Leitmotif

Reason as the Leading Motive

Posts Tagged ‘Art’

Amen: A Victim of Abuse

Posted by Jerry on April 7, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But should this fact matter at all? Absolutely not!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen.

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

Explaining Postmodernism by Dr. Stephen Hicks

Posted by Jerry on August 1, 2011

My trip to Italy provided a fitting background for me while I finished reading the brilliant book Explaining Postmodernism: From Rousseau to Foucault by Dr. Stephen Hicks.

This book should be required reading for all university graduates–especially those of liberal arts and humanities.

The essential thesis of this book is:

The failure of epistemology made postmodernism possible, and the failure of socialism made postmodernism necessary.

Dr. Hicks has an incredibly lucid, engaging style of writing–and the expansiveness of the topics he covers with such ease–going from Kant to Rousseau to Marx and Rorty and then back to Plato–is astounding.

Reading his account of the philosophical drama that played across centuries and which gave rise to the anti-intellectual movement that we call Postmodernism today, one is reminded of a fact that is often forgotten: that philosopher need not all be wise just because they got published and are famous today; and that what they preach need not always originate from honest and true intentions; that philosophers, like anyone else, can almost stubbornly and petulantly defend a viewpoint in order to save face, score a brownie point, or wage a war of words for its own sake. Hegel, Fichte, Marcusse, and others fit this description.

Take the following excerpts, for instance:

Immanuel Kant is the most significant thinker of the Counter-Enlightenment. His philosophy, more than any other thinker’s, buttressed the pre-modern worldview of faith and duty against the inroads of the Enlightenment. Kant firmly chose religion. And so, he stated famously in the Second Preface to the first Critique, “I here therefore found it necessary to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith.”

And another philosopher Schleiermacher, a Kantian in approach, said: “The essence of religion is the feeling of absolute dependence. I repudiated rational thought in favor of a theology of feeling.”

Then Fichte, who wanted to create a superior race of German automatons through socialized education, preached, like Kant, a dedication to pure duty and an abdication of all self-interest:

“in place of that love of self, with which nothing for our good can be connected any longer, we must set up and establish in the hearts of all those whom we wish to reckon among our nation that other kind of love, which is concerned directly with the good, simply as such and for its own sake. The pupil of this education is not merely a member of human society here on earth and for the short span of life which is permitted to him. He is also, and is undoubtedly acknowledged by education to be, a link in the eternal chain of spiritual life in a higher social order. A training which has undertaken to include the whole of his being should undoubtedly lead him to a knowledge of this higher order also. [The German] “alone above all other European nations, [has] the capacity of responding to such an education.”

And among the most outrageous ideas, we have Hegel–who inspired Marx–creating a Divinity out of the Government. He said:

“It must further be understood that all the worth which human being possesses–all spiritual reality, he possesses only through the State. The State is the Divine Idea as it exists on Earth.” The State has as its final end the self-realization of the Absolute, and thus “this final end has supreme right against the individual, whose supreme duty is to be a member of the state.” “One must worship the State as a terrestrial divinity.”

People have agendas–and philosophers are not exempt from this. And philosophers in particular can be incredibly evil–in that they intentionally develop, defend, and promulgate ideas that are horrific in practice.

I am reminded of Ayn Rand’s brilliant analysis of the history of Counter-Enlightenment philosophy in her dramatic speech for John Galt in Atlas Shrugged, in which she correctly identifies and summarizes the key themes of Kant (the mystic of spirit) and his successors (the mystics of muscle). You can read the relevant excerpts from the Ayn Rand Lexicon here.

The discovery of truths is in sifting through the layers of detritus and engaging one’s own honest intellect with the evidence provided by our senses. Surely, geniuses can help illuminate the path along the way, but it’s up to us to figure out which path will lead us to the Enlightenment world, and which, to the one of nihilism.

I cannot recommend Dr. Hicks’ Explaining Postmodernism enough.

Posted in Books, Culture, General Work/Life, Philosophy, Philosophy of Art, Political Issues, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Hindi News Channel on Ayn Rand

Posted by Jerry on February 1, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tracinski’s Article in FoxNews

Posted by Jerry on October 9, 2007

This is one of the best and well-formulated articles I have read on the historical significance of Atlas Shrugged.

Robert Tracinski writes:

[Ayn Rand] saw the dramatic potential in asking a single question: what would happen if the innovative entrepreneurs and businessmen — after decades of being vilified and regulated — started to disappear? What if the men condemned as parasites who somehow grow rich by exploiting manual laborers — the whole Marxist view of the economy — what if those “exploiters” were no longer around? The disappearance of the world’s productive geniuses provides the novel’s central mystery, both factually and intellectually.

Factually, the story follows Dagny Taggart, a woman in the then-unconventional role of operating vice-president of a transcontinental railroad, as she struggles to keep her railroad running in the face of strangling government regulations, while trying to solve a series of mysteries: a promising young railroad worker refuses a promotion and takes up a menial job instead; a spectacularly talented heir to a multinational copper company abandons his work to become a flamboyant playboy; a genius who invented a revolutionary new motor abandons his creation in the ruins of a derelict factory.

The factual questions are: Where did all of these people go? Why did they give up their work? Is there someone or something that is causing them to disappear?

The philosophical questions raised by this plot are: What is the role of the entrepreneurs and innovators in a society? What motivates them, what are the conditions they need in order to work and what happens to the world when they disappear? The factual mystery is integrated with the novel’s deepest philosophical question: What is the moral status of the businessman and industrialist?

Read his entire article for its many good insights. Especially tantalizing is Tracinski’s concluding statement in the article. It’s such a brilliant device to push the reader to learn more!

Posted in Ayn Rand, Books, Culture, Economics, Objectivism, Philosophy, Philosophy of Art, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Is Poetry Only That Which Rhymes?

Posted by Jerry on January 25, 2006

John has an essay that attempts to answer the question, “Is Poetry That Which Rhymes“. It is an interesting read, and I was surprised to discover his more “serious” works of poetry besides the funny couplets he has on each and every one of his posts.

Clearly, as evidenced from his blog, he has a bias towards rhyming verse. Hence, his essay invariably leads him to propose (though, he does it rather timidly) that writings that do not have a rhyming scheme is ” for most part… either an inferior species of poetry, or not poetry at all.”

Ofcourse, if my creative-writing blog is any indication, my position is in stark opposition to John’s. In his insistance that “poetry” should have rhyme that “stirs the soul”, and that it is only or mostly accomplished by words that have a certain rhythmic “sound effect”, John has, I believe, obfuscated the purpose and nature of what poetry is and can be.

Interestingly, Rand had once declared that free verse was on a level “lower than free lunches” (Ayn Rand Answers: Q&A)

So, Rand would presumbly have agreed with John’s requirement that poetry be necessarily constituted of rhyme and rhythm.

However, I believe that John’s argument that poetry as art should have rhyme reduces the expansive breadth of poetry-writing into a juvenile caricature. I think John is isolating one characteristic of poetry and holding it as its most essential constituent. In committing that fallacy, I think John opens the door to any self-professed “poet” to peddle any work of writing of substantial length with a catchy rhyme as poetry that is art. However, to give John his proper credit, he does expressly state that not all rhyming constructions can be considered poetry. And similarly, I argue that not any random collection of metaphors and alliterations can be accepted as poetry either. Note that the fallacy in accepting indiscriminately any construction of rhyme or any collection of metaphors is the fallacy of isolating a constituent from the context and whole that gives it its proper meaning.

What differentiates poetry from regular fiction is not only that poetry has a rhyme — though it is certainly one possible differentiating property — but also that poetry seeks to express values in a medium and method not typical in common parlance. Poetry deals heavily with metaphors, abstractions, and emotive tools. Other forms of writing — whether fiction or non-fiction — cannot so exclusively and heavily depend on metaphors and abstractions because by their very definition, they are seeking to convey reality as it is (in the case of non-fiction) or as imagined to be (as in the fabrications of fiction).

Novels, as an example, cannot be drenched with metaphors and abstractions or esoteric references that steal the objective purpose, theme, plot, and motive out of the story, such that the reader is honestly lost and cannot decipher those elements of the story.

On the other hand, poetry as art combines and integrates convincingly elements like rhythm, sound effects, rhyme, metaphors, personifications, abstractions, etc., without giving any of these constituents undue emphasis or priority over the other. Poems have the liberty of being esoteric, while still maintaining their unique expression of values — those values have the freedom to be expressed in rhythmic metaphors, unsual placement of words, unique construction of lines, etc.

The specific set of constituents that a poet chooses to use will dictate the kind of poetry that will be created. Poems that can be considered art should be the ones in which it is unequivocally clear that the poet has skillfully, deliberately, and creatively used a group of, or a set of, poetic tools that convey the predominant ethos in the piece of writing.

Rhyme, in of itself, cannot legitimize a piece of writing as poetry, just as a collection of metaphors in and of itself cannot. Similarly, requiring that every poem have rhyme is as vacant as requiring that every poem have metaphors. Reifying any one constituent exclusively or heavily while compromising others accomplishes only a feeble grasp of the vast landscape of expressiveness that the medium of poetry provides.

Posted in Ayn Rand, General Work/Life, My Theories and Ideas, Philosophy, Philosophy of Art, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Objectivist Discussions of Art

Posted by Jerry on January 19, 2006

On Noodlefood, in a post titled “Chimp Art“, Diana has some great links for those of you art buffs who would like to test yourself on true or fake modern art pieces.

The following post is a slightly modified version of my earlier discussions about art and its purpose in human life. I also recommend reading “What Art Is” by Torres & Marder Kamhi. Check out their website at www.aristos.org for much more interesting discussions of art from an Objectivist-oriented perspective.

The Objectivist philosophy correctly understands art as spiritual nourishment for the human consciousness. Just as you would not feed your body foul or rotten food, you should not feed your mind and your consciousness with foul creations of charlatans masquarading as artists. You have the right to insist that art be as nourishing to your mind as the food you eat is to your body.

The works of art created by the greats like Da Vinci, Raphaelo, Giotto, Beethoven, Michaelangelo, all have one common theme running through them: they lead the human mind to glimpses of greatness, to the idealization of the human form–although that greatness was perceived to be an attribute of or come from Divine Beings, the invariable consequence of focusing on such greatness was to create a desire within humans to climb up as close as possible to that sense of the highest height. The notion that humans were frail and feeble and the Divine was the ideal of everything good and desirable was accepted as self-evident in a culture that believed in God, heaven, hell, souls, spirits, and ghosts.

The judeo-christian religion made God look like man, God in man’s image and as man’s creation, and thus elevated man himself to the status of God. Perhaps, this must have served as a great boost to the human ego, allowing man to gain tremendous self-confidence in his ability to know more and become more similar in ideal and aspiration to the God he created.

In my opinion, this self-identification with God allowed humans to perceive the universe with the intelligence that was only regarded as the ability possibile to gods. Primitive man did not understand the universe, they did not believe they were capable of grasping its mysteries. They merely bowed their heads and worshipped the unknown–as is still practiced in many cultures today.

The deification of the human form possibly served the psychological and spiritual function of elevating man’s pride in being human. In what can be considered man’s great act of conceit, he captured all the highest ideals and notions of his God and manifested them in the body of one human being–Jesus, which meant that the human body was artistically idealized and imagined as being able to withhold the essence of the fully Divine.

Posted in My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Philosophy of Art, The Best of Leitmotif | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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