Monday, September 18, 2017

Julio Rebeiro - Panchkula everywhere: Police in India today are not expected to uphold the rule of law, but of the party in power

The apparent threat to transfer the Director General of Police (DGP), Haryana, following Gurmeet Singh’s (I refrain from adding Baba or Ram Rahim to his real name) arrest remained in the realm of speculation. It would have constituted a great travesty of justice if those who wield the power to appoint and transfer had shifted the blame from themselves onto the shoulders of the police chief.

The police in India today are not expected to uphold the rule of law. They are trained to do that but as soon as officers are absorbed into the system they quickly learn that all they are required to do is uphold the rule of the party in power. There was a time when politicians were wary of expecting senior police officers to blindly toe their line, irrespective of the moral, ethical and, more importantly, legal merits of their instructions, communicated directly or through trusted intermediaries. This is not the situation today. Politicians of all parties and ideologies treat the bureaucracy and the police as private fiefdoms that will bow to their wishes as and when demanded.

It was not so bad some years ago. If the seniors resisted, or even refused, they were not summarily transferred. On the contrary, they may even have gathered some admirers among the political class. Politicians who did not like this intransigence were disappointed, to put it mildly, but they did not think it prudent to challenge the positions adopted on sound legal grounds by police leaders.

Personally, I have no doubt that in Haryana, oral instructions were given to the DGP to trust the promise of the Dera’s core leadership to keep the peace. But I am not willing to blame Manohar Lal Khattar for being sweet on Gurmeet Singh. After all, politics involves essentially a quest for power and Singh was in a position to deliver a massive number of votes to Khattar’s party. The Congress, or any other political party in its place, would have done likewise.

Sunday, September 17, 2017


"Maybe the reason young radical thinkers are not impressed by pleas to recognize “ambiguity and contingency” is because what they have seen in their lifetimes is a lesson in some pretty unambiguous facts about how capitalism works.

Even rock-ribbed neoclassical economists are coming around to the view that forty years of stagnant wages might have something to do with the attack on unions; that the decline of the labor movement in turn accelerated the shift to the right in politics; that this shift in turn led to a pretty successful evisceration of what little social support the state gave to the poor; that when the mad rush for short-term profits finally drove the economy into the tank, the state returned the favor by passing off the costs to the public and handed over trillions of dollars to the banks.

There was no contingency or ambiguity in any of this. It was a quite predictable result of a highly successful class war that transferred political power firmly over to elites. This is what capitalism looks like when the class struggle turns ugly. When self-styled progressives preach the gospel of contingency and ambiguity in times like these, is it a surprise that people turn to Marx for a little clarity?"

NB: 'A little clarity'. Marx's contribution to the human conversation was immense; and his analysis of capital a seminal criticism of capitalist modernity. This becomes evident whenever capitalism undergoes one of its periodic crises, and it must be said, the economic and political situation today is extremely dismal. But the ideological components of his system, including historical necessity (as in 'laws' of history), the inevitability of revolution, the use of naturalistic metaphors in political argument (as in 'force is the midwife' of every society 'pregnant' with a new one); and the lack of a phenomenology of violence - these features of his thought do not provide clarity. Warnings about ambiguity and contingency carry weight because the activities and ideological practices of Marxists in power have given rise to grave questions - to put it mildly. In this centenary year of Bolshevism, surely the history of revolutionary regimes should make us think about the distinction between truth and certainty? Find below some contributions to the conversation - DS

Months after its release, Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century is still getting praised in reviews and sitting near the top of bestseller charts. If the invisibility of a system is a marker of its ideological success, this can’t be a good sign for capitalism. It’s no surprise that people are curious about the causes of the injustice that surrounds them. Average workers’ wages in the US have fallen sizably from 2007 to 2012; in the same period, over 90 percent of all new income went to the top 1 percent; while around 46 million Americans live in poverty, the gap between corporate profits and workers’ wages has never been greater. Piketty’s conclusion that capitalism, if left unchecked, generates a concentration of wealth among a tiny minority sits well with this lived experience.

Nikolai Berdyaev: The Religion of Communism (1931) // The Paradox of the Lie (1939)

NB: Nikolai Alexandrovich Berdyaev (1874-1948) was a Russian religious and political philosopher. He was among 160 non-communist intellectuals and scholars, deported from Russia in 1922 on Lenin's orders (after interrogation by Felix Dzherjzinsky, of the secret police), for being spies and counter revolutionaries. Berdyaev  had also been convicted of blasphemy for criticising the Russian Orthodox Church; and in 1913 was sentenced to deportation for life to Siberia. The outbreak of war saved him. 

Here are two of Berdayev's essays, on communism; and on the lie - on which also see: Alexandre Koyré The Political Function of the Modern LieI need hardly point out the relevance of the function of lying and deceit in this era of ideological tyranny. The so-called 'parivar' currently ruling India might be surprised to learn how close its instincts are to the totalitarian stream within the communist movement. There was an anti-Bolshevik stream as well, which is another story. As Berdayev says, 
'The lie is the chief foundation of the so-called totalitarian states, and without an organising lie they could never have been created.. the lie can even seem the sole truth..'

Berdayev's 'christian existentialist' critique of communism contains this sentence: "For what is most terrible in it is the mixture of truth and falsehood.."  and this paragraph: "The Russian people did not achieve their ancient dream of Moscow, the Third Rome. The ecclesiastical schism of the seventeenth century revealed that the muscovite tsardom is not the third Rome. The messianic idea of the Russian people assumed either an apocalyptic form or a revolutionary; and then there occurred an amazing event in the destiny of the Russian people. 

Instead of the Third Rome in Russia, the Third International was achieved, and many of the features of the Third Rome pass over to the Third International. The Third International is also a Holy Empire, and it also is founded on an Orthodox faith. The Third International is not international, but a Russian national idea"- cited Benedikt Sarnov, Moscow Union of Writers in Our Soviet Newspeak: A Short Encyclopedia of Real Socialism., p. 446-447

Here is the full text of The Religion of CommunismMen's attitude as regards Communism has been, up till now, rather emotional than intellectual.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Why inequality in India is at its highest level in 92 years

By Soutik Biswas: Did India’s economic reforms lead to a sharp rise in inequality?
New research by French economists Lucas Chancel and Thomas Piketty, author of Capital, the 2013 bestselling book on capitalism and increasing inequality, clearly points to this conclusion. They studied household consumption surveys, federal accounts and income tax data from 1922 - when the tax was introduced in India - to 2014. The data shows that the share of national income accruing to the top 1% of wage earners is now at its highest level since Indians began paying income tax.

The economists say the top 1% of the earners captured less than 21% of the total income in the late 1930s, before dropping to 6% in the early 1980s and rising to 22% today. India, in fact, comes out as a country with one of the highest increase in top 1% income share concentration over the past 30 years," they say.

To be sure, India’s economy has undergone a radical transformation over the last three decades.
Up to the 1970s, India was a tightly regulated, straitlaced economy with socialist planning. Growth crawled (3.5% per year), development was weak and poverty endemic. Some easing of regulation, decline in tax rates and modest reforms led to growth picking up in the 1980s, trundling at around 5% a year. This was followed by some substantial reforms in the early 1990s after which the economy grew briskly, nudging close to double digits in the mid-2000s.

Peter Bradshaw: The Wife review – Glenn Close is unreadably brilliant as author's spouse plunged in late-life crisis

There’s nothing more dangerous than a writer whose feelings have been hurt.” The speaker is Joan Castleman, the charming, enigmatically discreet and supportive wife of world-famous author and New York literary lion Joe Castleman. It is a fascinating and bravura performance from Glenn Close, in this hugely enjoyable dark comedy from director Björn Runge, adapted by Jane Anderson from the novel by Meg Wolitzer. Perhaps it’s Close’s career-best – unnervingly subtle, unreadably calm, simmering with self-control. Her Joan is a study in marital pain, deceit and the sexual politics of prestige. It’s a portrayal to put alongside Close’s appearances in Dangerous Liaisons and Fatal Attraction. This is an unmissable movie for Glenn Close fans. Actually, you can’t watch it without becoming a fan – if you weren’t one already.

The Castlemans are on the plane to Sweden, ready for Joe to get the Nobel prize. Yet they are being pestered on the flight by a certain Nathaniel Bone, part stalker-fan, part parasitic hack who wants Joe to cooperate with a warts-and-all biography he is planning to write. Joe gives him the contemptuous brush-off but Joan cautiously advises a more diplomatic treatment. It is a key moment in this hugely enjoyable drama when things begin to fall apart.

Jonathan Pryce is excellent as the cantankerous and conceited old writer, a man now childishly addicted to praise and luxuriating in his colossal quasi-Bellow reputation. Christian Slater is the insidious and dangerous Bone. Max Irons plays Joe’s moody son David who also has plans to be writer, desperately needing the old man’s approval and yet prickly and resentful at Joe’s sorrowing criticisms of his work – criticisms which do not convey any great reassurance that his son has chosen the right career. And there is an unsettling moment in his Stockholm hotel suite when the great man appears not to recognise the name of one of his own characters. Is Joe succumbing to dementia?

And of course Close plays Joan, a woman much loved and admired within Joe’s circle of acquaintance: supportive helpmeet, mother – soon to be grandmother – and deeply affectionate spouse, apparently happy with a life lived in the titan’s shadow. Yet everyone is aware of a difficult truth; despite Joe blandly telling people at these cocktail parties that his wife “doesn’t write”, Joan had her own literary ambitions as a young woman. Joe’s moment of Nobel triumph appears to be triggering a late-life crisis in Joan… read more:

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Aporias of Marxism / Archaism and Modernity. By Enzo Traverso

Enzo Traverso is an Italian historian who has written on issues relating to the Holocaust and totalitarianism

The Aporias of Marxism
In a letter to Walter Benjamin, dated 13 April 1933, Gershom Scholem described the rise of Nazi Germany as ‘a catastrophe of world‑historical proportions’ which permitted him for the first time ‘to comprehend deeply’ the expulsion of the Spanish Jews in 1492: ‘The magnitude of the collapse of the communist and socialist movements,’ he wrote ‘is frightfully obvious, but the defeat of German Jewry certainly does not pale by comparison.’ [56] These words, written in Palestine by a historian of the Cabbala who had left Germany almost ten years before, seem today a good deal more lucid than any of the Marxist analyses of the time.

In 1933very few intellectuals were aware of the fact that Hitler’s rise to power signified the end of Judaism in Germany. The Jews, as Scholem bitterly observed in this same letter, were powerless and continued desperately to cling to a national identity that had been obstinately constructed over a century of assimilation. The National Socialist laws were soon to abolish at one shot the gains made by emancipation. The great majority of the tens of thousands of Jews who left Germany were intellectuals and left-wing militants, Socialists or Communists, whose Judeity made their position even more hazardous and precarious. The official institutions of the Jewish community, notably the Zentraverein, tried to find a form of coexistence and accommodation with the new regime. [57]

Source for German archival materials:
National Citizenship Law & Law for the Protection of German blood and German Honour (1935)
The Romanies: Anti-gypsyism to the Holocaust and after

The workers’ movement was no more ready to deal with the catastrophe.

The eloquence of silence - The choice is between speaking up and keeping quiet. By Samantak Das

About a month ago, a US-based cousin was driving back home from work when the car in front of her braked in such a way that she was forced to pull over. The driver of the car, a large White woman, got off her vehicle, came up to my cousin, said, "You f***ing black w****, go back to your own country!" then turned on her heel and walked away. In her 20 years in the US, my cousin, a university professor who works with poor, marginalized and dispossessed groups of people (including many 'illegal immigrants'), had never had to face such visceral racial hatred. She has worked in areas where there are poor Whites who might legitimately feel deprived and upset, whose anger could easily have focused on her - a woman of colour, doing what many feel is a White person's job - and turned violent. But it never had. Until now.

The change, of course, is due to the election to the country's highest office of a man who wears his racism, sexism and bigotry as a badge of pride, who makes no bones about the fact that he sees the United States of America as an essentially White, Christian, 'masculine' nation, where all other ethnic and religious groups (not to speak of women) are present on sufferance. Donald Trump's narrowness of vision, stridently racist, anti-immigrant rhetoric, his characterization of Blacks and Mexicans as drug dealers, rapists and thieves, are not just disturbing and deeply scary in themselves, they also embolden others of his ilk to express thoughts and perform actions they might otherwise have kept to themselves. Witness, for example, the open display of Confederate flags and Nazi swastikas in rally after rally or the murderous car attack on anti-racism protestors in Charlottesville last month.

Perhaps an even bigger tragedy than his own bigotry is Trump's repeated refusal to even acknowledge, let alone condemn, that of others. American media, especially online journals, have noted time and again the ways in which such wilful blindness and calculated silence regarding acts of racism, sexism and other kinds of bigotry have led others to spout hate speech and commit hate crimes; how the once-defunct and all-but-forgotten Ku Klux Klan is once again news; how violent crimes against non-Whites and incidents of gender and racial discrimination have grown since Trump assumed office.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

“How dare they celebrate, this is our India, we will not allow this to happen.” People of Bengaluru defend Indian democracy

Karnataka Turns Out to Embrace Gauri Lankesh (see photos)
BANGALORE: More than the act itself, the celebration, the abuse and the complete vilification of Gauri Lankesh by groups of goons - most of them unwilling to even disclose their identities on the social media they patrol - turned the Bangalore protest into a mammoth show of solidarity laced with visible anger. It is also the primary reason why the people who poured out on the streets, from all over the city, the state of Karnataka, and from all over India had no hesitation in pointing a finger at the right wing forces for the assassination of journalist Gauri Lankesh.

Whosever killed her obviously did so to strike terror, to silence voices like hers, and to send out a message as many of the trolls declaring themselves BJP supporters themselves stated on the social media, that this fate would befall those who insisted on questioning the government, and taking on the RSS and the BJP. A senior BJP legislator in fact, said as much in his initial comments after Lankesh was felled by cowardly gunmen at her residence. If this was the intention then clearly her assassins and their supporters have not succeeded. While the assassination clearly shocked India, it did not silence Indians. In fact, protests broke out across India - even in BJP ruled states - against the crime with citizens making it clear through articles, interviews, programs, slogans, speeches, that they were not prepared to accept the message and retreat indoors in fear.

This was palpable in the huge demonstration today, with speaker after speaker, slogan after slogan, pointing fingers at her killers, warning the ruling party at the centre that no one would keep silent, with people of all ages, and all walks of life pledging not to remain silent, but to speak out, not to be fearful, but to act. Swami Agnivesh, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury were amongst those who called out the RSS, pointing at the celebration within the right wing outfits after Lankesh/s murder. Kannada was also on full display, with speeches and placards in the home language. This is a simmering just under-the-surface issue with local groups and even the ruling Congress party campaigning against the imposition of Hindi. As demonstrators said, if the intention was to just strike fear those who killed the journalist have not succeeded. “We have not seen such a huge demonstration here in a long while,” was the voiced consensus.

Most did not know Lankesh, had not even read her but were part of the demonstration to raise their voice against the assassination and as they said,to warn those who killed her “we will not be silenced.” A young social activist said she has ‘goosebumps’ just to see so many people coming together to protest and warn the right wing forces. “We will not tolerate this, we cannot,”she said angrily. The image of the frail woman lying felled by bullets, said many in the demonstration has stayed with them. The anger was directed against the BJP/RSS supporters on the social media and perhaps a group of students spoke for many more when they said, “how dare they celebrate, this is our India, we will not allow this to happen.”

It was clear from the emotions that ran high, that the fear if any after her assassination had long since been replaced by anger. Putting together all the demands that came from individual protestors the people want immediate arrest of the killers, speedy trial, action against those who celebrated her murder, apology from them, but above everything it was a march of solidarity for each other, for democracy, for rights and for justice.

A pre-history of post-truth, East and West. By MARCI SHORE

Postmodernism was conceived largely by the Left as a safeguard against totalizing ideologies. Yet today, it has been appropriated on behalf of an encroaching neo-totalitarianism of the Right. Is French literary theory to blame? And can a philosophy of dissent developed in communist eastern Europe offer an antidote?

Kto vinovat? Who is to blame? ‘Blaming is irresponsible’, Agnes Heller answers, ‘It is responsibility that should be taken. It is responsibility that must be taken.’ In eastern Europe, the philosophy of dissent was a philosophy of responsibility. ‘Patočka used to say,’ Havel wrote in ‘The Power of the Powerless’, ‘that the most interesting thing about responsibility is that we carry it with us everywhere. That means that responsibility is ours, that we must accept it and grasp it here, now.’

In 2014, Russian historian Andrei Zubov was fired from his Moscow professorship for comparing Putin’s annexation of Crimea to Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland. Two years later, at a festival in the post-industrial Czech city of Ostrava, Zubov spoke to a large audience about the task of historians. ‘My dolzhni govorit’ pravdu’, he said. We should speak the truth. This declaration – all the more so when uttered in Zubov’s baritone – sounded quaint, even old-fashioned. In particular, the Slavic word pravda – truth – invoked with no qualification and no prefix, suggested a bygone era. Who believed in truth anymore?

The end of ‘The End of History’ arrived together with the end of belief in reality. The Cold War world was a world of warring ideologies; in the twenty-first century, both American capitalism and post-Soviet oligarchy employ the same public relations specialists catering to gangsters with political ambitions. As Peter Pomerantsev described in Nothing is True and Everything is Possible, in the Russia of the 2000s, distinguishing between truth and lies became passé. In this world of enlightened, postmodern people, ‘everything is PR’.

Reality television has rendered obsolete the boundary between the fictional and the real. Truth is a constraint that has been overcome; ‘post-truth’ has been declared ‘word of the year.’ In Washington, the White House shamelessly defends its ‘alternative facts’. At the beginning, American journalists were taken off-guard: they had been trained to confirm individual pieces of information, not to confront a brazen untethering from empirical reality. The New Yorker captured the desperation with a satire about the fact-checker who passed out from exhaustion after the Republican debate. He had to be hospitalized; apparently no one replaced him.

In any moment of crisis, a long Russian tradition poses two ‘eternal questions’. The first: Kto vinovat? Who is to blame? Did postmodernism’s critique of the ontological stability of truth unwillingly create the conditions of possibility for ‘post-truth’, now exploited by oligarchic regimes on both sides of the Atlantic? Is French literary theory and its ‘narcissistic obscurantism’ at fault? ‘I am no doubt not the only one who writes in order to have no face,’ wrote Michel Foucault. ‘Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same.’ Was it not always suspicious that literary theorists like Paul de Man and Hans Robert Jauss – each of whom had a vested personal interest in disassociating his youthful wartime self from his post-war scholarly self – elaborate so passionately a philosophy of the inconstancy of the I, the nonexistence of a stable subject, stable meaning, stable truth? Does Jacques Derrida not bear some responsibility for Vladimir Putin?

The second eternal question: Chto delat’? What is to be done? Is there an antidote to postmodernity? If so, where can we search for it? ‘Postmodernity’ has a history. It came not from nowhere, but rather from ‘modernity,’ which in Europe historians have traditionally dated from the eighteenth-century French Enlightenment. In the beginning, God was merely sidelined, relegated to a minor role as human reason took centre stage. ‘Sapere Aude! “Have courage to use your own understanding!” – that is the motto of enlightenment,’ Immanuel Kant famously wrote. Later (in the 1880s, to be precise), God was killed off entirely (speculatively by Dostoevsky, definitively by Nietzsche). Now the philosophical stakes of compensating for an emasculated-turned-nonexistent God became still greater. God had fulfilled epistemological, ontological and ethical roles; his death left an enormous empty space. Much of modern philosophy can be described as an attempt to replace God, to find a path to absolute truth in God’s absence.

The search for a path to truth was the search for a bridge: from subject to object, inner to outer, consciousness to world, thought to Being… read more:

see also

Articles on ideology in East Europe

AJOY ASHIRWAD MAHAPRASHASTA - ICHR Blocks Manuscript on Freedom Struggle Because It Makes the Sangh Look Bad, Alleges Historian

While Hindu-right organisations, under the patronage of the Narendra Modi government, are claiming spaces within the spectrum of associations with instrumental roles to play in the India’s nationalist movement, the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) – the primary government-sponsored institution for funding historical research and publications – has found itself in the dock for allegedly trying to bury historical work that looks into the counter-productive role played by the Sangh parivar during the freedom struggle.

Renowned Indian historian Arjun Dev has alleged that the ICHR, probably under the influence of the Modi government, has been sitting on a manuscript that he submitted two years ago on August 1, 2015. The manuscript is part of the ICHR’s Towards Freedom series, which was conceived as a project to compile records and documents from the last ten years of the freedom struggle (1938-1947). The manuscript, edited by Dev, is a compilation of documents on political developments in the year 1941. Speaking to The Wire, Dev said that it is divided into three parts – the nature of the nationalist movement in princely states of colonial India, the role of communal politics and labour and peasant movements during the period.
Dev suspects that the second part, which includes original sources that portray Hindu nationalist organisations such as the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS in poor light, may have been the reason for the delay in the manuscript’s publication. He added that the ICHR has not sent the manuscript to print despite the fact that the volume has already been approved by the general editor of the the project, Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, who is also an eminent historian. “As is the norm for publication, the general editor has already approved the manuscript and has sent his letter of approval to the member-secretary of the ICHR. Despite this, the ICHR unprecedentedly referred the manuscript to an expert panel, which raised objections to some portions of the book,” he said.

News18 had earlier reported that the expert panel, whose names have not been disclosed by the ICHR, has cast doubts over the credibility of the some documents related to some speeches of Hindu Mahasabha leader, and later Bharatiya Jana Sangh’s founder, Syama Prasad Mookerjee. “The other objections pertain to mention of a particular community for disturbances in Dacca on March 17, 1941, too much emphasis on farmers and labour movements and the overall communist tone of the volume,” the report noted. The manuscript contains important speeches made by and quotes from Hindu-right leaders like Mookerjee, V.D. Savarkar and B.S. Moonje, a possible reason the ICHR has deliberately delayed publication.

In June this year, Dev wrote to the ICHR chairman Y. Sudershan Rao seeking an explanation on the council’s delay in forwarding the manuscript to the Oxford University Press and also asking why his manuscript was sent to another expert panel after it was approved by the general editor. “You see,” said Dev, “seeking the opinions of unknown experts is a departure from the convention, from the already laid down procedures. Moreover, the so-called experts’ comments had no academic value. The comments betrayed a complete lack of literacy in reviewing a manuscript.”

“My manuscript is a mere compilation of documents written by political parties, the government and different leaders in 1941. None of it is my analysis. By delaying the publication, the ICHR is keeping important information outside public domain,” added Dev. He further said that the second part, which may have rubbed the ICHR the wrong way, does not single out only Hindu nationalists but also contains detailed documents about the Muslim League and other associations. “Even if we leave that aside, there are significant details about the nationalist movement in princely states, an area which has not seen much historical research. The documents can create new areas of research for historians. It is a pity that the ICHR has not sent it to the press,” said Dev… read more:

Philosophy and the Gods of the City: Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft’s “Thinking in Public”

Thinking in Public - by Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft 
Reviewed by Jon Baskin

IN AN article published earlier this summer in The Revealer, the intellectual historian Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft identifies a recent hunger in the United States for “public intellectuals.” As he amply documents, different people mean different things by the term. Predominantly, though, it is used to signify a desire for a more thoughtful and informed public conversation, bolstered by the input of those educated in the humanities. Most of us assume, in other words, that having more “intellectuals” engage in public life would be a good thing, probably for intellectuals themselves and certainly for the rest of society. (Having spent nearly a decade in graduate school, during which I helped start a magazine based on the idea of public philosophy, I’d count myself among those who have staked this claim.)

Wurgaft’s article gently lays out some of the contradictions inherent in our demand for the public intellectual at a time when we can agree neither on what constitutes the public, nor on what qualifies anyone to speak to it as an intellectual. Yet in his deeply researched book on the same subject, Thinking in Public, Wurgaft reminds us that such questions, although they take on different valences today than they did in the middle of the last century, have long histories. The book is devoted to three philosophers — Leo Strauss, Emmanuel Levinas, and Hannah Arendt — who both theorized about, and exemplified the difficulties of, thinking in public. Of the three, Arendt is the most recognizable as a “public intellectual” (Wurgaft will teach you to keep the term in scare quotes), but they all, in Wurgaft’s words, “displayed a common preoccupation with the question of philosophy’s place in public life, a question for which ‘the intellectual’ sometimes served as shorthand.”

Wurgaft’s study is informative to the point of embarrassment. Following him as he tracks the thought of the three figures reveals the shallowness of our own conversation about such matters. Today we speak about funding for the humanities, how scholars communicate online, and whether academics can learn to write for general audiences, as if these were the fundamental questions. But these are only tiny tributaries of the fundamental question: what good does the intellectual do in public? Strauss, Levinas, and Arendt were all skeptical of what Wurgaft calls the “pan-European enthusiasm for ‘intellectuals,’ which imagined intellectuals as public guardians of truth and justice and opponents of political corruption.” To the extent that today’s calls for intellectual engagement reflect a version of this enthusiasm, Wurgaft has furnished us with a reminder and a challenge. It is not only the public that can succumb to corruption; the intellectual wishing to think in public will first have to learn how to be truthful with herself.

Of course, it is not just Strauss, Levinas, and Arendt who have thought about the relationship between the philosopher, the intellectual, and the public. Wurgaft might have focused on Jean-Paul Sartre, or Alexandre Kojève, or Karl Jaspers, to name just a few 20th-century thinkers who come up repeatedly in the course of his story. Yet his choice is not arbitrary. What makes Strauss, Levinas, and Arendt such fruitful objects of comparison is that their differences emerge against a background of similarity. Strauss, Levinas, and Arendt were all European Jews, born within 10 years of each other and educated in Weimar Germany. All three studied with Heidegger, and all three were personally and intellectually impacted by the rise of Nazism that Heidegger endorsed and supported, above all in his speech accepting the Rectorship at Freiburg University, in 1933. Levinas, after gaining French citizenship in 1931, was conscripted to the French army and spent four years as a German prisoner of war. Arendt left Germany in 1937, first for France and then, after a spending month in Camp Gurs in 1941, for the United States. Strauss left Berlin for Paris in 1931, and eventually settled in the United States in 1937, first at The New School for Social Research in New York, and later at the University of Chicago... read more:!

Losing it. By Arshia Malik

We lost the pluralistic and secular fabric of Kashmiriyat, we lost Kashmir to Islamists factions and ideology, we are losing our natural waterways, lakes, forests and a whole ecology of the most exotic kind. We lost an idyllic way of life, our heritage of knowledge gathered over the centuries by enlightened men and women, poets and Sufis and Rishis; we lost a future as we clung to our past and are trying our best to lose our present as well

I watched my father ‘losing it’ since I was 6-years-old, I witnessed my mother ‘losing it’ when they finally separated. I was devastated when my brilliant sister ‘lost it’ at a crucial time of her medical internship. I have been terrified of ‘losing it’ ever since I was diagnosed with post-partum depression and bipolar. This is the reason why I live 300 kms away from my son in a different city because I do not want him to suffer me ‘losing it’ – something I am constantly worried about happening. And now I watch my husband ‘lose it’ slowly day by day, sometimes progressing to normal in leaps and bounds, and some days, the setbacks piling up, resulting in a lot of heartbreak and fatigue.

The Cambridge English Dictionary describes ‘losing it’ as ‘to start to become crazy’. Kashmir is a place where ‘crazy’, ‘lunatic’ (paagal in Hindi, suthhyana in Urdu, and mout and bayakal in Kashmiri) are thrown around in casual conversations. It used to be a happy-go-lucky place where people would come to escape from the madness of civilization; to sit, lie, walk, fish, camp, or just plain be, in idyllic pastures and crystal clear streams, beneath starry skies with the snowy Himalayan peaks in the backdrop.

It was post-89 that the real craziness began. The use of violence to achieve freedom.

Sikh volunteers reach Bangladesh-Myanmar border to provide langar to refugees / Dalai Lama: Buddha Would Have Helped Rohingya

A team of volunteers from Sikh organisation Khalsa Aid reached Bangladesh-Myanmar border Sunday night to provide relief to the lakhs of Rohingya Muslim families fleeing Myanmar. Speaking to The Indian Express over phone, Amarpreet Singh, managing director, Khalsa Aid, India who has reached Teknaf, a border town in Bangladesh where the refugees are living in the camps, said that condition at the border was “miserable to say the least”.

“It was our first day here today and we did a pre-assessment before launching a major relief operation. We had come prepared for providing relief to some 50,000 people, but there are more than three lakh refugees here. They are living without water, food, clothes and shelter. They are sitting wherever they can find a corner. It is raining, but people do not have anywhere to go. It is miserable to say the least. We will be providing them langar food (community kitchen) and shelter. We are arranging tarpaulins but since the number of refugees have overwhelmingly exceeded our preparations, it can some time to make arrangements,” he said.
He added that there were huge camps at Teknaf and each one was crowded beyond its capacity. “A camp can accommodate at least 50,000 people but in most of them there are more than one lakh refugees. But we are committed to run langar here (community here) till the crisis is not over. The priority is to not let anyone sleep without food. Children are roaming without clothes and begging for food. Those who do not get space in camps are sitting along roads in hope of getting food from someone,” he added.

Khalsa Aid team is now serving langar and water to the refugees. “Teknaf is almost 10 hours ride from the capital Dhaka from where we are ferrying all the material needed to prepare langar. Connectivity issues and rain are creating hindrances but we are trying our best to provide food to the maximum people at the earliest. The langar will continue here till crisis is not over and refugees continue to reach the border,” he added.

Another team of Khalsa Aid volunteers is expected to reach the border town Teknaf in coming days to assist in the relief operations, said Amarpreet. Jeevanjyot Singh, a Khalsa Aid volunteer from Jammu & Kashmir who is also in Teknaf, said that refugees started from Myanmar by foot almost ten days back and then reached Teknaf through boats. “They are in an extremely bad state as of now. They have nowhere to go. We have spoken to some families and they have told us that after crossing thick jungles on foot in Myanmar, they crossed border through boats and then resumed journey on foot. Most of them have traveled for more than ten days. Since then, children had no food or water. They are in dire need of food and water,” he said. Myanmar led by its state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi has been rapped by the United Nations for gross human rights violation against the tribe of Rohingya Muslims and as per UN estimates, 2.70 lakh Rohingya Muslims have already fled to Bangladesh and even more are trapped at the border.

More on global refugee crisis

RAGHU KARNAD: Indian Liberals Must Die. Gauri Lankesh and the vernacular Indian left

SOMEONE THOUGHT IT WAS A GOOD IDEA to hold a protest-vigil on Carter Road at 6 PM. It wasn’t - it was too nice. Carter Road is the best bit of seaside promenade in the near-suburbs of Bombay. At six the dissolving sun cast soft cherry light on the crowd, and the breeze came in over the waves and made it hard to hear slogans. It soothed away the pained amazement I had felt since I heard Gauri Lankesh was dead, shot down on her driveway in my hometown.

I couldn’t focus. Gauri was a journalist and tough old leftie from Bengaluru, the capital of the state of Karnataka in south India. The last time I had met her was two years earlier, at another protest-vigil for the scholar M. M. Kalburgi, after he’d been shot dead at his front door. It was like a curse-movie. Kalburgi killed, vigil, meet Gauri; Gauri killed, vigil, and here I was with these people. One of them would be dead in two years: Right? I asked the guy next to me, a writer of speculative fiction.
“No,” he said, “I think that means you’re next.”
Over 10,000 at protest rally in Bengaluru, declare: I am Gauri // BJP Sends Legal Notice To Ramachandra Guha

On reflection, I didn’t think anyone here was next in line. It was the wrong gathering for that. Dozen of vigils were underway around India, and three in Bombay alone: Old-school hacks at the Press Club; leftist students at Vashi Station; and us on the Carter Road esplanade. As protests go, ours was tiny and pretty louche. Seasoned protesters chanted in a huddle, but making up the numbers were the near-suburbs Bombay set, web editors and filmmakers, stand-up comics, indie film-stars dressed down in prêt; a few fit boys and girls I recognized from Nike billboards. You could denigrate them as champagne-sipping liberals, and you’d be right. But the champagne would have to be free.

Dan Collyns - Six farmers shot dead over land rights battle in Peru

Six farmers have been shot dead by a criminal gang who wanted to seize their farms to muscle in on the lucrative palm oil trade, according to indigenous Amazon leaders in Peru. Local leaders in the central Amazon region of Ucayali say the victims were targeted last Friday because they had refused to give up their land. A police report seen by the Guardian details how the farmers’ bodies were found early on Saturday dumped in a stream near the Bajo Rayal hamlet where the men had lived.

 “It was a night-time ambush. They bound them by their hands and feet, then they killed them and threw them in a river,” Robert Guimaraes, president of the local indigenous federation Feconau, told the Guardian by phone. The police report says most of the men had shotgun wounds to the neck and at least one was found bound by the hands and feet. An eyewitness told the police the victims were attacked by up to 40 armed men who had their faces covered.

“We have received death threats from the same land trafficking gang,” Guimaraes said. “We are afraid for our families and we are asking the state for protection.” “These peasant farmers have paid the price for the inaction of the state and the local authorities in tackling land trafficking,” he added, warning that the nearby Santa Clara de Uchunya community had also been threatened by land traffickers. Guimaraes accused the local agricultural authority of handing out falsified land titles and said it also bore “direct responsibility” for the crime. A local investigation alleges former officials colluded in the falsification of land titles which were then sold to highest bidder.

 “Everything points to regional government people being involved in trafficking land,” said Jose Luis Guzmán, an environmental prosecutor in the Amazon region which is plagued by illegal logging.
Julia Urrunaga, Peru director for the Environmental Investigation Agency(EIA), said: “The lack of clarity and consistency of land titling in the Peruvian Amazon has long been a ticking bomb for violent social conflict.” After four years of investigations into land-grabbing and large scale agribusiness projects, the EIA had uncovered “chaos, abuses, violations of indigenous and local community rights as well as violations of environmental and forestry laws,” Urrunaga said.
“All of this with impunity in an environment dominated by corruption that ends up favouring large scale investors,” she added.

Observers fear the emergence of palm oil will fuel a new surge in land grabbing, violence and deforestation. Yet the Peruvian government is promoting expansion, claiming its cultivation will not threaten forests. At a UN climate change summit in September 2014, Peru signed a $300m (£191m) deal with Norway to reduce net deforestation to zero by 2021. More than 120 environmental and land defenders have been killed around the world in 2017 so far, with many of the deaths linked to deforestation and industry.

see also

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A lesson from Hurricane Irma: capitalism can’t save the planet – it can only destroy it. By George Monbiot

'The environmental crisis is an inevitable result not just of neoliberalism – the most extreme variety of capitalism – but of capitalism itself. Even the social democratic (Keynesian) kind depends on perpetual growth on a finite planet: a formula for eventual collapse. But the peculiar contribution of neoliberalism is to deny that action is necessary: to insist that the system, like Greenspan’s financial markets, is inherently self-regulating. The myth of the self-regulating market accelerates the destruction of the self-regulating Earth...'

'You can now buy a selfie toaster, that burns an image of your own face on to your bread – the Turin Shroud of toast. You can buy beer for dogs and wine for cats; a toilet roll holder that sends a message to your phone when the paper is running out; a $30 branded brick; a hairbrush that informs you whether or not you are brushing your hair correctly. Panasonic intends to produce a mobile fridge that, in response to a voice command, will deliver beers to your chair...'

There was “a flaw” in the theory: this is the famous admission by Alan Greenspan, the former chair of the Federal Reserve, to a congressional inquiry into the 2008 financial crisis. His belief that the self-interest of the lending institutions would lead automatically to the correction of financial markets had proved wrong. Now, in the midst of the environmental crisis, we await a similar admission. We may be waiting some time. For, as in Greenspan’s theory of the financial system, there cannot be a problem. The market is meant to be self-correcting: that’s what the theory says. As Milton Friedman, one of the architects of neoliberal ideology, put it: “Ecological values can find their natural space in the market, like any other consumer demand.” As long as environmental goods are correctly priced, neither planning nor regulation is required. Any attempt by governments or citizens to change the likely course of events is unwarranted and misguided.

But there’s a flaw. Hurricanes do not respond to market signals. The plastic fibres in our oceans, food and drinking water do not respond to market signals. Nor does the collapse of insect populations, or coral reefs, or the extirpation of orangutans from Borneo. The unregulated market is as powerless in the face of these forces as the people in Florida who resolved to fight Hurricane Irma by shooting it. It is the wrong tool, the wrong approach, the wrong system. There are two inherent problems with the pricing of the living world and its destruction. The first is that it depends on attaching a financial value to items – such as human life, species and ecosystems – that cannot be redeemed for money. The second is that it seeks to quantify events and processes that cannot be reliably predicted. Environmental collapse does not progress by neat increments. You can estimate the money you might make from building an airport: this is likely to be linear and fairly predictable. But you cannot reasonably estimate the environmental cost the airport might incur. 

Climate breakdown will behave like a tectonic plate in an earthquake zone: periods of comparative stasis followed by sudden jolts. Any attempt to compare economic benefit with economic cost in such cases is an exercise in false precision. Even to discuss such flaws is a kind of blasphemy, because the theory allows no role for political thought or for action. The system is supposed to operate not through deliberate human agency, but through the automatic writing of the invisible hand. Our choice is confined to deciding which goods and services to buy.

But even this is illusory. A system that depends on growth can survive only if we progressively lose our ability to make reasoned decisions. After our needs, then strong desires, then faint desires have been met, we must keep buying goods and services we neither need nor want, induced by marketing to abandon our discriminating faculties, and to succumb instead to impulse... read more:

Over 10,000 at protest rally in Bengaluru, declare: I am Gauri // BJP Sends Legal Notice To Ramachandra Guha

NB: The mass protest yesterday in Bengaluru is significant, and that's why it is underplayed and barely visible in the mainstream media. It is a tragedy that the media continues to be intimidated, even when one of their own is murdered. Meanwhile the Sangh Parivar has sent Ramchandra Guha a legal notice asking him to apologise for highlighting the climate of hatred and intolerance promoted by the ruling dispensation. The notice says "Your baseless utterances are also calculated to influence and mislead the on-going investigations of the said incidents. This amounts to illegal interference in the course of justice and is also a grave offence." More bullying may be expected of them, as this is all they know. Should the BJP not send a legal notice to their ally KP Sasikala?
Gauri Lankesh's Fate Awaits You, Firebrand Kerala Leader Warns 'Secular' Writers
and another one to their MLA Shri Jeevaraj?
Gauri Lankesh would be alive if she hadn't written against RSS, BJP, says Karnataka MLA
Such utterances are more suggestive than Guha's, and these too may prejudice the investigation. Are they not also a 'grave offence'? And can the RSS/BJP tell us what these statements are 'calculated' to achieve? Now we learn of clues linking this murder to that of Kalburgi. Clearly professional killers are involved, and the police is unwilling or unable to locate them. 

As such criminal activities go unpunished, all we hear from the allies, spokespersons and trolls of the Sangh Parivar (after routine condemnations); is abuse of the victims and loud threats as provided by Ms Sasikala and Jeevaraj. It is typical of them to speak in many voices as per time and convenience. Thus, soon after pracharak Modi became Prime Minister, we were treated to celebrations of Gandhi's assassin. Some wanted temples to Nathuram Godse; some wished he had murdered Jawaharlal Nehru. Here are some examples of this vile campaign:

Garu Lankesh's murder is a warning to all critics of the Sangh Parivar as stated by its own activists; testified to by the hateful utterances of its troll army. We are warned not only to desist from criticism, but also not to protest criminal deeds. We must watch quietly as the justice system is destroyed, cases against Parivar allies are dropped, judges like Jyotsna Yagnik threatened; and ideological dictatorship imposed upon a freedom-loving country. In the face of such facts, we are entitled to ask: who exactly is acting against the interests of India and her citizens? Who are the patriots and who the 'anti-nationalists'? Bengaluru's protesters deserve our thanks and support. We will not be silenced: DS

Over 10,000 rally in Bengaluru, declare: I am Gauri
A week after journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh was shot dead in Bengaluru, more than 10,000 people took part in a rally in the city in Tuesday, each saying “I am Gauri”, and pointing out that “communal forces have taken the country to the brink of fascism”. “For the past one-and-a-half decades, Gauri Lankesh was at the forefront of struggles against anti-constitutional and anti-human elements. Not only that, there have been serial murders of several progressive thinkers who upheld the values of our constitution,” the protesters announced at the meeting.

They urged the Karnataka government and the police to fast-track the probe into the murder of Lankesh, 55, and others before her. Condemning the act of celebrating and justifying Lankesh’s murder by a section of supporters from the Sangh Parivar, Sanatan Sanstha and the Sri Ram Sena, a statement issued at the meeting said, “We, at the resistance meeting, condemn this inhuman behaviour, which is not supported by any religious teaching.” The resistance meeting followed a protest walk across Bengaluru’s old city areas. It featured, among others, 99-year-old freedom fighter H S Doreswamy, writers Devanuru Mahadeva and Uday Prakash and actor and Jnanpith awardee Girish Karnad among several literary personalities from Karnataka; retired judges Justice Venkatachalaiah and Justice Sadashiva; journalists P Sainath, Siddharth Varadarajan, Sagarika Ghose; economist Irfan Ali Engineer, Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan; CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury; activists Teesta Setalvad, Medha Patkar, Swami Agnivesh, Kavita Krishna; Dalit activist Jignesh Mevani; and Lingayat seers Thontadarya Swami Nidumadi and Murugamut Swami Shivamurthy. Targeting the Prime Minister, Swami Agnivesh said, “The general secretary of UN Human Rights Council has condemned Gauri Lankesh’s killing. I wish PM Narendra Modi would have spoken a word on it.” Stating that Lankesh regarded him as her son, Dalit leader Mevani vowed to fight until his last breath to help growth of progressive thinking in India.

BJP Sends Legal Notice To Ramachandra Guha For Linking Murder To The Sangh Parivar
The Karnataka unit of the BJP has sent a legal notice to noted historian Ramachandra Guha for linking the murder of senior journalist Gauri Lankesh to the Sangh Parivar, say reports. News18 reports that the BJP, whose ideological mentor RSS is part of the Sangh Parivar, has demanded an unconditional apology from Guha. The report quoted Karnataka BJP spokesperson Ashwath Narayana as saying, "If Ramachandra Guha does not apologise, our party will initiate a legal process and take this to the court. Not just Guha, we are observing everyone who makes such comments, and notices will be issued to them, too." The notice accuses Guha of making false allegations to harm the image of the BJP and the RSS. India Today quoted the notice as saying, "Your baseless utterances are also calculated to influence and mislead the on-going investigations of the said incidents. This amounts to illegal interference in the course of justice and is also a grave offence."

It also warns Guha that the BJP will initiate criminal proceedings against him if he fails to apologise.
In the aftermath of Lankesh's murder, Guha had said, "The climate of hate and intolerance that has been promoted by this current (BJP) government, aided by television channels and freelance goondas, is complicit in this murder. It is chilling. We are becoming mirror images of Bangladesh and Pakistan, where writers are killed for what they say. This is an attempt to silence all of us, all of those who believe in democracy and decency."

See also
Gauri Lankesh: ‘Abnormality is becoming the new normal in Karnataka’ // ‘Murder of democracy, climate of hate, intolerance complicit
Shiv Visvanathan on Gauri Lankesh
Gauri Lankesh's Fate Awaits You, Firebrand Kerala Leader Warns 'Secular' Writers
Gauri Lankesh would be alive if she hadn't written against RSS, BJP: Karnataka MLA DN Jeevaraj
The Big Lies. RSS,Gandhi and American conservatives
Clues point to link between Gauri Lankesh, M M Kalburgi killing
The Supreme Court, Gandhi and the RSS