Sunday, 11 January 2015

T.S Eliot vs Tagore

Edit- apparently this old ignoramus is wholly wrong about Eliot's Anglicanism. He was close to the great and good Bishop Bell not Cosmo Lang.

This is one of the best articles in the Guardian I've ever read.
Slowly, in between my domestic chores and dutiful visit to the gym, I've been looking up some of the poets mentioned by this marvelously erudite and engaged author.
This is one book I'll buy in Hardback.
Still, in all candor, the more I look things up the more I'm confirmed in my middle-aged certainty that modern poetry is an oxymoron.
The author says Eliot became a global presence quite quickly. Compared to Tagore- post Gitanjali- this is scarcely true. Nishiwaki was an eccentric egghead- an academics' academics. His volume of English verse (unlike Tagore's own Gitanjali) sank without trace. By contrast, Tagore influenced popular Japanese and Chinese poets and song writers- indeed, he still does. I recall reading a poem by Li Chin Fa in an anthology and asking my learned Chinese friend to transcribe the original for me. He shook his head sadly and said 'the original is Tagore. ' I was amazed. I thought of Tagore, much as I think of Eliot now, as a sexless bore who dabbled in Soteriology coz it was a shameful, but ancestral, vocation.
Both Eliot and Tagore were of Unitarian/Brahmo stock. (Emerson was a Unitarian. Recall his 'Brahma'? He'd been reading Raja Ramohan Roy- an Islamicized polyglot scholar and deeply boring Benthamite of the sententious, Amartya Sen sort) Indeed, it was an elder brother of Tagore, a Science guy who regrettably died early, who prevented a crazy (literally) American Unitarian (Charles Dall- look him up and laugh your head off) unifying those two virulently vacuous Victorian sects by, quite properly, expelling non-Brahmins from his Daddy's new Adi ('primeval', therefore pre-Casteist) Brahmo sect.
Eliot, by birth, a Boston Brahmin, soon turned Episcopalian and became the Chesterton of Cosmo Lang's wholly corrupt High Church.
Tagore, however, had moved in the opposite direction. He transcended that bogus 'Brahmin' label. Muslim Bangladesh reveres him. He has written the National Anthem of 2 nations- though Hindutva India hates his wholly secular 'Jana Gana Mana', preferring instead Bankim's 'Hail to the Mother'.

Tagore could become a global poet much more quickly than Eliot because his culture was already global- not the special pleading of diverse sects of precociously drivelling autochthones inhabiting the unlovely littoral of that most atrocious of Oceans- the ungovernable Atlantic.

By contrast to such uncouth, storm tossed, 'Jahilliyat', China and Japan and South East Asia had assimilated Sanskrit and Pali fifteen hundred years previously. Latin America, through 'Krausismo' (Krause actually knew Skt. and tried to teach Schopenhauer a little bit)- not to mention Jesuit scholarship- was already fertile soil.
Indeed, they had easy access to the Sufi-Bhakti synthesis through notions like 'saudosismo'- which is the Sufi 'sauda' or 'suvaida'- so there was nothing surprising about Tagore, himself the student of a Peruvian monk, being so well received on that continent.
The connection between Greece and India, of course, is 2500 years old. Anglo-American pedants say 'Dharma' is untranslatable. Ashoka translated it as Eusebia and Greek people living in India said 'fair dinkum, mate.' (What? Ancient Greeks had Australian accents and were sun-tanned and had washboard stomachs and lived in the vicinity of Earls Court as I still shudderingly recall)
In any case, for purely commercial or geographical reasons, Tagore was far closer, culturally, to China and Japan than Eliot. His family, like Titsingh, had grown rich in Calcutta and it is a fact that many cultivated Indians, like that Dutchman (who had a Bengali son) showed themselves prepared to ' willingly exchange their residence for Japan,' if not to 'sneer at all Indian greatness' (though that greatness departed even before Victoria became Empress) and like Titsingh (but not promiscuously or for sensual pleasure) espoused Japanese wives than whom, indeed, none better exemplify 'pativrata' Beauty, Grace and Fidelity.
Tagore and Aurobindo, briefly, were paired as the poet-prophets of Revolution in India. M.N Roy was the Comintern's man in China, tasked with fomenting an Agrarian Revolution. Young Sarojini Naidu, who sold better than her elders, Eliot & Pound, in England, gave Fenellossa's m/s to Pound to trans-create. Her brother 'Chatto' was a Comintern agent killed during one of Stalin's purge. All the people I mention had imbibed Tagore with their mother's milk.
By contrast, though Auden and Isherwood translated Hindu Scriptures at the behest of Hindu Swamis- Yeats started this horrible trend- they neither inspired nor were connected with any great Revolutionaries.
The Academy claimed Auden. Bengalis chant his verse, but they are all queuing for tenure in some particularly insalubrious 'Social Science'.

Eliot may have studied under Paul Elmer More- whose leonine, Landor like, heroic couplets translating Bhratrihari remain till today of the sort, Richard Rorty, in articulo mortis, found salvific to recall- but it is noteworthy that Crawford's vaunted scholar, whom he says engaged with 'Advanced Mathematics'- remained indifferent to 'Vakyapadiya'- in other words, this shmuck could have anticipated the 'linguistic turn', but didn't, preferring to stick with a but Bradleyian foreskin while throwing away his manhood.
Tagore, Thomas Mann says, came across as an old woman- unlike his muscular son. But filial piety constrained Tagore. He was the son of a self proclaimed 'Maharishi' and had to swan around in a Christ-like kaftan because his faux Pundit of a Pater Pantocrator had done so even into his own Forties.
In any case, he wasn't the Science guy in his family. Nevertheless, later, after meeting Einstein, he wrote a popular book for kids about Science. He wasn't a high I.Q guy but, with every decade, he got closer to the people- i.e. became less and less of a holier-than-thou Brahmin c-word.

Robert Graves, by contrast, was a genius. Crazy? No- just a case of genus irritabile vatum. I can't re-read Eliot without sneering a little. I know so much more than him. So do we all, thanks to Google Search. But Graves? Take his 'love without hope as when the young bird catcher'- okay, I get the 'Celtic' reference and thus could have secured a pass-mark in the Indian U.P.S.C Eng Lit paper- which would have translated into a safe job as a clerk, supposing a question had been posed on that topic, BUT Graves wrote so lucidly, so much for the common man, I'd  have read his 'White Goddess' gratuitously. Even if I got my Govt. job and was kept busy collecting bribes, I'd always be haunted by the knowledge that the forest is a text in the only language of my salvation. English forests,  Greek forests- such Holwege as arise in Hindustani Forests- but are birds which escape and fly, though 'tis but a SUV which drives by.
Eliot, as neutered by Pound, but natal to School Marmish/Social Workerish American Browningian Femininity- his Mum's 'Savanorola' could scarcely be more hilarious than his own sophomoric detournement on the 'smara- mara' syzygy- represents not Modernism but the Credentialized Academy's rodeo which features only its own gelding.
Tagore can't be taught. Bengali kids memorise him coz Mum croons his verses in the kitchen when Granny condemns her cooking.
In that vast, salt pillared, masturbatory desert of my adolescence- where, not Christ was betrayed but barely tempted- Eliot whispered to me. But whispered to me of a career as a Casteist, Credentialized, poseur or pundit.
Eliot indeed is that Buddha of the elite whose 'Fire sermon' distinguishes between Brahmins- who tend a sacred fire to glorify their own genealogy- and Sati, the Fisherman's son, who obviously is just an idiot and thus to be ostracized, unlike, Upali, the barber, who is properly obsequious and parrots what you say.
Eliot has 'taste'. I don't. I'm now a Curry & Chips Cockney. I relish conversations in pubs which turn on obscure gynaecological problems amongst the older of my neighbours. Me being very black and wearing glasses- it's like these Mothers of the Community are able to say what they can't in the G.P's surgery or the underfunded NHS Hospital.
Okay, I just heard myself there. T.S. Eliot is great coz he helped this 'bullshitting' immigrant to turn into a real Londoner over the course of 30 years.
I now love him unreservedly and will definitely buy the hardback edition of this book. As for understanding its contents- why not? That could happen. It's like David Cameron said to me- well, if it wasn't him it was some other French Cambodian lady boy such as abound in these parts- should of gone to Specsavers innit?

Saturday, 10 January 2015

John 10.24

'With Parrhesia speak, art thou the Messiah?
'Or, of Amnesia, a mere cabbie that plies for hire?'
'Twixt Tavern and Tavern, I tippling tottle, with the Divine to talk
 Wine stuck in a Pharisee Bottle; Saqi! suck out my cork

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Praamaanya, Prakaasha & PK's parrhesia

The theory of Prakaasha deals with how we can know what is in our consciousness as well what portion of that consciousness constitutes 'knowledge' falsifiable or otherwise. The related theory of Praamaanya inquires into the origin and apprehension of the truth of that knowledge. Svatah (lit 'from inside')-Praamaanya theorists agree that that truth of an item of knowledge has the same origin and is apprehended simultaneous with that knowledge- a strange doctrine, prima facie, since knowledge may be ab ovo speculative, oneiric, or, indeed, florid and figurative in a manner essentially fugitive from Truth, though some later event, experiment or external authority may reveal it to be purely alethic.
One workaround, that of the Prabhakara, is to make Truth a purely instrumental criteria. What works is 'true', what doesn't is 'error'. However, the desirable property of not relying on Memory but independently manifesting its object, or apprehending something not apprehended before, which is sought for Praamaanya, is lost thereby. Two methods- one Platonic, the other Occassionalist- exist to repair this lacuna and, as a practical matter, we are welcome to tune into the Sufi-Bhakti synthesis from any point on the spectrum thus defined.
Another approach, that of the Bhattas, is to consider 'jnaatataa' (knownness) as an imperceptible activity of an inferential type operating on something otherwise subliminal and not the subject of Praamaanyaa theory.However, this raises in acute form the question as to how such 'knownness' could be 'svatah'- i.e. arise at the same time and from the same cause as that which it qualifies? We may think we mistake a rope for a snake till the snake bites us. Apprehension and the truth of apprehension surely can't be simultaneous? Once way round this is to simply recast Knowledge claims as being of a Bayesian, Statistical nature. To do so, however, is to encourage us to consider ourselves citizens of a Multiverse. Suddenly, the Yoga-Vashista gains salience. We are the Bhikshu who dreamed he was a King who dreamed he was an Apsara who dreamed she was a doe in the forest who dreamed she bit off Walt Disney's head for killing Bambi's mum. All woke from their dream to find they were all each other. At this point, Yeats goes and sits at the feet of Mohini Chatterjee or some other such Chatter-box and starts translating the Gita. We can quit reading him and go order a round of Guinness with a Jameson chaser.
My own ancestral Vedantism, however, re-opens the question of how empirical truth can be 'svatograhya'- i.e. apprehended as such intrinsically and at the same time as cognized. The workaround here is facile. The subject is always false or sublatable in a long series asymptotically approaching her own 'true' self itself qualified as the 'sakshi' or unimpeachable witness.

Let us take an everyday example. I walk into the bar at the local Hilton and have a few pints. I see a young chap who went to Modern School on Barakhamba Road and go over to ask which year he matriculated. His initial hesitancy is removed when I explain that I'm an alumnus of St. Columba's and, in my day, our two schools enjoyed a friendly rivalry. On hearing my surname he becomes friendly and goes off to get me a drink leaving me with his lovely lady wife who, it turns out, is a fellow Tambram.
I am astonished when I hear that she too attended Modern School, though she quickly explains she met her older husband at Wharton.
I say to her 'Akka (elder sister) why you are telling me such a shameless lie? From his face, I could immediately tell your husband attended Modern School. It is a scientific fact that people who go to Modern have penis like physiognomy. Your face, on the other hand, is beautiful. Why you are punching and slapping me? OMG, how did nice lady like you learn such filthy type Tamil abuse words!'
Anyway, I went and hid behind her husband who was a U.P bhaiyya some twenty years younger than myself. He said 'Darling, please don't hit this fellow with your naked hand. Everyone knows St. Columba's boys have their arse where face should be. Chee, chee- kindly go and wash with dettol!'

Anyway, we have a couple of drinks while lady is in the powder room. I say 'Yaar, Shahrukh Khan is from St. Columba's. Shehkar Kapoor went to Modern.' 'How do you think Shah Rukh got his start?' he shoots back. 'After Kapoor Sahib was finished with him, Shah Rukh's features became almost human.'
Suddenly I realized that this brawny U.P bhaiyya, with the characteristic penis like face of a Modern School alumnus, was gazing upon my moon like visage in a lascivious and lustful fashion. Where was his wife when I needed her? Just I giggled nervously, paid for the drinks, and quietly slipped away.

Pop Quiz
Q 1. The author gained two types of knowledge simultaneously- viz. that a person had a penis like face and that he must have attended Modern School, Barakhamba road.  Is this a valid instance of 'svatograhya' empirical knowledge?
a) Yes. Having penis like face is an intrinsic property of Modern School alumni. Apprehending a penis like face was the origin and also the truth maker for the knowledge that the dickhead in question was indeed from Modern School.
b) No. His wife also attended Modern School. She did not have penis like face. Thus the truth-maker for 'x attended Modern School' can't be  'svatah-praamaanya', i.e. intrinsically provided and must therefore be, if at all, 'paratah-praamaanya'- i.e. arising from an external authority, experiment or event.
c) The question is framed in an impredicative manner and is therefore undecidable. The truthmaker for 'x is a valid instance of 'svatograhya empirical knowledge' can not itself be empirical because svatograhya is intrinsically self-referential. Nor can it be otherwise for that begs the question.
d) Of course it is completely valid! Abishek Bacchan went to Modern.  Just look at that horrible thing growing out of his neck. Enough to scare anybody straight. Even Karan Johar.


This is a picture of Aamir Khan before he worked with Abhishek in Dhoom 3.

This is him now.
Case closed. Q.E.D

Siddhanta

Shankaracharya of Dwarka has condemned the movie PK. Was it because Aamir spoke out openly (parrhesia) against fraud perpetrated in the name of Religion? Not at all. The Shanakaracharya, jailed during Quit India, has never condoned fraud of any type because it destroys the Nation.
Still, it may be that Aamir relied upon some paratah-praamaanya argument or authority inadmissible for a Vedantin.
 Having watched the movie, I am the 'sakshi' - that too PK- possessing 'svatograhya' empirical knowledge that such is not the case.
Acharyajee possesses not just Praamaanya shakti- ratocinative power- but also intuition of underlying Prakaasha truth. Yet it is not decent to mention the fact that there are hordes of these Modern School alumni with huge penis like faces roaming around. Acharyajee shows great 'upaya kausalya'- tact in instruction- such that by condemning the effect he warns against the truly too-horrible-for-words cause- viz. deleterious consequences of spending any lengthy period of time in proximity to Abhishek's horribly throbbing phallus of a physiognomy.
Bacchan Sahib should have sent his son to Nainital. How much grief we would have all been spared, say what you like the boy can act, had he done so!

PK, K-Pax & Jayanta Bhatta's Agamadambara

PK- Aamir Khan's Borgesian 'Justification'- differs from K-Pax  in that the Alien offers no novel therapeutic or ontologically dysphoric eschatalogical escape from the quotidian necessity of , supposedly Liberal, Panopticon 'Positivist' Psychiatry.
On the contrary, the Alien- whose 'remote control' jewel, capable of returning him to his own planet. is immediately stolen and sold to a fake Swami- is so much the opposite of the suave Kevin Spacey character that everybody assumes he is a Drunkard ('Peekee' in Hindi means 'having drunk a lot').

The Alien's aleatory trajectory, however, as this is a Hindu film, follows a path determined by Lord Ganesa- the 'creator' as well as 'destroyer' of obstacles.
Thus, when the protagonist addresses all the myriad 'murthis' (representations) of the Hindu pantheon, the camera finally focuses on the Elephant headed God. Hindus immediately understand that the obstacle to the Alien finding his path home lies in his notion that he has a 'property' type right to the jewel which is his 'remote control' command module for his space-ship and ride home.
By contrast, the fraudulent Swami who bought that Jewel claims it to be a sliver of Shiva's broken 'damaru' for which a great Temple must be constructed.
Since, the Alien still thinks the jewel is his 'property', he faces a self-created obstacle to getting it back. This entails a wrong concept of God, or false dynamic of the Divine process. He thinks appeals to the Deity are being systematically intercepted by mischievous 'wrong number' respondents.
Clearly, this is similar to Umaswati's notion of 'Karmic obstructors' as arising out of Narratological karmic 'matching problems'.
Obviously, when I say 'Clearly'- I mean 'clearly yadi tu PK is blog parh rahe ho.'- if you are reading this drunk mate.

But why not be PK (drunk) when watching PK?

Sanjay Dutt- son of two great film star patriots of  different Religions- in and out of jail because this son of a Hindu father and Muslim mother wanted to protect, in his own goofy style, people irrespective of Religion, irrespective of Geographical Origin, in Mumbai- is shown as helping get the Alien a 'voice' by taking him to a brothel & thus the Braj Bhasha of the savants turns into that Bhojpuri which renders even the tongue of emaciated sex slaves pure and worthy of adoption by the virtuous, but languageless, inhabitants of PK's planet.
Indeed, whereas Humans- that too from affluent-too-affluent America  want to emigrate to K-Pax- in India, the reverse is the case; at the end of the film a troupe of Bhojpuri speaking Aliens have turned up- Subramaniyam Swamy beware!- on our shores.

This film is calculated to incense the loony-toons Hindutva fringe. It begins with a twist on their favorite theme- the so called 'Love Jihad'. I have previously explained that Hindu girls having sex with Muslims under the rubric of marriage is nothing but rape and a naked attack upon Islam. There is no bar in Hinduism for a girl to have sex with anyone she likes. Lord Rama tells Lady Sita that he hasn't killed a lot of people to reclaim her as his property. She is free to choose any mate she likes- even his brother Laxman or the new Rakshasa King whom he himself has enthroned.
Obviously, Lord Rama is behaving like a hurt child which is kinda cute and lets Lady Sita have the last word as is right and proper coz when all is said and done Men show little heroism in battle compared to a woman in child-birth. It is the latter's heroism upon which the axle of the World turns.

However, the poor Muslim victim of an amorous Hindu girl forcing herself upon him in marriage, becomes immediately guilty of un-Islamic behavior because Hindus, unlike Christians or Jews, can not be taken in marriage, absent conversion, by pious Muslim men.
The heroine of the film PK, at the start of the film, falls in love with a Pakistani Muslim. Her father is a devotee of a bogus Godman who predicts that the boy will jilt her. She immediately asks her beau to marry her the very next day. However, there is a mix up at the Registry Office. Another bride asks her to hold her kitten. A little boy gives her a letter breaking things off which was actually meant for the other bride whose groom got cold feet. The Pakistani boy shows up a few minutes later and reads the same letter and thinks it is from the Indian girl. Both return to their own countries heart-broken.
The next thing that happens is the girl, who is a TV reporter, is holding a cute puppy and doing a fluff piece on the problem of doggie depression. Apparently the cute little canine keeps trying to commit suicide (so, contra Nietzche, God isn't dead- there's just this mentally unbalanced doggie who keeps trying to top itself). The heroine loses her cool. She storms into the TV anchor's office. Instead of fluff pieces about canine schizophrenia, why not do an investigative piece on the God racket? But the Station Anchor had previously tried to take on the fraudulent Godman and got stabbed in his rear end by a Trishul. Bogus Swamis are off limits- one buttock with Trishul stab wounds is one buttock too many. The man has learnt his lesson.
The TV reporter is fascinated by the Alien PK. He turned to God simply so as to get home but soon discovered that the various Religions have totally different ways of approaching God. He is thrown out of the Church for breaking a coconut on the altar. The Muslims chase him away when he attempts to offer wine in the Mosque. The Hindu widow wears white, but so does the Christian bride who explains that black is what widows wear. But the burqa clad women PK next approaches to condole with are furious at the suggestion that their Lord and Master has shuffled off this mortal coil. PK is chased hither and tither by irate members of all the various denominations and sects.

Back in the Fifties and Sixties, Movies would feature a song sequence where the hero bitterly berates the unfeeling stone idol of the Lord. PK harks back to that tradition but only by way of ironic homage. After all, those movies (including the Telugu classic- Sankara Varnam from the late Seventies) were very much in the 'Hubb al Udhri' tradition where Death is what unseals the Lovers to each other. Instead, in PK, another theme from the early Sixties- the love triangle, where the hero gives up the girl and arranges her marriage to another- gains salience. In the climactic televised showdown between PK and the bogus Godman, the Alien gains victory by properly explaining how and why the heroine's marriage to the Pakistani boy-friend failed to come off. It was a case of what the Yoga-Vashishta calls 'Kakathaliya'- coincidence, as when a crow alights on a palm tree just at the moment the ripe palm fruit falls to the ground.
PK the alien has used 'Viveka'- metaphysical discrimination- to provide a natural cause for what appears a super-naturally preordained occurrence. This provides him the means to regain his Jewel 'remote control', yet since his primary purpose was to selflessly benefit the heroine, not to self-interestedly assert a property right, the father of the heroine, previously his bitter enemy, himself places it in his hands. PK gains the means of returning home- not, as in the Gita, so as to never return- but so as to bring back his own people to this 'karma bhoomi' which, for those who act selflessly, is also the highest bhoga-bhumi- there being no higher joy or pleasure than in serving others- i.e. truly serving the Lord.
Aamir Khan is a great patriot as well as an amazing actor/ producer. His TV series 'Satyameva Jayate', though investigating various heart-rending Social Evils, was a smash hit comparable to 'Kaun banega Krorepati?'- 'Who wants to be a Millionaire?'
Aamir, no doubt, is a pious Muslim, incarnating the hadith  'hubb al watan min al iman'- Patriotism is part of the Faith- but PK is a great film from the Hindu perspective.
I am reminded of, the great Nyaya scholar, Jayanta Bhatta's 'Agamadambara'- 'much ado about Religion' ably translated by the Hungarian Scholar Csaba Deszo. Like PK, Bhatta's play is motivated by a Rationalist Transcendentalism. Rational Inquiry, if carried forward fearlessly and without selfish motivation, can indeed so alter one's inner ethos that the highest Gnosis, of a Transcendental type, becomes discoverable. Yet Revealed Truth- according to the various Sects claiming to possess it- appears contradictory and divisive.
In Bhatta's play a brilliant young Mimamsaka 'snatak' (recent graduate) is determined to defend Vedic orthodoxy against all rivals. Yet, during the course of the play, he learns compassion- letting off the Jains- and gives the last word to a Saiddhantika Saivite who re-establishes the Indian consensus that all Religions are univocal in so far as they proclaim true worship as partaking of selfless service to all needy beings. Yes, debauched and fraudulent sectarians making absurd magical claims should be banished or brought under the purview of the Law. But that is a matter of common sense. What is unacceptable is that arrogant and self-serving, holier than thou, polemicists sow the seeds of discord and condemn innocent people on the basis of which sect they were born into.
Religion is not about restricting free choice. It isn't about creating 'karmic obstructers'. On the contrary, as Lord Ganesha's appearance in the film PK shows, it is about helping us see that it is our own egotism which gives power to our 'karmic obstructer'. Compassion, forgiveness and self-sacrifice allow us to triumph over obstacles and 'return home'. However, the true Vaishnav does not want to remain on planet Vaikuntha living in perpetual bliss. He demands that the Lord send him back and assign him the humblest, most onerous, least prestigious tasks in caring for those who so wretchedly suffer they can't even cry out for help or offer thanks for any assistance received.

Ban Doinger's books by the hundred. They are nothing but sensationalized sloppy scholarship. Try to ban PK- an excellent Hindi film which ordinary Hindus, even worthless shitheads like me, find uplifting and wholly in the tradition of 'Agamadambara'- and you raise up a tsunami against yourself.
In any case, the box office has spoken. PK is a smash.
Once again, Aamir, you have made your countrymen proud.









Thursday, 1 January 2015

Global Transitivity & the Rawlsian Social Welfare Function.


The Rawlsian social welfare function uses as its measure of social welfare the utility of the worst-off member of society. The following argument can be used to motivate the Rawlsian social welfare function. Imagine a group of individuals who have not yet entered the economy (they are ‘behind the veil of ignorance’) so do not yet know what position they will occupy. That is, they may become rich members of the economy or poor members. If asked what form of social welfare function they would wish the economy to have- an extremely risk-averse individual would propose the Rawlsian.
(From: Rawlsian social welfare function in A Dictionary of Economics)
Unfortunately there would be no way to work out, from information about their individual preferences- i.e. what they would do with their Liberty- what precisely the Rawlsian outcome would be. In other words, the Liberty Principle applies to nothing. No one's Liberty leads to any change in the imposed Rawlsian solution.
 A stupid person gullible enough to be brain-washed by Rawls might briefly think otherwise but would soon get bored and try to bite her own head off.

Arrow (1963), introducing the possibility that individual preference orderings can impact Social orderings, proved that a Rawlsian Social Welfare Function couldn't use information about individual preferences while also satisfying some apparently reasonable or desirable properties and thus questioned the usefulness of 'ideal theories'- including Rawlsian Jutice-as-Fairness avant la lettre.
One workaround, that of D.G Saari, sees Arrow's approach as throwing away information otherwise available from the notion of global transitivity.
More speculatively, as the engaging John Lawrence writes- 'The fineness or coarseness of the grid on which individuals specify their preference profiles determines the amount of information conveyed. Since this grid is traditionally determined by the number of alternatives, there is no such thing as an irrelevant alternative. The problem of social choice, in general, can be viewed as the transmission of information from multiple sources (the individuals) to one receiver (society). Since there are finite information transmission constraints, there will be some probability of error, P(e), regarding the placement or ranking of alternatives both in individual and social profiles. As individual information is increased, P(e) in the social profile can be made to approach zero as closely as desired.' (Lawrence is invoking Shannon's information theoretic notion of 'channel capacity'.)

'However, no one has considered the individual preference orderings themselves to be probabilistic by virtue of the fact that each individual is allowed to specify only a finite amount of information upon which the SWF must then determine a social preference ordering. The uncertainty with regard to the individual’s “true” preferences (those that would be manifested if infinite information were available) leads to possible errors in the social ordering. We show that the P(e) can be made arbitrarily small by increasing the information flow from the individuals. The fact that P(e) will always be non-zero with finite information constraints coincides with Arrow’s [1963] Impossibility Theorem. Although a SWF that provides a social ordering that has even a single error, in the sense that the ordering doesn’t meet Arrow’s conditions and axioms for one pair of alternatives and one domain element (but provides correct solutions in every other case), would traditionally be considered not to exist, we take the approach of allowing errors in the SWF and then trying to minimize them.'

Saari's approach, as discussed here, soon comes a cropper. However, more generally, by thinking about the cost/benefit aspect of holding preferences or participating in their Aggregation, Ideal-type theory resurfaces as cheap and ambiguous (i.e. Knightian) enough to be an undominatable mixed strategy choice provided Global Transitivity is a Scientific Research Program.
Under these circumstances, the Rawlsian SWF doesn't cash out as some sort of more or less paternalistic compulsory insurance scheme. Instead it becomes information theoretic and organizational in Alan Kirman's sense and thus puts a beating heart back into Samuelson General Equilibrium.

Upali, the barber, saves the Sakya widow.

Upali was a humble barber. Lord Buddha gave him ordination and seniority over aristocratic young monks. How did he justify this revolutionary step?
He told the following story- 'Once, there were two good friends who were poor but kind and always gave alms. One of them was reborn as a king and the other reborn in a noted Brahmin family. The Brahmin married a lovely lady and loved her deeply. Due to some misunderstanding, his wife quarreled with him and did not want to talk to him for quite a long time. One day, his wife asked him to buy some flowers to decorate their house. He was overjoyed to gain back his wife so he sang love-songs on his way home.
'At that time, the king was admiring the view in the palace and he heard the singing of the happy Brahmin. The king sent for the Brahmin and both of them, became good friends.
'The king trusted the Brahmin greatly and the Brahmin became an influential person in the country. He became so famous that the people of that country regarded him as king. But the Brahmin was not contented, he thought of assassinating the king and seizing the throne. But he finally realized his mistakes and repented before the king. Though he was forgiven, he decided to renounce the world. Not long after he renounced the world, he attained miraculous power.
'At that time, there was a barber in the palace. When he heard about the story of the Brahmin from the king, he too vowed to renounce the world and became the disciple of the Brahmin, who was now a saint. The barber too attained miraculous power.
'Both the Brahmin and the barber had attained the state of sainthood, hence one day, when the king paid a visit to the Brahmin, after paying obeisance to the Brahmin, he too made an obeisance to the barber.'
When Buddha finished this story, he identified the Birth, " In those days, the Brahmin was me and Upali was the barber."

In other words, a 'Shudra' barber, like Upali, could gain Enlightenment and a position of the highest respect both under both Brahminism and Buddhism. Furthermore, unlike Jainism, a Buddha could be born either from a Brahmin or a Kshatriya womb.

Interestingly, Upali, the barber was instrumental in the rescue of a Sakya widow who had taken refuge in the Sangha.
The story is as follows- 'In Kapilavatthu, there was a written rule for the Sakya clan, saying that girls of the clan are not allowed to marry to the other clan, otherwise, she would be severely punished.
At that time, there was a young woman whose husband had just passed away. A young woman like her was naturally the focus of many young men's attention. This young widow showed interest in someone but her brother-in-law was interested in her. When she turned down his proposal, he was very angry and vowed to put her to death.
Once, he put a drug in the wine he gave her. The young widow drank it and was drunk. Her brother-in-law beats her and later reported to the government, saying, " She is my wife but she had intimacy with a man from other clan."
The young widow knew she would be executed so she escaped. She came to Sravasti and became a nun.
When the government knew that this young widow was in Sravasti, they wrote a letter to the king of Sravasti requesting him to have the woman arrested and sent to Kapilavatthu.
The king, after receiving this letter, asked his ministers whether it was true that the young widow came to Sravasti.
The ministers replied, "This young widow had escaped to our country but she is now a nun. You had set up a rule that anyone who offended the Brethren and nuns would be severely punished. She is a nun now and no one dares to offend her. So what should we do?"
After careful consideration, the king wrote a letter to the government of Kapilavatthu saying that the young widow has become a nun and according to their rule, nuns could be exempted from punishment.
The government of Kapilavatthu was indignant. When Upali came to know about it, he asked Buddha, "Lord Buddha, can we ordain one who had violated the law?"
"Before the government acquits her, we should not ordain her," replied Buddha.
But the Buddha knowing the young widow has innocent of the crime, did not release her, but at the same time said that the Sangha cannot be used as a refuge for people to escape justice.

Upali was unpopular with the Bretheren because he always asked pertinent questions. His emphasis was on the letter of the law- he saw that Buddhism could become a countervailing Universalistic source of Law to combat the ad hoc Aristocratic rules of petty Princedoms.
Unfortunately,Monastic Religions face 3 quite separate problems-
1) They are an attractive way to hold or gain Wealth. Thus local elites will seek to capture their operations. Thus Monastic Religion ends up reinforcing Aristocracy. At best it can operate like the Jesuit Order. At worst it degenerates into the rule of a Dalai Lama or Bogdh Khan. It has no path to the Universal Rule of Law because the encumbrance of it's own property and privileges militate against this.
2) Either they provide Elite Credentials or else they peddle Popular Magical remedies. In the short term, they can do both. Longer term, this isn't possible because Magic doesn't work. More generally, they need to ration Elite Credentials by Class in order to keep their cachet.
3) Once a tipping point for vernacular  literacy is achieved, Mummies and Daddies do a better job bringing up bright kids than Monks and Nuns. Time spent praying is time wasted. 

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Romila Thapar silencing the Public Intellectual

Sonia Gandhi knew little about the country it fell to her to rule. One of the experts she consulted regularly to remedy her ignorance was Romila Thapar.

Clearly, the distinguished historian was a 'durbari' intellectual- a courtier savant- was she also ever a 'Public Intellectual' like Emile Zola who condemned the injustice done to Dreyfus?
Of course she was. She condemned the imprisonment without trial of a host of Politicians and Trade Unionists and Journalists during the Emergency. Her book 'J'accuse Madam Indira!' was a best seller.
I'm kidding. She wrote no such book.

What she did do was attack the policies of the party opposed to Sonia Gandhi, whom she herself regularly visited and advised.

In this partisan exercise, what helped her was her long history of writing highly communal attacks on one particular type of Religion- Brahmanic as opposed to Shramanic- which she castigated as intolerant and backward. The fact that the other sort- Shramanic Buddhism- was sheer money-grubbing, elitist, misogynistic, casteist  stupidity, special pleading and magical thinking, most of whose practitioners happened to be Brahmin males- she glossed over. Instead, she affirmed that Indian history is only 'communalized' if reference is made to antagonism between Hinduism and Islam. This is because whereas India is now divided between Buddhistan and Vedistan, Muslims live happily with Hindus in places where they are the majority. Thapar, as a Hindu, may be right in saying that Hindus had no antagonism to Muslims- the Muslim population of India is now a higher percentage than at Partition- but she is surely wrong to say that Islam in India wasn't hostile to Hindus.

The facts speak for themselves. Hindus and Christians, but also Muslims deemed insufficiently orthodox, have been either ethnically cleansed or subjected to continuous intimidation, harassment and terror in areas where Muslims are either numerically stronger or feel themselves at an advantage.

For Thapar, the true story of India is one of resistance to stupid and needy Brahmins by less stupid and more greedy Brahmins who decided it paid better to pose as Buddhists. Islam was an irrelevance, except in so far as it killed off all the Hindus, in which case it was actually only avenging Buddhism and thus on the side of the angels.

Thapar explains that 'Buddhism was edged out of India by, among other things, Brahminical orthodoxy. In India, the State of Bihar derives it name from 'Vihara', the term for a Buddhist monastery. What about Naobehar, near Balkh, in Afghanistan? Its name derives from 'New Vihara'.

Who destroyed Buddhism in Balkh? Did Brahmin orthodoxy play a part? Or is it not the case that Viharas in Balkh were destroyed by the same people, for the same reason, as the Viharas of Bihar were destroyed?

Who 'edged Buddhism out' of Afghanistan and Central Asia? Who is edging Christianity out of Iraq and Syria today? Who 'edged out' Hinduism and Sikhism from Pakistan?

It certainly wasn't Islam. Perish the thought! Probably it was neo-liberalism.

Even suppose Lord Buddha was stupid or self-serving enough to commit to the theory given above, was it really the case that 'private property' alone gave rise to 'confusion and conflict'? Was there really never any invasion by an aggressive tribe to be countered? In addition to an elected Magistrate, was it really the case that no Military Chief was required?

Apparently not. Lord Buddha said-
31. 'And, Vasettha, whoever of these four castes, as a monk, becomes an Arahant who has destroyed the corruptions, done what had to be done, laid down the burden, attained to the highest goal, completely destroyed the fetter of becoming, and become liberated by the highest insight, he is declared to be chief among them in accordance with Dhamma, and not otherwise.
 Dhamma's the best thing for people
 In this life and the next as well.
32. 'Vasettha, it was Brahma Sanankamara who spoke this verse:
 "The Khattiya's best among those who value clan;
 He with knowledge and conduct is best of gods and men."
This verse was rightly sung, not wrongly, rightly spoken, not wrongly, connected with
profit, not unconnected. I too say, Vasettha:
 [98] "The Khattiya's best among those who value clan;
 He with knowledge and conduct is best of gods and men."'
Thus the Lord spoke, and Vasettha and Bharadvaja were delighted and rejoiced at his
words.

In the Agganna Sutta, quoted above, the Buddha explains to 2 Brahmin monks why his own caste is superior to theirs, just as their caste is superior to that of the Vaishyas who in turn rank above the despicable Shudras. The argument he uses is foolish and utterly false. It is not true that an 'Abhassara Brahma' world ever existed or that it will exist. The whole thing is a myth- like the Sea of Milk or the Celestial Tortoise or Jesus rising from the Dead. Buddha was a stupid fuckwit who thought sex was bad, eating was bad, and Warriors who can actually fight, Kings who can actually govern- like King Pasenadi- were also bad. He himself, he considered to be very very good because he simply went around telling stupid self-serving lies about his own greatness which was why King Pasenadi had become his disciple.

Thapar's own anti-Brahmin vitriol is perfectly understandable. Like the Buddha, she is a Kshatriya. Her Uncle was a dud as Army Chief. Clearly, her people would have been better off sticking to making money or pretending to be Marxists.  Naturally, possessing neither intelligence nor capacity for learning, she resented the Brahmin reputation for both. Thus, she is not a historian but a victim of her history. Her Punjabi Hindu Khattri ancestors, though good at making money, failed in defending their own homeland. It falls to their obedient daughter to claim that this involved no disgrace since there was never any Islamic threat in the first place. The only evil that existed in India was that of the Brahmins. Since Soniaji, being a foreigner, came to her for 'tuition', she herself had a duty to her Client which she could easily discharge by pretending that Hindutva is some sort of Brahminical conspiracy. The fact that non-Brahmins, like Modi and Amit Shah, have made it attractive to the voter probably has something to do with 'neo-liberalism'. Public Intellectuals have a duty to speak out against it. The fact that 'neo-liberalism' doesn't exist- and that those members of the Public who have intellectual inclinations can easily find this out for themselves- means that Silence is the only valid Parrhesia in this context.

Thapar, speaking of the Silence of the Public Intellectual, so nakedly reveals her own ignorance and stupidity as to stun, if not shame, her audience into silence.