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.
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.
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!
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
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:
Saturday, Feb 26, 2011
7 pm to 8.30 pm
Shivaji Mandir Dadar, Mumbai
GUEST SPEAKERS Veena Gavankar and Sharad Joshi
Dhananjay Karnik will introduce Sharad Joshi
For more details and information about the book, you can reach out to Professor Karnik at the following address:
Mugdha D. Karnik,
Centre for Extra-Mural Studies, University of Mumbai,
Vidyanagari, Kalina, Santacruz (E),
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.
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 inherentlymoral 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:
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.)
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.
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.
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.)
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.
“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 firstname.lastname@example.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.
Essay contest on Atlas Shrugged—across Indian colleges—with cash prizes for 3 winners.
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.
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.
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
Panel of experts session on the moral theory of Atlas Shrugged versus other moral theories:
Panel of clerics, NGO representatives, journalists, doctors, scientists, etc.
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.
Buy media space (in newspapers and online media such as emails, etc.) for promotions of the above-mentioned events and activities
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 meansrioting 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.
If you don’t like the muslims, just destroy their mosque.
If you don’t like the Hindus, just bomb them away.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
The other night, just as I lay my head on my pillow to sleep, this thought formed in my mind, obviously for some reasons:
In India, a family refers to a group of people related by blood, who are so closely bound to each other–often against their will–that the only kind of glances they can manage among themselves is through the squint of their eye.
I will be away for a week (and so, no blogging); I’ll be traveling with some of my friends to the city of Allah–ho-bad (some call it Allahabad; same difference).
I’m going to attend my friend’s wedding there; she and I were colleagues at my previous job. I remember being very pleased–but not at all surprised, given her character, personality, and ideas–when I had learned that she had read almost all of Ayn Rand’s works. 🙂 She had seemed the type, ya know? The confident, no-nonsense, go-getter, fun, and practical type.
Oh, and she and I shared another common passion–movies! We both seemed to love the same kind of movies, and we usually had the same kind of responses to the movies we discussed and analyzed while taking a break from our work.
Anyway, she’s cool. And I’m happy to celebrate (with her) her decision to assume a life-long commitment to her immense value.
==== post wedding ====
Below are a coupla pics of the gang of us who went to the wedding. I’m second from the right in the second pic below.
The distinction between immorality and illegality is the distinction between that which applies to the private sphere of a man’s mind and that which governs the behavior of men in a social setting. However, because man is an indivisible entity possessing both mind and body, the specific nature of his thoughts can certainly inform the nature of his actions. In other words, a man can have immoral thoughts and act upon them, which would make his actions also immoral; nevertheless, his immoral actions may not necessarily be illegal or criminal acts.
All that which is immoral is not necessarily also illegal. For example, it is immoral to pleasureably fantasize about plundering your neighbors home, raping their 10-year-old kid, and then hacking them all to death. Insofar as these remain merely fantasies, no crime–no act of force or fraud–has been committed and therefore there is nothing illegal or criminal about the thoughts. Nevertheless, in the privacy of his own mind, this person is an immoral–possibly deranged and psychopathic–individual; and if these thoughts were ever expressed in words to another sane individual, the proper response would be to condemn such fantasies as disgustingly immoral. One cannot respond with a neutral or amoral evaluation.
Morality is a private, individual affair: each man requires (and has) a moral code to guide him in living his life. His life can only be lived by him. His thoughts–about morality or anything else–can only be thought of by himself in his own head. Thinking–the process of cognition–is a private affair. Thoughts, therefore, belong only to an individual. Evaluating the morality of thoughts, therefore, is an evaluation of a private process of cognition.
Virtues, for example, are qualities and actions of an individual in pursuit of his values in reality. The virtue of honesty is a policy set by a man in relation to his mind’s grasp and acknowledgment of reality and facts–it is his commitment to never fake or evade the matters of fact as they objectively exist; only derivately is the virtue of honesty related to man’s interaction with others: a man could very well lie to himself and evade certain facts in the privacy of his own mind. Such a person is not practicing the virtue of honesty–even though he has lied to no one else; and to that extent, this person is immoral and irrational. His immoral thoughts, however, are not criminal or illegal.
Objective law does not punish a man for holding the wrong ideas or for being an untrustworthy character; usually, the punitive consequences of private immorality and irrationality arise from reality’s own exacting nature, from the requirements of survival, and the nature of an entity (for example, a man’s immoral thoughts may create a reciprocal relationship with feelings of self-disgust, repulsion, low self-esteem, psychological insecurity, repression of certain motives and emotions, evasive psychology, unhappy relationships, etc.).
Now, only when man puts his morality into practice or expresses his thoughts in explicit actions, is he stepping out of the private sphere of his mind–and even then, unless man is not surrounded in a social context with other men, the physical manifestation or practice of his immoral thoughts does not amount to a crime, they remain his own immoral actions.
The concept of crime exclusively denotes a certain set of actions in a social context, namely acts of force or fraud against others:
A crime is a violation of the right(s) of other men by force (or fraud). It is only the initiation of physical force against others—i.e., the recourse to violence—that can be classified as a crime in a free society (as distinguished from a civil wrong). Ideas [even immoral ideas], in a free society, are not a crime—and neither can they serve as the justification of a crime. — Ayn Rand
A social context is necessary for human flourishing, because–among other benefits–it provides the framework within which a division of labor society can emerge and thrive. Thus, man has to live in a society with other human beings and derive the benefits of voluntary trade in order to achieve flourishment. The concept of rights are the conditions that allow a man to enter a social context with a guarantee of life and liberty; rights allow man to practice his moral code and pursue his values (and disvalues) in a social context.
Therefore, the concept of rights is a political and social concept and applies exclusively to actions–not thoughts. That which is illegal necessarily requires the violation of rights, i.e., an action that mitigates or suppresses someone else’s rights by the introduction of force or fraud. In contrast, the immoral is not judged primarily against a social context, but against the context of an individual and his relationship to reality.
Therefore, the business of government is not to interfere in the advocacy or suppression of whatever ideas it considers moral or immoral. The purpose of the government–and of law enforcement agencies–is solely to examine individual actions to ascertain whether a crime (force or fraud) has been committed, and act in response to the severity of the crime. When the government punishes a criminal, it is not for hisimmoral ideology or set of beliefs that the punishment is awarded but specifically for his crime–the act and its severity.
To claim that the government can punish a man for his ideas is to grant the government legitimacy as a moral arbiter. Once this is granted to the government, it is only a matter of a few more rationalistic deductions thereafter to argue that the government should get into the business of ideological advocacy or suppression, i.e., become the thought-police of society, or institute a Communist state (see “Enforcing Moral Values“).
Few would defend the view that the government should reward men who have moral ideas by granting them (say) free property, health care, trips to the Bahamas, etc. Then, on what grounds can the government legitimately punish a man for immoral ideas, or what it may consider to be “thought-crimes”? On what grounds can the government punish people with immoral ideas (like racism or Nazism, which motivate so-called “hate crimes”), monitor the “moral fiber of society,” and censor certain ideas (like pornographic stories)? If it is not sufficient–or even permissible–to convict an individual for homophobia or racism, then why should there be special status granted to actions motivated by such thoughts that are clearly out of the bounds of legal punishment? Why are crimes motivated by homophobia or racism considered particularly heinous “hate crimes” that require special legislation and sentencing?
There is simply no legitimate ground for such government interference in the realm of ideas–be they moral or immoral–unless one subscribes to the notion that the government is a legitimate authority on morality and is the ultimate arbiter in moral affairs; this notion, in turn, has no other foundation other than the basis of collectivism, according to which, morality is not a private individual affair but a collective one and that an individual alone has no use or need for a moral code of principles.
Thus, maintaining clear boundaries between the spheres of the individual and the social, the domain of morality and legality, the concepts of morals and rights, the concepts of thought and action is as crucial as choosing between life and death, slavery and freedom, a dictatorship and a free society.
[Edits: Added a paragraph on the necessity of a social context for rights and human flourishment and an elaboration on hate crime laws.]
Ha! This is for real. The following question appeared in this morning’s sex column of Mumbai Mirror–an English-language regional daily. I can’t decide which is more funny–the 20-year-old man who just discovered some new activity and his intended pathway to heaven, or the sex columnist’s response!
I’m a 20 year old man. I learnt “master bating” from my friends and now I cannot stay without it. I don’t have any bad habits like smoking and drinking. I have also lost weight because of this habit. I know many prostitutes who can show me the path to heaven but I don’t have the guts to deal with them. Please help.
Respose: You are not playing cricket; it is “masturbation” that you are doing. There is nothing to worry about. You will learn better control and masturbate only when you have something to excite you. No harm will come to you. Prostitutes or any unknown female will not send you to heaven — there are more chances of going to hell. Lead a healthy lifestyle.
[P.S. In the sport of cricket, a team bats while the other bowls–much like in baseball. Hence, the term “batting”, and a misspelled version of it: “bating.”]
I was just browsing through some of the articles on Tehelka, a newspaper that bills itself as “public-interest journalism.” For the most part, Tehelka is the voice of the Indian left and disillusioned socialists who still cry shrill over the injustices of class warfare.
In any case, I found this shocking piece of LTE in response to an article on the site; my impression is that the writer is serious about his view, but I am so eager to be wrong on this. The letter to the editor says:
We know there is complete chaos in society. All of us can now afford cars and add tonnes of CO2 everyday to the atmosphere. Modern amenities are making us lazy. The worst offenders are medicines, which are forcing people to live longer and adding to the geriatric population. But we have democracy. Have a look at Pakistan and China and you’ll know why life in our country is certainly not as bad and hopeless as you make it out to be. Always remember, it is better to be an optimist and contribute to society. Dr Kapil Paliwal, Kanpur [all bold mine]
Did this fellow just say that modern medicines are the worst offenders?! Offenders against whom–the sick and the dying!?!
I should really stop being so surprised. The newspaper is such that it does attract its crowd of lunatic Malthusians and Marxists.
Nevertheless, some of its articles are thought-provoking–precisely because the writers of this paper understand the value of ideas in a society (like all Marxists do), adhere to an ideology, and write their arguments on the basis of principles they wish to defend. For example, I read an article that argued the view that Indian tradition and ethnic chauvinism were the roots of rampant mob violence in India. While I agree that all forms of collectivism breed violence against and disregard for the individual, I do not see how the author of the article can logically arrive at the conclusion that mob violence can be impeded by correcting social inequalities, which was the point implied throughout.
It’s a naive and superficial view that social inequalities are the cause of struggle and disharmony within a society. The view is itself a collectivist one and therefore assumes what it wishes to prove. It seeks to replace a chauvinism of ethnicity, class, or caste with the chauvinism of an amorphous and undefined collective called humanity. Therefore, while it condemns social injustice arising from classism or religious warfare, it does not mind the sacrifice of an individual if one can engineer social justice for the greater good–for mankind, for humanity.
If one were to check the premises, one would realize that whether the social field is leveled at the top or from the bottom, some will be trampled at the expense of others and the strife will merely simmer right below the leveled surface until the next bloody eruption.
So, is strife inherent in society and one should not bother to tinker with it? Not at all! I am pointing out that the lens with which you look at this situation is itself skewed–because it is collectivist. A society is *not* an irreducible unit: an individual is. A proper concern for social justice, therefore, should begin at the level of an individual, and devise a system of ethics that is based on the realization and maximization of an individual’s rights! What is proper and moral and just for an individual is necessarily proper and moral and just for a society of individuals.
The answer to social justice, therefore, is not to replace the tyranny of one group with that of another (be it of the poor over the rich or of the lower castes’ over the higher) in order to level the playing field, but to discard the very lens by which humans are viewed as interchangeable and disposable units of an amorphous humanity in the pursuit of an engineered social equality.
I love airplanes. I love looking at them, I love flying in them, and I have always dreamed of being able to fly one of them. Unfortunately, due to an imperfect vision, I gave up on my dream to be a pilot. Even then, just to be surrounded by airplanes, I had even seriously considered becoming an Air Traffic Controllor.
My room has a view of the airport runway, from which I can see the jets land and take-off. My way to work goes around the perimeter of the airport landing strip just behind the airport wall. When I hear the roar of a jet approaching for a touchdown, I stick my head out of the autorickshaw to look up at the plane roaring past just a few feet above me. It’s often the highlight of my trip to work.
On my journey back from work, I usually take the public bus–because it’s cheaper and I’m in no hurry to get home. However, I often make it a point to get on a double-decker bus and climb up to the upper deck only so that I can get a good view of the runway when the bus passes by the airport along the perimeter road.
Today, the new Airbus A380–the largest jetliner in the world–took off officially as part of the Singapore Airlines fleet. While the Boeing 747 is also referred to as the “jumbo” jet, this Airbus giant is being called the “Superjumbo” jet.
[The aircraft] is as tall as a seven-story building. Each wing is big enough to hold about 70 mid-sized cars.
The A380 ends the nearly 37-year reign of the U.S.-made Boeing 747 jumbojet as the world’s most spacious passenger plane. The A380 is also the most fuel efficient and quietest passenger jet ever built, from inside and outside, according to its European manufacturer, Airbus SAS.
This particular photograph of a man in front of the aircraft captures the significance of this achievement and that which made it possible.