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

Friday, June 24, 2011

Democracy's multiple sequences and consequences

Oriya poet Bishnu N. Mohapatra on Tuesday observed that the time had come to think about the pattern of development being practised and ...
Bishnu N. Mohapatra: After completing his education at the University of Delhi and University of Oxford, Bishnu N. Mohapatra has been teaching at the Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, since 1994. Currently he is looking after the Governance portfolio of the Ford Foundation’s South Asia office located at New Delhi. His research interest covers themes such as democracy, minority rights, identity politics, pluralism and social justice. His short essay ‘Understanding Indignities’ based on Dalit autobiographies has drawn accolades from scholars belonging to different social science disciplines. He is one of the editors of the volume on Social Capital and Democracy, published by Sage Publications in 2004. An admired poet in Oriya language, he is deeply sensitive to human suffering. Bishnu Mohapatra « A Fragile World
There is no ‘finished product democracy’. How should democracy or self-rule be explained and evaluated today? It requires respect for the democracy of knowledge. Introducing a global conversation into the public domain
What is The Democracy Manifesto? A global conversation involving academics, civil society and social movement activists from Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America and North America, has set out a credo for our fast-moving times, followed by responses from four of the participants as they continue their conversation in the public domain.
There is no ‘finished product democracy’. How should democracy or self-rule be explained and evaluated today? It requires respect for the democracy of knowledge. A global conversation held at three international meetings, involving academics, civil society and social movement activists from Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America and North America, has issued in a Democracy Manifesto for our fast-moving times. We publish initial responses from participants each day this week to continue this conversation in the public domain.
The Democracy Manifesto: Re-imagining Democracy in Our Time [edited]
  1. The self could be seen in terms of the individual citizen or in terms of a social community.
  2. An idealized notion of western liberal democracy hegemonizes the democratic imagination. It is assumed that capitalism and modernity have an intrinsic relationship with democracy.
  3. Reimagining democracy along these lines is one of the most pressing ethical and political tasks of our times.
  4. Yet the western legacy is neither singular nor unambiguous. … The democratic aspiration spread to most of the world by way of anti-colonial struggles and the various movements for self-determination and self-rule in the last two centuries.
  5. This artificial binary construct must come to an end.  Democratic practices may exist in apparently non-democratic regimes. Established democratic states can embody a vast array of non-democratic practices. There is no "finished product democracy" and there never will be.  The aspiration for democracy is open-ended. Each fresh step opens new horizons.
  6. The dominant orthodoxy espouses teleology. Democracy is the ultimate and inevitable destination. This often leads to thinking in terms of stages or pre-conditions to the ‘transition’ to and ‘consolidation’ of democracy. Yet, there are multiple sequences and routes by which different political regimes come to be democratic.
  7. This also enables us to think of democracy beyond the formal domain of politics. Practices within the domain of the family or the market, for example, need to be viewed in terms of the extent to which they enable or constrain self-rule. Democracy needs to be thought of as a way of life.
  8. The quest for democracy must go wherever effective and binding decision-making occurs.  Shifting sites of sovereignty require that we begin to think of inter-national relations as an arena of democratic contestation. The same could be extended to the level of continents or other groupings of nations. At the same time, the unit of analysis needs to be extended downwards, to regional and local units, for this is the level at which most citizens experience self-rule or its absence.  
  9.  The demand that democracy all over the world must conform to a fixed definition first worked out in one part of the globe is inherently undemocratic. … If democracy is anchored in reason, dialogue is the custodian of reason.
  10.  Institutions are crucial to the formation and strengthening of democracies, but what institutions do depends on the context in which these are located.  We need to shift the focus from the form of an institution to its real-life consequences in a given context.
  11. The search for a richer democratic imagination requires that we look for practices, institutions, intellectual traditions and thinkers everywhere to help us reshape democratic theory.
  12. The very notion of exporting democracy is inimical to the spirit of democracy. Democracy promotion can turn into democratic imperialism. Like all ideologies, democracy too can turn into a dogma.
  13. The insistence on difference and divergence is designed to synthesize the multiple experiences of democracy. This is a necessary condition for reclaiming the global heritage of democracy and for reimagining a truly global future for it.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Without gossip there can be no democracy

A nation with a guilty conscience Deccan Chronicle June 17, 2011 Home » Editorial » Op-ed By Shiv Visvanathan
Whenever I read the newspaper today or watch news, I see confusion. …Think of it. Baba Ramdev. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Anna Hazare. Suresh Kalmadi. K. Kanimozhi. Jairam Ramesh. Manmohan Singh. Rahul Gandhi. Sushma Swaraj. Don’t ignore the supplements; They provide their own little dramas about dress, the body, about morals. Add to this the Page 3 excitements, the scandals in a teacup that filmstars provide. Stir all this with the confidence of a cultural chef and enjoy what India brings you everyday.
The first thing you discover is that it is an exciting time and more fascinatingly we as a democracy are open about our mistakes, our scandals, our battles.
A free press tells you there are free people. Without gossip there can be no democracy. Gossip and rumour are double-edged. They play moral policemen; they also substitute for the conscience.
Think of it. Mamata Banerjee, Anna Hazare, Aruna Roy and Baba Ramdev are all soap operas around the ethical issues of our time. … Every issue of a newspaper becomes an ethical puzzle, a moral science quiz which recognises life has no easy answers. It asks us to respond to the tragedies of our time and to thank those who have kept issues alive. There is a lot that is frightening, even evil, and but you know it is there on the front page. You have to respond. Shiv Visvanathan is a social scientist

Heaps of cash, gold and diamonds found in Satya Sai Baba's personal chamber: Report Source:   |   Last Updated 17:27 (17/06/11)
Hyderabad: A massive amount of cash and precious stones were found from the personal chamber of Satya Sai Baba when it was unlocked on Thursday for the first time two-and-a-half months after his death, it is learnt.
The chamber was opened in the presence of members of the Satya Sai Central Trust in Puttaparthi on Thursday. No member from the media or the government was allowed in.
The trustees of Satya Sai Central Trust Justice PN Bhagwati, RJ Ratnakar, SV Giri, V Srinivasan and the Baba’s personal assistant, Satyajith all were present when the chamber was opened for the first time since Baba was hospitalised on March 28 this year. 
The trustees who counted the treasure found in Baba’s chamber reportedly videographed huge heaps of cash, gold and diamonds that were stored in the room.
It is learnt that 15 students of the Satya Sai Educational Institute were appointed to count the valuables along with with bank personnel who came in with currency counting machines.
Trust member Mr Ratnakar said that details of the cash and ornaments would be disclosed to the public on Friday. The bank staff left in a hurry with the cash and valuables to deposit them in lockers.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Gandhi and Tagore are both external critiques of the west and internal critiques of the east

I am now in Bhubaneswar, the capital of Odisha - a very old civilisation. I am close to the Sun Temple of Konark and the beaches of Puri. But I don't see any tourists about. …
The scenery from the train window was wonderful throughout - starting with the splendour of the Western Ghats through the rocky landscape of the plateau right through to the quiet beauty of the Eastern Ghats. What a beautiful country we live in, I thought. And how much free space - abundant is the word to describe how much land we possess to live in. I saw so much unowned, uncultivated land - including all the mountains, each and every one. …
I noticed that all the cities and towns I passed through were uniformely ugly and overcrowded: Dharwar-Hubli, Bellary, and the coastal cities and towns in Andhra Pradesh and Odisha I passed through in the morning, like Vizianagaram.

The Dream of the 'Political': Marx meets Freud along the Sabarmatiby Anup Dhar Time: 3 pm Venue: Room 7, AUD Kashmere Gate Campus
This presentation is about the idea of the 'political'. It is about what happens to the idea of the political when one introduces in its given history non-western thinkers, with their own, at times, non-conventional ideas of the political. To make sense of ‘what happens,’ this presentation shall set up an imagined trialogue between three ‘thinkers of the political’, Marx, Gandhi and Tagore. It shall thus put to dialogue a western philosopher of the political or a philosopher of the western imagination of the political, Marx (who is also an internal critique of the west) and two non-western philosophers of the political (who could also be philosophers of the non-western imagination of the political), Gandhi and Tagore, who are both external critiques of the west and internal critiques of the east.
The Marxian element of the western political paradigm is thus in conversation with the Gandhian-Tagorite element of the non-western political paradigm. The writings of Marx, Gandhi and Tagore on ‘critiques of capital’, which bleed into critiques of western modernism, and ‘socialist reconstruction’, and which further bleed into reconstructions of the socialist self, shall be deployed to set up the exchange. The spectre of a thinker who purportedly had nothing to do with the political, Freud, but had lots to do with the 'non-coercive reorganization of desire', shall haunt this exchange. The exchange shall take place along the 'Sabarmati' that turned crimson in 1948 and dried up in 2002.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Bad devotees; good clients

Ramdev as the Bruce Lee of yoga Dipankar Gupta Mail Today: Jun 8, 2011
Hindus have problems gathering around a religious leader, as a religious leader. They quickly transform the person, saffron robes, notwithstanding, to a specialist healer, magician and personal good luck charm. Hindus, therefore, make bad devotees but good clients.
As tradition tells us, Hindus are not given to collective sentiments in their religious observances. The concept of a church or congregation is foreign to them. This is why one can be a pious Hindu yet never set foot in a temple. To be able to host an at-home with your own customised guru is the ultimate Hindu fantasy. This would not work for Muslims, Sikhs or Christians. The idea of a ‘communion’ is essential in these religions. Hence, when Hindus flock to a so-called sadhu it is not always on account of religion.
They are attracted to bearded individuals in saffron because of their supposed magical or physical powers. They are worried when such a person dies for they wonder who their next all-round talisman would be. Other religions do not think that way, primarily because the communion is so important for them. That also explains why no Christian priest, or Muslim maulvi or Sikh granthi would produce ashes, watches or sweets out of his sleeve, or hat, to win adherents.”

Monkeys, morals, mathematics Deccan Chronicle - Jayant V. Narlikar - Jun 8, 2011
Indeed, as one drives deeper into the garden of mathematics, one discovers that logical arguments take the front seat and number crunching takes the backseat. This may help understand why in the world of expert mathematicians, a person with the mental ability of performing quick additions, multiplications etc., is not considered a mathematician. For the same reason, the so-called vedic mathematics is not an example of higher mathematics.
I, therefore, suggest that once a week the maths teacher should devote an entire period playing games and solving puzzles that have a mathematical base. This way the pupils will learn to appreciate the subject for what it really is and will cease to be afraid of it. Such entertaining byways to various aspects of mathematics do exist and are waiting to be enjoyed.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Freedom was won and our nation built by towering spiritual leaders

Enter the Godmen Malavika Sangghvi, Business Standard - Mumbai June 04, 2011, 0:17 IST
Here’s a trick question, the answer to which lies at the end of this column. An Indian spiritual leader said the following words. Can you guess who?
“I say, of the Congress, then, this, — that its aims are mistaken, that the spirit in which it proceeds towards their accomplishment is not a spirit of sincerity and whole-heartedness, and that the methods it has chosen are not the right methods, and the leaders in whom it trusts, not the right sort of men to be leaders; — in brief, that we are at present the blind led, if not by the blind, at any rate by the one-eyed.”

Whereas a shallow look at the role men of the robe have played in Indian public life may indicate that they have by and large been concerned with inner growth and social empowerment, if we look beyond the last few decades we will see that our Freedom was won and our nation built by towering spiritual leaders.
Sri Aurobindo was a freedom fighter, a revolutionary and a political activist jailed for his political views even while he embarked on his great spiritual journey. Swami Vivekananda concerned himself with not only inner growth and personal evolution but influenced political thought. (Gandhi was known to say that his whole life was an effort to bring into actions the ideas of Vivekananda.)
Rabindranath Tagore was known as much for his spiritualism as his political views. And of course, the greatness of Gandhi lay in the fact that in him politics and spirituality were synthesised to such a great degree that where one began and the other ended was never clear.
In this context, what Baba Ramdev is attempting to do deserves serious examination. I hold no brief for Ramdev; his views on most subjects, especially homosexuality, militate severely against mine.
But this does not mean that I dismiss him or his role in the coming weeks. The Indian public has thronged to his side and the spin masters in the Congress have realised that the Indian public, unlike that of other nations, has a unique relationship and reverence for spiritual activists that’s built into its DNA.
That so far our Godmen have been busy achieving nirvana from the backseats of their Rolls-Royces or gathering international devotees through their ever-increasing bag of tricks has been fortunate for our politicians who’ve till now only had to contend with each other and the growing despair and disillusionment of their electorate.
Now with the political initiation of the maniacally-twitching Baba and the launch of his party, there’s a serious new challenge. No surprise then in its leaders’ dashes to airports and their softly-softly approach to the TV evangelist.
Men of the robe have played substantive roles in nation-building in the past and there’s no reason they can’t again. What’s more, the great elephant in the room, unspoken of in these hyper politically-correct times is the Hindu card.
Anna Hazare and his cohorts (even Swami Agnivesh) just didn’t represent the Hindu card the way Ramdev seems to do. And with a ruling party accused of practicing pseudo-secularism and appeasing its Muslim vote bank, along with the double jeopardy of its chairperson being a Roman Catholic by birth, is it any wonder that Hindu leaders like Ramdev are given the import they are?
And by the way, that critique of the Congress was by Sri Aurobindo. Malavika Sangghvi is a Mumbai-based writer