where trouble was needed

April 26, 2010

New York mayor in Bermuda

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aravinda @ 7:34 am

New York’s Mayor, but Bermuda Shares Custody

By MICHAEL BARBARO

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has walled off his life in Bermuda from voters, arguing it is none of their business.

Comment:

In a working democracy this kind of press could spur the voters to unseat the mayor.

In today’s New York and today’s America, however, such an article doesn’t ruffle the mayor in the slightest. On the contrary, you have just reassured all who paid for the mayor’s election that he is indeed looking after their interests, and can secure that third term without more than temporarily interrupting his vacation.

April 23, 2010

Freedom to learn: on math and life

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aravinda @ 2:17 am

Freedom to Learn
The roles of play and curiosity as foundations for learning
by Peter Gray
Psychology Today, April 15, 2010, Child Development

Comment

So far we have had a similar experience with our daughter who *loves* math and has loved numbers and shapes since she was very young. I was never sure how long this path that has led us into wonderful discoveries all these years, would continue.

In an otherwise excellent article, the only line that disappointed me was the one about ” … algebra, geometry, and trigonometry that they will never again use as long as they live.”

I resist the idea that we need to know in advance when we will need to use math (or anything) in order to be motivated to learn it. What about learning for the sake of learning? Why doubt that these realms of math, just like the arithmetic that so delights young children, can be equally beautiful and inspiring? And useful? Even if we do not consciously “use” these particular math skills, I believe that having learned them puts us on a stronger footing when dealing with people trying to sell us various things – be it food, medicine, stocks, wars, etc – esp when they try to back up their claims with evidence. We should not be fooled.

April 15, 2010

the small drama and fine detail of social existence

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aravinda @ 3:07 am

Response to Twitter as History: Library of Congress Signs Up
By STEVE LOHR, New York Times, April 15, 2010

Comment 24

The idea of archiving twitter messages is interesting though I don’t agree that it in itself challenges the elitism of history. It just adds another source. How we read it and what we challenge will partly depend on our own study of history.

The pioneering historian Ranajit Guha, in his article “Chandra’s Death” takes a moment to reflect on “the small drama and fine detail of social existence” before using such detail to plunge ahead into a critical investigation of a murder of an ordinary woman in nineteenth century rural Bengal. Reading between and beyond court documents he finds what the court, mired as it was in the same patriarchy that resulted in the death, could not see. The woman who was found guilty at the time would never know that more than 100 years later, history cleared her name.

While twitter too records “the small drama and fine detail of social existence,” it will take more than search engines to use this information to understand society or interpret history. It will require critical rigour, compassion, insight and “bending closer to the ground in order to pick up the traces,” as Ranajit Guha has done to expose the systematic patriarchy that led to the death of one woman and the conviction of another woman for a crime committed by neither.

In closing, allow me to quote Ranajit Guha:

“The ordinary apparatus of historiography has little help to offer us here. Designed for big events and institutions, it is most at ease when made to operate on those larger phenomena which visibly stick out of the debris of the past. As a result, historical scholarship has developed, through recursive practice, a tradition that tends to ignore the small drama and fine detail of social existence, especially at its lower depths. A critical historiography can make up for this lacuna by bending closer to the ground in order to pick up the traces of a subaltern life in its passage through time.”

from “Chandra’s Death” in Subaltern Studies V, Writings on South Asian History and Society
Edited by Ranajit Guha
Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1987.
p. 138

(I hope that the comments on the New York Times are being archived as well.)

Guha – Chandra’s Death

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aravinda @ 1:59 am

Some moments from college remain with you forever. Some are literally just moments – elevator conversations with (or among) people you never meet again (“a survey of 16 truth commissions”).   Or even overheard conversations before the lecture begins.  (“Doubling” in Jane Eyre – overheard just before Said was to speak at Columbia University.   The advice he gave that day:  “write every day.”)

Probably the most fascinating course I took at Madison was on history of health – I don’t remember the title exactly or how I happened to take it but I will never lose the thoughts provoked by some of the articles we read in that class (P Greenough, “Intimidation, coercion and resistance in the final stages of the South Asian Smallpox Eradication Campaign, 1973-1975”).  And the shift in perspective – what is disease? Who is diseased? Manisha Lal, wherever you are, that was one cutting-edge course you taught.  And that stunning, unforgettable article:  Guha – Chandra’s Death.

I remember this again as I read that the Library of Congress plans to archive the public comment that comes via twitter.   Their goal – nothing less than to capture the small drama and fine detail of social existence.

April 12, 2010

more

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aravinda @ 4:11 am

April 8, 2010

Talk Peace, not War

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aravinda @ 4:50 am

response to
There could have been a couple of Maoists’

Mr Chidambaram, you promised that you would talk to the people. When will you keep your word? Guns can never substitute for dialog, and only when the guns are silenced can people listen. What nonsense was all the suspicion that accepting the ceasfire offer from the Maoists would give them time to “regroup.” Maoists or no maoists, when people are under attack they will fight back. Ceasefire would at least have offered some hope to the common people. Follow the law, respect people’s rights, stop threatening them and talk to them as equals. You might be amazed at the results.

April 6, 2010

Measles … don’t fear

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aravinda @ 2:57 am

Posted on NPR: Measles Resurgence Tied To Parents’ Vaccine Fears

Measles is a common childhood disease; typically it involves a few days of fever, followed by a few more days to regain full strength. My daughter had measles at the age of 3. She was in bed for 3 days, playing lightly for 3 more days, and then she was back to normal. She now has a lifelong immunity which her children may even enjoy during infancy. (A college student who HAD been vaccinated, came down with the measles shortly after visiting us at that time. He also recovered, in about 10 days.)

Mortality rates for measles, as well as many other diseases, came down well before the introduction of the vaccines.

Dr Donald Miller, author of "User-Friendly Vaccine Schedule," askes, "Could contracting childhood diseases like measles, mumps, rubella, and chickenpox play a constructive role in the maturation of a person’s immune system? Or, to put it another way, does removing natural infection from human experience have any adverse consequences?"

We need an honest, critical, scientific examination of the role of vaccines as well as the role of disease in stimulating our immune system. Assuming that we must avoid disease at all costs only makes us unhealthier and big pharma bigger.

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