Friday, December 02, 2005
Check out this link from a few weeks back which has a bunch of famous people answering the question "What was the most influential book you read in college?" Responders include Christopher Hitchens, David Brooks and Alan Bloom.
Since reading this, I've been trying to answer the question for myself. If the question were "What was the most influential book you've ever read?" my answer would be George Orwell's "1984". It awakened my political consciousness and drew my attention to the varied forms of totalitarianism.
But I read "1984" long before I attended college, so I've been racking my brain to think of the book I read during college which most influenced the way I view the world. Ironically, it's not a book I was assigned in class, but one I picked up and read on my own. The book? "India Discovered" by John Keay. Keay tracks the efforts of many British Orientalists who sought to piece together the history and geography of India during the British Raj. Starting with William Jones, Keay demonstrates that these citizen-scholars literally re-discovered a lost Indian history. They only had two dates to work with: 326 BC when Alexander crossed the Sindh, and 712 AD when Mohammed Bin Qasim did the same.
Local texts were of little help. Firstly, they rarely separated myth from history. For example, Vikramaditya was a real king from the Gupta era, but most stories about him center around the myth of the Vetala. In fact, it's from the chronicles of another visitor to India, the Chinese Buddhist Fa-Hien, that we are able to get a glimpse into the world Vikramaditya ruled over. It seems that an essential trait of Indian culture is to gloss over history and mythologize it instead. Another problem with local texts is the lack of a proper dating system. Most kingly proclamations are made with reference to the year of the reign of that particular king. As a result, there are many gaps in Indian history, and the English administrators who came to India and took an interest in it, took on the task of filling these gaps.
The most glaring example of this is the discovery of the Indus Valley Civilization (or Harappan Civilization), which happened in the 1920s when workers laying railway tracks in the North of India discovered ruins with extremely well preserved bricks that they wanted to use on the construction. The British official overseeing the construction sent the bricks to Calcutta to be examined, and the rest, as they say, is History.
My favorite story from the book is that of James Princep, a young Englishman who came to Calcutta to work at the Company mint. Princep was an avid coin collector and became interested in ancient Indian coins. Unable to read the script on the coins Princep started meticulously recording every symbol he came across. He asked various travellers to record inscriptions on rocks and statues that they came across, and noticed something peculiar. A series inscriptions carved into rocks and pillars all across the sub-continent started with the same set of symbols. These inscriptions were usually accompanied with the three-lion motif or the chakra (wheel) motif. Princep concluded that all of these inscriptions must have been from proclamations made by a single king who ruled over most of what is now modern India. Unfortunately, no one had any idea who this king was, or what the script said. After years of painstaking work, Princep finally cracked the code and deciphered the script.
"Devanam piya, Piyadasi Laja evam haiva." That is the Prakrit that Princep deciphered when he cracked the script. All the inscriptions from the mystery king started with these words. Translated from the Prakrit, it says, "Beloved of the gods, King Piyadasi proclaims thus." The rest of the inscription would be the particular proclamation. So, who was this King Piyadasi? Some more detective work revealed that King Piyadasi was a tyrant king who conquered most of India before converting to Buddhism and ruling the vast country justly, peppering the country-side with proclamations of peace. His symbols were the three lions facing in different directions, and the wheel. Today we know him as Ashoka the Great, whose wheel symbol adorns the Indian flag.
What is amazing is that locals had no idea what the inscriptions were, or who Ashoka was. What Keay's book does is to show us just how much of our history was lost, and how much might still be unrevealed to us. And this is why I think Keay's book was the most influential one I read during college. I realized just how ahistorical Indian society is, and as an avid history-buff, it was quite a disappointing discovery. I also began to re-evaluate the legacy of the British in India. These insights have shaped my thinking as a student of history. After all, Jones, Princep and a host of other bureaucrats and army officers contributed so much to our understanding of India and Indian identity. We owe these men a huge debt, and to trample on that legacy in the name of anti-colonialism is to do ourselves a great disservice. And, it would be one of the most ahistorical acts imaginable.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Monday, November 14, 2005
The guns fell silent on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Since then, November 11th has been Remembrance Day, a day when we remember those who died in the trenches of the Western Front, the killing fields of the Eastern Front and the desert of Arabia. World War I was the bloodiest war that had been fought till date, and remains one of the most pointless wars in human history. Unlike its more dramatic sequel, there were no winners in World War I, although there were certainly victors. Victory however, was little comfort for the winning allies as they had lost the best and brightest of an entire generation, young men who died in the service of ambiguous ideals.
People in Britain mark Remembrance Day by pinning plastic poppies on their lapels. The poppy flower is to symbolize the poppy fields of northern France and Belgium, where some of the bloodiest battles of the war were fought, and where so many of the dead are buried. As a symbol representing the war dead, the poppy was popularized by the Canadian soldier, physician and poet John McCrae, with his poem "In Flanders Fields". The opening stanza of the poem reads:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
There is an unobtrusive memorial to the dead in World War I right here in Bangalore, at the junction of Brigade Road and Residency Road. A block of stone a little over ten feet high stands in a little island, amid the potholes and traffic, commemorating the war dead from the Indian Army (both British and Native). Not too many people know this, but nearly 1 million Indians fought in the Great War, on all fronts, and more than 50,000 of them died.
My grand-father once told me something his father had told him in his day: "Great War banthu, yella hoithu." The Great War came, and everything went. By the end of the First World War, four of the most powerful European Empires (German, Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian and Russian) were wiped off the map, two (British and French) were spiraling out of their control, Jallianwala Bagh had laid to rest any possibility of a continued, long-term Indian reconciliation with the British Empire, the map of the Middle East was redrawn, the Communists had gained a foothold in Russia, and the United States of America was the new Great Power. The Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, and today’s terrorism all form part of the fallout of these contradictions, brought about by the close of the War that was supposed to "end all wars." This November, we remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, and acknowledge the continued sacrifice of their modern-day heirs.
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
The BBC ran a special series of programming on India recently, and I caught two pretty awesome episodes of HardTalk. First Stephen Sackur drilled my erstwhile schoolmate [Feroze] Varun Gandhi, who came off as genial and well-meaning, but not ready or suitable for politics. Sackur later took the Communist Party's Brinda Karat to task in what was more like a wrestling rumble than an interview. Good stuff.
I didn't catch his interview with Narayan Murthy, but thankfully, the Indian Express carries the transcript (link from Amit Varma).
India will continue to lead as long as our politicians, bureaucrats, corporate leaders and academicians realise that we have to work harder and smarter need to do things with a sense of alacrity, we need to create better physical infrastructure, better education infrastructure.
I wonder who he was referring to? As they say, read the whole thing.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
The Times of India sounds the clarion call. Read this from Shekhar Gupta as well. Ever since Gowda has exercised power as the leader of the junior partner in the governing coalition in Karnataka, good governance has taken a major beating. He insisted on a light-weight puppet to be the Chief Minister. He has called for scrapping the Metro rail project. He has thrown a wrench into the Airport plans. He has picked fights with the former Chief Minister, his own deputy, Siddaramaiah, the IT industry, and now personally with Narayan Murthy. Where does he think he gets off?
His only motivation seems to be a pathetic desire to remain relevant, even if his relevance is actually the notoriety of the continual spoiler. A former Prime Minister, Deve Gowda is ashamed (with good reason) that all he can muster now is a minor say in the governance of one state. Furthermore, his power in this state is also eroding, and he is trying his damndest to hold on to some of it. Money, land, infrastructure, entrepreneurship, talent - all these sources of power are eluding Deve Gowda, and his helplessness is palpable.
It's time we got rid of this weak good for nothing. It's time the people of Bangalore and Karnataka demanded good governance as opposed to lunatic, egotistic posturing. How do we do this? Keep this discussion going. Narayan Murthy's resignation from the Airport authority is the pebble that can start an avalanche. Industry leaders and opinion makers need to discuss this on a daily basis. Narayan Murthy must be defended from baseless, idiotic accusations. Gowda's misrule must be on the front pages of newspapers everyday for the next few months. Pressure must be exercised in Delhi to bring Krishna back and to dump Gowda's JD(S). Siddaramaiah can be encouraged to pull the rug out from under Gowda in rural constituencies.
Keep in mind, that Deve Gowda's own worst enemy is his mouth, backed by his shrivelling brain. Keep him in the news, and you force him to put his ugly mug on the front pages. Keep his enemies talking and you force him to open his trap. He does these things, and he'll bury himself. All we need to do is to continue to stress his weaknesses and to tout the relative strengths of his adversaries. He will do the rest, with a little help from Sonia.
Madam, a fresh set of elections in Karnataka will rid you of this troublesome pest.
Friday, October 21, 2005
Amit Varma links to this interview with Mallika Sarabhai where she says that Draupadi "is the epitome of the 21st century woman." In the same post, Amit Varma also links to this blogger who disagrees with the above quote and instead says that Draupadi "comes out like she has no personality and personality is what defines a 21st century woman... That was then; this is now."
Personally, I prefer to view these people as literary characters rather than historical figures. I find it's easier to discover the divinity in them that way. And, I have to agree with Mallika Sarabhai when she says:
"I have always felt that our mythological women and historical women got aI had a similar feeling when I read the Ramayana and pondered the problem of Sita. Mallika Sarabhai follows up the previous statement with this:
raw patriarchal deal. The writers of history were men: the priests were men, the
storytellers were men, the historians were mostly men. And they ended up by
reducing all the women into cardboard cutouts – wimps, in fact."
"And yet they (the women) could not have been so. Think of this -- why are
all the men identified by their women? Radheshyam -- Radha's Shyam; Umashankar -- Uma's Shankar; Sitaram -- Sita's Ram etc?"
Alternatively, couldn't one argue that the women are defined by their men? In fact, that's exactly the case with the women of the Ramayana. Here's what I wrote last year about that epic (after reading R.K. Narayan's adaptation):
I wrote this as part of a larger essay on "Rama's Moral Lapses". The main focus of the piece was Rama's killing of Vali, but as mentioned above, Sita's trial by fire is just as revealing, if not more so, about Rama's character. I'll post the full piece on this site one of these days. Today I just wanted to add my two cents to the issue of women in our epics.
"The female is treated very unfairly (from a modern and feminist persepective)
in the entire 'Ramayana', and Sita's trial [by fire] is just the culmination of
that sentiment, developped through the epic. The major female characters in the
story are Sita, Kaikeyi, Manthara (Kooni in this version), Soorpanaka and Tara
(Sugreeva's wife). None are given their full due as independent characters, and
all seem to exist solely for the men in their lives. Sita's sense of dharma
compels her to follow Rama into exile. Had she chosen otherwise, it is clear
that the moral judgement would be negative. Kaikeyi's disobedience of Dasaratha
forms part of the ethical charges made against her. Kooni's evil nature is made
clear by her attempt to interfere in the male-centric ritual of succession.
Soorpanaka, the one independent female in the story is given a very unflattering
portrayal, and even she ends up with a Rama-centered identity. Tara is flung
from one husband to the next with no concern for her preferences. Even Ahalya,
is forced to live an eternity as a rock for being raped by Indra.
All the classic feminist critiques apply to the Ramayana. While stacked with
powerful male characters like Rama, Ravana, Hanuman and Vali, the Ramayana lacks strong female characters. Sita's greatness lies not in her independence or
strength, but devotion to Rama. Given all this, it is easy to see why Sita's
trial by fire fits in with the general narrative of the Ramayana and with Rama's
own code of ethics...
This is not to say that Sita's trial by fire is excusable. In fact modern re-tellings of the tale can quite easily skip the sordid chapter and not lose any of the narrative. Sita's trial by fire, like Vali's killing is inexcusable and indefensible, but the latter is also inexplicable."
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Earthquakes, Hurricanes, Tsunamis and War: is the end of days here? Has your soul been saved?
Well, to help you on your way, you can check out the guys mentioned here by Sepia Mutiny's Manish. Don't miss the discussion in the comments section - very interesting stuff.
Anyone familiar with the issue knows that there is a problem regarding Christian missionaries in India (for that matter there's a problem regarding Muslim preachers too, but let's table that one for another day shall we?). Upper class and upper caste hindus find Christian missionaries offensive and intrusive, Christian missionaries see themselves on a holy crusade and fascist Bajrang Dal thugs see all this as a good opportunity to burn people alive.
Now for the history: Christian missionaries have been coming to India for a long time and have done their fair share of good and bad. They set up schools and hospitals for the poor (and the rich - the top schools and colleges in the major metropolitan cities in India were invariably set up by Christian missionaries). They brought the ideas of equality of individuals, the benign nature of Divinity, and the notion of helping your fellow man regardless of social station. They also rubbished our traditions, undermined our social harmony, dismissed off-hand any wisdom in Indian religious traditions and acted as handmaidens of our imperial overlords, providing theological justifications for our continued subjugation.
So where does that leave us today? Well, India is a free country, so people have the right to proselytize and to convert. There's nothing really that the government should do to stop them. Our society however, should act like a mature one and adapt to a new situation. Christian missionaries today are backed by a lot of cash, zeal and infrastructure (television channels, global networks etc.). Just like the quality of clothing produced in India is expected to get better by competing with foreign brands, the quality of our ideas should be honed by the constant challenge brought by missionaries.
Defend your beliefs and you will understand them better. Also, accept whatever wisdom is provided by the new ideas and reject the baggage. I like that - there's something essentially Hindu to such a response.
Monday, September 19, 2005
In an interesting op-ed in today's Indian Express, Ananya Vajpeyi engages V.S. Naipaul's recent assertion that "there are no thinkers in India," and William Dalrymple's recent comment that good Indian writing in English will "increasingly come to be the preserve of the diaspora." Vajpeyi's article is an important and necessary contribution to what needs to be an ongoing discussion, and she makes some good points, particularly towards the end when she says:
"The fact is, whether in Hindi or in English or in any other major Indian language, we are patently not in the midst of a cultural renaissance, or on the brink of a revolution in ideas. It will not do to dismiss Naipaul and Dalrymple as “outsiders” who cannot appreciate the thought or writing of at least a handful of people in a billion-strong nation. They are talented men who have spent their respective literary careers engaging India with a degree of seriousness that not many native intellectuals or creative writers can match."
But I can't help chuckling when she follows this up with:
"If they are both pointing to a paucity of quality intellection, a scarcity of creative self-expression, a lack of thinkers looking 50 years ahead and anticipating a changed world, then we need to take stock of the Indian mindscape."
or earlier in the piece, when she says:
"Who can say that our leaders stand head and shoulders above the tumult of the times, and look out into futurity?"
Umm... What's with the esoteric, SAT words?
Anyway, there's something slightly more problematic with Ananya Vajpeyi's piece than just words that appear to be made up. Here is the central question she poses:
"We return, then, to a perennial search: the search for a philosopher-statesman."
Now, if she had read her Lilla, she would know that this is exactly the wrong kind of search for us to engage in. Philosophers make terrible statesmen precisely because they are philosophers. This has been true ever since Plato first went to Syracuse. In fact, I would argue that a lot of India's current misfortune stems from the fact that India was led by such philosopher-statesmen during the nation's infancy.
To be fair to Vajpeyi though, she may get the question wrong, but she does get the answer right:
"A clamorous cabal of squabbling schoolmen, shrill ideologues and paid consultants will not steer this ship out to the high seas of growth, stability and equity."
Amen to that.
Thursday, September 08, 2005
Friday, August 26, 2005
A friend in America recently wrote to me and asked:
"yo, what is desaffronisation? taking hinduism out of public ed? is that a big deal right now?"
There's a major controversy regarding the education curriculum in India. Essentially, Indian history has been written by a bunch of leftists and unreconstructed marxists since Indian independence. School textbooks reflected this bias, and the curriculum writers were supported by the left-leaning Indian government. In the 1990s, Indian rightists took over government, and began introducing textbooks that reflected their historical biases. Now usually I'd be in favor of this, but I have many problems with Indian rightists. They're mostly cultural rightists, and I'm essentially an economic rightist. Being cultural rightists, many of them are Hindu chauvinists, and the most hidebound and reactionary people were put in charge of revising the curriculum. So, their changes to the educational system were characterized by the leftist academic elite as "Saffronisation".
Now, the left parties are back in power, and they're going about dismantling the saffronisation of education and reinstating the old texts and theories. This is called "Desaffronisation". My personal opinion tends towards a plague on both your houses attitude. Indian leftists are some of the most idiotic people on the planet, and Indian hindu chauvinists are some of the silliest. Neither should be in charge of dictating the History curriculum in Indian schools. Furthermore, India is a very ahistorical country, in that the Indian people largely don't have a mature sense of history. There isn't a long tradition of recording, analyzing and arguing about our history, as there is in most of the rest of the world, so much of our historical thinking is extremely simplistic.
So, on the one hand you have a bunch of leftist academics, learning and teaching all the wrong lessons from Indian history, usually in inaccessible jargon, and on the other hand you have a group of simplistic charlatans who have no idea how to appoach the study of history in the first place. As you can see, it's a tough one. The biggest casualty of all this nonsense, of course, is the Indian student. Children in India, already discouraged from studying history by a society enamored with science and engineering, are taught faulty history in an extremely boring way. Not only do they end up not knowing anything of their history, they end up being turned off to it. Instead of educating India's children about India's history, India's history teachers are contributing to the continued historical ignorance of the people of India.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
I saw the film last week and was going to write something on it, but Ashok Malik says everything I wanted to in today's Indian Express, and he puts it in a much better way than I possibly could.
"Mangal Pandey is eminently watchable. True, it is not short of anomalies and anachronisms — Barrackpore looks beautiful, but is not usually overlooked by the Sahyadris; Lord Canning refers to the white man’s burden a half-century before Kipling coined the phrase; the real Mangal Pandey almost certainly never met Azimullah Khan and Tatya Tope.
Nevertheless, as a mix of history, folk tradition, legend and cinematic licence, the film is worth the price of the ticket. It is visually extremely rich, some of the sets are straight out of Company-era watercolours.
The drama and vibrancy of mid-19th century India is well brought out — snakes and painted elephants, glass bangles and throbbing music. Some of these are cliches, of course, to appeal to the overseas viewer, but in much the same manner as Indian novelists now seem to write only for literary agents in London."
As someone once said, read the whole thing (link).
Thursday, August 18, 2005
1. Went to Pondi last weekend. Abhi has the goods here (with pics).
2. This is really pissing me off.
3. A British former leftist, turned American "neo-con stooge" fawns over Jyoti Basu and, in the same article, says this:
"I have come to hope very devoutly that India ceases to think of itself as a 'Third World' nation, and that it makes a strength of its former weaknesses. In practice, this ought to mean an across-the-board alliance with the United States."
4. William Dalrymple:
"If the last few years are anything to go by, I suspect that in the years ahead the main competition Indian writers aspiring to win the Booker will face will not be the Alan Hollinghursts or the AS Byatts, so much as their own cousins born and brought up in the west."
Very interesting. Link here (via kitabkhana).
5. And finally, in the humor department: apparently, you can outsource just about anything. (link via Amit Varma).
Thursday, August 11, 2005
First off, this guy is wrong. Rushdie is brilliant (previous praise for Rushdie on this blog here). I can't wait to read his new book.
(link to Amitava Kumar's article via this very interesting post by Amardeep Singh on the amazing Sepia Mutiny)
In the same post, Prof. Singh also talks about V.S. Naipaul's recent interview with the New York Times. This leads to a discussion (in the comments) of Naipaul's attitude towards Muslims, and more specifically, his reactions when he visited Hampi. Here is Prof. Singh's take on the issue, and here is William Dalrymple's. I'm a big Dalrymple fan, and everything I've read by Prof. Singh has been insightful and informative, but here I have to disagree with both of them, particularly Dalrymple.
"The fall of Vijayanagar is a subject Naipaul keeps returning to: in an interview shortly after being awarded the Nobel Prize in 2001, he talked about how the destruction of the city meant an end to its traditions: "When Vijayanagar was laid low, all the creative talent would also have been destroyed. The current has been broken."
Yet there is considerable documentary and artistic evidence that the very opposite was true, and that while some of the city's craftsmen went on to to work at the Meenakshi temple of Madurai, others transferred to the patronage of the sultans of Bijapur where the result was a significant artistic renaissance."
The latter point may be true, but Dalrymple is down-playing the impact of the destruction in Hampi. This actually makes for a good segue for me to discuss some stuff that's been happening in my life recently. I visited Hampi last weekend, and my reaction is much closer to Naipaul's than Dalrymple's.
Naipaul's basic contention is that the discontinuity that resulted with the destruction of Vijayanagar resulted in a major loss of creative energies in the Hindu South. I couldn't agree more. To take one example, Hampi's ruined Vitthala Temple is an architectural and engineering marvel. The temple is famous for being the Vitthala temple where the great Vitthala bhakta, and father of Carnatic music, Purandara Dasa sang the praises of his patron god. It is also famous for the design of the stone pillars, 56 of which are designed to be used as a musical instrument.
Most of these pillars have now been destroyed, but the ones that remain are fascinating. Each one of these pillars is designed to be used as a percussion instrument, and each is tuned to a different note. On festival days temple musicians would strike these pillars with specially designed drum-sticks, producing a comprehensive sound that could be heard nearly a mile away. Keep in mind, that this temple was constructed in the 15th century, a near contemporary of the magnificent Gothic cathedrals of Europe with their amazing pipe organs.
Now, my cousin and I have been having an ongoing discussion for a few years now. The question he posed to me was, given the melodic beauty and complexity of the Indian music system with its ragas, and deep understanding of the musical scale, why were Indian musicians unable to discover (invent?) harmonics? Europeans started with church organs and choirs, and around the 15th century, Monteverdi (a near contemporary of Purandara Dasa) played around with what he was listening to to come up with a harmonic system that would be perfected a few hundred years later by geniuses like Mozart and Beethoven.
It isn't outrageous to imagine that if Vijayanagar had exported its temple construction technology and acoustics to other temples that such a system could even have been stumbled upon by a Purandara Dasa, to be perfected a few hundred years later by a Thyagaraja (a near contemporary of Mozart). But, because of the discontinuity caused by the city's destruction, we will never know.
Ok, this is pretty far-fetched you say, but the point stands. The destruction of the city of Vijayanagar, beyond just being a humanitarian catastrophe, was a cultural disaster. A lot of the artistic knowledge and achievement gained by the Vijayanagar civilization was lost. To downplay this tragedy is tasteless, to say the least.
And that's my biggest problem with Dalrymple's analysis. Sure, some of these artists gained occupation under the Bijapur Sultanate, but shouldn't we also acknowledge the extent of the loss, as Naipaul does?
Furthermore, some of the damage done to these statues and monuments speak to the determination and audacity with which the conquering Muslim armies went about their jobs. One nine foot high Ganesha idol, built of granite, and at the time the tallest Ganesha idol in India, took weeks to disfigure. The conquering army first drilled holes into the trunk and belly of the statue, then inserted metal and wood pieces into those holes, and over a period of a few weeks, systematically poured water into those holes. The water caused the wood and metal to expand and thereby shatter the trunk and belly of the idol. That level of calculated destruction must be clearly reported and discussed.
Think about the hue and cry raised over the destruction of one architecturally insignificant, and unused mosque in Ayodhya (an action I deplore, by the way), and consider the lack of outrage at the tragedy of Vijayanagar. Or, for another historical example, compare Dalrymple's description of the destruction of Vijayanagar with this account of the expulsion of the Moors from Spain. It appears that polite opinion allows for outrage over historical acts of injustice done to Muslims, but not for those done by Muslims.
Let me end by saying that the ruins of Hampi are a marvel. If you ever get the chance, make the trip. You won't regret it.
Saturday, July 30, 2005
1. Check out this Blog Mela - great format showcasing some great posts from bloggers.
2. I've been in India a little over a month now. It's exciting and interesting, but I'm a little worried that the work I'm doing might be a little over my head. Otherwise, the social scene here is really awesome, except for the fact that some police comissioner guy thinks everything needs to shut by 11pm. Yeah, you read that correctly - 11 o'clock at night and the partying's done! Just absurd.
3. I have a set of Tablas at home - awesome! Mom had them at home in Bombay all these years, but for some reason didn't tell me. Anyway, they're with me now, and I try to play a few times every week. I'm hoping to play with some other musicians in Bangalore - should be fun!
4. I've been told I should post more on this site, so I'll try.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
So it looks like I only post once every quarter. I'll try and fix that. Not much I want to blog about today though. I've moved back to India; more on that (probably) later.
And radical, totalitalitarian Islamists have struck again, this time in London. Were you surprised by the fact that they had a Pakistani connection? Yeah, me neither.
Monday, March 21, 2005
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
I can't help feeling that Larry Summers is sunk. He told a group of academics in a closed-door meeting that maybe, part of the reason why there are fewer women research scientists at top universities than men is innate gender differences. Naturally, this started off a fire-storm. Now, I don't know if I agree or disagree with Summers. It's an unproven hypothesis. But you see, such talk doesn't really matter to scientists and professors. All kinds of high and righteous people have now called for Summers to step down as President of Harvard.
Wow! Even the President of Harvard University cannot speak his mind. How can we then expect students and professors to enjoy the rights of free speech? Either way though, Summers is done (I think). I don't really know too much about him, other than he was the Treasury Secretary at a time when I was too young to care about stuff like that, and that he fired Cornel West (for which he gets points in my book). I think that conservatives latched on to Summers as the perfect person to reverse the tide in academia. Summers was an ex-Cabinet member for a Democrat President, yet because of his economic background had a results-oriented approach to the problems facing universities. Summers was also able to gamble on the Harvard brand name to start making changes (like supporting ROTC). Conservatives were really rooting for him to pull off an academic sea-change.
But, with the present flap, it doesn't seem likely that Summers will succeed in that goal. I wish he had just been dismissive of the whole gender bias charge, instead of being profusely apologetic for having made his comments. When asked to apologize, Summers should have just said, "don't be absurd," and been done with it. He could then have made some point about how Harvard professors need to spend more time teaching their students and less time chasing politically correct red herrings. Aah - too bad he didn't. Well, I hope he makes it through this current flap and remains Harvard President. Otherwise, they might hire some crapweasel like Lee Bollinger or Jim Wright.