Leitmotif

Reason as the Leading Motive

Posts Tagged ‘India’

The Ticking Time Bomb that is India’s Population

Posted by Jerry on June 5, 2013

Absorb these facts:

One out of every 6 people in the world live within the geo-political boundaries of India, which makes this country the second most populous country in the world. Yet, despite having this large number of human minds who can potentially innovate, invent, imagine, achieve, and uncover great value, India remains one of the most impoverished countries in the world–with more than 22% of our population living below the poverty line.

In contrast, some countries having populations far lesser than some Indian states are far more prolific in their outputs in science, technology, arts, design, creativity, achievements, and research.

What’s more, almost half of India’s 1.22 billion people are under the age of 25, which makes India among the (most crowded and) youngest nations in the world.

Close to half of these 25-and-under are males, and this number is set to cross into a surplus of males by 2020.

So, India is fast developing into a country crowded with virile, young, hormonal men–and fewer women–that pass out of an educational system controlled by imbeciles and focused on producing rats that try and outrun each other in an impoverished landscape of sluggish economic growth, diminishing social and civil liberties, and non-existent psychological nourishment.

If we desire to stem this devolution, we must begin with a multi-pronged approach from the top of the institutional pyramid and from the bottom at the grassroots.

From the top, we must quickly loosen the tight grip of politics on the economy across all sectors and unleash the creative and entrepreneurial energies of its people to manifest business opportunities and new productive sectors.

Specifically, the government and its bureaucrats must completely be removed from decision-making in Education–right from setting the curriculum to standardized testing and evaluation. India must not have a Ministry of Education.

From the bottom, we must address the educational needs of the human mind, and focus as much on the arts, letters, and humanities as much as we do on maths and sciences. We must raise the consciousness of men and women to imaginations so varied and foreign to their ancestors–that these imaginations manifest as artistic and entrepreneurial energies that will exploit the opportunities offered by a free and unfettered economy.

Furthermore, a focus on the humanities will nourish the spiritual needs of our society, helping to make it more tolerable and accommodating to the crowds, to women, to diverse minorities, and to differences of all kinds.

Institutionally guaranteed freedoms coupled with an educational system that empowers its people to exercise these freedoms fully, responsibly, and imaginatively can help this country leverage its large population and uncover tremendous value.

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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.

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 »

Homosexuality is Unnatural

Posted by Jerry on February 27, 2012

A case of deep-rooted fear and self-loathing

The idea that homosexuality is unnatural is held widely not just among the religiously tainted but also by those who support the rights of LGBT persons.

Perhaps this is because the experience of same-sex attraction is so incredibly difficult to imagine for heterosexuals that they prefer to let it remain unexamined. After all, putting yourself in another person’s shoes to empathize with their subjective experiences is a difficult process in itself—and in the case of homosexuality, this may demand a visceral experience that can be quite unsettling.

Hence, even those who have gay friends and are in support of recognizing the full rights of LGBT individuals hold a deep-seated belief that homosexuality is not “natural” and “not how things were meant to be.”

Given this, the most common defense of homosexuality then boils down to a matter of choice—the right to have a personal preference in romance, even though it might violate “natural” norms.

This is the premise that needs to be challenged and discarded.

Homosexuality is not a matter of choice. It is not a preference. It is completely natural. Indeed, it can also be an expression of the grandly spiritual.

The Factual Explanation

But let’s begin from a purely probabilistic calculation: in a population of over seven billion human beings on Earth, it is a lack of imagination to insist that all the billions of people will manifest only one kind of sexual behaviour in nature, namely, the heterosexual behaviour. Just by the pure mathematics of it, the amount of potential combinations and permutations possible to the human species in the kinds of sexual, psychological, emotional, and physical manifestations are limitless.

Homosexuality is merely one naturally occurring variant in the great spectrum of human psycho-sexual possibilities. This variety is the natural order of things. Diversity in every aspect of nature is the motive power that drives procreation and evolution.

However, the religiously tainted claim that homosexuality is an aberration only observed in humans. Again, this is an ignorance of the available evidence. There is ample amount of documented evidence of homosexual and bisexual behavior in various non-human species. A quick search on Wikipedia reveals that same-sex behavior is a nearly universal phenomenon in the animal kingdom, common across species.

What’s more, the human species itself has documented evidence of homosexual and bi-sexual behaviour since its earliest history, agnostic to cultures and geographies.

The Moral Case for Homosexuality

But beyond these existential facts about homosexuality lie the more important question: Is homosexuality an immoral indulgence? Does it degrade the dignity of human nature?

You will see at the end of this article that the answer is a resounding “No!”

The religiously tainted have dominated the moral conversation, and it is time we exposed the root of their arguments. At the root of their moral assertions lie a fear of confronting their own self-loathing, cowardice, and un-reason.

The religiously tainted argue that just because homosexuality is observed in the animal kingdom, it does not mean that humans should emulate the same and “become like animals!” We have a moral compass, they chide us. We can and must choose to be better than mere animals.

Notice carefully, however, that there is no reason given beyond a bald moral assertion that human sexual pleasure is degrading. There is an implicit admission of shame and guilt associated with human sexual desire, as if prima facie it is wrong and therefore must be suppressed at all costs.

This debased projection of the human capacity to experience desire, joy, and ecstasy as the cause of shame and guilt is the filthy consequence of a mind—and a culture—obsessed with the mechanics of sex, not the experience of sex.

But even keeping that aside, what is more specious is the view that homosexuality is the consequence of a mindless, perverse pursuit of the sexual stimulus. Apparently, according to the religiously tainted, nature has arranged the sexual organs of male and females to “fit” in a particular manner that facilitates procreation. Since this is the only natural way to procreate, it therefore must be the only moral way to have sex.

Like almost everything that the religiously tainted claim, this is yet another illogical and specious jump from a physical phenomenon to a moral conclusion. If the act of sex is justified purely because of the resultant ability to procreate, then by that logic all manner of non-procreative sexual activity will need to be immoral. That would include everything from healthy behaviors like masturbation to every act of sex even among married heterosexual couples that does not lead to child-bearing.

Further, if the capacity to procreate is what decides the morality of a sex act, then heterosexual couples cannot morally indulge in a host of intimate, loving, and celebratory activities like foreplay, cunnilingus, and fellatio. Finally, the act of wagging a finger on the private, bedroom activities of heterosexual lovers simply because they do not intend to have children is itself a highly egregious moral offense that cannot be explained away.

Are We Humans or Sex Organs?

But there are some very important questions that confront the religiously tainted, if they choose to honestly grapple with this topic:

Is it really dignified to interpret the complexities of our sexual desires as little more than the arrangement of organs that “fit” together in our bodies—like pipes in the bathroom plumbing system? Is it possible to explain all of human desires—those heights of emotional and sexual experience that motivate marvels of art and architecture—as products of only titillated sexual organs? Can the entirety of the human sexual experience be reduced to the activity of our sex organs?

The religiously tainted say yes, because it is their view of human sexuality that sees nothing spiritual, nothing transcendent, nothing holy, nothing reverent in sex. They are the ones who truly describe the human sexual experience as that of mere meat groping in the dark to find the right fit.

In contrast, humans are the only species in nature with the power to recast our entire existential being into a sexual organ. We are the only species that can transform our whole bodies and our minds into the service of sexual exploration and ecstasy. Indeed, we have the power to reach dizzying heights of emotional and psychological experience without even any physical contact.

This is proper to the fullest nature of human beings. This is when humans rise to all that is possible to its own nature.

Those who call this human potential “unnatural” and “against the order of nature” are actually not ignorant of what it means to be human; they are afraid of it. It is fear of the realization that they lack self-esteem and that they loathe their own bodies that drives their hatred for all that is possible to us as a species.

Implicitly, they realize that it is this fear which allows them to hide comfortably behind the dark pronouncements of their religions and traditions.

ADDENDUM

The only hurdle facing humanity in accepting homosexuality or any other diverse forms of human pleasure as legitimate forms of human psycho-sexual experience is the primitive Judeo-Christian morality that has pervaded our civilizations for more than 2000 years, infecting even non-Judeo-Christian cultures now.

This morality is frought with the guilt and shame of sex–any sex, not just homosexual sex–and hence, it attempts to minimize the possibilities and wide range of sexual indulgences possible to humans. The ideal at the end of the road, of course, is the complete and total eradication of the sexual experience–as perfected by their moral personification, Jesus Christ, and as attempted for centuries by the celibate clergy of the Catholic Church.

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Related quote
“Observe the false dichotomy offered: man’s choice is either mindless, “instinctual” copulation – or marriage, an institution presented not as a union of passionate love, but as a relationship of “chaste intimacy”, of “special personal friendship”, of “discipline proper to purity”, of unselfish duty, of alternating bouts with frustration and pregnancy, and of such unspeakable, Grade-B-movie-folks-next-door kind of boredom that any semi-living man would have to run, in self-preservation, to the nearest whorehouse.”

Ayn Rand
On Living Death, a speech discussing the 1968 papal encyclical Humanae Vitae.

Posted in Culture, General Work/Life, Homosexuality, Love and Romance, Personal, Philosophy, Political Issues, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

The Pressures of being an Intellectual

Posted by Jerry on November 11, 2011

220

Tehelka Magazine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

National Socialist Workers' Party of Denmark

Nazism

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nazi German propaganda poster: "Danzig is...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why You Should Not Support Anna Hazare’s LokPal Bill

Posted by Jerry on April 7, 2011

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

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

Against Anna Hazare

Anti-Anna Hazare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jan Lok Pal is no solution

Chasing Black Money: In search of red herrings

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

Compromise with Abhay Kumar

Posted by Jerry on March 21, 2011

I apologize to Abhay Kumar and his family for causing them agony and harm through my actions, which I accept now, were not justified. The entire episode has been a result of misunderstanding, which has now been sorted.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Release of “Atlas Shrugged” in Marathi

Posted by Jerry on February 17, 2011

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

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

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

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

DATE

Saturday, Feb 26, 2011

TIME

7 pm to 8.30 pm

VENUE

Shivaji Mandir
Dadar, Mumbai

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

COMPERE

Jyoti Ambekar

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

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

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

 

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

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 »

On Facebook

Posted by Jerry on March 29, 2008

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

Here is the description I wrote:

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

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

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

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

In Response to Values

Posted by Jerry on February 6, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hindi News Channel on Ayn Rand

Posted by Jerry on February 1, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

X-Men in Mumbai

Posted by Jerry on January 30, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 »

Bating On the Way to Heaven

Posted by Jerry on November 28, 2007

Ha! This is for real. The following question appeared in this morning’s sex column of Mumbai Mirror–an English-language regional daily. I can’t decide which is more funny–the 20-year-old man who just discovered some new activity and his intended pathway to heaven, or the sex columnist’s response!

I’m a 20 year old man. I learnt “master bating” from my friends and now I cannot stay without it. I don’t have any bad habits like smoking and drinking. I have also lost weight because of this habit. I know many prostitutes who can show me the path to heaven but I don’t have the guts to deal with them. Please help.

Respose: You are not playing cricket; it is “masturbation” that you are doing. There is nothing to worry about. You will learn better control and masturbate only when you have something to excite you. No harm will come to you. Prostitutes or any unknown female will not send you to heaven — there are more chances of going to hell. Lead a healthy lifestyle.

[P.S. In the sport of cricket, a team bats while the other bowls–much like in baseball. Hence, the term “batting”, and a misspelled version of it: “bating.”]

Posted in Culture, General Work/Life, India, Love and Romance, Mumbai, Personal, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | 7 Comments »

God Under the Knife

Posted by Jerry on November 8, 2007

I am currently watching a story on the late-night news program, and at the same time, reading the same story blogged by ReasonPharm.

Doctors in Bangalore, India, just completed a successful surgery to remove a set of limbs on a two-year-old girl. The little girl was born with 8 limbs–the extra four being that of her parasitic twin that did not develop fully inside the womb.

Seeing a child with 8 limbs, the primitive minds of Indian villagers saw similarities with their goddess Laxmi, from which the child gets her name.

The Indian villagers believed that the girl was a reincarnation of the goddess and lost no time in getting down to venerating the infant Laxmi.

ReasonPharm made some good observations about this story. Here’s one of them:

Reason triumphs over mysticism. The girl’s parents could have decided that their daughter was indeed Lakshmi reincarnated, and that they shouldn’t tamper with the body of a goddess. Instead, they realized that their daughter is a human being who could not have lived a normal life in the body she was born with. “It will be great to see our daughter have a normal body,” her father Shambhu, who only goes by one name, told reporters. “We were worried for her future.”

It is indeed noteworthy that these Indian devotees of Laxmi were willing to let their goddess Laxmi (or her reincarnation) go under the surgical–and rational–knife, almost literally severing mysticism from reality! 

Contrast this with the attitude of Christian fundamentalists in the US–presumably the more “educated” and “civilized” counterparts of the Indian devotees–with regard to stem cell research and biogenetic engineering. And these cells are not even reincarnations!

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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 »

My Interview with The Telegraph

Posted by Jerry on October 24, 2007

The following are the questions posed by the reporter from The Telegraph (TT) and my e-mailed responses to them. I have slightly edited only my responses at some places for stylistic reasons; in the question about the response of young readers to Ayn Rand’s books, I have added a few additional points to expand upon my original thoughts.

TT: What drew you to Ayn Rand?

JJ: I was first introduced to Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead by a friend of mine. While I thoroughly enjoyed reading the novel as a work of art, the philosophical ideas in it disturbed me greatly. They were radical and completely alien to everything I had been taught as moral. My response to this cognitive dissonance was to shut out Rand’s ideas from my mind and continue to live the way I was used to. A couple of years later, I happened to pick up a copy of Atlas Shrugged. My life was never the same after that. I could no longer just ignore the radical ideas in the book. This pushed me to investigate further, ask “why?” to every single premise and belief I currently held, dig deep to the roots and trace out the ideological contradictions in my belief; in essence, from that point on, I embarked on a critical evaluation and a massive upheaval of my belief systems. It was a challenging and confusing period of time, but I was open to the experience.

TT: There are successive generations of readers who discover Rand in their youth and then move away. What are the elements in Rand that you continue to revisit or discover over the years?

JJ: There are several reasons why young readers become zealots of Rand’s ideas and then move away as they grow into adulthood: Rand’s philosophy is tremendously complex and radical. Every principle in the system is internally related with every other, non-contradictorily. Therefore, there are two approaches to dealing with this philosophy: first, one honestly wrestles with the ideas of the philosophy and attempts to follow all its logically connected chain of thoughts to integrate them in one’s own mind, or second, one can take the shortcut approach and memorize the key fundamental principles, learn a few choice quotes from Ayn Rand and the novel’s heroes, and then claim to be an Objectivist.

Unfortunately, the young readers who have not yet achieved the intellectual capacity (due to their age or intellectual training) required for such massive integrations across philosophical levels tend to adopt the second–easier and shorthand–approach to express and feed their emotional excitement from having read the novels. The reason is that one can simply not read these emotionally stirring and philosophically challenging novels and remain passive or wait over years for intellectually maturity to set in: one is compelled to feed this immediate emotional experience by retaining key slogans or quotes from the books that express an emotional truth, then they seek out answers from wherever they can–even if it may be from Google searches or the Wikipedia.

Consequently, an intellectually pre-mature and overwhelmingly emotional introduction to the radical Objectivist premises of individualism, egoism, and self-interest often leads young people to hold an undigested, unintegrated, contortion of dogmatic beliefs–identical to religious beliefs held on faith, emotional need, repeated memorizations, and acceptance from authority. Eventually, such a person may literally “grow out” of their memorized philosophy and regard it as his foolish and juvenile indulgence in youth.

For me, Rand’s works continue to reveal whole new integrations, different perspectives, unique approaches, and various applications of a principle to reality. For example, my recent discovery was the integration of the Objectivist position on charity with the issue of cultural activism for change in society. While I won’t go into the details of this integration here, I will only say that the elegant nature of Objectivism’s non-contradictory system of principles can give amazing insights into any and all aspects of reality: since there is only one reality, it necessarily means that all of reality is a totality of interrelated facts and relationships. Therefore, it is simply an incredible experience to discover new relationships among seemingly unrelated existents in this one reality.

TT: Would you say Rand’s time has come in India?

JJ: I would say that Rand’s ideas have long been pervasive among Indians–both abroad and here in India. After the United States, India is cited as the nation with the most Ayn Rand fans. Further, Rand’s ideas have a particular relevance to the history of Indian politics and economics. One can actually argue that many from our parent’s and grandparent’s generation “Shrugged” in the intellectual sense in response to the repressive Socialist policies of Nehru and the License Raj. Free minds cannot function under oppressive regimes. That generation chose to withdraw their minds and the products of their minds from this society in search of free societies in the West; the government of India called it the “brain-drain”–Ayn Rand would have called it “Atlas Shrugged.”

Notice how with the opening of the Indian borders, the gradual acceptance of free markets, and the loosening of government regulations, not only is tremendous wealth flowing into this country but also the minds who create such wealth are choosing to return to make their fortunes here.

TT: In what way is Rand’s work, particularly Atlas Shrugged, relevant in India today?

JJ: [I think the answer to this question is the same as above.]

TT: What are the common misconceptions, if any, that you find people bear about Rand’s philosophy?

JJ: Rand’s philosophy is only about 25 to 30 years old. It is only now being studied seriously in the philosophy departments of 30 universities in the United States. As an intellectual movement, Objectivism–the philosophy of Ayn Rand–is only beginning; most movements take centuries to merge into the mainstream mindset. Until that happens, Objectivism is prime target for misrepresentations and outright distortions. Some examples of such are as follows: some people claim that Ayn Rand advocated that man is an island, that individualism means isolationism, that to be independent is to never ask the help of anyone else on principle.

Any substantial study into the actual ideas of Ayn Rand will reveal that such a notion of individualism and independence is contrary to Objectivism. Among other things, Objectivism champions laissez-faire capitalism. The crucial and practical tenet of capitalism is the division of labor society: that individual men engage in the mutual trade of products that they have gained an expertise in producing. A division of labor society–that is, a capitalist society–necessitates a society of individual men who need each other in the rational–non-sacrifical–sense of traders–traders who voluntarily exchange a value for another. In simplistic terms, this ensures a steady supply of products out in the market for exchange and a market of consumers eager to exchange their own products or values for that which they have not produced.

Therefore, it is contradictory to claim that Objectivism preaches isolationism or that independence means man is an island. Quite the opposite, it is only the rational man who can foster a benevolent society of individuals who engage in voluntary transactions that mutually benefit each other’s lives immensely! 

TT: What is your personal favourite AR writing?

JJ: We The Living–for its incredibly moving portrayal of a rational life struggling to exist in an oppressive and irrational society. It is also the closest to an autobiography of Ayn Rand–in terms of its ideas, themes, and values, not in terms of the concretes.

Posted in Ayn Rand, Books, Culture, Economics, General Work/Life, India, Mumbai, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, Religion, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Telegraph on Ayn Rand

Posted by Jerry on October 22, 2007

The Atlas celebrations in India is covered by The Telegraph. Since I organized the one in Mumbai, I am mentioned several times in the article.

The writer of the article e-mailed me to express her regret that her original piece was “severely truncated” for space issues. I can see that the intent of the article is very positive towards Ayn Rand. However, as with all such cases of articles on Ayn Rand’s philosophy written and edited by people who are not properly familiar with it, this article contains at least three major factual errors. It is highly unfortunate. I immediately e-mailed the writer and pointed out the inaccuracies, asking that she either revoke the article or rectify the errors quickly. I offered some suggestions on how those errors may be rectified. I’m not sure what will come out of it.

😦

P.S. For copyright issues, I was told not to post the article on my site. So visit the link to read it in full.

UPDATE: I was just informed that prominent Indian actor Shammi Kapoor’s quote in the article (about AS’s thesis that money is the root of all evil) is verbatim. This means either the entire book went right above the man’s head, he has an incredibly weak memory of what he read, or Kapoor was just very sloppy in talking with the reporter. In any case, all of this merely underscores the case that he shouldn’t even be mentioned in the article.

I encourage all of you to send Letters to the Editor (ttedit@abpmail.com) pointing out this error and raising more points to get a discussion going. I’ll be writing one myself. Feel free to post your LTE’s here in the comments.

UPDATE: My entire interview with the reporter, which was excluded from the article for space reasons, is posted here.

Posted in Ayn Rand, Books, Culture, General Work/Life, India, Mumbai, Objectivism, Philosophy, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 12 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 »

 
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