Monday, June 30, 2014

The Indian National Contract

Clarissa has a couple of posts about how the US and Russian nation-states have been subverted by the breach of their social contracts:
This got me thinking about what the social contract of the Indian nation-state is. I'm forced to conclude that there is no contract or rather a state of uncontract between India and it's people. The State doesn't do anything for it's people and the people don't do anything for the State. In fact, the citizenry actively makes every effort to avoid it's duties to the state (taxes, public debate etc.) while the State makes very little effort to provide for the people. The people don't want the State to meddle in their affairs and the State doesn't want people meddling in its.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Freedom and Equality

Freedom and Equality have to go hand in hand. Because if we are not equal, is it not okay for some of us to enslave others?

The unsaid assumption of every religion is that we are better, or at least more special, than others. And since we are special, it's okay for us to treat others differently. Thus, any ideology rooted in religion cannot, by it's very nature, ensure equality for all. And hence Freedom, by it's very nature, needs to be an ideal separate from religion.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The First Book in Bengal

According to the historian B S Kesavan, the first book printed in Bengal was Nathaniel Halhed's Grammar of the Bengali Language, which appeared in 1778.

This is quite telling. For the essential character of colonialism is not that the colonized culture gets supplanted by the colonizer's culture. It is instead that the re-interpretation of the subjugated culture by the ruling culture becomes accepted as canon by both.

What is Minimalism - Revisited

I have been a self proclaimed minimalist for a while now. However, recently I noticed that my life has been getting decidedly un-minimalist. The clutter in my apartment is growing. The number of friends on facebook and followees on twitter has increased. The number of blogs I read is larger. Life tends to accumulate around you.

Is it time to re-evaluate? Should I cull some of the clutter? What should be thrown out and what should be kept?

A few years ago, Vivek Haldar noted how minimalism is not a viable intellectual strategy. Someone refuted it and then John D Cook collated the two posts. I added my own two cents a few days later.

A lot of confusing seems to stem from the definition of minimalism. Some people get enamored with minimization. This results in hipster minimalism—

The zenith [...] is a calm geek, sitting in a bare room with a desk upon which sits only a MacBook Air, his backpack of possessions on one side, the broadband internet cable available but unplugged, fingers ready to type into the empty white screen of a minimalist editor.

Stories of people who own only 20 distinct items abound - or 10 or even 5. There are articles on how to travel with only a pair of clothes and a toothbrush.

You can own just a pair of clothes and wash them each morning. Or you could have enough for a week and wash them over the weekend. Which one is more minimalistic?

If you do only one task at a time at work, aren't you going to get into trouble for neglecting others?

Do you continue to use a minimalist software or device even if you really need advanced functionality?

Would a guitar with only one string or a piano with only one key be of much use at all?

Clearly there's a point at which minimalism starts being ridiculous. Still, if you read someone like Leo Babauta they don't seem deranged at all. Why?

That's because even though they use the word Minimalism what they are essentially doing is focusing on what's important. Owning things has a monetary and time cost. Using complicated software has a cognitive cost. Getting distracted by low priority work has opportunity cost.

Try to maximize the amount of important things you engage with. Don't get caught in the trap of minimizing arbitrary numbers.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Nehru on Identity

I have become a queer mixture of the East and West, out of place everywhere, at home nowhere. Perhaps my thoughts and approach to life are more akin to what is called Western than Eastern, but India clings to me... I am a stranger and alien in the West. I cannot be of it. But in my own country also, sometimes, I can have an exile's feelings. - Nehru.