Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Professor's Fryed rice

… ‘the pale dawn of longing’, ‘the broken collar-bone of silence’, ‘the massive eyelids of time’, ‘the crimson tree of love’. I have made these up myself, and they are free to any poet who wants them …
Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism
Quoted by Nausheen Eusuf in her poem available here.

When that Precious Perle of Oryente Cloystor, like our Lear King's last belonging, thus can sink
Or say rather, Little Father, when the Massive eyelids of Time, in Horror at thy Crime, thus yet blink
Then must Lyric, that majestically woken Oyster, stale its pale dawn of Longing to atone
For the Violence of its Silence at its own domestically broken collar bone.


Envoi-

Prince! 'Done because we are too menny'. Three fallen fruit
Poison the crimson Tree of Love- Thee- at root.






Monday, 18 June 2018

Tejaswini Niranjana on translation

Translation means taking something in one language and rendering it in another. Suppose a number of different translations are assembled in one place- for example on a website which gives all the famous translations of a Biblical text into English- then we could say 'the translation of such and such text in X language has a site with respect to language Y.'

On the other hand, if various different people at different times translate a given text into a particular language, such translations have no site- unless someone takes the trouble to curate one.

Thus, when I translate a couplet from Bhratrhari or Ghalib or Horace into English, such translations have no site other than in my own oeuvre.

It doesn't matter that Horace's Rome once colonised England or that the English once colonised Ghalib's India. My translations must stand or fall on their own merits.

Tejaswini Niranjana, who has translated English into Kannada and vice versa, takes a different view.
In a book written some fifteen years ago, she says-

The British had left India long before Tejaswini learnt their language. By the Nineties, after the death of Rajiv Gandhi, no major political figure could be said to have had English as their first language.
Yet Tejaswini herself did some translations. What 'problematic of translation' was raised thereby?  Her own background was not very different from that of the people she translated. She had studied English in the US- not a colonial power- and so her English was better. But what intractable problem of 'representation, power and historicity' did her modest success represent? U.R. Ananthamurthy, it is true, was an insufferable snob and deeply patronising in his treatment of Vaidehi. But that was because he had a penis and Vaidehi didn't. Tejaswini doesn't have a penis. Sociologically, she is pretty much on a par with Vaidehi.

Why does she say 'conventionally, translation depends on' Western philosophical notions? Is she utterly mad? Does she think Muslims or Hindus or Buddhists- who think 'Western philosophical notions' are silly (as indeed do most Westerners)- can't translate Kannada into Telugu or English?

What on earth would Tejaswini know about a 'colonial subject'? She never met one- unless her parents, who were Communists, were secretly colonial subjects of the Kremlin. The truth is Tejaswini was telling lies to advance her academic career. But this was a case of 'monkey see, monkey do'- she was imitating older Indian academics.

Translation was not used to keep the native down. Why? It has no such magic power. Bullets and Battleships do have power. But, they cost money. So everything comes down to whether Colonialism can make a profit or not. That's all that matters.

Tejaswani wrote derivative nonsense to get ahead in her career. Why? The answer is that she was an academic in a worthless Department. She had to repeat stupid lies because that was what was required of her by, not White people, but Brown shitheads like herself who expected her to regurgitate their careerist shite.

Suppose she had had some talent or was part of a worthwhile Research Program. Then she could have written truthfully and in consonance with her own lived experience. In the short run, her career may have suffered. Long term, she would have prevailed.

The following is extracted from an interview Tejaswini gave Scroll.In

You’ve also thought a lot about the politics of translation in your academic work. In 1992, you edited a volume titled Siting Translation: History, Post-Structuralism, and the Colonial Context.I know this is an impossible request, but could you tell us what the argument of that book was?Very very broadly, the book was among the first to point out that though it is often seen as a transparent medium by which you transport one culture into another, translation is mobilised as a way of enforcing colonial domination.
Why would a book which came out in 1992 point out anything so false and so stupid? There was no colonialism anywhere by then. Yet the volume of translation was increasing exponentially. If you wish to dominate a culture or a people you don't permit them to learn their own language or to translate books into it. That's what the Turks did to the Assyrians and, later, the Kurds. China was not promoting translations from Tibetan or Uighur when it was clamping down on those regions.

Translation has never been 'mobilised as a way of enforcing colonial domination'. It either pays for itself or is subsidised for some administrative or proselytising purpose. But, the spread of literacy- more particularly if they feature translations of alethic, Scientific, Technological, texts- itself undermines such domination.

Tejaswini knew this very well. She could see for herself that people like her Mom, who studied Medicine in later life, had greatly benefited from Translation. Indeed, so had all the dominant castes of the Indian sub-continent and the rest of the New Commonwealth.

Yet Tejaswini is continuing to tell us stupid lies. The question is- why?
I look in detail at some major texts and at the ideas of translation that were circulating in colonial times, how it worked through the missionary activity and through administrators like William Jones.
Tejaswini knows very well that people like William Jones became celebrities, they gained a European fame, by translating novel texts of intrinsic literary and value and great antiquity. They gained money and reputation. They could sell their manuscript collections at a good price on returning home.
In the 1780s, in the early colonial period, there was a great curiosity and romanticism about the East – and the whole understanding of translation was informed by that, by a desire not to interfere in the lives of the natives.
Is this woman completely off her rocker? Does she really not know that the East India Company made a lot of money not just by interfering in the lives of the natives but also by killing them and robbing them?
But by the 1820s, under the East India Company, with the Utilitarian influence, the whole understanding of India changed – from seeing it as an advanced civilisation to a barbaric place.
WTF?! William Jones was part of the East India Company. During the 1820's people like H.H Wilson were still going strong. The only thing which had changed was that Missionaries and comprador arrivistes like Raja Ramohan Roy were directly lobbying Westminster and influencing the reception of Indian texts. These guys- just like Tejaswini and her mentors- derived a rent by pretending India was a shit-hole populated by stupid cunts.
What kind of conceptual and political labour did translation do, to help colonial domination? In a literal way, too: even someone like John Mill’s understanding of India is informed by translations.
What's so special about Mill? Few English people remember his name. After he quit the India Office, he was Liberal. But he had no influence or power.

Translations didn't matter at all.  Novels did. Queen  Victoria loved 'Confessions of a Thug' and demanded that the proofs be brought to her straight from the printing press. Why? The thing was quite gripping. But, unlike 'Uncle Tom's Cabin', it changed nothing. Colonialism remained a project wholly determined by Balance Sheets and the Balance of Power.
I end the book by looking at an 18th century translation of a 12th century vachana, a very Orientalist translation, and at AK Ramanujan’s translation of the same text, which is a very modernist translation. My point was not that they were good or bad, but that the discursive space they came from informed the actual translations that they did. And I offered my own translation of the vachana.
The book is 25 years old, and I don’t talk about it any more. But without my having been a translator, I would not have written that book.

This is Tejaswani's translation of Allama Prabhu's vacana-

Drawing back to look at your radiance
 I saw the dawning of a hundred million suns
 I gazed in wonder at the lightning's creepers playing.
Guhesvara, if you are become the linga of light
Who can find your figuration.

This is shit. Why? The dawning of a hundred million suns, is still something very dim. It isn't radiant at all. There is Night- that is darkness- then a little light gets refracted in a diffuse manner- that is dawning. It  doesn't yield enough radiance to read by or to make things out distinctly. No one steps back as one sun or one billion suns start dawning. Rather, one steps forward. The full sun-rise of a hundred million suns would be very bright. But their dawning can't be. It is an almost imperceptible diffraction of light into the night-time sky.

AK Ramanujan did not make this mistake in his translation-

Looking for your light,
I went out:
It was like the sudden dawn
 Of a million million suns

This makes sense. A sudden dawn- not a dawning- of a billion suns would indeed be dazzling.


What is this shite about 'lightning's creepers playing'? Is there a dawn or is this a thunder storm? or is this just a shite poem? What is Guhesvara? Clearly someone or something this shite poet is enthusiastic about. The idiot thought the dawning, not the actual dawn, of a hundred million suns would be more radiant than that of just one. Then he started babbling about lightning as being a creeper which plays. Now the poet is into the linga or bazinga of light. Why? Because the guy is a shite poet. He doesn't know who can find this the figuration- which means allegorical representation- of the thing or person he's been talking about. In other words the poet is confessing that he is a shite poet who just now failed to give an ornamental or allegorical representation of the person of thing he is into.

Once again, AK gives a reasonable translation-

a ganglion of lightnings for my wonder.
 O Lord of Caves,
 if you are light there can be no metaphor

The English speaking reader understands that this is a mystical verse. It isn't the ramblings of a shite poet who is into lingas or bazinga or Gushas or Mushas.

Tejaswani is a shit translator.  Why? It is because of colonialism.


The British had run away without bothering to translate Kannada literature. Tejaswanutty, because the Nehru dynasty reproduced colonial relations of power, sometimes hungered for 'English books' as avidly as her ancestors. Unfortunately the ones she read were by shite Indians. So she herself wrote a shite English book hoping to satisfy this supposed insatiable hunger for the 'English book' which disfigured her countrymen.

What did Tejaswini hope to achieve by this act of vandalism? Did she wish to show a great Kannada mystic and saint to have been a bad poet? But AK Ramanujan, who had some literary talent, had already shown the reverse. In any case, Whitey didn't give a toss about Kannada or, indeed, very much about even Canada. Nobody wants to colonise an overpopulated shithole. Even natives of the place only want money and power so as to accumulate property abroad and gain nicer passports for their progeny.



Sunday, 17 June 2018

Robert Talisse getting foxed by fake news

News is stuff that's new. Why would we want to know about new stuff? In general, this is so as to receive confirmation that one is on the right path or else to be alerted that one has taken a wrong turning.

Should news be stuff that is important to one? Not necessarily. Entertainment- vicarious participation in collective emotions- is the most we ask for provided there is no vital change we need to be making to our life-plan at the moment.

The problem with accepting any given channel or medium of entertainment is the problem of addiction or dependency. If the channel or medium is monopolistic there is a risk that it will exploit us. In Democracies, there is also the problem of 'agenda control' in multi-dimensional decision spaces as well as 'virtue signalling' and preference falsification. Any degree of imperfection in the market for entertainment- which is what most news cashes out as for most people- is bound to lead to fake news crowding out the genuine article. That doesn't matter very greatly because we are sceptical about what entertains us. The thing is a sort of fairy story or soap opera. Only fools get worked up about it.

The philosopher, Robert Talisse has an article in 3 A.M magazine which neatly demonstrates what happens when one confuses 'news' with 'new stuff its important for me to know about'.

He writes-
There is as yet no canonical definition of fake news. Still, there might be reason to hope. Perhaps we share a conception of fake news that is inchoate, waiting for an explicit definition. Given this possibility, we should attempt to devise a definition.
There is no canonical definition of 'fake' or 'news' or 'canonical' or 'definition' or anything else under the Sun. Why should we hope otherwise? What good would it do? 'Fake news!' is a cry of exasperation like 'Worthless gobshite!' We don't want or need a canonical definition of it. 

Why would we share a conception of  something? The only reason is if there was selective pressure on the fitness landscape militating for epigenetic channelisation in that respect. This would mean that some 'mechanism' would exist- legal, administrative, religious, cultural or arising out of the market- in which case there would be a 'canonical definition' but it would be contested. This imposes costs on society. We may want to incur such costs when it comes to Medical or Legal or Financial matters, but we don't want to do any such thing when it comes to terms like 'worthless gobshite' or 'fake news!'

Begin with an intuitive view. Whatever else might be involved, fake news attempts to deceive by means of communication.
Nonsense! The Daily Star or the National Enquirer weren't trying to deceive anyone by publishing stories about buses which ended up on the moon or Big Foot being sighted at Walmart.
News outlets are concerned with circulation figures which are a measure of their market power from which they can extract reputational or pecuniary rents.
This suggests three components. First, fake news is a kind of communication; specifically, it involves reportage.
It needn't do so. It might involve editorialising and a bunch of talking heads pretending some terrible malaise has gripped the country. Reportage includes shite like 'the UN rapporteur on Right to Food in Scotland has announced that Glaswegians are now worse nourished than Eritreans'.  
Second, as fake news aims to deceive, it involves reportage of what is false (or at least misleading).
Nonsense! When we hear the UN Special Rapporteur say 'Scotland faces challenges on the right to food, including high levels of food insecurity and diet related health inequalities and problems with access to land'- we don't really believe that Scots are starving because evil land-lords are evicting them from their crofts and trampling over their vegetable patches. We think they are eating deep fried Mars bars and spending all their money on drink or down at the bookies. Still, we may approve of this absurd pretence that Westminster is starving the Scots just as we approved of Mrs Thatcher being depicted as a 'Milk Snatcher'.
Third, as authentic news sources can report what is misleading (due to honest journalistic error, for example), fake news must involve an intention to mislead. Tying these together, fake news is intentionally misleading reportage. To tighten things up further, add that fake news is the reportage as news of content that is intentionally misleading.
Authentic news sources feature official announcements which are intended to mislead and throw a false light on events. We don't expect every journalist to begin his interview with a politician by saying 'Why are you lying to us, you fat sack of shit?' Even Jeremy Paxman didn't go that far.
This simple definition looks promising. But difficulties loom. To see what they are, let’s explore an analogy with garden-variety lying. It is surprisingly difficult to produce a satisfactory definition of lying. Take the popular view that lying is intentionally asserting what’s untrue. This analysis fails, as one could lie while asserting what is true. To wit, if I believe that your spouse is at the bar, but when you ask me her whereabouts I report that she is at the library (a report which I believe is false), then I have lied to you, even if your spouse is indeed at the library. I intentionally asserted a true proposition, but I nonetheless lied.
Yawn! We already know all this. 

Perhaps our initial view could be rescued with this minor tweak: lying is intentionally asserting something as true that one believes is false. Although this improves on its predecessor, it also fails. There are contexts where one lies even when asserting a truth that one believes. Think of cases where one makes an assertion that one knows one’s audience will misunderstand. Bill Clinton famously asserted “there is no sexual relationship” with Monica Lewinsky, knowing that his audience would understand him to be claiming that there never was a relationship. Clinton uttered a true proposition that he also believed, but he nonetheless lied.
This is 'shedding false light'. Once again, this is something everybody already knows. 

Given such considerations, one might distinguish asserting what is untrue from making an assertion designed to mislead. But we needn’t pursue this matter further. My point has been only that popular definitions of lying fail to capture certain clear instances of lying. The broader lesson is that simple definitions of complex phenomena must give way to nuanced ones.
Talisse's point is invalid because there is no popular definition of lying. Why? Because the population isn't stupid and doesn't spend time doing stupid and pointless things. Only Philosophy Professors do.

Similar problems lurk for the tidy definition of fake news. We said that fake news is reportage as news of content that is intentionally misleading. Though initially plausible, this can’t be correct. Consider two cases.
Only you said that, Talisse. We didn't. If we are affected adversely by a certain piece of reportage then we consult a lawyer. Depending on the jurisdiction, we may have an action for defamation, or false light or under right to privacy or something else. It depends.

First, imagine a television news channel that routinely over-reports crimes committed by immigrants, and neglects to report crimes committed by non-immigrants. Regular viewers tend to develop the impression that crime is far more common than it is, and that immigrants commit the most crimes. This channel offers no misleading reports; it accurately depicts the events it covers. Nonetheless, this is a clear case of fake news. Our definition cannot identify it as such.
Nevertheless, depending on Jurisdiction, the Law may permit an action being brought against the Channel. Some Jurisdictions score better than others in this respect and, for economic reasons, others may seek to catch up with them.

Second, consider someone who seeks to maximize revenue produced by his website. He finds that posting fabricated accounts of lurid conspiracies involving prominent politicians reliably increases site traffic, which in turn enables him to sell ads at high rates. Suppose that his intention is not to mislead anyone, but only to maximize revenue. Stipulate further that he would be sincerely surprised to discover that visitors to his site tend to believe his outrageous posts. Perhaps he regards his site as a source of sardonic entertainment, and so denies that his site presents content as news. Still, visitors tend to regard his site as an authentic news source, and accept what he posts as fact. Our proprietor has none of the intentions or motives required by our definition, but this nonetheless is a case of fake news.
But all news outlets are subject to economic constraints. All face the same moral hazard. Talisse has taken a long time to get to the common sense view. 

As with lying, one could introduce tweaks designed to more finely contour the concept of fake news until it fits the varied cases. Regardless of its general utility as a philosophical exercise, as a political matter, this endeavor is doomed. Here’s why.
No philosophical exercise has any general utility. That's why we all consider the subject to be shit.

We were hoping that the consensus across political divides on the dangers of fake news could provide fertile ground from which repair fractures in our democratic culture.
Why on earth were you hoping that? Why not hope that there would be a consensus across political divides not to steal money or fuck interns or talk worthless shite? 
However, in order for an analysis of fake news to serve this purpose, it must be politically impartial.
Nonsense! For an analysis of a political problem to serve a useful purpose, it must be framed in justiciable terms consistent with those upheld by the Judiciary. Political impartiality does not matter. Only Justiciability does. Consider what happened when the Labour Party first formed a Government. It was recognised that they didn't have enough law-officers of their own, so the Liberals lent them people with the required skill-set. They may have been highly partial, but- in the best tradition of the Inns of Court- they discharged their professional duty in an entirely proper manner. Similarly, though Congress was the dominant party, it permitted people like Dr. Ambedkar, a thorn in its flesh, to take a leading role in drafting the Indian Constitution. Later, Ambedkar dismissed this contribution of his as 'hack work'. He didn't mean he had botched the job but rather that he had discharged his duty with the highest professionalism despite holding different political views.
That is, we require a definition that could identify instances of fake news independently of the political valence of its perpetrator.
The Law can do this. Statistical techniques can be used as evidence of bias or 'false light' even if no testimony of malice is introduced- the thing depends on what laws obtain.

 Expert testimony can be sought. The 'political valence of its perpetrator' is irrelevant. A neo-Nazi defended by a Jewish attorney knows he is getting the best possible defence. This does not mean the Jewish attorney sympathises with his client's views. 
Obviously a definition fails if it stipulates that fake news is a tactic used only by conservatives (or liberals, or Republicans, or what have you). Our conception of fake news must not be politically opportunistic. Whatever we say fake news is, our definition must render it possible for parties across the political spectrum to be guilty of deploying it.
We already have offences of defamation, false light, and so forth. In the same way that Companies and Auditors can be made to prepare 'true and fair' accounts, so too can News organisations. But, the game is not worth the candle because news doesn't much matter. Where it does- for e.g. if a News outlet consistently 'puffs' certain penny shares or fraudulent pyramid schemes or, worse yet, quack medicines and bogus doctors- then it is likely that State Prosecutors are already zeroing in on the culprits.

Politics doesn't matter very much in a Democracy because the median voter prevails. From time to time, a correction might be needed because of virtue signalling preference falsification and rent-seeking agenda control, but judicial and administrative checks and balances already exist.

There really isn't very much to see here. Move along folks!

Therein lies the trouble. We saw above that no simple definition of fake news will suffice.
We saw nothing of the sort. There can be a juristically 'buck stopped' definition of 'fake news' just as there is of 'shedding false light'. The Law sorts this sort of stuff all the time. Philosophy simply plays with itself and jizzes in its own eye.
However, as our discussion of lying demonstrated, in order to construct a nuanced definition, we must build upon specific cases that we take to be clear-cut instances of the phenomenon in question.
We don't need a nuanced definition, we need a justiciable 'buck stopped' one. Stare decisis law can build on specific cases. Philosophy can't. It isn't protocol bound and 'buck stopped' in the same way. It has no way of distinguishing ratio from obiter dicta or deciding what is de jure and what is de facti. A lawyer may say one thing as a lawyer but this does not bind him as a  Judge. Rather he is bound by the ratios of previous Judgments. Philosophy doesn't work that way at all. Actually, it doesn't work at all. The thing is a wank.
Remember that we appealed to Bill Clinton’s statement as a case of lying, and then used that case to show the inadequacy of one proposed definition of lying.
Clinton lied. There are no two ways about it. That is why his law license was suspended. The US Supreme Court disbarred him and he resigned rather than appeal this decision. Why? Coz the law says he lied and he was a lawyer and he knew he could not prove otherwise. Philosophy may be shite but the Law isn't.
In other words, we craft a definition of lying partly by testing proposed conceptions against cases that we independently assume to be clear instances of lying. We proceeded partly by saying, “Whatever lying is, this definitely should count as a lie!” The same goes for an analysis of fake news. We test the merit of a proposed definition partly by looking to cases that we already regard as instances of fake news.
You don't test the merit of anything at all because you've got shite for brains. Why? Because you teach a worthless subject.

Thus we confront what philosophers call the paradox of analysis.
Which, since Quine, few philosophers believe is a real thing.
Any definitional endeavor must begin from presumed instances of the phenomenon that is to be defined. In many philosophical contexts, the paradox’s “I know it when I see it” circularity is manageable because philosophical debates often proceed against wider background agreements.
So, there is 'buck stopping'- as in the Clinton case. A lawyer lied and the Law said he lied, and so he was fined and his license was suspended. Deliberation is only tolerable if it is terminable in a protocol bound fashion- i.e. there is cloture or what Kripke called 'buck stopping'.

Something similar could be done to Journalists and News organisations. But we don't think it would be worthwhile to do so because we find 'fake news' entertaining. 
For example, philosophers who disagree sharply about justice nonetheless agree that antebellum slavery is an exemplary instance of severe injustice. Similarly, metaphysical disputes over the nature of physical objects typically presume that tables and chairs are among such entities.
Things are far more troubled with fake news. In order to devise a nuanced definition that is also politically impartial, we must identify cases of fake news that can be presumed to be noncontroversial among otherwise divided citizens.
There is absolutely no need to do so.  All that is needed is to identify a justiciable right- viz. that of not being harmed by 'fake news'- linked by an incentive compatible viculum juris to a specific obligation. News reportage can be like Audited Accounts; indeed, something like this already obtains in certain organisations- e.g. the license payer funded BBC- and in certain jurisdictions.
I doubt that there are such cases.
Nonsense! 'Clinton cleared of lying by Supreme Court' is fake news. Everyone, including Clinton, would agree on this. 
Consider that any proposed conception of fake news will include reference to the intentional dissemination of false or misleading political information by institutions posing a news sources. So if we require a politically impartial account that could win broad assent, we will need to begin from assumptions about specific instances when purported news institutions have engaged in intentional deception. It seems to me that our political divisions run so deep that there are no cases that will be generally agreed to be instances of intentional political deception.
Bollocks! ISIS was disseminating fake news about what was happening in America. The Americans had no difficulty agreeing to shut down its Social Media Channels.

The Judiciary has ample powers to ensure no citizen loses 'due process' type rights as a result.
What’s more, there are similarly deep divisions over what makes an institution an authentic news source, and even what journalism is.
These deep divisions don't matter. What matters is that this is an economic activity and, therefore, some incentive compatible mechanism, enshrined as a vinculum juris, must exist which can do the job in question if, that is, it is worth doing.
Accordingly, any definition that begins from the premise that, say, Pizzagate is a paradigmatic case of fake news will likely be dismissed as politically opportunistic.
Dismissed by whom? A Judge? A Legislative sub-committee? Nonsense! The people involved understand very well what is required of them- viz. to come up with a rule set which will pass judicial muster. Political partisanship may muddy the waters a little, but- if the thing is worth doing- won't stop the job getting done.
To any such account, one will find conservatives who will respond, “If that’s the paradigm of fake news from which your view proceeds (rather than, say, the whitewashing of the Benghazi incident), then your account is rigged against us.”
To put the concern more generally, every nuanced definition of fake news is likely to appear to some as opportunistic, designed to impugn certain regions of the political spectrum and vindicate others.
How 'things appear to some' doesn't matter if the thing is worth doing. That's why Democracy under the Rule of Law actually works. 
A definition of fake news that serves only to further tar our political opponents is counterproductive. In order for a conception of fake news to do positive work in rehabilitating our political culture, we require an account of the phenomenon that could win agreement across our political divisions. Under current conditions, no such account is available.
Sez you. But you have no power. You are a shithead- which is why you teach a worthless subject and are shilling a stupid book by writing this column.  
Our current media and news environment is toxic for democracy.
Really? So Democracy is going to die is it? Care to bet on it? No? Then you are lying. 
It deserves unrelenting critique. Nonetheless, we ought to give up the idea that there is such a thing as fake news. There is no such phenomenon. The term is best regarded as a political slur, much like “snowflake,” “libtard,” “wingnut,” or “trumpkin,” except that it attaches not to individuals, but to the (nominally) journalistic enterprises that one regards as hostile to one’s political loyalties.
So Talisse has finally arrived at the conclusion I began this post with- 'fake news' is an expletive like 'mother-fucker'. However, there is a crime which corresponds to fucking your mother and we feel it worthwhile to enforce the relevant law. I may call you a swindling little sneak thief and that may relieve my feelings, but, if the sum involved is large enough and the matter is justiciable, I will also take you to court or report you to the relevant authorities.

Accordingly, the statement “CNN is fake news” should not be understood as ascribing properties to CNN that render it a spurious news organization; rather the statement is strictly expressive, akin to the exclamation “CNN sucks!” No one bothers to devise an analysis of what it means for a network (or anything else) to suck. That’s because there is no such property.
Of course there is such a property. If CNN sucks w.r.t such and such a demographic, its revenues are affected. Capital markets take note. It may have enough market power to continue sucking ass big time- but that is a question for Competition policy. 
There is no fake news.
Yes there is- it if it worth our while to make it an offence, then it will exist in a juristic, buck-stopped, manner for the law to take cognisance off. Some such thing has already happened in certain jurisdictions with respect to specific matters. 
But that’s distressing, isn’t it? Although we all agree that our political divisions are threatening our democracy, those very divisions may now run so deep as to subvert our attempts to explain the dangers they pose.
This is all in your head Talisse. You don't understand Democracy under the Law and are getting your knickers in a twist because you have absurd beliefs about some supposedly unprecedented 'division' in your country created by some supposedly 'toxic' thing called fake news. You may think this is happening because of some occult 'subversion'. You are wrong. The fault lies in your own stupidity, no where else. Teaching Psilosophy has robbed you of what little intelligence you once had. Go write another worthless book so we can all snigger at you behind your back.
Yet in the absence of a detailed account of those dangers that could be embraced by all, we have little chance of counteracting them.
OMG! Prof. Talisse is a genius! I'm going to send him my detailed account of how the neighbour's cat has been subverting Democracy by spreading fake news about that time I peed in the sink coz I was too hung over to make it to the toilet and Donald Trump was in that sink and now everybody probably thinks I'm a Russian hooker which is so like not harasho tovarich. 

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Bhabha's sly civlility



Bhabha took the term 'sly civility' from this sermon by Archdeacon Potts in 1818:
If you urge them (Indian people whom Missionaries were seeking to convert to Christianity) with their gross and unworthy misconceptions of the nature and the will of God, or the monstrous follies of their fabulous theology, they will turn it off with a sly civility perhaps, or with a popular and careless proverb. You may be told that 'heaven is a wide place, and has a thousand gates'; and that their religion is one by which they hope to enter. Thus, together with their fixed persuasions, they have their sceptical conceits. By such evasions they can dismiss the merits of the case from all consideration; and encourage men to think that the vilest superstition may serve to every salutary purpose, and be accepted in the sight of God as well as truth and righteousness.
Bhabha says-
In the native refusal to satisfy the colonizer's narrative demand, we hear the echoes of Freud's sabre-rattling strangers, with whom I began this chapter. 
Bhabha is shedding false light on what actually happened in India. The Colonizer was the East India Company which deported or otherwise prevented many Missionaries from proselytising in India. There was no 'narrative demand' on the part of John Company. An Indian was free to converse with a Missionary- just as I am free to converse with Bible thumpers who knock on my door- but they were perfectly at liberty to refuse any demand from the Missionary just as I am at liberty to slam my door in the face of any such unwelcome visitor.

Freud was speaking of paranoia- a situation where one might see a stranger approaching and think he is bent on homicide- but there is no paranoia here. One can talk to a proselytiser or slam the door in their face. It is literally mad to suggest that one is under an obligation to justify ones beliefs to any and every nutjob who might accost one in the street or come knocking on one's door.

Bhabha had begun with a quotation from Freud's 'Some neurotic mechanisms in jealousy, paranoia and homosexuality'. We know Freud was wrong about male homosexuality. It isn't a mental illness at all. That fat fuck who harassed you in College, or High School, saying 'you're actually gay, but don't want to admit it. Let me fuck you in the ass.' was gaslighting you. Nobody wants to be fucked in the ass by a scheming little shithead. Similarly, jealousy is often about control, about power. The proper way to respond to this sort of harassment or stalking is by naming and shaming the culprit and Title 9ing the cunt off campus. Don't kick the fucker's head in. You may damage your Doc Martins.
The natives' resistance represents a frustration of that nineteenth-century strategy of surveillance, the confession, which seeks to dominate the 'calculable' individual by positing the truth that the subject has but does not know.
This is sheer nonsense. The East India Company was a commercial enterprise. It sought to minimise costs and maximise revenues so as to repatriate a larger profit to its shareholders. Surveillance is costly. John Company wasn't even keeping tabs on its own sepoys- which is why the Mutiny happened. It is utterly mad to claim that an Indian telling a Missionary, politely or not, to go fuck himself was 'resisting' surveillance or stalking or sodomy.

What is this shite about 'confession'? It was not a sacrament of the Established Church. It was not a pre-requisite for the application of Judicial punishment.

There was no 'nineteenth century strategy' which sought to dominate anybody by positing nonsense.
Suppose you say 'you have a truth which you don't know'- i.e. you want to be fucked in the ass- , do I feel dominated? No. I feel you are piece of shit. I may tell you to fuck off in a polite manner. However, if you persist, I may kick your head in.
The incalculable native produces a problem for civil representation in the discourses of literature and legality.
Utter nonsense. We know a lot about why the legal services provided by John Company proved attractive to Indian capitalists and some agricultural communities- e.g. in Coorg. There was no problem at all for civil representation because Court Pundits and Maulvis were easily available. Over the course of a 100 years, enough case law had accumulated to allow them to be dispensed with, though they reappear as lawyers, and- after the Crown took over from John Company- Codification proceeded in a manner that was favourably received.
This uncertainty impressed itself on Nathanael Halhed whose A Code of Gentoo Laws (1776) was the canonical colonialist codification of Indian 'native' law, but he was only able to read this resistance to calculation and testimony as native 'folly' or 'temporary frenzy ... something like the madness so inimitably delineated in the hero of Cervantes'.
Halhed's code was used by lawyers. It was not binding on Judges. Other codes existed and, in several instances, stare decisis law followed those Codes or others suggested by the Court Pundit or Maulvi.

What Halhed said about Indian folly or Indian mangoes or Indian prostitutes had no importance whatsoever. The fact is, a guy asked about a law which might apply to himself has an incentive to muddle the issue. In any case, Jurisprudence is a confusing field.
The native answers display the continual slippage between civil inscription and colonial address.
But 'native answers' in native States display the same slippery property. There is always going to be a slippage in our account of a law which may be applied to oneself. One muddies the issue so as to leave a door open for oneself later on.

Civil inscription means me writing to you. Colonial address means me writing to our Galactic Overlord. There is no slippage between them unless you are actually our secret Galactic Overlord.
The uncertainty generated by such resistance changes the narratorial demand itself.
No it doesn't. The guy in the witness box may shilly and shally and dodge and duck and try to muddy the issue, but the prosecutor, if she is worth her salt, does not change her 'narratorial demand'. Rather she reiterates it with greater lucidity so as to show the jury that the defendant is ducking the question because he is guilty. An innocent man, after all, can give a clear, coherent and logically consistent response to any narratorial demand.

Courts are costly. Prosecutors and Judges get paid a lot of money. That is why the State makes no narratorial demand on us save in criminal or tort cases of some gravity.
What was spoken within the orders of civility now accedes to the colonial signifier.
Nonsense! If my ancestor spoke to his barber in Tamil, the imprecations he uttered did not accede to any corresponding colonial signifier. That's why the poor fellow had to go to School and learn English in order to become a lawyer and swindle his way into a modest fortune.
The question is no longer Derrida's 'Tell us exactly what happened.' From the point of view of the colonizer, passionate for unbounded, unpeopled possession, the problem of truth turns into the troubled political and psychic question of boundary and territory: Tell us why you, the native, are there.
Fuck off! Did Ceasar say anything similar to the Druids? Did Cortez? Of course not. That's why History had recorded their names. Colonising a place involves beating and killing people. Asking them foolish questions would just get your head kicked in.
Etymologically unsettled, 'territory' derives from both terra (earth) and terre (to frighten) whence territorium, 'a place from which people are frightened off.
So what? Only the first etymology is commonly accepted. The second one is used only by worthless shitheads writing nonsense.
The colonialist demand for narrative carries, within it, its threatening reversal: Tell us why we are here.
No colonist has ever made such a futile and unprofitable demand.  A bunch of guys who are colonising your country keep killing those who oppose them and taking their cool stuff. It is fucking obvious why the coloniser is doing this. It's coz he likes cool stuff and wants more of the same.
It is this echo that reveals that the other side of narcissistic authority may be the paranoia of power; a desire for 'authorization' in the face of a process of cultural differentiation which makes it problematic to fix the native objects of colonial power as the moralized 'others' of truth.
Fuck off. Trump is narcissistic and has authority. He has no desire for any further 'authorization' in the face of 'a process of cultural differentiation'- for example between himself and Justin Trudeau or Angela Merkel.

It may be that some clergymen and pedagogues and Grub street hacks spent a little time justifying or decrying Colonial policies. But they had zero influence or impact. Either the thing was profitable, in which case it continued, sometimes under a different name; or it was unprofitable, in which case, sooner rather than later, the thing was scrapped.

The native refusal to unify the authoritarian, colonialist address within the terms of civil engagement gives the subject of colonial authority - father and oppressor - another turn.
Did Mahatma Gandhi say 'Daddy, be nice! Stop fucking me in the ass!' to the King Emperor? What about Jomo Kenyatta, or Nkrumah or Ho Chi Minh?
Of course not. Don't be silly.
This ambivalent 'and', always less than one and double, traces the times and spaces between civil address and colonial articulation.
No it doesn't. Colonial articulation was about Balance Sheets and Trade Routes and the geopolitical  balance of power.
Nothing at all is traced by some ambivalent 'and'- otherwise my saying 'Spivak and Bhabha are shite' would lead to the tracing of all the times and places where they shat themselves at the podium.
The authoritarian demand can now only be justified if it is contained in the language of paranoia.
No. If you are as crazy as a bedbug and trying to pretend you are smart, then you utter shite like the above.
The refusal to return and restore the image of authority to the eye of power has to be reinscribed as implacable aggression, assertively coming from without: He hates me. Such justification follows the familiar conjugation of persecutory paranoia. The frustrated wish 'I want him to love me,' turns into its opposite 'I hate him' and thence through projection and the exclusion of the first person, 'He hates me.'
Bhabha, you hate literature. You hate the English language. You hate rational discourse. Yet you want to be loved and admired as a savant dealing precisely with these things. But you begin with the precisely the premise that the sex pest on campus strategically deploys- viz. the low man on the totem pole secretly wants to be fucked in the ass. In such cases 'sly civility' don't cut it. Report the fucker and get him Title 9ed off campus. Ruin the fucker's career. Me-too the bastard till he slits his own throat.

Oddly, there have been no such allegations against Bhabha. Dipesh, yes, but not our good little boy from Bombay. Anyway, he wrote this shite before he got to America- where sexual harassment is de rigueur rather than infra dig and associated with people with unpleasant accents or widowed mothers in Cardiff. Still, at least Bhabha didn't jizz in public. That was civility- even if he was doing it on the sly.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Mridula Ramesh's 'The Climate Solution'

The following is an excerpt from a book called 'the Climate Solution' by a well educated young entrepreneur.

I reproduce it from 'Scroll.In'.

The author is trying to explain why bad 'mechanism design' causes environmental degradation under India's segmentary type of democracy.

Does the author succeed? Let us see.

Our first protagonist is an average middle-class urban city-dweller – let’s call him Akash. Akash has recently finished college and has received an offer with an IT firm working in analytics. He drives to work and lives in a flat with three of his friends. He enjoys going to the movies. He is asthmatic. Akash pays his taxes (it’s deducted from his pay cheque every month, so he does not have much of a choice). He’s also amongst the tiny fraction of Indians who do pay direct income tax…

Akash never went to a government school. He has never and does not ever plan to go to a government hospital. He does not take public transport. He does not receive any food from the public distribution system. He somewhat trusts that the FSSAI stamp on the food he buys makes it safe to eat, but he nurses his doubts. He likes the peace the nation enjoys and is proud of the Army. Last year, when floods devastated his city, he was rescued by the Army, and he is grateful to them. He likes the fact that he has not been robbed or assaulted (as yet) and for that he is thankful to the police. Akash has never voted.None of the candidates appeal to him. And, to be frank, he feels society does not do much for him. The politicians appear to be aware of this: He is not courted before elections…
What is the author trying to say? I suppose what she is getting at is that Akash pays into the system through tax but doesn't get much out of it and so has little 'skin in the game' politically speaking.

Is the author correct?

Briefly, the answer is no. Akash comes from the middle class. Chances are he has already benefited from historic subsidies given to people of his class. His School may have been private but it was given land at a low price by the State in return for low fees and quotas for government servants. His College education is likely to have been highly subsidised.

His reluctance to vote means nothing. He has other ways to influence political outcomes and will need to do so because he is likely to have children and, even if he emigrates, he will inherit ancestral property or have investments in India.

Why mention Akash? Sooner or later his own economic self-interest means that he will be part of a class which has a lot of influence on political outcomes- though it may pretend to have been marginalised.

The author now wants to introduce a 'free rider' who takes from the system but does not pay in.
What on earth is the matter with this author? She was educated at top American institutions. Why does she say that Muniammal 'needs to get away with' anything? Is the woman a bootlegger? Is she pimping out her daughters? Why does she need to pay a policeman to 'look the other way'? Does this have to do with her living 'in an illegal shanty'? But no policeman can arrest her for that. Only the owner of the land can get a writ of eviction and then serve it upon her. She has a legal entitlement to due process. It is not illegal to live in a place whose ownership is disputed or to which one has not yet been able to claim a defined legal right.

It may be the author is thinking of a specific woman engaged in some shady activity. But that is a different matter. She should say this plainly. It is not the case that any very substantial portion of women of this description in Chennai are engaged in any type of criminality.

It seems the author thinks of this woman as a criminal simply because she is poor.

Why does she speak of paying the ward boy or ration shop owner for 'preferential access'? It is merely her own legal entitlement that she is asserting. It is sad that she feels she has to pay a douceur.  But that is not an indictment of her character.

The author now quotes another smart South Indian who says stupid things-
The system, which is supposed to work for all citizens, is often broken for her. Raghuram Rajan, India’s former RBI governor, has been widely quoted as saying that “the tolerance for the venal politician is because he is the crutch that helps the poor and underprivileged navigate a system that gives them so little access”.
What Rajan meant was 'we tolerate the venal politician because he has a countervailing power over the corrupt civil servant.' However, if the system had been properly designed, bureaucrats who tried to restrict access to it so as to extort money would be fired.
The truth is that 'the system' was always cosmetic and based on service provision discrimination. This in turn means that cheap ways to segment the market- stuff like caste or creed- gained salience.
But this “crutch” comes with a big caveat: Muniammal , the 55-year-old woman, cannot hope to command the attention, let alone the assistance, of the local councillor.
Only Muniammal, who belongs to Caste A or Religion B, can. Especially if Caste A is a large voting bloc. And Muniammal gives her vote as her caste leader directs. This means caste definitions and ethnic divisions need to be highlighted to command attention and delineated to create a unique power base – an interesting thought.
This is a poor argument. The Muslim Councillor from the cultivator caste is very happy to do a favour for a Hindu from an artisan caste because this creates the impression that he can command a following outside his own sub-caste which in turn gives him a leg up over his cousins.
Now take Rajiv, our third actor. He’s the hot-shot heir of a large business family with interests in construction, steel and retail. Rajiv would not dream of taking public transportation in India, and would not venture near a government hospital or school. He does not even know where a ration shop is, or what he can get there. He has never seen his ration card. He wants the government to keep multi-brand retailers out of the country and he wants high import duties on steel. Thus far, he has got what he wants.
Right! Coz Rajiv is as stupid as shit. Some business houses may want 'high import duties on steel', others don't. As an anti-dumping measure, steel tarriffs were reasonable when the author was writing this. Multi-brand retailers have always existed in India. What this careless author- dashing off a book to burnish her credentials- is targeting is MNC retailers- single or multi-brand- but, again, this isn't really such a big deal. The author is out of date.
If we were to look at sheer numbers, the Muniammals of India overwhelm the other two in numbers.
This is true everywhere. Few people work in 'analytics' like Akash. Fewer still are heirs to billion dollar fortunes.
What are the characteristics of such an equilibrium? What kind of social contract would manifest here?
I will answer this later on.

Can the author make a stab at it herself?
No- this is what she writes-
The provision of services of the society needs to be broken, or at least flawed.
What type of sentence is this? Where was her brain when she wrote it? Does she not re-read what she writes? What about the editor at the 'Scroll'? Why did he or she let it pass?
Both Akash and Muniammal, for different reasons, cannot really influence the service quality they receive from the government.
This woman must be utterly mad! Does she really think Muniammal has equal access to services provided by the Government? Akash probably wouldn't even need to hire a lawyer to get much better treatment. In every justiciable matter, Akash is likely to get better treatment than Muniammal. But this true all over the world. Government services are rationed- there is service provision discrimination- with money as one segmenting factor. Within income classes, resources may be rationed on a first come first basis. That is a separate issue.
Why? Public provision of services is sometimes flawed because of the incentives of the constituents, the vacancies within several essential departments, such as health and education, and the complete lack of competition…
This is not a flaw. There is always scarcity at the margin in the provision of public services. Once the allocation runs out, some people are turned away.
Thus, Akash cannot shift his custom to another when the government has a virtual monopoly and Muniammal cannot afford to do so.
Akash has already shifted to other service providers for things like housing, food, education and so forth. He may live in a gated community with its own security, water, electricity generator etc. However, where something valuable- like a Govt. of India scholarship to Ivy League- was on offer, Akash would certainly have pursued it with vim and vigour.
Little competition means the “badness” of the service can persist.
Competition is not the problem. The problem is that resources aren't released and reallocated from inefficient service providers- for e.g. a dysfunctional Government school-  to efficient service providers- for example a voucher type, independent school.
Muniammal cannot command better service; she can influence the process only through her politician, and that too as a member of a specific caste or ethnic group. This is important because otherwise the politician loses his meaning to the Muniammals of the world….
Suppose I were Muniammal's local councillor. Would she hesitate to see me because I'm from a different caste? Of course not. She'd come to me and promise to get out the vote for me in her ward. She might well mention her caste- it might qualify for special benefits- and her economic status- so as to get BPL entitlements- and I'd be happy to help her because it would help me snatch votes from my rival or at least make it appear to my caste fellows that I could do so.

It is perfectly rational for collectivities to form around existing identities so as to lobby for deprivation or social exclusion based entitlements.  My Old Etonian boss, when not Merchant Banking, was a vociferous member of a distressed agricultural community which, he chortled over the port, received more money per cow than was spent on the education of school-children in Wales. Hoping to ingratiate myself with him, I said I thought this a perfectly sound policy; the two heifers of his I'd met at dinner- who were now in the withdrawing room waiting for us to finish our cigars- were indeed comparatively erudite despite having grazed at Girton.

Add to this a tremendously delayed judiciary process – we have more than 26 million pending cases as on February 2018 – which imbues the politicians with the power of ad hoc decision-making.
It is estimated that 46% of those pending cases involve sections of the bureaucracy suing each other so as to avoid having to take any sort of action- ad hoc or otherwise.
For instance, if someone beat up your son and the case dragged on and on, wouldn’t it be simpler (and more gratifying) to approach the local politician for speedy street justice?
Is this lady utterly mad? If a case had been lodged against your son's assailant, the police must have already beaten a confession out of the fellow responsible. Otherwise how could the case go ahead? Obviously, the assailant would have retracted his confession and his lawyers would have managed to drag things out. But this can happen anywhere. This is not the sort of thing one goes to a politician for. A gangster maybe- but that would involve extorting money.
Lastly, data is crucial. As the saying goes, knowledge is power, which perhaps explains why departments are shrouded in relative opacity and data seems to be unavailable, hard to access or outdated….
This lady has an MBA from America. She holds some high position and has just published a book. Why is she unable to string two thoughts together in a cogent manner?

Why is data crucial? What sort of data? We don't know. Out distinguished author won't tell us. Instead, she says knowledge is power which is why Government Departments, which are notoriously power hungry, don't have up to date data.

Why do we allow slums to creep up on flood plains?
WTF? Slums aren't sanctioned. We aren't allowing them at all. The question she means to ask is why do many parts of the world permit building on flood plains.
Muniammal needs inexpensive housing close to where job opportunities are. It’s illegal, so the politician leans on the policeman and the judges to look the other way.
Nonsense! Whether in Britain or Chennai or New Orleans, building on floodplains occurred not because of the need for 'inexpensive housing' but for big profits for property developers.

Muniammal is grateful and rewards him with her vote.
How on earth does Muniammal get to know which politician to reward? It would be impossible for her to do so. That is why it is likely that a slum-lord is the person who manages the thing in precisely the same manner that a property developer would and for exactly the same reason.
And because she overwhelms the Akashes in numbers, her writ prevails.
This is a hideous travesty of the truth. I'm pretty far to the Right, but what this lady has written is... it is hate speech directed against...someone of my ethnicity and religion who no South Indian would not consider a better and more worthwhile person than myself.
The slums encroach on the river and reduce its carrying capacity. Of course, cheap housing cannot come with underground sewage, so the waste – both solid and human – finds its way into the inviting river, further reducing the river’s carrying capacity. Naturally, when it rains heavily, the river is more likely to flood.
So, that's what happened in New Orleans or what happens in the Home Counties. Muniammals create slums and this causes floods.  What a wonderful discovery this lady, who used to work for Mckinsey, has made! Donald Trump should appoint her to his Cabinet!
Moving onto the second question, why do we dump construction debris into our drains and canals with impunity?
We don't. A builder might want to, to cut costs. But he won't get away with it in England. That doesn't matter. Big estates will go up anyway. Devastating floods will still occur.
To answer this, let us come to Rajiv. He wants to rebuild the city in his way.
It is not possible to 'rebuild' any Indian city because of obsolete rules and regulations.  What people dream off is building a greenfield land-bank and creating a second Gurgoan. There are plenty of well built housing colonies in India created by 'Rajivs' who knew their business.
Naturally, that involves acquiring buildings on the cheap.
In India? How? The thing will take an age and cost a fortune. Far better let rent controlled buildings collapse on their own.
He leans on his brother-in-law, the MP, to ensure other builders cannot buy old buildings easily in “his” part of town.
The M.P has no such power. This is sheer fantasy. Indeed, this strategy it is a quick way to lose money.
He then breaks down the buildings. Carting the waste would add to costs, and why should he do that when the river lies so invitingly close? Who will stop him? Any official who dares to will get transferred or worse.
Which river is so invitingly close? In any case, India happens to be very good at recycling rubble. Remember the Twin Towers? A scrap merchant from Chennai bought the rubble and recycled it. Why is Rajiv dumping stuff which can be sold for money?
In his book, When Crime Pays, Milan Vaishnav talks about the link between builders and political houses, and the increasing criminality in politics. To highlight his case, Vaishnav shares data that shows cement prices go down just before elections because builders divert funds to the campaign.
Elections mop up 'black' liquidity of diverse origins which then flow back into real estate. So what?
Meanwhile, Rajiv’s first venture does so well that he wants to build the second one. The only problem is there is an old lake there. Earlier, the lake had farmers around it with water rights. But farmers have sold their land and moved as the city has developed. The corporation has taken some of it over, and the rest is too inviting for Rajiv to pass on.
There are plenty of small developers in every city of India. Every family has extended and built up its property. Lakes and water courses get short shrift. Still, this does not mean proper City planning and drainage can't greatly mitigate much of the problem.
Not to worry, dump some earth and debris there, and there is a new site in place.
The unholy alliance between the Rajivs, who promote rule‑breaking to make a quick buck, and the Muniammals, who require rulebreaking as a fiendish substitution to the provision of good services, overwhelm the wishes of the Akashes of India.
Muniammal can't buy the flats Rajiv is selling. Akash can. Why blame the poor woman living in a shack for a problem she has not created at all?
Moreover, the Muniammals vote and, very often, the Akashes don’t.
Muniammals do vote and often they are paid to do so. However, they are not voting for Muniammals. Their votes get divided up between politicians who are clones of each other.
This results in the trampling of our common goods like air and water – of our environment, in short. And because the politician – who gains his power from the broken system – is the one who can fix it, we need to look at addressing the underlying equilibrium instead of merely spouting platitudes.
Equilibrium is a word from Economics. What does economic theory have to say in this context? The answer is that what is happening here has to do with property rights. Encroachment and zoning violations infringe the State's property or residuary control rights. 'Appropriable control rights' give rise to rents. The State can't afford to assert residuary control rights while politicians and administrators can share rents from those who appropritate them. The Coasian solution would be to minimize rent contestation and forget about how property rights were distributed in the first place. The equilibrium to solve for has to do with implementing a mechanism that can 'internalise' externalities. So stuff like a local cess to pay for drainage, utilities, municipal services etc. The incentive for paying the cess is getting some property type claim and thus establishing a path to security and having a fungible asset.

Is this what our author herself recommends? No. Don't be silly. She is simply spouting platitudes and making out that some poor Tamil woman- my age but, unlike me, still of great benefit to Society- is a terrible villain.
But as they say, every cloud (or worsening climate) has a silver lining.
As the frequency of floods increases, Muniammal’s satisfaction with her housing falls.
WTF! Muniammal was very satisfied with her riverside condo was she? The woman is living in a shack! She is barely clinging on. Why speak of her 'satisfaction' as if she were sipping martinis in her penthouse?
It made sense when it was close to her place of work, and she was willing to put up with the sewage and the lack of water. But when it floods every year, she loses the few possessions she has, and the relief doesn’t cover it all. Moreover, Muniammal’s son has done well, relatively speaking, and he does not want to live in a slum anymore. The vote bloc is beginning to crumble, and a new vote bloc, the “development” vote bloc is becoming viable.
Sheer fantasy! There was always a vote bloc for development. What Muniammal and her son and everybody else wants is both for the slum to be improved and the chance to sell and move up the housing chain. There will always be new entrants- perhaps from outside the State if demographic transition has occurred.
Also, once in a while, the system throws up a hero – whether a bureaucrat or a vibrant politician – who wants to make a difference. There are recent examples in India – a bureaucrat who heads the irrigation department of a state, or one who ensured a public transportation project was completed on time and under budget, or politician who revamped the department he was charged with, and delivered results.
Yes, yes. But what happens to these heroes? They are promoted away from genuine problems or reach mandatory retirement age.
Typically, this happens when outsiders – either politicians or lateral entrants into the bureaucracy – take charge. They don’t benefit from the equilibrium, so they are happy to make the change. There are usually tell-tale signs of these heroes – the data will speak for itself. The good news, if you want to call it that, is that climate change throws into strong relief the fissures in the Indian system.
Sheer idiocy. Economic processes don't involve heroes. Solving for a Coasian solution is about minimising rent contestation and using the resources thus freed up through a mechanism which can internalise the relevant externality. It's the story of how municipal services got started in the first place. All this mumbo-jumbo about some supposedly disaffected Akash, with his head in the sand, and Rajiv who will go bankrupt following the author's crazy business model, and villainous Muniammal gloating in her shack, is a fantasy of the author's which exposes something very ugly about her American educated mind-set.

Shame on her and shame on the editor who published this worthless book.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Is kaya, in Buddhism, complex?

Kaya means heap. Merchants heap up things to signal a profusion indicative of a lower price. So, by metonymy, kaya also means to purchase something in the open market. But this immediately raises the possibility of fraud. The merchant, who makes a great display of scooping up only what you point to, must be practicing some duplicitous legerdemain, such that what is actually weighed out to you is adulterated.

We know the very word 'butcher'- 'vyadha', as in the Vyadha Gita- was a synonym for fraud. How do you know the buffalo meat is not cow-flesh? Or the venison not bandicoot meat?

Suppose we all have a meal together and I say- 'Call this food? The paprika is nothing but powdered lead. The meat is that of a cat.' You reply, 'my dear fellow, the paprika was so pure it burned my tongue. The lamb was so tender its juices soothed my mouth. What on earth is wrong with you?'

To keep the peace, some fellow guest of  might say- 'what to do? Nowadays, the spice sellers mix lead dust with paprika. The butcher cunningly throws a few pieces of cat meat into the scales when no one is looking. Truly, ours is an age of decline and dissolution. In the same meal, some get the piece of genuine lamb properly flavoured. Others get cat meat reddened with lead. Even in the field of poetry we see that those whose trade it is to honestly assay worth and discriminate quality; they too behave like dishonest butchers and spice merchants. For a bribe, or out of perversity, they mix and adulterate everything. Alas! Such is the spirit of the Age!'

The Greek word for heap is 'sorites'. The sorites paradox has to do with how many items you can take away from a heap for it to remain one properly so called. The answer, of course, is that there is a tipping point- a non linear process arises. But this also means Stoicism's project of backward induction based 'regret minimization' is worthless. So is evidential decision theory- which can cash out as either 'managing the news' or involve backward causation or both.

Buddhism, however, has no dynamics and can take kaya as a body which is not essentially complex though it may be adulterated. This permits, for the Mahayana, both field theoretic as well as multiple body conceptions of Buddhahood arising out of the notion of inherent existence itself being a type of defilement.

The odd thing is, this concept of heap as possibly adulterated kaya succeeds whereas the Stoic conception of sorites fails. The latter is a question for mathematical physics- it has no philosophical content. The former- being batshit crazy and based on the notion that I can be eating cat while you are eating lamb though we were served from the pot of curry- is philosophically fecund. Categories or Types are a sorites type heap. They collapse and reconstitute themselves according to the rules of a fractal mathematics which is by no means univalent though it will always have witnesses which suggest otherwise. By contrast, Reverse Mathematics deals with kaya type heaps and Buddhism founded upon some similar Nagarjuna type heuristic can go forward, beckoned by virtual Oracles atop the shifting sand dunes of Compassion's fitness landscape, while Stoicism can but say something sour and shit its bed yet again.



Audrey Trushke silencing Sita in the Ramayana

The Caravan magazine- not content with pretending that Judges routinely murder their brother judges if they refuse a big bribe from the Chief Justice- has published an article by Audrey Trushke on the Ramayana.

For Heaven's sake, why?

Have they not got the memo that Rahul is now a janeo-dhari Shaivite Brahmin who visits Temples while Modi and Shah are probably crypto-Jains or acharabrashtas of some description?
Rajiv Gandhi was our Rama- as promoted by Doordarshan TV. His son has returned to the Hindu fold. His Mom- a pativrata, like Sita,- inherits silence and oblivion.

Audrey has a peculiar view of the Ramayana. It has a life of its own. It can do pointless things like 'resist singularity'. What text can't resist singularity? None at all. Trushke's essay itself resists singularity. Logically, the least marked way to receive it would involve the following axioms-

1) All women, even Sita, are stupid bitches who are wholly worthless and parasitical.

2) Any and every character that has been written about- fictional, allegorical, mythological, or whatever- actually exists and can interact with every other. What's more the Meinongian world where they do so defines the political sphere for actual human societies. 

In other words, Trushke upholds so horribly misogynistic a view of not just the Ramayana but also Reality itself,  that her own  jaundiced view of Valmiki's epic attains the status of scriptural, irrefragable, truth for all non-Hindus, or those without a doctrine of partial incarnation or occassionalist theism, because women are always worthless shite.  

How does Trushke pull this off? The answer is, she does this by lacking a penis. This makes her a woman and thus, axiomatically, a worthless, whining, bitch- according to her own hermeneutic theory. 

Yet, Trushke appears to be arguing from a feminist point of view. She begins her essay by saying-
From the beginning, the Ramayana resisted singularity.
A text begins with its first line. At least one text 'resisted singularity' from its first line. It follows that an alethic text based on that text- stated to be the Ramayana- must also resist singularity. In other words, Audrey is saying- 'either I am writing nonsense, or else everything that follows actively resists a univocal reading of it.' Thus it must be the case that Audrey is saying the opposite of the conventional 'feminist' response to the epic. But what could that be? The answer is- Sita was a whining bitch who was utterly worthless whom Lord Rama needed to get shot off by any and every means.

But this begs the question, are their texts which don't resist singularity? Do some texts guard against multivalency or adulteration by some internal means?

Suppose I were to say- 'from the beginning, Harry Potter resisted singularity. Thus he could not be the brainchild of a single individual. The earliest extant version of his story is that of Sri Aurobindo Ghosh who, as a Parmahansa Yogi, was able to project himself forward in time into the body of a beautiful and very smart British lady. Thus, the evil British Raj was able to appropriate intellectual property in 'Hari Putthar' which belongs by right to me coz my great-great grandfather was Sri Aurobindo's cook and was rewarded with the relevant copyright by the Bengali Sage. '

You might very well answer- 'Don't be silly. J.K Rowling is a genius. She and she alone created Harry Potter and ensured that his every action and utterance displayed, in a univocal and aesthetically compelling manner, the several remarkable aspects of his character, resolve, and emotional attachment to his friends, teachers and comrades in the battle against Voldemort.

But then, Harry Potter does not 'resist singularity'- he resists Evil which is polymorphous and invested in multiple horcruxes- the last of which is the hero himself. All great Epic heroes have this quality. No doubt, an inferior writer of 'fan-fiction' who pens 'Harry Potter vs Dr. Strange' will 'resist singularity' in that Potter and Strange may end up in bed together rubbing each others wands. However, this Harry Potter would be of a scenes a faire type- i.e. he would be a cardboard cut-out, without any real depth.

Audrey says-
Valmiki’s Sanskrit Ramayana is the earliest extant version of Rama’s story, written 2,000 years ago, give or take a few centuries.
Written? The Valmiki Ramayana was written? Why not simply say it was typed on an iMac? 
Thousands of handwritten manuscripts of Valmiki’s text survive today, and no two are identical.
Those manuscripts aren't of Valmiki's Ramayana. They capture diverse oral transmissions of Valmiki's text. The same can be said about Homer's texts. 
Like the Mahabharata, its sister epic, Valmiki’s Ramayana was an “open” text, subject to alterations and additions with every new handwritten copy in premodernity.
'Valmiki's Ramayana' is a Kripkean 'rigid designator'. It couldn't have been an open text because 'every new handwritten copy' was judged by a pre-existing community as either conforming or departing from a 'buck-stopped' conception of the original. Thus, variation did not mean 'openness'.  Scholars say- 'King Lear had a happy ending in Nahum Tate's version of Shakespear'- they don't say Shakespeare's Lear resists singularity. It is an open text. That is why Ophelia is able to save Hamlet by fisting his mother till her new husband has a heart-attack and keels over. This enables Hamlet to marry Fortinbras and devote himself to Marine Ecology.

Audrey believes editors can change a text with a Kripkean rigid designation-
Over time, the thousands of editors substantially changed Valmiki’s epic.
No. Some writers created new versions of the epic- because that is what they wanted to do. Others did not because that was not their intention. Rather they sought a Schelling focal solution to a coordination problem concerned with recovering and transmitting something rigidly designated as Valmiki's text. 
Valmiki, or at least some single individual, likely authored the bulk of books two through six of the seven-book text, and most of the first and seventh books were added later.
So what? Bhagwan Valmiki was a Yogijiva. That's why we call him 'Bhagwan'. He could exist in multiple locations and incarnate in diverse bodies concurrently. That is the Hindu view.

From an aesthetic point of view, we readily acknowledge a picture to be by Leonardo even if we know some work was done on it by a later disciple.

The point about the Ramayana & Mahabharata, is that they have a fractal structure. One couplet can summarise the whole epic- more particularly by a hypertrophied type of grammatical analysis.
Notably, for Valmiki, Rama was probably more a man than a god.
More a man than a god? What about Trump to Audrey? Is he more a man than a God?

The fact is, Heroes- like Hercules- gain apotheosis in Epics of the Iron Age. But Rama has a very different personality from a Weyland Smith or Divine Caesar. We may say he is an idealised representation. But a representation of what? The answer is, Ram is the ideal representation of the One all compassionate God made flesh.
His deification was grafted onto the epic—or at least seriously amplified—in later centuries, transforming Rama into Lord Ram, an incarnation of Vishnu, as he is known to Hindus today.
So what? Vaishnavism has a doctrine of partial incarnation. All who serve others in a selfless manner so as to become fitting vessels and vehicles of the Lord are as limbs of the One.

What Audrey is saying is that some wicked editors, for some fell reason, turned some boring story about Kings and Demons shooting arrows at each other into a sublime spiritual text able to unite very simple and ordinary people from diverse parts of India together.

Audrey may think Indians should never make common cause and that they should certainly not have the temerity to believe that the Lord himself once paced Ind's forest paths and river fords as an exile and a man of sorrows, but this begs the question- does Audrey really think?
But, whether he was viewed as human or divine, Valmiki’s Rama was never beyond reproach.
Ordinary people reproach God constantly. Nobody is beyond reproach. The thing is, when you reproach one who is selfless and dedicated to your uplift, sooner or later you discover your error and tears of repentance come into your eyes and you join your hands in, for a change, a purely unselfish prayer for that one whose concern is only with the commonweal.
Valmiki could pack quite a punch in his poetry, and he used derisive language to admonish Rama at times, often voiced by other characters in the tale.
Wow! Audrey sure is a master of the English language! 'Pact quite a punch!' What a lapidary phrase! Rutgers must be so proud.
For example, when Rama shoots Vali in the back, a blatant violation of the rules of war, the monkey king upbraids him for being two-faced, treacherous, vile, and cruel.
Rama shot from the side because Vali had the boon that whosoever attacks from in front will lose his power to him. Yet Ram's arrow struck in Vali's chest. Why? In Tamil poetry, the mother of a slain warrior goes to the battlefield to check for herself that her son died while attacking the enemy, not fleeing like a coward. If she sees an arrow in his back, she weeps believing he tried to flee. If she finds his chest hacked by swords and pierced by arrows, she rejoices. She gave birth to a hero.

The dialogue between Ram and Vali shows that the Grace of God- even if you are the enemy of God- will use your own 'virodha bhakti' or thymotic 'samrambha yoga' to affect your own salvation!

This is a psychological truth. A big and powerful man may rail against his small and tiny daughter because she has destroyed his brandy or other such intoxicant. He may reveal, in his wrath, that this child is not his daughter at all but just some foundling abandoned during the famine. The child may make some answer- more or less shamefaced or unsound in law- but the brute confronting her will experience a change of heart. When you are in the wrong, it helps to blow off steam. The last thing you need is some one to tell you why you are in the wrong. You already know you did wrong. There is no need for some big debate. Let the sinner have the last word so long as  he repents and earns a seat in Heaven.
When Rama tries to leave Sita behind in Ayodhya while he goes to the forest, Sita likens him to a śailūṣa.
Quite right! That's how people who love each other talk. Sita says 'oho! you want to go off gallivanting is it? No such luck, dear. I'll be with you every step of the way. Otherwise God alone knows what shenanigans you will get up to.'

Suppose Sita had said- 'My Lord! My duty is to go with you and share your misfortune! Please do not destroy my Religion by preventing me from doing my Duty'- we may well suspect that her true attachment was to duty and that she was not a warm and affectionate spouse.

By using a word meaning a roguish male dancer or other such entertainer who would have plenty of amorous opportunities, Sita silences Ram very effectively.

This is sound psychology. But it also tells us something about Vaishnav, or Hindu, Religion. Love triumphs over 'akrebia'- i.e. a narrow, legalistic, conception of Duty as Eusebia.
In a 2004 article titled “Resisting Rama,” the scholar Robert Goldman, who has devoted his career to studying Valmiki’s text, translated the term, a bit zestily, as “pimp.”
Why? The word means a male who is a dancer or vagabond who has affairs with women. A pimp does not do so. He sells girls- whom he threatens and beats- to other men.

Robert Goldman, on this evidence, is not a scholar. He is a pimp. He is selling an erudition, not his own, for a vile and repugnant end.
During the fire trial to test her chastity on her return from captivity under Ravana in Lanka, Sita calls Rama prākta, meaning vulgar or uncouth, and smears him as laghuneva manuyea, which the scholar David Shulman has translated as “like a little man.”
She was right to do so. Consider what actually happened. Ram had won a war to get back his beloved. But he was also a King. He had to affirm in open court that no woman can be considered property. Sita had been held in captivity and it was right that Ram fought for her freedom. Though he had vanquished a King and could have taken a rich Kingdom by right of conquest, he could not take back even his own beloved wife because she was a free agent. Might does not create Right- at least when it comes to Love.

Valmiki shows that Rama becomes enraged prior to Sita's appearance. Anger is a bad thing- it disorders one's wits- as Ravana's, or Vali's, wits had been disordered. However, this 'samrambha yoga', in Valmiki, serves to bring about the best possible end. Ravana and Vali gain union with the godhead. Rama's anger and his clumsy, but vulgarly 'feminist', statements causes Sita to herself become enraged and enter the fire. The result is that the Gods are apalled and cause all of the virtuous dead to be restored to life.

What made Rama so angry? The answer is that Vibhishina's courtiers were using sticks to beat back the throng of monkeys. When I go on pilgrimage, I may lose my sense of decorum and surge forward with the crowd eager for 'darshan' of the Godhead. At such times, men with staves beat me back. VIPs can jump the queue. We are inured to this sort of thing nowadays but Lord Ram himself is angered by such discrimination. 

Why was Rama so enraged? The Vanars more than anyone else deserved Sita's 'munh dekhai'- because to see her face is salvation. This did not mean Sita was placed under any obligation at all. Liberation from Captivity does not mean a new type of slavery to the Liberator.

Valmiki's genius is that he gives Sita a chance to show her mettle. Rama, like an idiot, says 'marry whom you like- Vibhishina or Hanuman or Laxman (which means they have to keep silent, otherwise Sita will turn her fury on them and accuse them of lust) or go anywhere you wish and marry who you like'.

Sita, we feel, could have destroyed Lanka by the power of her chastity- as Kanagi did another great City.  Ram's maladroitness- which is kinda cute coz what he's really saying is- 'Most cruel! due to why you abandoned me and didn't come to give me even one or two kisses? Boo!'- causes Sita's anger and self immolation which was what was required to restore all the dead to life and end this Divine Comedy.

This is not Audrey's view-
Sita also accuses Rama of prejudice against women or, more succinctly, misogyny. In her words, “pthakstrīṇāṃ pracārea jāti tva pariśakase”—“You suspect all women because of the vulgar ones’ behaviour.”
Quite right! There are folk forms all over the length and breadth of the sub-continent which feature 'flyting' matches. The male singer repeats sententious proverbs about the fickleness of women.  The female rebuts the charges and piles on some of her own. Both then agree that God is Love and without Gender or Jealousy.
Valmiki himself appears uncomfortable with Rama’s treatment of Sita during the fire test, and the poet describes his speech as rūka, or cruel, and, in some north Indian versions, as ghora, or horrible.
Really? So Valmiki didn't really write the Ramayana. He witnessed it. Otherwise why should he feel uncomfortable if he is himself putting words in the mouths of imaginary characters?
All of this is little remembered today. On Twitter, I recently colloquially summarised Sita’s criticism of Rama during the fire test, as narrated by Valmiki. An explosion of anger—predominantly from men—followed. Many expressed their rage about a perceived insult to Lord Ram—articulated in a woman’s voice—by threatening to rape or kill me.
Wonderful. Audrey likes to tweet. That makes her an authority on Valmiki. Why didn't she tweet about Trump? She'd have gotten even more rape threats. BTW, I received a lot of rape threats after I tweeted my disproof of Arrow's theorem. With hindsight, my big mistake was to use the handle 'Honeytits Cumbucket'.
In a sick twist of irony, the grotesque language these men employed displayed the very misogyny that, in their minds, Lord Ram, the ideal man—maryādāpuruottam—could never harbour.
That's a sick twist of irony? No. A sick twist of irony would have been their Moms interrupting their whacking off to your tweet with the result that they jizzed in their own sandesh and their Moms made them eat it anyway to teach them a lesson.
When I called attention to these hateful threats, many critics accused me of just playing the victim and refused to themselves describe the attacks as misogynistic.
These guys were jacking off. What's misogynistic about that? It's sad is all- more especially coz their Moms made them eat their own jizz which had landed on their dessert. Anyway, they'll probably fail Chemistry and have to settle for a worthless non-STEM subject like whatever shite you profess.
This was again a patriarchal tactic—the dismissal of gendered threats of violence—designed to intimate and silence women.
A patriarch is a Dad. He has daughters. He may beat the shite out of his sons but he does not threaten to rape or kill his little Princesses.
Some sad loser, tweeting rape threats till he jizzed into his sandesh is not a Patriarch. He is a emotionally arrested wanker.
Unsurprisingly, most of my critics focussed on the perceived insult to Lord Ram, without much consideration for Sita and her point of view.
Sita is Divine. Her point of view is the same as that of Lord Ram- viz. caritas for creation commences with changing the hearts of creatures.
Such is the logic of modern misogyny that it demands female voices in the grand Ramayana tradition remain subordinate to male feelings.
What was the logic of pre-modern misogyny? Did it demand male voices remain subordinate to female feelings?
In order to understand Valmiki’s text it is important to recover Sita’s voice, and to resist any soft-pedalling of it despite our own prejudices.
Does Audrey believe Sita really existed? Hindus do, but they also believe she was Divine and had miraculous powers. If Audrey wants to 'recover Sita's voice' then it must be the case that everybody, except her, had miraculous powers. Thus, her recovered voice would bitterly complain about how she got burned to a crisp when she entered the fire. For everybody else there's some miracle, why not for me? Sod this for a game for soldiers. I'm well out of it, mate'.
While Valmiki’s text was changed over the centuries, the criticisms of Rama contained in it were preserved.
How do you know? Also...why?
Valmiki’s Ramayana holds within itself the tension of a perfect man-cum-god who acts brutally, giving the reader plenty of ethical dilemmas to mull over.
Where is the brutality? The guy is an incarnation of the Lord fulfilling the Divine plan. What does he do wrong? Killing Vali? But Vali had a boon such that he could only be attacked from the side. Warriors know that other warriors will seek to circumvent their precautions. Vali should have asked for a better boon or taken some other precaution. Under the rules of war, no brutal act was committed.

A guy can tell his wife that she is free to depart and marry someone else. That is not brutish. Men have the right to a divorce- same as women do.
The epic also has a way of crafting episodes to simultaneously advance conservative social values and offer glimmers of resistance. For instance, Sita’s fire test is designed to prove her sexual purity, a gendered concern in the patriarchal society of the time, but it is Sita’s idea, which can be read as her exercising agency.
Is Audrey utterly mad? I am as chaste as the driven snow but I don't set fire to myself to prove it every time the g.f pretends to get jealous of the homeless lady up the road who always lifts her skirt and shouts 'Paki bastid!' when I walk past.


To reduce instances of perceived moral lapse in Valmiki’s version, especially regarding Rama’s interactions with Sita, premodern Indians often rewrote the epic.
Indians produced their own versions of the story for different purposes- e.g. to demonstrate the rules of grammar or to advance a particular metaphysical doctrine.
For example, book seven of what we now call Valmiki’s Ramayana—one of the books that was added, in part or whole, in later centuries—depicts Rama abandoning a pregnant Sita in the forest and later attempting to subject her to a second fire test.
Actually, modern Hindus don't call it part of the Valmiki Ramayana. For example, Vikram Seth, in 'A Suitable Boy' has a character refer to it as being from Tulsi. 
These episodes sought to wrestle with moral crises raised by the narrative, especially doubts about Sita’s chastity during her time in Lanka. But some of these later episodes also showed Rama behaving harshly towards his wife, which discomforted many later premodern readers who decided to change them.
The ending of an incarnation is a fit subject for a certain sort of tragedy which depicts a society lapsing from a golden age. 
It is a fit subject for courtly literature but has no soteriological function. Why? The thing is too artificial. Gods and Demons and Fires which do not scorch the chaste don't really exist. The Lord may ordain such things for some purpose of his own, but that is not our concern. Our salvation lies in selfless service to Daridra Narayan- the Lord in the form of the afflicted and despised of men.


Bhavabhuti, the great Sanskrit dramatist of the eighth century, composed his Uttararamacarita, or Rama’s Last Act, precisely as a revision of Valmiki’s treatment of Sita.
Nonsense! The guy wrote a play because that was what he did for a living. He is comparable with Nahum Tate, not Shakespeare.
Bhavabhuti concluded his drama with Rama and Sita living happily ever after. But during the several acts it takes to reach that ending, he singles out Rama for admonishment. As translated by the Sanskrit scholar Sheldon Pollock, he depicts Janaka, Sita’s father, exclaiming, “Why, who in the name of heaven is this god of fire to presume to purify my daughter? How dare anyone speak like this and insult us more when Rama has already insulted us enough?”
Wow! This dude must have been one swell dramatist! Or, no, it is only the translator's lack of talent which is revealed here.
Bhavabhuti also expresses criticism of Rama in the hero’s own voice. The dramatist has Rama bitterly rebuke himself as immoral when he feels compelled to slice off the head of Shambuka, a Shudra who had upset the caste system by practising asceticism.
O my right hand, bring down this sword
upon the Shudra monk
and bring the dead son of the Brahman
back to life. You are a limb
of Rama’s—who had it in him to drive
his Sita into exile,
weary and heavy with child.
Why start with pity now?
So, the whole thing is just play-acting. True, a good translator could find something interesting in Bhavabhuti's lines. But that rules Pollock's bollocks out.
Rama’s treatment of Sita at the end of the tale often served as a focal point for changes to Valmiki’s story.
A focal point? How? What Audrey means is 'some authors changed the ending as they pleased'. 
Some devotional Ramayanas, which advocated Rama’s divinity, preferred a cleaner narrative, devoid of even the suggestion of bad behaviour on Rama’s part. For example, the fifteenth-century Sanskrit Adhyatma Ramayana and Tulsidas’s sixteenth-century Hindi Ramcharitmanas fundamentally altered Sita’s fire test so that it is no test at all.
There was never any test. Fire burns human beings. No doubt, for Theists, the Lord can will otherwise. But writing a play can't change what the Lord willed.  In any case, you had a full blown Occassionalism by then so all was but Maya- an illusion.
Rather, both works introduced a shadow Sita, a replica who replaces the real Sita during her abduction in order to avoid uncomfortable questions of sexual misconduct and contamination. In these versions, the shadow Sita enters the fire, and the real Sita emerges to reunite with Rama. The plot device absolves Rama of blame for cruelty or mistrust, since in these retellings he did not subject his distraught wife to a chastity test. Tulsidas’s Ramcharitmanas has been highly influential in shaping modern knowledge of Rama’s story, and served as the primary inspiration for the director Ramanand Sagar’s television adaptation of the Ramayana for Doordarshan.
Quite untrue. Modern knowledge of the Ramayana comes from prose narratives in vernacular languages, and also English, sometimes commissioned by Educational authorities and sometimes penned by Nationalistic leaders- like Rajaji.
In eastern India, a series of more critical Ramayanas—versions which often took up gender issues—were written starting in the fifteenth century. For instance, Candravati—a female poet—dwells on Sita’s grief in her sixteenth-century Bengali Ramayana, thus forefronting her perspective. Candravati also introduces other female characters into her narrative, such as Kukuya, Rama’s sister. In Candravati’s narrative, Kukuya acts malevolently against Sita and manipulates Rama, thus playing into the gendered trope of the scheming woman. Arguably, however, she also displaces some of Rama’s male agency and so might direct readers’ attention to Sita’s plight rather than Rama’s morality.
How is this a 'more critical Ramayana'? It is an absorbing narrative, no doubt, but it isn't criticising anything. Audrey thinks that a guy wrote a book which caused patriarchy to be mean. Then some other guy wrote a book but patriarchy stayed mean. Then some lady wrote a more critical book but that mean old Patriarchy stayed mean so now Audrey herself will tweet some shite and patriarchy will stop being so mean.
Still, some premodern retellings of the Ramayana found revering Rama to be fully compatible with depicting his behaviour as heartless. Most notable here is the poet Kamban, who reimagined Rama’s story in Tamil in the twelfth century. Valmiki depicts Rama as speaking to Sita cruelly during the fire test episode, telling her to get lost (gaccha hyabhyanujñātā yatheṣṭa), that she is worthless to him (kāryamasti na me tvayā), and that she should go live with one of his brothers or even a monkey. Kamban makes Rama’s words even harsher. He depicts Lord Ram—he was, for Kamban, a god—telling Sita to die. As Shulman has translated the Tamil,
What is the point of talking?
Your conduct has destroyed forever
all understanding.
The thing to do
is to die
or, if you won’t do that,
then go somewhere,
anywhere,
away.
Kamban wrote for us Tamils who pride ourselves on our harshness of speech and love nothing more than a big fight where all sorts of things are said. So what? Shit has to be expelled from the body. When we speak hateful obscene nonsense we realise how much in need of Grace we are. We repent the more heartily and welcome selfless service as the one sure path out of the Hell of egotism. Why use honeyed words and gracious forms of speech to appear better than we are? Who are we fooling?
In the twenty-first century, the Ramayana continues to enliven imaginations, retellings and criticism. Indeed, one of the many beautiful aspects of Hindu religious traditions is that they encourage dynamic dialogue with the dramatic stories of their sacred texts. But modern Ramayanas—especially when they criticise Rama or dwell on Sita—have been met with escalating pushback.
Quite true. The thing has gone too far. But we all know why. The fact is the Dynasty, in the early Eighties, dropped talk of 'Removing Poverty' and reinvented itself as champions of upper caste Hinduism. Indira was Durga. Rajiv was Ram. He reopened Ram's birthplace in Ayodhya for Hindu worship. The BJP saw their clothes were being stolen and embarked on an agitation to have a new temple built at that spot. Had Rajiv lived, he would have easily outfoxed Advani- a 'casteless' Sindhi- because Rajiv was descended from Brahmin Pundits and, what's more, looked the part.

The BJP's campaign to build a Ram Temple led to a Muslim backlash which however led to a counter-backlash more particularly after Al Qaeda type terrorism gained salience. After 9/11 and the attack on the Indian Parliament, Islam in India- as elsewhere- appeared a threat. Still, the Indian people wanted good governance above all else. They did not greatly care if some academics and public intellectuals went on denigrating Hinduism and pretending that 'Hindu terrorists' posed some big threat. However, the new English speaking middle class did become alarmed by the stupidity and ignorance displayed by such academics and public intellectuals. They were not aware that the thing was a backhanded compliment. People like Pollock or Sen were saying 'High Caste Hindus have already attained a status similar to WASPs in the U.S. Thus by attacking their Culture and Religion, their hegemony is asserted in a covert fashion.

The problem with this view is that most Hindus who now use English aren't really secure or in a hegemonic position. They need their ancestral religion to continue to serve a 'ratchet' type function- i.e. prevent a sudden and precipitous decline in social standing consequent of some economic shock. Thus, the BJP became the Hindu party by default. Rahul is now combating this notion vigorously. He is also letting Congress take a back-seat in anti-BJP coalitions and giving more freedom to regional leaders. The Hindus will be reassured and go back to 'voting their caste, rather than casting their vote'.  Meanwhile, all those stupid academics who pretended Hinduism was Hitlerism and that Lord Ram had been 'reinvented as a vengeful Father God', will lose salience. Twitter may still shower them with shit but nobody believes any longer that Rahul will listen to them in the way that Sonia listened to Romila Thapar or Manmohan gave Amartya Sen the time of day. Sonia and Manmohan weren't Hindus. Rahul has reasserted his Brahminical, Saivite, heritage. What's more, he is one up on his cousin because he can come out as a celibate dedicated to the Nation in the same manner as Atal or Narendra.

Whining about the treatment of women is old hat. We know very well that the old Feminists- like Germaine Greer- are going to come out and say 'Rape is a good thing' sooner or later. Meanwhile, in every sphere of public life- including, now, the Armed Forces- women are surging ahead. Why? Purely on the basis of superior ability and integrity.

Why pretend women are weak little whiners? They may put backbones into men; they don't bend their backs to them.
Many modern Indian retellings of the epic strike a censorious tone regarding Rama, specifically regarding his treatment of women. Women’s songs and folktales across South Asia are notable in this regard, and often focus on Sita’s sorrow and mistreatment.
Why? They wish to create solidarity amongst women of all classes residing in a particular location so that they can collaborate to improve lives and livelihoods in the area. Sita's sorrow and mistreatment does not matter. Either she was Divine and has no problems or she didn't exist. What is this Hecuba to Hindu women? Nothing at all.
Critical Ramayanas are rather common in south India, and some have been met with violence. For instance, in 2000, the Hindu chauvinist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh attacked the offices of Andhra Jyothy, a popular Telugu weekly magazine, after it published the first two parts of a three-part story in which Sita condemns Rama and Ravana as womanisers.
Ravana was a womaniser. Why equate Rama with him? Audrey is referring to a 3 part story by a minor writer named D.R Indra called Ravana Josyam (Ravana's Prophesy) which features Sita and Ravana chatting amiably. Sita decides that her husband is just like Ravana- who rapes a lot of women- because he loves her and has consensual sex with her coz she loves him and can't get enough of his hot bod.

In other words, Sita is as stupid as shit. So are all women. Kidnap them and then say- 'Listen, I am a big-time rapist. I'm holding off in your case coz I luv u.'- and they will immediately reply- 'OMG! My hubby is a rapist too! I just realised it! He said he loved me and had sex with me coz I said I loved him and wanted his hot bod and...that was RAPE! My hubby is a serial rapist because...urm... well he just is coz of Feminism and Environmental Sustainability and oooh are them Hindus evil!'

The RSS turned up in response to this shit and threatened the office staff and so the paper discontinued this delightful series. D.R. Indra was thus denied the opportunity to go on to show how Jesus Christ raped Prophet Moses and Karl Marx was there and he said something really wise and then the World Trade Centre raped Osama bin Laden while he was flying over New York and so 9/11 had to happen to avenge that act of supererogatory sodomy on the part of neoliberalism which is like so uncool.
Attacks on those who retell the Ramayana are generally led by followers of Hindutva, who seek to narrow the range of ways to be Hindu as part of a bid to create a more monolithic, hypermasculine tradition.
The main way of being Hindu is by ignoring stupid shite written by fuckwits.  Some Hindutvadis have broadened the range of ways of being a Hindu and Hindu writers and artists are very grateful because they can pose as Salman Rushdie type martyrs. Indeed, there are outfits whom you can pay to come and create a ruckus at your gallery opening or book release so as to garner a bit of publicity.
The Ramayana is a logical place for Hindutva ideologues to focus their efforts because the Ramayana tradition—in its stubborn multiplicity and refusal to eradicate criticism of men—is a grave threat to their vision of singular Hindu identity.
How is it a threat? My generation has witnessed the rise and rise of Hindutva on the back of standing up for Lord Ram and standing against worthless shitheads who denigrate Hinduism and talk nonsense.

Smearing shit on the Religion of the Majority community of a country causes a backlash such that whichever party appears more orthodox gets a bonanza at the ballot box. Audrey and her ilk have been helping the BJP and the RSS- which is now wholly respectable to even old Congress-wallahs like Pranab Mukherjee- all these years without getting paid a penny. No doubt, they receive rape threats- but then it seems these people already gave away their scholarly reputation to benefit the Sangh Parivar, so perhaps they also wish to gratify the lust or sadism of such people in a gratuitous manner.
Academics, too, have come under heavy fire for engaging with the grand Ramayana tradition. In 2003, the Indologist Wendy Doniger had an egg thrown at her after she explored the Lakshmana-Sita relationship in a public lecture in London.
Get your facts straight! A bomb was thrown at her. Not an egg. Eggs aren't newsworthy. Terrorists don't throw eggs.
In 2011, Delhi University scrubbed AK Ramanujan’s “Three Hundred Ramayanas,” a seminal essay on the awesome breadth and depth of the Ramayana tradition, from its syllabus.
Awesome breadth and depth? AK, poor fellow, studied English and got a PhD in linguistics. He wasn't a philologist. His book is tendentious post-Babri shite.
Hindu right-wing groups raised many objections to the essay, several of which concerned sex and gender. They fumed that Ramanujan mentioned variations on Sita’s story, including south Indian tales in which Sita is born when Ravana sneezes and an oral tribal tradition that claims Sita was seduced by Lakshmana. Notably, Ramanujan’s essay had been taught widely, and peacefully, for decades before the controversy.
Taught widely by donkeys to donkeys who, however, couldn't all get teaching jobs. Most hoped to get into the Civil Service. Ramanujan's text damaged their life chances. Being able to repeat a shloka or two of Valmiki and being able to say which alamkar or what quality of dhvani it exhibited could get them a pat on the back. Why? India is a Hindu country. Even non-Hindus don't want to hear about alternative Scriptures where Goddesses fist each other vigorously so as to challenge Patriarchy.
Artists have found themselves maligned for using the Ramayana as creative material, especially when they focus on Sita. In 2011, Nina Paley, an American animator, saw a screening of her much-acclaimed film Sita Sings the Blues cancelled in New York after protests.
So what? American Hindus did not want their kids to end up like Nina's protagonist- alone with a cat- because they have crazy ideas about how females lack agency and if their b.f dumps them all they can do is caterwaul. Instead, Hindus- like other people- want their daughters to be Doctors or CEOs and to dump loser b.f's or hubbies before they are themselves dumped. Also, if you feel you have to marry a loser, get a pre-nup. If the guy is a high-flyer, don't- but also stick to him and make him work his ass off and get to the corner office.
The renowned Indian artist MF Husain was vilified in the 1990s for his highly stylised paintings of Indian deities, created a few decades earlier. Adherents of Hindutva objected, sometimes violently, to Husain’s omission of clothing, including in a portrayal of Hanuman carrying Sita, and they drove him out of India in 2006. Husain died in exile.
Husain took Qatari citizenship at a time when that Emirate was more Wahhabi than its neighbor. Them Wahhabis sure do love their nudes- especially one's featuring Goddesses!
Indian society is changing fast these days as Hindu nationalism morphs into a mainstream ideology, placing previously accepted ideas out of bounds.
Audrey is writing this in 2018! Has she not heard that Narendra Modi is now Prime Minister? Her mentors paved the way for the BJP becoming the default Hindu as well as the default Nationalist party.

No 'previously accepted ideas' were placed out of bounds- save the notion that Professors of Sanskrit would speak sensibly of Sanskrit literature- not pretend, as Pollock does, that it has magical powers.
Whether Rama’s self-appointed defenders succeed in silencing Sita and those who wish to explore, honour or revise her story remains to be seen.
OMG! Is Audrey's Sita still whining? About what? Surely she and Mandodari would be too busy fisting each other to signal their resistance to Patriarchy? Or does Audrey disapprove of such behaviour? Is she also opposed to transgender people?
It is a distasteful reality that scholars and artists alike are increasingly willing to toe the line drawn by the Hindu right and avoid commenting on potentially controversial topics.
Yes, yes. It is very distasteful that scholars and artists are not fisting each other after appropriate gender reassignment surgery as part of a new Ramleela tradition that will at last challenge Patriarchy and Neoliberalism and Repressive Desublimation and so forth.
Some uphold academic and artistic integrity despite physical assaults, book bans, death threats, lawsuits, bad-faith interlocutors and intense hate campaigns on social media.
But they are still shite. The gerontocratic Left got tenure as the price of becoming wholly irrelevant to the struggles of the masses. Now they are dead or brain-dead or just going through the motions.
But others choose to remain mute and so wind up endorsing—by the power of their silence—hateful Hindutva ideas. It is an apt moment to underscore that the Ramayana tradition has, historically, not silenced multiple voices and provocative perspectives.

What hateful Hindutva idea is involved in saying Ram and Sita loved each other. On earth, they could be parted. Not so in Heaven. We too, married or unmarried, orphaned or yet possessing parents who are as Gods in our eyes, we too gain felicity by the path of selfless service to Daridra Narayan- God as he appears in those distressed and discriminated against. That is Modi's Ramayana. It is also the message of Yogi Adityanath. If they succeed even a little in their stated plan, they may be re-elected. Otherwise, they will get the order of the boot.

Audrey is welcome to go on re-cycling this essay so long as plutocrat funded Caravans remain trundling along the road. There's always some new source of crooked money for a smear-sheet.