Friday, July 23, 2004


I am interested in many things besides my vocation. But there are two about which I am a complete ignoramous-sports and politics. If I am in a group and everyone is getting irked with my constant interrupting and talking, there is a sure-shot way of silencing me. Start talking about Indian elections in the 1970s or the results of the latest X game (where X=Soccer, Cricket, Hockey, Tennis, Formula One or/and all the others). You can rest assured that my face will become white as a corpse's and I will lapse into meditative silence. Politics and sports just don't enamour themselves to me. There are a couple of reasons. As far as sports is concerned, the reason is simple. I am so lazy, that even the efforts of watching others exert themselves to exhaustion, no matter how noble the goal may be, completely overwhelms me. I have made some efforts to watch at least the best cricket matches which India has won, lest my fellow countrymen forever label me as the indifferent traitor. But I don't know any of the technical details of the game, although I know enough extreme cricket facts from the Guiness Book to regale my fellow American friends a few times. But that is largely a social PR tactic, and after an extent, I get bored of reading about even these exemplary feats. As far as other sports are concerned, I don't even know the basics of any of them, albeit the facts that tennis is played with a racquet and soccer is played with a ball. However, even with all these inadequacies, I am still blissfully unaware of all sports that are played around the world. And I have never been worried about that. Maybe tomorrow, when I am constantly surrounded by enough enthusiastic animals so as to get me into the mood, I may someday actually learn where the slip and the gully are...
With Politics, the matter is more profound. I have always disliked Politics. When I was in school, I used to forever be mad at my father when I wanted to watch "Shaktimaan" or a similar show and he wanted to watch a political debate show. I used to be aghast when I saw the interest with which he used to watch these shows. How, I asked myself, could he like so much, these displays of what I could only see as one-upmanship and rhetoric? The politicans in those shows to me seemed only like men who essentially argue and make false promises for a selfish living, never ever reaching any concrete conclusions with a desire to actually bring about the people's good. I got so tired of this game that finally, I even stopped reading the headlines everyday, where the Prime Minister would "strongly condemn terrorist attacks" at least a hundred times a year without actually taking any action against terrorists. When the newspaper arrived, I would nonchalantly turn to the science and technology page and peruse a few things like the editor's choice, and most importantly, the cartoons. And so it continued for many years. Reading about acts of terrorism and vandalism and about the empty promises of politicians just used to make me feel more and more helpless. I did use to read international news. Somehow, events happening in the US didn't make me feel as helpless, because it seemed that I could do absolutely nothing about those. Closer to home, however, the helplessness arises from the fact that you CAN do something about these things, and yet, because of the twisted political atmosphere in the country, you cannot. So I thought I would rather turn my back on these events. In case something significant happened, I would certainly hear it from my parents or friends. I was very happy to pursue the other important interests in my life besides science; Music, Poetry, History and Philosophy etc.
My first introduction to the importance of Politics came from my reading of the Second World War and the History of Atomic Energy. When Hitler came to power in Germany, the best scientists such as Einstein had to flee their homeland. If Politics could disrupt something as pristine as pure scientific research, then it seemed that nothing could be immune from it. The discovery of fission changed everything. For the first time in History as such, it thrust the world into a condition where scientific research became irreversibly intertwined with Politics. Henceforth, the face of Politics, no matter how ugly, would become an inseparable companion to science. Secrecy got enforced in the US and the Manhattan Project began, largely controlled by the whims of politicians. That's when I realised that as much as I hate it, one cannot neglect politics. Later, when I read more and more about the Cold War, I further realised the the important role which politics played in all aspects of human life. Whether we liked it or not was unimportant. We had to accept the fact that it was there. Over the past few years, because of my interest in Philosophy, I have read something about the philosophy of politics, as enumerated by such stalwarts as Bertrand Russell. Most importantly, my naivete about the nature of politics has been replaced by what I think is a grasp of reality. Yes, Politics IS a game. That is true. But I have realised that its an essential game, and if you really think about it, even an interesting one. The objective is to say something which will give your opponent the benefit of doubt. Then, with this uncertainty on your side, you can play him even more, and sometimes, you will be able to profit or get something out of this. Also, just like in a chess game, sometimes you have to sacrifice a piece, and even make inane statements to secure some future victory. The rhetoric which politicians use against each other is perhaps the only way to play the game, and even to bring about progress. Once you learn the rules of the game, you can play the political game just like you would play any other. However, in politics, the conclusion of the game is of paramount importance, and the fate of the entire nation may hang in balance because of that. Unfortunately, as we know, some politicians play the game all too well and in the process trick everyone. But as Lincoln said, at least they never manage to trick "all the people at all the times". I understood that whether you are a "good" or a "bad" politician, you have to learn these aforementioned rules. Even today, I don't like politics much, and I don't mean to study it any detail. I am content to read about general political philosophy a bit because I think it is of great importance to an understanding of history, economics and related subjects. I still remain silent, when I see voluble discussions about politics on the blogs of my politically knowledgable friends. Some of them really know a lot about it, and I admire them for their insights. But I don't think I can ever enter the mainstream of political discussion. I am content with my fields of interest. However, my viewpoint towards the subject has definitely changed. Now, I do try to keep myself informed about the main political events in the world, because I guess its a requirement for being an informed citizen. I think of politics as a necessary evil, but one that sometimes can give rise to unexpected good. But I think I am better off in the realm of facts, fascinating as the realm of fluid and capricious human judgements may be. I can only appreciate these qualities somewhat in philosophy. As far as politics is concerned, perhaps it is yet again the sage who has the last say: "Politics is ephemeral but an equation is forever..."- Albert Einstein.


Post a Comment

<< Home