Saturday, May 30, 2009


This is more of a note to myself than a blogpost.
I just started reading William Barrett's "Irrational Man: A study in existential philosophy".
I have merely read through 30-40 pages, but I can feel that same sense of excitement, that I had encountered when I was first introduced to Postmodernist thought. In a sparsely populated classroom of a fourth year IIT elective, a most lucid and wonderful teacher had introduced the engineer to Beckett and Camus.

Now, as I try to make sense of postmodernist thought, trying to break through the shackles of fashionable jargon mongering that much of this field is believed to be about, I find in Barrett, the most able guide.

Dostoyevsky seems to make more sense to me now. Raskalnikov's critique of the liberal rationalism that was pervading Russia at the later half of the 19th century seems more fathomable. With the advent of the modern industrial age, as science made inroads into the very depths of the human mind, faith, with all its elaborate rituals and symblisms which had given man strength and purpose, was slowly eroding away from human cosciousness. The great void, a nothingness,surrounded this loss of faith. For the rationalist philosophies which emerged out of this churning never adressed mankind's most intimate issues.
Marxism believed in religion as the opium of the masses, the sigh of the opressed, and it sought to drown the individual within rigid definitions of class. However, what the rationalist philosophies failed to capture was the despair of the modern man, the irrational being whose consciousness transcended the mere mechanics of rational beliefs, whose thoughts were much more than elements made of simple building blocks that the English empiricists loved to play with.

And the journey of the modern man has not been easy, as he has traversed to fill this void that the disappearance of faith has created. Through Nietzsche's sufferings, through Dostoyevsky,Kiekergaard we finally come to the existentialists.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Blogging the elections

I know I am late in the party. The elections have already begun, and the great festival of democracy has reached the zenith of excitement. The war of words have taken ugly turns, the "musical chair" of the less reliable partners is also in full swing. Twenty four hour news channels no longer have to rack their brains to come up with inconsequential news items to fill that void in the "Breaking News" category. The TV channels are having a feast, and so is, I imagine, the middle aged Indian male. Finally, in the battle for the "TV remote control" , there is a credible excuse!

But where do we start analyzing the elections? Is it an election of many firsts? or is it simply a repetition of the same old game of coalition politics, the same "dirty politician's game" that much of middle class India seems to be tired of?

The foremost difficulty in giving a fair perspective of general elections is the problem of memory. Elections come once in five years, and the news that had created waves five years back, the headlines that we had swallowed eagerly has already gone out of our minds. We dont even remember the high drama of the previous elections, the feuds that began and the friendships that were forged, the promises that were made, and the critiques that were made (of the previous regime).

However, to start off, probably all of us acknowledge, that the elections are being fought at times that are quite remarkable, in its own accord. The global economic meltdown has forced the Government in the backfoot. Surely, anti-incubency factor would help the Opposition. However, the BJP does not seem to be interested in cashing in on this issue. This is of course, quite predictable, given that their economic stance has always been more pro free market, pro capitalist. Hence, it is impossible for them to suddenly come out and acknowledge the obvious failures of a newo-liberal economic agenda, and press for a more closed economic system. This wouls also dent their middle class voter base, who depend on the BJP to push forward a more pro-reform policy. The only parties who are at a perfect position to exploit the accidental coincidence of the meltdown and the elections, are the Left parties. They are doing their bit, in blowing their trumpet on how they saved India from being badly hurt by obstructing the reform agenda when they were sharing power. However, the influence of the Left is limited to a few States, and much of their energy in West Bengal is spent on having a one to one battle with Mamata Banerjee,the mercurial leader of Opposition. Little else matters there, as far as election campaigning is concerned.

This is also an election marked by a lack of frenzy, a lack of an utopian hope on a new order, of change that is going to show a new path. Rather, it seems to an election where keeping the house in order seems more important, than shooting for the star. This also looks rather odd, when we look back, and see that the last big election that we followed was an election of huge promises, the "hope for a change". While America was fighting for change amidst an economic recession, and a terrible blunder of a wasteful war, in another part of the world, in a matter of few months, we are seeing an election, where the country is having an election on rather dull issues, and spicy non-issues, where there is little that is expected from each side. India has seen more exciting elections. BJP riding on the Ram Mandir wave, or more recently on the "India Shining" wave, a byuoyant Congress riding on the Gandhi factor. However, all this have become cliche now.
Hence, to keep up the pace, we only see a battle of words between two rather dull people, people for whom words cannot spell the same magic as it could have done for better politicians.

So much for now. It will be a rather busy week in terms of academics, but I promise to come back here and keep up my election blogging.