Saturday, August 09, 2014

Personal collection of quotes – how and why they resonate with me

The following are a few pithy statements that I have come across in recent times, in my reading across various forms – books, magazines, newspaper articles and columns, and yes, even on the Net. While the selected quotes come with the name of the authors, it is not necessary to know who they are. It is the expressed thought that I am responding to, please understand.
I thought I will share them with the few readers who visit this space and put on record why these resonate with me, strongly or weakly, in phase or out of phase. Here I go.

‘Power today is global power, the power of the big companies, the power of financial capital’ – Frei Betto

Resonates strongly and this is why I had posted earlier why to my mind there are no Multi-National Companies (MNC) anymore. They are rather global corporations who transcend the operations at the level of nations. They should be rightly named Trans-National Companies (TNC). The bosses of big companies sit right across leaders of a nation and what more, they bargain for a slice of the national pie, whichever nation it might be.

‘The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born’ - Antonio Gramsci

Resonates strongly because it indicates why even dying traditions linger on. It is because the newer ideas are not allowed to take root. In the newer environment, the older ideas will be relegated to the status of weeds in the field. Obviously that is not to the liking of those who are stuck in the past, the powerful status quoists who swear by tradition. This idea that I had nurtured for long got affirmed through an Italian Marxist!

‘Patience is a minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue’ – Ambrose Bierce

This is about half out of phase to my way of thinking. Not all calls for patience are rooted in resignation to changing events. If I call for patience in accommodating GMOs it is because I am being cautious and am not resigned to the inevitable, that is, GMO foods on our table soon enough. I fell that my patience on this matter is truly real and straight forward and is not a disguise for anything.

‘A family is a system of cooperation that has elements of congruent interest as well as divergent priorities’ – Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen

This is fantastic! Why I resonate so strongly is for reasons you may not have suspected. The statement reflects the reality in the womb of a pregnant lady. The fertilized egg is after all a foreign object in the body of the mother and it should have been rejected forthwith. One of the abiding mysteries of biology is why there are as few spontaneous abortions as there are. Because, the fetus and the mother live in a “system of cooperation as well as divergent priorities!” Then, family is just a scaled up version of what happens in the womb!

‘I revere the sanctity of life – but not at any cost’ – Desmond Tutu

This statement resonates strongly not only for its content but also for who said it, an Arch Bishop of the Anglican Church! Bishop Tutu made the above statement in the context of the euthanasia debate in the UK and advocated the procedure as a means of bringing dignity to the terminally ill. He shows that scriptures need to be read and contextualized to the changing conditions of human life. I am all for it. I do not know how accommodative Bishop Tutu is in the case of abortions, but I suspect he will apply this logic in the other matter also.

‘There is no easier source of disdain and neglect than ignorance and sense of the inevitable naturalness of one’s own way’ – Martha Nussbaum

Strongly resonates. This is, as I understand, a statement calling for diluting the feeling of self-righteousness one may harbor. The Us v. Them attitude springs from this self-righteousness and the biggest problem in overcoming it is not only discarding ignorance as the author says, but also in recognizing the universality of human life. Equally important is to persist with this world view even under the onslaught of others not subscribing to it.

‘The democratic dilemma is finding common ground between what's acceptable to the public and what's necessary for the nation’ – Robert J. Samuelson

Resonates, but only because it says the obvious pithily. This, I believe, is an affirmation of the Constitution of any democratic nation. Democracy is not an unrestrained rule of the majority but one which follows all the norms laid out in the Constitution and paying respect to the democratic institutions. In the Indian context, positive discrimination was felt necessary for the nation though it might not have been acceptable to many. Indian democracy is defined by this tug-of-war.

‘If everyone whose experiments failed stopped doing science, there wouldn’t be any science’ – Allan Wilson

This is a statement of what science is and how scientists must behave. It goes without saying that I agree with it completely. And, I cannot resist the temptation to take a dig at religion in this context! If everyone who stopped praying after even many of his or her wishes failed to materialize, would there be religion? A parallel I found between religion and science! Pity me.
Raghuram Ekambaram

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