I have always held the view that monogamy is neither inherently moral or immoral — a relationship’s morality is the function of the character, values, and virtues of the people involved.

Having said that, I also hold the view that monogamy is a more prudent setup–and that we consciously come to recognize it as such usually only much later in our lives–for reasons that have nothing to do with a person’s character but because of the natural context that evolves around us.

Take this analogy:

When one is younger, one is tempted–and rightly so, I would argue–to try out different majors in college, simultaneously take different courses from different streams, trying to make up one’s mind about what one prefers. Likewise, when it comes to choosing a career, a young person is eager to try different streams; he is likely to switch jobs more frequently, hunt for jobs while staying on his current one for less than a year. A younger person is more open to physical mobility–to relocation, travel, new experiences, and new friends. A younger person has a higher tolerance for transformation, upheavals, and new starts.

As one gets older, the context evolves. People tend to get settled in their careers; their tenure at a job tends to get longer–perhaps even life-long. People tend to decide upon and setup a “base” which they call home, even if they are open to long trips away. People tend to make fewer, but longer-lasting friendships. As one gets older, the tolerance for transformation, upheavals, and new beginnings diminish greatly.

Hence, my argument around the choice of monogamy–and by implication, my views about its morality–takes a similar road. I think it’s primarily a matter of prudence in response to changing contexts.

It is clear that monogamy does not come easily to most people–and certainly not naturally–in the younger days of one’s adulthood. This is due to various reasons that make up the context within which this issue arises. And in my opinion, the reasons are as follows:

  1. For various physical and biological reasons that may differ among men and women, younger people tend to have a greater sexual appetite–not just in terms of frequency but also in terms of variety. (Of course, this does not mean that such “appetites” cannot be controlled or channeled, but that’s not the point here.)
  2. For various psychological reasons, younger people tend to be more resilient to break-ups. Even though while they undergoing one, they might think that a break-up is the end of the world, younger people become quickly aware of the fact that a whole life is ahead of them and that they can move on, that they deserve better, or that they can find another mate.
  3. For reasons similar to the one above, the pressures of maintaining fidelity and abiding by the rules of a relationship tend to be weak among younger people–again, because the end of a relationship is really not the end of the world.
  4. Younger people generally have access to–or are frequently placed in–social environments that open possibilities for exploring outside the relationship (e.g., clubs, colleges, etc.). Moreover, the modern world has opened up innumerable possibilities for younger people to connect with each other–across boundaries, even. (This opens up the tangential issue of whether a person having a purely online affair can be considered to be monogamous.)
  5. Younger people generally have a lower level of tolerance when things don’t go their way in a relationship or when they experience dissatisfaction in an aspect in that relationship.

For the reasons I outlined above, I think monogamy is harder to come by and equally harder to impose upon oneself when you’re young.

As people grow older, however, I think we generally shift our predispositions quite naturally to prefer monogamy–to prefer a kind of stability in romantic relationships. 

It becomes more prudent–more sensible and in accordance with our nature as older adults–that we focus all our emotions, efforts, time, and money on a single partner (and expect likewise in reverse) because this is what lends us the most amount of physical, psychological, sexual, and emotional satisfaction.

To conclude, monogamy or open relationships are neither inherently moral or immoral. However, having said that, I believe that most people will tend towards monogamous relationships later in their lives of their own will as a consciously recognized and evaluated option that is most sensible for them–and hence, properly moral as well. Since what is rationally good for you with your life as the standard, is also properly moral.

Posted in Culture, General Work/Life, Homosexuality, India, Love and Romance, Mumbai, My Theories and Ideas, Philosophy, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Grant Proposal for Atlas Shrugged

Posted by Jerry on September 29, 2008

The Atlas Economic Research Foundation is calling for proposals for grant money to promote the ideas of Atlas Shrugged. Here is the relevant part of the press release:

“Proposals should outline at least two educational events or activities designed to achieve the goals of the proposed program. This can be translation and/or distribution of the book, events such as book launch, reception, discussion forum, seminars, courses, press conferences, or any  creative form of educational outreach such as a movie, interviews, contests, etc.

Proposals should include a draft budget of how the money would be spent and a timeline of how the project would be executed.

Grant proposals are due in English by October 15, 2008. Proposals should be submitted  by e-mail to Ms. Yiqiao Xu at yiqiao.xu@atlasusa.org.”

The grant is made possible by the BB&T Bank.

I am working with the Liberty Institute to secure this grant and here’s the preliminary set of ideas I have come up with. I’m posting these up here to get feedback and additional ideas on how best to promote the ideas of Atlas Shrugged in India. Please note that the deadline for submitting the proposal is very near.

  1. Essay contest on Atlas Shrugged—across Indian colleges—with cash prizes for 3 winners.
  2. Create professionally designed brochures and pamphlets of key ideas from Atlas Shrugged:
    • Francisco’s Money speech
    • Excerpts from John Galt’s speech
    • Other excerpts that highlight philosophical and artistic integration
      Leverage these brochures on all events, activities, cross-country trips, bookstores, etc.
  3. Create and distribute large-sized posters of Atlas Shrugged and Ayn Rand across large-chain bookstores in India–to raise the visibility and sales of the novel.
  4. Discussion seminars across various locations in India on themes from the Atlas Shrugged–moderated by me or representatives from the Liberty Institute
    • Philosophical themes for college professors from philosophy departments
    • The artistic merits of Atlas Shrugged—for students, artists, and professors from theaters, art institutes, and colleges
  5. Panel of experts session on the moral theory of Atlas Shrugged versus other moral theories:
    • Panel of clerics, NGO representatives, journalists, doctors, scientists, etc.
  6. Screening of the documentary film Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life on a cross-country tour across major movie chains such as PVR Cinemas–perhaps with the additional help and sponsorship of the American Center in Mumbai, tied-in with promotions of Atlas Shrugged—distributing brochures, books on sale, etc.
  7. Buy media space (in newspapers and online media such as emails, etc.) for promotions of the above-mentioned events and activities

Posted in Ayn Rand, Books, Culture, Economics, General Work/Life, India, Mumbai, Objectivism, Personal, Philosophy, Political Issues, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | 10 Comments »

What Can India be Proud Of?

Posted by Jerry on August 14, 2008

The celebration of Indian independence should be more than a record-keeping of years. Yes, it is undeniable that India has progressed appreciably in recent years; however, realize that while India rides on the shoulders of foreign and multinational giants, who lead this march towards prosperity, India simultaneously shackles them under the burden of its contradictory and arbitrary legal dictats. In truth, India’s freedoms are not yet secured; and the greatest threat to it is the Indian government empowered by the Indian Constitution, which is the entire basis upon which this country is founded. We are building castles of concrete and glass upon thin air.

I am reprising an article I wrote sometime around last year’s independence day. The specifics are different now, but the general theme continues to be relevant.

=======

I find it rather apt that, in the run-up to the day of India’s independence, the nation finds itself embarrassingly servile to the hooliganism of some idiots who sit in the legislatures of this country.

The well-known Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen was attacked by Islamo-loonies at a book launch event here in India, and the only people protecting her were–no, not the police–but the media persons. Nasreen was physically attacked by members of a muslim political party who alleged that her books were insulting to their “prophet” Mohammad. The leader of that muslim political gang demanded that Nasreen’s head be chopped off. Even the most widely read muslim Urdu newspapers faulted the muslim thugs not for attacking the author but–get this–for not having done enough! They wanted her blood.

Carrying pictures of [the muslim party] legislators hurling bouquets [at the author], a newspaper came down heavily on the leaders for allowing her to leave Hyderabad unhurt.
Considered a critic of MIM, the Siasat newspaper lampooned the legislators for their failure to inflict injuries to a woman. The paper suggested that Nasreen could have been killed as the police reached the scene 30 minutes after the attack.

Not to be outdone by this height of vicious irrationality, the Indian police decided to register a case against Miss Nasreen, faulting her for writing a book that stoked communal discord and unrest, while letting the rioting Islamic marauders go scot-free!!

So, as we get closer to the day of India’s independence, we are faced with a political party whose members sit in the people’s house of the Indian parliament; we have a bunch of muslim idiots who get on a brutish rampage against an author and demand that her head be chopped off–a clear and actionable threat that warrants arrest; we have an unarmed, helpless author who had no police protection of any sort; and finally, we have the Indian police registering a criminal case against the author for writing a book, for which she could be imprisoned for up to two years, while those savages who made the actionable threat are roaming the nation free to celebrate India’s independence day.

Is this merely a one-off incident? Most certainly not. Rioting marauders epitomize the Indian democratic machinery at work. In this country, democracy means rioting on the streets, attacking innocent civilians, going on strike every two days, stifling expressions of speech, destroying property, and spreading civil terror. Most of these marauders are religious-political parties, political leaders, and their hired goons. In other words, the very people who pull the levers of this democratic machinery are the ones looting and plundering on the streets.

Political power wielded through violence is the predominant medium of “democratic” expression in this corrupt nation–a nation founded upon a ridiculously long, obtuse, and inept constitution that guarantees no rights to any citizens. Truth be said, Indians should properly have nothing to be proud of about their country–and should rightfully be enraged that this is the case!

If you choose to point out the economic progress achieved over the past 17 years in India, note that it has been achieved mostly despite the mangled laws and institutions of the Indian democracy and predominantly by the willingness of non-Indian investors to take on the high risks of functioning in this chaotic, corrupt system, and persevere in the face of it all.

Indians are being made complacent by the illusion of a sanguine future made possible by the global enterprising system of the free market; however, we are missing the crucial fact that the future of this free market is precarious given the lack of a rights-protecting institutional system. Where there’s an institutionalized political system of force and violence, where the government is itself the perpetrator and idle spectator of violence, there can be no freedom.

What exactly can we claim as the proper achievement of Indians? Certainly not the wealth and prosperity we see today made possible mostly by the foreign entities. The legacy that properly and wholly belongs to Indians is the abject poverty among the masses and the hopelessness of a dim future among the youth that permeated this nation prior to the early 1990s. It is no wonder that all those who could, scrapped every loose rupee to flee India during those years. If we are to be proud of all the 60 years of our independence, we must answer the question why were our parents fleeing the freedom of a newly independent India? What were they running from? Did they not share the sense of pride in a free nation? Were we truly free? Are we still?

Happy 62nd, India.

==============

Related posts:

Dangerous Democracy and Fundamental Freedoms
The Contradictions of the Indian Constitution
Not a Tourist Brochure: India

Posted in Culture, General Work/Life, India, Indian Blogs, Islamo-loony, Mumbai, My Theories and Ideas, Philosophy, Political Issues, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments »

I Smile at my Rationality

Posted by Jerry on May 30, 2008

Since childhood, I had always loved mango-flavored drinks–even artificially flavored ones. I absolutely loved mango milkshakes, mango breezes, mango smoothies, mango blasts, Mangola (a Coca Cola beverage), Frooti and Maaza (both artificial mango-flavored drinks), and Real Mango fruit juices. At any point, I would prefer one of these to any other softdrink. Strangely, however, I didn’t have the same craze for the actual mango fruit itself. I only liked its pulp and flavor in juices–and perhaps, its yellow color.

In fact, after I had newly arrived in India two years ago, I got into this habit of consuming entire one-liter packets of Real Mango fruit juices at every meal. Sometimes, I would have about 3 to 4 packets a day. Added to that, I was alarmingly indiscriminate about my eating habits and neglectful about my physical appearance.

I suspect this kind of behavior might have had some kind of psychological roots–in addition to just mindless indulgence when it came to food. I realize that this was the phase in which I was undergoing drastic transformations in my physical, emotional, and romantic life. However, it is a fact that these transformations were not the cause of my behavior, but merely my excuse. I know this is true because once I made the conscious decision to snap out of my mindless gluttony and recapture my rational judgment in this matter, I acted upon the decision–immediately and consistently.

I was fortunate enough to find a gym that truly exemplified motivation and fitness professionals who were competent experts in their field. With the help of a well-planned nutritional program, in only about 4-5 months, I lost 16 kilograms (35 pounds) and returned to the appropriate weight category for my height and age.

While I acknowledge the role of my trainers and my nutritionist, the predominant onus of action obviously was upon me: I had to choose to go to the gym every evening after work (which I still do, albeit at a different gym now); I had to choose to stick to a proper diet; I had to choose to be discriminating about the kinds of food I ate; I had to choose to modify my emotional responses to food in accordance with my conscious decisions.

To be straightforward about it: I was acting rationally. The combined psychological and physical result of practicing rationality was that I was able to gradually detoxify my body, which made it progressively easier to continue eating healthy, staying fit, and maintaining my ideal weight.

In India, we are in the midst of a scorching summer–and particularly in Mumbai, the heat is made worse by the humidity in the air. Even after the sun sets, the air is hot and heavy, with water vapor, smog particles, and dust persistently suspended all around.

Therefore, in such climates, a refreshing chilled drink with lots of ice and flavor is like an image of paradise. I was sitting at Cafe Coffee day this evening, intending to take a glass full of just this kind of paradise. It was a long day at work, I was tired, parched, and hot. Now, It just so happens that the coffee shop was promoting its new Mango-flavored smoothie. The place was drenched with close-up images of yellow liquids in moist, beaded glasses. Their special menu boards had “mango” prominently written all over it. Mango was in the air at Cafe Coffee Day.

So, when the server came up to me to take my order, I said, simply, without conscious effort, and without a second thought:

“One lemon iced-tea please.”

Then I looked around again at all the heavy promotions of that special mango-flavored drink, and I smiled at myself realizing how rationally habituated I had become. 🙂

It’s not that I avoid the bad foods anymore–as a conscious decision. It’s like Howard Roark’s response to Ellsworth Toohey: I simply don’t even think of it.

Posted in General Work/Life, India, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Personal, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Activism at Work

Posted by Jerry on May 29, 2008

Practically everyone I know at work has read at least one of the major works of Ayn Rand. They seem to regard her primarily as a literary figure, and I think, they mostly don’t much agree with (or understand) her philosophy. Rand’s novels, to them, are just that–novels; not a dramatization of a true philosophy of life, just an unusual and radical storyline.

My work also has both The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged in its library. It’s pretty clear that Rand has an established place in the corporate world–and is particularly well-known in India. I have blogged about Rand’s particular significance to Indians in previous posts.

This Friday, I will be conducting an informal discussion session with my colleagues on Objectivism in general and The Fountainhead in particular, since that is the book most of them have read. Also, since they learned that I have studied Objectivism in some detail for so many years now, they were very eager to hear me make the case for the philosophy. I am happy to do it.

Rand continues to be a polarizing figure; and she still manages to get people involved in animated discussions. My colleagues have been excitedly talking about the Friday session all this week–everytime we gather in the cafeteria for a meal or snack or hang beside each other’s cubicles. I’ve already heard some of the usual criticisms carelessly thrown about: “she was too extreme. It’s too rigid.” But I resist the urge to engage them in full-on discussion because I want to make a proper, prepared, and well-organized presentation on the philosophy. However, I’m not going to be lecturing or doing most of the talking; I’d rather prefer to facilitate the discussion–offer some guideposts, introduce some new ideas, elicit opinions and reactions, ask them to probe deeper into their questions and reactions, etc.

Anyway, if this goes well, I expect to hold additional sessions on the philosophy. I am quite certain that people will want to have more things to say and hear about Rand. After these sessions, I would be eager to get them started on We The Living, because it is my favorite novel and which I have read three times now.

So, cheers for personal activism! Hip hip Hurray! 🙂

Posted in Ayn Rand, Books, Culture, General Work/Life, India, Objectivism, Personal, Philosophy, Philosophy of Art, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Government Stimulus During a Recession

Posted by Jerry on May 22, 2008

Question:

While you’re waiting for the free market to correct itself in the event of a depression or a recession, there are real people facing dire situations–going hungry, losing their jobs, struggling to make ends meet, and so on. In such situations of widespread economic crises, shouldn’t we allow at least for a temporary stimulation by the government in the form of investments, bail-outs, jobs, infrastructure projects, etc.? It would only be for the short-term, till the recession or depression is over, and then we can revert to free market normalcy. The problem with the free market is, while it is self-correcting, we can never guess how long or how quickly it might take to rectify a situation; in the meantime, we cannot leave people helpless, jobless, and starving. Can we?

My response:

From all appearances, the above question seems to be focusing on a pragmatic situation–specifically, a concrete economic scenario of nationwide economic depression or recession. The question seems to be about politics and economics and about the role of government. The question implies that it is in agreement with free market capitalism, but wants to allow for some government concessions in times of emergencies.

However, if you carefully consider this question, you will realize that it is actually a question about ethics–philosophy. It is asking about the proper ethical response that society must provide in times of economic crises. This is not primarily a discussion on the concretes of an economic crises but a discussion on the merits of rational egoism.

The question has already conceded the grounds to altruism; it mounts a challenge to rational egoism from the platform of altruism and the terrace of politics. The only proper response to this kind of a question is to offer an ethical alternative to choose from: does one man’s dire suffering morally justify the enslavement or sacrifice of another man? The answer to this will inexorably lead to an answer to the above question.

No amount of need in this world justifies human sacrifice. The only consistently logical foundation for laissez-faire capitalism is the ethics of rational self-interest; no other ethical system can logically justify capitalism without inherent contradictions. Thus, if capitalism is your goal in politics and economics, then rational self-interest in your means to get there. You cannot shortcircuit the ethical means and replace it with altruism and still hope to achieve the goal of capitalism. It just won’t work.

Now, specifically, with regard to those suffering the most during an economic crises, if you discard the hidden assumption that only the government can provide the best aid in such times of need–if you discard the altruistic premise that one man’s need becomes a moral obligation on another man–then you will be open to innovatively imagining how the free market can mobilize enterprising individuals and corporations to voluntarily, generously, perhaps even profitably, help those in dire need until normal conditions are restored.

My friend Dexter once pointed out to me how the Catholic Church–the richest Church in the history of human civilization and the one with the largest membership–is fully funded on a voluntary basis. Every church-goer is a voluntary contributor to the functioning of the mega-monumental church that the Universal Catholic Church is. Think about it: the Catholic Church owns its own country, even! And it manages to control, mobilize, and deploy funds to practically any corner of the globe; and all of that money comes from regular, faithful, individuals who enjoy the value of their religion and their membership in the Church.

Posted in Economics, India, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

On Facebook

Posted by Jerry on March 29, 2008

I have created a new group on Facebook called “Ayn Rand Fans in Mumbai.”

Here is the description I wrote:

I have created a new group–primarily for people in Mumbai, but also open to all fans of Ayn Rand’s novels and philosophy around the world. You are welcome to join and participate in the group. Occassionally, there might be events and socials organized in Mumbai, the details of which will be posted here. A tentative upcoming event I am planning is an Ayn Rand movie festival, showcasing the Oscar nominated documentary “Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life” and the Italian movie “We The Living.

I intend this to be a place for fans of Ayn Rand’s novels and philosophy to meet, network, socialize, and be updated on city events related to the activities of this group.

I intentionally avoided making the group exclusive to Objectivists because I do not want this to be primarily and fundamentally a philosophy group, although the common interest here is largely philosophical–or intellectual. The group is also open to those who admire Rand’s novels but do not have a philosophical bent of mind, including those who properly do not call themselves Objectivists until they fully understand what subscribing to the philosophy entails.

Posted in Ayn Rand, Books, Culture, General Work/Life, India, Mumbai, Objectivism, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Right to Migrate

Posted by Jerry on March 10, 2008

The right to migrate–that is, to move from one nation or society to another–is a derivative of the right to liberty and the right to own property wherever it is possible. Ultimately, all of these are derived from an individual’s right to his own life. Objectivism upholds a policy of open immigration for America–and not impractically so. It is impossible for a moral principle to be impractical in reality.

The Objective Standard–an Objectivist journal of culture and politics–has a new article on how the moral right to immigrate is not only consonant with individual rights but also fully and consistently practicable in reality. People wrongly associate issues like illegal immigration, over-population, competition in jobs and wages, cultural erosion, and so on as challenges to open immigration. What they do not realize is that these problems arise precisely because the U.S. government rampantly violates human rights by not permitting open immigration and instead legislating arbitrary immigration quotas and ethnic lotteries. 

The article in the Objective Standard explains in detail how current immigration policies give birth to greater security concerns and rights violations than a moral and objective immigration policy. Here is a particularly striking excerpt from the opening paragraphs of the article:

Morally speaking, if a person rationally judges that immigrating to America would be good for his life, he should immigrate; a rational morality holds that one should always act on one’s best judgment. But does a foreigner have a right to move to America? And should America welcome him? Yes, he does—and yes, she should.

And here’s another juicy bit from the article:

America’s border is not properly a barrier for the purpose of keeping foreigners out; it is properly a boundary designating the area in which the U.S. government must protect rights.

Posted in Culture, Economics, Immigration Issues, India, Objectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, Rights and Morality, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Private Ownership of Roads

Posted by Jerry on February 11, 2008

I decided to make this comment into a post after all; that way, relevant comments can proceed under this post.

When we think of privatizing roads, the scenario is so far removed from anything we have witnessed in real life that we respond–almost instinctively–with concern… of uncertainty, anarchy, and unpredictability. Our ability to imagine the operations of a free society is not inhibited our by level of intelligence but by the strictures of thought that we–and the current philosophical system–have placed upon our minds; the concept of the government is so entrenched in our socio-political thinking that life without government produces a mental blank-out.

This is a good test of whether you hold your philosophy as a body of abstract, rationalistic principles or as a properly integrated system that you use in daily living, and which you can readily apply to concrete situations.

The effort required is much like shrugging off theism and stepping into a world without a god, which appears at first to be daunting, anarchic, amoral, uncertain, and even barbaric.

1) We just have to think about analogous situations that most closely resemble the operations of a free market; I submit that in a free society most people will not have to pay for practically any use of the roads. As analogous situations, think of your use of the Internet and the radio. The vast resources of the Internet are available to most of us for free. The Internet operates in such a way that there’s not only an abundance of voluntary content generators but also massive revenue generators: the revenue is generated by amazingly innovative methods that would be simply impossible were the Internet to be a government-regulated operation. The people who invest and wish to make money from the Internet are making their profits (provided they have been sensible in how they went about it), and those who simply wish to derive the benefits of using the Internet are doing it for FREE (like myself. :)) And note that the Internet is a globally free phenomena, at least in all the places where governments have not been foolish enough to interfere.

2) The radio is another similar example. Most of us do not pay for radio, and yet we derive the pleasurable and important benefits of it. Radio frequencies were only recently privatized in India; if our broadcast TV frequencies were also privatized likewise, then–as in America–we would even be enjoying high-quality broadcast programming for free on TV (however, since this is not the case, we have rampant cable thievery instead).

3) Who pays for all this? To a communist or socialist, it seems incomprehensible that such awesome benefits on the radio, television, and the Internet is being offered for free; to that kind of mindset, the limitation is not necessarily a low level of intelligence, but the accepted premise that man should not (indeed, cannot) be free to devise his own ways and means of living, trading, producing, and pursuing happiness.

4) In a society where roads are privatized–like radio air frequencies–I envision most roads to be of superior quality and mostly free for people to use: corporations and businesses that are situated alongside these roads will make it a point to have their access roads in good condition with ample parking space for customers to visit their stores and businesses.

5) Utility (water, electricity, telephone, etc.) and cable corporations will contract with road owners to gain access to establishments situated on their roads; they will pay the road owners a certain amount of money or percent of profits for laying their wires and pipes on top of or under these roads. The road owners, in turn, will ensure that these wires, pipes, cables, etc. are laid in place quickly, efficiently, and esthetically in order to maintain the high value of their property. The utility companies will pay the road owner a fee for access to residents, businesses, and the use of the owner’s property. This can be one of the many revenue models for private roads. (Objectivist blogger Qwertz made this point persuasively and at length in his post; I am indebted to him for this idea.)

6) Roads with all installed utilities and esthetic considerations will have high-property values, which would translate to high property rates for residents and businesses in that neighborhood and the surrounding area; property owners will be able to command higher prices for their property–either in rentals or in a sale. Thus, road ownership will be a big and thriving business, which means, more investors will be interested in ownership of roads and highways. This will invariably lead to increased competition, competitive rates, higher benefits and services on these roads, and a greater value for consumers, business owners, advertisers, restaurants, etc. The cost to the end user of these roads will be either very minimal and competitive or simply nothing at all.

7) I imagine monthly or annual subscription passes for the use of those few roads that are not free (perhaps, major expressways); and these passes could be highly subsidized by advertising, competition, rest-stop areas, or other perks that road owners might want to sell or include on their roads

8.) One of the best benefits of privatized roads (especially for India) would be the non-existence of public protests on the streets, processions, road blockages, and vandalism: corporations, businesses, and road owners would not want their private property to be clogged, their customers to have no access to their businesses, and their brandnames and reputation associated with such hooligans. Therefore, they will ensure and pay for strict security measures to enforce safety and brand value. Perhaps, these private corporations will threaten with the withdrawal of advertising revenue or legal suits if the operators of these roads become lapse in their duties to ensure safety and prevent road protests or blockages.

9) Finally, street hawking will become illegal only if the owner does not permit it or the vendor has violated certain parameters. I do not see why hawking will be extinguished entirely. I believe that some neighborhoods might wish to project a certain kind of charm to their area and thus encourage streetside vendors who are consistent with their neighborhood theme: for example, Chinatown, Little Italy, Indian Village, Little Mexico, Greek Town, etc., could be neighborhood themes that can attract tourism, business, night revellers, and much revenue. Therefore, street vendors could add to the charm and distinctness of such areas, and it could be entirely within the operations of a free society with privately owned roads.

Posted in Culture, Economics, General Work/Life, India, Mumbai, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

In Response to Values

Posted by Jerry on February 6, 2008

I sometimes get the desire to spend money on apparently cheap items only so that the people selling them to me continue to remain in business. Many times, I consciously feel the urge to buy something from a streetside vendor so that I can prolong his sense of hope and trust in the virtue of trade and production—particularly because I realize the sharp necessity of this hope in the face of what surrounds such people in India: abject poverty, beggars, homeless wanderers, alcoholics, marauders, looters, unscrupulous police officers, cheats, robbers, thugs, etc.

The other day, I was eating a vegetable sandwich at a roadside foodstall. In the short time that it took me to eat my sandwich, three different individuals–perhaps thugs, goons, or police officers in plain clothes–came up to the sandwich vendor at separate times: all three of these men didn’t say a word; they just came up to the stall and looked at the vendor knowingly. Then all three of them left with money that the vendor had given them. After the last of them had gone, the vendor just looked down at his table and muttered in Hindi: “Everyone wants money; if they take all my money away, what will I have left?”

I was shocked and disgusted by what had just happened! I knew that the vendor had just been extorted of money for the “privilege” of setting up his stall and running his food business on that street. Typically, such vendors have to pay not just the police officers patrolling the street but every other thug who has laid claim on a stretch of land only by the virtue of force for the privilege of being productive.

After I had finished eating, I paid the money I owed the man for my sandwich, and then gave him an extra 10 Rupees. It is a very small amount of money–both to him and to me; it was not intended for him to use it to survive the night or some such thing. I gave him the extra money to convey a sense of hope–my hope that he chooses to continue his business and be productive, instead of quitting and joining the thugs, or becoming a leech, or giving up on life entirely and stagnating.

I offered my money in response to his struggle to attain values and live life. I was proud of it.

Posted in Culture, General Work/Life, India, Personal, Philosophy, Political Issues, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments »

Hindi News Channel on Ayn Rand

Posted by Jerry on February 1, 2008

Of all the places to find an article about Ayn Rand, there is this recent one on Zee News. The online version of the 24-hour Hindi News cable channel carried a decent article on Ayn Rand (in English, of course). Reading the title of the article, I was prepared for yet another misinformed, second-handed diatribe on Rand’s life and a grotesque caricature of her philosophy.

The article is fine, however; the author Ipsita Baishya treats the essential ideas of Objectivism fairly enough. Like in these excerpts, for example (note how Baishya points out Rand’s rejection of the libertarian party):

According to Rand, one’s highest value should be one’s ability to reason. This also manifested in the way she viewed her own life, not through feelings but through her interest in ideas and her thinking.

Politically, Rand wanted to provide liberal capitalism with a moral anchor, to take on the commonplace notion that communism was a noble if unworkable idea while the free market was a necessary evil best suited to flawed human nature. Her impassioned arguments against “compassionate” redistribution–and persecution–of wealth have not lost their urgency and relevance even today.

Although Rand denounced the feminist movement, one cannot help but see a strong feminist subtext in her repertoire. All of her heroines are strong-willed, independent women; feminism being all about women asserting their individuality. So it would not be incorrect to assume that Rand by default had a feminist streak to her as many feminists have interpreted. She rejected the Libertarian movement due to her emphasis on epistemology and her rational premise did not allow her to believe in the existence of any Superpower. [bold mine] 

But the sprinkle of words like “cult”, “religious doctrine”, and “loopholes” leaves me wondering about the intent of the author. I suspect this article was published in time to mark Ayn Rand’s birthday on February 2.

I myself had made plans to commemorate the occasion over two days by airing an Oscar nominated documentary on Rand’s life—Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life and the Italian movie based on her book We The Living. However, as I was making my plans, I learned that Mumbai would be celebrating a 10-day long art festival slated to begin on the same day. Due to the festival, the venue I was considering for airing the documentary would not be available—Prithvi Theater, MaxMueller Bhavan, etc. Besides, I would be competing with more established festival events for an audience to the movies.

Perhaps, after the Kala Ghoda Art Festival concludes, I might set up the dates for screening these movies. The American Center Library in South Mumbai is open to hosting the event, when I spoke to them earlier this week. Let’s see how it all turns out.

Posted in Ayn Rand, Culture, General Work/Life, India, Movies, Mumbai, Objectivism, Personal, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

X-Men in Mumbai

Posted by Jerry on January 30, 2008

Last Sunday, I went on a coffee date with a man I had been in contact with for several months. Our conversation was fluid, lively, expansive (in terms of the topics we discussed), and stimulating. However, there was this one moment that totally cracked me up. You’ll see:

Him: You know that the X-Men movies have a definite homosexual sub-text, right?

Me: Oh, of course! It’s hardly a sub-text–it’s the entire freakin’ gay agenda, loud and proud!

Him: Yah. Precisely! Well, in Mumbai, there is a definite X-men type gay underground group. We have Magneto, a.k.a, Ashok Row Kavi–the militantly gay activist, and his posse at the Humsafar Trust; and then we have his nemesis Professor X–the more benign and amiable founder of Gay Bombay groups with the rest of us followers.

Me: Oh, interesting! And what character are you?

Him: Well, I’m not really a “character” per se: I Am The Cerebro!

Posted in Culture, General Work/Life, Humor, India, Mumbai, Personal, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Book Reviews and My Room Videos

Posted by Jerry on January 26, 2008

I realize I haven’t been blogging at all lately. I find that I have very little free time to myself; and the precious little that I do have, I must choose between spending it on finishing a book that I’m reading, watching something on TV to just relax blankly, or typing up my thoughts on innumberable things on my blog. Invariably, I end up choosing from the first two options.

I just finished reading Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. It’s an explosive book!–what a fascinating story, a heroic life, an incredible journey of a real heroic giant of a woman! It should be compulsory reading for every crazy multiculturalist and Islamic fundamentalist out there. In fact, everyone should read it, and be inspired by it. Ayaan Hirsi Ali defies cultural determinism, cultural bonds, traditions, religious injunctions, the threat to life and soul, family, clan, nation–practically everything that an average mediocrity finds as constituents of his self-identity. Rising from the tribal muck of primitive Somalia and the backwardness of Islamic traditions, Ayaan charts her own course, explicitly based on reason, individualism, and enlightenment ideals. Infidel is the autobiography of this strong, young, and heroic woman. It’s the story of a woman that exemplifies Ayn Rand’s words: “man is a being of self-made soul.”

Then, I plodded through a terribly clunky, horribly-written book on Poincare’s Conjecture in the mathematical field of Topology. The book is about the story of an unknown Russian mathematician Greg Perelman, who suddenly shot to fame after quietly submitting a paper on the Internet in which he had written up a proof for Poincare’s Conjecture—a problem that had remained unsolved until then for several centuries. This incident had happened on a few years ago, and at that time (sometime in 2001, I think), I remember reading about a Russian man solving a centuries-old problem in the newspaper. I still recollect being intrigued by the story and wondering what the details of this solution and the mathematical problem was. 

Now, I love reading books on mathematics, although I am terribly weak in the subject myself. I have never been good with numbers: we are as mutually repelling as opposite poles of a magnet. However, I am fascinated by the story of mathematical achievements, geniuses, mathematical research, inventions, explorations, thoughts, etc. I had immensely enjoyed reading about Godel’s theorems and Fermat’s proofs. And the more I read about the field of mathematics, the more I understood it, because each new book contains several references to similar themes, ideas, topics, problems, and personalities–and they approach it from different angles; and when you identify these similarity and begin making integrations in your mind based on these vantage points, the feeling of awe and wonder is more than gratifying.

However, as I was reading Poincare’s Prize, I thought to myself that the contributors to Wikipedia write far superior articles, and they are more captivating as well! The author of Poincare’s Prize seems completely scattered in his organization, overwhelmed by the complexity of the subject matter he’s tackling, and unsure of how to simply progress from one paragraph to the next. His transitions are clunky and distracting. He dwells on irrelevant–almost encyclopedic–details of personalities that add little to the progression of the storyline.

In any case, all of these deficiencies can be overlooked as nothing more than mild annoyance. However, what I found most egregious is the author’s gall to inject his sense of morality and judgment on the actions of the mathematicians he discusses. Instead of staying clear of such moral evaluations in a topic dealing with objective facts and dry logic–or at least letting the reader make his own moral judgements of the characters, the author generously indulges in moralizing. It should go without saying that my heightened senstivity to this aspect of the book is primarily because I deeply disagree and detest the author’s moral evaluations.

Anyway. Moving on to something unrelated. For my recent birthday, I was gifted a Nikon CoolPix L11 digital camera. I decided to tinker around with it in the privacy of my room. Here are some short videos of my room.

And another:

And finally:

Posted in Books, Culture, General Work/Life, India, Islamo-loony, Movies, Mumbai, Personal, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

 
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