Saturday, January 27, 2007

From Cannibals to Cannabis

Anand Rangarajan 11.30.2006 permalink
I decided to spend a few months in Bangalore, India this year - hence the lack of blog updates. Basically, I wanted to check out for myself what the fuss was all about. I've been visiting India every two years or so but only for a couple of weeks and so hadn't really absorbed all the changes that have been happening over the past fifteen years or so. (I grew up in India but have lived in the US for the past twenty two years.)My conclusion: This place has gone nuts. Absolutely frigging bonkers. India in the early 21st century is like an acid trip - good and bad - mainly because all human achievements and foibles over the past 8000 years or so are preserved in living color. India never throws anything away - and I mean that - nothing is thrown away.What you have then is hunter gatherers living side by side technogeeks. I exaggerate obviously but one quick scan of the TV channels reveals this juxtaposition.
You have ancient Rig Vedic incantations on one channel, a tango and salsa influenced Bollywood dance on the next and a discussion of the Indian IT scene on third and so on. The Indian mind of the 21st century is a highly contextual filing system. Every moment invokes a particular context and perspective. One moment you're praying to the fire gods, the next moment you're debugging your cell phone.I think India is striving for completeness in a way that makes the US's earlier attempt look like a joke. In religion, you have a baby Jesus shrine on a major intersection, the Muslim call for prayer at 5AM every day, and innumerable Hindu temples, Sikh shrines etc. all over the place. All the religious forces are here clamoring for attention. On one channel you have GOD TV, the next one is MAA TV etc. In music, you have hip hop fused with Indian ragas with some rap and salsa beats thrown in.
There's plenty of jazz-raga fusion going on and there's also a fairly nascent rock scene emerging. I got a chance to play with a roadside band in Bangalore a few weeks ago to promote the standingonfish blog which was a lot of fun. If all goes well - and this is a big if - India should have a developed full spectrum culture in about 100 years with unimagined levels of mixing and fusion of disparate world cultures. Imagine a newly constructed cybertech village with postmodern gurus next door to a premodern village from 6000BC which practices cannibalism - and you get the idea. From Cannibals to Cannabis - now that's a nice slogan for India of the 21st century. Tagged with: Bangalore, India, Rig Veda, premodern, jazz, raga, fusion, fundamentalism, mystics, Bollywood, context

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Parliamentary democracy is not a matter of choice before us, it is a necessity

Time to introspect: Speaker Chatterjee Wednesday, January 24, 2007 Bhubaneswar: The visionaries who drafted the Constitution crafted a unique scheme of governance in which parliamentary democracy was cemented as the corner-stone of our constitutional edifice. They also amalgamated the principle of separation of powers underlining the primacy of the people and at the same time reinforcing the principle of constitutionalism, said Lok Sabha Speaker Mr Somnath Chatterjee.
Delivering the Mahatab Memorial Lecture here today, Mr Chatterjee said the centrality of the will of the people finds its best expression in the Preamble itself, which also is the very source of all institutions of governance.
“Parliamentary democracy can be strengthened only when all our institutions perform at their best keeping the interest of the people and country in mind. The executive has to be seen to be functioning to address concerns of the people, the legislature reflecting the urges and aspirations of people and larger national causes and the judiciary as an independent arbiter dispensing speedy and inexpensive justice to every section of people,” he said.
No institution should try, directly or indirectly, to undermine the strength of any other institution of our democracy. There is no super-organ to control and dominate the others, he said. The institutions of governance, particularly the legislature, executive and the judiciary, along with a watchful media, public spirited civil service and vigilant civil society should be collaborative partners in the endeavour to strengthen parliamentary democracy.
“To my mind, democracy cannot be sustained unless everyone associated with its functioning demonstrates a democratic spirit,” he added.
Mr Chatterjee said it was time to introspect about the quality of democracy that has been achieved and to see as to what extent democracy facilitated development in the country. “Today’s India presents a contrasting picture of affluence and deprivation and we have to concede that we have not been able to take fullest advantage of democratic governance in the past six decades. We need to recognise that India lives in her villages and city-centric development alone will not help emancipate a substantial majority of our people who have not been effectively touched by the developmental initiatives of the past.”
It is in this context that all of India’s institutions that constitute governance structure need to perform at their very best in the interest of the people and nation.
People are justifiably, getting impatient with the way the democratic institutions are functioning. Debates and discussions are being overshadowed by disruption and confrontation. The people’s representative bodies at different levels should be concerned about it and endeavour to restore true democratic culture into their functioning, he said.
“The growing sense of public disapproval of the manner in which our representative institutions are functioning should remind us of both the public anger as also the need to apply correctives by all concerned.”
Mr Chatterjee, however, felt that such aberrations should not lead to the conclusion that parliamentary democracy had failed in the country or had become irrelevant today. One ought to address the causes rather than target the institutions.
The media has an important role in strengthening democracy and it ought to function with a great sense of social responsibility. Unfortunately partisan politics is also influencing the media reporting and the dividing line between news and views is fast getting blurred, he noted.
Another imperative for strengthening parliamentary democracy is to create conditions for secular politics to flourish unhindered in our country. A modern and progressive education system also plays a crucial role as an informed electorate is one of the most factors for a vibrant democracy. On another plane, the achievement of true democracy requires a balanced participation of men and women in our political life, he added.
The Lok Sabha Speaker also urged for measures to ensure that the negative public perception of politics and of those in public life does not cloud the minds of the younger generations. Parliamentary democracy is not a matter of choice before us, it is a necessity for us as a nation, he said. Mr Bhatruhari Mahatab, MP and eminent jurist Mr Gangadhar Rath also addressed the gathering.

Human beings are a bundle of contradictions

Mr Chidambaram, however, admitted that there may be some contradictions in what “I said then and what I am doing now. But that is only natural. After all, human beings are a bundle of contradictions. So am I.” The Economic Times> WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 24, 2007
But the question is - does good economics really work for everyone? "It's partly right, while good economics works for everyone, it doesn't work for everyone at the same time," says Chidambaram. Shereen Bhan CNN-IBN Posted Tuesday , January 23, 2007
Significantly, Chidambaram said those who benefited from the reforms policies rolled out in the last 16 years must yield part of their wealth and space for the development of the poor. The rich, who were the beneficiaries of the reforms process, are often unwilling to yield part of their wealth and space, he added. “While we show concern for the poor and fashion economic policies in the name of the poor, we do a lot of good things but also commit great crimes,” Chidambaram said. financialexpress Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Speaking on the occasion, Chidambaram said that the “view from the inside was equally interesting” and that if anyone noticed contradictions between what he had written and his current policymaking, he wished to be “forgiven.” He highlighted the challenges of dealing with a section of the political establishment and society that doesn’t agree with what the government does. Penguin chairman Makinson said the book was a testimony to the exciting ferment of ideas in India as being a crucial aspect of its democratic process. And that Chidambaram symbolised what Amartya Sen called “the argumentative Indian” at its finest. Indian Express
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
‘Economics is the science of the possible made to look like the art of the impossible’ is a definition that would strike a chord with any finance minister of India who, every year, has to perform the great Indian hope trick...The issues are all the more important as they hold the key to sustaining the economic growth witnessed in the last few years. In addition, this collection can also be seen as notes from one FM to another when the two are on opposite sides of the fence.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The machine of meta-capitalism

Baudrillard & Bangalore by Rich on Wed 17 Jan 2007 08:38 PM PST Permanent Link
Well maybe things are getting better in Baglaore. The economy is bursting at the seems and the .025 of 1% of the total Indian workforce , who are in IT, and who are driving the whole economy seem to be mostly headquartered here. Undoubtably many have benefited here because of the IT industry. Still last night when we were stuck in traffic for two hours coming into town through the area where most of the IT firms are located, - and understanding that many of the folks who work in the industry have to put up with this ungodly traffic on a daily basis - made me think that the Indian IT industry is the fulfillment of Heideggers idea of the standing reserve.
According to Heidegger - in the 1930s - human beings were already in danger of becoming simply a huge army of surplus labor, to be left standing to await their turn to be exploited by the machine of meta-capitalism. Well with often as many as a thousand people applying for just one IT job here and with the hordes of technicians in wait for the opportunity to serve the Virtual Class of global technicity, the leap to Heidegger's vision is not so large.
But the vision of the French post-modernist Jean Baudrillard is also easy to glimpse. In his work "Simulation and Simulacra" Baudrillard outlines the disappearance of reality since Plato, But especially as it manifest in the 20th century through the use of simulation (images). He says. that first images reflected reality, then they masked reality, and finally they hide the absence of reality all together.
Well in America its certainly easy enough to see the progression over the course of the last three major wars. For example in Vietnam the images on the TV reflected the aweful reality of the conflict and subsequently an outraged public demanded its end. However in the first Gulf War, the images on CNN of smart bombs being dropped in Iraqi cities and the sanitized killing which resulted , along with the newspeak of Collateral Damage to refer to civillian causualties "masked the realitty" which was happening.
Now fast foward to Colin Powell before the United Nations preceding the second Gulf wars, in which he cleverly used images to hide the fact that no such reality e.g. weapons of mass destruction, actually existed., or a month or so after the war began there was George Bush on the aircraft carrier announcing mission accomplished!
Well I opened the Bangalore edition of the Indian times today to find the headline was about a British Reality TV show. The images in the newspaper of half clad sexy starlets were very similar to ones you see on the billboards around town advertizing all manner of global brands of products "we simply must have". I should mention that last night we also took a detour through the slums of Bangalore, some of which house up to 100,000 people who share maybe ten working toilets. (see my review of Mike Davis book Planet of Slums). Its almost as if one could say about Bangalore, that it is where "High Tech meets the Flintstones".
The whole experience last night brought my thoughts back to the reality on the ground,: the Bangalore infra-structure juxtaposed against the images proliferated in the media and the billboards around town singing the joys of all the global name brands, and off course to Baudrillard. rich Previous: Stephen Hawking warns re "catastrophic dangers of climate change"

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

To turn client’s brand into a religion

Former Executive Creative Director of BBDO Singapore, Francis Wee, has a new faith – His own creative agency christened Religion.
As Francis explains, there are no wider reach or better communications than the four main religions – Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. If they were brands, their consumers go by billions. Yet, they engage no advertising or public relations agencies to spread their faith. So why shouldn’t our advertising follow similar doctrine?
Rationale and Beliefs
His reason for starting his own agency is well argued: There isn’t one local ad agency that succeeds to become a global player. Yet there are many successful local brands like Creative Technologies, Tiger Beer and Singapore Airlines that grew exponentially, local and global. It’s about time a local ad agency takes the lead and shine locally, regionally and internationally.
Religion’s practice is to turn client’s brand into a religion, and convert its consumers to die-hard followers.
“Like any religion, our ideas should connect and own a space in a consumer’s heart and mind, not just blatant messages in various media.”

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Blogging grows out of a nihilism of strength

Blogging, the nihilist impulse mutable67 Jan 10, 2007 at 5:30 PM
Blogs bring on decay. Each new blog is supposed to add to the fall of the media system that once dominated the twentieth century. This process is not one of a sudden explosion. The erosion of the mass media cannot easily be traced in figures of stagnant sales and the declining readership of newspapers. In many parts of the world, television is still on the rise. What's declining is the Belief in the Message. That is the nihilist moment, and blogs facilitate this culture as no platform has ever done before. Sold by the positivists as citizen media commentary, blogs assist users in their crossing from Truth to Nothingness. The printed and broadcasted message has lost its aura. News is consumed as a commodity with entertainment value. Instead of lamenting the ideological color of the news, as previous generations have done, we blog as a sign of the regained power of the spirit. As a micro-heroic, Nietzschean act of the pajama people, blogging grows out of a nihilism of strength, not out of the weakness of pessimism. Instead of time and again presenting blog entries as self-promotion, we should interpret them as decadent artifacts that remotely dismantle the mighty and seductive power of the broadcast media.
Bloggers are nihilists because they are "good for nothing". They post into Nirvana and have turned their futility into a productive force. They are the nothingists who celebrate the death of the centralized meaning structures and ignore the accusation that they would only produce noise. They are disillusionists whose conduct and opinions are regarded worthless.[25] Justin Clemens notes that the term nihilism has been replaced by such appellations as "anti-democratic", "terrorist", and "fundamentalist". However, over the past years there has been a noticeable renaissance of the term, though usually not more than a passing remark. Significant theorization of the "condition" was done in the mid-twentieth century, which included reworking sources from the nineteenth century like Kierkegaard, Stirner, and Nietzsche. Existentialism after the two World Wars theorized Gulag, Auschwitz, and Hiroshima as manifestations of Organized Evil that resulted in an overall crisis of the existing belief systems. For those still interested in Theory, Arthur Kroker's The Will to Technology & The Culture of Nihilism (2004) is a must read as it puts Heidegger, Nietzsche, and Marx in a contemporary, techno-nihilist perspective.
We're faced with an "accomplished nihilism" (Gianni Vattimo) in that bloggers have understood that the fulfillment of nihilism is a fact.[26] Gianni Vattimo argues that nihilism is not the absence of meaning but a recognition of the plurality of meanings; it is not the end of civilization but the beginning of new social paradigms, with blogging being one of them. Commonly associated with the pessimistic belief that all of existence is meaningless, nihilism would be an ethical doctrine that there are no moral absolutes or infallible natural laws and that "truth" is inescapably subjective. In media terms, we see this attitude translated into a growing distrust of the output of large commercial news organizations and the spin that politicians and their advisers produce. Questioning the message is no longer a subversive act of engaged citizens but the a priori attitude, even before the TV or PC has been switched on.
Nihilism designates the impossibility of opposition – a state of affairs which, unsurprisingly, generates a great deal of anxiety. Nihilism is not a monolithic belief system. We no longer "believe" in Nothing as in nineteenth-century Russia or post-war Paris. Nihilism is no longer a danger or problem, but the default postmodern condition. It is an unremarkable, even banal feature of life, as Karen Carr writes is and no longer related to the Religious Question. Blogs are neither religious nor secular. They are "post-virtue". The paradoxical temporality of nihilism today is that of a not-quite-already-Now. Following Giorgio Agamben, Justin Clements writes that "nihilism is not just another epoch amongst a succession of others: it is the finally accomplished form of a disaster that occurred long ago."[27] In the media context this would be the moment in which mass media lost their claim on the Truth and could no longer operate as authority. Let us not date this event in time, as such an insightful moment can be both personal and cultural-historical. It is the move from the festive McLuhan to the nihilist Baudrillard that every media user is going through, found in the ungroundedness of networked discourse that users fool around with.
Translating Karen Carr's insight to today's condition, we could say that the blogger is an individual "who lives in self-conscious confrontation with a meaningless world, refusing either to deny or succumb to its power."[28] Yet this does not result in a heroic gesture. Blogging does not grow out of boredom, nor out of some existential void. Carr rightly remarks that "for many postmodernists, the presence of nihilism evokes not terror but a yawn".[29] Compared to previous centuries, its crisis value has diminished. If bloggers are classified nihilists, it merely means that they stopped believing in the media... Based on a lecture given at Berlin Institute of Advanced Study, the Wissenschaftskolleg, Berlin, March 27, 2006. [1] For regular updates on this figure, go to

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Unlike British Parliament, Indian Parliament is not sovereign

BENCH: CJI Y.K. Sabharwal, K.G. Balakrishnan & D.K. Jain DATE OF JUDGMENT: 0/01/2007 That the Constitution is the Supreme lex in this Country is beyond the pale of any controversy. All organs of the State derive their authority, jurisdiction and powers from the Constitution and owe allegiance to it. This includes this Court also which represents the judicial organ. In the celebrated case of Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala [(1973) 4 SCC 225], this Court found certain basic features of the Constitution that include, besides supremacy of the Constitution, the republican and democratic form of Government, and the separation of powers between the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. The principle of supremacy of the Constitution has been reiterated by this Court post Kesavananda Bharati in case after case...
That the parliamentary democracy in India is qualitatively distinct from the one in England from where we have borrowed the Westminster model of Government, is also well settled...
In the constitutional scheme that has been adopted in India, the Legislatures play a significant role in pursuit of the goals set before the nation and command the position of grandeur and majesty. The Legislatures undoubtedly have plenary powers but such powers are controlled by the basic concepts of the written constitution and can be exercised within the legislative fields allotted to their respective jurisdiction under the Seventh Schedule. They have the plenary legislative authority and discharge their legislative functions by virtue of the powers conferred on them by the relevant provisions of the Constitution. But, the basis of that power is the Constitution itself...
The judicial organ of the State has been made the final arbiter of Constitutional issues and its authority and jurisdiction in this respect is an important and integral part of the basic structure of the Constitution of India...
There was virtually a consensus amongst the learned counsel that it lies within the powers and jurisdiction of this Court to examine and determine the extent of power and privileges to find out whether actually power of expulsion is available under Article 105(3) or not. Having regard to the delicate balance of power distributed amongst the three chief organs of the State by the Constitution of India and the forceful assertions made particularly with regard to the limitation on court's jurisdiction, we decided not to depend upon mere concession of the learned counsel as to our jurisdiction. We thought it prudent to examine it fully even in the context of primary question about the judicial authority to go into the question of existence of a particular power or privilege asserted and claimed under Article 105, so as to reassure ourselves that we were not in any manner intruding into a zone which is out-of- bounds for us. Fortunately, the subject at hand is not a virgin territory.
BENCH: R. V. Raveendran DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/01/2007 Unlike British Parliament, Indian Parliament is not sovereign. It is the Constitution which is supreme and sovereign and Parliament will have to act within the limitations imposed by the Constitution.