Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Let there be light - Bangladesh!

I sit and hear Professor Ha Joon Chang and Peter Nolan explaining the virtue of State led development. Cambridge development studies has always been known as the citadel of heterodox thinking challenging the mainstream neoliberal view that market can solve all our problems and that we don’t need an intrusive state. I hear them talk about how Japan, Taiwan and South Korea became a first world country in less than half century due to strong political leadership and state interventionist industry, trade and technology policies. I never knew that South Korean government pushed many industrialists to enter specific sectors which they wouldn’t have entered otherwise. For instance banning LG from entering its desired textile industry and was forced to enter the electric cable industry which later became the foundation of its electronics business, for which LG is currently world-famous. I didn’t know French government owned sizable share of Renault and the German Government in Volkswagan. US government used import tariff toof 40% from 1820s till the 1930s to protect their infant industries and was dubbed the “bastion of protectionism”. Then we hear how the French government used strong industrial policy to upgrade its economy post World War II to catch up with Britain.
This is the message that I get from my professors that not a single developed economy could have achieved what they are now without the help of a strong State. With strong leadership and shared long term vision, any nation can catch up and become a developed economy. The message is so simple, so persuasive that it brings joy to my heart only to be squashed and crushed by the rude reality I see in my country.  Our leaders are too busy scoring points than thinking about their country. The phone call between the two leaders was shameful; the tone and the content of the discussion were beneath any level of decorum and etiquette. It is even more frightening to contemplate the kind of mentality who would make the political calculation that leaking this audio would actually be politically beneficial.
The effect of hartal is so patently bad that one has to be literally senile to think the parties have “our” interest in their mind. The 160 million people of this country have been taken hostage by these two pseudo dynastic powers that have simply lost touch with the ground reality. This is not a medieval times when leaders can do whatever they feel like and people under their ‘dominion’ suffer with no recourse. We are falling behind, why should we have to suffer, why should our children have to give exams at midnight, why should our auto-rickshaws and cars get burned, why should we get burned and die when we get out for office! Why should we care that our two leaders who seemed to be so self centered that they put their pride over national interest, that they consider compromise at the time of national crisis less important than the potential of being looked at as weak. We have lost the GSP facility, our economic growth has slowed down, our garments industry on which our export earning depends is in a critical juncture and fragile. Yet our two parties are engaged in street battle, one proudly stating that they will bring the country to a halt and the other saying come what may they will have an election with our without the major opposition party.
With this mindset, how are we going to catch up with the developed world that is already years ahead of us? We rejoice at our achievement in reducing poverty and reaching MDGs, Is this our target to be barely above the poverty line and surviving? South Korea and Singapore have no mineral resources and in the 1960s had the same per capita income as Ghana and was a LDC by today’s standard. In less than 40 years both South Korea and Singapore have become first world countries. Can we not dream such dream, will we have to sacrifice our true potential because of our quibbling dynastic incompetent leaders and politicians. So far Bangladesh has largely progressed inspite of our politicians but for how long and more importantly why should we. We want a functioning democracy, we want a strong state that will guarantee stability, rule of law and protect our lives and property. Is this too much to ask? I implore our leaders for once for the sake of our country and its 160 million people, to leave aside their party politics and rise to the occasion and lead this country out of the mess that we are in and the black hole we are being sucked in to.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Subjection of Women

It has become a sad truth in our country that a single woman with a prospect of bright career is in need of a disastrous marriage. After they cross mid twenties social obloquy reach such a level that they are forced to make rash decisions which ultimately ruin their lives to the complete ignorance of the society at large who are fundamentally responsible for the outcome. I do not only refer to the domestic violence that often follows such failed marriages but the lifelong of mental torture, sacrifice, humiliation that these women have to endure all alone.  And for what I ask you, all because we cannot tolerate the fact the girl of such age can still be single.

It is with utter sadness that I have seen so many of my female friends and acquaintances bowing down to such unjustified pressure and ending up marrying men who neither had the broadness of mind nor the strength of mental character to allow their wives to pursue their dreams. It is as if marriage is a kind of bondage, modern day slavery, a new art in subjugation of women. I was privy to the narrow-mindedness that these men could stoop to; some forced their wives to leave their job, successfully destroying their career, or ordering them to stop making social calls to their friends and in some cases not letting them visit their parents! Furthermore these men supposedly came from middle class educated background, so much for our Asian values and education. Some of these men gloated over the fact that they could force their wives to make enormous sacrifices; it is as if was a potent display of some sort of masculine prowess. In all honesty I believe they would have made even Marquis de Sade cringe. One has to be sufficiently senile and cowardly to feel good about themselves after committing such crimes and make no mistake reader crime they are. The psychological basis for their pusillanimous behaviour is their male egos which have been unduly buffeted by a patriarchal culture which belittles women contribution to the society. It is as if by simply being born male they have been given a god gifted right to be superior, how intellectually challenged and dense one has to be to subscribe to such archaic medieval notion.

Who do we blame for this apart from the ‘men’ who are too insecure to let their women folk independence? I say the society at the large, the relatives, the family, the whole culture, is to be blamed for this. We have promoted a culture where independence and freedom of thought are frowned upon, whereas timidity and lack of originality a boon. So the moment we see a single educated woman working with a stable job, we feel the urge to get her hitched, not bothering to figure out whether the person is ready or not. Once she is married we conveniently forget how she survives, whether she is indeed living a better life or is she suffering under an oppressive husband. God forbid if she ever discloses her pangs or sufferings to others, it is with utter disdain that most of us respond; instead of solace she is thrown further pangs and darts. Unfortunately other women who should have extended their hand find more joy and happiness in discussing how supposedly ill-equipped the lady is to deal with her husband. I have seen parents suggesting their married daughters to get back to their abusing husband, who thrashed her black and blue, after all what would the society say otherwise. It is as if the common lot of the women kind is to suffer and sacrifice with a smiling face.   

I beseech these women don’t look to others for salvation, for you will not get it. Look to yourself, be independent and understand that you do not need a man to survive in this world. If you allow people to use you then they shall, for at the end of the day we are animals only that we have bigger brains, which is a reason for concern and not a comfort. Bangladeshi man can be bigoted sadistic crude and in fact most of the time they indeed are. While you may think that the social pressure is unbearable and things will improve the moment you marry, even if the person seems a bit dicey, then you are grossly mistaken. The society will forget you, and so will your family, you will be left alone to fend yourself and if you end up marrying the wrong guy, which in Bangladesh is probabilistically quite high, then you have a lifetime of misery awaiting you. I ask you, is it worth sacrificing your entire life, your dreams and aspiration so that people, who hardly care, are pleased.
If a man is dictatorial and orders you around then stay away from him, save your life, nothing good will come of it. We are born equal and no amount of social etiquettes, traditions and values can alter that. Women are not commodity to be played around and for men to understand this, women need to rise up and stand for their rights. As a man, this is my humble warning to the remaining free women of this country. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

In praise of dishonesty

Caveat lector, let the reader beware, this is not a satire. The author wholeheartedly believes in what the title states. True there might be some subtly and sophistry involved even some degree of qualification but on the whole the statement stands.  There is a strong belief in this society and others elsewhere that honesty in all its form is good and beneficial. I believe it is a pernicious view which can only harm us and make us pessimistic especially considering the time we live in. Look around us and you will see disorder, hatred, corruption and other such fiendish things. Are we not supposed to espouse the efficacy and need for honesty and such other commendable values? The answer, if not obvious to you all, is a resounding no. For if indeed moral appeal did work it would have worked by now. This battle against moral degradation needs to be fought with cunningness and Machiavellian style; moral luminaries of the world might disagree but then my response would be they can go and inflict pain elsewhere.

Jose Saramago, the Nobel laureate writer said "Pessimists are the ones who change the world, for the optimists being the ones who are enthralled with what it is.", at the expense of sounding extremely conceited, I think he got it wrong. It is not the pessimists but rather the unreasonable ones, as Bernard Shaw suggested, on whom all progress depends. One has to be unreasonable and deeply so, in order to believe there exists a bright future for this country; our future depends on such a belief. We can bicker, quiver, and lash out venomous satires against the society but of what good is it?  Yes it might make us feel superior as if we are above these squalid creatures or criminals but that’s about it, much ado about nothing. What we need is a heroic unreasonable belief that the country is in a good state, be dishonest with ourselves and for a change not complain. Yes we have heard it all, the crime rate, the fraud, the traffic, the imminent devastating earthquakes, the politics and what not. What good has it done us? US cities have more crime rate than ours, Chinese government is far more corrupt than ours, New York probably has the worse traffic jams in the world!
Our negativism justified or not, has real life consequences. When we grow abroad and interact with foreigners we ourselves give the vibe that they shouldn’t invest in Bangladesh and then at the same time vehemently protest Government’s inability to promote FDI, how patently ridiculous. We are ambassadors of our country and this has to be recognized, self pity is the sign of weakness and inadequacy. Our media needs to be dishonest too; there I have committed a blasphemy. As Oscar Wilde rightly pointed out "Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life”. I can already see critics, especially the bardolators among them,  going but the purpose of art is " . . . to hold, as 'twere, the mirror up to nature." And I should say let the literary genius rest. Instead of giving stories on number people dying and disappearing let us give news on positive ones too; yes something like the Rickshaw puller returning BDT 2.5 lakh. But don’t make them sound inspiring and unique, make them look common place. It is precisely their uniqueness and the way they are covered, with grandeur and pomposity, that defeats all its purpose. Instead of inspiring further act of heroism it only strengthens our pessimism. They should be in the back page, in a small section, just like an occasional theft; subliminal message that is what is needed.

As for our video media, ah the level of honesty is simply sickening. The dramas portray dysfunctional families and the pervasive sadness in our life, the so called art film, as if we were oblivious to reality. What we need is believable characters that have veneer of normality, which allows the audience to relate to them, and yet have some edifying qualities which inspires the viewers. For instance a character who makes a point of using foot over bridge when crossing a road or waits for the red light to cross the road using a zebra crossing. This alone can probably reduce our traffic congestion significantly, if the drama is of any good. It is also about rational expectation, the more people are bombarded with work of ‘heroism’, the more people will take them for granted and when confronted with similar situation will react accordingly. Human beings thankfully are cognitive misers; the universal maxim of our age as Schopenhauer said is “to get by with the least possible expenditure of thought”. Hence with such little dishonesty on the part of the vaunted guardian of truth i.e. media, much can be achieved at the trifling cost of conscience.

If the reader is detested by the aforesaid ribaldry then the fault squarely lies on the reader for he/she, lest I look gender biased, was forewarned. If at all I sincerely hope that I have inflicted you with some level of doubt after all better doubt in knowledge than certainty in ignorance. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

An Inquiry into the meaning and truth: A Thought Experiment

According to Bertrand Russell (The Open Society and its Enemies: Vol II, Popper, K. ; 1945) there are three types of propositions, namely True, False and Meaningless or pseudo proposition. Now Popper (1945), if I understood him correctly, was against the idea of equating true proposition with proposition of natural science (Wittgenstein’s idea) as such a step would remove false hypothesis from the realm of science. And since we cannot know if a hypothesis is true or not, by definition, it becomes part of metaphysics and as such meaningless. Now let us take popper’s side and assume that there is a class of propositions (Y) which state that certain proposition, X, cannot be tested (i.e. proven or disproven). Now if (Y) is true then falsification theory cannot be applied to X but one can very well apply it to Y itself. Then Y becomes a testable hypothesis, which can be true false or meaningless.

Now we can construct a thought experiment, whereby we can state under what condition we can state Y is true or false. And so we can state if the result is Z1, then Y is true and if it is ‘not Z1’ then Y is false. Based on falsification paradigm, we should be looking for ‘not Z1’ and until we find it we can say Y is provisionally true. If the result is ‘not Z1’ then Y is false and X is indeed testable. If the result is Z1 then Y is provisionally true and X cannot be tested. But this in turn means X cannot be proven or disproven and therefore cannot be true or false and therefore is meaningless. Now what characteristic must ‘not Z1’ have is the important question, since upon it depend all outcomes; A proposition can be false in many ways and therefore Not Z1 includes all possible outcome other than Z1.

‘Not Z1’ implies X is testable; therefore if we can construct a hypothetical situation where we can state X is true or false then we have already proven Y is false (which is obvious). It seems the truth value of Y cannot be determined without trying to determine the truth value of X. If is either true or false then Y is false but if X is meaningless then Y is true. Thus if we fail to construct such a situation whereby we can state under this condition we can test X then Y is provisionally true and X is indeed meaningless.

Let us take the hypothetical proposition “the statement ‘there is a God’ cannot be tested’, where ‘there is a God’ is X. Create a thought experiment which can prove or disprove X or simply take the situation (to help you visualize): Under what condition would a theist believe there is no God or vice versa an Atheist would believe there is a God. I could not find any condition which could satisfy or answer this question. Therefore X is meaningless and Y is true. And since Y is true it is part of the totality of true propositions (Wittgenstein) while X is not. The result does seem a bit trivial, much ado about nothing.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Interpretation of Dream

HAD I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
W.B. Yeats (1865–1939)

Interpreting poetry is not my fortes, far from it. For years I have tried to improve my poetry comprehension skill but I must confess to no avail. While I get some of them and may even appreciate a few, I have yet to really ‘feel’ something within me after reading one, until I read Yeat’s Dream; It really struck a chord with me. Something deep within me was jolted by this poem, which is all the more surprising as the poem initially looked rather patently harmless; I will try my best to convey the emotion I felt after reading this, ergo it is definitely not the authentic interpretation but merely the musing of an idle mind.   

The image that came to my mind after reading the poem was that of a devoted lover tortured and tormented and yet ever so devoted to his love. He is tortured for he has already offered what is most cherished and valuable to him , and thus has played all his cards. It is out there in the open, vulnerable, pitiable, an act of desperation. He is tormented, for the person whom he worships so much has to be offered something in the first place. His action alone is a testament to the fact that his strength of devotion is stronger and his love greater than that of his lover. The realization is agonizing for him, he understands the wretched condition he is in and yet finds himself powerless against his better judgement. It is even more tragic for the fact that even after so much devotion and love, his object of worship retains the power to crush and trample down his love at whim. And it is a possibility as for this reason he states, nay pleads, not to crush his dream under her feet. The relationship is not between equals but rather between a master and her slave, one having complete control over the other.

It will be wrong, I believe, to assume that our hero or the protagonist is a weakling. As matter of fact it is my opinion that it is precisely the opposite. He is likely to be a well respected successful person and it is precisely this contrast in his positions that pangs him and turns him in to a tragic character. If he were a person of feeble strength and constitution, this master slave arrangement won’t have been an issue. It is his realization that under her spell he is powerless that is the source of all such lamentation. Additionally the poem is structured in a way which makes one feel that his lover is aware of her power over him and is amused by it. And yet he is overwhelmed by his infatuation or rather obsession and gives away all that is precious to him so that she might take pity in him.

In terms of how I picture this poetry or rather how it is being delivered, being a amateur classicist, the first image that came to my mind was that of a charming poet kneeling in front of a youthful fair maiden with skin white as snow draped in white muslin attire, precocious and attentive, a real Aphrodite. Our poet completely powerless under her spell while the she amuses herself and cruelly tortures him with the control she has over him, making him understand at every moment who is the master and yet without uttering a single word. Her intoxication lies with the power she wields against such a man rather than true love. It will be equally unjust to assign malevolence on the part of our Aphrodite; she is but a young nymphet drunk in the attention she is receiving and the absolute power she has been given. She would play her part best if she deludes herself in to believing that she is not playing with a tormented heart but is truly in love. 

The house of card will falter and is bound to collapse. An obsessive love is never sustainable; it transforms our love one in to a tyrant, for absolute power corrupts absolutely, even goddesses. I believe our hero is well aware of how it will end and can foresee the impending doom, and yet cannot avoid his fate. His very devotion will be the death of him, and his dreams will be trampled. It could have been a poem recited by some Humbert to his Lolita.             

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Little Night Rigmarole

It was night and I was reading Cervantes or rather his book Don Quixote. Suddenly I felt an urge to write and so I fell to ponder for a little while. In the end I reached the conclusion, which is bound to happen in the end rather than beginning as it is after all a conclusion, that I had no idea what to write! So I fell to ponder for a little while again and I was about to give up and get back to Quixote that I realized that maybe I can write about anything I want to, without bothering about whether it is important consistent or even mildly entertaining. So I left my book (marked it though) and started rambling, what you see below is a product of that rambling. This introduction that you have just read was written after the following piece was written and so you can be sure that I tell you the truth that this is indeed a complete rigmarole, any attempt to find logical consistencies will be patently irrational on your part.  

Life at times may seem queer and there is a good reason for it because it is so. What is queer if one were to ask, well in simple term it means perplexing or unexpected; then isn’t every part of our life perplexing and unexpected or potentially so. If you are a person who has an eye for detail or follows routine meticulously, isn’t a small deviation from normal pattern queer? You get out of your house move towards the main road and see a bus departing, now that’s queer, what are the chances of that happening. Or take a glass of water that slips and ruins your shirt just before the meeting, now that is surely queer and bit aggravating too. At times you wonder if the big guy up there is actually looking after you or rather may be too intensely looking after you, both feelings might be discomfiting. We human beings, or rather most of us (let’s not generalize), are allergic to both spotlight and complete obscurity. We like the middle road where we can oscillate between the two, too much attention and then we want solitude but give us complete solitude we will cry for friendship and society. What we want is essentially the ability to choose and be in control, nothing rocket science about it but just simple truth. It is the fudginess, for lack of a better word, that we enjoy or rather live for. Fixation is something we abhor, continuous monotonous thing revolt us or does it.

Factory work looks pretty dull, how come they survive. Probably because most factory workers are not writers and if they are not then who will write about them? Surely there have been writers who wrote about their boring dull tireless repetitive work. Engels, Marx Gorky to some of the management guru’s like Fredric Taylor and others have written about them but can they actually know. I mean can you actually vicariously know how they feel. If you are writer and a successful one at that then you are exactly that, a writer! Once you become that you cease to be a worker or whatever you were before that. So even if by fluke chance you were a worker who became a writer afterwards then you weren’t a worker to begin with. Now I am not being judgemental by stating a worker can never be a writer but what I wish to posit is this, if we are talking about the worker who has a dull monotonous existence then by definition he cannot be the writer as the writer must have had something different in him which made him more than a worker. His very liberation from the worker-hood makes him incapable of relating to the class of worker we are lamenting about. Then could it not be that these workers, have a lower level of fudginess. For all we know they might draw great joy out of deciding which shirt to wear to work, come to think I usually spend in an inordinate amount of time doing exactly that. The point is our fudgi-ness scale differs. But how does it differ, why so and more importantly does it really matter?

Disregarding the last question first in order to continue with this inane verbose, since the answer is obviously in the negative, let us focus on the other two questions. It seems most famous people craved attention and solitude spasmodically, celebrities aside they don’t really count. It is difficult to comprehend that they created ideas, innovation or whatever they did solely for that purpose and not for gaining some public attention by windfall or is it too difficult for us to ascertain this precisely because we are not of that temperament. I guess Michelangelo wasn’t looking for accolades when he was painting but then again how do we know what he wanted, surely we are not Michelangelo. We have play acted before haven’t we, said something that we didn’t mean, or said something with the hope that it will create the opposite result “ Oh my writing is so poor, I am not at all lucid”, “oh no but you are, you are so eloquent”, why should famous people be absolved of such frailty. I mean just because they were great at something doesn’t necessarily mean they were more than human, Nietzsche or no Nietzsche.

It seems to me the more experience you have and the richer they are, which is another way of saying varied but just trying to make it sound nicer or may be some of you may think they are different in which case use both, the fudgier you are. You are willing to move further away from your straight-line imaginary routine path of life. Cant we view our life as a sum total of experience, surely we can philosophers have done it before. Surely we judge our experiences as good or bad. May be family initially gives us that straight unyielding thick line, the black line that divides the good experience from the bad once or at least tells us what should be considered good and bad experience. But as we begin to grow may be a tug of war starts between the line and the experiences. In one sense the line determines what kind of experience you will expose yourself to and that limits your space. In other sense random experience might confront you and might alter your line. Aha but your family might give you a tacit approval in the sense that some degree of fudginess will always be tolerated. This they have to because too rigid a line, greater the probability that random events will confront you and that might make you deviate from line quickly; kinda like brittle iron breaks, easily to make it strong you need to make it malleable.

After all what are random events, those that weren’t predicted by your model straight-line of experience. A model by definition is a replica of reality and not reality itself. If you are an economist then you know that with increasing beauty of a model comes increasing divergence with reality. A model cannot capture the patchy blotted reality not all of its complexity or color. So the more rigid your experience line is, greater likelihood that you will be exposed to “events” which your model line cannot predict. But too relaxed a line makes it useless and then you are left with no guidance. Sooner or later your line is bound to deviate from the externally imposed one but your family hopes that it won’t deviate much.

But in a world where you are bound to interact with others such lines will deviate. The private experience line, imposed by family, deviates and get closer to the public experience line, imposed by culture. It is only through greater integration and communication that we can expect to come together. Exposing ourselves to different experiences as much as possible might make us more open and acceptable to greater deviation from what we think what ought to be. It might just make our life less queer and hence more beautiful.  


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

On the Genealogy of Morality

Does anything in this universe have a purpose? Is it even logical to ask such question? Philosophers have tried to answer these questions since time immemorial and yet much confusion remains. It is interesting to ask to whom the universe should have purpose, if it does have one, to a supreme being like God or to us human or to the universe itself. If the universe was created for the sole purpose of God then the debate ends there, provided you believe in God. If on the other hand you are an agnostic or an atheist, this is definitely not a good answer; In all honesty to such individuals the universe seems to be devoid of any meaning or purpose and why shouldn’t it be. It is one thing to suggest butterfly effect on earth and quite another to suggest that the exploding star in Andromeda has some bearing on our lives!

Let us for argument’s sake assume that there is a purpose in our life, that there is some great transcendental scheme and we are all moving according to it. If that is so then all particles ought to be interconnected in space-time to us, through some interactions no matter how far or how long it takes. Surely there cannot be disjointed areas in space which have no affect on our lives, since we are all part of that unifying purpose. For us to be part of that grand scheme of thing, although one has to agree it is a rather arrogant presumptuous position, no part of the universe can be superfluous; they have to be connected to us in some causal ways. Thus from an exploding nebula in milky way or in some distant part of the galaxy to the tidal waves in our ocean or volcanic activity in mount Vesuvius, must have some bearing on our lives. Now I haven’t mentioned events like WWII or epidemic or natural disasters, which obviously impact our lives. It is important to note, that connectedness is but a necessary condition, not a sufficient one, for existence of “purpose” in our lives. Now if we are to agree that there is some purpose that links us to all other events in this universe, then question arises, do we as mankind have a transcendental purpose or do we as individuals have purpose?

Let us assume that individually we have a purpose in our life; if this is so then by our previous logic universal events should have some bearing on our lives. Now we can logically speaking, although very outlandish, attribute all past events to having some bearing on our lives. Surely if stellar matters did not swirl together under gravitational force to form earth, life would have been impossible, ergo no me! This may indeed border on insanity crossing the limits of arrogance, but still possible! But what about a planet or star that is forming now and is 100 light years away from me! Surely no information can travel faster than light and therefore that event will have absolutely no impact on my life (provided I die before 100 years). No gravitational wake or light or radiation from that body will reach me in my life. Thus that star or stellar matter has no bearing on my life! Thus it is disconnected from my life, my existence, it plays no role in my purpose of life. Thus necessary condition of interconnectedness is violated ergo, my life as such has no purpose. If I as an individual human being have no purpose, and like me others don’t have either, and never had or will, then how is it possible that all together, i.e. mankind, can have a purpose? Thus logically it seems there can be no purpose either on individual level or species level.

One could further take the example of galaxies which are moving away from us at speed slightly less than the speed of light. Soon that galaxy will disappear as space in that region recedes from us at faster than light. Surely we cannot assume that galaxy ceases to exist once it crosses that threshold; if it does exist, then all events taking place after that light speed threshold has been crossed, will have no bearing on mankind. Then where is the unity of purpose, where is the connectedness of parts in the universe? Thus from the standpoint of our logical framework, it necessarily follows that our lives are purposeless. The statement makes no claim on existence of a deity or absence of a divine plan but it surely state that the universe wasn’t created solely for our purpose nor there seems to be any reason to believe that we have any cosmic purpose.

We can compare ourselves to a group of ants in some beach who were tussled over by waves generated by sinking of titanic thousands of miles away, and concluding (if they were intelligent enough) the ship sank in order to punish them! Still does it prove that they were wrong, strictly speaking no, if you are to believe that there is a divine plan. The fact is if you believe in a divine being than anything goes and you have to live with that consequence! But still you reach one conclusion, whether you believe in deity or not, in our world there seems to be no purpose and to lead one’s life according to it is the logical course of action. To selectively look for divine interventions, to understand our purpose, to fit together events in this world to your divine plan, these are simply beyond us, even if they exists, and futile to seek. So conclusively we can say, we have no purpose so far as we can understand it and to know beyond it is impossible. Thus if we wish to or choose to live only by what we know then we should assume there is no purpose and live by the consequence of that conclusion.

Now it becomes important to ask the question, if indeed our lives are purposeless and we exist because of some fortuitous accidents in the formative stage of this planet, then where is our responsibility, why act morally, what is morality? Why can’t you and I kill ourselves, or murder others, why bother adhering to laws, why should you marry, why not be a hermit, why not stay in a cave, why not rape? The answer is, because you choose not to! There is absolutely no reason why you cannot do all these and more, if only you choose to. You are free to do whatever you feel like! As Sartre said “We are condemned to be free”. In purposeless life this is a necessary consequence. One could argue that such things are evolutionarily speaking harmful and hence we don’t engage in them. But that is wrong, for we have the inclination to perform all those acts as can be seen by our prison population! The question is not, why we don’t engage in these acts, but rather how come we have developed laws which specifically prohibit these acts. Laws are after all manmade and so we couldn’t have created them instinctively! The effort of this post is to provide a hypothesis as to how ‘moral’ laws or morality may have developed and to identify what consequences it has on us and our future.

We human beings have a created a unique apparatus to protect ourselves against the mighty nature. It is our evolutionary response to natural selection. While lower animals can only rely on chance mutation to protect themselves against extinction or natural selection, we humans have developed a unique and yet highly complex set of principles, norm, values, techniques. This we call culture, the sum total of all our activities including our very tools, technologies, language, science, press, anything and everything. Now it is not the intention of this author to ascertain how cultures developed but merely that it exists as our response to natural selection. It might have been and probably is an emergent phenomenon of a complex interacting social being like humans, but we will live it at that. What concerns us is how moral codes or laws developed within the rubric of culture.

I believe what natural selection is to environment, moral laws are to culture. In our quest to protect ourselves from nature we have created an equally complex phenomenon which now imposes new constraints on our lives. Moral codes act in much the same way as nature imposes constraints on organisms. Scarcities of food or water or unfavourable climate are all natures’ tools for natural selection. For some areas fruits might be of large size and thus birds with small beak cannot survive there, ergo those with large beaks become the abundant animal there. Similarly culture imposes restrictions through its laws, codes and morality on individuals; and those who do not adhere to them get ‘extinct’. We no longer deal with nature on an individual level; it is always mediated through some aspect of culture. Being alone with nature is no longer possible, not even for savages in Amazon since even they have their own  culture albeit primitive. True some primates show rudimentary level of cultural organization but nothing reaching in sophistication close to ours.

Thus different cultures have become different varieties, if not species, of mankind. For nature it is not me and you who are being selected but rather western culture, French culture, communist culture, bangle culture, Arabic culture, Indian culture, and many more. And like any other species or varieties, they compete with and influence each other; there is cross breeding. The Arab culture in 12th century might have gone extinct but its influence was felt in 15th century renaissance Italian culture which on turn had a profound impact on our present day culture. Seeds from French revolution have spread across many cultures and subcultures that exist today and we are still evolving.

But there is a difference between the constrained imposed by nature and those imposed by culture. Culture is much more influenced by our action than nature is by it species. It is worth noting that nature itself is an abstract concept representing the sum total of its species, habitat etc. Thus we as free beings can influence culture much more than any individual animal could nature. Thus we see that cultures get born, they evolve, mutate and even perish. So at one level culture is like a species to nature but to us temporal human beings it is nature itself. The moral codes evolved as part of culture as it mediated with nature, it was an outcome of that process. Hunting gathering society’s foremost requirement was unity. They needed to be united to survive and so if it required a despotic ruler so be it, if it meant most of those in the group wanted to have many wives so be it, if it meant pillaging had to be allowed so be it. Thus moral codes developed that ensured social adhesiveness. One could assume that at the initial stages of societal cultural development moral codes were very flexible and volatile. It must be so that after sufficient time has elapsed and more members joined, did the codes crystallized and stabilized.

But as mentioned before, while many, who live in a large established culture, take most of the norms as given, there are revolutionaries who are out there plotting planning acting to change them. This is necessary if we as human being want to survive, our cultures ought to evolve, and we need these “mutanogents”. What mutant cell is to a functioning body, revolutionary or social change agents are to a culture. True not all of them will be good but there might be some, whose ideas will be essential for our survival. Imagine a world without Rousseau’s Social Contract, or Marx’s Das Kapital, or Hume’s Inquiry or Newton’s Principia! Here again there is a difference between biological mutating agent and social change agent, while the former is a product of chance the later being a purposeless free agent is a product of volition.

For society to survive we need change agents but not everybody can be one, for too many mutation is a cancer to a healthy body and similarly to a society. Since we are purposeless being, it is within us to choose: whether we should follow the norm or challenge it! But we must remember, if we do challenge the society, just like nature, we will be severely put to the test and may perish in the process, just like so many useless mutant cells. This is a risk that all social agents must bear. For if a society or culture is too relax to allow anybody to influence or change itself then it is doomed to extinction. All captured criminals are examples of mutant cells gone bad, who have been destroyed by the culture or society. But have we not seen heroes to have risen from prison like Bastille, what of Nelson Mandela? And it is precisely because these societies couldn’t control such mutations, that they perished!

For human beings to survive it needs multiple cultures and diversity. Cultural homogeneity will be the death nail for us. As purposeless beings there is no ground to believe in any of the moral codes of any cultures, everything goes. But one warning, just like any animal can choose to ignore nature at its own peril, so can we our cultures. So each society has the right to defend itself and persecute those it considers as threat. Thus it was justified to persecute Galileo for he was a threat to the Catholic Church or Tycho Brahe or Salman Rushdie or Nelson Mandela. There is no logic, no absolute, all is absurd and purposeless and yet this is how it should be, if we as human beings have to survive and be free!