“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” That according to Nelson Mandela.
I object to the characterization of education as a weapon. Weapons are used as tools of destruction, not construction. Remember the distinction between tools and weapons: all weapons are tools (instruments; means to an end) but not all tools are weapons (“any device used in order to inflict damage or harm to living beings, structures, or systems.”)
Changing the world is a fine objective. Most people want some changes in the world around them and most people (though not all) want some change in themselves too.
A little while ago, I saw this tweet — which I append below. It relates to the mainstream media’s response to Shri Mohan Bhagwat’s comment that “Mother” Teresa was motivated by her desire to convert people to Christianity. That seems really odd to me. I would have surmised that the fact that Teresa was basically in the business of proselytizing and converting would be as unremarkable as the fact that the Pope is a Catholic. Whatever she did — and she was remarkably candid about it — she maintained was because she was serving her lord and savior Jesus Christ. Christ wanted everyone to be saved through him. So what’s so bloody remarkable about noting that she was primarily motivated by what she admitted to: saving souls?
Anyway, here’s the tweet by @rvaidya2000:
The god of the Old Testament is the same god that Christians adopted in their New Testament. Following the Jews and the Christians, Islam proclaimed the same monotheistic god. Who is this god? Richard Dawkins, a non-believer, characterized that god in his book The God Delusion thusly:
“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
Every word in that description is justified — within the so-called “holy” books. Chapter and verse can be quoted to show why that god is “the most unpleasant character in all fiction.”
I admire a few public figures intensely. Among those who are still around, the physicist Murray Gell-Mann makes that short list. Among the dear departed physicists are Albert Einstein and Richard Feynman. Politicians mostly make it to my list of “Most Intensely Disliked” list but there is one exception: Lee Kuan Yew makes it to “Most Intensely Admired” list. My list “Economists I Admire the Most” has the usual suspects like Adam Smith, Friedrich August von Hayek, Ronald Coase, Milton Friedman — and James M Buchanan,Jr.
Lee Kuan Yew is in intensive care in a hospital in Singapore (Yahoo news.) I am afraid that he will not be around for long but I hope my fears are unfounded. I wish that India had had a leader of his intellect and dedication at the time of India’s political independence from British rule. Unfortunately for hundreds of millions of Indians, India got saddled with Gandhi and following him, Nehru. Both will be judged harshly by the generations to come but that is scant consolation for those who suffered in the past and for those who continue to suffer due to the idiotic policies of incompetent and idiotic leaders of India.
I hold most contemporary politicians in contempt and would rejoice to see the back of them. But I will deeply mourn Lee Kuan Yew’s passing for certain. I hope that day is still far away.
This one is hauled from the archive. Why? Because these two articles are nice. Even if I myself say so. Also, I am very busy reading and so don’t have the time to write fresh stuff. Or perhaps I am just plain lazy. In any case, do check out the following.
1. Profiting from Conflict. The Monkey and the Cats.
Wars are generally very costly for most people but are always very profitable for some. It is also not too difficult to start a conflict. Envy, greed and covetousness lie just beneath the surface and can be summoned almost at will. Arms manufacturers and arms dealers have the greatest incentive for provoking, fuelling and maintaining conflict. Follow the money if you want to know why some parts of the world suffer chronic conflict.
2.On Constitutions and the Generality Principle.
Societies which have potential fracture lines can still avoid catastrophic breakdown provided the basic set of rules — the constitution — that constrain behaviour were such that it did not stress those divisions. The real danger arises when the constitution makes those fault lines explicit and laws are enacted in accordance with those rules which then discriminate for or against identifiable groups.
[Edit note: This piece was written & published elsewhere in Oct 2013. The Indian political scene has changed somewhat since then, thankfully under the leadership of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi but evidently not enough. True that Rahul Gandhi is no longer relevant but clearly sleazy politicians like Kejriwal and his minions are successful in bamboozling the public in Delhi. This piece is, unfortunately, still relevant.]
If the people of the village, in the best traditions of their hallowed democratic processes, elect the village idiot as the King and Supreme Ruler of the village, it is hard for me to bring myself to find fault with the village idiot. It’s not the idiot’s fault that nature dealt him a lousy hand in the random genetic draw of life. He’s a congenital idiot and made no demands on being recognized as a paragon of wisdom and virtue. Based on that principle, I indicted American voters for electing some of their recent presidents, a few more than once. I can see no reason for not applying that principle to India.
Kiran Bedi is funny. Unintentionally of course. Here’s why. (Click on the image below to get to the tweet.)
So 2400 hours, instead of just 24 hours? Is that the total number of hours that Delhi will have electricity? And if so, total for how many years?
That reminds me of one of Steven Wrights jokes.
I went down the street to the 24-hour grocery. When I got there, the guy was locking the front door. I said, ‘Hey, the sign says you’re open 24 hours.’ He said, ‘Yes, but not in a row.’
I like his humor. He points out the obvious. For example, “Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time.” Or, “It doesn’t matter what temperature the room is, it’s always room temperature.” More of his insanity here.
Let me tell you a story. It is about a friend who is building a school in India. Motivated by idealism to do something for India, some years ago he decided that he would build an excellent K-12 school. An expatriate for a few years in a developed nation, he thought it was time for him to “give back” something to his native land. Knowing of my interest in education, he asked me to advise him and I did as a friend without any pecuniary interest in the venture. I kept in touch. Just the other day he called me from India to tell me how things were going. Here’s what I heard. It is both instructive and depressing.