Is COVID The Only ImmediateThreat To Mankind?


This is a guest post written at my request by my close confidante and friend Koushik Sekhar with whom I have discussed this topic threadbare on a number of occasions. He is more articulate than I am as the post will reveal and hence my request to him to write this post for this week’s 6 on 1 Friday blog post.

Over to Koushik.

Covid is not the immediate threat to mankind. Covid is merely the messenger.

There is a more serious threat to mankind- a kind of epistemological disaster and Covid related problems is only a symptom of a deeper malaise . It is a steadfast refusal by the elites of the world to acknowledge the value of knowledge generated by earlier societies and to accept that the generation of knowledge does not have barriers of time, space, race etc. Moreover there is an attempt to eliminate or suppress knowledge that does not generate wealth for the few or which threatens their power.

Decades of globalisation has made it so that these elites are no longer define-able by geography or a political affiliation or education or race. Hence taking aim at the root of problem is no longer so easy as the threat is amorphous and not easy to target and work upon.

This attitude that ‘all conjectures are conjectures but my conjecture is more science than yours’ is deadly for the future of man especially when the conjectures are failing badly. If this isn’t deadly enough, the way institutions are used to muzzle the spirit of enquiry among the outsiders of the systems makes it a larger threat to the world. And lastly , an attitude that ‘all vested interests are vested interests, but mine is more science than yours’  is also prevalent. I am not sure which is causing more damage to society as the competition is lively and tremendous.

To name a few, the new class of global elites have no answers for huge problems we face:

1. How to maintain a happy society with constant economic output or even if economic growth is not possible.
2. How to have social stability in a society where technological advancement is seen as the goal and highly disruptive, to society, technologies are unleashed at a rapid pace.
3. How to handle societies which have become destructive and want to spread their ideologies to others who have better solutions using any means fair and foul.
4. How to manage highly heterogeneous societies which want to have separate rules for each of its constituents.
5. How to guarantee rights to people when they have near zero duties
How to leave the world as we found it.

The attitude of these elites has been that if we pretend that these problems do not exist they will go away. They have spurned knowledge that did not come from them or came from sources unacceptable to them. But these problems have become too big now and the chickens are coming home to roost. Propaganda is no substitute for logic nor can it solve problems created by a long history  underlying such propaganda.

As I could not phrase it any better, I am quoting from this excellent blog on the topic.

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‘pratyaksham hyetyormūlam kritantai etihyorapi, pratyaksheṇāgamobhinnah kritanto vā na kinchan’,

essentially meaning that ‘in case of a conflict between direct evidence and inference/scriptural evidence, direct evidence shall prevail because it is at the root of both inferential evidence and scriptural evidence’.

Adi Shankaracharya, the first Shankaracharya said: ‘gnānam na purushatantram, kintu vastutantram’ — knowledge is not derived through word of command, but though objective reality.

UnQuote

We need the intellectual vigour encapsulated in the Indian proverb which states that ‘truth spoken by a fool is preferable to lies spoken by the great Guru Brihaspati’, also known as the planet Jupiter, the giver of all wisdom.

There are serious epistemological problems in the world today. The Aristotelian logic is no longer adequate to understand reality and solve problems and is at the root cause of many of the problems we have today. We need to understand nuance which is ever present in nature and reality and our logical systems should be in consonance with that.

More here

and here.

We are increasingly becoming exclusive instead of being inclusive.  Many of our values are driven by ‘either or’ rather than by ‘and’.  For example : the framing of the LGBT issue as one being either pro-LGBT or anti-LGBT is seriously deficient. The truth is that society has to be both pro and anti-LGBT at the same time. Pro LGBT as far as providing them safe spaces are concerned and providing them protection and avenues for self-sustenance; but society also has to be anti LGBT in so far as it being discreet and not impeding the lives of other people.

Today’s elites consisting of bankers, businessmen and politicians have become equivalent to those that tried to punish Galileo for his heliocentric theory and a lot of mainstream scientists are tagging along as they get their share of the booty. Such scientists are not scholars in pursuit of the truth.

Truth doesn’t need advocates or us. We, the mankind, need the truth as it helps us manage our societies and avoid making disastrous and irreversible decisions regarding environment, family, culture, food, education which can set us back by 100s of years. In the last 100 years, we have done a lot to move the clock back. It is not clear how far we can push in the wrong direction without being able to turn back.

I am an optimist. I believe that this too shall pass and one day our descendants will look back and see how foolish we were about so many things. But right now it is imperative that we do not believe things at face value that are fed to us and question what is right and wrong. We need to look for ideas, concepts and hypotheses that provide alternate solutions to the prevailing wisdom as the prevailing wisdom is not working. We need to have only one permanent affiliation namely that with the truth and all the rest our affiliations and associations of political, material and religious kind are only the means to that end.

We also need to update our epistemological tools drastically.

The steadfast inertia/ refusal to not do these things that is perhaps a greater threat to mankind than Covid. In fact the impact of Covid itself is much larger than what could have been because of this mindset and this will reveal itself as the efficacy of various successful approaches taken by the discredited ones all over the world come to light after the Covid storm has passed.

The pursuit of truth has taken a backseat for a long time now and its cumulative consequences are amongst us. This is the most serious threat to mankind.

This is my take on this week’s Friday 6 On 1 blog post topic. The other five bloggers who write on the same topic every Friday are Sanjana, PadmumRaju, Shackman and Conrad.  This week’s topic was suggested by Raju. Please do go over to their respective blogs to see what they have to say on the topic. Thank you.

The Company Of Great Persons.

We had a house-guest the last two days. He is my son’s friend, and had come to Pune to finalise a place to set up residence. He normally lives in Mumbai and some family related matters has made it an imperative that he shifts to Pune.

During a couple of long sessions of discussions on wide ranging subjects, I learnt some new things from him as he claimed he did from me too. For me, I learn new things from the world of Management every time some one younger comes along and spends some time with me and this one was such an occasion. From my side, I was able to give some information about India’s economy, development and politics to him, information that I have acquired through my reading habits and discussions with a wide circle of friends that I am blessed with.

He left early yesterday morning but, before he left, he came near me, bent down, touched my feet and took my blessings as traditionally Indians are taught to in their childhood. This is a practice that due to Westernisation and urbanisation has more or less disappeared and I was touched by this traditional way of taking leave by this young man. He said that he believed in the Guru Shishya Parampara and considered his time with me as between a teacher and a student and said that he looked forward to more such meeting in the future once he settles down in Pune.

I was touched by this gesture and respect / affection shown by this young man. The experience led me to some reflection on the information that I shared with him and concluded that I am blessed with the association of a number of very smart and erudite people in my life. I called one of them to share this experience and conclusion and he promptly and cheerfully shared this message through WhatsApp!

Company Of Great Persons.

महाजनस्य संसर्गः कस्य नोन्नतिकारकः I

पद्मपत्रस्थितम तोयं धत्ते मुक्ताफलश्रियम II

Mahaajanasya samsargah kasya nonnathikaarakah. 1

Padmapathrasthitham thoyam dhatte muktaaphalashriyam. 2

Company of great persons is always beneficial.

A drop of water on lotus leaf appears like a pearl, thus gaining
a status similar to that of pearl.

This is to thank all those great persons in my life.

Can A Truly Decent Man Be An Effective Leader?

My fellow 2 on 1 Friday blogger Shackman asks this innocuous question which in my opinion has only one answer. Only a truly decent man can be an effective leader.

I can simply rest my case here and end this post but, I will disappoint Shackman and so will continue.

“People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.”
~ Ekoshapu.

My working life included experiences of working under leaders and other figures in positions of authority. I therefore believe that I have the necessary qualification to make that observation. Fortunately for me, I had more leaders than others to report to and so was able to work under stress free conditions for most of my working life.

An effective leader can inspire one to perform whereas the other type of Superior expects obedience and therefore gets only what the book says and not that extra something that inspired work can deliver.

The difference between the two types of authority figures essentially lies in the first treating his subordinates as people whereas the latter treats the subordinates as subordinates. It does not take much discussion to decide that the former is a decent human being whereas the latter is not, let me qualify, in that particular role. Even decent human beings become different in their behaviour when given positions of authority and that is why I needed to express that qualification. On the other hand, an effective leader is a decent human being in all situations.

“Position gives authority and authority gives power, but only good behaviour begets respect”

Positions and Titles give power. Take away the title and power goes away. Any title, position or power, unless it is built on justice, can not endure. Greatness does not lie in just being strong but equally in the right use of strength.

His Phone rang in church by accident during prayers…
The Pastor scolded him.
The worshippers admonished him after prayer for interrupting the silence.
His wife kept on kept on lecturing him on his carelessness till they reached home.
You could see the shame, embarrassment and humiliation on his face.
*He has never stepped foot in the church ever again.*

That evening, he went to a bar.
He was still nervous and trembling.
He spilled his drink on the table by accident.
The waiter apologized, gave him a napkin to clean himself up.
The janitor also mopped the floor.
The female manager offered him a complimentary drink.
She also gave him a huge hug and kissed him while saying “Don’t worry man. Who doesn’t make a mistake?”
*He has never stopped going to that bar since then*

“You can make a difference by how you treat people especially when they make mistakes.”

I hope that my readers are as eager as I am to see what Shackman has to say on the matter in his blog.

A Reason For Being.

Please click on the image for a larger resolution.


The Japanese have a word for this – Ikigai.

Try as I might, I cannot find this particular type of Reason For Being at my present age of three score and fifteen. What possible reason can motivate me to get up in the morning to face another day? I often write about the impact that Viktor Frakl’s book Man’s Search For Meaning had on me some decades ago, and now struggle to find some meaning to his conclusion of the Western kind. He concludes “it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our question must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”

Truth be told, what gets me up in the morning is simply that I cannot sleep after 5.00 am no matter how late I go to sleep because of habit ingrained from boyhood when a martinet of a father insisted that we got up when the crows cawed which was inevitably well before sunrise and day break.

Subsequently, I got into the habit of meditating and yogabhyas in the mornings which continue to occupy my time in the mornings but, those two activities are not the reason for my being.

I look forward to reading the morning newspapers and solving the crossword puzzles in them. Is that the reason for my being? Once I finish those very likeable activities at around 12.00 noon, what will keep me going? The prospect of lunch, the siesta that inevitably follows, the session at the computer to catch up with mail, facebook posts etc?

I wonder what the Japanese will suggest as a word for someone like me!

Which wondering brings me to the Indian philosophical approach to the same situation. It is called Purushartha or The Object Of Human Pursuit. Please do spend some time on the Wikipedia exposition on this concept so that, you can follow my take on life’s purpose in my current stage of development.

The four components, Dharma, Artha, Kaama, Moksha can be compared to a bracelet of three beads with Dharma being the holding string that holds the three otehr beads together. In other words, a morally lived life of acquiring means to enjoy the pleasures of life which hopefully will take one to a stage of satiety and the last stage of seeking freedom from the very essence of life, wanting! Moksha is the ultimate goal for Indians which can be obtained by learning and understanding the highest philosophical ideas. This process is called Shravanam, mananam, nidhidhyasanam, or, learining, understanding and reflecting on the knowledge gained. Quite a bit of my time is taken on this activity and so my Ikigai may well be Moksha!

Book Review – Mark Manson.

In my post An Unexpected Gift, I had undertaken to review the book that I had received as the gift. I also take you to Ekoshapu’s post where he wondered if I would comment on two observations that he made there and I will combine both the review and my comments here.

First the language. Having braced myself for a barrage of foul language based on various comments and the reviews that I had read, I was pleasantly surprised to find the four letter word more or less disappearing after the first couple of chapters. Once Manson gets into his stride with his message, he does not seem to require the crutches of the f*** word and the reading becomes quite placid. Towards the end he does use it a few times but not to the same intensity as he does in the beginning.

Now to the content. As self help books go, this is one that people of my age, Tammy and Monk, I hope that you agree, can safely ignore. Unlike Manson who is now is his thirties and still with a long life ahead of him, there are two issues that we do not need to address. One, we have nothing to prove to anyone including ourselves, and two, we are quite familiar with the prospect of impending death.

The other recommendations that Manson makes will perhaps be of use to younger, and particularly Western and Westernised Indians grappling with the pressures of modern living and expectations. In other words, people of my age, both Western and Indian have no need for this rethinking. We made our mistakes and learnt from them in a different world with different value systems.

It is still a good read. If you are the type that would like to learn how young minds work now, this is the book for you.

Coming to the two observations that Ekoshapu wanted me to respond to:

1. You can’t be an important and life-changing presence for some people without also being a joke and an embarrassment to others.

I am in total agreement. Over the years, I have come to accept that I will not be universally popular and that there is no point in running a popularity contest. There will be people who will like me for what I am and more who will think that I am not worth a thought. This is indeed life and the sooner one learns this, one’s expectations from relationships of all kinds become realistic and manageable. Manson addressed this issue to those people who want to be liked by everyone. An impossibility.

2. Our culture today is obsessively focused on unrealistically positive expectations: Be happier. Be healthier. Be the best, better than the rest. Be smarter, faster, richer, sexier, more popular, more productive, more envied, and more admired. Be perfect.

It is. No doubts whatsoever in my mind and my response is that I am not a participant in that value system. I am at the twilight of my life and am content with the way I am and with the things that I have. I am in the process of getting rid of things rather than acquiring them and that includs value systems too. I have nothing to prove to anyone, not even to myself.

I would like to share my experience when it comes to item number one too.

  1. Who you are is defined by what you’re willing to struggle for. It’s the most simple and basic component of life. Our struggles determine our successes.

I hope that Ekoshapu takes my word for what I am about to say.  I never had to struggle for position or possession.  I grew into middle and old age at a time when just having a secure job was a blessing.  Positions and possessions just happened by my being in the right places at the right times and in the absence of strong competition. My favourite quote is and has been for decades:

“Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes and the grass grows by itself.”
~ Basho.

An issue that Manson treats with great attention is “Commitment”. To Ekoshapu, I point out that this is the single most important value to take away from the book. I speak from experience.

If there is one more that I would choose to highlight, that is “The only way to overcome pain is to first learn how to bear it.”

Checked Out Characters.

I have this remarkable young friend who keeps stumping me with singular insights and terminology that sometimes zaps me. We were discussing some personalities yesterday and he came up with a description of two people I know as Checked Out Characters. In my opinion, very apt but, perhaps for my readers a little explanation is necessary.

The two personalities that I was discussing yesterday are from a sub group of Indians who due to education and with the help of some assistance from providence, have moved out of their base group and moved into  the so called elite of our society. Somewhat akin to the nouveau rich or the upwardly mobile in the social sense of the term.

Let us take some examples. I have cousins who went to schools that taught little English language and so condemned them to a life of lower middle class. On the other hand, I have cousins who went to schools which taught in the English medium which enabled them to go on to study Engineering or Medicine or to get into the Civil Services etc. Both sets of cousins come from the same stock and background in terms of religion, caste, economy etc, but one set simply due to the accident of one type of education took of on a tangent different from the other.

So far so good. The problem with the latter group of cousins is that they look down upon the former as being somehow inferior and avoid socialising with them to the extent possible. The former on the other hand having seen this phenomenon, struggle to put their children through the English medium schools and at considerable sacrifice succeed. Both sets of cousins now have their children qualified and very likely working in the Silicon Valley as computer coolies but sending money back home.

The divergent cousins now converge and strut around in relative prosperity and look down on the less fortunate ones.

My young friend called these characters as Checked Out characters implying that they have checked out of their roots and pretend to be something other than what they are.

I can come up with people from all walks of life who fit into this description. I love it. I intend not only using it to describe people but also to take some people down a few pegs.