Amartya Sen writes in the Guardian-
Nothing is as important, the philosopher Immanuel Kant claimed, as the “freedom to make public use of one’s reason on all matters”.
This isn't true. Nothing is as important as staying alive. Kant lived at a time and a place when it was reasonable to believe that an 'Enlightened Despot' could lift up his Principality's fortunes. Fredrick the Great was 'Enlightened'. He was Kant's King and Kant wrote 'what is enlightenment' as a paean to him. Catherine the Great, too, was Enlightened. But Prussia led Germany into the abyss. Russia was even worse. Kant's notions of 'Enlightenment' were foolish. The Anglo-Americans knew this. They didn't babble about Aufklarung. The got on with making money and extending the Rule of Law and making sure there was no Taxation without Representation. In private, considerable latitude was permitted. But what was done in public was effectively policed.
What Kant actually said was 'We find restrictions on freedom everywhere. But which restriction is harmful to enlightenment? Which restriction is innocent, and which advances enlightenment? I reply: the public use of one's reason must be free at all times, and this alone can bring enlightenment to mankind.'
With hindsight we can see Kant was completely wrong- indeed, he was wrong about everything. Nowhere in history do we find a Society we might consider relatively advanced which did not have more effective restrictions on freedoms which mattered. Sen should know this. When he was a kid, his relatives in East Bengal were safe. Why? The Brits would curb the freedom of Muslim militants itching to slit their throats. Indeed, Communists were safer under the Brits. M.N Roy fled Stalin to enter the safety of a British prison cell from which he was soon released. Sen emigrated to Britain and now lives in the US. Both countries are quick to lock up terrorists or those who incite genocidal violence. True, there were instances when this did not happen but both countries have cause to regret this now.
Contra Kant, it is always better to have more constraints on the public, as opposed to the private, use of a faculty. You shouldn't greatly care if I chose to shit on my carpet or masturbate naked in the kitchen. On the other hand, you should certainly get me locked up if I do it on the subway.
Unfortunately, as Kant also noted, the opportunity to argue is often restrained by society – sometimes very severely.
Sen either hasn't read Kant or he is being disingenuous.
What Kant said was ' On the other hand, the private use of reason may frequently be narrowly restricted without especially hindering the progress of enlightenment.
WTF! How is it good to stop people doing something in private which you allow them to do in public? It turns out Kant isn't speaking of private, but official, actions.
By "public use of one's reason" I mean that use which a man, as scholar, makes of it before the reading public. I call "private use" that use which a man makes of his reason in a civic post that has been entrusted to him. In some affairs affecting the interest of the community a certain [governmental] mechanism is necessary in which some members of the community remain passive. This creates an artificial unanimity which will serve the fulfillment of public objectives, or at least keep these objectives from being destroyed. Here arguing is not permitted: one must obey.
So Kant is saying- obey, but- if you are a scholar- you can publish what you like. The problem here is that we consider a guy who publishes liberal shite while quietly obeying a totalitarian government to be not a scholar but a hypocrite. Sen himself may feel that 'Scholarship' is a Wonderland where he himself is a magical Cheshire Cat or Mad Hatter. But no sensible Alice would want to waste her life down that rabbit-hole
Insofar as a part of this machine considers himself at the same time a member of a universal community--a world society of citizens--(let us say that he thinks of himself as a scholar rationally addressing his public through his writings) he may indeed argue, and the affairs with which he is associated in part as a passive member will not suffer. Thus it would be very unfortunate if an officer on duty and under orders from his superiors should want to criticize the appropriateness or utility of his orders. He must obey. But as a scholar he could not rightfully be prevented from taking notice of the mistakes in the military service and from submitting his views to his public for its judgment.
In Kant's milieu, his argument wasn't wholly foolish. The beamtenliberalismus were an educated bureaucratic elite which, in between extending serfdom and persecuting Jews or heretics, might write a pamphlet quoting Adam Smith and calculating the higher tax yield achievable under a free market for labor and a policy of tolerance to Religious minorities.
Even in the USSR or Communist China, a few high officials were permitted to read Western literature and argue the case for market based reform. But, it is only a totalitarian regime which may think it needs 'free public expression' (i.e. publishing discussion papers for one's fellow elite) while restraining 'private' freedom (i.e. what you say to your relatives or friends).
The citizen cannot refuse to pay the taxes levied upon him; indeed, impertinent censure of such taxes could be punished as a scandal that might cause general disobedience.
So, Sen's hero is a guy who says 'Sen can publish any shite he likes coz he is a scholar. But if you grumble about your tax dollars being pissed away in Iraq, or by racist cops who have been indoctrinated in 'killology'- you must be punished.
Nevertheless, this man does not violate the duties of a citizen if, as a scholar, he publicly expresses his objections to the impropriety or possible injustice of such levies.
So, you are welcome to write a 'scholarly'- i.e. unreadable- paper of any type, but mustn't say- 'stop pissing my tax money away on trigger happy racist cops'. This is a convenient doctrine- if you are an academic.
A disturbing fact about the world today is that authoritarian tendencies have been strikingly on the increase in many countries – in Asia, in Europe, in Latin America, in Africa and within the United States of America. I fear I have to include my own country, India, in that unfortunate basket.
Why? Sen was promoted by the last Administration. The present one won't give him the time of day. However, it is in Mamta's Bengal that authoritarianism has always been most salient. The place is a thugocracy.
After India secured independence from British colonial rule,
There was massive ethnic cleaning and massive crack-downs on the Communists. Then some Communists went mainstream at which point the Maoists started killing all and sundry till Jyoti Basu got the Police and the Army to massacre the 'Naxals' and so on and so forth.
it had for many decades a fine history of being a secular democracy with much personal liberty.
Nonsense! Economic Liberty decreased. So did any political type of Liberty which the State did not like. Prior to 1937 it was not clear that Democracy would be a game featuring 'uncorrelated asymmetries'. People thought they could talk any sort of bollocks. After Partition, it was obvious that Majorities would decide what solutions to coordination games were focal. India would become more centralized. The first Amendment to the Indian Constitution goes in the opposite direction to that of the America's. Thus India had a McCarthyism at the same time as the US. The difference is that our Communists would tamely lick the hand of the Dynasty. The Moscow faction supported the Emergency- which was perfectly constitutional- but Sen, who knew perfectly well what was going on, had emigrated by then.
People showed their commitment to freedom and their determination to remove authoritarian governance through decisive public action, for example in the general elections in 1977, in which the despotic regulations – dressed as “the emergency” – were firmly rejected by the people.
This is a fantasy. Indira thought she would win. precisely because 'despotic regulations' are popular if they increase efficiency, and that her Cabinet would back her. She miscalculated. But this turned out to be a blessing in disguise because she was able to topple the 'Janata' coalition three years later. When she returned to power, it was clear that her son would succeed her and his son would succeed him and so on.
The government obeyed promptly.
Nonsense! Jayaprakash Narayan had spearheaded the popular revolt. But after the election, he was sidelined. The Constitution was further amended to reduce freedom. But why reduce freedom when law enforcement is costly while extra judicial killing is cheap? Elections are all very well, but if the guys protesting corruption can be bought more cheaply than the entrenched elite, why get exercised by ideology?
Sadly, one organization- the RSS- wasn't corrupt or dynastic. It tapped into Hindu patriotism. It is now recognized as the backbone of the one genuinely National Party. This does not mean it will have a monopoly of power. But it does mean that other parties have to get better at 'last mile delivery' of entitlements so as to remain competitive.
However, in recent years the priority of freedom seems to have lost some of its lustre for many people,
Freedom as some Kantian shite was only meaningful to Sen and his ilk. It never had any lustre for anybody who had to actually live in India.
and the current government gives striking evidence of the inclination to promote a different kind of society.
Yup. One which isn't ruled by corrupt, cretinous, dynasts and as poor as shit.
There have also been strong attempts to stifle anti-government protests, which, strangely enough, have often been described by the government as “sedition”, providing grounds for arrest and for locking up opposition leaders.
No. The notion was that seditious protests consolidate the Hindu vote. Then the local Hindus lost patience. In future, the Government will have to take timely action to abate such nuisances.
Aside from the despotic tendencies implicit in this approach,
not to mention the despotic and mendacious tendencies explicit in Sen's career of gobshittery.
there is also a profound confusion of thought here, since a disagreement with the government need not be a rebellion to overthrow the state, or to subvert the nation (on which the diagnosis of “sedition” must depend).
D'uh, Captain Obvious! But you yourself quoted Kant who affirmed that 'impertinent censure...must be punished as a scandal that might cause general disobedience.'
When I was in school in British-ruled colonial India, many of my relations, who were nonviolently agitating for India’s independence (inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and other champions of freedom), were in British Indian jails under what was described as “preventive detention”, allegedly to stop them from doing anything violent.
Or just being a nuisance. What was the result? Hindus, including property owners and lecturers at Dacca University, were safe. Then the British left. Sen's dad had been smart enough to get out a year or two before the shit hit the fan. No wonder, Niradh Chaudhri, also from East Bengal, wrote a book pleading for Whitey to return and rule over the Bengalis.
After India’s independence, preventive detention as a form of incarceration was halted;
Nonsense! It was limited to 3 months at a time but could be extended. Still, extra-judicial killing has always been more effective.
but then it was reintroduced, initially by the Congress government, in a relatively mild form. That was bad enough, but under the Hindutva-oriented BJP government now in office, preventive detention has acquired a hugely bigger role, allowing easy arrests and imprisonment of opposition politicians without trial.
Rubbish! The thing peaked under Indira Gandhi. No 'political opponent' of the current regime is currently 'in jail without trial'. Perhaps Sen is thinking of Kashmir. But Sheikh Abdullah spent most of the Fifties and Sixties locked up! On taking power he passed the draconian act under which his son and grandson ended up under house arrest.
Indeed, from last year, under the provision of a freshly devised Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), the state can unilaterally declare someone to be a terrorist, which allows them to arrest this alleged terrorist and place them in incarceration without trial. A number of human rights activists have been designated as terrorists and are in jail already under this arrangement.
This Act has been around for 50 years and has been frequently amended. But extra-judicial killing is the safer course. The mistake made by the previous administration was to lock up Hindu nuns and such like as 'terrorists'. That provoked a backlash. Nobody gives a shit about senile 'human rights activists' now getting their comeuppance.
When someone is described as being “anti-national”, this can be seen as a big philosophical denunciation anywhere in the world, but in today’s India it may mean nothing more than the person has made some critical remarks about the government in office.
Just as when Sen describes someone as 'despotic' we understand he just means he prefers some other politician. The problem with equating Hinduism with Fascism is that, in a Hindu majority country, you come to be seen as anti-National. Similarly, the 'secularists' in Muslim majority countries who spent all their time ridiculing Islam soon found that they had to face a violent backlash.
The confusion between “anti-government” and “anti-national” is typical of autocratic governance.
No. Stalin was an autocrat. He saw some who were against his Government would nonetheless fight the Nazis because they were Nationalists. Even drunken autocrats aren't as stupid as Sen. They know an 'anti-national' (e.g. a separatist) may support the Government while a patriot might oppose it.
What Sen should say is 'Modi is an autocrat who deliberately labels all opposition to him as anti-national'. It isn't true, but it isn't a stupid thing to say- if you hate Modi.
The courts have sometimes been able to stop such abusive practices, but given the slow movement of the Indian courts, and the differences of opinion within India’s large supreme court, this has not always been an effective remedy. One of the most prominent defenders of human rights in the world, Amnesty International, has been forced to leave India as a result of governmental intervention.
The 'intervention' occurred under the previous Administration. International NGOs are obliged to spend most of the money they get from abroad on doing good not 'admin'. Amnesty broke the rules. It has turned into an Anti Semitic organization in bed with Islamic nutters. Nobody in India will fund it, so it has shut down.
The pursuit of authoritarianism in general is sometimes combined with the persecution of a particular section of the nation – often linked, in India, with caste or religion. The low-caste former “untouchables”, now called Dalits, continue to get the benefits of affirmative action (in terms of employment and education) that were introduced at the time of India’s independence, but they are often very harshly treated. Cases of rape and murder of Dalits by upper-caste men, which have become shockingly common events, are frequently ignored or covered up by the government, unless pressed otherwise by public protests.
Sen is referring to the Hathras atrocity which does look pretty damning. Still if Adityanath 'encounter kills' the 'minors' involved and gets the adults judicially hanged, the entire State will be better off.
The Indian authorities have been particularly severe on the rights of Muslims, even to the extent of restricting some of their citizenship rights.
Nonsense! The Supreme Court initiated action against Bangladeshi immigrants. Modi gave citizenship rights to non-Muslims who came before 2014. No Muslim citizen's rights were restricted.
Despite centuries of peaceful co-existence between Hindus and Muslims,
where? Bangladesh? What happened to Hindus, like Sen, whose ancestral home was there?
there have been striking attempts in recent years by politically extremist Hindu organisations to treat indigenous Muslims somewhat like foreigners and to accuse them of doing harm to the nation.
This was a big feature of the Forties, Fifties and Sixties when the 'Custodian of Enemy (previously Evacuee) Property would harass the fuck out of rich Muslims till they emigrated.
This has been fed by cultivating disaffection and inter-religious animosity through the rapidly increased power of extremist Hindu politics.
Whereas in France and Germany and the UK and America, extremist Islamist politics didn't pose any sort of threat at all. Macron must be, as Erdogan, says out of his mind to wish to 'combat extremist Islam'.
The fact that the celebrated poet Rabindranath Tagore had a Hindu background was not contradicted by his self-description in Oxford (when giving the Hibbert lectures) that he came from the confluence of three cultural streams, combining Hinduism and Islam, in addition to western influence.
But Tagore's novel 'Home and the World' ends with Muslims slitting the throats of Hindus. The guy wasn't stupid. He warned his people that if the British left they would be driven out of Muslim majority East Bengal and Buddhist Burma. Incidentally, the guy was the head of a Hindu sect which claimed to be based purely on the Vedas.
Indian culture is a joint product of people of different religious faiths, and this can be seen in different fields – from music and literature to painting and architecture.
No. Indian culture is the product of Indian people working within Indian cultural idioms. Some may had a religious faith. Some may not.
Even the very first translation and propagation of Hindu philosophical texts – the Upanishads – for use outside India was done on the active initiative of a Mughal prince, Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Mumtaz (in whose memory Dara’s father, Emperor Shah Jahan, built the Taj Mahal).
Nonsense! Shikoh was not concerned with 'propagating' Hindu philosophical texts outside India. However, Al-Biruni had already given an account of such texts centuries before. It is likely that there were other similar translations floating around in Baghdad at an even earlier date.
Led by the government’s current ideological priorities, many school textbooks in India are being rewritten now to present a thoroughly revisionist history, reducing – or ignoring altogether – the contributions of Muslim people.
Muslims made a great contribution to reducing the Hindu population. Why is this not being properly celebrated?
Despite the government’s power, armed with the UAPA, to call anyone a terrorist, those accused are typically committed to nonviolent protests in the way that Gandhi had advocated.
He also advocated forming an orderly queue to get beaten on the head and be shipped off to jail. This curbed a nuisance.
This applies particularly to newly emerging secular resistance in India, led by student leaders. For instance, Umar Khalid,
son of a SIMI member who is now from a party which Dalits have resigned from protesting discriminatory treatment.
a Muslim scholar from Jawaharlal Nehru University who has been arrested and imprisoned as an alleged “terrorist” through the use of the UAPA, has eloquently expressed this secular movement’s commitment to peaceful protest: “If they beat us with lathis [sticks], we will hold aloft the Tricolour [the Indian national flag]. If they fire bullets, then we will hold the constitution and raise our hands.”
but that is not what he has been charged with. It is interesting that Kanhaiya Kumar, previously Sen's blue eyed boy, doesn't seem to have rallied to his buddy's side.
While the growth of authoritarianism in India demands determined resistance
in Mamta's Bengal? Are you kidding me? If even BJP Councilors are getting pumped full of bullets, which Commie or 'Human Rights activist' will dare wag his tail?
the world is also facing a pandemic of autocracy at this time, which makes the Indian lapses look less abnormal than they in fact are. The justification for imposing tyranny varies from country to country, such as reducing drug trafficking in the case of the Philippines, curtailing the flow of immigrants in Hungary, suppressing gay lifestyles in Poland, and using the military to control allegedly corrupt behaviour in Brazil. The world needs as many different ways of defending freedom as there are attacks upon it.
But it doesn't need Sen-ile shite.
Dr Martin Luther King Jr noted in a letter written in 1963 from Birmingham jail: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
But nowhere can injustice threaten, let alone prevail over, God.
He also insisted that all resistance has to be nonviolent.
No he didn't. He said non-violence was the best way forward for his people because they were a minority.
So do the young student leaders of today’s India.
In the opinion of a very old man. Yet, we can all watch Sharjeel Imam baying for blood on You Tube.
If there is a commonality in the distinct manifestations of autocracy, there is also a shared reasoning in the resistance.
The problem here is that the majority of Indians are Hindus. They support the police crushing 'resistance' to Hindu majoritarianism. If the police won't do it, they will take the law into their own hands. Ethnic cleansing will return to the sub-continent. Sen is as stupid as those Uncles of his who clamored for the Brits to leave. The Brits left and then Sen's people had to run for their lives from East Bengal.
Kant's essay ends thus-
But only the man who is himself enlightened, who is not afraid of shadows, and who commands at the same time a well disciplined and numerous army as guarantor of public peace--only he can say what [the sovereign of] a free state cannot dare to say: "Argue as much as you like, and about what you like, but obey!" Thus we observe here as elsewhere in human affairs, in which almost everything is paradoxical, a surprising and unexpected course of events: a large degree of civic freedom appears to be of advantage to the intellectual freedom of the people, yet at the same time it establishes insurmountable barriers. A lesser degree of civic freedom, however, creates room to let that free spirit expand to the limits of its capacity. Nature, then, has carefully cultivated the seed within the hard core--namely the urge for and the vocation of free thought. And this free thought gradually reacts back on the modes of thought of the people, and men become more and more capable of acting in freedom. At last free thought acts even on the fundamentals of government and the state finds it agreeable to treat man, who is now more than a machine, in accord with his dignity.
In other words, a poor country should curb nuisances occasioned by 'public reason'. The thing itself does not matter a damn because senile cretins like Sen will shit all over it and thus put off everybody else.