Monthly Archives: January 2004

The Art of Loneliness

Some people feel perpetually lonely while others are never to be found alone. Why? What differentiates them? Why are some people alone most of the time? What makes a person spend their time alone? What makes them spend with people?

There are various reasons. Intellectually disabled people tend to spend all their time alone. This is because they are unable to relate with people, unable to interact with them, not due to a social phobia but simply due to mental inability.

But what about normal people? An average person tends to have various mood swings. Their tendency to do something depends on what they are thinking at that particular moment.

Whew!! this blog is crappy! Am going round and round the bush without a single coherent statement making any sense. Still am posting it.

Is Censorship Necessary?

Censorship, is it really necessary? To answer this question, let’s look at the definition of censorship and its evolution throughout modern history.
The oxford dictionary of simple English defines censorship as: ‘Censorship is defined as the suppression or prohibition of speech or writing that is condemned as subversive of the common good.’
Almost all countries have used the idea of censorship to gain an advantage over their views at some point in time. Nazi Germany banned numerous books and publications in the name of corrupting the mass population. So did Poland, though it had a very active underground publishing industry to complement the official book publication list. Most countries censor books and publication which disobeys their laws, constitutions and social principals. But is it really necessary?
I believe that censorship is an unnecessary evil. This is because the common man may be ignorant in matters, but he is by no means unlearned. From a careful observation of censored book and publications ( we can observe that the people most likely to take interest in reading any banned subjects are people who are experts in that field. The obvious exception is Literature, which any literate layman has access to but we will come to this later.
Thus, taking into account that only specialists and experts would be interested in reading any publication worth banning, is censorship really necessary? What does it say about the intellectual environment of that society and more importantly, how would it affect the intellectual growth of that society? Would preventing access to controversial publications really help in gaining different viewpoints and in broadening the mind?
No, it would not, it would not help society, the intellectual growth would be restricted, because, though controversial and maybe displeasing to some parts of society, it is still a viewpoint put forth by an intellectual, disregarding it would not help but would in fact deepen the ignorance of the society.
Censoring literature is a different issue altogether. Literature is an area which is accessible to the masses, which has a deep impact on the common literate man. An ill-thought and harmful perspective may adversely affect the society’s perception to issues. Even here, censorship should be restricted to deny access to certain parts of society not to everybody. For example, if an impressionable youth wants to read ‘The Prince’ it’s a cause of concern, but if a scholar wants to do the same, it’s should be acceptable.
However, how would such a restrained form of censorship be implemented? By age? By geographical location? How would these be enforced in schools? Libraries?

What is mysticism?

I was reading some article. One link leading to another lead me to various articles on mysticism. From all these articles, one thing was glaring, that each article had its own definition of the word mysticism. So, what is mysticism? The definition of mysticism is usually given from a religion perspective but I believe there must be a broad based definition independent of religion connotations. Mysticism is concerned with the nature of reality, the individual’s struggle to attain a clear vision of reality, and the transformation of consciousness that accompanies such vision. What is the nature of reality? A highly subjective issue since what may be seen as realistic to one may not be for another. Thus, can we rightfully conclude that mysticism is subjective, depending on each individual’s opinion of various other hazy areas like realism and consciousness? Not necessary. Though the chances of the word ‘mysticm’ taking on a fuzzy meaning due to the fuzzy nature of the words describing it, it can still be defined in a way which is scientific, thus leading to the above definition. Note: The ultimate authority on mysticism seems to be William James. If you can find me some of his original works, please send it to me. Thanks

What is progress?

What is progress? In its most general sense, progress means the amelioration of the human condition. What is wrong with human condition? It wrong in the sense that suffering and misery seem to be unavoidable. Thus progress and is a reduction in misery and suffering.
In ordinary language we tend to use progress in a somewhat more concrete way, referring to television sets, the theory of relativity, cancer therapies, pocket calculators, etc. On the other hand, in a disparaging way we may say, “That’s progress,” when we refer to industrial pollution, nuclear war, plane crashes, the dehumanization of computerized bureaucracy, and the like.
Both of these usages of “progress” involve a basic association of that concept with science and technology. Indeed, much of our ordinary usage reflects a belief that the amelioration of the human condition comes principally through science and technology.
It is impossible to deny that in many ways scientific and technological progress has resulted in a lessening of human suffering. On the other hand we seem, especially in this century, to be faced with the circumstance that technological progress often creates as much if not more suffering than it is able to relieve.
The dual usage of progress is an indication that the benefits of progress are hardly worth achieving if tomorrow the planet is reduced to a nuclear wasteland or if in the long run life on earth is made impossible because industrial chemicals have permanently destroyed the balance of the ecosystem. These are genuine threats today; and even on the smallest scale, where progress in medicine relieves suffering in the most direct way, we may see that “wonder drugs” and novel therapies sometimes do more damage than if the patient had been left alone.
Thus it is a clear lesson that a “half-baked” technology is a seriously dangerous thing. But if so, how do we then know when a technology is sufficiently “baked” not to do damage? I don’t think we can know: no amount of study, no mass of safe-guards, can wholly preserve us from the dreaded “unforeseen consequences” of our technological progress.

What makes a good leader?

A leader could basically be treated in the following ways by his people:
* loved
* feared
* hated
* treated in contempt
A leader should never be hated and looked upon in contempt by his people. Hatred and contempt are the worse things that can happen to a ruler, hatred because nothing else is needed to motivate opposition, even assassination and contempt because then few will fear to act in opposition.
Machiavelli, in The Prince claims that it is better by a ruler to be feared then loved by his people, but this is only for the reason that in times of crisis, it is important that the ruler is obeyed. According to him, a ruler who is loved but not feared may not be obeyed in need, which could lead to disaster. Thus a ruler need not be loved to rule well, but he must be feared to the extent that he will be obeyed.
A ruler who is both feared and hated may be successful but the foundations of success will be unsound. Stalin died unchallenged in power while alive, but three years after his death he was denounced by Khrushchev, a member of the politburo in the 1930s and in charge of the communist party, for his crimes (the “secret” speech of 1956).

The notion of a state and its purpose

The supreme metaphysic of the state and end in itself was introduced by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831), a modern philosopher. Hegel believed that the state is simply more real and divine than any individual. The life, success and achievements of a state would thus have an absolute claim on any individual and one can even argue that the conquests of Napoleon and Hitler, though vicious and bloodthirsty, nevertheless produced so memorable and such indisputable glory to their respective states that both regimes continue to be objects of study, awe and literature though few in sound mind would take that “glory” seriously as far as Hitler is concerned.
The second faction states that the state consists of an individual. Thus the moral basis of the government should affirm the existence of natural, individual rights and then to “….secure these rights; governments are instituted among men, deriving their powers from the consent of the governed….” (Thomas Jefferson). Thus, the state in direct contradiction to the earlier faction, is not an end in itself but merely the means to “…secure these rights”… of governing. If a government fails to do that, Jefferson says, and as Locke said earlier, “it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.” Nothing could be further from the statism, and state worship, of Hegel, let alone Napoleon, Lenin, Hitler, and Stalin.