Sunday, January 29, 2012

Distorted Article on Facebook about Social Democracy

There is an article circulating on Facebook about an Economics Professor and Social Democracy.  I am not even sure if the story is true, but it looks like it struck a chord with many netizens because its gets shared by so many.   This is how the story goes:

An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class.  That class had insisted that Obama's socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.

The professor then said, "OK, we will have an experiment in this class on Obama's plan". All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will fail and no one will receive an A... (substituting grades for dollars - something closer to home and more readily understood by all).

After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little…

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Rushdie and Husain: Casualties of an Immature Democracy

Salman Rushdie is an Indian Muslim who was recently stopped from visiting India by those who claimed their ‘sentiments were hurt’.   Salman Rushdie was not allowed to attend the recent Jaipur Literary Festival because his book ‘Satanic Verses’ remains banned by the Government of India.  MF Husain was another Indian Muslim who was forced to leave India because another group claimed their ‘sentiments were hurt’.  Husain died in exile in Qatar pining for his home country.  An author and an artist are the casualties of an extremely immature and peevish democracy called India.   

In both the cases, the state, in the form of Indian Government, has succumbed to the mounting pressures from religious groups who claimed their sentiments were hurt by the actions of this author and the artist.  The weak state has allowed for suppression of expression of an artist and an author bowing down to the protests of ultra-sensitive groups.  As a result, the individual lost out to the power of a committed and bigoted group; and the state stood in support of the group and not the individual.  

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Rote Learning dumbs down Indians (Part I)

The last great invention or discovery made by Indians was zero.  After a spell of modicum greatness in the remote part of history where Indians contributed to mathematics, medicine, astronomy (don’t confuse this with astrology), we had a brief awakening movement in the first half of 20th century under British Empire when Indians earnestly took up European kind of education without feeling any remorse.  During this first half of the last century when British were still around, India produced some of the brilliant minds – CV Raman, Chandrasekhar, Rabindranath Tagore, and less known but most important of all, SN Bose (not your JC Bose).   After that brief awakening moment, we began to de-europeanize our education and started to Indianize it.  There began all the problems.

Before we could understand the true meaning of modern education, we started to demodernize it.  Going back to Indian methods meant learning by rote, repeating the arcane and tongue-twisting slokas forever and forever till you got the intonation right.  But did it mean you learnt anything? Not really.  This practice of learning by rote has been instilled into our education before we could really appreciate why we need to question or apply critical mind as a part of the process. 

What we got as a result is millions of robots who could just spew out tables up to 100, kids who answered quiz questions remembering completely irrelevant data and statistics like the exact date when Mt. Everest was scaled the first time, or the exact weight of a polar bear.   This rote learning has even helped Indian kids living in United States win Spelling Bee contests. And all through our school and college life, we revered and celebrated these memory machines.  What India was producing was all memory and no CPU. 

Mayawati and Made Snana

Mayawati, Elephants and Election Commission

Recently, the Election Commission in India took up a massive exercise to drape all the elephant statues erected by Mayawati because the symbol of BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) happens to be an elephant.  The Chief Election Commission (CEC) justified this move as an appropriate step ‘to ensure the statues do not disturb the level playing field and give undue advantage to BSP’. 

While the erection of so many elephant statues by Mayawati is a silly act, draping them before elections by Election Commission makes it sillier.  Why draping these statues makes a silly exercise is very simple.  The symbol of Congress is an open palm.  Now, there are many deities in the country which show an open palm.  Would CEC give an order to drape all these deities or cover these open palms so that Congress does not get undue advantage?  Some of the political parties in India have cycles and cars as political symbol.  Would CEC give drape these vehicles?  What do we do if the symbol happens to be a tree? Would we cover every tree then? 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Go back Rushdie, You are not welcome here

Dear Mr. Salman Rushdie:

You are not welcome in our country. 

Though we are the ‘greatest country’ with the ‘greatest culture’ we are an insecure lot.  Please don’t try to analyze why the greatest culture can be so insecure – you will not understand that.  In our country, most of the ‘greatest’ men and women happen to be extremely insecure.  They constantly pay their deities money and donations to keep their greatness intact.  If they do not pay obeisance to the gods or the godmen, they will lose that greatness instantly, thanks to the wrath of our unpredictable gods. 

Though we believe that our morals, dietary habits and family values are the 'greatest' on the planet, we also happen to be very peevish.  We tend to get hurt easily.  More than the people of this country, our religions, which have been in existence for hundreds of years, spreading and thriving, with more than billion followers around the world, get hurt far more easily.  Our greatest religions need constant protection from all those who criticize us, ridicule us, poke questions into our theories and mysteries. 

You don’t seem to understand the concept of ‘individual rights’ as it is interpreted in our country.  We have a right to believe in blind theories, gobbledygook stories, and mystical interpretations of the working of the nature.  We also have a right to apply these theories in our daily working, as a dam constructor or rocket scientist. And if for some reason, you seem to question them or speak against them, we have a right to threaten you, shut you up, and if needed, throw you in prison.