Showing posts from October, 2020

Journey To A War by W.H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood (1939) // W. H. Auden 'In Time of War' (1939)

Leave Truth to the police and us; we know the Good;   We build the Perfect City time shall never alter;    Our Law shall guard you always like a cirque of mountains... (p 266)    But ideas can be true although men die,   And we can watch a thousand faces    Made active by one lie:   And maps can really point to places     Where life is evil now:  Nanking; Dachau. (p 253)      From W.H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood; Journey To A War (1939)     When we awoke early next morning the train was crossing a wide valley of paddy fields. The rising sun struck its beams across the surfaces of innumerable miniature lakes; in the middle distance farmhouses seemed actually to be floating on water. Here and there a low mound rose a few feet above the level of the plain, with a weed-grown, ruinous pagoda, standing upon it, visible for miles around. Peasants with water-buffaloes were industriously ploughing their arable liquid into a thick, brown soup. From  Journey To A War , p.191

Indians condemn Paris beheadings, deplore outrageous statements by Muslim religious and political leaders

Press Release:  Indians condemn Paris beheadings, deplore outrageous statements by Muslim religious and political leaders Well over a hundred prominent Indians from diverse backgrounds have today issued a statement condemning the Paris beheadings and deploring the outrageous statements by Muslim religious and political leaders. Among other things the statement read: “No God, gods, goddesses, prophets or saints may be invoked to justify the killing and/or terrorising of fellow human beings”. Here is the full text of the statement: We the undersigned unequivocally and unconditionally condemn the recent killings in France by two fanatics in the name of faith. We are deeply disturbed by the convoluted logic of some self-appointed guardians of Indian Muslims in rationalising cold-blooded murder and deplore the outrageous remarks of some heads of state. It has become the order of the day for all religious groups to indulge in whataboutery whenever such heinous crimes are committed

Book review: The Hamlet Doctrine: Knowing Too Much, Doing Nothing

Around 1905 or 1906, Sigmund Freud wrote an essay, unpublished in his lifetime, called “Psychopathic Characters on the Stage.” The essay addressed the question of what we, as spectators, get out of watching people go crazy. Freud’s theory was that we’re fascinated by crazy characters because they help us express our own repressed impulses. Drama, of course, can’t express our fantasies too literally; when that happens, we call it pornography and walk out of the theatre. Instead, a good playwright maneuvers our desires into the light using a mixture of titillation and censure, fantasy and irony, obscenity and euphemism, daring and reproach.  The Hamlet Doctrine ; By Simon Critchley and Jamieson Webster Reviewed by Joshua Rothman A good play, Freud wrote, provokes “not merely an enjoyment of the liberation but a resistance to it as well.” That resistance is key. It lets us enjoy our desires without quite admitting that they’re ours.  “Hamlet,” Freud thought, best exemplified the appeal of

Gaiutra Bahadur: In 1953, Britain openly removed an elected government, with tragic consequences

For generations, a parable involving outside intervention has circulated in Guyana, formerly British Guiana, in South America. The story goes that soldiers sent in to suppress the independence movement fixated on homes flying red flags, believing them to be a sign of Communist allegiance. Instead, they were Hindu prayer flags. I’ve encountered this tale in a self-published memoir, in a yarn told me by one of the country’s former attorney generals, in speeches edging cane fields.  On the eve of a tarnished  independence , the local Hindu establishment did protest that British troops, looking for concealed weapons, were targeting homes flying the sacred pennants. But the story has gained the quality of folklore. Sometimes, it’s accurately set in 1964, two years before independence. Sometimes, it’s misremembered to be 1953 – a year that carries its own significance, as it was when Britain  overthrew  the country’s democratically elected government….

SC dismisses AAP govt plea against bail to Pinjra Tod activist Devangana Kalita in riots case

NB : Nothing more need be said about the AAP's democratic credentials than the fact that they wanted to keep Devangana Kalita in jail for an indefinite duration, and that too for such a flimsy reason and on scant evidence. DS...  The Supreme Court Wednesday dismissed AAP government’s appeal against the bail granted to Pinjra Tod activist Devangana Kalita in a north-east Delhi violence case. A bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan dismissed the plea filed by the Delhi government saying that being an influential person cannot be a ground for denying bail. Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, appearing for Delhi government, said Kalita is very influential person and the high court has stated that there were only police witnesses in the case. He said there are also some protected witnesses in the case. The bench questioned Raju that can an influential person be a ground to deny bail? It told the ASG as how she can tamper with the witness. The bench said it would not interfere with t

Bob Carr: The US electoral system is a shambles. Systemic voter suppression and rules still being set for an election within days – this is American exceptionalism

On Monday night the US supreme court voted five to three against  allowing more days for counting absentee ballots in Wisconsin . Given difficulties in the postal service, Democrats wanted to see ballots that are cast before close of voting on 3 November received and counted for another six days. This decision, only a week before election day, follows a supreme court decision on 19 October, by four votes to four, to decline a bid by state Republican legislators  to stop the count in Pennsylvania extending three days .  But following Monday’s confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, this could be revisited. Astonishingly, the US is still settling rules for an election due within days. And a national election is being conducted with a patchwork of state laws and regulations. Further, elected state officials – Republican or Democrat office holders – are making decisions about who goes on the roll, how many voting machines go where and how long postal votes will be counted. And all subject to ap

John Harris: The US Supreme Court Is Begging For a Legitimacy Crisis

The most generous appraisal of life in the Trump years actually dates from 1850, by a writer reflecting on Napoleon, a leader one imagines Donald Trump could readily admire: “There’s a certain satisfaction in coming down to the lowest ground of politics, for we get rid of cant and hypocrisy.” Are we at the lowest ground? We are close, for sure. And it turns out Ralph Waldo Emerson was right: There  is  a certain satisfaction. The president may bend the truth and often break it — an average of more than 50 false or misleading claims a day,  says The Washington Post  —but in some essential ways he exhibits a lack of pretense that is surely a key element of his appeal to supporters. It was Mitch McConnell who felt compelled to weave a web of hypocritical casuistry to explain why he pushed a vote to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court days before a presidential election when in February 2016 he blocked President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland on the grounds it wa

Ramachandra Guha: The Myth Of Modi the Economic Reformer

During the Constituent Assembly debates, Dr B R Ambedkar remarked that "the love of the intellectual Indian for the village community is of course infinite, if not pathetic". Well, the hopes that our free-market columnists place in the redemptive powers of Narendra Modi are infinite, if not pathetic too. After the new farm bills were passed in parliament last month, there has been a veritable deluge of articles praising Modi for having (at last) awakened his better instincts and revealed himself to be a real reformer (as these columnists had wished for all along). Anyone who had any illusions about Narendra Modi's economic wisdom should have abandoned them altogether after the demonetization of large currency notes in November 2016. That was a daft move from which the Indian economy has not yet recovered. It was daft in terms of its economic logic, though it made some sense politically and personally, the first by diminishing the cash hoards of parties other than the Bh

Ben Smee: Private investigator hired by Adani secretly photographed activist's daughter on way to school

A private investigator working for Adani took covert photographs of an environmental activist walking his nine-year-old daughter to primary school, court documents have revealed. The affidavit of the investigator – who was instructed by lawyers representing Adani in its civil case against activist Ben Pennings – also revealed he surveilled Pennings’ wife, trawled her Facebook page and followed her to work. Guardian Australia can reveal documents detailing the surveillance of Pennings and his family were tendered to the Queensland supreme court in  a recent “Anton Piller” case , in which Adani had sought permission to conduct an unannounced search of the activist’s family home....   Toby Walsh - Noam Chomsky and Stephen Hawking among a thousand intellectuals to sign Open Letter to Stop Killer Robots Before They’re Built Joseph Stiglitz on artificial intelligence:

Chandan Gowda on D.R. Nagaraj: The wonder of retrieval

On a Sunday afternoon, during one of DR Nagaraj’s visits to our home, I had held out towards him my new acquisition, a copy of Vaclav Havel’s Living in Truth. He took it from me saying, “This has an exciting essay, ‘The Power of the Powerless.’” On another occasion, it was The Essays, Articles and Reviews of Evelyn Waugh. Pushing back his black, square horn-rimmed glasses, he exclaimed: “Oh! I learnt the niceties of English from Waugh.” I was finishing high school during this time, the late eighties. My father, who had studied and taught English literature before joining the Karnataka civil services, and DR Nagaraj (DRN), had become close after having met through common friends… r ead more:

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 ( General Assembly resolution 217 A ) as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected and it has been  translated into over 500 languages.   Download PDF

On fascism, non-fascism and antifa

Does ‘counter-violence’ damage the antifascist cause? Or is it delusory to talk about non-violence in the face of an opponent with no such scruples? Natasha Lennard explains to James Miller why antifascism rejects debate as an effective response to the fascist threat....   James Miller : Since you’ve written an entire book with the title  Essays on a Non-Fascist Life,  can you tell me a bit about how you chose that title, and what the term ‘non-fascist’ means to you, in the context of those essays? We both know the appearance of the phrase in the context of the work of Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault, written in the aftermath of May ’68. Natasha Lennard : I used the term ‘non-fascist’ as opposed to ‘anti-fascist’ in my title for a few reasons. I wanted to indicate on the book’s cover that this isn’t a collection dedicated wholly to ‘anti-fascism’, as the term is commonly used to describe the radical tactics taken up under the banner ‘antifa’ — that is, the set of (sometimes milita

Amartya Sen: As India drifts into autocracy, nonviolent protest is the most powerful resistance

Nothing is as important, the philosopher Immanuel Kant claimed, as the “freedom to make public use of one’s reason on all matters”. Unfortunately, as Kant also noted, the opportunity to argue is often restrained by society – sometimes very severely. A disturbing fact about the world today is that authoritarian tendencies have been strikingly on the increase in many countries – in Asia, in Europe, in Latin America, in Africa and within the United States of America. I fear I have to include my own country,  India , in that unfortunate basket. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights  (UN General Assembly December 10, 1948) After India secured independence from British colonial rule, it had for many decades a fine history of being a secular democracy with much personal liberty. People showed their commitment to freedom and their determination to remove authoritarian governance through decisive public action, for example in the general elections in 1977, in which the despotic regulation

Charis McGowan: Chile votes by huge majority to scrap Pinochet-era constitution

Chile has voted overwhelmingly in favor of rewriting the country’s constitution to replace guiding principles imposed four decades ago under the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. Jubilant pro-reform supporters took to the streets of the capital Santiago and other cities to celebrate on Sunday night after exit polls showed that 78.24% of people had voted to approve a rewrite, while 21.76% rejected the change. Voters also elected for the new constitution to be entirely drafted by a popularly elected body – meaning no active lawmakers can be involved in the process…. Victor Jara murder: ex-military officers sentenced in Chile for 1973 death Andrew Bacevich: High Crimes and Misdemeanors of the Fading American Century Lucian Truscott: Trump wants to end the forever wars - except the one about oil and money William Astore: The U.S. Military’s Lost Wars // Chris Hedges: The American Empire Will Collapse Within a Decade, Two at Most

Former civil servants condemn malicious campaign of 'calumny' against soldiers of Muslim faith

As many as 91 former civil servants have, in an open letter, sought investigation into what they call “malicious campaign of calumny” against soldiers of the Muslim faith in the Indian armed forces, stating “the assaults against the dignity of our Muslim citizens, as indeed physical assaults, are becoming commonplace.” The latest campaign against “Muslim” soldiers, the letter says, “casts doubts on the loyalty of Muslim soldiers”, which has “wider implications” and could “have serious repercussions on our security and on fields of battle.” This has happened, it regrets, “when India is facing grave external threats, attempts to divide the armed forces could well be termed acts of treason.” Text:  We are a group of former civil servants of the All India and Central Services, who have worked for decades with Central and State Governments in the course of our careers. As a group, we have no affiliation with any political party but believe in the credo of impartiality, neutrality and com