Sunday, August 02, 2009

Back to Nature, or Forward?

Exhibit A

Theodore Kaczynski: A bright dot on the long strip of dissenters against the inexorable march of progress, a man deeply troubled by the usurpation of individual freedom through technology and institutionalization, a scholar who taught at the University of Berkeley, born 1942, and a man who is currently in life imprisonment in a maximum security Supermax prison in USA for mail-bombing, among other things.

Also known as the Unabomber. His manifesto, published 1995, is a remarkable document from the annals of twentieth century. I also highly recommend his short story, The Ship of Fools

According to him, "The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race. They have greatly increased the life-expectancy of those of us who live in "advanced" countries, but they have destabilized society, have made life unfulfilling, have subjected human beings to indignities, have led to widespread psychological suffering (in the Third World to physical suffering as well) and have inflicted severe damage on the natural world."

A few excerpts from the manifesto:
We use the term "surrogate activity" to designate an activity that is directed toward an artificial goal that people set up for themselves merely in order to have some goal to work toward, or let us say, merely for the sake of the "fulfillment" that they get from pursuing the goal. Here is a rule of thumb for the identification of surrogate activities. Given a person who devotes much time and energy to the pursuit of goal X, ask yourself this: If he had to devote most of his time and energy to satisfying his biological needs, and if that effort required him to use his physical and mental facilities in a varied and interesting way, would he feel seriously deprived because he did not attain goal X? If the answer is no, then the person's pursuit of a goal X is a surrogate activity. Hirohito's studies in marine biology clearly constituted a surrogate activity, since it is pretty certain that if Hirohito had had to spend his time working at interesting non-scientific tasks in order to obtain the necessities of life, he would not have felt deprived because he didn't know all about the anatomy and life-cycles of marine animals. On the other hand the pursuit of sex and love (for example) is not a surrogate activity, because most people, even if their existence were otherwise satisfactory, would feel deprived if they passed their lives without ever having a relationship with a member of the opposite sex. (But pursuit of an excessive amount of sex, more than one really needs, can be a surrogate activity.)


We divide human drives into three groups: (1) those drives that can be satisfied with minimal effort; (2) those that can be satisfied but only at the cost of serious effort; (3) those that cannot be adequately satisfied no matter how much effort one makes. The power process is the process of satisfying the drives of the second group.
The more drives there are in the third group, the more there is frustration, anger, eventually defeatism, depression, etc.


In modern industrial society natural human drives tend to be pushed into the first and third groups, and the second group tends to consist increasingly of artificially created drives.


We suggest that modern man's obsession with longevity, and with maintaining physical vigor and sexual attractiveness to an advanced age, is a symptom of unfulfillment resulting from deprivation with respect to the power process. The "mid-life crisis" also is such a symptom. So is the lack of interest in having children that is fairly common in modern society but almost unheard-of in primitive societies.


In response to the arguments of this section someone will say, "Society must find a way to give people the opportunity to go through the power process." For such people the value of the opportunity is destroyed by the very fact that society gives it to them. What they need is to find or make their own opportunities. As long as the system GIVES them their opportunities it still has them on a leash. To attain autonomy they must get off that leash.

Exhibit B

The book Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, published in 1992. This goes further than "Industrial Society and Its Future" and considers agricultural revolution itself as the seed of destabilization on this planet.

A few excerpts:
Ishmael: There's nothing fundamentally wrong with people. Given a story to enact that puts them in accord with the world, they will live in accord with the world. But given a story to enact that puts them at odds with the world, as yours does, they will live at odds with the world.

Ishmael: One of the most striking features of Taker culture is its passionate and unwavering dependence on prophets.

Ishmael: What makes it so striking is the fact that there is absolutely nothing like this among the Leavers.

Ishmael: What were the prophets trying to accomplish here? What were they here to do?

Alan Lomax: They were here to straighten us out and tell us how we ought to live.

Ishmael: But why? Why do you need prophets to tell you how you ought to live? Why do you need anyone to tell you how you ought to live?

Alan Lomax: We need prophets to tell us how we ought to live, because otherwise we wouldn't know.

Ishmael: Why is that? What does Mother Culture have to say?

Alan Lomax: there's no such thing as certain knowledge about how people should live. It's just not available, and that's why we don't have it.

Ishmael: Has anyone ever said, "Well, we have certain knowledge about all these other things, why don't we see if any such knowledge can be found about how to live?"

Ishmael: Considering the fact that this is by far the most important problem mankind has to solve has ever had to solve you'd think there would be a whole branch of science devoted to it. Instead, we find that not a single one of you has ever wondered whether any such knowledge is even out there to be obtained.

Ishmael: Not a very scientific procedure for such a scientific people.

Ishmael: We now know two highly important things about people, Ishmael said, at least according to Taker mythology. One, there's something fundamentally wrong with them, and, two, they have no certain knowledge about how they ought to live and never will have any. It seems as though there should be a connection between these two things.

Ishmael: Perhaps in fact the two things are actually one thing. Perhaps the flaw in man is exactly this: that he doesn't know how he ought to live.

Ishmael: We now have in place all the major elements of your culture's explanation of how things came to be this way. The world was given to man to turn into a paradise, but he's always screwed it up, because he's fundamentally flawed. He might be able to do something about this if he knew how he ought to live, but he doesn't and he never will, because no knowledge about that is obtainable. So, however hard man might labor to turn the world into a paradise, he's probably just going to go on screwing it up.

Ishmael: With nothing but this wretched story to enact, it's no wonder so many of you spend your lives stoned on drugs or booze or television. It's no wonder so many of you go mad or become suicidal.

Exhibit C

Masanobu Fukuoka
, the developer of the so-called Do-Nothing Farming. An excerpt from his book, The One Straw Revolution:
When a decision is made to cope with the symptoms of a problem, it is generally assumed that the corrective measures will solve the problem itself. They seldom do. Engineers cannot seem to get this through their heads. These countermeasures are all based on too narrow a definition of what is wrong. Human measures and countermeasures proceed from limited scientific truth and judgment. A true solution can never come about in this way.

It is not in dispute that humans have messed up their habitat (through pollution) and their minds (through neuroses) in ways too many to list. And I do not for one moment disagree with the listing of symptoms by the three authors above.

But what is the essential cause of our propensity for greed and destruction? Is it our knowledge (and the "arrogance" that it leads to), or is it something else? I submit that the primary reason is instinctive, and technology and tools are used for furthering the goals of that instinct.

There are at least two ways out of this quandary:

The Easy One: to go back to nature, and live unconsciously, and surrender the (howsoever incomplete) scientific knowledge gained till date, or,

The Difficult One: to move forward, to change ourselves, to address the instincts in operation, and discover better and more consciously harmonious ways to live and prosper.

In the former, not only is it going to be impossible to convince the vast majority of human beings to turn back the clock, it is moreover guaranteed that the sorry state at present will be repeated in due time. Since the drive for power and knowledge will remain, it is only a matter of time that another metaphorical northern hemisphere forms itself and starts exploiting the south, or another agriculturalist is born and starts farming.

In the latter, there is at least a chance that we may yet redeem ourselves. For thousands of years we have been searching for a way to live happily and harmlessly, and why be so pessimistic that humans will never find it?

Mr Kaczynski, Mr Quinn and Mr Fukuoka are the kind of people who deserve admiration for the deep problems they have tried to tackle, but their solutions fall short of addressing the root causes.

To take away power (read knowledge) from an animal can lessen the damage that that animal can cause, but a powerless animal is still an animal who will not stop seeking power, and who will look for opportunities in whatever form to further its goals.

To regress into wild nature is impossible, given the neo-cortex. The neo-cortex, and the thinking it enables, is what makes humans "unnatural". (I use the word "nature" here in the context set in the "man versus nature" debate. In another context, of course everything is natural.) To think rightly, and rationally, rather than to simply abdicate thinking and rationality, is the challenge for pioneering humans.

To "surrender to nature", being a conscious choice driven through the neo-cortex, is a contradiction in terms. This surrender may be possible for a few "enlightened" beings who can easily go "beyond thought", but those who cannot stop thinking, what are they to do?

Follow the enlightened blindly, perhaps?


Anonymous said...

Proves that one can have an IQ of 165 and yet have a messed up mind.

Anonymous said...

I agree with anonymous who said"Proves that one can have an IQ of 165 and yet have a messed up mind" and would say the author of this blog fits well to this

Anonymous said...

I was referring to exhibit A who as per Wiki has IQ of quoted numerical value, while being a dangerous psychotic languishing in jail.

Anonymous said...

Hi anonymous, ur comment in original had universal applicability. I had only partcularised it. Borrowing the comment from "exhibit" does not dilute its aplicability

Anonymous 'A' said...

Whereas the case of exhibit A has been widely studied because he catapulted himself into the public eye by actions of reprehensible nature, generalising to include our host, who at worst seems to be a trifly confused guy like most of us, sometimes latching on to things for their sheer unusualness, and a taste for grandeur, seems rather sweeping and unfair.

Anon A said...

A to B

Messed up mind is a drastic label which the quoted exhibit has earned through his known behaviour and is not a term to be loosely applied.

Harmanjit Singh said...

Hi commentators, it may be worthwhile to note that while the "messed up" one is in jail for killing a couple of people, the regular ones (Henry Kissinger, for one) are sometimes the recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize, for killing hundreds of thousands.

"It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society."

A said...

War is a sickness but a psychotic is a psychotic, which is what the guy exhibited by you is.

Harmanjit Singh said...

Hi anonymous, you certainly have a right to your opinions. But to call someone a "psychotic" does not end the story. It begins it. What was the nature, and causation of his "psychosis"?

How did a pioneering thinker, and by all accounts a genius, embark on a path which ended at the Supermax prison?

Was it merely random madness? Or a "madness" worth studying in depth?

A said...

The specific diagnostic label applied to exhibit is a subject of research for a century and while inconclusive weight of evidence inclines to genetic origin. Genius, thinker and IQ have nothing to do with it. His actions prove that if a genius, he is at best a diseased one, and at worst an evil one. Kissinger's Nobel prize cannot be used to justify murder.

Di said...

Interestingly I was reading a biography of Joseph Neeham 2 wks ago; Needham came to America and was lecturing on technique/use of gunpowder in ancient china (topic like that...I do not remember the exact title) at one of the top university. One of the young person in the audience was kazinsky aka unabomber. The author suggesting that possibly the idea of sending crude home made bombs thro' letters came from this lecture!!
The schezophenic mind is also many a times genius mind in my humble opinion; such as the professor in princeton on whom Ron Howard made "the beautiful mind". Something goes wrong in the wiring of the brain resulting in chemical imbalance which unfortunately triggers paranoia, delusions, hallucination.

A said...

It makes more sense to admire someone like Deep Joshi of Magsaysay award than mentally challenged Exhibits who crave to destroy and kill. One can pity such people but it's sad and sickly to seek one's role models in such questionable quarters. Such people have a craving for grandeur even if it is notoriety. Their only defense can be insanity. The debilitating and far from glamourous disease has been inadequately described, with due romantic touches for box office reasons, in the films Beautiful Mind( real life story of John Nash, Nobel prizer in Economics) and Proof, about another schizophrenic mathematical prodigy.

Anonymous said...

@ A

state awards and recognition by ghettoized academic circles elicits no more admiration for the people you mentioned than the people mentioned in the post. Pioneers are that. period. no categorization will help your argument. That some went horribly wrong is because all humans are wrought in human condition. genius does not ensure freedom from 'self' and silliness.

Harmanjit Singh said...

I suggest that those caring enough to voice a critique of the "Unabomber" at least take the time to read his remarkable manifesto.

Who knows, it may change your life.


As for sanity and insanity, it might be an apt moment to reflect upon the outcomes of the large-scale sanity of normal human beings in the world.

Just for one contextual instance, knowing that the Unabomber is probably schizophrenic, he is still in a prison where he has to spend 23 hours in solitary confinement for the rest of his life.

His thoughts in another era were echoed somewhat by Thoreau. Thoreau too built a cabin in the woods.

Thoreau's writings might count as sedition these days:

A said...

A man reveals himself in what he does more than what he says. Having built a shelter in a wood is no more a justification for murder than Kissinger's prize. Let us not demean Thoreau by this odious comparison. What kind of logic is being used here to justify killings but that others have done it as if two wrongs make a right? The fundamental question is, what is the value of a human life in currency ?

naivecortex said...

I read the Unabomber manifesto last year .. and I found it fascinating .. especially his thoughts on the power process. The viewpoint of the 'system' forcing humans to feel/think/behave in particular ways gave me a new way to think through the consequences of civilization.

But, as you have said, the only effective solution is to remove the *underlying cause* (which is the instinctual passions) rather than retreating back.

Correct me if I am wrong, Anonymous "A", it seems to me that you are explicitly contemptuous towards people like Unambomber killing a few people .. yet apparently not concerned at all about the instinctual passions that are causing all the wars and murders and rapes and tortures and domestic violence and child abuse and sadness and loneliness and grief and depression and suicides rage.

Anonymous said...

Although i also believe that madness may often be a social construct (the criminally insane for example) rather than there being a fundamental flaw in the human. But some forms of madness are indeed a fundamental dissonance in the human, for example difficulty in coping with reality/ones own thoughts/relationships. This dissonance is not really created by the System, this dissonance lies within the individual. And this dissonance creates extreme agitation, which the individual attempts to dispell somehow (by projecting it on the system?)

It is of this category the insanity of the unabomber seems to be, as suggested by his diagnosis (which may perhaps have been a false diagnosis), or his extreme social withdrawal.

His manifesto seems to be more a jusitification of a fundamental inner dissonance than an objective intellectual conclusion, or a choice of "path".

Anonymous said...

" His manifesto seems to be more a jusitification of a fundamental inner dissonance than an objective intellectual conclusion, or a choice of "path".-- nailed it for me! thanks.

Harmanjit Singh said...

This fundamental inner dissonance is the starting point for any pioneer.

How can one be a pioneer if one is in consonance with the state that one finds oneself in (in oneself and the world around oneself)?

justbe said...

Just a visitor here on this interesting post.

My first comment - It's 'Apt Consideration' at 'Apt Time' before it get too late.

Second - The Anonymal comments have made it more interesting. Its time to act.

Third - Move forward, staying connected with nature including one's own essential nature.

Too much of technology/industrialization has created mess as it is considered as an alternative to natural wellness of life and its means. Messy minds are not just creation of industrial/technological life but its also the other way round. It is interesting to note that the greatest mess is created by greatest IQs messing others with their thoughts.

There could be many ways to even contradict the above statements. Don't waste your time and energies in that.

The only statement worth some consideration is -
'Lets move forward, staying connected with nature including one's own essential nature. Then make decisions along on what technology and in what way it is to be used and what not and to what extent'

whatz essential nature - if i have to say it in one word - peaceful/pure

Let me suggest a short inspirational movie here to end my note, not to throw one back to some extreme but using the same to make a point upont the essentiality of the wellness already existing in lnature/life and strike a balance. here's the name of the film - Watermill Village by Akira Kurusowa

Anonymous said...

you mean a sequence in the film 'Dreams'. Magic realism at its best, hardly inspirational.

Anonymous said...

please read the sentence carefully:
" His manifesto seems to be more a jusitification of a fundamental inner dissonance than an objective intellectual conclusion, or a choice of "path".

once the dissonance happened and he embarked on a path or journey, sensible manifestation is objective intellectual conclusion and not a rhetoric on justification....

inner dissonance is fundamental to all human beings, some end up toeing the line and some walk an untrodden path.

on another post: being closest to nature ( instincts) is reductionist. Ancient man ( closest to nature, so to say) fought and killed. An about turn on passions and social conditioning has the answer perhaps. Try a read of this blogger's earlier posts on a phenomenon called Actual Freedom that he introduced through this blog.

cheers and let me get back to my pinot noir!

Anonymous said...

GREAT film.

shows the other side. soothing. magical. realistic. inspirational as well in some sense.

Harmanjit Singh said...

Thanks justbe, for the pointer to the film. Watermill Village is available on youtube at:

Part I:

Part II:

May I also recommend a full-length feature on a "civilized" man versus a long-unmet drop-out friend embarking on a hike to a deep forest? The film is Kelly Reichardt's Old Joy.

I recommend it very highly.

A said...

The only defense to murder is ensanity which is why your adored lunatic was let of with a mitigated sentence. Terrorists are people with no agenda but to terorrise. Living like a monkey in a tree house did not cure his psychosis. He is a prisoner not of the industrial society but of his own mind. He is his own prison as well as prisoner. His own delusions are the iron bars which confine him. You don't have to run away to a mountain top to discover freedom and felicity. Felicity is an inner state which one can cultivate anywhere even a 9 to 5 job or business. As Bulleh Shah puts it:

Jo rab milda jungle bele to milda gawan vachian
Te jo rab milda mani matane so milda daduan machian

Loosely translated:

If felicity were to be found in wood or glade
Cows 'n' calves 'd find it first
If on river banks
Frogs 'n' fish 'd find it first.

Harmanjit Singh said...

Hi A:

It pays to do your research before posting:

From the wikipedia page on the Unabomber: "Kaczynski's lawyers, headed by Montana federal defender Michael Donahoe, attempted to enter an insanity defense to save Kaczynski's life, but Kaczynski rejected this plea."

As for inner always being able to carry the day over the outer, I suggest you tell this to people suffering from pesticide poisoning.

Harmanjit Singh said...

And as for Bulle Shah, as he was an out and out spiritualist, you are at the wrong address if you want to use his quotations to prove your point.

A said...

Naturally Exhibit refused to admit he was anything but sane--few psychotics have insight into their own condition. He saw himself as a hero not a schizophrenic. Hazoor Bulleh Shah is a great philosophical poet and searcher for felicity, not a religious bigot. It is quite disgusting to see anyone bracketting Thoreau, a heroic proponent of civil disobedience and one of the mentors of Mahatma Gandhi and MLK, to a despicablle and cowardly terrorist. It is difficult to sympathise even with the doctrine of mitigated accountability by virtue of lunacy in cases like this IQ-ed murderer. Eulogising Jack the Ripper and our own Pandher( the Noida serial killer) is just another step from here. Your anti spiritualist stance does not apparently include respect for human life. Ther is a thing called common decency.

Harmanjit Singh said...

Hi A, as your comments are becoming more and more vehement, I will pass.

A said...

You are conveniently overlooking not only the rationality of my position but the fact that the crime of murder justifies vehemency and should NOT be passed over. Regards.

Di said...

I am finding my self nodding my head to A's comments. I concur with you A.

A said...

One really has to appreciate Host's fairness to print views no matter how much opposed to his own.But we should not get overawed by folk's IQs. Too much IQ seems such a nuisance going by Exhibit's case study. Us ordinary folk's IQs is good enough to get along. And in my humble opinion a dumb nut is better than a genius nut.Less dangerous, more wholesome. Imagine a guy smart as our host getting so dazzled by such specimens of humanity.

Susan said...

I believe it is not just about any kind of killing that most of us so vehemently condemn. In fact it is the killings outside the boundaries of morality drawn by the society that we live in, that we have a problem with. For instance, killing animals for various purposes is not really condemned by most of us (sans some animal activists)- after all animals are not the ones to define the moral rules in our society...sacrificing a few lives to save many more lives for example by sending army and police forces for various rescue operations and in that process loosing many of their lives is also acceptable because if that is not done larger scale disaster will happen....announcing death penalty for a hard core criminal or a terrorist will be supported by most of us because (A) if they are let loose, they may be involved in many such activities again, but for this a life imprisonment is enough, (B) to set an example for others, again may be life imprisonment is sufficient to set an example against crime, the third reason why most of us will vehemently demand a capital punishment for such persons is because of the intense hatred in us caused by the deep rooted moral conditioning ingrained by the society (which at time does not allow us to see beyond the “rights” and “wrongs” set by the society). The same conditioning is rather apparent in some of the comments posted in this blog.

Without digressing any further I would like to come to the point. All the above examples, although result in killing and pain are accepted because they serve a larger benefit for the society we live in.

Theodore Kaczynski, as far as I understand from his manifesto, had a similar motto - a larger benefit for nature and mankind. He himself admits in his manifesto that his actions may have been extreme but were necessary for drawing the attention of media and people at the extreme crisis that we all face but fail to notice.

One needn’t agree with his extreme ways or his point of view (I myself do not agree fully with his point of view regarding leftism) for it is perfectly possible to come to two different or contradictory logical conclusions if the primary beliefs or the basic premises that one chooses is different. But his concerns definitely appear genuine and he deserves admiration for that.

A said...

Life is an absolute and killing unacceptable unconditionally. Many enlightened states have abolished the death punishment. Terrorism is repugnant and abhorrent per se.

Harmanjit Singh said...

Life is an absolute and killing unacceptable unconditionally

Killing, even of other human beings, is generally acceptable in face of grievous aggression.

You might enjoy the following, since you seem to like absolutes:

A said... generally acceptable...

Do YOU accept it ?

Harmanjit Singh said...

If a robber has already shot my leg and is threatening to kill me unless I do X, I would have absolutely no compunction in defending myself as best as the situation allows, even if it means deliberately (and not just accidentally) killing the robber in hand-to-hand combat.

Did you even read the trolley dilemma wikipedia page?

A said...

The trolley problem begs the question. It has no bearing on Exhibits case whose murders were a case of cool pre-meditation in an unbroken series over a decade and half. One can invent innumerable clever paradoxes that relativise the sanctity of life.

Harmanjit Singh said...

Just to clarify, I am not in agreement with Unabomber's tactics (even though it is debatable whether violence is justified against an environmental and socially aggressive system aided by the military and the police holding loaded guns and bombs with them), for various reasons, however, that is not the crux of my blog post.

It is his thinking about the causes of alienation and oppression that is the real subject of this blog post.

A said...

Just to clarify, I am not in agreement with Unabomber's tactics

Thank god you are flesh 'n' blood and not lost in an intellectual wasteland. As regards your feeling that society is far from perfect and enlightened I fully agree with you. But I don't think the Walden solution of segregating to a wilderness is an option. The battle is always here and now.

Anonymous said...

im not talking of the romantic "inner dissonance" that spiritual types love to latch on to. im talking of the kind of inner dissonance a schizophrenic might feel, an acute inability to cope with reality, a sense of an inner roller coaster every moment. the merging of the real and the unreal, dream and reality.

one who has no experience with schizophrenia is suspect to romanticize it, and suggest indulgent solutions (face asanas like baba ramdev would prescribe) or suggest you can "psyche" yourself out of it.

this is most certainly NOT the kind of inner dissonance which is the "starting point of all knowledge". and if a MANIFESTO is motivated by this kind of an "inner dissonance", you gotta take it with a bag of salt.

A said...

this is most certainly NOT the kind of inner dissonance which is the "starting point of all knowledge". and if a MANIFESTO is motivated by this kind of an "inner dissonance", you gotta take it with a bag of salt.

How 100% on dot thou art, Anonymous. You have put it so well in so few words and you know what you are talking about unlike the blog author. You might be aware of the likes of Thomas Scacz and R D Laing medical practitioners of a certain distinction who put forth the now thoroughly debunked thesis that thee is no such thing as mental sickness and specifically its most devasting manifestaton which is schizophrenia. You are right to point out that the Exhibit No 1 has nothing to teach us beyond that we should never beoverawed by IQ and pervertsd genius. Our normal intelligence and ordinary common sense are things not to be abandoned.

A said...

There is a sentence uttered towards the end of Spielberg's masterpiece Schindler's List where Ben Kingsley , Schindler's Jewish accontant says:" We have a saying that a person who saves one human life saves the whole world." I think this sentence says almost everything( I hope this doesn't fall under your spiritualist bogeyman, Blogger, since I believe it is from the Jewish. I understand your Babas must have taken you through a rickety ride so now you are into babas of the suited booted variety, even if certified loonies.)

Di said...

It is his thinking about the causes of alienation and oppression that is the real subject of this blog post.

Harman, may be we all are missing the point. If all your want to explore is alienation and oppression, then maybe, you should take a suitable candidate instead of genius but unstable/pschotic unambomber. If he had used his life to do good to others e.g. by teaching-mentoring kids in inner city for free etc, instead of living in caves and sending parcels of bombs.

Anyhow, it all boils down to what color glasses one is wearing and how one views things. One can live sat-chit-ananda and see world as wonderful place or be depressed, feel alienated and live in caves. Following the how Swami Vivekananda puts it and it is awesome:

"Can a man who has been used to the turmoil and the rush of life live at ease if he comes to a quiet place? He suffers and perchance may lose his mind. The ideal man is he who, in the midst of the greatest silence and solitude, finds the intensest activity, and in the midst of the intensest activity finds the silence and solitude of the desert. He has learnt the secret of restraint, he has controlled himself. He goes through the streets of a big city with all its traffic, and his mind is as calm as if he were in a cave, where not a sound could reach him; and he is intensely working all the time."

Z said...

The theory of satyagraha sees means and ends as inseparable. The means used to obtain an end are wrapped up and attached to that end. Therefore, it is contradictory to try to use unjust means to obtain justice or to try to use violence to obtain peace. As Gandhi wrote: “They say, 'means are, after all, means'. I would say, 'means are, after all, everything'. As the means so the end...”

Gandhi used an example to explain this:

If I want to deprive you of your watch, I shall certainly have to fight for it; if I want to buy your watch, I shall have to pay for it; and if I want a gift, I shall have to plead for it; and, according to the means I employ, the watch is stolen property, my own property, or a donation.

Gandhi rejected the idea that injustice should, or even could, be fought against “by any means necessary” — if you use violent, coercive, unjust means, whatever ends you produce will necessarily embed that injustice. To those who preached violence and called nonviolent actionists cowards, he replied: “I do believe that, where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence....I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she should, in a cowardly manner, become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonour....But I believe that nonviolence is infinitely superior to violence, forgiveness is more manly than punishment.”


Z said...

The following are the words that Gandhi addressed to Romain Rolland in December of 1931, when the latter was convalescent near Lac Leman in Switzerland:

"What is happening in Russia is an enigma. I have not discussed Russia very much, but I have a deep mistrust of the ultimate success of the experiment being carried out there. It seems to me that it is a challenge to nonviolence. It appears to be succeeding, but behind its success lies force, violence ... When Indians are exposed to Russian influence, it leads them into extreme intolerance..."

(Romain Rolland And Gandhi Correspondence New Delhi: Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, 1976, p. 180.)

For many of their contemporaries, sensing the approaching threat of fascism, the communist experiment in Russia appeared as a beacon of hope for humanity. At this time, the dark side of Bolshevism--its propensity to violence and terror--had not yet been exposed to the world; it is therefore not unnatural that even such an ardent pacifist as Rolland should see it as his mission "to be a link between the two Revolutions, Gandhi's and Lenin's, so that the two may come together at this hour to overthrow the old world and found a new order." (Ibid., p. 280.).

Given the historical circumstances and the limited information available to him, it is indeed remarkable that Gandhi should have been able to perceive, almost solely through the unique clarity of vision that was the product of his experience, the violence and intolerance which have since proved to be the inveterate afflictions of Bolshevism. Last August, immediately following the failed coup attempt--the decisive event that led to the final collapse of the Soviet Union--the world saw the enormous statue of Feliks Dzerzhinskii, the founder of the KGB, being pulled down and trampled by the citizens of Moscow. As I watched that extraordinary image, I was once more struck by the sureness of Gandhi's vision which, unclouded by prejudice, enabled him to directly discern the essential nature of events.

Harmanjit Singh said...

A: The trolley problem begs the question.

Not so, the trolley dilemma is fundamentally about means and ends and the sanctity of life.

Anonymous: im talking of the kind of inner dissonance a schizophrenic might feel, an acute inability to cope with reality, a sense of an inner roller coaster every moment. the merging of the real and the unreal, dream and reality.

# I don't think Unabomber's manifesto and acts are acts of random or senseless madness. They were thought-out, very well-argued, and cogent and consistent (which does not make them valid, but does at least question the epithet of a "madman").

Susan, you are right. I am admiring his concerns, not his solutions.

Di: If all your want to explore is alienation and oppression, then maybe, you should take a suitable candidate instead of genius but unstable/pschotic unambomber.

I think his "psychosis" and instability point to his extreme concern about this issue, rather than anything else. And given his remarkable manifesto, he has to be looked into. Academics may disagree because he used illegal tactics to get his manifesto published, but we can be more liberal and consider his ideas while at the same time finding his tactics unsatisfactory.

As for Gandhi and non-violence, among other ideas, may I kindly direct Z to:

Z said...

"Not only are his views bewilderingly silly, it is utterly amazing how modern, well-read, well-exposed people continue to hold him in such high regard."...

It is quite alarming the odium and disdain which the blogger so nonchalantly pours on one of the titanic figures of the age. Gandhi was a great and fearless warrior, a revolutionary with a clear and incisive vision, a first rate legal mind and a man who lived out his beliefs without dilution or compromise to the bitterest conclusion. The title Father of the Nation was given by no other than Bose in a broadcast from Rangoon in 1942. Your admiration for Unobomber is a natural corrollary of your disrespect and misunderstanding of Mahatma Gandhiji. In this you are more in tune with the herds of modern Indian youth than the leading lights of the age. I take the oppurtunity to share some quotes:

"I believe that Gandhi's views were the most enlightened of all the political men in our time.
We should strive to do things in his spirit: not to use violence in fighting for our cause, but by non-participation in anything you believe is evil."....Albert Einstein

“I and others may be revolutionaries but we are disciples of Mahatma Gandhi, directly or indirectly, nothing more nothing less.”..Ho Chi Minh

“Gandhi was probably the first person in history to lift the love ethic of Jesus above mere interaction between individuals to a powerful and effective social force on a large scale. The intellectual and moral satisfaction that I failed to gain from the utilitarianism of Bentham and Mill, the revolutionary methods of Marx and Lenin, the social contract theory of Hobbes, the 'back to nature' optimism of Rousseau, and the superman philosophy of Nietzsche, I found in the non-violent resistance philosophy of Gandhi.”..Martin Luther King

“Gandhi's way of thinking can lead directly into the political structure of the future world, in which a nation might be much better protected by not possessing atomic weapons than by having them, or might pursue its own interests much more efficiently by participating in the interests of other nations than by ignoring them. It was the unique example given by Gandhi which demonstrated that the most sincere personal engagement combined with complete renunciation of violence can lead to great political success. We are all indebted to him for this example.”...Werner Heisenberg

"Mahatma Gandhi came and stood at the door of India's destitute millions, clad as one of themselves, speaking to them in their own language...who else has so unreservedly accepted the vast masses of the Indian people as his flesh and blood...Truth awakened Truth.”...Rabinderanath Tagore

But I fear and suspect that our Blogger finds these worthies equally silly and unworty of his respect.

Harmanjit Singh said...

Hi Z, I evaluate people on my own, and do not depend upon the standing ovations or claps or for that matter, brickbats, of others.

Z said...

Z said...

It would be interesting to know how you evaluate Albert Einstein, Ho Chi Minh, Martin Luther King, Werner Heisenberg and Guruji Rabinder Nath Tagore, whose evaluation of Mahatma Gandhiji was above shared?

Harmanjit Singh said...

Hi Z: I disagree with their adulatory affirmation of Gandhi's ideas.

Z said...

"I disagree with their adulatory affirmation of Gandhi's ideas"...Blogger"

The word "adulation" connotes disproportionate, slavish,immature and juvenile admiration of the type which might be conferred by teenagers on a matinnee idol. Surely that cannot be your evaluation of these five quoted figures, four of whom happen to be Nobelists in Physics, Literature and Peace. It would be no evidence of your own ability to evaluate people in a mature and balanced way. Humility and the capacity to give respect where respect is due is a quality not meted out equally to all.

Harmanjit Singh said...

Z: Surely that cannot be your evaluation of these five quoted figures, four of whom happen to be Nobelists in Physics, Literature and Peace.

Being a Nobel prize winner in Physics or Literature is no proof of a deep understanding of human nature. As I said, I make my own evaluations about people based on their ideas and their life. I consider Gandhi's ideas as quoted in my article of Gandhi to be deeply flawed.

As for the Nobel Peace Prize, may I refer you to:

Z said...

"I consider Gandhi's ideas as quoted in my article of Gandhi to be deeply flawed."..Blogger

And by implication you consider as flawed the persons whose evaluation is your diametrical opposite. This would normally lead a person to reflect on his own views lest he be missing a vital point.

As for undestanding human nature, none of them is an armchair intellectual or recluse but persons who participated vigorously in life rather than dropping out and how else does one understand people except by participating in life.

Einstein, King, Tagore, Minh, Heisenberg, Gandhi, Mandela are great in their own right and not because they did/did not recieve any recognition. Nobel committee honours itself by honouring them just as it devalues itself by honouring an unsuitable candidate. Gandhiji as you know did not recieve or require one to be held in high esteem by people capable of recognising a presence far ahead of his times.

Harmanjit Singh said...

Z: And by implication you consider as flawed the persons whose evaluation is your diametrical opposite. This would normally lead a person to reflect on his own views lest he be missing a vital point.

No, their evaluation is flawed. I haven't yet said anything about their persona. I am of course aware that my view is a minority and unpopular and politically incorrect view, and I stand by my view of Gandhi's ideas as flawed. Merely claiming that such great people as X, Y, Z found Gandhi great is no argument for his ideas. His ideas need to prove their greatness on their merits, not on applause.

Z said... view is a minority...

You flatter yourself far too much, methinks.On the contrary you are very much with the majority---it is the image of Bhagat Singh and Bose that you find pasted on rear glasses of cars and and the back of trucks rather than Mahatma Gandhiji, and ask any youngster and he will find the "dhotiwala" and his ideas as absurd as you do. Even films like Hey Ram and Munnabhai Lage Raho have presented an emasculated and absurdised version and you in your derision are in the company of the hordes--those with the vision like Einstein, King and Nelson Mandela are a miniscule. Even professional Gandhians employed in departments of Gandhian studies are apologetic about their work and would rather have someone more warlike easier to identify. As for his ideas he famously said that his life was his message. It is in his behaviour as a human being through the dramatic and bloody times which formed the stage and backdrop of his life that the man is to be discovered rather than any theories that he leaves behind.

Harmanjit Singh said...

Hi Z: I will repeat. It does not matter to me what others think of Gandhi, whether they be Nobel prize winners or the hordes. What matters is the merit in his thoughts and ideas.

As for the curious statement that "his life was his message", I will leave you to ponder over his life. I prefer, rather, to read what he published in his books, since he was evidently not satisfied with his life communicating his message and decided to write as well.

Z said...

That would be in keeping with your approach to Exhibit A where you are sufficiently bedazzled by the flow of words in total oblivion to senseless and brutal acts leading to the loss of numerous lives and limbs. But to you only words and ideas matter and deeds are nothing. A very lop sided thinking, if you will pardon my saying so.

Z said...

"As for the curious statement that "his life was his message", I will leave you to ponder over his life"...Blogger

It is curious that you find this simple statement curious. Actions are the final touchstone. People have to be judged by actions rather than speeches or fine manifestos.

Z said...

"What matters is the merit in his thoughts and ideas."..Blogger
Going a step further since people are to be judged by their thoughts as they crystallise into words, Adolf Hitler would be judged by the thundering speeches such as those he made at Nuremberg in the thirties(as an ardent film buff you may be aware of Leni Riefenstahl's film Triumph des Willes) and his ideological manifesto Mein Kampf and ignore the Holocaust!!

Harmanjit Singh said...

Hi Z: I do not mean to say that deeds are lesser than words. In fact it is the opposite, as anybody can say anything but it is his life which is the final proof of the applicability of his ideas.

However, in the context of the referred blog post, whose title is "Gandhi's views", it is the merit of his ideas that is being considered. And he put these very same ideas to disastrous effect in his own life. Hence, even if we try to evaluate the merit of his ideas by looking at his own life, they are utter failures.

By the way, have you heard of Godwin's Law? :-)

But I'll play along. As for Hitler, his ideas are as silly as his acts are reprehensible.

And if I may say so, while I am not particularly fond of the Unabomber (I am however, deeply interested in the phenomenon of alienation and admire that he tried to grapple with it), you seem to have a rather strong attachment to Gandhi.

Did you read the following?

Z said...

Let's put a comma since I am on tour.

Anonymous said...

"Women, who should be the queens of households, wander in the streets or they slave away in factories...."

Blogger, as a woman (and a feminist one at that), I can find myself agreeing to Gandhiji. I think women and civilization as a whole as lost in in name of industrialization. The alienation that you are so interested in exploring is caused by industrialization/working women and destruction of human relationship pushing man away from man per se and from humanity as a whole

Harmanjit Singh said...

Hi Anonymous, I have responded to your comment on the page on Gandhi, since it quoted an excerpt from that page.

Z said...

As for the curious statement that "his life was his message", I will leave you to ponder over his life. I prefer, rather, to read what he published in his books..

Is daave ke virudh main ek comment post kiya tha jo aap ne conveniently moderate ya supress kar diya jis se aap ki intellectual openness ya honesty ka pramaan shayad nahin milta:

"Yadi aap vaastav mein logon ki karniyon ko prathmika dene ke bajaaye unke kathan ya lekh ko hi importance dete hain to aap ko liye Adolf Hitler ke zordaar bhaashan evam uske manifesto Mein Kamf ki hi ahmiyat hai aur Holocaust jis mein 60 laakh vyaktiyon ki hatya hui koi mahatv nahin rakhta. Kya yehi aap ki soch aur vichar hai jis ke aadhar par aap apne unibomber se itne mugdh hain?

Harmanjit Singh said...

Hi Z: It was inadvertent that I missed your comment referring to Hitler, I did not reject it, it was still in the moderation queue and I have just put it through. My later response (referring to Godwin's Law) refers to this (at that time unpublished) comment of yours.

Z said...

Saujanya ke liye dhanyavad.

sunson said...

Care to explain what you mean by "Forward" here?

Is there a "Forward" or is it only going to look like "Backward"?

Whether people go there by choice or are dragged away, the only thing that is likely to eventually return is the meaningless struggle for survival.

Will the Neo-cortex be thrilled about the infinitude of the universe and living happily, harmless, etc., while the mammalian brain feels hungry?

I say, the neo-cortex never was and will never be functional by itself. It has been a great tool, like the tiger's sharp claws, this tool helped one such species thrive by learning to manipulate the environment in such amazing ways. It produced the Internet, JIT economics and Nuclear Bombs all built by one ultimately selfishly driven machine whose ways are little understood.

If given enough energy to sustain research and science, maybe the "neo-cortex" might someday even understand the brain's own addiction to certain neuro chemicals but will it actually master it? Or will it end up creating solutions as flawed as the "solutions" it has thus far created in trying to solve "problems" such as limits to population growth?

How much ever one wants, Nature will tend to favour the existence of a reptilian brain - one that can fight, tell lies and deceive.

Harmanjit Singh said...

Hi Sunson:

I think you're right. At least for the next thousand years (if not more), there is no likelihood of the neo-cortex winning the war over the reptilian brain. But perhaps a grave danger to our ecosystem (such as global warming or water depletion) can scare enough people. This fear can then lead to creation and wide acceptance of laws for rejuvenation of earth's essential resources for human life.

I think if the laws and enforcement against violence (of all kinds, be it against man or nature) are strong (and not biased), and if the environment is not ravaged beyond a saving point, there may be enough prosperity that then humans can take their time to evolve themselves, otherwise the struggle for survival
will simply kill all "higher" pursuits.

Whether we learn quickly enough is going to be crucial, and I am hopeful that even though the measures at present are weak, the awareness that the pace of progress is getting out of hand is very widespread. This awareness is impotent at present, but might not be for long.

Jarnail said...

Sher-e-Gujarat Gandhi noon samjhan lai bada wada dil chahida hai es lai Einstein ya Martin Luther warge bande hi unhan noon samajh sake. Aire gere loki ta Churchill warge tan inna hi kehan ge ki aah ki nanga faquir jeha aa gaya. Interpreting him is not an intellectual game which you can play by criticising his many now quaint and irrelevant formulations but then in the grim and harsh realities of colonial exploitation and worse humiliation. More than anything he gave Indians self respect, courage and pride with his courageous lion's roar of challenge against virtually impossible odds reminiscent of Rani Laxmibai's refusal to yield Jhansi and Rosa Park's refusal to vacate the seat she was occupying in a segregated bus. His philosophy of love and non-violence assumes utmost urgency in today's world on the brink of nuclear and environmental catastrophe. Thora dimaag da sajja hissa tussi jada lao...Tuhaada starting point ya presumption unnu dhan di nahin honi chahidi bulke ik open mindedness.

Harmanjit Singh said...

Hi Di, Jarnail,

I will appreciate if you post your comments on Gandhi on the Gandhi blog article.


Z said...

Regarding Exhibit A I really wonder whether you are more more fascinated by his actions or his ideas and whether you would pay much to his ideas unless highlighted by his actions?

Z said...

Let's for the sake of argument momentarily assume, as you claim that Exhibit is not insane. In that case his actions amount to a publicity stunt or a reality show to attract attention. But if his motives were as noble and laudable as you would like us readers to believe, he could have adopted less destructive methods, like, for instance, dancing in the nude in front of the White House. That might have got him arrested with a short sentence but he could have repeated this many times and earned a better sobriquet like Uninudist instead of Unibomber?

Z said...

I'm sure you find Unabomber more dignified and respectable than Unanudist.

Z said...

Anyway the world knows him as a bomber rather than a committed environmentalist or alienated in any laudable sense of the term, except perhaps for the rarest of the rare like your good self who can stretch norms of morality to t analogise him to the likes of fearless and saintly Thoreau. Morbidity, where are thy boundaries?

Di said...

If he got treatment on time for his schizophernia, he would have been a great gift to humanity!

Z said...

Schizophrenia is a disorder for which there is yet no cure. It is a crippling disease and the treatments currently available are limited to controlling the severe symptoms. The case of Nash the protege of the film Beautiful Mind is a rare case and he retained his hallucinations even after recieving the Nobel prize as per the film showing the film director's awareness of it's untreatability. These people live in a world of their own. It is not like measles which is fine with a bit of treatment but a lifelong affliction, at least at the present state of the art of medical science.

Bloggers view is naive and one wonders whether he would put Richard shoulder to shoulder with his three Exhibits---at least the word exhibit is well chosen.

Anonymous said...

"Schizophrenia is a disorder for which there is yet no cure. It is a crippling disease and the treatments currently available are limited to controlling the severe symptoms."

Interesting statement! There is no cure for schizophernia just as there is no cure for diabetes, blood pressure and medications only controls the symptoms of the disorder. Just as prozac controls depression, medications of schizophernia will control its symptoms and allow the person to function normally.