Mar 22, 2009

The long-overdue Gandhi vs. Hitler post

I had resolved to put down my views on this a long, long time back - even before I started blogging here. It's time to deliver.

I should warn you - the ideas in this post are going to be rather radical, and anything BUT politically correct. You may feel outraged. If you aren't sure you can handle that in a mature manner, don't read it.

Based on all that I've read/seen/heard/understood, my own sense of right-and-wrong, and the logic that works in my head, here's what I have to say.

MK Gandhi was, for lack of a better word, a loser. His great, and in my opinion his only, achievement was to unify most of our population using religion. India, as we know it today, was never really a nation ruled by a single ruler, before the British. We had our own regional/linguistic/cultural sub-identities, that actually exist even today. The British united us as an administrative unit, and Gandhi united most of us as a people.

My first problem - is with the manner and philosophy with which he achieved this. India wasn't, isn't, and will probably never be a Hindu state. Religion is, in my opinion, one of the greatest destructive forces ever invented by man. Nearly all religion is based on faith, with no evidence available to prove the existence of 'God'. Even if there is such a force, there is no definite knowledge of it's form. There is no justification for the rules that the followers of a faith are forced to live by. Some faiths prohibit eating any meat, some prohibit only pork or beef, while others allow everything. Can anyone prove their way is 'right'? Secondly, no single faith can claim to be followed by an absolute majority of the world's population. Are all the people of any one faith much better off than all others, in this world? And I won't even bother questioning the concept of afterlife - that's blind faith in its worst form. Yet, people are ready to die, and to kill, in the name of religion. Wars are being fought. Landmarks being destroyed in a mindless way. All this - for what rational reason?

Gandhi based his work on the concept of Bhakti - total devotion to god and a lifestyle of self-denial. These regressive, counter-productive principles somehow appeared noble to a people who had been exploited over centuries and had come to expect no better. He basically told people to accept that their lives weren't meant to be happier, and take pride in their decision to waste their lives. Since no rational grounds could support such a philosophy, religion and faith were called into play. People were encouraged to derive happiness from 'being on moral high ground' in their own heads, and not through material comforts or real achievements that the rest of the world would admire. He gave them a sense of purpose, but no real purpose.

This has caused a lot of damage in the long-term. For one, we had partition - an inevitable fallout of Gandhi's basic Hindu philosophy. I know people will say there were a million other factors that led to partition. But in my opinion, the fundamental reason was Gandhi's choice of religion and Bhakti to unite the country. Obviously, it left many people out. What followed was inevitable.

The other terrible legacy is socialism. In the Gandhian system, productivity and ambition were equated with greed and deplored. Sacrifice and simplicity were extolled as righteous virtues. Bhakti means basic existence, with absolute insignificance of this life being the ultimate goal. There is no room for pursuit of economic development, as priorities are spiritual. As an example, take Satyagraha - fast unto death. It basically relies on sympathy of other people to get things done. You aren't directly doing anything, yourself, to achieve the changes you want to see in the world. You are prepared to just throw away everything you have - your own life, which ostensibly has no great value. But since someone else may not have the stomach to witness your senseless death, your objective might be achieved. What a pathetic method.

Unfortunately, these philosophies shaped the policies of the Indian state post-independence. Profit was a dirty word. Ambition and aspirations were throttled, since they went against the principle of simple living and nirvana. Competition was discouraged. The result - the shameful 'Hindu rate of growth', while our south-east Asian neighbours galloped ahead. History has proven something that seems so obvious now - happiness for all can only be achieved through creation of more wealth, and not by state distribution of limited wealth among the weak. Gandhi would rather have you not bothering with wealth at all, and wasting your life with Bhakti.

My second major problem is with the principles of non-violence and turning the other cheek. I just don't get it. Nature designed us to compete and ensure the survival of the fittest. That's how the world improves and moves forward. How can we, and why should we, turn away from that?

We were an oppressed people, but we were large in number. Civil disobedience and non-cooperation made it difficult for the British to administer us, but we could have made it a lot tougher by taking up arms. Sure, the British had great military resources, and may have exterminated our people in great numbers. But, there would've been a cost - financial as well as human - for the British in this case, and that would've got us our independence a lot more swiftly.

Let's face it - we got our independence for two reasons. One, WW2 depleted British resources and will to administer a large, non-cooperative colony. Two, the wide public opinion turned against imperialism. Both could have been expedited if we had taken the Bhagat Singh approach rather than Gandhi's. Metaphorically, the British grew tired of slapping us on one cheek after another. If we had fought back rather than turning the other cheek, this could have happened earlier. And the total cumulative damage suffered by India may well have been lower. If WW2 hadn't occured, I'm not sure just how long it would have taken for us to achieve Independence the Gandhian way. If ever. The legacy - we are still a 'soft' state.

This is why I have little respect for Gandhi. And I'm willing to debate...


If the above piece didn't outrage you enough - take this. I have a lot of respect for Adolf Hitler. Don't get me wrong - I wouldn't consider him a role model for myself, nor would I condone the crimes he committed against humanity. But I do believe history has been very harsh on him, since he ended up on the losing side. He did some things right, and deserves some credit for those.

I was assigned a research project for a course during my time at IIT, Madras - 'Anti-semitism in pre-WW2  Germany', and at that time I had to look up 'semitism' in the dictionary. Most of this piece is based on what I learnt and understood during my study for that project, and even later.

Let's try and imagine ourselves in Germany during Hitler's rise. The nation had been blamed for WW1, and dealt very severe terms in the Treaty of Versailles. Their pride was hurt, and their economy shattered. A large part of the population was unemployed, while inflation skyrocketed. In this scenario, the Jews' power and affluence was conspicuous. I don't remember the stats very well, but it was something like - 10% of the population (Jews) owned/controlled 75% of the nation's wealth and resources. And they've never been known for benevolence or endearing behavior anyway. In fact, when the Nazi party came to power and started treating Jews badly - long before taking any hard, organized action, mind you - Jewish business leaders and bureaucrats around the world called for boycott of German exports. This further crippled the German economy. There was a widespread sense of resentment against the Jews, and coupled with a collapsing economy, what happened next was inevitable. Hitler just happened to be the man in charge. You and I may not like what happened, but there were reasons it did, and Hitler did an exceptionally effective and efficient job.

Just as Gandhi used religion to unite a nation opressed, Hitler used race. While Gandhi's methods were passive on one extreme, Hitler's were aggressive on the other extreme. Had Hitler won the war, history would have been written in a very different tone, and what is now termed 'crimes against humanity', may have been termed 'revolution' (in a positive sense).

Think about this. Gandhi needed decades, and favorable external circumstances, to achieve a fractured independence for India. Hitler needed just a decade to turn around a crippled country into a European empire. The achievement is awe-inspiring. The Axis powers lost the war mainly due to two mistakes:
1. Hitler's decision to advance the attack on the Soviet Union by a few months, so that the battle happened in the winter. The Reds, though inferior militarily, were in much better shape to deal with the climate and the terrain, and Hitler refused to back down in spite of early setbacks. If all his power and early successes hadn't fogged his judgment, Hitler would've, in all likelihood, conquered all of Europe.
2. Japan not 'finishing the job' at Pearl Harbor. They had the element of surprise, and caused substantial damage without facing any real resistance. If they had completed the attack as planned, and aimed to defeat the US in war, rather than merely discouraging their entry (the Japs only hit active battleships, and not the fuel storage, workshops or submarine facilities), WW2 may well have had an entirely different outcome.

For a moment, leave aside the concentration camps and the holocaust. Just consider what Hitler managed as the leader of his people - turning around an economy on crutches, restoration of national pride, and almost a conquest of the entire world. Sure, the man had his flaws. Sure, he did many deplorable things. But does he deserve no respect for what he managed to do as the leader of his people? 

As the new season begins...

... there's no better way to build anticipation, than to watch the Brazilian GP video put up by folks here

(Note: The video linked above, and the rest of this post are only for serious F1 fans. Others shouldn't waste their time - you just won't get it.)
It might take some time to load, but you MUST watch this video as it is absolutely brilliant. It's more dramatic than most movies you'll see. In fact, some scenes - such as the one with a crew-member interrupting the Massa family celebrations, and proceeding to smash a glass pane - are so dramatic, they almost seem like they were scripted and staged! That's also the second reason to watch the video - it contains some behind-the-scenes footage you probably haven't seen before. 

I remember the total confusion prevailing in my TV-room when Lewis crossed the line and the TV listed him at a championship-clinching 5th position. All of us, including the commentator, thought he was running 6th. I couldn't believe my eyes - it seemed like my prayers had been answered and a miracle had indeed occured (damn, I knew I should've wished for that Beverly Hills mansion rather than a title for Lewis). All the Ferrari fans around me (they were ALL Ferrari fans) didn't want to believe their eyes either, and immediately started crying foul. But in this video you can see that the McLaren camp - including a very visible Ms. Scherzinger - knew exactly what was happening during that final lap, long before the rest of the world realized it.

Another awesome piece of work is the soundtrack of the video. It starts with a song that goes 'No one's gonna take me alive... you and I must fight to survive...' as Lewis and Felipe are shwon shaking hands. The track changes suitably as Massa Sr. is informed about Lewis's hustle, and ends very appropriately, if somewhat cheesily, with Ms. Scherzinger's 'When I grow up...'

Not that the video is really necessary to build anticipation. This may be one of the most exciting seasons ever. There are at least 4 serious championship contenders - Lewis, Kimi, Massa, Alonso - 3 of whom have won it in the recent past - and 1 who lost by a mere whisker. With a host of new regulations coming in, we'll have to wait and see just how competitive each of these guys is, this time around. Anything is possible. 

And there are several serious jokers in the pack: 
 - Vettel, who seems destined to win a title sometime, probably not too far into the future
 - Kubica, who was a contender till very late last season
 - Button, a highly rated driver who may finally have a good enough car, to realize his potential
These 3 are capable of competing at the very top, if they have cars good enough. The last pre-season test suggested Brawn had their noses ahead of everyone else - Massa went so far as to say that he wasn't in a position to challenge for pole, if Brawn could sustain the pace they had shown. Ross Brawn is no stranger to successful campaigns, and he even has Barrichello in one of the cars. The signs are ominous, but till the checkered flag is waved in less than a week from now, we don't know anything for sure.

I will continue rooting for Lewis, even though McLaren's performance in the last test suggests that he'll only be an also-ran through the early races at least. Doesn't matter. For me, he's still tha man. A true 'supporter' doesn't just revel in glory when it is achieved, he stands by his team/player through tough times as well. I plan to do just that.

Mar 2, 2009

Youtube Gems

Youtube rocks!

Ok, so you probably knew that. But I'm posting this coz I found a few old gems this weekend, songs and videos I'd thought I'd never see/hear again. Kripya checkout kariye:

1. 'Maar daala' by Nirmal Pandey. Nirmal Pandey sings, and behaves like - well - Nirmal Pandey. He surely realized he couldn't pull off anything romantic or serious, and he deserves credit for that. Highlight: the video stars a little-known model named Reema Lamba, who'd later become famous as Mallika Sherawat. In the video, she had to choose between Nirmal and Rahul Dev - two of the ugliest mofos alive. Poor girl.

2. 'Hawa hawa' by Hassan Jahangir. Check out the wannabe rock-star - complete with long hair, sunglasses and tight white pants, performing for an audience of some 40 aunties under a tent (looks like a village wedding shamiana). Truth be told - I still like the song.

3. 'Sawan mein lag gayee aag (original)' by Mika Singh. Who woulda thunk this idiotic-looking younger brother of Daler Mehndi, who whined with a nasal twang - long before Himes made 'nasal' the new 'cool' - would go on to achieve stardom through hits like 'Mauja hi mauja' and 'ae Ganpat'. His debut video is super-awesome. He carries a guitar, but you don't hear any guitar-track in the song. And do check out all the actors' expressions when the babe is introduced to the bad guy. Oscar-worthy I say!

5. 'Farebi' by Biddu. Biddu has done some great work, particularly with Nazia Hassan. But WTF was he thinking when he chose to debut in India as a pro-artiste with this trash? The lyrics are the antithesis of subtlety. And Biddu makes a complete a$$ of himself with the heavily-accented intro (he hisses 'dosss', trying to say 'dost'). Sad.

6. 'Sanam mere sanam' from Hum. I still remember - the local video library had made 20 copies of this movie when it released, and I still couldn't get one for a whole week. Check out the 'romantic' song featuring Govinda and Shilpa Shirodkar. The 80's and early 90's are such an embarassment today.

7. 'Bolo tara ra ra' by Daler Mehndi. Screw all the travel agency contrversies. If you don't think Mehndi is a vocal genius, please listen again to the title track of 'Rang de basanti' right NOW. He started with the hyper-linked video. Before he settled on the banded turban and sherwani, he experimented with bandanas, gold-chains and v-necked shirts!

8. 'Nari narein' by Hisham Abbas. OK, we have the cute Cadbury-ad girl (now TV star, I think). We have the Taj Mahal. And Arabic guy. Why did 'desert rose' work and not this, I wonder :)

9. 'It's my life' by Dr Alban. You didn't - sometime in your childhood - dance to this and think it was the coolest thing to do? Liar, liar - pants on fire.

10. 'Oova oova' by Anaida. Literally translated 'My heart says oova oova, my body tumbles oova oova...' U-hh... WHAT?! This woman had multiple successful albums.

11. 'Deewane to deewane hain' by Shweta Shetty. Ok, I've been seeking an answer to this for more than a decade now. Abbe bhainge bhi ho, koi bhi is saali ke deewane kaise ho sakte hain?

12. 'Nigodi kaisi jawani hai' by Ila Arun. Funny today, but absolutely scandalous when it released.

13. 'Tu' by Sanjay Maroo. No one even noticed this, even when there were less than a dozen cable TV channels. But I have to confess - I loved it. The guy sang, composed music and even played the drums himself. The video's fairly slick for the times. Talent, I say. Unlucky chap.

14. 'Dreamcatcher' by Mehnaz. Mehnaz was one of the few real talents, lost in the age of 'Indipop' amidst the crowd of no-gooders like Tania - whose only claim to fame was - she was bangin Kishen Kumar. Kishen Kumar, people? Younger brother of Gulshan Kumar, the T-Series emperor... don't try to remember a face, you never saw it. He was all eyebrows.

Finally, this is unrelated, but chakitout

Contributions welcome in the comments section :)