humanpapers

Dignity for the exploited, the hounded, the paperless, the Other

An account of queuing, politics and journalism from the Third World

Ever wonder what the Third World is like? It is magical. For some people, that is. For those towards the bottom, it is a little less so. An illustrative example is presented.

The federal government in India decided in a sudden move earlier this week to ban certain (500 and 1000 rupee) currency notes, in a move to render valueless the wealth obtained through illicit means.

For a cash-heavy economy like India, this inconvenienced many consumers, many of whom had to spend hours queueing outside banks to be able to secure their cash savings, and to acquire the new currency to be able to purchase food and the rest.
  

A citizen, Pooja, speaks of “feeling a sense of community in this common frustration and helplessness”.

  

Incidentally, to wait in a queue in India is one of the less pleasurable activities that life offers, with its fundamental uncertainty, arbitrariness, diminished privacy, rudeness and proclivity to violence and danger.

At least two people died while queueing for the new currency notes. But these numbers mean little for a country of more than a billion, where individual life is not especially valued.
  

A political party (the AAP) from Delhi, firmly opposed to the political party (the BJP) controlling the federal government, hold this fiscal policy to be objectionable, quite like they decry almost every policy action of the federal government.

They (the AAP) highlighted on Facebook two instances of negative outcomes of the partial currency change.

  

 
The first concerned the rape of a five-year-old girl. The victim of this gruesome assault was dumped by the roadside. She was taken to a hospital, but her conditioned worsened, and she was referred by the medical staff to another hospital. However, the ambulance driver refused to take her, as one (a stranger helping the girl?) only had the now defunct 500 and 1000 rupee notes.

The political party in question (AAP) does not bemoan the incidence of rape, nor that the victim was a five-year-old child, nor that ambulance drivers need to be paid in advance to transport patients in an emergency. The point they choose to highlight from the crime is that certain currency notes were withdrawn from circulation.
  
  
As for the journalists: the child is unnamed, nor is it known whether she has been identified; the parents are unnamed, perhaps even unidentified; the reactions of the parents are not recorded; the current state of the child is unknown; the names of the ambulance drivers are unknown; the authority responsible for cash-before-life-saving-transportation have not been named and shamed; who helped the child, how often do minors get attacked in that part of the country, why was a child left alone — unasked questions.
  

The second case was of a patient in some intensive care unit. As his (her?) family was unable to put up cash (specifically because of the voided 500 and 1000 rupee notes?), he (she?) was removed from the ventilator, leading to his (her?) death. The family of the deceased protested, and was assaulted by hospital staff and then handed over to the police.

The party in question (AAP) does not bemoan the avoidable death, nor that emergency medical assistance is given only on prior payment, nor that people are beaten up (in a hospital corridor? by doctors?) for protesting against the death (culpable homicide?) of a family member in these shabby circumstances.
  

As for the journalists: the victim is unnamed; his or her reason for being in medical care is unknown; the hospital staff who beat up the family are unnamed; the doctor responsible for turning off the ventilator is unnamed; the current state of the family is unknown; the future safety of the assaulted and grieving family is unknown; the views of the hospital, the family and the police are unknown.

From these two examples, the level of political discourse in the world’s largest democracy appears to be rudimentary. Politicians appear to care only about scoring a hit against a rival politician, ignoring the graver issues involved.

From the same examples, journalism in India appears to be bereft of any purpose apart from sensationalist headlines.

Although these are only two examples, both related to the same policy change, the same political party, and the same news organization — the described state of affairs is not the absolute exception.

The good people of India accept this state wherein human beings treat each other in a deplorable fashion, and where quotidian experience denudes hope, empathy, tolerance, health, and the capacity to create and enjoy beauty.

The poet Tagore wrote, a century ago, this verse in Bengali:

“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high,

Where the mind is led forward into ever-widening thought and action,

Into that heaven of freedom, let my country awake.”

Some three decades later, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations, asserted:

“Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,….”

Last resort? Rebellion must be the first response to tyranny and oppression, surely? At least in a people who still have some courage and dignity, and especially those who number in the hundreds of millions, heirs to millennia of thought and action.

Otherwise, the status quo persists. It is all truly magical.

Dreyfus and the US elections: guarding against intellectual dishonesty

The case of Dreyfus was of great moment in French and European history — a testimony to human endurance, evidence that grand nations can entrust offices to petty men, the empowering of public opinion, a precursor to Zionism, and even the cause of the Tour de France.

A century has gone by, but a certain aspect of the Affair, which essentially had to do with the question of guilt or innocence of a military officer, is of topical importance.

It is this: the polarization of an entire society, with rifts arising even within families whose individuals had differing opinions on the case.

Obviously, such a publicized trial had many facets and a great many persons and institutions were involved, but it came down to a binary choice: guilty or innocent.

Noteworthy is that only a minority, perhaps not more than five or six people in a nation of millions, knew the essential fact — the rest had an opinion, and staunchly, passionately, bitterly clung to it, and urged others to do the same.

The debate was carried out also with means that were not quite intellectually honest.

For instance, board games were sold which caricatured the principal defendants and opponents of the case.

Posters were produced proclaiming the guilt of Dreyfus — a simple, visual aid for people to make up their mind on Dreyfus’ guilt.

  

Posters were produced proclaiming the innocence of Dreyfus — a simple, visual aid for people to make up their mind on Dreyfus’ innocence.

  

The years have gone by, and now we see Internet memes and headlines of the ‘breaking news’ variety which try to do the same in matters of current political, social or technological importance — this includes climate change, gay marriage, insurgencies, critiques of religion, and political candidacy, all made quite simple to consume, using an appeal to reputation, or to emotion, or a straw-man fallacy, or illegitimate reasoning, dubious statistics, an ad hominem attack, or other tricks of rhetoric.

A case in point is tomorrow’s US election: Trump or Hilary.

Vote against Trump because the current US President says so. Vote against Hilary because she doesn’t look healthy, does she. Vote against Trump because he doesn’t like immigrants and Hitler didn’t like immigrants, and we don’t want that again, do we. A trivial search will yield a multitude of additional examples.

The election is probably a sure thing for Hilary, given how alienating some of Trump’s stances are — against Mexicans and Muslims, for instance. There could be a Brexit-style surprise. In any case, the greater impact of this fanatical campaign will probably be seen in a diminished mandate of the victor (Hilary), especially given the potential allegations of electoral fraud by the loser (Trump), and questions for what this means for America’s moral authority as it tries to shape the world order.

Another point shall remain valid even after the election — what shall we make of those who try to propagate such illicit attempts at manipulation? Have you received a little picture via Facebook or Whatsapp that makes the choice so very simple, yet is bereft of a chain of reasoning using transparent points of evidence? What does that mean for the sender’s intellectual honesty and opinion of your intellectual ability?

The Information Age is well upon us. In a time of diminished attention spans, we need to retain a sense of skepticism.

Resist the sillier memes

In the upcoming US elections, vote for whomever you prefer, or refuse to vote. Please do not, however, allow the more inane forms of manipulation to pass unquestioned.
  

Ein Volk, eine Meinung — translates as ‘one people, one opinion’, echoing the slogan ‘one people, one land, one leader’ from a certain period of German history. Might not be that of Egon Krenz, to think of it.

This silly ‘meme’ is symptomatic, alas.

I saw a person, well-educated and familiar with the broad themes of German history in the 1930s and 1940s, encouraging a Hilary vote because Trump apparently wants to ‘send US citizens to Guantanamo’. If you believe that human rights, which include protection against illegitimate incarceration and torture, are dependent upon accident of birth or nationality, then you do not believe in human rights. Such a qualification to human rights was not out of place in certain parts of German history. 

(Not the current German republic, of course, whose constitution starts with human dignity as a right not dependent upon anything else.)

#dissentisimportant #resistthesilliermemes #lookupgodwinslawontheinternet

The price of knee-jerk reactions to protest

It so happened once in Spain that a young doctor came upon a demonstration where they were chanting, ‘Down with the Bourbons!’. He asked one of the protestors, a passionate man convinced of his cause, ‘Who exactly are the Bourbons?”What! The guardia civil, of course!’

The Bourbons were a French royal dynasty whose influence had extended to Spain. This foreign domination was resented in some quarters. The guardia civil was a paramilitary police organization, also detested by many.

The protestor had his facts mixed up, but that did not take away from the legitimacy of his action — the repudiation of an organization that had abused power. [Incidentally, the protestor is no more; the House of Bourbon and the Guardia Civil (or was it another, similarly hated police organization?) persist in Spain]

A few generations later, something similar was reported from India. An officer came upon farmers shouting, ‘Gatt, go back!’.

‘Who is Gatt, respected sir?’, asked the officer.

‘It is the man, a foreigner, who threatens our livelihood’, returned the elderly farmer.

Now, the object of the protest was properly GATT, the General Agreement on Trades and Tariffs. It was not a man — but that made little difference to the outcome as experienced by the farmer.

I do not imagine that any Spaniard will make such a blunder today, and I would ascribe that to universal education, and prosperity which allows time for the pursuit of non-essential activities. India, alas, is still in darkness, as was made evident by a recent incident.

In this case, it was an elected head of local government who hastened to the door of an unfortunate suicide. The deceased had attributed his action to the federal government’s refusal to increase pension payouts for the military. The local politician designated the suicide as a ‘martyr’, and announced a diversion of public funds, an enormous sum for one of the world’s poorest countries, to the grieving family.

  
Quite apart from whether this was a shabby publicity stunt to increase one’s own popularity using taxpayer money, there are two symptomatic issues here.

Firstly, the fetishization of the uniform. The era of the brave, male hero defending his wife and hearth against the barbarian invader, who triumphs against odds, and to whose glory bards shall evermore raise voice — is over. The interests of nations are no longer exclusively defended by gun-toting patriots on snowy peaks. Many others contribute to a country’s security — including researchers, artists, engineers, farmers, traders, lawyers and political analysts. Not all of them are soldiers, and quite a few are not even employed or directed by the State.

Add to this the fact that even the army’s supply chains of fuel, food, weapon systems, and ammunition are intricate and extend well into the civilian and international sphere, and it becomes plain that it is superficial to regard soldiers in border regions as somehow more important than the rest of society. It is a romantic notion that is suited for picture-books aimed at adolescents — not something that the wretched in contemporary India can afford.

Secondly, the knee-jerk reaction. A man has killed himself. That this is a personal tragedy is beyond dispute. It might even be grounds to consider whether a systemic change is called for. To immediately, unilaterally, munificently reward the action using the public purse, and to label the act as evidence of the majority public opinion — these are not what one expects of a mature democratic government.

Instead, use public resources to seek a consensus on how to deal with the risk of suicide, establish minimum quality of life standards, make government policy making more transparent and participatory — these are examples of a considered response to tragedy, responses which will serve many, many people, and not just the family of the unfortunate pawn who desired a bigger pension, and upon whose untrained intellect cannot be placed the burden of thinking for the entire country.

Some weeks ago, a piece of Mexican media came to my attention, ‘¿por qué hay naciones pobres? (Why do exist poor countries?) Not a dense academic work, the single-page sketch used examples to reject climate, accident of geography, culture, religion as decisive factors in determining the wealth of nations — and suggested that prosperity was caused by political and economic institutions working to benefit a majority of the target population. The opposite too holds true. Poverty and desperation are caused when a privileged elite is favored, when institutions are weak.
  
It might be that simple. More transparency, less arbitrariness, increased debate and participation in government — and that shall lead to increased freedoms, greater prosperity, and more reasons to live.

Germany: foreigners, violence, sex and compassion

The notion that beautiful, humane, free Germany is being depredated by barbarians, whether from the region of Bautzen, north Africa, Syria, or elsewhere, depresses. 

The seemingly quotidian news of random acts of physical and sexual violence, and the spontaneous response of readers, is non-trivial.

There seems to be a pattern. The perpetrator often turns out to be of ‘southern appearance’, then is called ‘a foreigner’, and finally turns out to be a ‘refugee’. Probably statistically irrelevant — but our political decisions and cultural shifts are not always driven by statistical data and logic, or with cognizance of the empirical evidence that all peoples are capable of violence.

Indeed, in a recent interview, a serial burglar revealed his annoyance at the refugees automatically getting a better deal than him, although he had been in Germany for twenty years — if even poorly-educated foreigners can hold resentment, one can imagine that it is no unique phenomenon. Of course, I also am acquainted with college-educated foreigners who grumble about the dangers of the unwashed entering ‘their’ boulevards.

Recently, one lady who claimed to have first-hand experience dealing with male refugees said that there was enormous, widespread sexual repression. Many of them had, apparently, never masturbated.

Apart from instruction in the local language, and basic ideas of freedom, equality, privacy, dignity and community, perhaps also sexual education is needed. Perhaps, along with gratis housing, food, and education, one also needs to provide sexual counseling, and how to access a brothel.

And if the basic values of the West, won at a cost of many bloody centuries, and now responsible for so much well-being, conflict with those of the newcomer, they should be given space to reflect and make a choice, to stay or to relocate to another part of the world more suited to them, or to question their own weltanschauung, or to explore ways in which the two can meet.

In any case, rejection of Western values is not limited to scruffy looking refugees — one sees it in the rallies of the Neo Nazis, and in the marginalized sub-cultures which can barely speak the language.

And then there are the so-called expats. Leaving aside the mysterious criteria that differentiates expats, migrants, invaders, and occupiers, there are also well-to-do foreigners, many of whom are largely ignorant of German language and culture. Some of them despise other foreigners. Some of them openly mock Germans, yet insist on staying on. This is a commonly observed trait with many expats. I have heard a foreigner, an Indian, in Switzerland openly call for a nuclear holocaust against a certain people, and seen another, a German, who refuses to speak the German language with dark-skinned people (and presumably with Slavs and Jews). These two people work in the heart of the Swiss economy, and are, superficially anyway, integrated. In truth, their views of the world belong to the mid-1930s.
At least the Germans have not lost their sense of humor. Following the stabbing of a youth in Hamburg, a reader’s one-word question was answered by another reader, also with a single word.

Reader 1: Skin-color?

Reader 2: Yes.

Of course, this being Germany where one wishes to be clear, and where Ophelia’s father is not especially well-regarded, Reader 2 added, ‘the suspect is bound to have a skin-color’. But perhaps I am unjust, and it was compassion for the slow. The same compassion that has seen thousands of the wretched being accepted into German society.

The ruin value of the Nazis — Guarding against intellectual dishonesty

Thesis: To be for or against Hitler in 2016 is anachronistic. Our taste must compel us to evaluate ideas and actions, independent of the vanities and predilection for snoring of the individual. This is not precisely a new idea —
l’homme ne rien, l’œuvre tout, thus Gustav Flaubert wrote to Lucile Dupin in 1875, impressing both Nietzsche and the author of Sherlock Holmes [the man is of no account, his work is everything].

Yet, one frequently sees the principle abused. Two such examples of intellectual dishonesty are shown here.

  

The first exhibit is from India, with an enumeration of factoids about Hitler, written mostly in Hindi. The author is evidently a critic of Hitler. Even though the assertions presented are largely accurate, the reader unfamiliar with India would be astonished by a couple of things. 

One, no reference is made to the robbery, the humiliation, the ostracizing, to the machinery of death of the Nazis. Perhaps because the Holocaust is a bare blip in the Indian consciousness, with quite possibly the majority utterly ignorant of it. Thus, we have a situation where Hitler is brought to our attention, and chastised, but the ignorance of a major crime against humanity is perpetuated.

Secondly, the author claims that Hitler used to believe ‘those of a certain religion’ to be enemies of the country. The author does not use the word Jew — and as the Hindi word ‘dharma’ is the closest in the language to English ‘religion’, one loses the aspect that it was more than a religion that was under attack in the declining years of the Weimar Republic: getting oneself baptized as a Christian did not make a Jew immune to secret policemen, for instance. Again, the upshot is that, although no falsehood has been uttered, the wholesale persecution of large chunks of the European population is made a little less deadly.

To what end is all this, asks the foreign reader? It is made clear by the first, the very first remark: that Hitler did not marry. Why should this matter, one might ask, but then one recalls that the present Indian Prime Minister has not ever married either. Each one of the statements made about Hitler could be applied to Mr Modi, and the author of this adolescent exercise writes at the end, ‘should the reader find the above statements to apply to anyone apart from Hitler, then credit is due to the reader’s imagination’.

Now, the list does not contain the fact that Hitler was a vegetarian, or that he kept away from alcohol. This is probably because millions of Indians, especially Hindus, avoid meat, and for many the consumption of alcohol has negative connotations.

There are some other inanities: Hitler really liked getting dressed up. So, quite possibly, does the girl who played in the Harry Potter movies.

Hitler lied to gain control of the government, reveals the author. This might even be true of all politicians, so we wonder why Hitler is singled out. The street fights instigated and fought by his band of thugs do not here find mention.

This puerile product, alas, distracts from the real allegations of fascism in India.

For example, the insistence upon blood as a critical aspect of national identity finds resonance with both Hitler and Modi, as the following resource suggests:

https://humanpapers.wordpress.com/2015/08/18/that-old-lie-only-blood-mattters/

The atmosphere of intolerance and rabid hatred in pre-war Nazi Germany is comparable to contemporary India, as also depicted in these two resources; one is about how rumor of cow slaughter led to a lynching, while the other is about how the same rumor led to a public whipping (there is even a video):

https://humanpapers.wordpress.com/2015/09/30/the-cost-of-silence-is-murder/
https://humanpapers.wordpress.com/2016/07/23/a-brutalized-land-is-india/

The refusal to be a narrow-minded nationalist is met with violence, in the worst case, and ostracizing, in the best case, then and now, as suggested by:

https://humanpapers.wordpress.com/2016/03/18/all-hail-or-else/

There are other similarities too: homosexuality is a crime, in democratic India as in Nazi Germany, but our author does not think it necessary to bring that up. Perhaps because he or she finds homosexuality disturbing, or does not believe that sexual freedom is an important thing.

Both had / have capital punishment — the author does not seem to mind. One cannot allow oneself to be soft-hearted when dealing with evil-doers, no?

Both had people openly writing ‘I love Hitler’ on Facebook, as the following image shows (the screenshot is from India; a similar picture from Nazi Germany could not be found in time for publication, but the essential proposition is not seriously contested):
  

In both places, ‘Mein Kampf’, is a bestseller. The difference is that, in India, it is sold in translation.
Germany’s ‘Lügenpresse’ (lying media) is echoed in India’s ‘presstitute’ (evidently a portmanteau from ‘press’ and ‘prostitute’, with the prudish idea that being a prostitute is somehow dishonorable). Both mean the same thing: media which continually disagrees with my point of view.

There are differences, of course: racism is not endorsed in the statute book in India. However, anyone who imagines this to imply that racism is not a fundamental part of Indian society is, alas, mistaken.

This schoolboy Hitler critique is a disservice to the cause of human dignity and individual freedom, even though it purports to be in their name. It is dedicated to ‘the struggle carried out by all anti-Hitler forces’.

Another example of such intellectual dishonesty is from the other side of the world, one where few can claim to not have heard about the Holocaust, or about using fallacies to sneakily led the reader to a false conclusion.

The difference is that the target is not Mr Modi, but the American presidential candidate, Mr Trump.
  

The headline suggests that the ‘Nazi who originated Donald Trump Jr.’ Skittles analogy was hanged at Nuremberg’.

The assertion that the idea of certain elements being deadly for society was originated by this specific person in the twentieth century, prima facie, sounds incredible, given that demagogues throughout history have militated against the Other. 

https://theintercept.com/2016/09/20/nazi-who-originated-donald-trump-jr-s-skittles-metaphor-was-hanged-at-nuremberg/

However, even the internal evidence does not support the headline, for the text goes on to say, ‘The concept dates back to at least 1938 and a children’s book called…..’.

Suddenly, the claim in the headline of ‘origination’ has been watered down to ‘at least 1938’, i.e. the Nazi author of the book at least had the same idea, even if he did not originate it. 

Indeed, it appears to be an inept attempt to justify using a sensationalist headline with emotional terms: “Nazi”, “Nuremberg”, “hanged”. The parallel is tenuous, and we are forced to conclude that the author’s claim of definitely establishing the origin of a certain xenophobic idea to a person and a publication is made only to be able to publish a picture of three influential Nazis, and capitalize on the shock value of that connection. This kind of illegitimate reasoning is, ironically, what the Nazis, and even in the quoted example of the toadstools, were reasonably good at.

This sort of shoddy argument in a war against those who offend taste or human dignity is a disservice to the cause.

One can well imagine that those who do not appreciate being assaulted by such infantile tricks might vote for Mr Trump out of sheer bloody-mindedness. Even if that does not happen, the notion that the end justifies the means is deserving of critical debate.

As we know, one ‘Bohemian private’ used it to deadly effect.

The cult of oily men

  

It must be universally acknowledged that the pressing crises of our times are directly linked to preceding ages. These ages were moulded by great men and women, the avatars of Gods, and we encounter them today as statues on our boulevards, neon signs at airports, and visages on currency notes. This is no theoretical excursion into history, for the ages of the world overlap. It is time to scrutinize these great ones, and to end the one-sidedness that seems to pervade any popular narration of their lives.

The two-question test of oiliness

1. Did the great man personally, or through active membership of a power structure, ordain, justify or profit from the oppression, exploitation, torture or murder of human beings?

2. Did the great man use a position of power to squander public resources, advocate nepotism, deny the right to dissent, deliberately ignore opportunities to improve or defend the public weal, or attack cultural or environmental artifacts, for personal gain?

If the answer to either of these questions is in the affirmative, then the great man might well deserve the ignominy of oiliness.

Why oiliness?

Because such a man shines in false glory, as if covered with a sheath of oil. Because such a man appears invulnerable to the accusations of dastardly acts, akin to a slippery criminal being chased. Because such a man is often hypocritical, mouthing noble virtues, yet mired in the blood of many, another quality conveyed by the adjective ‘oily’. Why men? Only because the present language prefers the male gender to represent all of humanity — also, it so happens that most of these great ones are the opposite of feminine.

The potentially oily ones

Having explained the reason for the label ‘oily’, and defined the criteria for admission to the club, let us look at some of its members. Even a general awareness of the world must suffice to know why some of the greatest among the great ones are to be called oily. 

Some examples that bear debate are (allegations in brackets):

Leopold II (mutilation, murder and exploitation in the Congo), Gandhi (documented racially dismissive against sub-Saharan Africans, role in bloody turmoil of 1947), Napoleon (wars of aggression, murders in Egypt), Stalin (death camps, famine in the Ukraine, arbitrary arrests), Obama (drone war, Guantanamo Bay), Churchill (occupation, Bengal famine, Dresden firebombing, documented racist remarks against Arabs and Indians), Indira Gandhi (attacks against the Indian republic — daddy and son were also prime ministers, declaration of a state of Emergency), Mao (the murder of millions), Kim Jong-Il (dictatorship).

This is not a comprehensive list, neither of perpetrators nor of their crimes, and to it could easily be added revolting generals, captains of churches, controllers of capital, and almost all members of the hereditary nobility, from across the world.

Anachronism as faulty defense

Some insist that we may not judge the men and women of the past through the prism of the present. We may not, indeed cannot, impose our values upon them. 

However, the current exercise is not about attacking them personally, for many of them have left this plane of existence, but to insist upon a critical analysis of their ideas and deeds. We can, and should, question and condemn ideas and acts also from the past. And, most certainly, extend this analysis to the oily ones amongst us.

The symbolic and the structural response

Once we have systematically inspected the oily ones of the past and the present, let us tear down their statues, and use the material to build shelters for the homeless, benches for lovers, and toilets for all. A plaque we shall place there to celebrate those aspects of the oily ones which we would like emulated, for which we are grateful. Surely, we are capable of honoring ideas and acts, without insisting upon raising also the individual to the status of a demi-God?

Much more important than the symbolic reaction is that we erect barriers to a single person possessing a surfeit of power.

Conclusion

We should not, and probably can not, try to remove the human desire to secure superior conditions for the self. We must, however, make the price of this superiority transparent, and ensure that it does not constitute an attack against human dignity and liberty. Nietzsche proclaimed the death of the cult of God. We must strive to end the cult of oily men.

Old men and their love of culture

Somewhere in India, a young lady, distressed by her husband’s behavior, locks herself in the bathroom, pours kerosene over herself, and sets herself afire. The door is broken down — the suicide is unsuccessful.

Two days ago, two male judges of India’s supreme court, had this to say about the female’s attempt at suicide:

 ‘No husband would ever be comfortable with or tolerate such an act by his wife, and if the wife succeeds in committing suicide, then one can imagine how a poor husband would get entangled into the clutches of law which would virtually ruin his sanity, career, peace of mind, and probably his entire life. The mere idea with regard to facing legal consequences would put a husband under tremendous stress. The thought itself is distressing.’

While one must congratulate Mr. and Mr. Justice on their sympathy for the husband, one wonders that they appear to countenance a situation where the law routinely acts improperly and has nothing to do with justice. So bad is the state of affairs that the Supreme Court uses the phrase ‘clutches of law’, and describes the fate of an innocent who falls into it.

Also remarkable is that these judges highlight the ‘legal consequences’ as stress-inducing, but make no reference to the loss of a spouse, to the horrific death of a spouse, to the fact that a spouse was driven to kill herself. It is probably also stressful to get the stench of kerosene and burnt flesh out of the bathroom towels.

The ‘poor husband’ certainly deserves sympathy, but perhaps the wife too — given that she was driven to end her life? The judgment carries no such expression, alas.

What the judgment [1] does carry is an attempt to save Indian culture:

 ‘It is not common practice or desirable culture for a Hindu son in India to get separated from the parents upon getting married, at the instance of his wife’.

This raises some questions. Should a society leave questions of culture to old men? Who is a Hindu? If a Hindu eats beef, or marries outside his or her caste, does he or she automatically cease to be a Hindu? Does there exist an authority which certifies that one is a Hindu? Is ‘common practice’ a good thing, especially in a brutal country where millions live in wretched conditions?

Poor husband, certainly, but also poor wife, and certainly poor society. O India, one day you shall embrace freedom.

[1] http://judis.nic.in/supremecourt/imgs1.aspx?filename=44123

Kafka is an Indian: of cots and surrealism

  

Seeing Kafka for sale in the tiny street kiosks of São Paulo some years ago, I thought: this is surely a sign of civilization. In India, however, Kafka would have no meaning — so quotidian is the surreal, so unmoving the rot.

In this example, a politician on tour detects a lack of “genuine” farmers in his artificial audience, and demands that local functionaries do more. So, farmers are driven in from surrounding areas, and made to sit on simple cots, as an illustration of their rural nature. The politician mounts the stage. As in every self-respecting republic, his great-grandfather was the prime minister, as also his grandmother, and daddy too, of course. After his speech is done, the audience picks up the cots they have been sitting on, and walks away.

Meanwhile, the genuine farmers with genuine debts continue to commit suicide.

Why would anyone read Kafka in India?

(Picture taken from original newssource; listed below)

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/uttar-pradesh-elections-rahul-gandhi-khaat-rally-congress-campaign-3017619/

A brutalized land is India

  
A brutalized land is India. Perhaps it happened millennia ago, with all the invasions. The myriad foreigners who followed rumor of immense wealth to make their way to the land wedged between the great river Sindhu and the snowy peaks of the Himalayas — perhaps we can blame it on them. 

There was once an age of righteousness, where wisdom was prized above all else, where rishis meditated in pristine forests, where generous kings served their peoples well, where the Gods intervened when the moral code of dharma was threatened, but who themselves were subject to the laws of karma. We knew yet how to make soma, the divine elixir, and we sang praises of all existence, constructing ideas that were novel. The creation of a second heaven, the breeding of races, the notion of honor before self-interest, music, dance, poetry, mathematics, love-making, theater, statecraft, the use of spices, yoga, a dancing God, battles between supreme powers, the riddles posed by semi-divine beings, intricate epics, demons, boons given to such, the indestructibility of the soul — all this was India, glorious homeland of the noble ones. Perhaps it was so.

It is no more, if it ever was thus. It has been replaced by a regimen of coarse and extended horror.

The video recording of this week only has one single example. It shows a filthy corner of some Indian town, where four dark-skinned, young men, have been divested of their shirts, and their hands tied with ropes attached to the back of a white vehicle. They are then assaulted by the citizenry. Turns are taken. There is no hurry. Sticks are used. No heed is taken of witnesses.

Which God is for this atrocity responsible? Or is it men who are wholly guilty? Men like us — who keep their peace because afraid, who sculpt arguments to explain and trivialize the phenomenon, who are not to action moved by outrage. As well as — those who allow remarks contemptuous of human dignity to pass unchecked, who speak with scorn to servants, who chirp with delight when the weak and voiceless are mocked, who nod along when despicable accusations are made against the Other.

The tschandal is whipped. The Gods do not intervene. It is done in public view. The agents of the modern republic, the largest democracy in the world, do not intervene. Worst of all, perhaps, even more than the inaction or approbation of Gods and policemen, is that the perpetrators and the bystanders with the repulsive visages are quite blasé about the act.

It is not a special occasion. A two-headed monkey has not been seen on the village green — just human beings being stripped of their dignity, chained to a chariot, and beaten with rude sticks. And so, the crowd stays still — neither applause not protest is heard.

This is what has become of an ancient civilization. But before we extend our sympathy to the demise of a great culture, let us offer it to the four bare-chested men. Let us offer it also to the silent witnesses, who have evidently lost the ability to empathize with a fellow human. And then to the millions, perhaps hundreds of millions, of the subjugated whom the Indian experiment has failed.

A monument built at the spot would serve to remind us what must be changed. There is no money to build a monument on a dilapidated lane? Let us scratch it onto our skins, then, that human dignity is worth more than the glory of some God. Or shall the unfortunate ones find solace only in the promise that Shiva, the mightiest of Gods, will one day soon perform the tandav, the dance which heralds the destruction of the entire universe? At least then, their pain and humiliation, and our shame, will find an end. 

The appalling video footage of the incident