G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

W H Auden: "But in my arms till break of day / Let the living creature lie. / Mortal, guilty, but to me/ The entirely beautiful."

Will Self: “To attempt to write seriously is always, I feel, to fail – the disjunction between my beautifully sonorous, accurate and painfully affecting mental content, and the leaden, halting sentences on the page always seems a dreadful falling short. It is this failure – a ceaseless threnody keening through the writing mind – that dominates my working life, just as an overweening sense of not having loved with enough depth or recklessness or tenderness dominates my personal one.”

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Art Spiegelman: "You know words in a way are hitting you on the left side of your brain, music and visual arts hit on the right side of the brain, so the idea is to pummel you, to send you from left brain to right brain and back until you're as unbalanced as I am."

विलास सारंग: "संदर्भ कुठलेही असोत, संस्कृत, इंग्रजी, बुद्धिवादी, तांत्रिक, इतिहासाचे, खगोलशास्त्राचे, आधुनिक पदार्थविज्ञानाचे, शिवकालीन व पेशवाईतील बखरीचे, अगणित ज्ञानक्षेत्रांचे, अशा वैविध्यपूर्ण ज्ञानावर लेखन- विशेषत: कवितालेखन- उभं राहत."

Monday, July 28, 2014

शंभर पावसाळे आले गेले...The Day Savage Industrial Slaughter Began...

100 years ago, today July 28 2014, World War I started

गोविंदराव टेंबे (1881-1955):
"…पण  तसे पाहिले असता, गेल्या पाच  सहा वर्षापूर्वीचे सर्वच जीवन पुसून गेलेले आहे; मग हस्तलिखित पुसून गेल्याचा विषाद कशाला वाटायचा? भावना, श्रद्धा, संस्कृती, भीती, कला, धर्म इत्यादी, समाजाला स्थिरता व मधुरता देणारी तत्वे नामशेष झाली आहेत..." ('माझा जीवनविहार')

Stefan Zweig (1881-1942):

" When I attempt to find a simple formula for the period in which I grew up, prior to the First World War, I hope that I convey its fullness by calling it the Golden Age of Security. Everything in our almost thousand-year-old Austrian monarchy seemed based on permanency, and the State itself was the chief guarantor of this stability . . . In this vast empire everything stood firmly and immovably in its appointed place, and at its head was the aged emperor; and were he to die, one knew (or believed) another would come to take his place, and nothing would change in the well-regulated order. No one thought of wars, of revolutions, of revolts. All that was radical, all violence, seemed impossible in an age of reason."

Erich Maria Remarque, "All Quiet on the Western Front", 1929:

 “This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped shells, were destroyed by the war.”


B S Mardhekar (बा सी मर्ढेकर):
"पावसाळे आले गेले;
दोन युद्धे जमा झाली;"



Daljit Nagra, 'The last post: letters home to India during the first world war', The Guardian, February 21 2014:

"...Soldiers refer to their own classic books where good is pitted against evil: "Having seen this war, all that has been written in Mahabharat and in the Ramayan is altogether true." The German aeroplanes are compared to Vishnu's mighty eagle, the Garuda, who features in the Ramayana. Soldiers refer to demons, "The name of Germany is breathed throughout the world like the name of Harankash", or to Indian heroes, "The mud is up to a man's knees, and the trenches are full of water up to a depth of about 2 feet. As in the history of Ala [a great Sikh warrior]"..."


Niall Ferguson on the British empire's response to the  full-scale insurgency in Mesopotamia in 1920:
"How did the British address the manpower problem in 1920? By bringing in soldiers from India who accounted for more than 87 percent of troops in the counter-insurgency campaign. Perhaps, then, the greatest problem faced by the Anglophone empire of our own time is very simple: the United Kingdom had the Indian Army; the United States does not. Indeed, by a rich irony, the only significant auxiliary forces available to the Pentagon today are none other than ... the British Army. But those troops are far too few to be analogous to the Sikhs, Mahrattas and Baluchis who fought so effectively in 1920."

Seumas Milne, The Guardian, January 8 2014:

"...Unlike the second world war, the bloodbath of 1914-18 was not a just war. It was a savage industrial slaughter perpetrated by a gang of predatory imperial powers, locked in a deadly struggle to capture and carve up territories, markets and resources.

Germany was the rising industrial power and colonial Johnny-come-lately of the time, seeking its place in the sun from the British and French empires. The war erupted directly from the fight for imperial dominance in the Balkans, as Austria-Hungary and Russia scrapped for the pickings from the crumbling Ottoman empire. All the ruling elites of Europe, tied together in a deathly quadrille of unstable alliances, shared the blame for the murderous barbarism they oversaw. The idea that Britain and its allies were defending liberal democracy, let alone international law or the rights of small nations, is simply absurd.

It's not just that most men and all women in Britain were still denied the vote in 1914 – unlike Germany, which already had full male suffrage – or that the British empire was allied with the brutal autocracy of tsarist Russia.

Every single one of the main warring states was involved in the violent suppression of the rights of nations throughout the racist tyrannies that were their colonial empires. In the decades before 1914, about 30 million people died from famine as colonial officials enforced the export of food in British-ruled India, slaughtered resisters in their tens of thousands and set up concentration camps in South Africa.

Britain was supposed to have gone to war to defend the neutrality of "plucky little Belgium" – which had itself presided over the death of 10 million Congolese from forced labour and mass murder in the previous couple of decades. German colonialists had carried out systematic genocide in what is now Namibia in the same period..."

Santanu Das, The Guardian, July 22 2014:
 "...Today, one of the main stumbling blocks to a truly global and non-Eurocentric archive of the war is that many of these 1 million Indians, or 140,000 Chinese, or 166,000 West Africans, did not leave behind diaries and memoirs. In India, Senegal or Vietnam there is nothing like the Imperial War Museum; when a returned soldier or village headman died, a whole library vanished..."


Historian John Keay in his 'India A History', 2000/2010 writes of the start of the First World War:

"...News of war had been greeted in India with a demonstration. For once it was not of dissent but of enthusiastic support. British hearts warmed at the protestations of loyalty and the offers of support which poured in not only from the predictably sycophantic princely states but also from the Muslim League and Congress. With recruitment exceeding all expectations, Indian troops were soon sailing for novel destinations like Flanders, Gallipoli and Mesopotamia. Over two million Indian combatants and support staff would eventually serve overseas, dwarfing all other imperial contributions to the war effort..."
  
Many of those two million were Marathi speaking.

Despite that, the war does not figure big in Marathi (मराठी) literature, probably because the participants came mainly from the middle peasantry belonging to non-Brahmin castes. 

(The other two big misses of Marathi literature are Second World War except Vishram Bedekar's 'Ranangan' (विश्राम बेडेकर, रणांगण) and the Partition of India.)

As quoted above Marathi poet B S Mardhekar writes: 

"पावसाळे आले गेले; दोन युद्धे जमा झाली;" (Monsoons came and went; two wars were done with;)

Critic D K Bedekar (दि के बेडेकर) writes with some indignation: 

"...'दोन युद्धे जमा झाली' या चार शब्दांत कोट्यावधी भारतीयांच्या, नव्हे सर्व मानवजातीच्याच वेदनांचे व मृत्यूचे ब्रह्मांड सामावलेले आहे. पण मर्ढेकर परमहंसगतीला पोहोचलेले असल्यासारखे आहेत ! त्यांच्या कालप्रवाहाला मनुष्यांच्या सुखदुःखांचे मोजमाप लागत नाही. नुसते पावसाळे येतात नि जातात हीच कालगणना !..."

 ('साहित्य : निर्मिती व समीक्षा', 1954 / 2008)

['...Two wars were done with'...these four words contain the whole universe of pain and death of millions of Indians, indeed the entire human race. But Mardhekar is like having attained the enlightenment ! His passage of time is not measured in man's happiness and pain. Monsoons simply come and go is the only time measurement !..." 

('Sahitya: Nirmiti va samiksha')]

Not everyone, alive during the war, could afford the luxury of nirvana (परमहंसगती)

Certainly not those Marathi speaking combatants who were trapped in Siege of Kut (7 December 1915 – 29 April 1916). 

As the food became almost impossible to come by during the siege,  Indian soldiers were offered horse meat. Maratha soldiers thought it was heretical and refused to eat it with a rider, conveyed to the their commanders,  that if 'their deity' Rajarshi Shahu (राजर्षी छत्रपती शाहू महाराज) ordered it, they would eat it

In a most moving letter dated March 23 1916, Shahu-maharaj pleaded with the Maratha soldiers to eat the meat, survive and press on. He wished he could join them in their struggle.

['Rajrishi Shahumaharajanchi Bhashane' (राजर्षी श्रीशाहूमहाराजांची भाषणे), editor-aggregator Bhagvanrao Bapusaheb Jadhav (संपादक-संकलन भगवानराव बापूसाहेब जाधव)2001/2009, page 177-180]


'He probably spoke Marathi'

Indian army soldier after the siege of Kut  (courtesy: Wikipedia and  Wikimedia Commons)

Despite this, Wikipedia informs,  "around 13,000 Allied soldiers survived to be made prisoners. 70% of the British and 50% of the Indian troops died of disease or at the hands of their Ottoman guards during captivity."




courtesy: Rauner Special Collections Library, Dartmouth College and  Slate.com
 
   




 

Artist:  Benjamin Schwartz , The New Yorker, January 2014

Friday, July 25, 2014

तत्त्वज्ञान ही सर्व ज्ञानाची जननी असेल...Why must Philosophy have the Last Word?




Jeanette Winterson:

"As explanations of the world, fairy stories tell us what science and philosophy cannot and need not. There are different ways of knowing. "Bring me the two most precious things in the city," said God to one of His Angels; and the Angel brought Him the leaden heart and the dead bird."

Julian Baggini:

"...Who knows? Indeed. Which is why philosophy needs to accept it may one day be made redundant. But science also has to accept there may be limits to its reach..."

Jennie Erda:

"…the philosopher encapsulates the idea of the nature of things, but the novelist runs with it. Philosophy can state the facts of our own mortality, but perhaps only the novel can explore the hammerblow moment that deprives us of everything that gives sense to our lives..."

Lou Marinof:

“What are the first words a philosophy graduate utters? ‘Would you like fries with that, sir?’"

I first read the following by John Gray a few years ago:

 "Contemporary philosophers are not so bold as to claim that philosophy teaches us how to live, but they are hard put to say what does teach."

After reading that humility, imagine my shock when I read the following:

श्रीनिवास हेमाडे, लोकसत्ता, June 5 2014:

"...आता, जर तत्त्वज्ञान ही सर्व ज्ञानाची जननी असेल; तर तिचा संसार कोणता? तिचा संसार म्हणजेच ती अनंत संकल्पनांना जन्म देते, त्यावर आधारित जीवन व्यवस्थांचे पालनपोषण करते आणि दुष्ट, अधर्मी मुलांना प्रेमपूर्वक पूर्णविरामसुद्धा देते. म्हणून उदाहरणार्थ, प्लेटोचे राज्य अस्तित्वातच आले नाही आणि मदांध ब्रिटिश राज संपुष्टात आले, चेंगीजखान अन् नाझी भस्मासुर  अखेर भस्म झाला.
तत्त्वज्ञान हे रामकृष्ण परमहंसांच्या कालीसारखे दुष्ट मुलांचे निर्दालन करते..."

(Prof. Shrinivas Hemade:

"...Now, if philosophy is the mother of all knowledge, what is her world? Her world is that she gives birth to infinite concepts, and nourishes life-systems based on them and terminates, with affection,  the evil and  irreligious kids. Therefore, for instance, Plato's kingdom never came into existence and arrogant British-Raj came to an end, Genghis Khan and genocidal Nazism in the end burnt down.
Philosophy like Ramkrishna Paramhansa's Kali obliterates evil kids...") 

After quoting a baloney like this, I offer you an antidote on it: John N Gray's book 'Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals', 2002. 

 If only I knew about the claimed powers of philosophy, when I finished my middle-class schooling in 1975, I would have majored in philosophy and, more importantly,  used it against one or two 'evil' kids who used to mildly rag me in the high-school!

Instead my father a college teacher in anthropology and English told me to stay as far away from arts as possible if I wanted to be employed. He also said philosophy departments in most colleges, indeed universities, were closing down. If at all one still wanted to do arts, one should major in sociology or economics. 


Prof. Hemade's claims can be challenged on several fronts but I will restrict myself to only a couple.


It's obvious that a statement there is loaded with ignorance of history when it equates Genghis Khan with Nazis. (चेंगीजखान अन् नाझी भस्मासुर  अखेर भस्म झाला)

Read what Jack Weatherford says in his book 'Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World', 2004: 

"...Although he arose out of the ancient tribal past, Genghis Khan shaped the modern world of commerce, communication, and large secular states more than any other individual. He was the thoroughly modern man in his mobilized and professional warfare and in his commitment to global commerce and the rule of international secular law. What began as a war of extinction between the nomad and the farmer ended as a Mongol amalgamation of cultures. His vision matured as he aged and as he experienced different ways of life. He worked to create something new and better for his people. The Mongol armies destroyed the uniqueness of the civilizations around them by shattering the protective walls that isolated one civilization from another and by knotting the cultures together..."

I have never read anything remotely like this for Hitler or his cronies. 

I love philosophy the way I love many other things in life. But my problems with it are fundamental because I don't feel humans are very different from animals.


And I quote from John Gray's book: "...As commonly practised, philosophy is the attempt to find good reasons for conventional beliefs. In Kant’s time the creed of conventional people was Christian, now it is humanist. Nor are these two faiths so different from one another. Over the past two hundred years, philosophy has shaken off Christian faith. It has not given up Christianity’s cardinal error – the belief that humans are radically different from all other animals..."

The claim has been made that 'Plato's kingdom never came into existence' (प्लेटोचे राज्य अस्तित्वातच आले नाही). Maybe but just count the cost humanity has paid in just pursuing it.


"...Plato’s legacy to European thought was a trio of capital letters – the Good, the Beautiful and the True. Wars have been fought and tyrannies established, cultures have been ravaged and peoples exterminated in the service of these abstractions. Europe owes much of its murderous history to errors of thinking engendered by the alphabet..."

Does philosophy attempt to reach the truth or peace of mind/  tranquility?

"...The ancient Greek philosophers had a practical aim – peace of mind. As it was practised by Socrates, ‘philosophy’ was not the mere pursuit of knowledge. It was a way of life, a culture of dialectical debate and an armoury of spiritual exercises, whose goal was not truth but tranquility. Pyrrho – the founder of Greek Scepticism – did not need to go with Alexander to India to discover philosophies whose goal was inner peace. The ancient Greeks were at one with their contemporaries in India..."

And is tranquility itself overrated?


"...If philosophers have rarely considered the possibility that truth might not bring happiness, the reason is that truth has rarely been of the first importance to them. In that case, we are entitled to ask whether philosophy merits the authority it claims for itself, and how far it is qualified to sit in judgment over other ways of thinking. If happiness is what we are seeking, is it to be found in mere tranquility?The Russian writer Leo Shestov contrasted Spinoza’s quest for peace of mind with Pascal’s struggle for salvation:

Philosophy sees the supreme good in a sleep which nothing can trouble. ... That is why it is so careful to get rid of the incomprehensible, the enigmatic, and the mysterious; and avoids anxiously those questions to which it has already made answer. Pascal, on the other hand, sees in the inexplicable and incomprehensible nature of our surroundings the promise of a better existence, and every effort to simplify or to reduce the unknown to the known seems to him blasphemy.

Like the ancient Stoics before him, Spinoza sought relief from inner unrest; but what is so admirable in being ruled by a need for peace of mind? We need not share Pascal’s fears or hopes to grasp the force of Shestov’s question. If what is at issue is not truth but happiness and freedom, why must philosophy have the last word? Why should not faith and myth have equal rights?.."



'That To Study Philosophy Is To Learn To Die' or is it?

Artist: Salvador Dali