Tonight, I fly to Munich for my tour of Eastern Europe. I promise to write about it when I get back. In the meantime, love from the Clown!
Mumbai Mirror bears a story telling of a new notification issued by the Women and Child Development Department issued a notification that cases of Bal Diksha (the initiation of children as monks in Jainism) cannot be tried under the Juvenile Justice ( Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. This means that now minors can be freely forced into the Jain priesthood, and child rights organizations can do nothing to stop them. The Jain Trusts are of course overjoyed. They claim that it is their religious right to ordain children as monks, and are celebrating this supposed vindication of this right. Here:
When I was five, my grandmother had a good friend who used to visit her frequently. I rather liked him, but since I was five, this was beacuse he got me a Nestle Milkybar every time he came over. It was a chocolate I cherished. So I was puzzled to learn that this nice man was blind from birth. He was the first blind man I had seen and I was rather intrigued. In the innocent yet insensetive manner of five-year olds, I persisted in asking him if he could tell how many fingers I was holding up or whether he could tell if it was night or day. But I couldn’t help wondering why God ( I was a believer then), who, I was always told was a rather charming fella, would make someone blind from birth.When I asked my grandmother about this, she shrugged and said maybe he had done something bad in a past life. When I asked what sort of ‘bad thing’ he might have done in his past life, my gandmother shrugged again, and said ‘I don’t know- maybe he swore at someone?’
And in this crude manner, I was introduced to the concept of karma. But a word about swearing first: if my grandmother was right, then in my next life I will be a deformed, demented, deaf, mute, blind, leperous, hermaphrodite with a gay siamese twin; and my troubles will only truly being when he starts dating.
Although ‘karma’ has strong roots in India and eastern Asia since ancient times, its inroduction to the West is rather recent. The concept of karma was first introduced to Europe (on a large scale) in the 19th century through the writings of European Indologists, Germans, mostly. The study of Indian philosophy was then fashionable in the upper classes of Britain, despite their disgust of the ‘idolatrous Hindoo ways.’ In the modern West, karma has earned a place in popular philosophy through the agency of TV and self help books- those pillars of civillization. People who call themselves ‘spiritual but not religious’ (whatever the fuck that means) claim to believe in karma, and in the West, ‘bad karma’ and ‘good karma’ are concepts so universally understood that they even find their way into political speeches. But few people stop to consider the ridiculousness of the idea.
Let’s first set down what it means. Basically, karma (‘act’ or ‘deed’ in classical Sanskrit) is, in Vedic reilgion, the cycle of cause and effect where the net effect is that good is rewarded with good and evil is rewarded with evil. If you do good, good things will happen to you, and if you do evil, you will be punished. Since karma is not bound to a single life, good or bad karma may accrue in subsequent lives as well. I submit, however, that the theory of karma however, is inherently fallacious. Consider the following:
This is the first (and usually the last) challenge to any religious idea. If you claim something is true, prove it. Give evidence. By evidence, I mean the scientific, logical kind of evidence you would use to evaluate any other statement about the world. And no, the karmic concept is not beyond science or in the relam of the unknowable. That is a very common argument used to brush off the responsibility of proving what you claim is true. The karmic law is like any other scientific hyposthesis in that it attempts to explain a phenomenon, and thus is not exempt from the same logical analysis that would apply to any other hypothesis. So evidence must be produced. I do not mean anecdotal evidence. I mean the kind of evidence that must be supplied, in scientific terms, for a theory to become a law. Not one proponent of this philosophy as produced this evidence. The karmic law, in that sense, is like Murphy’s law, where the qualifier ‘law’ is actually just a misnomer, but sarcastically, so, in the latter case.
2. Good and Evil:
If good and evil are rewarded and punished respectively, then what is good and what is evil? Who decides? Good and evil are objective terms, judged against prevailing social mores. There has never been a permenant yardstick for good or for evil. So if Iwere to attract karama-phala according to my actions, how would they be judged in the first place? Is tax evasion good or evil in the karmic sense? What about stealing from the rich in order to feed the poor? There is also the problem of who administers karma. Some writers say God (don’t get me started), and other say that it is an automatic process, like soil erosion or photosynthesis. And, forgive the repetition, where is the evidence for either of these explanations?
3. Karma gone wrong:
Talk about bad karma!
The best disproofs of the karmic ‘law’ are two simple facts:
A) bad things happen to good people and vice versa
B) bad things happen to children
In case of the former, this directly shows the opposite of what the karmic law states and in case of the latter, a child may be born with or contract horrible afflictions or suffer due to human actions, when it has done nothing to deserve the suffering. How does the karmic law apply in these cases? The answer supplied by proponents of the karmic theory to this question is another biggie: reincarnation. And yet again, I must call for evidence. But in any case the idea itself is bizzare: a person who has no knowledge of or intention to commit an evil act is punished for something he had done in a ‘past life.’ Assmuing that reincarnation is real, a person is a different person in one life from what he is in the next. As such he is being punished for acts done, in essence, by someone else. This is a very convenient way of explaning away the two facts I have listed above. But this leads to another problem of its own….
If all pleasure and suffering is rightly deserved by a person, then a seven year old girl who is raped and murdered deserves it. A person who steals deserves the profit and a person who is robbed deserves the loss. This, in effect removes the necessity of all criminal laws in the first place, since the karmic law makes criminals themselves the agents of cosmic justice! To push even futher, it eliminates the necessity of economy, polity and society. People need not endeavour to have a good life since they will get one if they deserve it, and nothing they can do will change this fact. We might as well dismantle our whole justice and political system, since it’s all perodained by things we did when our souls occupied other bodies.
The concept of karma appears in most of our epic literature, and on many occasions defines the fates of our epic heroes. The Mahabharata, which remains my favourite work of literature, has many instances of karma in action. I could recount the stories, but you have to read it yourself to feel its full magic. However, we must not be fooled by godmen and quacks who claim that this is real. When we frown upon black magic and superstition, we do so because there is no evidence for its claims. On that same logic, we should reject philosophical ideas which have no basis in fact- and not let them rule our lives.
Get the Abu Gharib reference?
A Saudi judge justifies a man slapping a spendthrift wife. Click on this link to read this off-the-record pearl of wisdom.
I needn’t really say anything. Any right thinking person will be as revolted as I was. The inevitable argument will of course be that it is the “culture” and “poverty”that is to blame. No. Saudi Arabia is one of the weathiest countries in the world. Their barbaric seventh century views prevail beacuse the religious authorities there guard them jealously. They keep the people in the dark, enforce out-dated, unjust, barbarous and discriminatory laws with the single-minded goal of holding on to their power which has no rational basis if put to the critical test. There is no greater evidence of this than incidents like the above, when jugdes, who are supposed to be the guardians of justice spew such excrementious opinions. The judge said that both parties are equally responsible for domestic violence: this in a country where the husband has complete power over his wife, where women are not allowed to drive and until recently couldn’t sit in the front seat of a car. What he really means is that if a husband beats his wife, it is of course her fault: she should not have made him angry in the first place.
This time (not the first and the last) it happened in Islam, but applies equally well to all religions. Those who claim that religion is not to blame for incidents such as this take heed: if there were no religion, those who advocate and enforce such barbarities would have no power. It is religion that gives them that power-and this is especially true of Islam which, barring a few exceptions, regulates most walks of life, some of them very personal, in the countries it dominates.
In India, personal laws are still governed by religion. Which means that religious laws govern some of our most personal activities. Now for those who wish this law to apply to them, it’s their business.
Put me off my breakfast.
Did you know that girls in Saudi Arabia have the right to education?
Baseless accusations, angry protests, boycotts, walkouts and general mud slinging were a feature which, until recently we associated with our dear and beloved netas in Parliament. But apparently, the circus has left town and set up shop in the world’s town meeting: the United Nations. I speak of that sorry affair called The Durban Review Conference (which, by the way, happened in Geneva and not in Durban) or the ‘ World Conference Against Racism’. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Well, it wasn’t, unless you are an anarchist, a journalist or Ban-Ki-Moon.
In 2001, they held the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, where they came up with the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action to work towards the eradication of racism. So this Conference was called the ‘Durban Review’ because its aim was to come up with a way to implement the Programme. So here’s a quick review of the Durban Review:
Low level delegations (Diplospeke for “This party is lame and I didn’t want to be here anyway”): 23, and the Checzs buggered off after the first day.
Kicked out: 3 Activist Groups (Iranians, Franco-Jews and Londoners) and 2 journalists (one guy tried to seize the dias while the other guy filmed it).
Party Pooper-in Chief: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (more about him later)
At the end of the conference, they came up with an utterly worthless Outcome Document which didn’t even pretend to disguise the fact that the Conference had failed.
The following are my thoughts on why the Conference was doomed to failure:
1. Blasphemy resolution: The UN had been toying with a Resolution that banned “defamation of religion.” Thankfully, the resolution did not get enough votes to become binding, but it’s implications are scary. Basically, the resolution makes religion entirely sacrosanct: above all criticism. Religion, after all is an idea (and unproven and unscientific at that) and freedom of speech demands that the opinion of one cannot be suppressed because it confilcts with a deeply held and emotionally and setimentally charged opinion of another. The Muslim countries, led by Pakistan, tried to foist this draconian law upon the world, and thankfully failed (there are still many right thinking nations in the UN, the Danes, for example). But this episode increased suspicion that the Durban Review Conference would be used in order to promote the blasphemy law and many nations chose not to attend in protest. The Blasphemy episode is a smudge on the UN’s reputation, especially since the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, in Article 19, declares the fundamental freedom of opinion and expression. This pretty much fucked things up in the cradle for the Durban Review.
2. Several countries were disappointed by the fact that key issues in the 2001 Conference such as reparations for slavery and discrimination against homosexuals were dropped from the agenda. Also, the Arabs had campainged for the inclusion of Zionism within the scope of the conference. Now what is Zionism if not discriminatory? A philosophy that gives one group exclusive right to another’s territory for reasons of religion and religious supremacy is undoubtedly and inherently so. But this was of course not included, so the Arabs had an axe to grind. And this leads me to….
I love this guy. Not in the way I love Bhagat Singh or Gandhi, but more in the manner of my love for Bugs Bunny. But what were they thinking? This man has publicly denied the Holocaust. Denied it ever happened, mind you, and all the evidence be damned. On more than one occasion, he has declared his intention to drive an entire nation of people (women, children and all) into the sea. If you are going to invite him to speak before a room full of international delegates at a racism meet, what do you think he’s going to talk about? Rainbows? And this was on- get this- Holocaust Memorial Day. No good could have come out of it. When news of his attendance spread, nations’ opinion of the Conference sank to a new low. Even many that atteneded did so shiftily and did not send anyone important. It was a PR disaster for the UN. And the doubters were right, weren’ t they? If you don’t know what followed, here:
Crazy son of a bitch. He’s got balls, though.
Now I acknowlegde that the creation of Israel and the subsequent acts of its government are horrible human rights violations. But does that warrant the invitation of an equally racist and inhuman opponent? Everything, all the careful preparations, the diplomacy, the cajoling, and meticulous planning (India, for some reason, was on the preparatory committee) went into the crapper when Ahmadinejad decided to moon the world (of course, he was hailed as a hero in Iran).
There’s a lesson to be learnt here. It is that the UN must be true to itself when it endeavours to eradicate the world’s evils. The UN is not, and cannot, in the near future, be a true world body. As long as inequalities exist (the permanent seats of the Security Council, for example), a UN programme can never be truly global. Zionism was steered clear of in order to “keep it cool” and this backfired in the worst way imaginable. Little constructive work was achieved, and as long as the UN bows to pressure from one quarter or another, it will always be this way. The blasphemy resolution and the exclusion of Zionism from the Durban Review are a case in point. I believe in the UN and its achivements, but these cancers remain. They must be expelled if the UN is to avoid the fate of the League of Nations and if it is not to become a puppet or sink into obscurity. It must stand for the principles on which it was formed with a straight back.
But until then the delegates would do well to bring an extra shoe or two.
It’s been a while since this movie appeared, I know, but I didn’t see it until this week. This happens to be the first Mararthi movie I have watched in the cinema hall, although I watch some now and then on my laptop. The ticket was cheap, I had nothing better to do, a friend of mine had a McDonalds coupon which we planned to use afterwards and I knew the theater had really good sandwiches, so I went. And I rather liked it.
Mahesh Manjrekar needs no introduction (did you notice his absence from the hype surrounding Slumdog Millionaire? What’s with that?) and Sachin Khedekar is a well known face on T.V. and in movies. I like them both, so amongst them they will have scratched up a decent movie, I thought. But I had no high expectations from this particular movie. Well, I’m sorry. I went to the theatre expecting to see a loud, overdone and propogandist movie. Can you blame me? Now that beating up Bhaiyyas and vandalizing their establishments is the new anger mangement technique (not to mention the “final” solution to our city’s social ills), a movie with the tagline “himmat asel tar adva” (stop them if you have the guts) doesn’t exactly associate with “Guess how much I love you” hugs. So I went to the theatre expecting some celluloid Bhaiyya bashing. Not to mention a crowd supplying a constant backdrop of whistles, cheers and the occasional outbreak of “Jai Bhavani, Jai Shivaji.” So what did I find?
I found Dinkar Rao Bhosale, a mild mannered bank clerk who has nothing in common with his mighty namesake. He has a dead-end job, an old bungalow he can hardly maintain on his meager salary, a resigned manner and a nagging wife. The plot follows Dinkar Rao as he resists a Gujarati builder’s attempts to raze his bungalow. Shivaji Raje serves as his friend, guide and philosopher throughout this struggle.
Now here’s the thing. The first part of the movie shows our mousy hero serving as a dart board for insults. “Ghatis should live within their means.” “Bloody Ghatis.” His boss, a shopkeeper, a fishwife and other assorted non- Maharashtrians all call him a Ghati to his face and proceed to make a general statement about the sloth, incompetence or some other vice of Marathi people. What’s the deal with that? Who throws racial slurs at Marathi people to their faces? Have you ever seen this happen? Neither have I. What was S.M. trying to prove here? How it sucks to be Marathi in Mumbai? How Marathi people are at the bottom of the dunghill? Our hero is majorly pissed off, but I am merely puzzled. A live, walking, talking Shivaji did not strike me as unrealistic, but this did. As did all the parts where he exorcises corrupt bureaucrats with lectures on Marathi-ness. It was messed up. And yet, it was endearing: you really start to feel for the poor sod (although you despise him a little too). The rest of the movie follows Dinkar Rao and his family on their struggle with Shivaji popping in now and then to bolster our Marathi manoos’ confidence.
The message that the movie tries to convey is this: If you are Marathi and your life sucks stop blaming it on the outsiders- get off your arse and do something about it. It is not that the Bhayyas are Marvadis and Nepalis are stealing your turf, business, or job: its just that you couldn’t be arsed to do anything more than whine about it. Start your own shop, apply for your own post in the Civil Service. It makes sense, this message. Another thing: that anyone who lives here is a Mumbaikar, regardless of race, origin or religion just as all citizens of this state are Maharashtrian, whatever their origin. It’s a refreshing change from the pro-Marathi hatemongering we’re used to.
The performances are all good, but the fight scenes…..well, you have to see them. All in all, the movie is at least worth watching once, but there’s no repeat value. It is certainly not a classic, although this fellow I know wants this movie to be our Oscar nomination. This same fellow also thinks beer comes from grapes, so let’s not dwell on his opinion.
I had fun; the sandwiches and comic relief were good, the Pepsi was cheap and the crowd even obliged us with the occasional “Har Har Mahadeo!”
Greetings, folks. If you are reading this blog, I take it you have nothing better to do than listen to the random ramblings of a lazy, fat and rather uncreative 20 year old Mumbaikar (and God knows there’s a hell lot of us).
I hate “about me” columns beacuse I am a rather uninteresting person. I am a staunch atheist. I study the law, the newspaper, secularism and the history of pizza. I haven’t trekked in the Himalayas, produced works of art, campaigned for world peace, killed a man, slashed my way through the forbidding jungles of the Congo Basin, assaulted women in pubs, or done any other of the things that you have to do these days if you want people to think your opinion is actually worth a rat’s arse (irrespective of whether it actually is). Chances are, you haven’t done any of these things either, so welcome.
I will not blog about any specific topic. I will write about whatever seizes my fancy. I hope you enjoy your time here, and if you don’t please remember that most intellectuals were scorned in their own time. When they start naming streets after me, you’ll be sorry.