Alan Watts and South Park

Alan Watts (1915 – 1973) was a great entertainer. A “philosophical entertainer” with the emphasis on the entertainer bit. Fortunately for us, his talks are available on YouTube. He was a fascinating person, as you can gather from the wiki page on him (linked above). My interpretation of Vedanta, Zen and Buddhism matches perfectly with his.  I think that at his core he was a Hindu. Wiki says —

Though known for his Zen teachings, he was also influenced by ancient Hindu scriptures, especially Vedanta, and spoke extensively about the nature of the divine reality which Man misses: how the contradiction of opposites is the method of life and the means of cosmic and human evolution; how our fundamental Ignorance is rooted in the exclusive nature of mind and ego; …

Theologically trained, he was an ordained Episcopal minister. He wasn’t overly impressed with the Bible. He wrote — Continue reading

Censorship on the Internet

Freedom of speech, expression, and the press is a distinctive mark of civilization. It distinguishes — and indicates the degree of civilization achieved among — the nations of the world. Nations that valued the Enlightenment traditions of the likes of Kant and Voltaire prospered and became culturally (not to mention militarily) powerful enough to profoundly impact, and indeed create, the modern world.

Just compare where the Islamic nations are in relation to the Western nations in terms of social, cultural and economic well-being. The Islamic nations fail miserably. They languish in the bottom of the heap suffering terrorism and imposing it on the rest of the world. Part of the explanation must be that their civilization lacks the freedom of speech and expression.

“Congress shall make no law …”

And consider that the most powerful nation in the world, the United States of America, is what it is partly because of the wisdom of its Founding Fathers who included the critically important First Amendment in the “Bill of Rights” of the US Constitution which says, in part, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press …”.

Say what you may (and you may say whatever pleases you) but I am a freedom of speech fundamentalist. It is non-negotiable, it is off the table, it is not for sale, trade, barter or exchange. I reserve the right to say whatever I wish, and I defend your right to say whatever you wish. And equally importantly, I reserve the right to choose to hear, read and watch whatever others freely choose to express in whatever form. The operative word is choose. You choose to speak, and I choose to hear, without compulsion on either side.

Freedom

I recognize no authority over me that will dictate to me what I may say or listen to, read, write or watch. I will resist any government that attempts to take away my right to free speech, and the corresponding right to listen to the free speech of others.

Now that I have expressed my position on the matter, let me get down to why I did so. Continue reading

Bit by Bit — Tiny Steps Toward a Totalitarian Solution

No sufficiently distant goal is achieved in one big step. But take enough number of small steps in the correct direction consistently, and you are guaranteed to reach your destination.

Recall the “digital” solution that Ajit, the archetypal Bollywood villain of the past, once adopted to get rid of the hero. He told his minions that they should put the hero in a computer. Why, the puzzled minions asked. Ajit said, “Bit by bit mar jayega.

Indians are also getting that digital solution — where the means are technological and the end appears to be their total enslavement to the state. The government has all the powers that it needs to be in absolute control of what the citizens are allowed to do, what they must do, and what they must not do. It is  using those powers, bit by bit. And the citizens merely adjust to the government control of their lives without protest.

The danger is real, present and imminent. Here’s a piece I wrote for The Quint yesterday, for the record.  Continue reading

On Taxes and the Nature of the Government of a Society of Morons — Part 1

Death and Taxes

In 1789 Benjamin Franklin wrote that “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

I beg to differ. Unlike the certainty of death which is imposed by nature, taxes are entirely man-made and therefore avoidable. But most people accept taxes with the same resignation as they do the inevitability of death, and by this uncritical passive acceptance of taxes they acquiesce in the persistence of a system that is positively harmful to personal well-being and social welfare. What’s worse, they consider taxes to be a social good.

The existence and persistence of bad institutions and norms can only be attributed to wrong ways of thinking and acting. An inverted view of reality that considers what’s harmful as beneficial causes untold avoidable harm. Continue reading

The Management of Air India are SEFs

As commercial airlines go, Air India is nothing to write home about. Air India ranked third-worst performing airline in the world, reported Economic Times in Jan 2017. Air India’s all-round dismal performance–customer service, timeliness, cabin service, heavy commercial losses, etc., etc.–is not surprising considering that it is a Government of India enterprise. Nothing that the GOI does is ever done competently and well. The bureaucrats and politicians are perhaps the least competent in the world, barring a few African banana republics.   Continue reading

Sri Ganesh Chaturthi Greetings

श्री वक्रतुण्ड महाकाय सूर्य कोटी समप्रभा निर्विघ्नं कुरु मे देव सर्व-कार्येशु सर्वदा॥
Shree Vakratunda Mahakaya Suryakoti Samaprabha
Nirvighnam KuruMe Deva Sarva-Kaaryeshu Sarvada॥
“O one with the curved trunk and immense body, one with the brilliance of ten million suns, please do remove obstacles to all my actions always.”
The translation lacks the poetry of the Sanskrit verse but it would have to do.

Continue reading

Diogenes of Sinope

Diogenes with his lantern and faithful dog
Diogenes looking for an honest man

Diogenes of Sinope lived in a tub in the marketplace. Since it was a long time ago, around the 4th century BCE, the details are few. He is also known as Diogenes the Cynic.

I feel a certain intellectual kinship to Diogenes because I too am a cynic. He must have been a remarkable man, going by the stories told about him.

It is said that he sometimes walked around with a lamp even in broad daylight. When asked why, he replied, “I am looking for an honest man.” A cynic to the core.  Continue reading

Of Prizes and People

Prize
First Prize

We humans instinctively categorize, especially people. We are amateur primitive set-theoreticians. There are infinite ways to categorize people since humans have a humongous number of characteristics.

Consider the categories of people who award prize and people who win prizes. In my view, people who institute prizes belong to the most prestigious set. I order the sets as:

  1. People who institute prizes.
  2. People who win prizes.
  3. People who don’t win prizes.
  4. People who award themselves prizes.

For example, Alfred Nobel belongs to the first set; Einstein to the second set; ordinary grunts like us, who never come within shouting distance of any prestigious award make up the majority of humanity, belong to the third set. We are mostly harmless and generally unimpressive. Continue reading