Monday, January 24, 2005

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

My little guamian house monkey, aka my roommate leevin, brought up an interesting topic on his own blog. My mother was and is clueless about a lot of things that happen to her kids. When I have attempted to explain to her in the past that I was dating someone, yes as hard as it is to believe but I did/do date, she would completely ignore me. "Amma, what would you say if i was dating a white girl..." and yes that was my way of trying to break the ice and let my mom know that i was dating outside the indian "race". "No, mukunda, i know you and you wouldn't do something like that. don't think about girls and all that nonsense, focus on your studies." and with that she would promptly turn her back and walk away no matter what i was saying.

I still don't think my mom knows anything about my or my sisters dating lives. My sister was dating some white guy, who i can't mention cause she will literally kill me, so I asked my mom "Amma, do you know that Maad and "blank" are dating?"
My Mom: "No they are just friends."
Me: "Ma, they go out alone and he stays over at her place sometimes."
Mom: "No, mukunda they are just really good friends, maadhavi is just helping him out. He needs some friends."
Me: "Ma, but.."
Mom: "No, they are just friends"
Then my mom will go about her business like nothing has happened.

My dad on the other hand is oblivous to the entire world and his version of parenting is something like this:
Mom: "Can't you say something to the kids, they are not listening to me."
Dad: "Kids, listen to your amma."
Or when he wanted to tell us something and we were all in the room he would turn to my mom and say:
Dad: "tell the kids that tomorrow morning they have to get up early and pray."
Me: "Appa, we are right here, you can tell us."
Dad: "Seshi (my dad's nickname for my mom), tell them to get up early."

Now my dad's newest thing is to tell me that drinking doesn't suit me or isn't in my character. My license recently expired on my 25th birthday and my parents had recieved my renewed license at home.
Me: "Ma, has my license come in yet?"
Mom: "Yes, i have it, it came in three weeks ago."
Me: "Why didnt you send it to me?"
Mom: "Your appa and I felt that this way you can't go to a bar and drink leequor. Drinking is bad for you."
Dad (in the background): Tell him that drinking isn't in his nature and it doesn't suit him
Mom: Appa says that drinking doesn't suit you and isnt' in your nature

Indian parents...go figure.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

One of my friends said that I was wrong about the United States being a
democracy, and he (who shall remain nameless) said that the US is a
republic. What is a republic? Websters says that: A state in which the
sovereign power resides in the whole body of the people, and is
exercised by representatives elected by them; a commonwealth. A
Democracy is thus defined:
1.Government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is retained and directly exercised by the people.

2.Government by popular representation; a form of government in which the supreme power is retained by the people, but is indirectly exercised through a system of representation and delegated authority periodically renewed; a constitutional representative government; a republic.

3.Collectively, the people, regarded as the source of government.

4.The principles and policy of the Democratic party, so called.

If one were to look at Definition 2 of Democracy, it is clear that a republic is subsumed under democracy. A republic is a form of democracy. In my previous post i was using democracy as meaning rule of the mass, a participatory democracy. A republic by its very definition is a representative democracy but a democracy nonetheless. The United States is a mix between participatory democracy and republic. The very notion of popular vote shows leaning towards participatory democracy and that is balanced with the electoral college which have very representative democracy/republic nature to it. The founding fathers saw the need for both types of governance and the USA is an experiment to see how to go about creating a balance between participatory and representative democracy. It was the best that they could do given their time, situation and knowledge.
Nonetheless, it still doesn't detract from my previous point that to an individual does it really matter that they are being told how to lead their lives by either a single monarch or a majority? My only reason for bringing this up is that we have lost this from realm of debate or thinking, our world is focused on the idea that democracy (using this term in a generic sense now) is not ideal form of government but it is the best of the worst. I just don't know if thats the case and i think we need to seriously discuss this idea.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

A question has often arisen in my mind, the question of whether democractic government's are necessary the best form of governance. In this day and age, every single nation that seeks any sort of legitimacy in the world arena attempts to shout loudly that they are a democractic government. Why is that good? Because the "people" are represented or have a vote? Really does that matter? Is a democractic government that much better than a monarchy when the sovereign has the interests of the people at heart? I'm not sure where I fall in terms of this question. It seems to me a monarchy in which the ruler has the interest of the people at heart is just as good as a representative democracy (given that no nation on this planet right now has anything close to a participatory democracy).
For example, in the American system of representative democracy or republic (there are arguments, which are valid, in which the USA is more of a republic than democracy because the notion is that democracy is the will of the majority and republic is a rule of the law but this is rather debatable). Just because people can vote does not mean that the vote really counts. In our electoral college, the ideal is that your representative will vote in occurdence with what the majority of the state votes but this is not always the reality, because representatives can vote as they wish in the electoral college. So the popular vote can possible obsolete. This echoes John Stuart Mill when he said that everyone should have a voice but not all voices should be equal. On a similar note, Mill also approved of a Monarchy but it must be representative.
In Europe during the Middle Ages there was the idea of Divine Right of Kings, which basically postulated that the King was essentially God's representative on earth and therefore was supreme. Both India and China had some what similar sounding ideas. The Mandate of Heaven as it was known in China, said something similar but the King was not absolute and if he acted in a manner that was not virutuous then he loses that mandate and is brought lower than the low. In India, the idea is that King is subservient to the law or Dharma, if he acts in a way that contradicts dharma, which includes protection of the citizens/subjects and welfare state then the people have the right to revolt. In otherwords, the King had a duty to the people, in the Indian context it was a tacit social contract that required that the King act in the best interests of all his subjects, especially to prevent Matsyayana or the Law of the Bigger Fish eating the Smaller fish. Basically the king's duty was to protect the lower strata of society from the power and coercion of the upper strata. Kautilya, the first political realist in the world, wrote in 400 B.C. that "it is in the people's happiness that lies the king's happiness".
Is that necessarily the case with democracy? or is it what Mill feared of democracy, the idea of the tyranny of the majority? The idea that state legistilature can regulate almost any part of our lives goes to show that it is infact the tyranny of the majority that rules. Why can't homosexuals get married? simple, tyranny of the majority? Why was abortion illegal for so long? tyranny of the majority Why is euthanasia illegal? tyranny of the majority. The majority, mostly the "moral" majority, is dictating to the rest of the people how they should lead their lives. So maybe the question here is more of whats better to be ruled by a single monarch or a majority acting as a monarch?

Monday, October 11, 2004

Superman passed away yesterday. Christopher Reeve was THE one and only Superman to an entire generation of people. I remember the first time i saw that movie when I was like 3 years old, i watched it with my father. It is probably one of the first memories I have. I remember that feeling when I saw Superman first take to the skies, it was breathtaking and they fulfilled their promise I did believe that a man can fly. That man was Christopher Reeve. That character and as portrayed by Christopher Reeve is one of the reasons I am the person I am today. Superman meant more to many of us that just a simple comic book or movie hero, he was an ideal, something to aspire to, to emulate, a mythic figure to whom we would find some sense of morality and justice.

Superman is someone we wished we had in this world, a person who would stand up for something more than just what we see. The protector of the weak and defender of the defenseless. A god in the midsts of humans and yet more human than them. A being who could destroy the planet and rule it but with a thought, yet instead he stands among us as an equal and friend. Christopher Reeve brought that character and idea to life for us. He made us feel like that person does exist and can exist, and he did this all after his accident. I remember in 1995 when he got into the accident and was paralyzed, I was at football practice and I remember taking to one of my coaches about it. Without a doubt, we all said he was a true Superman. Many people would have forsaken life and devolved but Christopher Reeve showed otherwise. He, like the character he played, never gave up and took up a new neverending battle against the fate he was given, he would not give up and fought valiantly to try and overcome his condition.

Men of Steel aren't only born but are made by the decision they make. Christopher Reeve was one of those men of steel. He made us understand that even though the flesh is weak, the mind is strong, it can do the impossible and make the impossible happen. He defied all the diagnosis of the doctors and begin to slowly recover feeling and movement in his extremeties. Thank you Christopher Reeve for making this kid believe that we can fly, you inspired me as a child to fight the good fight and do the right thing. May your soul gain the enlightenment and bliss that it deserves. is the one of the most incredible yet heinous action taken by human beings. War is always justified by the individuals engaging in it. For the warriors who fight on the field of battle it is the field of honor and glory. For the rulers who command it, it is a field in which their power and goals are achieved. For the civilans, who are caught up in it, it is either something that they support or hate with every fiber of their being. Its interesting how something that causes so much death and destruction is justified. Lives are snuffed out without as much as a blink of an eye. We post numbers of casualties and for the most part we ignore what that means in relation to the human effect by justifying their deaths as given for liberty, justice, freedom or recently, democracy.

For the most part, warriors chose to enter the field of battle and there is an blatant assumption that the warriors assume: war kills and warriors die for their war. Civilians don't assume such a risk and their deaths are called collateral damage or accidents. I just saw this movie called the Fog of War, it is documentary and is narrated by Robert McNamara, the former Secretary of Defense for President Kennedy and Johnson during the Vietnam War. He made a very important statement "Why aren't there rules of war", I am paraphasing. This is a very poignant statement. People play sports and their are rules for sports, which applies to both winners and losers but in War, which is the most destructive and gigantic action or "game" that can be engaged in, has no rules. There is almost nothing that cannot be done to win a war and if the war is won then the victor is never penalized or held to answer for those acts committed in the time of war. Does war necessarily mean that the rules of morality are to be suspended? Does not the Torah and Bible teach "thou shalt not kill" (there is some argument that it actually says murder pre-King James Version but I'm dont have knowledge of Hebrew but the greek word used is phoneuseis which comes from phoneuw which means kill) and doesn't Jesus say that "thou shalt not kill any living thing for life is given to all by God and what God gives no man shalt taketh away" ? Many people have argued that this doesn't apply to war or justified killings. Why? Killing is killing, however its done its consequences are the same and the act is the same. Granted there are gradations of killing, some more heinous than others but justified killing doesn't absolve one of any wrong doing.

What makes war any more special? We are now fighting a "war on terrorism" but not a single person in the general media or of any political influence has brought out the point that, much of this terrorism is a direct product of colonialism, globalism and post WWII actions. Most of these terrorist countries or "creator" of terrorists are very poor and generally uneducated. Afghanistan is case and point, it was a very poor country and in the 70's under the "heel" of the then USSR and we liberated them and gave them weapons to fight the Soviets and essentially left them to their own mechanisms afterwards and that created the Taliban, we know of today. In no way, shape or form am i condoning or even supporting the terrorists, they deserved to be caught and imprisoned but this war on terror is fundamentally going to fail because its not attacking the root of the problem, which is education and respect. Americans on a general level don't respect other nations, or specifically third world nations, that term alone "third world" shows that lack of respect. We don't have the respect enough to understand the history of a nation before "engaging" with them. History is a very key and fundamental part of a nation's situation, its also my firm belief that in history is where the solution arises. We don't respect the nations to make decisions for themselves and we attempt to assert our influence over them, much like we try to do with our own citizens, we don't believe that people can make good decisions for themselves. We fight to open up free trade and peddle in globalization, granted it has a lot of benefits like in the long term, a higher chance of higher standard living, economic growth and so on. But why can't these companies that come to the "third world" countries have to abide by our standards in the country they have relocated to? simple, we don't care if these companies destroy the countries they are in as long as we get a benefit here, eg: higher profits. Then a few years later, we tell those nations to comply with our "international" standards and chastise them for not doing so. The way to win this war on terrorism is to stop trying to be the neo-colonizer and show more respect and help to the up and coming nations.

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