G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

H. P. Lovecraft: "What a man does for pay is of little significance. What he is, as a sensitive instrument responsive to the world's beauty, is everything!"

Martin Amis: “Gogol is funny, Tolstoy in his merciless clarity is funny, and Dostoyevsky, funnily enough, is very funny indeed; moreover, the final generation of Russian literature, before it was destroyed by Lenin and Stalin, remained emphatically comic — Bunin, Bely, Bulgakov, Zamyatin. The novel is comic because life is comic (until the inevitable tragedy of the fifth act);...”

Werner Herzog: “We are surrounded by worn-out, banal, useless and exhausted images, limping and dragging themselves behind the rest of our cultural evolution.”

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Justin E.H. Smith: “One should of course take seriously serious efforts to improve society. But when these efforts fail, in whole or in part, it is only humor that offers redemption. So far, human expectations have always been strained, and have always come, give or take a bit, to nothing. In this respect reality itself has the form of a joke, and humor the force of truth.”

विलास सारंग: "… . . 1000 नंतर ज्या प्रकारची संस्कृती रुढ झाली , त्यामध्ये साधारणत्व विश्वात्मकता हे गुण प्राय: लुप्त झाले...आपली संस्कृती अकाली विश्वात्मक साधारणतेला मुकली आहे."

Monday, August 31, 2009

History Lies in the Eyes of the Beholder

Movie "Inglourious Basterds" featuring Brad Pitt is based on events of World War II.

Kate Williams writes about it in Spectator:

"We are fast forgetting how to be guilty about the past...

...And now we have Inglourious Basterds, vehemently promoted and polarising the critics. To the accompaniment of pumping rock music, (Brad) Pitt shouts the importance of ‘murder, torture, intimidation and terror’ as he encourages his Jewish-American troops to scour occupied France for ‘the German’ and leave him ‘disembowelled, dismembered, disfigured’. ‘The German has no humanity,’ he declares, in a film that has much in common with a violent computer game. War is a joke, thrilling but ultimately empty entertainment..."

Partition of India killed, by some estimates, one million people and yet it is not adequately present in the school text books of Maharashtra.

I thought I was a keen student of history in school and I didn't know much about it.

My son, who is currently studying in class X, doesn't know much about it either.

But currently, thanks to Jaswant Singh's book and his expulsion from the BJP, it rages in mainstream media.

Yesterday, I came across following passage in my son's history book:

"...Collective farming was a novel feature of Joseph Stalin's first 'Five Year Plan'. In order to ensure success of his idea, he used coercive methods and millions of peasants were forced into joining the collective farms. Great progress was achieved. Russia emerged as a powerful country. But all this was done at the cost of liberty of the people."

[from 'Modern World (History)', Standard X, 2007, Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education, Pune-411 005]

They could have got away with this rubbish in 1974-75 when I was in Class X.

Now we know better than "done at the cost of liberty of the people."

J. Bradford DeLong:

"...Call those political leaders whose followers and supporters have slaughtered more than ten million of their fellow humans "members of the Ten-Million Club."

All pre-twentieth century history may (but may not) have seen two members of the Ten-Million Club: Genghis Khan, ruler of the twelfth century Mongols, launcher of bloody invasions of Central Asia and China, and founder of China's Yuan Dynasty; and Hong Xiuquan, the mid-nineteenth-century Chinese intellectual whose visions convinced him that he was Jesus Christ's younger brother and who launched the Taiping Rebellion that turned south-central China into a slaughterhouse for decades in the middle of the nineteenth century...

...By contrast the twentieth century has seen perhaps five people join the Ten Million Club: Adolf Hitler, Chiang Kaishek, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Zedong.

Hitler, Stalin, and Mao have credentials that may well make them the charter members of the Thirty Million Club as well--perhaps the Fifty Million Club

On page 55 of the said text book, they have a picture of Lenin.

Look at the following picture.

The couple should send the photoframe to the Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education. In the next edition of the text book, the board may use the new picture of Lenin.

Artist: Eldon Dedini, The New Yorker, 27 November 1989