Civil society, to keep it civil is the challenge

The recent judgment against Binayak Sen terrifies me…

I care the least about Maoist/Marxist ideology, it only lead to a destructive, abusive and draconian society.
I am not a legal expert to pass expert opinions on the case of Binayak Sen.

Still, this case feels like a war of the state against an individual with an ideology that is at odds with it. Also scary is the idea of “any punishment goes” for somebody who is on the other side of the fence. Here the state would like to co-opt me into the notion of being the “us” with Mr. Sen being part of “them”, the terrorists. Once this label is set the supposition is that Mr. Sen can be punished by any means possible – to help maintain peace, and to protect the likes of me, the citizenry.

The below snippet comes back to mind today:

First They Came for the Jews
First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

- Pastor Martin Niemöller

Also found this chilling conversation, apt for the situation from “They Thought They Were Free” by Milton Mayer:

“How is this to be avoided, among ordinary men, even highly educated ordinary men? Frankly, I do not know. I do not see, even now. Many, many times since it all happened I have pondered that pair of great maxims, Principiis obsta and Finem respice—‘Resist the beginnings’ and ‘Consider the end.’ But one must foresee the end in order to resist, or even see, the beginnings. One must foresee the end clearly and certainly and how is this to be done, by ordinary men or even by extraordinary men? Things might have. And everyone counts on that might.

“Your ‘little men,’ your Nazi friends, were not against National Socialism in principle. Men like me, who were, are the greater offenders, not because we knew better (that would be too much to say) but because we sensed better. Pastor Niemöller spoke for the thousands and thousands of men like me when he spoke (too modestly of himself) and said that, when the Nazis attacked the Communists, he was a little uneasy, but, after all, he was not a Communist, and so he did nothing; and then they attacked the Socialists, and he was a little uneasier, but, still, he was not a Socialist, and he did nothing; and then the schools, the press, the Jews, and so on, and he was always uneasier, but still he did nothing. And then they attacked the Church, and he was a Churchman, and he did something—but then it was too late.”

“Yes,” I said.

“You see,” my colleague went on, “one doesn’t see exactly where or how to move. Believe me, this is true. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. You don’t want to act, or even talk, alone; you don’t want to ‘go out of your way to make trouble.’ Why not?—Well, you are not in the habit of doing it. And it is not just fear, fear of standing alone, that restrains you; it is also genuine uncertainty.

“Uncertainty is a very important factor, and, instead of decreasing as time goes on, it grows. Outside, in the streets, in the general community, ‘everyone’ is happy. One hears no protest, and certainly sees none. You know, in France or Italy there would be slogans against the government painted on walls and fences; in Germany, outside the great cities, perhaps, there is not even this. In the university community, in your own community, you speak privately to your colleagues, some of whom certainly feel as you do; but what do they say? They say, ‘It’s not so bad’ or ‘You’re seeing things’ or ‘You’re an alarmist.’

“And you are an alarmist. You are saying that this must lead to this, and you can’t prove it. These are the beginnings, yes; but how do you know for sure when you don’t know the end, and how do you know, or even surmise, the end? On the one hand, your enemies, the law, the regime, the Party, intimidate you. On the other, your colleagues pooh-pooh you as pessimistic or even neurotic. You are left with your close friends, who are, naturally, people who have always thought as you have.

“But your friends are fewer now. Some have drifted off somewhere or submerged themselves in their work. You no longer see as many as you did at meetings or gatherings. Informal groups become smaller; attendance drops off in little organizations, and the organizations themselves wither. Now, in small gatherings of your oldest friends, you feel that you are talking to yourselves, that you are isolated from the reality of things. This weakens your confidence still further and serves as a further deterrent to—to what? It is clearer all the time that, if you are going to do anything, you must make an occasion to do it, and then you are obviously a troublemaker. So you wait, and you wait.

“But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That’s the difficulty. If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and smallest, thousands, yes, millions would have been sufficiently shocked—if, let us say, the gassing of the Jews in ’43 had come immediately after the ‘German Firm’ stickers on the windows of non-Jewish shops in ’33. But of course this isn’t the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than Step B, and, if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at Step C? And so on to Step D.

“And one day, too late, your principles, if you were ever sensible of them, all rush in upon you. The burden of self-deception has grown too heavy, and some minor incident, in my case my little boy, hardly more than a baby, saying ‘Jewish swine,’ collapses it all at once, and you see that everything, everything, has changed and changed completely under your nose. The world you live in—your nation, your people—is not the world you were born in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. Now you live in a system which rules without responsibility even to God. The system itself could not have intended this in the beginning, but in order to sustain itself it was compelled to go all the way.

“You have gone almost all the way yourself. Life is a continuing process, a flow, not a succession of acts and events at all. It has flowed to a new level, carrying you with it, without any effort on your part. On this new level you live, you have been living more comfortably every day, with new morals, new principles. You have accepted things you would not have accepted five years ago, a year ago, things that your father, even in Germany, could not have imagined.

“Suddenly it all comes down, all at once. You see what you are, what you have done, or, more accurately, what you haven’t done (for that was all that was required of most of us: that we do nothing). You remember those early meetings of your department in the university when, if one had stood, others would have stood, perhaps, but no one stood. A small matter, a matter of hiring this man or that, and you hired this one rather than that. You remember everything now, and your heart breaks. Too late. You are compromised beyond repair.

people with ideas on how others must run their lives

An interesting comment – http://cafehayek.com/2010/11/no-party-of-know.html

Makes quite some sense for what happens in India across our political, cultural and religious spectrum:
“…persons who have ideas – especially ‘Big Ideas’ – for how to run other people’s lives are mistaken for being thoughtful and caring. In contrast, persons who offer no ideas, big or small, for how other people should live their lives – persons who have no itch to meddle in the affairs of others and want only to be left alone to mind their own business as they each judge best – are mistaken for being feeble-minded and uncaring….”

Shining Eyes

Checkout the presentation below, a really good one. This guy is so comfortable with music, I envy him…

A quote I liked
Characteristics of a leader – that he not doubt for one moment the capacity of the people he is leading to realize what ever he is dreaming.

I liked this one even better
If you children(s) eyes are not shining you ask yourself who am I being that my children(s) eyes are not shining.

And then listen to the last one minute of the presentation, beautiful stuff to remember.

http://www.ted.com/talks/benjamin_zander_on_music_and_passion.html

Bring on the learning revolution.

Another of ken Robinsons talks. I have always liked this guys style of presentation, only depending on this words to keep the audience engaged.

Being the father of a two year old, the subject is also close to heart. I find myself pushing my kid into the educational rat race, am too fearful of doing anything drastically different for her. I will hopefully help her decide what she wants to do and be there for her along that path.

most people after the age of 30 start talking about the good old days. I have heard it from my my friends, my parents and my grand parents.

I wonder… If this were true then eons ago our ancestors must have lived in truly heavenly times, in pink of health, long life, no wars,  no massacres, eh?

Book review: Getting things done by David Allen

The author claims to help one gain contol of his life. This he does by providing a model to effectively organize and execute all of his life’s projects and activities.

The writing style is concise and crisp. David Allen takes a very methodical, structured and almost classroom style approach to communicate his methedology. This makes the book an effective alternative to a seminar or classroom course. One caution for people with all projects that are digital in nature – A big part of the book talks about processes that is not necessary if you choose to track all your activities and projects digitally.

This is definitely a must read book if you are

  • Regularly overwhelmed by your daily activities.
  • Find a lack of progress on most of your long term goals and projects.
  • Find many of your commitments to your self and others slip regularly.

The book resonated well with me. A couple of years back, I have had the experience of an overwhelming sense of loosing control of my professional and personal life. This was compounded by my inability to remember even the smallest of things. After I lost the battle trying to improve on my ability to remember stuff. I began diligently tracking every project, sub-project and tasks of my life. Over time I managed to build up a system that I use today to track and manage all my projects, without any reliance on my memory.

The author suggests the same for everybody – Do not rely on your mind to remember any project or activity that is due.