Showing posts from October, 2011

Shrilal Shukla, author of Raag Darbari, passes away

Shrilal Shukla was born in 1925, graduated from Allahabad University, and was a UP PCS officer before being elevated to the IAS. His first novel, Sooni Ghati Ka Sooraj , published in 1957, made him the youngest Hindi writer at that time to win the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1970.  Sociologist Shyama Charan Dube had once said that study of the Indian society is incomplete without referring to Raag Darbaari , which was turned into a TV series for Doordarshan.”  Widely considered to be among the best Hindi novels of the last century with a grand national narrative, Raag Darbaari portrayed a feudal, crumbling Shivpalganj — the archetypal village of the Hindi heartland with its politico-cultural tensions and administrative neglect. Shukla delved upon almost everything that was decadent in the system, but stopped short of making a moral statement.   “The remarkable thing about Raag Darbaari is that he decried the system in spite of being an instrumental part of it,” said another close friend o

Gregory Bateson: From Versailles to Cybernetics (1966)

This lecture by the anthropologist Gregory Bateson  blending themes in history & mythology with modern cybernetics is not only profoundly insightful about the consequences of human deception but is also prophetic about the possibilities & dangers of the age of information technology. It is a neglected masterpiece which is worth a hundred volumes of scholarship - Aseem Shrivastava.  NB - Gregory Bateson ( 1904 -1980) was an  English   anthropologist ,  social scientist ,  linguist ,  visual anthropologist ,  semiotician  &  cyberneticist . H e was married to Margaret Mead.  In the 1940s he helped extend  systems theory / cybernetics  to the social/behavioral sciences, and spent the last decade of his life developing a "meta-science" of epistemology.. his most noted writings are Steps to an Ecology of Mind  and  Mind and Nature. Extract :   I have to talk about recent history as it appears to me in my generation  and to you in yours and, as I flew in this morn

Jean Ziegler: Brussels is unspeakably hypocritical

' The current European Commission is made up of fully fledged mercenaries in the service of monster corporations in the agri-food business. The power of lobbies in Brussels is incredible. If they wanted to do it they could put an end to agricultural dumping tomorrow.. ' Vice-president of the UN Human Rights Council  Advisory Committee , Jean Ziegler has just published  Destruction massive. Géopolitique de la faim  (“Mass Destruction: the Geopolitics of Hunger” published in France by Seuil). In this essay, the Swiss socialogist recounts his experience as the   United Nations Special Rapporteur  on the Right to Food from 2000 to 2008, and analyses the reasons for the current global death toll from malnutrition, which kills 36 million people every year . Why are people still dying of hunger? There are five major reasons : first and foremost, financial speculation in in raw materials for food, which have resulted in soaring prices in recent years and made it almost impossible for

Censorship in Pakistani Urdu Textbooks : Ajmal Kamal

The authorities’ initiative to impose censorship through legislative means dates back to the Public Safety Act Ordinance imposed in October 1948, and later, in 1952, ratified by the first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan as the Safety Act. Apart from numberless political workers, newspapers, and periodicals, the leading literary journals too fell victim to this oppressive piece of legislation which was only the first in a long series of such laws. In fact, Savera (Lahore) has the dubious honor of being the first periodical of any kind to be banned, in 1948.. The infamous Safety Act had well-known literary people on both sides. On the one hand, literary critics such as Muhammad Hasan Askari found the law perfectly justifiable...On the other hand, there were writers and editors who were prosecuted under this law, Saadat Hasan Manto perhaps being the most prominent among them. (For details of Manto’s trials, see his Lazzat-e Sang, Lahore: Naya Idara, 1956.) Manto’s writing had had a hi

Eric Joseph Simeon, born October 29, 1918

Farewell to Thee! But not farewell - To all my fondest thoughts of Thee; Within my heart they still shall dwell And they shall cheer and comfort me Lt Col Eric Joseph Simeon in Sainik School Kunjpura circa 1962 Life seems more sweet that Thou didst live  And men more true that Thou wert one;  Nothing is lost that Thou didst give Nothing destroyed that Thou hast done (Anne Bronte) My dear father was born this day, 93 years ago, in Allahabad.  He passed away in 2007, after a fulfilling life. This photograph was taken circa 1962.

Paul Celan : After The Disaster

Stephen Mitchelmore explores the post-Holocaust poetry of Paul Celan "Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night we drink you at noon death is a master from Germany we drink you at sundown and in the morning we drink and we  drink you death is a master from Germany his eyes are blue  he strikes you with leaden bullets his aim is true a man lives in the house your golden hair Margarete he sets his pack on us he grants us a grave in the air  he plays with the serpents and daydreams death is a master from  Germany your golden hair Margarete your ashen hair Shulamith " ...It troubled Celan that the man he saw as one of the greatest of modern thinkers, so close to his own work, was a Nazi. One cannot even say 'had been a Nazi' because he never said anything that amounted to a renunciation. Late in life, Heidegger became interested in Celan's work. He recognised him as the only living equal of Hölderlin. He attended public readings given by the poet, and in 1967 e

Magic and guilt

The electric and torturous correspondence between Germany's legendary poets, Ingeborg Bachmann and Paul Celan, has now been released in book form for the first time. Ina Hartwig on what was probably the most complicated love story in post-war Germany. Take a deep breath and prepare to sweep away all the jargon and highfalutin that has built up around Ingeborg Bachmannand Paul Celan over the years. It's a unique opportunity to start from scratch. The legendary correspondence between Ingeborg Bachmann and Paul Celan which was originally intended to be kept under wraps until 2023, has been released by their heirs and editedby Suhrkamp Verlag with appropriate thoroughness. And here they are - almost 200 documents, letters, dedications, telegrams, postcards which open the door onto a huge, difficult relationship between two individuals, who were nothing less than hurled into each others' arms by affinity, poetic calling, erotic attraction and mourning for events of the p

UN: World will miss economic benefit of 1.8 billion young people

The world is in danger of missing a golden opportunity for development and economic growth, a "demographic dividend", as the largest cohort of young people ever known see their most economically productive years wasted, a major UN  population  report warned on Wednesday.  The potential economic benefits of having such a large global population of young people will go unfulfilled, as a generation suffers from a lack of education, and investment in infrastructure and job creation , the authors said... The report found a "vicious cycle" of extreme poverty, food insecurity and inequality leading to high death rates, that in turn encourages high birth rates. Only by investing in health and  education for women and girls  can countries break the cycle, as improving living conditions will allow parents to be more confident that their children will survive, and therefore have smaller families. Crucial to this will be allowing women and girls greater freedom and equality, i

Mukul Kesavan - Delhi University and the purging of Ramanujan

'The essay is a marvellous account of the hundreds of ways in which the  Ramayana  has been told, complete with examples of this narrative diversity. I can’t imagine that the vice-chancellor, a member of that urbane cohort, the Class of ’75, wanted the essay removed because he agreed with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad goons who first agitated on the issue three years ago. They did this by trashing the department of history and physically assaulting the head of the department. This happened during the tenure of the previous vice-chancellor, but no holder of this office could possibly wish to further the work of thugs who seek to violently limit the intellectual freedom of a university. So that couldn’t be the reason. The essay by AK Ramanujan censored by DU's Academic Council Nor could it be expert opinion. The expert committee appointed by the Supreme Court to investigate the matter had four members, three of whom endorsed Ramanujan’s essay without reservation.

Society of Facebook

NB :  Both the content and style of the text below are taken from: Guy Debord's   Society of the Spectacle , available on Marxist Internet Archive and here: But certainly for the present age, which prefers the sign to the thing signified, the copy to the original, representation to reality, the appearance to the essence... illusion only is sacred, truth profane. Nay, sacredness is held to be enhanced in proportion as truth decreases and illusion increases, so that the highest degree of illusion comes to be the highest degree of sacredness.  Feuerbach , Preface to the 2nd edition of The Essence of Christianity # 1: In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of networks. Everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation. # 2: The faces detached from every aspect of life fuse in a common stream in which the unity of this

Vagueness: the linguistic virus in spoken language in the late 20th century

The decline and fall of American English, and stuff I recently watched a television program in which a woman described a baby squirrel that she had found in her yard. “And he was like, you know, ‘Helloooo, what are you looking at?’ and stuff, and I’m like, you know, ‘Can I, like, pick you up?,’ and he goes, like, ‘Brrrp brrrp brrrp,’ and I’m like, you know, ‘Whoa, that is so wow!’ ” She rambled on, speaking in self-quotations, sound effects, and other vocabulary substitutes, punctuating her sentences with facial tics and lateral eye shifts. All the while, however, she never said anything specific about her encounter with the squirrel. Uh-oh. It was a classic case of Vagueness, the linguistic virus that infected spoken language in the late twentieth century. Squirrel Woman sounded like a high school junior, but she appeared to be in her mid-forties, old enough to have been an early carrier of the contagion. She might even have been a college intern in the days when Vagueness em

Condemned to Joy: the Western cult of happiness is a mirthless enterprise

Extracts from Pascal Bruckner: ".. In  the 1960s, two major shifts transformed the right to happiness into the  duty  of happiness. The first was a shift in the nature of capitalism, which had long revolved around production and the deferral of gratification, but now focused on making us all good consumers. Working no longer sufficed; buying was also necessary for the industrial machine to run at full capacity. To make this shift possible, an ingenious invention had appeared not long before, first in America in the 1930s and then in Europe in the 1950s: credit. In an earlier time, anyone who wanted to buy a car, some furniture, or a house followed a rule that now seems almost unknown: he waited, setting aside his nickels and dimes. But credit changed everything; frustration became intolerable and satisfaction normal; to do without seemed absurd. We would live well in the present and pay back later. Today, we’re all aware of the excesses that resulted from this system, since the f

China to step up social media censorship

China  has vowed to intensify controls on social media and instant messaging tools , in the highest-level official response to the extraordinary surge in microblogging in the country. The communique from the Communist party central committee follows growing boldness among users, who have discussed sensitive topics, highlighted scandals and attacked official abuses or inefficiency. This summer's high-speed rail crash in Wenzhou led to an outpouring of fury on microblogs about the  handling of the disaster . That spilled over into mainstream media. China already has the most extensive and sophisticated  internet  control system in the world. But censors have struggled to keep up with the flow of information on popular microblogs. The number of registered users on domestic services reached 195 million by the end of June, triple the figure of six months earlier, according to the China Internet Network Information Centre. "This [communique] is what we have been waiting for; there

Manifesto for a Secular Middle East and North Africa

Statement  For Immediate Release -  27 October 2011 FOR A FREE AND SECULAR MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA 76 secularists and human rights campaigners, including Mina Ahadi,  Nawal El Sadaawi, Marieme Helie Lucas, Hameeda Hussein, Ayesha Imam,  Maryam Jamil, Maryam Namazie, Taslima Nasrin, Farida Shaheed, Fatou  Sow, and Stasa Zajovic have signed on to a Manifesto for a Free and  Secular Middle East and North Africa. In light of the recent pronouncements of the unelected Libyan  Transitional Council for ‘Sharia laws’, the signatories of the  manifesto vehemently oppose the hijacking of the protests by Islamism  or US-led militarism and unequivocally support the call for freedom  and secularism made by citizens and particularly women in the region.  Secularism is a minimum precondition for a free and secular Middle  East and for the recognition of women’s rights and equality.  We call on world citizens to support this important campaign by  signing on to our petition: http://www.