Friday, March 16, 2007

An IIT for Andhra Pradesh

The location of the new IIT in Andhra Pradesh has become a bone of contention. The CM has proposed the location at Medak, a neighboring district of Hyderabad which is being steadily encroached by Hyderabadi suburbs. However, Mr. Ramiah and others who have been at the forefront of the campaign for an IIT at AP, want it to be located at Basar in Nizamabad district as it has the famed temple of Goddess Saraswati.

Amidst the din of arguments from either side, it has been lost that AP already has an IIT. High school students from AP have silently accomplished what politicians and academicians could not do. If don’t believe me, see this. [Link via Abi]

“During a recent year under review 979 candidates from South Zone secured admission. Of them 769 were from AP, while TN accounted for 94 successful candidates, Karnataka, 84, and Kerala, for no more than 32 candidates.”

Since we live in an age of acquisitions and mergers, the IIT for AP can be established in the following manner with minimal investment and zero contention.

Rename IIT (Madras) as IIT (Hyderabad).

Rename Guindy as Gandipet Phase - II.

Incorporate the locality into the proposed Greater Hyderabad.

Appoint Mr. Ramiah as the director.

Don’t worry about the Tamilians. Give them an additional 100 million cubic feet of Krishna water and they would happily agree to this.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Ayn Rand in Wonderland

This month, Atlas Shrugged completes fifty years of its existence. It reminds of my non-iterative love-hate relationship with Ayn Rand. I was in high school when I completed this book. It was the first piece of serious literature I ever read. And, expectedly, I was blown off by it

When I look back, the book resembles like an intellectual version of a bollywood potboiler. A fantastic escape for the ordinary into extraordinary. Everyone is exceptionally talented in the book. Some even exceptionally rich. Common man has no place in her society. He is a passive sheep who has to be led by the ‘minds of the world’. Only people who are the ‘best’ of the society need to be talked about. Sounds like an intellectual Page 3. Doesn’t it? Such artistic liberty may be fine for a book like Fountainhead which deals with objectivism at an individual level. But when you try to extrapolate it to the wider canvas of society, characterization should be representative. Rand easily forgets that all those “talented” businessmen and artists need the man on the road for their survival. Her conception of Atlantis, completes her denial of the common man. It is surprising that she chooses a fantasy land as a ‘rational’ solution to the problem.

Despite the flagrant contradiction, Atlas Shrugged comes out as the most influential book after Bible for the Americans. But I don’t find any influence of Atlas Shrugged on America. Rather, America stands for everything that was denounced in the book. Instead of innovation and ingenuity, the American corporations now rely on non-tariff barriers, strategic superiority and even brute force to make money. The nation that has a statue for liberty is holding thousands under indefinite detention violating principles of natural justice. The biggest joke is that while Rand celebrates the Dollar as the proof of infinite superiority of the human mind, every dollar itself states that “In God We Trust”.

The only visible influence is that most people just pick up Rand’s hedonistic morality to justify their ways and views of life. For this, Rand creates numerous characters to reinforce her idea of morality. One excellent example is, Hank Rearden, a man who invents some strange blue steel, which is supposed to be the elixir of infrastructure. The society, externally, and his family, internally, are depicted as thankless leeches who suck him for their survival. And just like the gullible readers, this man of munificence, suddenly realizes that there is nothing wrong in abandoning his factory and family. I say, he should actually be thankful to his family members for giving him a chance to be their savior and stoke his ego.

Societally speaking, what if Hank Rearden invented a cure for AIDS rather than that silly blue steel? Would all those who worship him still agree if he refuses to sell the drug at a price other than that he determines and only to people whom he chooses? Or still further, what if my happiness lies chopping the fingers of persons whose name begins with “H”? After all, by the Randian philosophy happiness should be the only guiding principle. So at close quarters, the whole philosophy becomes animalistic way of life. (May be that is why their sex is characterized by violence, rape, BDSM and adultery.)

Randians might argue that your happiness should be pursued only to the extent that it doesn’t hurt others. But who will draw the line? A neutral regulator? That can’t be. As Anaconia in his celebrated speech says “production cannot be decided by those who do not produce”. So unless you are a serial killer, you can’t regulate my homicides.

May be Ayn Rand did not know how to find answers to all these. So she very simply created an imaginary isolated land where all like minded people get away. Great. But why will the world stop? If Newton did not wonder about apples, Clinton would have. I wonder how all her “extraordinary” minds were so like-minded. Why did not their intellectual superiority have different perspectives of life and happiness?

She calls those who tax the ‘productive’ population to fund welfare schemes as ‘looters’. Her naivety doesn’t get better than this. It is because of the ‘looters’ that the ‘minds of the world’ had law and order and social and physical infrastructure on which their genius could blossom. Again, my friends on the other side of fence would love Rand as she gives them a reason to cuss the tax collectors.

Ayn Rand understood neither man nor the society. She knew neither economics nor politics. Yet she set off to paint a grandiose philosophy and, expectedly, it was neither rational nor sustainable. She should have done some reading of her compatriot, Dostovesky. The consequence of assumed intellectual superiority, and the resultant liberty to act by personal judgment alone, was beautifully brought out through Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment. While he showed how one Raskolnikov was an abberation, Ayn Rand fills up the Atlas Shrugged with umpteen Raskolnikovs and claims them to be the saviors of the world. Atlas Shrugged is interesting, but, as Abi calls it, a hoax. ,“John Galt – it's time to come home and go to work.