The First Rule of Left-liberalism

>> March 20, 2013

It really is such a pity that the world refuses to give Mr. Rajeev Srinivasan sufficient credit for his studied understanding of the liberal arts and dare I say it, social “sciences”. Who else but Mr. Srinivasan (no doubt amply supported by his years of worthwhile contribution to social thought and debate in his role as, but of course, a management consultant) can reduce the entire gamut of the social sciences and liberal arts and those studying these to being “fascist, intolerant, and, well, with a warped world-view”?! Of course, we must also bear in mind that in Mr. Srinivasan’s universe, if you committed the grave error of opting to study English at university, or any other “exotic variants thereof” in the pursuit of a course of education which actually does not enable you to make power-point presentations on the projected growth of MNCs- you are but obviously “dogmatic and subject to blind faith”. Horror of horrors, if you actually labored under the delusion that you could benefit from the exposure to the multiple perspectives and schools of thought, and perhaps even apply some of these ideas into social and cultural development by opting for courses like ‘women’s studies’ or ‘cultural anthropology’, you are a silly emotional nincompoop, and you must immediately enroll for classes in the comprehension of “facts, figures or logic” with the next business consultant you can get hold of, whose exclusive preserve these pursuits are.

Middle class India must especially be grateful to Mr. Srinivasan- because now they can rest assured that the only way forward is to groom their sons (and daughters?) to be engineers (who will go on to become managers and consultants, of course). This will, as Mr. Srinivasan puts it, save them from the ignominy of being reduced to driving a taxi when the economy fails (the issue of dignity of labour, of course, being yet another example of “structured gibberish”), and nobody will raise any questions as to who the “experts” responsible were, you know the ones I’m talking about- the ones with “useful and employable skills”- for the hapless economic situation today (and I’m sure Mr. Srinivasan has more than a vague idea as to who these people are).

It is, I suppose, some consolation, that Mr. Srinivas admits that ‘humanists’ can be replaced by ‘leftists’ with no loss whatsoever of "generality’" – because we know then what he intends when he writes an article replete with generalizations so sweeping it would make the writers of ThoughtCatalog cry. Further consolation, also, is that Mr. Srinivasan chooses to rely almost entirely on the propositions of the social psychologist Mr. Jonathan Haidt to substantiate his piece, whose research on “the psychological bases of morality across different cultures and political ideologies” has been described by his own colleagues as "a smiley face on authoritarianism”.

At some point in the article, and I’m still at a complete loss as to where, Mr. Srinivasan makes what must surely be a “logical” leap and begins analogizing between liberals and anarchists. Liberals, he claims, are apparently born (or are groomed, thanks to their choices in education) to be utterly disrespectful and disregarding of “authority”. After first having established that the movie Fight Club is, therefore, the most telling illustration of a left liberal ideology, he goes on to enlighten us on the sad incomprehension of  “leftists” of  the lofty ideals of “group loyalty, respect for authority, and the notion of sanctity or purity”. Truth be told, I’m not entirely sure what he means by those three catch-phrases or their relevance to a comparison of polarized ideologies either, but he must be right, for I do not suffer from the “conservative advantage”.

Unlike the obscure "meaningless garbage" that passes for academic scholarship among the liberals, Mr. Srinivasan’s claim that “the Gang of Three” have no “no compassion for the 59 Hindus burned alive in a train in Godhra, or the 250 who were also killed in the riots” makes perfect sense. After all, for someone who appears to have little, if any, understanding of what a left-liberal ideology means (apart from his brief rendezvous with Mr. Haidt, of course), he appears to be claiming that their point of difference with those who perpetrated and endorsed the violence that was committed in Gujarat in 2002 is attributable to their “blind hatred”. In fact, he goes on to say, that it is the left liberal who cannot seem to break free from his or her prejudices, unlike the conservative who remains safely ensconced in his cocoon of “group loyalty and sanctity”.

Can I venture to say that I am a changed person, thanks to Mr. Srinivasan and his eye-opening revelations? Yes, of course. I have been fooling myself all this time- presuming to think that there are values more important than petty inclusivism- that there could be anything superior to the  "super-ordinate cause" (which, by the way, Mr. Srinivas is yet to tell us is what exactly) that is greater than me, or my gender, my caste, class or station in society. Why should it matter that variants of these very ideas- those of “matrubhumi, karmabhumi, punyabhumi”- have led to bloodshed and travesties of justice in history?  

Yes, that is- indeed- the crux of the matter. The “na├»ve uncompromising” leftists who continue to bring to light, in their "loud and hyper-active" fashion, the tight-fisted and blind devotion of conservatives to authority and so-called sanctity (of goodness knows what)- are the crux of the problem for people like Modi and I daresay, Mr. Srinivasan. If “group loyalty, respect for authority, and the notion of sanctity or purity” is to be the exclusive preserve of the engineers with unspeakable GRE scores (and we will never know how the two are connected), I’d much rather “evolve (myself) out of existence” and throw myself “in the garbage bin of history”, knowing that I stood for compassion, fairness and against oppression at the hands of exclusive privileged groups, close-minded sectarianism, and blind dogmatic parochial beliefs (also otherwise known  to Mr. Srinivasan as “group loyalty, respect for authority, and the notion of sanctity or purity”).


Ode on a Google Turn

>> March 18, 2013

I was always going to be a child of the Internet. Born to a father who firmly believed in the pervasive power of the Internet, it was only a matter of time before I moved on from the mere utilitarian use of the world wide web (the erstwhile favourites, Hotmail and AltaVista) to the recreational (ah, glory to the recently hormonal thirteen year old- MSN Messenger and ICQ) to yes, the most debilitating of them all, the utterly useless (just about everything on the internet). In the summer of 2004, as my friends were looking up Encyclopedia Britannica and pretending to be eighteen year olds in online chat-rooms, I would discover the medium that has grown to give me endless hours of pleasure (and procrastination)- the personal blog.

Looking back, I suppose this may have had something to do with the first blog I ever read – brought to my attention by my dear English teacher and fellow internet-junkie- Domain Maximus written by Sidin Vadukut. This was way back in the day – when Sidin was only just a young earnest Dubai-returned malayalee boy studying engineering who probably hadn’t the slightest clue about what was going to become of him- before the travails of south Indian men and IIM and the Dork series. Fresh on the heels of Domain Maximus, I would not only actively stumble upon many other blogs, some of them on themes that held a specific interest to me, though most of them were unassuming personal reflections of people from all over the world- but also discover what can perhaps be called, for lack of another word, the voyeur in me. Soon after, I would make the move to what has come to be a most intimate part of my internet experience – Google Reader. Once it became impossible to religiously check for updates on my preferred blogs every day–Google Reader was exactly what the unapologetic blog-phile in me needed.

When Google announced the discontinuance of Reader starting July 1, 2013 and I predictably joined in the collective twitter-outrage which is always #somuchfun (but, seriously, Orkut is still alive and they want to kill Google Reader?!!), I decided to indulge in some spring cleaning. On last count, I realized, I have 153 subscriptions on Google Reader, a large number of them defunct and yet a substantial number still relevant in my scheme of all-things-internet. And although I have created around ten different labels to categorize the blogs- the label with the largest number of blogs under it remains the same as it was eight years ago -  the personal blog. As it turns out, I have continued to read more personal blogs more than any other kind of blog.

What was this voyeuristic tendency I discovered as a teenager? And as a twenty five year old today, why do I return to these blogs? The most compelling reason, of course, for which I have persistently returned to these blogs has been, without doubt, the sheer literary quality – many of my favourite bloggers are published and acclaimed writers today. Literary merits aside, I have often asked myself why I persist in following so many mostly un-literary accounts of strangers’ lives – of college, professional dissatisfaction, personal achievements, failures, love, hate, break-ups and marriages- the whole gamut of personal life experiences, related day after day. Is it the mere thrill that comes with reading such intimately personal accounts of people experiencing life in ways strikingly similar to and yet so different from mine? Or it just good old ogling, a variant of the peeping-tom sickness, something I should probably rid myself of?  Is it, perhaps, something I should treat with the same degree of disdain that I usually reserve for people who invite me to play Criminal Case on Facebook? Or, am I, like so many others in my generation, just another victim of the incessant need the internet has cultivated in us- the need to remain connected, with everyone and everything, in some form or the other?

It might take a good deal of psycho-analysis to understand why- but what I figure, in any case, is that it doesn’t matter. So many of these people, from all over the world, and in so many different walks of life, have exposed to me to thoughts and experiences I could never have found on my own.  If you have a personal recollection to make, the internet will welcome you with open arms, and if you cannot write to save your life, you will still be led to believe that you’re God’s gift to the literary world. As the indiscriminating repository of all those bloggers’ personal stories and rants (though, I don’t, as a rule, read any blog with the word ‘rant’ in its title), Google Reader alongside a cup of coffee has made countless mornings of mine more satisfying.  On almost every day for the past eight years,  I have logged on to Google Reader safely ensconced in the reassurance that no matter what the internet is going to throw at me, I will always have a steady stream of my own painstakingly curated reading feed.

I stumbled upon most of my best liked blogs entirely by chance- and I stuck around, mostly thanks to Google Reader. And like all once-wonderful things from that era when the internet was still discovering itself, like mixed-tapes and VCRs, Google Reader is yet another “casualty of this new digital era”, one more tombstone in the ever-growing Google Graveyard. Twitter can tweet for all it wants- but years down the road, when I tell them about my first time, I will tell them about Google Reader.

Fuck those fucking glasses, and the nerd they rode in on!

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