Saturday, April 29, 2006

Indian Randian

I was quite delighted to come across this Indian blogger's website, Yazadjal.com, who shares a positive interest in Ayn Rand and Objectivism. I don't know how developed and accurate his understanding of Objectivism is, but I enjoyed reading some of his posts. This one post onYazadjal.com reminded me of another favorite article I read a long time ago at the Von Mises Institute website. Here's a particularly lovely quote from that article: "[Rand] was a master at what one of my colleagues calls reductio ad claritatem, "reduction to clarity"— i.e., the method of refuting a position by stating it clearly—as when she wrote that "if some men are entitled by right to the products of the work of others, it means that those others are deprived of rights and condemned to slave labor," or when she summarized the view that human perception is unreliable because limited by the nature of our sensory organs as: "man is blind, because he has eyes—deaf, because he has ears.""

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Animal "Rights" Trump Human Rights

It has finally come to pass - Chicago has banned the sale of foie gras in the city's restaurants. They use terms as "inhumane treatment of birds" to defend their ban. I'm only little surprised by the twisted and corrupt multi-level dishonesty this represents. On one level, they believe there is some modicum of respect for birds (or any other animals) if we treat them well right before we actually chop them into little kababish pieces, or mince them into fine ground meat, or stuff them into tiny cans. Then they talk about avoiding "inhumane treatment of animals" while completely ignoring the fact that the word "inhumane" has at its root, the reference to *human*! It is a corruption of language to rob the proper meaning and references of these concepts and apply it to something totally different. What is truly inhumane here is the legal refusal to allow a human being to enjoy the rewards of his labor and his achievements. It is fully immoral and inhumane to tell a man what he can and cannot do with his own money! It is inhumane to deprive a human being his values and his enjoyment. And it is especially immoral to sacrifice the rights and the enjoyment of human life for a hypocritical committment to the "rights" of animals! It is hypocritical because how can you defend the "right" of an animal to be treated well when alive, when the sole purpose of the animal's being kept alive is for it to be killed, chopped, minced, or canned for our consumption! Besides, on what standard and logical foundation is the concept of rights applicable to animals? Peter Singer, and his ilk, have at best an insanely warped concept of rights. If a right is merely to guarantee the curtailment or abolition of suffering (like of animals) then one must ask: should we stop the regular wars of the jungles by imprisoning predatory animals that hunt and brutally, grotesquely kill their prey? Should we apply the concept of rights to animals in the wild, protect helpless preys from their predators, and "civilize" nature's brutish society of 'survival of the fittest'? If the utilitarian concept of rights is the standard, then every little creature - even a worm on the ground - has rights. In one of my earlier posts on "Response to Singer", I said "rights are tools and requirements to protect life" and by that I mean *human* life. Life is our most basic value, and the right to life protects and guarantees that basic value. However, rights are not existential entities but conceptual things that we are able to grasp due to the nature of our consciousness. Our consciousness is necessarily conceptual and volitional. That is its nature. Hence, it is *only* to human consciousness (and not that of plants or animals) that the concept of rights, violation of rights, morality, evil, inhumane treatment, etc. are all applicable. An animal has no concept of "life" as such, and therefore cannot have a value of life. Their rudimentary consciousness only filters in sensations of pain and pleasure which conveys its physical existence to itself and guides its instintual responses. Its responses of pain, fright, pleasure, loyalty, fun, sadness, play, etc. are simple responses to postive or negative re-inforced stimuli. To claim that an animal possesses conceptual knowledge of values like life, sadness, joy or love, would mean that animals have some degree of self-awareness, that they understand to some degree the meaning of existing versus not existing, and that they enjoy positive life-affirming values like joy, love and fun. If we concede that animals have a conceptual grasp of their existence and of life-affirming values, then we will also have to accept the notion that animals have free will and volition, that they are not instinctual beings, that if they understand what life-affirming values are, then they must also know what negative values must be, and which ones to choose. The introduction of choices and alternatives implies a consciousness that can choose from those alternatives. Thus, we must reach the conclusion that if an animal can choose life and other life-affirming values, then it could also possibly choose death and destructive values - volitionally. An animal does not fight a threat or flee from danger because it values its life, but because it is instinctually and automatically hard-wired in such a way as to remain in existence or maintain the existence of its progeny. To claim that animals have some conceptual value of life would necessitate that one also claim that some animals do infact wish to die, or commit suicide, or wilfully destroy its chances of procreation. To ascribe the concept of value to animals would also necessitate logically to ascribe the concept of non-value. However, humans are the only species on Earth with a conceptual and volitional faculty; with a consciousness that is aware of itself and of the world it exists in. It is only to humans that conceptual values are applicable, these are not natural values like sunlight or water that is common to all species on Earth, but things like our existence, success, joy, pride, etc. - that are unique only to us, and have to be chosen and pursued volitionally to be of value to us - and for which we possess fundamental moral rights commensurate with fundamental moral values so that they are always guaranteed to us. Therefore, a culture that insists on applying the concept of rights to animals, a culture led by intellectually dishonest men like Peter Singer, are infact looking to rob those rights from humans. By declaring the rights of a volitional, conceptual being as invalid and less important than the so-called rights of a beast, they nullify the very basic values life and freedom and happiness that the fundamental rights are supposed to guarantee. This does not reveal their love for animals but their disgusting hatred for humanity.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Wonders of Capitalism

Capitalism is advancing quite surprisingly in a region of the world least expected to have free market policies given its location - and this region is a kingdom, no less! According to this AP report, Dubai is the fast growing city in the middle-east, and its government's flagship airline "Emirates" is gaining tremendous momentum in its race to compete with global carriers. Emirates Airlines, despite being government owned, "receives few, if any, government favors. In the Middle East, not usually considered a bastion of bare-knuckle capitalism, Emirates was born and raised in ultra-competitive Dubai, where 110 airlines compete under an "open skies" policy." "Over the past six years, Emirates' capacity and traffic have leaped by more than 25 percent a year as its network spread relentlessly wider." It has also consistently received awards and recognition for its superior service. ""That's how you hone your competitive survival skills. You don't do it by getting all kinds of protection," said Daniel Kasper, an airline consultant in Cambridge, Mass. with consultancy LECG. "That's a feather in their cap to be able to do this in a market that's as open as Dubai." Emirates plans on spending around $33 billion on purchasing 123 new airplanes to compete with Western and Asian carriers. According to the report, Emirates Airlines has profited immensely from Dubai's heavy investment on infrastructure and a "zero-tax rate". Dubai also has managed to keep labor costs and salaries low by absolutely prohibting unions. ""European carriers have not seen a competitor like this before," adds the UBS report. "

Indian Slang

So, being around fellow Indians in this “natural” Indian setting, I have become to privy to a great many conversations happen all around me every time I step out of the house. Given that this country has about a billion people, and the city of Mumbai has around 20 million people, any expectations of personal space, privacy or some such flights of fancy are precisely that – flights of fancy! Anyway, what I wanted to get at was that I have found myself being rather amused by the things I hear people saying here. Indian slang is just ridiculously silly – and I love silly humor! So, I decided to try and translate some of the Indian slang most commonly used here in India. I hope the humor in them is not lost in translation. J Khalli pilli – Empty wempty – used when one wants to say there is no significance or value in something being said. For example, if you said I have dandruff in my hair, and I disagreed with you, I would say something like “why are you saying such empty wempty things?!” Topi lagana – to put on a cap/hat – used when one wants to say that someone lied to him or deceived him about something. For example, if I realize that you lied to me and I believed the lie, I would say that you put a cap on my head. Chapter – Chapter (pronounced as in English, though the last r is emphatically stressed) – used to designate someone as being an odd one of a kind; a derogatory designation for someone who is considered foolish, naïve, strange, etc. For example, that guy is a chapter, he always messes up things at work. High-funda – high logic – used to express someone’s sophisticated mannerisms or educated language, or something smart or high cultured. For example, being that it is common to eat with your fingers in India, if someone saw you eating with silverware, they would something like “hey, don’t be high-funda. Just eat like normal people.” I can't think of any more funny Indian slangs right now. I'll post some more later as I come across them again.

Ayn Rand at Uni. of Chicago

I recieved an email from David Gulbraa at the ARI, reminding me of the Free-speech event at Chicago. How so unfortunate that I will be unable to attend. I feel it is imperative to engage in this debate over the absolutism of free speech: WHO: Dr. Yaron Brook of Ayn Rand Institute; Greg Lukianoff of FIRE; Tom Flynn of Free Inquiry magazine. WHAT: (1) A display of the controversial Danish cartoons depicting Muhammad (2) A panel discussion and Q & A on the meaning of the worldwide reaction to the cartoons WHERE: University of Chicago, Kent Chemical Laboratory Building, room 107, 1020 East 58th Street, Chicago, IL 60637. Location map: http://tinyurl.com/zwdle WHEN: Tuesday, April 25, 2006, 7 PM (doors open at 6:30 PM) Tickets: $2 tickets can be purchased at the door. Attendees may be required to go through a security checkpoint. In today's world, it is very important that we know and understand what our rights are, and know when they are being violated. The other day, I was watching the "Gospel of Judas" on Natural Geographic Channel. According to the documentary feature, scientists have recently unearthed a rare papyrus document that has been authenticated to be from around 180 A.D., approximately the same time when other early gospels and books of the New Testament were written. This new discovery, apparently, is the Gospel of Judas, and reveals a radically different perspective. It describes the events surrounding the betrayal and passion of Jesus through the eyes of Judas Iscariot. It claims that Judas' act of betrayal was infact required by Jesus so that the prophecies could be fulfilled. That Judas was terribly tormented by the burden Jesus placed upon him of being the betrayer. That all of this was required inorder to establish the messianic role of Jesus. That Judas only took 30 sheckels of silver in exchange for this betrayal (which apparently, is a piddly bit of change, given that Jesus was a much more significant value in exchange). And finally, that Judas was overcome with his grief and anguish at what he did, and so committed suicide immediately after the "betrayal". Anyway. The reason I bring this up is because it should be clear to christians and non-christians that this new evidence of a twist on christian theology is controversial, and already declared as heresy by the Catholic Church. The point, however, is that nowhere across the world, have Christians risen up in armed or violent protest against the scientists or historians who discovered this ancient document, none have asked for the be-heading of the "heretics" or "atheists". Another case I recently heard about involved an art installation of a nude statue that was originally titled "Zarathustra". Apparently, the artist was making the Neitzchean reference, which incidentally bears the same name as the Zoroastrian God/prophet. The Zoroastrian community (also known as Parsi's) decided that the nude statue was offensive to their religious sensitivities, and sent a number of emails to the artists and the gallery in protest. There was no violence, no call to arms, no burning of embassies, no destruction of the artwork or of property. Therefore, in the face of situations like these, when someone finds their most cherished beliefs challenged or revealed in a radically different manner, one needs to know exactly what their rights are and whether they are being violated. That will also guide them to the proper course of response and reaction. The violent muslim reaction to free speech speaks volumes about the character and philosophy of the Islamic faith. And our response to their violent intimidations will reveal the degree of committment with which we hold our values.

Monday, April 24, 2006

24 Year Old Children

So, today was my first day of being out of the house all day since I arrived in India. I left early this morning along with my dad to check out his factories and just look over the state of the business… I suppose. Frankly, I have very little idea of what’s happening at the factories. Dad asked that I come along, so I complied. Anyway, after that I had a meeting with my old college friend who now works for Disney India as their animation/promo editor. He’s got a lovely workplace, with all the latest and best equipment to do his job. He says the job also pays really well. Yet, he is persistently looking for jobs abroad – mostly in the US – because he just wants to get out of this country. It’s all a matter of the “quality of life”, he says. I whole heartedly agree with him. Well, so I spent practically all afternoon and evening with him; first at his work, then at his home nearby. Towards the evening, I started receiving intermittent phone calls from both my mom and my dad on my cell. “Just wanted to know where you are and what you’re doing,” they said. “Just checking.” Anyway. After I left my friends place, I headed over to the gym (I finally decided it was time to curb my gustatory enthusiasm, tone down the exuberance of my palate, and work up a real sweat). I received a couple more calls from my parents on my way to the gym – oh, just wondering where I was. “On my way to the gym”, I replied. Oh, okay. While at the gym, I usually leave my cell phone in the locker. After an intense and strenuous work out, I showered, freshened up, and checked my cell phone for messages: Twelve missed calls. All of them from Dad. I called back. “Where are you man?” Dad asked, a little irate. “On my way home from the gym now”. “Oh okay. Come fast!” I finally reach home. Mom and dad are glad to see me home. A few questions are asked – “how long were you at your friends? Where does he live? So long at the gym? Long work-out? Did you like it?” Okay, answered everything to their satisfaction. Decided to get some mango juice to drink. Dad goes off to the master bedroom, mom comes up to me and in a soft voice says, “it’s 9:30pm, good children don’t stay out this late. You must come home before 9:30. Don’t stay out late like bad boys.” That finally agitated me to no end. I decided to respond curtly, firmly, yet respectfully. “Mom,” I said, “there are no children here. I am a 24 year old adult male who has lived the past seven years of my life in the United States all by myself. I have made my own decisions, lived my life responsibly, and have made my own schedules. That is exactly what I intend to do here also. I will try my best to come home in the evenings as early as I can. But you should not give me a time, nor can I promise you a time by which I will be home every evening.” That was the end of the discussion. Mom didn’t respond. The topic switched to how my friend was doing and other ancillary matters. Was I hungry? Yes, okay. I got some food… picked up a book and ate while I read, quietly, while mom got herself settled for her evening of three favorite back-to-back soap operas. In the meantime, I wait… For my hair to grow.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Thank You

I was very happy to read the wonderful, thoughtful, and sincere comments from you all while I was gone. I want to say Thank You to each of you. You are a delight to blog with - I enjoy reading your blogs with regularity, and I'm glad that you find my site interesting enough to warrant your comments and kind support. The famous Aethlos of Weltanschauung and Streaming Weltanschauung, runs a few immensely popular blogs that posits a "world-view whose essence is to avoid viewing the world". His racy, pointed, satirical, and unique writing style succeeds in making me a regular reader. So, I am flattered that he took the time to construct an online shrine for me. Thank you Aethlos, and you are more than welcome to visit me in India if you wish. Innommable, you should be writing more often, especially more poems, because you have a style that I enjoy very often. Thanks for being a fun friend to blog and chat with. I will miss our late nights out - expanding our waist-sizes together, and our all-night discussions of everything and anything. I will miss our talking over each other and still following everything we said, and will miss having our regular Thai dins at Jits. I hope you and Pootie Potter enjoy a great and productive life together. Speaking of which, Detritus, you also should more frequently "dredge up from within" some of that "verbose and cluttersome filth" you are so good at "smearing about with [your] fingertips". The blogosphere is sorely incomplete without the stinging stench of your sharp words. ;-) John Enright from Rhyme of The Day, what a true delight it is to read your superbly clever and so often hilarious rhyming verses! You're a bundle of great talent, as I have evidenced from reading your prose, essays, peoms, and an excerpt from your published novel. Thank you for the great support you offered me with your comments. It is unfortunate for me that I only met you and Marsha so briefly. You now have a regular reader/admirer from this side of the globe! Jason, you are funny! I love reading your blog because it truly makes me laugh out loud! Even when you're discussing some serious topic like religion, or abortion, or some such, you have a way of infusing subtle humor in them all. I wish humor came to me so easily in writing as it does to you. I admire your efforts at investigating the foundations of your beliefs and spirituality. Ofcourse, I hope and pray (pun intended) that you will soon come to understand the truth in Atheism, but I'm eagerly following your intellectual journey on your blog in the meantime. Thanks for your flattering comments to my writings. And finally, to all you sojourners of the blogosphere, those of you who I know read my blog with some regularity but have not expressly commented for a while (or at all), I hope you continue to find things of interest in my writings. I thank you for visiting.

An Era Begins

My life has just begun a new era; it has taken a significant turn, dividing my adult life into 2 categories: the period of Enlightenment (my 7 years in the United States), and now the dark ages. If that sounds too dramatic to you, trust me it isn't. I couldn't give a more apt description. I have very little desire to talk about India; it is overwhelming in many ways. I mostly feel a mix of emotions every time I step outside my home - sympathy for the poor masses, anger at the socialist government and its policies, disgust at the lack of common civil sense among most Indians, and some wishful hope in the crawling pace of progress in this country. The other day when I visited the downtown area of Mumbai and saw some of the few and new high-rises that have been erected here, I felt a real visceral emotion, like that of freedom for a prisoner, or like a gasp of fresh air. I became fully salient of the tremendous importance of one's surroundings; the expressions of human greatness in physical, concrete structures in one's environment serves significantly in boosting one's own sense of efficacy, esteem, and purpose. They serve as reminders of all that is possible and achievable, as motivation to strive for one's own personal excellence. Progress in India is noticeable, though it is noticeably at a snail's pace. As an example: for a country known around the world as a forerunner in Information Technology, it took me more than 15 days to have my home computer wired to the Internet. The only two largest ISP's in India are both government-owned, and they require long application and approval processes. The other smaller, private ISP's are also required by law to use the government-owned Internet Gateway protocols. So it's pointless in subscribing to private ISP's if you can get the same thing from the government. Moreover, the concept of wireless surfing is practically non-existent here. There is a consistent ideology in manifestation here in India; it is in the behavior of the people, in their rituals, their traditions and in their institutions. At some point, I may be able to write about my observations and analysis in more detail, but for now I'll only say that there is a consistent practice of "faith and force" in practically all spheres of Indian interactions - from Indian hospitality, frienship and relationships to the Indian economy, media and government.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Goodbye, America.