The spiritual gift of India to the world has already begun. India's spirituality is entering Europe and America in an ever increasing measure. That movement will grow; amid the disasters of the time more and more eyes are turning towards her with hope and there is even an increasing resort not only to her teachings, but to her psychic and spiritual practice. -- Sri Aurobindo (from the message broadcast on the eve of August 15, 1947)

Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The truth of the yogi’s thoughts speaks to us with undiminished power even today

Indian Express > Op-Ed > Weaknesses of the Hindu heart and mind
Sudheendra Kulkarni Sep 28, 2008

Those Hindus who are sincerely striving to strengthen Hindu-Muslim amity would do well to study the thoughts of Sri Aurobindo. There is a prescient passage in one of his writings, dating back a hundred years, to 1909.

“Hindu-Muslim unity cannot be effected by political adjustments or Congress flatteries. It must be sought deeper down in the heart and in the mind, for where the causes of disunion are there the remedies must be sought. We shall do well to remember that misunderstanding is the most fruitful cause of our differences, that love compels love and that strength conciliates the strong. We must strive to remove the causes of misunderstanding by a better mutual knowledge and sympathy; we must extend the unfaltering love of the patriot to our Mussulman brother, remembering always that in him too Narayana dwells and to him too our Mother has given a permanent place in her bosom; but we must cease to approach him falsely or flatter out of a selfish weakness and cowardice. Intellectual sympathy can only draw together; the sympathy of the heart can alone unite. But the one is a good preparation for the other”.

Judge the above thoughts against India’s historical experience and what do we find? That the truth of the yogi’s thoughts speaks to us with undiminished power even today. Love thy Muslim brother, but let it be love of the strong, not of the weak.

Hindus in India exhibit many weaknesses of the heart and the mind in relating to their Muslim brethren. These are a cause for worry in the difficult times that India is currently passing through. One weakness is the dangerous temptation amongst a tiny section of the Hindu society to think that they can make the community strong by meeting extremism with counter-extremism, terrorism with counter-terrorism. India’s history shows that neither religious extremism nor political extremism has ever found support with the Hindu masses. Going by media reports, a fanatical fringe may well be involved in crude attempts at bomb making. It must be strongly condemned and the law must take its course against any perpetrator of violence.

In post-1947 India, nothing has harmed Hindu-Muslim relations more than communal violence. The causes for riots are many and complex, and the tendency to blame one or the other community exclusively is neither based on truth nor helpful. However, one thing is certain: the impact of riots on the fabric of Muslim life is far worse than on the Hindu society. The feeling of insecurity among Muslims, and the resultant anxiety to seek security in ghetto-like living conditions, is a reality that no honest Hindu can either deny or accept. Riots have also brought the role of the political leadership and the criminal justice system under close scrutiny. This role must be fair, unbiased and guided by the rule of law. Communal violence is a blot on India’s civilisational personality. To provoke it and thereby to weaken our national unity has indeed been a principal objective of the globally networked Islamist terrorists. Therefore, it is high time right-thinking Hindu political leaders, who have the nation’s long-term interests at heart, resolved to strive for the realisation of the goal of a Riot-Free India.

This goal cannot be attained by governments and political parties alone. A lot of sustained societal initiatives are needed. Unfortunately, many Hindus, including those in political parties that project themselves to be champions of secularism, do not have the “sympathy of the heart” towards Muslims. Suspicion and mistrust, which are mutual, lie just beneath the surface of cordiality. This situation has arisen because daily multi-layered socio-cultural interaction between the two communities, so essential for emotional integration in any society, is much less than before. The ghettoisation of Muslims is further shrinking its scope.

  • Isn’t it the responsibility of Hindus, especially educated and better-off Hindus, to do whatever they can to make Muslims feel welcome and secure?
  • What signals are we sending if even someone like Shabana Azmi—and she is by no means alone in this predicament—cannot buy a flat in an apartment or locality of her choice in cosmopolitan Mumbai?

The issue cannot be trivialised by saying that she already has more than one flat in the city. The time has come for the Government and the majority community to consciously promote mixed, inter-religious habitats for the poor, middle-class as well as wealthy populations. This is necessary even to reduce the influence of those Muslim separatist forces that want to ensure least possible integration between the two communities.

There is another Hindu weakness, exhibited especially by ultra-secular intellectuals, which has impaired the community’s ability to establish a truly trust-based relationship with Muslims. It is the tendency of many secular Hindu intellectuals, who have no pride in their Hindu identity, to “flatter (Muslims) out of a selfish weakness and cowardice”. Those who do not love their own religion can hardly be expected to create a bond of robust love with adherents of another religion.

Soul-searching about the many ills in Hindu society is of course necessary. But soul-searching should not degenerate into self-blame, which is the attribute of a coward masquerading as a progressive.

  • How many secular Muslims have you seen who loathe their own religion the way secular Hindus routinely do?
  • How many secular Hindu intellectuals have you seen voicing legitimate Hindu concerns (such as mass conversions by Christian evangelists) the way secular Muslims endorse legitimate Muslim concerns?

This Hindu weakness, coupled with the attraction of a Muslim vote-bank, is rapidly influencing the stance of many self-styled secular political parties on serious challenges before the nation (Islamist terrorism, large-scale infiltration by Bangladeshis, and separatism in Kashmir, to name a few). In the name of secularism, nationalism is being undermined. What India needs today is the coming together of proud Hindus and proud Muslims, joined by the common unbreakable bond of Indianness and willing to introspect about the shortcomings in their own communities. Write to: sudheenkulkarni@gmail.com

HINDUS ARISE, AWAKE FROM YOUR SLUMBER by SHER SINGH AGRAWAL
It was Mahayogi Sri Aurobindo, speaking on the All India Radio from its Tiruchirapally Stat ion, who issued a warning with deep foresight: "But the old communal division into Hindus and Muslims seems now to have hardened into a...

Friday, September 26, 2008

Is a learning process only necessary on the side of religious traditionalism and not on that of secularism, too?

Features » Politics And Society 18/06/2008 Notes on a post-secular society
Both religious and secular mentalities must be open to a complementary learning process if we are to balance shared citizenship and cultural difference. By J├╝rgen Habermas

Today, public consciousness in Europe can be described in terms of a 'post-secular society' to the extent that at present it still has to "adjust itself to the continued existence of religious communities in an increasingly secularized environment".(10) The revised reading of the secularization hypothesis relates less to its substance and more to the predictions concerning the future role of 'religion'. The description of modern societies as "post-secular" refers to a change in consciousness that I attribute primarily to three phenomena.

First, the broad perception of those global conflicts that are often presented as hinging on religious strife changes public consciousness. The majority of European citizens do not even need the presence of intrusive fundamentalist movements and the fear of terrorism, defined in religious terms, to make them aware of their own relativity within the global horizon. This undermines the secularistic belief in the foreseeable disappearance of religion and robs the secular understanding of the world of any triumphal zest. The awareness of living in a secular society is no longer bound up with the certainty that cultural and social modernisation can advance only at the cost of the public influence and personal relevance of religion.

Second, religion is gaining influence not only worldwide but also within national public spheres. I am thinking here of the fact that churches and religious organisations are increasingly assuming the role of "communities of interpretation" in the public arena of secular societies.(11) They can attain influence on public opinion and will formation by making relevant contributions to key issues, irrespective of whether their arguments are convincing or objectionable. Our pluralist societies constitute a responsive sounding board for such interventions because they are increasingly split on value conflicts requiring political regulation. Be it the dispute over the legalisation of abortion or voluntary euthanasia, on the bioethical issues of reproductive medicine, questions of animal protection or climate change – on these and similar questions the divisive premises are so opaque that it is by no means settled from the outset which party can draw on the more convincing moral intuitions.Pushing the issue closer home, let me remind you that the visibility and vibrancy of foreign religious communities also spur the attention to the familiar churches and congregations. The Muslims next door force the Christian citizens to face up to the practice of a rival faith. And they also give the secular citizens a keener consciousness of the phenomenon of the public presence of religion.

The third stimulus for a change of consciousness among the population is the immigration of "guest-workers" and refugees, specifically from countries with traditional cultural backgrounds. Since the 16th century, Europe has had to contend with confessional schisms within its own culture and society. In the wake of the present immigration, the more blatant dissonances between different religions link up with the challenge of a pluralism of ways of life typical of immigrant societies. This extends beyond the challenge of a pluralism of denominations. In societies like ours which are still caught in the painful process of transformation into postcolonial immigrant societies, the issue of tolerant coexistence between different religious communities is made harder by the difficult problem of how to integrate immigrant cultures socially. While coping with the pressure of globalized labor markets, social integration must succeed even under the humiliating conditions of growing social inequality. But that is a different story.

I have thus far taken the position of a sociological observer in trying to answer the question of why we can term secularized societies "post-secular". In these societies, religion maintains a public influence and relevance, while the secularistic certainty that religion will disappear worldwide in the course of modernisation is losing ground. If we henceforth adopt the perspective of participants, however, we face a quite different, namely normative question:

  • How should we see ourselves as members of a post-secular society and what must we reciprocally expect from one another in order to ensure that in firmly entrenched nation states, social relations remain civil despite the growth of a plurality of cultures and religious world views? ...
  • But shouldn't we turn the question around?
  • Is a learning process only necessary on the side of religious traditionalism and not on that of secularism, too?
  • Do the selfsame normative expectations that rule an inclusive civil society not prohibit a secularistic devaluation of religion just as they prohibit, for example, the religious rejection of equal rights for men and women?

A complementary learning process is certainly necessary on the secular side unless we confuse the neutrality of a secular state in view of competing religious world views with the purging of the political public sphere of all religious contributions.

Certainly, the domain of a state, which controls the means of legitimate coercion, should not be opened to the strife between various religious communities, otherwise the government could become the executive arm of a religious majority that imposes its will on the opposition. In a constitutional state, all norms that can be legally implemented must be formulated and publicly justified in a language that all the citizens understand. Yet the state's neutrality does not preclude the permissibility of religious utterances within the political public sphere, as long as the institutionalized decision-making process at the parliamentary, court, governmental and administrative levels remains clearly separated from the informal flows of political communication and opinion formation among the broader public of citizens. The "separation of church and state" calls for a filter between these two spheres – a filter through which only "translated", i.e., secular contributions may pass from the confused din of voices in the public sphere into the formal agendas of state institutions.

Two reasons speak in favor of such liberal practice.

  • First, the persons who are neither willing nor able to divide their moral convictions and their vocabulary into profane and religious strands must be permitted to take part in political will formation even if they use religious language.
  • Second, the democratic state must not pre-emptively reduce the polyphonic complexity of the diverse public voices, because it cannot know whether it is not otherwise cutting society off from scarce resources for the generation of meanings and the shaping of identities. Particularly with regard to vulnerable social relations, religious traditions possess the power to convincingly articulate moral sensitivities and solidaristic intuitions.

What puts pressure on secularism, then, is the expectation that secular citizens in civil society and the political public sphere must be able to meet their religious fellow citizens as equals. Were secular citizens to encounter their fellow citizens with the reservation that the latter, because of their religious mindset, are not to be taken seriously as modern contemporaries, they would revert to the level of a mere modus vivendi - and would thus relinquish the very basis of mutual recognition which is constitutive for shared citizenship. Secular citizens are expected not to exclude a fortiori that they may discover, even in religious utterances, semantic contents and covert personal intuitions that can be translated and introduced into a secular discourse. So, if all is to go well both sides, each from its own viewpoint, must accept an interpretation of the relation between faith and knowledge that enables them to live together in a self-reflective manner.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sri Aurobindo on Democracy and Secularism

SOCIAL AND POLITICAL THOUGHT
SABDA – Distributors of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Publications

Among the Great— Dilip Kumar Roy Binding: Soft Cover Pages: 282Price: Rs 200
And So This Happens Discourse on Certain Social Problems and their Solutions in the Light of Sri Aurobindo— Samar Basu Binding: Soft Cover Pages: 50Price: Rs 10
The Coming Race and other Essays Collected Works of Nolini Kanta Gupta, Volume One)— Nolini Kanta GuptaBinding: Hard Cover Pages: 406Price: Rs 35
Designing a New Social Order An Insight into Aurobindonian Thought— Dr G. P. Gupta ISBN: 978-81-7060-141-8Binding: Soft Cover Pages: 14Price: Rs 12
"The Fallacy of Karl Marx" A Critical Appraisal of Marxism in the Light of Sri Aurobindo's Social Philosophy— Kishor Gandhi ISBN: 978-81-7058-481-0Binding: Soft Cover Pages: 66Price: Rs 30
Freedom and Future An Imaginary Dialogue with Sri Aurobindo— Daniel AlbuquerqueISBN: 978-81-7058-530-5 Binding: Soft Cover Pages: 131Price: Rs 100
From the Editor's Desk Some Socio-Spiritual Perspectives— Shyam Sunder JhunjhunwalaBinding: Soft Cover Pages: 126Price: Rs 95
Glimpses of Vedantism in Sri Aurobindo's Political Thought— Samar BasuISBN: 978-81-86413-07-4Binding: Soft Cover Pages: 73Price: Rs 45
Hindu Muslim Unity In Sri Aurobindo's Light— Dr Mangesh NadkarniISBN: 978-81-7060-110-4Binding: Soft Cover Pages: 28Price: Rs 15
India and the Future of South Asia— Kosha ShahBinding: Soft Cover Pages: 84Price: Rs 80
In Search of Hinduism— Dr Prema NandakumarBinding: Soft Cover Pages: 55Price: Rs 30
India and the World Scene— K. D. Sethna (Amal Kiran)ISBN: 978-81-7060-118-0Binding: Soft Cover Pages: 353Price: Rs 180
The Indian Spirit and the World's Future— K. D. Sethna (Amal Kiran)ISBN: 978-81-7060-227-9Binding: Soft Cover Pages: 185Price: Rs 150
India, Youth and Integration— Essays and articles by various authorsISBN: 978-81-900175-3-4Binding: Soft Cover Pages: 211Price: Rs 35
India's Spiritual Destiny Its Inevitability and Potentiality— Mangesh NadkarniISBN: 978-81-7476-565-9Binding: Hard Cover Pages: 135Price: Rs 325
Meta-History The Unfoldment and Fulfilment of Human Destiny— V. Madhusudan ReddyBinding: Soft Cover Pages: 176Price: Rs 50
Of Past Dawns and Future Noons Towards a resurgent India— ShonarISBN: 978-81-7476-536-9Binding: Hard Cover Pages: 535Price: Rs 595
Patterns of the Present From the Perspective of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother— Georges Van VrekhemISBN: 978-81-7167-768-9Binding: Soft Cover Pages: 238Price: Rs 150
Social and Political Evolution of Man As Visioned by Sri Aurobindo (A Brief Study)— Samar BasuBinding: Soft Cover Pages: 117Price: Rs 10
Sri Aurobindo – Max Muller – Subhas Chandra— Amalendu DeBinding: Soft Cover Pages: 52Price: Rs 20
Sri Aurobindo and the Advent of the Supermind— Gopal BhattacharyaBinding: Hard Cover Pages: 228Price: Rs 125
Sri Aurobindo and His Contemporary Thinkers— Articles by various authorsISBN: 978-81-246-0428-1Binding: Hard Cover Pages: 349Price: Rs 600
Sri Aurobindo and Karl Marx Integral Sociology and Dialectical Sociology— D. P. ChattopadhyayaISBN: 978-81-208-0388-6Binding: Hard Cover Pages: 336Price: Rs 495
Sri Aurobindo and the New Age Essays in Memory of Kishor Gandhi— Essays and articles by various authorsISBN: 978-81-7058-505-3Binding: Hard Cover Pages: 239Price: Rs 85
Sri Aurobindo on Democracy and Secularism— Compiled by G. P. Gupta and M. S. SrinivasanISBN: 978-81-7060-140-1Binding: Soft Cover Pages: 36Price: Rs 15
ashram visitors darshan selected works research music publications image gallery

There's pin-drop silence and strangely enough there is not even an urge to talk to anyone

Presence of Sri Aurobindo in Pondicherry 25 Sep, 2008, 0000 hrs IST, Divya A, ET Bureau

Interestingly, I found out that the Guru had stayed for some time after he decided to take up meditation, after his participation in India's freedom struggle and jail term. It was after Chandannagar that the Guru moved to Pondicherry and stayed here forever.” Chandannagar, incidentally, is another erstwhile French colony, like Pondicherry." The Ashram was actually set up in 1926 by Aurobindo Ghose, one of India's greatest philosopher-poets, who originally came to Pondicherry to escape persecution by the British. It was after arriving here that he was drawn into the spiritual realm and discovered the power of yoga. His philosophy, and that of The Mother, is deeply rooted in yoga and their writings have inspired many followers from around the world.
Getting to Pondicherry isn’t difficult actually, despite its relatively tiny size and perch on the south east coast of India. The closest airport is Chennai, around 135 km from Pondicherry, with the option of either road or rail. It’s on the rail map with Villupuram in Tamil Nadu as the nearest station. But the best, and by far the most picturesque, way to reach is by road. There’s AC/non AC bus services every 10 minutes from Chennai's Koyambedu bus stand, very reasonable priced too. The preferable (scenic!) route is the East Coast Road via Mahabalipuram. For a brief stopover to see the great Shore Temple at Mahabalipuram, the best option is to drive down in a car or hire a taxi. It just adds a couple of very pleasant extra hours to an already pleasant drive! The ashram is one of the most well known and wealthiest ashrams in India, with devotees from India and all over the world flocking to it for spiritual salvation. I learnt that I could enter the ashram with my shoes on, but no cellphones, cameras or handbags were allowed.
Once inside, the aura of everything "Auro" is uinmistakeable. Followers of the Guru line up around the samadhi, which is in the central courtyard under a frangipani tree and is covered daily with flowers.
There's pin-drop silence and strangely enough there is not even an urge to talk to anyone, such is the calmness of the place. Besides the Guru's and the Mother's samadhis, I saw Aurobindo's living room, study and meditation foyer. I even bought literature by and about Sri Aurobindo from an in-house bookshop. I could feel the ashram's influence in most of Pondicherry. Some of the ashram's facilities like the library, playground and the main building are housed in other buildings, most of them walking distance from the ashram. As I browsed through rest of Pondicherry, I stopped to have a peep inside the Ashram Art House, do some shopping at Boutique d' Auroville for Auro clothes, Auroshika for incense sticks and Auroshree medicine products. The climate in Pondicherry is generally humid, so I found cottons to be the most practical in the summer; light sweaters and jackets are needed during the short, mild winter. I would also recommend hats and sunglasses, as the sun can be pretty harsh in those parts despite the lush greenery and the breezes blowing in from the Bay of Bengal. Of course, during the monsoon, umbrellas are crucial! A limited number of rooms are available in Ashram guest houses for those on short visits to Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Since rooms are limited and often fully booked, I found it’s better to make reservations well in advance. One can enter the main Ashram freely during visiting hours, but some sections require passes that are available at guesthouses or Bureau Central. Serenity divine Auroville, the global settlement, which is 40 years old now and still going strong, is a place that simply cannot be missed on a visit to Pondicherry. Auroville, meaning the City of Dawn, is an experimental township which actually falls in Viluppuram district of the adjoining state of Tamil Nadu but it’s just 10 km off Pondicherry. Described as a 'new age metropolis conceived as an alternative exercise in ecological and spiritual living', the township stands out as starkly different from the surrounding traditional villages and farms. Especially the crowning glory of the settlement, the Matrimandir, which nestles in its midst. The striking mandir looks like a giant golf-ball-like globe covered with golden discs. As I near it, I’m told "silence is compulsory” and the cult-like atmosphere is reinforced by volunteers who wordlessly motion me to pass them. My efforts to meet their gaze are greeted with complete impassivity. Although originally intended to house 50,000, the actual population today is a mere 2,000 (800 of whom are of Indian origin) seemingly consisting of pony-tailed men riding motorbikes. The best way to move within the settlement, by the way, is by motorbike or a bicycle although rickshaws and taxis can be ordered. Inside Auroville, there are a host of activities to engage in, ideal for a four-hour schedule, like yoga, Tai-Chi, Watsu, different kinds of alternative healing and courses. The variety is wider during the visitors' season, December to March. Besides, it’s a very good idea to dig into some great organic food at the Auroville cafeteria. Pondicherry may have now been christened ‘Puducherry’ officially, but there are some things there that will never change....

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What we call history is at best mythistory

Abstract Full Text: PDF (172k) Related Articles Citation Tracking
Shades of Orientalism: Paradoxes and Problems in Indian Historiography Peter Heehs
Copyright Wesleyan University 2003 ABSTRACT

Abstract
In Orientalism, Edward Said attempts to show that all European discourse about the Orient is the same, and all European scholars of the Orient complicit in the aims of European imperialism. There may be "manifest" differences in discourse, but the underlying "latent" orientalism is "more or less constant." This does not do justice to the marked differences in approach, attitude, presentation, and conclusions found in the works of various orientalists. I distinguish six different styles of colonial and postcolonial discourse about India (heuristic categories, not essential types), and note the existence of numerous precolonial discourses.

I then examine the multiple ways exponents of these styles interact with one another by focusing on the early-twentieth-century nationalist orientalist, Sri Aurobindo. Aurobindo's thought took form in a colonial framework and has been used in various ways by postcolonial writers. An anti-British nationalist, he was by no means complicit in British imperialism. Neither can it be said, as some Saidians do, that the nationalist style of orientalism was just an imitative indigenous reversal of European discourse, using terms like "Hinduism" that had been invented by Europeans.

Five problems that Aurobindo dealt with are still of interest to historians:

  1. the significance of the Vedas,
  2. the date of the vedic texts,
  3. the Aryan invasion theory,
  4. the Aryan-Dravidian distinction, and
  5. the idea that spirituality is the essence of India.

His views on these topics have been criticized by Leftist and Saidian orientalists, and appropriated by reactionary "Hindutva" writers. Such critics concentrate on that portion of Aurobindo's work which stands in opposition to or supports their own views.

A more balanced approach to the nationalist orientalism of Aurobindo and others would take account of their religious and political assumptions, but view their project as an attempt to create an alternative language of discourse. Although in need of criticism in the light of modern scholarship, their work offers a way to recognize cultural particularity while keeping the channels of intercultural dialogue open.

***

Myth, History, and Theory, by Peter Heehs © 1994 Wesleyan University. Abstract

Myth and history are generally considered antithetical modes of explanation. Writers of each tend to distrust the data of the other. Many historians of the modern period see their task as one of removing all trace of myth from the historical record. Many students of myth consider history to have less explanatory power than traditional narratives. Since the Greeks, logos (word as demonstrable truth) has been opposed to mythos (word as authoritative pronouncement). In more general terms myth may be defined as any set of unexamined assumptions. Some modern historians have become aware that much so-called factual history is interfused with such assumptions.

What we call history is at best mythistory. Some even suggest that there can be no real distinction between the discourses of myth and history, between fact and fiction. The Agastya-Aurobindo narrative is an example of an account based on factual materials that gradually became transformed into fiction. It is accepted by some as historical truth; however when its development is studied critically, one can see that successive narrators "euphemistically" transformed its constituent propositions.

The Ramjanmabhumi narrative (at the center of sectarian conflict in India) took form in much the same way. It is not possible to accept these legends as historical truth, though there is no reason why they could not be used as the basis of artistic creations. To avoid conflict by attempting to keep myth and history entirely separate may not be possible because the two interpenetrate. The most fruitful approach to the problem might be to work towards a dialectical resolution. www.jstor.org/pss/2505649

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Body language, business etiquette, assertiveness, etc.

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Leftists who see the State as the problem, rather than Capital, are unwittingly ratifying everything Thatcher and Reagan have done

Steven Shaviro Says: September 22nd, 2008 at 4:12 pm
Chris –

I think that Badiou is altogether wrong, and that the “market,” or more precisely the systematic process of expropriation and capital accumulation on the basis of “private” ownership and control of the means of production and finance is the real problem, and not the State. When the State, rather than Capital, becomes the main object of critique, the realities of exploitation and capital accumulation are dissimulated. Leftists who see the State as the problem, rather than Capital, are unwittingly ratifying everything Thatcher and Reagan have done.

If this sounds like old-fashioned “vulgar Marxism,” so be it. I think that the events of the last days, and the last weeks, are confirmation — the State moves from guaranteeing “property” by “deregulation” (which is really a form of differential protection) to guaranteeing it by a federalization that “socializes” losses even as profits remain privatized. The old-line claim that the State is merely an organizing committee for Capital is far more accurate than the currently fashionable philosophies that oppose various forms of domination and bureaucratization while totally ignoring exploitation.

Paul Krugman on why the liquidity trap really matters
from Marginal Revolution by Tyler Cowen

Read his latest post, which outlines many key but usually unstated assumptions behind monetary theory and policy. It is one of the most instructive econ posts to appear in some time.

That said, on the policy issue I think one of Krugman's earlier posts (I can't find it) is closer to the mark. With or without a liquidity trap, monetary policy can't fix negative real shocks and -- here is now the earlier Krugman -- monetary policy can't make insolvent (or potentially insolvent) banks whole. That's my take on why the Fed is relatively powerless, not because of a liquidity trap. If you believe, as a Keynesian would, that insufficient aggregate demand is the problem in the first place, you will be relatively worried about liquidity traps. If you believe, as a neo-Austrian would, that malinvestments and coordination problems are the key issues, you will look toward other factors which limit the power of central banks to restore order.

In my view sometimes the Keynesian perspective is relevant, but not so much today. As the contraction of credit spreads through the Fed-regulated banking sector, however, and the broader money supply aggregates come under stronger negative pressure, the Keynesian perspective is likely to become more relevant. That is in fact my major medium-term worry and we probably should be pessimistic in this regard.

There is a separate and very important liquidity issue about restoring the markets and valuations for bank loans, but this is not a liquidity issue in the sense of Keynes's portfolio theory or the traditional liquidity trap.

Addendum: Brad DeLong adds comment. Another way of putting my point is this: in the situations where a liquidity trap might be binding, there is usually some even worse constraint which is more binding, thereby making the potential liquidity trap not so much a problem at the relevant margin.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

At the 1884 convention of the Theosophical Society at Adyar, Hume laid bare his plan to organise the Congress

Allan Octavian Hume
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hume retired from the civil service in 1882. In 1883 he wrote an open letter to the graduates of Calcutta University, calling upon them to form their own national political movement. This led in 1885 to the first session of the Indian National Congress held in Bombay. Hume served as its General Secretary until 1908. Along with Sir William Wedderburn (1838-1918) they made it possible for Indians to organize themselves in preparation of self government...

Theosophy
Hume did not have great regard for institutional Christianity, but believed in the immortality of the soul and in the idea of a supreme ultimate.[4] Hume wanted to become a chela (student) of the Tibetan spiritual gurus. During the few years of his connection with the Theosophical Society Hume wrote three articles on Fragments of Occult Truth under the pseudonym "H. X." published in The Theosophist. These were written in response to questions from Mr. Terry, an Australian Theosophist. He also privately printed several Theosophical pamphlets titled Hints on Esoteric Theosophy. The later numbers of the Fragments, in answer to the same enquirer, were written by A.P. Sinnett and signed by him, as authorized by Mahatma K. H., A Lay-Chela.

Madame Blavatsky was a regular visitor at Hume's Rothney castle at Simla and an account of her visit may be found in Simla, Past and Present by Edward John Buck (who succeeded Mr. Hume in charge of the Agricultural Department). A long story, about Hume and his wife appears in A.P. Sinnett's book Occult World, and the synopsis was published in a local paper of India. The story relates how at a dinner party, Madame Blavatsky asked Mrs Hume if there was anything she wanted. She replied that there was a brooch, her mother had given her, that had gone out of her possession some time ago. Blavatsky said she would try to recover it through occult means. After some interlude, later that evening, the brooch was found in a garden, where the party was directed by Blavatsky. Later, Hume privately expressed grave doubts on certain powers attributed to Madame Blavatsky and due to this, soon fell out of favour with the Theosophists. Hume lost all interest in theosophy when he got involved with the creation of the Indian National Congress.

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Congress party was born in 1884 at ADYAR, Madras, Theosophical society
September 20, 2008 · EARLY PHASE OF THE CONGRESS

The Indian National movement was primarily a movement for freedom from alien domina-nation. The movement has been one comprehensive effort embracing all aspects of the life of the community.
The birth of the Indian National Congress, perhaps the oldest and the biggest democratic organisation in the world, did not take place in an atmosphere of a fanfare of trumpets nor did it create a stir by passing flamboyant resolutions.
In 1884, at the annual convention of the Theosophical Society at Adyar in Madras, Mr. Allan Octavian Hume laid bare to his friends his plan to organise the Congress. A committee was formed to make the necessary preparations for a session at Poona to be held in 1885.
The committee consisted of Mr. Hume, Mr. Surendra Nath Bannerji, Mr. Narendranath Sen, Mr. S. Subrarnania Iyer, Mr. P. Ananda Charlu, Mr. V.N. Mandalik, Mr.K.T. Telag, Sardar Dayal Singh, Lala Sri Ram.
Mr Hume, still a government servant, addressed an �Resolutions� that were passed on what were thought to open letter to the graduates of Calcutta University with a fervent appeal for self help.
He said �and if even the leaders of thought are all years, excepting �agitation on these resolutions in India either such poor creatures, or so selfishly wedded to and in England personal concern, that they dare not strike a blow for their country�s sake, then justly and rightly they are kept down and trampled on, for they deserve nothing better. Every nation secures precisely as good a government as it merits, If you the picked men, the most highly. educated of the nation cannot, scorning personal ease and selfish objects, make a resolute struggle to secure greater freedom for yourselves and your country, a more impartial administration, a larger share in the management of your own affairs then we, your friends are wrong and our adversaries right, then Lord Rippon�s noble aspirations for your good are fruitless and visionary, then at present at any rate, all hopes of progress are at an end, and India truly neither lacks nor deserves any better government than she enjoys.
Only if this be so, let us hear no more factious, peevish complaints that you are kept in strings and treated like children, for you will have proved yourself such, Men know how to act. Let there be no more complaints of Englishmen being preferred to you ill all important offices, for if you lack that public spirit, that highest form of altruistic devotion that leads men to subordinate private case to the public weal that patriotism that has made Englishmen what they are-then rightly are these preferred to you, rightly and inevitably have they become your rulers.. And rulers and task masters they must continue let the yoke gall your shoulders never so sorely, until you realise and stand prepared to act upon the eternal truth that self-sacrifice and unselfish ness are the only unfailing guide to freedom and happiness.�MushamWORLD

Friday, September 19, 2008

N. Nandhivarman exposes misdeeds committed in Auroville and Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry

nandivarman.rediffiland.com/ Friday 19 September, 2008 Write to Nandhi Varman ASHRAM AND INDIAN MEDIA
SUN TV EXPOSED AUROBINDO ASHRAM in 2003
CNN-IBN KILLED INVESTIGATIVE STORY in 2008

The days of brave investigative journalism of the Ramnath Goenka brand which exposed the darkest days of emergency and the intervening period where A.S.Panneerselvan of Outlook and Sudha G.Tilak of The Telegraph exposed the crimes happening within Aurobindo Ashram is over. Now in India, new breed of journalists, products of globalization, have arrived. For them plight of individual women is not worthy of reporting but if it is about cine actresses or celebrities, they jump into the fray. CNN-IBN which prides as investigative media for two days telecasted the promo about “Divine Trap”, an investigative story done by its own reporters for two days, and few hours before telecast killed the story, and till date not given a public explanation, why it went back after airing the promo. Unlike CNN-IBN of 2008, SUN TV of 2003 did not shelve its report. The link given below is about the SUN TV Report, wherein the story will start with the sexual harassment of Jharkand girls, sisters, living till date as devotees and inmates, due to Court orders.

http://ishare.rediff.com/filevideo-TRUTH-:CRIME-REPORT-ON-ASHRAM-id-213736.php

After viewing the SUN TV report, you would be keen to know the present day plight of the Jharkand sisters. Let me put in a nutshell their current situation.

SEXUAL HARASSMENT CASE :

Initially from May-June 2004, the harassment began in the form of defecation in Jayashree’s and Arunashri’s rooms at Ambabhikshu House on a regular basis. Thereafter the defecation was extended and done in all the five sisters’ rooms along with tampering and damaging of their cycles, passing of vulgar and obscene comments and making vulgar and obscene gestures by some inmates of the Ashram, who were residing at Ambabhiskshu House. From mid June 2004 onwards Arunashri and Nivedita received totally five pornographic obscene chits thrown inside their rooms. The five sisters gave written complaints before various authorities: the Bar Association of Pondicherry and Tamilnadu (because the inmate lawyer Nirmal C. Swain was masterminding the sexual harassment through and with the resident inmates of Ambabhikshu House), the Ashram trustees, the police and National Commission for Women Delhi (NCW) which handed over our sexual harassment case to the State Women Commission, Pondicherry (SWC). The police also collected three other obscene pornographic chits on 13.10.2004 from Ambabhikshu House from the rooms of Rajyashree, Nivedita and Hemlata.

Without conducting an enquiry, SCW allegedly submitted a report to NCW and on 19.01.2005. It came to light that the SCW directed Ashram Trustees to provide separate accommodation in separate buildings to male members and female members to prevent any kind of sexual harassment. The sisters requested SWC to furnish a copy of the alleged report to them but SWC failed to respond.

Subsequently the sisters went to New Delhi and there they were informed by the NCW that no such report existed. Thereafter the sisters requested NCW to reopen their case and also approached the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) for relief against the continuing sexual harassment. NHRC started the enquiry but on coming to know that NCW had reopened the case, NHRC passed an order to that effect.

NCW reopened the case of sexual harassment by appointing the Chairperson of Department of Women and Child Development, Pondicherry (DWCD) as the enquiring officer. Because of the continued sexual harassment that the DWCD reported to the Government of Pondicherry, a GO was issued on 23.02.2007 appointing Mr. Vasant Kumar, I.A.S. to conduct a magisterial enquiry for the complaints of such sexual harassment of the sisters. The enquiry proceedings were thereafter handed over to Mr. Vijay Kumar Bidhuri, I.A.S. by another GO dated 10.12.2007. The sisters as well as the accused inmates have been enquired into and presently the enquiry report is pending submission. We urge the report be made public without delay.

HOUSE GRAB CASE :

In SUN TV you will in end be told about the anticipatory bail obtained by the Managing Trustee of Aurobindo Ashram , who was named in FIR. But the clout ensured that when charge sheet was filed, he is left out. Adding further spice to the crime story, he had been made witness.

The people of India must urge their journalists, to emulate the example of western journalists like Ms.Rachael Wright who did a story in BBC on Auroville.

N. Nandhivarman, General Secretary Dravida Peravai
Category:
Politics Permalink

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nandivarman.rediffiland.com/ Thursday 18 September, 2008 Write to Nandhi Varman Forward this link
TEHELKA EXPOSE ON AUROVILLE
The End Of A Dream?
Auroville was created as a ‘universal city’ free of discord, but is riven by allegations of paedophelia, dubious land purchases, and racism, discovers
PC VINOJ KUMAR

THERE SHOULD be somewhere on earth a place where no nation could claim as its own… a place of peace, concord and harmony… In this ideal place money would no longer be the sovereign lord; individual worth would have a far greater importance than that of material wealth and social standing.”
Such was the dream of Mirra Alfassa, Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual partner and successor, known to her followers as The Mother. In 1968, five years before her death, the dream led to the establishment of Auroville, a “universal town” as it calls itself, currently home to around 2,000 residents from 40 countries. Located 8 km from Puducherry, Auroville is run on government and UNESCO grants and the proceeds of its commercial projects. Best known today as an offbeat tourist attraction, deep rifts with the local community have, however, seen serious charges levelled against the community, ranging from allegations of certain residents sexually abusing children from nearby villages to claims of extortionate land acquisition. Local resentment has now burgeoned into an active campaign to have the town shut down, with some opponents even decrying it as a threat to national security.

Golden dome The paradise of Auroville is caught in the most unseemly controversies
Auroville started out as part of the Puduchery- based Sri Aurobindo Society, under Mirra Alfassa’s direct control. Following her death in 1973, divisions between residents and the Society resulted in almost two decades of wrangling over the town’s administration. Ultimately, in 1991, the Auroville Foundation (AF) was established by Parliament.
Not all who live in Auroville agree that this has worked. Some are frustrated and feel that the community’s original ideals and freedoms are fading. The AF is optimistic, though, and its Master Plan predicts Auroville’s population will reach 50,000 by 2025. In its design, however, the plan included several acres of yet-to-beacquired land belonging to nearby villages. While expansion of the 20 km campus has been sluggish, current AF secretary M. Ramaswamy, a senior IAS officer, has made land acquisition a priority, and, by January 2007, as reported then in community bulletin Auroville Today, purchased around nine acres for the town. This more than tripled in the following year, with the creation of the Auroville Land Fund, whose April-June newsletter states that 31.97 acres had been bought during 2007-08.
Villagers, however, allege that not all these purchases have been conducted on an entirely principled basis, and accuse the AF of using strong-arm tactics. S. Mathialagan of Edayanchavadi village says he ran foul of the AF after he refused to sell his land and accuses Ramaswamy of behaving like a property broker. “Ramaswamy uses the police to intimidate villagers who don’t want to sell,” Mathialagan told TEHELKA. “When I turned them down, they lodged a complaint against me and I was taken to the police station. I was only freed after the villagers protested.” Villupuram SP A Amal Raj, however, denied any villager had lodged any complaint on the issue.
Villagers are also unhappy with Auroville’s attempts to regulate land transactions in the area. In 2002, the late LM Singhvi, then an MP and a member of the AF governing board, wrote to the then chief minister of Tamil Nadu, J. Jayalalithaa, proposing an order that would bar land development or sale of areas that fell within the Auroville Master Plan, unless under AF approval. The order did not come through, but Ramaswamy is said to be pursuing the matter.

Lifestyle contrast The poor on the edge of the city.
While a land tussle could be said to be a purely local issue, far more serious are the charges of abuse. M. Kandavel, who leads a ‘Ban Auroville’ movement, alleges the place has become a haven for paedophiles. To back his claim, he quotes an August 2001 issue of Auroville News, in which a resident writes: “How many of us know, that there are Aurovillians who have sexually abused their maids, that Aurovilians have sexually abused village children; that Aurovilians have funded political gangs and allegedly incited violence in the villages?”
The child abuse charges got additional attention following a BBC report in May, which, while acknowledging Auroville’s endeavours in education and reforestation, reported the community authorities as admitting that it “did in the mid-90s include a convicted paedophile”. Talking to TEHELKA, Auroville Working Committee member Carel Thieme placed the number of Aurovillians asked to leave because of suspected involvement in paedophilia at three.
As Aurovillians themselves ruefully admit, not all who come here in pursuit of the ‘ideal’ life are themselves ideal. Residents and visitors have been known to overstep the bounds of decency, as evidence of which Kandavel cites a 2002 incident involving the wife of Tathagata Satpathy, a Biju Janata Dal MP from Orissa’s Dhenkanal constituency. When contacted, Satpathy, a devotee of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, told TEHELKA he had planned to spend New Year’s Eve in Auroville but was repulsed by the atmosphere. “I had gone there hoping for a spiritual experience. What I encountered was the opposite. People were drunk. Many were high on drugs. My wife wanted us to leave, but as we were doing so, some foreigners misbehaved with us.”

Lifestyle contrast Aurovillians at the beach
Adding to local animus are the state benefits Auroville receives, including a fairly sizeable grant, with Rs 5 crore allotted for 2008-09. Its commercial units also enjoy tax exemptions. The Chief Income Tax Commissioner has reportedly argued for having these enterprises taxed, but Auroville has managed to retain the exemption. The arrangement requires owners of commercial units to pay 33 percent of their profits to the AF while keeping the rest. AF members, however, claim that these profits ultimately return to the community.
All Aurovillians work in one or the other of the town’s commercial units or in its administration offices. A maintenance stipend is available, though not all Aurovillians avail of it, particularly Westerners. Of those who do live on the stipend, some maintain that the stipend of Rs 5,000 to Rs 8,000 is insufficient. “The cost of living is quite high in Auroville,” rues resident Ramachandra Mohanta. Other Indian Aurovillians echoed his views, saying life here is difficult if one does not have sound financial backing. AF member Sanjeev, however, points out that residents and their families get several facilities free, such as education and healthcare. When asked about the economic disparities among Aurovillians, he wryly remarked, “Auroville is not an egalitarian society.” The realisation of the equality the Mother envisioned is still some way off.
WHEN TEHELKA visited Auroville, this reporter stayed four days in ‘Aspiration’, one of the community’s oldest settlements, and also one of its poorer ones. Members share food expenses and have a common kitchen and dining hall. Though it is claimed that Auroville fosters human unity, complaints of racial discrimination persist and rarely did we see people of different nationalities interact.
Critics also disapprove of Auroville’s financial handling, which, in keeping with the way the rest of the community runs, is relatively unstructured. The Auroville internal audit of 2004-05 practically concedes this — while bringing no charges of funds mishandled, it made reference to several irregularities and systemic deficiencies in financial management. “There is no centralised accounting of income reflecting the totality of income and expenditure,” it said. “There is no overall budget for Auroville. The Foundation has no system to ensure that all money received through various channels is properly accounted for and utilised.”
Aurovillians will tell you their community is a “living human laboratory” and should be looked at with sympathy, not critically or analytically. However, while local antagonism toward the town and the resultant criticism of its practices and philosophy does not abate, it is perhaps time Auroville took heed and looked to ways of reaching greater accord. •
From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 5, Issue 37, Dated Sept 20, 2008 Category: Politics Permalink

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Make money work hard for you: the secret of success lies in making your money do the work so that you can relax

No wealth without risk-The Times of India 3 Dec 2001, N Vidyasagar
Tendulkar always displays a degree of adventurism in every innings he plays. that’s the risk he undertakes.

no risk no gain is an age old axiom. indeed, risk is inherent to all investments. the trick lies in taking calculated risk, and ensuring that the payoff from investments is commensurate to the level of risk undertaken imagine Sachin Tendulkar playing defensive shots all the time. then, we would neither watch television nor get satisfaction out of the master blaster’s game. but that doesn’t happen. tendulkar always displays a degree of adventurism in every innings he plays. that’s the risk he undertakes. more often than not, it is carefully calculated risk. that’s why his game gives so much thrill to viewers. the same holds for taking risk to double money.

‘‘worry is not a sickness, but a sign of health. if you are not worried enough, you are not risking enough,’’ is the rule in the famous zurich axioms. the secret behind the success of swiss bankers is that they take risks. the road to wealth is paved with risk and one has to take the some amount of risk in building wealth. here we discuss the risks one has to undergo to be a winner in the money game. first, take risk: you will never fall in love if you are afraid to commit yourself to personal risks. one needs the same amount of guts to win in the money game. create savings and investment goals early in life. set your own goals and write everything down on paper. contact a financial expert and undergo a risk assessment test.

the biggest risk one undertakes is in the choice of an investment institution. half the battle is won if you pick up the right one. bet what you can afford to lose: decide on the amount you can lose. that is the amount which would not affect your normal life even if you were to lose it. everyone has to feed the family, send children to school, pay home loans and what not. the money you can afford to lose can range from rs 100 to rs 10,000 and upwards. experts advise that you should start modestly. they suggest increasing the dosage of risk as you gain confidence and experience. always remember, every successful entrepreneur begins small and grows big.

reduce risk through diversification: diversification means spreading of risk by putting money in several categories of investments. the idea is basically to play safe. if three of your investments get nowhere, may be the other three will get you something. normally the investment advice one gets today is that people who are above fifty should not invest more than 10 or 15 per cent in equities. but for investors in the thirties, investment advisors say they can invest 45 per cent or even 50 per cent in equities. but if one goes by the number one rule of zurich axioms, a fifty year old guy can plunge into the equity market if he can decide on the amount he can afford to lose. another thumb rule is not to diversify just for the sake of diversification.

put your money in instruments where returns are commensurate to risk. speculate a bit: always put your money at some risk. that means having a speculative strategy. experts say you will stay poor if you try to escape worry. no doubt, you will get hurt in the beginning. but by increasing the degree of risk in stages, you will learn to cope with it. history says that a larger number of investors have made money by taking risk than by avoiding it. so get used to it and enjoy it.

finally, make money work hard for you: the secret of success lies in making your money do the work so that you can relax. you can reach this level only if you have spent some time in following the earlier strategies. by taking some amount of risk you would have accumulated some amount of money. make it grow. like the same way many wealthy people continue to work because they enjoy what they’re doing. to enjoy later, worry a bit now.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Where The State guarantees profit, there cannot be anything like a free market

On the Great US Crash from ANTIDOTE by Sauvik

There can never be any guarantee of profit in a free market. Any such guarantee constitutes a “moral hazard,” and promotes reckless behaviour... With government bailouts, this course correction never happens. It is back to crooked business as usual...

The US government is not a good poster-boy for free markets. All the good work done by libertarians in promoting free markets and free trade in India is in danger of being undone. We should blame the crash on the Keynesian fiat money system run by The US State. After all, where The State guarantees profit, there cannot be anything like a free market, in which losses must be made booked too.

The globalizing world needs a sound monetary system. I am glad that this point of view is emerging strongly in America – thanks to Ron Paul. Sound money based on gold is the only way out if we want to secure a stable prosperity. The Crash is happening because of The State. So don’t blame it on the market. This is not what would happen in a truly free market scenario. And don’t call for “more regulation.” Call for sound money – and the abolition of the Fed.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Baudrillard insists that there is no collective principle left in America to modify the fragmentation of individual existence


Sep 8, 2008 James, Tocqueville and Baudrillard
from The Memory Bank 3.0 by keith

C.L.R. James is one among many writers who came from Europe to America and subsequently published their commentaries on the society they found there. In American Civilization, he explicitly linked his work to a tradition established by two predecessors—the French aristocrat, Alexis de Tocqueville, whose famous study, Democracy in America, resulted from his travels there in the 1830s; and the English diplomat, James Bryce, who wrote The American Commonwealth half a century later. In recent years, there has been no shortage of European commentators on America, although few have established as profound a connexion with that country as Tocqueville, Bryce and James.

Here we seek to place James’s American Civilization (drafted in New York in 1950 and published by Blackwell in 1993) in the ongoing history of reflection on America by outsiders. Specifically, we compare his work with that of two Frenchmen— Tocqueville, the founder of the genre, and Jean Baudrillard, whose America (1989) is one of the more notorious examples of recent postmodernist writing on the subject.

The interest of America for Tocqueville and James originally stemmed from political questions posed within the context of Europe. The relationship of America to Europe, the continuities and the contrasts, forms a pervasive theme of their work. Although separated by more than a hundred years, both writers departed for the New World at a time of ferment in European history, after the political landscape had been transformed by a major event. In Tocqueville’s case this was the French Revolution; for James it was the Russian Revolution. Each man was convinced that democracy is the moving force in modern history and that America is playing the leading role in that movement.
Apart from the obvious parallels in the substantive concerns of Tocqueville and James, there are interesting similarities in their methods. Both writers, upon arrival in America, traveled widely through the country. Its geographical expanse captured their imagination; and a sense of freedom from the confining weight of European civilization is palpable in their writing. But these journeys also directly acquainted Tocqueville and James with the working of a democracy; and, in different ways, each made their personal observations and encounters with sections of the population the basis for understanding American society. They reached similar conclusions, placing their faith not in laws and formal institutions, but in the common people, in their pragmatic political sense. They saw the customs and attitudes to life of ordinary Americans as the safeguard of democracy’s future.
The structure of both Democracy in America and American Civilization reflects these conclusions. Each book is divided into two parts, the first dealing with the ideas underpinning the outward appearance of America’s public institutions, the second with the inner life and social practices of the American people themselves. Each book contains within its own development a movement from form to content that mirrors the historical contrast between the civilization of Europe and its American successor.
Tocqueville set out to examine how Enlightenment ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity had been incorporated into the foundation and functioning of a new society. He believed that democracy, government by the people in their own interests, was the distinctive impulse of his age. Its triumph as a historical process was inevitable and irreversible. The democracy of America was his case study. He found the principle of equality to be a more fundamental and durable feature of democracy than liberty; but he recognized their relationship to be close and complex: “Men cannot be equal without being free and equality, in its extreme form, must merge with freedom.” For Tocqueville the essential feature of American society was its people’s pursuit of worldly prosperity (happiness) under conditions of general equality.
Nevertheless, these observations led him to pose as the central paradox facing American civilization the unequal treatment of blacks, which he described as “the most formidable evil threatening the future of the United States.” He was conscious too of other dangers facing the new democracy. For example, the pursuit of happiness channeled the restless energies of the population into commercial and industrial activity. Yet Tocqueville saw here the possibility of inequalities being established through the growth of a manufacturing aristocracy. Furthermore, he observed that the drive for greater efficiency in America was achieved through specialization, through increasing division of labour. This resulted in a devastating dehumanization of the work process: “What is one to expect from a man who has spent twenty years of his life making the heads for pins?”
More fundamentally, for Tocqueville the greatest threat to a democratic society was posed by despotism. This was because it was part and parcel of the growth of democracy itself. Equality was linked to individualism; but, in isolating individuals, democracy weakened the connections between them and undermined their resistance to encroaching centralization. The power of society in a democracy was likely to be oppressive; the only counterweight in his view was the ability of citizens to form free associations.
At the close of the first volume of Democracy in America, there is a striking passage that in many ways anticipated the world in which James lived and which shaped his work:
“There are, at the present time, two great nations in the world, which seem to tend towards the same end, although they started from different points: I allude to the Russians and the Americans. Both of them have grown up unnoticed; and whilst the attention of mankind was directed elsewhere, they have suddenly assumed a prominent place among the nations; and the world learned of their existence and their greatness at almost the same time. . . .Each of them seems to be marked out by the will of Heaven to sway the destinies of half the globe.”
James’s own study, begun a century later, shows how deeply Tocqueville understood the social, economic and political forces at work in democratic society. In American Civilization he takes up Tocqueville’s themes of liberty, equality and the forms of association; and he examines their meaning in a mid-twentieth century America where the pursuit of material wealth had reached its fullest expression in the system of mass production pioneered by Henry Ford. For James in 1950 the society’s original ideals of freedom and equality had by then been sacrificed to an oppressive work regime that paradoxically made it feasible for the people in general to aspire to the material means of achieving these goals. If Tocqueville placed equality at the centre of his interpretation of the new democracy, James was preoccupied with freedom, or rather with the awareness of its loss that permeated the consciousness of Americans in his day. Moreover, James saw that the worldwide struggle of popular forces against totalitarian bureaucracy had brought Tocqueville’s prediction of rivalry between America and Russia to the nightmare conclusion of the Cold War.
There is little of this grand vision in the more recent writings of European intellectuals. Nor is there the same sense of the American people as the vanguard of world civilization. Baudrillard’s America offers a typical example of the distaste felt by European elites for the American version of democratic society. While appearing to be seduced by the surface gloss of America, Baudrillard in reality gives vent to the deep hostility he feels towards the common people. They simply do not exist in his book. Their passive lot is to be imprinted by the myriad signs of advertising and propaganda whose meaning is vouchsafed only to the traveling intellectual, the author himself.
Baudrillard, a Cartesian subject if ever there was one, thinks alone in a universe unmediated by the presence of others. Hence his preference for the desert as an image of American society, reflecting the emptiness of the world he inhabits, as he watches it flashing by his car window. Traditionally, the European writer has conceived of his audience as a narrowly-based cultural elite, successor to the courts of the absolutist monarchs. He resents bitterly the democratization of the means of communication, especially television, since it threatens to bypass the monopoly of knowledge and information which was once stored in books. Even worse, democracy might transfer power from the intellectuals and their masters into the hands of the people themselves.
It follows from this that the intellectual denies the ability of the masses to make appropriate use of the information coming their way. One means of doing so is to represent America, the place where people power and mass communications are most developed, as a bewildering maze of signs detached from any sensible forms of social life and made meaningful only by the arcane manipulations of a master semiotician. In this way, Baudrillard and others like him transform the idea of America as the future into a grotesque cacotopia that it would be perverse to emulate. It is safe to celebrate the old Hollywood movies, as long as television, advertising and fast food are held at bay. America may even offer tourists the chance to relive cinematic images in the Western desert today, before they return to the safety of the old way of life.
The contrast between Baudrillard and James could not be greater. James too made a mind-expanding journey shortly after arriving in America from Europe. But he stayed for more than a decade. He made it his business to penetrate “the actual and intimate lives” of the American people; and he used the opportunity to overthrow the burdens of his own European intellectual legacy. He saw that the development of mass communications in the twentieth century had opened up a huge audience for information and entertainment. James recognized that the volatile tastes of this mass audience gave expression to social forces that had their roots in personal experience, in an individuality multiplied by millions. The purveyors of popular art forms, in his view, had to pay close attention to the revealed wants of their customers. Moreover, these forms reflected the essence of modern social life, its movement. The new audiences for the mass media have elevated the scale of perceived community far beyond the old limits imposed by work and residence, moving beyond the nation-state to embrace the emergent idea of one world society. James never underestimated the sophistication of ordinary people, certainly not their ability to make independent judgments about what they were fed by the media.
James, accepting the intrinsic movement of American society, felt compelled to address its history. Americans may not have a strong historical sense, but they make world history—whether in the eighteenth century with their revolution, in the nineteenth with the Civil War or in the twentieth with their military interventions abroad. James saw his task as the need to situate the growing power of the American people in a social history which was at once local and global. Baudrillard knows nothing of American history. History for him is what intellectuals pass on to the educated classes in books. Americans have no place in that version of history; they do not exist. Let them be reduced to the images of Hollywood movies or to fleeting encounters in desert motels.

Baudrillard is not indifferent to his great French predecessor. Like James he refers back to Tocqueville, only to conclude that the famous unity of private interest and public spirit has gone. He insists that there is no collective principle left in America to modify the fragmentation of individual existence. If James reached the opposite conclusion, then so too was his method an extension of Tocqueville’s. For him the meaning of popular culture was to be found in its resonance with the lives of ordinary Americans whom he studied over a period of many years. Not for him the jottings of a few weeks’ holiday spent trying to match what can be seen through a car window with youthful memories of the cinema.

As a representative example of much postmodernist writing in recent years, Baudrillard’s America is an indictment of that whole intellectual class whose postwar prosperity has insulated them from the movement of modern history, so that they can only see in America a mirror reflecting their own alienation. The intelligentsia have truly become a class without a social purpose. It is hardly surprising that, faced with the rise of popular forces on a world scale, they retreat into the old forms of intellectual life associated with Europe’s bourgeois civilization—and thereby constitute a ready-made market for Baudrillard’s excesses. James’s 1950 manuscript, Notes on American Civilization, is an even more pressing antidote to such thinking today than when it was originally written.

[Written with Anna Grimshaw. Note by Jim Murray, C.L.R. James Insititute, July 2001: This text was written in 1990 as an Appendix to the Institute pamphlet C.L.R. James and ‘The Struggle for Happiness’. The authors decided at the last minute not to include it because they thought it might “unbalance” the structure of the pamphlet. The material here was also not included in the slightly modified version of the pamphlet that became the Introduction to the 1993 Blackwell edition of American Civilization by C.L.R. James. James's own title for the book, at the end of his life, was The Struggle for Happiness. The title was changed, after he died, against the editors' wishes.]

Upholding all the Gandhian principles, of Swadeshi, Gram Swarajya and Ram Rajya

Organiser Home > 2008 Issues > September 14, 2008 Special Article
Imbibe a true understanding of the nature and ethos of India to make it great By Rajnath Singh

It is my firm belief that as envisaged by Sri Aurobindo and Swami Vivekananda, India is destined to emerge as the economic powerhouse, military superpower, and knowledge hub of this century. And with the BJP at the helm of affairs steering our country towards achieving this glorious vision, I firmly believe that India will once again be acknowledged as the “Vishwa Guru” - an inclusive superpower that embodies and actualise the immortal ideal of “Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam” (the world is a family). This is the very ideal that motivated Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee and Pt Deendayal Upadhyay to found our organisation which has today, over the last six decades, emerged as the pre-eminent political party of the land...

Today India is probably the only country in the world that is waging a war on terror without any effective anti-terror law in place to deal with the situation. The BJP is not merely worried about the internal, external and economic security situation of the country. In my opinion, our civilisational moorings must form the bedrock of our growth model, and indeed, of our very existence. But today we are being administered by a government that is not only incapable of thwarting the terrorist attacks and some sort of cultural invasion coming as a negative by product of globalisation, rather than it strikes at the very core of our nationalism and cultural beliefs...

The Congress-led UPA government has actually done the unimaginable - it has questioned the very existence of Lord Rama in an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court!. Even the foreign rulers in the entire history of India had never dared to say this which this government of ours in indipendent India said on record. In a single stroke, they want to not only destroy our core beliefs but also demolish everything that Mahatma Gandhi righteously stood for. Gandhiji’s political vision was “Ram Rajya”, spiritual vision “Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram” and his last words were “Hey Ram”. The Congress today says all this is sham. I am of the firm belief that the Congress, the self-styled heir of Gandhian legacy, is incapable of not only actualising but even visualising the Gandian vision. And on the contrary, if there is one single organisation that is truly upholding all the Gandhian principles, of Swadeshi, Gram Swarajya and Ram Rajya, it is only the RSS, which is blamed by Congress for killing Gandhi...


For any party or person to lead India to its glorious future must be capable of understanding the true nature and ethos of country. The true nature is imbibed in Bharat not in India. From all the spiritual, religious, cultural traditions and strong family values to the neo scientific concepts of Ayurveda, herbal medication, yoga, naturopathy, organic farming and environment friendliness to even pure mathematical concepts of Vedic mathematics are some facets of origianl Bharat. In the early 1990’s, I was strongly criticised for introducing Vedic Mathematics in Uttar Pradesh as the Education Minister. However today, the west is raving about Vedic Mathematics and accepting it in a big way.

Bharat is having an enormous potential to contribute to humanity. But these potentials can only usher if we are having confidence in our original strengths. We must come out of western dogma and explore our own treasure of Knowledge. All that I am trying to say is that when various parts of the world struggle with problems ranging from deprivation and violence to ecological imbalances, only our ideology of Hindutva (The meaning of which is consistenly mis interpreted an perverted by so called secular intellectuals) can meaningfully show us all the way from conflict to coherence and even from health science to mathematics and guide us in the right direction. The BJP will play the role of a catalyst to enable India to realise its actual position in the world. And I consider as a blessing of God, that I can today hope to be a part of this historical process. (The writer is National President of BJP and can be contacted at 38, Ashoka Road, New Delhi.)