Sunday, August 31, 2014

Has Al Gore Been Smoking Pot?

Bl di Bla di Bla

The Newshour for Dummies

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Dangers of Religious Moderates

It’s been a while since I’ve written something controversial, or politically incorrect as some would say. It’s funny, the psychology of society; I haven’t even started and I already know it’s going to be controversial. Interesting, isn’t it? So what exactly drove me to write what I’m about to? Two things, basically, not really interconnected but not mutually exclusive either.

First, I recently read an article by Shahrukh Khan, which talks about being a Khan. I should mention here, to my discredit, that the article is more than a year old. Yes, I’m capable of finding rocks to live under for extended periods. It’s written beautifully of course, he’s a genius, and it’s a different matter that he has a tendency to go into goat mode on screen. Anyway, all of you who know me are aware how much I adore this man. As I said, the article is written very well, and I truly believe that he’s being honest about it. However, I must still disagree with the core point that he’s trying to make. Which brings us to our second point.

I recently saw a debate where Sam Harris was speaking on religious moderates and the implications of religious moderation if left unchecked. That got me thinking. Now, I’m not the sort of person who goes the extra mile to be politically correct. More often than not, one can find me speaking my mind. It’s a gift and a curse at the same time. But after listening to Harris, I realized I’m also a part of this moderate tribe in some ways. Saying it, but not really saying it, watching carefully, treading with caution. I said “some ways” because there are a few things I’ve always been clear on. Like the statement “all religions teach peace” or “all religions are essentially the same”. No, and you don’t even have to read the holy books to realize that. A mere glance at history should tell you that there are inherent and irreconcilable differences between religions, in both the teaching as well as the delivery. 

Christianity already had its field day with all the crusades, the inquisitions, the witch hunts and what not. However, there is a silver lining here—despite the violent past, Christianity revived itself. It has been a pretty modern and peaceful religion in the recent past. I mean, we even have the Pope and several high level clergymen willing to discuss things like pre-marital sex, homosexuality etc. Yes, there are some fringe elements who still employ coercive and/or exploitative conversion etc. and engage in random terrorism in North Eastern India, Northern Ireland etc. but otherwise, there’s not much to complain about, not on global level. But how did this happen? That is the bigger question. There’s not too much of a difference between the basic principles (ones that are of concern) of both Christianity and Islam. Both monotheistic, both totalitarian in nature, both condoning and sometimes even commanding slavery, torture and murder, and both based on messianic prophecies. Islam is much more strict and extreme of course. Apostasy means death and several other shenanigans. Christopher Hitchens often used to joke about this when people asked for his views on the persecution of Jews throughout history. He said, “When you reject 2 versions of the messiah in a row, you’re bound to have trouble”.

But I digress, back to the point. So what exactly happened that Christianity evolved? It’s pretty simple actually. The world went on, proper education systems happened, democracies came into existence, bilateral relations between countries prospered, free trade zones happened etc. People finally realized that God’s word does not make the world a better place. People realized that inclusion and tolerance are better than dogma. They realized it’s better to listen to good people around you than to blindly believe in ancient texts. People started questioning, a new wave of scientists, atheists, agnostics and skeptics came to the forefront. 

Nothing seems to be doing the trick when it comes to Islamic extremism though. That silver lining seems to grow darker paler every passing day. It’s pretty clear, something much more sinister is at work here. Sure, the crusaders attacked and killed in medieval times, but the modern Jihadi’s are ready to blow themselves up! When they aren’t doing that, they’re beheading little children and holding their heads as trophies. What is it exactly that commands such devotion? What kind of mind thinks this is holy? Do they really believe it to be the word of God? Does it have something to do with how they’re brought up? Does it have something to do with Madrasa teachings? I don’t know, but what I’m trying to say is that asking these questions shouldn’t be taboo.

Al Qaeda is planning the final Jihad, starting with India. ISIS has been doing things that make my blood curdle, then I go into fits of rage, and cry some times. It doesn’t take a particularly weak man to cry looking at the picture of a 4 year old little girl’s headless body. You pick any part of the world, and you won’t find it difficult to find examples of nutcase Islamic outfits. It’s been happening for quite a while now, and it shows no signs of stopping. A cartoon gets published and the whole world cowers in fear, an author writes a book and the whole world cowers in fear again. Bookstores get bombed, heads of state issue fatwas, one of the most modern societies of our times (Denmark) is forced to ignore its own constitution, Supreme Court judgements are overturned, Parliament gets attacked, trains and buses are bombed, markets are bombed, consulates are bombed, temples are bombed, churches are bombed, Red Cross offices are bombed…goes on and on and on. I’m sure, it’ll probably take the whole week if I continue with the examples of utter savagery. 

So what are the moderates saying about this? Well, the usual, but now they have two versions of it. First, it was “All religions teach peace”, now a significant number of them say “All religions are bad”. In a nutshell, first they played the 3 monkeys of Mahatma Gandhi, and now they’ve based their reasoning on a logical fallacy – because two things are more similar than dissimilar, therefore both are the same. See, this might look like a very noble stand to take, however, please note that the net result is still a big fat ZERO. Just sitting there and parroting the same lines ad nauseam is not only dishonest, it amounts to abetting violence in my opinion. This is possibly what a Jihadi thinks when he listens to all the moderates –“Hmm…so all these learned people feel we aren’t really any worse than anything out there. Oh well, that isn’t so bad, carry on brothers”. What you’re doing is providing an escape route to the extremist, when you really should have been the loudest and fiercest critic. Saying “oh they’re just mad men” doesn’t mean anything, and it accomplishes nothing. It is you, with your cowardly reason and pseudo-morality who is responsible for the terrorist stereotype in the first place. 

If good Muslims, and well-wishers from other groups don’t start tackling this issue head on, then I fear we’re doomed. If you really think these people are simply misled, well then the onus to bring them back to the civilized world lies with you, whether you’re a Muslim moderate or just generally a moderate. So Mr. Khan, I’m a big fan, and I know you’re not a terrorist, but I do have a suggestion. I take this as my first step towards shedding the extra kilos of “moderate” in me. You’re such a big personality, you’re media savvy, you’re pretty tech savvy as well, and your communication skills have always been above par when it comes to Bollywood. You’ve made a lot of noises in the last two decades; business, film-making and even social issues. Why is it that you cannot make a noise for something that clearly affects you much more than anything else? Trust me, you make the right noises and you’ll see some change at least. You make the same noises and you thrust everyone back into a self-pitying state powered by victim-hood syndrome that does more harm than good. More than that, it abets skipping of vital introspection.

P.S.—Please make Don 3 as soon as possible.

P.P.S.--As I post this, Arnab Goswami is rattling my eardrums about how deeply hurt he is about something idiotic Mohan Bhagwat said...again. Someone somewhere is harping about how all of this is a big fat conspiracy to malign a religion of peace. Facebook warriors are more interested in playing Sherlock Holmes to identify the funding channels ('s the big bad USA). What next, Global Warming messing up their heads?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

How to Tell If You're Arguing With an Idiot

We've all been in these situations, and it's pretty nasty. So here are some pointers that should help you in deciding when to run away. Not an exhaustive list by any means, but should give you a good idea of what to look for.

1) Emotional Instability
Responding with too many LOLs, hmmmphs, huh!, doh!, LMAOs and expletives. They can't process logic and reasoning. Their brain simply rejects rationale, and finds solace in these outbursts.    
Example - Genetic research and biological studies have shown that we are only a pair of chromosomes away from the big apes. Response - LMAO..ROFL!!, I can't help you if you believe that.

2) Rogue-like Behaviour
If you corner them with solid evidence/logic on one topic, they start talking about something else, enter hibernation mode or simply shut down.
Example - Research/studies show that African Americans and Mexicans commit most crimes in the US, it needs to be addressed. Response: You're a racist and Sikander ne Porus se ki thi ladaayi! and now I'm off to sleep. (Okay, bad example, but you get the picture)

3) Comprehension Disorder
This is a pretty severe disability; they can't tell an analogy from a direct comparison just as they cannot tell their head from their posterior.
Example - The Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier Fight of the Century was like watching a Pitbull vs Wolf fight. Response: Huh! You’re a bigot, did you just call liberal African Americans dogs?

4) Logical Fallacies (This is THE most important, so I'll be thorough with it)

A.  Ad hominem - Attacking the other person rather than countering the claims or conclusions.   
Example - There is substantial evidence that divorce/dowry/violence laws are gender biased and susceptible to misuse. Response: You're just a misogynistic pig who hates women.    

B. Ad ignorantiam - They just love this. They know it is right simply because you can't prove it is wrong.
Example - Watch any religious fanatic go on and on about "intelligent design" and what not.                                                         

C. Association/Causation/Coincidence/Effect – They get these jumbled up and can't differentiate between them. Reversal of cause and effect..Treating coincidence as a predetermined effect...Intentionally reducing a wide set of possibilities to only one or two.
Example - Watch any gender ideologue go on and on about Patriarchy and how anything and everything that happens in the world is a carefully thought out evil scheme.

D. Authority - Speaking from authority is a frequently used tactic. Using “he said so/she said so” as the base of an argument.
Example - Mrs. X said so in this article, I'm saying the same, therefore I'm right and you're wrong. Mr. Y said the same thing in an interview, therefore I'm right and you're wrong.

E. Analogical Fail - Another thing they cannot seem to resist. They have this habit of comparing people, things or situations which are not analogous at all. Even if by a stroke of luck they do find something analogous, it will almost always be inconsequential to the argument.

 F.  Broad Strokes - A very important tool in the hands of religion apologists. Basically, because two things are more similar than dissimilar, therefore both are the same.
Example - All religions teach peace and compassion. 

5) Fact-Farting
This is actually a pretty creative ability they seem to possess. You must be wondering how I came up with such a filthy term. Allow me to explain - you see, they have this peculiar knack for mentioning "facts" and "stats" conjured out of thin air. And as we discussed earlier, about their inability to tell their head from their posterior, it becomes pretty clear where these smelly facts erupt from.
Example - Anytime someone's throwing 9 out of 10, 8 out of 10 or any other bogus statistic without evidence. 

6) Blatant Hypocrisy
Thaali ka baingan as they say..changing their tune every minute to suit their argument.
Example - We should have secular Government and Laws. Response –Yes. Then we should also get rid of caste/religion/gender based laws and policies. Response - No, because oppression, because minority, because penis.       
7) Playing the Victim
The hallmark of an idiot. They twist honest/direct approach into personal attacks and proclaim the argument is over and they've won.
Example - That thing you quoted is a total fabrication. Response: Did you just call me a liar? How dare you! You lose, I win.

8) Shaming
Usually, a tactic used as the last resort, but may surface earlier. "How can you say such things to me?", "I never knew you were like this", "I'm scared of you now", "I'm disappointed in you", basically anything to appeal to your good nature to make you bow out.

So, what do you do? Usually, it's advised that you excuse yourself as soon as you see things mentioned in the first point. Although you may take your chances by going as far as number 4 or maybe even 5, depending on how well you think you know the person. But, do NOT let it go any further, under any circumstances. Not only will you be left with a very bad taste, you may very well lose some of your own IQ points.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Word on Modi and Why You Shouldn't Vote

Time to be politically incorrect again, yes; it’s become a pet peeve of sorts. So, Narendra Modi, NaMo, Voldemodi, Modi-vational, the much maligned, much championed CM of Gujarat, who at this rate will probably end up with more aliases than Lord Krishna. Now, I’m not a fan of the guy (he does give the impression of being an extremist, admittedly), although he seems to display pretty good administration and leadership skills, relatively speaking.

In all the brouhaha, past and present, two things I take issue with –

1. Genocide – I’m pretty clear on this one. The chain of events, the numbers, everything simply points to riots. Genocide is what the Nazis did, what happened in 1984 against Sikhs, what happened to Kashmiri Pandits. I’m still open to explanations though.

2.  Government’s Complicity – Now, this one is a bit trickier, I admit. It may very well be true, I don’t know and no one else knows either, except Mr. Modi and those close to him. As it stands, all investigating committees and the Supreme Court have given him a clean chit. The Special Investigation Team led by Mr. Raghavan actually even mentions that Gujarat Police did everything to control the situation.

So, what does this mean? It means that people put more stock into anecdotes and journalistic media (which, by the way, is widely regarded as the most dishonest profession in the world) than the Supreme Court. I mean, sure, you have every right to do that. Believe whatever you want. The junta becomes the judge and jury on the basis of allegations. Sure, you have every right to do so, but it won’t be very wise if you act on it.

 I am not trying to change anyone’s mind. I’m also confused. You have his supporters and you have his distracters. You have the journalists and local people with stories of Government’s complicity; you also have other people with rebuttals to those. What am I supposed to believe? As a rule, I never believe in anything people say unless supported by evidence, facts or at least something that hints towards a majority opinion, a la consensus (sometimes, even that’s not enough for me). We are primates after all, faulty by default, prone to lying, exaggeration and skulduggery.

On the other hand, we have our agencies and the Supreme Court that believe he is not guilty. Now, let’s not kid ourselves here – with India’s history (read non-existent) of conviction and incarceration of politicians, we can’t put our blind faith in these decisions either. This leads us to an impasse – and what I’m trying to say here, ladies and gentlemen, is that we maintain status quo.

Yes, please DO NOT vote. No, I’m not saying please do not vote for him, or do not vote against him. I’m saying do not vote at all. If you find yourself at an impasse (not sure if he’s guilty or not), stay at home when the day of voting arrives. Why? Let me explain –

1) If you vote FOR him (or the BJP), you run the risk of being party to the election of an extremist Prime Minister.
2) If you vote against him (or the BJP), you run the risk of being party to denying the country a Prime Minister with great administration and leadership qualities, again, relatively speaking.
3) If you vote for someone else (or some other party), you run the risk of giving one the advantage over another who could have made a great Prime Minister. 

Let’s take Nitish Kumar (RJD) as an example. Sure, he’s also a very good administrator and a pretty affable fellow, to say the least. He still doesn’t have the charisma and the presence that Indian leaders have sorely lacked for quite a while. We need a Prime Minister who isn’t afraid of taking hard decisions, someone who doesn’t find solace in eternal cootchie-cooing with absolutely rogue neighbours. Yes, I am looking at you China, Pakistan, Bangladesh. 

We need someone who speaks, speaks with heart, with conviction. Take our manifestation of a lullaby Prime Minister as an example – a koala getting up from a drunken stupor can motivate you more than Mr. Singh’s hour long speeches. Okay, that was mean, I quite like him as a person actually, but he's not a leader in any sense of the word. Now, I’m not saying Mr. Modi displays all these leadership traits in obscenely significant droves, but he does seem to have an upper hand vis-a-vis his adversaries.

 Finally, both questions still loom large. What if he’s guilty, what if he’s not guilty? And that’s why it would be a disservice to the nation if you’re at an impasse and yet choose to act on it. So yeah, please do not vote at all. I realize it’s an irresponsible and cowardly thing to do, but I don’t see any other solution. Those who've made up their mind, well, you've made up your mind.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Do men have human rights?


It's been 4 years since I sat down to write something here. Parenthood happened, and since then, nothing's really grabbed my attention too hard to take the time out. Before I begin, no, this is not an anti-feminism rant (although I won't shy away from getting into one if it comes to it), but that's for another day. However exciting debating the concepts of Patriarchy, rape culture, systemic oppression may sound, I just don't have the time or inclination for it at the present. Right now, what I'd like to talk about is the almost criminal short selling of a man's role in society (historically and currently). Holy asshat in a bucket, what a pig!..yeah, I know. Up to you, read on and seethe with anger some more, or read on and try to understand the logic behind it.

On to the burning question in my mind. How did this question enter my mind, one may ask. My daughter's just started school, and I have observed the approach of the staff, trust's not very obvious..but it IS highly discriminatory. Many relatives and friends have also shared similar stories. Teachers telling parent's to take their 2-3 yr old sons to professional counselors for...wait for it.....................................wait for it........................waiiiiit.....'how to take orders and directions'. Good job Teacher Ji. Tell me, what was it that you were supposed to do in lieu of your salary? What they basically want is a classroom full of girls. No, they won't work on your "rapist in the making" little sir. Sure, we'll allow him a penis (we have large hearts), but he better behave like a girl when in my class.

This morning, while I was sitting in the school reception area waiting to pick my daughter up I witnessed something strange (well, strange to me at least). A boy (around 2 yrs of age) was standing with an attendant outside the lavatory, holding on to his crotch like his life depended on it. One seat becomes free, and at the same time comes another attendant with a little girl, all smiles, prim and very pretty. The attendant starts walking the girl inside,  the boy cries.."susuu! susuu!". His attendant tells him "nahi baba, woh girl hai na, pehne use jaane do". If I were a mind reader, I could hear him say "no shit lady!, do you think I'm blessed with some super galactic-world winning bladder control because I'm a boy". See, I understand manners, I understand the concept of chivalry (and embrace it in my life), I understand "ladies first", but a 2 yr old boy? Poor boy ready to burst in his pants (no pun intended). Really? I don't know, maybe I'm wrong about this.

Anyway, that was an unnecessary tangent, but it was important to talk about it because this is what led me to think about other social phenomena in this day and age. So, back to the original question..Do Men Have Human Rights? If you ask this question to a certain section of the society, the answer would almost always be NO, although it may be smothered with layers upon layers of rhetoric and second grade logic to make it seem like it's not really what they're saying. What's funny, scratch that, what's sad though, is if you look around, look at the societal norms, legal/justice system, look at the supposedly "intellectual" class and study the expressly vocal and the absolutely quiet amongst them..the answer is still an overwhelming NO.

Nuts! have gone loopy, I hear you say. I mean who talks like this, who says men have no rights. Okay, I hear you, and you would be right. No one ever expressly states or mentions this, but the idea dwells deep within our consciousness. Let me explain, and start with the historical/cultural perspective first. It's all about disposability - since the dawn of civilization, men have been deemed disposable, expendable. Hunt, build, provide, protect and compete are are the basic things a man "must" do, and always has. Lay down your life for the family, for your woman, for you child, for the society, for your country. And through these sacrifices (yes!, sacrifices, made willingly) masculinity has been the single most creative force in our cultural history. I use "masculinity" because the odd/rare woman may also display these traits, much like a man displaying feminine/androgynous traits. But yes, generally, it was always about the men, still is.

Of all the dirty, hazardous and dangerous jobs in the world, 99% are occupied by men. Deep sea fishermen, electrical installers, oil drillers, metal fabricators, firefighters, police patrol officers, combat soldiers...yup..mostly men. Next time you go for a drive in your car, remember the "men" working at those oil rigs. Next time, you feel so special wearing that solitaire, remember the "men" working in the mines. Next time you wake up in the morning, remember the "men" protecting your borders so you can live your enriched lives. Remember all the firemen, the anti terrorist units, the border security forces, the coast guards...yes, remember all of them. Remember all the "men" who are willing to lay down their lives for the benefit of complete strangers.

What is all this if not 'sacrifice", which many think is the sole proprietorship of women. No, I'm not saying women don't make sacrifices. They do, but men always have and will always be ready to make sacrifices for even the abstract, or even just for the heck of it..when manhood calls. Laying down their lives for the abstract notion of country, community, society. Next time you see/hear news of a beheaded soldier, a warrior with his eyes gouged out, guts spilled on the ground, thank nature/god for designing the "male", who's willing to take that kind of beating for you, a stranger. Even after all these sacrifices, the man is still content on being disposable, heck! he actually embraces it. Men have always had it easy, men are privileged, they say..right?

Titanic sinks, "women and children first" they yell. Thanks to their super privileges, men have gills now. Run fishy run!, the men are coming. Not to mention poor Miss Rose who's totally oppressed by that fool Jack who wouldn't let her in the water. "Darn the chauvinist pig!", she might have thought.."does he think I can't handle myself? Oh well, okay..I shall let it pass this time". Fire breaks out in the building, "women and children first", the firefighters yell. Again, thanks to their super oppressive nature, men have adapted themselves and aren't flammable. no catch fire anymore!. Hostages at a bank, the police chief negotiating "at least let the women and children out, as an act of good faith". Sure, their super oppressive and super predatory instincts have made men impervious to bullet wounds.

Pause, break, alpa viraam...what was the original question? Isn't the right to life the most important and most basic human right? Tell me, do men have it? You don't even have to answer it. Men themselves renounce this right...this is what defines them. Heck, even most non combat/civilian men will renounce this right for their loved ones or even complete strangers. Remember Keenan-Ruben, the 19 year old Mumbai boy who lost his life trying to save a woman from harassment? Last year, Xander Vento, a 4yr old boy (yes, you read that right, 4yr) died while saving a 3yr old neighbourhood girl from drowning in a pool. Yes, even little men have this instinct. Do you remember it, do you know of it? Of course you don't. You will remember every crime a man ever commits, but not the gigantically greater number of times he protects you or lays down his life for you. Well, this is what men do, and men will always be men. I know, the "men will be men / boys will be boys" statement ruffles up quite a few feathers in certain camps. But that's just how it is, and you should be thankful for that. If men stopped being men, you'll be running scared shitless every second of everyday.

"A ha! you sucker" screams a radical somewhere, smiles galore. Sure, given the choice of words in my previous statement, I believe you when you say you think you got me. Do I sense a "Rape -Women -Delhi -Insert Dangerous City Here -Fear -Scared" retort incoming? Sure I do -it's appalling, it's inhumane, it's ghastly, I agree. No woman should ever have to go through this heinous crime. I'm also a very vocal proponent of death to rapists. Having said that, it's not "men being men", it's "men being criminals", if you understand the concept. I had mentioned at the beginning that I won't turn this into a debate against feminism and its tenets, and if I start, that's probably what it will lead to. So this is where I stop with the rape issue. I'd be happy to elaborate more on this (privately) if anyone so wishes..let me know.

Alright, on to some other rights. Let's see what all "privileges" the Government and Judiciary bestows upon the grand oppressor. No reproduction rights..check. No conjugal rights..check. No prenuptial rights..check. No post marital rights..check. No divorce rights..check. No parental rights..check. No protection against false accusations..check. Believe you me when I say this -in this day and age, as a woman..if you were to pick a random man walking on the street and decide to destroy his life, you most probably can! I see all the support rallies for different causes, all the rich, the powerful, the "intellectual" being a part of it. T-shirts, slogans, colourful make up, grand carnival hats. I think to myself, my God! the only living creature who doesn't have any right in today's society is the heterosexual male.

Everyone needs us, but no one cherishes us. We are utility, as we've always been. They tolerate us for what we bring to the table. Perform, perform, perform...yes, perform! you workhorse, perform! you soldier, grow a pair you wimp, man up you wuss, friggin keep performing you idiot until your batteries run dry. If you still have any batteries left, then get down on one knee and ask the princess for the right to be her oppressor for the rest of her life. 4 out of every 5 suicides in the world are committed by men (over excitement from all the privileges we get I guess). A man is 5 times more likely to be mugged, violently assaulted, murdered than a woman. Farking! criminals and their patriarchal mindset..even they discriminate against women.

When are people going to wake up to this reality -we don't expect mollycoddling and won't even appreciate it, but at least show some appreciation where it IS due. Don't look at your 2 yr old boy as an inherently evil "potential rapist" who needs to be corrected in the bud. He's going to be put in his "rightful" place by the society before hitting puberty anyway. So let him have his childhood as a boy at least. As the late Amrish Puri would say.."Jaa beta jaa, jee le apna bachpana". I shudder to think of the day when women, society and state realize this, and it's already too late. A generation full of disheartened, spiritless and confused men (this is already happening by the way). Twenty years from cry (and trust me, you will cry) "please!, be a man" and he wouldn't know how to be one.

Now, whatever I've written sounds very one dimensional, right? Well..that was the intention. What I see today is nothing less than bigotry. A type of bigotry that is much more dangerous than even  racial/religious bigotry. So yeah, it demands strong words. Having said that, I do feel women are special. No, I'm not saying this just to make peace with anyone who's upset with what I've written. I genuinely believe it. I take a look at my daughter, and this strengthens my belief even more. It's just are not completely worthless. As the old feminist saying goes "a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle"..yeah..not true.

So, back to the original question again -Do men have human rights? I don't know, I don't even know if they deserve them. What I do know, is that they definitely have the right to not be ridiculed and demonized as a group. Even if nothing else, this tiny little allowance they have won fair and square!