Thursday 29 June 2017

That St. Agnes' Eve's tryst we too kept

 For but xenial is our Khaddar's Kumarappa to Love's Ariadne's thread
Keat's 'demon debt' manciples Merlin's Books (supra) to our red
To wist, that St. Agnes' Eve's tryst we too kept
Shitting the bed in which Beauty slept

Wednesday 28 June 2017

Jason Smith's worthless Information Transfer Econ

Jason Smith is a Physicist who wants to 'use Claude Shannon’s insight about matching distributions on either side of a communication channel to match distributions of supply and demand on either side of market transactions.'
This is silly.
Markets are a solution to a coordination problem. They are not a channel of communication.
Prices may have a 'signalling' function if 'dis-coordination' games exist- i.e. there are arbitrageurs.
However, for this to happen there has to be a noise generator.
If not, no information or preference aggregation occurs because it would represent a waste of resources.
Noise is a 'bad' for Information theory. It is vital for Market signalling.

Smith is a physicist. He wrote a blogpost on 'Evonomics' which begs for money to fund worthless shite like Smith's on the grounds that it is trying 'to make the world a better place'. It solves a coordination problem for stupid people who want to give away their money and stupid pedants who need to get paid to pose as saviours of humanity.

 Smith says- 'Let’s start with a set of people who want blueberries (demand) and a supply of blueberries. These represent complex multidimensional distributions based on all the factors that go into wanting blueberries (a blueberry superfood fad, advertising, individual preferences) and all the factors that go into having blueberries (weather, productivity of blueberry farms, investment).

Why is Smith is starting off with a situation where there is perfect inter-subjective information available to his auditors through some ubiquitous error free communication channel? Shannon's insights are useless here. Information Theory has no purchase. 
Perhaps he believes that there is a God who creates a distinct Universe at every moment. Furthermore, this God is under his control. So he says to this God- 'Start by creating a set of people with such and such preferences and endowments'. God may reply 'such people can't be the product of evolution. Under Natural Selection, there can be no unique 'complex, multidimensional' mathematical representation for what you ask. What you get is Red Queen races on Fitness landscapes. Indeed, it is nonsense to say 'people want blueberries'. They don't. Natural Selection endowed them with plasticity in this respect which is why they didn't go extinct. Please don't be so stupid. You begin with a premise which wholly vitiates the argument you are trying to make.' 

Smith isn't really making an argument. He's just displaying stupidity and ignorance because that's how we can make the world a better place- right?

In place of Hayek’s aggregation function, information theory lets us re-think the price mechanism’s relationship with information. A price vector is an information string. Simple. That's the relationship. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Stable prices mean a balance of crop failures and crop booms (supply), population declines and population booms (demand), speculation and risk-aversion (demand) — the distribution of demand for blueberries is equal to the distribution of the supply of blueberries. Nonsense! Stable prices means prices are stable. If we assume everybody has perfect information- i.e. an ubiquitous error free information channel is instantaneously available to everybody without any cost cognitive or otherwise, then, assuming convexity, no hedging, homogeniety, gross substitutability, etc, etc, then Smith wouldn't necessarily be telling stupid lies. However, there would also be no need for a market or prices or Information Theory or Physics or Mathematics.  Everybody would be a Leibnizian monad continually reflecting on the perfection of an Occasionalist God.

Prices represent information about the differences (or changes) in the distributions. And differences in distributions mean differences in information. Nope. Prices don't represent anything unless we make a bunch of assumptions which make Information Theory redundant. The truth is, the price vector is just an abstraction. All that matters is that bilateral transactions proceed. Everything else follows very quickly because evolution has hardwired us in a particular way. Thus overall we get a Hannan consistent result featuring arbitrage and evolutionary channelisation of diversity. This may look a Liebnizian outcome to pedants or polemicists, but it isn't. It is regret minimising.

In the remainder of his post, Smith appeals to the following two notions. Both fatally vitiate his argument
1) The principle of maximum entropy- this justifies Samuelson type Economics even in the absence of ergodicity. But if Samuelson type Econ is permissible, Muth Rationality must be even better. Hence, Information theory has no purchase because we always have a better discriminator than that of a
2) A Generative Adversarial Network.  The joke here is that availability cascade based shite like Smith's gets past its own peer review process. Why? Because it is 'second order', not alethic. It seeks to make the world a better place not by actually doing so but by asking for money to continue being a fucking parasite on rational discourse.

Sunday 25 June 2017

Daniel A. Kaufman predicts the next great scandal of the Trump era

Is Philosophy useless to Economics?
Positive Economics replied with a resounding 'No!' a long time ago.
Philosophy can help us become better housekeepers.
Good housekeeping, that is Economics, concerns itself with Choice under Scarcity while Philosophy concerns itself with parsimonious tools to demarcate 'embedded' or 'conventional' quid juris decision situations from alethic, ergodic, quid facti decision situations. Consider my decision to eat a biscuit just now.  It might have got me thrown in jail for violating the law applicable to fasting during Ramadan in some jurisdictions. However, in the country where I live, it is classed a wholly private self-regarding act without any signalling or strategic function.
Nevertheless, some actions which are legal can come to be regarded as repugnant- because they violate something which we feel has the moral force of a law- and Philosophy plays a role in illumining why this should be which in turn enables Economics to frame a theory of repugnancy markets.
A similar point may be made regarding data used as inputs for Economic models. Philosophy objected to 'interpersonal comparisons of Utility' and Economics found that new, more fecund, vistas where opened by complying with what initially appeared to be a purely epistemological scruple.

On this view, Philosophy is complementary to Economics and supplies it with a demarcation criteria.
It turns out, I'm behind the times.
Apparently, while I was watching Netflix, a new type of Philosophy has arisen.
It is called 'mainlining' (as opposed to free-basing)  philosophy'
But first let me introduce Daniel A Kaufman who sued the University which employed him for barring him from campus because of his disability which he describes as 'depression with psychotic features'.
This circumstance alone lends a melancholy interest to a recent article of his from which I quote.

In “Excessive Reason,” an essay I published in these pages last year, I argued that mainline philosophy is characterized by a pervasive and systematic rationalism, the main characteristics of which I summarized as follows:
1) The acceptability of a belief, activity, practice, institution, etc., rests entirely on whether or not it can be rationally justified.
The rational justification of beliefs is comprised either of empirical evidence or of inductive or deductive proof. The rational justification of activities, practices, and institutions may include appeals to utility, where this notion is grounded in a scientific conception of human nature (like Bentham’s), or to duty, as long as it is grounded in some clearly definable, logical conception of reason (such as Kant’s).
Rational beliefs and actions are the logical and causal products of rational intellection.
Rejected categorically are those beliefs, activities, practices, and institutions grounded in the authority of individuals, classes, customs, or traditions—the collective sources of what Burke called “prejudice”—adherence to which is broadly identified with pre-modern civilization and is considered intellectually and behaviorally atavistic.
Also rejected are those beliefs, activities, etc., which are grounded in common sense, intuition, or sensibility, obedience to which, inasmuch as they do not constitute rational grounds for obtaining knowledge or motivating action, is also treated as regressive; the province of children or of incurious or otherwise unreflective adults.
Truth is the end of all inquiry and belief and trumps all other intellectual ends. The fulfilment of one’s duty (service to the Good, the Right, and the Just) is the end of all activity and consequently, supersedes all other practical ends.

I also suggested that these ideas support an ethos or conception of the Ideal that is also characteristic of mainline philosophy and which is defined as a conjunction of the following

A. Disinterestedness (impartiality) in belief and conduct: one must eschew bias, prejudice, and any other form of pre-judgment, in everything that one believes and does, and go wherever the evidence, logic, cost-benefit analysis, or other rational calculus leads.

B. Dispassion in belief and conduct: one must believe and act solely on the rational merits of the case at hand. One should never believe because of appealing rhetoric or wish-fulfilment or act on the basis of critically unexamined sentiment.

C. Autonomy: The ideal person is a free agent, both in belief and in action, but this freedom must be rigorously defended: from the forces of nature, by having one’s reason sit in constant judgment over one’s inclinations and sensibility; and from the forces of social conformity, by maintaining one’s independence from the influences of others and especially from the often unconscious influence of habit, custom, and tradition.

D. Consistency and Fairness: As inconsistency is the most obvious manifestation of irrationality, consistency is a bedrock rationalist virtue. Fairness is a manifestation of both consistency and dispassion, so it too is a rationalist virtue.

E. Purity of Purpose and Perfectionism: Absolute fidelity to the supremacy of truth, goodness, rightness, and justice in everything that one believes and does, over the course of one’s life. 
Kaufman's paradigmatic 'mainline philosophers' are Peter Singer & ditto Unger.
However, they are not generally considered to be doing philosophy any longer.
They are merely engaged in polemics of a silly but bien pensant kind.
If philosophical activity uses up scarce resources, their sort should be banned- and, indeed, it is all too obvious, they no longer make a pretence of taxing their brain cells before dashing off articles. So what? Lots of philosophers give up even the pretence of thought and take to writing stupid nonsense as they grow older. Why is Kaufman working himself up into a lather over senile Singers and Ungers?

The answer is Kaufman has been reading that master of paranoia, GK Chesterton, who anticipated UKIP by visualising an England where Muslims would ban Pubs and the Edwardian equivalent of the NHS would lock us all up as lunatics.
Kaufman, warns-
If there is a general characterization of what is wrong with rationalistic philosophy it is that it represents rebellion against our humanity; one that has played and in my view will continue to play a negative role in the lives of individuals and in the civilization of the modern West. 

Oh dear. Did those naughty rationalistic philosophers rebel against our humanity again? Whatever are we going to do with them? I know! Let's just ignore them. After all, rationalistic philosophers don't have any power. Also they tend to be stupid as shit and teach a worthless subject. They can rebel against plants or atoms or our humanity or anything else and it still won't make any difference to anyone. 

Philosophy does not matter unless it changes the incentive structure- i.e. it has some means to inscribe itself as Polanyi type 'embedding' or else can change behaviour in an ergodic manner. But, in that case, there is always an Economic path to put down its anti-human rebellion. We don't need Philosophy to fight Philosophy when only Economics can do the job.

 This rebellion ranges from rationalism’s hostility to our natural and customary beliefs, sensibilities, and inclinations, to its outright rejection of our humanity, if conceived of as an integrated, organic unity of mental and bodily capacities that is only fully realized in a social and cultural context and which possesses a complex and heterogeneous good. 

Irrationalism and the conviction that my neighbour's cat is talking to me are equally hostile to our natural and customary belief that cats can't talk and that people who speak of  the 'integrated, organic unity of mental and bodily capacities' are either stupid careerists or mentally ill.

 Rationalist philosophy rejects this on behalf of a wholly abstract personhood which, in “Excessive Reason,” I identified most strongly with Descartes, Locke, and Kant,
why not Grotius, Spinoza and Lessing? All philosophers say silly things. It is child's play to show that Grotius was actually more Cartesian than Descartes or that Locke is more Spinozan than Spinoza and so on.
 but which I traced back to Plato and even earlier, to the Pythagoreans and the Orphic mystery cults. 
Orphic mystery cults! What's next? David Icke's theory about Lizard people from Planet X?
 Two significant areas in which modern mainline philosophy has persistently urged resistance to our natural and customary beliefs and inclinations, in the service of rationalist perfectionism, are ethics and epistemology.
All philosophy resists customary ethics and folk epistemology. So does all Jurisprudence, all Economics, all Science, all Medicine- every useful Art or Science begins by showing that one's knee jerk reaction is wrong. There is a Techne here which is initially counter-intuitive and which it takes patience and perseverance to master.

With respect to ethics, modern mainline moral philosophy’s perfectionism — particularly, its requirement that one adopt a disinterested, dispassionate, and impartial stance, in identifying and carrying out one’s moral duty, and its rejection of sentiments such as love, hatred, sympathy, attraction and aversion as morally legitimate motives — far from advancing the cause of goodness and justice, in fact constitutes an obstacle to it.  
Nonsense. I love my son and hate Maths. I still should send my son to School to learn Maths because my hatred of Maths is irrelevant when it comes to determining  what's best for my son's future. In fact, I would be easily persuaded to do the right thing  if a successful man in my neighbourhood came to me and said 'My friend, like you my father loved me and hated maths. Yet he made me study maths. The result is that I am now rich and happy. If you want the best for your son, you may please emulate my father in this respect.'

No doubt, there are philosophers who said stupid things like - 'don't kiss your baby coz you love him but act dispassionately.' However this is the reason philosophers are a laughing stock. 

On the epistemological front, the rationalist’s rejection of nature and custom as legitimate sources of belief and insistence that every belief be rationally justified do not serve the cause of liberal, democratic politics, as mainline political philosophers have liked to claim, but instead create intellectual conditions conducive to totalitarianism, by leaving a vacuum at the foundations of social, civic, and political belief and thereby exposing the public to the manipulations of propagandists and demagogues.

Is this guy serious? GK Chesterton had some very odd ideas about the Jews. Nazis claimed these ideas were 'natural and customary' and rejected rational arguments, such as those Fredrick the Great employed, to refrain from robbing and killing patriotic citizens of Jewish origin.

There is no 'vacuum' at the 'foundations of social, civic and political beliefs'- there are people. If we get the mechanism design right, then those people have proper incentives to ensure proper preference and information aggregation and Hannan consistent checks and balances on Social Choice.

Philosophers are too stupid and crazy to be allowed anywhere near the foundations of anything unless, like Radhakrishnan, Philosophy was just their day job- a way to pay the bills, nothing more.

Kaufman must know that Singer & Unger don't represent philosophy as opposed to virtue signalling. He approvingly quotes Bernard Williams who did have some influence as a member of the 'great and the good' when I were a wee lad.
'Some writers aim to increase a sense of guilt in their readers. Peter Singer is an example, and in his book Practical Ethics he is evidently more interested in producing that effect than he is in the theoretical basis for it, which gets very cursory treatment. As moral persuasion, this kind of tactic is likely to be counterproductive and to lead to a defensive and resentful contraction of concern. This can be seen in research and, at the present time, all around us.'

Of course, Singer & Unger's arguments fail immediately because of information asymmetry. They still make them anyway because that is their brand in a globalised market for nonsense. If Kaufman's philosophy is too stunted mathematically for him to see why what he calls 'mainline philosophy' is mainlining the intellectual equivalent of heroin, Economics can come to his rescue. There is no need to jump to some extreme Pyrhhonist scepticism about even sense data.

Skepticism, when understood as a position rather than as a method, is the product of a frustrated rationalism — the result of the rationalist being convinced that the high epistemological standards to which he adheres cannot be met — and would seem, therefore, to entail that we should suspend all of our beliefs and activities and adopt the posture of the Pyrrhonist or at least, the Pyrrhonist of popular legend. 
I tell you that I am your mother and that you owe me Rs. 123 for my breast milk because the neighbour's cat said so and cats are well known to be perfectly rational. What do you do? Do you say to yourself- 'Oh no! Since cats are perfectly rational it must be the case that this fat and ugly black man is really my own Mumsy-wumsy!' Do you become frustrated with rationalism and become a sceptic? Let us suppose you do. Now set fire to your foot. You can see your foot is on fire, but can't be sure it is really on fire. You feel a lot of pain but don't know if it is your own pain. You burn to death because of your scepticism all because I told you a stupid lie about a perfectly rational talking cat.

Perhaps I'm being unfair to Kaufman. Judge for yourself-
 Now, on first glance, the risk here, would appear to be purely theoretical: even though Hume warned that such a person would suffer “pensive melancholy” and would receive a “cold reception” from others and Reid thought that “a man who did not believe his senses, could not keep out of harm’s way an hour of his life” , both were convinced that the rationalist-skeptical stance was unsustainable; that the force of natural belief and inclination and inherited habits and customs would always overcome even the most hardnosed rationalist philosophy and that consequently, neither rationalism nor skepticism posed any real danger to individuals or to mankind as a whole. 

Hume & Reid were shrewd and canny Scottish. They had a sense of humour. They never endorsed the notion that if some worthless philosopher made a ridiculous claim then any sensible person was obliged to go completely bonkers. Yes, at the time, the Established Church did require a certain mental elasticity, or outright hypocrisy, of the clerisy. But, there has never been a tradition in these Kingdoms of believing the absurd claims of psilosophers. 

By contrast with Hume, Chesterton was actually mad- not in his personal life but in his writings. It is to him Kaufman now turns, having first shown that Hume & Reid did not endorse his claims at all.
He quotes 'Orthodoxy'-
“Just as one generation could prevent the very existence of the next, by all entering a monastery or jumping into the sea,” he wrote, “so one set of thinkers can prevent further thinking by teaching the next generation that there is no validity in any human thought.” 
This is nonsense. Thinkers don't engender other thinkers in the same way that humans give birth to babies. It may be that a particular School gains complete control over a Society and so a subjugated and brutalised clerisy pretends that they don't have any valid human thoughts. Maybe that could happen. However, we can point to no such Society extant today. Why? They get invaded or overthrown or sink back to the stone age.
Chesterton, poor booby, had a theory of Economics.
It was shite.
So what?
Everybody had a more or less shite Economic theory back then.

He never claimed to be a Philosopher, but did claim to be a Christian.
Since he was charitable in his personal life and bore no malice to Jews or infidels, his claim stands.
His intellectual mistakes were those of his age.
His affectionate and convivial nature was entirely his own as was a brooding demon of psychosis.
What is imperishable in his wit, if not all his works, is the former's victory over the latter.

Oddly, Kaufman doesn't move on from Chesterton to Voegelin and shiter gobshites yet in order to stake a claim to being an Alt Right Guru. This suggests that his character is better than his intellect.

Unfortunately, he believes that Heidegger helped the Nazis. This isn't true. Heidegger didn't know from Math. He couldn't have helped anybody. He was engaged in something wholly worthless. So was Hannah Arendt. Still, there is a globalised market for nonsense and they built up their brands and made a bit of money- so let us leave it at that.
Why pretend they had any influence at all?
One answer is- we have even less, in so far as we waste our time writing worthless shite like this blog post. Why not just pretend that the neighbour's cat has achieved Nirvana and is dictating the New New Testament to us? We might actually make a bit of money out of that scam. 

Another, sadder, answer is that it may be that philosophy can serve a therapeutic function if one is suffering from psychosis. However, failure to understand Economics can lead a Philosophically inclined person to adopt a Paranoid Hate ideology- like Chesterton's anti Semitism. 
Diminished Rationality leads us to take shortcuts. Financial Markets become personified as 'the Capitalist' who in turn can turn into 'the Jew' or 'the Arab Sheikh' or 'the gnomes of Switzerland' or 'Marwari industrialists' etc.

Kaufman invokes Jung to mourn the 'disenchantment' of the World and the end of 'embedded' Social processes.
'More serious still is the alienation effected by the withdrawal of the conscious self from its body, its world, and its history, on which Carl Jung hung the ongoing and currently metastasizing pandemic of neuroses, afflictions that arise not simply from a sense of distance from the world, from others, and from one’s past, but from the horrible over-awareness of self that results.
Freud and Jung et al. discovered it paid better to treat healthy people who thought they were ill than to treat ill people who couldn't work and thus couldn't afford bogus treatment. Neuroses don't exist. Psychoses do. Jung started by treating psychoses but shat the bed in predictable manner. Still, he had some personal experience of schizophrenia and so was probably less dangerous to his patients- unless they were wealthy or sexually attractive- than his peers. 
 “Whenever there is established an external form, be it ritual or spiritual, by which all the yearnings and hopes of the soul are adequately expressed, then no spiritual problem, strictly speaking, exists,” Jung wrote. 
This is not the Hindu view. The Ashtavakra Gita teaches that the spiritual problem only becomes acute enough to be addressed when such external forms become full fledged and thus recognisable as as duality.
 The modern man, however, “has become ‘unhistorical’ and has estranged himself from the mass of men who live within the bounds of tradition,” the consequence of which, he explained, is that we have “suffered an almost fatal shock and fallen into profound uncertainty.” Indeed, the very need for clinical psychology, Jung believed, “is symptomatic of a profound convulsion of spiritual life.”
Clinical psychology can improve outcomes as part of a Care Plan, but the need for it was delusive- a case of advertising creating a market for a bogus product. Modern man has experienced 'no profound convulsion of spiritual life'. He has been fucked over by stupid politicians and worthless economists. I recall older people, in Baghdad, discussing the impact of the televised moon landing on the Bedouins of the desert. Would they rise up and destroy every vestige of modernity in their path? No. They were cool with it. They did however show a shrewd appreciation of cross border arbitrage opportunities. That's all that rationality is. Arbitrage. Trade. Swapping your camel for a pick up truck.

Economics at one time was about substantive solutions to macro problems. However, thanks to its mathematical basis, it was able to see it couldn't be any such thing. Rather, its role was in facilitating co-ordination games (which, since David Lewis, is the Philosophical explanation of Conventions and 'embeddedness') and arbitrage through discoordination games. Some philosophers have made contributions to Econ but it is the latter's mathematical foundations which have made such 'distinctions without a difference' useful in motivating open research programs. However, it is John Muth's notion of Rationality, coupled with Schelling on focal points, which shows the way out of 'mainlining' Philosophy's cul de sac. Put briefly, 'moral properties' are a Muth Rational solution to a Co-ordination game. One can't be sceptical that such games exist. However, evolutionary game theory predicts that, under Knightian uncertainty, Hannan consistency requires hedging- i.e. arbitrage on dis-coordination games. This is not a scandal for current Economics. Why should it be one for mainline Philosophy?

Kaufman, who believes 'moral scepticism' has special standing, is innocent of any such notions. If he ever starts thinking about the money in his wallet, or the fact that Banks create credit he'll probably turn into a Chartalist nutjob because he doesn't get that Human beings have to be good at spotting focal solutions to Co-ordination games and that Muth rationality, too, is pretty much hardwired which is why we don't contantly bump into people in the street but either keep right or left by some unconscious mimetic process. Actually, full disclosure, I do bump into people a lot on the street coz I tend to be drunk off my head. Still, most other people don't, and that's what's important.

Kaufman, being untroubled by any such reflections, is able to end his essay with this fine rhetorical flourish-
There is no one more enslaved to his nature then one who is unaware of it or who was once aware of it, but has denied it to the point where he believes his own lies and has forgotten it. 
WTF is this supposed to mean? Kaufman is saying two types of agent are equal with respect to a property x. One is unaware of it. The other was aware of it, denied it, then lied about it and then forgot about it. What can we reasonably say about property x? The most parsimonious thing is that property x is meaningless. It is similar to 'being a gfullis hoxxjw'. The predicate is nonsensical. 
 If someone says 'you don't even know you are a gfullis hoxxjw', and you go crying to Mummy what she will say to you is 'Just ignore that silly boy. There is no such thing as a gfullis hoxxjw. It is a meaningless word.'
Suppose, years later, at your Senate confirmation hearing, that silly boy shows up and accuses you of having denied that you were a gfullis hoxxjw, and then lied about it,  what should you do? Clearly you should masturbate vigorously. 
Well, as Kaufman explains-
' For the person who accepts the fact that his every act of reasoning is ultimately grounded in the uncritical acceptance of his world, his faculties, and his inclinations and habits, reason remains a real, active force for sound behavior and thought. But for the person who insists on the rationalist’s rarefied conception of reasoning, reason is no longer a real, active force for soundness in his life, but at best an empty proceduralism, taking place in a vacuum; a void that will be filled either by his own unreasoned, unrecognized nature or that of others. In either event, he is controlled.'
You were being controlled when you masturbated vigorously and jizzed in Mike Pence's eye.
How it happened was this.
Your parents sent you to College and, stupidly, you studied mainline philosophy.
This caused you to start insisting on the rationalist's rarefied conception of reasoning.
This created a void inside you.
The void was quickly occupied by some evil person who wanted to jizz in the Vice President's eye.
Something similar happened to Trump when he went to Moscow and ended up getting a golden shower from various prostitutes.
Mainline Philosophy is aiding and abetting the fake news of the mainstream media.
 The greatest irony of all, then, is that a philosophical movement that for two and a half thousand years preached the rational ascendance of man over nature and the wills of others may very well be responsible for effecting his utter subordination to both.
That's the greatest irony?
You come up with a theory which states that 2500 years of Western Philosophy can lead to a Supreme Court nominee jizzing in the Vice President's eye and your biggest worry is that Man will continue to be subordinate to nature and the wills of other men?
Give yourself some credit, Kaufman.
Your theory predicts the next great scandal of the Trump era.

David Kaye on Basharat Peer, Erdogan & Modi

Basharat Peer has written a book comparing India's Modi and Turkey's Erdogan.

David Kaye, a Law Professor, has reviewed Peer's book in the LARB. He writes-

'Peer describes how Narendra Modi and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan rose from humble origins to become leaders of their respective countries, and the “terrible human toll” their leadership has had on fragile democracies and their citizens.'

Kaye is not Indian and so it is not surprising that he does not know much about Indian politics. Still, when writing an article for publication, we do expect a Law Professor to check his facts at least with Wikipedia.

Kaye has not done so.

He says Modi's 'skill as a purveyor of Hindu nationalist tropes carried him all the way to appointment as chief minister of Gujarat in the 1990s.' Modi's friend from the RSS, Shankarsing Vaghela did become Chief Minister in Gujerat in '96- but joined the Congress Party whose candidate he remains. Modi only became C.M in late 2001. Why was he put in by the High Command? Not because he was a 'purveyor of Hindu nationalist tropes'- everybody else was in the same business- but because he was considered a 'backroom boy' who would fix organisational problems and soothe the bruised egos of the big guns in the Party.

Kaye speaks of Modi's 'terrible human toll'- what on earth does he mean?
Let us see.

'Think about Erdoğan’s statement following the failed bloody coup attempt of July 15, 2016, which he called a “gift from God,” or Modi’s role in — and silence in the face of — murderous anti-Muslim riots, such as the one in Gujarat in 2002 that left 1,000 people dead.'

Kaye is a Law Professor.

If he believes Modi committed a crime, why does he not check to see if the Indian Judiciary took action against him?

Perhaps Kaye knows of some fault in the Supreme Court's investigation of the allegations against Modi. If so, why does he not state them?

Kaye writes-

'It was during his tenure in Gujarat that the terrible carnage of the 2002 Hindu riots took place. Modi’s response? Refusal to apologize, lack of regret, and this quote from 2013: “If someone else is driving, and we are sitting in the back seat, and even then if a small puppy comes under the wheel, do we feel pain or not?” Quite a statement by the person responsible for the safety and security of vulnerable people in his province.'
Kaye teaches law. Suppose he himself were unjustly accused of raping and murdering me. If I ask him- 'don't you feel any sorrow for having bestially raped me with your tiny penis you disgusting little man, thus causing me to die of boredom?' He may reply 'I am sorry that you experienced distress'. I might reply , 'If you feel sorrow it must be because you feel remorse for your horrendous crime. This is tantamount to a confession of guilt. Resign immediately from your post. Hand yourself over to the police.' Is Kaye obliged to admit guilt because he feels sorrow at my distress? No. Why? Because he did not cause it. The Law does not take evidence of sorrow as proof of guilt. However, there is an older notion that an 'inauspicious' leader is responsible, in some occult manner, for anything bad which happens in his demense. If the leader himself subscribes to this heteronomous theory he should resign because he is not mentally fit to discharge his duties.

It may be argued that dogs are considered unclean in Islam and thus Modi's comment was offensive. However, small puppies are universally considered to be cute and innocent. Thus, Modi's choice of words conjures up pathos for the suffering of the innocent and helpless.

Does Kaye have any other evidence for 'the terrible human toll' taken by Modi?
No. Instead he writes this-
'Peer gives voice to Modi’s casual roadkill in piercing, personal reporting, including the stories of a young man rescued by a Reuters photographer in the midst of the Gujarat riots who became a global symbol of the violence, a Muslim man murdered by a hysterical mob for his supposed slaughtering of a cow, a student at Jawaharlal Nehru University who was charged with sedition for his advocacy for Kashmiri self-determination, and, perhaps most tragically affecting of all, a scholarship-winning Dalit graduate student who wanted to be the Indian Carl Sagan but who, after a suspension for political activism, “hanged himself from the ceiling fan with the blue flag of the Dalit movement.” These stories alone show the power of symbols, of caste, and of religious and sectarian traditions in Modi’s India. But where is Modi himself in Peer’s story? He’s a distant but pervasive presence, silently acquiescent if not loudly inciting, a figure who takes careful advantage of an environment in which nonconformity and dissent mark one as the enemy.

The problem here is that Modi stopped riots in Gujarat within a few months of taking office. That's why he got re-elected. The Muslim man killed for supposedly killing a cow did not reside in a State ruled by the BJP but by another party. Communal violence had become endemic in that State because of criminalised vote bank politics. One reason the BJP has won that State is because it promised to improve Law & Order- including implementing anti cow slaughter legislation which has long been on the books.

Kaye mentions the JNU student charged with sedition. But Kanhaiya Kumar has done very well out of it- as is quite normal in Indian politics.

Kaye may not know that Laws relating to sedition and cow protection were brought in by non BJP Governments many years ago. Prosecutions under those laws are independent of the Executive since they are classed as cognisable.

Finally, Kaye mentions the Dalit student who committed suicide because his father wasn't Dalit but OBC. It may be that as a result of his tragic end, the Law is changed so that young people can elect whether to belong to the father's or mother's caste. Since Modi himself is OBC and supports extending quotas for this Backward Class, it is difficult to see how he is implicated in any way in Rohith Vemula's death.

Why does Kaye think that, in Modi's India, ' nonconformity and dissent mark one as the enemy?'
If so, how does he explain the BJP's alliance with Mehbooba Mufti in Peer's native Kashmir?
In India, like the rest of the world, people suspected of wanting to kill us are 'marked as the enemy'.
In the US, after 9/11, turbaned Sikhs were attacked because Osama wore a turban.
Once people understood that Sikhs weren't followers of Osama, the attacks stopped.
It isn't 'non conformity' or 'dissent' but fear, often unjustified, which leads to enmity and violence.

Kaye more or less admits that there is no similarity between Erdogan & Modi.
Peer, being Kashmiri, has an interest in making it appear so in order to equate Indian policy in Kashmir with Erdogan's policy to the Kurds. However, thanks to Ghulam Nabi Fai's arrest, American politicians have become wary of specious arguments regarding Kashmir. In any case, Trump's America has lost all claim to moral leadership of the 'free world'.

Erdogan certainly fits the bill of a 'strong man' who has neutralised the Army and completely changed the politics of Turkey while also projecting power into former Ottoman territory. By contrast, Modi is just a good orator and efficient machine politician who had a good run as Chief Minister of Gujarat where, within a few months of taking office, he put an end to the communal riots which had blighted the State since 1969, by calling in the Army to shoot rioters belonging to the majority Hindu community.

 What followed was high growth and improved Governance. Modi was made the scapegoat for the 2002 riots and so his Party did not consider him to be a Prime Ministerial candidate. The only reason they didn't get rid of him was because the Gujerati people came to resent the innuendo that they were 'merchants of death'- i.e. turned a blind eye to violence provided their profits went up. In other words, the fact that his own party was willing to offer him up as a sacrifice, solidified Gujerati support for him. However, Modi was still not safe. The Indian Supreme Court is no respecter of persons. The Bench gave a lot of latitude to a Special Investigation Team to get evidence of Modi's complicity in the riots. Another Minister- a female Doctor whose family was ethnically cleansed from her native Sindh- was convicted because there was evidence against her. Modi got a clean chit.

Still the question remains, how did Modi become the Prime Ministerial candidate? Did he, like Erdogan repudiating Erbakan's populist ideology, craft a new platform for himself? Certainly, the old guard within his Party feel cheated at having been sidelined. But, the problem was that their default candidate- L.K Advani- was eighty five years old! Furthermore, the Brahminical cant of Hindutva ideologues like Murli Manohar Joshi was unacceptable to young voters. Modi turned out to belong to the 'Other Backward Castes' who are gaining in Political strength. Modi did run a slick campaign and is still quite popular because he is perceived as uncorrupt. But he isn't a 'strong man' at all. Indira Gandhi was a strong leader. She could topple a Chief Minister on a whim- but that was in the Seventies . Modi has no such power. Like the previous BJP administration, Modi's regime may fall over something as seemingly inconsequential as the price of onions.

 India is different from Turkey because it is the ballot box, not the barracks, which decides who holds power. But, even in office, no politician is safe from the Judiciary. This does not mean India can't have effective leadership- but it must be supple, not 'strong'. Modi has the ability to course correct- for the moment. Sooner or later, he may accept a Messianic image of himself. Once that happens, he is bound to over-reach himself and will be consigned to the dustbin of history. Indian writers have long indulged in vacuous verbosity. They yearn to picture themselves as part of a wider, essentially Western, political Oikumene. Thus bien pensant intellectuals thought they had finished off Modi by describing him as a Fascist and quoting some relevant passage from Gramsci or Hannah Arendt or Walter Benjamin. Basharat Peer, perhaps because his people have a genuine grievance against the Indian State, is not so complacent. He quotes Pratap Bhanu Mehta- who recently resigned from the 'National Knowledge Commission' because of increased quotas for the Backward Castes- as saying, '“The cultivation of collective narcissism to stifle all individuality, the promulgation of uncontested definitions of nationalism to pre-empt all debate over genuine national interest, the constant hunt for contrived enemies of the nation, is suffocating thought.” These are fine words. People belonging to the Backward Castes may well want to learn some of them. Yet, without affirmative action, how are they going to be able to do so? We may not like Indian Democracy because it is Indian but we can't deny that it is Democracy under the Rule of Law. Turkish Democracy may now be free of the threat of a Military Coup, but the question remains as to whether it is constrained by the Law in the same manner as Modi's India or Trump's America.

Friday 23 June 2017

Pneuma as the Word in Theotokos' ear

That the Big Bang be but our Clay's Anaximean belch
Pray our Economy's Strato, such Ecclesia yet felch
That Pneuma to put a Word in Theotokos' ear
Protrude a turd from Plato's rear

Thursday 22 June 2017

Loan waivers keep people poor

Hori Lal is 70. He cultivates one acre of potatoes assisted by his three sons, their wives, and ten grandchildren. He took a loan of a little more than a thousand dollars in 2015.  According to calculations made by a Hindustan Times reporter, he loses about 300 dollars, not counting his family's own labour, each season. This, assumes that he has a good harvest and manages to sell it all at the high Government support price. In the past, there have been years when Hori Lal got nothing.

Why does Hori Lal cultivate potatoes when he knows he will lose money? He says 'What else can we do? This is what my family has always done. This is all we know. At least, it gets us some vegetables for the home.” Lal says sending his sons out to work is not a solution: they were unskilled and would get Rs 250 ($4) as labour charges for a day, which they could get in the village too. “At least we are together.”

. (Deepak Gupta/HT Photo)

Should we believe Hori Lal is telling the truth? No. Of course not. Nobody can be that stupid. He must be borrowing as much money from the Government as he can, promising to grow an unprofitable crop, because he knows he won't have to pay it back. In his position, we would do the same.

Any elected Government is going to want to keep Hori Lal and his family on their acre and a half of land at the price of regular loan waivers. His family probably has ten voters at the moment and that number will only go up.  So writing off a thousand dollars of debt every couple of years is a pretty economical way of buying votes.

There is a twist to this story. It has to do with minimum support prices. People like Hori Lal do actually grow potatoes, not because they are dependent on selling them to cover their living expenses- they do that by availing of other Government schemes and also labouring for contractors- but because it can be an enticing speculation- potatoes can suddenly spike in price yielding them a windfall. However, this can only happen if there is no minimum support price and thus 'cowbeb' like price volatility. Notice that it is speculative behaviour, not adaptive expectations, which enables this volatility. Yet this speculation is of a peculiar sort- punters seem to be betting on the stupidity of their own class- Hori Lal's labour in his potato field is the moral equivalent of the West's urban poor spending a portion of their dole on scratchcards.
This is an example of Muth Rational Expectations creating a repugnant type of negative sum stochastic game absent moral viciousness. But why? There can be only one explanation. Hori Lal and his ilk are doing something extraordinarily eusocial. They are sacrificing a portion of their own number so at least a few can climb out of their common poverty trap over the corpses of their fellows. Needless to say, that trap was not dug by them but for them by bien pensant elites.

In this case, marginal producers like Hori Lal are squeezed out by support prices intended to shore up their miserable standard of living. The contract farmers benefit, agribusiness benefits, corporate supply chains are protected, everybody wins- except Hori Lal. Why? Well, his credit has been shot to pieces. Had he grown nothing on his land and sent his sons off to the City to work, he could have raised about 70,000 dollars on one acre, or more than 100,000 if he sold it outright. As things are, he is shut out of the relevant credit market.  This is a pity because a scarcely literate (and therefore trustworthy) yeoman who commands the labour power of three hard working sons and ten grandchildren should be able to raise 50,000 dollars with a low real interest rate 50 percent mortgage, and generate a gross contribution three times that in the far less inherently risky small scale tertiary sector.

This is a case where what is good for Hori Lal is also good for the Economy. He and his family- assuming they have the sort of work ethic common in the area- will be affluent in a decade and wealthy in two.  Instead of being a drain upon the exchequer, they will be paying more and more into it.

Why does the State not want this outcome for Hori Lal? The answer is that, at the moment, politicians giving Loan waivers believe they are purchasing votes cheaply. They dread the day when they have to deliver something more substantial. Since the Administration- from the 1890's onward- too dreads that day, both politicians and administrators have conspired to shut Hori Lal out of informationally efficient credit markets, preferring instead to corral them into an informationally inefficient, incentive incompatible, welfarist 'pooling equilibrium' such that the representative agent is forced to be either stupid or a liar or a particularly stupid liar. Indian Social Science is not similarly constrained but displays its empathy for the surd and subaltern masses by being nothing but a bunch of stupid lies.

Tuesday 20 June 2017

Baby Jesus, Thou migrant born, under the Red Sun of doomed Krypton

I was so attentive a student in Catechism class
How did this cataclysm come to pass?
Baby Jesus, Thou migrant born
Under the Red Sun of doomed Krypton

Must those who, Thee in Me, yet surmise
Be galled to recall we were once the same size
& as the Selfish Giant of our Common Past
View me alone thus aghast?

I hid my heart's horcruxes in whom to hurt none need
I am that Goliath saved in David's seed
Who to ward myself, not a mutual wound bewail
Became the hammer of Thy every nail.


Peace's Prince! Eve's umbilical so tolerates torsion
Thy Iyer's birth is my Messiah's abortion. 

Sunday 18 June 2017

Ghalib's ghazal 126

My severed tongue had served to second hers berating my butchered heart as dross
In Hurt's howl, how assay the elegiac, or in Suicide, foul, Art as Loss?
That she heavier scowl, my head spins like an owl
Into fight's ring, flyte's towel to toss

To my despair divide, whomsoever I draw
So defamed for consuming it raw
 A tongue of fire, Grief must sire
 Or burn up Love in its craw!

Hearing the Heavens thunder over its natal heath
 Only the caged bird can attest
How, as forked as Fate's Lightning sheath
Longing obliterates its nest

See F.W. Pritchett's site for detailed commentary here.
kisī ko de ke dil koʾī navā-sanj-e fiġhāñ kyūñ ho
nah ho jab dil hī sīne meñ to phir muñh meñ zabāñ kyūñ ho

vuh apnī ḳhū nah chhoṛeñge ham apnī vaẓʿa kyūñ chhoṛeñ
subuk-sar ban ke kyā pūchheñ kih ham se sar-girāñ kyūñ ho

kiyā ġham-ḳhvārī ne rusvā lage āg is muḥabbat ko
nah lāve tāb jo ġham kī vuh merā rāz-dāñ kyūñ ho

qafas meñ mujh se rūdād-e chaman kahte nah ḍar hamdam
girī hai jis pah kal bijlī vuh merā āshiyāñ kyūñ ho

Friday 16 June 2017

Grenfell Tower & Democracy's Inferno

The towering inferno in North Kensington which has so shocked this country was predicted almost exactly 6 months ago on the Grenfell Action Group's blog-

'It is a truly terrifying thought but the Grenfell Action Group firmly believe that only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord, the KCTMO, and bring an end to the dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation that they inflict upon their tenants and leaseholders. We believe that the KCTMO are an evil, unprincipled, mini-mafia who have no business to be charged with the responsibility of looking after the every day management of large scale social housing estates and that their sordid collusion with the RBKC Council is a recipe for a future major disaster.'

What is the KCTMO?
An evil Corporation, right?
Probably owned by a shady oligarch through a series of shell companies in the Caribbean.

Even if this 'mini-mafia' is convicted of 'corporate manslaughter' in the Courts, only James Bond will be able to penetrate the oligarch's secret lair atop some Swiss mountain, or deep inside a Japanese volcano, in order to deal out summary Justice.
But, it turns out, KCTMO aint some heartless Corporate behemoth.
The truth is stranger than fiction.

According to its website- 'In the early 1990s, the tenants and leaseholders of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea decided to pursue their legal right to manage their own homes. Following two separate ballots in 1994 and 1995, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) was established on 1 April 1996 and the responsibility for managing 9,760 properties passed from The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to the Tenant Management Organisation.

In 2002 KCTMO took over the responsibility for major capital works from the Council to access extra resources and funding to enable KCTMO to bring the properties up to the Decent Homes Standard.

In other words, because a Labour Govt. refused to give money to elected Local Councils to spend on repairs, KCTMO, being an 'arms-length' organisation was able to use public funds to meet the Government's new energy efficiency target by installing external cladding which appears to have been highly flammable. Prior to 1986, the Law prevented them from doing anything so silly. External walls had to offer at least one hour's fire resistance. Then, under Mrs. Thatcher, this stipulation was dropped. External walls could be combustible but ought not- as happened here- to contribute to flammability.

It has been suggested in the newspapers that they could have used a superior type of cladding for just a few thousand pounds more. No doubt, they'd have done so had the Residents wanted a change to the exterior- in which case they are scarcely likely to have sacrificed fire security for aesthetics when an extra spend of Five thousand pounds was all that was required. The truth is the Residents weren't initiating these renovations. KCTMO was only complying with the Blair Govt's target because public funds were available to do so and the Borough Council wanted to prettify this eyesore. The alternative was knocking the place down.

It is noteworthy that the residents don't appear to have fought hard for a sprinkler system- which might have cost a couple of hundred thousand pounds and added to the disruption caused by other up-grading work. With hindsight, this was a bad decision but, to be fair, the residents are mainly working people or retirees who are just managing to get by.
Thus, on the face of it, this is an example of poor people being economically constrained in the exercise of democratic control.
After all, their building sounds as if is run democratically.
KCTMO is managed by a Board of Directors comprising of eight elected tenant and leaseholder members, four appointed Councillor members and three independent appointed other members.

KCTMO is a company limited by guarantee with members whose main residence is in Council owned or leasehold accommodation. There are currently over 4,500 members of KCTMO, and we actively encourage residents to become members. If you are interested in becoming a member, please visit the KCTMO Membership section of this website.

The Board meets on a regular basis to monitor how well KCTMO is doing, agree plans for the future and decide on policies. Board members are also involved in committees, sub-committees, working groups and panels. Board members are elected for three years. They are not paid for their work and are not allowed to do paid professional work for KCTMO.

A Chief Executive, appointed by the Board, has overall responsibility for the successful operation of KCTMO, and for ensuring that the Board's decisions and policies are carried out.

At the time of the transfer of management responsibility to KCTMO, approximately 18% of the properties had been sold on long leases. Many of these had been bought under the Right to Buy legislation, first introduced in 1980, although for many years before the Royal Borough had been using its discretionary powers to sell property to its existing tenants. Many residents who purchased under the Right to Buy legislation have since sold on their properties and a large number of our leases are held by residents who have bought on the open market. These residents continue to be subject to the terms of the original lease.

What could be more democratic and decent than an organisation set up by residents to manage the properties they themselves live in?

A year ago, if anyone had drawn my attention to the Grenfell Action Group's blog, I'd have dismissed it as the work of a crank- perhaps someone who had lost an election to the Management Board or else someone with an eccentric or extremist political agenda. After all, KCTMO is a democratic set-up. Democracy is always a good thing- right?
The Grenfell Action Group explains why- 'Unfortunately, the Grenfell Action Group have reached the conclusion that only an incident that results in serious loss of life of KCTMO residents will allow the external scrutiny to occur that will shine a light on the practices that characterise the malign governance of this non-functioning organisation. We believe that the KCTMO have ensured their ongoing survival by the use of proxy votes at their Annual General Meeting that see them returned with a mandate of 98% in favour of the continuation of their inept and highly dangerous management of our homes. It is no coincidence that the 98% is the same figure that is returned by the infamous Kim Jong-un of North Korea who claims mass popularity while reputedly enslaving the general population and starving the majority of his people to death.

'It is our conviction that a serious fire in a tower block or similar high density residential property is the most likely reason that those who wield power at the KCTMO will be found out and brought to justice! The Grenfell Action Group believe that the KCTMO narrowly averted a major fire disaster at Grenfell Tower in 2013 when residents experienced a period of terrifying power surges that were subsequently found to have been caused by faulty wiring. We believe that our attempts to highlight the seriousness of this event were covered up by the KCTMO with the help of the RBKC Scrutiny Committee who refused to investigate the legitimate concerns of tenants and leaseholders.'

Why did Grenfell Tower Residents not use their voting power to effect change?
My guess is that many of them were sub-leasing and thus could not register to vote.
The original tenant's proxy vote remained with KCTMO who thus had less incentive to check this reflected actual occupation.
No doubt, there is a class angle to this as well. Those Council tenants who could exercise their right to buy probably sold up and took a windfall profit. Subsequent owners probably found it more remunerative to rent out units in decrepit high-rise buildings rather than live their themselves. Their proxy votes might well support an organisation which cuts corners when it comes to poorer people while delivering a good and cost effective service to better off members living in salubrious areas.

Reading the Grenfell Tower Action Group's blog shows that Local Councillors tend to be responsive to resident's concerns. However, they are a minority on the Board. Thus, though the normal Democratic check, via the intervention of elected local politicians, is in place, it has in fact been diluted- and, it may be, defeated- by the appearance of something more Democratic yet- vz. the fact that elected Residents formed the majority on the Board.

The Grenfell Towering Inferno has become a symbol of the failure of what appear to be Democratic Social Choice Mechanisms across the breadth of the land. Even the Daily Mail's front page is carrying stories trashing Conservatives- like the former Head of the Council who says the residents didn't want the disruption associated with putting in sprinklers, or Boris Johnson who, as Mayor, told a Labour colleague to 'get stuffed' when tackled over his swingeing cuts to the Fire Services. Amazingly, the Daily Mail appears to be praising Jeremy Corbyn for suggesting that the empty apartments of the ultra-rich in the Borough should be seized to re-house the victims. Theresa May, on the other hand, is disparaged for her cowardly refusal to meet the aggrieved local people. Grenfell is being called her Katrina movement. More than her political future is now in doubt. Even the Telegraph has a picture of Corbyn comforting a grieving young woman. His claim regarding the 'North South' divide in the Royal Borough is, rightly, being treated as a call, even by the die-hard Tory press, for root and branch reform within the party. Sadiq Khan, London's Mayor, is taking a beating for having been lukewarm to Corbyn. 

Emma Dent Coad, the new M.P for the area- elected with a margin of just 20 votes- sums up the anger we are all feeling. She claims that the work done on the Grenfell Tower- which turned it into a fire-trap- was a purely 'aesthetic re-fit' which the residents neither wanted nor benefited by. The Council's sole concern was to improve the optics of the area so as to attract yet more speculative development from which nobody really benefits.

Something similar happened to democratic politics when image won out over substance. There was a purely 'aesthetic re-fit' which ended up making the whole structure more flammable.

Wednesday 14 June 2017

zamin bhukh

Qazi, tho' upon thy shrunken shoulder, again & too briefly rests
The bier of thy son, the martyr, sole, our noble insurrection attests
A burden more unbearable yet is zamin bhukh- Love's love of Land
Which buries all no matter what the nonsense for which they stand.

Monday 12 June 2017

Bacholan & Qarin.

When the grandmother, who brought you up, went to her eldest son's to die
You accepted the first  match the bacholan brought
Was it your qarin uttered qubool to the N.R.I?
Or was Bilayat your ziyarat to her burial plot?

Today, I wanted to say, trusting to a bacholan of another sort
To the girl crying in the Royal Marsden parking lot
That bit of Britain between the two of you en-stitched
Has, for us all, Jannath enriched.

Prince! Twixt the heart's insurrection & Islam's shaking fist
Tears are the shrapnel of thy true Terrorist

Friday 9 June 2017

Black Rod & the Well Hung Parliament

Internet Rule 34- 'if it exists, there is a porn version of it'-  has been reversed this morning.
Political pundits across the breadth of the land are writing versions of- 'Black Rod & the Well Hung Parliament'- a Soho classic of my adolescence. 

For the benefit of readers who attended a less depraved educational institution than the London School of Economics and Political Science, I should explain that Black Rod summons the Commons to hear the Queen's speech. If there is a well hung Parliament, there's a good chance that there will be no Queen's speech and so Black Rod will look a right dick.

What complicates matters is that Theresa May, like her predecessor, David Cameron almost exactly a year ago today, went to the country with high hopes of attaining supremacy within the Tory Party only to find that she had cut her own throat. Cameron yielded power to the Brexiters- previously a minor if very vocal irritant. May, more disastrously yet, has delivered up the Nation to a bunch of homophobic Ulstermen. 

May has a 'confidence & supply' agreement with the Unionists and so can pass money bills and survive confidence votes. However, her legislative program will have to be drastically curtailed otherwise there will be no Queen's Speech and Black Rod, denied legitimate employment, will take to the streets knocking on the doors of all and sundry. 

Theresa May has certainly given us a lot to think about- specifically this

Friday 2 June 2017

Borges & Godse

A young Indian Professor, with the delightfully euphonious name of Manash Firaq Bhatacharjee, has suggested that Gandhi's assassin, Nathuram Godse, is somehow prefigured by the Nazi narrator of Borges's Deutsches Requiem.

Manash writes-
'The character of a German fascist in Borges’s work shares uncanny similarities with Nathuram Godse – both consider acts of bloodshed more honourable than inconsequential acts of apostolic service.'
On the face of it, this is bad 'Babu' English. We all understand that Fascists will resemble each other because they are Fascists. Ultra-Nationalist Assassins will resemble Ultra-nationalist Commandants of Extermination Camps because they share a belief in the political efficacy of murder. The resemblance between them is natural or generic. It is not uncanny at all.

 There can only be an 'uncanny similarity' between things or persons fundamentally different in kind. One can say there is an uncanny similarity between a Fascist Concentration Camp Commandant and Mother Theresa because the humble Saint is of radically different kind from the Nazi beast though both showed exemplary devotion to their respective causes. However, one couldn't say this of Borges's wholly made-up Nazi because, clearly, his life-narrative is based on that of Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order, who was similarly,  though less ingloriously, wounded in his sex.

Is Manash just a bad writer? Or is the fact that he teaches at Ambedkar University a clue to what he is really saying? Like Godse, Ambedkar thought India was better off without the Mahatma. Amebdkar wrote to the lady who would later become his wife (but who, because she belonged to the Bhramin caste, was ostracised by his heirs) in the following terms- ' "My own view is that great men are of great service to their country, but they are also at certain times a great hindrance to the progress of the country. Mr Gandhi had become a positive danger to this country. He had choked all the thoughts. He was holding together the Congress which is a combination of all the bad and self-seeking elements in society who agreed on no social or moral principle governing the life of society except the one of praising and flattering Mr Gandhi. Such a body is unfit to govern a country. As the Bible says that sometimes good cometh out of evil, so also I think good will come out of the death of Mr Gandhi. It will release people from bondage to supermen, it will make them think for themselves and compel them to stand on their own merits.'

As a matter of fact, Ambedkar was wrong. Gandhi's slaying was particularly opportune for the Congress party. It was Ambedkar who was sidelined during his life-time- though in recent years his stock has shot up while Gandhi's has greatly fallen.

Returning to Manash's article and before rushing to judgement let us look at the remainder of the sentence I quoted. Manash isn't saying 'Fascists think bloodshed is honorable- no matter whose throats they are slitting'. Rather, that Fascists consider consequential bloodshed more honorable than some inconsequential action of a particular description ('Apostolic Service') which we will examine in a moment.

Since Godse killed Gandhi without regard to Dr. Ambedkar's wishes in this respect, perhaps Manash is saying  'Gandhi's actions were inconsequential. Thus killing him was utterly inconsequential and not honourable at all.  Godse killed Gandhi and then wrote some worthless self-exculpatory shite to justify himself before he was hanged. Thus Godse was like Borges's Linde, who only killed the 'good', obedient, Civic minded, Jews who queued up in orderly fashion to ascend the cattle trucks.  Indians think of Korczak's 'kinderplanet'- who breaks the law by getting his orphans to put on an 'Aryan' play- it is Tagore's 'The Post Office'- before yielding to the inevitable, albeit in a very different spirit to the corrupt and cowardly Rumkowski. 

Let us now turn to the term 'Apostolic Service' as used by Manash. What does it mean? I excerpt the following from an article in 'the American'-
An apostolic spirituality differs somewhat from a contemplative spirituality, whose central image in many cases is nuptial union between God and the person. The fundamental imperatives of the Christian vocation express themselves in both traditions. But apostolic spirituality views particular moments of prayer as means to enable the individual, as someone growing in intimacy with God, to serve the neighbor with more discernment and more fully. These differences of nuance between two traditions of spirituality bear witness to the Spirit’s action in the church, action which brings about a variety of gifts and charisms.

A famous story concerning Ignatius makes the point about apostolic spirituality. When told of a Jesuit much admired for his prayerfulness, Ignatius simply asked his interlocutor, “And how mortified is Father X?” By this he meant, how free is Father X from his false self, from disordered attachment to self, because only such freedom will allow him to be available to be sent to any part of the world at any time when service of the neighbor requires it.

In this little incident, we can find some of the principal features of an apostolic spirituality: prayers and “mortification” (taking measures, with God’s grace, to die to one’s false self) are instrumental, a means to something else. Love of the neighbor is where it all comes together, and freedom to be sent—freedom to be available to the neighbor in need—is the fundamental disposition of this spiritual path.

Inconsequential Apostolic Service, thus, appears to mean some self-mortification designed to show empathy for the suffering neighbour which however does not relieve that suffering at all. Gandhi pretended to be doing something for the victims of Partition- but it was just 'inconsequential Apostolic Service' or play-acting that is all. Godse too claimed to be acting for those same victims. Like Gandhi's Apostolic Service, his actions were wholly inconsequential- save in that some Brahmins in Pune got lynched and Savarkar's position as a loony-toons utterly beyond the pale was confirmed. Congress profited by Godse's actions and Gandhi's legend got a neat ending. The  political marginalisation of the RSS, too, turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It acquired a sort of declasse respectability. In Gujerat, two old RSS chums- Shankarsinh Vaghela and Narendra Modi became Chief Ministers for different parties. Vaghela is still the Congress leader of the Opposition in Gujarat, while Modi is Prime Minister. Unlike the Youth cadres of other political parties, the RSS- which is supposedly apolitical- has a reputation for 'consequential' Apostolic Service. It is believed to actually do some good when it sends volunteers to the scene of a natural disaster. By contrast, back in the Thirties, the Gandhian Economist and Chartered Accountant, Kumarappa, refused to pay Gandhi's Ashramite for their services out of the Bihar Earthquake Relief Fund. Why? They were useless. Gandhi protested but in the end had to tap some other fund to pay his useless acolytes.
Nobody, nowadays, thinks Gandhian volunteers can do anything useful anymore than they think Mother Theresa's nuns aren't a sanctimonious money-pit. Every Gandhian or neo-Gandhian scheme- khaddar, basic education, bhoodan, fasting for a Lok Pal, etc- is now known to be 'inconsequential Apostolic Service' of a worthless type.  Still, it is better than assassinations or pogroms- which rebound quickly on the heads of their instigators.

Manash sees Borges as a Fascist himself. He writes- Jorge Luis Borges’s ideas on fascism are not much known or discussed.

He is rather infamous for his endorsement of General Pinochet’s Chilean regime. After travelling to Santiago in 1976 against good advice to receive a special honour, Borges praised Pinochet for saving freedom and order, “especially in an anarchy continent, a continent undermined by communism.” That act, it is believed, cost Borges the Nobel Prize. His discomfort with Soviet communism left him unimpressed by Salvador Allende. For Borges’s open dislike of his regime, Juan Perón appointed the writer “poultry inspector” at the ‘Buenos Aires Municipal Wholesale Market’. Borges refused the honour.

Borges was an old fashioned Conservative and saw Pinochet as a staunch anti-Communist embracing 'Chicago School' Free Market policies rather than the Corporatist populism of Juan Peron. On balance, this was a reasonable view. Allende had gone off the deep end. Even Chicago can't damage an economy or a polity as much as Chavismo- as Venezuela has learnt to its rue.
What was really troubling about Borges was his enthusiasm for Videla- whose despotic rule had no redeeming features- and his condemnation of Democracy- at least for his own country. Still, he was a bookish man who had lead a sheltered life. We can't judge too harshly the senility of a sage.

Returning to Manash's article, the following paraphrase is significant ' Linde discovered Nietzsche and Spengler in 1927, and upheld Spengler’s depiction of the Faustian characteristic as a soul yearning for pure and limitless space, against Goethe’s Faust, who was a disenchanted intellectual.'

Actually, Linde says Lucretius was more Faustian than Spengler's Goethe. Why? Lucretius has a purely Scientific theory of the World. Not God, but Fortuna- some stochastic process within Nature- dictates how things unfold in a manner which leaves scope for Free Will. This Epicurean atomism is not the slave of genetic determinism or some holistic Goethean archetype, rather it leaves scope for Nature itself to somersault. Thus, there may be some human project which overcomes the physical limits of the body. Heaven can be conquered, Time itself can be reversed. Christianity is the story of the son of a carpenter who becomes God and thus the incarnation prefigured by the Scripture he himself quotes. Brahm's German Requiem is, uniquely, a Mass for the living and suffused with 'Sehnsucht'- a type of yearning- which in Hegelian 'Protestant Grief' rises above reconciliation to the the finite.

Borges begins his story with a quotation from the Book of Job. Lovers of Ghalib may know that 'khagazi pairahan' in 'Naqsh-e-fariyadi'- i.e. the custom of appearing in court dressed in a paper document recording one's complaint- is a predicate of Job. He is the first figure in Universal Literature who says he will appear in Court dressed in his own petition.

Borges knew Al Arabi's concept of Barzakh from Miguel Asin Palacios. He was aware that by in investigating 'the limit' case of his own alterity- an erudite Nazi!- he was bound to come up against a Barzakh such as that at which Moses and Khizr encounter each other. What happens then is that mortality, or finitude, is imposed upon the one (kya kiya Khizr ne Sikandar se?) while the immortal wanders namelessly away.
De Lind also creates his 'limit' as his alterity in the poet David Jerusalem. He finds the latter's 'zahir' (which, we suspect, is actually his own) and forcing the other to think constantly of it, drives him to suicide. But this dissolving of the mirror means that De Lind ingests (or gains by 'ibbur') Jerusalem's characteristic quality as the poet of Happiness. This 'reverse Jesuit' correctly predicts that Europe will attain stability thanks to the brutal ethnic cleansing of German speaking people which was occurring at the time Borges wrote this story.

How does Borges's Gnostic parable relate to Godse- an intellectually unimpressive figure? The truth is, only Congress benefited from Gandhi's assassination. The RSS and Hindu Mahasabha would have lost elections anyway because they were no good at ethnic cleansing. The old 'bourgeois' parties, led by lawyers- rather than Doctors or School Teachers- were better at wielding the big stick and presiding blithely over mass killings and expropriations. After Gandhi's assassination, Brahmins in Pune got their comeuppance. Patel was quite content to use the RSS once he had shown them who was boss. It was the same story with Muslims. They were under no illusion that anybody at all, not Gandhi, not Nehru, had any special tenderness for them. Their job was to vote for Congress and keep their mouths shut.

The political marginalization of the RSS and Muslim parties meant, however, that their organisers and youth cadres were less noxious than the netas and youth cadre of other parties. Thus a respectable tailor may say 'my son goes to the Shaka'- even if the thug in question is actually a retainer of some local dynast- because this statement does not automatically mean 'my son is a rapist'.

Manash writes 'Linde and Godse uncannily share a similar language of rationalist violence and the territorial soul of the nation.' No. Linde is saying it doesn't matter whether Germans are ethnically cleansed by Slavs or it happens the other way around. Like Koestler's 'erudite Nazi', who justifies Hitler as uniting Europe so that its Economy can develop more rapidly, Linde's view is endorsed by History. Germany gained by having a smaller territory and taking back German speaking people to its East. Europe too gained by German willingness to act as the Economic nucleus for the Continent.

Manash is on safer ground when he says ' Both (Linde & Godse) consider acts of bloodshed more honourable than inconsequential acts of apostolic service.' The problem here is that the RSS has a reputation for consequential humanitarian work. Gandhi  has a reputation for folly or fraud masquerading as 'acts of apostolic service'.
Manash writes- 'For both (Linde & Godse) , the other is the disease, and the new resurgence of national spirit demands its elimination.' If this were true, neither would be interesting. Rather the monstrous aspect of both is the underlying theme of murder as a means to ingest the soul of the other. Godse was certainly useful, not to say Providential. But no one can cast him as Brutus to Ceasar. The man's mind was too mean. The same problem arises with linking this vulgar Erostratus to the Ephesian mystery of Borges's Linde. Cannibalism isn't Communion. It is the coprophagy of the shithead.

The curious thing about Manash's article is that he must have been aware that Gandhi often spoke of the ennobling effect of bearing arms and fighting- provided one did so in a dispassionate spirit rather than a desire for victory. Godse held no such view. He thought the Hindu majority should tyrannise over the Muslim minority- unless defeated in which case it should skulk or run away. In practice, that's what happened wherever it was incentive compatible for the land-hungry dominant group to dispossess the minority. It may be that some Religions are more aggressive than others. They still get a bloody nose and are chased away if it is profitable to do so. The RSS certainly appeared more aggressive than the Congress party. Its adherents wore khaki shorts and carried sticks. They were easily beaten to death by people wearing dhotis. There is a lesson here, as Gandhi was wont to say, which all who run can read. 

Thursday 1 June 2017

Ghalib 98- kal ke liye kar aaj nah khissat sharab mein

Stint not Tonight's Wine to provision a Vain Tomorrow
  Will not Heaven's Saqi vint Hope's vaster Sorrow?
Tho' we know not, alas!, how durée's disgrace came to pass
Did not Angels bow to what from Dust we yet Borrow?

Why does life begin to leave us at rhapsody's first breath?
The viol's catgut too imprisons Passion's endless death.
The fleet steed of life full gallop then attains
When no foot is in the stirrup, nor hand upon the reins

Though I need to but rise to coincide with my essence
Frozen to the marrow by alterity's delusive presence
Seeing witness and witnessed and witnessing are One
Amazement is the maze which, with us, is never done.

The Ocean encompasses every wave of Existence
Here is but the foam's vain bubble of Persistence
Bashfulness is delightful tho' it but blush at its own.
How many are more naked for veiled 'fore the Throne?

From self-adornment's torment ne'er at leisure
The eye is a Mirror veiled to its own pleasure
Presence, we know, is hidden by the nothing it hides
Who wakes from a dream, over a dream yet presides.

Ghalib, your cup companion has a different scent today
Only Dust's Father-in-law pours Wine of this bouquet.

Transliteration extracted from Prof. Pritchett's 'Desertful of Roses' site which features a comprehensive commentary on each couplet. 
kal ke liye kar āj nah ḳhissat sharāb meñ
yih sū-e z̤an hai sāqī-e kauṡar ke bāb meñ

haiñ āj kyūñ żalīl kih kal tak nah thī pasand
gustāḳhī-e farishtah hamāre janāb meñ

jāñ kyūñ nikalne lagtī hai tan se dam-e samāʿ
gar vuh ṣadā samāʾī hai chang-o-rabāb meñ

rau meñ hai raḳhsh-e ʿumr kahāñ dekhiye thame
ne hāth bāg par hai nah pā hai rakāb meñ

utnā hī mujh ko apnī ḥaqīqat se buʿd hai
jitnā kih vahm-e ġhair se hūñ pech-o-tāb meñ

aṣl-e shuhūd-o-shāhid-o-mashhūd ek hai
ḥairāñ hūñ phir mushāhadah hai kis ḥisāb meñ

hai mushtamil namūd-e ṣuvar par vujūd-e baḥr
yāñ kyā dharā hai qat̤rah-o-mauj-o-ḥabāb meñ

sharm ik adā-e nāz hai apne hī se sahī
haiñ kitne be-ḥijāb kih yūñ haiñ ḥijāb meñ

ārāʾish-e jamāl se fāriġh nahīñ hanūz
pesh-e naz̤ar hai āʾinah dāʾim naqāb meñ

hai ġhaib-e ġhaib jis ko samajhte haiñ ham shuhūd
haiñ ḳhvāb meñ hanūz jo jāge haiñ ḳhvāb meñ

ġhālib nadīm-e dost se ātī hai bū-e dost
mashġhūl-e ḥaq hūñ bandagī-e bū-turāb meñ

Once ‘Ali got angry with (his wife) Fatima, and went out (of his house) and slept near a wall in the mosque. The Prophet (ﷺ) came searching for him, and someone said, “He is there, Lying near the wall.” The Prophet (ﷺ) came to him while his (‘Ali’s) back was covered with dust. The Prophet (ﷺ) started removing the dust from his back, saying, “Get up, O Abu Turab! (Father of Dust)”