Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Generacion Y - Blogs from Cuba

The Cuban government only recently allowed its citizens to own computers and cellphones and so on (They were used illegally though how one could use a mobile illegally beats me) after Papa Fidel handed over charge to his brother Raul who is slowly trying to open up the system. Generacion Y is one of the many blogs that have been functioning for some time (which means only since September 2007). The 'Y' is simply the initial of the blogger Yoani Sánchez (1975). As she says on her blog Generatión Y is a Blog inspired by people like me, with names that start or contain a "Y". Born in the Cuba of the 70s and the 80s, marked by the "schools to the countryside", the Russian cartoons, the illegal exits and the frustration. So, an invitation goes especially to Yanisleidi, Yoandri, Yusimí, Yuniesky and others that drag their Ys, to read me and write back. Its fascinating to see the first tentative steps that ordinary (and in most cases young) citizens are taking to explore the limits of their freedom and how far they can go in expressing their anger and frustration. The urge to speak out, the urge to have a say in how your country and your world functions, is such a basic human urge and need, something that we Indians have always taken to granted, can be seen clearly in some of the almost wistful entries in the blog. In Nehru's words --A moment comes ...(when) an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance . Suppression has not stopped, and an age has not ended, but at least some thoughts find utterance. In particular check out the January 2008 entry. Incidentally the blogs are in Spanish, English and German. The English one is about a month behind the Spanish where the latest is dated 28th April 2008, whereas the last English one is dated early March 2008. So if you know Spanish, all the better. Full disclosure: I found out about this from the Times of India, Chennai edition. Just shows that if you dig deep enough you can find useful nuggets even in the TOI. You ain't ever gonna see this in the Hindu!)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Land(s) of Milk and Honey?

Noted without comment:

In today's Times of India, Washington correspondent Chidanand Rajghatta makes an interesting observation (rare :-) !!) -- The United States has traditionally been called the Land of Milk and Honey -- however India surpassed the US in milk production ages ago and China is the world's largest producer of honey...
So shouldn't India and China be together called the Land(s) of Milk and Honey rather than the US ;-) ?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Democracy and Eastern values

Purely serendipitously, I landed on an old article of Amartya Sen, entitled Democracy as a Universal Value. It's based on a talk he gave in New Delhi in 1999 entitled Building a Worldwide Movement for Democracy. Those of you who have read his books will be familiar with his arguments, ('Development as Freedom') but like all social scientists, he suffers from prolixity which he cheerfully admits in the introduction to his Argumentative Indian. Therefore a shortened version like this one is most welcome, for people like me. His basic thesis, as always is that Democracy has a universal value. This might sound obvious, but in this article he tackles head-on the so-called Lee Hypothesis (named after the former president of Singapore), which put briefly, says that nondemocratic systems are better at bringing about economic development. Moreover, so the argument goes, Easterners value discipline over individual rights, and the poor would rather have bread than democracy. The oft-quoted examples are South Korea, Thailand and post-reform China. He takes up each of these arguments and points out each of their historical and cultural fallacies. Drawing heavily on the Indian experience (a noisy chaotic democracy since independence) in the East and Botswana in Africa (again an oasis of democracy in the midst of countries rules by tin-pot dictators) he argues why democracy is not a luxury that can await the arrival of general prosperity. In view of the discussions that have been going on regarding China, human rights and so on (see my earlier blogs and writings and links therein) this essay has much to recommend itself.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

China, N. Ram and Human Rights

In an interesting article in the Hindu today (no other newspaper would publish rubbish like this) N Ram says that all round development is itself a sign of progress in human rights. For a novel take on the human rights issue, this is hard to beat. By this logic, the erstwhile Soviet Union was a shining example of human rights for the people since overall development (in the sense of infrastructure and so on) in the Soviet Union was close, if not the same as in Western Europe and America, and way ahead of any of the developing countries like India which had full fledged democracy and a free press. Never mind the few sent off to the Gulags... they were irrelevant and expendable presumably. In itself, this is not surprising considering that N. Ram is, as usual, parroting what the Chinese leaders want to hear. What is absolutely hilarious however, is that he was speaking at a Beijing Forum on Human Rights' !! You might as well have a 'Jewish Welfare Forum ' run by Hermann Goering!

Iran and Hillary Clinton

[Updated]* In what can only be classed as the ultimate amoral, inhuman (and ultimately cynical) statement by an American leader, (that even beats any statement hitherto made by any of the neo-liberals in the George Bush stable) Senator Clinton claimed yesterday that she would obliterate Iran if it launched a nuclear strike against Israel. This horrifying threat implies that she is willing to incinerate 70 million innocent Iranian citizens (and one of the oldest civilisations in the world) whose only fault lies in the fact that they have the misfortune of being ruled by a bunch of crazy mullahs. Imagine if FDR had taken this position in World War II to obliterate Germany for the action of one Adolf Hitler who was responsible directly or indirectly, for the deaths of more that 70 million people. That was a time when America was considered a savior and an example to the free world. The times, they are a-changing. The Iraq debacle will look like a picnic in the park, if Senator Clinton's scenario comes to pass. Will future generations then consider Iran or the United States to be the 'evil empire' ? One presumes that all this is for the dubious privilege of perhaps attracting a few Jewish voters. * I was happy to see at least some domestic (i.e American) critics of the above statement of Hillary Clinton, in the Boston Globe. She is called Hillary Strangelove.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


This blog is a continuation of an e-diary that I have been keeping on my home page for some time called As I Please . You could take these as earlier posts to this blog. I finally decided to take the plunge and turn it into a blog. For those of you who are interested, you can take a look at my earlier posts that are given above. However, just for completeness, let me reiterate what this blog is about... I am a theoretical physicist at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai, India. However this blog is not about physics except only indirectly. It contains (or will eventually contain) random thoughts that occur to me in daily life or on my travels or whatever else that suits my fancy. That is why it's titled 'As I Please'. Those of you who know your Orwell will recall his eponymous column in the Tribune. I do not claim to have either Orwell's insight into current affairs or his felicity with English (though I try to follow his Five Rules for Effective Writing ). The title of this column is my way of paying homage to one of the greatest journalists and commentators of that age - the conscience of his generation, as he was often called.