Monday, August 2, 2010

Inveterate Impracticality...

Equality and Justice were topics much talked about, and classic arguments followed. My mind, as usual, wandered, and I recalled a conversation in ‘Crime and Punishment’, where Raskolnikov remarks on poverty:
“Have not I seen cases like that? And how have they been brought to it? Why, they’ve all come to it like that. Ugh! But what does it matter? That’s as it should be, they tell us. A certain percentage, they tell us, must every year go … that way … to the devil, I suppose, so that the rest may remain chaste, and not be interfered with. A percentage! What splendid words they have; they are so scientific, so consolatory.… Once you’ve said ‘percentage,’ there’s nothing more to worry about. If we had any other word … maybe we might feel more uneasy.…”

Social evolution, as opposed to natural evolution, is where we collectively develop social consciousness and strive towards higher levels of existence. Some would argue that pain is inevitable to humanity. To counter that, in the words of Charlotte Perkins, “We become socially conscious largely through pain, and as we begin to see how much of the pain is wholly of our own causing we are overcome with shame. But the right way for society to face its past is the same as for the individual; to see where it was wrong and stop it--but to waste no time and no emotion over past misdeeds.”

While pain on the personal front is unavoidable to humanity, pain which is imposed on the less fortunate is avoidable. Again, does man have the right to judge another man based on his nature? Who are we to choose the ‘less fortunate’, the ‘certain percentage’?

For those who have such quandaries, reading Fyodor Dostoevsky, is like stepping into another world. In ‘Crime and Punishment’, every thought Raskolnikov harbors is invigorating, and sometimes, it pushes one to the precipice---as one sees a dark side of humanity, and truth.

Inveterate Impracticality---which is a term Fyodor coined---means this to me: We have the incurable belief that the present human condition is all we are capable of, that the rich and the poor will always exist. That it’s impractical to create a socially conscious world.

On that note, here’s a link to a modern-day adaptation of Fyodor’s ‘Notes from the Underground’. It largely captures the essence of the book, and sets one’s mind thinking…

And I came across this essay, ‘Our Androcentric Culture, or The Man-Made World’, and found it rather interesting. The essay covers a large labyrinth of ideas, centering around the concepts of Crime and Punishment. This is the link


  1. Sindhu… that was good article. Here is my take in response – The decision to be in that ‘percentage’ or go into it or come out of it is decided by that person itself. I feel that no matter how much collective consciousness/responsibilities a society has – a person’s life is simply a result of personal consciousness/resposibilities.

    I don’t want to argue whether richness/poverty will always exist or not. That argument is meaningless, in my opinion. What matters is what one can do to get out of poverty. Your answer is a social evolution where the society collectively responds to poverty and eliminates it. My idea is that a person, by his/her actions can eliminate poverty in one’s own life. Each one has to eliminate poverty in his own life.

    The solution to poverty is simple. Yes, it really is! Let me get a little semantic here. If you want richness or prosperity (i.e Lakshmi) – you have to be a Vishnu. Because Lakshmi will only be with Vishnu. And who is Vishnu? He is the “Protector”, the “Maintainer”…. i.e in tamil…. “padi alakuravan”. That is – he does the job of maintaining the lives of others, gives them livelihood, etc… If anyone (yes, anyone – good or bad) does the work of a Vishnu, then Lakshmi will come to him. That is why capitalists, industrialists, corporations, etc – are rich. Because they do something which gives employment, livelihood , etc for many people. If your work benefits others livelihood, you will automatically become prosperous. Remember the mythology? – When Lakshmi first appeared in the universe, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva lusted (desired) her. But who did Laksmi go to? The Vishnu. Similarly the creators (artists, craftsmen, poets, writers, musicians, etc), the mainatiners (those who are in the capacity to employ/benefit others) and the destroyers (sportsmen, fighters, defense personnel), etc all want prosperity/money (Lakshmi), but Laksmi will go only to the mainatiners.

    Rarely artists, sportsmen, etc become rich – but they would be soooo good that their work sets a chain of events that benefits the livelihood of several people. Only then will Lakshmi go to such people.

    And here are some corollaries – Lakshmi will go to anyone (good or bad) who works with a “lakshya” (i.e “objective” or “ambition”…that’s how the word Lakshmi is derived). And she will go to anyone – whether he is good or bad, although she prefers the virtuous.

    So – your idea that a craftsman and an accountant should be paid the same – wont happen. It depends on if the craftsman or accountant does the right action to summon Lakshmi. This analogy, Sindhu, in my opinion, has no exceptions and I found this principle working in all financial situations I’ve seen. If you want to eliminate poverty – ask the people in the percentage to do the work of Vishnu…. Lakshmi will come.

    It doesn’t matter what school you went to, what degree you got, etc… it only matters if your work provides livelihood for others. When it does, you will prosper.

  2. Thamizh has given a very good analogy to describe his views...
    My view is more or less the same... It’s the existence of the disparity amongst humans that results in inequality, which in turn creates pain. A successful person is one who uses that pain as a driving force to make things better for him. If there is no pain, there is no drive to achieve anything. And we are stuck in a limbo of nothingness which is completely impossible for a human to cope with.
    I can go to the extent that if not for the inequality then human race could not have developed so far.. This discussion reminds me of a quote by Orson Welles, "You know what the fellow said – in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock." So you see, the best in people is always brought out in the worst times. I am not necessarily saying man should forever be under the shackles of inequality but it’s the inequality amongst us that propels us to achieve great things. Those who don’t treat their inequality as a challenge but see it as a hurdle perish. Those who see it as a challenge survive. In fact the Darwin spoke of natural selection wherein the nature chooses those living organisms that are able to adapt themselves to the changes in the course of nature, to survive.
    Similarly, adopting the same theory of natural selection herein, we can easily comprehend that inequality is but a necessary evil for the development of human race. It will never cease to exist simply because it’s within each man to change his destiny and most of them have already resigned to their fate. Those who haven’t will survive this unequal world.

  3. Prad... well said. What you said reminds me of how each one of us were created. Each human being - you,me, sindhu, and everyone one of us - are the triumph of one single sperm over millions and millions who perished not making it to the ovum. Each one of us evolved from the ruthless competition and victory of one single sperm! aren't we?

  4. The struggle for survival starts at a nascent stage itself, then how can we expect the world to be any better...

  5. or any worse? or boring? or socialistic? or communistic? (lol...)

  6. Pradeep and Thamizh: It seems to me that the male ego always requires competition.

    I am not saying there should be no competition, I'm only saying that we are all competing inside an illusion, created by generations of propaganda.

    Pain---as something which drives us to achieve is good. 'A' being jealous of 'B', and wanting to do his work better is good.

    The pain I'm talking about is where one is born into nothingness. Where one has no means of survival, he has to strive like an animal to make ends meet. This is inflicted pain, this is not right. This is not good, and I shall never accept this as a necessity for human evolution or development.

    Existentialism---where people's actions are created by their surroundings is what happens. Do you think the slum dweller and the minister's sons have the same opportunities to achieve?

    You see, I am not saying there should be a lazy world. I am only asking for basic human rights.
    TO satisfy the male ego that he is better off than another, to inflict pain on some percentage of something I will never understand. Neither do I want to understand, how one can be that self-absorbed?

    So the struggle for survival between an engineer, doctor and lawyer, is not the same as the struggle between a cobbler, a doctor and a scavenger.
    Every man who wants to be a Vishnu will work hard, and try to get everything within his reach for his future generations, and his Lakshmi.
    If all of us merely care only about the Vishnu, the Lakshmi and the children...using the Hindu scriptures to tell people, "This is what God gave you, live happily with it, and do everything you can to achieve within yr limits. Of course, that guy is rich because God gave him that by birth."

    When will a time come when everyone gets the pleasure of enjoying the bounty of mother earth?

    Job creation by capitalists is not an excuse to exploit nature and humanity.

    Read Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, one would see that what we call Capitalism today, is nothing like what was intended...but now is a Feudal Kingdom.

    All of us have the gift of thought and speech. Those impoverished people, who have been put down for generations, do not have the gift of asking for their right. Because they do not know their rights, they just accept their place in society.

    The Guptas called themselves the 'Protector of the Caste-order'....and that was because there was a caste struggle during their period, a social upheaval.

    This upheaval will happen over and over again, because the system of things is unfair.

    And we shouldn't smirk at Communism or Socialism, because...the search for the right human order is still on. And capitalism is not the answer.

  7. Sindhu….
    You have misunderstood me (and probably Prad as well). None of us are saying that we should be blind to the atrocities and injustices of the day. We are just saying that you are seeing the solution as the problem and the problem as the solution.
    You are saying that competition is good, but that we are competing in an unfair (i.e “unequal”) world. I am saying that this unequality is the result of the competition itself. If “A” works better than “B” out of competition, thats good, right? So then what happens? “A” gets a better life and “B” falls out. Now the problem you have is that “B”’s son is suffering because of B’s fault. Well, yes! So, what do you want to do? Remove children from their parents and raise them all equally? It would be an atrocious act to do that!!!! … And don’t be surprised – some crazy communists have actually proposed such systems and actually enacted them to an extent. That’s why I say that these types of ideas are dangerous… If you keep entertaining these ideas, one day you will be advocating crazy ideas like those communists…. And this is what I am afraid of – that a person like you with potential to write beautifully will actually end up convincing people that such ideas are reasonable…. Drop those ideas….
    You are asking if a slum-dweller and a minister’s son have the same chances to achieve? I can only laugh….dont you know that it is those slum-dwellers who actually vote a minister to power? And then also vote his son to power too? And is it a coincidence that such ministers and the slum-dwellers both love “socialism”….?
    And yes – we have been living under generations of propaganda… I agree…. But what propaganda? Capitalist propaganda? No! under socialist and communist propaganda. When was the last time you saw any politician speaking in favor of capitalism, at least in our country? Our poverty is the direct result of 400 years of our love-affair with socialism….
    And feudalism….. I don’t know why you keep connecting feudalism (a.k.a a “varna” system) to capitalism… Try a small fun-task… List down all countries that were and are still feudalistic….. Then look at the economic policies of those countries. If you find a capitalist country in that list, let me know! And why is that the most capitalist country in the world is the least feudalistic too? Is that a coincidence too?

  8. Sindhu - just to give you a little perspective on real history.... and feel free to cross-check anything that I say with actual historical facts...Socialism and communism are not probable solutions for finding the right human order….. They are the inventions of European monarchies to destroy the right human order in the countries that they wanted to colonize. Which is why imperial nations (most importantly the UK) were and are still staunch supporters of socialism. Africa and India were very wealthy capitalist countries – and everyone was wealthy. They had resources, power and hence resistance to colonialism….Because the primary idea of colonialism is to destroy local powerful and rich people so that there is no locus of power or opposition to the rule of a single foreign entity, they destroyed local power pockets by shattering their wealth – under the name of “redistributing wealth equally to all”. Which is what they called “socialism”. This socialism will place power in the hands of a very small group of people (the ‘ruling class’) who will control all things and “make sure everyone is equal”…. This is why the British colonialists maintained few landlords in each city or town who held a lot of power. All of those landlords were a part of a party (you know the name) which ruled us before independence (by proxy for the British) and when the British left on their own, continued that same landlord (a.k.a “feudal”) system even after independence….. That is why that party has been staunch supporters of socialism – because socialism will guarantee a system where no one will become rich – which means that no one will become (other than them) will become powerful too…. Which guarantees the stay of power for them.
    Sindhu – I am not a politician…. Neither am I politically favoring or opposing any political party…. I am simply saying that socialism and communism are political ideologies designed to attract people, keep them powerless and the same time give them a euphoria about their poverty!.... They are not possible solutions for a right human order…. They are the problem!
    Yes, I have read Wealth of Nations and many more …..
    And some fun things beside our serious discussions....
    whats all this about the “male” ego??? Did you actually think I was a man? Why didn’t you think that I was a woman? The Prakriti ego is more powerful than the Purusha ego... and the very fact that we dont agree with each other should have made you guess that we are both women, right? (lol... just joking)

    And...the background of your blog... Its fantastic... that's my screen now... its high-def and awesome...

  9. Thamizh: What do you mean by--India was a wealthy Capitalist country before the British came?! If we choose to judge history by what the court historians said, then we can say that India was a wealthy country where everyone had everything. But looking at history from below, one would quickly realize that large numbers of Indian people have always been poor, since time immemorial.

    India is like a silk cloth with beautiful embroidery, which has large gaping holes in between.

    People have been revolting against governments even prior to the British's entry. India is one the best examples of sociological struggles, ideologies,...and I know you will say that the order we have in India now is the result of all those past embroils. That communism and socialism is non-sense as in a country with a long history like India, it didn't survive. That capitalism is what we had earlier, and we should have in the future...

    If I choose to believe that all those thoughts of an equal world is absolutely not viable and is just romantic....I don't know what else humanity has left to hope for.

    If we are to be content with life the way it is, with how things are, only changing things within the bounds already set by ancient scripts of Dharma....well, I believe that the human mind will be stagnant.

    If you can give me a world with no one dying of hunger,...then I'll agree with you that competition is good.

    That said, my intuition strongly tells me that only male ego can hold the above said thoughts. If you are a woman, well, as you say---Prakriti egos do clash tremendously!

    And I'm glad you like my blog's template.

    My debut novel will be launched in the first week of September. Do read it, and send me your review!

  10. Sindhu...I too want a world without hunger! I too want a world where deficiencies don't exist. All I am saying is that true capitalism could be the path to that. Look at the capitalist countries and you will see that. Look at the communist and socialist countries. You will know it yourself. Thats because, in capitalism - you put the onus on every person - you put the responsibility on him - instead of the government baby-sitting him/her. Have you heard the tamizh song lines " திருடனாய் பார்த்து திருந்தாவிட்டால் திருட்டை ஒழிக்க முடியாது"? Similarly I am saying - "ஏழையாய் பார்த்து திருந்தாவிட்டால் வறுமையை ஒழிக்க முடியாது ". This socialism and communism has been tried so many times, with no success - not just in India. Throughout the world.

    and about India being capitalist and rich - I can provide several links and attachments to prove my point, but I generally hate to do that in any conversation - because it takes the intellectuality from an argument and makes it a war of links and facts. So, let me ask you simple questions, which will make you think by yourself. All these economic theories - mercantilism, socialism, communism, marxist communism, etc etc... are all recent as in 300-400 years maximum. Before that what happened? People made money and kept what money they made, giving away a fixed amount/percentage in taxes to the king who used it for providing an infrastructure. What is this called? Simple - capitalism (because you keep what you make). All the other economic theories (socialism, communism, etc) focus on REDISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH. i.e you cannot keep what money you make. You have to give it off (or will be forcibly snatched from you) and given to people who have less. And why did the last 300-400 years see a plunge in these economic ideologies? Why not 1000 years ago, if poverty existed even then? More importantly - why did all of these theories come from Europe (especially Industrial Europe)? (why not from India, or Africa, or USA or South America or Australia or Arabia?). Final question - if all these ideologies have some merit in them - why didn't they succeed in atleast one country? Why dont we see Utopia yet? Another question - Its ok even if we did not see Utopia.... Why have we seen massacres, killings, dictatorships, poverty, genocides, places where these ideologies are flaunted. Why no peace itself?

  11. And here is the answer - Industrial Europe (Britain, France, Germany, Russia, Italy, etc) were interested in expanding their nations. Political power. They wanted to invade and expand. To conquer every country and annex it is painful, difficult and not long-lasting. At some point, the native people will revolt. So, the best way is to spread an ideology - And ask people to "unite under that ideology". If people place faith in that ideology, they will automatically lose patriotism to their local nation and start praising that ideology. this will help colonialism to be maintained and expanded easily. Second reason - when trying to conquer and expand - who will resist and revolt? One - kings. Next - local powerful rich people who had small local armies and forts. So, to destroy resistance - they have to remove "kings" and "local rich powerful people". To remove kings - the agenda was "democracy". To start a propaganda, that "kings/monarchy" is bad and that everyone is a king, etc... And hence monarchies were overthrown. Now all you have is a confused, split public opinion and corrupt elected leaders who can be bribed or influenced by foreign forces. Next - local powerful and wealthy people will resist invasion or foreign rule... So, to remove them - the agenda was "socialism" or "communism". To start a propaganda that "all wealth is equal to all, irrespective of anything", etc... Now, if you read medieval and industrial political literature of Europe, you will find frank evidence for all this.And if you read African history, you will easily see that they were prosperous and self-sufficient under a capitalist system (before colonial invasion)...

    So, lets come to terms with the questions that I have asked.... Are you clear now that capitalism is what existed before colonialism? If so, then we can move on to the next question - Was there poverty in that system? If not, I am happy to clear your doubts and will forward some links too....

    And aargghhhh.... you still think that this is all a purusha ego? I sincerely believe that the prakriti ego is what will think like this!... Anyway... for your book... When is it released and where is it available? Can it be ordered online? I will be in Chennai only for the next 30 days - then I'm on the run again... Is the book available as an e-book for kindle and ipad? Will write a review on this blog itself. I'm sure it will be great! Good luck! you must be very excited I guess... I'm telling you - to see one's own writing in print is an amazing feeling... and very intoxicating and addictive too... Enjoy it (without getting addicted to it)

  12. Thamizh:The book has been released, and it shall be available online from this week. And in stores from October.
    Do let me know what you think of the book!

  13. Hi Sindhu... I requested for your book in Landmark (near Gemini circle) - even searched on the comp. Its unavailable there. Do you know a store where its available?

  14. Thamizh:
    The book will be available in stores from October...and online from sometime this month. I'll put up the online links on my blog.
    Sorry about the inconvenience, and I look forward to your review!

  15. Congrats and looking forward to meeting you in FB and reading your book

  16. Sapna: Thank you so much! And I got in touch with you on FB.