The Unbearable Collective Stupidity of the Masses

It’s all karma, neh?

I usually use that line as a sign off to some of my posts. But this time I lead with it because — well, let me come to that. Karma is a Sanskrit word whose meaning is difficult to convey precisely but the two (of the many) important facets of the word are salient in this context. First is karma as action, and the second the consequence of action. This bears repetition: the same word refers to action as well as the consequences of action. This is by no means accidental.
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The distinction between Rights and Freedoms.

Now for the important matter of the distinction between rights and freedoms. Of late, there has been a proliferation of rights. There’s the right to information, right to employment, right to food, right to education, and so on. Somehow people start thinking that the expansion of rights enhances freedom but in fact it is the opposite: the expansion of rights actually reduces our freedom.
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Information may be free but knowledge is never free. I am disappointed in you, my dear Wiki

There is a distinction between information and knowledge, which is worth keeping in mind.

As had been reported, Wiki (English language version) has done dark. This is the landing page image.

On Making a Difference

We all want to make a difference. That comes effortlessly when one is dissatisfied with the current order of things. As the wise old dipsomaniac Omar Khayyam put it,

“Ah love, could thou and I with fate conspire,
To grasp this sorry scheme of things entire;
Would we not shatter it to bits,
And remold it nearer to our hearts’ desire!”

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Outlawing Child Labor

My position is that child labor is not the problem, but rather it is the symptom of a different underlying problem. Merely outlawing child labor will not fix the underlying problem any more than malnutrition will be fixed by outlawing hunger.

Also see related post on Banning Child Labor on this blog.

Your thoughts?

Decriminalize and de-governmentize India

If what we believe to be true is in fact false, we could end up making a bad situation worse. Since our deeply held convictions are rarely deliberately scrutinized, we run the risk of behaving like monkeys. A useful generalization that I have arrived at is that the structure of the world imposes truths that are counter-intuitive. Our untutored intuition is at times at odds with what the truth is. There are examples galore but here I will restrict myself to the “drug problem” which I had briefly alluded to in my post yesterday on Drugs, Death and Bad Servers.
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It is all Karma, neh?

In response to my recent post on the priorities of the Indian judicial system, Venkat commented in jest:

Hey Atanu!
Seems like you are passing the bucks too much to karma? 🙂 Jus’ joking.

He was obviously refering to my closing line, “It is all Karma, neh?”. Although he did not mean it seriously, I think that there is a pervasive misconception about the concept of karma which we need to remove seriously.

The word “karma” does not mean ‘fate’. It means “work or action, and the consequence that arise thereof.” Karma does not mean predestination or predetermination. In fact, it means precisely the opposite. Karma means that it is our actions that determine the future, that what we do matters and has consequences. The concept is a general formulation of the fundamental law of action and its consequences, a specific instance of which are Newton’s laws of motion. Therefore it is the ultimate statement of “The Buck Stops Here.” And so when one says, “It is all Karma”, one is acknowledging that what we do matters and we are ultimately responsible for what we enjoy or suffer.

God-realization Through Technology

On the launch of the Simputer, a sort of Palm clone meant for the poor, PicoPeta chairman Prof. Vinay said: “Amida allows people to share information, stay connected and bond emotionally. It does these by breaking the fear of technology.”

Damn, now I know what was preventing me from bonding emotionally with people — my fear of technology. Now that Simputer is here, I will get over my fear of technology and bam! I will be bonding emotionally with people. Now I will finally get a life!
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Growth and Development

Prasad requested a bit more on the distinction between development and growth. Consider the life-cycle of a normal human being. The initial stages are marked by growth and development; the later stages by a cessation of growth but continued development (hopefully). Growth, apart from that required in the initial stages, is neither necessary nor sufficient for development. One can have one without the other.
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Misplaced conclusions

“My uncle died sadly due to his habit of drinking tea?”

“That’s amazing! I have heard of people dying because of alcohol. But tea?”

“Yes, tea lead to his death. He was crossing the road to get himself a cup of tea, and a bus ran over him. Tea caused his untimely demise.”
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