Weekly Readings – November 4th Week + December 1st Week

Weekly Readings – November 4th Week + December 1st Week

When Democracy is Held Hostage by Social Media.

It is about time that we rethink the role played by social media in promoting global democratic ethos. The faulty filter system perpetuated by social media functions reassuring us of an open platform that facilitates a free exchange of ideas has taken a hit. This filter bubble that we live in, aggravates the situation by promoting content that conforms to one’s belief system and filtering out all opposing views from our feeds. The present state of social media is such that it allows uncurated fake content to be passed off as real which leads to misinformation of masses.

URL: http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/the-failure-of-facebook-democracy

The Decline of Democracy and the Need for Meritocracy in Politics.

As a relatively young democracy filled with political intellectuals us, Indians need to give a lot of thought to the dialectics of our free speech and the logical acquisition of true knowledge. Our desire for easy answers can be will lead to the proliferation of political demagoguery, turning all of us into victims of misinformation. Right to vote should not be taken for granted and be ever vigilant not to exercise that choice unconsciously.

URL: http://www.openculture.com/2016/11/why-socrates-hated-democracies-an-animated-case-for-why-self-government-requires-wisdom-education.html

When Courts Become Propagandized Law Making Making Institutions.

Law of the land entrusts judiciary to go beyond merely scrutinizing the legal validity of a legislation or an executive order but also to explore the potential injustices arising out of the execution of the same. To quote Justice Brandeis, executive if given the free will to use the state as a laboratory of democracy, Jeremy Bentham‘s utilitarian principle which calls for providing maximum happiness to the maximum number must form the fundamental premise of its policies. Judicial populism manifested in the form of Justice Deepak Mishra’s and Justice Pratibha Rani’s judgments are only acting catalysts to encouraging xenophobic nationalism. It is time for the political and judicial class to show some civilisational confidence to set aside the tendencies to criminalize dissent.

URL 1: http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/Contours-of-a-challenge/article16737935.ece

URL 2: http://thewire.in/83606/jana-gana-mana-dangers-passing-sentiment-law/

 

‘The Art of Getting By’ – Film Review

‘The Art of Getting By’ – Film Review

I read a quote once when I was a kid “We live alone, We die alone. Everything else is just an illusion.” it used to keep me up at night.

I can’t exactly remember when the idea of life and death was fully understood, but I vividly remember that I was deeply troubled knowing the fact that one day, I will loose all that I held close to me. Little did I know back then, life in its replete avatar will offer me a melancholic masterpiece that death will always struggle to match. The protagonist goes through a similar situation at a much later stage in life than I did, but given the urbane setting of the story and the comfort enjoyed by virtue of being in a developed nation, reasons are quite clear as to why the realization came so late for him.

We’ve seen such self exploratory-deeply introspective films before. For most of the viewers, ‘The Art of Getting By’ probably would have nothing novel to offer which other films like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, 500 Days of Summer haven’t already did. One of the high points of this film is that it helps the viewers to calm themselves down. It brings your life’s tempo a notch down so that you can feel the wind playing with your hair and your heart leaking out love. Through the meaningful and resonating portrayal of its lead characters, it reminds us that it is okay to be confused in life as each of those confusing experiences will make sense later in life, when we put in perspective, the choices we made. We’ve all gone through those moments in our lives when we are unable to put names to our emotions towards people and situations and more often than people around us have blamed us for not having essential clarity of thought. If there is anything that this movie manages teach the audience, it is to own up to your feelings and give it time to make sense to you, bit by bit as you embark the journey towards self actualization.

The post is dedicated to all the misanthropes around, who are just waiting for that little magic nudge to come out of their cocoon.🙂

Cheers!

A Visit TO SARGAALAYA ARTS AND CRAFTS VILLAGE, Iringal

A Visit TO SARGAALAYA ARTS AND CRAFTS VILLAGE, Iringal

The farther I travel, closer I am to myself.

Northern Kerala or as the natives called it, ‘Malabar’ is renowned for its 3Cs – Culture, Cricket and Cake. It’s rich & distinct cultural heritage has attracted connoisseurs of art and crafts across the globe in large numbers. Famed for its unique balance of cultural intermixing and preservation, the contemporary manifestation of its proud legacy in arts and crafts can be attributed to its flourishing trade with the Arabian Peninsula, folk elements that overcame the barriers of religion, and the influence of cultural practices that has passed on for generations among the Adivasis of Wayanad.

As somebody who had spent his childhood in Malabar, a visit the Sargaalaya Arts and Crafts Village at Vadakara was nostalgic in many ways and had a sense of homecoming in the light of vagabond life that I’ve been leading off late. It rejuvenated the fading memories of Theyyam and Moodiyeetu which once use to shine brightly along with the soft glow of earthen oil lamps. I felt like being that little kid I once was, filled with all the curiosity in the world.

Sargaalaya Arts and Crafts Village is an institution that is focused on the preservation and marketing of dying crafts to ensure the welfare of the artisans from Kerala. Located around 42 kms away from the heart of Calicut city, it is easily accessible by bus and is frequented by a lot of visitors whose romanticism hasn’t suffered a premature death. Run by Uranlungal Labour Contract Society, it brings together artisans, painters, sculptors under one platform so as to facilitate them with stronger market linkages, better work conditions and higher bargaining power. Modelled in the lines of a residential community than a marketplace, the buildings of the village were a perfect blend of interactive visitor friendly spaces and workplaces that ensure focus for longer periods of time.IMG_20161030_141921_HDR.jpg

One of the first stalls that I decided to visit was that of Mr. A K Arun’s terracotta miniature sculptures. Mexican parrot, Golden Hornbill etc were so lifelike that one simply cannot stop admiring the endless talent, the sculptor possessed. Hailing from a village called Elimbinadu near Vadakara, Arun hasn’t allowed his bodily of being a mute to come in his way of putting 7-10 days of tenuous labour for completing a single sculpture.

Inspired by Arun’s determination and captivated by the extensive use of vibrant colours for bringing those avian species alive, I hesitantly moved on to the next stall to find dry flowers from Nagaland welcoming me with the enthusiasm that north-east people are famous for. There was Zara Thelma, the maker of these artificial flowers looking irritated because the village administration wouldn’t allow her to sell plastic bags to her clients. Her products were obviously too heavy for paper bags to contain. I wanted to know more about her products but decided against it, considering the bad mood she was in.

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Wood Paintings

As I strolled through the corridors of adjoining stalls, I couldn’t help but to stare at a section full of exquisitely designed palm fibers products that were weaved, braided, knotted and crocheted into palm fiber strands as fine as human hair. It was the flexibility and strength that Palm fiber offered that helped artisans to create such elegant table mats, runners, files and wall hangings that prompted customers to buy them off. I came to know that every palm trunk that meets their quality requirement are processed by immersing it in the water, followed by the strenuous beating of the same to produce fiber of the highest quality.

For long, coir products have symbolized Kerala worker’s resurgence in an increasingly corporatised market space. Creating a niche market for its own, coir jewelry is the latest fad that picking up among both urban and rural women, helping them to create an ethnic aura around them and sending the onlookers, the message of a sustainable lifestyle. As I passed numerous women who were admiring their own good looks sporting the trendy coir jewelry, I stumbled upon yet another ornamental marvel in the form of seed jewelry made out of Rice, Manjadikuru, Thottavazha Kuru, Soppekaya. Exquisite finishing on the seed products was conveying the extreme levels of dedication, patience and hand-eye coordination that had gone in.

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Bamboo Paintings

We all know screw pine (Kaitha) as mother plant of pineapple and far less people know it as a raw material for woven and hand embroidered mats and bags. The sight of female folk sitting together to cultivate precious pieces of art is satisfying social process in itself if one is not too interested in the finer aspects of jewelry. If one looks hard enough, we realize that we are witnessing poverty giving way to prosperity as water hyacinth fiber is warped, dyed and made to wind through yarn to create products that will stand out in any gallery. The craft village also seem to encourage the idea of using natural fibers over synthetic fiber such as showcasing products made out of mohair derived from angora goat and rabbit. The fact that fiber can be extracted from multiple sources such as from seed, trunk and leaves of the same plant underscores nature’s immense potential.

In the backdrop of the melodious music from the violin classes which are conducted in the village premises, I found glass fiber and bronze sculptures of Mrs. Sherin K Satheesh, (an upcoming sculptor), come to life and felt those statues to be communicating with me about how modern man have started to become more and more like a him, indifferent to situations that demanded a kind intervention.

The name NC Ayyappan is synonymous to excellence in the field of Kora grass weaving. In no time, I found myself to be speaking to him about scope and relevance of hand-woven products in an era, when alienation of handicrafts and artisans are taking palace at a faster rate than number of new facebook accounts being created in a given area. UNESCO seal of excellence given to Killimangalam Pulpaya made out of Kora grass are one of the few things to cheer about in otherwise languishing craft.img_20161030_154034

At the end of my visit, I realized that behind the business enterprise that Sargaalaya Arts and Crafts Village is, it stands for the protection of our tangible and intangible heritage. It’s unique architectural style that gives emphasis to the creation of interactive spaces and long corridors that reminds one of a bygone era adds to the overall experience of the visitor. As I bid goodbye to this temple of art, I realized the real deities of this place of worship are the human spirit and determination that has gone into the work, which we seem to have ignored somewhere along the way to the top.

As I had a final glace at the gallery through the window of my car, I could see Herbarium, Mural and Glass paintings in conversation with each other, polishing themselves up and getting ready to explore this big wide world trying to charm yet another enthusiast.

 

Economics Nobel 2016 – Macro No More Ruling the Roost

Economics Nobel 2016 – Macro No More Ruling the Roost

There was a time when Nobel Prize for Economics was monopolized by those academicians who were able to push the frontiers of macro-economics. Step motherly treatment to micro-economists, made the upcoming learners of the discipline to believe that rewards are proportional to the universality of their theories. Clearly, deductive research was the toast among the academicians during the large part of 20th century. But clearly times are changing as per Noah Smith in An Economics Nobel for Examining Reality as Micro-economics, supplemented by easy availability of data and better use of technology in analytics is surging ahead of macro-economics in terms of their improved share of Nobel prizes ever since 2005. So, it is safe to assume that ground breaking theories in the area of micro-economics will no longer remain to be harmless and unheeded salmons, but become the big white tiger sharks of economics world. It is carving out a unique space where smaller is better.

Future of India’s Development Cooperation

Future of India’s Development Cooperation

A review of the meeting conducted on 28th September 2016 by Institute of Sustainable Development and Governance. 

A paradigm shift has been long underway in the way India approaches it’s extra-territorial developmental initiatives since 2003. There has been a sustained effort to come out of the post-colonial image of a assistance recipient nation, largely driven by geopolitical strategy and fueled by our economic prowess.

At the turn of new millennium, lines of credit has emerged to be the new instruments of chequebook diplomacy. In this context, Panchsheel principles along with India’s efforts via Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme has given the much needed push towards establishing a developmental assistance regime based on enlightened national interest.

One of the consequences of the trade protectionism, financial recession and currency wars between global powers is the emergence of regional groupings. It is proposed that supra national bodies like BRICS and SAARC will serve as a platform to leverage finances at the disposal of the member nations. It is in this context one must view the emergence of New Developmental Bank which has given a new hope to the member nations of global south movement.

With sustainable developmental goals featuring high in the priorities of Non Governmental Organisations and Civil Society Organisations world over, it is only apt that India’s developmental assistance to South Asian community is focused on the same. Construction of Salma dam and Parliamentary building in Afghanistan and hydroelectric projects in Bhutan are evidences of an alternative model of developmental assistance that is approaching it’s silent watershed moment. This model is likely to focus on self reliance and non-conditionality avoiding the compulsions of free-market. Effectiveness of this model will largely be based on how clear the recipients are about what they want and in which form. To be put the issue in the framework of India’s domestic development structure, one might find similarities with India’s Panchayati Raj regime, essentially giving recipient the freedom to do what they want. In this backdrop, we are likely to find India assuming the role of a Panchayat Sarpanch among the members of global south whereas other donors would be viewed as disruptive outsiders.

Such a model is likely to align with the larger goals of the much anticipated global south south cooperation as it was on show during the  African-Indian summit of 2016. Domestically, such a model is likely to create a sense of post-colonial pride, the need of which was first found to be resonating in Bandung Conference of 1956.

What makes such a model unique apart from the obvious advantage of it being non-intrusive in nature? It is a lesser observed fact that back-end and front-end services that comes along with the developmental assistance is considerably cheaper while being supplied from India. For example, setting up a healthcare system based on generic drugs model in a global south nation is likely to be more successful than any other free-market initiative. Much admired and respected Indian feature of economic frugality and efficient use of available resource is a highly marketable product in this context.

Questioning the system and changing the status quo has always presented itself with unique challenges but history time and again has proven that a community with a better story to tell and a better developmental template to show for has eventually been accepted. In this regard, India has the potential to carve out an alternative system of developmental cooperation giving flesh to the idea of global south, which much lacking in recent times. This model can aptly be described as a messy pulp fiction but with an enormous potential to transform into a classical work that will stand the test of time.

Summary of My Weekly Readings – September 17th to 24th

Summary of My Weekly Readings – September 17th to 24th

‘The stories in our heads’

Link:http://m.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/the-stories-in-our-heads/article9119191.ece

The tug of war between market forces and cultural forces in our contemporary society has altered the way we look at our identities. ‘What we are?’ is essentially transforming into ‘What is that we can produce for the market?’ or ‘What is that we are capable of?’.  The author tries to establish a cause and effect relationship between neo-liberalism and meritocracy by proving that there is a discriminatory class dimension to the world created within the framework of meritocracy. Before coming to how and why he tries to establishes the link, let’s first find out what entails the world view of neo-liberalism.

Neo-liberalism envisions a world where an ideal individual is someone who can contribute the maximum amount of value in the minimum amount of time. An idea that one can attribute to Jeremy Bentham. In a world where forces of market sets the ground rules,  material prosperity is equated with success and a prerequisite in achieving a normal identity. However this proposition also prompts us to think how brutal world would be to those individuals who have tasted failure. The next time when we find ourselves talking to somebody whom we would normally classify as somebody with a disturbed identity, we need to remind ourselves that there is much more than what meets the eye.

The entrenched  class dimension that is perpetuated by meritocracy eliminates the possibility of building a society that is based on competitive solidarity.  Infinite number of people is competing for a finite amount of resources in a world that is better defined by balance sheets than higher human virtues. The author urges the world at large to reverse the pathologisation of  human emotions and behavior as a consequence of which qualities like shyness is shunted and ability to socialise and network is encouraged.

The Greek aphorism ‘Know Thyself’ by Socrates has never been more relevant.

 

Work Ethic and Lincoln

Work Ethic and Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln’s Tough-Love Letter to His Step-Brother About Laziness and Work Ethic

Brainpickings: Link

As an unemployed adult, I’ve no other option but to be depended on my parents for covering my bills. I’ve tried to imagine an extremely terrifying future where I would still be unemployed and be depended on my parents for my financials. In that scenario, will I let go off my self esteem and come in terms with my lack of inclination to find work or will be cursing myself every moment for letting myself and my parents down? These scenarios are the real life equivalent of your lead actor’s death midway through the movie. You may lose the motivation to watch and would want the movie to get it done with. If life was a movie, it is a scary thought.

Abraham Lincoln rises up to the occasion through a powerful letter for his step brother, who is likely to have felt the same as he lost will motivation to work and lead a purposeful life. To shed light on the harsher realities of life and inspire him to punch above his weight to overcome the same. A rocky-esque figure who helped him to pick him up, when he thought he lost everything. All of us may not be lucky enough to have a brother like Lincoln, but we all can strive to summon the inner Lincoln from the depth of our consciousness and help him to read aloud those words of wisdom, in the halls of our inner self. World is what we make of it!