Thank you, Sachin

“Poetry,” wrote Aristotle, “is a more philosophical and a higher thing than history: for poetry tends to express the universal, history the particular.”

A similar argument may be made for sport. Sport reduces life to its essentials and expresses its fundamentals in their purest form. Just as poetry expresses the universal through particular characters, sport expresses fundamentals through the actions of individual sportsmen. But unlike the characters in poetry, who are after all, mere figments of the poet’s imagination, the sportsmen are real. Sport then, is likely to fall short of poetry in its power to inspire, to embody the values of life. Perfection and purity is easier to achieve in poetry than in the life of a sportsman.

But once in a while, a sportsman comes along to prove that the difficult is not impossible, that a single-minded dedication can be maintained, that ability can be turned into excellence, that consistency can triumph over uncertainty. And such a sportsman transcends the sport, lends it meaning, makes it real.

Sachin Tendulkar is such a sportsman, and I am fortunate to have grown up at a time when my values could be shaped and sustained by the example of his greatness.

Thank you, Sachin.

Advertisements

Delhi gang-rape: Some answers – 1

Read my last post for context.

Severity:

Numbers are hard to come by but it appears that the number of reported cases has doubled in the last two decades.

Causes:

To determine why the number of rapes as against other crimes is increasing, it might be useful to distinguish between rapes that are perpetrated by ordinary criminals who cannot control their sexual desires and those that are perpetrated by seemingly normal men. The former category probably correlates with crime in general, it is a law and order issue. The latter category is the one that explains the rise and it is the one that is particularly worrying. This kind of rape has little or nothing to do with sexual desire. It is a reaction to women who dare to assert themselves. Recall that in the Delhi case, one of the accused admitted that he went berserk when the girl tried to resist the men and defend her friend who was being attacked. A woman asserting herself is unimaginable to those who still live by a traditional value system. What is this system? In this system:
A woman does not marry a man. She marries into the man’s family.
A woman does not marry by choice. She is given to another family (Think of Kanyadaan).
A woman is the property of her family.
The honor and status of the family is derived from the property it possesses.
A woman is honorable as long as she is untouched (unused) by anyone outside the family. (Think of Sita in Ramayan)
Sex is taboo unless it is between husband and wife.

To a man who who is steeped in these values, what is the worst he can do to a woman? Destroy her honor by using her sexually, rendering her unfit for use by anyone else. Hence rape.

Rapes of this kind are nothing new. They have been perpetrated by soldiers after winning a war and by rioters wanting to teach a lesson to members of a community they hate. What is frightening is that they are now being perpetrated by ordinary men against women who dare to challenge traditional values.

The typical profile of such a rapist is a man steeped in traditional values who resents the social changes that challenge his values in general and is angry enough by some act of resistance to forget common decency in a moment of madness.

The typical profile of a rape victim is simply any woman who dares to reject the traditional value system by choosing to marry against the rules of her village, wearing western clothes, going out with a boy friend, refusing to accept harassment, rejecting someone’s advances etc.

To be continued…

Trip to Mangalore: Reflections

Visited a manufacturing unit for diamond polishing machinery belonging to a business associate from my first venture. The unit contained several lathes, shapers, milling machines, a CNC machine and some other machines I could not identify, some of which were designed/assembled in house. There was nothing extra-ordinary about the machinery but it was difficult not to feel a sense of awe at the complexity of the machines. The owner of the unit is not even an engineer. His father, who apparantly has designed some of the machines hasn’t studied beyond class 8. I am supposedly a mechanical engineer with a masters degree from one of the most reputed colleges in India. What a waste of everyone’s time these degrees are!

Also visited the father of the owner of the unit, 79 years of age and a self-made man who came to Bombay at the age of 16, worked at several places in various jobs, set up a factory with all his savings at the age of 55 and still visits it everyday. The only advice this man had to give us was:
1) Everything comes from god
2) Take care of your parents, don’t make them cry!
I was quite bewildered. The world is a strange place.

Happiness – Short term and long term

…A person has to be happy in two ways at the same time to really be happy. There must be happiness found in the everyday things you do, and there must be the happiness of achieving long term values. Happiness depends on finding a balance. If I truly hate the stuff I am doing now to achieve a long term value, then I haven’t chosen the right long term value. If a goal is really the right one, the path should be a happy one to walk….

From a comment on this post by Kelly Elmore. Very well said.

The essence of life

Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it’s yours.
—Ayn Rand, “Atlas Shrugged” (End of Galt’s speech)

It is a sense of enormous expectation, the sense that one’s life is important, that great achievements are within one’s capacity, and that great things lie ahead.
—Ayn Rand, Introduction to the 25th anniversary edition of “The Fountainhead”

This view is the essence of life. It is what makes life worth living. It is a precondition of all values. As Rand writes “It is only the concept of life that makes the concept of value possible”.  This view of life is part of the ‘concept of life’ here. Retaining this view throughout life requires that one always examine and understand one’s desires as precisely as possible and act to achieve them. Having a desire and not acting to achieve it is the most damaging thing one can do.

Happiness

I was discussing the relative merits of movies vs novels as a medium for telling a story and happened to reread a passage in The Fountainhead that struck me deeply.

Just think, Howard, think of it! You’ll be rich, you’ll be famous, you’ll be respected, you’ll be praised, you’ll be admired–you’ll be one of us!…Well?…Say something! Why don’t you say something?”

“Look, Peter. I believe you. I know that you have nothing to gain by saying this. I know more than that. I know that you don’t want me to succeed–it’s all right, I’m not reproaching you, I’ve always known it–you don’t want me ever to reach these things you’re offering me. And yet you’re pushing me on to reach them, quite sincerely. And you know that if I take your advice, I’ll reach them. And it’s not love for me, because that wouldn’t make you so angry–and so frightened….Peter, what is it that disturbs you about me as I am?”
                                             — The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand

Some people criticize Rand’s dialogues for being unrealistic. And that is true. Real life dialogues are really as perceptive as this. But the question is: Why should dialogues in a novel be realistic? Here Rand contrasts riches, fame, respect, praise, admiration, acceptance – Peter Keating’s values – with pride and self-belief – Howard Roark’s values. Second-hand values against first-hand values. And Peter and Howard both realize that despite Peter’s having achieved all his values, he is still disturbed by the fact that Roark does not pursue Peter’s values. The dialogue is a tool to move one aspect of the story – Roark’s discovery of the difference between his values and that of most others – forward. And it does that job brilliantly. Why would one want real-life dialogue instead of dialogue like this? I read novels for entertainment; for those things that I cannot get in real life, atleast not in a short timespan. Significant events in real life are mixed up with so many mundane events that one needs a condensed depiction of the significant things to remind oneself of what is important and what is not. Every event, dialogue or description in a novel should be significant. It should serve a purpose; it should move the story forward. Real life dialogue in a novel is a waste of time.

Anyway, I got distracted. The point of this post was that by rereading this passage I have a better definition of happiness. My mental definition of happiness was – “the state of mind that results from the achievement of one’s values”. The passage above emphasizes that happiness results from the achievement of one’s values only if those values are objective – consciously chosen by one’s one mind by an objective standard. Achieving a value when one does not know why one values it does not bring lasting happiness.

Sach Ka Saamna (Facing the truth)

Today’s supplement to the Times Of India carries a column by Vinita Nangia on the controversial TV show ‘Sach Ka Saamna’. Ironically the lesson Nangia draws from the show (as do many others) is

Facing the truth isn’t all that easy and some truths are best left unsaid. Each one of us has a dark side that is best left hidden from others; revealing our dark secrets can do nothing but cause harm to loved ones. As a young lady puts it succinctly, “There’re skeletons in every cupboard, and we shouldn’t rattle them!” Another adds, “Is there really anyone out there who doesn’t have a dark deed festering somewhere in his heart?”

This is bound to destroy a lot of relationships… simply because more questions will be asked… and more truths served up on a platter! Thankfully, we all have a choice — stop watching or at least stop trying to lift the veils of illusion; believe me, it is sure to backfire miserably…
(Emphasis mine)

I should note that I haven’t watched the show yet, nor do I intend to do so. I have no interest in the private lives of random strangers. But the concept of the show (from what I have read of it) is fascinating in the context of today’s culture. This is obvious from the attention the show has got. It is worth analyzing the issues that the show raises.

The show is about facing the truth about one’s emotions and actions and whether these are consistent with one’s consciously or implictly held value system. An emotion is an automatic reaction. It is determined by one’s values. If one’s emotions are not consistent with one’s values, it means that one’s value system is not consistent with itself. In any situation where one’s value system clashes with itself, there is bound to be conflict. It is not surprising that people act badly when they are in conflict. What the show reveals is that its participants and audience – judging by their reaction – are very often in conflict about a lot of very important aspects of their lives. And worse, that this conflict is usually brushed under the carpet by repressing one’s emotions or by indulging them stealthily.

By bringing this conflict into the open, the show has disturbed a lot of people. That is good. It is good that people are concerned about the truth. But the concern will not be of much use if it does not lead one to question its cause – the inconsistencies in one’s value system. But that is not what Nangia (or any other article writer that I have read) wants to do. They all want to brush the truth, the conflict and the show itself under the carpet. Some even want to legislate the show out of existence. All of them want to preserve their existing relationships even at the cost of the truth. They think that conflict is inevitable. There is a grain of truth to that. Man is not born with a value system. He has to create it for himself. And not being infallible, it is likely that he will make mistakes. So some amount of conflict is inevitable when those mistakes manifest themselves. But the mistakes can and should be corrected. And that requires facing the truth. Conflict certainly does not have to be perpetual. For most people, it is perpetual because they have never made the effort to explicitly create a value system or even to question the one they happen to absorb from the culture. Their method of dealing with conflict is to pretend that it does not exist. When someone exposes this pretense, they want to pretend that the exposure does not exist either.

There isn’t anything wrong about not revealing the entire truth to everyone. Honesty is not an unconditional virtue. It is merely a recognition of the fact that wishing something does not make it so, that reality cannot be changed by refusing to recognize it. It is a virue when one is dealing with rational people. There is no reason to reveal the entire truth to random strangers when one does not know whether they are rational or not. But when one is dealing with people one claims to value, there can be no excuse for dishonesty. If a relationship is weakened by the truth, it cannot be valuable in the first place. Anyone who advocates hiding the truth from one’s loved ones is doing himself, his ‘loved ones’ and everyone else a great disservice.

%d bloggers like this: