Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Humans err, animals pay

These are a few facts that I came across recently.
  • A guy trespassed into the Safari range in Hyderabad zoo and not surprisingly gets mauled by the wild cats. Following that the zoo authorities erected cages within the safari range and put the lions and tigers behind bars!
  • Florida is a known native habitat of crocodiles. A resident of Florida accepts a challenge from his friends to swim across a lake and come back. Again not surprisingly, he finds a fully grown crocodile! The reptile rips his arm apart and lets the rest of him go back to shore. The guy is taken to the hospital. The next day, the crocodile is hunted down. The guy miraculously survives. It is the crocodile that is "euthanized"(check out the usage!)
  • Spanish bull fight is infamous. Everyone knows how it works. This one time, a strong but terrified bull, jumps and easily clears the fence and lands straight into the stands (Take a look at the breath-taking scene!) The bull is captured, order is restored eventually. Later the bull is taken to an isolated place and killed. The place the bull met with its end was all that was different.
Humans err, animals pay!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Back to the glorious past!

Time and again, I come across people who, with a sense of nostalgia, wish to re-establish a glorious era from the past.

"How great it would be to have politicians with integrity as much as Gandhi, Nehru and Patel had".
"People used to be pious and disciplined the days for saint Ramanuja and Nigamanta desikar. Nowadays even in the mutts, crooks roam about! When will our culture regain its past glory?"

When encountered with this situation, my mind goes into a spin. Has the past been better than the present? Does the world degenerate in terms of morality and discipline as it journeys into the future?

Here is what I know from my observation. When I look at my family and that of my friends, I find that "grand parents" have definitely been more meticulous in doing things. The extent of meticulousness is possibly lesser in the "parents" generation. But, when it comes to comparing "parents" with "off-springs"it is not a question of extent, but a question of "intent". It seems people of my generation often ask their parents "Why do I have to be meticulous?". This is a general observation of course, and exceptions sure are present. But again, does it mean that we degenerate in discipline? Or does the very definition of discipline and "meticulousness" go through a change?

In the context of a community as large as a state or a country though, history seems to highlight a potential risk at trying to re-establish lost glory of the past. Hitler, quoted many times as an example of "what not to do", again finds himself quoted. He wanted to build a Third Reich aiming to re-establish the lost glory of medieval Holy Roman Empire (962–1806) and to the modern German Empire (1871–1918). He ended killing Jews in millions and himself.

Khmer Rouge to have got its ideology of "social engineering" by means of creating a self-sufficient agrarian economy is stated to have based its ideology the glorious past of the Khmer civilization which built the great temple of Angkor Wat (see BBC documentary on Angkor Wat). The large water bodies surrounding the temple was believed to be for irrigating a large rice growing project that was the lynch pin of the glory of civilization. Pol Pot forced people to hard labour in rice fields believing that it is the way back to the Khmer civilization. Like Hitler, he too ended up only killing thousands of people without anything good to show. Later elaborate surveys by water engineers revealed that water bodies were not even used for the rice project to begin with! So much for a misconception!

Within India itself various self-appointed guardians of culture further corroborate the lessons we can learn from Hitler and Pol Pot.

I guess the lesson to be learnt is, if there is a natural degeneration of human morality, discipline and culture, trying to regain the "glorious past" only seems to degenerate it faster!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Guha on Hindu civilization

I have like Ramachandra Guha for his uncomplicated and straight talking eloquence. And he continues to impress me! Here is a quote from his two part interview to Rediff. You can read Part1 and Part 2 of the interveiw here. But to me the highlight of the interview was the following piece.

"In the course of debate, some Congress leaders ridicule lots of characteristics of India.

That's not true. The danger in your comment -- that idea that there was greatness in Indian or Hindu civilisation is like that the Ganga it is immortal, pure and beautiful. Like the Ganga that is polluted from source to sea, Hindu civilisation was polluted. Hindu civilisation practised the most degrading form of social behaviour called untouchability.

Hindu civilisation oppressed its women. In Hindu civilisation there was division of manual labour and mental labour.

The greatness of Gandhi, Nehru and Rabindranath Tagore was that they became critics of their culture. I would rephrase your question and say that as Hindus we were fortunate to have reformers like Gandhi, Ambedkar, Nehru and so on. They pointed to the weaknesses and fault-lines within Hindu culture and civilisation.

By the way, more Hindus vote for the Congress than the BJP so, obviously, they find something attractive in the Congress"