Stone River

Stone river
Water ain’t runnin’ no more

How blue can you get ?

It is a question that I ponder over everyday. Well, not everyday – because I am a busy man – sitting by yourself in your room is a job, contrary to what Daddy told you. I bet everyone, the million dollars that I don’t have, that you can’t manage to lock yourself up in a room for more than a couple of days! I do that, everyday and with real relish on Sundays – easy as pie. It is my “Homage to Catatonia”.   (err, was it Catalonia ? Georgie.. sorry. don’t spin too fast. Grave-swirling is unhealthy. Aesthetically speaking.)

There ain’t no river runnin’
No water can’t be found

So here I am, sitting by myself, getting as amiable as a famished alligator who wants to crunch through something, and I feel blue. I do not suffer from synesthesia, which by the way, is an extremely cool disorder!  Story of my life, I can’t even land a decent medical condition. Sigh. I am looking for some inspiration, something to pick me up and revv up that engine of creation. (I’m talking about my mind here, o ye Dirty readers of mine)

Fish ain’t swimmin’
Ain’t no fish around nowhere
Fish ain’t swimmin’
Ain’t nobody seem to care

Inspiration is a hard magic act to keep performing everyday. When there is so little magic in your life, so little reality-fraying, mind-numbing excitement — where is the adrenaline rush of a hunter pouncing for the kill, where is the delectable uncertainty of being seduced, where is life ?

They botteled up and dammed it
Choked it up and jammed it
Killed the life around it
And stole it like a bandit
Stone river
Water ain’t runnin’ no more

I read an article on Scientific American recently, which claimed that a study has proved that “Guys are much more attracted to their female friends than girls are to their male friends. ” Well, thanks geniuses. Guys are also much more attracted to female acquaintances, female passers-by on the street, female bill-boards, female swimsuit models and life-sized dolls. I also found that I am not-really Adonis or Casanova reincarnate. Thanks for the tip, friend. I obviously hadn’t guessed that through all these years of looking at myself in the mirror!  It is these flashes of insight that shall help save the world or maybe provide me with some of that inspiration doohickey. Yeah, right.

What used to be a river
Now is just an empty site
Ain’t no vegetation
It’s just an agitation
It don’t seem right

I kissed a girl yesterday. It had been such a long time!  And it was quite lame, no sparks flying, no passionate outpourings of love, no smashing each other against walls while tearing clothes off, no squirms of inappropriate pleasure, no lingering over each other’s breaths for frenzied moments after the kisses, no hovering around with tips of noses touching and eyes locked in – gazing into the wells of each other’s humanity, no gentle interlocking of fingers as your free hand drew contours over the other’s spine, no playful smirk after the kiss and no hint of what might happen if we stayed together for a wee bit longer. A disconnected kiss. Left me feeling let-down and her confused. Maybe inspiration will come. Maybe clouds of uncertainty will part. Maybe I will feel something next time.

What used to be a stream
Now is just a dream
Stone river
Water ain’t runnin’ nowhere
Stone river
Water ain’t runnin’ no more

Advertisements

Waiting after beauty

a fleeting, quivering glance 

enchants,

malice glistening through

pursed lips,

like inane goodbyes wrapped

in delicate courtesies,

the kohl of her eyes – 

immerse the azure of the pool,

cast-off shadows

obey Sunlight

– her insouciant slave,

brushing her sensual form,

bedecking her with

Nature’s glow

as salacious reward.

 

Sanctioned by beauty – there’s no need to wait.

Yet her full, sumptuous lips quiver,

waiting for the inevitable

to begin.

Dirge

Computer widow

that is what she calls herself

when I peruse the web endlessly

seeking out information

on subjects as wide-ranging as

Marcel Proust

and

Anomander Rake – son of Mother Dark.

 

If  I think of something

I don’t know much about,

I die another death

and leave her to grieve

while I look up articles

on flute-playing vaudevillians,

from the 1890s

and the lyrics of

Faiz Ahmed Faiz.

 

My head blocks the paranormal light of the screen,

she watches as my ghost

head bobs and dances to

information that has

contributed to

the death of print.

 

She should get together with the widow of print –

for a grief seminar!

Crime and Punishment

A lot of murky water has flown under the proverbial bridge, since last I blogged.

India hanged a terrorist.

Ajmal Kasab, one of the 9 Islamic jihadists who wreaked havoc in Mumbai on 26th-29th November, 2008 – and the sole survivor was executed after his mercy petition was denied by the President.  The terror strike had claimed 166 lives. The man was clearly guilty, there were photo-grabs of him sauntering around a railway station with an AK-47. He was given a fair, lengthy trial and a right to appeal to  the highest court of the land. And then he was killed.

People have hailed it as “justice being done”. Wounds of the past have miraculously healed as the man breathed his last gasps. Pakistani parties have, reflexively, denounced the execution. One terrorist outfit has warned of the “inspirational sacrifice” of Kasab and retribution against Indians in the future. Some mainstream Pakistani parties have also ratcheted up demands for a tit-for-tat execution of one Indian languishing in Pakistani jail.

Lots of grand-standing and self-congratulation. I have been left feeling weirdly uneasy about all this.

The first impulse is, well “Kill the fucker!” I am generally against the death penalty – but some crimes deserve it. Or, do they?

The young Kasab was brainwashed, an illiterate, poor lad whose family was promised money, for his sacrifice. It does not reduce his guilt. But it does make him human.

There is this argument that a modern state should be against the death penalty – which is a state-sponsored violation of life’s sanctity. There is the other argument where Kasab could have been a symbol to the world, that our prison system would “reform” him and thus send a message of peace. This argument is bollocks, I think. The only message that hardcore terrorists understand is – fear, un-breachable defence and security. That message, India can never muster up the will for.

A second argument for his death was the closure it might provide to the grieving families. They will get to see the perpetrator dead. But again, I feel that for the crimes he committed – death is not the answer. I hesitate to write this – for fear of sounding sadistic – but isn’t death a relief, an escape for this terrorist. He destroyed hundreds of lives. He deserves something infinitely more painful than a few minutes of asphyxiation. Comeuppance should be harsh. Imprisonment for life, maybe solitary confinement – should have been a far harder pill for him to swallow. What colder vengeance for the families, than the thought that the criminal languishes in a dark, dinghy cell — forever ? Such a daily diet of schadenfreude would have gone a long way in healing wounds!

But, as usual, no one listens to me. And the poor guy is dead.  And free.

Israel-Gaza Conflict: another chapter in deceit and lies.

Israel is at it again. Killing civilians.

According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights report on Sunday November 11, five Palestinian civilians including three children had been killed in the Gaza strip in the previous 72 hours, in addition to two Palestinian security personnel. Four of the deaths occurred as a result of Israeli military firing artillery shells on youngsters playing soccer.

Moreover, 52 civilians had been wounded, of which six were women and 12 were children.  (the toll rises as more intense attacks continue)

Articles that do report on the killings overwhelmingly focus on the killing of Palestinian security personnel. For example, an Associated Press article published in the CBC world news on November 13, entitled ‘Israel mulls resuming targeted killings of Gaza militants,’ mentions absolutely nothing of civilian deaths and injuries.

It portrays the killings as ‘targeted assassinations.

The fact that casualties have overwhelmingly been civilians indicates that Israel is not so much engaged in “targeted” killings, as in “collective” killings, thus once again committing the crime of collective punishment.

Another AP item on CBS news from November 12 reads ‘Gaza rocket fire raises pressure on Israel government.’ It features a photo of an Israeli woman gazing on a hole in her living room ceiling.  Again, no images, nor mention of the numerous bleeding casualties or corpses in Gaza.

Along the same lines, a BBC headline on November 12 reads ‘Israel hit by fresh volley of rockets from Gaza.’ Similar trends can be illustrated for European mainstream papers. Furthermore, articles that do mention the Palestinian casualties in Gaza consistently report that Israeli operations are in response to rockets from Gaza and to the injuring of Israeli soldiers.

However, the chronology of events of the recent flare-up began on November 5, when an innocent, apparently mentally unfit, 20-year old man, Ahmad al-Nabaheen, was shot when he wandered close to the border. Medics had to wait for six hours to be permitted to pick him up and they suspect that he may have died because of that delay.

Then, on November 8, a 13-year-old boy playing football in front of his house was killed by fire from the IDF that had moved into Gazan territory with tanks as well as helicopters. The wounding of four Israeli soldiers at the border on November 10 was therefore already part of a chain of events where Gazan civilians had been killed, and not the triggering event. 

An extract of a report sent by a Canadian medic who happened to be in Gaza and helped out in Shifa hospital ER over the weekend says:

“the wounded were all civilians with multiple puncture wounds from shrapnel: brain injuries, neck injuries, hemo-pneumo thorax, pericardial tamponade, splenic rupture, intestinal perforations, slatted limbs, traumatic amputations. All of this with no monitors, few stethoscopes, one ultrasound machine. …. Many people with serious but non life threatening injuries were sent home to be re-assessed in the morning due to the sheer volume of casualties. The penetrating shrapnel injuries were spooky. Tiny wounds with massive internal injuries. … There was very little morphine for analgesia.”

Apparently such scenes are not newsworthy for the New York Times, the CBC, or the BBC.

Bias and dishonesty with respect to the oppression of Palestinians is nothing new in Western media and has been widely documented. Nevertheless, Israel continues its crimes against humanity with full acquiescence and financial, military and moral support from our governments, the U.S., Canada and the EU.

How did it all begin ?

To begin to make sense of the escalating conflict in Gaza, we need to go back to the night of Oct. 23 in Khartoum. Around 11 p.m. that night, the Yarmouk weapons facility in the Sudanese capital was attacked, presumably by the Israeli air force. There were indications that Iran had been using this facility to stockpile and possibly assemble weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles, guided anti-tank missiles and long-range Fajr-5 rockets capable of reaching Tel Aviv and Jerusalem from Gaza. One of the major drivers behind Israel’s latest air and assassination campaign is its belief that Hamas has a large cache of long-range Fajr-3 and Fajr-5 rockets in its possession. Israel’s primary intent in this military campaign is to deny Hamas the ability to use these rockets or keep them as a constant threat to Israel’s population centers.

This likely explains why in early October, when short-range rocket attacks from Gaza were still at a low level, Israeli officials began conditioning the public to the idea of an “inevitable” Israeli intervention in Gaza. Israel knew Hamas had these weapons in its possession and that it could require a war to eliminate the Fajr rocket threat. It began with the strike on the facility in Sudan, extended to the assassination of Hamas military commander Ahmad Jabari (the architect of the Fajr rocket program) and now has the potential to develop into an Israeli ground incursion in Gaza.

Oct. 23 was not the first time Israel allegedly attacked weapons caches in Sudanese territory that were destined for Gaza. In January 2009, Israel allegedly carried out an airstrike against a weapons convoy northwest of Port Sudan heading to Gaza. The convoy included Fajr-3 rockets and was unusually large, with more than 20 trucks traveling north toward Gaza. The rushed shipment was allegedly arranged by Iran to reinforce Hamas during Operation Cast Lead.

On Nov. 14, Jabari was assassinated, and Hamas had to work under the assumption that Israel would do whatever it took to launch a comprehensive military campaign to eliminate the Fajr threat. It is at this point that Hamas likely resigned to a “use it or lose it” strategy and launched Fajr rockets toward Tel Aviv, knowing that they would be targeted anyway and potentially using the threat as leverage in an eventual attempt at another truce with Israel. A strong Hamas response would also boost Hamas’ credibility among Palestinians.

Hamas essentially tried to make the most out of an already difficult situation and will now likely work through Egypt to try to reach a truce to avoid an Israeli ground campaign in Gaza that could further undermine its authority in the territory.

In Tehran, Iranian officials are likely quite content with these developments. Iran needed a distraction from the conflict in Syria. It now has that, at least temporarily. Iran also needed to revise its relationship with Hamas and demonstrate that it retains leverage through militant groups in the Palestinian territories as part of its deterrence strategy against a potential strike on its nuclear program.

Hamas decided in the past year that it was better off aligning itself with its ascendant parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, than remaining tethered to an ideological rival like Iran that was being  put on the defensive in the region.

Iran could still capture Hamas’ attention through weapons sales, however, and may have even expected that Israel would detect the Fajr shipments. The result is an Israeli military campaign in Gaza that places Hamas’ credibility in question and could create more space for a group like the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which has close ties to Iran. The conflict will also likely create tension in Hamas’ relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Jordan and Syria, since the Brotherhood, particularly in Egypt, is not prepared or willing to confront Israel beyond rhetoric and does not want to face the public backlash for not doing enough to defend the Palestinians from Israel Defense Forces.

————-

Whatever be the final denouement of this tragic sequence of events, Palestinians in Gaza will pay the price. As they always have. And the world will go on with business as usual.

Some integrity from world leaders will be like a whiff of fresh air!    Please.

 

 

 

 

Melancholy

I wonder how men fight and lose the battle, and the idea that they fight for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name. The battles of the world frequently end up like this. But so do battles within.

I am alone, and this skirmish with self shall not be my Waterloo. Of that, I am certain. But certainty of the intellect and the assured calm of  the heart are strange bedfellows. The last time I had a conversation with a person, in flesh and blood, I mean, was more than a week ago. How is it that you can live in a milling crowd and feel the walls of solitary confinement closing in on you ? Right now, I am typing this out, as a feeble attempt at reaching out to a wider humanity. To anyone, who feels the same way, who understands.

I cannot imagine what countless people endured through the ages – in gulags, in prison cells, in perfect isolation – but I begin to sense the fear, the dread of solitude. I am not a terribly weak individual, I can and have made these choices myself, quite independent choices – but the path that lies ahead seems tortuously long. At its core, I think, my detest for isolation stems from a common and abhorrent desire for approval and affirmation. Probably, a little too much desire, in my case. Like everyone else, I crave for appreciation and warmth of human company. And where does that come from, not from some childhood denial of love or caring, which was profoundly happy, for the most part. I feel that this morbid compulsion to seek out approval is, in fact, the result of too much adulation in adolescence. It is addictive – that rush of success, the gloating praise in your parents’ eyes, the envy you engender in others. And then you go to College. All taken away. In the sudden glare of equally coruscating brilliance, everywhere.

But the urge remains. The urge to prove yourself,  to seek glory. It is a productive urge. Nevertheless, it can lead to strange choices and difficult times. The pity is that as you strive for that higher pursuit, the noble aims of self-betterment, you inevitably create boundaries for yourself. I have continually restricted my social circles. The circles keep narrowing with the passage of time. You elevate and isolate yourself. And all the while, from within that mystic halo of superiority, you see, the mundane joys of everyone else.  And you are faced with the curious dilemma – either the pleasure of the crowd or the delights of narcissism. I could say, well this is not worth it, let me just be-like-others. But it entails erasing everything that I have been trying to achieve for the majority of my short life. That is quite a call.

Why am I doing this ? It makes perfect sense rationally to invest a “year of sad life” for prospects of happiness ever after. Sounds grim, already. This elusive happiness quest. And I think I would give up these dreams, in a jiffy, if I can be assured of less-awe-inspiring, but more rewarding human warmth, in the present. Says a lot about the conviction of my dreams. But is human contact forthcoming ? What other parts of my self do I have to divorce, what other barriers constructed over so many years of striving, do I have to overcome — to let myself indulge in simple pleasures ? What new self should I mould now, so that I can be “accepted” again, in the fold of people. I seem to have strayed far.  I cannot settle for a mirage anymore. I fear this desert shall claim me.

Maybe this battle will turn out well. Maybe isolation will end, and there will be delight in company and the pleasure of intimacy. And if I fail and things seem to have gone awry, maybe, I will fashion a new name for myself, and keep fighting for the same cause. Alone.

The Smartest Drowned Man in the World.

Love’s

permanence,

constancy beyond death,

is it vain to expect bliss ?

only ideas are granted that privilege

that last voyage, of a ghost-ship

on the sea of lost time.

many careless passions contend,

for coveted passage-way.

Alas, humanity’s deck grows weary,

burdened with frivolities.

Justice is one such passenger ..

a very old man with enormous wings,

clipped ones.

 

that

Labour

shall find just reward. And

wickedness get a blind date with –

Inevitable Comeuppance.   (scary bitch!)

Too high a hope, this ?

can entropy not arrange itself,

or is mighty Smiter feeling coy ?

 

Lost

is the wandering ship,

from with-in and out.

the sea resembles the trackless steppes,

moral compass — nowhere found.

with decrepit justice as deck-hand,

myriad tempests abound.

 

death, constant beyond love, and not the other way, sadly,  unjust world works.

cold comfort then, that

I am the smartest drowned man in the world.

 

Find Another Head

it is getting quite annoying,

this repetition,

every night,

as insomnia’s needles prick my eyes

same thoughts, played over and over –

again, with minor alterations, in script mostly,

I am funnier in my head,

and getting better!

what lovely retorts I come up with,

charming and witty –

yet it is a sad theatre,

where half the cast lies mute.

And finally, when conscious veers into oblivion,

ill-choreographed dreams.

dreams of journeys, dreams of just existing .. not alone.

frivolous things have potency,

and the subject-object dichotomy gets hazy.

i wake up, in melancholy …why do dreams end?

and then revert to routine,

of rugged, old reverie.

 

Too much value has been bestowed,

on too little hope.

seething frustration mired in unfathomable smiles.

It is the smiles which worry me.

Why do you keep smiling ?

Can’t you see how desperately frustrated I am,

at this impotence, this failure,

to conquer myself.

Can’t you see the wounded, pride of that mighty ego ?

Can’t you conjure up some empathy ?

No. you smile, 

lost-in-trance, love’s labyrinth ever so tortuous,

and ever enticing.

I will not take this anymore.

Shut the fuck up.

incessant

drivel, 

pretending to be my thoughts.

you smiling betrayer,

you conniving bastard,

incandescent fury shall consume you.

I break up.  With you

– imbecile Me. 

FIND  ANOTHER  HEAD.

Ideas on Modernity – Nietzsche, Marcuse and Post-Modernism.

This essay encapsulates my understanding of the historical evolution of modernity. As always, my philosophical hero – Nietzsche dominates, but I do find some time for Herbert Marcuse and Post-Modernism.

(at the person who corrected my inexcusable ignorance of Marcuse — gratitude and hi! 🙂  ..  )

Romanticism has lamented the loss of meaning in the modern world and to fill this void they turned to nature, religion and tradition.  But even after accepting the spiritual wasteland in which the modern man walks alone, I maintain that neither proximity to nature nor religion can provide the free man with peace, joy or certainty. The barbarism of all ages possessed more happiness than we do – let us not deceive ourselves on this point! – but our impulse towards knowledge is too widely developed to allow us to value happiness without knowledge, or the happiness of a strong and fixed delusion: it is painful to us even to imagine such a state of things! Our restless pursuit of discoveries has become for us as attractive and as indispensable as the hapless love of a lover. Knowledge within us has developed into a passion, which does not shrink from any sacrifice and fears nothing but its own extinction. It may be that mankind will perish eventually from this passion for knowledge! But will that daunt us ? I don’t think so.

For Nietzsche there was another reason why man could no longer rely on custom and tradition. Tradition oppresses- it appeals to a higher authority, an authority that is obeyed not because “it commands what is useful to us but merely because it commands” . The free man cannot therefore depend upon it. He is an individual, defying custom and norms of received morality. It is his will to depend on nothing but himself. Since the free man of the modern age cannot find solace either in religion or tradition, there are just two options before him;

a) he may abandon the search for an ultimate meaning; and

b) he may create meaning by his own will and action.
In exploring these alternatives Nietzsche did not merely reject the Enlightenment and its Romantic alternative, he questioned the entire tradition of western rationalist thought, beginning with Plato.

For Nietzsche all schools of thought had one thing in common: they had firm belief in themselves and their knowledge. They believed that they had arrived at the truth.  In the Athenian world of ancient Greek city-states Plato claimed that reason could give man access to the ultimate reality – the world of forms. In recent times, the Enlightenment claimed that the application of scientific method has yielded the truth about the world. Each in its own way thus claims that it has discovered the truth about the external world that exists independently of us. Further, that this truth has been arrived at impersonally and objectively; i.e., in terms of qualities that inhere in the objects themselves.

Men have, lived in this state of “theoretical innocence” for centuries believing that they possess the right method for discovering the nature of ultimate reality, and for determining what is good and valuable. Working under the influence of these childish presuppositions they have failed to realize that the external world is in itself devoid of all meanings and values.

Whatever has value in the present enlightenment world “has it not in itself by its nature”. Rather a value was “given to it, bestowed upon it, it was we who gave and bestowed! We ourselves have created the world which is of any account to man”.

In making this argument and suggesting that man is a “creator, a continuous poet of life”, Nietzsche was not undermining the significance of cognition. For Nietzsche knowledge remains a supreme value, but if pure knowledge as revealed by reason or experiments is the only end then we would have to follow whatever direction these faculties take us in. We have to be prepared, for instance, to follow the path that experimental reason leads us towards, be that of nuclear energy or genetic engineering. However, this would be complete “madness”. Knowledge has to be mediated by values that we regard to be worth affirming, values by which we may wish to construct the world.

The role of the artist is therefore of the utmost importance.

For it is the work of an artist that creates and unravels for us alternative worlds. While men of science aim to discover what is already there, the artist gives shape to a world, expressing human ideals. For this reason Nietzsche maintained that poetry and myths were a valuable source of knowledge for us. In Nietzsche’s works the artist was not just the ‘other’ of the modern rational scientist. He was, first and foremost, a creator; and as a creator he embodied the ability to transcend the boundaries of the social and what is designated as the rational. The artist as such stood alone, challenging the moralism implicit in western philosophical traditions. Thus it was through Nietzsche and the Romanticists that some of the basic tenets of the Enlightenment came to be questioned in a fundamental way. In particular the view that the present was the most advanced and civilized era in the history of humankind became subject to scrutiny.

These themes were revived in the second half of the 20th century by the New Left, most notably in the writings of Herbert Marcuse. In his book, One Dimensional Man, Marcuse characterized the post-enlightenment industrial society as “irrational” and “repressive”. Despite the apparent progress and increase in productivity, this society, in his view, was “destructive of the free development of
human needs and faculties”.

To many it may appear that political freedom is protected in this society and there has been an expansion in the liberties enjoyed by men. Today there is more to choose from: many different newspapers, radio stations, TV channels and a whole gamut of commodities in the market – from different varieties of potato chips to motor cars and washing machines. Yet, men have no real capacity to make choices of their own. Men’s needs are constantly shaped and manipulated by the media industry that furthers the interests of a few. It moulds and constructs images that determine the choices we make at home, in the market place and in social interactions. In a world where “false” needs are fashioned by the media there is no effective intellectual freedom or liberation of man. Men act and participate as “pre-conditioned receptacles of long standing”. Indeed through their actions they reinforce the instruments of socio-economic control and their oppression. According to Marcuse, the modern industrialized world constituted a “more progressive stage of alienation”. Its seeming progress, “the means of mass transportation and communication, the commodities of lodging, food and clothing, the irresistible output of the entertainment and information industry carry with them prescribed attitudes and habits, certain intellectual and emotional reactions which bind the consumers more or less pleasantly to the producers, and through the latter, to the whole. The products indoctrinate and manipulate; they promote a false consciousness which is immune against its falsehood.

And as these beneficial products become available to more individuals in more social classes, the indoctrination they carry ceases to be publicity; it becomes a way of life. It is a good way of life, it militates against qualitative change. Thus emerges a pattern of one-dimensional thought and behaviour. More importantly, as men and women share in the same images and ideas there is less and less the possibility of challenging the present and seeking alternatives to it. In a world where images, presentation and appearance count more than even the content, these theorists felt there could be no real freedom, or for that matter, the possibility of “communicative rationality” asserting itself in the “life-world”.

For Marcuse as well as for other members of the Frankfurt School the Enlightenment had transformed what was once liberating reason, engaged in the fight against religious dogma and superstition, into a repressive orthodoxy. It had done this by visualizing reason as an instrument of control; and, as a tool for gaining mastery over the world rather than critical reflection and reconstruction. Instrumental reason that was concerned primarily with efficiency, economy and utility could not be expected to liberate man or construct a better world.

Postmodernism, taking its cue from Nietzsche, problematizes not just science but also philosophy and religion.

Each of these intellectual engagements, in its view, seeks foundations; that is, they look for absolute and unconditional basis of reality and claim to arrive at the truth. The only difference being that while religion locates the absolute in the world beyond, science points to the laws of nature as constituting the foundations of the world and philosophy places its faith in the capacity of reason to unearth that absolute truth. What remains unaltered is that each of them looks for, and seeks to discover the truth that is already there. Against this worldview, postmodernism asks us to abandon the search for foundations and universal truth.

Like Nietzsche, the postmodernist thinkers assert that knowledge does not involve discovering a meaning that is already there, pre-contained in the text. For the postmodernists, the task of every inquiry is, and must be, to deconstruct the text: to read it in a way that allows new meanings to emerge from it. Nietzsche had argued that the history of the west, from the time of Plato onwards, reveals a “tyranny of the mind”.

Plato claimed that philosophers armed with the power of reason would penetrate the world of appearances and arrive at the truth. He therefore banished the poets from the Republic. In recent times, the Enlightenment bestows the same faith in systematic observation and experience. Both are convinced that they possess the absolute truth and the perfect method to arrive at it. Countless people have, over the years, sacrificed themselves to these convictions. Believing that they knew best they imposed their ways upon others.

The idea that we know the truth, that we and we alone have access to it, has been a source of fanaticism in the world. Postmodernists add to this Nietzschean sentiment to say that it has also been the source of totalitarianism. To protect freedom that the modern man so deeply cherishes we must therefore abandon this search for absolute truth. And realize instead that others also believe that they know the truth and are acting in accordance with it.

Intellectual arrogance must therefore give way to a sense of deeper humility: that is, to a framework wherein meta-narratives give way to particular histories of people living in a specific time and place, and space is created for the co-presence of multiple projects and knowledge systems.

Great Expectations

This is one of those dreamy pieces. I want to write down, once and for all, what is it that goads me on, what drives me to plod through self-inflicted intellectual isolation  — while the world keeps having all the fun!

This is the dream. Things I will achieve in the next 3 years if everything works out as planned !

(it seldom does, reality seems to have a well-known Buzz-Kill Bias)

First – I will be a young, strapping cog in the administrative labyrinth of the Indian civil service. Or maybe, I will chose the Foreign services. (exotic locales, female spies trying to seduce you for national secrets!? , elitist luncheons, the good life )

Second– I will have my own little library. Everything that I have ever wanted to read. The list has gone up to 131 books. There will be a cosy bed beside the shelves, an ornate desk, a nice view through the window, an ash-tray, a medieval, wooden chess set, a world-class music system – with my personal collection of Hindustani, everything JJ Cale and BB King ever sang, Ghulam Ali ghazals etc. (maybe even some Eminem, Maroon 5, Bonobo). Also, I will have a collection of cute ink-pens and good paper to write on. And I will be scribbling furiously for my long-ordained writing debut. Wooo!

Third – I will be with some special woman. (those interested in applying for this position — may look at the Post-Script for details.)

Fourth – There will be frequently organized get-togethers with my tightly-knit circle of friends. All of whom are obviously members of the secret society which will, in a few years, optimize the world. We will formulate grandiose strategy, fine-tune existing policies and proceed with relentless ferocity, while continuing to look all cool and casual,  in pursuit of aforementioned modest goal. (as we all know, colonizing space and fiddling-with-time is the only respectable final goal for this august gathering of talents)

Fifth –  There will be holidays. and lovely cuisines. and fine wines. and beautiful conversation.

That is the five-point plan for awesomeness. Isn’t imagination wonderful ?

P.S.  special women shall have these special, shall I say, gifts — a taste for arts, better manners than myself — some etiquette training will do me a world of good,  curiosity, a love for argument and clear thinking,  insatiable appetite for sexytime (Borat!), and dare I hope – a capacity for old-fashioned romance.

False Dawn … and the dangers of hoping.

 

my gold ankle bracelets call out
from their darkness at 
the bottom of my jewelry box.
Spread to dry on the
kitchen counter, strands of gold–
dangling hearts with good luck
elephants—shoot sparks back 
at the sun through the kitchen
window where the alchemy of
drying gold meets solar power.

If you want to understand electricity
come to bed with me. We might
short out the city lights. 

……………….

This leprous daybreak, dawn night’s fangs have mangled – this is not the long-looked for break of day

Eyes filled with raging tears are not enough,

it is not enough to hide the taunts of love’s secret

Walk through the town today with fettered feet

Arms flung out, dancing in ecstasy

Dusty hair awry, and with shirt all bloody

Through gawking crowds in bazaars of love

Its guardians, its common folk

Past its slingshots its arrows, its stones of slanders

Shackled through the happy dawn, the oppressed day of failures

Who would get it but us?  We alone know

Who is the sincerest lover, Who deserving of the murderer’s blow

No, this is not – not that clear dawn in quest of which we set out,  Believing that in heaven’s wide void

Somewhere must be the stars’ last halting-place,

Somewhere the verge of night’s slow-washing tide,

Somewhere the anchorage for the ship of heartache.

Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will

The ink-well of poetic inspiration runs dry. I thought it would be remiss of me to attempt some half-baked atrocity on the beautiful medium of verse, while on this uninspired, cynical island that I find myself ship-wrecked in. It is often true for me, far too much for my liking, that I seem to derive all the energy that I need – from my reading. How I wish there will come a time when I finally have one “original” thought. Just a stupid, little insight would also do!

But I am too comfortably nestled in the familiar worn-out ruts of my brain to be jolted by life whizzing past, to be shocked into “creative insight”, as it were. It is a pitiable state, when you have to resort to the reservoir of other’s cogitations to conjure up something. I am not just standing on the shoulders of giants, it seems I have constructed a nice little tent there — idling away on those mighty shoulder-blades! The view is great though!

But enough self-loathing.

Let me talk about the issue that I have encountered recently, and I shall make no attempts at coherence here.

1. Is the world a better place today than it was say 30-40 years ago ?

Before I begin to answer this – let me qualify – by saying that “better” is invitation to questions like “for whom”, “what does better mean” ?  I shall not attempt to answer these questions, because it is too broad for a puny blog-post. I shall try and list out certain areas where humanity has shown remarkable resilience and transformative ability. One of them is the sanctity of “free speech”. The internet and the whole host of inter-related technologies have meant a far, more democratic and level-playing field for citizens today. The culture of dissent is picking up and thankfully, it is not just the intellectual elites, who have realized it.

No one would have envisioned a Mohd. Bouazizi and the spark he set off, immolating himself and the entire facade of Arab dicatorships, a few decades back. There are a lot of dawns happening right now, in different parts of the world – the Malalas, the Venezuelan public majority that voted Chavez back (inspite of stringent US acrimony), the Mohd. Morsis of Egypt, the Julia Gillards (who delightfully put down chauvinistic politicians in media’s full glare), even Myanmar’s generals are reforming — in favour of free speech and democracy.  Some of these may turn out to be false dawns, as it often happens, whenever human nature is in play. But change is in vogue!

There are trenchant issues that still give cause for pessimism. The total lack of conviction from world leaders towards grappling with serious political, environmental issues. Witness the lip-service to Environmental Conservation that our PM Manmohan Singh dishes out at the recently concluded COP-11 Conference on Biological Diversity in Hyderabad. He promises a high-sounding $50 million “Hyderabad Pledge”, which is just pocket change — while at the same time, insidiously backing a draconian National Investment Board, to expedite and gloss over environmental concerns whenever serious business interests are in play. Going more global, the crisis is never-ending. the issues that need to be discussed are not. Pakistan – a far bigger threat to the stability of the world – than Iran or North Korea, keeps piling up the nuclear weapons like an avaricious banker! Israel and the US continue diplomatic calisthenics over Iran, carefully avoiding the stench from the Palestinian morass. Europe never seems to agree on a consensus on how to tackle its financial woes, flipping from austerity to populism at the drop of a hat. Japan and China are having another one of those days … their historic, and time-dilated menstrual cycles never ever seem to align. Now it is about the islands in Senkaku. Tomorrow, it will probably be about Nanjing war-crimes. Day after, it will just be about how both of them look too alike for each other’s comfort! I don’t talk about Africa because it is just too sad. And ignorance is better for my health sometimes.

But all in all, as long as the progressive left keeps making pro-active use of freedoms that technology gives us – I think there is still hope. The Vietnam War was not protested against until the US was 5-6 years in the conflict. On the contrary, massive public opinion and outcry prevented the US from intervening militarily in Libya or now in Syria (which is sad!)  — but all good things come with a bad after-taste, I guess. We have the tools now to weigh in and punch above our weight. Hierarchies can be defeated. Power structures can be unravelled.  It is up to us.

The left side of  Humanity.  (or should I say, the left morsels of our Humanity)

The cogent portion of the blog is over. Now for the headlines for this past day or so —

2. I hate stupid people. It’s true. I am surrounded by all these ignoramuses and I find that there is, actually, no point to their existence.   (Why am I so elitist? I am sure I will regret feeling this way some day.)  But these people do seem to be as evolutionarily useful as a mosquito is ecologically.

3. Stupid people can be understood and pitied. Which is something that I hold in their favour. But intelligent hypocrites are the worst — they are the dregs of humanity. Alan Dershowitz has recently been added to the rather short list of people – whom I would prefer to be a bit shorter (by a head maybe). Thomas Friedman, of course, leads the pack, grinning wildly like a typical moustache-host-organism. These educated “intellectuals” poison the lives of millions and shape their opinions and dogmas, all the while, maintaining their thin veneer of moral high-ground, which can be seen through so easily. I was watching Dershowitz debate Chomsky and all he could muster was lies, deceit, rhetoric and moral grand-standing. The sheer hypocrisy should have made the universe recoil in horror and swallow him up in the black hole where he belongs! These are the times when I wish there was a mighty Smiter up in the heavens, raining thunder-bolts.

4. “Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will”  is the latest mantra for me. Wonderful, because it combines Russell’s Skepticism with Nietzsche’s Will!   (you can have others, of course– Moore, Strawson, Hume for skepticism and Schopenhauer, more Nietzsche! for the will … pick your favourites)

5. I am finally beginning to understand a lot of the emotions that used to confuse me before. Distance is needed. And time. Memory and forgetting do the rest. The past is always beautiful, idyllic and tranquil. The future no longer looks as bleak. There is hope.

And I will survive.

Until I eventually die, of course.  Alone.  (but i will still be surviving right up to the last fucking moment. promise.)

P.S. on a happy note, this is something that everyone should watch. (well, every adult human being and no nuns/priests)                                      French awesomeness —  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPeaJBWXijo

the Argumentative lover

Shall we have an argument,

you and I ?

Is that what you want ?

well’s let have it then..

the proposition i am defending –

“arguments are impossible in love.”

real, proper arguments –

where jibes are hurled,

diatribes exchanged,

sarcasm, mockery, excoriations galore –

like getting Hitch-slapped!

all love can muster,

is a pale imitation,

when you propound, and i permit.

even when flying in the face of reason,

forgiveness ever is love.

It means taking morbid delight,

in irrationality,

quirkiness which, though confounds,

yet is found cute!

isn’t that how it always is?

ego- debating fuel,

is all adulterated,

with an alien Being in You, in love.

what argument can you have,

with yourself-but-much-more-precious!

what casuistry will you resort to,

when confronted with you ?

 

The only disagreement permitted, is of degree. Not kind.

For …..

when wounds of the heart,

make plaintive appeals.

when cold shivers,

evoke memories of company’s warmth.

when I do not grieve,

why you hurt me so much ?

but instead,  am terribly vexed,

by what took you sooo long ?

…..  what fatuous, specious disagreements, I wonder, shall we have ?