Thursday, May 26, 2011

Remembering Brecht fondly...

On the Critical Attitude

The critical attitude
Strikes many people as unfruitful
That is because they find the state
Impervious to their criticism
But what in this case is an unfruitful attitude
Is merely a feeble attitude. Give criticism arms
And states can be demolished by it.

Canalising a river
Grafting a fruit tree
Educating a person
Transforming a state
These are instances of fruitful criticism
And at the same time instances of art.

Bertolt Brecht


A Persian proverb tells us that doubt is the key to knowledge. Descartes "cogito ergo sum" seems to sum it up. T.S. Eliot claims that criticism is as inevitable as breathing.

Questions, questions and more questions, and the answer is another question. Oh, what a happy happy world. Never definite, hence never insipid. I shall always be happy as long as I am free to ask what, why, when, where, who and how. I may not always acknowledge that felicity, but I am sure (or am I?)that my subconscious somewhere recognises that incertitude liberates me.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

On Creation

I have been accused multiple times on a social networking site called Facebook for not being "original", but merely quoting from other people.

To make my case, I quote once again from John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. After this first creator called God, so many have had so much to say that I fear my ratiocination will to a degree always resemble plagiarism.

So why not borrow from someone who said it better than me? Let me be polemic and say that originality is overrated. It does not exist. New ideas are merely a mastication of old ones. Can I attempt anything better than another permutation of syllables all previously defined and sorted by lexicographers? Also, I do not have enough wisdom to attempt being wise.

And some say wisdom comes with age and experience. As junk food has increased the mortality rate substantially, I fear we shall be deprived of many a pearl of wisdom. Till then, I shall be happy to string together what already exists.

P.S. - Social networking sites like FB are considered windows to your personality. Please make sure you invest in dark hued curtains.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Othellos in the making...

Sigmund Freud insists it is sex. Karl Marx believes it is economics that rules in the last instance. And in the penultimate instance, it is likely to be our insecurities.

When food, clothing and shelter are taken care of, what drives us are our insecurities. Everyone, is generally an Othello in the making ready to strangle an innocent/not so innocent Desdemona. Am I tall, dark, handsome, rich, poor, short, fat, pimply faced, smart, unlearned....what I think I am drives me. Some strive to better their odds, most to merely efface them. To mask them as well as they can.

Do you ever feel that someone reacted over much to something you said in general? Maybe you touched a nerve somewhere. Or there have been instances when its been vice versa.

Can one look beyond one's insecurities? Maybe. Maybe not. In the interim it might be very sapient to acquaint oneself with them in order to ensure that Desdemona lives.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Feminist Backlash

I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute ~ Rebecca West

I have begun so many articles on feminist theory with Ms West's very apt quote, but it is only recently that I have realised that at a subliminal level, I was/am still wearing the feminist straitjacket.

The idea of picking up a Fair & Lovely tube, or a Femina magazine embarrasses me. I would not like to be seen with either. Simply because in theory, I am supposed to be against them. Of course, I still am against the way they are advertised, but I can no longer deny their utility.

The first is an excellent skin cream. The fairness factor is dubious, but it is the only product that soothed skin which had been irritated by the ingestion of a strong compound to expunge cystic acne.

The latter, though not exactly an exemplar of Pulitzer journalism, at Rs. 50, is one of the cheaper though still readable "Women's" magazines in India. Many sections make no sense to me, but nevertheless some articles do strike a chord. Browsing through it has its pleasures.

So should I deprive myself of these and much more simply because in theory I should be against them? Are they not products meant to shackle? I think I need to remind myself of what I have often told my students. To move beyond labels. If you label yourself, you are circumscribing yourself. Limiting yourself to a certain definition of you which may not really be you.

So yes, I read Femina, though I am no "new" woman. I am capable of reading a Jeanette Winterson as well as picking up a women's magazine. I choose to sample it all.

In time I hope not to cringe at being seen with the same. I wish to lose the urge to explain my use of these products. That, I believe, would be true freedom.