Friday, February 19, 2016

The Warrant-Less State

In India the police routinely barges into private property, looks into phone records happily provided by the phone companies, detains people for "questioning", stops people from entering a city, asks people to open their bags, snatches vehicle keys from people stopped for a traffic violation, and so on.

All this without any judicial oversight, without any warrant, and without any repercussions.

The police is a law unto itself.

Where to start?
  1. The laws are outdated and colonial.
  2. The laws are ambiguous, contradictory, too sweeping, and badly-drafted.
  3. The case law is horribly contradictory and offers precedents for every kind of judicial order.
  4. The courts are overburdened and mundane matters (tenant eviction, child custody, anticipatory bail, etc.) are pending before the Supreme Court, the highest court of the land.
In this deeply distressing state of affairs, how do we get police to be more accountable to the people who ultimately pay the taxes which pay the police's salaries?

How do we make the police respect the people that it is supposed to serve?

I don't know the way to restrain this lawless police force.  There is untold suffering in India due to the failure of law-enforcement and judicial processes.  So many committes have given empty suggestions.  Supreme Court throws up its hands when it cannot contain this lawlessness by the law-enforcers.

Supreme Court has repeatedly begged the states to implement police reforms.

What has been the result: Naught.

From this report:
Not a single state government is willing to cooperate. What can we do?
My recommendation to the Supreme Court justices: resign, and refuse to participate in this charade.

The Indian public have become hopeless about justice and thereby corrupt.

Maybe special courts ought to be set up to monitor police behavior and to swiftly and strictly punish the police both for exceeding their brief, and for dereliction of duty.

The police is the institution in India having a monopoly on violence.  This monopoly MUST be very strongly regulated.

The pervasiveness of corruption and crime in India is because the police has been exploited by the state for its ends, and not offered to the nation for its citizens.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Indian Religious Aversion of Desire

The four major Indian religions (Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism, Jainism) are against desire, love, sex and attachment.

Sikhs may claim that their gurus exalt householder status, but consider the following verses:

ਤਜਿ ਕਾਮੁ ਕਾਮਿਨੀ ਮੋਹੁ ਤਜੈ ਤਾ ਅੰਜਨ ਮਾਹਿ ਨਿਰੰਜਨੁ ਪਾਵੈ ॥
(Renounce desire and your beloved, and give up emotional attachment. Only then shall you obtain the Immaculate Lord amidst the darkness of the world.)

ਮਨਮੁਖਿ ਕਾਮਿ ਵਿਆਪੀ ਮੋਹਿ ਸੰਤਾਪੀ ਕਿਸੁ ਆਗੈ ਜਾਇ ਪੁਕਾਰੇ ॥
The self-willed manmukh is engrossed in sexual desire, and tormented by emotional attachment. With whom should she lodge her complaints?

It is a misconception that Sikh gurus exalted a householder's life. At most, they proclaimed that one does not need to renounce one's family and go to the forest to attain "enlightenment", but could do so in whatever situation they found themselves if only they surrendered to the Guru.

The question then arises, why do Indian religions condemn earthly love and attachment? And how come the followers of these religions reconcile this condemnation with their daily life?

I think the answer is simple.

Religions create an ideal which is unattainable. And people, finding themselves short of that ideal, feel guilty. And the religious institutions manipulate and exploit that guilt to extract wealth from people by promising them forgiveness and redemption.

The modus operandi is:

1. Set unrealistic standards.
2. Encourage guilt and feelings of sinfulness.
3. Offer people a way out from their guilt.
4. Couple that offer with supporting the religious establishment.
5. Repeat for 2000 years.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Aphorisms on Sedition

The right to protest against the state, and even against the constitution, is a fundamental human right.

It is a human right to even speak about dividing the "country (i.e. proposing a new geographic division for governance).

It is a human right to speak against the government, the court, and other gods.

The state is an institution, frequently despotic.  The state is not equivalent to the "nation".  The nation is its people.  The state is the ruling class and its institutions.

The state confounds people by confusing an attack on itself as against an attack on the nation and its people.  This confusion is particularly egregious when the state does not represent the people but has appropriated their consent.

One can be patriotic in an act of sedition.

Was the Indian Freedom Struggle seditious?  It obviously was.  But it was not thereby wrong.

The protest might lead to crimes, but the protest itself is not a crime. 

Thought, speech and publication must be protected even at the cost of displeasing the majority.  Otherwise there is no freedom worth its name.

The state in India is deeply criminal, unjust and corrupt.  To protest against the state is not just a right, it is the duty of every right-thinking Indian.

The state continues to bloviate about "Tolerance".  The Intelligentsia continues to protest against "Intolerance".  But nobody talks about the intolerance enshrined in the Constitution of India: blasphemy, sedition, criticism of the court, nudity, offensive speech, "hurting of sentiments" are all intolerable by Indian law.

Those who say that anti-nationals must be done to death are the real anti-nationals.

The nation and what is or is not "patriotic" is not to be defined by the state.

The state's function is to serve the nation.  The nation is not to be servile to the state and its dealers.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Court (2014), Interludes, part 2

Part 1 here.

Continuing with my interpretation of the interludes:

Interlude Five: The lawyer and his girlfriend at the club-lounge

Before the lawyer drives to the lounge, he has been offered water by an amazingly level-headed and sensible woman living in the slum-like colony. And the lawyer manages to mutter a "Thank You" at the end. Is the lawyer really understanding the reality of these people? He lives in a completely different space than them. And moments later, that is highlighted in a quietly explosive way.

This scene is one of my favorites because it is so oblique.

I would like to point the readers to something called the Kuleshov effect.

After exiting the slum hallway, the lawyer is suddenly shown on an empty road. The lawyer is driving to the lounge. Contrast the availability of "space".

In the slum-colony, people live in a single room and so many of their possessions are out in the hallway. There are clothes drying, there are barrels of drinking water. The shot of the hallway continues for a bit as the lawyer walks away. We are meant to notice these things.

The next shot is of the empty road from a carefully chosen high vantage point. Almost no traffic at that hour. Trees lined on both sides of the road. Seems like another country, doesn't it?

And once again, jazz music is playing in his car. But he seems quiet and inexpressive. Is he also impervious to the chasm? To the brutal difference in the way he lives and the places he goes to and the life of those who are his "clients"? Is he aware, or is he not?

The next scene attempts to demonstrate, even more starkly, this distinction between the two worlds. There is no purpose to this scene, apparently. But it is amply clear to me that the director is telling us to look, look closely at the inequality.

This scene is that of the lounge.  Apparently nothing happens here, but observe carefully.

In the lounge, his girlfriend is wearing skimpy clothes (by Indian standards). It is a very western atmosphere, with acoustic guitar, live English music, and a bar. What happens next is slightly jaw-dropping. The singer says that her next song is from a "street-musician in Brazil".

Well, holy shit.

Brazil is a developing country like India - corrupt, poor, with a lot of crime, but it is "exotic" - and a song from there is fit for an elite audience.

But how can we take in this passing reference to a a street musician in Brazil and not think of our own singer currently in jail? Is Narayan Kamble not a street musician? Can we ever imagine a song taken from him being sung in such a gathering? Absolutely not.

Narayan Kamble cannot be romanticized. He represents the morbid reality and we don't want that at this lounge. A Portuguese song from a street musician in Brazil is comfortably cool.

Interlude Six: The train ride of the Public Prosecutor

The prosecutor leaves the courthouse, and is in the ladies' compartment of the suburban train. She seems to be trying to peer into the paper that her neighbor is reading. But no, that is misleading. We are surprised by what she soon utters. She is actually more interested in the sari worn by the neighbor. The point is that the prosecutor is just doing a "job" and has no conscious interest in society and the wider issues. Once out of the court, she is only seemingly interested in the clothes and food and groceries. They talk about problems of relative affluence: diabetes for example. But the director makes a point about her still being in the middle-class. That "olive oil" is still beyond their reach. Contrast this with the lifestyle being enjoyed by the lawyer.

Interlude Seven: The Public Prosecutor serving dinner to her family

She picks up her son from a basic daycare and then is having a phone conversation while making dinner. The conversation is about someone unclear about a legal issue, probably a divorce. She offers to look at the "papers" tomorrow. Though women's rights are being obliquely referenced, what about her status in her own home?

When she goes to the living room, the husband as well as the son are watching TV while she is serving them. The husband is on a chair and having a table in front of him. The son is lounging on the bed. And the daughter is sitting on the floor? Not very subtle. And notice the slightly different ways in which she asks all three of them for food. She is servile to the husband, gentle toward the son, and a little (just a little) curt with the daughter.

And after dinner, she is humming and working on her papers while everybody else is likely sound asleep.

Interlude Eight: The Public Prosecutor and her family's outing

This is not very subtle. The outing is at a very humble establishment where the prices are mentioned on a blackboard on the wall. Contrast this with the lounge that the lawyer goes to earlier, where he doesn't even look at the menu or prices before ordering beer. The music being played is local Marathi music.

Then the family goes to watch a xenophobic play about a out-of-state guy who is lower-class than the girl's family being kicked out by the girl's father. The audience seems to really enjoy that kind of thing.

After a court hearing the prosecutor mutters that the judge should just send Narayan Kamble to jail for a long time instead of wasting their time.

Anything "other" is an enemy. To be kicked out of one's mind or one's state or into the jail.

Interlude Nine: The lawyer dining out with his parents and sister

This is yet another restaurant. A high-end vegetarian place with nice handicrafts strewn around. They are talking about gadgets and smartphones. An interesting snippet of conversation is about something to the effect that the western lifestyle is also available in India now. They casually mention an iPad and stuff "which is dangerous to carry on a train". What does that tell you?  Multiple layers in a society which are talked about nonchalantly.  There is absolutely no class-consciousness, only the consciousness of its effects.

The restaurant is guarded by a colonial-dress guard. It is a sheltered space.

As soon as the lawyer comes out, he is attacked by some goons who put black paint on his face to teach him a lesson about respecting their beliefs.

The restaurant's name is "Chetana" (awareness).  Who is aware here?

The scene ends with the lawyer crying in his room. He has suddenly been confronted with an act, not just with words.

Interlude Ten: Narayan Kamble again at the public function

His disinclination to take an injection is hilariously misunderstood by the volunteer.  The volunteer says that Narayan Kamble might be scared of the injection, while Narayan Kamble is not afraid at all of the deeper threat of state intimidation if he continues to do what he does.

He is expressly advised by the lawyer to lay low for a while. But in the very next scene, he is again at a public function doing his gig. What balls on this guy!

And while he is shown weak and languid on the hospital bed, on the stage he is fiery and full of energy.  That's where he comes alive.

After his song about rising up to oppression, there is some kind of film song being played. People in that kind of place are getting educated and entertained in quick succession. It is like a single channel TV on which all kinds of programs are being aired for an audience too poor to afford choice.

Interlude Eleven: Narayan Kamble at the printing press

The title of the pamphlet says: "A History of Humiliation". Narayan Kamble is helping stack the books.

The background is poignant. Some low-wage and low-skilled workers are robotically folding the pages of some publications.

The police enters the scene and quietly takes Narayan Kamble out. Presumably arresting him on another charge or canceling his bail. Narayan Kamble does not protest. Neither do the other people. The whole arrest is quite amazingly quiet and smooth. There is a kind of despondency in the air as a few men look at the police vehicle when it drives away.

A History of Humiliation, indeed.

Later at the court, we find out that he has been arrested for sedition, a colonial-era law.

Again, a history of humiliation.

Interlude Twelve: The judge and his circle of friends/family on his way to the resort, and then at the resort

The scene begins with a dark courtroom, being closed for vacations.

The game being played in the bus uses Hindi songs from Bollywood. Despite all the Marathi hate for other states and their languages and culture, Bombay is known for its Hindi film industry.

The film is essentially about comparison, contradiction and conflict. This is yet another contradiction.

At the resort, we find that one of the judge's colleagues has a son who is having a health issue. The judge advises his colleague to have faith in some numerology and gemstone healing. Instead of institutions that have become dysfunctional, people are being asked to put their faith in gurus and prayers.

The reason India, even in the second decade of the twenty first century, is neck deep in superstition is because the rational institutions have failed in this country.

Then we have a scene of womenfolk and youngsters playing "bingo" or "tambola". The announcer asks: "Anybody got the middle or last line"? Indeed. Anybody got the middle or lower class? Or is the oppression going to continue? "Has anybody got it," the announcer repeats? "No" comes the answer: no-one has got it.

And then later at the dinner table, the men-folk are talking about the high salaries in the private sector. Yet another comparison and class division.

The film ends with the judge sleeping on the bench (court reference!) and as he is woken up by the children's collective shout (the screams of the classes below him), he slaps one of them and then falls back to sleep.

The child walks away, wailing.

"Bloody idiots".


Monday, February 08, 2016

Two Elections

Election One

In the bypoll for the Khadoor Sahib state constituency in Punjab, I am proud to support Sumail Singh Sidhu, of Punjabi Sanjhiwal Jatha.

This is a very small constituency, and the election is due to the elected candidate resigning prematurely.  If Mr Sidhu wins, it will be a symbolic but significant defeat for the corrupt ruling party, the infamous Akali Dal.

My home state, the Punjab, has been brutalized, looted and raped by the mainstream politicians and their thugs.  I want them to be defeated and jailed, and even more so when an aware, educated and honest candidate is fighting against them.

Mr Sidhu was associated with AAP but broke away and is now contesting as an independent, and is a very passionate, vigorous and intellectually aware man.    I met him in person when he was enrolled in JNU for his PhD.  Though he is strongly left-leaning, and I have strong reservations about Marxism and its variants, I still support him because he speaks for the masses.  The time to argue about ideology will come later, what we need now is integrity and a will to transform the present.

His poll symbol is Whistle (seeti).

I urge you to support Mr Sumail Singh Sidhu.  If you wish to contribute to his campaign, please contact me.

Election Two

For the most powerful political post in the world, I am proud to support Donald J Trump as the Republican candidate for the President of the United States of America.

Compared to the first election, this is orders of magnitude bigger.

Mr Trump is the only self-funded candidate in the fray, and he is running against both the Republican establishment (which sees him as an outsider and someone to be kept out), and the mainstream political and media institutions.

Fighting the Establishment

I want to win for the people of this great country. The only people I will owe are the voters. The media, special interests, and lobbyists are all trying to stop me. We won't let that happen! #MakeAmericaGreatAgain #Trump2016

Posted by Donald J. Trump on Monday, January 25, 2016

He, and Bernie Sanders (from the Democrat side), are representing what an astute blogger calls the American Spring.  People are tired of the career politicians and their donors and special interests.  And I am tired of the new liberal fascism of political-correctness, misandry and a mistreatment of the majority and its traditions, and a culture of groveling and masochism.

I veer towards Republicans because of their stances on illegal immigration, their defense of the second amendment, and their ardent opposition to the reach of the federal government.  And among the Republicans, I admire Mr Trump the most for his emphasis on the economy, for his straight talk and his directness and outspokenness, his refusal to back down when pressured by media, and for his appeal to the common voter instead of special interests.

I also admire his persuasion skills, by the way.  I believe he will win the Republican nomination, and that he will be the next President of USA.

Many feel that he is a bigot and a racist and whatnot.  I urge those people, if they care about having an informed opinion, to watch this video:

Court (2014), Interludes

Prologue here.

Interlude One: Narayan Kamble traveling from his home to the public venue

Notice the following:
  1. There are as many girls (or even more) than boys in the tuition room.  His main "teaching assistant" is a girl.  Even in a poor colony, families are ensuring that all children, girls as well as boys, receive education.
  2. The topics of the tuition are merely informational (the biggest river, the tallest mountain peak).  It is a little tragic that kids are being fed meaningless information and illustrates that though society is changing, it will take a long time for the quality of education to improve.  We still insist on rote learning and meaningless testing.
  3. As he exits the colony, notice the clearly encroaching temple on the footpath.  He is choosing to ignore it.  In a society where injustices and corruption are pervasive, one has to choose one's battles or be exhausted.
  4. Notice the rag-picker old lady passing by the temple, and an instant later, a modern, educated woman going to work in the opposite direction.  And then, a woman coming out of the temple.  It shows three faces of society: oppressed, ambitious, fatalistic.
  5. As he walks to the venue, everything seems humdrum, but suddenly the entry gate says something about a protest about a massacre.  In the middle of the mundane, a grave reminder of injustice and brutality.
  6. The students accompanying him on the stage are part of a volunteer group.  And that group includes girls.
Interlude Two: The Police Station hallway
Notice the almost inconsequential chatting of two policewomen in the background.  But their chatter is not inaudible.  What is being said and what is its meaning, in the wider context?
One of the woman constables says that her son was reprimanded (by a teacher? by an employer?) for being insolent.  She exclaims in defense: "What do they mean, insolence?"
It shows the changing face of a society where hierarchies and power-structures are being questioned.  India's institutions are heavily dependent on authority and subservience.  But people are questioning them now.  Blind obedience is going out of fashion.
Interlude Three: The lawyer at the "Dissecting Democracy" event, and later, grocery shopping
The event is straightforward enough.  But what is interesting is the fact that the speech is in English in a highly-educated form (the audience also has some foreigners), but then suddenly a fan is brought in by two locals.  Who probably have no idea what is being talked about and whether it even concerns them.
Are we indeed "dissecting democracy", the title of the talk?
This chasm is then again explored when the lawyer goes grocery shopping.  There is western instrumental music playing in the background, and he picks up sparkling water and wine, which show a western consumerist influence in his food habits.  How does he make that kind of money?  Is he paid by foreign-funded NGOs?  We are expected to speculate.
As he is driving back, jazz music plays in his car.  And back at his place, he falls asleep, drunk, in front of an Apple laptop.
We are being asked to evaluate this man, who is defending an oppressed man, but who lives a lifestyle very different from the people he is defending.
Interlude Four: The lawyer and his family at the lunch table

The father makes an interesting remark: "To him it's all a joke." Then he elaborates in Marathi for which subtitles are missing.  What is the document about?  What is going on?
Then a guest joins.  A telling remark by the father: "I hope the watchman did not create any trouble."  Given the socioeconomic status of the guest, it was probably to be expected.  And then the father brags: "Don't worry.  The whole building is ours."
Then the father asks some questions of the guest (whether he is a local) and when the guest names his hometown, the father nonchalantly says: "I don't know where that is."
They live a cocooned life.  An upscale apartment, a watchman, but unaware of how and where other people live.
The father asks: "Are you a friend or a client?"  When answered (by the lawyer) that he is a friend, the father needs to know more.  "What do you do?"  When the person responds that he is "Doing M Com", the father says: "Good, very good." and loses interest.
The mother awkwardly asks the guest whether her son has a girlfriend.  The lawyer becomes very annoyed and they both leave.
The parents are absolutely disinterested in what kind of activist/volunteer work their son and his guest are involved in.  They have their own agendas and concerns.
The son, though engaged in "good work" outside the home, doesn't have one kind word to say to his parents, while quite clearly a beneficiary of their social status and the resultant upbringing that it afforded him.
(to be continued)

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Danny Collins (2015) by Dan Fogelman

Rich successful man is tired of being fake and is roused by an artifice to become more authentic, caring and creative.  Then he falls for the first woman that he comes across.  That is supposedly a good, authentic event.

What is interesting in this film is the hidden glorification of money, despite the overt message that love is more important than success.

Notice the camera angles for his sports cars.

Notice the depiction of the private jet and the palatial house.

Notice the grand piano (the various superfluous scenes where it is being carried here and there) and the meaningless giving up of it.  (After all he still plans to remain a musician)

Notice his big bus and the way he makes a few calls to get a great favor for nothing.  And notice how the favor is talked about (dispensed with many years of wait, no, many many years of wait).

Notice the scenes where he tips hundreds of dollars.

Notice the sports car and the spontaneous, but ostentatious, renunciation of it, and the remark that the car is wonderful and the recipient should know what he is getting (as if anybody is doubting that).

The purpose of these scenes and the not-so-subtle glorification is to build up the wealth-based persona of a man who therefore is in need of saving and in need of "true love" of a woman.  It is a female fantasy that a rich, accomplished man will eventually just fall into their laps by a twist of fate and all their travails will be a thing of the past.

After all, the man is a musician and an artist.  Or was.  So maybe, he is a catch.  What does he immediately see in the hotel manager that he asks her out to dinner?

The answer: nothing.  Yeah she is slim and cute (for her age).  But more than that, what?  The man is ready to ask her out even before she appears on the scene.

I recognize that the common female fantasy is for the man to be a catch, but for the woman to be just lucky.  For something to be demanded of the woman will narrow and reduce the fantasy's appeal with the female demographic.

I have no quarrel with films or literature which cater to feminine (or for that matter, masculine) fantasies.  But I do frown at subterfuge: when a film is ostensibly about love versus wealth, but when it actually is about wealth and hence love.

Court (2014) by Chaitanya Tamhane

The film is widely praised for its depiction of the dysfunctional Indian court system, and for its illustration of the plight of gutter workers.

That narrative is straightforward and does not require much critique.

To me, what is more interesting in the film are the interludes between the court scenes.  What is being said in those interludes?  What is the point being made?

The film is actually less of a courtroom drama than a study of various social situations.  The court merely ties together the various characters in those situations.

I consider this to be a rather well-crafted film in which every scene or dialogue serves a purpose.  As in a story by Chekhov, nothing is superfluous.  One could regard the interludes as developing the supporting characters, but it is quite obvious that that is not all.  There is a meaning to the apparent random set pieces.  There is a statement being made in each of them.  And the statement is powerful because it is shown and not talked about.  It is oblique and not direct.

But the risk of such an approach is that such a statement might also therefore be cryptic.  That's where a film critic can add some value.

There are twelve such interludes:

Interlude One: Narayan Kamble traveling from his home to the public venue

Interlude Two: The Police Station hallway

Interlude Three: The lawyer at the "Dissecting Democracy" event, and later, grocery shopping

Interlude Four: The lawyer and his family at the lunch table

Interlude Five: The lawyer and his girlfriend at the club-lounge

(I am omitting the scene when the judge postpones the hearing due to the appearance of the petitioner)

Interlude Six: The train ride of the Public Prosecutor

Interlude Seven: The Public Prosecutor serving dinner to her family

Interlude Eight: The Public Prosecutor and her family's outing

Interlude Nine: The lawyer dining out with his parents and sister

(I am omitting the scene where the lawyer drops the wife of the gutter-worker to her home in his car.  Though the theme of dignity ("don't give me charity, give me work") is pretty straightforward to interpret, the brief episode of the seat-belt is more nuanced.  It is obvious that the woman is unfamiliar with the seat-belt since she has probably never sat in that kind of car before.  But more interestingly, we should remember that the woman has just testified about the lack of safety equipment for her late husband.  The seat-belt is also a kind of safety equipment, in fact one will be penalized for not using it.  But why was there no safety equipment provided to her husband?  Was it merely a lack of funds, or a more fundamental lack of concern, or that her husband is considered more dispensable than someone who can afford a car ride?  The judge never shows outrage or comments on the lack of safety equipment as criminal negligence by the state, since he is merely to rule on whether the man committed suicide or not.)

Interlude Ten: Narayan Kamble again at the public function

Interlude Eleven: Narayan Kamble at the printing press

Interlude Twelve: The judge and his circle of friends/family on his way to the resort, and then at the resort

In my next post, I will provide a subjective interpretation of these twelve interludes.

(to be continued)

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Seeking the Unknown, part 6

As man grows older, his mind is weighed down with memories and experiences.  To read a book or to watch a film or a sunset is not the same for him now as it was when he was young.  In youth all experiences were novel to him.  Now, having seen it all, nothing is very new to him.

Give him a novel, and he will recognize the familiar tricks of the writer.  The familiar building up of anticipation and then release.  The familiar setting up of ambiguity and moral choice.

Give him a song, and he will recognize the sentiment as having been sung before.  The familiar crooning and the elements of poetry.  The familiar expressions of the familiar feelings of heartache and longing.

What sustains the spirit of adventure as one grows older?  As more and more enters the sphere of the known, does the hankering and the seeking become more insistent, or does it fade and die?

If what the sages say is true, then the search for the unknown cannot be diminished by the knowledge of the known.  It can only become more focused, focused away from the known.

But life is finite, and at the end the unknown is still ahead of the seeker, infinite in its expanse.  Living longer will not help the seeker.

The seeker's only value is exploration.  Each day the seeker does not explore is a waste of a day for him.  He has to go toward the infinite, and it must fill him with shame to circle around a puddle.

The infinite is never reached.  The seeker's journey never ends.  But the journey is not thereby futile.  It would be a tragedy for the seeker if it ended.  What would be there for him to live for, then?

To seek the unknown is the very flow of time.  From the known, the past, into the unknown, the future.  The seeker is more ardently in love with the future than with the past.  The future is his beloved, and the past contains only ashes for him.  And that may be scary for the ambitious, for who the future is full of risk, and the past provides wealth.

The seeker floats and flows in the river of time.  The ambitious plans to navigate it.

The seeker trusts.  The ambitious prepares.  While the ambitious revels in light, the seeker lights up during the night  The ambitious is energized by the crescendo of trumpets, the seeker seeks the silence of stillness.

या निशा सर्व भूतानाम् तस्याम् जागर्ति संयमी
यस्यां जागर्ति भूतानि सा निशा पश्यतो मुनेः

What is night to all beings is the time of awakening for the seeker
When all are active and awake, that apparent day is like the night for the silent.

(Bhagwad Gita 2.69)


Monday, February 01, 2016

Proactivity as Health

Looking forward and avoiding problems is a sign of health.  Reacting to situations, especially the same situations over and over, is a sign of illness.

This can be generalized to the health of a society as well.

On that front, I find India to be extremely sick.  I am afraid things are so bad that the basic institutions of police, courts, hospitals, public education have become worse than the problem they are trying to solve.  The police and courts have become tools of oppression, hospitals have become dens of patronage, thievery and infection, public education has become a farce.

Does the police in India ever patrol a neighborhood in normal times?

Does a court in India ever even read a petition instead of just sending "notices"?

Can any educational institution in India claim that it is adding value to society rather than leeching on it?

Does any public hospital in India ever deliver the baby of a politician or of a civil servant?

There is urgent need of massive surgery, perhaps even a re-writing of the basic structure of the government, and all we are seeing is announcements.

It is perhaps to be expected that the beneficiaries of a system will not have any incentive to transform it.  The educated and the able have either left the country, or have joined the beneficiaries to share in the loot.

After the British left, the only real change was how the central and state legislators were elected.  There was absolutely no change in the structure of government and judiciary.

No change in legislature can bring about a change in India till the basic structure is revamped to:

1. Fix the justice delivery system so people are not helpless against injustice, especially by the state (there is no hope there because the lawyer-police-judge mafia will never allow this to happen)

2. Reorganize the police force to serve the people rather than the politicians (there is no hope here because the politician-executive-police mafia will beat people into submission rather than reform)

3. Rewrite the laws to serve the people rather than the state (there is no hope here because legislators will never allow any diminution in their own powers)

4. End discrimination in the form of reservations and subsidies (there is no hope there because the majority of electorate is now the beneficiaries of these doles).  Instead of reservations, there must be massive investment in education and healthcare.

The situation is dire.  The rich and the powerful have given up on improving the nation.  Everybody is acting as a vulture to ensure that he/she gets a piece of the carcass.

I repeat: till the basic structure of India's institutions is reformed, there is no hope for this country.  New leaders will change absolutely nothing but re-arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Some Notes on Free Will

The problem whether human beings have "free will" is not very precisely defined in most philosophical texts. That is obviously because the very concept of "free will" is not very precise to begin with.

Wikipedia states: "Free will is the ability to choose between different possible courses of action."

This is unsatisfactory because "ability to choose" is not a very formal phrase.

The Information Philosopher states: "The classic problem of free will is to reconcile an element of freedom with the apparent determinism in a world of causes and effects, a world of events in a great causal chain."

This is better, but unsatisfactory because it is undefined what an "element of freedom" means. Also, "causal chain" is a very ambiguous concept in a complex, inter-related world.

Let us attempt to clarify this issue with some common-sense statements.

1. The universe has interacting phenomena (matter, energy, waves).

2. These phenomena exhibit theoretical (predicted from theory) and statistical (predicted on observation) cause-effect relationships. "Cause-Effect" can be generally understood as: for all else remaining equal, say in a closed system, event A always leads to event B.

3. If we understand quantum mechanics from an instrumentalist standpoint, we can state that at microscopic levels, causation is not precise and theoretically predictable, but nevertheless statistical and probabilistic. We can construct post-hoc theories (or rather, models) based on those statistics, inventing imaginary particles etc.

Let us now define "free will" as: the possibility of humans to act in ways that cannot be predicted in principle. That is, no matter how much information we have, and how much statistical history we have, human behavior (including thought) may still deviate from our predictions.

It is a false dichotomy to argue (as quacks like Deepak Chopra do) whether human behavior is quantum-mechanical in origin and therefore only subject to a probability analysis, or whether it is a macro event amenable to theoretical calculations and precise prediction. That is because in both cases, prediction is possible and the concept of "free will" does not really enter the picture. Quantum mechanics is not a "free-for-all" physics where particles have a "mind of their own" and physicists are helpless. Quantum mechanical predictions are actually extremely precise.

So, if prediction is possible in either case, what happens to free will? Free will therefore has to be "non-physical" (whatever that means). That is obviously a crushing blow to free will, but let's continue anyway.

As an illustration of why this is a crushing blow, consider the question as to how a "non-physical thing" interact with the "physical": how does it affect physical bodies (nerves, muscles, etc.). That is the famous "mind-body" problem - which is a problem only because of confusion. (To elucidate this cryptic statement, I highly recommend this excellent lecture by Noam Chomsky)

Another (consistent with the above) formulation of the free will is to define a phenomenon that is un-caused. That is, something that is independent of all other phenomena.

But for something to be un-caused, it must be therefore completely chaotic and random. If it is following a pattern or principle or "God's will", it is not un-caused.

Hence, for "free will" to exist, two conditions (both highly dubious) must be true:

1. There is an element in human beings that is "non-physical". (pretty much a nonsensical statement, since "non-physical" is equivalent to "non-existent").

This condition is needed because anything physical is known to be subject to interaction and hence causality.

2. That "non-physical" element is completely random in its behavior.

This condition is needed because anything non-random is subject to statistical/probabilistic or theoretical analysis.

The second condition has a curious corollary. Since randomness is defined as data with nil information content, that means that instead of free will bestowing dignity on a human being, free will actually takes it away since we are then merely noise.


My understanding of free-will is that human mind is a complex organ and quite difficult to understand in minutiae (due to the huge complexity), but amenable to pattern-analysis and broad understanding. The whole fields of Evolutionary Psychology and Behavioral Economics, for example, are predicated upon an understanding of how human brain reacts to information and environment. "I" am a narrative center of gravity in a complex machine with billions of moving parts.: Unpredictable due to complexity.