Saturday 31 October 2009

The contemproary Qoheleth

Because in words we must basely traffic
Or be transfigured in the Word
Its brides, jealous tho' sapphic
Contend like sphincter & turd

Thursday 29 October 2009

Burke on Indianism.

"Our Government and our Laws are beset by two different Enemies, which are sapping its foundations, Indianism, and Jacobinism. In some Cases they act separately, in some they act in conjunction: But of this I am sure; that the first is the worst by far, and the hardest to deal with; and for this amongst other reasons, that it weakens discredits, and ruins that force, which ought to be employed with the greatest Credit and Energy against the other; and that it furnishes Jacobinism with its strongest arms against all formal Government".[119]

Tuesday 27 October 2009

Mahatma Gandhi- the roi faineant of the Freedom Struggle

'Treat the servant kindly, with the idea of turning his
gratitude to account, and you will get, as you deserve, no
gratitude, nor any value for your kindness; but treat him kindly
without any economical purpose, and all economical purposes will
be answered; in this, as in all other matters, whosoever will
save his life shall lose it, whoso loses it shall find it.'
(Ruskin, Unto this last)
'If Swaraj cannot be attained by the sin of killing Englishmen, it cannot be attained either by the erection of huge factories. Gold and silver may be accumulated but they will not lead to the establishment of Swaraj. Ruskin has proved this to the hilt.' (Mahatma Gandhi- Sarvodaya)

Ruskin's critique of Political Economy amounts to this- by engaging the affections of the workers you can reduce their pay. More, they might even be ready to die for you- thus raising the Manager to the rank of a Napoleon.
Gandhi's message is- 
1) 'The  British rule India because Indians are disunited, immoral and ignorant.
2)  If some Indians use violence to throw out the British, then India will be ruled by those violent men- a disaster.
3) Worse still, if India industrializes and negotiates independence from Britain on the basis of mutually beneficial trade and defense ties- then India will have become like Britain. Its entire economy would be evil and the opposite of true 'Swaraj' (Autonomy).
Consequently, by engaging the affections of the Indians- without considering how to repay that affection or justify that trust- Gandhi gains power to preclude it being gained by either the terrorists or the modernizers.
But to what purpose? It is to save the country from an imaginary danger- viz. the notion that if we respond to price signals in the market, or new ideas on the basis of their predictive power or the utility of the technology associated with them, we are somehow destroying our human ethos in every other sphere of life and condemning ourselves to a miserable bondage to our own greed.
Gandhi's mass politics was a politics to preclude mass politics attaining anything or evolving to any meaningful end. His brand of political engagement was designed to show the futility of Politics, the poisonous nature of Economic amelioration.
Fine. Very good. If Gandhi had simply performed sallekhana in his Ashram- no blame would attach to him. Why did he keep interfering in mass politics? Was it not, simply, to prevent leadership passing to others who might actually achieve something for the masses? 
Sri Lanka gets universal franchise in 1930. Why not India? 
Gandhi had a chance to win over the British. Had he taken a big delegation to the Round Table and assigned his followers different roles- Sarojini go talk to the women, Nehru go talk to the intelligentsia, Tata, you go and explain to the Industrialists in the North that Indian self government means industrialization- i.e big orders for capital goods for your factories. Birla, you explain to the City that, since ancient times, India has been 'the sink of gold'. With representative government you get rational fiscal and monetary policy- Public Finance put in good order such that savings currently unproductively tied up in gold become available for productive investment. That gold then supports confidence in the Sterling Area. 
Okay, the British military- commanded by people like Massingbird who thought cavalry still had a role- had their heads in the sand. Still, there were good military historians and analysts who could appreciate that an industrialized India greatly strengthens Imperial defense.
Essentially, Gandhi had the chance to repair the damage Tilak did to Gokhale when the latter had his chance to win over the Westminster parliamentary committee on Indian reform. 
But, Gandhi was not interested. His principles, his fundamental beliefs were stronger than the duties implicit in the leadership role the Indians had allotted him. This was a tragedy not just for India but also the anti Fascist countries.
Gandhi used words like swaraj and swadesi- which already had a well
established, specifically anti-Colonial, meaning- but he interpreted those words in a completely different way such that Colonialism became irrelevant. 
Gandhian 'swadeshi' consists of forbidding specialization and the gains from trade- i.e. enforcing village autarky- which means periodic famine without hope of relief. This is not just a more grinding poverty but also more complete rural isolation and imbecility.
Gandhian education means no Science, no Art, no crafts, no hermeneutics- nothing. Just everybody listening to that ghastly old wind bag while spinning yarn in a manner that subtracts value from the raw material. This is not just a swinish reveling in ignorance- but Ignorance as a Church Militant- Ignorance elevated to the level of the highest metaphysical principle.
Gandhian justice, Gandhian social reform is a sort of playing with the victims as though they are children. Once the playing and petting is over they should just kindly go back to the atrocious conditions in which they live. Yes, Gandhi will raise money for them. However, they protest that very little of that money comes their way- that too at a time when Gandhi was paying lawyers not to practice law all though, as educated, well connected, people, they could surely have found other means of livelihood.
While in Orissa, Gandhi comes across some poor women- whose tattered clothes scarcely covered their body. They knew all about him and came forward to give the one small coin they had to him. Gandhi takes the money. Is this moral greatness or something vile?
Yet Gandhi is great. If he was using Politics to show Politics was futile, Politics had the last laugh by claiming that he actually achieved something- viz Independence. Why? Well if Gandhism succeeded in something, if it was not (as he intended) utterly futile, then it follows Gandhism was a means to an end, not an end in itself. Ergo, once Independence is achieved, Gandhism can be discarded as having served its purpose, only being retained as a sort of totem or mascot.
In ancient China, when an official failed to please the Emperor, not only was he executed and his clan decimated, he was also made to perform posthumous service by being appointed a minor God in charge of law and order in some fractious province.
This is what happened to Gandhi.
The sentiment that all protest should be Gandhian is really the hope that all protest should be ineffectual. However, where protest is based on a practical notion of how things should change, protest can actually be successful and useful to the community. The fact that, by bringing about change, protest ceases to conform to the Gandhian template- or advance any nutty ideology in any particular- then, allows windbags a channel to vent their frustration at being cheated of their meat and drink without being accused of sour grapes.

Every political party in India- not just the I.N.C in its various mutations- owes Gandhi everything especially the trade-mark impotence and fatuity that allow them an abiding identity. The Communists say- 'Gandhi didn't just show us how to do mass politics, he also demonstrated, in an unequivocal manner, that under Bourgeois leadership nothing at all could be achieved by such means. Swami Sahajanand's conversion to Marxism proves this to the hilt. ' Hearing this, the Liberal begins to laugh. He says, 'Yes, but by showing you how to do mass politics he weaned you away from both conspiratorial politics as well as the notion that class enemies should be liquidated. But this made it inevitable that sooner or later you would embrace Economism. In other words you become indistinguishable from Left Liberalism- as is happening in Bengal. Thus, Gokhale- himself the disciple of Ranade- wrought better than he knew in anointing Gandhi as his successor.'

Gandhi's big contribution was his moral critique of terrorism and secret societies. The danger in India, at that time, was that such secret societies would recruit along kinship or caste lines simply as a safeguard against infiltration by the secret police. But this raised the specter that the Raj would be replaced by the domination of a particular elite caste- thus alienating other sections of society.
True, had a true hero like Bagha Jatin continued to elude Police Commissioner Tegart, his nobility and charisma would have brought allies from, for e.g, Muslims of Punjab and N.W.F- thus showing his secular credentials. Those of his followers who took a Marxist route would have been able to show the workers and peasants that Independence did not mean domination by 'upper castes'.
Still, facts are facts. Bagha Jatin was killed fighting bravely. The arms promised by the German Crown Prince never arrived because the Czechs betrayed the secret to the British. People like Birla, who had given money to the Jugantar revolutionaries, now faced an ignominious type of persecution by the British who were firmly back in charge. Support for Gandhi kept people like Birla out of the hands of black-mailers and police spies. At that time when the Indian police wanted to bring down an enemy of the Raj, they did not scruple to blacken the man's character with every type of prurient slander. The big advantage of Gandhism is that safeguarded people's reputation and moral character. This really helped women come into the public sphere.
In the early 1930's there was an infamous case of a woman doctor who was sexually harassed by a older male colleague. When she sought legal redress, the Judge threw out the case on the grounds that she was no better than a 'public woman' and thus deserved no sort of consideration. Under the banner of Gandhism, however, woman of the highest social standing could go to jail- even share cells with prostitutes- and emerge with their reputation not merely unsullied but enhanced.
If Gandhi engaged the affections of the people- no blame attaches to the people. Love of Gandhi tended to ennoble them and increase their effectiveness in the public sphere. But, Gandhi's goal was different from that of the people. Perhaps, in fairness to him, we should admit that he gave ample evidence as to his true intentions. Still, his wily political dealings leave a bad taste in the mouth. Some deceit seems to lie at the bottom of it.
He promised to deliver Home Rule within a year. He failed. Nothing dishonourable about that. He should simply have bowed out. The fact that there were other politicians who were equally poor strategists; the fact that the I.N.C was heavily freighted with incompetent windbags- though corrupt machine politicians took over the actual running of things once Ministries were formed; in short, the fact that Gandhi was no worse than his acolytes, still, was no reason for Gandhi to keep popping back onto the political stage. The National interest demanded that there be a process of attrition- old windbags being replaced by younger windbags- as well a recognition of, and learning from, mistakes.
In one sense the clinging to Gandhi after his first failure was an example of 'cognitive dissonance' such as that of the early Christians (in the opinion of Radhakrishnan) who decided that the fact that Christ's prophesies had so signally failed was actually coz he was all Mighty God and God, it is well known, is a lying bastard.
Gandhi never admitted making a mistake- except when the admission was for a reason more egregious than the offence. He set a pattern for politicians to be judged not by their achievements but the stratospheric high mindedness of their stupidity. 
But why? What was his motivation? Was it a Hindu thing?
No his self professed Gurus were Western wankers and/or nutjobs.  
Ruskin, of course, was just a mentally unstable wind-bag. Carlyle, also a great masturbator, was fucked in the head. Emerson- windbag. Thoreau- eccentric provincial. Tolstoy- great writer though he was- had his own psychological problems. Gandhi, however, had superb organisational skills, fund raising talent and indefatigable journalistic energy. Moreover, by abandoning the nuclear family for a commune based type of living which included a broad cross section of people, Gandhi's inter-personal skills were always better than any one he came across. 
If only, as a young man, he'd had a chance to learn economics from people like Ranade, Gokhale, the Servants of India and so on- if only (despite great personal success) he wasn't beating his head against a wall in South Africa for so many years- Gandhi could have been a great boon not just to India but all peace loving countries by showing how mass politics can be constructive, knowledge based, and free from corruption.
The craziness of Gandhi's thinking was exposed long ago. Annie Besant showed how the nonsense of Khilafat contributed to the Moplah atrocities. Sir Sankaran Nair's short book 'Gandhi and Anarchy'- which Arthur Koestler drew on later on in 'the lotus and the robot'- had revealed Gandhi's true intentions. Even Tagore- in his befuddled manner cried foul- though Gandhi's fund raising ability impressed him and he hoped the Mahacrackpot would secure the future of his own crack-pot Shantiniketan. Everyone, at some point or another saw through Gandhi. Yet the Pied Piper went merrily on his way to universal applause. Perhaps, the Hindus thought his tactics would win over the Muslims, the Rich thought he would defuse the resentment of the poor, the High Castes that he would placate the 'Untouchables'. But, nobody he sought to placate was ever actually that stupid. Gandhi became a symbol of the weakness and impotence of the educated Indian class. He was a roi faineant- anointed by class which funked its historical mission,  a community unable to fulfill the progressive visions of the previous generation.
At least, this was his own view of things. Writing in 1924 about the anti Hindu violence he had sponsored he says ''The Hindus have written to me complaining that I was responsible for unifying and awakening the Mussalmans and giving prestige to the Moulvis which they never had before. Now that the Khilafat question is over the awakened Mussalmans have proclaimed a kind of Jehad against the Hindus... The tales that are reported from Bengal of outrages upon Hindu women are the most disquieting if they are even half-true. My own experience but confirms the opinion that the Mussalman as a rule is a bully, and the Hindu as a rule is a coward. Need the Hindu blame the Mussalman for his cowardice? Where there are cowards, there will always be bullies... But as a Hindu, I am more ashamed of Hindu cowardice than I am angry at the Mussalman bullying.''

Notice that Gandhi is claiming to be 
1) a leader
2) a Hindu
3) a Hindu leader when it comes to supporting Khilafat
4) not a Hindu leader at all when it comes to defending Hindus. No, then he is simply ashamed of them and tells them to either buck up or grin and bear it.

But this was also his attitude to India. Indeed, it was his attitude to anyone who took his side. 
Why people should call this 'Saintly' behaviour is beyond me. Unless their Mommies and Daddies were truly shite. Or unless they have kids. One must always lie to kids. That's Religion.
Every scheme, every deal, every institution Gandhi was associated with suffered in the process- becoming either corrupt or a source of lasting evil or both. However Gandhi's fatuity, the insouciance with which he stumbles from debacle to debacle, endows him with a charmed life.  His confidence in himself always remains unshaken. To the last, he remained, in his own eyes, a true Mahatma.

In the end, the great lesson he teaches us is that nothing is more immoral, in the Political sphere, than talk of morality. None more deceitful than the possessors of 'inner truth'.

If Gandhi is relevant today- it is to the proponents of Hindutva. He represents the great stab in the back which prevented democracy from yielding social reconstruction. It was he who condemned Indian Democracy to conferring on all, not the security of citizenship, but the paranoia of futile identity politics. 
Yet one word of his redeemed his whole Indian career, one utterance in a wilderness of words that was not utter vanity- that word was Ram and because it was Ram, nothing more than Ram, his legacy can yet be transfigured and India, perhaps, recover from the ruin that he wrought and the evils he inaugurated.

Friday 23 October 2009

Is Gay sex unnatural?

A recent survey shows that 90% of men in the U.K are repulsed by the sight of 2 males having sex. However only 5% off those polled in the survey said they might conceivably pluck up the courage to mention this to their husbands.
In many ways this survey dramatizes the dilemma in which many British men are caught. I personally blame the cult of Political Correctness and the lack of serious debate on as well as the lack of serious porn in internet debate.
Anyway, the reason I make this point is because of the truly distasteful article in the Daily Mail about some dead celeb who won an Emmy for his guitar playing in the Cup final against Chelsea or something like that.
I can't recall if I read the article but am confident in saying- I am deeply disturbed.
And the answer to the question 'is gay sex unnatural' is 'if it is done properly then yes, any sex is unnatural."
Personally, I blame Niel Kinnock. There was a shifty sort of look to the fella. Now if only Roy Hattersley had become leader there'd be none of this palaver ...

Thursday 22 October 2009

Hating America

Why do people hate America?

Much has been written on this topic- but little that is illuminating.

In my view, post-War America offered a very radical solution to the problems of the old world. This had to do with disintermediating the National Bourgeoisies of reconstruced or newly constructed Nations. Since, at that time, America as the champion of Free Enterprise and traditional Enlightenment ideas, was expected to be the saviour of the educated middle classes, it comes as quite a puzzle to find that the opposite was the case. I believe, this little recognised fact is responsible for the institutionalisation of Anti-Americanism in post-war client countries and its re-export from the U.S and other Western countries by emigre academics and intellectuals.

What lies at the source of the post-War American disdain for National Bourgeoisies?

I think, the cause lies in the fact that Americans had never developed a homegrown Romantic ideology. The Americans did not have a Bildungsburgertum whose road to class power was a Romantic identification- or projection of their own anxieties and frustrations- even their disappointments in love- onto a grand National canvass. There was never an American 'Sorrows of Werther'. The notion of an American 'Devdas' is utterly ludicrous. The closest the Americans came to such a concept was with Santayana's 'the last Puritan'- but Santayana emigrated to Europe, he represented the path the American middle class did not take. Henry James might also be mentioned in this context- but his thinking fits less easily into the classic Romantic mould which is based on the frustrations and wounded amour propre of the educated middle class.

The consequence of American repudiation of Romanticism was that, later on, on achieving World Mastery, Americans would have no truck with the wounded sensibilities, muddled thinking and histrionic posturing of the National Bourgeoisies of emerging or reconstituted nations. In this they departed from the rules of Great Power Politics which had admitted Romantic Nationalism as a force to be reckoned with- albeit as an infantile disease- and which needed to be soothed and placated and ultimately harnessed to the greater goal of maintaining the balance of power.

The Americans, however, pointed out that the Balance of Power had failed utterly. It had precipitated a World Wide bloodbath not once but twice in a single generation. Furthermore, National Bourgeoises- including that of the Germans the French and so on- had utterly failed in their self-proclaimed world historic mission as carriers of Enlightenment values. Thus the Americans were in no mood to pander to the succeptibilites of Romantic Nationalists.

This, however, created a curious contradiction- a paradoxical situation- whereby it was Stalin and his successors who championed the National Bourgeoisies and pandered to their chauvinistic shibboleths even against local Communist cadres. The American disdain of National Bourgeoises went hand in hand with the truly new, the truly revolutionary weapon in their intellectual arsenal- namely their repudiation of the law of diminishing returns- which in Classical economics- predicts increasing class conflict as the inevitable price of Growth. In other words, if the management of class conflict ceased to be the main business of Politics then the Middle Class had no special status, no priviliged dialectical relationship with the destiny of the nation.

Unlike the Soviets, with their spurious statistics, the Americans genuinely represented (at that time) a mode of production with increasing returns- not diminishing returns. They alone could afford both guns and butter and, what's more, teach others to gain the same. But this meant class conflict was bound to vanish in line with the 'Kuznets curve' which yielded greater rather less income equality thru the 50's and 60's. In other words, the Americans had found a way of doing without- of marginalising- the bildungsburgertum or educated middle class. The advisors they sent out proposed truly radical changes- e.g. land reform to directly empower the peasant to boost agricultural productivity and set off a virtuous circle of economic growth. Their answer to the problem of manufacturing industry was similarly ground-breaking. It involved the adoption of a rational, meritocratic Corporate Culture which would consign traditional concepts of class and status to the dung-heap of history. Thus, like Henry Ford, the Americans were telling their clients that History was bunk. The shibboleths and irredentist claims and so on that the National Bourgeiosie termed 'sacred causes' were nothing of the sort. They were senile ravings- nothing more.

The National Bourgeoises of client states were particularly affected by this aspect of American policy. They, who most craved American attention, were told in no uncertain terms that their vapouring and posturing was merely a senile affliction and had no connection with the 'soul' or the 'destiny' of the countries they claimed to lead.

The American denial of the concept of the Balance of Power had the corollary that guaranteeing the neutrality of small powers was no longer a Great Power responsibility. Dulles quoted St. Paul to client states saying bluntly- 'if you're not with us you're against us.' Fair enough, we might think, if the Americans had also been 'all things to all men' In other words if they had taken the trouble to understand the wounded amour propre, the damaged National psyches of the middle classes in the client states. The Americans refused to play that game. They were'nt going to play nanny to senile delinquents.
Again fair enough, if it had stopped there. But the Americans, from the McCarthyite era onwards, went a step further.They required the National Bourgeoises of their client states to sacrifice their 'pinko' poets and playwrights and journalists- send them to jail or into exile. But, the National Bourgeoisies needed precisely this type of 'Narodnik' populist to build bridges to the masses and thus shore up their own sense of security, of being in charge. Thus, clienthood to America meant that the National Bourgeoises felt cut off from the Masses. Another feature of American policy was their belief that no man was indispensable- they could get rid of a local strong-man and replace him, for some cosmetic reason, with a nonentity without rocking the boat. The consequences for the National Bourgeoises were catastrophic- they no longer knew to whom to kow tow to. The leadership in client states also responded to this increased uncertainty by cutting themselves off from the people. The basic notion of consultative govenrment was undermined because in the end the American Ambassador called the shots.
America, which logically should have been the champion of the National Bourgeioises, turned out to be their fiercest enemy. The increased insecurity and sense of worthlessness experienced by middle class people in client states ultimately took the form of hatred. When the master is capricious (not cruel) when his reasoning is opaque to you, when there is no chance of a dialogue, the only way to preserve your psychic integrity is to hate.

Still, I think, if client states had fully taken advantage of American know-how, of radical American thinking on social engineering, they would have been better of in the 50''s and 60's. However, by the beginning of the '70's perceptions changed. The age of increasing returns was felt to be over. There was a resource crunch at the planetary level. The Club of Rome warned that many client states were basket-cases. America needed to disengage. Infinite prosperity was no longer on the table.

At the same time structual changes in the U.S economy- the change in the nature and the ethos of the American business corporation- together with an ever increasing signal extraction problem with respect to American foreign policy- too many Agencies and intrest groups having a say in foreign policy- gravely compounded the problems of the National Bourgeoisies. The doubt has been sown in people's minds that engagement with America means locking oneself into an operating system whose licensing fee will becomong increasingly unaffordable. The terms of trade are shifting against you. Perhaps, your only way to survive is through emigration to the West! But, emigration raises the danger of assimilation- of losing your National ethos and your status as a 'cultured' Bildungsburgertum. What on earth are you to do? Not everybody can write books like Ziauddin Sardar or Mohsin and so on. Some people are going to chuck bombs.

The American War on Terror- which on the face of it appears justifiable- has a sort of system effect, a sociological dimension which American analysts have not picked up on. This has to do with it being the culmination, the final round, of their curiously step-motherly treatment of their natural allies- viz. the National Bourgeoisies of client or ex-client states.

What is the solution? Well, presumably, the Americans have to go back to the old style of Great Power Politics based on minutiae of the Balance of Power and an exhausting diaolgue with Romantic Nationalists.

But, this means that International Politics is closed for Presidential grandstanding. Not here, not in this arena, can President's carve their legacy.

Ultimately, people learn to love that which they can predict. They grow to hate that which they do not understand. When no Beltway insider can predict what America's next move is in (let us say) Pakistan how on earth is the middle class professional in Karachi supposed to feel next time he sees his neighborhood go up in flames?

America needs to speak to the world with one voice, to be predictable in its actions, to pursue long-term relationships not ideological chimeras or 'wag the dog' Media circuses.

The revolving door between State and the Think Tanks and Universities has played a part in destabilizing people's perceptions of America's intentions.

However, to conclude, nothing can justify terrorism or mindless Anti-Americanism. On the contrary, the Americans did offer something new to the world in the 50's and 60's when they offered to export knowledge for free. Whether it still has something to offer- now that intellectual property commands the highest price tag- is a question only a competent economist could answer.

Obama and Islam

Obama and I belong to a generation when American foreign policy towards Arab and Muslim countries changed fundamentally.
In the 50's, America's anti-communist commitment- when not hijacked by wily Colonial powers- translated into the desire to see emerging nations able to develop their resources so as to resist Soviet sponsored subversion or aggression. This made the U.S a good and dependable ally for those Arab and Muslim countries which had stable governments. Problems arose where corrupt or incompetent monarchies were deposed by revolutionary cells of young military officers as happened in Eygpt, Iraq and Libya. This was because those who rise by conspiratorial politics tend to keep a paranoid world view and so it was difficult for America to maintain a proper dialog with such regimes. However in Turkey, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the Americans really did help to build up the military and economic capacity of  these countries to defend themselves.
Furthermore, they rewarded loyalty with loyalty and were free of color prejudice. The daughter of the American Ambassador to Pakistan married the son of a leading politician and the New York Times printed a banner headline saying 'khush amdeed' to welcome a visiting Pakistani P.M..
The emphasis on Nation-building- including pragmatic advice on things like land reform to boost agricultural productivity- were appreciated by those Muslim nations which had stable governments.
Israel was not a huge stumbling block because France rather than America was Israel's biggest donor. During the Suez crisis, Eisenhower- despite a difficult relationship with Nasser- came down hard on the British, French and Israeli aggressors.
U.S anti-communism, too, was not a deal breaker (as it was for India) because Arab nationalists were utterly disgusted by the Communist party's support for the formation of Israel. There seemed no reason why the Muslim countries could not have Socialism on Earth as well as Allah in Heaven.
However, Arab military or Baath party leaders who had come up through coups, conspiracies and assassinations found it difficult to establish a proper dialog based on national interests and realpolitick with the Americans.
Things started to change during the 60's. A new type of T.V and magazine journalism, which gave higher value to images rather than printed words and detailed analysis, imposed a new type of constraint on Presidential conduct of foreign policy. As against the RAND corp. systems theorists and other technocrats of the 1950's, a new liberal media elite called the shots. The toppling of South Vietnam's Pres.Diem- which had disastrous consequences, or so Catholic propagandists argued- was the first sign that America had abandoned long term strategic goals, such as building up emerging nations so that they could resist communist subversion by themselves, in favor of pandering to the liberal media and Presidential grandstanding on foreign policy issues.
Nixon, who had been Ike's vice president, found it difficult to reverse what had happened under Kennedy and Johnson. In the case of Pakistan, despite genuine liking and a strong feeling of gratitude to the Pakistanis (for facillitating Nixon's rapproachment with China), Nixon was not able to rescue the Pak Army from humiliation at the hands of India.
My feeling is that, in the 1950's, America was represented by hard nosed, self-made men, who were able to apply the new mathematical and other analytical techniques to decision making. They could create long term mutually beneficial relationships based on respect and trust.
The exception here is the case of Iran where Kim Roosevelt was an elite East Coast preppie endowed with superb linguistic gifts but not analytical savvy. Thus he- like Zaehner- was actually an Orientalist scholar/spy in the Romantic English and French tradition. The coup against Mossadegh was the result of clever British manipulation of the Americans. From the start, American policy in Iran was formed on a false basis and smacked of 'Orientalism' rather than the Rand Corporation.
During the '70's, and from then onwards, suspicion in the Islamic world that America was an unreliable friend greatly increased because
1) ISRAEL-America had replaced France as Israel's biggest supporter. The Israelis played their hand cleverly both with the military industrial complex as well as in the wider political sphere. The established links with Evangelical Christianity and also the Mormon Church. As the Republican Party was reconstituted on terms favourable to the Evangelicals- Israel became the be all and end all of American foreign policy. This was because of the supposed role the Jews were to play in 'the end of days'.  In any case, a strong pro-Likud bloc was emerging as Jews made the transition from Left Liberalism to the Republican Right. The 'neo-cons' resurrected orientalist ideas, or discredited Hegelian nonsense, to paint a picture of Islamic countries as simply having the wrong sort regime. They were on History's losing side. To save themselves, they must adopt every institution and device of the 'advanced' countries. Islam should be reserved for Holloween.
From the Muslim point of view, the implication of these developments was clear- if a Muslim nation becomes stronger then Israel may feel threatened. America will have to do something. So why let that situation develop in the first place? The best thing to do is to try to make Muslim nations weak, to frustrate their economic development, to sow internal dissension and get them involved in fraticidal wars. All for the sake of Israel.
Carter's attitude to the Shah was inexplicable. Was he signalling that the Shah should be toppled or the reverse? If Carter wants rid of the Shah, why wasn't the CIA busy building relationships with the opposition.? America was now not just an unreliable friend, it was positively dangerous.
Carter, apostle of peace, facillitated the Sadat-Begin rapproachment. But did anyone think what that would do to harmony within the Islamic community? The American President looks good for a few moments but it is the Muslim community which has to pay the price. The older, 1950's, approach was to have a long drawn out peace process- haggling over treaties, the whole thing being conducted by dry as dust diplomats- so public opinion has a chance to adjust.
True, Sadat had his own Pharnoic complex, he was set on his grand gesture, but could the Americans not have done more to cushion the blow to Muslim sensibilities and Arab unity? True, no one at that time could have foreseen Zawahiri and al Qaeeda and 9/11 and so on. But this is a lesson unlikely to be lost on Obama. Already, in the case of Pakistan, he shows that he understands the long term political consequences of actions he requires and seeks to mitigate such negative fall out.

A further point has to do with Brzenski's notion of creating a green Islamic belt to put pressure on the soft Soviet under-belly. Such a policy smacks of expediency. It does not answer the question of how the region is supposed to recover from a war of attrition against the Soviets. In other words, in contrast to the 50's and 60's, when American troops stood shoulder to shoulder with Anti-Communist forces- here America was telling the Muslims that they were welcome to go and die as cannon fodder but should expect no lasting gratitude.
'Charlie Wilson's War' could not win America any friends since whatever the fictional Rambo might have done- no American blood was shed in this battle against the Evil Empire. It was the high water mark of a type of racism in American foreign policy- an unprincipled instrumentalization of people in a far off country just for the sake of points scoring and national vanity.
3) AMERICAN DIPLOMATIC INCOMPETENCE. First was the Iran-Contra scandal which revealed that American foreign policy was being invented by boy scouts like Oliver North, then we have April Glaspie's mishandling of the Kuwait crisis. Did Saddam get the go ahead to invade or did he not? Actually, he didn't. The mistake was on his side. Still what are we to make of April Glaspie presiding over the next fiasco- Somalia and 'black hawk down'? Is this incompetence or something more sinister?
Another feature of American foreign policy in the 1990's was the ubiquity of 'unofficial' Ambassadors- often from immigrant families who had struck it rich in Hi Tech industries. The added to the noise to signal ratio with respect to the inscrutable Americans.
4) REGIME CHANGE and not just regime change for unfriendly countries but regime change for friendly countries which aren't friendly enough. Why? Oh must be to do with human rights, or elections or something. Anyway, you people are Muslim you will never understand our Judaeo-Christian Liberal Democracy so just take it as read- have a Regime Change, you will feel so much better.
This is like the Trotskyite notion of 'Permanent Revolution'- no, actually, it is like the Emperor changing the Governor of the province every six months. However the political disruption caused vitiates civil society and erodes the last barriers remaining against a descent into utter chaos.

Obama is free from anti-Muslim prejudice. He wants dialog on the basis of long term interests. He is addressing concerns such as those mentioned earlier.
Unfortunately he's been given a Nobel Peace Prize. Fate- being fond of that particular joke- will ensure that he fails spectacularly.
Except it won't really be his failure. That harvest was planted long ago.

Tuesday 13 October 2009

Kavka's toxin, Newcombe's problem- meta-intention and credible threat

Re. Kavka's toxin and the problem of meta-intention and credible threat- G.E. Moore's paradox- 'can I believe x and simultaneously KNOW that x is untrue'- is relevant. Moore's position was- No you can't believe x. However, Loyalty and Identity politics- Nationalism, Family and other affectionate relationships- all depend on our  Believing x with all our heart while knowing  x is nonsense. Introduce even a small amount  of epistemological uncertainty and our idea of  Knowledge soon turns into some sort of  'Justified True Belief' where True Belief has an increasingly theological feel. Kavka and Newcomb derive part of their ability to  grip because of the notion that the billionaire  might be a very shrewd judge of character. He has Ashby requisite variety. He verges on omnescience. If only we could 'think like a billionaire' we too might get rich. Thus, it becomes important to fall in with his  world view. Here, our preferences change  during the game BUT can we be sure we will not relapse into our comfortable old ways as  the minutes tick on? When we consider the  Hegelian Struggle for Recognition- where the one more ready to risk death  wins- or Abraham's intention to sacrifice  his son- where essentially the guy sees a goat  and reckons that God is saying 'kill the goat already- what are you a cannibal?"  we see the advantage of subjecting our  intentions to an external governor. But, perhaps, it would be enough to  make that governor stochastic- i.e. hooking yourself to a poison machine with some probability of delivering  the lethal dose. This explains, in the  epic age- or in tribal societies- the importance given to oracles and prophets who introduce that vital stochastic element. Ultimately, Newcomb,Kavka, Axelrod etc- are posing dilemmas which reveal  a problematic for decision theory-  viz. the mind's need to see deep symmetries across agents such that  (Noether's theorem) conservation laws  operate. After all, Identity, too, is something conserved rather than  given. The fact that the actual  environment might be dissipative  means however that such conservation is ironic.

Monday 12 October 2009

Zuleikha Dobson- the ultimate Indglish Sufi parable of mimetic desire.

In Islam, especially Sufi poetry, Zuleikha is the name of Potiphar's wife who falls in love with Joseph.
The name Zuleikha derives from, the Arabic, zallakah- a place where the foot might slip- however, Allah defends Joseph against the temptation posed by Zuliekha's beauty
She tears off the back of his shirt as he attempts to flee her and then accuses him of misconduct to her husband. However, her cousin points out that since Joseph's shirt was torn from the back- far from having been intent on rapine, the poor fellow had been trying to run away.
When the women of Egypt cry out against Zuleikha's crime, she invites them for a banquet. While they peel oranges with their knives, Zuliekha causes Joseph to appear. The women cut their hands, not the oranges, dazzled by his beauty. In Persian, zuleikha is also an inauspicious term for the color red, or blood.

This 'loveliest of tales' (Holy Quran) dramatises the dilemma of the 'impossible object' of philosophy's love. The late Victorians had fully assimilated Sufi poetry- through the Persian- (though it was an earlier generation, Tom Moore, Southey etc, which wrote oriental pastiches) so much so that W.S. Gilbert is actually referencing Jami's Salaman & Absal in the figure of the amorous Nanny in the Pirates of Penzance.

Beerbohm sets up Zuliekha to fall for an impossible object- the snobbish Duke who has dedicated his life to a sort of monastic dandyism- but then introduces a truly delicious complication- the perfection of the Duke's amour propre is that paradoxical Monism which the Sufi Masters decry as 'an idolatry because it is a shielding of the heart from the Other- and the Other does not exist!" This hubris, or more than mortal perfection, sets the Olympian Gods in motion to bing about his destruction. A miraculous change in the color of his shirt studs convinces the Duke, against his own will, that he truly loves Zuleikha- but, alas, it is not the flesh and blood woman of that name- but a, will o' the wisp, amor fati generated by his own tragic egotism- one, moreover, he is destined to  to woo  to no happier end than his own undoing. This is the 'Romantic Irony' of Santayana which always pursues its object by methods most fruitful in frustrating its own end.

Like the Duke,  Zuleikha too is an egoist- but, unlike the Duke, she can have babies. She represents Goethe's eternal feminine- like Anna in Shaw's Eugenic rather than Schopenhauerian "Man and Superman." - but in her willingness to be used and then brutally discarded by the Duke, she combines an Ibsenite Rebecca West quality with the Wildean 'Woman of no Importance' who, rending the veil of her hidden shame- reduces all Power, all Punditry, all Patriarchy to utter insignificance.

In fact, from that point of view, the 'Life-force' did a good job of work when it ensured that, if the Duke 'loves' Zuleikha, she can't love him! There were plenty of other Grand Dukes for her to marry, while there was a nice little house-maid who would have done very nicely for the Duke if he really wanted to strike a blow against the class system.
Okay, the English reader may feel Zuleikha is irrational in wanting everybody to commit suicide for her- but such behaviour is de riguer in the Islamic ghazal tradition! In fact, Beerbohm gives this Islamic convention a sort of psychological probability by depicting Zuleikah as a publicity hungry starlet.
Ultimately, the Duke agrees to commit suicide because this represents an aristocratic yielding to Fate- the Olympian Gods- which is purely a matter of bon ton good form. This is wholly Victorian. Behind the Duke we see Matthew Arnold puzzling over the Bhagvad Gita, harvesting deontics' bitter fruit, and ever thereafter a salt and blighting note warping the pastoral lyricism of 'scholar gypsies'- Housman, Hardy and so on- but also Santayana's 'the last Puritan'-
'She stood as a rose might stand
Half-open in the sunless air
If but once the salt winds of fate
Had touched her beauty with despair'

Beerbohm's depiction of the workings of 'mimetic desire'- (vide Rene Girard's analysis of Proust)- and the manner in which it can lead to a thymotic disaster- like the Gadarening rush to the trenches of the First World War- is like a piece of hyper-elegant mathematics rivaling the work of Weyl, Poincare etc.

This gem of English literature has so much meaning packed into it while appearing nothing more than an Undergraduate jeu d'esprit- a Musical Comedy of a little novel. If only some one had explained its excellence to people like me, back when we were teens- we would never have thought we too could try to be writers! Beerbohm had genius. In vain do we drown ourselves in ink. Zuleikha was never for the likes of us.
Incidentally, after Zuleikha went to Cambridge- and the students there drowned themselves- she married Rajni Palme Dutt who, being a Marxist, understood not just the Hegelian dialectic but the infinitely more subtle Saavanih love dialectic of Ahmed Ghazali.
Thus, sad to say, she became an instructor in Statistics at the London School of Economics and did noteworthy research in Bayesian Analysis.

Tuesday 6 October 2009

HIS shadow's seditionist- Ghalib as Ghaddaar

The ghazals of Ghalib- less by their clamorous lushness of hot-house
emotions; less even by their coruscating lustre of cerebral
suggestiveness but more, indeed ever and increasingly more, by their
seemingly artless and perhaps, quite accidental, husn-e-tarteeb or
'beauty of arrangement'- hold sway- indeed, the as yet unmeasured
music of our Mirza's measures but burgeons in sovereignty!- like no
poet since, over the hearts of so many people all over the Indian
sub-continent because, with more than mortal perfection, they exhibit
a fractal amphiboly- a highly individualized signature of ambiguity,
self-similar irrespective of scale; every couplet, every line, every
syllable passionate only in affirming opposite allegiances; martyrdoms
achieved in the vanguard of both clashing armies; pilgrimages, arduous
and all the more arduous for simultaneous, but pilgrimages proceeding,
alas!, ever in contrary directions; and as for Tasawuf's Tawhid- if it
be not, entirely, the ironic Ithaca of mere Odysseys of the mirage-
the imminence of that Irfaani, the materialising of that ghost of
Gnosis,  hinges, it seems, not upon the Platonically Transcendent,
whose simulacrum is the Ptolemaic Heavens- that esoteric astrology
blithely illumined by Hafiz's 'Turk-i-Shirazi' and forever afterwards darkened

 in Bedil's hairat-e-aainah, the wilderness of the bewilderment of mirrors
- nor, indeed, can it be found  in all those Heavens piled upon Heavens by
 Angelic Doctors busy crowding  angels upon pin-points but, rather,  it turns out to reside,
 that too with no sense of incongruity, or impact on real estate values,
equally and in some sense reciprocally, in the inexhaustibly idiosyncratic, garrulous
and grotesque, unsublatable haecceity of something as mundane as
Passion's futile quotidian.

Consider the first couplet- traditionally an invocation of God- of
naqsh fariyadi, the ghazal with which Ghalib's published Divan
naqsh faryaadi hai kis ki shokhi-e -tahreer ka?
kaghazi hai pairahan har paikar-e-tasveer ka
Line one means-'The image is complaining against the mischievous
artfulness of which image-maker?
(The proscription on making images in Islam is related to the
inability of the image-maker to infuse his creation with life- that is
'agency', including the ability to complain against himself- &  hold 

him to account. Thus, if the image appears alive, it but
indicts the transgression of its creator but is its complaint that of
having or lacking agency? In the Bhaminivilasa, Pundit Jagganath tells
us that Love is the second Creation. What he doesn't mention is that
its God is Grief.)
Line two states- 'Every visage in the painting is wearing a paper robe'
(In India, when a subject of the King sought justice he would hold up
a torch by day- to signal that the darkness of injustice was upon the
land. Ghalib explains that, in Iran, the custom was for a wronged man
to appear in Court wearing a paper robe on which the details of his
complaint were written down. What is interesting (though not remarked
by any previous commentator) is that the first instance of this custom
is found in the Book of Job. Since some of Ghalib's friends at the
British sponsored Delhi College had converted to Christianity and were
well read in the Bible, it is entirely possible that Ghalib was aware
of this fact. The paradox here is that though Job, more than any
other, had a reason to complain to God- if only against the
tactlessness of his dogmatic comforters- yet he refrained from doing
so preferring to yearn passionately for oblivion. This gives a further
ironic twist to Ghalib's couplet read in its entirety. The meaning
thus becomes- every face in the world picture is the face of a Job.
However, as Hazrat Ali (p.b.uh), whom Ghalib revered, pointed out we
are in error in picturing God at all! Thus our 'Allah' is a Job
protesting against our mischievous artfulness of image-making- whereby
our picture of God seems more alive to us than that Truth Ever Alive;
every face going to destruction except that Face we hideously mask...
but mask but to limn- what is this but a calamity, a doomsday, a
Satanic Takwin experimentation? In this context, Abu Bakr ash Shibli has
stated 'Sufi Monism is an Idolatry because it is the guarding of the
heart from the vision of the Other & the Other does not exist."
However, those who quote Shibli- and other such Saintly authorities-
will appear like the Naasih of Urdu poetry, the prudent counsellor of
the love-maddened wretch, who, is unwittingly committing exactly the same sin

 as Job's self-righteous comforters, thus bringing down God's undying wrath upon
 his own unoffending head.
In the book of Job, Elihu- an impetuous Rabbinical sort of young man-
offers himself as the mediator (Hebrew- mokhiah) or intercessor that
Job had wanted. But, the irony is that the intercessor becomes the
advocate- if not the bailiff or executioner- of the opposite party!
Ghalib drives the point home with the first couplet of his next
jaraa;hat tu;hfah almaas armu;Gaa;N daa;G-e jigar hadyah
mubaarak baad asad ;Gam-;xvaar-e jaan-e dard-mand aayaa
Bringing back gifts that deal me wounds mortal but unearned
Congratulations Ghalib! Your confidante has returned
But we are getting ahead of ourselves here. The actual second couplet
of the first ghazal is
kaav-kaav-e -sakht-jaaneeha-e- tanhai na poochh
Subh karna shaam ka laana hai joo-e sheer ka
But why translate this? Look up the whole on Prof. Frances Pritchett's
web-site ' a desertful of roses'
But mentioning Pritchett's wonderful website, I lose patience with my
own essay, or of this ghazal further, more fatuous, assay; and now
incontinently blurt out my own trans-creation of its essence-

That the complaint of the cartoon turns cartoonish when
Manumitted by the mischief of Mastery's pen
Rendering thankless the rock Farhad last split...
Must Loneliness, to mock, so task my wit?

(Farhad fell in love with Shirin. Khusrou, the King, himself in love
with Shirin, told Farhad he could have her if he tunnelled through the
Behistun mountain and brought forth a canal of milk. Farhad's pickaxe
was successful against the rocks. However, to prevent him from
attaining his goal, Khusrou told him that Shirin was dead. Farhad
killed himself by splitting his own head with his axe. Farhat anjam
te, Farhad, hum bhi ho yaqeen/ Khuddi hai Khusrou aur Mawt har Shirin-
Lo! Love has completed Farhad's task I ween/ Khusrou is the Self and
Death each Shirin!)
Do, if you don't already know it, read the remainder of Ghalib's
ghazal for yourself. Each succeeding couplet deforms the meaning we
had received before- it is a vertiginous task to keep track of the
ironies of injustice each accretion of complaint burdens our forensic
hermeneutic with!- we become either poets or madmen or (in my case)
mad-men who think they are poets- and and and what is there left to
say? Kuch na samjhe Khuda kare koi!
Ghalib's relationship with the 'Shadow of God'- that is the Mughal
Emperor, or rather the shadow of that Empery propped up by the East
India Company- includes but reverses, reverses but includes the
traditional Ustad/Shagird relationship of Master and Disciple. When
Ghalib cunningly hints that he'd welcome a present of the Emperor's
mangoes- the effect is that of 'Khirqa maangna'- the Sufi mantle
demanded from the Pir (Saint) being considered higher than that which
is but, unprompted, bestowed. Thus Ghalib, like Gokhale to Curzon or,
indeed, Gandhi to us now, is a Ghaddaar in God's Shadow- a loyal
seditionist- unlike Ayaz who sheltered in the shadow of Mahmud when
the shadow of Huma flitted across the battlefield- but which God? That
of Shah Zafar or that of the Hon'ble Company? Both, neither- I don't
know. Which of us does? Whom do we serve actually? After all,
Sociologically speaking, the only reason I'm writing, in English,
about Urdu and Persian rather than in Tamil about Sanskrit or Russian

is because I come from a 'Service' family. Whose Service? Frankly, I'm afraid to find
Still, the fact is Ghalib is special. But what makes him special? His
eyes witnessed the holocaust of the pre-Copernican Heavens; his vision
is the bleeding martyr of the cause of all highly correlated systems;
his is the death of the didactic univocity of what (the Harvard
Indologist) Michael Witzel calls the (Shastric) layered text.
In other words, this meat-eating Mussulman- this wine bibbing Kaffir-
yet is Valmiki, Vyasa every effing Indian since the birth of Bhakti-
that second birth of Vak.
Why? How so? Surely, Ghalib was ethnically a Trans-Oxian Turk- like
the Uzbek Bedil- but, unlike Bedil, he hadn't actually memorised the
whole Mahabharata. The other point is the guy was kind of English- he
had a gentlemanly English shagird- put him down today in the Royal
enclosure at Ascot and he'd be more at home than yours truly- so how
is it that this louche character ends up defining, for me, what it
means to be Indian- indeed, to be Hindu- and why should I share this
universal sub-contintental illusion that though all are addressed only
I understand him?
Is it that Ghalib's intense engagement with 'ma'ni aafirini'
(discrimination of meaning, or 'meaning-creation' as Frances Pritchett
puts it) and thus with the philosophy of language, assimilates him to
some hypothetical, or strategically misplaced, uniquely Indian
Adi-Mimamsa subconscious hermeneutics which enables us to behave like
Indians, think like Indians, but talk like gobshites and act- never
act except to act that role?
Would it be too much to say that Ghalib has an affinity with the
'mantrodhara' tradition in that his gnomic, highly allusive and
compressed, style functions like a magical formula raising the
poet-as-thaumaturge to the level of the Deity he invokes to make his
ritual effective?
Perhaps it is too much- save for me for I- true reader of Ghalib- am,
tat tvam asi!, verily, that gobshite.
Thus, I conclude with this essay with the entirely gobshitical bromide
that Ghalib's ghazals- like Lev Shestov's despairing existentialism-
rather than being an appeal to the basic affinity between higher and
lower, a visualization of the macrocosm in the microcosm- is a ghadaar
breaking of faith with a faith that denies reciprocity; an Indian
Mutiny against that disparity in status wherein weakness is founded in
alterity; a ceaseless trench war where all are ultimately conscripted
by each to be willing cannon fodder, in a war to end war, filling up
with their own corpses that trench which is also the infinite
ontological gulf between the Particular and the Universal- such,
indeed, is Ghalib's wholly uncommunal manifesto that raises up the
condition of the subject and puts it upon a level- not of superiority,
as with the Rishis, nor of mystic identity, as with the Sufis- but of
irreconcilable agon- conflict, but conflict that engenders complexity,
conflict which meaningfully deepens difference- Love against Love &
nothing but that Love! with respect to the object of its
But, gobshites- especially gobshites named Vivek Iyer- don't end
essays- especially on Ghalib- this way. Here's how.
"In other words, Ghalib's passion for symmetry, his insistence on free
reciprocity, engenders a lyricism that is the precise opposite of that
of Theistic Monism in that it is a technique for increasing
individuation, involving a sort of hypertrophy of haecceity,
increasing difference, widening the gulf between everything, and
apotheosizing the loneliness and desolation that results.
"Bhakti poetry that protests the Deity's indifference, injustice,
faithlessness and so on, may, at first sight, appear similar to
Ghalib's endless litany of complaint- indeed, blasphemously so!
However, this sort of Bhakti poetry is wholly orthodox and in line
with Brahma Sutra 3.3.37- vyatiharah vishimshanti hitaravat- Scripture
prescribes reciprocity in meditation on the Divine, not just in terms
of raising the individual to the level of the Universal but also by
visualizing the Absolute as having form, intention, etc. However,
Hindu thought is so thoroughly Monistic that though bhavas (emotions,
modes of being) and rasas (bhavas engendered aesthetically) are evoked
with great psychological verisimilitude, the effect is of lila (play)
which uniquely, in Hinduism, functions as a Theodicy (a justification
of God's ways to man). Now, in any other literary tradition, this
would render Hindu poetry uninteresting for devoid of real conflict.
However, Hinduism vigorously maintains an apparent polytheism which
enables its votaries to recast what would otherwise be a boring
literary exercise into a cosmic agon, an epic conflict, between not
Deities who represent different principles but appearances- hypostases
of haecceity- which do.
"In the Sufi tradition, the fool-for-God can utter biting complaints
against the All Merciful without incurring any sin. A twist is given
to this by Shaheed Shurawardy who introduces the notion of 'gharbi
ghurbat' – Western exile from the Lux Orientalis, the Light from the
East- which in Christianity is referred to as the Dark Night of the
Soul. The via negativa- the path of negation- is well recognized in
Islam and assimilated to the "Haal" stages of Spiritual development.
However, at bottom, we all know that when Sarmad says 'There is no
God', it is only because he is on the penultimate 'Haal'. In other
words, though his words sound blasphemous, they are actually perfectly
orthodox and so there is less conflict here than meets the eye.
Everything has a happy ending with the majazi distinction between
individual and Universal- which only persisted because of our
epistemological error- being utterly erased as, in fact, it had always
been to the eye of Truth.
"Again, we may say this is nothing new. In Sanskrit and vernacular
Puranic literature we have the concept of virodha-bhakti, or samrambha
yoga, where hatred is more effective than devotion in raising one to
the level of the higher being. However, Ghalib- unlike Iqbal in some
of his rhetorical flights- has no interest in raising his own
condition. Rather protest is valorised because of the ironic type of
knowledge that it unlocks."

Yup that's how gobshites write sure enough.
Kya kiya Khizr Sikandar se?
Ab kis ki raah numa kare koi?

A corespondent asked why a South Indian might be interested in Urdu-
that too Ghalib's sort- and whether this might bode will for that language
in theSouth.
 My blunt response-
'The reason the Urdu of Ghalib has appeal is because it has
1) no homely references to buffaloes or any other such embarrassing
reminders of rustic life
2) no sex and no slavering over the female form- especially of the
over-ripe Sanskrit sort.
3) no fixed meaning;- no purely sectarian or political agenda.

Indian middle classes in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century invested
heavily in the development of Vernacular literature. However, from the
late ''60's onwards, it was realized that the great living authors
were utter fools and that only the Soviet Union had an interest in
pretending they were worth paying attention to.
Dalit and Naxal literature threw down a challenge to the State
supported Establishment writers. However. whereas previous vernacular
literature shored up middle class values, the new type of literature
was nihilistic. Thus Grannies- brought up in the vernacular tradition-
themselves began to discourage children of my generation from reading
regional language, as opposed to English, magazines.
In other words, since vernacular literature was now attacking the
ethos of the middle class- in particular with reference to caste
attitudes and sexual mores- a market was created for something
'Indian', to set along side English, which had no context-specific
meaning or inter-subjective message whatsoever .
This "Indian" thing couldn't be in Sanskrit or Tamil or any language
derived from them because currently unresolved issues regarding
sexuality and caste are too tightly interwoven with their vocabulary
and literary topos.
Ghalib's Urdu, especially for Hindus, was ideal because it offered
some little scope for the sort of un-taxing cerebral activity
Engineers and I.T professionals excel at, and because it meant nothing
at all- less than origami- and could not become a spur to actual
poetic creativity- or anything dangerous of that sort- in their hands.
In other words, no South Indian Hindu, dabbling in Ghalib's Urdu could
inherit the fate of a Majaz. It was safe.

Freud, in a letter to Sabina Speilren, pointed out that when Jung
referred to things like 'professional probity', 'integrity' and so on,
he did so by writing the terms in English, with quotation marks'
rather than in German. This showed that, for Jung, talk of moral and
professional integrity was indeed 'a foreign language'.
The point I make in my book Samlee's daughter is that for middle class
South Indian Hindus, 'Love" is a foreign language- and thus Urdu
suddenly becomes relevant.
The protagonist, in my novel, is seeking to woo a girl he met on a
Web-site who, he believes, works in an I.T company in Chennai or
Hyderabad. He can't woo her with Tamil poetry because its language
tends to be gender and caste specific- thus opening up a whole can of
worms. After all, the guy just wants to get married- not solve all the
complex problems of South Indian Society! So, in this context, Urdu
poetry is just what the Doctor ordered.
I am sorry to disappoint you, if I raised your hopes that South
Indians might be engaging creatively with Urdu, or that there might be
a Renaissance for Urdu on the horizon.

Sunday 4 October 2009

Karma, Dharma & Ashit Sharma- a magical tale of ancient Ind

  “What is dharma?” the Norwegian Ambassador spoke excellent English.
  From the way he pronounced the word Dharma, it appeared likely that the old man was also a scholar of ancient Sanskrit.
  “Sir,” said Ashit Sharma, “I am not interested in philosophy or religion or Yoga or anything like that. As I explained to your Visa officer, I am only interested in getting into the Limca Book of Records. I want to be the first Indian to bicycle backwards around the globe. It is my dream. Please grant me visa.”
  “The dictionary says that dharma means religion, or duty, or sacred law- but that is not the root of dharma. Rather, dharma is the field of action in which karma- individual destiny- is worked out.”
  “Sir, please believe me, I have no interest in religion or spirituality. Just, I want visa for pure purpose of backwards bicycling only.”
  “I am sorry, young man, but the fact is there is a terrible plague of Yoga teachers in Norway nowadays. There are simply too many of them for a small country like ours to absorb. Thus, despite our excellent welfare system, their fate is pitiable indeed. Some have become so demoralized, during the long winter months, that they have taken to Tai Chi. Heed my words, young man, and do not persist in your application for a visa. Such is not the path of dharma. Indeed, we may safely aver, such is the path to bad karma!”
  “Sir, I am explaining many times to your Consular officials that I am not at all any type of Yoga teacher. My only passion is for backward bicycling. Due to jealous intrigue in high places, my backwards bicycling tour of Bihar was sabotaged by buffaloes. Nevertheless, I have gained the backing of the shipping tycoon, Ravi Tikkoo, for my round the globe venture. I can backwardly bicycle on the deck of his oil-tankers across all the great oceans of the globe. All that remains is for you to give me a visa so I can get on and off his tankers and backwardly bicycle between ports and docking berths in your fair country.”
  “Young man, you make a good argument. Adding a single grain of sand may cause the sand-pile to collapse. Who is to say that an increase in the Yoga teacher population of Norway, even by a single individual, might not lead to a population crash? In the wild, Yoga teachers have no natural predators. Yet, from time to time, their population crashes for no apparent reason. If such were not the case, the whole Solar System would be knee-deep in Yoga teachers by now. The question then arises – why should it be so? What is the secret mechanism at work here? To answer these questions we must return to my starting point- what is dharma?”
  “Sir, if it will expedite my visa, I can answer your question. However, due to backwards bicycling is purely secular, scientific, and of socialistic orientation, I will have no truck with the obfuscating language and mystical mumbo-jumbo used by priests, Godmen, Yogi-bhogi gobshites and others of that ilk.
  “Instead, I will begin my analysis by pointing out that in order for the two of us to have a conversation, we both must have some method of ordering our own feelings and impressions over the vertical axis of time and secondly a way of distinguishing the thoughts and emotions that arise and are interchanged between people situated around us along the horizontal axis of space. One way to order one’s mental life over time is by appealing to a notion of causation- this is karma- the notion that our successive mental states are intentional in essence and linked over time by a chain of cause and effect. ‘As you sow so shall you reap.’ This notion of karma, however, bears no resemblance at all to our actual mental life. Such intentions as we have are hidden from us, and all action- what is called action in the social realm- is sub-consciously motivated, strategic in nature, and amounts to nothing more than systematic fraud or deception.
“No doubt, in a particular community dedicated to a limited purpose- like the Buddhist Monastery where a certain number of prayer wheels have to be turned, or the Brahmin agraharam where a certain number of rituals have to be performed- it is useful to have a false consciousness- a ‘motivation’ for the ‘method actor’- so that the ensemble runs through its paces like clockwork. But, this so called karma is merely the internalization of the promptings of some charlatan of a Master of Ceremonies. What has it to do with the random harvests of our inner life?
“In what sense, indeed, can we be said to reap as we sow? When all is but windfall fruit why speak of sowing and reaping? How dreary was the miser whose one imaginative extravagance was to invent a Hell & Heaven- or an endless cycle of re-births- and that too just as a way to get his books to balance?
  “Of course, you may argue, the concept of karma has a sort of instrumental value. It encourages foresight, rationality, the acquisition of empirical knowledge so as to be better able to judge of the consequences of one’s actions, the investigation of the vasanas- that is the stores of psychomental residue in the unconscious- so as to gain an understanding of one’s unconscious promptings, and so on and so forth. However, the fact remains that karma- as a law of inner life- is nothing more than a fairy story. It has no truth except in a vague poetic sense.
  “What of dharma? It is indisputable that other people exist in space. Before all forethought, before all sense of self, it is the emotions and thoughts of others that affect us and, hopefully, the reverse too is the case. Unquestionably, it is by this- our, so to speak, Epimethean, interconnection- that we humans continue to enjoy a sort of species life. Indeed, it is a matter of common observance that simple people feel the emotions of others more strongly than their own. Within one’s own mind, no thought, no emotion pertaining entirely to oneself, ever arises except within a matrix of ambiguities. In every defeat, every humiliation, there is also a sort of liberation. However, it is when an emotion or idea is broadcast, it is when it becomes an event in our species-life, that it gains a definite valency, a fixed meaning. Truly is it said ‘Our face is like water- till we lose it. Our thought is like smoke- till another’s face burns red by it’. Dharma refers to the space we populate with respect to the others around us. It is a mental space, true, but it is something shared with others which comes back to us through language as something fixed and objective- a seeming fact about the world. Good dharma is where joys are amplified and shared, bad dharma is the privatization of sorrow as arising from scarcity, rivalry, the unjust humiliation of the scapegoat so as to bind more closely together those arbitrarily spared.
  “Having said this much, it seems to me, I have said enough to now venture an answer to your question. What is the relation between Karma and Dharma? Dharma, indeed, is that by which Fire is stolen from Heaven. But it is Karma, the false consciousness of Karma, by which that theft becomes theft and the Heavens are ever afterwards darkened.”
  “Well, I must admit, there is some force to your argument.”The Norwegian Ambassador sounded surprised. “If Yoga teachers started teaching Yoga teachers to teach Yoga teachers to teach Yoga teachers…perhaps, we could Nationalize the industry…and..and get one of your world famous Indian bureaucrats to run it!... that would kill it off, no question! Look, there is not a moment to be lost…You must come with me to Norway right away…the danger is pressing.. you know, I was a young lieutenant in the Army when the Nazis attacked…we must take immediate steps… I will order my Head of Chancery to get us on the first plane out of here. I’m afraid you won’t be able to return home to pack your things…the Security risk, you understand. No, you must remain incommunicado with me till our flight is called… Ach! the peril is grave but we Norwegians are brave…"Ja, vi elsker dette landet.. Stand up! Sing with me!
‘Ja, vi elsker dette landet, som det stiger frem! ‘
  All this happened in New Delhi in 1977. I was just a 14 year old school boy at that time. However, as an ardent member of the Backward Bicycling Brotherhood, the name and fame of Shree Ashit Sharma could scarcely have been unknown to me. Yet, to be honest, so it was. At any rate, I have no memory of him, nor indeed of my own passion for Backward Bicycling. Fortunately, my literary agent- who was my Chemistry lab partner at St. Columba’s School, New Delhi,- remembered my hero-worship for Shree Ashit Sharma and exerted himself to get me the commission to write this book.
  Like other Indglish authors of a certain age, I had long contemplated writing a sort of modern day version of the Bhagvad Gita. However, it never occurred to me that amongst the distant fiords of Norway an actual, true life, Bhagvad Gita was unfolding. What follows, in the course of this book, is an account of the dialogue concerning Karma and Dharma between Ashit Sharma and the old Norse warrior as they, in tandem, bicycled backwards across a Norway blighted and disfigured by a terrible plague of Yoga teachers. Since in the Bhagvad Gita, Lord Krishna plays the part of the charioteer- the question naturally arises as to whether it was Ashit or the old Ambassador who should be considered as fulfilling that role. I suppose, since the person who sits in front, on a tandem bike, steers the machine, it follows that he is the charioteer. However, the situation in backwards bicycling is more complicated. Indeed, when done properly (in other words with a view to maximizing the entertainment of the spectator) the question of agency in tandem backward bicycling affords many puzzles and aporias to perplex the philosophical mind.
  There is a further reason for my mentioning the Bhagvad Gita. The fact is I consider myself- as indeed do most other Indglish authors of no particular intellectual attainment or worth of character- to be like the minstrel Sanjaya- divinely blessed with vision to enlighten the blind King Dhritirashtra- or, in this case, Prof. Michael Witzel, Reigning Monarch of Indology- as to what is actually happening on the perennial battlefield of Kurukshetra-where absolutely nothing of any ethical import occurs but maybe some bandits kill each other- not that it makes any difference because bandits- I mean politicians, pundits, Kings, N.G.O shitheads etc.- we shall always have with us and anyway all those fuckers are like cousins or brothers anyway and so their dragging us into their feuds is just a ploy to make out that they stand for shit or it all means something other than we dun bin getting fucked over and had better emigrate or if we can’t be bothered to do that, at least not pay our electricity bills never mind Income Tax.
  Now, I’m not suggesting that Prof. Michael Witzel is really blind but, being a philologist, he can’t see the wood from the trees as far as literature is considered. Religion, of course, is beyond him coz the fucker’s neither fatally stupid nor even fitfully conscious of his own futility and so he has no business in that particular playpen.
  However, I must tell you, my decision to appoint myself Sanjaya to Witzel’s Dhritirashtra was not occasioned by purely abstract considerations but arose from our close personal relationship fostered by E-mail. I had originally got in touch with him when he was appointed head of the Electronic Journal of Vedic Studies. It so happened I had recently purchased a second hand computer from a Bengali gentleman. A friend of mine, an expert on computers, told me that my computer had been built in the Stone Age. Thus, it occurred to me, some of the weird documents still stored upon its hard drive- I was actually looking for porn- might well be Electronic Vedas dating back to the Neolithic era. Being a great patron of Indological research, I began incessantly emailing Witzel, over the next few years, offering to sell him these Electronic Vedas for his Journal. Just last week, I received his reply-
Dear Frind,
I is yore ole frind, Micheal Witzel, Professssor of Indopology at Horward Coll. U.S.
 Just now I is attending big big conference in Lagos, Nigeria, but shit happen I is completely robbed and unable to pay big big hotel bill.
I have $528,4975,87735 in my Swiss Bank Account which I am wanting to pay to you. Plez send send $1500 by Fed Ex and also supply your Bank details with all relevant security codes so I can transfer de money..
  I immediately wrote back to Prof. Micheal Witzel offering to sell him my Electronic Vedas for the sum of $538,4975,87735 and suggested he could perhaps finance the balance by setting up an African branch of (my own alma mater in matters Religious) the Transcendentally Holy University of God’s Grace Enlightenment and Ecstasy (a.k.a THUGGEE). After all, there must be plenty of White Indologists and other Aryan Invasion Theory nutters who would pay through the nose to avoid a late night visit from Emeritus Professors from an so august an Institution.
  Micheal Witzel- or Mojisola as he has asked me to call him- has been in touch, indeed, I was surprised to get a call from him quite late last night- and, I think, this is an idea we may be able to take forward together.
  Incidentally, I may mention someone seems to have hacked my e-mail account and a lot of my contacts have received emails purporting to be from me asking them to send money because I am unable to pay my hotel bill in Nigeria. This is strange because normally I only ask for money to get out of Jail in India. Not that anyone sends money but still it raises their spirits. However, it also encourages belief in karma, so, perhaps, by Kant’s Categorical Imperative, it is not a practice you should yourself take up.
  But all this is digression. We must get back to the story.
At first, Ashit Sharma sternly refused to go to Norway to tackle the Yoga teacher epidemic. The Norwegian Ambassador- whose name was Vidkun Hjortson- either that, or something else equally unlikely- sought to win him over with all manners of arguments and inducements. But, true Brahmin that he was, Ashit Sharma was not at all won over even after His Excellency, the Ambassador, reversed the order in which he proffered herring and schnapps. Indeed, if anything, Ashit’s determination not to go just increased. Unfortunately, no one noticed. Not only was the poor fellow ejected from India- even his bicycle was left behind. Thus it was only after Ashit and Hjortson had undergone various bizarre misadventures in an Oslo rendered uninhabitable by the ubiquity of Yoga teachers that, in seemingly fortuitous fashion, Ashit came into possession of a tandem bicycle upon which he and Hjortson (by then on the run from neo-Nazis) began beatifically bicycling backwards to Bethlehem so a New World Order might be born. Or not. In fact, definitely not.
  However before I can tell you about all that, I want you first to look at this.
(Don’t worry, it is some literary stuff so you can skip chunks.)
Arjuna’s Vishada-Yoga
  Why is Arjuna despondent? Well, he is about to fight the battle of Kurukshetra in which he will have to attempt to kill not just the Head of his Family- his Great Uncle, Bhishma- but also his Guru, Drona, not to mention a whole bunch of cousins, relatives by marriage, guys he went to School with and like kids he hung out with and so on.
  Why does Arjuna have to fight? Well, let’s say to keep things simple, it’s coz his elder brother, Yuddhishtra, sez so. Now, Yuddhishtra is a nice guy- opposed to violence, attached to Justice as Mercy- yet, he over-rules even the pleas not to go to war of his super-macho brother Bhima, and their common wife, Draupati, both normally virulent for vengeance.
  But, there’s something Yuddhishtra doesn’t know. It’s that he has another brother- an elder brother- that brother is Karna and Karna is absolutely unshakeable in his adherence to the other side. In other words, if anybody steps forward at this point- be it, Kunti, his mother, or Lord Krishna, his maternal cousin, or Bhishma, his paternal Great Uncle, or Vidura, his paternal Uncle, or Drona, his Guru, or the blind King Dhritirasthra- also an uncle and the father of his enemies- or uhm… actually any passing Astrologer or Sage- Yuddhishtra will realize that he is about to commit a sin equal to parricide in raising his arm against his own elder brother.
  Arjuna, of course, could say- hey, I’m just following orders!- and get on with the fight. But there’s a problem. Arjuna is a sensitive sort of guy, not simply a testosterone pumped warrior, and what’s more he’s been granted a special sort of insight called caksuci vidya by one of his mates amongst the Gandharva order of demi-gods.
  This raises an interesting question. Does Arjuna suspect that his rivalry with Karna might, in the end, be sibling rivalry; that the passions that connect them run deeper than hate and have their source in something stronger that thymos? Arjuna and Karna have dueled before. Moreover, Kunti, their common mother, has been moving behind the scenes to secure Karna’s promise to spare her other sons. Under these circumstances, is it conceivable that, dueling with Karna, dining with Kunti, Arjuna has not picked up, at the unconscious level, any hint, any clue, of the true relationship that exists between him and his rival? Or is it merely the case, as conventional wisdom has it, that Arjuna’s Vishada- his depression, his despondency, his Hamlet like indecision- is occasioned by mere faint-heartedness and spiritual lassitude requiring moral and religious exhortation from the Lord Himself? Surely, at least to properly realize the dramatic potential of the situation, we should permit ourselves the speculation that Arjuna’s Vishada- his unsettlement of Spirit and dissonance of cognition- arises from an unconscious misgiving, a niggling doubt, a faint whisper from the inner man, that what he is embarked upon is rank rebellion, sure to wreck the Polity, and- since the eldest brother takes the place of the father- the moral equivalent of parricide?
What, we might ask ourselves, would have happened if Arjuna, with no Krishna for charioteer, had given way to his vishada, let his depression take the reins? Notice that the scholiasts use the term Vishada- Yoga as the title for this, the first, chapter of the Bhagvad Gita. Clearly, in some sense, Depression, too, is a path to Union, a path to Truth. Imagine unconquerable Arjuna turning back from the battlefield, slinking away to some forest or desert like a wounded cur. Imagine him living on in abjectness- supporting and compounding his dishonor with the drunkard’s flask or addict’s pipe- ruing but to repeat and repeating but to rue visits memorious to the scene of his undoing while savouring a sort of horripilating delight in the discovery of yet baser motives for his desertion and, under the fair mammalian form of the ethical scruples he had credited himself with, nothing but the slimy writhing of the reptile in the id.
What then? Arjuna sees himself as he is, as he has become, the lowest of sentient beings. Meanwhile, the World wags on without him well enough. Certainly- knowing himself now to have been more devilish than Duryodhana, more snake-like than Sakuni- he realizes it was actually a good thing he ran away. Even his brothers fared better, being killed cleanly in battle rather than having fallen victim to his own jealous intrigues- for what unconscious motive could Arjuna have had for his desertion except to bring about the deaths of his brothers, leaving him free to have Draupati- no! to have Mother Kunti!- all to himself?
Better, then, that Duryodhana rule. And, bliss indeed- knowing now the alternative- to live even so little in to his Millennial reign.
Thus, on the path of vishada, Arjuna has achieved wisdom. He loves the World as it is without any love for the World and, thus, now in every conceivable World, is equally content to either perish or persist. His Yoga is complete.
Ashit Sharma’s Vishada Yoga
  At his birth, great astrologer predicted- baby will become Chakravatin (Universal Emperor) through power of Backward Bicycle only. Unfortunately, Bicycle was Election Symbol of opposition party and, moreover, rising power of Backward Castes spelt doom for Brahmin influence in the State Legislature.
  In consequence of this inauspicious omen, Ashit and his mother were ejected from the mansion of his grand-father (an old fashioned Congress M.P in New Delhi) in disgrace and were forced to reside for fourteen years in remote jungle where his father was posted as Forest Officer. Since fourteen years more than sufficed for every last tree to be cut down, Ashit was sent to good Convent Schools and later enrolled in Engineering College. At this time he was not riding bicycle backwards.
  After passing various exams, his svayamvar was held with due pomp and ostentation. Various great political warriors competed to win his hand for their daughter. Finally, one of them made an offer that hit the mark and Ashit was taken up in his chariot to go meet his new owner. “I have mentally espoused another!” said Ashit, “Kindly let me go. Let your daughter slake her lust upon some other luckless fellow.” His abductor was pitiless. “Arre, mentally espouse as many women as you like- have four wives like the Muslims- but know also this- my daughter will be the fifth.”
  Ashit was seated upon the horse for his baraat- marriage procession. Hoping to escape, or at least delay the inevitable, he tried to make the horse trot backwards. It was unable. Ashit’s cousin was bicycling alongside him. They exchanged glances. It was a work of a moment for the two of them to somersault off their respective modes of conveyance, exchange clothes in mid-air, and ride off in different directions- Ashit bicycling backwards while his cousin forwardly horsed.
  However, mystics say, actually, above story is not true. Cousin was in love with the bride. Backwards he bicycled bitterly for unable to bear the sight of the glittering marriage mandap blighting all his hopes.
  Shantideva says ‘if you want to save yourself and another in a hurry- swop selves.’ This technique is called paratman parivartana. So actually that’s what happened- not the Kung Fu somersaulting into the air, exchanging clothes and so on. Anyway, Ashit’s backward bicycling bid was blocked by buffaloes. Bystanders asked the question- ‘due to why you are backwardly bicycling rather than proceeding to the marriage mandap where you will receive rich food? Something fishy in this. Bastard, the Engineer Babu has changed places with some uneducated cousin of his! Having swallowed the dowry money, that family of scoundrels is trying to cheat us! Shall we slaughter them all?”
  At this time, Ashit rose to the occasion and explained to those ignorant peasants the true importance of backward bicycling for India and Third World. Hearing his words, the blessed Martyrs in Heaven showered down rose-petals consecrating him to his heroic task. The local branch of the Brahmin Sabha advertised Ashitji as athlete extraordinaire. Prodded by his cook, who happened to hail from that village, a Kashimiri Brahmin shipping tycoon gave offer of free ocean transport. Thus was launched Ashit’s backward bicycling bid for WORLD Recognition.
  Of course, all that took time. Thus, what actually happened was this- the peasants poured scorn on Ashit’s (except it wasn’t Ashit, at all, but his cousin, Parikshit’s) backward bicycling claims- laid hands on him and delivered him to the marriage mandap in time for the girl to get the right groom. So all’s well that end’s well, except, to hush up the scandal, Ashit felt obliged to actually go through with the backward bicycling thing especially coz his prospective father-in-law had unexpectedly won his grandfather’s seat and his own folks were well miffed. On the other hand, of course, he’d gotten out of marrying the girl who-oddly enough didn’t actually look anything like what Parishit said- quite the reverse actually which is why this chapter is titled Ashit’s Vishada

Except things don’t work out like that. Why? It seems, the Kurukshetra War has to happen. God has his hit-list and it’s just more economical if cousins bump each other off while God swans around driving a chariot while- like the stereotypical Cockney cabbie of yesteryear- carrying on a cock-eyed discourse about Religion and Politics.
True, Krishna or Kunti- or even Dhrtarashtra, the blind father of the bad guys who is being kept in the picture by Sanjaya- could stop the war before it begins by revealing Karna’s true birth. However, Karna has refused to permit this. He prefers to remain ‘lower caste’. His wish is for the aristocrats to attain Heaven, dying the way they lived, sword in hand. Thus, the battle of Kurukshetra goes ahead as the apotheosis, but also the holocaust, of the aristocracy. It is a vishodHana, a ritual cleansing, a purgative blood-letting, a veritable Götterdämmerung of the Lords of the Earth. Here falls Bhishma- who captured Princesses by the strength of his arm, to give brides to his nephews, completely forgetting that every woman- even a Princess!- has the right to chose her own husband-and here falls Drona, the Brahmin Guru, who orders the ‘out-caste’ Ekalavya to sacrifice his thumbs so that Prince Arjuna will be the greatest archer in the world- completely forgetting that it is allegiance to Truth, not the accident of Birth, that makes one worthy of instruction. By this act, Drona falls- he is acharabrashta, a Brahminbandhu merely- but his pique against his friend King Drupada, his desire to rival him in possession of lands, had set him on the path to destruction already. Here falls Duryodhana, the ultimate Dynast, and here, by his mother’s curse, is sown the seed for the destruction of the Vrishnis- Lord Krishna’s people- and though, by Karna’s boon, the fallen Kings attain Heaven- the Celestial Realm is by their very influx rendered unworthy ever after of being the object of spiritual striving and thus everywhere we look the cry goes up for Moksha, Liberation, release from the cycle of birth and death, the Natural and the Supernatural.
What is this story whose plot twist is that plots don’t matter, what is this branching which leads us always back to the root? What is our vishada- facing the Gita- seeking to interpret the Gita- which, guided by Krishna or unguided by Krishna, leads us always back to Krishna knowing there was never anything but Krishna and, in that darkness, dreams too were sleep?
Kurukshetra happened.
Kurukshetra’s always happen and always before it and beyond it, lies this vishada and this Gita, this sorrow and this song.
Yathe icchasi tathaa kuru
 As you wish, so do.
Thus did Dharma- what binds people together in ties of mutuality- appear in propria persona to deny the jurisdiction of the councils of Family, Tribe, College or Kingdom- any collective, any existentially constructed mimesis of some Justice’s Platonic form- thus firmly re-establishing Religion, Morality’s Fortress, with ramparts pre-ruined, foundations self-sapped, so God invade India- the gods chaff to His flail.

Evolutionary Biology has sought to explain Depression, including post natal depression, as a sort of testing for support. If I shut down for a while, will the people I’ve committed to think it worthwhile to support me? If not, I’ve been mistaken in them. I should move on. Another way of saying the same thing is to speak of a testing- not for support- but for redundancy. If things pretty much work out as they should without me, I’m redundant- I should move on.
Sounds simple enough don’t it? But, there’s a problem. Socio-biology explains that there is an advantage in cultivating a culture of lying, sending out false signals, disguising-even from yourself- your need for those you truly need and pretending to need- to be absolutely unable to do without- those of no use whatsoever. Indeed, so little do what wills its survival and what blindly works that will coincide that we are all but chthonic Chimaeras with the eyes of Apollo- to whom it were mortal to glimpse the true form under which we propagate- and the broader streams of Life too seem but cascading symbioses of deceit- all deceit so finely interwoven as to form a seamless web- and the Depressive position, in especial, but a deceit spun upon deceit- the shed skin, the Lebenswelt we quit and do not quit, of the snake in the spine. And this is adaptive because the other side of the equation is that ecological niches will be always occupied just as Kurukshetras will occur and Pandava or Kaurava, Eutheria or Metatheria, events will unroll pretty much as they would have if we’d never been born.
Lord Krishna gives us a surprising formula for overcoming the despondency that arises from a sudden waking to this web of lies. The episode occurs before the great duel between Karna and Arjuna. King Yuddhishtr, bested in battle by Karna and fearing for his brother Bhima, turns, on his stretcher, in great humiliation and bitterness of mind, to berate Arjuna with ill deserved taunts of cowardice and inactivity. He says Arjuna should hand over his divine weapon, the Gandiva bow, to someone more worthy to wield it. Arjuna gives way to fierce resentment. He is preparing to draw his sword on his elder brother for, as he tells Krishna, he has vowed to kill the man who would have him yield his bow to another. It seems the divine weapons that the different heroes have acquired over the course of the epic are all, in some sense, part of their essence. They will kill rather than part with, or, indeed, be forced to share, these instruments of universal death. The Gandharva, Chitrangada, we may recall from the Book of Origins felt similarly about his own name. He slew Crown Prince Chitrangada after three years locked with him in mortal combat- thus permitting the crown to pass to Vichitraveera- the guy with the strange sperm- thus beginning the Kuru dynasty’s problems with finding legitimate heirs. In semiotics the distinction is made between paradigmatic and syntagmatic analysis. It appears, in the Mahabharata, that the divine weapons which come in to the possession of heroes are paradigmatic- they serve to identify each warrior with a specific deity or super-natural being- though often ironically by cross-gifting. The Kurukshetra battle then becomes the earthly mirror of a contentious polytheistic Universe. However, at another level, these weapons are bound together syntagmatically- since they can’t be used against each other without cancelling the Universe- narrative, plot, wiles and tricks- the different fortes of the three characters named Krishna- everything that is interpolated, History that is, occurs to permit the fulfillment of the glorious futility of each. Thus they serve to qualify each other’s meaning and render their wielders meaningless. No wonder then that Arjuna feels an irresistible urge to draw his sword on his brother. The Gandiva bow is to him what he is to Yuddhishtra- a divine weapon- but both are cross-gifted; Gandiva coming to Arjuna from Agni not Indra and Arjuna’s fealty to Yuddhishtra springing from Karna’s refusal of the title of Kaunteya- Kunti’s first born.
At this point, stating the obvious, we might think, Krishna explains that Arjuna does not know the Scriptures, his intuitions about morality are faulty. However, there is a way he can both fulfill his vow of killing his insulter without incurring the terrible crime of fratricide. He can insult his insulter. An insult-a public humiliation, as the Rabbis deduce from the story of Tamar-is very death to an honorable man. That is why some Rabbis count refusal to cause the public shaming of another as one of the reasons a Jew should be prepared to lay down her own life. Krishna, clearly, is on the side of such Rabbis in what follows. Urged by Krishna, who has his own reasons for counseling this piece of adharma, Arjuna now reproaches Yuddhishtra in round terms, condemning him for his addiction to gambling, his weakness in war, his prevarication in peace, the all-round disaster that he has been to his family. Hearing this, Yuddhishtra prepares to cede sovereignty to his second brother, Bhima, and retire to the forest. He fully accepts the force of Arjuna’s impeachment. However, Arjuna- unable to bear up to what he has just done- is ready to draw his sword upon himself in a paroxysm of self-loathing. Krishna points out a way in which he can slay himself and yet not be guilty of the wretched crime of suicide. Strangely, it consists of praising himself- making a full statement of his achievements and potential- an act of hubris, we might think, likening oneself to the immortal gods- but, not so, according to Krishna, “Declare now, in words, thy own merit. Thou shalt then, O Partha, have slain thy own self!"
Since, Lord Krishna, in the Geeta, has spent a lot of time declaring his own merit- he has even shown Arjuna his Visvarupa, his cosmic form interwoven of all there is and isn’t and can’t be and can’t not be- in other words pretty much the horrible form none of us dare face in the mirror- thus, Lord Krishna has slain himself already. Gandhari’s curse is redundant.
This being so- all Revelation being the Suicide of God; Scripture His overdose of sleeping pills- Arjuna, now praising himself in terms as lofty as Homer’s Ajax, is only laying the ground for his reconciliation with Yudhishtra; his humble apology and heartfelt obeisance, the renewal of his vow of absolute fealty, his setting forth to vanquish the common enemy in obedience to his Duty and his King. In other words, everything that’s just happened hasn’t happened and if Lord Krishna really has slain himself it too matters nothing. The sword He drew upon Dharma and Karma returns unstained to its scabbard. Or, to be less brutal about it, let us say, mindful of their inherent flaws, their enslavement to blind chance, deceitful forms, He binds himself to establishing their universal sovereignty but on terms more benign, less capricious.

As is illustrated by this
  At one time Wisdom sought to extend itself without limit. The Gods- afraid there would be no room left for Creation if Wisdom ceaselessly burgeoned- merged together, took the form of Doubt and appeared before Wisdom.
  “Surely it is unwisdom to seek that which you can not in some part signify- so state what it is you seek when you thus limitlessly extend yourself.”
“I seek One wiser than I.” Wisdom replied and consequently was reborn on Earth as a woman. Her very wise husband, the King, his very wise spiritual preceptor, the RajGuru, and the equally wise chief minister, the chief minister, all travelling together in a chariot had very wisely been killed leaving her with an idiot son.
‘By the accumulated good karma of my previous births,” the dowager Queen said to her son, “the wisest Guru and the most able Statesman are even now hastening to your presence. In fact here they are. Now, in front of the whole court, do you examine them asking- ‘What is Religion? What is Policy?” and then, after appearing to give ear with a lively show of intelligent interest, appoint them the twin supports of your reign.”
The idiot immediately addressed the two strangers saying, “What is Religion? And ..urm.. what is …urm… did I say Religion? Well, that’s what I want to know- what it is? Not what the word it is. I mean what … urm … what I said is. Or was. I mean what I said was it. Or whatever.”
The first man immediately gave a long and very subtle speech, each highly illuminating line of which read something like this ‘Religion is not, as is commonly supposed, such and such practice or belief rather it is actually the complete opposite as is proven by such and such scriptural quotation and such and such episode in religious history.’
The second man, given his turn to speak, quickly began listing, in order of priority, the different needful steps the administration must hasten to take along with sage advice as to how to achieve each objective with the greatest economy and expedition.
“Stop!” said the King, “I have heard enough. You and you alone are fitted to be my Spiritual preceptor. That other asshole, who mentioned Religion at least twice in every sentence, can be my Politics go to guy- the whassisname? Chief Minister.”
Hearing the words of her idiot son, the Queen Mother dropped dead, the purpose of her incarnation fulfilled- for she had at last met one wiser than herself- that’s right, a Republican.