Monday, July 31, 2006

The consumption-driven model is also more people-friendly

The India Model Gurcharan Das From Foreign Affairs, July/August 2006
Although the world has just discovered it, India's economic success is far from new...The notable thing about India's rise is not that it is new, but that its path has been unique. Rather than adopting the classic Asian strategy -- exporting labor-intensive, low-priced manufactured goods to the West -- India has relied on its domestic market more than exports, consumption more than investment, services more than industry, and high-tech more than low-skilled manufacturing. This approach has meant that the Indian economy has been mostly insulated from global downturns, showing a degree of stability that is as impressive as the rate of its expansion. The consumption-driven model is also more people-friendly than other development strategies. As a result, inequality has increased much less in India than in other developing nations...
In the 1980s, the government's attitude toward the private sector began to change, thanks in part to the underappreciated efforts of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Modest liberal reforms -- especially lowering marginal tax rates and tariffs and giving some leeway to manufacturers -- spurred an increase in growth to 5.6 percent...
India's current government is led by a dream team of reformers -- most notably Prime Minister Singh, a chief architect of the liberalization of 1991. Singh's left-wing-associated National Congress Party was swept into power two years ago even though the incumbent BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) had presided over an era of unprecedented growth. The left boasted that the election was a revolt of the poor against the rich. In reality, however, it was an anti-incumbent backlash -- specifically, a vote against the previous government's poor record in providing basic services. What matters to the rickshaw driver is that the police officer does not extort a sixth of his daily earnings. The farmer wants a clear title to his land without having to bribe the village headman, and his wife wants the doctor to be there when she takes her sick child to the health center. These are the areas where government touches most people's lives, and the sobering lesson from India's 2004 elections is that high growth and smart macroeconomic reforms are not enough in a democracy.
Still, the left saw the Congress victory as an opportunity. Unfortunately, it stands rigidly against reform and for the status quo, supporting labor laws that benefit 10 percent of workers at the expense of the other 90 percent and endorsing the same protectionist policies that the extreme right also backs -- policies that harm consumers and favor producers. Thus, Singh and his reformist allies often seem to be sitting, frustrated, on the sidelines. For example, the new government has pushed through Parliament the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, which many fear will simply become the biggest "loot for work" program in India's history.
Although some of the original backers of the bill may have had good intentions, most legislators saw it as an opportunity for corruption. India's experience with job-creation schemes is that their benefits usually do not reach the poor; and they rarely create permanent assets even when they are supposed to: the shoddy new road inevitably gets washed away in the next monsoon. There is also the worry that the additional 1 percent of GDP borrowed from the banks to finance this program will crowd out private investment, push up interest rates, lower the economy's growth rate, and, saddest of all, actually reduce genuine employment.
Singh knows that India's economic success has not been equally shared. Cities have done better than villages. Some states have done better than others. The economy has not created jobs commensurate with its rate of growth. Only a small fraction of Indians are employed in the modern, unionized sector. Thirty-six million are reportedly unemployed. But Singh also knows that one of the primary reasons for these failures is rigid labor laws -- which he wants to reform, if only the left would let him...
India's greatness lies in its self-reliant and resilient people. They are able to pull themselves up and survive, even flourish, when the state fails to deliver. When teachers and doctors do not show up at government primary schools and health centers, Indians just open up cheap private schools and clinics in the slums and get on with it. Indian entrepreneurs claim that they are hardier because they have had to fight not only their competitors but also state inspectors. In short, India's society has triumphed over the state.
But in the long run, the state cannot merely withdraw. Markets do not work in a vacuum. They need a network of regulations and institutions; they need umpires to settle disputes. These institutions do not just spring up; they take time to develop. The Indian state's greatest achievements lie in the noneconomic sphere...The stubborn persistence of democracy is itself one of the Indian state's proudest achievements...To be sure, it is an infuriating democracy, plagued by poor governance and fragile institutions that have failed to deliver basic public goods. But India's economic success has been all the more remarkable for its issuing from such a democracy.

To conserve the revolutionary spirit of our liberal founders

Because the leftist collapses the hierarchy of heaven and earth, he embarks on the urgent project of enforcing his morals by any means necessary, even if the means are grossly immoral, as history demonstrates ad nauseam with any leftist regime. The further left, the more immoral the government, all in the name of superior morality. To point out a banality that may be news to some, both nazis and communists are left wing, in that they are both polar opposites of the classical liberalism of the American founders.
What we call the modern conservative intellectual movement is specifically attempting to conserve the revolutionary spirit of our liberal founders, whereas what we call contemporary liberalism has an entirely different intellectual genealogy, in that it is always traceable to some form or aspect of Marxism. And as I have had occasion to mention many times, please do not equate the conservative movement with “Republicanism,” as (tragically) there are very few philosophical conservatives among our elected representatives.
So the question is, who moves? Humans, or their moral targets? In the West, our primordial moral target is known as the Ten Commandments, which were appropriately engraved in stone by God. Nowadays, many secularized folks obviously have difficulty accepting these commandments as anything other than a quaint, antiquated, and somewhat arbitrary list of do’s and don’ts. But in my book, I have a section in which I attempt to demonstrate their vital contemporary relevance, not just in their exterior aspect, but in their inner significance. For not only are the Commandments horizontal rules for governing man-to-man relations. But it so happens that they also have an interior dimension that communicates timeless, state-of-the-art advice on how to achieve spiritual fulfillment...
This all reminds me of when I was frantically trying to finish my book, just over two years ago. The deadline was approaching, and at the last minute I had disassembled the entire last chapter and was in the process of trying to put it back together again. I was trying to come up with a suitable bang-up ending, and I thought to myself, “why not show how the Ten Commandments and the Upanishads, understood esoterically, convey the identical perennial psycho spiritual know-how and be-who to serious seekers--that they represent two independent views of the same transcendent reality? Call them the ten ‘Commanishads’ or ‘Upanishalts.’" posted by Gagdad Bob at 8:21 AM 13 comments

Left-out Late-in-America

What’s Left of the Latin Left Homepage: July 31, 2006 Editorial
Ever since Hugo Chávez won Venezuela’s presidency and began presenting himself as a regional leader, the Bush administration has been proclaiming that he would push Latin America back to the left. But the left has been losing ground in recent elections, and there are signs that just being associated in voters’ minds with Mr. Chávez is a liability. For a time, Mr. Chávez’s influence seemed powerful. In 2002, Ecuador elected Lucio Gutiérrez, another military populist, but later deposed him over an unconstitutional power grab. President Evo Morales of Bolivia is a radical populist who leans heavily on Mr. Chávez for advice, oil and money.
But in Peru, Alan García defeated Ollanta Humala, a self-proclaimed Chávez acolyte and particularly frightening demagogue, after framing the choice as “Chávez or Peru.” The Mexican election is still being contested, but there is little doubt it got so close after Felipe Calderón unfairly accused his opponent Andrés Manuel López Obrador of being an aspiring Chávez. In Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Costa Rica and other countries where the presidents are moderate social democrats, they have more in common with their center-right than with Mr. Chávez. This is hardly what the left used to be in Latin America. In fact, Latin America has never been more centrist and pragmatic. The only voters who have chosen radicals live in perpetually ill-governed nations where the mainstream has failed them.
The Bush administration, whose clumsy opposition to Mr. Chávez played into his hands, has learned from its mistakes. It has handled Bolivia carefully and enjoys good relations with most of the moderate leaders. One reason for Mr. Chávez’s failure to ignite a leftist revolution may be that his prominence has little to do with his policies. The high price of oil allows him to spend freely at home and to buy gratitude abroad by selling oil cheaply and on credit. His very personal defiance of President Bush is his other attraction. That draws a stream of ideological tourists to Caracas. But as Jorge Castañeda, Mexico’s former foreign minister, points out, if they really wanted to support someone helping the poor, they would go to Chile.

We are living in a superficial, fearful society

Alan Kazlev, responds to our earlier entry, The Great Cosmic Mash-Up 1st March 2006
As i see it, what is happening in the world today is that on the one hand there is an emphasis on superficiality, youth culture (the MTV generation) hedonism and consumerism etc, along with a return to traditional/conservative values (Feminism no longer appeals to young women), and also - perhaps as a reaction against a sense of insecurity) - the rise of neoconservativism in the west. Neoconservatism is also tied in with religious fundamentalism (all these things go together). And the current meme of a “clash of civilizations” (west vs islamic world) is actually a misconception; it is actually extremism/conservatism verses progressives in both the west and the moslem world (in this context, Wilber and Beck’s take on spiral dynamics seems to contain insights of value).
So we are living in a superficial, fearful society in which - at least in both America and here in Australia (where conservative political parties and agendas have likewise been very successful; maybe this will change in the future…) in the West, religion and traditional values are becoming increasingly prominent. The same is also happening in the Islamic World in the Middle East and 3rd World but much more so, with Islamic extremism (which oppresses progressive moslems - see the excellent Ray Harris essay on the Integral World website) and attacks on the west (as a result of clumsy neocon policies against them) fueling paranoia and xenophobia in the west Jung said somewhere that the division in the human psyche resulted in the Cold War as an external manifestation of that. In years past I used to wonder what would happen after the Soviet Block fell, if man’s psyche is still divided. Well, here’s the answer. It’s world affairs, but its synchronicity too.
I’ve rambled on a bit here, and drifted from the topic at hand, but my essential point is that talk of postmodernity and so on is pretty irrelevant, because this particular movement in philosophy, literature and art is not one of the driving forces in the world today. So what we have the divided psyche (shadow and ego) and (once again!) a divided world Add to all this the information age (which has also made possible the P2P revolution; indeed given human informational interconnectivity, P2P is inevitable!), more on which in a moment, and the increasing environmental breakdown - with growth of environmental awareness, but probably still much too slow - and you have the state of the world today. Alan Kazlev responds to the great Cosmic Mash-Up P2P Foundation

Courage, justice, temperance and prudence

In a riff on capitalism and morals, the maverick economist makes the case for the bourgeois life. Bobos in Paradise The New York Times: July 30, 2006
And what are these “bourgeois virtues”? Thrift? Punctuality? Respectability? Cleanliness? McCloskey has nothing so dismal in mind. Rather, she is talking about the four classical pagan virtues — courage, justice, temperance and prudence — plus the three Christian virtues of faith, hope and love. Especially love. Here is something her fellow economists are incapable of capturing in their arid quotations. “Modern capitalist life is love-saturated,” she declares, as “markets and even the much maligned corporations encourage friendships wider and deeper than the atomism of a full-blown socialist regime or the claustrophobic, murderous atmosphere of a ‘traditional’ village.” We already knew that markets make us rich. But McCloskey wants to convince us that markets are also good for the soul.
Here is where things ought to get interesting. Even fans of capitalism concede that it can have a corrosive effect on morals and community ties. Critics have argued that it fosters consumerism, greed, narcissism, Gesellschaft over Gemeinschaft, anomie, Enron. . . . The bourgeois is a beastly little creature — so say the German Romantics, D. H. Lawrence and, in a rather drier way, Francis Fukuyama. How might these people be proved wrong? The pro-bourgeois case would start with the historical observation that liberal values like tolerance and freedom have been a product of commercial life. It would proceed with the careful marshaling of evidence that capitalism can be ethically beneficient — that, for example, markets generate trust. And who better to construct such a case than a polymath econometric virtuosa like McCloskey?
But instead we get rhetoric. There is polemical hand-waving (“Who says?”; “I think not”; and, most logically decisive, “Point, schmoit”). There is sophomoric sarcasm: Stephen Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in physics, is mocked for his reasoned stand against religion, and the French philosopher André Comte-Sponville is dismissed with stale jokes about Gauloises and Jerry Lewis. Anecdotes masquerade as data: the evidence against the Marxist thesis that work is alienating under capitalism is the author’s perception that Chicago garbagemen seem to enjoy emptying trash bins. McCloskey is contemptuous of scientists like Steven Pinker for trying to explain the origins of virtue along Darwinian lines; yet her dogmatic counterclaim — “Every human is born in sin, and must seek redemption” — doesn’t greatly advance the argument.
And how strong, really, is the correlation between bourgeois virtue and laissez-faire capitalism? Like her friend Milton Friedman, McCloskey would like to see the role of the state much reduced. She says she dreams of “literally one-third to one-fifth of the government we now have.” Yet a social democracy like Sweden, where the state plays a far greater role in society, would seem to be the very soul of bourgeois virtue by many objective standards, with less violence and more solidarity and trust than the United States.
McCloskey probably won’t sway many readers who do not already share her convictions, but for all the book’s flaws one can’t help being impressed by her verve, erudition and fitful brilliance. When she argues that Vincent van Gogh was actually a good bourgeois, or that Jesus, notwithstanding the Sermon on the Mount, was pro-commerce, the rhetorical moves are as deft as the claims are surprising. And who would have imagined that the film “Groundhog Day,” in which the annoyingly smug Bill Murray character comes to see the point of humility and love, epitomizes the process by which virtue is inculcated? But it is a little dispiriting to hear McCloskey announce that this book is merely the first of four (!) projected volumes by her on the subject of virtue and capitalism. Somewhere within this loose, baggy monster there has to be a slim, cogently argued treatise struggling to get out. Jim Holt, a regular contributor to The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine, is working on a book about the puzzle of existence.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Room for the Vedas

Bhagavad geeta questioned as testament of truth in courts P T I Varanasi, July 29, 2006
A sessions court in Varanasi will on Monday hear a petition questioning the logic of using the Bhagavad gita only as a testament of truth in courts. The application filed in the District and Sessions court by a lawyer questioned the choice of the Bhagavad geeta for Hindu litigants and witnesses to take oath in courts and not other scriptures like the four Vedas and the Ramayana. It was filed under Section 5 of the Civil Procedure Code and the lawyer RK Verma said the Constitution also questioned the sanctity of the Bhagavad geeta as a holy book on the ground that it was a collection of discussions between Lord Krishna and the warrior Arjuna before the start of the Mahabharata.
He asked the court to make a provision for religious books like the Vedas and Ramayanas for Hindu litigants for giving testimony during court proceedings on the ground that these epics were "repositories of truth". The matter has been transferred for hearing in the court of Additional Sessions Judge NS Rawal for July 31.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Interculturality is not a convenient opportunistic device – it is creative, dynamic, elusive and is deeply symbolic of a new way of re-imagining

The Middle Way: On being an Indian in Britian today Ranjit Sondhi CBE Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies Dinner, Leicester Stage Hotel, 18 November 2005
In his book entitled Being Indian, the much acclaimed Indian writer, foreign diplomat and social critic, Pavan Verma, gives a penetrating, at time unrelenting, but very entertaining analysis of why he thinks Indians have a unique ability to absorb, and be absorbed into, different cultures resulting in a whole range of synthetic cultures and in-between identities. Verma’s book is copiously illustrated with examples of how Indians have synthesised different ways of life.
I shall give you some: Raja Rammohan Roy, one of the founding fathers of modern India maintained two houses, ‘one in which everything was Western except Roy, and another in which everything was Indian except Roy; talented Bollywood producers are very adept at copying Hollywood originals, and composers routinely copy popular Western melodies; in architecture, the mixing of styles, Verma observes, results in somewhat bizarre constructions like Panjabi Baroque, Chandni Chowk Chippendale, Bania Gothic, Tamil Tiffany. More seriously though, Pavan Verma draws upon sources as diverse as ancient Sanskrit treatises and Bollywood lyrics to create a vivid and compelling portrait of the Indian psyche and a fascinating insight into the Indian ability to reconcile apparently profoundly contradictory life styles and behaviour.
For example he talks about how Indians have during the course of history maintained a reputation for non-violence even at a time of escalating violence, how they have preserved a sense of ‘other-wordliness’ while single-mindedly pursuing material wealth, how they still have a reputation for being saturated with tradition while becoming extremely adept at aping the West. Varma observes amusingly that in the land that gave the world the Kama Sutra, kissing is still forbidden in Indian films. So how can so many contrasting social, cultural, religious trends co-exist? Anyone interested in looking at the future of multi-cultural societies must surely benefit from studying how Indian society has evolved over several thousand years and how Indians have dealt with contradictions. Once we get away from the many misconceptions and myths projected about Indians by foreigners and by Indians themselves we might have much to learn from the richness, complexity and multi-stranded nature of Indian civilisation as it has evolved over several thousand years...
I would like first to trace what has happened to Western identities particularly since the post-War period. It is now universally accepted that the modern age has given rise to a decisive form of individualism. The individual has been torn free from his/her stable moorings in traditions and structures. Those who hold that modern identities have been let loose argue that we are not simply estranged from others but also dislocated in themselves. The social scientist, Stuart Hall argues that this dislocation has resulted from five great influences in social thinking during the second half of the twentieth century.
The first of these was the way in which Marxist thought
was first rediscovered and reworked in the sixties in the light of the argument that individuals could not be in any sense the agents of history. There was no universal essence of man, no free will, and that he was entirely determined, not by cultural tradition or by divine grace, but by social and economic relations. His identity was not internally generated but externally imposed. His destiny was determined not by himself but by larger processes over which he had no control.
The second of the great dislocation was Freud’s discovery
of the unconscious. Our identities, our sexuality, and the structure of our desires, are formed by the psychic processes of the unconscious, not by reason. Now, like Marxist thought, Freudian thought also plays havoc with the notion of man as an all-knowing rational subject in complete control of himself. Freud says that we learn about ourselves gradually, and the feelings that our ‘self’ is divided, or is somehow incomplete, remain with us for life. Thus identity is something that is formed through unconscious processes over time, rather than being innate in consciousness at birth, and that the process is never finished. So identity arises not so much from the fullness of an identity which is already inside us, but from a lack of wholeness which is filled from outside us by the ways we imagine ourselves to be seen by others.
The third great dislocation arises from the work of the linguist Saussure.
He argued that we are not in any absolute sense the authors of the statements we make. We can only use the rules and meanings of a language constructed by others. Language was there before us. It is a social, not an individual system. To speak a language is not so much to express our own innermost thoughts but also to activate the vast range of meanings already embedded in our language and our cultural system. Our identity is structured like language which in turn is fixed by our cultural system. And like language, identity is not entirely in our control. No matter how much we try to fix our identity, it is constantly sliding away from us, just as we cannot close down the meaning of what we say.
The fourth major dislocation of identity is to do with the work of the philosopher Focault.
He tried to show how our lives are controlled by what he calls disciplinary power. This power arises out of the regulation and government of whole populations and of individuals. The control centres of this power are the workshops, the schools, the hospitals, the prisons, the barracks. The aim is to bring the individuals’ physical health, sexual practices, family and work life under stricter discipline and control, to turn the human being into a docile body. The interesting and paradoxical aspect of such control is that collective institutions bear down upon people to further individualise and isolate them.
The fifth great dislocation occurs through the impact of identity politics like feminism
which appealed to the specific social identity of its followers. Such movements questioned opened up whole new areas of debate around the family, housework, domestic division of labour, and child-rearing, and the individuals place in relation to these issues.
The result of all these developments has been to transform the idea of fixed and stable identities of the past into open, contradictory, unfinished, fragmented identities of the present. Now what is happening to the rest of this society is also, up to a point, also happening to its constituent parts. On the one hand, new generations of British Indians will be subject to all the pressures and processes that they will experience by virtue of being Indian, but they will also be subject to the great dislocating forces of post-modern Britain on the other. It is almost as if they experience the demands of pre-modern and post-modern cultural and social systems simultaneously.
I would like to believe that, by and large, they manage these conflicting pressures with skill and agility. Their in-between lives, their hyphenated identities, their positioning between tradition and modernity, presents them with a unique challenge to reconcile tensions, and they by and large rise to the challenge with ingenuity and imagination, as they lay claim to their own unique place in the vast cultural spectrum of present day Britain.
Let me offer you my possible solution for our emerging multi-cultural citizens. What I want to propose is a significant departure from going on thinking and doing things in the way in which we have always done. I want to talk about why and how an intercultural society should be conceived and constructed. In the past, out of a perfectly understandable and well intentioned but somewhat misguided liberalism we have tinkered with the idea of multiculturalism as a composite, a simple arithmetic sum, of self-contained cultures existing side by side in parallel worlds. But the whole point about parallel lines is that they never meet.
I am now convinced that the future must lie in creative connections and crossovers. However, before this debate about both defining and breaching cultural boundaries can take place, there has to be a much greater understanding of the richness and complexity of cultural traditions that pre-date the West. In general, the public, White or Asian, remains deeply uninformed about the long, highly complex and refined traditions of South Asian music and dance, the key texts, poets and novelists, of great civilisations, and the extraordinarily varied cultural history of the Indian sub-continent. This knowledge remains beyond the reach of even the well-educated.
The next challenge is to conceive of our identities in a radically different way. Our cultural identity is neither fixed and unalterable, nor is it wholly fluid and subjected to unlimited reconstruction. Those of us who are brought up in non-Western cultures marked by dualism should not find it too difficult to live with contradiction, to reconcile the ha and tha, the ying and yang of life. So our task as cultural actors is to both preserve our own cultural identity and develop our national identity. This means finding novel ways of balancing the demands for unity in our public life and diversity in our private life...
We need to construct an intercultural space - mental and physical - where inter and intra group tensions are constantly being played out between black and white communities, between South Asian and Caribbean groups, between Gujerati, Panjabi, Kashmiri and Bengali traditions, between bourgeois and proletarian cultures, between folk and classical traditions, and between tradition and modernity.
Interculturality is not a convenient opportunistic device – it is creative, dynamic, elusive and defies a precise definition. Yet it is deeply symbolic of a new way of re-imagining contemporary Leicester and rethinking a plural Britain. It is emotionally demanding, intellectually challenging, and deeply satisfying. But that, after all, is what a good life is all about.

15 monsoons ago

PM: In 15 years, you’ll again prove prophets of (economic) doom wrong
Indian Express: Saturday, July 29, 2006
NEW DELHI, JULY 28: In a message aimed as much to the Left as the carping critics within his own UPA coalition and Congress, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today gave a ringing defence of economic reforms initiated ‘‘15 monsoons ago’’ and predicted that the ‘‘Prophets of Doom’’ would once again be proved wrong another 15 years from now.
The NDTV Profit Business Leadership Awards
function provided the perfect occasion for the Prime Minister to talk of the ‘‘fruits’’ of ‘‘the most far-reaching reform of our economy’’ that began in 1991. Singh underlined the fact that most of the nominees for the award were not even in business 15 years ago. And that a majority of them were first or, at most second, generation businessmen — proof enough that they were ‘‘the children of a new India’’, a testimony to the ‘‘competitive abilities of Indian enterprise’’, a reaffirmation of the ‘‘innate creativity and enterprise’’ of the Indian people.
‘‘Those who worried in the early 1990s that Indian business would not be in a position to take on the challenge of globalisation have been decisively proved wrong by each one of you,’’ the PM told the awardees. And then, tacitly acknowledging that the naysayers were still very much around, added: ‘‘I am confident that 15 years from now you, and many more like you, will once again prove the ‘Prophets of Doom’ wrong.’’
Without directly alluding to the problems he was facing from within over pursuing second-generation reforms, the Prime Minister made it clear that there was no going back to old certainties. ‘‘The challenge before each one of us is to manage change. To get a grip on the processes of change. Help people adapt to change. This is the biggest challenge facing the political leadership of our country,’’ he said.
He once again highlighted that the world wants India to do well, that there were no external hurdles to India’s development. ‘‘If there are any hurdles, they are internal,’’ he insisted. While the government would remove the ‘‘hurdles’’ on the ground, it was for ‘‘each one of us’’ to erase the ‘‘the hurdles in our mind.’’ The media, civil society and business leaders all had a role to play, he added, but carefully avoided any mention of the political class.

In Turkey, ‘born-again’ Muslims take pride in wearing the headscarf

Atta Turk? No Rakshanda Jalil HindustanTimes July 28, 2006
Turkey is constitutionally a secular republic. Any display of religion in public is banned since the Constitution was adopted in 1924. In a country with a 98 per cent Muslim population, this sounds improbable yet that is precisely what successive governments have tried to implement with varying degrees of success.
In the early years, under Mustafa Kamal Ataturk, this was enforced with a near-missionary zeal. Islamic-style courts and seminaries were shut down, Sufi brotherhoods (tarikat) and dervish lodges (tekke) disbanded, the wearing of fez caps, veils and Eastern-style clothing banned and a Constitution modeled on western lines introduced, giving women equal rights. By 1928, Islam was no longer the state religion, polygamy was abolished, civil rather than religious marriages became the norm, Turkish was written in Roman instead of the Persian alphabet, children were given non-Arabic names and religious education was restricted, for a time even prohibited.
A slew of wide-ranging social, political and religious reforms were initiated — all geared towards pulling Turkey away from not just Ottoman decadence but also from its Islamic past and put on the fast track to westernisation. Every time the government showed signs of slackening, the military stepped in as a secularising force — implementing the Republican agenda of transforming Turkey into a homogenous, modern, secular country.
However, the Islamic juggernaut that swept across much of Central Asia, transforming small countries hidden behind the iron curtain into power-rich proudly Islamic countries rising from the ashes of the erstwhile Soviet Union, could not leave Turkey untouched either. It left in its wake a generation of modern, educated young men and women. These ‘born-again’ Muslims take pride in wearing the headscarf, in defiance of the ban, participate in demonstrations and protests and refuse to see why religion ought to be confined to the domestic or the private. They believe that the Turks are culturally and historically Muslim. Why, then, must they disown their legacy for the sake of westernisation that has caused so much damage in the West?
These young people are largely self-taught about religious practices since they and their parents grew up under the worst excesses of enforced Kemalism, many have learnt to offer the namaz from how-to booklets, others are learning the Arabic script in order to read the Holy Quran in the original instead of accessing through translations...
Interestingly, the Islam you see being practised in cities like Istanbul, is not the Wahhabi Saudi-inspired version of Islam but a far more workaday practical Islam where the daily rhythms of life are perfectly in tune with the demands of religion. Our host, a smartly-dressed young professional in his 30s, would excuse himself at the appointed hour, offer namaz at any one of the many mosques that are found in such abundance throughout Istanbul, and return to our side in a matter of minutes.
While the veneration of saints is still ‘discouraged’, there is an increasing interest in ‘folk Islam’. Some of it is to do with a new-found pride in the country’s centuries-old Islamic past and the many historic mosques and shrines as also its great Sufi legacy best personified by Mevlana Rumi who lies buried at Konya. In Istanbul, the exquisite blue-tiled tomb of Abu Ayoub al-Ansari, standard-bearer to the Prophet, has crowds of visitors. Called Eyup, it is Turkey’s holiest site. Boys dressed as pashas in fake fur trimmed robes wearing a crown and holding a scepter are brought here after their sunnet (circumcision) to offer prayers.

Faith-based teaching and secular society

School of thought Indian Express : Saturday, July 29, 2006
Faith-based teaching and secular society aren’t necessarily compatible, in the West or in India
A debate has been joined by Amartya Sen in Tony Blair’s Britain, and it carries useful resonance for plural societies like ours. In a variety of fora, including the ICCR’s Nehru Centre in London and a newspaper interview to that city’s Daily Telegraph, the Nobel laureate has been expressing concern over the British government’s move to give parity with Christian institutions to schools specific to Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus. As he put it succinctly in that interview, the trend leaves him “appalled”. He draws a distinction with Christian schools, emphasising the great contribution made by Jesuit institutions in countries like India, because these evolved a specific pedagogic character over a long period of time. Newly established faith schools in England, he fears, would simply confine a young student to his or her religious identity and hamper participation in a larger secular space.
In recent years, especially after 9/11, societies in the West have struggled to draw various cultural and religious strands into an expanding middle ground. France, for instance, took a rather different view, by banning overt symbols of religious allegiance from public spaces like government schools and offices. The fact that one solution seldom fits all came through by the discomfort faced by Sikhs in that country, with turbans coming under the ban. Britain’s alternative has been to allow different religious communities greater space to run their own institutions. It carries, as Sen points out, the danger that different groups will mingle ever more with only their own, drawing them ever more apart.
India is far better placed in the context of religion and education. It has a long tradition of its different communities running educational institutions catering to the mainstream. But there is one reform that needs to be urgently implemented. For long, governments have had hesitation in making mandatory the introduction of a modernised curriculum in faith schools. The majority of faith schools run on modern curricula. But the fringe, no matter what their religious affiliation, cannot be left to their own devices. It is, most of all, not conducive to the very progressive aspirations of their students.

With knowledge comes the responsibility to ensure its proper application

Who Speaks for Hinduism A talk given by Dr Ravi Gupta at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies Board of Governors Dinner, June 2006
Ladies and gentlemen, good evening! It is a great pleasure to be present in such a distinguished gathering of individuals. This is a homecoming of sorts for me-I studied at Oxford for six years and then went off into the real world, as they say. Now, after a year of full time teaching at the University of Florida, it is great to be back with friends at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies.
My first year teaching in the United States brought many surprises, but one of the most interesting was the experience of teaching young Hindus about Hinduism. When I walked into class on the first day, I was surprised to find that nearly one third of my class were second generation Hindus-children of Indian immigrants who have lived their lives so far in the United States. Now they were sitting in class at the University of Florida hoping to learn more about a religious heritage which they claim as their own but perhaps are not entirely comfortable with.
This makes for an interesting dynamic in class: for these students, the classroom is much more than a place to gain information about foreign religions and distant lands. It is a part of their search for identity, a study of something that is close to home and yet far away at the same time. Their presence is of course very enriching for the rest of the class, for it helps the American students to understand that Hinduism is not simply an exotic, mystical religion of snake charmers and naked yogis but a tradition that is lived and practiced by normal people with day-to-day concerns much like their own. When the American students hear one of their classmates say, "Yes, my mother fasts on Mondays and my father eats only once on Tuesdays . . ." that does more to bring Hinduism home than any amount of lecturing can do. It adds experience to the textbook.
The Hindu students, on the other hand, have firsthand experience of the subject matter, but they need a way to make sense of that experience. They sometimes come to me after class and say, "I thought what we did at home was it-that was Hinduism. But now I see that there is a whole world of philosophy and ritual out there." In the classroom, these students find themselves in a challenging and sometimes awkward position-they are seen by their classmates as representatives of a tradition that they know very little about.
The situation becomes even more interesting by the fact that their professor is also a second generation Hindu born and bred in the United States. This means that my role is much more than that of an academic instructor. Of course, everyone expects academic integrity and objectivity. But besides conveying information about Hinduism, the students also hope I will interpret the tradition for them-"Can you tell me what it means to be a Hindu in the West?" "Am I a good Hindu, even though I don't want an arranged marriage?" "Can you explain the caste system to my friends?" They hope I will stand up for our religion, defend it, and make it look reasonable in front of their classmates.
This classroom dynamic is played out repeatedly in universities across the United States and Britain. Usually, the professor is not Hindu himself, complicating the situation even further-Hindu students seeking knowledge and guidance from teachers who are not Hindus themselves, but clearly know far more about the tradition than they do. All this raises a pressing question: who speaks for Hinduism? Who represents Hinduism? Is it those who come from Hindu backgrounds, even if they know little of the history and diversity of their tradition? Or is it scholars of Hinduism, who may not practice the tradition but have spent their lives studying it? Throughout the western world, both scholars and practitioners are asking themselves this question-who speaks for Hinduism?
The question was not always this complicated. There was a time when Hindus kept to themselves, happy to stay in India and do what Hindus do. Outsiders were "unclean" foreigners, who clearly had little understanding of the beauty and sophistication of their traditions. Similarly, western scholars also kept to themselves, happy to theorize about the origin and development of Hinduism from an outsider's perspective. Max Muller, the Oxford scholar helped found Indian studies in the West, never saw the need to visit India. More recently, a well-known European scholar studied Sanskrit his entire life before finally deciding to go to India. It is said that he was disappointed and disillusioned, for India on the ground did not live up to the India of literature.
But those days are now gone. An American or British Ph.D. student of Hinduism can hardly expect to get his or her degree without traveling to India at least once. Scholars spend extended periods of time living on the subcontinent and becoming fluent in local languages. Similarly, Hindus now find themselves living in every part of the world, mixing with the people and cultures of those regions. This has led to cultural adaptations and compromises that might have surprised or even shocked earlier generations but are commonplace today. With many Westerners becoming Hindus, and Hindus becoming more Western, the question "who speaks for Hinduism," becomes more difficult and more urgent than ever before.
An American professor once described how he is sometimes approached by his Indian students after class, "Do you think we are good Hindus? What do we have to believe in to be Hindus? What is the essence of Hinduism?" His reaction is initially one of panic. Help! This is not part of my job description! It is not my job to evaluate my students' faith! But job descriptions mean little in today's globalized world. Any professor, Indian or Western, possesses knowledge, and with knowledge comes the responsibility to ensure its proper application.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Mauritian model of peaceful coexistence could be copied by the peoples

I have always been convinced that this unique Mauritian model of peaceful coexistence could be copied by the peoples and powers that have for longer than necessary been locked in wars of or for civilization(s). What is needed beyond calculated diplomatic efforts – whose prescriptions have only lasted so long as we can all see – is a new understanding of ourselves: that we are not body-mind-senses entities driven like animals only for survival but that, instead, we are human beings endowed with the unique capacity of making rational choices and being able to select the ones that will allow us to live side by side in harmony instead of face to face in perpetual confrontation. And the further acknowledgement that “the earth has enough resources for all our needs but not for our greed.”
In fact, as Arthur Koestler pointed out many years ago, the discoveries of science and the inventions of technology have made available to us means to use our resources to meet the requirements of all of mankind. It is only man-made artifices – attitudes, barriers – that are preventing us from extending the benefits to everyone indiscriminately. Hence, for example, the collapse of the WTO talks, once more, in Geneva.
Many wise men have seen this coming, long ago. And gave guidance about how to direct or lives. But we forget to learn these vital lessons, and hence sink deeper into quagmires of our own making. It has become urgent to listen to what sages had to say. One such was Sri Aurobindo, and below are some extracts that are germane to our present predicament:
* …the individual life is best secured and made efficient by association with others and subjection to a law of communal self-development rather than by aggressive self-affirmation.
* The first danger is a resurgence of the old vital and material primitive barbarian in civilized form… if there is no moral ideal controlling the vital and physical man in us and no spiritual ideal liberating him from himself into his inner being.
* Man has created a system of civilization which has become too big for his limited mental capacity and understanding, and his still more limited spiritual and moral capacity to utilize and manage, a too dangerous servant of his blundering ego and his appetites.
* … a hustling medley of slogans and panaceas for which men are ready to oppress and be oppressed, to kill and be killed, to impose…
* … a humanity mentally and morally unready for the handling of powers so great and perilous.
* … repetition in old or new forms of a past mistake… revival of blind fanatical obscurantist sectarian religionism.
Indeed, egos and appetites, obscurantisms of misguided men with guided missiles…RN Gopee Mauritius Times

Williams never fully abandoned the Enlightenment

Tragedy and Justice Bernard Williams remembered Martha C. Nussbaum
In 1985, Williams published Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy, which had occupied him for years. In this major book Williams assails all systematic theorizing in ethics, defining an ethical theory as “a theoretical account of what ethical thought and practice are, which account either implies a general test for the correctness of basic ethical beliefs and principles or else implies that there cannot be such a test.”1 Focusing on the aspirations of Kantianism and utilitarianism, he argues that the project of providing rational and systematic foundations for the ethical life is not only doomed to failure but also damaging, conducing to a narrow and simplistic understanding of the ethical life. Williams suggests that the whole enterprise of systematic theorizing in ethics is an attempt to deny the complexity of human life and the irrational aspects of human nature—including the fact that people find value, as he said in Morality, “in such things as submission, trust, uncertainty, risk, even despair and suffering.”
He urged philosophers to return to the Greeks’ inclusive and general starting point, the question “How should one live?”, which invites consideration of all the salient aspects of human life. Instead of constructing systematic moral theories, ethical philosophers should be confronting life’s tough questions, presumably in a piecemeal way, with close attention to literature and to psychology. Williams believed that the central questions in ethics are practical—“What am I to do?”—not theoretical, and that success would require engagement with hard practical questions.
Some people who have attacked ethical theory have done so out of a confidence in conventional morality and people’s daily intuitions, but Williams later said that he had no such confidence; he was always dismissive of what he saw as a complacent moral conventionalism. In a reply to critics of the book he speaks of the “emptiness and cruel superficiality of everyday thought” and denounces as “wonderfully perverse” a “certain vulgar Wittgensteinianism” that seeks to return us to those everyday intuitions.2 But then it remains unclear why a theory like Kant’s, which seeks to remind us of what is least corrupt in our daily understandings, would be bound to be so damaging, except in the sense that Williams plainly disagrees with some specific parts of its content. Nor was it clear where Williams’s critique left a theory such as Aristotle’s, with whose content he could be presumed to be more in agreement.3
Another puzzling question concerns the relationship between the ethical and the political. Williams later maintained that his attack on ethical theorizing left intact the aspiration to construct political theories, which might be valuable guides. But where does this leave those among the great Western political theorists such as Aristotle, Cicero, Rousseau, Kant, and John Rawls, who put a moral theory at the core of their political theories? Williams singles out Rawls as an example of the criticized class of moral theories; and yet his later statement suggests that after all he might admit the usefulness of Rawls’s theory, given its political nature. In any case the source of the distinction between an acceptable aspiration to a theory of political justice and an unacceptable aspiration to a theory of individual morality is left obscure. Williams’s general failure to engage systematically with Rawls’s ideas about social and political justice leaves such important issues unresolved.
More generally Williams seems to alternate between an extreme contemptuousness toward most everyone—neither the theorists nor everyday intuitions offer good guidance; both are superficial and distorting—and an extreme confidence. Somehow, without theories to guide us, we will manage to confront the complexities of life. But the great theorists in ethics, Aristotle and Kant among them, typically begin from an assessment of human beings that is, I think, both more generous and more realistic. Most people have an ethical understanding that is in many respects sound, but they are also hasty, self-serving, prone to self-deceptive rationalization. An ethical theory, then, might help to fix in a clear way the best deliverances of reflective self-examination, so that in times of haste or temptation we might have a paradigm to consider, which would, if the theory was a good one, represent the best part of ourselves. Kant’s idea that we must always treat humanity as an end and never as a mere means might in this way help us criticize many inclinations we have, in both personal and political life.
On this view ethical theory would not be an evasion of life—a device for “switching off the monitors to earth,” as Williams once described Robert Nozick’s ethical theorizing—but a considered response to its complexities and to our own weaknesses. To my mind Williams never adequately confronted this plausible account of the good in ethical theory.4 Perhaps this silence is to be explained by the very great importance he attached to each person’s grappling directly with the problems of life rather than taking off-the-shelf guidance. It may be that no corporate account of our good could satisfy because only a deeply personal search could count for much. This element of Existentialism in Williams’s thought explains, I believe, his equal hostility to theory and to convention. As a historian of philosophy I believe we should resist this stark contrast between the personal and the theoretical: sometimes, I believe, we get the best and most personal understanding of our lives by grappling with the great theories of the past.
Despite this major assault on Enlightenment rationalism, Williams never fully abandoned the Enlightenment. The rationalism evident in his early first-rate book on Descartes never fully left him, and it resurfaced dramatically in his last book, Truth and Truthfulness, in which he brilliantly defended the values of truth and objectivity against postmodernist and Foucauldian critique, arguing that any viable human society needs to make these notions central, to rely on them, and to honor the related virtues of accuracy and sincerity. In this book he also offers a general account of how to criticize corrupt social systems, in this way responding to some of the critics of his antitheoretical stance.

Contact, competition, then accommodate, else assimilate

Robert Ezra Park (February 14, 1864February 7, 1944) was an American urban sociologist, one of the main founders of the original Chicago School of sociology...Park was influential in developing the theory of assimilation as it pertained to immigrants in the United States. He argued that there were four steps to the Race Relations Cycle in the story of the immigrant. The first step was contact then followed by competition. In the third step each group would accommodate each other. Finally, when this failed, the immigrant group would learn to assimilate. "Park probably contributed more ideas for analysis of racial relations and cultural contacts than any other modern social scientist." [1]
Race and Culture: A World View by Thomas Sowell August 1995
Sowell ( Ethnic America ) draws on a worldwide range of examples and more than a decade of research in this intriguing exploration of the role of cultural attributes on group advancement. He aims to demonstrate the "reality, persistence, and consequences of cultural differences--contrary to many of today's grand theories based on the supposed dominant role of 'objective conditions,' 'economic forces' or 'social structures.' " He tackles a host of issues: the costs and benefits of residential segregation; how affirmative action primarily helps better-off members of preferred groups; how prominent political leaders are not crucial to group success; how low-scoring groups on intelligence tests do their worst on abstract questions devoid of "cultural bias." Sowell's observations have force, but he sometimes sacrifices depth for breadth. Although he claims to avoid policy prescriptions, he includes facile swipes against multiculturalism and argues, with varying degrees of plausibility, against liberal policies on race. Conservative Book Club selection From Publishers Weekly
Sowell, a black conservative and senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, moves beyond the domestic focus of his Ethnic America (LJ 6/1/81) to analyze the interplay between the cultural capital and social position of racial, ethnic, and religious minorities around the world. Observing ethnic and racial minorities migrating from country to country, Sowell postulates that existing intergroup cultural values play a predominate role in social status. These values determine which groups follow advances in science, technology, and organization, which fall behind, and which become societal leaders. Sowell concludes that the economic and social condition of many minorities lies not in social and political programs such as affirmative action but in the internal cultural values of the group. Sowell's study undoubtedly will arouse controversy and provoke debate. A valuable addition to minority studies collections in public and academic libraries alike. Michael A. Lutes, Univ. of Notre Dame Lib., Ind. From Library Journal

India would be under pressure to "toe" the American line

Not in India's interests, says V.P.Singh Special Correspondent The Hindu Friday, Jul 28, 2006
NEW DELHI: The civilian nuclear cooperation deal with the United States was not in India's security or national interests, former Prime Minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh told a select group of presspersons at his Teen Murti residence on Thursday. The former Prime Minister said the Manmohan Singh Government was keeping quiet on a clause in the deal that would terminate civilian nuclear cooperation in case India were to conduct another nuclear test. Pakistan and China, he stressed, would, however, be free to test.
According to Mr. Singh, India was also abandoning its independent route to civilian nuclear power generation. The former Prime Minister argued that India would now become dependent on nuclear fuel from the U.S. rather than using thorium for its fast-breeder reactors. "We'll be totally dependent on America," he maintained. Pointing out that the U.S. had issued a threat to India that the civilian nuclear deal would collapse if India voted "another way" against Iran, Mr. Singh said, "This is before signing [the deal]. What after we have signed it?"
Mr. Singh asserted that India would be under pressure to "toe" the American line on a host of international issues. Also, the former Prime Minister expressed concern about the disposal of nuclear waste, stressing that several countries had totally given up nuclear energy. Stoutly opposing the civilian nuclear deal, Mr. Singh said that any such understanding must have the approval of India's Parliament.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The tremendous release of individual energy and collective dynamism

The following pages are excerpted from the longer essay: THE ROLE OF MONEY & THE INTERNET IN SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT by Robert Macfarlane, Garry Jacobs and N. Asokan presented to Pacific Rim Economic Conference, Bangkok, Jan 13-18, 1998 Mother's Service Society - Pondicherry, India
Organizations of the Mental Stage
Knowledge is the central characteristic of the mental attribute of human consciousness which has assumed an increasingly dominant role during the last few hundreds years. Although we speak of the mental phase as being of very recent origin, it is evident that the mental component has been an active contributor to development since primitive societies developed agriculture and invented the wheel. What has changed very markedly is the relative contribution of this mental attribute, which is made visibly evident by the increasing speed of development in modern times. The knowledge that the mental component acquires and applies to further human progress has had a profound effect on all aspects of social life ranging from pure mental concepts to practical physical applications.
The action of mind in four specific fields has had an especially powerful influence on the course of global development — political thought, social organization, education, science and technology.The development of philosophical thought and values expresses in social life as changing concepts about the purpose of life, the role and nature of human beings, and the relationship between the individual and the collective. This abstract and exalted field of mental speculation appears far removed from practical considerations. Yet it has been the source of the revolutionary thoughts and values that have radically transformed the political and social structure of civilization over the past five centuries, leading to the establishment of democratic principles and forms of governance as a global standard, if not quite yet a global practice. This movement can be traced back to the revival of humanistic thought, spread of education and secular values that arose during the Renaissance.
It gained momentum with the spiritual empowerment of the individual by the Reformation, the birth of modern science, the affirmation of rationalistic ideals during the Enlightenment, and the declaration of human values by the American and French Revolutions. These movements have culminated during this century in the collapse of colonial empires following World War II and the rapid spread of democratic forms of government in Latin America, Eastern Europe and Africa over the past two decades. The tremendous release of individual energy and collective dynamism that accompanied the practical acceptance of these ideals has provided the impetus for momentous social accomplishments that until recently seemed inconceivable.


In the light of this axiomatic equation, several NGOs and their activities have been analysed with facts and figures which is a wake up call for all the nationalist Hindus of India who subscribe to the philosophy and ideals of Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo and Bal Gangadar Tilak. It is a veritable mine of information on many anti-national and anti-Hindu NGOs. And certain high-profile individuals who are found to be in the forefront of anti-India and anti-Hindu propaganda on various issues. Based on a careful analysis of the activities of many NGOs, this landmark book establishes a tangible relationship between the anti-India and the anti-Hindu dimensions of these sinister organisations. In the view of Radha Rajan and Krishen Kak, there can never be any Indian nationalism that is contrary to or separate from Hindu nationalism. It is a natural corollary that the continuing attempts to de-Hinduise our polity by these NGOs and their activists have implications for the national security and the relationship of so-called religious minorities in India with Hindus and the Indian State. V SUNDARAM (The writer is a retired IAS officer)
e-mail the writer at

Create craze for material growth in Orissa

Subject: Deputy Adviser, Plan Coordination Division compares Orissa with Punjab (Developing A Development Model For Orissa) Date: Thu, 27 Jul 2006 11:18:57 +0530
Dear Sachi , I have never visited Orissa. I am from Punjab. I have more than 10 friends from Orissa. You have raised very valid points for which submit as follows:
The development of a State or region does not depend on the natural resouces it is having. It is more related to people of that region, their collective efforts, their bent of mind and et al. Regarding Orissa, I have not met anybody till day who has the ambition to very rich, having a lot of money. People in Orissa are simple, satisfied and they know how to live with problems. They should learn how to finish the problems. People who are educated, are either professional or business. Otherwise people of Orissa are nice and reliable. But these things does not make you rich.
If you make comparison with Punjabis, who are culturally far behind Orissa. We have little resouces. People of this State have gone abroad and earned their fortune. In Punjab the single important criterian to judge the wisdom of a person is nothing but his material possession. That is why in Punjab, the saints have a lot of money. I think if you could create craze for material growth in Orissa, your battle is half won.
The huge investment is not going to make dent. You can not send a man of crutches to compete in Olympics 100 metre race. Investments may create more employment for so called upper caste literate people and State will loose all it natural resources and have more pollution. The data in Govt will improve. But basically, there won't be any change. As for example, there is Gurgaon in Haryana. It is a beautiful city of Haryana where very few people of Haryana State lives. People of Haryana can have satisfaction that they have Gurgaon. As you have natural resources for name sake but the real advantage is reapen by other people.
Let me have some data, I am an economist by profession and a capitalist by family background. I shall be happy to work on some model of development. These views are my own and it is nothing to do with Government. With regards, BHARAT BHUSHAN IES Deputy Adviser Plan Coordination Division Government of India Ministry Environment and Forests 708,Paryavaran Bhawan, CGO Complex, New Delhi - 110003. Tel: 91-11-24365218 Mobile: +93132 99008

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

I was determined to clear the Augean stable

Claptrap of the politician: Violations Of Civic And Environmental Laws By Jagmohan The Statesman Wednesday, July 26 2006
And why was my portfolio suddenly changed when it became clear that I was determined, while functioning as Urban Development Minister in 2000, to clear the Augean stable, enforce the rule of law and break the unholy alliances amongst various vested interests? And how was it that, after virtual stoppage of illegal constructions during the period of my drive, 18000 new illegal constructions came up soon after my removal from the scene? The new law subverts truth, panders to the wishes of the corrupt and crafty groups and fatally injures whatever little dispositions remain in the society to be honest and law abiding.
This reminds me of what Sri Aurobindo wrote about a typical politician: “He does not represent the soul of a people or its aspirations. What he does usually represent is all the average pettiness, selfishness, egoism, self-deception that is about him, and these he represents well enough, as well as a great deal of mental incompetence and moral conventionality, timidity and pretence. Great issues often come to him for decision, but he does not deal with them greatly; high words and noble ideas are on his lips, but they become rapidly the claptrap of a party.”
What verdict the Supreme Court would finally pronounce on the new law has yet to be seen. But it is clear that the diseased and disastrous values, which our democratic leaders, through democratic process, are breeding, have already gained the upper hand.

The individual is always the vanguard of future collective action

Toward a Comprehensive Theory By Garry Jacobs and N. Asokan
Our view of development has to encompass a wider whole that includes the potential impact of war or the perceived threat of war, civil unrest, political instability, rapid improvements in health, induction of advanced technology, rising standards of education, rising expectations of the electorate, a sense of social competition with other societies, increasing individual freedom, and greater access to information...
The human being is not one more vital or extraneous factor in the impersonal equation of social development. People are the foundation, the heart and the driving force of the process. Societies are not impersonal systems. They consist of people. The development of political and legal institutions, advances of science and applications of technology, acquisition of productive and organizational capabilities, and evolution of commercial systems depend fundamentally on human awareness, aspirations, energy, attitudes and skills...
Money is a social system and convention based on social trust, confidence in government, political institutions for stability, law and order, and administrative policy. Resources are the product of human imagination applied to discover new applications for naturally occurring and human-made materials. None of these instruments is inherently limited. The productivity and generation of money is enhanced by increasing the speed of transactions and the efficiency of productive systems. The productivity of resources is enhanced by increasing technology and organizational efficiency. Social institutions such as markets are human inventions and conventions capable of potentially unlimited improvement and refinement...
Our premise is that the process governing development of the individual and the collective is the same process and that the two are intricately intertwined. The preparedness, aspirations and awareness of the collective form the backdrop and launching pad for the emergence of new development initiatives. When the society has achieved sufficient stability and productivity at one level of development, it accumulates surplus energy and spawns initiatives by pioneering individuals who throw up new forms of adaptive behavior. The individual is always the vanguard of future collective action. The pioneers’ successes—whether the result of private initiative or public programs—serve as demonstrations that educate and motivate others to act. The imitation of successful pioneers leads to gradual acceptance by the collective. Often this acceptance leads to organized efforts by society to disseminate, promote and support diffusion of successful adaptive behaviors through legal, organizational or educational mechanisms...
We refer to the conscious application of complete, conceptual knowledge as “conscious” development. Mentally self-conscious development can be a much more rapid, efficient and stable process. Because it knows the wider whole in which specific instances occur, it can derive knowledge from a single experience rather than depending on countless repetitions of error to fill in gaps in its understanding. It can avoid the excesses and imbalances commonly resulting from partial knowledge, because it takes cognizance of the wider context and circumstances in which developmental initiatives are carried out...
Historical evidence overwhelmingly indicates that development is a creative process which is not inherently limited by past experience, present levels of accomplishment or any fixed forms of expression. Yet so long as our knowledge about development is colored by premises that were long ago rejected in physics, we vastly underestimate the opportunities and satisfy ourselves with minimal achievements. Garry Jacobs is a Director of the International Center for Peace and Development and partner in a California management consulting firm. He was formerly Member Secretary of the International Commission on Peace and Food...N. Asokan is a research fellow at The Mother’s Service Society, a social science research institute in Pondicherry, India

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Lost historical and cultural legacies key to a diversified human future

Understanding Terrorism: Does it possibly lie in the conflict between the ambitions of liberal democracy and anterior forms of democratic assertions?
Harbans Mukhia THE TIMES OF INDIA 24 Jul, 2006
There are two basic premises of liberal democracy — liberty and equality. The social unit of account is the individual. When the French Revolution proclaimed liberty, fraternity and equality as its goal, the reverberations of the three evocative words were felt around the world. The individual must be liberated from all forms of social control, those of the family, community, church or state. Its assumption was the inevitable universal triumph of the values embedded in liberal democracy and its driving force was the force of reason, in opposition to all anterior forms of thought, primarily religion. Nineteenth century positivism reinforced the objectivity and finality of liberal democracy's universalist assumptions. It thus locked itself in adversity with the earlier historically evolved forms; it virtually sought to advance by entering into a head-on clash with history.
Through history the urge for equality has asserted itself in different modes in various regions of the world; implicit in this urge was also the search for liberation. Several religious expressions, especially those centred on a monotheistic imaging of God, such as Christianity, Islam and Sikhism, have been instrumental in major social upheavals primarily moved by their egalitarian appeal. Marxism has seen the most recent secular upheaval with the same appeal. If liberal democracy privileges the individual in its search for equality, all the others seek the same goal by subordinating the individual's aspirations to the aspirations of the community (or in the case of Marxism to the party) of which they are members.
Clearly then there have been diverse manifestations of the urge for equality, and liberal democracy has the briefest history behind it with the exception of Marxism. However, in its quest for universal triumph it seeks to establish uniformity over the diverse landscape of history. It enters into an almost irresoluble conflict with all anterior forms of the search for egalitarianism.
The chief operative instrument in the realisation of democracy is the holding of periodic elections. Universal adult franchise, itself with no more than six or seven decades of history behind it in the most advanced democracies of the West, is the medium of ensuring equality to all its citizens. However, incapable as the instrument is of establishing a decisive democratic superiority of a majority vote of, say, 51 per cent over a rival vote of 49 per cent, the history of electoral democracies almost around the world has in any case witnessed the rule of governments elected by a minority vote. What then would be the measure of democratic legitimacy of such regimes which are the rule than the exception?
Liberal democracy also functions through an integral link with the market and capitalism. The supremacy of the market as the great equaliser at work here would be hard to sustain in the context of history which has witnessed the market as the instrument of differentiation and hegemonisation within societies and between them. It was the driving force of imperialism and colonialism for nearly two centuries before the Second World War. The state has intervened and decisively removed obstacles to market expansion within a nation and globally. Under liberal democracy's auspices it yet forms the sole premise for the attainment of freedom and equality around the world.
The finality of this one vision of equality and liberty, with the assumption of its inevitable universal triumph over the others, needs to be critically scrutinised and space for plurality of visions and their mutual tolerance be enlarged exponentially where historical and cultural experiences of all segments of humanity become part of the process of a shared but diversified human future. We also need to evolve a large range of institutional forms for realising democratic aspirations, with electoral democracy being just one of them. The material comforts of life that the vote and the market provide to those successful ones in a competitive ambience are clearly not a compensation enough for the loss of historical and cultural legacies. The writer was professor of history, Jawaharlal Nehru University.

A lot of these terror supporters are Jews, like Noam Chomsky

What is it with the Left, anyway? Why is there so much worldwide sympathy for the terrorists? Everyone thinks Eisenhower warned us about the dangers of the "military-industrial complex." Not true. What he said was "beware of the mullah-terror and nasty-old-leftist complex." Amazingly, a lot of these terror supporters are Jews, like Noam Chomsky. At least if Chomsky becomes a little more self-hating, he won't recognize his own right to exist, and then we'll be rid of him...
But at least this is triggering a debate in the Muslim world. Mainstream Muslims are outraged that so-called moderates are trying to hijack Islam and reduce jihad to a mealy-mouthed internal struggle with oneself instead of a glorious war of conquest and colonization to impose a worldwide caliphate...People say that Islam and Judaism are similar, since they're both based on the inerrant word of God, but I'm not so sure. After all, thinking critically about the Torah makes you Jewish, whereas thinking critically about the Koran makes you dead. Apparently there are other differences as well...posted by Gagdad Bob at 8:18 AM 19 comments

Sunday, July 23, 2006

True teachers: Sri Aurobindo & Swami Vivekananda

NCF-2005 against the psyche of the nation
National Curriculum Framework-2005 (NCF-2005) is against the wisdom and psyche of the nation. It imposes an outdated materialist ideology of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries behind the facade of rational and scientific approach on a nation that aims to send its 21-century generation to moon and stars of beyond. It negates and in reality violates founding fathers, Parliament of India and the considered opinion of the Supreme Court on many counts.
The Constitution Assembly debates tell that even our founding fathers distinguished between religious education and education about religions and had accepted the latter. So has the Supreme Court in its September 12, 2002 judgment. Similarly, S.B. Chavan Committee also maintains a similar view. There was even a directive to the NCERT to implement the Chavan Committee report on this issue. But the NCF-2005 absolutely ignores these values completely. The students would not be able to develop spiritually as per Gandhiji’s dreams. Education would be limited to being an instrument of mere material, cut-throat competition and valueless social living.
The draft of the NCF-2005 at least mentioned the names of some Indian thinkers like Sri Aurobindo, Swami Vivekananda, etc (P.97) but under the unfortunate pressure of leftists, these names were dropped from the final document. It is a matter of grim concern that the NCERT has not followed the established procedure in which first the curriculum is framed, on the basis of which syllabi of various subjects are formed and finally on the basis of these syllabi the textbooks are written...
The new framework presents India in the form of a multinational country fragmented on the left considerations of caste, groups, class, religion, etc. It also declares its resolve to do so. The students would fall a prey to ill will, prejudice and misgivings because of their constant reading and brooding about caste, religion, class etc., and would remain involved in social division, self-condemnation, cynicism, class conflicts, etc....A paradigm shift is recommended proposing the study of social sciences from the perspective of marginalised groups above. It is an extremely divisive and exclusivist view aimed at further fuelling close conflicts—not helping national cohesion.
The Kothari Commission, deemed to be the guiding light in Indian education, has described education as the most important instrument of national unity, social cohesion etc. National identity has also been accepted as being important. As against this, these elements have been driven out of the new NCERT documents. The NCF maintains studied silence on India’s past glory and ancient fund of knowledge. It focuses on “making education more relevant to the present day and future needs only.” (The author is former joint director of NCERT)

Spiritual practicality, Solider of light, Sculptor of men and institutions

Steeped in caste, communal and blasphemy
It is better to have a look at the book, Modern India (Page 175-179), by Bipin Chandra for Class-XII. The book writes about Arya Samaj and Swami Dayananda:
“At the same time, one of the Arya Samaj’s objectives was to prevent the conversion of Hindus to other religions. This led it to start a crusade against other religions. This crusade became a contributory factor in the growth of communalism in India in the 20th century. While the Arya Samaj’s reformist work tended to remove social ills and to unite people, its religious work tended, though perhaps unconsciously, to divide the growing national unity among Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, Sikhs and Christians. It was not seen clearly that in India national unity had to be secular and above religion so that it would embrace the people of all religions.”
Here is another quote from the book on page 179, which says, “The amount of obloquy and persecution to which Swami Dayanand was exposed in his lifetime may be gathered from the fact that the numerous attempts were made on his life by the orthodox Hindus; assassins were hired to kill him, missiles were thrown at him during his lectures an disputations; he was called a hired emissary of the Christians, and apostate, and atheist, and so on.”
This is a negative and historically inaccurate portrayal of Arya Samaj, the great reformist movement of nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The Muslim crusade against Hindus and the attempts of conversion of the Hindus were hundreds of years old story. Arya Samaj never started any crusade or jehad or a dharmayuddha. It merely started a small shuddhi movement, which was not a great success. The claim that this led to communalism is making a mountain out of a molehill. The Arya Samaj was a product of its time and was a movement, which was in line with other earlier attempts of the Hindu society to face a challenge of Islam. Is it justified then that if the Hindus wish to save themselves it becomes a contributory factory in the growth of communalism?
Rather than focussing on the contribution and legacy of Swami Dayanand Saraswati, an attempt in this book is to defame the Hindus in general and Arya Samaj as a reformist movement in particular. Sri Aurobindo Ghosh in his book, Bankim, Tilak, Dayanand, Calcutta, 1947, page 1 writes:
“Among the great company of remarkable figures that will appear to the eyes of posterity at the head of the Indian Renaissance, one stands out by himself with peculiar and solitary distinctness, one unique in his type as he is unique in his work. It is if one were to walk for a long time amid a range of hills, one hill stands apart, piled up in sheet strength, a mass of bare and puissant granite, with verdure on its summit….Such is the impression created on my mind by Dayanand…. Here, I say to myself, was a very solider of light, a warrior in God’s world, a sculptor of men and institutions, a spirit. And the whole sums itself up to me in a powerful impression of spiritual practicality. The combination of these two words, usually so divorced from each other in our conceptions, seems to me the very definition of Dayanand.”
Smt. Annie Besant says, “Swami Dayanand was the first to proclaim India for Indians. When the Swaraj temple is built, there will be images of all leaders of the freedom movement, and that of Swami Dayanad would be the tallest.”(The author is senior advocate of Supreme Court)

Who are these "politically super-conscious people?"

They baffle us with their Goebbelsian mischief
By Devendra Swaroop Organiser Home > 2006 Issues > July 02, 2006
“THE most prominent among these new leaders were Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Lala Lajpat Rai and Aurobindo Ghosh. They came to be known as extremists.” (Modern India, Social Science, Part 1, Arjun Dev & Indira Arjun Dev, Class VIII)
“But the revolutionary young men did not try to generate a mass revolution. Instead, they decided to copy the methods of the Irish terrorists and the Russian Nihilists, that is, to assassinate two unpopular officials. A beginning had been made in this direction when in 1897 the Chapekar brothers assassinated two unpopular British officials at Poona. In 1904, VD Savarkar had organised the Abhinava Bharat, a secret society of revolutionaries. After 1905, several newspapers had begun to advocate revolutionary terrorism. The Sandhya and Yugantar in Bengal, and the Kal in Maharashtra were the most prominent among them."(Modern India, Bipin Chandra, Class XII)
“Terrorism too gradually petered out. In fact, terrorism as a political weapon was bound to fail. It would not mobilise the masses; in fact it had no base among the people. But the terrorists did make a valuable contribution to the growth of nationalism in India. As a historian has put it, ‘they gave us back the pride of our manhood. Because of their heroism, the terrorists became immensely popular among their compatriots even though most of politically conscious people did not agree with their political approach."(Modern India, Bipin Chandra, Class XII)
These are some of the passages that have been mentioned in the history textbooks. It is shocking that the expert committee constituted by the NCERT should try to justify the use of the words terrorism and terrorists for the revolutionary movement, which form one of the most glorious and inspiring phase of our long and august freedom struggle. Perceptive nationalist historians have described it as first war of independence but it seems our Marxist historians still love to use the language of their colonial masters. It is beyond our imagination that great patriots like Lokmanya Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, Hardyal, Khudi Ram Bose could be termed as terrorists by any present Indian historians. See some more passages.
“With the collapse of Japan in the War during 1944-45 the INA too met defeat and Subhas Bose was killed in an aeroplane accident on his way to Tokyo.” (Modern India, Bipin Chandra, Class XII) “However the attempt to liberate India by the Azad Hind Fauj failed.” (Modern India, Bipin Chandra, Class XII)
VICTIMS OF TOXIC DISTORTION Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, & Sri Aurobindo
The expert committee still holds the view that Netaji Subash Bose died in an air crash. They do not take note of the powerful opinion, which was recently echoed by the Mukherji Commission, that all the evidences available to it go to prove that Netaji did not die in an air crash. This view is supported by the official statement from Government of Taiwan. Leftist alergy for Netaji is too well known. The filthy abuses such as Tojo’s dog hurled upon are deeply engraved in the national memory. But to pass a verdict that “The attempt to liberate India by Azad Hind Fauj failed” is to display complete ignorance of the fact that the formation and patriotic role, played by the Azad Hind Fauj, was an important factor in the British withdrawal from India. Contemporary parliamentary debates and media reports in Britain testify this notion. Now have a look at this passage.
“Political movements based on their ideas grew in almost every part of the world with a view to establishing socialism. In 1917 the first successful revolution of the type advocated by these thinkers occurred in Russia. It resulted in the overthrow of the autocratic rule of Czars.” (Modern India, Social Science Part 1, Arjun Dev & Indira Arjun Dev, Class VIII)
History books need revision and updating in the light of latest historical data and researches. The recent re-evaluation of 1917 political change in Russia demands that Lenin and the so-called revolution ought to be presented in right perspective. Now in Russia Czars are being rehabilitated and the tyranny and dictatorial methods of Lenin are being exposed on the basis of new archives data. (The author is a noted historian and columnist)