To Agree or to Disagree!

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As the human brain started evolving, new thought processes started getting evolved too. A few centuries back, only the “intellectuals” would write about various thoughts and theories and this process was limited to a very few people. There were reasons. The thought process did not spread much due to nonavailability of technology and printing was not very easy and was expensive. Circulating hand-written stuff to a large number of people was difficult. When people disagreed on somethings, they simply fought and sometimes killed. The majority of the people stopped interacting with intellectuals, who wrote about things, about which most disagreed. 

Technology has changed a lot in the last hundred years, which helped people to disagree vocally or in writing instead of taking extreme steps. The development has helped in the spread of thought or knowledge much quicker than the olden days. In the last 15 to 20 years, the technology galloped at a breakneck speed. People could share their thoughts with others electronically, privately as well in public. I am talking of WhatsApp groups, Facebook and Blogging. These technological changes have made things more comfortable, and now writing the thoughts or expressing views has not remained the domain of intellectuals. You and I can say things, write about anything under the Sun. We can share our experiences easily; we can share our experiences, our knowledge and even some new theories or thoughts with the world.  

In this scenario, since it has become easy to write and publish, it has also become easy to make comments on such writings or disagree on the writings of others. Twitter is classic example of briefly writing about something; if you are famous and have a lot of followers, there will be instantaneous comments and rebuttals.  

If we’re all going to be disagreeing more, we should be careful to do it sensibly. What does it mean to disagree well? Most can tell the difference between mere name-calling and a carefully reasoned refutation, but I think it would help to put names on the intermediate stages of disagreement. So let me attempt to make a disagreement hierarchy. 

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Name-Calling, the method for disagreement is quite straight forward and blunt. The method is quite crude. People can and do have difference of opinion on many issues, but instead of doing so in polite or sophisticated way, people will call you Names, they may tend to use bad words. Is it necessary to be crass? But some people are born that way and behave in such ways in other aspects of life too!  

Ad hominem is a word typically refers to a fallacious argumentative strategy whereby genuine discussion of the topic at hand is avoided, by attacking the character, motive, or other attributes of the person making the argument. The persons associated with the discussion is attacked, rather than attacking the substance of the case itself. The terms ad mulierem and ad feminam have been explicitly used when the person receiving the criticism is female. Probably it is a form of misogyny or malchauvinism. 

 In some form of criticism, people tend to be judgmental about the tone of writing. When one writes something, it is the right thing to comment about the writing rather than the way what is written. But this criticism is better than the first two methods discussed above. 

The contradiction is the stage, where we finally get responses to what was said, rather than how or by whom. The lowest form of response to an argument is to state the opposing case, with little or no supporting evidence. The method is still the only contradiction rather than arguing why one wants to contradict. 

Contradiction can sometimes have some weight. Sometimes seeing the opposing case stated explicitly is enough to know that it’s right. But usually, evidence will help. 

The writer can ignore these types of methods because they do not offer any constructive criticism. These methods may indicate a different viewpoint, but it will be difficult to judge what the argument is about. 

The counterargument is contradiction plus reasoning and evidence. When aimed directly at the original case, it can be convincing. But unfortunately, it’s common for counterarguments to be aimed at something slightly different. More often than not, two people arguing passionately about something are arguing about two different things. Sometimes they even agree with one another but are so caught up in their squabble they don’t realise it. 

There could be a legitimate reason for arguing against something slightly different from what the original author said: when you feel they missed the heart of the matter. But when you do that, you should say you’re doing it. But one also should not forget that the original author may mean something different than what you are arguing.  

Refutation is the action of proving a statement or theory to be wrong or false. The most convincing form of disagreement is a refutation. It’s also the rarest because it requires the most efforts, it needs to study and have knowledge about the subjectHence, we will see that this method of argument is sporadic 

To refute someone, you probably have to quote them. You have to find a specific passage in whatever you disagree with that you feel is mistaken, and then explain why it’s inaccurateWithout pinpointing the details, we will be back to square one where the argument is vague or maybe crass. 

But some people are mistaken that by quoting parts from the writing, they are refuting something. But without substantiating an argument, simply quoting has no meaning. 

The most potent form of argument is refuting the central idea of the writing.  

Truly refuting something requires one to refute its central point or at least one of them. And that means one has to commit explicitly to what the central point is. So a truly effective refutation would look like the writing below. 

I disagree with your basic idea “xxxxx yyyyy” for the reasons given below. I disagree because of the following points.  

You will wonder why I have tried to classify the arguments and create a hierarchy! It is simply done to describe the way your writings may get thrashed, sometimes by methods like namecalling. But sometimes you will be lucky enough to get great feedback from a knowledgeable person who could improve your thoughts and writing. Criticism is the best way for improvement in life if done constructively. 

In Marathi, there is a saying, “निंदकाचे घर असावे शेजारी”  which means that it is good to have your critic as your neighbour! Various criticisms will teach us how to handle life in general. It is not only about ones writings, but it could be about your decisions, your acts, your behaviour. Done constructively, there is no better teacher than your critic!  

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Celebrities and Intellectuals!

Since I am neither, I sometimes get confused and try to understand the difference between the two. Celebrity means a famous person, especially in entertainment or sports. It is also the state of being well known. Intellectual is a person possessing a highly developed intellect.

Does it mean that a celebrity is not an intellectual or intellectual is not a celebrity? This confusion becomes profound in India when elections are around. For reasons best known to them, different political parties pull in film stars for electioneering. They are used for giving speeches and pull the crowd. They talk about policies, state of the nation and on every subject under the Sun. I will never say that the intellectual ability of an individual depends only on education. But most of these stars cannot be called as highly educated. That they are at the top of their game in the chosen field does not mean that they can be “experts” in every other area. I am aware that they have speech writers but what different political parties achieve by pulling in celebrities, is not understood by me.

Why did the thoughts about celebrities and intellectuals come to my mind? A nationwide show of solidarity followed the terrorist attack at Pulwama, and a lot of people made different comments. Cricketer Harbhajan Singh twitted his comments within hours of the attack saying that India should not play Pakistan in world cup cricket matches. Some were talking of blood for blood and going to war. The reactions were at the two ends of the spectrum; from vicious to balanced. In this free world, everybody has a right to express views about happenings. I have seen that the reactions of intellectuals are usually balanced, measured and are made after due thought process. Sachin Tendulkar made his balanced comments after ¾ days. Instant responses to his remarks were “Is Tendulkar so busy that he has no time to give his comments?” There were twitter wars, and people started comparing the timings of Harbhajan and Sachin’s comments. Did it mean that if you comment on a subject within a stipulated period, you love your nation more? Does it say that delayed comments indicated that the person is less patriotic?

We have all seen that Harbhajan is a mercurial person whereas Sachin has always been a balanced person. Harbhajan’s reactions on the field have been recorded showing his way of thinking. In one of the IPL matches, Harbhajan slapped Sreesanth. In a test match against Australia, he had called an Australian player a monkey. (The episode later came to be known as Monkeygate) Harbhajan got away due to the stature of Sachin and smart lawyers, who found the loopholes. The main problem is that Sachin was made an MP and was awarded Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award due to his sporting achievements. He is a celebrity and not an intellectual by any means. His views on sporting events are wise; he never makes controversial statements. As he has Bharat Ratna, people expect comments from him on all subjects. Do you expect Arun Jaitley or Raj Babbar to make comments on sports?

There is a big-ticket celebrity who is a secret intellectual. The person attracts comments from people because of his different nature. He is witty, has a great sense of humour! His name is Shah Rukh Khan. I have always felt that he is smart, and he is a good speaker too; his speeches in non-filmy settings are excellent. His statements are thought-provoking and sensible. Shah Rukh is one person who always invokes extreme reactions; people either love him or hate him!

Shah Rukh speech at Yale University

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0OaOnT8res

TED Talks

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NV1KdWRHck

If you like Shah Rukh then you will probably listen to his whole speech; the Yale speech is one hour long, and the Ted talk speech is 18 minutes long. But if you dislike him, still listen to him speak for at least ten minutes. It is worth it!

I have some clarity on who is a celebrity, but my doubts about who is intellectual are still not resolved. When we talk of highly developed intellect, I am still not sure because intellect means “the faculty of reasoning and understanding objectively, especially about abstract matters.” There are many abstract matters in different subjects like science, engineering, economics, psychology et al. Do we call an engineer an intellectual? Do we call a doctor a thinker? I have generally observed that those who write about philosophy or religion are called philosophers or intellectuals. Why is it so? Does it mean that only non-scientific reasoning should be called intellectual thinking?

I remember that about fifteen years back, I had an opportunity to listen to an intellectual speak. I was highly impressed. Three weeks later, he was to speak in another conference on a different topic. I readjusted my schedule and went back to listen to him. I was disappointed. His speeches were in the standard format. Speak for the first few minutes on the topic of the day, in the end, last five minutes summarise the speech. Why was I disappointed? His core speech in the middle was almost a copy/paste job of what he spoke three weeks before. In between, he linked that day’s topic with connecting sentences. He had nothing new to say. His one-hour speech was to me, a ten-minute speech.

I have heard Mr Rajeev Bajaj MD of Bajaj Auto Ltd speak and he is impressive. When he speaks for one hour, he speaks on that day’s subject for one hour! He is witty and reasonably good orator!

I have read about and know about many pseudo-intellectual. Pseudo-intellectuals are good marketing people and market themselves well with the right people or authorities. They are always in contact with newspaper guys; they wine and dine them. They get a good copy the next day. Somebody becomes a computer wizard; some other guys become great scientists; in a scientific circle, they are known as Sarkari (backed by the government) scientists!

Celebrities and intellectual have one significant difference. Stars are never psuedos. They are at the top of their chosen field of sports, cinema, music! Unless people accept them, they cannot reach the top.

Let us not troll the celebrities on the subject in which they are not at the top. Their place is different than intellectuals. Let both these people be busy and remain so in their fields. Don’t ask Sachin Tendulkar his opinion about new cancer drug, but ask him if Rishabh Pant is good enough number four batsman!

Meandering!

 

Meandering means following a winding course. This adjective is used for rivers. I saw some beautiful pictures of meandering rivers, on the net and felt like sharing with you! The river water just takes its course following the path of least resistance. Today my thoughts are meandering like the river and jump from one thought to another, just meandering along. In my city Pune, we have two rivers called Mutha and Mula. Their confluence is within the city. Mutha river has a path which hardly meanders, in fact, the river hardly has any water around the year. I am generous in this description. In any year, there are only 3 to 4 days when it can be called a river otherwise it is a stream! This is during monsoons when the upstream dams get full!

Yesterday my day started with a phone call from my friend Shrikant who is holidaying in Spain and Portugal. A rumour had reached him that a dam upstream of the river Mutha had broken and water was flowing above one of the bridges. Thanks to social media! I told him that there was a breach in the canal which draws water from the dam. The breach had caused a bit of flooding in the shanties along the canal, causing damage to homes of many families. As the water kept on coming on an extremely busy major road, there was a traffic jam in large part of the city. In the social media, the breach in canal got converted into a dam breakage!

Another friend who is currently in the US, sent me a message that I have become old, after reading my blog “What really is Romance?” I sent him 🤣🤣 as a reply! Dilip and I were classmates and both are around 70. I was wondering how I suddenly became old with one blog? My definition of romance was being together, sharing everything with each other, face life’s tough situations with a smile, together. Just a touch of hand and caress is romance. These are practicalities of life and has nothing to with age Dilip! Personally, I feel that I am around 45, age-wise, when I am in the gym I feel as if I am 55! Never in my life yet I have felt my real age around 70. Five years back I underwent cancer treatment. My health was down for about six months but even during the treatment my zest for the life never went down.

Our Supreme Court has taken five major decision a short span of last ten days. The interesting part is that 3 of them involved something related to sex. First one was about the gays. Now gays can openly move around in the society, maybe with their heads high. But I always used to wonder what is normal? A man and woman have liking for each other, have sex and make babies. As against that two men or women have liking for each other, have sex and obviously can’t make babies. What is abnormal in that? What was illegal in that? Why their heads had to be down? The gays are made such by nature. Do we mean to say that in “normal” people there are no freaks, there are no perverts, there is no rapist? In fact, rapists are the worst normal persons who go and rape kids, they go and rape even old women of the age of 70 plus.

Next one is about adultery. Finally, the Victorian era seems to be coming to an end – the judgment on Section 497 is progressive in many ways. In the context of changing social realities of our times, especially the transforming gender equations. Justice Chandrachud has cited the violation of Articles 14 and 21, saying that Section 49 perpetuates the subordinate status of women, denies them dignity and sexual autonomy, and is based on gender stereotypes. Previous law said that in the case of adultery if a man had consensual sex with a woman without permission from her husband, he could be arrested. The judgement has removed the criminality from the law. It is allowing women sexual autonomy! We are moving with times!

The latest one is about Sabarimala Devasthanam. They did not permit ladies between the age of 10 and 50 to pay their obeisance at the Devasthanam. They declared that women in this age group have their menstrual cycles active hence they are impure! Hence, they should not visit! Men who had taken this decision seem to forget that they came into this world because their mother had an active menstrual cycle and had sex with someone. They are the result of these two so-called impure acts! This is the tact used by men in patriarchal society to control things the way they wanted it. The court has said that in the democratic nation, rights of individuals are above the so-called traditions which have formed in a society and the thought process, which is totally irrelevant today. Some years back there was an incident. There was a case of theft at Sabarimala and 35-year DCP came to investigate. To the horror of the priests, the officer was a lady! Of course, she went inside and did her job!

Then there was the famous case of Babri Masjid. Supreme Court has given a decision that the case has nothing to do with religion and should be treated as a civil suit. According to the verdict, it is simply a land dispute case and will be decided based on the evidence available.

The last case is about the so-called intellectuals arrested by Pune police. A big noise was made by intellectuals about freedom of speech and freedom of expression. They claimed that it is a politically motivated case and should be summarily dismissed. Supreme Court has said that there is evidence to prove that these intellectuals were connected with a disbanded Maoist organization who have various plans, including bringing down the Indian Government by using force! What is it with these intellectuals? They do not say a word when Maoists kill people, last week two MLA’s in Telangana were murdered. Sometimes back 71 security forces were killed in an IED attack. Not a word of protest. These people have been praising terrorists as if they are freedom fighters fighting for India. Under the garb of freedom of speech, freedom of expression, these folks and their followers make statements which an enemy would generally make. When terrorists are killed, these guys write to the Human Rights Commission. But when security forces are brutally kidnapped and murdered, they are away on a holiday to cold climes! They are strong followers of communism at its worse, though all over the world communism has died.

Ignorance is bliss they say but is not treating your medical issues on time the right thing to do? Heard this one from a neurologist. The patient was diagnosed for MS, multiple sclerosis. This condition is tough on your body. The doctor further said that this has been going on for five years! Why do people delay going to doctors? The person accompanying the patient mentioned that he also suffered from diabetes, which currently was well controlled. Only thing is that the he needs dialysis twice a week, side effect of “controlled diabetes!” Amen!

On a lighter note, thank Mr Trump for starting a trade war with China. Mercedes Benz is now exporting their cars to the USA, from India instead of China! So long….