A word of Hebrew origin, amen means so be it, truly.
Amen 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.
India, 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.
Are 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.
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.
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.
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.
Ari Armstrong writes a brief post on the success of Harry Potter books. He identifies the reason behind the book’s phenomenal success, and I agree.
The main reason that Rowling has had and will continue to have such profound cultural influence is that she is reaching millions of children when they are first exploring ideas and first thinking about moral choices. Harry and his best friends belong to the school house of Gryffindor, the house of the brave, and Rowling presents an inspiring image of moral courage.
But perhaps the best thing about Rowling’s books is that they have encouraged children to grapple with a complex story and difficult themes. The children who have graduated from those books will be prepared to read — and eager to find — other great and inspiring works of literature, such as Rand’s novels.
My own post on how ideas can be spread among little children offers the same suggestion: engage children at the sense-of-life level; offer them an emotional experience of the ideas you wish them to understand; present those ideas in the form of art–literary, dramatic, visual, and musical; over time, prod them to think critically, explore the reasons behind their emotional experiences, and encourage them to ask many “why” questions.
However, remember that all of these efforts require an adult mentor: therefore, the adult has to be convinced of these ideas–explicitly and in philosophical form–before they can choose to impart those ideas in emotional or dramatic form to the children in their care. Properly, children should never be converted to or cultivated into a philosophy; that works only with religion and doctrines. Children can be given an experience of possibilities, a moral lesson in dramatic form, a show of principle in practice, of how the world can be to a person who makes certain choices. Children can be taught how to think well and the consequences of thoughts, but should not be taught what to think. Only adults can be converted to a philosophy–insofar as the conversion is the result of intellectual persuasion and rational understanding.
I have met this person twice now. And I continue to be impressed, although with some warranted restraint. He has an upper-level position in a large US pharmaceutical company, is mature, intelligent in his sphere, and attractive. Last night he said, “I like you; so I want to go out of my way to meet you again. This is because I’m selfish.”
I’m optimistic about where this is headed.
[P.S. I sent this person a link to my article on Atlasphere, and over the phone, I said, “This is a link to what we were talking about last night. Check it out any time.” He responded, “Why at any time? I’ll check it out right now!”
He just says the right things, doesn’t he!]
On my way to work this morning in the autorickshaw, I decided that I need to calm my mind and just relax. You know how even after you’ve slept, you feel that only your body has relaxed but your mind is still tense or active or busy? So, on the entire trip to work, I just closed my eyes, plugged my ears with my headphones, and focused on the melodious music from my iPod. These days, I almost exclusively listen to Hindi/Bollywood music: the songs are so melodious, with a coherent rhythmic pace, and the lyrics are essentially poetry–very emotional, romantic, metaphorical, and imaginative. It was a good, calming, relaxing trip to work.
This is a dramatization of John Galt’s speech from Atlas Shrugged.
I must say I am very impressed by the video footage, which nicely visualizes the content of the voiceover. But what is most incredible about this video is the voice of Christopher Hurt as John Galt. It’s a terse and sharp voice with a distinct quality of youth.
Overall, the video is a job well done. The haunting background score adds to the dramatic value of the speech: the music evokes a sense of religious reverence, like as if one is kneeling under the soaring roof of a cathedral, rapt in worship. I did find the video almost religiously apocalyptic; but then again, John Galt was indeed delivering an apocalyptic speech in the novel.
I look forward to the other parts of the video.
Text by Ayn Rand
Read by Christopher Hurt
Edited for YouTube by XCowboy2
Music by Dominick Argento.
Interestingly, when I posted this YouTube video on my blog, the post automatically registered the title of “666” (since each post has a number). I chose to let the number remain as the title of this post.
In India, buying pirated movies is the best way to protect your own property rights.
Pirated movies, videos, music, and software are rampant in the Indian market: they are sold openly, loudly, and prodigiously in the full presence of law enforcement officials, who are often also the patrons of such piracy. Indeed, it goes even further: pirated goods are often sold right on government–public–property!
The Indian constitution recognizes no right to private property, which is actually logically consistent with its constitutionally enshrined Socialist character.
Therefore, there are no economic transactions in India that absolutely exclude the presence of the government at every level.
In the context of pirated movies, when you purchase a legitimate copy of a DVD from a store, you will be wrong to assume that the government has not stepped in somewhere between the creator of the movie and you–the purchaser–of the movie to violate the sanctity of property rights. Further, because of this government interference, you can never be sure that the movie you are going to purchase is the same movie that you wish to purchase.
Recently, I bought the legitimate copies of Babel (on VCD) and 300 (on DVD); naively, I assumed that I had purchased that which I wanted to purchase, i.e., that which I considered was of a value worthy of trading in my money for.
Both movies were so grotesquely mutilated by the government censors that I had no interest left in watching or even owning them and they provided me with no value for the money I had spent. Note that the censorship was actually a government act of fraud and violation of property rights: The movies I ended up inadvertently owning were neither created by the director/producer nor were they the ones I was led into believing as being what I desired to own.
Thus, the knife of government censors slices both ways–they mutilate the property of the creators and fraudulently expropriate the money of the consumers who have no way of ascertaining the integrity of the product they are purchasing. The creator’s property rights are violated and the customer’s right to pursue that which they truly intend to own is also violated.
In this way, the government of India openly commits fraud, invalidates the objective property rights of its citizens, infringes on the property laws of other sovereign nations, and continues to foster piracy on its own turf.
In response to the criminal acts of the government, the Indian people are well justified in resorting to piracy; from what I hear, the pirated versions of the DVDs come directly from the US, bypassing Indian government interference and censorship, and therefore preserves the integrity of the originally intended creations of the movie producers.
Therefore, by having the original creation reach its consumers as properly intended, piracy in fact protects the property of its creators; and by delivering the correct product that the consumers actually wish to purchase, piracy is fostering an honest (non-fraudulent) exchange of value for value.
Of course, that the creators get no gains from the sales of pirated versions of their products is therefore not the fault of the common man in India; for this, they should properly target their blame upon the Indian government as the true originators of piracy and crime.
Notably, the same violation occurs with regard to cable television in India. While the US government treats cable television as a sacrosanct domain because it falls under the private ownership of cable subscribers, in India there is no dearth of government meddling, censorship, and outright blackouts of cable channels on the whims of the Indian Ministry of Communication. This is in obvious disregard for the fact that cable subscription is the private property of individual citizens who spend their hard-earned money to purchase it.
Here again, the Indian government’s utter ineptitude at providing quality programming on broadcast channels–and its refusal to fully privatize broadcast air frequencies and get out of the business of media completely–has forced a majority of Indians to buy or steal cable service. Thus, while stealing cable is a crime, the blame should properly lie on the government as the true originators of the crime.
I’m reminded of Howard Roark’s actions in the Fountainhead. Roark much rather preferred that Keating took all credit for the design of Cortlandt and Roark received nothing for himself (in a sense, giving up his claim to his property–his designs) than have the integrity of his creation compromised. In a sense, this parallels the situation I am describing in India. A creator would rather have his creation released intactly with integrity and exactly as he intended–but have it be pirated–than have some incompetent secondhander in the government (who’s probably never made a movie in his entire life) mutilate his creation and sell it on the market as pseudo-legitimate property.
Of course, the analogy is weak and serves only an illustrative purpose–not a moral justification. Roark’s actions were deliberate and voluntary. Many of the movie-makers whose works get pirated are not even aware of the unlicensed reproduction of their works.
It is so easy to expose the lies and deception of Moore and his Sicko, that you don’t need sophisticated analysis and arguments from academic intellectuals, economists, or philosophers; intelligent movie reviewers are doing a superb job of it. Here’s an article by Kyle Smith that exposes the deception of Sicko.
The silliness of Moore’s oeuvre is so self-evident that being able to spot it is not liberal or conservative either; it’s a basic intelligence test, like the ability to match square peg with square hole.
Regarding my claim that Moore has zero credibility:
There is no way to know whether this claim is true because Moore’s style is to present whatever information he likes without checking it.
He told “Entertainment Weekly” “absolutely not,” when asked whether he felt any need to get the other side of the story. So, over time, his work rusts out from within as the facts eat away at it. The central idea of “Bowling for Columbine,” for instance—that the killers were subconsciously driven to their actions by the presence of a weapons manufacturing plant in Littleton—turned out to be not only conceptually insane but literally untrue. The plant did not make what Moore called “weapons of mass destruction” but rather space launch vehicles for TV satellites. “Roger & Me,” which presented Moore as unable to secure an interview with the GM chief Roger Smith, was also a 90-minute lie: Moore did talk to Smith, a fact revealed by Ralph Nader.
Regarding any disagreements surrounding wait times for healthcare in Canada:
Moore glosses over wait times, hoping his audience is too stupid to notice. He asks a handful of Canadian patients how long they had to wait to see the doctor. Oh, 20 minutes, 45 minutes, everyone says. So if Moore finds five people who didn’t have to wait, there’s no waiting for anybody! “To any Canadian who has ever been forced to go to emergency, this would seem unbelievable,” writes Thomas Malkom, a vehemently pro-Moore columnist for Canada’s paper The Star. The Canadian Supreme Court struck down a law forbidding private insurance in a 2005 decision, ruling that “Access to a waiting list is not access to health care”
Here is Dr. David Gratzer, the Canadian author of “The Cure: How Capitalism Can Save Health Care,” who believes both the US and Canadian systems are deeply flawed:
“Like most Canadians, I believed that we had the best-run health-care system in the world. Because the system was publically owned, I assumed that compassion came before profit and that everyone got good care. . .After I entered medical school, however, my view of Canadian health care changed…I trained in emergency rooms that were chronically, chaotically, dangerously overcrowded, not only in my hometown of Winnipeg, but all across Canada. I met a middle-aged man with sleep problems who was booked for an appointment with a specialist three years later; a man with pain following a simple hernia repair who was referred to a pain clinic with a two-year wait list; a woman with breast cancer who was asked to wait four more months before starting the lifesaving radiation therapy. According to the government’s own statistics, some 1.2 million Canadians couldn’t get a family doctor. In some rural areas, town councils resorted to lotteries: the winners would get appointments with the only general practitioners around.”
Regarding life-expectancy statistics offered by Moore:
Moore emphasizes life-expectancy figures in which the US slightly lags some other Western countries. But life expectancy involves many factors; two that Moore is especially knowledgeable about, obesity and homicide by firearm, are special American plagues. Here’s a stat: The percentage of patients having to wait more than four months for non-emergency surgery is about five times higher in Canada and seven times higher in Britain than it is here. [see Gratzer, 171]
I urge you to read Kyle Smith’s article in its entirety and link to it on your posts on the topic (if any).
In an article bluntly titled “More Lies from Moore,” Sally Pipes reveals just a few of the many distorted facts and outright fabrications that Michael Moore has in his sick movie. It is clear that the fat slob is not only a sicko but also a shameless liar:
The Supreme Court of Canada declared in June 2005 that the government health care monopoly in Quebec is a violation of basic human rights.
Government-run health care in Canada inevitably resolves into a dehumanizing system of triage, where the weak and the elderly are hastened to their fates by actuarial calculation.
Even the Toronto Star agrees that Moore’s endorsement of Canadian health care is overwrought and factually challenged. And the Star is considered a left-wing newspaper, even by Canadian standards.
Moore further claimed that the infamously long waiting lists in Canada are merely a reflection of the fact that Canadians have a longer life expectancy than Americans, and that the sterling system is swamped by too many Canadians who live too long.
Canada’s media know better. In 2006, the average wait time from seeing a primary care doctor to getting treatment by a specialist was more than four months. Out of a population of 32 million, there are about 3.2 million Canadians trying to get a primary care doctor. Today, according to the OECD, Canada ranks 24th out of 28 major industrialized countries in doctors per thousand people.
Unfortunately, Moore is more concerned with promoting an anti-free-market agenda than getting his facts straight. Profit, according to the filmmaker-activist, has no place in health care – period.
Moore ignores the fact that 85% of hospital beds in the U.S. are in nonprofit hospitals, and almost half of us with private plans get our insurance from nonprofit providers. Moreover, Kaiser Permanente, which Moore demonizes, is also a nonprofit.
Having practiced medicine in both Cuba and the United States, Dr. Cordova has an unusual perspective for comparison.
“Actually there are three systems,” Dr. Cordova said, because Cuba has two: one is for party officials and foreigners like those Mr. Moore brought to Havana. “It is as good as this one here, with all the resources, the best doctors, the best medicines, and nobody pays a cent,” he said.
But for the 11 million ordinary Cubans, hospitals are often ill equipped and patients “have to bring their own food, soap, sheets — they have to bring everything.” And up to 20,000 Cuban doctors may be working in Venezuela, creating a shortage in Cuba.
…Until he had to have emergency surgery last year, Fidel Castro — who turned 80 this year — was considered a model of vibrant long life in Cuba. But it was only last week that he acknowledged in an open letter that his initial surgery by Cuban doctors had been botched. He did not confirm, however, that a specialist had been flown in from Spain last December to help set things right.
The Cuba example is the most naïve. It doesn’t seem to cross Moore’s mind that when you confiscate a nation’s private property, that yes, you can provide free dental care for public relations purposes.
…Moore is right that our system is messed up. But that may be due to it being a contorted free market system, with limited competition and little consumerism.
All that is too subtle for Moore, who seems convinced from the start that the only solution is a government takeover. That’s a scary thought. Do you want your doctors to treat you like you get treated at the Department of Motor Vehicles or in airport security lines? Or maybe we should let bad nurses work forever, like a unionized public school teacher. We now enjoy the latest medical device or drug, but will there be much more R&D in the future if a blockbuster pill can’t command a blockbuster price?
And I’ll end this post with an interesting observation by Grace-Marie Turner made in the Baltimore Sun:
If Michael Moore’s waistline ever puts him in the hospital for heart surgery, it will be interesting to see where he goes for medical care — the Mayo Clinic, or Cuba? [Link not available]
I just don’t get fantasy genres. Their appeal eludes me. Perhaps, I’m lacking in the unbridled imagination it demands; perhaps, I just refuse to entirely suspend my grip on reality for the completely supernatural. Perhaps, I insist on using my own mind in unraveling a plot as I go along than just being goaded on as a docile but awestruck spectator in the author’s fantasy world. Perhaps, the liberal use of the deus ex machina makes me feel inefficacious and as if I have been cheated off a truly innovative turn in the plot. Perhaps, I believe that a fantasy world is the easiest to fabricate: where you have no rules other than the ones you create, where nothing reins you in but your own imagination, and where plots and characters are as easily dispensable or modifiable as they are created. I believe little children do something quite similar regularly within the confines of their playful minds and cardboard boxes.
I just don’t get fantasy genres. Although, I do enjoy some of them for the momentary pleasure of being fascinated, I am hardly irresistibly drawn to them like a moth to a lamp. They never feature among my favorite works of art–although the movie versions of fantasy novels like LOTR and Harry Potter must be credited and recognized as superior works of technical skill and innovation.
Given the extreme detachment of fantasy worlds from the reality that I am familiar with, including to some extent the abstractions and motivations of their characters and the metaphysical laws governing their entities, I am hard pressed to regard them as artistic concretizations of my widest abstractions.
Indeed, I often find it difficult to extract the author’s metaphysical value-judgments from such works because they comment on a “reality” that is totally removed from anything I have ever encountered or will experience in the future; i.e., the world they present and their underlying commentary on that world is all alien to me in the most proper sense of the word. Typically, my reaction to such works project a detached sense of amusement–of the kind that accompanies the knowledge of how silly all of it really is–like an atheist watching a movie of ghosts, demons, souls, and angels and knowing at back of his head how utterly unmoved he is by all of it.
Perhaps, the most I can garner from a work of fantasy is the hint of a sense of life–a subconscious view of existence–“an emotional appraisal of life”–the widest and the most vague equivalent of an explicit metaphysical value-judgment.
On the other hand, the sci-fi genre is slightly more appealing to me: it is usually grounded in the existing or the very plausible reality and builds its imaginative fantasies on those set of rules. Some of my favorite movies and popular novels are sci-fi, like Gattaca, X-men, the Matrix, etc.
Ultimately, however, in my opinion, nothing can ever surpass the sheer pleasure of experiencing an incredibly complex and imaginative plot structure spun from the brilliance of a mind that has grappled with the existential constraints of reality. A plot that is wholly based on reality, wrestles with the tension between hard facts and the anarchy of free minds and volitional characters, and which logically but unpredictably progresses toward an eminently satisfying climax by virtue of some ingenuously crafted resolution.
In sum, I contend that nothing rivals the genre of Romantic Realism in literature. Although, none of what I have said should indicate that I am shortchanging the authors’ of immensely popular works like LOTR and Harry Potter their obviously evident literary skill and imagination–it’s just not my cup of tea.
[Edited for clarity and added examples to illustrate]
A 10 minute video on the core of Ayn Rand’s ideas, by Dr. Onkar Ghate, an expert in Objectivism and Rand’s epistemological theory.
I had the opportunity of meeting Dr. Ghate in person and having a great discussion with him on the mutual influence of collectivism and religion. Dr. Ghate came across as a very patient and benevolent man in explaining his ideas to me. I was very glad to have met him.
Last night, I watched Al Gore’s emotional-environmental documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Gore makes an emotionally powerful case via his many visual media–footage of natural disasters, calamities, melting glaciers, breaking ice sheets, slick slideshows of graphs and diagrams, etc.
One of the premises of the movie is that the Earth is currently undergoing a warming phase; fair enough and true, and no one disputes this matter of fact. However, Gore makes an additional claim–and he couches it in strongly moral and ethical terms–that the global warming phase is being driven by human activity and human CO2 emissions.
This most fundamental premise of global warming–that higher carbon emissions are resulting in increases in temperature–is in fact false! The scientific data demonstrate that it is the other way around–increases in temperature have historically resulted in increased levels of carbon in the atmosphere and this trend continues even today. In fact, a change in temperature is followed by changes in carbon emissions with a lag of over hundreds of years.
Thus, the available scientific data–from ice core surveys, satellites, temperature balloons, etc.–show that CO2 does not drive changes in temperature but that changes in temperature is followed by varying levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.
Al Gore offers very little by way of science in his documentary–and even the little that he offers is shoddy, misinterpreted science and misrepresented graphs. If you’re interested in learning about the real science behind the fact of climate change, then this documentary video entitled “The Great Global Warming Swindle” is the one to watch. Unlike Gore’s version, this video has a long list of eminent scientists, meterologists, and climatologists–not ex-vice presidents–giving you cold facts devoid of evocative photographs or other visuals. These scientists–including some of the lead authors of the IPCC report on climate change and the co-founder of Greenpeace–do not mince words when they conclusively state that the “facts do not fit the [anthropogenic climate change] theory.”
Seriously, if you have watched An Inconvenient Truth, then you really need to get a dose of hard facts and reality by watching The Great Global Warming Swindle. If you have already watched it once, then watch it again like I did!
On a related note, there is good reason to argue that the whole climate change issue became so politicized due to the interference of government and tax money in scientific research. The government, properly, has no business deciding to spend upwards of 2 billion dollars a year (like the US did) of tax payer money on global warming science–or any other scientific project, for that matter.
Nevertheless, all the money now being legislated by governments and being spent by entities as a result of this false theory of anthropogenic climate change could actually be put to good use where it is needed most urgently.
We should not be spending such huge amounts of public money on researching the technology of hybrid/green vehicles or reducing the emissions of coal industries; rather, finances should be poured into rebuilding and fortifying cities like New Orleans, New York, and Amsterdam to withstand and resist the climatary manifestations of rising temperatures, such as hurricanes and tornadoes.
We should, for example, be focused on increasing competitive technologies in air-cooling systems to reduce the prices of airconditioners in order that more people across the world (particularly those living in the equatorial regions of Africa) can afford to purchase these potentially life-saving products. People in the hottest regions of the world would be better off being able to afford cheap and efficient air-cooling systems than planting more trees.
Most importantly, we should urgently and immediately insist on capitalism and free markets across all economies in order to expedite the creation of wealth across the globe and raise everyone’s standard of living to be able to afford decent shelter from the rising temperature and other climatary changes.
This is the way to save human lives the rational, scientific, and humanitarian way; not by chasing some fabricated fantasy theory of industrial carbon emissions in the atmosphere.
If you have ever made or believed in the claim that global warming is caused by human actions–by our industrial and vehicular emissions, then you MUST watch this documentary. Indeed, it would only be honest for you to do so.
The Great Global Warming Swindle
[If the video below does not work, click here to watch it on google video.]
The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley presents his compliments to Vice-President Albert Gore and by these presents challenges the said former Vice-President to a head-to-head, internationally-televised debate upon the question “That our effect on climate is not dangerous”, to be held in the Library of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History at a date of the Vice-President’s choosing. Forasmuch as it is His Lordship who now flings down the gauntlet to the Vice-President, it shall be the Vice-President’s prerogative and right to choose his weapons by specifying the form of the Great Debate. May the Truth win! Magna est veritas, et praevalet.
Given at Carie, Rannoch, in the County of Perth, in the Kingdom of Scotland, this 14th Day of March in the Year of our Lord Two Thousand And Seven. God Bless America! God Save The Queen!
In an essay in “Return to the Primitive,” Ayn Rand cites the issue of environmentalism as the leftists’ new movement following the failure of their collectivist and socialist ideology. These observations were made by Rand more than four decades ago, based on the trends she noticed at the time.
P.S.: Thus far, I have made no public comments on global warming or other environmental issues (as evidenced by my silence on this matter on my blog) simply because I had no clear grasp of the issue, I did not have adequate evidence or arguments from all sides, nor was I particularly interested in thinking about matters of this nature. My sole guiding principle was–and still is–to favor ideas, policies, laws, and practices that promote and advocate individual human advancement, achievement, and living condition on this Earth by all means possible.
I do not view the Earth as instrinsically valuable (as some supernatural deity or some anthropomorphic entity) without any regard for the betterment of the valuer (human beings). The Earth shall be protected by human activities only as a secondary consequence of the human motive for survival, production, and flourishment. Insofar as humans choose to live, produce, advance, and progress, the Earth will be taken care of secondarily. Let men live freely on this Earth, and the Earth will be taken care of.
[Note: Some minimal spoilers follow. I don’t believe reading this post will ruin your experience of the movie, but consider yourself warned.]
I watched 300 last night. I had not seen anything more visually spectacular. My friend Dexter captured my own thoughts when, after the movie, he said: it’s like, whatever you imagine is on the screen.
While the movie is primarily about the battle at the hot gates between the Spartans and the Persians, which occurred sometime around 500 BC, the movie also included a good measure of some lofty, abstract, philosophical punchlines. It should be fairly easy to recognize that the lofty ideas espoused by the characters were neither necessarily fully consistent with each other (some ideas being flat contradictions) nor were the principles consistently applied in practice. For example, given all the anti-mysticism proclamations, I was rather confused with why the Spartans were required by law to seek the counsel of the priests and the Oracle in important matters of war, and why did the Spartan King Leonidas even bother to comply by this mystical law at all?
Nonetheless, I shall not gripe about this movie because its positive qualities–the stylized cinematography, action choreography, slick editing, incredible CGI effects, bone-chilling musical score, and impressive directorial choices–far outweigh the minor, nitpicky issues in 300.
However, there is one dialogue from the movie that I would like to especially highlight [and here, I get into a slightly more philosophical tangent. For those of you not so inclined to participate in such a discussion, my review of the movie ends here; basically, it’s a visual feast. Go watch it!]:
The deformed Spartan hunchback, who was refused permission by King Leonidas to fight alongside the 300 spartans due to his physical deformities, approaches Xerxes the Persian king with the proposition of betraying Sparta as a form of vengeance. In exchange, the Persian king offers the deformed hunchback clothes, money, women, and sexual pleaures. However, Xerxes wants one thing from the deformed creature:
Xerxes says, “Cruel Leonidas demanded that you stand, I only require that you kneel.”
This statement, to me, concretizes the opposing abstract, philosophical positions of egoism and altruism, pride and humility, heroism and cowardice, reason and religion.
Egoism requires that you never sacrifice yourself for others nor others for yourself, that you engage with others only in the trade of values; in other words, egoism requires you to stand on your feet with your own abilities, and use the abilities of others only to the extent at which they offer it in exchange for a price you are willing and able to pay. In contrast, altruism demands the sacrifice of yourself and your happiness for the sake of others; hence, altruism requires that you kneel and submit to the wishes and desires of others.
Reason requires the best from men, their best integrations, inventions, innovations, ideas, and insights. Religion only requires men to kneel before some mystical Being and wait for revelations. Reason promises you nothing more than what your own honest efforts can acquire. Religion promises you many things in the future–the unearned, undeserved, unimaginable, and impossible; but it requires that you submit what you own today–your mind, your money, your values, your freedom, your reason.
300, the movie, dramatically illustrates the point that when in battle–and when man’s survival is at stake–one is morally obligated to demand only the most able-bodied warriors; settling for anything less than the ideal, let alone a deformed and incapacitated hunchback, simply out of sympathy or pity or due to a moral obligation towards the weak in society, is literally sanctioning one’s own death; it is a moral, ethical, and literal act of suicide.
Apocalypto is a movie that celebrates individual heroism to the fullest!
It was incredibly riveting and thrilling to watch the consistent, selfish, heroism of the protagonist, who uses his rational faculty, his reason, as his only tool of survival in the jungle, despite being a tribal member himself. This man, whose very survival is repeatedly threatened throughout the movie, is armed with practically nothing but the strength of his muscles powered by the decisiveness of his lucid and rational mind to secure his survival and that of his wife and kids. Throughout the movie, there are instances of how the hero adopts various strategies devised by his own rational mind, without the use of (or very minimal use of) weapons, to defeat and kill the rogues chasing him.
The movie even shows the deadly consequences of mysticism and superstition, and how those who surrendered their minds to some mystical notions either were helplessly lost and afraid of natural events and their own existence or were eventually killed gruesomely by man or beast.
Apocalypto stylishly dramatizes the moral and ethical principle of rational self-interest, of egoism. The hero of the movie has a clear and rational grasp of the hierachy of his values: when his tribal settlement was raided by brutes, he swiftly acts to secure the life of his wife (his highest value that makes life worth living) and kid, and then returns to fight for his other tribesmen. I was glad that the story did not take a malevolent turn by indulging us in the tragedy of him losing his wife and kid while he was “heroically” fighting for the lives of others. Even following this scene, the rest of the movie dramatizes the hero’s fierce battle for survival at all costs–for himself and for his family; and to this end, the hero is absolutely unmerciful and unapologetic in his actions, consistent with this beliefs, and in dedicated pursuit of his values.
In short, this movie is the clearest portrayal of a proud, selfish, heroic, and rational achiever. Apocalypto celebrates human heroism.
In one of my earlier posts, I had provided some plausible explanations for Ayn Rand’s wide popularity and respect in India. It appears that practically every person in India who is an avid reader or aspires to be known as an intellectual has read Ayn Rand. Fortunately, not all of them reject her radical philosophy outright, and many more have gained at least some value from her works.
However, from this recent article on a new Bollywood movie purpotedly based on Ayn Rand’s unauthorized biography by Barbara Branden, there are hints that the smears on Rand’s life, legacy, and philosophy–which began in America–may be slowly gaining traction in India as well.
The movie claims that Rand’s romantic and personal relationships formed the inspiration for its theme of a love story between a 50-some year old man and an 18 year old girl. Keeping aside my own views on such a relationship (actually, I couldn’t care less), I am thoroughly disgusted and annoyed that Rand’s name has been dragged into this stupid affair. In truth, however, the blame does not lie on the producer/director of this movie for making such an unwarranted attribution to Rand.
Anyway, here’s an excerpt from the article. Those who know about the people being referred to in the excerpt will also be able to identify the errors in the spellings of their names (although, these are not the only kind of errors contained therein).
“I’ve not admitted this to anybody,” [Ram Gopal Verma] says lowering his voice “but Nishabd [the movie] is somewhere inspired from the biography of renowned author Ayn Rand. All of us who are well versed with the author know that her books open with a dedication line: ‘Nethhil Brandon is no longer associated with my philosophy of objectives.’ I have read so many of her books but never understood this until I read her biography Passion of Ayn Rand by Barbara Brandon, wife of Nethhil Brandon. Suddenly the name rang a bell and the mystery resolved. I learnt that Ayn Rand (50) was attracted to her ardent disciple, Nethhil (28), a married man and so the four of them, Ayn Rand, her husband, her disciple Nethhil and his wife sat across and discussed the issue…
“It sounds unreal but the respective partners accepted the third relationship. This could be a result of Ayn Rand’s power and charisma but her husband and Nethhil’s wife mutely reconciled to her decision. Logic tells us that their future relationships would have been scarred. For both of them more than the sexual betrayal was a rejection of identity.”
Ignoring everything else, I am simply dumbfounded by this statement: “Logic tells us that their future relationships would have been scarred.” — Logic? Really!?
People have the right to do wrong, Rand said. And thus, the necessity of philosophy as a moral guide to life on Earth seems undoubtedly evident.
However, sometimes philosophy needs to be stylized and presented in concrete and striking forms. The purpose of art–according to Rand’s romantic realism–is precisely to fulfill this need. However, not all art needs to be such–nor will it be such–because along with the right to do wrong, people also have the right to create what they want [I’m deliberately omitting qualifications to this for brevity].
John Enright recently wrote a brief post alluding to the reason why Objectivism advocates the romantic–as opposed to the naturalistic–approach to art.
There was a quote I liked from tonight’s Battlestar Gallactica episode. This isn’t exact:
“Symbols are important. They’re like pieces of your heart you can see.”
Branden’s visibility theory of love, and Rand’s theory of art, both turn on the idea behind this metaphor – the idea of being able to *see* your inner values outside of you.
It’s important for Rand. It validates her Romantic streak within her Enlightenment intellectual context. Loved ones and compelling art works are categorized as things needed for survival, because seeing the pieces of your heart is both clarifying and motivating.
How often our minds
Feed on outward signs.
John’s post also reminded me of my reaction to the movie “V for Vendetta.” I loved watching the movie precisely because it functioned splendidly as a form of Art: it concretized in striking visual form the values I hold (such as freedom, autonomy, etc.) and what could happen when those values are denied to an individual, society, or a nation. The movie also concretized various other metaphysical viewpoints that I explicitly reject, such as the mind-body duality, platonic idealism, rationalism, etc., and permitted me to confirm through the visual medium of the movie the concrete reasons why I reject them.
Thus, good art could not only affirm the values you hold, but could also present to you ideas that you reject and provide you with concrete reasons for rejecting them.
Fanaa is a Sufi term meaning “annihilation of the self.” Given its root in Islamic Sufism, the expression was reserved to mean an extinction of the self in one’s worship of Allah, the destruction of one’s self in one’s love for Allah. Note that this self-annihilation referred not to the body but to the soul or spirit; its meaning is similar to the Buddhist conception of Nirvana — a selfless existence, an existence of non-identity.
Fanaa also happens to be a fantastic Indian movie, just released in 2006. I watched it today, and I was blown away by its power. The expanse of emotions that this movie exhibits through its story, characters, and dialogues is stunning. It’s a heart-wrenching experience that gives you a glimpse into the vast and dark depths of human emotions; the dialogues are soaringly poetic–loaded with philosophy, dripping with emotions, expressing such yearning hunger…
The story takes the concept of “fanaa” and poignantly weaves it into the lives of the lead characters. From “annihilation of the self in one’s worship of God”, the word comes to mean “annihilation of the self in one’s worship of one’s lover,” thus, effectively maintaining the notion throughout the movie that one’s love is one’s highest value–on par with God.
The first scene of the movie starts out by one of the characters stating the over-arching theme, the leitmotif:
Choices… to choose between right and wrong is simple, but what defines one’s life is the decision between the greater of two goods and the lesser of two evils.
Artistically and technically, the movie is par excellence. The cinematography is stunningly beautiful and supports the characters robustly. The story is not only emotionally intoxicating but also intellectually engaging with its unique plot-twists and unexpected directions. Apparently, the writer of the screenplay for Fanaa is a graduate of DePauw University in Indiana–Shibani Bathija.
The music of Fanaa is an extraordinary delight; in particular, I love the tracks “Chand Sifarish” and “Mere Hath Mein.” You can listen to the entire album online at Music India Online.
A review, courtesy of Indiafm says:
[T]he emotional moments in the post-interval portions and the climax specifically hits you like a thunderbolt. FANAA is powerful and disturbing stuff. It is not for those who strongly believe in fairy tale endings. While hearts and flowers are great for a fantasy, this is the kind of expression of emotion that touches a deeper chord. [see full review]
And for some harshly critical, outright insulting review, check out the Yahoo! Movie Reviews page for Fanaa. Given the bile that’s dished out there, I wonder if we even saw the same movie!