Saturday, September 26, 2009




(Part I)

Edited and modified by Shree Vinekar






In the course of history, mankind has struggled hard to achieve a system devoid of dominance of individuals or groups of them over others. So many names are given to the concepts used to combat the selective dominance or to actually implement such dominance -nationalism, culture, religion, equal rights, etc., and once the people who use these concepts declare that they have achieved their goals, they tend to imperceptibly switch back to the old system they fought against. The only difference is that then emerge new players and new ways of dominance. Individuals are happy if they get the benefits out of the system regardless if they are the dominant ones or the dominated ones. Majority are usually content with the status quo.

An attempt to understand this phenomenon in the human nature naturally leads to a different perspective in understanding of the word, “DEMOCRACY.” This is a general term, and different political systems' using it makes it difficult to be defined in specific terms. Hence the abuse of this term often to mislead people.

Historically when other political systems were predominant, there were small pockets of 'democratic' systems that existed in many civilizations. In India, for example, there were small clans that practiced “DEMOCRACY" “where the chief of the clan was an elected official." How far the democratic rights of the individuals prevailed in such societies is not well known and should be an interesting field of study.

For the western world the Greek city-state democratic system is the guiding example. Somehow the idea of democracy as a western concept pervades the modern world. It is partly true in the sense that since the time of Renaissance the factors leading to French revolution showed that ideas of democracy related to the power of the common citizens (peoples' rule or peoples' government) were incorporated in the European political systems. In British Isles, 1215 A.D. is a landmark in history when Magna Carta was signed at Runnymede. However, many of the democratic countries in Europe ruthlessly adopted colonization as a foreign policy especially for Asia and Africa. Despite monarchy some system of democracy prevailed in many countries. When United States and Canada in western hemisphere were formed they adopted democratic system from the beginning of their formation. One must not presume, however, that these new world democracies were ideal and gave voting rights or rights to hold important office in the "ruling group" to minorites, African Americans, Native Americans, Mexican Americans, Chinese Americans or even for the majority women from the outset. There was no universal franchise or suffrage in many so called democratic countries for couple of centuries. Even now the voting rights of the African Americans in the US require ratification every ten years. That reduces certain classes of citizens to the status of second class citizens. But, for the south and central Americas it was in essence colonial influence of dictatorship. It will not be wrong to say that all these democratic countries had their own limitations. Democratic principles including voting rights were given only to men belonging to privileged class while women and other classes were denied any democratic rights. Many of these countries priding themselves as stalwarts of democracy in essence and in spirit gladly accepted slavery as their divine rights and colonization of other countries, a lesser form of slavery, was quite acceptable to their sense of justice while denying voting rights to disadvantaged, uneducated, the poor and to all women in general in their own country while presenting themselves as "democracies" to the outside world. This has led to conflicts within the system and refinement of the concept of "democracy" occurred through social and political reforms that sometimes took more than hundred years to implement in action though accepted in principle. Examples are the women’s voting rights, civil liberties, etc.

This gives a complex and fluid picture of the concept of democracy and its practical applications. Hence the need to go into the evolution of this concept, its strengths and weaknesses. It is important for every citizen of any country to understand this complexity and fluidity of the concept of democracy in an objective way as the future of this world depends upon the contribution of this important social-political concept for the welfare of the people. Whether a true system of democracy -a utopian concept can be achieved universally or not is an open question that only the future can answer.

An approach to understand the concept of Democracy

Democracy is a part of human institutions; hence, essentially predicated upon human interaction. Thus defined, “democracy” can be seen as a specific form of “human interaction” with a unique process and content. As human beings are a product of nature, it is imperative to know how they organize themselves into societies and build up institutions to protect themselves. They are thinking beings and act as if they are independent of nature and as if they decide their own destiny. In their pursuit to form institutions, they think, analyze, debate, and create ideas and societies. In this they forget that they are guided by instincts given them by nature and they forget how instincts drive their thinking and analysis, wherein subjective factors rather than objective facts and assessments are used to influence others’ thinking. (See klishta and aklishta vritties in the previous article on "Historians' Pitfall- Cultural Miseducation" by Shree Vinekar on this web site.)

Economics and politics have offered so many theories for different societies without taking into account the instincts of human beings that nature has provided in the interactions of the society. The instincts help create wealth and peace concurrent with conflicts. This leads to instability and change in the society for good or worse. Economic and political theories devoid of attention to human factors that can influence outcomes have less predictive value though couched in mathematical models.

Similarly to understand the concept of democracy, human element should be included in the theoretical approach to understand this concept. In as much as it is essentially an interaction and participation of different groups in the society to sustain a democratic state.

A nation state based on a 'democratic constitution' has usually three exclusive components. The law making body with one or two chambers, a law adjudication body, the judiciary and the governing body, the government. (The legislative, judicial, and executive branches of the government.) This is a common knowledge. How these three component bodies are structured and how they function determines the nature and strength of democratic character of the state. All three components though seem to function independently can be manipulated in their formation in such a way as to make the 'democratic constitution’ only respected in letter but not in spirit. This is especially true if there are only few or weak democratic institutions to prevent the abuse of the constitution, its non function or defiance.

It is imperative to understand the factors and forces that are needed to sustain democratic values and functionality of democracy in a nation as well as a pervasive respect for the constitution of any democracy. As much as the political structure and constitution are important for a democratic state, the human element in its function is also very important. This factor, the 'human factor,' can make or break the democratic set up, if it is overlooked in the function of the state and hence 'democracy' becomes vulnerable to this factor if not reckoned with. An effort will be made to explore the specific factors in the human nature that could support the democratic society or sabotage the spirit of democracy.

Human factors:

There are many human factors that play a part in the human interaction. Essentially the instinct of self preservation becomes aberrant and turns into other negative factors like greed, power, urge for domination, etc. This leads to the other human follies like - corruption, manipulation, suppression, violence, and urges for annihilation of "others."

All these factors exist in any state, democratic or non democratic, in different proportions and effective at different times mildly or strongly in intensity. What little knowledge we have gained, by understanding human nature, needs to be applied in understanding human behavior and its negative effects on public institutions.

In nature every phenomenon involves a process in which opposite elements/factors interact. So any change brought about by a process has new elements /factors that impede the change. This is true of any economic and political system. This includes the democratic institutions. They are not exempt from this paradox. This results in any system to be realized and recognized as not perfect. And any viabale system is that which is sustained by identifying the contrary or negative elements/factors built into the system. Such recognition will prevent the degradation of democracy in such a manner that the system is protected from becoming nonfunctional. This is true of any democratic system.

Hence the discussion on Democracy should include discussion of these human factors. Such discussion would lead to a better understanding of democracy.

This will be elaborated with examples in the next part of this rumination.

End Part I

Sunday, September 20, 2009



Antiquity Of Cultural Miseducation

11 February, 2007 03:13:00


Shree Vinekar

Abstract: The recent articles by Subhash Kak and N.S. Rajaram in Sulekha and many other media will raise some fundamental questions related to the psychology of human race and the limitations of the human mind to undertake objective investigation of historical and anthropological phenomena. This article will take a superficial overview of areas of miseducation that have plagued human race and the human world-view for several centuries. The article will examine the root cause of such confusion in the liberal arts or Humanities mainly, but also in the scientific literature, from ancient Indian philosophical viewpoint. Some psychoanalytic and neurobiological concepts may also be relevant. These concepts may be parallel to the ancient Indian concepts.


The recent work of Stephen Oppenheimer based on human genetics has presented evidence that the origin of mankind (Homo sapien) was in the African continent 150,000 years ago and the human race or the species of Homo sapiens migrated over the millennia 90,000 years ago from the African continent till 40,000 years ago, when the European continent or the geographic areas with temperate climate became populated by the human race. The reader is referred to the articles by Subhash Kak and N. S. Rajaram for further details via "Google" (

The Indian subcontinent or the "Bharatvarsha" as known to us Indians is held to be the cradle of civilization from where all the migrations of non-African human race to all other parts of the world took place from 74,000 years ago till 40,000 years ago and later. The word "Arya" means nothing more than "honorable" or "noble" and indicates the refined or civilized human being (as is referred to only 40 times in the Vedas and also later in the ancient Sanskrit literature) with no other connotations. The concept of race is uniquely missing in the meanings and nuances attached to the word "Arya" in the Sanskrit literature. There is no "Mister race" in the Western world and there need not have been an "Aryan race" for the East.

There are many political, sociological, and methodological explanations for why this myth of "Aryan invasion" of India was created and perpetuated. Also, there are many explanations for why this myth is swallowed lock, stock, and barrel by not only the educated as well as the uneducated Western people, but also sadly by the educated Indians for the last three centuries. Curiously, it is even most vigorously defended by some of our Indian brothers and sisters. Without going into the polemics, I would like the readers to become aware of the process of inquiry that goes awry and how the objectivity is derailed in the normal human educational endeavors.

The famous aphorism, "Satyam Eva Jayate" is commonly translated as "Only Truth will prevail." Jayate refers to victory (literally "becomes vitorious"). It is interesting as well as intriguing that mostly the victorious people write and propagate the history of the people they have conquered. The definition of "fact" in modern Law is "that which the fact-finders believe to be true is a fact." Such translations and paradigms describing what "facts" mean ignore the spirit of the aphorism and leads to polemics about the definition of the "Truth" or "Fact," and the paradigm leads to fallacies that are difficult to detect.

"Sat," in my opinion, stands for that which exists or that which truly existed, meaning that which really happened. The opposite of it is "Asat," meaning, "that which does not exist or did not exist and did not really happen or not in that way." Anything that is derived from Sat is Satya and anything that is derived from Asat is Asatya. "Jayate" is victory of Satya over Asatya. Simply speaking, the dictum emphasizes that rational human mind will eventually accept only satya and discard asatya. That is also the spirit of science and needs to be the spirit of the Humanities and Liberal education also.

Human intelligence is endowed with the ability to distinguish between Satya and Asatya. This faculty (or an ego function)is called "reality testing" which develops in the very early childhood and continues to sharpen with maturation, education, experience, and training in critical, logical, rational and scientific thinking. One would legitimately question the nature of the factors that interfere with this discriminating faculty even when present in the thinking human being. The "Sara- Asara Viveka Buddhi" and "Sad-Asad Viveka Buddhi" refer to similar faculties or ego functions of the mind like "reality testing." "Viveka" refers to discriminating intellect. "Sara-Asara" refers to essential and nonessential or relevant and irrelevant and "Sad-Asad" refers to real and unreal. How does this faculty of reality testing become clouded with "Avidya" while conducting historical research and arriving at conclusions?

"Vidya" is commonly translated as "knowledge." The more apt definition of Vidya is "that which leads to Vid or Knowing. (vid + ya)" Interestingly this Vidya is indeed a faculty of the mind or intelligence just like other faculties of the human intelligence, "Prajna" and "Pratibha." "Avidya" (a+vidya)is translated commonly as ignorance or lack of insight. Insight then logically stands for Vidya! Or, is it the other way around? Vidya leads to insight. Avidya is usually viewed as absence of vidya, but in the context in which it is used here, it mostly refers to an "aberration of the mind" or "a derailed faculty," namely "that which leads to Avid." "Avid" can mean absence or lack of knowledge or erroneous knowledge. Clearly this is an interesting and an alternative way of looking at the word "Avidya.(avid+ya)" Avidya leads to erroneous knowledge. An investigator of facts has to discipline himself in exercising Vidya, and develop abilities to discern the psychological factors that propel Avidya. There is no parallel for these concepts in the Western psychology or cognitive science to the best of my knowledge. The closest parallel in English language for Avidya is the psychological "blind spot" that the psychoanalysts talk about.

There may be a very valid neurobiological basis or underpinning for Avidya. The perceptions and memories are continually categorized and "filed", if you may, in the hippocampus. Hippocampus does what the search engines do for the Internet surfer. The other organ of the brain that has immediate access to memories of survival value is amygdala. From neurobiological viewpoint, the culture is a store-house of accumulated memories of the previous generations. Once ingrained in the hippocampus and amygdala these memories are of survival value. The victorious population has a psychological need to create stories to boost its pride, justify its conduct, and maintain its political power over the vanquished so its future generations will continue to wield the same power over the vanquished populations and enjoy the benefits of doing so perpetually. Once these memories are stored they become the reference points for the future perceptions. Such locking in of the circuits of the brain in discoloring perceptions to suit the previously ingrained memories leads to spinning of the wheels of familiar paradigms. That is the reason why human beings adhere so steadfastly to previously held paradigms and resist acceptance of new paradigms. This may be viewed as an unfortunate side-effect of a function that has survival value from the biological view-point. This resistance of the human mind to change is not to be interpreted as an excuse for perpetuating antiquated attitudes such as racism, racial superiority, slavery, colonialism, exploitation of the weak, child labor, or proselytization, even male dominance in the society that reap the benefits to the once aggressive and conquering imperialistic civilization but a partial explanation as to why these die hard. However, it is only one neurobiological explanation for the conscious and unconscious biases and prejudices human beings carry. In psychoanalytic parlance these old reverberating neural circuits lead to a quick "transference." "Transference" can have positive and negative features. That is a different subject; but the negative transference towards the investigators from other cultures can also impede acceptance of their world-view although it might be more rational and scientifically more correct. Sometimes these views have to await general acceptance in the world-view until they are plagiarized and reworded in the culturally compatible language of the dominant culture and peddled as original and invented or dicovered by a respectable memmber of that dominant culture.

The "Chittavrittis" or "mentation" that lead to cognition are defined to be "Klishta and Aklishta." "Klish" stands "goading" and therefore contrary to usual hackneyed translation of the word "Klesha" as "suffering," the word "Klesha" really means "instinct." A scientist or investigator is to exercise every caution to avoid "Klishta vritties," drives, or his instictually driven motivations from infiltrating his/her rational reasoning or afflict his/her Viveka buddhi. He is to develop an intellectual discipline or rigor to adhere to "aklishta vritties." These are the rational thoughts (mentations) uncontaminated by the instintual influences and not driven by "kleshas." The major driving instincts or kleshas are "Raga" and "Dvesha." "Raga" is attachment or over-attachment and "dvesha" is aversion or hatred. In basic terms these refer to approach-withdrawal tendencies. Freud coined the term "wishful thinking." The ancient Indian concepts are clearer and caution the fact finders that the klishta vritties could lead to Avidya. So also wishful thinking leads to interference with reality testing and relation with reality as is well known to psychoanalysts.

This brings us to the recently popularized concept of "Cultural Mis-education." Why does Ciltural Miseducation creep into the texbooks of history and even in the general world view? When cultural memories are transmitted from one generation to the next the deeper psychological needs, or klishta vritties, of the transmitter discolor the memories and even their perceptions. Even the "pramana" (objective observations) and "aumaana" (objectively and logically derived inferences), meaning obviously valid assertions and inferences, have to be thoroughly examined for their "Satya" quality. Even pramana (direct and valid perception of reality) and anumaan (inferences) can be distorted by the "Avidya" which springs from klishta vritties. The other derivatives of raga and dvesha are greed, jealousy and envy, etc. that drive the political motives of the victorious population at the conscious and unconscious level. Both the herd instinct or the "racial instinct" and even the recently most lauded virtue, the "killer instinct," in the Western civilization have a great political survival value for the "race." Unfortunately, both are valued as "virtues" of considerable importance, consciously and unconsciously, in the Western psyche. These instincts as well as raga and dvesha, as well as "ambivalence" drive the faculties of the mind to cloud the investigators' spirit of inquiry and he/she can fall prey to his own or his group's "wishful thinking." The investigators are subconsciously aware of this interference but the killer instinct is quite over-powering and intoxicating. It leads to the tenacious adherence to the self-serving academic theories of the victorious (at least temporarily victorious as in the case of Hitler and his followers) populations.

The Aryan Invasion (whether called migration and immigration or not) Myth illustrated here is just one of the theories that can be exposed as an example of the subconsciously and consciously exploited psychological political tool of the Western culture of recent centuries still holding its roots in the Western academia even long after the fall of Hitler (examples of such are the likes of the Witzels of Harvard) feeding the superiority complex of their race under the distinguished status of Harvard, Harvard surrecptitiously condoning and supporting such ventures. This has understandably happened for more than hundred years at Oxford also. Let us not forget that such endeavours feed the cultural pride of millions of people and also has been used as a political tool for justifying mass murder and inflicting genocide of "other races" supposedly viewed as inferior (Jewish people in particular) in the 20th century. This type of mentality leads to viweing "others" as slightly less than human and to be studied like the animals in the zoo either by sociologists, cultural anthropologists, psychologists, journalists, and worse still the politians, many of whom are secretly or covertly motivated by the indoctrinations of their imperialistic proselytizing Churches and evangelists.

So Avidya at the cultural level or cultural mis-education is not a benign academic subject of inquiry for the nerds to undertake. It has serious adverse wide-spread political, social, and cultural consequences for very large sections of world populations that can be malignant or of an epidemic level of magnitude. The women scholars of "Women's Studies" also recognize this fact. The very people who bash the "Hindus" from the "secular" view-point accusing them for their pride in "Hindutva" as springing from a racial superiority intriguingly adhere to this racially motivated myth of Aryan invasion espoused by Hitler that has fed the pride of many Eurocentric academicians and racists. These so-called secular "Indians" prefer to identify with Hitler, the mass murderer. The Indian academicians like Romila Thapar have a blind spot for their own psychological need to identify with the "Aryans" as defined by the West (namely the Nordic race) with whom Hitler identified himself and his people. This is an example of how unconscious klishta vritties will make them defend themselves viciously in the face of overwhelming refuting facts. They forget that the Indian nationals and particularly large sections of Hindu population have been the victims of this myth that has glorified the "Whites" as their "superior" (superior biologically and culturally and in all other ways)ancestors to whom they obsequiously need to genuflex, though some of them have intriguingly welcomed this myth as a boon in disguise to boost their own mythical "Aryan" identity and pride.

This analysis of psychological factors described in the ancient Indian psychology will allow students of history identify many areas of cultural miseducation besides the Aryan Invasion myth illustrated above. Such psychological factors might have prevailed in promulgating many Asatyas and there are innumerable examples of such cultural miseducation in the history of the human race. One could trace such asatyas and also the efforts of the reformers to correct them, right from the very antiquities. No culture is exempt from it. Even modern Christianity may be a gross distortion of the true message of Jesus Christ. ( See: caution: this web-site may have a misleading appearance unless you persist to find the correct references listed therein that expose the myths in Christianity ). Another example, one can view Shri Krishna as attempting to dispel the myth of the importance of "Karmakanda" in a politically correct manner to suit his contemporaries. However, the majority of Hindus have continued to emphasize "karmakanda" and ritualism to an absurd degree as even Krishna's efforts to correct this "Vedic" mis-education has failed. One more example: The history of the United States as written has very little room for the views of the Native Americans and enslaved African Americans.

It is only the liberated populations that have the luxury to correct the historically perpetutated cultural mis-education. The people of slavish mentality and those who identify with their aggressors or colonial masters' views will not take this step. Once the psychological factors are thus analyzed, one can understand the resistance to acceptance of the myth of Aryan invasion in the Western world. It is, however, a sad commentary indeed on the "sepoy" Indian intellectuals and academicians that even after 60 years of independence their avidya resulting from the servile "identification with the aggressor" (a psychoanalytic concept) continues to prevail and pervades the Indian psyche and they steer away from the very motto that the official Seal of the Government of India proclaims to be its guiding principle: "Satyam Eva Jayate." This statement, of course, gives them the benefit of the doubt by looking at their unconscious motivations and does not view them as making a conscious choice to accept a role as the stooges of the Indian communists, who are like termites in India along with the missionaries, whom some of the "sepoys" admire and join in addition to adoring their colonial masters, with the only difference between the missionaries and the communists being that the communists do not say the grace before they try to devour their object of infestation. The communists and missionaries, fundamental Muslims and Christian Missionaries, and Indian communists and Indian fundamental Muslims are three kinds of strange pairs of bedfellows that can be found only on the Indian political scene. They are not allies in any other countries. The "secularists" and the other three groups (missionaries, communists, and the fundamental Muslims) have their own agendas to perpetuate their own cultural mis-education as all four of these groups are carrying the psychology of the "conquerors" who have wielded political domination over large populations of the world with violent means (the "secularists" have been an exception only in regard to the degree of violent means used in maintaining power in this instance) which they have viewed as justifying the end. All four groups are, therefore, unconsciously motivated to perpetuate cultural mis-education motivated by their drive for power and wealth, drive to dominate over large populations, and empire building instincts. Cultural mis-education can be thus traced from antiquity to the modern times and be recognized as ubiquitously present in the history of the human race.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

How Many Crores Does it take to Keep Gandhis Poor?


September 19, 2009
First Published: 22:50 IST(19/9/2009)
Last Updated: 23:02 IST(19/9/2009)

Shared from Hindustantimes

The Oxford English Dictionary defines austerity as “moral sternness” and “severe simplicity”. Bearing that in mind, I want to make a few points about our present obsession with this subject.
First, austerity is either a practical life style or a philosophical approach. But, in either case, it’s not necessarily a virtue just as its opposite, indulgence, is not always a vice. Neither is definitionally right, wrong or better than the other.
Second, ostentatious austerity, by which I mean the deliberate public display of it, is as much a form of showing-off as flaunting your spending. It’s also, I suspect, a manifestation of priggish moral self-righteousness.
Third, the rich living simply may be one way of showing sympathy for the poor. But I doubt if it makes the latter feel better. For instance, will farmers in distress have been comforted by the fact Sonia Gandhi now flies economy and not business class and Rahul travels by train?
Fourth, if you want to set an example it must be a meaningful one. If television channels are correct in claiming that five rows of seats were reserved to enable Sonia Gandhi to travel economy and the only saving when her son went by train was Rs 445, then their efforts are more akin to vaudeville farce than effective cost-cutting.
Fifth, if politicians have a duty to be austere, as Rahul Gandhi has said (Chennai, September 10), then why is he, a bachelor, living in 12 Tughlaq Lane, one of the largest government-owned bungalows in Delhi? I’m told houses of that size are reserved for cabinet ministers. In that case, he’s not even entitled to it.
Sixth, if they are serious about austerity and not simply deluding us, why do ministers need parquet floors, Italian marble tiles and silk carpets when they refurnish their offices? Or does austerity not apply to what others can’t see?
Seventh, does it make sense to require our foreign minister to fly halfway around Europe to reach Minsk thus ensuring he’s pooped on arrival and unable to get down to immediate work? He is, after all, 78 and age does take its toll.
Eighth, if austerity is the order of the day why should the prime minister be excluded from its enforcement? After all, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have often flown across the Atlantic on commercial airlines. And they did so without boasting of their austerity. So will Manmohan Singh travel on a scheduled flight when he departs for Pittsburgh later this month?
Ninth, if Sarojini Naidu could jest that it cost the nation a fortune to keep the Mahatma in poverty, why can’t Shashi Tharoor make jokes about travelling cattle class? Either the Congress Party has lost its sense of humour or its Miss Primms don’t realise that is how economy class is referred to jocularly the world over?
Tenth, does austerity in these times defy economic logic? In the middle of a downturn you need to boost demand by increasing spending. If those who can afford to spend suddenly decide not to, you could seriously affect sectors like transport, travel, hotels and retail. They constitute 40 per cent of the service industry which, in turn, is over 50 per cent of our economy. So is austerity economic wisdom or folly?
A possible conclusion: doesn’t this mad scramble to appear austere seem like an attempt to fool the voter and, also, disrespectful of those who really are poor?