Friday, 6 June 2014

Bilgrami's Gandhi- 1

Prof. Akeel Bilgrami, a nice guy- not obviously a witless careerist- has some extraordinarily foolish things to say about Gandhi. So what? So does Prof. Sorabji- an all round good egg. Surely, writing foolish things about Gandhi is what Indian origin Philosophers are supposed to do?

My contention- and, sure, I admit it is a scandalous one- is, NO, nice guys needn't write shite even if it's about Gandhi.  Omitting to publish one's quota of shite every other year won't directly result in Modi becoming P.M.

Writing non-shite, at least for an Ivy League Prof who has the ear of Rahul's elite buddies,  could however, at the margin, have helped the 'Secular' forces (by definition, anti-Modi) put up a better show in the recent elections. If nothing else, it might have given Modi an excuse to cull some of the more repellent senile shitheads in his own party- like the 84 year old Home Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Babulal Gaur Yadav, who reckons rapes are okay provided the rapist is a Yadav but a bad thing if the reverse is the case.

In what follows, I'll be quoting Bilgrami's Essay on Gandhi from his Columbia Uni. Webpage. My remarks are in bold.

Bilgrami's Thesis
1) Gandhi held a consistent but highly unusual philosophical position. 
'Universalizability suggests merely that if someone in particular holds a moral value, then he must think that it applies to all others (in relevantly similar situations).'
Bilgrami is wrong. A moral value can militate for a 'mixed strategy'- i.e. one with a stochastic component- which can't be simply dominated. Thus a man who abhors gambling may still permit a contentious zero-sum issue to be decided by a coin toss. Yuddhishtra was a moral man. If some people in his kingdom MUST be slaves why should he and his kinfolk not themselves become slaves by virtue of a coin toss? It's a perfectly plausible Rawlsian, or 'overlapping consensus' solution IFF Econ 101 in the original position tells you that some necessary Public Good only becomes available if some people are slaves. Otherwise the species goes extinct.

As a matter of fact, in the Mahabharata, the Just King, to overcome his vishada or harmatia, has to learn both Game theory (in the Nala episode) as well as the wisdom of the low-caste butcher (the Vyadha Gita) which shows that perfect felicity in this world and the next is attained by ignoring Kings and Priests and just taking your own elderly parents as your Gods. Notice, the Vyadha's ethic is universalizable; yet entails no obligation to go around making a nuisance of yourself lecturing all and sundry on their moral shortcomings and ignorance of the Chandogya's highest truth which is known equally to the carter and Krishna Devakiputra neither of whom go in for pi-jaw.
2) Philosophers aren't stupid and Gandhi was a philosopher
 'Yet despite the fact that it is much weaker than universality in this sense, it still generates the critical power that Gandhi finds disquieting. If moral judgements are universalizable,  one cannot make a judgement that something is morally worthy and then shrug off the fact that others similarly situated might not  think so. They (unlike those who might differ with one on the flavour of ice cream) must be deemed wrong not to think so.'
Why? All we can say about them is that they have a different Vyavahara/Jati dharma/Verstehen than we do. Since Gandhi claimed to have read the Gita- indeed, he claimed to understand it better than anyone else- why should we assume he hadn't read its dual, the Vyadha Gita? Furthermore, Gandhi learned a little Jainism from his greatest supporter's brother-in-law. Where is the scandal for Anekantavada in what Bilgrami is saying? Indeed, there is no scandal for European thought here either.  No doubt there is some narrow textual availability cascade in the Academy that pretends otherwise- but it is fuckwitted merely and has had zero impact on anyone whether Western of Eastern or whatever.
3) Gandhi was a hermeneut of traditions he was entirely ignorant of.
Gandhi repudiates this entire tradition. His integrating thought is that violence owes to something as seemingly remote from it as this assumed theoretical connection between values and criticism.
Gandhi was blissfully unaware of any such tradition. People would tell him about it and he'd basically tell them to fuck off in a polite way while underlining his firm conviction that everybody else was a moral worm or eunuch and he alone was worthy of worship. Why did Gandhi do that? The answer is because that's what guys who run expensive Ashrams with other people's money do if they want to be successful and get to sleep naked with young girls.
Take the Maharishi; instead of saying 'ply chakri and Universal Peace will reign' he said 'Do Yogic Levitation and then Universal Peace will reign'. Still, Mia Farrow wouldn't sleep with him. The Beatles wrote 'Sexy Sadie' to commemorate this terrible crime which the Materialistic West inflicted on the Spiritual East.
4) Shite gobshites write can cause violence even without the instrumentality of a sociopath
Take the wrong view of moral value and judgement, and you will inevitably encourage violence in society. There is no other way to understand his insistence that the satyagrahi has not eschewed violence until he has removed criticism from his lips and heart and mind.
Urm...not just satyagrahis, every one who knew him well,  was constantly tempted to criticise Gandhi for sleeping with naked chicks and making his wife cook mutton chops for Maulana Azad and fucking up the Independence Movement, the Khadi Movement, the Basic Education scheme and anything else he stuck his oar into. Telling his wife she was guilty of 'himsa' (violence) if she didn't cook mutton chops (coz Azad really liked them and was a total fuck-wit of Gandhian proportions who had dreamed of becoming the Imam ul Hind and buggering with all them smart Aligarh M.U. types) was par for the course.  
Gandhi, himself, of course, criticised everybody and anybody unless they got stroppy and made him stop. That's just standard operating procedure for charismatic fuckwits running a Credentialized Ponzi scheme is all.
5) My name is Bilgrami and I'm an Indian Muslim and can't reason for shit. Watch Slumdog why don't you?
But there is an interpretative challenge hidden here. If the idea of a  moral value or judgement has no implication that one find those who disagree with one's moral judgements, to be wrong, then that
suggests that one's moral choices and moral values are rather like one's choice of a flavour of ice cream, rather like one's judgements of taste. In other words, the worry is that these Gandhian ideas
suggest that one need not find one's moral choices and the values they reflect relevant to others at all, that one's moral thinking is closed off from others. But Gandhi was avowedly a humanist, and repeatedly said things reminiscent of humanist slogans along the order of 'Nothing human is alien to me'. Far from encouraging self-enclosed moral subjects, he thought it the essence of a moral
attitude that it take in all within its concern and its relevance.
A guy running a Ponzi scheme has an interest in broadening the base of his pyramid to cover not just all sentient beings but imaginary ones too.
Now, it is true that there is a Jain Gandhism- originating with Dr. Pranjivan Mehta and Raichandhbhai and very effectively developed in vernacular languages like Gujerati and Hindi (see for e.g. H.H. Amar Muni Upadhyay of Veerayatan fame) but it is based on a monadology which is 'self-enclosed' and which rejects the notion that one substance (dhravya) can, for woe or weal, operate directly on another. However, this is a dynamic conception- i.e. a field theory- and features fuzzy logic and other such high I.Q stuff- so forget I mentioned it okay? 
How, then, to reconcile the rejection of universalizability and of a value's potential for being wielded in criticism of others with this yearning for the significance of one's choices to others? That is among the hardest questions in understanding the philosophy behind his politics, and there are some very original and striking remarks in his writing which hint at a reconciliation.
Name one. Go on. I dare ya.
So far, I have presented the challenge of providing such reconciliation as a philosophically motivated task.
Why? Gandhi was a stupid guy. He passed the University entrance exam, but realised he'd gotten as far as he could and, sensibly, never pretended otherwise- at least to himself.
But it is more than that. It is part of the 'integrity' that I am pursuing in my interpretation of Gandhi that it also had a practical urgency in the political and cultural circumstances in which he found himself.
We know very well that it was close to this man's heart to improve India in two ways which, on the face of it, were pointing in somewhat opposite directions. On the one hand there was the violence of religious intolerance, found most vividly in the relations between Hindus and Muslims. This especially wounded him. Religious intolerance is the attitude that the other must not  remain other, he must become like one in belief and in way of life. It is an inclusionary, homogenizing attitude, usually pursued with  physical and psychological violence toward the other.
Right! Jinnah was constantly trying to get Hindus to convert to Islam wasn't he? Liaqat actually did convert one person- his second wife, but she was Xtian to start of with and, come to think of it, she converted voluntarily. Under Muslim Law, Liaqat could have kept an Xtian wife. 
Who else? Savarkar was constantly badgering everyone to like get with the program and worship a cow already. Same was true of Bal, Pal and Lal.
Are you fucking kidding me? The whole point about Ashraf Muslims like Bilgrami is they didn't want their Kayastha clerks or Bania agents to convert to Islam and then start inviting themselves around on the excuse of Eid or whatever.  If nothing else, it would damage their efficiency.
Similarly, no Iyer has ever tried to convert a Muslim. Them guys are way smarter than us Smarthas.  The last Tamil Avadhani was a Muslim. As for Sanskrit- don't even start.
As a particularly vicious Hindutva nutjob myself, suppose I have a chance to slip A.R. Rehman a mind-altering drug and then to 'shuddify' him- i.e. reconvert him to Hinduism. Would I do it? Fuck no! The Tamil film (music) industry was a sewer of drugs and drink and dishonourable conduct to women. God bless the Pir who- WITH NO INTENTION TO CONVERT- helped the family when the father was dying in hospital. Thank God, the young genius took shelter in Islam! That way he could refuse drink or drugs on the grounds of Religion. Had he remained a Hindu, those bastards would have forced him because- don't you know?- Hinduism is very evil and the best way to escape its to get drunk and rape some girls belonging to a lower caste.
Modi has been in power for 12 years in Gujerat. Show me the Muslims he has converted even from his own 'Ghanchi' caste (for example those in Godhra). 

Ethnic monopoly and/or cleansing is a different kettle of fish. Partition wasn't about converting people- it was about coveting their possessions and perquisites of office and then conducting a cull. Still, it is noteworthy, Pakistan banned the exodus of 'bhangis'- i.e. the guys who did the dirty jobs- while, Paul Brass tells us, the Jat Sikhs deliberately cleansed their own Muslim 'service castes' so as to create space for Mazhabi Sikhs. (I don't personally believe this story- but a 'Secularist' like Bilgrami is bound to pay lip service to it.)
On the other hand, for all his traditionalism about caste, there was something offensive to Gandhi within Hinduism itself.
Yes. It was the notion that he himself wasn't educated enough in it to claim a scholarly or clerical title.
The social psychology of the Hindu caste system consists of an exclusionary attitude.
Unlike the non-Hindu caste system.
For each caste, there was a lower caste which constituted the other and which was to be excluded from one's way of life, again by the most brutal physical and psychological violence.
Is this true? Let us look at Dr. Ambedkar's biography.  Parsis beat him and throw him out of their lodge. Muslims deny him water. A low caste Hindu 'banjara' won't carry him to his destination- even though he's just a child and well educated and affluent.
By contrast, his teacher is a Brahmin who delights in him and gives him his own surname- which is why Gandhi thought him to be some over-educated Westernised Brahmin who didn't really understand the 'Harijans' and thus was heating his brain for no reason- and, later on, his second wife- a Medical Doctor whom he married to care for him because he was diabetic- was also a Brahmin. She was ostracized and accused of having poisoned him after his death by his own son.  Yet, right from the start, the educated Mahar (thanks to the British Indian Army) was a significant threat to the Maharashtrian Brahmin. 
Yet it is from that equally martial community that he received most support. Hegdewar and Gowalkar loved him. He himself appreciated the R.S.S for its anti-caste attitude. That's why, later on, people like Barrister Khobragade had no compunction in allying with the BJP or Shiv Sena even though it wounded the hearts of LSE fuckwits like me.
Why? What was the reason?
The Chitpavan, who were getting demoralized and sinking as a community, knew that the Mahars were a heroic people like themselves.  
Dr. Moonjee volunteered to serve during the Boer War, as did Gandhi, so as to learn Military tactics. Any future Indian Army which neglected the Mahars' martial prowess- their sheer courage and intelligence and long tradition of uprightness and pietistic 'Bhakti' religion- would be bound to fail.  The great qualities of this 'caste' are visible to all- then and now. But, I can multiply instances.  Look at the Balmik caste, the Jatavs, or (for Tamils) the Valluvars who technically are 'Pariahs'. Can you imagine Tamil without Tiruvalluvar? Hinduism without Valmiki? A.K Ramanujan tried but he also told us his grandmother enjoyed being taken from behind by underemployed fishermen, but only with the fell purpose of using her vagina dentata (I'm not making this up) to bite off their low caste dicks.

Army discipline requires that the 'high born' show 100 per cent obedience to the orders of his 'low born' superior. Nothing else will do.  This is the basis of the R.S.S ethos and the real reason people like me used to hate them. Don't get me wrong. I love the Indian Army- but only coz their officers looked so smart and their lovely wives and daughters spoke such beautiful English.
Now, because my 'posh' English accent (hey! I went to St. Columba's!) is starting to fray,  and I can't understand Rahul Baba's English (he did spend a little time at St.Columba's but then Harvard got hold of him) and have to settle for Modi's Hindi- what? I'm a fucking Madrasi!- all bets are off. Let the Indian Army promote according to Merit. Let English die in India. But fucking fix it so children don't get raped!
Sorry, for that outburst. I'm truly shit, I am. Senile fucking debility, mate. 
Returning to Bilgrami's thesis, there may well be 'alterity' here. But it is an alterity which cries out for an, I will not say Levinasian, but 'Mussar' response such that 'the spiritual needs of the other are my material needs'. If Acharya Kosambi, a Brahmin, and Babasaheb Ambedkar, a Mahar, both embrace Buddhism- where is the problem for the 'Caste' Hindu?
Are we so fucking stupid that we prefer to be ruled over by Mlecchas just so as to preserve our 'Smarta Vicharams' and plague afflicted 'Agraharams'? 
Bilgrami, as a deracinated emigre, may believe Gandhi's return to India marked something genuinely new. It didn't. If Khilafat was a success- was it because of Gandhi? As for Hindu 'Anushilan' or 'Jugantar' type radicalism- Gandhi was no where in the picture.
As a prematurely senile but active man, no doubt, he provided a cover for those- like Birla- who needed to retreat from Revolutionary politics. He was the provider of a 'Good Conduct' certificate which kept you out of the clutches of blackmailers and police-spies while also granting you a sort of post-obit on the resources of the dying Raj.
When I think sometimes about caste in India --without a doubt the most resilient form of exclusionary social inegalitarianism in the history of the world-- it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that even
the most alarming aspects of religious intolerance is preferable to it. To say, "You must be my brother", however wrong, is better than saying, "You will never be my brother." In religious intolerance there is at least a small core that is highly attractive.
Bilgrami Sahib, you must know the expression 'sag bash birader-e-khurd na bash' (better a dog than an younger brother). Is that not what has happened in the Indian subcontinent? 'You must be my brother' means- 'you must be my younger brother and let me shit in your mouth.'
You may find this 'small core' in Religious intolerance highly attractive. Why? Believe me, the stuff they are serving you isn't goulash- it's shit. I found out the hard way.
The intolerant person cares enough about the truth as he sees it, to want to share it with others.
Why, Bilgrami Sahib, why? What you describe is a strategy that is easily dominated if the other has an equal endowment of knowledge and/or reasoning power. Even if he doesn't, still, the optimal strategy is to only grant the privilege of being witnesses to your truth to those who immediately die for it- i.e. martyrs or shaheeds.  
Of course, that he should want to use force and violence in order to make the other share in it, spoils
what is attractive about this core. No need to do so. Just pretend that the truth is esoteric or requires some long praxis of unquestioning obedience. If you are speaking of 'cognitive dissonance reduction'- just pretend to be a bien pensant humanist till some over-educated shithead from somewhere else turns up to sit at your feet. It was Gandhi's humanistic  mission to retain the core for it showed that one's conception of the truth was not self-enclosed, that it spoke with a relevance to all others, even others who differed from one. How to prevent this relevance to others from degenerating into criticism of others who differed from one and eventually violence towards them, is just the reconciliation we are seeking.
O...kay. You're about to say something real interesting, right? After all, you're one smart dude and, more to the point, belong to the Bilgrami khandan.
In the philosophical tradition Gandhi is opposing, others are potential objects of criticism in the sense that one's particular choices, one's acts of moral conscience, generate moral principles or imperatives, which others can potentially disobey. For him, conscience and its deliverances, though relevant to others, are not the wellspring of principles. Morals is only about conscience, not at all about principles.
There is an amusing story about two Oxford Philosophers, which makes this distinction vivid. In a seminar, the formidable J. L Austin having become exasperated with Richard Hare's huffing on about how moral choices reveal principles, decided to set him up with a question. "Hare", he asked, "if a student came to you after an examination and offered you five pounds in return for the mark alpha, what would you say?" Predictably, Hare replied, "I would tell him that I do not take bribes, on principle!" Austin's acid response was, "Really? I think I would myself say, 'No Thanks.' " Austin was being merely deflationary in denying that an act of conscience had to have a principle underlying it. Gandhi erects the denial into a radical alternative to a (western) tradition of moral thinking. An honoured slogan of that tradition says, "When one chooses for oneself, one chooses for everyone". The first half of the slogan describes a particular person's act of conscience. The second half of the slogan transforms the act of conscience to a universalized principle, an imperative that others must follow or be criticized. Gandhi embraces the slogan too, but he understands the second half of it differently. He too wants one's acts of conscience to have a universal relevance, so he too thinks one chooses for everyone, but he does not see that as meaning that one generates a principle or imperative for everyone. What other interpretation can be given to the words "One chooses for everyone" in the slogan, except the principled one?
WTF! That's your apercu culled from decades and decades of elitist Anglo education? Austin was clearly wrong. He said 'No thanks'- which means the other guy has to offer him more money or a beating or a buggering or whatever. The point about deontics is that it solves a co-ordination problem. It is Eusocial. Austin should have punched the student. A punch has illocutionary force. A.J Ayer once argued Mike Tyson out of raping some hot chick. How? Flattery and nimble footwork. Language is strategic or not at all. 
Gandhi was too making a privileged claim re. his Conscience. It was the voice of God. Marie Stokes heard the Voice of God in 'a dark yew wood' and it is to her we have all harkened. Flaubert spoke of Art as being the Soul's condom in this brothel of a World; Bilgrami spouting Gandhian shite too is a prophylactic but not for the Soul, no, rather for a burnt out Careerism which now must take recourse to the dirtiest sort of Senile, Syphilitic, gesture politics.

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