Yoga Day: a Comeback of the Divine Right of Kings

This government, like most monarchies in history, wants to get into people’s minds together with a dose of divinity. Once the common man falls for the scheme, he attaches divinity to the government itself. His mind cannot disentangle the two easily, even though the government is no more than India’s biggest corporation. Reason thus blinded, the poor fellow finds it nearly impossible to question those actions of the government which have a greater bearing on his own life. And that’s the whole idea.

Rabindranath Tagore, undoubtedly one of India’s greatest sons, defined a nation as an ‘organization of politics and commerce’. He contrasted it with society which he called the ‘spontaneous self-expression of man as a social being’.

This bifurcation takes some time to sink in. It may never happen to those who have been indoctrinated to worship the nation. But if and when it sinks in, it becomes a very good tool to understand the world in general and India in particular.

From this understanding, it becomes clear that Yoga is the product of a society, not a nation. Politics or commerce didn’t lead to Yoga. In fact, when it was first discovered (or invented, you choose), there was no pan-Indian politics or commerce. There was no Indian nation.

The Government of India, on the other hand, is not a social institution. It’s is a national institution, i.e., one of politics and commerce. It’s really the biggest business in the country, and it must behave as such.

While it would be idiotic to deny the greatness of Yoga, it would be equally idiotic to think of the Government of India as having anything to do with it.

Yoga Day, therefore, signifies the usurpation of society by politics and economics, i.e., the usurpation of society by nation.

All those text messages about the importance of Yoga, which the Government of India seems to have sent to every Indian with a mobile phone, all those ads, all that propaganda, were nothing but a vulgar display of the power of the Centre to infiltrate into society and take control.

Let there be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Patanjali is no justification for Modi. However, because of the sheer power that the Government of India wields, many will end up thinking he is. That’s the desired result.

In other words, Yoga Day is designed to justify Mr. Modi and his government, their actions, and their right to rule India. It’s this century’s Indian avatar of the Divine Right of Kings.

This government, like most monarchies in history, wants to get into people’s minds together with a dose of divinity. Once the common man falls for the scheme, he attaches divinity to the government itself. His mind cannot disentangle the two easily, even though the government is no more than India’s biggest corporation.

Reason thus blinded, the poor fellow finds it nearly impossible to question those actions of the government which have a greater bearing on his own life. And that’s the whole idea.

Put differently, Yoga Day is an attempt by the Government of India to appear divine to the people of India by psychologically overpowering them, take away their liberty when they’re unguarded, and thereby win on the material plane. This psychological attack is at the very foundation of the party currently running the government.

It’s no secret that the BJP has forever tried to justify coming to and remaining in power using Hindu gods such as Rama. Having learnt that they’re too controversial, they’ve moved on to Yoga.

This time, together with the execution excellence of Modi’s team, the psychological overpowering is almost completely successful. The Divine Right of Kings, ladies and gentlemen, is back in currency. In a democracy.

What Richard Feynman Can Teach You About Political Science

Richard Feynman was perhaps the greatest science teacher ever. Just yesterday, I read a lecture of his titled What is Science and it did two things to me. One, it made me realize my responsibility as a father in inculcating the scientific spirit in my children. Two, it made me realize that everything he says about science is applicable to the social sciences, including political science. Since I have an interest in political science nowadays, let me use Feynman’s lecture to illustrate the importance of scientific spirit for political change.

Richard Feynman was perhaps the greatest science teacher ever. Just yesterday, I read a lecture of his titled What is Science. It did two things to me.

One, it made me realize my responsibility as a father in inculcating the scientific spirit in my children. Two, it made me realize that everything he says about science is applicable to the social sciences, including political science.

Since I have an interest in political science nowadays, let me use Feynman’s lecture to illustrate the importance of scientific spirit for political change.

Embedded in the long lecture is a sort-of long definition of science:

And that is what science is: the result of the discovery that it is worthwhile rechecking by new direct experience, and not necessarily trusting the [human] race’s experience from the past.

So there you go. Want the shorter version? Here it is:

Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.

The two are interchangeable, really. It’s only when we believe that the experts may be wrong that we discover for ourselves what is right using new direct experience.

It’s only by questioning received knowledge that the greatest advances in science have happened. Newton did it. Einstein did it. Neils Bohr did it. Feynman himself did it. Nobody who is somebody in science could have accepted all received knowledge. On the other hand, those who accept everything given are the real nobodies in science.

Let’s come to political science. It’s really no different here. If at all anyone wishes to advance the science, there is no option but to question received knowledge.

But politicians have a knack for making people believe that their expertise is unquestionable. They weave a web of intoxication in which they make it unsocial, unpatriotic, illegal, even criminal to question their expertise.

It is such politicians who found nations. Even our nation, the Indian nation, was founded by them. We’re urged to worship them. But to worship them is to believe in their infallibility. There are innumerable proofs of their fallibility, if only we have the scientific spirit to analyze what they did.

The Constitution of India, for instance, needs to be rewritten from scratch. It’s a totally flawed document which, by its overly centrist approach, makes India only a namesake democracy.

If we wish to improve the condition of the people of India, we cannot afford like unscientific people to believe that India’s founders were 100% right in everything they did. No, they were humans.

Unless, as Feynman urges, we are ready to rediscover what is right ourselves, we’ll forever be bound by the limits of their intellect, their priorities, and their worldviews.

I can say with some pride that it is such a rediscovery which led to my book, The Pyramid of Corruption. You can read a synopsis here, the first chapter here, and buy it here.

7 Reasons Why I Killed My Facebook and Twitter Accounts

I’d been having a love-hate relationship with social media from day one. On the night of June 8th, 2015, I decided I’ve had enough and deactivated my Facebook and Twitter accounts. I didn’t have the courage to tell everyone before doing it. Had I done that, there’d be so many requests to reconsider that I would’ve yielded. It’s happened a couple of times before. So, thanks a lot for encouraging me all these days on Facebook on Twitter. Those of you who did are the good reasons to be on Facebook and Twitter. But I need to move on. Let me explain why.

I’d been having a love-hate relationship with social media from day one. On the night of June 8th, 2015, I decided I’ve had enough and deactivated my Facebook page and Twitter account.

I didn’t have the courage to tell everyone before doing it. Had I done that, there’d be so many requests to reconsider that I would’ve yielded. It’s happened a couple of times before.

So, thanks a lot for encouraging me all these days on Facebook on Twitter. Those of you who did are the good reasons to be on Facebook and Twitter. But I need to move on.

Let me explain why.

1. Health

I had given up on smartphones because they make life too complicated, so I used to use my old-style desktop to post updates.

This means having to sit, and once you sit down, you tend to sit longer!

Since I want to live long, I wanted to get rid of this health hazard.

I hear you say “that’s what a smartphone is for”. Yes, they give you mobility, but they cut you off from the world, make you bump into people, vehicles, streetlights, and what not.

They even deprive you of the peace of shit.

2. Amplified whispers aren’t a good thing

The world was never supposed to know about every whisper of yours.

They’re almost never fully formed thoughts, so they don’t deserve to be amplified so as to go outside the confines of your head. Sometimes, discrete whispers spread over a week or month add up to a meaningful message in your head.

But Facebook and Twitter make you broadcast each whisper as it surfaces. Because of all the busy newsfeeds and timelines, you tend to acquire an ‘update or perish’ mentality.

Everyone doesn’t get every whisper on their newsfeed or timeline, and even those that do don’t put them all together like you do.

The result: miscommunication.

3. High-speed communication is leading to low-quality relationships

When communication is slow, it has a value all by itself.

There was a time when a trusted human messenger (what was he called?) used to take the message from the sender and go and deliver it by hand to the recipient.

This was slow, but for that very reason, you had no option but to craft your message with care. You had to make sure you included everything you needed to include, and nothing more.

You also had to make sure there’s absolutely no way your message could be misinterpreted. This way, real relationships used to be built. People like Gandhi ran freedom movements like this.

Fast forward to today.

One click of a button on Facebook or Twitter, and your message reaches your audience in a split-second.

As a result the sanctity of communication is lost. It’s not a big deal to send a message to anyone anywhere in the world and have him or her reply in real-time.

You subconsciously think you can patch up errors in your message because it’s fast and cheap, but that’s easier said than done.

What really happens is that your message loses quality. It’s not crafted with care anymore. It doesn’t have everything it needs to have anymore. It often has stuff other than what it needs to have.

Therefore, your messages are now more than ever misinterpreted.

This is a recipe to destroy relationships.

4. There’s too much crap

There’s way too much activity on Facebook and Twitter for your voice to stand out (unless it’s standing out outside of these two already).

Your message on the importance of such and such a thing for a nation’s future has to compete with pictures of cats.

Before you know, your message acquires a catty odor which you didn’t put in.

5. Sponsored content is slowly taking over

Facebook and Twitter are slowly prioritizing sponsored content over organic.

I was shocked to know that Facebook doesn’t even show your posts to all your page’s followers.

Twitter ads are becoming quite common.

And as I said, nobody cares for these ads, so I won’t advertise myself. Not that I have the money.

Why pay to get noticed when nobody notices anyway?

6. Inbound is better than outbound

I’m old enough to have lived in the age of no social media, and young enough to have blogged nevertheless.

Karnatique and Enguru were both very successful blogs which ran for several years without any social media presence.

I mean people were actually reading stuff on them, commenting, etc., without me sharing it on any social media.

I hadn’t even heard of the thing then. Clearly, people were coming for the content, and I could also focus entirely on content.

After The Pyramid of Corruption was published, I thought it necessary to get on to Facebook and Twitter to promote it. Many of my colleagues advised me to do it, and I followed their advice.

It was the ‘work’ part of writing a book. Getting on to the rooftop and shouting about my book, I mean. But I’ve had enough of it.

The worst part of it is repeating myself.

It’s like my daughter saying ‘twinkle twinkle little star’ and then going on the rooftop and shouting ‘I said twinkle twinkle little star’, ‘You know what, I said twinkle twinkle little star’, ‘I really said twinkle twinkle little star’ and so on until enough people notice.

I’ve started to think it’s stupid to continue this. My plan now is to blog and hope someone reads it.

7. It’s impossible not to feed the trolls

I learned it the hard way that I shouldn’t feed the trolls if I intend to remain sane. But it’s difficult. No, it’s impossible not to feed the trolls.

They troll for the simple reason that you say something on Facebook or Twitter. Ban them, block them, and they still look at your posts from an incognito window and troll.

Worst kind of human scum, these guys.

Very often, they troll because I myself mis-communicate — I should say Facebook and Twitter force me to. Well, I wouldn’t care if they troll and I never get to know, but I do get to know from the good guys!

From now on, therefore, I will make it next to impossible for the trolls to reach me. I can’t stop them from trolling because that’s their swadharma, but they will find it very difficult to appear in front of me.

I’m human. I can’t take their shit, especially when they live on stuff I’ve myself wrongly communicated.

It’s not how I communicate that I wish to work on. It’s what. It’s harder work than writing a Facebook post or posting a tweet, and these two activities, if indulged in, make it harder if I’m on them.

The trolls are there to ensure it gets harder. I want to turn my own mike off so that the trolls don’t shout on theirs after listening to me.

I’m not in the business of shouting from rooftops. I’m in the business of deciding for myself what’s worth saying in a normal voice to normal people.

If there are people who find my decisions good, good. Else, no big deal. It’s a big deal only if I myself shout from the rooftop.