Friday, March 31, 2006

Gethsemane

The jolly-light jingles of TV commercials seem awfully contrived at this time. It's trying woefully hard to generate cheer, but I only feel a very detached indifference to it; maybe not wholly detached, because I do ponder its efforts with a resigned, hopeless amusement. I look at what it's trying to entice me with, and I search myself for what to offer in return; nothing comes. The wind is bellowing its angst outside. Why is it so twisted in its torrent? What does it ask of me? Why is it so violent? I hear your pain, the anger in your gust. Stay calm. It's a staccato moment that has now so tragically manifest. I'm suspended above the blankness of the moment - between the richly textured past, and the fuzzy blur of the future. It's unbearably quiet inside my head. The sounds of this world does not seem to reach past the walls of my mind. Words like feelings, emotions like sounds, violent like restraint, they are all so loud, all urging to get out - but my mind is occupied in some quiet meditation: I think of grass, and blades of grass, and beads of dew clinging on blades of grass, and that's the form that my memories take - faceted, ephemeral, diaphanous. I am only waiting now, for the imminence of the hours; for it do with me what it must. It's a quiet Gethsemane in which I am patiently waiting; I'm utterly petrified. But I'm ready.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Immigration, updated

For obvious reasons, I have much interest in this nation's current struggle with immigration and its laws. For some time, I struggled with the issue of the morality of open immigration and the problem of national security - I thought, like much of the rest of this country, those two issues were in conflict with each other. However, with my more recent exposure to ARI scholars like Dr. Brook and Dr. Ghate, with whom I had personal conversations regarding this issue, and also my earlier discussions of this matter on Noodlefood, I am able to see clearly that we do not need to compromise on security for our liberty - but that pre-emptive and proactive measures must be taken to provide full security *for* our liberties. I decided to link to some of my earlier posts (the ones I wrote before I spoke to the ARI scholars or at Noodlefood) because my position still remains the same, and hopefully, this nation can move towards a more enlightened immigration system that respects human rights with providing full security for people to freely exercise those rights. 1) Immigration: Private Property or Freedom of Movement 2) Immigration, contd. 3) Import Workers of Export Jobs Breaking an immoral law is not an illegal act. Immoral laws should be broken. The immigrants who broke the immoral laws of this country and have arrived here - some arriving more than 20 years ago - have done nothing illegal, but infact have acted bravely, ruthlessly in the pursuit of their human rights, and have refused to morally sanction the oppressiveness of the current laws. They have acted in the same spirit as the first members of the black civil-rights movement - the people who dared to break the immorality of segregationist and racist laws and stood up to forge a groundwork for the establishment of proper, ethical and moral laws consistent with the value of human life as the standard, and the exercise of human rights as a guarantee, without regard for accidental qualities of birth, race, or ethnicity. America is the only country by far that understands what a human being truly is, respects it, and protects it with a body of laws that guarantees rights proper to the living of a human being. Therefore, attaining American citizenship is not a permission to belong to an ethnic or national identity called "American", but to enjoy the status of the ideological and intellectual identity afforded by "Americanism" - the ideology that humans are guaranteed fundamental rights consistent with their nature as rational, conceptual, and volitional beings - an ideology that forms the foundation of this country. To be an American citizen is not to say "I am an American", but to say "I am human" and to fully know and understand what "human" means and what its implications are in living life. Therefore, attaining American citizenship is to gain the opportunity to live among people who accept the fundamentality of individual human rights and to avail the services of a representative government borne out of rational principles, to protect rational human beings who are engaged in the pursuit of their own rational human happiness - an American government for an American people. The American identity is a body of principles that form an integrated concept called "Americanism". American citizenship is the proud public statement of one's voluntary acceptance of that body of principles, required to be recognized and respected by everyone else. American citizenship should not be merely considered an accidental identity thrust upon every new individual born into this country. Americanism is primarily an intellectual, philosophical identity, which must be accepted voluntarily. An accidental birth in America does not guarantee that the individual will accept and value the American values that his citizenship allows him to enjoy (take the eg. of the young American-born citizen who went to fight alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan against the very values and virtues of Americanism that he was priviledged to enjoy due to the accidental incident of his birth in America). I admire and applaud the hundreds of thousands of mostly hispanic/latino immigrants (and every other individual) who marched out on the streets in peaceful protest to demand what should rightfully belong to them. At the same time, I am saddened by the lack of similar courage among most of the members of other ethnic immigrants in this country, many of whom are similarly undocumented. Many of the non-hispanic immigrants seem to furtively exploit the possible advantages that might be brought about due to the efforts of the hispanic immigrants, while still trying to hide in the shadows of anonymity, and perpetuating the prejudicial association of "illegal" predominantly with "latino/hispanic" immigrants.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Ayn Rand the Chauvinist

John Enright has a notice about Dr. Stephen Hicks who will be giving a lecture on “Ayn Rand as Philosopher and Novelist” during Rockford College’s Women’s History month series. As John correctly notes, it is indeed surprising that Rand is being brought up in a “Women’s History” series – because typically Rand is perceived as being detrimental to the causes of Woman’s liberation. The female heroes in Ayn Rand’s novels embody the true, heroic essence of being a rational human. And as such, Rand does not differentiate between feminism and the heroic. Intellectually and spiritually, Rand maintained that the heroic character of a human being is achievable to both sexes. Her female characters are in many instances more powerful, more driven, more efficacious than the male characters of the novel. Kira, Dominique, Dagny are all fantastic, heroic, Randian creations worthy of any man or woman to look up and admire. Many feminists (of the modern sense) have accused Rand of being anti-feminist, backward, gender-insensitive, and a disgrace to femininity. Rand took great pride in such characterizations. Once she remarked that she was proud to be a male-chauvinist. It is true that Rand also considered the essence of the feminine, hero-worship – the woman’s reverence for her highest value, the man she loves. Rand differentiated men and women only on a purely physiological and sexual level, and appropriately so. She was profoundly anti-feminist and opposed to woman’s “liberation”. Rand said: “I believe in masculine superiority passionately, enthusiastically, delightfully – not intellectual or moral superiority, but sexual and romantic superiority. If you don’t understand this, then I’ll reluctantly say: I’m sorry” (Q&A) And if you wish to understand this, there can be no better way than to get yourself introduced to her philosophy by directly reading her works. She is one of the few writers/philosophers who actually writes in a language that is clear, precise, and unpretentious. If you find yourself disagreeing with her, you'll know exactly what it is that you disagree with. Her premises are always open and clear, her writing is honest, and you will notice no mental gymnastics, no obscure verbage, and no confounding wordplays that would hide the meaning of her thoughts. Such is her self-esteem and confidence in her philosophy, she lays it out openly in the light for everyone's scrutiny, without worry of being proven wrong or ridiculed.

On the Fool's Day

Saturday, April 1 2006 AIR INDIA Flight 126 17h 45m, 8037 miles Makes 1 Stop Chicago - Ohare Intl (ORD) Chicago, IL Departs: 6:00 PM Saturday, April 1, 2006 To Mumbai (Bombay) Intl (BOM) Mumbai, India Arrives: 11:15 PM Sunday, April 2, 2006 Aircraft Boeing 747-400 (Jet)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

V for Vendetta

V for Vendetta is a very good movie. It is worth a watch, and then one more. The Wachowski brothers display a superb mastery of their art in writing up an intelligent, thought-provoking, witty and engaging screenplay. One does not need to dwell too much on the plot however – it is only perfunctory, and serves mainly as a vehicle to move the story along. The true purpose of the movie is to dish out ideas. It creates characters that cannot quite easily be compartmentalized into the “good” guys or the “bad” guys, and sets them out to enact their ideas with complete consistency. And that is one of the most amazing things I noticed about this movie – all the characters who embody varying premises act out the full logical implications of their ideas. The movie dramatizes and concretizes abstract premises and sets in motion their eventual logical outcomes. Consistency is always potent – even if it is based on false or ant-real premises. Infact, Communism and National Socialism (which are dramatized in the movie to differing degrees) are superbly consistent philosophies developed by highly intelligent thinkers – the power of their logic invariably bends many human minds into succumbing to the potency of their theories. Islamic fundamentalism, as another example, is an ideology that is highly consistent with its anti-life premises based on the Koran. Contradictions and inconsistencies dilute the power of ideas, and consequently, the actions based upon inconsistent belief systems are also tepid, guilt-laden, and thoroughly impotent. However, notice that Islamic militants, regardless of their actual numbers, are the most powerful threat of western values and culture; the consistency with which they hold their ideas make them a truly formidable enemy even for the might of the American military. V for Vendetta generates much fodder for discussion, blogging, thinking, and arguing. The quality of acting of the female lead, Natalie Portman, is average at best, and that of the main character who is masked… well, he is masked. The fact that he is masked is an interesting aspect of who he is – that aspect is itself an embodiment of a very fundamental principle. At one point in the movie, the masked character says “a building is a symbol” and that to destroy a building is to attack a symbol with another symbol, then at another point in the movie he says, “Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. There is an idea.” He also says, (I’m paraphrasing): I am not the face beneath this mask, or the skin on that face, or the muscles under the skin, of the bones beneath it. The common theme in all of those statements is the expression of the mind-body dichotomy; a principle of Platonic Idealism. That fact that the character describes himself solely on the basis of the ideas he embodies (having no regard for his physicality) corroborates my argument. Moreover, the plot of the movie is such that the character’s face or physical identity is never revealed due to the existential necessities of events. The film is slick, the action sequences are superb, there were moments in the film when I experienced goose-bumps going through my body – those moments were mostly when I could recognize and identify the abstract principles which were being dramatized by the characters – it gave me the chance to witness ideas in action safely on the cinema screen without having to deal with their devastating consequences in reality. Film, when used properly as a medium of art, can be a truly powerful medium. link to: IMDB

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Love, Me

I can’t command your tears to stop flowing I cannot demand that your soul stop weeping I can only pretend to not see it Or see past through them And offer only A stony silence in response So that through your blurry vision You only get to see the stoicism I borrowed from the girders Of this city I so love Donning their cold facades Their reticent heights of pride Vicarious expressions are All I permit myself before you They stand proud for me And I do the same for you It’s the way they show the best that can be And I offer all their best to you. Love, Me.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Islamic Militant's Demand

If someone points a gun at you and demands that you sacrifice your values or lose your life, exactly what are your options? Is it really a life versus values alternative? If a mother was forced to die or sacrifice her infant child, what are the alternatives she faces? Her life versus her value (infant's life)? The alternative of one's life vs. one's values has to be a false one because the concept of value is inseparable from the concept of life. Without life, there can be no values, and without values, there is no life. In fact, life itself is your ultimate value that makes all others possible. Thus, when someone points a gun at you and demands that you sacrifice your values or die, he is really offering you death as your only choice. Existence without any possibility of values is like existing as an inanimate object. It is a spiritual, psychological, and also physical death. A state of stagnation and slow death. So, when the Islamic militants and fundamentalist ideologues demand that we give up our absolute right to think freely, to put those thoughts into words freely, to draw or write our thoughts out freely, what they are demanding is our death – a death by slow decay. They first attempt to kill our minds, our spirit, and then they let slow decay take us to death. If we only held the meaning of their demand in the clarity of their true essence, we would observe how precarious a situation our very existence in this world is if we let these subversive attacks go unchallenged without overt retaliation. Back in 1989, Peikoff wrote an editorial about the Iran death threat against Salman Rushdie as signs of a religious terrorism that is subversively attacking our fundamental western values. Peikoff had said, “Terrorism unpunished is terrorism emboldened.” He called for immediate retaliation against such threats of violence because if left unchallenged, the terrorists are not only emboldened by our pacifism, but more importantly, we begin to believe and succumb to their demands, their manipulations and lose our convictions in our core values. When we begin to secede our values and compromise on the absolutism of freedom, we lose them altogether in a matter of time. Back in 1989, Peikoff called for the United States to take military action alone or with allies against Iran “until the Iranian government rescinds the Ayatollah’s death decree.” He called for military targets in Iran that include “known training camps where Iranian terrorists are being schooled and bred.” That was back in 1989. Now in 2006, the tepid American government is still trying to figure out how to deal with Iran and other Muslim fundamentalists without supposedly offending Muslims in general. The physical, psychological, and cultural offense against the American people and their core values seem to not hold much importance in the eyes of its own government. In the meantime, Iran keeps emboldening its rhetoric, it openly threatens Americans and Israelis, it builds a nuclear weapons program, and recruits Jihadis to fight American soldiers. Even before Peikoff spoke about any of this, even before Islamic terrorism became a global forefront issue, Ayn Rand in one of her 1960’s essay in “Philosophy: Who Needs It” said, “The conflict of reason versus mysticism is the issue of life or death – or freedom or slavery – or progress or stagnant brutality… Reason is the only objective means of communication and of understanding among men; when men deal with one another by means of reason, reality is their objective standard and frame of reference. But when men claim to possess supernatural means of knowledge, no persuasion, communication or understanding is possible.”

Jim Valliant in DePaul University, Chicago

via NoodleFood How I wish I could be here to attend this. :-( But I am being forced to vacate this country. I wonder who is the beneficiary of this sacrifice of my values that is being demanded of me? I can't think of anyone in particular... it's like all of AMERICA, the collective glob demands the sacrifice from me, but none (no individual person in America) really will experience consciously any kind of benefit from it. A sacrifice being demanded for its own sake - worse than altruism, which is a sacrifice for others (probably a post for another time).

Monday, March 20, 2006

Kindness and Generosity: Are They Really 'Virtues'?

Greg Perkins, the newest inductee of Noodlefood, recently posted his thoughts about Kindness, Generosity and Charity - concepts of human behavior that have been typically considered as virtues belonging to the altruistic domain. Greg reacts to Tara Smith's discussion of this issue in her larger study of the egoist ethics in her forthcoming book, Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist. It might help to keep in mind that a virtue is that which you do to achieve your rational values, and a vice is that which you do to achieve your irrational values. Therefore, about Kindness, Generosity and Charity, one must ask - what are the values I will be achieving inorder for my kindness, generosity and charity to be considered acts of virtue? Are the values rational? Here are some excerpts from Greg's post:
People commonly presume that egoists must be averse to kindness, generosity, and charity because of the focus on benefit to others. And it doesn't hurt that these are high on the list of altruist virtues that are drilled into people from birth as demanded by said sacrificial code. ...Dr. Smith turned that defensive stance around and talked about how the common presumption is utterly backward. It is the selfish egoists who are naturally inclined to kindness, generosity, and charity, while the selfless altruists are not. ...altruists work to constantly convince themselves that kindness, generosity, and charity are important virtues they must strive to practice -- and no accident that they are reflexively concerned with how we egoists fare regarding them. Well, I for one expect rational egoists to fare wonderfully because our creed actually encourages us to value our lives and the people in them. ...egoists are all about trading on every level and in every way -- people can be very valuable to us... it is easy and natural for us to look well upon those close to us (and at least neutrally on those we don't know) and express our esteem for them and their actual or potential value in the form of kindness, generosity, and charity. Especially when it is an expression of our more important values. Acting this way can be good and is indeed "no big deal," so we certainly don't need to have it drilled into us. We are naturally predisposed to (appropriate) use of kindness, generosity, and charity.

ARI Campaign in New York

According to this US Newswire press release, the ARI will be sending Peter Schwartz to join a panel to discuss free speech issues concerning the Danish cartoons in the context of the muslim violence:
Summary: ARI's Peter Schwartz will participate in a panel discussion on the Mohammed cartoon controversy. He will explain: Why the eruption of violence and the issuance of death threats make completely irrelevant the question of whether the cartoons are in bad taste. Why the idea that freedom of the press must be "coupled with press responsibility" means that free speech is not a right, but a fleeting permission. Why every Western newspaper and media outlet should have immediately re-published or shown the cartoons in solidarity with the cartoonists. Why the cowardly and appeasing response of many Western governments -- including our own -- will only invite further aggression. Other panelists will present their own views.
It will be held at New York University on March 29, 7pm. Unfortunately, by that date, I will either already have been kicked out of this country or be packing to leave by the next day. If I weren't in the situation that I am, I would certainly make another trip out to the east coast to attend the event. To me, attending events like this are not only incredibly informative and stimulating, but also much fun. It concretizes for me, in very actual and practical terms, the meaning of "pursuit of one's values". I hope that my readers in New York and around the northeast coast (if any) might feel the same way as I do, and make some effort to attend the event.

Hating Men and Praising God

I was watching American Inventor a few days ago. I liked the show because it is among the very few ones on TV that proudly and guiltlessly claims its purpose as encouraging and rewarding the genius thinking minds that produce and view the materials of this world in a way that no one else does. It recognizes ability and innovativeness and rewards it for that sake. In the same token, the show also openly critizes and insults many ideas for their mediocrity and downright stupidity. There is no shame, no apology, no guilt in any of that. The purpose is to find the BEST, and nothing less will do. On the other hand, I am disgusted by shows like The Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, where the more hopelessly pathetic your existence is, the more likely you will be rewarded with a wonderful home makeover. To me this show represents so much that I despise about the culture of altruism and self-sacrifice. The recipients of the makeover get rewarded not for their ability but for their inabilities, not for their genius, but for their failings, for their stagnancy. They not only breed on the productive capacities of others, but resort to some kind of superior legitimacy over the producers by virtue of their incapacities - that is one of the evil sides of altruism. And ultimately, the height of injustice comes about when these owners of free, new homes go about the streets yelling the praises of the Lord. They fling their hands out and cry out their thanks and gratitude to some mystic deity. It is the worst display of parasitism. These people will never once recognize and utter the glory of man that makes all their wonderful homes possible, but the moment there is a disaster, and unfortunate calamity, a little mishap they pounce of the men of ability and attempt to break their working spines. They are quick to blame the engineers of a bridge that collapsed for whatever reason, but when that bridge was being built, they praised the wonder of God working through the minds of men. They are quick to denounce the businesses that provide food, oil, and jobs as evil profiteers, but in the same breath they praise God for their good fortunes and the food they serve at their table everyday. Men have to make the houses so that these people can yell the wonders of God. If their God were only so wonderful, why wouldn’t He come down Himself and build the homes for the faithful? When there is something praiseworthy, it is directed to some mystical higher power (humans couldn’t possibly perform acts deserving of such praise, they assume). When there is something blameworthy, there aren’t enough men around to place to blame upon.

ARI at Johns Hopkins University

"Unveiling the Danish Cartoons: America's Right to Free Speech" Dr. Yaron Brook and Dr. Onkar Ghate represented the ARI at this forum organized at the Johns Hopkins University by the campus Objectivist club. One note about the organization of the event: the logistics of the event were handled very poorly. The organizers had made very last minute changes to the location of the event without early notification and without putting up proper signs at the cancelled location. It took me and a few others a whole while to figure out that we were at the wrong place waiting for nothing to happen. Moreover, the organizers had intended to invite one other Islamic panelist but provided such short notice that it was not accepted. I felt the debate could have been more beneficial and engaging with more representation from the Islamic point of view. Anyway, besides the ARI scholars, other panelists included Mr. Charles Mitchell from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and Mr. Bash Pharoan, President of the Baltimore County Islamic Council. Quite frankly, and I am not being biased here, Mr. Pharoan’s arguments were so naïve in many ways – his historical statements so inaccurate – his understanding of his own religion was so inadequate – like for example, he could not get away from the false notion that his “truth” is based on the Koran and therefore, according to him, the Koran speaks of peace and does not permit violence. But it does not take much intellectual effort to realize that even the terrorists base the legitimacy of their actions on the Koran, and even they claim that the Koran speaks the Truth, however their extrapolation of the “truth” somehow is diametrically opposed to the “truth” Mr. Pharoan seems to be reading. Dr. Brook pointed out correctly that any recourse to “truths” based in holy books is meaningless. He said he did not want to get into the nitty-gritty of which verse of the Koran says what. The general principles and ideologies of Islam, Dr. Brook argued, stood in opposition to fundamental Western values. Islam is a religion – and as all religions, Islam demands its doctrines to be accepted on faith. Any attack on those doctrines – even verbal or pictorial – is considered blasphemous, a sacrilege, a spite on the word of God, His prophet, and His religion. It must be smothered. Thus, faith necessarily stands in opposition to Enlightenment values of reason, persuasion, experimentation, discussion, etc. Dr. Ghate and Dr. Brook spoke in some length clarifying how Christianity suffered and underwent the same phase of battling Enlightenment values and finally has now come to accept it – keeping Church and State separate just as it keeps Church and Science separate (although both only to some degree). Islam, they argued, needs urgently to undergo that same transformation in order to co-exist peacefully with cultures that embrace the Enlightenment values. Islamic theocracies and Islamic infiltration in all aspects of a human's life is the ideological cause of its embattlement with Western values. During most of the event, Mr. Mitchell from FIRE was mostly silent – because he really had nothing to say. In the rare moments that he did speak, Mitchell displayed a disgustingly cowardly defense of his values by prefacing every argument he made by a long line of disclaimers. He made it a point to not take a position on the religious and philosophical principles underlying the Free Speech issue (in the context of the violent Muslim reaction), and even though his arguments were supposed to be for the protection of speech, he offered nothing more than mere repeated assertions with no persuasive force of principle or philosophy. There were times when Dr. Ghate or Dr. Brook had to provide those foundations to Mr. Mitchell’s statements. At one point Dr. Ghate even pointed out that while he agreed with Mr. Mitchell’s sentiments, his logic was flawed – and then Dr. Ghate proceeded to trace the proper logical argument. The issue was concerning American political system as being a democracy or not. Dr. Ghate very logically demonstrated that America was not originally created, and we are still not a democracy as such, but a Republic founded on the rights of individuals that are enshrined in our Constitution. Dr. Brook pointed out that the Declaration of Independence is a very insulting document to the monarchy of England and to all monarchies in general. And that is the spirit of freedom and independence that America was built upon. Therefore, Dr. Brook argued, that the right to insult is among the very essential guarantees of the right to free speech. Dr. Brook also heavily derided the Europeans for their contradictory mess of hate-speech laws and pointed out correctly that there is no such thing as hate-speech, and it should not be punishable by law. Mr. Pharoan kept insisting that the militant factions of Islam were a terribly small minority, and that they did not represent the true Islamic religion. Dr. Brook argued that unless the Islam community on the whole did not accept and realize that they have a true and real crisis in their religion, that their religion is truly being hijacked by a sizeable, powerful, and ruthless number of militants, they will not be able to convince anybody that Islam is a religion of peace. The militant ideologues – even if they are only a minority – are certainly speaking louder in actions and slogans than the rest of the Islamic communities. And America has a right to respond to them with equal force, and western newspapers should stand together in solidarity and print more offensive cartoons or publications to purposely spite the violent anti-freedom rioters.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Quick Post from the Capital

I'm here in the capital of the United States, in a little Caribou Coffee shop, taking a break from a long day's activities. Attended the Johns Hopkings event in Baltimore last night with Dr. Brook and Dr. Ghate from the ARI; there were many uniformed police officers to provide security for the event. At the end of the debate, I was able to privately have a small discussion with Dr. Ghate; I was totally impressed by his deep understanding of Objectivism and his ability to unravel issues to expose their underlying principles. Especially loved his comments on the consistency of religious militants and therefore their consequent successes, the exploration of the meaning of democracy and the American Republic system. This morning, I noticed that the Baltimore Sun ran a report of the Hopkins event. The article is most expert at missing most of the crucial points of the debate and rattling dry facts sprinkled with contextless quotes. My own review is forthcoming. Then drove down 30 miles from Baltimore to Washington DC this morning to attend the National Press Club event of the introduction of The Objectivist Standard, at which Dr. Brook gave his presentation on "Just War Theory vs. American Self-Defense". Very good speech. Clarified many issues for me - I specifically asked questions about my concern regarding the tension between open immigration and national security issues. Again, details are forthcoming in later posts. It's been a great trip so far! Enjoying my last few days in this country engaging in activities that I value deeply. This is the experience of joy - the achievement of one's rational values.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The "Bombing" Times of India

"Explosives Found in Mumbai Railway Station" - Times of India, March 11, 2006. Here are some pictures of that bomb that was defused safely. Another possible terrorist attack on Goa was foiled "with the arrest of a militant with explosives, including one [kilogram] of RDX, and firearms from Margoa railway station, 30 km from Panaji [state capital]. These events come only a few days after the Varanasi bombings. :-) India beckons.

Beggars Deserve Worse Than What They Get

I have utter disdain for beggars. If I could think of more appropriate words to describe the true depths of spite I have for those creatures, I would use them. My hatred for beggars is so great that sometimes in my utter contempt for them I wish to throw them a dime or two to demonstrate their worth to me and to this world – but then I stop myself because even a dime is too generous and too precious. In fact, even a momentary pause to contemplate the act of giving them anything is enough generosity already. Furthermore, it would be an insult to the sanctity and value of money, and to the virtue of producers that produce the money to hurl it at a beggar even if it is out of spite. My de facto position is this: one cannot possibly be helpless beggars on the street in a country like America. Given where I am from, I have seen men steal pieces of bread from the mouth of dogs – and no, that is not an exaggeration – I did see that once. In a country like the United States, being a beggar and claiming utter helplessness for one’s fate is not just dishonesty of the most contemptible form, but truly and actually the countenance of evil. It is worse if the beggar is an able-bodied person. There are men and women with disabilities who have achieved far more than many of us will ever achieve. I understand different people have different levels of capabilities that might permit differing standards of achievement. Regardless, the point is that utter metaphysical helplessness is not possible to a free man in a society that allows for alternatives and self-autonomy. The helplessness one succumbs to is of one’s own psychological weakness – or downright lethargic evilness. When I see a beggar on the streets of Chicago here with some lousy sign like “I’m just hungry”, I typically don’t give them any thought at that moment. However, I wish I could be able to muster at least the effort to give them a spiteful look or kick their can of coins out of my way – though, of course, all of that is to ask too much of my mind for such low-lives as them. I am thinking of beggars right now only because it suddenly struck me – and shocked me – that they have the gall to proudly and shamelessly flaunt their worthlessness when what they fundamentally possess is something I so deeply desire and wish I could have. They are citizens of the United States! They have fundamentally all that I only wish I could have – and what I should rightfully possess! So, how dare they exist as worms and force the responsibility of their existence upon the rest of us! If only I had what they have. If only I could be allowed to live in this country and be permitted access to everything this country has to offer – oh how I would prosper! These beggars really have no excuse. There is always a farm somewhere that could need extra hands to harvest the crops. There certainly is a pig-pen somewhere that might need to be cleaned and tended. There definitely is a fast-food joint somewhere in this huge country that needs someone to clean its toilets. You’re hungry? Go earn your burger! You have the right to do it. I don’t!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Nice Gathering

So, the other day, some of my ex-co-workers and I gathered at Bennigan's on Michigan Ave for a little evening together. It was a nice and totally fun evening. They were among the only people I got along with at work. We laughed rambunctiously, and talked about all kinds of things... our conversations have known to range from female genital mutilation to Nazi co-workers to Elephantisis. Anyway, it was a fun evening - worthy of keeping good memories to take with me.

A Quote to Inspire

“…only a true atheist can fully marvel at the miracle called "life" and the incredible job our lives have done with this world.” -- Ergo, from Sept. 19, 2005: Thought of the Day

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Ayn Rand Institute at the Johns Hopkins University

Since I am now unemployed with plenty of time on my hands and a decent amount of money saved up, I'm going to make this weekend roadtrip to Baltimore, Maryland to attend the debate session organized by the Objectivist club of Johns Hopkins University. ARI will be sending the really cool Dr. Yaron Brook (whose debate I attended at the University of Chicago, and was fully impressed by him) and Dr. Onkar Ghate. The event is on Monday, 13th of March at 7pm. It's part of ARI's new and really important Free Speech Campaign, which will seek to aggresively disseminate the Mohammed cartoons in a defiant expression of free speech - even if it is offensive speech (which is the very purpose of protecting speech as such!) So, that's where I will be. The way I see it, I have nothing to lose and so much to gain by pursuing this value - something I will be fully deprived of when I go to India.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Fish

The fish is wading into shallow waters, distantly feeling the impending sense of panic… it knows the net has been cast; it only waits to be tangled in its web. It cannot see a way out, nor does it have any hope that there might be one. It slowly wades towards the sharp twines of the web. It ponders its tortured, writhing battle for survival as it will be taken out of the ocean in one swift and smooth motion. It will be quiet, it knows, it cannot make a sound. But it's body, it's spirit will twist in pangs of anguish. It will gasp, and choke, and flap, and splatter, spilling its guts and its blood, gashing its flesh, battling for life again. But for now, it only silently ponders the imminent. It makes up its mind - to take one last and final gasp of the water it breathes - one large gulp of the freedom - before it dives into the last battle of its life.

Jesus Had it Way Easier

So, today was my last day on the job. I had to quit today, tie all the loose ends, complete pending projects, and clean out my desks before the end of the day. Actually, I ended up staying way later than everyone else. All day I had people coming over to my desk telling me how much they would miss me. All the managers gathered for lunch and sponsored a pizza and salad send-off party. I was very pleased and touched by their show of appreciation. I received a card with everyone’s little notes of support and appreciation. I received emails with some really sincere compliments. Leaving work at the end of the day was really hard. Walking out of the tower, onto the cold, wide-open plaza, I felt like I was stepping into an epistemological unknown. It was disturbing and very disconcerting. I looked up at the buildings around me, I heard the blare of the NBC studio news station, I watched the street lights switch signals, and I felt such a deep sense of sadness. I will so intensely miss the evidence and spectacle of this human greatness all around me, of human achievement, of all the materialistic wonders that this city so proudly boasts. As I walked, looking all around me, paying unusually keen attention to everything, I wanted to cry at some moments, but I couldn’t. So, I sang aloud instead. I sang and hummed my way as I walked – aloud; singing anything, just expressing my love for this life, for this city, for this country, and for everything I have experienced here. As I climbed onto a bus, I stood by the door for a moment and watched it carefully as it closed, and for a moment I marveled at the ingeniousness of the mind that created the technology that expresses its greatest achievement by the fact that it goes unnoticed most of the time. Machine and technology so smoothly and undisturbingly applied to the service of human life. I am going to lose so much of what makes me me. A part of me will be lost after I leave America. The part of me that has a greed for freedom and independence. The part of me that has this passionate pursuit of my own happiness. The part of me that seeks to lose itself in the greatness of other minds and their ideas. I will miss the witness of free and open speech expressed in the movies, music, books, politics, news reports, and media. I will miss the challenge of ideas, the battle of opinions, the occasional triumph of truth, and the joy all of that brings. I will miss the myriad of choices for any and everything offered here, the wonderful variety of vegetables and meat at a grocery store, of cuisines and restaurants, of theaters and cultural events. I will miss the capitalist system of competition that allows for so many FREE provisions like free wireless internet, free samples in the supermarket, free give-away prizes, free concerts in the summer, free pulic parks with world-class technology. All these are materialistic values. But they express the most treasured values of my life for me. They express the fundamental values that makes all the rest possible. And very soon, I will be deprived of the material and the spiritual. I am facing a sacrifice of the spirit, of the mind, of my soul – far worse than anything Jesus had to endure. He, assuming he was God and all, WANTED to be crucified. It was part of his divine plan. He wanted to die for us, and so he did. Hardly a sacrifice if what he got in return (the souls of the world) was a far better deal than what he had to give up – his temporary physicality.. Besides, clearly, being that he was God, he obviously had to merely play “mock death” – and then rise up again 3 days later. Only his corporeal façade was crucified, not his divine spirit. I am a full and complete human being. I DO NOT want to die - especially not a decaying death of the spirit. I have no plans of crucifying myself. The sacrifice of my spiritual values is a true sacrifice because I’m getting shit in return. My spiritual values will be taken away, and along with it will also go all my physical and material values. What I get in return is stagnation, decay, loss of direction, lack of self-autonomy, and an environment of coercive repression. I do not want this, and yet I have to face it. Mine is truly a higher sacrifice.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

A Quote for a Lifetime

"You see, I'm an atheist. And I have only one religion; the sublime in human nature. There is nothing to approach the sanctity of the highest man possible, and there is nothing that gives me the same reverent feeling, the feeling when one's spirit wants to kneel bareheaded... do not call it hero-worship, because it is more than that. It is a kind of strange and improbable white heat, where admiration becomes religion and religion becomes philosophy and philosophy, the whole of one's life." - Ayn Rand

Friday, March 03, 2006

Again, Someone Yells Louder than Me

Below is an excerpt of the article "On Campus: The Abolition of Art" I came across on the internet today, written by Nathanael Blake for Townhall.com. I presume he is a conservative political columnist. The excerpt I quote below has a startling resemblance in my opinion to something formulated independently by another intelligent thinker* who was gracious enough to post his theory** on this blog. The topic of the article - given by its title - is about the rotting degradation of art by modernist movements:
"H. R. Rookmaaker, Chair of Art History at the Free University of Amsterdam, wrote a masterful book on the subject, Modern Art and the Death of a Culture. Modern art did not spring upon us from a void, but came from a philosophical progression spanning centuries. During medieval times, art was primarily created to represent the transcendental. It was religious and devotional in nature, with each painting a visual sermon. Such art sought to represent universal truths about God and man; it was not always realistic in its physical representations, but it sought to present spiritual truth. ... [The] rise of Humanism also inspired a rise in what could be called the portrayal of the ideal. These scenes were not necessarily religious or Christian, but they still sought to portray universals, from heroism to love."
Nathaneal Blake remembers Rand's insight of the philosophical importance of Art in man's life:
"Like many conservatives, I dislike Ayn Rand, but she deserves credit for her insight on this point. In The Fountainhead, the gloating villain explains that to destroy theater, you declare puerile prattle to be a masterpiece; to destroy architecture, you elevate an incompetent to prominence. And, I would add, to abolish art, you declare a manufactured urinal to be a masterpiece. A vital part of our cultural heritage has been raped, and most of us are unaware and unconcerned."
Rand understood that Art served to concretize one's widest abstractions, one's conscious and subconscious sense of life, one's own metaphysical value judgments. She herself concretized those elements of her values, her benevolent and efficacious view of the universe and of man's place in it, her proud and joyous sense of life, and her groundbraking philosophy of Objectivism in her amazing works of literary Art, which are now classics in every sense of the word. In the Romantic Manifesto, Rand gives a very lucid and extensive exposition of the central role of Art in a man's philosophy, and the reciprocal centrality that philosophy plays in the artistic expressions of man.

The Date Has Been Set

According to Objectivist politics of laissez-faire capitalism, the government has no right to dictate the goals, values, and interests of its people. A government cannot command or even request its citizens to pursue certain goals and sacrifice others, give up certain values or embrace others, or suppress your own interests for the interests of others. The role of the government is merely to police the law and order of the country, protect the rights of the individuals, and provide security from violence or threats. Rand said that we give government the legal monopoly on force to commit those acts in our name that if undertaken by any other individual or insitution, would be a criminal act. Why do we give the government such a monopoly? Among other things, to ensure the objectivity of the standards of law, avoid conflicts of interest, and protect individuals pursuing their own values freely. Thus, it can be clearly understood that under a rational rule of law where the ethics of self-interest and laissez-faire capitalism are the standard, there will never be any conflicts of interest among rational individuals or between them and the government, because given the proper conceptual understanding of sacrifice, none shall be demanded or required from anybody. However, America is not laissez-faire. Nor does it function consistently on the ethics of self-interest. Therefore, in such a system, some people will inevitably and unavoidably have to sacrifice their own selves and their values. In such a system, conflicts are a logical outgrowth of the contradictory practices of mixed premises. Therefore, in America some groups of people have the right to pursue their own happiness in the form of marriage with their chosen partners, and some groups are denied that right. Some groups of people are afforded unearned or undeserved access to opportunities in labor, career, education, social services, food, minimum wages, etc. while some groups are not. These are instances of the values that some are forced to sacrifice while others are allowed to possess without much or any effort. The accidental situation of one's birth in America opens virtually unlimited access and opportunities to them regardless of their indolence or true merits. The arbitrary granting of the right to pursue one's own values based upon a metaphysical accident of nature is the standard of law in this country by which all are forcibly treated equal - the productive, the creative, the ingenius, the deserving, are degraded to a level equal to the slothful, the parasitic, the lazy, the dishonest, the criminal. Such is the imminence I am personally facing: the upcoming date which has been set for the execution of my values. Sixty days from today the United States government will demand that I sacrifice my self-interests and leave this country. I will comply because under force I have no choice. Staying on in this country and being branded as "illegal" would be a worse attack on my liberty and values, the consequences of which I will be forced to bear indefinitely into the long-term future. There is no choice between alternatives that are forced upon me and both of which result in self-sacrifice either way. Sixty days.