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."

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

इपीडब्ल्यू-टाईप्सच्या बाहुपाशात ... Making the World a Better Place All the Time!



“During the 1960s and 1970s, the consensus in Western academic and intellectual institutions was very much on the left. Writers like Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu shot to eminence by attacking the civilization they dismissed as “bourgeois.” The critical-theory writings of Jürgen Habermas achieved a dominant place in the curriculum in the social sciences, despite their stupefying tediousness. The rewriting of national history as a tale of “class struggle,” undertaken by Eric Hobsbawm in Britain and Howard Zinn in the United States, became a near-orthodoxy not only in university history departments but also in high schools...Then came the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe, and I allowed myself to hope.

For a while, it looked as though an apology might be forthcoming from those who had devoted their intellectual and political efforts to whitewashing the crimes of the Soviet Union or praising the “people’s republics” of China and Vietnam. But the moment proved short-lived. Within a decade, the Left establishment was back in the driver’s seat...”


लोकसत्ताचे या ब्लॉगचे परिक्षण, डिसेंबर १७ २०१२:
"...संस्कृती पुन्हा तपासून पाहणं, हा हेतू या ब्लॉगचा कसा काय, असा प्रश्न पडेल. इथं तर असलेली संस्कृतीच पुन्हा पुन्हा माथी मारण्याचा प्रयत्न केला जातोय, असं अल्ट्रा-बंडखोरांना वाटू शकेल... "

John Gray, preface to Bertrand Russell’s ‘Sceptical essays’:
“...In his letter commenting on Russell’s book on China, (Joseph) Conrad wrote: ‘I have never been able to find in any man’s book or any man’s talk anything convincing enough to stand up for a moment against my deep-seated sense of fatality governing this man-inhabited world.’ Russell’s passionate admiration for Conrad may have had a number of sources. One of them was surely his suspicion that Conrad’s sceptical fatalism was a truer account of human life than his own troubled belief in reason and science. As reformer, he believed reason could save the world. As a skeptical follower of Hume he knew reason could never be more than the slave of the passions. Sceptical Essays was written as a defence of rational doubt. Today we can read it as a confession of faith, the testament of a crusading rationalist who doubted the power of reason.”

N. Ram, ‘Relevance of Ambedkar’, Frontline, January 2010:

...Even while championing social egalitarianism and popular liberties and criticising the sway of big business and landlordism, campaigning for social and economic democracy, he remained a conscious ideological and political adversary of Marxism and Communism – for the basic reason that he found them challenging in the same way he found Buddhism inspiring...”


Surjit S Bhalla, Business Standard, October 2005:

“Indeed during India's rotten age period (1960 to 1980) of declining growth and increasing poverty, inequality had steadily improved.” 


प्रो. वामनराव जोशी (१८८२-१९४३):  "ज्याने समाजाचे कल्याण होत नाही, जे नीतीला पोषक नाही असे सत्यच आम्हाला नको."

विलास सारंग:
 "..." आम्ही तर गोरगरिबांच्या, निरक्षर लोकांच्या उद्धारासाठी आमचं जीवन वाहिलं आहे; आमच्यावर कसला आरोप करता? आम्ही तुमचे मित्र आहोत,  हितचिंतक आहोत," असा अल्पजनांचं अध्याहृत सांगणं होतं. तेव्हा धोरणी तलुख उच्चवर्णीयांनी मार्क्सवादी, समाजवादी, स्वजनवादी (संयुक्त महाराष्ट्राचा लढा) इत्यादी सामाजिक चळवळींचं नेतृत्व हस्तगत केलं. समाजाच 'नेतृत्व' करण हा 'सर्व्हायव्हल' 'पॉवर' प्राप्त करण्याचा हुकमी मार्ग होता.  वि. . खांडेकरांसारखा लेखकांनी त्याग हे आपलं प्रधान शस्त्र बनवलं. तीच 'स्ट्रॅटेजी' आजतागायत चालू आहे. खांडेकरांनी पेटवलेलं 'यज्ञकुंड', 'गंगापर्ण', 'उदकाचिया आर्ती' अशा कथांमधून अजून तेवत ठेवलं आहे..." (पृष्ठ: ९२, 'वाङ्मयीन संस्कृतीव सामाजिक वास्तव', २०११)
"...वर सुचवलं त्याप्रमाणे यातून मराठी कथावाङ्मयाचं निराशावादी चित्र उभं राहतं. १९००च्या सुमारास एक वाङ्मयप्रकार म्हणून कथा जिथे उभी होती तिथेच ती . . २०००च्या सुमारास आहे. वाङ्मयप्रकार म्हणून कथेने काही प्रवास केलेला दिसत नाही..." (पृष्ठ: ९७, 'वाङ्मयीन संस्कृती व सामाजिक वास्तव', २०११)
  
 Marathi daily Loksatta asked the following questions in its issue dated September 25 2016:
"१९६०७० च्या दशकांत अभिजनवर्गाच्या कलावादी साहित्याविरोधात बंड करून जीवनवादी साहित्याची चळवळ जन्माला आली. तेव्हासत्यकथाच्या अंकांची केली गेलेली होळी हा प्रस्थापित साहित्याविरुद्धचा प्रतीकरूप निषेध होता. आज साहित्यक्षेत्रात अशा प्रकारची बंडखोरी का होताना दिसत नाही? आज सारेच आलबेल आहे का?" 

Two writers were fielded to answer this. 

First of all, I would have liked to see an honest, informed debate on whether the so-called rebellion of 1960's succeeded in changing the tilt of Marathi literature from pro-art (कलावादी) to 'desired' pro-life (जीवनवादी) and was it for better and where today's Marathi literature stands vis-à-vis the literature in other major Indian languages and the larger world. But I guess for Loksatta, it's less exciting.   

Secondly, I refuse to admit that there is no rebellion today: बंडखोरी का होताना दिसत नाही? Today rebels are not engaging in burning of Marathi literary magazine Satyakatha (सत्यकथा), and because it's dead, or its successors (there are none) because there is no need to. Marathi literature today is even lesser in its relative importance than what it was in 1960's. There are other competing media- TV, cinema, internet, telephony in languages Hindi, English, Marathi. For example, one can argue that far more cinema or porn or video games or WhatsApp pages get consumed in Maharashtra today than Marathi literature. Therefore,  Marathi literature is a poor thermometer to measure the extent of rebellion in Marathi society. Indeed a smart rebel would NOT choose Marathi literature, in a conventional book or magazine or newspaper format, as a medium to convey her message.

आज सारेच आलबेल आहे का? Is all right with the world today? Obviously not. It has never been at any point since the beginning of the history.

Thirdly, I don't see this as a 'class conflict' that is implied by the title of the story: 'संस्कृतीसंघर्ष.. गिरगाव विरुद्ध गिरणगाव' and even its contents.  (Wikipedia: The view that the class conflict provides the lever for radical social change for the majority is central to the work of Karl Marx.)

But many Marathi writers continue to see this (and many of today's developments) as a kind of class conflict.

There are two problems with this position.

Gareth Stedman Jones writes in his recent book ‘Karl Marx: Greatness and Illusion’, 2016:
“…(Marx) was the first to chart the staggering transformation produced in less than a century by the emergence of a world market and the unleashing of the unparalleled productive powers of modern industry. He also delineated the endlessly inchoate, incessantly restless and unfinished character of modern capitalism as a phenomenon. He emphasized its inherent tendency to invent new needs and the means to satisfy them, its subversion of all inherited cultural practices and beliefs, its disregard of all boundaries, whether sacred or secular, its destabilization of every hallowed hierarchy, whether of ruler and ruled, man and woman or parent and child, its turning of everything into an object for sale.”

Marx himself predicted the "subversion of all inherited cultural practices and beliefs" at the hands of relentless capitalism. Therefore, yearning for some thing that happened almost fifty years ago is nothing more than a fantasy.

Also, notwithstanding newly unveiled 'pro-life' literature, as Dr. Bhalla says above, 1960's was a part of India's rotten age period for ordinary people, for Citizen Girangao.  Rebellion or not, why should pro-life writers feel nostalgic about it?

This is the first problem and the second problem is the decline of the left. 

As John Gray says: "...The debacle of the left is one of the defining facts of our time. The irony is that it has come about because of a crisis in capitalism...it is the right that has grasped what the new times mean. The left is once again a sideshow."

One article in the said Loksatta issue cites the late Mr. G. P. Deshpande (गो. पु. देशपांडे), an EPW regular, a prominent member of Marathi literati and a social activist.

Satyakatha is dead but EPW is still alive courtesy, at least in some measure, its financial supporters who (at least in the past) were government institutions such as the University Grants Commission, the Reserve Bank of India and the Indian Council of Social Science Research. (I am a past subscriber of EPW. On Sept 30 2016, I received an email from EPW saying: On the occasion of our golden jubilee, we write to you with a request that you consider renewing your subscription. Doing so will go a long way in supporting the continued publication of the journal. An independent journal like EPW is sustained most of all by the support of loyal readers like you.Since EPW is published by a Public Charitable Trust that does not function on commercial principles and does not receive financial support from external sources, for its sustenance it depends largely on income from subscriptions and whatever advertising it is able to mobilise.)

T C A Srinivasa-Raghavan writes about EPW in Business Standard dated September 23 2016:

"...Over the 1970s, it emerged as an important vehicle for the Left but not liberal point of view. It did not, by the way, cease publication during the Emergency. It did, however, publish opaque and oblique criticisms, the most notable of which was the Eighteenth Brumaire article by K N Raj on intermediate regimes.

In the 1980s it even acquired the right to certify budding academics as being acceptable to the High Church, comprising Marxists and assorted Leftists who now dominated central universities...


...How could a journal that called itself the preeminent forum for intellect, represent just one broad point of view? How did an intolerance of other views become a virtue?...

...EPW did a lot of good but it has also done a lot of harm. It legitimised the propagation of ignorance by endorsing a method of public engagement that has morphed into activism...

...It was one rule for India and another for China. Why, one well- known Left economist even wrote that there had been no starvation deaths in China during the Great Leap Forward in the late 1950s.

...A whole generation has grown up to sally forth and proselytise. They are now derisively called the “EPW types”. Their passionate, biased and ignorant voices dominated the National Advisory Council during 2004-14.


I found many things interesting in Mr. Srinivasa-Raghavan's article that are applicable to Marathi literary culture which has now been dominated by 'EPW types' for a while.

An author like G A Kulkarni (जी ए कुलकर्णी), who firmly believed in fate and destiny as principal driving forces of history, might be (reasonably) popular in book-reading Maharashtra today. But as long as I remember the idea of history in urban Maharashtra has always been a purposive story of progress guided by human intention. It's beyond any debate. Competing narrative is simply ignored, if not attacked. GA is never read as a commentator on human history.  

On the contrary, this is how Mr. Milind Bokil (मिलिंद बोकील), prominent Marathi writer tried to 'co-opt' GA in December 2012: "...समाजामध्ये ज्यांना दरिद्री , भणंग , बेकार समजले जाते अशा व्यक्तींना जीएंनी आपल्या साहित्यात फार आत्मीयतेने जवळ घेतलेले आहे . केवळ एखाद्या लेखकालाच असू शकते अशा प्रकारची आंतरिक करुणा जीए त्यांच्याप्रती व्यक्त करतात , मग याला कोणी सामाजिक बांधिलकी म्हणो वा म्हणो..."!
By this logic, Arun Kolatkar (अरुण कोलटकर) or indeed every good writer can be co-opted.
 
Gopal Ganesh Agarkar 1856-1895 (गोपाळ गणेश आगरकर) is seldom discussed as a writer of an intriguing book and a great literary achievement "Dongrichya turungat aamche 101 Diwas", 1882 ('डोंगरीच्या तुरुंगांत आमचे १०१ दिवस') but always hailed as a reformer, a rationalist and a writer of a lot of stuff related to that. The same is true of R D Karve (र धों कर्वे) and a few others.  


If you want to be taken seriously in Marathi cultural space, you have to have total FAITH in progress, reason and science...you have to have social commitment (सामाजिक बांधिलकी) and to prove that you indeed do, you have to be on the left, at least while writing and talking. If you are an atheist or, at least, don't mention god, it would be an icing on the cake!

Along with the ideology comes activism (चळवळ). It is the most important (the only?) vehicle left in Marathi culture for one to get noticed. However bad writer you might be, you still have a good chance of being hailed a good one if you can  attach yourself to an NGO, a social engineering project, a cause...you have to say that you are trying to change the society. You can't be an observer or analyst. You need to be either reformer, activist or revolutionary, and if you can't,  you should, at least, constantly talk about those who attempt to be them!

Liel Leibovitz has said : "It’s a perfect embodiment of (Philip) Roth’s foundational move. First, set up a lofty premise, imbued with suffering and meaning and art, a furnace of emotions, every bit as universal as the great masterworks. Then, talk about your dick..."

In 'successful' Marathi writing, you have to do something similar. Talk about your or someone's dick, vagina, menstruation, sex, masturbation, excreta...use filthy language while doing...but all this is  optional...what is NOT optional is setting up a lofty premise, imbued with SOCIAL COMMITMENT, ACTIVISM and one or more of  FEMINISM, LEFTIST DOCTRINE, TRIBALS, DALITS, ECOLOGY, GLOBALISATION, SHAHU-PHULE-AMBEDKAR-GANDHI etc...you need not write a word on what you think of tricky social and political issues such as recent huge caste marches in 'progressive' Maharashtra, linguistic fundamentalism, Kashmir...


Never mind the end product you produce...remember, for you and most of your readers,  the purpose of the literature (or any art) is far MORE important than its artistic quality....indeed it is the sole measurement of its quality...A play on the life of Mahatma Phule (महात्मा फुले) is good because it is on the life of Mahatma Phule! A feature on the life of Dr. B R Ambedkar (डॉ भी रा आंबेडकर) is good because it is on the life of Dr. B R Ambedkar!...Never benchmark yourself against the best in the world simply by ignoring it...but praise in print another Marathi writer who has been praising you, using a few stock phrases and words, or do it more cleverly by giving trivial details involving her in your writing...She WILL soon reciprocate the favor....inbred life goes on....you have arrived, if not, you soon will...

At the top, Loksatta is quoted saying that, for some ultra-rebels, this blog might just be peddling a take on what was going on in the world. In effect, they were saying that the blog could never be good enough, for those who dominate Marathi literary world, because it was not trying to make the world a better place!

Marathi EPW-types  remind me of the satirical TV series "Silicon Valley" (2014-2016) where most tech entrepreneurs keep saying, rather comically,  how their products or indeed anything they do make the world a better place.

The larger world may or may not have become a better place but Marathi  literary (and cultural) world has suffered a lot because of this dogma.






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