Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Govind Pansare

Rationalist and activist Govind Pansare is reported critical, but stable, after being shot at yesterday. As the war on reason continues, let's revisit this incisive tribute to Narendra Dabholkar written by lok-shahir Sachin Mali, from his prison cell. 
Tribute to Dabholkar
by Sachin Mali (KKM)*
On the edge of a footpath In a pool of blood
lies the 20th of August, 2013
But you obscurantist messengers of darkness
from my jail cell I witness
the beginning of your defeat.
If you wanted to strike and annihilate Dhabolkar
why didn’t you use your black magic tricks
putting a curse on him
by crossing out his image
or offering a chicken sacrifice ?
Why didn’t you organize a Mahayagya
with 108 Brahmins at the doorstep
of his Committee Against Blind Faith
and reduce his rationality to ashes?
With hands folded and eyes shut
why didn’t you ask for a boon
to a millionaire god somewhere?
Why didn’t you build more mathas and ashrams
and gather hordes of people for your “satsangs’?
Why didn’t you denounce Dabholkar there
and brand him the atheist demon ?
Did we stop you from doing this ?
Today your crumpled faces are evidence
that exhausted by your own failed fakery
bent in your spine, you have collapsed.
Your bag of magic tricks and all your vile powers
could not contain the unstoppable storm
of Dabholkar’s rebellion.
Facing the harsh sun, strong winds, lashing rains
Dabholkar marched on his path of reason
a song of equality upon his lips
Brushing cobwebs of blind faith from our eyes
plucking out the worms of fanaticism
that crawl in our minds he rode the darkness
sowing seeds of hope and light.
From crematoriums to mathas of charlatan sadhus
fighting casteists and caste panchayats
demanding common water sources for Dalits
Dabholkar kept up his relentless campaign
But you obscurantist ghosts of darkness
none of your vile deeds and bags of black magic
could osbscure his clear vision.
Your so called power of the netherworld
could not finish the thought that is Dabholkar.
Then finally you wielded the ultimate weapon
the Bramhastra much used in your history.
Stained already by the blood of Charavaka
and Tukaram today it is soaked once again
in the blood of Dabholkar
This is the latest chapter of your terrible deeds
This the bloodied metal of your inhumanity
This the latest link in your history of cruelty.
On the edge of a footpath in a pool of blood
lies the 20th of August, 2013
But you obscurantist messengers of darkness
I witness the beginning of your defeat
From my jail cell I can still see
a Narendra Dabholkar, undefeated.
Sachin Mali
Sept. 2013, Arthur Rd Jail, Mumbai
*Sachin Mali of KKM has been in Arthur Rd jail since early April 2013 awaiting trial under the UAPA. Originally in Marathi, the poem is a rough translation by Simantini Dhuru

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Opposable thumbs and opposable minds!

So today, being a "writing day" break from the hectic production and post production schedules on the two films, it will take great restraint not to disappear down the 140-character-wisdom rabbit hole. Social media debates are informed largely by the same set of principles that pump the adrenaline in any sport - a sense of belonging, an idea of the "other", the sharpening of skills that seem necessary for survival, a competition between the kin and the "outsiders", a race to claim resources of survival, the preservation of your "own", an intention to leading "the team" towards a more sustainable choice, and even avenge insult or injury with a "lesson taught well" to stave off further risk of intrusion.
If I indulge in this notion beyond the obvious parallels, it would be at my own peril. The consequences of an idea can go far beyond the earliest participants exchanging it or engaging with it. While we enjoy the life sustaining and life enhancing effects of good ideas, world transforming and enlightening effects of great ones, we also suffer the repercussions of bad ones for generations. (Of course, good ideas can also have seen/unforeseen detrimental consequences). Like the appendix and the wisdom tooth, some ideas are vestigial – could have had some evolutionary benefit thousands of years ago, but have lost all reason to exist. At their best, they can be mostly harmless, at their worst, fatal.
We know now that ideas, like genes, mutate, fuse, vary, replicate themselves, inherit traits, co-evolve, and die off. Ideas are “selfish”. They can be symbiotic or parasitical to their hosts, and the paradigm that reflects the nature of this relationship is “cui bono?” – the question, “to whose benefit?”
How do we negotiate our way through this? Can we chart out a “quantum” constitution, a “manual to spaceship earth” that is in a constant state of flux, varying, evolving, contextual, while having a (more or less) solid preamble? A preamble that distills thousands of years of “good” intention into a singular aspiration – equal rights, equitably distributed resources and opportunities, future proof collective sustenance (?), prioritized anthropocentrically (?), but extending to all life.
The world exists in the continua of contradicting forces. The opposable thumb sped up the evolution of the species and so did the “opposable mind”. Here’s a wonderful thought experiment created by Loren Carpenter in 1991, examining swarm intelligence and the continuum effect of contradiction –

(You can also start with the newer replica of the experiment here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9eVz4wBBgU )
This brings me back to my little twitter experiment in this morning. Sharing here -
Well, so much for an opposable thumb without a firm grip!