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A few weeks ago, I gathered that a friend is a homosexual. There were premonitory signs. He was eager to meet. He’d message me incessantly on Facebook. This doesn’t prove anything. I know another guy who does all this. He’s just weird. Maybe some people are neurotic. Perhaps their communication needs are much stronger. People are not straight forward, and perhaps these guys want to just feel safe.

This fellow is very good at his job. But, he’s still bothered by what happened in high school half a lifetime ago. When a guy tells me he’s depressed without giving me any good reason, my first guess would be that he’s gay. He doesn’t believe in marriage. When I probed further, no good reason seemed to be forthcoming. At some point, I felt he was hitting on me. There was nothing really sexual in what he said, but my intuitions don’t go wrong. I asked him whether he’s straight, and he said, “I don’t even know what I am”. I asked him whether he can give me a plain “Yes” or “No”, he said “You can’t put people in a box.” This is exactly the kind of thing leftist people say when they try to get away with something. I said, “Bye-Bye”. This is not my thing.  Continue Reading

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Everything about Peter Thiel seems larger than life. Marty Neumeier once said that you can hear the caffeine coursing through your veins as you read Peter Thiel. In the words of journalists, he is a “gifted rhetorician and a provocateur with a bottomless pocketbook” who is also America’s greatest living public intellectual. Peter Thiel is against death. He is more “athletic than his onscreen impersonators”. Peter Thiel pays brilliant students to drop out of college. Peter Thiel wants to prevent aging, produce meat and leather without killing animals, and build computers with greater brainpower than human beings. Peter Thiel also wants to build artificial libertarian cities in the ocean. Ayn Rand would have been delighted to see a libertarian businessman who is also one of the greatest intellectuals of all times.

It is not just journalists who find Peter Thiel impressive. Some of the greatest intellectuals on earth are admirers of Peter. Economist Bryan Caplan called him the world’s most creative philanthropist. This is how economist Tyler Cowen introduced Peter Thiel before interviewing him.

“It’s been my view for years now that Peter Thiel is one of the greatest and most important public intellectuals of our entire time. Throughout the course of history, he will be recognized as such. Peter himself doesn’t need an introduction; he has a best-selling book. His role in PayPal, Facebook, Palantir, many other companies, is well known. Peter is a dynamo. There is no one like Peter.”

But it was Peter Thiel who funded Hulk Hogan’s legal battle against Gawker.com for violating privacy. In 2004, Peter Thiel was outed by Gawker. “Peter Thiel is totally gay, people”, a Gawker article said. Peter feared this may deter some of his more traditional investors in Arab countries. When Gawker’s dig at Peter Thiel and some of his friends got too much, he decided to get even. Peter Thiel hired a team of lawyers to research how to bring Gawker down to its knees. Peter Thiel became a vengeance donor. This is one of the many cases in which Peter Thiel funded people who sued Gawker.

Do I blame Peter Thiel? No. Why?

Peter Thiel once told New Yorker’s George Packer that he had not made up his mind about the seat belt question. People drive carelessly when they fasten their seat belts. Then he made a volte-face, fastened the seat-belt and said it is much better to drive carefully while wearing the seat belt. Think about this. Seat belts make driving safer. But if your mind tells you that you’re safe, you’d probably drive recklessly. It’s all in your mind. You can selectively erase the information inside your mind. You can twist such information to your advantage. You can forget facts when it is inconvenient, and remember them again when it suits you. You can transmit untrue facts from one mind to another. All these have consequences. This is why delusion trumps the seat belt. Your safety has more to do with your beliefs than seat belts do. Your safety, and that of others. Our beliefs matter more than where regulators stand.

Let us suppose you live in a traditional society where the punishment for homosexuality is ostracism. If news gets around, your family will disown you. Your friends will leave you. Your will be out of your job. No one will rent out an apartment to you. You will have no place to go. Remember: These are not violations of your rights. People are within their right to do all this. These are not hypothetical scenarios. In some parts of the world, till recently, gays were treated not too unlike this. Even in the US, gays were persecuted under the sodomy laws, and often faced private ostracism and violence. Peter Thiel’s sexual preferences were not known to many except his family, closest friends and colleagues. Why? He feared things wouldn’t be pretty if everyone gets to know this. Your friend Jim knows you are gay. He outs you. Is this fair?

This much is obvious to me. You will suffer through no fault of your own. Jim and your other associates have the satisfaction of not having violated your rights. By tinkering with the information inside the heads of people, Jim harmed you. Here, Jim was not lying. But, what if he were lying? What if he were publicizing information he had not right to publicize, as in Hulk Hogan’s case? Gawker often targets powerless and vulnerable people who can’t fight back. Whatever you think about it, this fits Peter Thiel’s fundamental tenets of philanthropy:

“You want to pick an issue where it both does some good on its own, and at the same time helps draw awareness to a broader set of issues.”

Books, Uncategorized

szaszfaceToday is Thomas S Szasz’ 94th birthday. When I discuss the Szasz-ian view that mental illness is a myth, virtually no one accepts this view as the truth. Even when they are reasonably intelligent people, they do not understand what this even means. They tend to think that this is a hypothesis, or that I do not understand how grave a threat mental illness can be.

But, I think certain facts are obvious. Most people are really dumb. Half the people have IQs below 100. Half the people in India have IQs below 82. You have to remember that someone with an IQ of 100 is still way below someone at the top of the IQ pyramid. The difference between him, and someone whose IQ is 100 is the difference between the person with an IQ of 100 and a chimpanzee. Is it even plausible that the judgment of the large majority of the people of what constitutes normal behavior is likely to be true? Does a chimpanzee know how a man behaves and how he ought to behave?

People do not know that in the mid-19th century, the slaves who ran away were believed to have drapetomania. Drapetomania, of course, was a disease that caused the slaves to run away. A physician Samuel Cartwright believed that drapetomania was caused by: Continue Reading

Books

A lady who shall go unnamed called me up now, and started screaming and crying saying that I have written about her on my blog. Teacher, Shanu called me Donkey.”

“Waaaaah”  

She is a journalist. I do not understand such people. There was nothing of a personal nature in that post. I do not mean to say that my position on this would have changed at all if there were something personal. I am often surprised seeing how shallow people are, and how easily offended they are.

Shame, Shame, Puppy Shame! 😛

A few days ago, a gentleman called me and asked about what I had written about him, in my blog post on homosexuality. He was very polite to me. He did not question my right to write about him, even once. I thought, “What a decent fellow this Vikram Johri is.” But, this is not typical.

Much as I rant against liberals, I think it is a great thing that in the recent past, there is a broad consensus among the people who read and write that there is something really wrong with all this. This is perhaps a relic of our barbaric past. A lot of this happens because people do not read. The less you understand the written word, the more you are likely to lose yourself over something someone wrote somewhere.  

An Interesting Piece of Amit Varma:

How insecure do we have to be to let mere words affect us so much? A few months ago, a salesman from a finance company called me a couple of times to try and sell me an insurance package. I was irritable that day, and the second time I said something to the effect of “… and don’t f***in’ call me again!” before hanging up. 30 seconds later, the phone rings. It’s the same guy, demanding to know “Why you call me f***er? WHY YOU USE BAD LANGUAGE?” I lost it this time, and unleashed a string of pejoratives at the fellow. I hung up again, he called me again. Though I did not answer any more of his calls, he called me about 35 times in the next two days, and his number is still saved in my mobile phonebook as ‘Birla Sunlife Troll.’ All that is a shame, and an example of what’s wrong with our legal system. But there is also something wrong with us, that so many of us take offence so easily at something we could so easily ignore. 

A post of Ajay Shah, On Shaming The Bullies

“There are two ways through which things are getting better. The first area of importance is public outrage. Even if India has laws that hinder free speech, we should all speak up and establish social norms in favour of free speech, where the use of existing laws that support attacks on freedom of speech is just not done. As an example, Vodafone embarked on legal bullying against one person, but backed away when faced with outrage. A splendid example of this push back is IIPM. Recent events (linklink) should make IIPM regret having gone down this route. Speaking for me, I have not accepted and will not accept invitations from IIPM for speaking or writing in their publications, and I will be quite circumspect about resumes that carry the name IIPM. (This is my standard operating procedure for left tail organisations in India). If enough of us do this, it will establish deterrence. Outrage matters. We should be naming and shaming the offenders and maintaining a hall of shame.”

But, I know the irony in quoting this passage.

Books

They have a disease called homosexuality. Do you know what it means?

In junior high school, the lunch break seemed all too short. When we were thirteen, every boy liked to play, except the class topper, a freak who never needed to study, and the wayward backbenchers. They did not leave the classroom when everyone else did. My only friend in high school once said, “He, and his friends, they have a disease called homosexuality. Do you know what it means?” I said, “Yes. I have read about it.”

I first read of homosexuality in a memoir in which the author, a scientist once met a friendly middle-aged man in a wine bar. The middle-aged man insisted that he needed a place to sleep. When the author said that there are many hotels in the city, the “friend” said that they are very expensive. The author took this man home, where he was staying as a paying guest. When the author decided to sleep on the sofa, asking him to sleep on the bed, the “friend” claimed that it made him feel guilty. He insisted that they could sleep together, puzzled, asking the author why he took him home when he had no intention to sleep together. The scientist did not understand what was going on. When he was asked to leave, the friend said that he needed money. The landlord woke up hearing the verbal duel, paid the friend, asked him to go, telling the author that there are many maricón’s in the city. Homosexuals. After this incident, the landlord and his daughter did not talk to him much. Continue Reading