Leitmotif

Reason as the Leading Motive

Posts Tagged ‘Culture’

Why You Should Not Support Anna Hazare’s LokPal Bill

Posted by Jerry on April 7, 2011

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

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

Against Anna Hazare

Anti-Anna Hazare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jan Lok Pal is no solution

Chasing Black Money: In search of red herrings

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

Discussing Sexuality on CNN IBN

Posted by Jerry on November 2, 2009

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

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

What Can India be Proud Of?

Posted by Jerry on August 14, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy 62nd, India.

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Related posts:

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

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

Wealth Buys Happiness–Study Finds

Posted by Jerry on July 1, 2008

As if the Gandhian romanticization of self-sufficient, modest village economy needed any more discrediting, a new study finds that happiness is nicely correlated with economic prosperity:

“the new survey finds people of rich countries tend to be happier than those of poor countries. And controlling for economic factors, certain types of societies are much happier than others. 

“The results clearly show that the happiest societies are those that allow people the freedom to choose how to live their lives,” Inglehart said.

A survey released last week found one reason America doesn’t top the list: Baby Boomers are generally miserable compared to other generations. Further, a public opinion poll released by the Pew Research Center in April found that 81 percent of Americans say they believe the country is on the “wrong track.” The response is the most negative in the 25 years pollsters have asked the question. “

Posted in Culture, Economics, General Work/Life, Political Issues, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

The Right to Migrate

Posted by Jerry on March 10, 2008

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

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

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

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

And here’s another juicy bit from the article:

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

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

Financing the Government in a Free Society

Posted by Jerry on January 29, 2008

The other day, a friend and I were discussing the issue of financing the government in a free society. Needless to say, the topic is of incredible depth; and its particularly complexity is intensified further because one doesn’t have any real-life examples to look at and examine in practice. There has been no completely free society on earth with a purely laissez-faire capitalist system and a government of protection.

But a few points are absolutely clear:

A free society is not an ideal, utopian fantasy. Don’t let people who say that fool you. They are the same ones who insist that Communism is utopian and has never been consistently instituted on this earth. History is testament to the fact that there was nothing utopian about Communism: it was instituted consistently, it was practiced as advocated, and it lead inexorably to the evils, genocides, corruption, and socio-psychological wreakage that was inherent in itself as an ideology.

A free society is the only moral society possible for human beings: therefore, since it is a system derived from the nature of humans and our relationship to reality, a free society is a perfectly practical and realizable vision.

A free society will be radically different in every fundamental way from what we are used to imagining about the structure of society. For example, a free society may have a radically different geographic structure, with the absense of a continuous, uninterrupted geographic boundary–a “nation” might refer to and include private pockets of property that may even lie 1000s of miles apart, independently. The concept of citizenship will be wholly voluntary and assumed by parents for their children until the latter turn of the age of consent. Citizenship will have nothing to do with the accidental location of birth, but with the voluntary consent of assuming responsibilities–including tax and financial responsibilities–with regard to the nation of one’s citizenship, and owning of property within that chosen nation.

Also, police in a free society might function very differently from what we see today; perhaps, they might more likely resemble bodyguards or private security agencies of today. Also, I envision the role of the courts and the judicial system to be the most important in a free society, with only foreign national security policies (among other things) being the domain of the executive branch.

Finally, it stands to reason–and historical precedent has shown–that people do not need to be forced to protect what they value, or pay for the protection of that which they value. Take the case of the military draft: there was the fear that if citizens are not forced to join the military and serve the State, they won’t volunteer for it. This fear is absolutely unfounded, and the United States military is just one evidence of it.

Certainly, nations with oppressive regimes will need to force people into their armies because–without coercion–people wouldn’t risk their lives for a government they despise and a nation they do not value. This simply highlights the need for a government to be cognizant of its role, actions, and boundaries with respect to how it treats the people under its protection.

If young men and women are willing to voluntarily offer their life–their most precious value–in defense of a nation’s right to exist (and therefore, their own personal right to live in liberty), then why would it be inconceivable similarly for a nation’s people to voluntarily offer some money (in proportion to how much they can afford or some other legal arrangement) for the protection of their way of life, their property, their security, their nation, their values?

The end of the military draft and a switch to a volunteer force did not spell doom for the nation’s defenses: in fact, it attracted the best men and women of the highest character, who are motivated to fight on grounds that they accept, believe in, identify with, and wish to protect–not on the basis of compulsion by the State and servitude to an ideology of self-sacrifice.

Likewise, the exchange for money or capital to finance a government of protection on a perfectly voluntary and contractual basis is entirely reasonable and realizable. Indeed, a voluntary system of financing the goverment would additionally serve as one of many efficient checks and balances on the power of the government, because people who disapprove of government activities in any manner (if it is demonstrated that the government has overstepped its bounds) can effectively withold or reduce their finances until their grievances are reddressed contractually, bilaterally, or in the courts. Voluntary financing, thus, would serve not only as working capital for the government but also as an incentive (or disincentive) for a job well done (or badly done). The government and its agencies–like any other private and corporate entity or NGO–would be forced to monitor its own behavior for its own survival. 

This is much like in a volunteer army, soldiers have a right to stop fighting or quit if they believe the war is baseless, immoral, or illegitimate (of course, I’m aware that this is not currently permitted, and I agree that this serious action must be supported by objective evidence and facts proving the illegitimacy of government actions).

This whole issue is very complex and I don’t intend to address or explore all of the issues here. I am myself not very clear on how things might function in a free society, because–as I said–we have nothing in history or in reality to look towards for a demonstration. I have much to read and learn on this topic, which I haven’t done to well enough yet. It’s a very concrete-bound issue, albeit a very important one because it anchors the abstractions of a free capitalist society and makes the principles easier to grasp.

The principles themselves, however, are solid, undeniable, and objective: a free society is the only fully moral society of individuals; since it is fully moral, it is also a fully practical society for individuals to live in and flourish.

Posted in Culture, Economics, General Work/Life, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Free Market Defense

Posted by Jerry on January 17, 2008

I like this opinion piece appearing in the New York Times; it indicates that free market ideas are not only getting visibility in high-profile media outlets but also that they are openly and boldly being defended. For example, in this article, it is noteworthy that the author Steven Landsburg couches the economic prudence and defense of free trade in strongly moral terms. Even though I believe he does not go deep enough to the root of the moral issues involved, I’m happily satisfied with his piece as it is.

Here’s an excerpt:

If the world owes you compensation for enduring the downside of trade, what do you owe the world for enjoying the upside?

What do we owe those fellow citizens?

One way to think about that is to ask what your moral instincts tell you in analogous situations. Suppose, after years of buying shampoo at your local pharmacy, you discover you can order the same shampoo for less money on the Web. Do you have an obligation to compensate your pharmacist? If you move to a cheaper apartment, should you compensate your landlord? When you eat at McDonald’s, should you compensate the owners of the diner next door? Public policy should not be designed to advance moral instincts that we all reject every day of our lives.

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Family

Posted by Jerry on January 7, 2008

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.

Posted in Culture, Favorite Quotes, India, Mumbai, My Theories and Ideas, Personal, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Slow Poison

Posted by Jerry on November 30, 2007

I was over at Flibbertigibbet, reading his post on the US presidential race. It’s really scary how Christianity is gaining an even stronger foothold in US culture and politics.

Mike Huckabee is the currently leading Republican contender for the president. He is also an ordained Christian Baptist minister, and holds the following positions:

He’s against gays in the military.  He’s against gay marriage.  He’s even opposed to civil unions. As a Christian, he believes that homosexuality is immoral and that marriage is sacred.

He’s against abortion.  As a Christian, he believes that abortion means killing a child and a woman’s right to her own body is superseded by the fetuses alleged right to life.
 
He’s for the War in Iraq.

He’s against stem cell research for much the same reasons that he is against abortion.

He’s a creationist and an anti-evolutionist.  Why?  Jesus said so.

He regards environmentalism as a moral issue based on the Christian stewardship concept.

He supports national ID cards and use of RFID chips for tracking citizens.

Posted in 2008 US Elections, Culture, Political Issues, Religion, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 15 Comments »

Tehelka

Posted by Jerry on October 29, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Culture, Economics, General Work/Life, India, Mumbai, Philosophy, Political Issues, Religion, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Lessons from Harry Potter

Posted by Jerry on October 21, 2007

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.

Posted in Books, Culture, General Work/Life, Movies, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Philosophy, Philosophy of Art, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Target of Ideological Outreach

Posted by Jerry on October 16, 2007

Someone at the Atlas Shrugged event I organized asked me why the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) is not doing enough to educate children in the pre-school and high school levels on the ideas of Objectivism. He made the case that since children are at a particularly impressionable age, we must protect them from the influences of religious and irrational ideas imbibed by their parents and teachers. His argument was that if we protect the minds of young children early enough, they will have a better chance of being immune to irrational ideas later on in life, thus creating a fertile ground for the spread of Objectivist ideas.

He argued that by focusing on intellectuals and philosophers at the academic university level, ARI was already losing the opportunity of fostering young minds to grow with the ideas of reason. This, he argued, created the difficult situation of having to “unblock” the minds of later adults when they encounter Objectivist ideas, having to re-train them to think rationally, and perhaps not having much success in penetrating the minds of young adults who have been fed with irrationalism all their lives by their parents and teachers.

I disagreed with his analysis.

Objectivism is (1) a philosophy in general, and (2) a philosophy of reason in particular

As such, Objectivism makes crucial demands on a person to apply his critical thinking skills to process ideas and premises before reaching any conclusions. This statement implies two important requirements that a non-Objectivist must meet, failing which, it is best to leave the person alone and not bother engaging him in a discussion on the philosophy: one, he must be mentally and intellectually capable of considering new ideas; two, he must be honestly open to considering new ideas.

Therefore, it is more than a pursuit of frustration to try and convey the ideas of Objectivism to a mentally immature or intellectually incapable person: for example, little children, the retarded, the really old and infirm.

Objectivism is not a body of principles that must be religiously memorized and fed to little children, who should then be able to regurgitate the right principles in the exact order. Objectivism is a philosophy: it needs to be processed by an intellectually capable mind, a mind that has reached a sufficient level of maturity to make sense of philosophical premises. Objectivism is a philosophy of reason: it needs to be processed by a mind consciously dedicated to the task of rational and honest thinking, a mind that refuses to memorize a principle until it has rationally convinced itself of the principle’s truth.

The questioner above was implicitly–and perhaps unknowingly–propounding the idea of psychological determinism: that a child’s mind and intellectual premises are formed irreversibly during his childhood and that the child is doomed to those premises for the rest of his life. Granted that there are cases of children who grow up to hold the exact premises in adulthood that they were taught when they were kids; however, such cases are not proofs of psychological determinism but indicators of human volition. The Objectivist movement is better off not having such docile adults who succumb without a fight to the mental blocks laid by their parents or teachers. Remember, Objectivism demands an active consciousness that is committed to understanding and demanding reasons for every premise; Objectivism would benefit not having those without such an active epistemological inclination or those who tend to claim the intellectual victimhood of their particular circumstances.

Young children should properly be engaged at the sense-of-life level, i.e., at the level of aspirations, imagination, emotions, art, movies, books, recreational activities, friends, family, etc.; not at the level of philosophical principles. Philosophical ideas can be much effectively transmitted to a child’s mind through emotionally appealing, artistic or recreational means. Of course, as a child progresses through school, he should be taught critical thinking skills explicitly in order to tackle philosophical ideas in a limited measure. However, a pre-mature introduction to philosophical premises–especially, those as radical as the Objectivist premises of individualism, egoism, and self-interest–without the requisite years of training in critical thinking will only lead to an undigested, unintegrated, contortion of dogmatic beliefs. Eventually, such a child may literally “grow out” of their memorized philosophy and regard it as his foolish and juvenile indulgence in youth.

In religious training, little children are commanded by their parents or “moral science” teachers to memorize a set of incantations: like Koranic verses, the Apostles Creed, the Act of Contrition, etc. Many children grow up learning these prayers without ever pausing to reflect on the philosophical meaning of the words being uttered. Objectivism cannot–and should not–be taught to a child in this manner. A child must be shown the principle of rationality in action, not lectured on the essential nature of man that makes rationality virtuous and important. However, teaching by action and example is the job of an adult who understands the meaning and value of such lessons–and therefore, an adult is the proper target of philosophical outreach.

In this respect, the Ayn Rand Institute is brilliantly following the right course of action: they freely distribute Ayn Rand’s Anthem, We The Living, and The Fountainhead to be taught in the pre-school and high school levels to introduce young children (in accordance with their general level of mental maturity in that grade) to a new emotional sense of life, not a set of explicitly philosophical principles. The target of full-fledged philosophical outreach is properly adults–the adults who are parents of these children, the adults who do the “imbibing” of ideas in their children, the adults who are teachers, professors, and mentors of these children, the adults who are capable of processing and disseminating ideas in a culture.

Objectivism seeks the rational and active mind who wrestles the hardest with an idea before accepting it; Objectivism does not seek to have a large following of docile minds who were nursed with its philosophy from infancy and never bothered to validate its truth for themselves. Each man has to discover the truth of the principles of reason for himself: this task can only be done by an adult who is both capable and willing to do it.

[Edited]

Posted in Ayn Rand, Culture, General Work/Life, India, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Philosophy, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 32 Comments »

The Golden Anniversary Evening

Posted by Jerry on October 16, 2007

There is some debate on the exact date of the Atlas Shrugged 50th Anniversary; some argue it’s on October 10. We in Mumbai celebrated the event on October 12, 2007. Given that I had only 10 days to prepare and organize the event from scratch–all by myself–I am extremely proud of what I managed to accomplish and of the experience I was able to give the 22 to 25 Ayn Rand fans who attended.

We watched the 1974 interview of Ayn Rand by James Day; during the interview, Rand was at her characteristic wit and precision–repeatedly insisting on Day to clarify his terms: “concern is such a loose term, what do you mean by it?” “I will begin with romantic love because I don’t know what other love you mean”, “the perpetrators of [abstract art] say that they don’t know what they’re doing, and neither do we, and I’m inclined to take their word for it.”

The discussion following the video wasn’t up to the expectations I had; at one point, someone floated a confused interpretation of acting on self-interest. I took pains to clarify that the sanction of your actions is not egoism but reason; egoism is the nature of your actions–and there’s a difference.

Thankfully, this open-floor discussion didn’t last very long. I decided to have everyone come up to the table and join me in cutting the anniversary cake: a chocolate truffle. While I cut the cake to a round of applause, filmmaker Mukarram Khan graciously offered me the first slice. From then on, everyone was free to mingle and congregate in groups to have their own private discussions.

There was a high school boy who said that Atlas Shrugged was required reading in his class. He said that after having read the novel, he couldn’t wait to get his hands on The Fountainhead, which also he read soon enough. This was a young man just discovering the philosophical premises underlying the sense of youth, aspiration, possibilities, and greatness. I felt a strong sense of concern for him, hoping that his discovery of such a radiantly youthful philosophy would not be dimmed by the fog over contemporary adulthood and the greyness of what passess today as “sophisticated nuance.” I expressed this concern to him; I told him that hopefully he would continue to educate himself on the philosophy and rely only on his best judgment of its premises.

Many who attended were eager to have Rand’s ideas spread quickly in the Indian culture. Concerns were raised that not enough is being done–that Objectivism has been around for 25 to 30 years now and there is very little to show in terms of cultural change. I pointed out that for a philosophy, Objectivism is relatively young and it is unreasonable to expect dramatic changes in such a short amount of time. Despite that, I do believe that the efforts of the Ayn Rand Institute is bearing visible results in the American intellectual scene. Speakers and writers from the ARI are gaining increasing prominence in the mainstream media: Dr. Yaron Brook has regular speaking engagements and television appearances. With the introduction of The Objective Standard (the inauguration of which I attended in Washington D.C.), Craig Biddle is actively engaging the political and economic thought-leaders of America with a rational alternative. ARI writers are constantly featured in guest columns and editorials of prestigious media channels across the nation. The ARI’s Objectivist Academic Center is preparing a new generation of Objectivist intellectuals to enter mainstream academia and produce serious Ayn Rand scholarship. The Anthem Foundation is funding much of these ventures into philosophy departments. Departments in 30 universities are already taking Ayn Rand’s ideas seriously and studying Objectivism as part of its curriculum. The Ayn Rand Society is doing its laudatory share of organizing symposia and conferences with Objectivist and non-Objectivist philosophers, which are often covered by the media.

With regard to India, I pointed out that ARI neither has the obligation nor the resources to make it feasible to focus on influencing the Indian cultural scene. If one wishes to do something about this country here, one of us must make the intiative and do it–not point at the ARI and complain that they are ignoring this country. Yes, they are, and they are fully within their moral right in doing so; it is immoral of us to complain.

India is entrenched in irrationalism and mysticism. While the efforts in the United States is focused on *rescuing* the nation from the rise of Christian fundamentalism and re-aligning the culture to its founding premises of individual rights, liberty, and the selfish pursuit of happiness, the efforts in India would have to be more than Herculean–it requires a total upheaval of everything currently cherished as a value, a custom, a tradition, or the way things ought to be. If this upheaval is not from the root, then only Objectivism stands to lose: in any compromise in the principles of this philosophy with the mixed-bag premises of the Indian culture, only Objectivism will be adulterated, distorted, mutilated, and eventually, rendered impotent.

So what can be done? First, remember that as Objectivists, we are not out to change the world–nor must we pursue that goal as our primary purpose: we are out to selfishly pursue our own happiness. If this pursuit involves having to agitate in our society for a change in order that we can gain our desired values without hindrance during our lifetimes, then yes, acting to change our society is rational and consistent with our pursuit of happiness. However, if the change required is too daunting, overwhelming, almost impossible–or if there are other avenues to achieving one’s values without having to agitate for societal change–then properly, an Objectivist should ignore the society and pursue those alternative means to achieving one’s happiness: often, this means leaving your society or your country–if such an option is more attainable than hoping for a change to materialize.

You are not called to be martyrs to Objectivism or to an irrational society. This is a rational philosophy for living life on this earth, presently; it is not a religion demanding that you sacrifice the life you have for the realization of some principles in your society in the future after your death! Your concern is not the generations who will come after you or the country of an unknown billion who currently live with you. Properly, your only moral concern should be whether you can achieve and protect your values presently so long as you are alive: if the task seems possible, then agitate for change in your current circumstances; if the task seems almost impossible, then work diligently to get yourself out of that society and let it head to its own ruin.

A society that is inherently corrupt and irrational will collapse from within. You are in no obligation to struggle to rescue it from the inevitable: that would be immoral on your part.

It is ironic that this most central message of Atlas Shrugged was rather overlooked at the celebration of its 50th Anniversary. There is one other major issue that was asked of me during the event, about which I had grave concerns. I tried my best to persuade him to change his views, but I am not sure if I was able to convince him thoroughly. That will be the topic of my next post.

Posted in Ayn Rand, Books, Culture, General Work/Life, India, Mumbai, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, Religion, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 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 »

Morality in the Jungle

Posted by Jerry on September 23, 2007

A moral code is a set of integrated, non-contradictory body of principles that guide man’s actions. This implies the existence of a volitional consciousness to which a moral existence is an objective value (regardless of whether this is recognized or not).

Because there is no such conscious entity as a “group” or “society”, moral codes cannot be premised upon a society or group. In other words, a system of morality is applicable primarily and directly only to individual human beings.

Only individuals have consciousness, and only humans have a volitional and conceptual consciousness; therefore, only individual human beings can act as moral agents. This is why a proper moral system should be concerned with how an individual must act in a given situation–regardless of how many other people he is surrounded with.

However, moral systems like altruism and utlitarianism are flawed at their very foundations because they ignore this simple fact: they are “other-centric” and collectivist at the fundamental level; they disregard the fact that societies or groups are not moral agents; only a single individual human being can be a moral agent. They construct their theories on the premises of “society” or a group of at least two individuals while ignoring the fact that morality is not concerned with how many people exist in any given situation to practice it.

Other-centric moral theories focus upon an individual’s actions in relation to another as the basic framework of a moral situation. A lone individual presumably has no need for a moral system to guide his actions.

It is illogical to confuse the fact that men live and function in society with the false assumption that moral codes have to focus on this social nature of man and be derived from it. A moral code offers a guide to a man’s actions—one man’s actions; each man’s actions.

More fundamental than man’s nature as a social being is his nature as a rational being. A fundamental quality is that which accounts for or explains the greatest number of that entity’s characteristics. Therefore, a moral code should be derived from and be harmonious with this rational nature of man because that is his fundamental nature; the morality of social interactions are secondary and derivative to this.

First, we must answer what is proper and right for a man to do in order to survive on this earth given the nature and identity of his being. The answers to this question also contain the answer to how each man should interact with each other.

Notice that the moral codes of altruism and utilitarianism provide absolutely no moral prescriptions to an individual in the privacy of his own mind, except with regard to his existence among others.

To illustrate, think of a man alone on a deserted island; altruism, utilitarianism, Kantian duty ethics, and so on are useless moral systems to an individual who chooses to live alone or finds himself marooned on an island, because they are divorced from the reality he is faced with. All such moral systems ignore the fact that an individual human being is the most fundamental unit of a moral framework and the only agent of any moral action.

On a deserted island, one must either choose to act to survive for one’s self or choose to do nothing and die. If one chooses to live, he has chosen (implicitly) to be an egoist; this is the first and most basic meta-ethical act of choice, a choice that makes all other ethical acts possible. If you choose to live, you now have to discover the best and most efficient way for you to ensure your survival.

Egoism is the only moral theory that focuses properly on the individual–and how each individual should live his own life. Egoism points out that you should primarily hold yourself as the beneficiary of your actions, because it is in harmony with your meta-ethical choice to live; your own happiness is your highest moral purpose in life; the pursuit of values is predicated upon the standard of what is life-sustaining; and reason is your only most competent tool for evaluating the prudence of your actions.

Alone in the jungle, you must use your reason to ensure your survival and protection from animals and the elements. In fact, it doesn’t–shouldn’t–matter where you live; insofar as you choose to live and act according to the objective requirements of a life qua man, you are acting morally–egoistically–whether alone in a jungle or in the middle of a bustling metropolis.

In other words, egoism is not only a moral system that can be practiced consistently anywhere and without mutual conflict; it is also the only moral system that is useful, sensible, and practicable both in a society full of people as well as on a deserted island by yourself.

The moral is also the practical.

[Of course, living in a society of productive individuals is an immense source of value for an egoist because of all the products, discoveries, inventions, and services that are introduced into his life from the division of labor, i.e., a capitalist society; therefore, an egoist properly finds it in his self-interest to support, encourage, and foster a society of civilized and rational individuals, a society of laissez-faire capitalism.]

Related posts: Moral Evolution; Altruism and Egoism; The Right to Life

Posted in General Work/Life, My Theories and Ideas, On Collectivism, Philosophy, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 58 Comments »

Indian Democratic Lawlessness

Posted by Jerry on August 29, 2007

Last night on Indian national news, I was shocked and physically disturbed to watch the most gruesome video footage of mob and police violence in recent memory: a gang of savages–including two police officers–were most brutally clobbering, stomping, kicking, and beating an emaciated young man as punishment for his crime of trying to steal a necklace. I’m not posting the video here because it is too gruesome to watch; those interested, can follow the link to watch the video. 

According to some reports, the clobbering lasted for close to 30 minutes. In this wholesale celebration of savagery, tribalism, and sub-humanism, there were two enthusiastic police officers willing to take this extent of brutality to a higher level: one of the officers tied a rope around the man’s feet to his motorcycle and dragged him–bare-bodied–along the road for about five meters.

Further similar incidents involving law-enforcement officials (who make a farce out of that term) have occurred in various parts across India.

In November last year (2006), police constables in Mumbai mercilessly beat up a group of blind men. A group of blind protestors had gathered to demand better job opportunities for themselves outside the state secretariat – when the police used brute force to break up their agitation, mercillesly [sic] lathi-charging them and bundling them into police vans. [bold added]

In India, democracy has a new meaning—violence as the voice and medium of expression of a sub-human mob.

===========

Related posts:

Dangerous Democracy and Fundamental Freedoms
The Contradictions of the Indian Constitution
What Can Indian be Proud of?

Posted in Culture, General Work/Life, India, Mumbai, On Collectivism, Political Issues, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Contradictions of the Indian Constitution

Posted by Jerry on August 15, 2007

In my previous post challenging the notion that Indians have something to be properly *proud* of about their nation, I made the following statement:

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.

My astute readers might have wondered if the above statement were merely hyperbolic or did I have some substantial argument behind it. I believe I have. My previous post adequately demonstrates the ground realities of how Indian democracy is practiced, i.e., violence is indeed the means of democratic expression in this country.

This post will substantiate my claim that the long and mangled mess of stated laws in the badly-written Indian constitution precisely makes it possible for the political system to institutionalize the violation of rights on a legal and routine basis, thereby guaranteeing no rights to any of its citizens.

The articles dealing with fundamental rights in the Indian Constitution is broadly structured as follows:

  • First, a statement of law guaranteeing a right is asserted.
  • Next, several practicable implications of the law is ennumerated.
  • Then, a series of exceptions to the “guaranteed” right is highlighted, and the central State is regarded as the final arbiter on all cases of exceptions.

Here is the section of the article dealing with the “Right to Freedom” from the Indian Constitution:

19. Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech, etc.

(1) All citizens shall have the right—
(a) to freedom of speech and expression;
(b) to assemble peaceably and without arms;
(c) to form associations or unions;
(d) to move freely throughout the territory of India;
(e) to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India; and
(g) to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.

(2) Nothing in sub-clause (a) of clause (1) shall affect the operation of any existing law, or prevent the State from making any law, in so far as such law imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.

(3) Nothing in sub-clause (b) of the said clause shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it imposes, or prevent the State from making any law imposing, in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India or public order, reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause.

(4) Nothing in sub-clause (c) of the said clause shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it imposes, or prevent the State from making any law imposing, in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India or public order or morality, reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause.

(5) Nothing in sub-clauses (d) and (e) of the said clause shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it imposes, or prevent the State from making any law imposing, reasonable restrictions on the exercise of any of the rights conferred by the said sub-clauses either in the interests of the general public or for the protection of the interests of any Scheduled Tribe.

(6) Nothing in sub-clause (g) of the said clause shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it imposes, or prevent the State from making any law imposing, in the interests of the general public, reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause, and, in particular, nothing in the said sub-clause shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it relates to, or prevent the State from making any law relating to,—
(i) the professional or technical qualifications necessary for practising any profession or carrying on any occupation, trade or business, or
(ii) the carrying on by the State, or by a corporation owned or controlled by the State, of any trade, business, industry or service, whether to the exclusion, complete or partial, of citizens or otherwise.

***** 

The bold and italics in the above “exceptions” are mine; they highlight the direct contradiction and actual impossibility of guaranteeing the right to freedom for any individual–either of speech, expression, or action. If the State is the ultimate arbiter of what constitutes the “interest of the general public” or the interest of some tribe, or what motivates public order and what disrupts it, or what is considered “moral” and “decent” and what is construed immoral and indecent, then how is an individual *guaranteed* the freedom and safety of expression unless he has first gained the official approval of the State? And what if the State itself is constituted by men of clear ideological agendas–be it Socialist, Hinduist, Islamic, or Atheist!

This is the structure, nature, and implication of the articles in the Indian Constitution. This contradictory mess of stating a law and ennumerating exceptions to its enactment make it impossible for any individual to act with the safety and security of knowing that he is acting *within* the law. 

Under the current state of affairs, one cannot possibly know that one’s actions are within the law, since the State is the ultimate arbiter of the legality and *morality* of your actions. As evidence, witness the recent attack on the author Taslima Nasreen and the subsequent criminal charges filed against her by the State’s law-enforcement machinery for writing a book. Obviously, since Nasreen did not have her book sanctioned by the government, she had no way of knowing that she failed to meet the State’s interpretation of what constitutes a proper freedom of expression in writing the book; hence, she has criminal charges against her.

All that being said, the matter here is more fundamental than merely not having the confident knowledge of the legality of one’s actions–even though that in itself is a serious issue. The matter is of principle. Human rights are a matter of principle–and as such, there can be no exceptions to principles. You either have a right or you do not. Your right is either violated or it is not. There is no middle ground, no gray area, in the matter of principles.

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 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.

Happy 60th, India.

==========

Related posts:

Dangerous Democracy and Fundamental Freedoms
What Can Indian be Proud of?

Posted in Culture, General Work/Life, India, Indian Blogs, Mumbai, My Theories and Ideas, Philosophy, Political Issues, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments »

Dangerous Democracy and Fundamental Freedoms

Posted by Jerry on August 13, 2007

[I posted a modified version of this post earlier. But it warrants resurrection as we approach the day of India’s independence.] 

Democracy can be a very dangerous thing. Indeed, Aristotle described democracy as a “necessary evil,” but an evil nonetheless. A democratic country can be a threat to its own citizens as well as to other nations. Consider the threat of democratic, nuclear-capable Iran; or that of the democratically elected Hamas government of Palestine; or even that of the largest democracy in the world–-India.

Democracy, translated in practice, means that the majority gets to decide what the rules of the game are. If the majority of Indians are not “comfortable” with legalizing homosexuality, for example, well then the human rights of the homosexual minority can and should be trampled.

As Farah Baria, a writer for the Indian Express, stated in her article on the criminality of homosexuality:

“Replying to a petition filed in the Delhi High Court by Naz Foundation, an advocacy, AIDS control and gay outreach organization, the Government claimed that Indian society was “not ready” for the practice of homosexuality. In fact the 42nd report of the Law Commission opines that society’s disapproval was “strong enough to justify it being treated as a criminal offense, even when adults indulge in it in private.” The penalty? Imprisonment for ten years or even life.” [emphases mine]

At some point in the future, if the majority decides that they do not like eating broccoli, they can simply pass a law criminalizing its growth and consumption. It would be a strong enough justification to treat it as a criminal offense.

Democracy is the political application of Utilitarianism–irrelevant of all its variations–as the greatest good for the greatest number–and they are both equally evil. Morality is contorted into a statistical game of numbers, where the standard of good is the number of people that can be gathered on any one side; thus, exterminating the Jews in a majoritarian Nazi society would have to be a good thing by such a moral code.

What is the better alternative to democracy then?

In my opinion, the democratic institutions in India as they currently exist are instrumentally causing the decline of liberty and the move towards the fascism of a vocal collective. These legal and democratic structures need to either be dissolved entirely or reformed radically. A new legal structure needs to be introduced—one that is based on the recognition and guarantee of fundamental human rights, not on the guarantee of a majoritarian democracy, a thuggish minority, or one that is based on the expediency of the moment.

One effective and immediate way to achieve this would be to introduce a constitutional amendment declaring certain laws based on objective, fundamental principles as off-limits to a democratic vote. For example, laws such as the guaranteeing of the right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness, freedom of speech and individual expression (including artistic expression or romantic expression between consensual adults), the strict separation of religion and state, and the repeal of institutionalized discrimination based on caste, religion, or race should be taken off the voting table regardless of popular opinion.

We must outrightly reject the current idolization of democracy as the “sacred” voice of the people. We must reject the current, long-winded Constitution that seeks to enumerate every application of law in every concrete situation; instead, we must call for and adopt a parsimonious moral framework based on objective, fundamental principles that are common to all applications of moral laws and human rights. The current judiciary system more often acquiesces to the laws created by the “representatives of the people” rather than examining the legitimacy and constitutionality of those laws.

Fundamental freedoms, rights, moral laws should be off-limits to the voting of legislators or the public. For example, the recent voting in the legislature based on caste, religion, and origin of birth–including on all the issues surrounding the disgustingly institutionalized terms of discrimination such as “muslim quotas,” “backward classes,” “other backward classes,” “scheduled castes,” and so on, should have been declared illegitimate by the courts and in violation of the right of an individual to choose and express his self-identity without having to be oppressed under the accidental identities of his birth. These are not matters to be put to vote–neither in the legislature nor in the general election. These do not fall within the domain of democracy. No man has the right to label another man as a member of a “backward class.” Man is a self-made being; he should have the autonomy, liberty, and right to not associate with his religion, his caste, his race, or his tribe.

In every election cycle across India, political parties campaign on explicitly religious grounds, with campaign promises that are religious-based (like building this or that temple). Such campaigns should be banned outright–without vote or debate–and such political parties should be barred from elections until their manifestos clearly reject all religious references. The principle of separating religion and state should not be a matter of debate or democratic vote. The government has no right nor any freedom to practice its own religion.

Similarly, in the areas of art, media, television, opinions, blogs, etc., the government has no right or duty to interfere. Any interference must be swiftly restrained by the legal system in order to ensure the principle of freedom of speech and expression. Likewise, the acts of consensual adults–homosexual or heterosexual–are not matters for a democratic vote. These are private affairs of the concerned individuals, and their right to self-expression and autonomy should be respected by the government, upheld by the courts, and protected by the law-and-order system.

Democracy can be a very dangerous thing if let loose in the hands of the majority. Without the restraint of fundamental, unchangeable, irreplaceable moral laws guaranteeing the rights of the smallest minority in the world–the right of an individual–a democracy can be a threat to human life.

John Stuart Mill derided the “tyranny of the majority”; indeed, democracy can be dangerously similar to fascism in that there is no one single dictator but an entire mob that collectively dictates the terms of the existence for the entire population.

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

Related posts:

The Contradictions of the Indian Constitution
What Can Indian be Proud of?
Indian Democratic Lawlessness

Posted in Culture, India, My Theories and Ideas, On Collectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments »

Self-Identity

Posted by Jerry on February 21, 2007

I have always denounced holding any sense of identity that is merely accidental and not consciously chosen. For this reason, I reject automatic allegiance to nations, cities, ethnic groups, races, families, tribes, or any other accidental aspects of one’s existence.

Patriotism, jingoism, nationalism, ethnocentrism, casteism, and racism are particular identity-characteristics that I revile. If you are patriotic merely because you were accidentally born within a certain geographic location, I pity your mind; and if you are willing to fight and die for this accidental geographic location of your birth, I will have no words to express to you the tragedy of your decision.

In essence, the matter of assuming accidental identities is a matter of accepting unchosen values; indeed, the concept of an unchosen value is itself a contradiction because if it has not been chosen by the individual himself, then by what and whose standard can it be legitimately regarded as a value? Thus, it is utterly meaningless to claim love and allegiance for nation or family simply by virtue of the fact that you were born into them, without regard to their philosophic virtue and character. It undermines those objects of your choice that are indeed of value to you.**

Those who heckle you on the streets and condemn you for your lack of allegiance to a nation are demanding that you shut off your mind, ignore the volitional faculty of your consciousness, and embrace whatever they offer as your own value. And the moral code that powers their ammunition is the moral code of altruism. Their moral code condemns you for holding your own life and selfish interest as the standard of your values and offers in exchange the value of a nation full of undifferentiated billions, whom you are supposed to love merely because of the accidental matter that “we are all Indians, therefore, brothers and comrades!”

The same hecklers are also thrusting their morality of altruism and self-sacrifice down your throats when they condemn you for choosing a self-made family of friends in exchange for the one you were accidentally born into. They argue for some mystical, supernatural view of blood relations that is supposed to usurp every rational choice you make with regard to the people you associate with. And the only argument they offer you in self-righteous justification is that “you owe it to them; they are your family!”

The mindless, jingoistic zealots who have instituted the habit of singing the Indian national anthem before the screening of every movie in theaters–and making it underhandedly compulsory through coercion by the mob–are banking on people to be as mindless as they are; they hope that through some mystical means of osmosis or through the repeated chants of the anthem, the audience will gradually turn into zealous patriots.

As Rand said, where there is no reason, there is force. These Indian jingoists know that they are incapable of erecting a rationally persuasive argument for their moral code (altruism), their political philosophy (socialism), their social philosophy (collectivism), their personal philosophy (irrationalism and mysticism), and their Indian nation that is formed from and embodies all of these constituent philosophies (the democratuc rule of the mob). Hence, since they cannot appeal to man’s reason, they resort to force to demand that you value their moral code and their nation. And a docile mind that decides to march to the frontier of his nation in defense of this philosophy purely because he felt compelled to it by his fellow compatriots is as immoral as the philosophy he defends: since he has already surrendered his mind to the mob and has replaced their slogans for his syllogisms, he may has well complete the sacrifice with his own life and body.

Objects regarded as values accepted from others or by virtue of existential accidents are no values at all, regardless of whether or not they turn out to be good for you. You cannot substitute the autonomy of your own rational mind in choosing values with the randomness and arbitrary nature of accidents or with the mind of someone else—you are not living their lives with their minds and there is no such thing as a collective consciousness.

The values you hold invariably leads you to gravitate toward others who hold similar values. The crucial matter here is ascertaining whether your values are ones that you chose willingly or are ones that you accepted unquestioningly from others–are these values the result of rational decisions or due to nothing more than accidental facts? The only way to answer this question for yourself is by using your own mind.

**Note: For the same reasons, I reject the notion and the widespread practice of citizenship based on location of birth; I argue that citizenship must be chosen freely by an adult–or by a child’s parents for the child–[regardless of where the individual or the family is located at that time] and should be granted by the society on ideological grounds.

And in corollary, I argue that citizenship can revoked by a society or surrendered by the individual on ideological grounds. If I had to draw an analogy, I would refer to the Catholic rite of Confirmation, wherein a young adult–typically, of 18 years of age–consciously and of his own free will chooses to be a Catholic, accepts Catholicism as his religion, and chooses to belong to the Universal Catholic Church, regardless of where he is located in the world. However, as a child, this decision to be Catholic, is made by the child’s parent until he is of age.

Posted in Culture, General Work/Life, India, Mumbai, My Theories and Ideas, On Collectivism, Personal, Philosophy, Political Issues, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Why is Ayn Rand Respected More in India?

Posted by Jerry on September 16, 2006

Ayn Rand is rather well-known in India, though of course not as widely known as she is in the US; however, it can be argued that Rand is certainly viewed more respectfully and with admiration here in India than in the US.

The reasons for that are probably not quite straightforward: it’s not just because Rand’s reputation in India has escaped the lies, mischaracterizations, and attacks of the intellectual and academic elite in the US.

I think most people in India who like reading books, who are intellectuals (whether “elite” or not), who value ideas, etc. have read Ayn Rand. Rand’s works can be described as part of the canon for any serious Indian intellectual; I think I read an article in an Indian newspaper website someday that said something like reading Ayn Rand is the mark of an intellectual thinking person.

However, just because so many have read Rand does not imply that they all have come to admire her. In fact, I mentioned in my earlier post regarding the Ayn Rand at 100 book launch that though many of my colleagues had read The Fountainhead, some of them hated the book–and Ayn Rand–with a passion. Some others found her ideas very unrealistic, impossible, idealistic, and therefore, worthless.

Now, having said that, I would still claim that Rand enjoys much greater respect and admiration here in India today. In my opinion, the main reason for this is that the Indian people who read her actually understand the truth of her arguments, for the most part. Because Indians live in the collectivist, pseudo-statist, tradition-bound, mystic society that India is, the readers grasp the validity of Rand’s ferocious criticisms of these states and agree with her description of life under these conditions.

For example, Indians see the reality around them–of a massive bureaucratic government, socialist and collectivist policies, the influence of mysticism and religion in politics and in every aspect of life, the burden of tradition and familial obligations, the parasitic oppression of “needy” and the lazy on the hard-working average man–and they see how well Rand describes these very scenarios and reveals the root causes of them.

I think the Indians who read Rand identify with her because they feel she is exactly right; because they see what she denounces occurring in their own lives and in their societies. Moreover, Rand’s uniquely powerful, persuasive, bold, and lucid style of writing is perfect for the tastes of the Indian audience who are not into obfuscations, meandering musings, and equivocality. As a culture in general, Indians are rather direct in their communication (verbal and nonverbal), almost to the point of being tactless and crude. Thus, Rand’s admirable style of revealing things as they are, never faking reality, and calling a spade a spade, seems superbly customized for the Indian readership.

The American culture, on the other hand, does not have any of these contexts from which to understand the power of Ayn Rand. Americans have never encountered quite the conditions described in We The Living or that which is the reality in India. Americans have never really had to stand in long lines of ration to obtain food and groceries, face the corruption and stagnation of huge government bureaucracies, deal with corruption as a daily part of living, or have to deal with the politics of a collectivist mob. Americans do not face oppressive familial obligations arising from a collectivist and tradition-bound mentality; neither have they had the kind of mysticism rampant in this part of the world.

In short, Americans haven’t really experienced the full intensity of the consequences of bad ideas–the bad ideas that Rand exposed and harshly denounced. Therefore, to the Americans, Rand comes off as being “shrill” and “extreme”; to an Indian, perhaps, Rand comes off as being relevant, true, and like a “voice in the desert,” the voice of a brilliant mind.

Moreover, Americans are not “direct” people; as a culture, it seems that Americans like facades, appearances, euphemisms, pleasantries, vacuous conversations, avoiding uncomfortable remarks, and being polite. Thus, Rand’s blunt and bold style understandably comes off as being foreign and confrontational, and therefore, unlikeable.

These, in my opinion, are the reasons why Rand is accepted with considerable respect here than she is in the US. Moreover, in India, there is a dearth of intellectuals–much less intellectuals who write brilliant and successful books. Thus, Rand is respected right from the get-go as an intellectual who has published world famous books.

However, I must add this one final observation I have made: Indians also love ape-ing the West, especially America, in many aspects. And by “ape-ing”, I not only mean imitating, I also use it to refer to the Indian’s level of thinking as being at the functioning level of the Apes. Thus, I have noticed that some of the modern “elite” intellectuals in India who have read Rand–and have probably investigated some more about Rand via the internet or other sources–may have come to percieve the famine of interest in Rand-scholarship and lack of respect for her ideas in America. Some of them may have also read misleading reviews or heard of the straw-man criticisms against Rand (like, she was too “black & white,” or too “utopian,” or “teenagers read Rand, then one grows out of it), and they blankly repeat these criticisms and consider themselves “over” Rand, as in, “oh, I’m over her already.”

So, yes. I have noticed some Indian “elite” readers use the same criticisms against Rand that I have read on the Internet and in the US. I believe the “fashion” of being “over Ayn Rand” might be catching on in India also. But let’s hope that that does not happen.

Posted in Ayn Rand, General Work/Life, India, Objectivism, Personal, The Best of Leitmotif | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 32 Comments »

 
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