Leitmotif

Reason as the Leading Motive

Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

The New Socialist: An Achievement in Illogical Radicalism

Posted by Jerry on March 14, 2012

Knowing leftists and socialists, you can count on them being unable to string a coherent sentence.

So, reading leftist material and theories become akin to watching static noise on television; there’s absolutely no sense in what is actually on the screen, but if you stare long enough, you can imagine some illusory patterns.

That’s how it feels reading leftist articles. As much as I can, I try to practice the virtue of having an open and critical mind by reading divergent and opposing view points to ensure that my beliefs are not faith-based dogma. Hence, despite my annoyance at the lack of coherence and logic, I try to slog through some of these articles to glean some basic patterns and ideas in their thought–to see if I need to address them in any way.

I recently checked out the Canadian magazine called The New Socialist. They are a group of people who want to build a radical militant and democratic movement to abolish capitalism and class society.

Okay. How do they propose to do that?

“Only the mass struggles of workers can abolish capitalism and begin creating socialism. No government, radical elite or party can deliver liberation from above – it must be won by workers and oppressed people themselves, from below.”

The Legacy of Socialism

The legacy of the Left

Let’s think about that for a moment. Note that abolishing capitalism from “below” would actually require that the ones “doing the abolishing” become a force powerful enough to ensure that the banishment endures. Lest, one could have constant fluxes of free people creating capitalism and those opposing it trying to abolish capitalism. In other words, a struggle to abolish capitalism will itself give rise to a clan of “radical elite” party workers or socialist government of the proletariat. This inexorable logic was amply manifested in the socialist experiments of the past century in Bolshevik Russia, Stalinist Russia, Maoist China, the Khmer Rouge, and more–with clearly genocidal consequences.

Next, they say:

“To develop both the power to challenge capitalism itself and the understanding that capitalism must be replaced, we need militant and democratic movements fighting to defend past gains and win new ones.”

Again, you can either have a “militant” force to replace capitalism or you have a democratic one. You cannot have both. Because, free peoples under a democratic system may choose to actually continue with a capitalist arrangement of society, wherein every individual has rightful ownership of his or her own property and labor.

However, if you have a militant force, then by definition, you will need to use the militant force to suppress dissent and ensure that the capitalist system is not “democratically” selected back into the order of things–even if the people wanted such a system. So, it has to be one or the other. And it’s clear here what the preference is.

They say:

 “Capitalism and systems of oppression gain much of their power by isolating us from others facing similar issues.”

This is a ludicrous statement right on the face of it. Really? Capitalist economies thrive on isolating people from each other? Let’s see: which economic systems pioneered innovations in global mass communication systems?

Which country invented the Internet, email communication, VoIP, Facebook, Google, Skype, etc.?

Which countries have been most conducive to oppressed minorities like queer and LGBT individuals connect with each other on a global scale and create virtual communities to interact, network, and form support groups?

Was it Communist North Korea? Communist Cuba? Communist China? Communist Laos? Communist Vietnam?

Facts and logic are inconveniences that distract the purist from their ideal socialistic theories.

There’s more:

[The new left] needs to be non-sectarian, in other words to put the interests of workers and oppressed people ahead of the interests of any group or current.

Socialism explained

So, who gets to represent the interests of the workers and oppressed people in an official forum? And wouldn’t these groups of people be classified as “groups” with “interests,” too? So, isn’t this itself already sectarian?

Finally, what gets to be classified as “oppressed people”? Can we classify capitalist business owners as oppressed people in a country that is dominated by socialist rulers and proletariat representatives? In this case, will the capitalist business owners be treated fairly and given their freedom from oppression? Would that mean allowing free capitalist economic activity? Would that mean undermining their own socialist system then?

If you think all this sounds confusing, then you are not alone. Even the founders of the New Socialist Group are confused as to what they really want. One thing they know for sure is that they are against capitalism. That’s it. What they are for is a more difficult question that they’re just not able to figure out.

“The NSG is committed to working with others to help build the next new left. No one knows exactly what form this new left will take. But it’s clear that a new left is needed.”

Well, good luck. Because in the absence of any logic, they’ll need all the luck to carry them through the day.

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“Sure, you can muster the most heroic in you to fight lions. But to whip your soul to a sacred white heat to fight lice…!” — Ayn Rand, We The Living

Posted in Culture, Economics, General Work/Life, On Collectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 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 Psychology of the Rioters in England

Posted by Jerry on August 12, 2011

Over the past few days, as I read the reports about the sickening and terrible loss of lives and property at the hands of looters and marauders in England, I wondered what could have caused such a spectacle.

There was a nagging sense that I was witnessing a rotten malaise spreading within the minds of the youth in England. But what was the cause and nature of this psychological malaise afflicting these youth?

At various discussion threads on Facebook, I kept alluding to and grappling with the psychological cause of these riots. What makes a person behave like this? Note that from all reports we know, these rioters come from very different races–including native English people–varying age-groups, different jobs, and includes men as well as women. Among those found looting shops were people in their 30s as well as kids as young as 11. Many of them were seen laughing and having a grand ol’ time as they ransacked liquor shops and stashed up on cigarettes and whiskey and beer bottles.

riot shop hackneyThe only element in common among most of these rioters was that they were mostly socio-economically disadvantaged. They were largely the poor members of English society. Many–perhaps most–of them were jobless or employed at bare minimum wages. Many of the under-aged youth were drop-outs from school.

Using this as a launching point, left-liberals and others have argued that this sense of alienation, disadvantage, disconnection, poverty, invisibility, unemployment, and disempowerment among this segment of the English community has led to this cathartic exercise of maniacal and delirious power. There has been some sudden class-consciousness among these oppressed peoples and they have finally decided to end the exploitation by staging an “unrest.” This explains the robbing and looting of gadgets, liquor, and expensive clothing–they argue–because it finally gives them what they have always been denied by the “power” elite.

However, in my opinion, this line of rationalization is very lazy. It shouldn’t take you more than a second to remember that this world has far, far more people living in utterly despicable conditions of poverty and disempowerment. There are way too many millions on this earth who–despite their invisibility, alienation, and lack of power–do not have the luxury of wearing warm, hooded sweaters, track pants, and white sneakers and step out on a looting rampage. If Marxist doctrine is to be believed, then every “oppressed” person languishing in poverty across the world should be up in arms rioting and revolting under the enlightenment of a brand new unified class-identity.

And yet, something constrains them; something which clearly did not constrain the rioters in England.

The Arab Spring, the African revolutions, and Islamic Jihad cannot be counted as examples of class-awakening. Theirs are movements driven by ideologies of varying kinds–for better or worse.

The rioters in England have no ideology as such. There is no proclamation for any particular viewpoint. This is in fact one of the reasons why there are so many conflicting interpretations and analyses of these recent events in England. These rioters are rudderless, mindless, collectivist drones.

And therein lies the clue to their behavior. Ask yourself, how does one become a rudderless, mindless, collectivist drone? One answer is when you are never confronted with the necessity to use your own independent mind.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain–one of the largest welfare states in the world–has been nurturing and breeding a mind-numbed cadre of youngsters who are living on dole-outs, whose life, survival, and sustenance are someone else’s responsibility.

These are people who are not demanded to think and confront the fragility of their own survival. These are Britons who are not demanded to be productive. These are citizens who are shielded from the bitter sting of starvation; from the panic of creeping death and the urgency of survival.

What we see now is the logical consequence of a mighty, paternalistic welfare state breeding a class of moochers who simply find no urgency in using their own mind to think–to reason–and therefore, believes that they simply cannot find their own way out of marginalization.

Indeed, this underclass of citizens has been so disempowered–not by any remnants of a capitalist structure in English society–but by the very bloated welfare government that was allegedly meant to “empower” them that they no longer believe it possible to them to get out of their miserable conditions.

It’s not their job to do so–the government has to bring them out of poverty. Indeed, they believe they are *incapable* of doing it themselves–they have been taught so by leftist philosophers, post-modernists, and welfare statists; the capitalist structures apparently are so oppressive that these people are helpless and powerless in front of it. Thus, they *need* the government to manage their lives and direct their course. It is the government’s responsibility–other people’s responsibility–to fulfill their needs and wishes.

How can one expect any sense of self-esteem or empowerment among such a class of people who have been bred and nurtured to be helpless beggars–to be recipients of dole, welfare, free lunches, and other people’s money?

Why should it be surprising then to watch these psychologically disempowered people–who have been robbed of their uniquely human ability to think, reason, value, judge, and be productive–rioting and asserting their “power” in the only way possible to non-conceptual animals, that is, through violence?

When you have the government enforcing moral values upon you, making moral decisions on your behalf, and distributing a regular monetary allowance to you, then why–and how–would you bother to think for yourself, exercise your own rational faculty, and earn your own living?

Ayn Rand noted this inseparable unity between using your own mind, living productively, and having self-respect:

“To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life: Reason—Purpose—Self-esteem. Reason, as his only tool of knowledge—Purpose, as his choice of the happiness which that tool must proceed to achieve—Self-esteem, as his inviolate certainty that his mind is competent to think and his person is worthy of happiness, which means: is worthy of living.”

Self-esteem comes with the knowledge that your mind is capable and competent at ensuring your survival qua man on this earth. By doling out freebies and free money, welfare governments may treat the symptoms of poverty, unemployment, or alienation, but never the root–which is, an unproductive lifestyle encouraged by a nanny state.

It is only through productivity and achievement that one gains a sense of pride in one’s own life–that is, self-esteem.

Atlas sculpture, New York City, by sculptor Le...

Image via Wikipedia

The events of these past few days in August 2011 mark the exposure and bankruptcy of the leftist-socialist philosophies. The youth of England have been robbed of their ability to nurture a healthy sense of self-esteem–not by capitalists but by those who allegedly claim to be their well-wishers.

“The need for self-esteem is a matter of life and death,” Ayn Rand had said in her novel Atlas Shrugged in 1957.

Today, in the riots of England, we are witnessing its proof.

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

Government Stimulus During a Recession

Posted by Jerry on May 22, 2008

Question:

While you’re waiting for the free market to correct itself in the event of a depression or a recession, there are real people facing dire situations–going hungry, losing their jobs, struggling to make ends meet, and so on. In such situations of widespread economic crises, shouldn’t we allow at least for a temporary stimulation by the government in the form of investments, bail-outs, jobs, infrastructure projects, etc.? It would only be for the short-term, till the recession or depression is over, and then we can revert to free market normalcy. The problem with the free market is, while it is self-correcting, we can never guess how long or how quickly it might take to rectify a situation; in the meantime, we cannot leave people helpless, jobless, and starving. Can we?

My response:

From all appearances, the above question seems to be focusing on a pragmatic situation–specifically, a concrete economic scenario of nationwide economic depression or recession. The question seems to be about politics and economics and about the role of government. The question implies that it is in agreement with free market capitalism, but wants to allow for some government concessions in times of emergencies.

However, if you carefully consider this question, you will realize that it is actually a question about ethics–philosophy. It is asking about the proper ethical response that society must provide in times of economic crises. This is not primarily a discussion on the concretes of an economic crises but a discussion on the merits of rational egoism.

The question has already conceded the grounds to altruism; it mounts a challenge to rational egoism from the platform of altruism and the terrace of politics. The only proper response to this kind of a question is to offer an ethical alternative to choose from: does one man’s dire suffering morally justify the enslavement or sacrifice of another man? The answer to this will inexorably lead to an answer to the above question.

No amount of need in this world justifies human sacrifice. The only consistently logical foundation for laissez-faire capitalism is the ethics of rational self-interest; no other ethical system can logically justify capitalism without inherent contradictions. Thus, if capitalism is your goal in politics and economics, then rational self-interest in your means to get there. You cannot shortcircuit the ethical means and replace it with altruism and still hope to achieve the goal of capitalism. It just won’t work.

Now, specifically, with regard to those suffering the most during an economic crises, if you discard the hidden assumption that only the government can provide the best aid in such times of need–if you discard the altruistic premise that one man’s need becomes a moral obligation on another man–then you will be open to innovatively imagining how the free market can mobilize enterprising individuals and corporations to voluntarily, generously, perhaps even profitably, help those in dire need until normal conditions are restored.

My friend Dexter once pointed out to me how the Catholic Church–the richest Church in the history of human civilization and the one with the largest membership–is fully funded on a voluntary basis. Every church-goer is a voluntary contributor to the functioning of the mega-monumental church that the Universal Catholic Church is. Think about it: the Catholic Church owns its own country, even! And it manages to control, mobilize, and deploy funds to practically any corner of the globe; and all of that money comes from regular, faithful, individuals who enjoy the value of their religion and their membership in the Church.

Posted in Economics, India, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

The Unchanging Constant in Climate Change

Posted by Jerry on March 12, 2008

My readers in India know that we have had one of the coldest winters in several decades. In fact, Mumbai–which a city known to have only two seasons: summer and monsoon–experienced record low temperatures over the past few months. People in the city felt as if they were teleported to some arctic locale, being completely ill-prepared for the weather and having no warm clothes.

Apparently, the Indian subcontinental peninsula was not the only region to experience an abberrant drop in temperatures. According to this article in the DailyTech:

Over the past year, anecdotal evidence for a cooling planet has exploded. China has its coldest winter in 100 years. Baghdad sees its first snow in all recorded history. North America has the most snowcover in 50 years, with places like Wisconsin the highest since record-keeping began. Record levels of Antarctic sea ice, record cold in Minnesota, Texas, Florida, Mexico, Australia, Iran, Greece, South Africa, Greenland, Argentina, Chile — the list goes on and on.

The article goes on to say that the total amount of global cooling only this past year has been larger than the entire range of warm temperatures recorded in the past one hundred years. Note that this data suggests that the range of cooling that has occurred in this past year comes at the height of our industrial activity and population numbers.

All four major global temperature tracking outlets (Hadley, NASA’s GISS, UAH, RSS) have released updated data. All show that over the past year, global temperatures have dropped precipitously. The total amount of cooling ranges from 0.65C up to 0.75C — a value large enough to wipe out most of the warming recorded over the past 100 years. All in one year’s time. For all four sources, it’s the single fastest temperature change ever recorded, either up or down.

Scientists quoted in a past DailyTech article link the cooling to reduced solar activity which they claim is a much larger driver of climate change than man-made greenhouse gases. The dramatic cooling seen in just 12 months time seems to bear that out. While the data doesn’t itself disprove that carbon dioxide is acting to warm the planet, it does demonstrate clearly that more powerful factors are now cooling it.

So, is it time to return to the global cooling hysteria of the 1970s? Whatever the new fluctuating trend in global climate change, this one thing remains an unchanging constant–the environmentalists’ predilection for fear-mongering and human hatred.

[HT: Al-Kafir Akbar]

Posted in Culture, Environmentalism, Political Issues, Rights and Morality, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 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 »

The Evil Obamas

Posted by Jerry on March 4, 2008

The disgusting racket of self-sacrifice and self-abnegation that the Obamas run must be exposed and condemned harshly for all its evilness. If ever I heard anything downright evil explicitly offered as virtue, it has to be these words of Michelle Obama–the wife of US presidential candidate Barak Obama and perhaps the next first lady of the United States:

“We left corporate America, which is a lot of what we’re asking young people to do,” she tells the women. “Don’t go into corporate America. You know, become teachers. Work for the community. Be social workers. Be a nurse. Those are the careers that we need, and we’re encouraging our young people to do that. But if you make that choice, as we did, to move out of the money-making industry into the helping industry, then your salaries respond.”

And you thought Ayn Rand exaggerated the evilness of her altruistic villains in her novels? The Obamas are right out of the pages of Atlas Shrugged. If Barak Obama is elected as the next US president, it will be the end of an industrial and financial powerhouse that literally holds the continent of Africa and many nations afloat, and the start of a self-sacrificial, tribalistic, village economy that will surely bleed to its own death.

I picked up this story from The Undercurrent, which has written up its own harsh condemnation of Michelle Obama. I encourage bloggers to blog this story on your sites as well.

Posted in 2008 US Elections, Culture, Economics, Philosophy, Political Issues, Rights and Morality, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments »

The Right to Property

Posted by Jerry on February 28, 2008

There’s an interesting discussion on the free market and individual property rights raging on Daylight Atheism. Tim (from Evanescent) had alerted me to the discussion. The post is a review of Michael Shermer‘s recent book “The Mind of the Market.” Most of the commentors there are mixed-economy cultists and Socialists.

I have posted two comments there so far. I encourage other Objectivists to do the same; I believe that blogs play a pivotal role in the dissemination of ideas at the grassroots level; it is how I explored Objectivism (by discovering Diana Hsieh’s blog very early on, among others), I know of several people who have been introduced to Ayn Rand and have even become Objectivists through reading my blog, and I believe it may be how many people (particularly the young) investigate and learn new ideas these days.

Below is one of the comments I left on Daylight Atheism, on the nature of the right to own property. I tried to make my comment as simply stated as possible so that readers who are utterly unfamiliar with the Objectivist theory of rights can grasp the premises easily:

The right to own property is the right that makes all other rights *practicable*, that is, possible to be practiced in reality.

The above principle is the political parallel of the metaphysical fact that humans are integrated entities of mind and body: there is no dichotomy or dualism between the two.

Since only individuals can think, the thoughts are undeniably and inextricably an individual’s *own*. The practical manifestation or implementation of his thoughts, therefore, are also his own–they are borne out of his actions motivated by his reasoning abilities.

However, while a man can never be denied of his thoughts, man can indeed be denied of the products or manifestation of his thoughts by the use of force or fraud from other individuals. This raises the necessity of establishing a moral principle among men that will objectively protect one man’s ownership (each man’s ownership) to the product of his thoughts, namely, the right to own property. This is the basis of the right to property, in brief.

The right to property is the moral principle that protects man’s ownership to the products of his thoughts (like, the right to own the book I wrote). To deny this right to the product of one’s thought is the political parallel of metaphysical dualism–to divorce man’s body from his mind, to invent a soul (religion), to invent a collective Borg (Socialism/Communism), to condemn man to brute physical existence (dictatorship, Statism), to divorce man’s faculty of reason from its practical uses and applications (Idealism).

To live, man must use his mind in dealing with reality. He must therefore be permitted to act freely on the directions given by his mind, his reasoning faculty, in order to tackle the task of survival. This includes being left free to create, fabricate, invent, or procure by means of free trade property that he believes might help him in achieving his goal. He may end up acting irrationally or erroneously; but he must be free to do this as well. He is however not free to initiate force or act fraudulently, because this undercuts the very basis of the freedom upon which he himself seeks to act.

Posted in Ayn Rand, Economics, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Private Ownership of Roads

Posted by Jerry on February 11, 2008

I decided to make this comment into a post after all; that way, relevant comments can proceed under this post.

When we think of privatizing roads, the scenario is so far removed from anything we have witnessed in real life that we respond–almost instinctively–with concern… of uncertainty, anarchy, and unpredictability. Our ability to imagine the operations of a free society is not inhibited our by level of intelligence but by the strictures of thought that we–and the current philosophical system–have placed upon our minds; the concept of the government is so entrenched in our socio-political thinking that life without government produces a mental blank-out.

This is a good test of whether you hold your philosophy as a body of abstract, rationalistic principles or as a properly integrated system that you use in daily living, and which you can readily apply to concrete situations.

The effort required is much like shrugging off theism and stepping into a world without a god, which appears at first to be daunting, anarchic, amoral, uncertain, and even barbaric.

1) We just have to think about analogous situations that most closely resemble the operations of a free market; I submit that in a free society most people will not have to pay for practically any use of the roads. As analogous situations, think of your use of the Internet and the radio. The vast resources of the Internet are available to most of us for free. The Internet operates in such a way that there’s not only an abundance of voluntary content generators but also massive revenue generators: the revenue is generated by amazingly innovative methods that would be simply impossible were the Internet to be a government-regulated operation. The people who invest and wish to make money from the Internet are making their profits (provided they have been sensible in how they went about it), and those who simply wish to derive the benefits of using the Internet are doing it for FREE (like myself. :)) And note that the Internet is a globally free phenomena, at least in all the places where governments have not been foolish enough to interfere.

2) The radio is another similar example. Most of us do not pay for radio, and yet we derive the pleasurable and important benefits of it. Radio frequencies were only recently privatized in India; if our broadcast TV frequencies were also privatized likewise, then–as in America–we would even be enjoying high-quality broadcast programming for free on TV (however, since this is not the case, we have rampant cable thievery instead).

3) Who pays for all this? To a communist or socialist, it seems incomprehensible that such awesome benefits on the radio, television, and the Internet is being offered for free; to that kind of mindset, the limitation is not necessarily a low level of intelligence, but the accepted premise that man should not (indeed, cannot) be free to devise his own ways and means of living, trading, producing, and pursuing happiness.

4) In a society where roads are privatized–like radio air frequencies–I envision most roads to be of superior quality and mostly free for people to use: corporations and businesses that are situated alongside these roads will make it a point to have their access roads in good condition with ample parking space for customers to visit their stores and businesses.

5) Utility (water, electricity, telephone, etc.) and cable corporations will contract with road owners to gain access to establishments situated on their roads; they will pay the road owners a certain amount of money or percent of profits for laying their wires and pipes on top of or under these roads. The road owners, in turn, will ensure that these wires, pipes, cables, etc. are laid in place quickly, efficiently, and esthetically in order to maintain the high value of their property. The utility companies will pay the road owner a fee for access to residents, businesses, and the use of the owner’s property. This can be one of the many revenue models for private roads. (Objectivist blogger Qwertz made this point persuasively and at length in his post; I am indebted to him for this idea.)

6) Roads with all installed utilities and esthetic considerations will have high-property values, which would translate to high property rates for residents and businesses in that neighborhood and the surrounding area; property owners will be able to command higher prices for their property–either in rentals or in a sale. Thus, road ownership will be a big and thriving business, which means, more investors will be interested in ownership of roads and highways. This will invariably lead to increased competition, competitive rates, higher benefits and services on these roads, and a greater value for consumers, business owners, advertisers, restaurants, etc. The cost to the end user of these roads will be either very minimal and competitive or simply nothing at all.

7) I imagine monthly or annual subscription passes for the use of those few roads that are not free (perhaps, major expressways); and these passes could be highly subsidized by advertising, competition, rest-stop areas, or other perks that road owners might want to sell or include on their roads

8.) One of the best benefits of privatized roads (especially for India) would be the non-existence of public protests on the streets, processions, road blockages, and vandalism: corporations, businesses, and road owners would not want their private property to be clogged, their customers to have no access to their businesses, and their brandnames and reputation associated with such hooligans. Therefore, they will ensure and pay for strict security measures to enforce safety and brand value. Perhaps, these private corporations will threaten with the withdrawal of advertising revenue or legal suits if the operators of these roads become lapse in their duties to ensure safety and prevent road protests or blockages.

9) Finally, street hawking will become illegal only if the owner does not permit it or the vendor has violated certain parameters. I do not see why hawking will be extinguished entirely. I believe that some neighborhoods might wish to project a certain kind of charm to their area and thus encourage streetside vendors who are consistent with their neighborhood theme: for example, Chinatown, Little Italy, Indian Village, Little Mexico, Greek Town, etc., could be neighborhood themes that can attract tourism, business, night revellers, and much revenue. Therefore, street vendors could add to the charm and distinctness of such areas, and it could be entirely within the operations of a free society with privately owned roads.

Posted in Culture, Economics, General Work/Life, India, Mumbai, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 12 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 »

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 »

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 »

Who Cares For the Disabled?

Posted by Jerry on November 12, 2007

I have been having fruitful e-mail exchanges with an intellectual blogger who is only now discovering the philosophy of Objectivism. I believe my blog has had something to do with it. On my eager recommendations, he bought four Ayn Rand books to read–including the Virtue of Selfishness.

I am very happy to respond to his e-mails and queries because he seems truly committed to discovering a philosophy that makes rational sense, and I find great interest in fostering his rational explorations. Therefore, even if I’m busy with my day, I try to take the time to give him detailed responses, often with literature recommendations, links to Objectivist resources, and Objectivist blogs (I recently sent him over to Gus Van Horn’s excellent essay on modern-day atheists).

Today, he asked me: 

In an Objectivist society, what about the people who cannot work; the mentally or physically handicapped? Would national insurance and the NHS be abolished? Rand says that in a purely capitalist society these people fare better, but how can this be if they cannot actually work? Where does the money to support them come from, if not the government and our taxes?

Readers are welcome to contribute a point or perspective that I may have missed in response to the above question. I could forward the comments over to the questioner. My response was as follows:

I understand that it is difficult to imagine a context with practically no government involvement in individual/private affairs because we have become so accustomed to having the government practically run every aspect of our lives.

Let me just point to one principle–the rest is all a matter of concrete-bound applications of principles: Omniscience is an invalid epistemological standard. No entity has an omniscient faculty.

Therefore, having uncertainties about the manner in which a free market or a laissez-faire society would function is not to concede the necessity of having a government to manage and handle the areas of our uncertainty. The government–a group of bureaucrats and politicians–is as non-omniscient as the rest of us are.

In fact, uncertainty is a very integral part of a free society: it is the way in which specific individuals can deal with their own specific issues and resolve them privately without epistemologically burdening other individuals who have no stake in that particular transaction or issue. A simple example: I don’t need to know exactly *how* a doctor will perform his surgery on me in order for me to trust my body in his hands. It’s his business to know; not mine. The uncertainty exists, but it does not faze me.

One man’s limited knowledge in a particular area does not mean that everyone else is also limited in knowledge in that same area. Just as the industrial revolution engendered the division and specialization of physical labor, the whole free market system fosters the division of intellectual and physical effort. It leaves you free to pursue and specialize in that which you have the most interest in pursuing, thus resulting in different people attaining knowledge and specializing in different fields.

I mention all this to assuage your future concerns about the specificity of how some particular aspect of a free market will function. If you know that a principle is moral and practical, then you just have to remain consistent with that principle in your applications to specific situations; if you know the government has no business meddling in the free and voluntary affairs of individual men, then you simply have to apply that principle across the board.

Now, coming to the specific issue of what happens to those who cannot work–due to physical or mental disabilities, etc. The principle is, regardless of your mental and physical state, no man can make unearned demands on another human being: no man is a slave to another; no man is morally obligated to be servile to another. Therefore, people with disabilities can make no legislative demands or claim moral obligations on the work, effort, and productivity of other abled people.

Now, specifically *how* such people might be cared for in a free society is an area of uncertainty (though not wholly); but remember that the principle with regard to uncertainty is, no one is omniscient–and therefore, you cannot claim that in a free society such people will *not* be cared for by some or the other means. In other words, this uncertainty does not justify government involvement just because you cannot seem to project how this matter will be resolved. (Do you see the parallels here with the religious argument for the existence of god from epistemological ignorance?)

In a free society, people with disabilities may be taken care of by several means: family members, lovers, friends, immediate social groups, the general benevolence and voluntary charity of free individuals, private institutions, corporations, religious organizations, etc. You do not need to have the concrete and specific answer to this. Just think at the level of principles.

A free society does not de facto translate into a malevolent society. In fact, observe that the most generous countries and cultures are the ones that have the highest levels of civic liberties–because free societies typically produce more than enough wealth and capital to have some left over to give away: another principle at work here is freedom allows rational choices, and rationality fosters prodigious, often competitive, productivity. Private american citizens are the most generous group of people in the world–in terms of voluntary donations.

When man is left free, he realizes that it is in his best interest to be rational in order to ensure his survival. In a society of individuals, men will realize that it is to each of their own selfish interest to foster a society of rational individuals that they will enjoy living in, find value in entering into economic transactions with, and find purpose in mutual productive benefit. People will realize that it is to their own interest to live in a society that is free from poverty-induced agitation, civil unrest, and fear of crime. Also, on a personal egoistic level, it is rational to cultivate personal virtues of benevolence and kindness: those are the virtues you admire and seek in others in your vicinity; you do not want yourself or your valued lover/children/parents/friends to live next to a malevolent psychopath who hates everyone and treats others maliciously.

Posted in Ayn Rand, Culture, Economics, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 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 »

The Terror of Increasing Freedom

Posted by Jerry on October 17, 2007

From the Atlasphere Meta-blog

Ayn Rand is extremely popular in India, but not with student Indira Dammu:

On my daily walk to class, I am taunted by chalkings that declare obscure statements such as “Who is John Galt?” Undoubtedly the handiwork of some pretentious “free-thinking” student group, these chalkings echo a disturbing trend among college students to identify themselves as libertarians.

Why don’t people like her choose to migrate to some socialist heaven, where income is distributed from each according to his ability to each according to his need, where a set of staple foods is rationed to long waiting lines of people, where goods and services are distributed among people not in exchange for value or currency but in response to need?

Why are such articles written by neo-Marxists (and Rawlsians) who choose to live in the most capitalist nation in the world?

Posted in Culture, Economics, General Work/Life, India, Objectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 5 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 »

Forbes Looks at Atlas Rising

Posted by Jerry on September 28, 2007

Forbes.com has an article by Marc Babej and Tim Pollak summarizing the exponentially rising popularity of Ayn Rand both in the popular culture and in academia.

… sales of Ayn Rand titles have tripled since the early 1990s–in fact, more are being sold now than at any time in history. Atlas Shrugged sales on Amazon in the first nine months of this year are already almost double the total for 2006. As of this writing, Atlas ranks 124th on Amazon’s sales charts. Compare that to The Da Vinci Code at 2,587.

Rand, an ardent advocate of rational egoism and capitalism, might have been the bane of academics in her lifetime, but now objectivism [sic] is taught at more than 30 universities, with fellowships at several leading philosophy departments. Next year, ARI plans to enter the Washington, D.C., think tank world with a center devoted to the advocacy of individual freedom and capitalism. [all bold mine]

Read the rest of the article for some interesting suggestions by the authors on how the Objectivist movement could capitalize on this rising visibility to steer political and social change.

Posted in Ayn Rand, Culture, General Work/Life, Objectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 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.

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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.

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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 »

 
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