Victimhood Is The New Cool

Left-liberals remind me of a conversation between a man and a servant in a movie I no longer recall very well. The man tells his servant that he doesn’t know why “dog” is a cuss word. The man says he loves dogs, that dogs are the most lovable animals he’s ever known—and that he’d be honored if someone calls him a “dog”. The servant calls him just that, and gets slapped hard across his face. Left-liberals are like this man. Left-liberals don’t know elementary social science. But this is not the only reason why they don’t see themselves as cheap, little rascals. They are not introspective enough. So they are not able to see how their conscious beliefs clash with their assumptions.

Now how do their beliefs clash with their assumptions?

A few weeks ago, the Supreme Court upheld death penalty for the four convicts in the Delhi rape case. Liberals condescendingly call this girl “Nirbhaya”. Even her mother thinks there is something wrong with this. It’s a damning indictment of Indian journalism that even today, virtually all Indian journalists believe rape is not about sex. Every self-aware man knows this is nonsense. Every decent researcher who professionally handles literature on gender knows this is nonsense. Feminist dogma is not science. Activists, politicians and journalists are not scholars. It is entirely besides the point that many unhappy single women well past their prime think rape is about power. Facts lie flatly against this. All credible scholars think this is nonsense. But lame Indian journalists are convinced that rape is about power and abuse. Why does this happen? The really smart kids don’t become journalists. So, it’s not surprising you see all the shabbiness of third world self-styled intellectuals in its fully glory in Indian journalists. But why are they so bent on believing that rape is about power? There are many reasons, but this is one reason: They assume if rape has roots in male sexual desire, rape is excusable. Continue reading “Victimhood Is The New Cool”

Jinnah

Jinnah was quite clear about the role of Indian politicians. They must never mix religion with politics: one was a private matter, the other public service. Political differences should be settled by debate and not taken to the streets to create mob hysteria. The right to vote should be restricted to the educated tax payer and not be extended to the illiterate and those who do not contribute to the cost of administration. Primary education should be compulsory. What is truly amazing is that he found many takers for his ideas and was acceptable to the Indian National Congress as well as the Muslim League. Unlike most other Indian politicians, he was not overwhelmed by English governors and viceroys: he spoke his mind to them without mincing his words. He carried on verbal warfare with Lord Willingdon, Governor of Bombay and then Viceroy of India. In short, he was for a time India’s top political leader, till Mahatma Gandhi arrived on the scene. Gandhi not only infused religion into politics (!) but also took politics to the streets through his call for non-cooperation and boycott of government-run institutions, including schools. Jinnah found this distasteful and difficult to digest. Besides these, Gandhi showed a marked preference for Jawaharlal Nehru as the future leader of the country. Gradually, Jinnah was pushed off the centre stage of Indian politics to become more and more a leader of the Muslims. As The Manchester Guardian summed him up: ‘The Hindus thought he was a Muslim communalist, the Muslims took him to be pro-Hindu, the princes declared him to be too democratic, the British considered him a rabid extremist—with the result that he was everywhere but nowhere. None wanted him.’

—Khushwant Singh, The Good, Bad And The Ridiculous

I don’t believe in this freedom struggle business. I think Indians shouldn’t have kicked out the British. But, for someone in his right senses, it is hard not to read this and say, “What a decent fellow!” When compared to the mushheaded freedom fighters, that is. 

Yes, Ma’am

“I am bogged down with this hourly need to consult you, and with the practice of selecting articles on the basis of whether you’ve been addressed as “Malini” or “Ma’am” in the covering letters. I am also sick of this constant play of yours: to pitch one person against another for one week, and then reverse it in the next. One is also tired of your changing goalposts. The Sunday Anchor has to be reportage-driven, and then suddenly it becomes policy-driven, and then suddenly, depending on what you hear or get impressed with, it has to be made reportage-driven again. I quit because the journey had become too pointless. I had differences over editorial autonomy with the editor, Malini. There was hardly any excitement and it became too boring for me. There is freedom to pursue stories, but inside, there is no autonomy or freedom for the editors. But that is also because the majority of editors are pusillanimous and do not have the courage to stand up for their rights. It is the responsibility of every editor to tell the owner-editor where he or she may be wrong instead of agreeing to everything with a “yes ma’am, yes ma’am”

Haha. This is an excerpt from an editor’s resignation letter. I do not have a particular opinion about this guy. I suspect he is one of those brainless idiots who imagine themselves to be principled. But, he said something every editor ought to think. But, why do they behave the way they do? 

Let me try to understand this. Even if people were angels billions of years ago, when they were hunter-gatherers, many conflicts would have emerged. But, of course, they were not angels. We descended from risen apes and not descended angels. Resources were very limited. People were loyal to their tribe—at any cost. When people disagreed, the price they paid was often their life. Over billions of years, people developed strong instincts to see disagreement as a reflection of lack of personal loyalty. But, at least some people were tempted to disagree with others, or correct others, as put-down tactics, or to condescend to them. Even today, the people who disagree with their colleagues or correct their bosses are the people who do that at the cost of their own  jobs. Truth doesn’t mean anything to *most* people. So, why do they do that? Perhaps because these truth-seeking “traitors” do not like them. Otherwise why should they, or so they reason. Genuine respect for truth, fairness and principles is an evolutionary novelty. Most people, especially people with low intelligence do not comprehend such evolutionary novelties.

They do not know that there are some strange fellows who really do care for the truth. But, the modern, comfortable society produces more such people. The modern society also produces many people who spend more time with books or machines, and develop more respect for facts of reality than group loyalty. Such people (Writers, thinkers, scientists, and the nerds who grew up reading them), have developed strong norms against being a fence-sitter, or living a lie. They also verbalize these norms. The nerdy kids spend more time with books or computers, internalizing verbalized norms, while the normal kids mix with their peers, internalizing the intuitive norms of human communication. The verbalized norms are more respectable than the intuitive norms, because at least on the surface, they sound noble. The intuitive norms, if verbalized, would seem unspeakably ugly. Now, it is true that even normal folk are aware of the verbalized norms of their betters. They are dimly aware that these norms are “respectable”. But, deep inside they suspect that this is bogus. They are philistines, and cannot imagine how someone can be so deeply attached to ideas, or their own prose. So, when someone brings up these norms, or acts according to it, they feel that they are just being difficult. Or playing fool. Or blackmailing them. Not surprisingly, consistently defending the truth is harder than almost anything. If you have a valuable piece of information, it might do more harm than good if everyone responds badly to it. This piece of information might have great value. But, if people respond so badly to it that it would outweigh any benefit it might have, it might be better if you keep that to yourself. But, if people respond well to it? The point is that it should start somewhere.
 
So, the people who care for the truth might air those truths hoping that it would change others for good. But, it *probably* won’t. Perhaps they should accept idiocy, cruelty and wastefulness as a necessary price to pay for being part of a group. But, there is a problem. 1) The people who care for the truth are incredibly bad at predicting how others might respond to the truth. So, where do they draw the line? It is not clear. No one will tell you this. It is culture-specific. It is context-specific. Normal folk know it by some seraphic intuition. 2) If the truth-seekers become cynical panderers, they will sound like fakers. They will find it exhausting to the point that they cannot pull it off. This might do more harm than being plainly blunt. People might stand disagreement, but not condescension. 3) But, for artists, scientists , thinkers and other innovators, going along to get along is disastrous. If you are creative, going along to get along will never get you anywhere in the long run. If you do not know why journalism is so disappointing, this is the reason. Journalists are not intelligent, creative folk.

The Brilliant Marketing Campaign: The Times Of India And Deepika Padukone

finding-fanny-wallpaper-17-12x91When I see condemnation of the journalistic standards of “The Times of India” littering my newsfeed, a question posed by Gail Wynand whose media empire spread like bubonic plague comes back to me: “Do you think it took no talent to create the Banner? The critics of the Times of India do not know that it takes breathtaking creativity to create the largest selling English language newspaper in the world—in a country where most people cannot read, let alone read an English language newspaper.

It is an ancient method of swindling, but virtually everyone is hoodwinked because it is instinctively shrewd. But then, human nature has changed little since the 17th century frauds took to the streets to put on a show, stir up the masses and sell dubious medicines to large numbers of people. It did not matter that the show did not have anything to do with the medicines they were selling—By any stretch of imagination. But, what are the principles involved? Robert Greene tells us:

Appear as news, never as publicity

“People pay more attention to what is broadcast as news—it seems more real. You suddenly stand out from everything else, if only for a moment—but that moment has more credibility than hours of advertising time. The key is to orchestrate the details thoroughly, creating a story with dramatic impact and movement, tension and resolution. The media will cover it for days. Conceal your real purpose—to sell yourself—at any cost.”

When her new movie was released, The Times Of India reporter posted a video of Deepika Padukone’s cleavage. Continue reading “The Brilliant Marketing Campaign: The Times Of India And Deepika Padukone”

The Forgotten Man: In Defense Of The Rapist

Tarun Tejpal married at the age of twenty one. Feminists and liberals probably think this is irrelevant. In their eyes, women are helpless pawns. Men pull the strings of the world. But this cannot be true. A talented man who marries in his twenties has a difficult row to hoe.  When he marries, he is usually a nobody. It is in all likelihood an unequal marriage, but often more so, retrospectively. When he becomes successful, usually around 30, his wife has become plumper, with two children. She is no longer too interested in sex. Human nature being what it is, she is also a terrible human being. He no longer values the creature that once walked away as if she bought The Fountainhead at a bargain price—because it’d make better wrapping paper. But I do not know what is worse.

He stays in the marriage, for his children. There is nothing in it for him, physically or spiritually. He probably married her when he he battled loneliness every hour of his life—-when he was surrounded by people he would have hauled out of his drawing room if he had a choice—when he felt paralyzed seeing again and again that people failed to see what he found obvious, even when he had explained patiently, down to the last detail—when he searched desperately for an ounce of morality, an ounce of intelligence in the people he worked with, and could not find. Continue reading “The Forgotten Man: In Defense Of The Rapist”

Sexism And Candor

Women! Know your place.

I like women. If you are a man, I won’t even talk to you, unless you can talk nerdy. But, if you are a girl, you just have to have a decent IQ. And you have to read books. When a girl once asked me, “Why do you talk to me? The guy who sits there told me that he tried to talk to you. But, you did not look interested.” I smiled politely, thinking, “I did not notice. But, you did not notice that he is a guy either, did you? Precisely my point.”

But, I suppose almost everyone likes women these days. I know an IIT-IIM guy who campaigns for the rights of men who are cuckolded. Even the men who agree with him find him a laughing stock. If “bad attitude” is part and parcel of our culture, how do you know whether people are prejudiced against you? You know it when you start talking about the “bad attitude” of other people and hear almost everyone saying, “Tough Luck”.

I have been thinking about sexism for a while. I think the problem is not sexism. What matters is candor, rationality and respect for human heterogeneity. Who, among men or women lacks these valuable traits? I am not going to tell you. Continue reading “Sexism And Candor”

Ronald Coase, RIP

The effects were bad.

Ronald Coase died yesterday. He was a Nobel-Winning economist, and a very bright, useful fellow. In 1997, The Reason Magazine had published an interview with Ronald Coase, in which he spelled out his views on government regulations. Ronald Coase did not oppose government regulations. But, then, very few economists issue a blanket attack on government regulations. There are some strange economists who do.Is this information sufficient to conclude whether government regulations are justified or not? Is this enough proof that the economists who issue a blanket rejection of regulations are prejudiced? Most people would answer in the affirmative, but I have my doubts. How do we know?

Economists are prejudiced if facts do not change their judgment. Facts can imply anything. Perhaps facts do imply that regulations are harmful. Perhaps fact do imply that regulations can be beneficial. If economists claim that  regulations are harmful even if they “know better”, they are prejudiced “market fundamentalists”.  But, if economists do not issue a blanket attack on regulation even when they are fully convinced that they have never done any real good, they are, again, prejudiced “government fundamentalists”. Perhaps it is true that regulations are not always harmful. But, perhaps regulations are evil to the point that even the economists who are ambivalent in this issue are being, well, dishonest.

Do read the Reason Magazine interview with Ronald Coase before you decide. Continue reading “Ronald Coase, RIP”

Breaking Down The Walls Of Pettiness

We should erect a wall.

The clock struck twelve, and she turned silent. After a long pause, she said that the new regulatory framework in the UK would make it almost impossible for her to stay there. I felt that this could be one of her usual pranks. I went to sleep while she said, “Shanu, Say something. Tell me that this is nothing—that there is nothing to worry. Please. Say something like that.” After turning in my bed for long, I woke up, wanting to know. What she said was true. A piece of legislation had made it very hard for her to realistically find a job in the UK after college. She did not know it for months.

We had studied in the same city once. Before going back to college she had worked with a reputed multinational corporation. The first time I had found her murderously angry was when she found that her dinner was stolen. When I told her that such things do not affect me much, she said, “Shanu, I am a student. I live on a limited budget. I will have to go to bed hungry tonight.” It happened often. After finishing college, she once told me that she wanted to work as a sales girl in a shop in London because she is keen on understanding many things. And I was silent.  Continue reading “Breaking Down The Walls Of Pettiness”

Ten Years Of Blogging

The search engine spiders did not know how to crawl my Yahoo Geocities page.

The year was 2003, and the search engine spiders did not know how to crawl my Yahoo Geocities page.  I had written many short stories on my Yahoo Geocities page.

To capitalize on my writing skills, I decided to enter short story writing contests. I once had this plan to become a published author before I became a legal adult. But then, I was never much of a “multitasker”. Today, I know that I am not in a hurry.

It began on Sulekha. Sulekha once had a short story writing contest. But, only bloggers were allowed to enter their contest. I started blogging without even knowing what it meant. My fellow bloggers were salt-and-pepper haired NRI’s. They were all angry and upset people who just needed an outlet to vent their anger. Continue reading “Ten Years Of Blogging”

Define Relevant

“News is irrelevant”-Rolf Dobelli

I like Rolf Dobelli’s essay against news. I too have long been arguing that news is irrelevant. But, read this excerpt:

A car drives over a bridge, and the bridge collapses. What does the news media focus on? The car. The person in the car. Where he came from. Where he planned to go. How he experienced the crash (if he survived). But that is all irrelevant. What’s relevant? The structural stability of the bridge. But the car is flashy, it’s dramatic, it’s a person (non-abstract), and it’s news that’s cheap to produce. 

I can imagine this making sense to people who are not very smart. But, is this true? I think not. Why? So many reasons:

We live in a division of labor society. Every day, we consume countless products and services. It is humanly impossible to understand these products. When we use soap, we often do not know the chemical composition of the soap. It is wise to rely on some statistical generalizations when we use products that we do not understand. It might be important information to people involved in the production process. But, it makes little sense for a typical consumer to really understand the products he use. Continue reading “Define Relevant”

The Hobbesian Myth

Thomas Hobbes (1588 – 1679)

While most political theorists consider Thomas Hobbes as a political individualist, the most popular argument against individualism in politics is still the Hobbesian notion that in the absence of the state, life would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”. Hobbes’ only disagreement with political sovereignty was that people should be allowed as much as a right to disobey the orders of the king when their life is under threat. Almost everyone has accepted the Hobbesian myth lock, stock and barrel though valid arguments for this seemingly obvious tenet never quite seem to emerge. There is no opponent of anarchy whose central argument eventually does not boil down to the “sophisticated” notion that without a monopoly of force, we will all be at each other’s throat.

Was Hobbes Right?

What if Hobbes was wrong through and through? The structure of rationalizations against market anarchy would crumble, with political authoritarians left with nothing but rubble. Libertarian anarchists think that Hobbes’ social contract theory is discredited by theory and experience. Human history is full of instances in which men found far more efficient, non-governmental ways to settle their disagreements. Continue reading “The Hobbesian Myth”