Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Gender neutral language

The other day, I was listening to a ghazal. I observed that both lover and lovee were males. I searched for articles on this. One view on this was that the intention was to make the poem universal and hence it's not masculine but gender neutral. So we should view them from gender neutral perspective and not from homosexuality angle. The other view was that, homosexuality was never a sin in Indian society hence poets wrote freely about their homosexual love. We can't view them from post-British anti-homosexual angle.

I'm in no place to analyze them, nevertheless, I'm interested in gender neutral language. I suppose not just in poems, we need gender neutral language in many places. Our attempt to achieve it, using he or she or singular they, looks very clumsy. The gendered language itself was an innovation in our speech once declensions started appearing (and sometimes disappearing at a later time). These innovations introduced new terms or affixes to the language. But what we are trying to do is to use the existing terms and try to give it a dual meaning or elaborating them. Why is it impossible to come up with new animate terms for gender neutral language? The gender neutral language might have started as a correction to patriarchy but now the lack of it looks more like a limitation.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Rise of Patriarchy - Sustenance

I wonder if there is a term for the people who instead of blaming the social situation for their victim status, in fact claim that that situation doesn't exist in the society that's why they are victims.

The other day, I heard a person complaining, if patriarchy had existed in the society then men also had the option of staying at home and becoming homemakers!

This person also had the opinion that machoism doesn't exist in the society and if it exists only a small percentage of families actually show it (basically, his definition of machoism is overt physical aggression).

This person also had the opinion that marriage is a curse for men as they can't get sex anywhere else but a boon for women.

Even though I initially wanted to tackle this case in the post from an angle how people misunderstood patriarchy, I couldn't overlook the fact that many of them have internalized the prejudices.

The first one on the list, ie., men becoming homemaker, is probably the only thing where his expectation was correct. But what he said was basically the definition of patriarchy. Everything is gendered and woman is considered lower and a man, wanted to take up a role defined as feminine in patriarchal terms, is viewed as effeminate. Basically, here an individual is a victim of patriarchy but this guy has turned the meaning on its head.

In the second case, ie., machoism, the lack of physical aggression among many middle class Indian families is taken as a common phenomenon. But India is still a brutal place for women in general and men who go beyond socially accepted norms.  In fact, when it comes to women I suppose even developed countries aren't far ahead of us. There are too many microaggressions from privileged castes and classes. His male and privileged self might have escaped any such hostility but that's just a privilege blindness.

The sexual repression is an unpleasant experience for many Indian men. But I believe that could be the situation with women too. However, privileged men by heredity in olden times had no problem with this as the patriarchal rules always accepted their sexual indiscretions in different terminologies. Also, in olden times as people married in their childhood(or immediately after puberty), they never had to face the long period of sexual abstinence that the present generations of Indians have to face. So basically sexual repression is a new phenomenon in the last 50-100 years as we moved away from child marriages but didn't completely adopt the concept of sex without marriage in our society. But I suppose this is a transition period. But the way he considers it as a male only phenomenon shows a complete lack of appreciation for female sexuality and also a dream of playboy sexuality without any responsibility but only entitlement(this has given rise to many feudal liberals).

Basically, I could summarize that his sense of victimhood is built upon;
- Misunderstanding of patriarchy
- Male and caste privilege blindness
- Prejudice with female sexuality 

You can rebel against the existing social norms if you are clear about the reasons behind it. But what happens in this case? I believe people who themselves are victims become inhuman about others' plight (this guy is a libertarian) is because of this reason. Instead of bringing down the phenomenon that made them victim, they are rooting for it. And these are above average people. Nobody can explain them anything.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

True Capitalist Society - V

There is something inhuman about libertarian economics.Today, I was told MGNREGA scheme increased inflation. There could be many drawbacks of MGNREGA scheme. But the way fans of libertarian economics view it, is completely distasteful. However, I'm not sure whether they really understand what libertarian economists like Milton Friedman wanted to convey.

I checked what Milton Friedman had to say on this. In this video (posted below), he mentions minimum pay rise for workers. He, in fact, maintains the minimum pay rise is justified as it is basically driven by inflation and not the cause of it. Now, let's compare those union workers with unorganized labourers who benefit from MGNREGA scheme.

It's obvious that the latter's economic situation is far worse than those of union workers. Let's say the price of commodities have increased in commensurate with their income. In the worst case, their economic condition is as good as it was before. But what about social conditions?

The barbaric landlords can't exploit them by paying very low wages to work in their fields. The barbaric real estate developers can't get the work done by giving only food. The barbaric families can't keep them as slave domestic help.

In India these social conditions matter. I would think MGNREGA is a much needed idea in a poor and feudal society like ours. What we need is efficient implementation. Even with its present 15% efficiency, we are curbing exploitation by that much amount. But the fans of libertarian economics have lost all their humanity and can't see social conditions. Did people like Milton Friedman ever think their fans would be bunch of barbarians?

Friday, November 03, 2017

Rationale for Caste Reservations

I heard this story when I was young. There were openings in a bank and many girls from a college appeared for the test and the interview. To the utter surprise of many, one girl not particularly considered bright or even average got the job whereas some of her smarter friends didn't. Few people in the college inquired about it. From the bank insiders they came to know that, the girl came from a Brahmin family which recently lost their lands because of land reforms and were in dire condition financially. So, some people influenced on her behalf(as banking along with most of the other sectors were dominated by Brahmins). The story ended with a sarcastic remark that some of the girls that lost out came anyway from dirt poor families and since they were traditionally poor, they wouldn't feel the pain unlike this nouveau pavre girl.

The story can't be verified. However, I wonder whether there is any truth in the impression that people observe poverty in groups that are traditionally prosperous and wealth in groups that are traditionally poor.

For many years, I keep hearing from many Malayali non-Brahmins, how Brahmins in Kerala lost out:  they didn't take up British education quickly unlike other Brahmins; they weren't smart enough to control their landholdings when they had the maximum landholding compared to any other caste etc... I've even watched a movie on their pitiable situation. There was a sexual exploitation news involving a Brahmin girl which again highlighted their sorry state of affairs in the media. All these made me wonder whether they were indeed an exception to the typical caste situation in other parts of India. But later I came across this study by K C Zachariah (Religious Denominations of Kerala, 2016).

These are the rankings from the study with regards to Hindu castes.

Working in government/semi government jobs proportionate to their population;
1. Brahmins
2. Nairs
3. OBC Hindus
4. Dalit Hindus

Educational attainment:
1. Brahmins
2. Nairs
3. OBC Hindus
4. Dalit Hindus

More importantly, ranking by prosperity(or least number of people living in poverty):
1. Brahmins
2. Nairs
3. OBC Hindus
4. Dalit Hindus

The caste hierarchy structure is still reflected in these rankings after all the social justice measures (including reservations and land reforms).

I don't think there is anything wrong in this. The idea behind social justice initiatives was that social and cultural capital would help the privileged castes and they would never go down. It has been proven correct in Kerala until now. Also, Kerala has the highest HDI, and none of the social justice measures (some of the oldest in India) seem to have adversely affected the society in general as all castes have moved up. Education and prosperity which used to be the monopoly of the privileged castes have been spread across. Even though ideal equality of the castes haven't been reached, the gap has been reduced considerably.

Now I wonder why non-Brahmin people still worry about Malayali Brahmins. In fact, they should be more bothered about their own people (most of these worrying people come from OBCs and Nair castes, so I don't think they have much consideration for Dalits). That makes me wonder whether an odd poor Brahmin invokes more sympathy not just for himself but for his whole caste because he himself was and is an anomaly. A rich Dalit getting benefits of the reservations sets tongues wagging, - even though, the caste altogether always struggle to fill their justified proportion in education or job- because a rich Dalit is an anomaly. Thus those individual cases are generalized for the whole Dalit castes.

Religious Denominations of Kerala, K C Zachariah

Monday, October 23, 2017

Tayi and Bayi

When I was going through the article on Swati Tirunal (see my previous post), what surprised me was the association of 'bai(bayi)' with the females of royal family. The term 'bai' is commonly found among Marathis. I guess the popularity or influence of the Maratha kingdom where the royal females had 'bai' attached to their name probably made this Malayali royal family to adopt the term as a honorific.

However, even though Marathi is an Indo-Aryan language, the root of 'bai' appears to be Dravidian (not a surprise as majority Marathis plausibly lapsed Dravidians). The term 'ayi' means she/mother. The masculine term is aya (Te: na+aayana -> my father). The masculine term for 'bai' is 'bua'/'bava'. I guess 'ua'/'ava' is more likely -ava/aya another Dravidian term for he/father.

In Kannada, aayi is mostly used in the formal term for mother, tayi -> tan (self) + aayi (mother). But what does the prefix 'ba' in Marathi mean? It doesn't seem Dravidian. Could it be some Indo-Aryan term meaning  self or my?

In Kannada and Telugu, the term 'bava' means cousin(male)/brother-in-law. What does the prefix 'ba' mean in Kannada and Telugu?

Sri in Malayalam and my great-great grandmother

Sri, the honorific addressing term in Sanskrit (equivalent to Mr/Ms in English), has its own forms in different Indian languages. In Tulu and Kannada, it's 'siri' though not used as a honorific (Sri is used instead), it's used in compound terms. In Tamil, it's 'tiru'. I was wondering about the equivalent in Malayalam.

My maternal great-great grandomother's -whose mtDNA and maternal lineage I carry- name was supposedly Chirudeyi (from an official record), where 'sri' is part of the compound name. However, her descendants remember her name as Chiridevi(Skt: Sridevi).

Now if I ask the Malayalis who speak the standard dialect they claim neither chiru nor deyi is part of Malayalam. I couldn't find any references online (where most of them use Sri).

One example I could refer was the name Swati Tirunal. Now, is that 'tiru' a Tamil import or part of Malayalam? If latter is the case, how about 'chiru'? If we consider my other relatives' pronunciation, chiri, which sounds closer to Tulu term 'siri' and the other part 'deyi' which is the same as Tulu equivalent of devi (devi -> deyi) then we can conclude that Malayalam 'tiru' became 'chiru' in region closer to Tulu. But my relatives use the Sanskrit term 'devi' instead. Unfortunately, I couldn't find Malayalm equivalent of 'devi'.

Random Thoughts - Love_Lust

If you go through this article then what strikes you strongly is that many of the asexual people are heteroamoural. It further reinforces the fact the feelings of love and lust are mutually exclusive.

So the present list includes:
Heterosexual-Heteroamoural -> Anna Karenina (Fictional, Anna Karenina), Max Weber
Heterosexual-Homoamoural -> Nick Carraway (Fictional, The Great Gatsby), Tom Daley
Heterosexual-Inamoural -> Emma Bovary (Fictional, Madame Bovary)
Homosexual-Homoamoural ->  Uncle Frank (Fictional, Little Miss Sunshine)
Homosexual-Heteroamoural -> Francis Bacon, Freddie Mercury, Chirlane McCray, Brandon Ambrosino
Homosexual-Inamoural -> ?
Asexual-Heteroamoural-> Emy, a French woman, Devi, Gill, Jon and Ian from UK
Asexual-Homoamoural -> ? 
Asexual-Inamoural -> ?

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Muslim appeasement and Congress

The barrage of Hindutva propaganda and the Congress’s present leaders’ political immaturity has rendered us incapable of objectively evaluating many accusations against them. One of such accusations was that the Congress appeased Muslims presumably for political gains. In fact, I too had this opinion, though I qualified that they had appeased other communities too wherever it suited them in the past. But analyzing the so-called Muslim appeasement with the existing political situations of that age and evaluating some of the words of its own ministers in the past made me wonder whether that’s indeed such a straightforward case or not.

When the Congress had appeased Sikhs or Christians, it was very state specific where Hindus were a minority. On the contrary, there was an example in Kerala, where the Congress could rely on Christian and Muslim votes, the party appeasing the majority community (which traditionally voted for the Communists overwhelmingly) in the case of Sabari Mala temple entry for women. These examples don’t exactly qualify as ‘minority appeasement’ but that tells one important factor that as a national party the leaders saw themselves as Hindus. This factor again comes into picture when Arif Mohammad Khan made a statement that Hindu Congress leaders felt they would be seen as communal if they went against the Muslim laws and supported the Supreme Court verdict on Shah Bano. We need to bear that in mind when we analyze whether any acts seen as Muslim appeasement were intended for political gains or not.

The first accusation is related to Uniform Civil Code. While Congress leaders enthusiastically reformed Hindu personal laws and set the stage for emancipation of Hindu women, they did nothing in the case of Muslims. Did they do it for political gains?

The reformation in Hindu laws was implemented immediately after independence. Even with zero percent Muslim vote there would have been no stopping of the Congress winning the parliamentary elections for the next two or three decades. So any suggestion that it didn’t reform because it thought the loss of Muslim vote meant loss of power sounds preposterous if we consider the existing situation.

Another greatest blunder or copy book Muslim appeasement appears to be in the case of Shah Bano. According to Subhashini Ali of the CPI(M), the Congress which had overwhelming majority in the parliament scared of losing power because of VP Singh’s rebellion and the Muslim protests triggered by the Shah Bano verdict. On top of it, Rajiv Gandhi’s senior figures told him they would lose the elections if they lose the Muslim votes. Since a communist has made those allegations it does sound correct about the Congress. If we dig further, however, one could observe that the supreme court verdict was overturned by passing an Act in 1986 but VP Singh’s crusade against the corrupt industrialists peaked in the late 1986 and he was shunted (or promoted) to defense ministry in 1987. So the argument that the VP Singh’s rebellion responsible for this Act appears bit shaky. Also, Arif Mohammad Khan, a strong proponent of Muslim reform and who was initially supported by Rajiv Gandhi to give a favourable speech in support of the Supreme Court verdict and left the party along with VP Singh to form their own party, didn’t consider VP Singh as one of the causes. He directly blames Hindu leaders of the Congress(along with some opportunistic Muslim members) who wanted nothing to do with the Muslim laws. Between Arif Mohammad Khan and Subhashini Ali, I would think the former would have had better idea of the situation being an insider.

Arif Mohammad Khan’s account gives consistency to the Congress policy since the independence. It’s a Hindu party and had no business interfering with the Muslims’ personal lives. Of course this is true only in the decades when it didn’t have to count on Muslim votes to win the elections. But now its quest for Muslim votes is hampered by the Hindutva narrative of Muslim appeasement harking back to an era when it was irrelevant for them to get the Muslim votes to win elections.

Nevertheless, its reluctance to interfere with the Muslim personal laws even without the consideration of Muslim votes doesn’t of course make that correct. What was the logic behind this thought process anyway? I remember reading a senior Congress figure(whose name unfortunately I have forgotten but who migrated to India from the present day Pakistan during the partition) that the Congress always expected the reformation to come within the Muslim community itself as had happened with Hindus historically (though he probably meant after the British rule). Again he probably identified himself as a reformed Hindu overcoming the bitterness of the partition.

In hindsight, that kind of thought process of all these Hindu leaders of the Congress has proved to be flawed. If we observe pure Muslim countries of the Arab lands, the reformation was forced by dictatorial or military power with varying degrees of success. In fact, even in India it was the reformed Hindu class that made these reforms possible as the average male Hindu was typically under-educated and backward thinking around that time. With no political power to make their own rules or the military might to force it, for the Muslim reformed class in India, this would have always been a non-starter.


Friday, October 20, 2017

Random Thoughts : Ayurveda, Cancer and Keralites

From Pharyngula:

According to a study published Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine, traditional components of herbal remedies used throughout Asia are widely implicated in liver cancers there. In Taiwan, for instance, 78 percent of 98 liver tumors sampled displayed a pattern of mutations consistent with exposure to herbs containing aristolochic acids (AAs). These are carcinogenic components found in a variety of centuries-old herbal remedies said to treat everything from snakebites to gout, asthma, and pain.

Because of their toxicity, some (but not all) of the herbs and plants known to contain AAs have been banned in Taiwan and other places. These flora tend to come from the genera Aristolochia (e.g., birthwort, pipevine) and Asarum (wild gingers). The Food and Drug Administration has also issued several warnings and advisories over AA-containing remedies.
 There is already an old study similar to this which includes India too.
Herbal medicines are causing millions in India to develop kidney failure and bladder cancer.

So we have couple of studies consistently showing the relationship between cancer and herbal medicines. My understanding is that the incidences of cancer are on the rise among Keralites. And Keralites probably are one  of the biggest consumers of Ayurvedic medicine in India. There should be a proper study on this and we need to bring Ayurvedic medicines under proper scientific scrutiny. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Lessons from Hillary's defeat - II

From Harvey Weinstein's episode, I would think many women didn't vote for Hillary as she didn't take a stance on Bill Clinton's sexual indiscretions which he could carry out because of his power and gender. For many women she was just a symbol and not a saviour against patriarchy. In developed countries like the USA women already have freedom to do almost all things. It's not the religious, cultural or legal diktats but the sexual harassment and sexism are something that still push them back. I believe many women didn't think Hillary could be of any help in this regard. In Bill Clinton's affairs with younger women who were under his power, she might have come across as someone who would maintain the status quo for other benefits. For them the glass ceiling wasn't the presidency but the last of remaining patriarchy in the form of sexism and sexual harassment.