Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Ramachandra Guha has a new book on Gandhi

Here is an interview about it ish that Gandhi must be excommunicated, says Ramachandra Guha. I think Gandhi was complex personality and has been inconsistent. An excerpt:
"He engaged with people like Ambedkar, the Hindu orthodoxy he refuses to engage with beyond a point because he sees them as absolutely bigoted and benighted. From the perspective of 2018, you'll be told by the admirers of Ambedkar that Gandhi was moving too slowly in dismantling the caste system. But from the perspective of 1928, the main challenge to Gandhi was from the Hindu Right, which told him he was going too fast; that untouchability is part of our scriptures and how dare a bania like you who doesn't know any Sanskrit tell us how to manage our faith? You recognise Gandhi's dilemma only when you place the modernist critics like Ambedkar on the one side and the Shankaracharyas on the other. Hindu orthodoxy was totally opposed to him. The Shankaracharyas tell the British that Gandhi must be excommunicated. The Hindu Mahasabha ensures that he is met with black flags everywhere he goes as part of his tour against untouchability. He had to negotiate his path with great skill; it takes colossal courage to confront the entire might of your religious institutions. As he gets more assured about his control over the national movement on the Hindu social mind, he becomes more critical and radical in his approach to caste. So it's unfair to criticise Gandhi for being incremental in his approach to caste, because he has to deal with the bulk of Hindu orthodoxy before he frontally challenges the caste system, which he does, provoked by Ambedkar. Gandhi's path is all his own, and it's unappealing to both the radicals and the reactionaries."
A short review here
I still find him fascinating and try to understand him. One of his ideas seems to be some kind of local self sufficiency. I wonder whether the following is somewhat along those lines Via Campesina.

Why do I still try to do mathematics?

 It is off and on work after retirement in 2005, there is no money in it now and it is very hard work in the few strands that I still try to engage in. I have forgotten some of the elementary stuff and basic definition and to verify even simple things takes time and one has to be fairly sure of basic stuff before thinking about more advanced topics. In general topics, one is not so precise about basic concepts; perhaps there is a band width and fuzziness to many concepts which makes conversations possible. Then one can build on what seem more agreeable to one, confirm ones prejudices and continue to have some opinions about the world. But others have different opinions and often this results in acrimony and chaos. Perhaps mathematics balances this approach to some extent particularly when one is rusty. One has to be precise about basic concepts and it takes a lot of time to understand each sentence in an advanced paper. Hours and days go by and some feel for the topic develops and more precision later. In retirement, one is not in a hurry to finish things. I go on for days dreaming to see the ideas floating around and trying to reign them and then after months some understanding emerges. And in the end, one is a bit more certain about one's conclusions than in everyday life. It is some sort of meditation. Perhaps there are more human motives. One has earned some esteem from persons that one has respected for their work and may be one is still hankering for such esteem.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Rahul Banerjee on ‘Late Marx’

Rahul  Banerjee discusses ‘Late Marx and the Russian Road’ edited by Teodor Shanin here. Some parts of the book available at google books.Another review by Marc Edelman. There are also various discussions by Michael Hudson posted before. 

One on music

Music is not for ears
Joshua Bell is a star violinist who plays at the world’s great concert halls. People regularly pay more than $100 per ticket to hear him perform. Everything about the setting of a typical concert implies how worthy the music is of a listener’s full attention: the grand spaces with far-away ceilings, the hush among the thousand attendees, the elevation of the stage itself. In 2007, a reporter from theWashington Post had an idea for a social experiment: what would happen if this world-renowned violinist performed incognito in the city’s subway? Surely the exquisiteness of his sound would lure morning commuters out of their morning routine and into a rhapsodic listening experience.
Instead, across the 35 minutes that he performed the music of Bach, only seven people stopped for any length of time. Passers-by left a total of $32 and, after the last note sounded, there was no applause – only the continued rustle of people hurrying to their trains. Commentators have interpreted this anecdote as emblematic of many things: the time pressures faced by urban commuters, the daily grind’s power to overshadow potentially meaningful moments, or the preciousness of childhood (several children stopped to listen, only to be pulled away by their parents). But just as significantly, it could suggest that the immense power of Bell’s violin-playing does not lie exclusively in the sounds that he’s producing. Without overt or covert signalling that prepared them to have a significant aesthetic experience, listeners did not activate the filters necessary to absorb the aspects of his sound that, in other circumstances, might lead to rhapsodic experiences. Even musicianship of the highest level is susceptible to these framing effects. The sound just isn’t enough.”


Sperm count zero Long read.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Long read from Oliver Bullough

in The Guardian The real Goldfinger: the London banker who broke the world A review of the book Moneyland in The Guardian. The theme is familiar from Shaxon’s Book on Tax Havens reviews by David Runciman in LRB Didn’tthey notice?. But there seems to be more spice in the book.

Along different lines using more recent studies by economists How US Multinationals Shifting Income to Foreign Countries Reduces Measured GDP 

Thursday, August 30, 2018

George Orwell on freedom of the press

Apparently it was the proposed prefaceto ‘Animal Fam’ The freedom of the press

How big is the middle class?

The world is on the brink of a historic milestone: By 2020, more than half of the world’s population will be “middle class,” according to Brookings Institution scholar Homi Kharas.
Kharas defines the middle class as people who have enough money to cover basics needs, such as food, clothing and shelter, and still have enough left over for a few luxuries, such as fancy food, a television, a motorbike, home improvements or higher education.”
according to a new report.
 This may explain why activists like Rahul Banerjee feel frustrated.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Rahul Banerjee gets some rare seeds

Pearl Diving in Bharia Land  “Subhadra remembered that many years ago when our friend Jacob Nellithanam had been running a campaign to preserve indigenous seeds, he had brought a variety of Bajra that had long whiskers on its seeds when on the plant that prevented the birds from eating it. She said that we should get that variety as only then would we be able to revive Bajra cultivation in Pandutalav. So began our search for the whiskered pearl!”

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Carl Zimmer on the latest hybrid find

Longest train ride through India

From Dibrugarh in Assam to Kanniakumari Early this year, I took this train from Visakhapatnam to Ongole. It came seven and half hours late. But the waiting room was clean and nice, the ladies were constantly cleaning it and making decorations with ‘muggulu’ in front. There were a constant stream of transit passengers. I did not mind.