Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Ghalib's 'nah gul-e-naghmah hun nah pardah-e-saaz'

nah gul-e naġhmah hūñ nah pardah-e sāz

maiñ hūñ apnī shikast kī āvāz

tū aur ārāʾish-e ḳham-e kākul

maiñ aur andeshah'hā-e dūr-darāz

lāf-e tamkīñ fareb-e sādah-dilī

ham haiñ aur rāz'hā-e sīnah-gudāz

huu;N giriftaar-e ulfat-e .sayyaad
varnah baaqii hai :taaqat-e parvaaz

vuh bhī din ho kih us sitam-gar se
nāz kheñchūñ bajā-e ḥasrat-e nāz

mujh ko pūchhā to kuchh ġhaẓab nah huʾā
maiñ ġharīb aur tū ġharīb-navāz

asadull;āh ḳhāñ tamām huʾā

ay dareġhā vuh rind-e shāhid-bāz

I'm neither plangent lute nor melody's bloom
But alone the bruit of my own peal of doom

Thou and curls coiffed by, all breathless, the air
I and Damocles' sword that hangs by a hair

Un coeur simple, thou mine self-encrypting boast,
 Art as breast smelting mirror to Venusberg's host!

A dervish is fleet but halt to be held dear
Aflame, the forest, the hunter to draw near

To turn you coquette is my self-ruinous aim
I burn but to burn as candle to your game.

Wretchedness so secure & spreading an Estate
Protector of the Poor! do enquire of my fate

Alas! a Don Juan to his own despite
Asadullah Khan is finished quite.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Recovered memories of sexual abuse by my ex- wife

Continuing my series of harrowing revelations about the infernal fires in which my poetic sinews were forged, I am now willing for the first time to discuss the sexual abuse I suffered at the hands of my ex-wife.
The material I will present is of a highly shocking and upsetting nature and, as such, should not be viewed by anybody.

'Fuck off you work-shy loser!'-my ex would say to me every time I reproached her for sexually abusing me, thus compounding her original crime which was to describe my sculpted Tam  Bram torso as featuring 'fugugly man boobs' reminiscent of her great grand mother's wrinkled dugs as  glimpsed on family beach vacations.

The term 'fugugly',  is the sandhi form of fuck+ugly and hence clearly qualifies as being sexual (id est the employment of the word 'fuck') as well as abusive (ugly- which I'm not at all, it's just you need to view me through like 3D glasses or a blindfold or something. ).

Personally, I blame David Cameron who is perfectly happy to spend millions fighting... urm... whatever in Libya but who remains wholly indifferent to the sexual abuse suffered by Tam Brams, like myself- except ofcourse there is no second Tam Bram like myself- not to mention the terrible racial discrimination I've suffered from members of my family.

Camerono delenda est! That boy aint right.

Friday, 27 May 2011

My harrowing tale of racial discrimination in the U.K

Ever since 1977, when I moved to the U.K, I have experienced horrendous racial discrimination and stereotyping from ignorant and bigoted members of my Tam Bram family.
Mother- 'Just take my purse and spare my life! Oh. It's you Vivek.(Damn, that boy is dark!)"
Father- 'Do you see that fellow walking up the road? There goes the neighborhood! Oh. It's Vivek. (Damn, that boy is dark!)"
Grandmother- 'Aiyayo! idha worru Kaurrupu Vijaykantha ah? Oh. Vivek daan. (Damn, that boy is dark!)'
Elderly Aunty- 'Hey sexy, you wanna Calypso! Oh. It's you Vivek. (Damn, that boy is dark!)"

Now to add insult to injury, I am also having to deal with sexual discrimination by a distant nephew who hosts a portable apps Developers' forum. Having mistakenly added an extra a- turning my name into Viveka- while posting a help request, I suffered the great indignity of having that bigoted little shit of a nephew of mine accuse me of being a blonde air-head of substantial boobage who has no business meddling in Software matters!

Where will it all end? Is there no Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela or Anna Nicole Smith Hazara who can eradicate the twin evils of racial and sexual discrimination towards me from the heads and hearts of my close relatives?

Personally, I blame David Cameron. That boy aint right.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The lost Hylas

 Scarce was I weaned from Business School
When lost to the Naiads of the Typing Pool
Weep for me, heroes of the Argo's crew!
Weep for Hylas who was once as you.

Their Gorgon hair and Harpy nails
& fish for eyes & skin-like scales
Caused all they tease, save me, to fear them.
  My Hercules, then, was Coase's Theorem

'No mine and thine doth Beauty know
'But as Helen breeds in Allan Poe!'
Thus Chicago- my Greece and Rome
Till Nereid airs wrecked my home
Prince! If two Schools you rule, one Salt, one Freshwater
To a Salmacis your son, your Salamis a daughter

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Dr. Mukhtaran Mai- the hopeful face of the female agrarian subatern

Some years ago I read about Dr. Mukhtaran Mai- a girl gang raped on orders of the village council because her little brother was seen playing with a girl from a higher caste and judiciously sodomised for this crime. When his sister tried to intercede she too was raped and then expected to commit suicide. Recently some of her alleged assailants have been acquitted by the Supreme Court. I find this very shocking especially after reading this article by a Western female journalist who investigated the matter- which tells us that the boy was not sodomised, the girl's family had more land and were better connected than that of the man her relatives forced her to 'marry'- though this was a sham marriage- the local custom being to resolve vendettas by handing over a daughter for rape to keep the peace . Dr. Mukhtaran Mai never complained to the police. She was dragged into the matter by a local Imam and put her thumbprint to a f.i.r of whose contents she, being illiterate at the time, remained ignorant.( her Doctorate is from Canada, pro honoris causa).

I think the most shocking aspect of this flagrantly Western woman's article is the allegation that no little boy was sodomized in the cane fields of South Punjab. This is an insult as bad as Obama's raid upon Abbotabad!  Army should take action.
(Not that this exculpates David Cameron. That boy aint right.)

standing upon the shoulders of giants

'In the battle of the books, the internecine quarrel between the ancients and moderns, the one verity whose victory abides is that, as the dwarfish John of Salisbury divinely said, if the midget sees farther 'tis from standing upon a giant's shoulders- but facing the other way and so vigorously pissing in the latter's Cyclopean eye that though a Kant is but the wreck of a Rawls and Plato the merest dregs of a Popper, a drunken Hermeneutics yet ever offer its votaries what disciplined Philosophy wont- videlicet a lifted horizon.'
Rev. Patti Obaweyo Golem

Monday, 23 May 2011

Spivak, Guha and reading Singur as the trajectory of the sodomised subaltern

Often considered the Prolegomenon to a non-Transcendental Critique of Post Colonial Reason, the celestial invagination of Queer Theory by its own apotheosis as Singur begs the foundational problematic of the trajectory of the ex ante sodomised subaltern's contingent heriot liability as boustrephodonic epistemic praxis masquerading as scription- especially the script for 'Cougar Town' which, as I started to tell you in my my last post,  is based on the real-life shenanigans of elderly Mamiyars back in T.Nagar during the early 70's, except you then went and said, enna galatta? everybody knowing already pa! which is why I'm now trying to sex things up a bit by mentioning Ranajit Guha- reigning star of Vienna's Gurtel Road Red Light district (nobody told him Red Light didn't mean Communist Illumination)- and gaining a new audience for my anecdote by linking it to Post Colonial theory.
You what? No I didn't know Homi fucking Bhaba already done a book about it.
Fuck you very very much!
Personally, I blame David Cameron.
That boy aint right.

Rama's samrambha Yoga- the fruit of which was reunion with Seeta.

Samrambha Yoga is known as the path of Wrath which can be more efficacious than any other in achieving Union. This seems counter-intuitive. Surely Love, Mercy, Forgiveness, Compassion and so on are higher than Wrath and present a less risky and more socially beneficial type of Yoga or path to Union?
Let us look at a situation where Samrambha Yoga proved its worth, paving the way for the universally desired re-union of Lord Rama and Seeta Devi after the overthrow of Ravavana.
Valmiki tells us about Ram's emotional state-
Verse Locator
taamaagataamupashrutya rakShogR^ihachiroShitaam |
harSho dainyaM cha roShashcha trayaM raaghavamaavishat || 6-114-17
17. upashrutya= hearing; taam aagataam= that Seetha had arrived; rakShogR^iha chiroShitaam= after living long in the abode of a demon; raaghavam= Rama; aavishat= was filled; harShaH= with jo; roShashcha= indignation; dianyam= and felt miserable (too); trayam= all the three (at once).
'Hearing that Seetha had arrived after living long in the abode of a demon, Rama was filled with joy, indignation and felt miserable too all the three emotions at the same time.'
This mixture suggests heteronomous love- such as that of the child overwhelmed by the return of the mother whom nevertheless renewed rancour at the reminder of separation and the cruel maw of the misery of abandonment simultaneously lacerates and tears apart.

Yet Valmiki does not use the word anger as being part of that mix. Ram's wrath awakens for a different reason and he paces the path of Samrambha Yoga for a purpose wholly different.
saMrabdhashchaabravIdraamashchakShuShaa pradahanniva |
vibhIShaNaM mahaapraaGYaM sopaalambhamidaM vachaH || 6-114-25

25. raamaH= Rama; samrabdhaH cha= enraged as he was; chakShuShaa pradahanniva= with his looks as though burning; abraviit= spoke idam vachaH= the follwoing words; sopaalambham= with a reproach; mahaapraajJNam vibhiiShaNam= to the highly intelligent Vibhishana.
(The enraged Rama, consuming the demons with his looks as it were, Rama spoke the following reproaching words to the highly intelligent Vibhishana)

What provoked Rama's samrambha (anger) and caused him to reproach his virtuous client and ally?

At Rama's request, the King of the demons, Vibhishana, had brought Queen Seeta to the audience chamber. Thinking that protocol demanded the chamber be cleared of the bears and monkeys and demons who were milling about, Vibhishana and his retinue proceeded to throw them out roughly. This mistreatment of his own  people incensed Rama and set him on the path of Samrambha.
He reproved Vibhishana saying-
vyasaneShu na kR^ichchhreShu na yuddhe na svayaM vare |
na kratau no vivaahe cha darshanaM duShyate striyaH || 6-114-28
28. stiyaaH= A woman; darshanam= becoming visible; vyasaneShu= in times of a clamity; na duuShyate= is not condemned; na= nor; kR^ichchheShu= in battles; svayamvare= in self-choosing of a husband by a princess at a public assemly of suitors; na= nor; kratua= in sacrificial ceremonies; na vaa= nor; vivaahe= in marriage functions.
"A woman becoming visible to public in times of a calamity is not condemned in difficult situations, nor in battles, nor in self-choosing of a husband by a princess at a public assembly of suitors, nor in sacrificial ceremonies nor in marriage-functions."
saiShaa yuddhagataa chaiva kR^ichchhre mahati cha sthitaa |
darshane.asyaa na doShaH syaanmatsamIpe visheShataH || 6-114-29
29. saa eShaa= the yonder Seetha; vipadgataa chaiva= is in distress; sthitaa= and beset; mahati= with a great; kR^ichchhre= difficulty; naasti= there is no; doShaH= fault; ayaaH darshane= in her becoming visible in public; visheShaataH= particularly; matsamiipe= in my presence.
"The younder Seetha is in distress and beset with a great difficulty. There is no fault in her appearance in public, particularly in my presence."
visR^ijya shibikaaM tasmaatpadbhyaamevopasarpatu |
samiipe mama vaidehiiM pashyantvete vanaukasaH || 6-114-30
30. tasmaat= that is why; upasarpatu= let her come; padbhyaameva= on foot alone; utsR^ijya= leaving; shibikaam= the palanquin; vanaukasaH= let these monkeys; pashyantu= see; vaidehiim= Seetha; mama samiipe= in my presence.
"That is why, let her come on foot alone, leaving the palanquin there. Let these monkeys see Seetha in my presence."

Notice, Rama on the brink of being re-united with Seeta, did so under the condition and in the mode of 'samrambha' or wrath. This wrath arose out of mistreatment of his own people who were not considered worthy to look upon Seeta Devi- who is our very own Mother and can never be denied to us by officials with staves in their hands beating us 'stupid monkeys' during Processions of the Deity in the name of Public Order and Seemliness.
However samrambha (wrath) can not be disassociated with fear. The Samrambha Yogis- like Ravana, Putana etc- had their minds concentrated on the Lord from fear of the goodness and innocence that has power to destroy evil doers even if incarnate in our feeble and contemptible human form.
If Ram's anger is at our being excluded from the vision of Seeta Ma, this anger goes hand in hand with fear. Fear of what? 
pashyatastaaM tu raamasya samiipe hR^idayapriyaam |
janavaadabhayaadraajJNo babhuuva hR^idayaM dvidhaa || 6-115-11
11. hR^idayam= the heart; raajJNaH raamasya= of King Rama; pashyataH= as he saw; taam= Seetha (hR^idaya priyaam= the beloved of his heart); samiipe= near him; babhuuva dvidha= was torn; janavaada bhayaat= for fear of the talk of the public.
The heart of King Rama, as he saw Seetha, (the beloved of his heart) near him, was torn for fear of what people might say or how people talk.

Thus, we may conclude, there is a special beatitude attaching to a Samrambha Yoga based on wrath that common folk are being debarred from sharing in the Unqualified Good, provided that wrath is mediated by a chastening fear that the free and public discourse of those same people might, in the process, so to speak, seize upon the wrong end of the stick.

In Rama's case, not only does he get Seeta back but also his father and all the monkeys slain in the War they had fought for his sake.

One final point- Rama in his cruel remarks to Seeta suggests she choose Lakshman or Bharata or Vibhishana and live happily. This parallels his comment to Surpanakha that she may kindly take Lakshmana as a husband..

There is reciprocity between Creator and Creature, vyatihaaraha, vishinshanthi hiitaravatas Brahma Sutra (3.3.37) states, because both agree to be bound by this sort of ironic karma or universalization of individual love compacts into an imperishable, for perfectly Just, Civilization and Cosmos in which all relate to all on the basis of that same principle.

Cougar town- Chennai style!

How many people know that the Courtney Cox vehicle 'Cougar town' was based almost entirely upon the real life comic misadventures of elderly Mamiyars on the prowl in T. Nagar back in the 70's?

What? Everybody knows? Awkward!  But hang on a tick- how about I just go ahead and finish this hilarious post and you don't actually read it but like email it to new born babies in Mozambique or Patagonia or some thing. What? You already have an iPhone app which does precisely that?

Well, fuck you very much!
Personally, I blame David Cameron. That boy aint right.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Collingwood, Itihasa and the Geeta as event.

If Itihasa is correctly and intensionally translated as history, what sort of theory of History, in Collingwood's sense, do the 2 great Itihasas, i.e. the Ramayana & Mahabharata, commit non-Puranic Hindus to?

For reasons of tractability, let us narrow the scope of the question to the Mhb alone. If, as I believe, its system of symmetries conserves karma and dharma, a further gain is made in that two sorts of 'actions done by reasonable agents in pursuit of ends determined by their reason' become salient- viz. intentional states as dramatized or articulated on the one hand and the game theoretic pay-off matrix or strategic menu facing the agent at that moment.
This is quite different from Gadamer's notion that the meaning of a text has nothing to do with the intention of the author. In the case of the MhB, you have a history that is not empirical but which nevertheless fits Collingwood's formula as being real history in the sense of being history of mind and both intentionally and intensionally so.

The Gita, as the epoche of the Mhb, but also Res Gestae of the gravamen of casteism, in my view, does not however have multiple meanings and no single truth rather it is an event- something empirical and belonging to first order discourse as under the sign of causality not reason.
The nature of this event- a chapter from Darwin's Natural History of God- uniting the name of Collingwood to that of Godel under the rubric of the Ontological Proof- or suicide note as weapon of self-slaughter- is, of course, no fit subject for a blog published virginibus puerisque. . 

Saturday, 21 May 2011

M.N Roy vs. Tan Yun Shan

M.N Roy was a Bengali revolutionary sent to America by Bagha Jatin to procure arms and recruits for the overthrow of the British. While in America, Roy became a founder member of the Mexican Communist party. Later, welcomed by Lenin to the U.S.S.R, Roy achieved international fame as the the Comintern agent tasked with fomenting an agrarian revolution in China- a thankless job which earned him the well merited ire of the Chinese Communists and exposed Roy to the danger of being purged in a show trial back in Moscow.  Jail in British India being preferable to Stalin's Gulags, Roy abandoned doctrinaire Communism for a progressive humanism of the sort that appealed to Nehru, Bose, J.P and so on.. He died in 1954 already disillusioned with politics but still believing that it could be reconstituted as a sphere where men of the stamp of Tiger Jatin might yet flourish.

Tan Yun Shan, eleven years younger than Roy, was a Chinese scholar who came to India under the spell of Rabindranath Tagore and became one of the ornaments of Shantiniketan. His uniqueness was that he enjoyed good personal relations with Gandhi, Nehru, Indira as well as Mao and Chou En Lai. A man of extraordinary spirituality, he was close to the Dalai Lamas and made an unrivaled contribution to Buddhism in India as well as overseas.

In mentioning these two great men who could have served as a bridge between India and China, the question arises as to whether relations between the two countries could have turned out differently. More specifically, focusing solely on Bengal, whether Partition, vitiated the role that Bengali Communists like Roy, or Chinese scholars like Tan who had become Bengali (his daughter stood first at Uni in Bengali and took a PhD in the subject) could have played in finding a solution to the Tibetan question which would have been beneficial to its people and enabled its neighbors to enjoy ever improving relations on the basis of its peace and prosperity.

I'm kidding.

Tan Yun Shan saw his beloved Shantiniketan turn into a Govt. funded University. But he didn't lose heart. He had a religious project in Bodh Gaya to dedicate himself to. Not even the Secular Scientific Socialists can discover a way of Nationalizing the Buddha- something Tagore would have understood.
M.N.Roy, too, didn't die an utterly futile death. He came back to India, did his porridge- he got 6 years, the Brits were clearly better chaps than the Bolsheviks- and didn't become a Minister or even an M.L.A.
Thus he kept faith with Tiger Jatin and died without shaming that higher type of humanity which the ever burgeoning sphere of Politics has rendered utterly extinct.
For which I personally blame David Cameron
That boy aint right.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Prof. Jonathan Parry's breakthrough in Gramscian Sociology

In 1994 there was a strike at the (Govt. owned) Bhilai Steel Plant in India. Production went up. Why? because persistent absentees realized this was the one day they had to show up for work or have their pay docked.
How does this relate to Gramsci or Polanyi? I still don't know though I've just read a highly entertaining essay by Prof. Jonathan Parry, of the LSE, titled 'Sociological Marxism' in Central India- Gramsci, Polanyi and the case of the Unions' from which I was able to glean the handy little tip for raising productivity in the Public Sector mentioned in the last paragraph.
Of course, as an LSE alumni myself, I need hardly add that I perfectly understand why Prof. Parry mentions,  in the title of his essay,  two silly arses- Gramsci and Polanyi (not the chemist but his idiot brother)- whose shite is an essential component of a truly sustainable and authentic Indian bahishkrit samaj (socially excluded) activist lifestyle.
This is because Gramsci's tatti has proven hygienic properties and is used
1) to clean and disinfect the floor of  the dwellings of engaged Professors and Social Entrepreneurs
2)  when made into cakes and dried in the sun, Gramscian dung is an inexpensive kitchen fuel and lends a unique flavour and aroma to roti (Indian flat bread).cooked upon it.
3) Gramscian anal slurry has thermal insulating properties and is mixed with mud for use as a building material for huts
4) Gramscian 'gobar gas' (methane) generates electricity for laptop, iPhone, vibrator, etc.

Polanyi's urine, on the other hand, also has some marvellous properties. This is because he took the piss out of English history (his analysis of the Speenhamland system is hilarious) something rotten. However, Prof. Parry has just thrown his name in out of a sense of mischief because Polanyi worship is not mandated by Civil Society for hegemonic use of subaltern alterity for sustainable Gender and Development within a secular, scientific, socialist framework regulated by the twin principles of sarvodaya and mamata bannerjee.

Mind it, kindly!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Syed Ali Gilani- the new Quaid-e-Azam

A correspondent writes- 'Syed Ali Gilani's ringing condemnation of the American assassination of Shahid Osama La Deen has catapulted him to the position of the Quaid-e-Azam to the Age. Just as Muhammad Ali Jinnah created Pakistan (the Pak in Pakistan stands for Purity as in 'land of the Pure' but also Punjab-Afghania-Kashmir) so too will the great Kashmiri separatist, Syed Ali Gilani create a Kakaistan (for Kashmir-Afghania-Karachi-Arundhati Roy(who has already seceded from India)) to be carved out of the territory of Pakistan and India- both of which have pusillanimously bent the knee to America and signally failed to protect the great Martyr of the Age.'

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Impossibility of a non hegemonic capabilities approach.

Amartya Sen's 'Capabilities' approach to Welfare Econ, is an attempt to free the notion of 'rational scrutiny' from  
Gramscian hegemony in its widest sense. What this means is that Sen is still doing ideal state Rawlsian shite but allowing for a phenotypal polymorphism of preferences able to generate additions to both the 'general facts' as well as menu of theories of Justice which Rawls permits his little puppets in the 'original situation'.

Typically, Sen adds some distinctions without a difference and shifts goal posts and confuses the issue so as to make himself both un-operationalizable and holier than fucking thou and your big brother and your fucking six foot dad who is like totally gay- check out the way he cleans the car- and like, I was born in Shantinekan yo! Big ups for the Nobel laureate say what what?

Why is Sen Capability crap?

It's either shite or non shite. Suppose it's non-shite. In that case Sen-a-pods will be hegemonic re. acceptable methodology for establishing what constitutes 'rational scrutiny' and can generate the agent's Capability calculus.

Not a problem if everybody could just download it and reconfigure their cognitive wet-ware to optimize the operation. In which case an empirical test could be made. The Capabilites approach would need no bully pulpits. It wouldn't be Gramscian, in the sense of empowering a class of shite academo-bureaucratic cunts.

But coz Capabilites is about second guessing- that too with no reflexivity which don't cash out as pi-jaw- it will always do so.

Hence a non-hegemonic Capabilities approach is a mirage.

Which don't mean to say Sen-a-pods don't work a treat on intellectual anal retentives whose highly compacted faeces haven't already combined to constitute this fucking Fascist availability cascade- or shit storm- thanks to which, in India, the starving we shall always have with us.

Unless, Narendra Modi becomes P.M or something equally scandalous.

Urdu and English- an allegorical quatrain

Mourning a green Urdu soul under grey English skies
Not monsoonal windows, her memorious wet eyes
Merely evidence rising damp so the Council rehouse
My mothless lamp and her work-shy spouse.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Tere chashm-e-nam- a poem

Tere chashm-e-nam

Your wet eyes
are not the monsoonal windows
Of your green Urdu soul under gray English skies
Rather they are evidence of Rising Damp
Regarding which
This is my letter to the Council
Supporting your application
For re-housing.

Reminding them of your little boy with asthma
And  your 12 year old daughter who couldn't invite for a sleep-over
Her friends from School because the wall paper in her bedroom is peeling off
And there's this smell
Which brings me to the great pile of shite you married
Whom, I know, I promised not to mention
But, seriously, are you're really telling me he's now signed off work?
The fucker is ten years younger than me!
Rheumatoid fucking arthritis?
Are you shitting me?
You worked the Night Shift four years stacking shelves
To get him a visa?
The work-shy cunt!

Fuck, yeah, your rising damp
Sure is a scandal
The Council should take action.
Not that they'll do anything
Unless you're Nigerian
Or Lesbian
Or something.
Personally, I blame David Cameron
That boy aint right.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

real cause of first world war

Kaiser Wilhelm II, pictured above, was jealous of Lord Kitchener's mustache. 'Pull my finger' he said on meeting our more than mortally hirsute hero at Bucking Palace . Kitchener, remembering that the querulous Kraut was the grand-son of Queen Victoria, reluctantly complied. But the Kaiser failed to reciprocate. This meant War.

Kitchener with his finger un-pulled, but still defiantly pointing (a posture he rigorously maintained till it resulted in his untimely death in 1916) is pictured below.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Mossad conspiracy to replace my toothpaste with a product identical in every respect but only 97% as effective in fighting plaque.

There are several reasons to hate Israel, but, for non-Palestinians, only one good one- viz. that Mossad breaks into our homes every night for no better purpose than to replace our toothpaste with a product identical in every respect but only 97% as effective in fighting plaque. To make this very simple point is not evidence of Anti-Semitism nor does it amount to a ringing endorsement of Adolf Hiter's moustache.
I suppose now I've come out and broken omerta on this subject, I will immediately find myself the target of the shadowy cabal  that secretly controls the Banks and the Media and the Military Industrial Complex- I refer of course to the Muppets. Except Miss Piggy. She's all right. It's the others who work all the mischief.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

The Bhagvad Geeta and Binmore's Evolutionary Game Theory

This is Prof. Ken Binmore on the application of game theory to moral and political science. 'The most important result in this context is the folk theorem of repeated game theory, which roughly says that any stable outcome a society can achieve with the help of an external enforcement agency (like a King and his army, or God) can also be achieved without any external enforcement at all in a repeated game, provided the players are sufficiently patient and have no secrets from one another.  Game theorists take the view that a self-policing social system must be a Nash equilibrium in which each player is simultaneously making a best reply to the strategy choices of the other players. No single player then needs to be coerced, because he is already doing as well for himself as he can. We think that even authoritarian governments need to operate a Nash equilibrium in the repeated game of life played by the society they control if they are to be stable, because popes, kings, dictators, generals, judges, and the police themselves are all players in the game of life, and so cannot be treated as external enforcement agencies, but must be assigned roles that are compatible with their incentives just like the meanest citizen. In brief, the game theory answer to quis ipsos custodes custodiet is that we must all guard each other.
To this insight, my own work adds a game-theoretic approach to our understanding of fairness norms (Binmore [2005]). The folk theorem tells us that there are many efficient Nash equilibria in the repeated games of life played by human societies. This was true in particular of prehuman hunter-gatherer societies. Evolution therefore had an equilibrium selection problem to solve. The members of such a foraging society needed to coordinate on one of the many Nash equilibria in its game of life---but which one? I believe that our sense of fairness derives from evolution’s solution to this equilibrium selection problem. That is to say, metaphysics has nothing to do with fairness---if evolution had happened upon another solution to the equilibrium selection problem, we would be denouncing what we now call fair as unfair.
I go on to argue that our sense of fairness is like language in having a genetically determined deep structure that is common to the whole human race. I then give reasons why one should expect this deep structure to be captured by Rawls’ original position. The question then arises as to whether Rawls [1972] or Harsanyi [1977] are correct in their opposing analyses of rational bargaining in the original position. With the external enforcement assumed by both, the answer is that Harsanyi’s utilitarian conclusion is correct. Without external enforcement of any kind (so that there are no Rawlsian “strains of commitment” at all), I come up with something very close to Rawls’ egalitarian conclusion. That is to say, although Harsanyi’s analysis was better than Rawls’, but Rawls had the better intuition.
My analysis of our sense of fairness will doubtless be thought naïve by future scholars, but it is hard to conceive of a future approach that will not have a similar game-theoretic foundation.'

Evolutionary Game Theory of Prof. Binmore's sort is or was of more than evanescent interest, intersecting as it did with much hyped 'results' from Behavioural Economics and Primate Ethology and occurring in the visitor's lounge of Western Political Philosophy's Twilight Home as represented by the ludicrous lucubrations of shit-heads like Rawls and Nozick who did not understand that the concept of a contract- and hence the 'Social Contract'- differs from the concept of a relationship- or set of relationships constituting a Society- precisely by being a lottery and anti-social, purely for that reason, in direct proportion to its extent and degree of indefeasibility.

With our present chastened understanding of why systemic risk management amplifies catastrophic shocks, and how a credentialist crisis can make availability cascades so ubiquitous as to have all the appearance of a Revolution, all the more velvet for witless, with the end of 'the Great Moderation', not to speak of the the end of 'the end of History', the fundamental Kantian problematic re. demarcating heteronomy from an autonomy founded upon a reciprocal and fundamentally egalitarian Enlightenment-as-freedom has become suddenly more salient with the result that it is now the turn of the Whigs to find the idea of Evolution  unsettling.
This is because the empirical existence of polymorphism w.r.t (Kantian) reciprocal notions of morality and freedom raises the question of whether this is merely phenotypal- perhaps with environmental triggers, in which case ensuring a homogenous developmental ontogeny might re-establish an essential monomorphism, or else it is stochastic arising out of a mixed Evolutionarily Stable Strategy.
Moran (1992) has suggested that competition between kin millitates for this result as a way of 'hedging bets' so to speak.

The Whig theory of History can incorporate both the environmental trigger scenario - perhaps by invoking a mimetic to drive convergence of ontogenetic environments- as well as the mixed strategy theory- in the latter case by seeking to specify what that precise mixture might be and then concentrating on mechanism design such that it bestows prescriptivity on its own project.
The alternative- viz. to admit genetic polymorphism as responsible for innate differences in notions of morality and, its Kantian reciprocal, freedom  - forces Whiggery to cash out as either a hierarchical special-pleading or else a nihilsm or panalethia. Which, being au fond a De Maistrean theory of sacrifice, Whiggery can live with because only its vitality of life, not its virulence of legitimacy, is lost thereby.
Consider this eloquent extract from the Sage of Konisberg's  'Differences in National characteristics, so far as they depend on the distinct feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime'
'A despairing man is always a strict master over anyone weaker, just as with us that man is always a tyrant in the kitchen who outside his own house hardly dares to look anyone in the face.  Of course, Father Labat reports that a Negro carpenter, whom he reproached for haughty treatment toward his wives, answered: "You whites are indeed fools, for first you make great concessions to your wives, and afterward you complain when they drive you mad."  And it might be that there were something in this which perhaps deserved to be considered; but in short, this fellow was quite black from head to foot, a clear proof that what he said was stupid.'
Rawls, speaking of the difference principle (by which only those departures from equality of outcome are permitted which benefit the worst off), points out that 'least advantaged' is not a (Kripke) rigid designator always picking out, say, women rather than men, whites rather than blacks, British rather than Indians, across all possible worlds. However, the elementary theory of price and service provision discrimination explains how the difference principle militates for racism and sexism because these are cheap ways to segment the market (i.e. they are barriers that are very costly to get around but very cheap to enforce) such that a good or service with very high fixed costs which might not otherwise be provided becomes available. In other words, in deciding who to listen to, who gets 'voice'- 'loyalty' and 'exit' (Hirschman)- Rawls's Kantianism is always gonna be saying stuff like 'the fellow was quite black from head to foot, a clear proof that what he said was stupid', unless this involves a risk of having the shit kicked out of you, in which case the safest thing is to pretend you're a Mathematical Economist or Post Modern or incarnate some other such oxymoron.

Before embracing so odious an outcome, and bearing in mind Moran's suggestion that kin rivalry might catalyse a stochastic polymorphism- such that kin-folk with different conceptions of morality clash to the extent of violating Hamilton's rule- the Indian Mahabharata, an early Iron Age Epic redacted in the Axial Age, might be worth examining as it deals with an epoch changing war between cousins- as trivial in conception and catastrophic in its consequences as the Kaiser's War and the further conflagrations to which it gave rise. Moreover, the Mhb makes explicit mention of Probability and Game Theory as being sciences that need to be mastered for a man, already of the highest moral and empathic character,  to rise above heteronomy and rule as a Just King.  Another, related Epic, the Ramayana, deals with a King of an even higher type whose 'Ramrajya' (rule of King Rama) dispenses, at least in its idealized form, even with Rawlsian 'strains of commitment'- i.e. a pre-existing  internalized consensus or set of norms- instead relying upon the agent with greater autonomy to always choose such that the more heteronomous agent's choices are valorized in a manner intended to effect the up-liftment of the latter.

The Indian Mahabharata, is an artificial environment where all agents and interactions have a dual such that the entire corpus conserves, as if by Noether's theorem, karma  and dharma- the first of which relates to the manner in which, under repeated games, coalition membership (caste status) as well as stochastic shocks are  serially determined such that the agent's preferences and outcomes change radically in each birth. The second notion, dharma- duty or religion has to do with correct conduct, entitlements and obligations as well as notions of fairness and just proceeding which can either be agent or coalition specific or 'paro dharma' (higher righteousness) i.e Universal and context free.

The Bhagvad Gita is a chapter within the Mahabharata dealing with the theophany of Lord Vishnu to Prince Arjuna in the context of the latter's 'vishada' (mental depression, aboulie). The dual of Vishnu's theophany in the Gita, is that of Lord Shiva in the episode known as the Kiratarjuniya. Briefly, in the latter, Lord Shiva, in the form of a tribal chief, disputes with Arjuna the question of whose arrow actually felled a boar and the issue is resolved by main force. Shiva is more powerful than Arjuna and able to seize his Gandiva bow. Arjuna realizes this is the Supreme Lord and seeks his blessing.  The Gita deals with the opposite situation. Here the Supreme Lord, in the form of Lord Krishna, seeks to persuade Arjuna that any arrow that he lets fly at his enemies (including those directed at his eldest brother, Karna, to whom, if Karna choose to make his true parentage known, Arjuna would owe a duty of obedience) do not actually slay anything. All are slain by the Lord alone. In other words, both Shiva and Krishna are telling Arjuna the same thing- neither the guilt nor the reward of his arrow's hitting the mark belong to him- but the methods used are different. Shiva succeeds by besting the warrior prince in a physical fight- something Arjuna can immediately grasp. Krishna however delivers a long philosophical discourse- this is the substance of the Geeta- and it is not clear that Arjuna really retains anything of it in his head.

How does Game Theory come into this?

Well, by the MhB's system of symmetries, if Arjuna's vishada (depression) is addressed than somewhere else, someone else's vishada must be addressed. Whose? And where?

The first thing we might note, in seeking an answer to this, is that Arjuna's 'dual' appears to be Karna. The pathos of the Geeta is that Arjuna senses that he is about to commit a terrible crime in fighting his kinsfolk. He does not know that Karna is his eldest brother and that by killing him he will commit a sin equal to parricide. Krishna is in a difficult position. His message in the Geeta is 'act dispassionately', yet he will himself egg on Arjuna, by awaking his manyu (dark anger or sense of grievance) to kill Karna in an unsporting manner.

By the Mahabharata's system of symmetries- its 'double entry book-keeping heuristic' so to speak- if Krishna eggs on Arjuna to kill Karna by awaking his dark anger, then there should be another episode where Arjuna, in wrath, seeks to slay the person he thinks is his eldest brother-viz. King Yuddhishtra. In that episode Krishna gets Arjuna to redirect his wrath into words- Krishna tells Arjuna to utter a condign criticism of his elder brother, for to humiliate a man is to inflict a sort of 'Social death' upon him. Arjuna does this so as not to break his vow (to seek to kill the one who demands he surrender his emblematic Gandiva bow) but then feels so wretched he wants to kill himself. Krishna tells him that dharma is subtle, none understand it, the correct thing to do now is to utter an accurate description of one's own great merits- for to praise oneself, or show one's true greatness, is to slay oneself. Arjuna complies. After this, he humbly begs forgiveness from King Yuddhishtra and persuades him to continue to rule over the fortunes of their house.

The important point here- perhaps too obvious to be spelled out- is that Krishna's theophany in the Geeta was a type of self-slaying, a Christ-like sacrifice, for the purpose of assuring his devotees that the Lord takes on the sins of his devotees and pays the price for them. From the point of view of Faith, this is the meaning of the Geeta. Game theory, mechanism design, the evolution of notions of fairness and Justice and their application to the sort of Social Order we might choose behind a Rawlsian veil of ignorance and other such secular considerations appear to have no importance to reading the Geeta.

If, lacking Faith, we nevertheless persist, seeking to read the Geeta with the aid of its dual, the Kiratarjunia,  we find that dharma is indeed subtle, as Krishna says, and beyond the ken of Faith alone.
Why is this? Well, in both texts, Arjuna is bested by a sort of 'shock and awe' that God commands. Yet, taken together, both texts serve to whip up thymotic rage for an inhuman purpose. Shiva, in essence, challenges Arjuna to a fight by enraging him. The Destroyer God normally grants a boon to an ascetic not for the purpose of making him puissant above all others but, by giving full reign to his egotism or hubris, to cause the ascetic to destroy himself by a heinous transgression which Vishnu (the Preserver God's) avatar will punish. However, in the Kiratarjunia this motif is reversed. Shiva distracts Arjuna from his austerities by provoking him to a fight. The boon he grants does not destroy Arjuna himself but is part of a wider plan to   greatly decimate the entire warrior class to which Arjuna belonged. Similarly, the Geeta, despite all its fine philosophy, serves the purpose of bringing about Arjuna's killing of his eldest brother while in a state of dark anger. In other words, both tell us only about heteronomous conceptions of dharma- actions required of a mortal for purposes beyond his ken.

In contrast, a quite different tack is taken in the portion of the MhB which deals with the vishada of King Yuddhishtra- who as the head of his house is a principal rather than an agent- and who is the incarnation of 'Dharma' (Righteousness).

Yuddhistra is something approaching the ideal moral being. Previously, he had been given the choice of saving the life of one of his brothers. Instead of choosing the strongest or the most able, he chose one who had a different mother so that both maternal lineages might be preserved. This, by itself, throws a light upon Harsanyi's 'rule utilitarianism' notion that ethical decisions require a sort of impersonality such as would arise from not knowing in whose shoes one might find oneself.  Yet, one already fills a certain pair of shoes and can't envisage a Universe in which that particular view point is not valorized. There is a sort of Anthropic principle at work here or, at the level of probability distributions, a Monty Hall type Problem. Impersonality can't be truly self-abnegating, at least not consistently, otherwise no calculus could be derived.

Can impartiality of this type be truly ethical if it forecloses the option of self-abnegation?
Yes, if 'fairness' is vector, not scalar- if, as Binmore says, it is structured like a language, then it is a necessarily a Bakhtinian heteroglossia- referencing a set of compossible evolutionary stable strategies.
However, there is a sort of Newcombe's problem type situation here which also inheres in the Kantian categorical imperative. Referencing Nozick's- 'Judge Hercules' who can always re-interpret in a harmonious manner the whole body of the Law such that it's fabric suffers no tear of wrinkle- we might say that we would always want our choice to have this quality. But to seek to conform to the prediction of Newcombe's oracle or Judge Hercules's ruling in the Court of the Kantian Categorical Imperative- even absent any factor militating for heteronomy- is nevertheless to feel a curb placed upon one's free will. The poisoned chalice placed before us which, as with Kavka's toxin, we drain so 'Thy Will, Lord, not mine, be done' turns out to be the only way to evade the death sentence of heteronomy.

Returning to Yuddhishtra deciding which one of his brothers to revive- if he is to be impartial, surely he should toss a coin, after all, each of his brothers has an equal right to live and ought to command an equal portion of his love. In particular, to ordain of a pair of twins that one should live to mourn the other, appears the opposite of rule-utilitarian 'impersonality' in that, it may be, this maximizes the bereavement for the survivors while simultaneously minimizing the fighting ability of the depleted band of brothers. No doubt the Just King will derive a sense of inflated pride by this deliberate choosing of the worst possible outcome, but what of the other brother? Suppose it is easier for Yuddhishtra to make tough 'ethical' decisions of this sort than it would be for the other. Suppose further that the survivor of the (presumably identical) twins, by reason of Hamilton's rule (kin selection), knows that Yuddhistra's gift to him of his life would not be one who could have as easily reciprocated- then the Just King's fairness ethic is not symmetric and thus all the more unfair.

Survivor's guilt has been maximised merely so an insufferable prig can plume himself.  In other words Yuddhishtra has made a decision for the group which is not a canonical solution to the co-ordination problem here- viz. what choice would be 'natural' and thus cause the least resentment as being what any of the other guys would have done had they had to choose. It appears, hence, that the Just King makes the worst possible decision but since, in this instance, the game was 'loser takes all', purely by chance, Yuddhishtra gets back all his brothers.

This King is depicted as having one besetting vice- gambling fever. His elder brother, Karna, is unreasonably generous- but it is a noble fault. Not once, but twice (because everything in the MhB happens twice), Yudhhishtra gambles everything away- including himself, his brothers and their common wife.

The fact that the gambler Yuddhishtra is described as the incarnation of Dharma even before he learns Probability and Game Theory, thus becoming an expert gambler, has puzzled Indian readers.

True, this may be seen as simple 'hamartia' (the tragic flaw in an otherwise noble personality which makes for good drama) or it may be that in a hierarchical Society where slavery exists it is only fair that the King and his beloved brothers and wife (with whom he shares everything) take their turn at the hazard of ending up at the bottom of the heap. As Binmore points out, Rawls and Harsanyi arrive at opposite conclusions as to what will happen from behind the veil of ignorance based on the constraints they place on the preferences of the idealized rational agents assumed for the exercise.

Yet, if Yuddhishtra is truly rational, the question arises as to why he does not abandon Caste based Dharma for something like Moh Tzu's mix of pragmatic utilitarianism coupled with a Creedal deontology of Universal Love?

Perhaps, belief in the karma theory precludes this outcome.  Lifting all constraints on preferences and world-views behind the Rawlsian veil, however, has the result that no way remains to rule out in advance that what will ultimately be chosen is not Borges's 'Lottery in Babylon'- where anything can happen to anybody. Indeed, if the agents believe in metempsychosis, Borges's Lottery dominates all other solutions!

However, those theodicies or spiritual traditions which have embraced this outcome sooner or later explicity come out and say that both karma (metempsychosis) and dharma (righteousness) are empty and have no ontological significance.

Indeed, the problem with the doctrine of God as the sole efficient cause is that it tends to render the Godhead an irrelevance from the human point of view. Fatalism of this sort cashes out as thymotic hedonism. If only our emotions are ours, not our actions, indulge them to your heart's content!

Ghazali's occassionalism puts the Ghazal universe on precisely this insane trajectory. The notion that emotions- as Darwinian algorithms of the limbic system- have evolved because of their adaptiveness in decision making, signaling, preference revelation and so on is thrown out of the window. No Society could last very long embracing such a doctrine.

Yuddhishtra's vishada (depression) arises in the following manner. He feels compelled to agree to every game of dice to which he is challenged. Since the other side have a skilled gamester on their team, Yuddhishtra always loses. Yet he firmly believes he and his brothers should be given something- even a small share- of the ancestral patrimony. He is prepared to fight and shed blood to maintain his rights in this respect. But, as his brother Bhima warns, what is the point of his winning back their share of the Kingdom if he just dices it away again? Bhima is duty bound to obey his elder brother but, since it appears that his elder brother has an addiction and thus lacks competency, Bhima proposes to kill of all the enemies himself and then crown Yuddhisthra, taking all the guilt for so doing upon himself.
However, this itself is a departure from the path of righteousness. Yuddhistra is caught in a double bind. His hamartia is the source of his heteronomy. Fortunately, just as Arjuna's Vishada is dispelled by a divine discourse, so too is Yuddhishtra's. He hears the story of Nala and learns probability and Game theory. Now he needn't fear losing everything to a dice game. Furthermore, he has also learned that the seemingly immutable caste hierarchy of ancient India has no moral or soteriological significance and can be dispensed with.

If the Geeta is read without keeping this episode in mind, the result would be a valorization of a hierarchical, misogynistic society in which duty involves killing even kinfolk without mercy. The great mathematician Andre Weil, perhaps because he subconsciously grasped the system of symmetries underlying the Geeta, rejected such a view. The plain reading, for him, as for his colleague, the Gandhian, Vijayraghavan, was do your own duty- i.e. what you want- rather than what others demand. This too was a misreading. Weil tried to dodge the draft- maths was his duty not manning a machine gun- but, by that very step, almost lost his life.

The MhB is about the self destructive collapse of one sort of social order- the heroic age where thymos ruled supreme- and the dawn of another more mercantile and rights based social order- where heteronomy spelled backwardness and internecine bloodshed, while intersubjective autonomy and rationality pointed the way forward to a great advance in material civilization.

However, it remains an open problem, for me at any rate, as to whether the light that Game Theory throws upon the Geeta is not reflected back upon it as an exercise in futility as damning as the Just King's other great strategic blunder viz. his victory at Kurukshetra where, once again, it was a case of loser takes all.