Today we have completed a century of sorts. This is the 100th edition of this newsletter, which we started on a whim. We read a lot during a day and have kept abreast of so many things in so many areas, that we thought it may be good to share it with others. Reading, watching, and listening indiscriminately to things in different areas is what we have done in the last many years.
The new world is a threat to many and their carefully manicured images, ideas, and controlling ways.
And it is so for just one reason - the democratization of the voice is now a possibility thanks to the social media.
Until now, they had interpreted, controlled, and subverted the voices they didn’t like and accentuated the ones which aligned with their objectives and ideologies.
Now, everyone has a voice. And the means to project it.
If we have the urgency and enough urge in us to share that voice, it will amount to something.
If not, then it will die without any consequence. And we will pass through this life as a bystander. paralyzing our own selves and others by the example we set for them.
In that act of being a bystander, we are actually stifling voices that could have spoken. Had it not been for our silence.
“When people don’t express themselves, they die one piece at a time.” ― Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak
when gods became pedestrian bystanders!
The bystander effect is an interesting phenomenon. In the event of very unpleasant situations, even sexual assaults, someone standing around watching passively impacts the reactions of others around.
When something wrong is happening, some people want to intervene or help. Their urge to help is dampened or lowered if they have another person just passively standing by, as opposed to if they are all alone.
But this bystander effect is relevant when the cost of intervention is low. If the cost of intervention is high, the bystander effect may not show much of an impact.
Francesca Gino explains this in a Harvard Business Review article.
In one study, participants were either alone or with a passive bystander. They witnessed an incident in which a man sexually harassed a woman (in reality, both the man and the woman were actors). To vary how costly intervening was, the experimenters varied the perpetrator’s physical stature. In the low-cost condition, the perpetrator was a small man with a slight build. In the high-cost condition, the perpetrator was tall and looked fierce. When intervening would be less costly, 50% of participants helped when no other bystander was present, whereas only 5.9% of participants helped when there was another bystander. But when the cost was high, fewer participants stepped in, whether or not another bystander was present.(Source)
So, when we speak up in the face of injustice and crime, we do more than show courage. We enable other voices to speak up as well.
It is easy for people to speak up when the cost is low. It is very tough to speak up when the cost of intervention is high.
And that is precisely what those who want to control a population and spread terror do - they increase the cost for those who stand up. They make an example out of them.
After that, very few dare to stand up. And, so a population of bystanders is created. When the cost is high and bystanders aplenty, hardly any opposition comes up against the fascists and the tyrants.
That is why what folks like Kangana Ranaut and Vivek Agnihotri have done is so path-breaking when it comes to Sushant Singh Rajput’s murder. They are not just marked but complete pariahs.
What appears to be a deep controversy with participation between the politicians, unscrupulous movie cliques (or mafia?), ideologically compromised media and even perhaps the underworld has shaken the country.
And, it has shown the entire movie fraternity in strange colors.
Amitabh Bachchan is the greatest performer that Indian movies has seen. He is not just revered as a god but he has dictated trends and ways people work, behave and live.
He has achieved more than anyone can in his chosen field. No matter what one says, his body of work is enough to shut any critic up. Money he has made is enough to last for generations.
With his clout, any other person would have the ability to set the moral compass of the society. Or at least raise valid questions on any injustice being done in the society.
During the greatest Dharmic event of the millennia - the Ram Janmabhoomi bhoomi pujan - and in the raging battle for justice for Sushant Singh, he has allowed himself to become a caricature.
Socially and culturally, he is inconsequential. Just plain uselessly inconsequential. A pedestrian really.
How could the greatest performer in Indian cinema ever with a following that has prayed him back to life at every crisis, be such a social non-entity when it really mattered?
One can think of these three reasons for his sorry state:
He is a weak, vain, insecure, greedy and delusional human being, who despite his accomplishments and living all the dreams a person in his field can have, still is in the maintenance mode. He sees the risk of loss to be too high for him to take. Despite being the numero uno for last half a century! You can only pity such a person.
The pressure and threats to him are so high by underworld and/or unscrupulous politicians that despite his urge to speak, he has been silenced. And he has no recourse or power to challenge them. Something that strangely, Kangana and Vivek have.
He is inherently a scoundrel who doesn’t really care for anyone and can’t waste his time on social well-being. He was always in it for himself and he wants to keep cruising on in his sorry life.
Which of these defines him is for him and those who know him to decide.
His silence, and those of others like him, has been deafening.
And this brings the courage of those like Kangana and Vivek to the fore.
They surely have far fewer accomplishments, clout and money to fall back upon. Yet, for whatever they have with them, they have risked it all.
That is rare.
They, and not the Amitabh Bachchans, are the socially consequential voices. Powered by sheer grit!
On another note - the silence shows the rot that has been wrought by the powers and their tyranny in the society. We should not discount the intensity, depth and the viciousness of those powers.
voices of atheists and ex-Muslims in India and Pakistan
Pakistan is going through a crisis that hardly anyone talks about. People walking out of religion. Islam. Atheists are growing and not able to take the inconsistencies on face value.
Pakistani Atheists and Agnostics (@PakistaniAA) brings together the atheists in Pakistan. And although their following is not much, their readership is far more.
But the real activism is happening on YouTube. You see several ex-Muslims who are now discussing their thoughts and ideas openly. You can watch the following channels:
Farhan Qureshi: (26K subscribers) He is an ex-Muslim who converted to Hinduism and has been discussing the deeper points of Advaita and Dharma very knowledgeably
Pandit Mahendra Pal Arya: (123k subscribers) He is a different breed altogether. Quite like Zakir Naik, he is fluent in Arabic and in Sanskrit and can cite verses from Quran/Hadiths and from the Vedas easily. He loves to debate with many Islamic scholars and defeat them with plain logic. Have seen him in action for many years now. He is a follower of Arya Samaj.
Pakistani Mulhid: (50k subscribers) He is a Pakistani who is now an ex-Muslim. He discusses the core teachings and texts with other ex-Muslims and even Mullahs.
Tarksheel Bharat (Shakeel Prem): (295K subscribers) Shakeel is an Indian Muslim who discusses his views very openly. He discusses his old faith, as he is an ex-Muslim, in context of science.
Abdullah Sameer: (51K subscribers) he was promoting Islam for 15 years until he came across a different realization. He lives in Canada.
Alishba Zarmeen: She is not on Youtube but has been interviewed by Pakistani Mulhid quite a lot. She gives speeches in the US and Canada.
As one can see things in Pakistan are not what we think they are. Yes, there are a lot of fanatics and they rule the place, but the religious structure may actually be imploding from within. And, there are many more “closet non-Muslim-Muslims” within the country who cannot or do not speak up.
terrible floods in china
The Three Gorges Dam on Yangtze hasn’t done what it was billed for. Chongqing city, which is right in the path of the dam waters has been flooded for the second time. (Source)
This is how the flood warning marker looks like.
While this is how it does normally and that red line shows the danger mark.
At #Chongqing City, #China, the 212.27-meter "#flood control mark", is almost entirely under water.
#重庆 #合川区 街头的 防汛水标尺212.27米，#洪水 已没过防汛水标尺，还剩个球！
Meanwhile of course the
Meanwhile of course the state-run Xinhua has been singing paeans to the Three Gorges Dam which it called as the “largest water-control system along the Yangtze River.”
putting Stalin in his place
After World War II, as Josip Tito forged a communist but independent regime in Yugoslavia, he had a fall out with Joseph Stalin. Stalin was known for the “Great Purge”, where he had eliminated the communists he didn’t like. Tito was on his hit list as well.
Stalin sent many assassins to kill him. Eventually, getting tired of all this, Tito wrote to Stalin:
“Stop sending people to kill me. We’ve already captured five of them, one of them with a bomb and another with a rifle. […] If you don’t stop sending killers, I’ll send one to Moscow, and I won’t have to send a second.” (Source)
Stalin died in 1953 and Tito was off the hook. And, Tito went on to live till 8 years of age.
Free Ration to 81 crore people: Prime Minister Narendra Modi government’s PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana has been successful in providing free foodgrains to 94 per cent beneficiaries since April 2020. The scheme aimed to provide free ration to nearly 81 crore people in the country amid the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Adding to the benefits, nearly 60.7 lakh new beneficiaries have also been added under NFSA by states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar during the COVID-19 period, who can avail schemes like PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (Source)
Americans want Second passports: More U.S. Residents are getting dual citizenship in Greece, Italy, and elsewhere. Bad governance, Affordable health care, and living conditions are the reasons pushing people to get dual citizenship. (Source)
US System Inequities in COVID time: In the US, people of color are being hit hardest by the virus, and systemic inequities are largely to blame. Black, Latino and Native American people are nearly three times as likely to be infected with Covid-19 than their White counterparts. Those three groups are about five times as likely to be hospitalized. And people of color across the board are more likely to die of the virus. (Source)
Topless Empowerment: Women are posing topless while hiking on mountaintops in a social-media trend, all in the name of empowerment. The movement, which has been around since 2015, has surged in recent months, according to a new report from The Denver Post. (Source)
Rashmirathi by Ashutosh Rana
When nothing works in isolation and one is alone, good poetry just transports you to another level. Ramdhari Singh Dinkar was a poet who has brought many epics and historical stories to life. Like this episode from Mahabharat.
This part of Rashmirathi is the favorite of many. I have heard it from Manoj Bajpayee as well. But the way Ashutosh Rana recites it - from memory - have seen no one else do it. Just brilliant.
Enjoy poetry from a time when it still meant something.
कृष्ण की चेतावनी | Rashmirathi | Dinkar | Ashutosh Rana | Sahitya Tak