Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Muntaha Amin: What Studying At Ramjas College Did To My Unquestioning Faith In Religion

Born into a very religious family, religion and religious teachings were taught to me as a way of life. The teaching was spoon-fed to me right from childhood. The notion that you can’t question God’s words, rulings, and commandments no matter what, and I believed in all of this and was a practising Muslim. With these teachings being my worldview, I was indeed an automaton to faith. But faith had somehow been more of fear of God’s punishment to me than love for God. And I guess that was the first undoing. I had internalised and normalised all kinds of things and never thought of anything as unjust and repressive. Education in school and higher secondary was yet another training for being automatons and machines in the system, of being – a utility, never questioning, never trying to look at the world from any other perspective, never questioning the ways of seeing. The end product was, very exclusively exam oriented approach, well, almost mugging up and scoring good in the exams which would bring in a good job and add to one’s privileges.

After coming to Delhi and getting enrolled in Ramjas College, the real journey of immense breakthroughs started in my life. My course was an honors in English Literature and my professors introduced me to critical thinking, critical inquiry into social sciences, and I got introduced to different worldviews. In the initial days in my classes, I learnt about ideas I had never thought of or imagined before. The first lecture with Debraj Mookherjee was also one that would stay with me forever. He said we needed to question everything, starting from what we were taught in schools. Lectures with Vinita Chandra started with disbelief from my side, getting scandalised after hearing different notions about gender and sexuality and thinking of them as too radical. Vinita ma’am answered all my questions with utmost patience and never lost her calm to the most regressive defences I showed. I was a homophobe, yes.

Gender in religion slowly started making me very uncomfortable. Questions of choice, will, agency, assertion, wanting representation in all fields of life, visibility in public and political spaces, right to religion or no religion, right to privacy – all these ideas started burgeoning in my personal space.
Conflicting worldviews existing side by side got my mind messier than ever. Questions started piling up, nobody happened to satisfy me with their answers. On the other hand, there were answers in logic, rationality and looking at things from a material point of view rather than ideological. The pull of rationality was strong indeed, but my faith was no less stronger then. A year of questions, insomnia, rapidly losing weight, mind being impossibly active and thinking all the time, mental fatigue and anxiety followed.

Looking at religion critically, I realised that religion would make “us” and “them” of humans in the definition itself, that is where my problems with it started. The first writing tutorial with Vinita Chandra was to analyse John Lennon’s “Imagine” (the lyrics). I’d never heard or read that before. Imagine there’s no religion, nothing to kill or die for. Imagine all the people, living for today. I started imagining, and it wasn’t as difficult as it seemed. But the process and my journey weren’t all too easy. It was the hardest time for my mental health… read more:
https://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2018/06/what-studying-at-ramjas-college-did-to-my-unquestioning-faith-in-religion/

see also



Monday, June 25, 2018

'Frankenstein's Monster': The Founder Of BJP's IT Cell Says PM Modi's Team Started The Rot

"What does the BJP need that could put it ahead of other parties?" During a car ride to a campaign venue in Uttar Pradesh in 2007, BJP president Rajnath Singh tossed an unusual question at his media assistant Prodyut Bora. The 33-year-old was taken slightly by surprise. He had been a part of the party for less than three years and didn't belong to a political dynasty. But he took his chance. 

Remember, this was 2007, barely a year after Facebook and Twitter had been launched; the IT industry was booming and no party, Bora felt, had a narrative that could attract this new voting class of young professionals. A few months later, the Bharatiya Janata Party's 'IT Cell' was born, with Bora as a national convenor. Eleven years later, Bora, now also an entrepreneur in clean air technologies with an office in Gurgaon, says his brainchild has mutated beyond recognition. 

"It's like Frankenstein's monster," he said.


Soon after he joined, Bora was assigned to the media cell of the BJP in Delhi under Arun Jaitley. The convenor of the media cell at that time was Siddharth Nath Singh, who he directly reported to. Before Bora left to join politics, he had worked in the DT group which has cinemas in Delhi, his first job, he recounts with a hint of pride, was at Biblio, a celebrated literary magazine. In 2007, Bora was nomi-nated from the cell to join Rajnath Singh during the state polls in UP as his media assistant and spent all of January 2007 traveling with him. Then in May-June, the party announced two new cells. One was Bora's IT cell, the other was the cow protection cell... read more:
https://www.huffingtonpost.in/2018/06/22/its-like-frankensteins-monster-the-father-of-the-bjps-it-cell-says-team-modi-started-the-rot_a_23464587/?utm_hp_ref=in-homepage

Sarah Boseley - The children working the tobacco fields: 'I wanted to be a nurse'

Tiyamike Phiri is 14, with the long skinny legs of a girl entering adolescence. In another world, she would be with friends in the school playground. Instead, she is bent double at the hips, gouging out weeds from the earth under a savage sun between banked rows of tobacco plants using a heavy hoe, made of a tree branch and a metal plate.

She looks up in some wonderment, unused to questioning such a life for a child. She is not unusual. There are 18 tenant families on this tobacco farm in the Kasungu district of Malawi, each living in a straw hut. Only two of the other girls go to school, she says. Two-year-old Jackson Phiri stumbles past. He has a miniature hoe, fashioned by his father, Lazaro, because he cried every time he saw his mother and father set off for the fields carrying tools and wanted one for himself. There seems an inevitability about the lives of these children.

“I left school last year because I had no school materials,” said Tiyamike, her eyes on the ground and her voice quiet. “I liked school. I liked Chichewe [her language] best. I got very good grades. But my main problem was I had no exercise books and nothing to write with.” Without a pen and an exercise book, she could not do schoolwork, her teachers pointed out. But she lives with her older brother and his wife and baby and they have nothing. “I help them in the fields,” she said. She would go back if she could. “I would like to do nursing,” she said. Instead, she weeds, builds earth banks for the tobacco plants and sews the harvested leaves together to suspend them from branches so they dry in the air. Weeding is the worst. “It is a hard job,” she said.

Tiyamike is just one of many children in Malawi who see little future beyond the tobacco fields.
A report in 2011 estimated there were 1.3 million worldwide under the age of 14. The figures are hard to come by, but the International Labour Organization last year reported that child labour was on the increase, in spite of the tobacco companies’ protestations that they are working to end it. “Child labour is rampant,” the report said. Research conducted in Malawi revealed that 57% of all children in two tobacco producing districts were involved in child labour; among tobacco growing families, 63% of children were engaged in child labour... read more:

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Nayantara Sahgal speaks to Ajoy Bose: ‘We have a nightmare which is worse than the Emergency’

On June 25, 1975, Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency in India that lasted for 21 months. The period saw widespread human rights violations, jailing of members of the Opposition and a clampdown on press freedom. Forty three years later, journalist Ajoy Bose, author of a newly relaunched book on the Emergency, interviews Nayantara Sahgal, who wrote widely and critically about Indira Gandhi’s policies during the time.

Four and a half decades after the Emergency, how do you remember it and what do you feel was its chief significance?: Well to begin with, the chief significance of the Emergency was that we could not be complacent about our democracy. And that we had to be extremely alert to safeguard it. We also realised that we had taken our freedom of expression for granted and had enjoyed it even though, throughout the country, millions of people did not have the same protection against any kind of authoritarian rule or measures. So for me, the chief significance was that we needed an organisation to guard our civil liberties. Just after the Emergency, the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties was set up and I was associated with the founding of it and served as the vice-president of it for some years.

The draconian powers that the state acquired during Emergency allowed it to unleash unprecedented repression including forced sterilisations and arbitrary demolitions of entire colonies of citizens, particularly those who were poor and marginalised. How would you characterise such a state that turned what used to be a democracy into a dictatorship overnight? Why was there so little mass resistance to this? First of all, I don’t think it happened overnight. I was writing political commentaries regularly for The Indian Express during those years of Mrs Gandhi’s reign in power and it was very clear to me that we were heading towards an authoritarian system. We already had the call for committed civil servants, committed judiciary and so on. And there was a bill drawn to curb the press. These things had been happening before the Emergency was declared so it came as no surprise to me at all. Now you speak of silence. I think one has to realise that there are millions of people who cannot speak because it would cost them their jobs, their livelihood, their safety, safety of their families. It was a draconian time and, you know, the whole Opposition was in jail and [also] those who could speak on behalf of those who could not. That is why I wrote a book on the Emergency period and Mrs Gandhi’s political style, which, of course, was not published during the Emergency but immediately after.

Why have people started comparing the present situation in the country with the Emergency even though the current Modi regime came to power through a democratic election and some of the more infamous features of the Emergency like the large-scale arrests of political leaders and activists and press censorship are missing? What are the differences and similarities between then and now?
Well, we have an undeclared Emergency, there is no doubt about that. We have seen a huge, massive attack on the freedom of expression. We have seen innocent, helpless Indians killed because they did not fit into the RSS’s view of India. We have seen known and unknown Indians murdered. Writers like Gauri Lankesh have been killed. And there has been no justice for the families of the wage earners who have lost their lives in this fashion. In fact they are now being called the accused. So we have a horrendous situation, a nightmare which is worse than the Emergency. During the Emergency we knew what the situation was. The Opposition was in jail, there was no freedom of speech, etc. Now we are living in a battered, bleeding democracy. And though no Emergency has been declared, people are being killed, people are being jailed; people are being hauled up for sedition and for being anti-national. It is an absolutely nightmarish situation which has no equal. This government is pretending to be democratic but we see what is happening all around. And nothing has come out of the government’s mouth to condemn all these goings on. So I rate it as a situation which has no equal in India… read more:
https://scroll.in/article/883686/43-years-later-we-have-a-nightmare-which-is-worse-than-the-emergency-says-nayantara-sahgal


Citizens Conclave on safeguarding the Constitution and protecting democracy

NB: This is the programme (along with an introductory note) that I received for a forthcoming Citizens Conclave on safeguarding the Constitution and protecting dissent and rights of minorities. I wholeheartedly support the idea of this conclave, but I think it is lacking in one significant respect. If there is a clear reason why the plight of Kashmiri Pandits need not be raised and discussed at a forum on inclusive democracy, then that reason should be made public. It is not a matter of privately-held beliefs, but of public responsibility, especially as we claim to be concerned with the fate of Indian democracy. Here is the letter I sent to the person who kindly sent me the programme, and to some other persons associated with it. Four of them - thus far - have endorsed my suggestion, including Aruna Roy, Javed Anand & Purushottam Agrawal, but as I have not heard from the organisers and as the matter is urgent, I am posting it on this blog:

Thank you for this invitation for a timely conference. The themes democracy and dissent, and the plight of minorities are very relevant for all democrats. The plight of Kashmiri Pandits does not seem to figure among your listed concerns in this admirable programme (please correct me if I am wrong). The bulk of the Pandit population has been the victim of terror-inspired fear and lacs were forced to leave their ancestral homes. Large numbers were killed by terrorists. A small number of them remain in the Valley, and have repeatedly called attention to their plight. Should not Indian citizens interested in dissent and the rights of minorities listen to them?

Please see some communications from Mr Sanjay Tikoo of the KPSS:


I urgently request you to correct this discrepancy and invite some speakers or Mr Tikoo to speak their minds on this question. It is not good for Indian democracy for its defenders to appear to neglect any section of suffering people. Since your conference is about dissent, I trust you will take my suggestion in the right spirit. 

I take the liberty of addressing this request to those whom I have copied into this message.
My best wishes for the success of the conclave
yours sincerely
Dilip Simeon


Deputy Speaker Hall; Constitution Club; New Delhi 
Safeguarding the Constitution; Ensuring the Independence and Integrity of the Civil Services and Defence Forces 
9-9.50 am:  Registration & Tea
9.50-10.00: Welcome: Dr Harshvardhan Hegde
10 am-1 pm: Session 1
Chair: Admiral Laxminarayan Ramdas
Speakers: Air Marshal Vir Narain; Dr. Atul Bharadwaj; NC Saxena, Former Secretary, Planning Commission; Sindhushree Khullar, Former Secretary, Planning Commission; Tuk Tuk Ghosh, Former Secretary & Financial Advisor; Wajahat Habibullah, First Chief Information Commissioner

2-5 pm: Session 2
Chair: Ashok Vajpeyi, Former Secretary Culture; 
Speakers: Air Marshal Kapil Kak; Aruna Roy, Former IAS; Ashok Kumar Sharma, IFS, Former Ambassador; Commodore Lokesh K Batra (Retd.); Niranjan Pant, Former Deputy CAG; Sundar Burra, Former IAS 

5-6 pm: Tea
Entry Open 

David Smith - How family separations caused Trump's first retreat – and deepened his bunker mentality

Official figures showed that more than 2,300 children were separated from their parents between 5 May and 9 June; a secret audio recording captured some crying for “mami” and “papa”. America looked at itself in the mirror and did not like what it saw. All four living former first ladies spoke out. Church leaders raised their voices. Liberal cable news host Rachel Maddow broke down in tears during a live broadcast. Bruce Springsteen, performing on Broadway, told his audience:“We are seeing things right now on our American borders that are so shockingly and disgracefully inhumane and un-American that it is simply enraging.”... “Something in Donald Trump’s reptilian brain couldn’t understand the morality but understood that using children as bargaining chips is politically toxic. The fallback position we’re in now is equally toxic. He went from the government kidnapping children to the Department of Defense setting up internment camps for families.”

It was the week that Trump discovered there are still moral lines that cannot be crossed. America recoiled in disgust at the sights and sounds of children in fenced cages, lying on mats under foil sheets, sobbing and wailing for parents whose whereabouts were unknown. Iris Eufragio-Mancia, an undocumented immigrant from Honduras separated from her son on his sixth birthday, told NBC News: “Those cells are full of tears.” Condemnation came from the Pope, the United Nations and observers who drew parallels with concentration camps.

But what distinguished this from the regular drumbeat of Trump panics was that even some of his most devout supporters had to admit to feeling queasy. His wife went public with concerns; his eldest daughter reportedly lobbied behind the scenes. Otherwise oleaginous Republicans scented danger in the midterm elections, though they danced around criticism of Trump himself. And when a deluge of TV coverage portrayed his government as callous and cruel, the master of the medium knew the game was up. Steele added: “There’s no doubt it absolutely was the critical piece that changed this around for the president because you cannot argue with the image of a three-year-old child standing at her mother’s side crying as she’s being handcuffed and taken from her no matter how much you try, no matter how much you try to rally your base around it. Some of the polling started to show even members of his base thought, ‘Well that that may be a little bit too far – maybe.’”.. read more:


Saturday, June 23, 2018

Andrew Griffin - Einstein's theory of relativity proved right outside our solar system in huge gravity experiment

Einstein has been proven right in spectacular style. Scientists have conducted a precise test of the way gravity works outside our solar system. It marks the first time that Einstein's general theory of relativity has been tested at such a large scale. The general theory of relativity, also known as GR, was first proposed in 1915. But its implications are huge, and therefore have never been tested fully.

Despite that, scientists rely on it to explain the strange behaviour of our universe. The new study shows that they haven't been wrong to do so. For instance, scientists have known since 1929 that the universe is expanding, but in 1998 found that the expansion had sped up and was going more quickly than it did in the past. That can only make sense if the universe is filled with a mysterious substance called dark energy – but that in turn relies on GR being correct at the scale of galaxies.

As such, our very understanding of the universe relies on GR being correct. To check that, a team of astronomers looked deep into space, using a nearby galaxy as a gravitational lens. That allowed them to test gravity at the astronomical scale. "General Relativity predicts that massive objects deform space-time, this means that when light passes near another galaxy the light's path is deflected," said Thomas Collett of the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation at the University of Portsmouth, who led the study. "If two galaxies are aligned along our line of sight this can give rise to a phenomenon, called strong gravitational lensing, where we see multiple images of the background galaxy. "If we know the mass of the foreground galaxy, then the amount of separation between the multiple images tells us if General Relativity is the correct theory of gravity on galactic scales."
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/einstein-proof-general-relativity-gravity-universe-expanding-a8410646.html

Friday, June 22, 2018

It's A Beautiful Day - White Bird

It's A Beautiful Day - White Bird

White bird
In a golden cage
On a winter's day
In the rain

White bird
In a golden cage
Alone

The leaves blow
Across the long black road
To the darkened skies
In its rage

But the white bird
Just sits in her cage
Unknown

White bird must fly
Or she will die

White bird
Dreams of the aspen trees
With their dying leaves
Turning gold

But the white bird
Just sits in her cage
Growing old

White bird must fly
Or she will die
White bird must fly
Or she will die

The sunsets come, the sunsets go
The clouds roll by, and the earth turns old
And the young bird's eyes do always glow
And she must fly
She must fly

She must fly
White bird
In a golden cage
On a winter's day
In the rain

White bird
In a golden cage
Alone

White bird must fly
Or she will die

White bird must fly
Or she will die
White bird must fly..

White Bird was the dove of peace .. this was an iconic anti war song in 1968 and after..  if you read the comments below this version there are many by GI's who fought in Vietnam

Enigma - Return To Innocence
Jimmy Cliff - I Can See Clearly Now
pad pad oh hazaar kitaabaan
kadi apne aap nu padheya nahi
ja ja varde mandir maseeti
kade mann apne vich vadeyaa nahi
avein lardaa hai, shaitaan de naal bandeya
kadi nafz apne naal ladeya nahi
colourspacecolour - Ocean Floor

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Book review: Philosophy is dead

Raymond Geuss - CHANGING THE SUBJECT: Philosophy from Socrates to Adorno
Reviewed by JONATHAN RÉE

Back in the 1970s, Raymond Geuss was a young colleague of Richard Rorty in the mighty philosophy department at Princeton. In some ways they were very different: Rorty was a middle-class New Yorker with a talent for reckless generalization, whereas Geuss was a fastidious scholar-poet from working-class Pennsylvania. But they shared a commitment to left-wing politics, and both of them dissented from the mainstream view of philosophy as a unified discipline advancing majesti-cally towards absolute knowledge. For a while, Rorty and Geuss could bond as the bad boys of Princeton. The philosophical establishment denounced people like Rorty and Geuss as relativists, bent on destroying the sacred distinction between truth and falsehood. But they defended themselves by pointing out that even if there is such a thing as an almighty final truth, it looks different from diverse points of view, and gets expressed in different words in diverse times and places. They regarded themselves as “perspectivists” or “historicists” rather than relativists, and believed that – to borrow a phrase from Thomas Kuhn – philosophy needed to find a “role for history”.

In a beautiful eulogy delivered on the occasion of Rorty’s death in 2007, Geuss recalled a conspira-torial moment when his colleague revealed a plan for an undergraduate course called “An alternative history of modern philosophy”. Rorty proposed to fill his lectures with supposedly minor characters such as Petrus Ramus, Paracelsus and Johann Gottlieb Fichte, to the exclusion of canonical drones such as Locke, Leibniz and Hume, and out-and-out deplorables such as Descartes (Rorty’s pet hate) or Kant (Geuss’s). The projected “alternative history” came to nothing. (According to Geuss, Rorty blamed the Princeton “thought police”, otherwise known as the Committee on Instruction.) But Geuss’s latest book could be seen as a fulfil­ment of Rorty’s plan, forty years on.

Changing the Subject is a history of philosophy in twelve thinkers. There are lucid self-contained essays on Socrates, Plato, Lucretius, Augustine, Montaigne, Hobbes, Hegel, Nietzsche, Lukács, Heidegger, Wittgensteinand Adorno; but Descartes, Locke, Leibniz, Hume and Kant don’t even make it to the index. The whole performance combines polyglot philological rigour with supple intellectual sympathy, and it is all presented – as Geuss puts it – hilaritatis causa, or in a spirit of fun.

Out of his twelve philosophers, Geuss seems closest to Lucretius, who despised religion (though the word religio meant something rather different at the time), and maintained that the world has no moral purpose and is utterly indifferent to our existence. Hobbes comes almost as high in Geuss’s estimation: he invented the concept of the “state” as the locus of political sovereignty, and treated it as an “artificial construct” which pays no regard to such so-called principles as “natural rights” or “the common good”. Hegel, as Geuss reads him, was a good disciple of Hobbes because he avoided trying to “justify” the ways of the world, and he opened the way for Nietzsche’s furious attacks on self-serving ideas of “truth-telling”, “profundity” and “authenticity”. In the wake of Lucretius, Hobbes, Hegel and Niet­zsche, philosophy seems to be essentially a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by moralistic sentimentality.

There are two different ways of responding to this predicament. Geuss sketches one of them in a scintillating chapter on Theodor Adorno, the twentieth-century aesthete who sought to combine classical Marxism with disdain for the stupidity of the masses... read more:
https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/public/changing-subject-raymond-geuss-philosophy/


'Barnacled angels': the whales of Stellwagen Bank – a photo essay

John Berger wrote of the ‘”narrow abyss of non-comprehension” between ourselves and other animals. That abyss is implicit out here, in the open ocean. Given what we have inflicted on these animals, and given the future threats they face, this protected zone seems like a modern Eden. Surrounded by jumping, feeding humpbacks, circled by minke and fin whales, with white-sided dolphins weaving in between, it seemed to me that merely bearing witness to this wonder was enough. They were in their moment, and so were we.

At the tip of Cape Cod, a sandy spit reaches out into the Atlantic, like an arm, towards a vast underwater plateau where humpbacks gather each summer to feed. This is the US marine sanctuary of Stellwagen Bank, where for the past three weeks I’ve been a guest on the Dolphin Fleet whalewatch boats, working out of Provincetown. I’ve been coming here for 18 years; it’s where I learned about whales. I’m inordinately fond of these animals and like me, they come back here too.

Every spring, the whales return from their mating grounds in the Caribbean where they’ve spent the winter, fasting: those clear blue waters hold no sustenance for a whale. The grey-green seas of the Cape are filled with food: the cycle of upwelling nutrition feeds phytoplankton, that feed zooplank-ton, that feed the sand-eels, that feed the whales. They’re unconcerned by the clouds of gulls that follow them, in the same cycle, after the same food – even stealing fish out of the whales’ mouths.

Like other rorqual whales, humpbacks’ throats expand in rubbery pleats reaching down to their navels. Opening their mouths wide, they strain their food using the strips of baleen – made of keratin, the same substance found in human fingernails – that hang from their upper jaws. Humpbacks co-operate in one of the most spectacular sights in the natural world. Blowing precisely calibrated streams of bubbles from their mouths, they swim round in circles, creating curtains of air around their prey. Then they rise, open-mouthed like giant crows. As they do so, they seem to alter the shape of the water itself... read/ see more:
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jun/20/barnacled-angels-the-whales-of-stellwagen-bank-a-photo-essay

Book review: How Democracy Ends by David Runciman


David Runciman: How Democracy Ends
Reviewed by Mark Mazower

Democracy dies in darkness” runs the slogan on the Washington Post masthead, but if democracy really is dying around us, its demise has never been so loudly heralded nor so brightly lit. Even before Donald Trump’s emergence as a presidential candidate, it was clear that the global trend away from authoritarian regimes to democratic ones had slowed down; his rise was accompanied by a barrage of authors’ warnings that we are heading back into the 1930s. Never have the last days of Weimar seemed so worthy of study. Historians have developed a nice sideline in self-help manuals for a life of underground resistance to tyranny.

David Runciman’s bracingly intelligent new book is both a contribution to this debate and a refutation of it. How Democracy Ends shares the widespread sense that representative democracy is not doing well, but argues powerfully against screaming fascism at every turn. History, as Runciman states at the outset, does not repeat itself. The challenge he sets himself is to use the past to see what has happened to democracy today, in particular to diagnose its ailments, without assuming that the only alternative is the one imprinted on our collective memory.

That memory, after all, is a short one. The ancient Greeks may have invented democracy but they felt deeply ambivalent about it, regarding it as just one of the phases in the political cycle. It was not until the start of the 19th century that a democratic wave began to emerge again, in the Americas and briefly in southern Europe, and not until the second half of the 20th that representative democracy in the sense we have known it spread around the world. In that relatively brief span of time, it was fought over by liberals and socialists, rejected – in its “bourgeois” form – by communists, and smothered by dictators who could rarely decide whether what they were doing was superseding or perfecting it. After the second world war, parliamentary democracy got a new lease of life. 

When the cold war ended, the collapse of the Soviet Union seemed to leave democracy as the only game in town. By the beginning of this century, most political scientists, especially but not only in the US, had come to believe that liberal democracy was the new normal, something to which the entire world should aspire. The crushing of the Arab spring, and the rise of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey and Viktor Orbán in Hungary, could be written off as backsliding in polities whose democratic roots were shallow. It was the 2016 US presidential elections that, in a single moment, changed an implausibly rosy (and complacent) outlook, replacing it with an equally implausible pessimism. Runciman says democracy is in a funk, for reasons that go far beyond Trump, but that unless we can stimulate our political imaginations to understand the new ways in which democracies can fail, we will not appreciate the scale of the problem before us. He identifies three contemporary challenges in particular. The first, paradoxically, is that levels of political violence have gone down. This means that, in such places as the US or Europe, democratic failure is not likely to happen in the old-fashioned way, through a military coup d’état. Those will still occur elsewhere, but the stability of democratic institutions suggests it is more likely that democracies will be undermined invisibly, from within... read more:

see also

51st Victim: IB Officer Investigating Vyapam Scam Killed In A Road Accident\


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Michael Fuchs - Trump's family separation policy is as damaging to America as Abu Ghraib

The words “Abu Ghraib” have become synonymous with torture, a black eye for America that has damaged US national security. Donald Trump’s policy of ripping children away from their parents at the border is a new black mark on America that could also undermine US national security.

America’s power comes from its values: freedom, the rule of law, respect for human rights. Whatever problems America may face at home, America’s democratic system enables itself to correct wrongs in the pursuit of a fair, just society. Whatever mistakes the United States makes in its foreign policy, America still endeavors to infuse its foreign policy with these values. When America does not live up to these values, it is less safe. The experience of the Iraqi prison Abu Ghraib is instructive. After the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, it used Saddam Hussein’s jail as a place to torture Iraqi prisoners. The torture of prisoners – the picture of a US soldier holding a naked Iraqi on a leash, for instance – became international symbols that shattered America’s image as a global defender of human rights.

These illegal acts hurt US national security. Abu Ghraib was used as a rallying cry by terrorist groups who were fighting American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. As one US military interrogator wrote: “I learned in Iraq that the No 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo … The number of US soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on September 11, 2001.” 

Today, America is in a moral crisis as its government takes children away from undocumented migrants and asylum-seekers at the US border. It is difficult to imagine something crueler than taking a child away from parents. These people are often fleeing violence and danger and are in search of a better life. The sounds of children crying in US jails while guards crack jokesare eerily evocative of US guards at Abu Ghraib posing smiling for pictureswith naked Iraqi prisoners in humiliating positions. As George Takei – who was imprisoned by the US government in an internment camp as a child during the second world war – pointed out, not even those Japanese-Americans imprisoned during the war were separated from their parents. In America today, border agents reportedly told parents their children were getting bathed and then never came back, evoking Nazis taking away children in death camps and telling people being led to the gas chambers that they were going to take a shower... read more: 
ghraib


The best books on Hegel: recommended by Stephen Houlgate

G W F Hegel is one of the most divisive figures in western philosophy. He influenced Marx, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, Adorno and countless others. And yet, he is seen as perhaps the most obscure and inaccessible philosopher to read. Is he worth engaging with? How should we read him? Stephen Houlgate, a philosopher at Warwick University, gives us an in-depth look at Hegel.

Who was Hegel? What sort of philosophical context should we place him in?
Hegel was born in Stuttgart in 1770, an exact contemporary of Beethoven and Wordsworth. He was almost nineteen when the French Revolution broke out and this had a great impact on him. There’s a story that he and Schelling and Hölderlin, who were contemporaries of his, went out and planted a ‘freedom tree’ on 14 July, 1793 and danced a revolutionary French dance around it. Even if this story is not true in all its details, it indicates that they responded enthusiastically to the French Revolution.

“People often describe Hegel as a kind of Aristotle of the modern age. ”
Hegel lived through the Napoleonic wars and took quite a long time to get a job. From the age of about thirty to thirty-six, he worked as an unsalaried lecturer in Jena. Then he was the head of a gymnasium – a secondary school – from 1808 to 1816, during which time he wrote theScience of Logic. And then in Berlin he flourished, becoming a very prominent figure. He knew Goethe and a number of the Romantics, and both Felix Mendelssohn and Ludwig Feuerbach went to his lectures. 

Hegel got married in 1811, which needs to be pointed out because Kant wasn’t married, Nietzsche 
wasn’t married, and Kierkegaard wasn’t married. In that sense, he was quite bourgeois in the life that he led and this is reflected in the institutions of the state he describes in his Philosophy of Right.
People often describe Hegel as a kind of Aristotle of the modern age. He had an insatiable desire to learn and understand things. So he was interested in mathematics, science and politics. He was also interested in art, and he would travel far in order to see it. He went on long coach journeys to Vienna and Paris and Leipzig to see people but also to go to art galleries.

He was very gregarious, and when travelling he would tell engaging stories in the letters he wrote to his wife about the people he’d met and conversed with. So he was quite personable, though he could also be fairly irascible and was not averse to picking fights with people. He was steeped in history, and very aware of the constitutional developments that were going on at the time and, of course, the expansion of Napoleon’s influence.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Stephanie Kirchgaessner - Outcry over far-right Italian minister's call for Roma 'register'

On Monday Salvini ordered the census and the removal of all non-Italian Roma – which he called an “answer to the Roma question” – and said he wanted to know “who, and how many” there were.
“Unfortunately we will have to keep the Italian Roma because we can’t expel them,” Salvini said on Telelombardia. Salvini is on record as having praised Benito Mussolini, the Italian fascist leader, and his new policy has sparked comparisons by the centre-left Democratic party to ethnic cleansing rules introduced in the late 1920s that also targeted the Roma.

“The interior minister does not seem to know that a census on the basis of ethnicity is not permitted by the law,” Carlo Stasolla, president of the Associazione 21 Luglio, which supports Roma rights, told the Ansa news agency. “We also recall that Italian Roma have been present in our country for at least half a century and sometimes they are ‘more Italian’ than many of our fellow citizens.”


Francesco Palermo, a former senator in Italy and human rights expert who has defended the rights of Roma, said it would be legally impossible to pursue the creation of an ethnic-specific census and expulsions as Salvini described, because the issue had already been taken up by Italian courts in the past, where it was rejected. But he said the bigger problem was that the reaction to Salvini was generally positive, and that his popularity was growing despite the extreme nature of his positions.
“It is very simple and very scary. Except for intellectuals and certain journalists, most people would say there is nothing wrong with this, and that is the tricky point. Salvini knows this. It is a just a means to get political support,” Palermo said.

He added that reactions would be different if Salvini was targeting other groups of people who face discrimination, but that racist views about the Roma are “innate” among many people in Italy.
Up to 180,000 Roma live in Italy, about 43% of whom are Italian citizens. About 4,000 Roma live in state-sanctioned ghettos in Rome, according to a 2013 report by Amnesty International. These out-of-city ghettoes consist of pre-fabricated containers or mobile homes in fenced-off areas, often without adequate sanitation or clean drinking water. Inhabitants are excluded from other social housing despite many having lived in Italy for generations. An Italian court in 2015 ordered the city of Rome to dismantle some of the state-sanctioned Roma facilities, after it said the capital was guilty of ethnic discrimination... read more:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jun/19/italy-coalition-rift-roma-register-matteo-salvini

see also
Hitler's annihilation of the Romanis (the Gypsies of Europe)



51st Victim: IB Officer Investigating Vyapam Scam Killed In A Road Accident

58-year-old Ajay Kumar Khare, a senior Intelligence Bureau inspector who was involved in the investigation of the Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh, was killed on Sunday evening  when a speeding car hit him in Trilanga area, said the police on Monday. (NB: This report is dated June 9, 2018). The accused car driver fled the scene after the accident and investigation are still on to nab him. 
Khare was riding his scooter on his way to visit his under-construction house in Akriti Retreat Township at Kolar Road. Officials from Shahapura police station told The Asian Age, “A black car hit the scooter he was riding from the rear and dragged him for a few metres. He sustained grievous injuries to his head and several parts of the body and died on the spot.” A passer-by rushed Khare to nearby Kolar Community Health Centre, where the doctors pronounced him dead.

However, the incident was informed to police headquarters was much delayed. A police officer said that the reason for the delay is also being probed. He was investigating into undisclosed information related to the probe. Doctor Anand Rai, Whistleblower – Vyapam Scam, tweeted when a govt & its ppl are involved, they can go to any limit to cover it up #VyapamKills51
https://thelogicalindian.com/news/51st-victim-ib-officer-investigating-vyapam-scam-killed-in-a-road-accident/

More posts on Vyapam

see also