Insanity: inside the Country of the Mind

Originally posted on Living in the Modem World:

In his novel Queen ofAngels, set at the close of 2047, Greg Bear explores the concept of what he calls, “the Country of the Mind”. This, Bear postulates, is the “ground” for all our thoughts. A kind of virtual reality landscape within us where our “big and little selves” – the personality routines which make up the conscious self, and all of the partial personalities and talents which operate alongside and within our primary personality – reside.  It is a place that can be shaped and refined by those different aspects of our personality as they variously work together or come into dominance – or conflict with one another.

Where the mind is healthy, and the personalities and talents are integrated, the Country of the Mind can be a place of beauty; but where there is illness or damage, and personalities and talents are in flux…

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Mother’s storybook photos become viral sensation

Originally posted on Flickr Blog:

When we first spotted Elena Shumilova’s photostream, her photos instantly took our breath away. The Russian photographer transports her viewers into a beautiful world that revolves around her two little sons and their adorable pets — scenes literally out of a storybook. Elena’s use of natural light, colors, and her enchanting rural surroundings have not only made her photography both cozy and heartwarming, but also has received around 50 million views on Flickr.

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At first glance, you’d assume Elena’s been taking photographs for years. Her foray into photography, however, began nearly two years ago.

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“I started taking photographs a year and a half ago [after] I borrowed my parents’ DSLR camera,” Elena says. “I just started playing around with it, taking photos every day. I spent six months learning photography. And after awhile, I bought a new camera. [Soon] photography became an integrated part of my life.”

Elena’s inspiration…

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Hips Liberated Because the Feet Have Been Shackled

Hips Liberated Because the Feet Have Been Shackled

Originally posted on COOLIE WOMAN:

Michael Goldberg Collection, University of the West Indies, Trinidad. http://www.cooliewoman.com

Michael Goldberg Collection, U.W.I., Trinidad. http://www.cooliewoman.com

For the new Indian site Scroll.in, I wrote about my affection for chutney music. Here’s the piece:

Bollywood and my mother’s bhajans were the background music of my childhood. Growing up in New Jersey in the 1980s, any and all yearning for lost homelands was set to the score of ‘Love Story’, ‘Dostana’, ‘Silsila’. Hindi film music was the approved soundtrack of our nostalgia. Arguably, since I am an Indian roughly a century out of India, born in Guyana, chutney should have been.
Chutney is Indo-Caribbean dance music that evolved from the Bhojpuri folk songs taken by indentured immigrants to British Guiana, Trinidad, Jamaica and elsewhere in the West Indies. Like the sugar cane blossoming out of muck and mud on the Demerara Coast, the music was a thing original to India that then was grafted into the Caribbean landscape. Both cane and chutney…

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A Brief Note on Political Structure

A BRIEF NOTE ON POLITICAL STRUCTURE

PRASANNA K CHOUDHARY

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Human communities self-organise in order to reproduce themselves, and like production relations, political structure of a given society is the product of this process of self- organisation. During different ( hunting-food gathering, agrarian and industrial ) phases of the evolution of human societies, we encounter political structures of patriarchy/
matriarchy, ancient republics, monarchy and modern democracy. We can still see these political structures co-existing, albeit in changed forms and inter-relationships. There have been some intermediate forms as well.
All those political structures have four underlying factors. First, a system to seek and acquire popular approval to rule. This pertains to the legitimacy of the political structure.
Second, a system of empowerment of clans, castes, classes, and similar sections which strengthens and broadens the scope of the political structure. Third, a system of governance that provides the very raison d’ etre of the existence of the the political structure. And lastly, a system of effective and fruitful interaction with other societies which provides identity, legitimacy and security to the given political structure on a worldwide scale. These four factors can be found in matriarchy/patriarchy, ancient republics, monarchies and modern democracies. In our contemporary parlance, I will, hereafter, call these four factors as democracy, empowerment, governance and global convergence. Since society is a developing category, in a dynamic political structure, we can at most see these four factors approximating a short of balance. All these factors are themselves processes and they are not only interdependent but they often interpenetrate as well. Overgrowth of any one factor at the cost of other ones leads to the decay of the political structure and to its final breakdown. Now we can look into these four factors seperately.
A. DEMOCRACY: This factor consists of multiple variables like universal adult franchise, fundamental rights/political freedoms, rule of law/equality before law, etc. There is an inherent mechanism in democracies of its renewal after every few years. Giving proper weightage to each of the variables on a scale of 0 to 9, we can find out the Index of
Democracy ( I D ) in a political structure.
India is a land of 2794 communities speaking 321 living languages and dialects and encompassing an extraordinary range of variations. (11) None of these communities form majority of the population – at best they come to about 10-20% of the population barring a few exceptions. Hence only a coalition of communities can rule in India. On the eve of every general election, we find a feverish attempt on the part of almost all the political parties to build a viable winning coalition. The sheer number of communities provides the possibility of an infinite series of permutations and combinations. Hence, for the political parties, it proves to be an endless act of social engineering.
Due to the above-mentioned feature of Indian society, some instability is inherent in our polity. Given the inherent instability, every ruling coalition is forced to leave open the door for new recruitments. Hence, coalitions normally attempt to rule by consensus. Social engineering to form a winning coalition of communities and ruling by consensus ( or to use the term coined by John Rawls ‘overlapping consensus’ ) constitute the core of democratic functioning in India.
B. EMPOWERMENT: Democracy itself empowers people in general. But people are organised in communities, and despite social engineering and attempts to rule by consensus, democracy remains basically a majoritarian rule. Many depressed/minority communities of various hues may feel alienated and left behind in this process.
Moreover, every society inherits stratified structures and inequalities from the past. Between two poles of atomized indiviual ( supposed to be equal ) and an abstract political structure ( supposed to be neutral ), there remain many layers of inherited and acquired identities.
These objective conditions provide ample space for agitations and rebellions on the part of aggrieved and alienated communities, even in functioning democracies. In order to be sustainable, political structure needs to incorporate empowerment of these communities (some writers call this system consociationalism ).
Raising an all-important question of ‘equality of what ?’, Amartya Sen ( like Thorstein Veblen and Vilfredo Pareto, Sen, although an economist, is mostly quoted by sociologists and political theorists ) emphasized on the recognition of the ‘plurality of spaces in which equality might be assessed’ and delineated his differences with Rawlsian focal variable (of primary goods ) and his theory of ‘justice as fairness’.

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A system of positive discrimination in favour of depressed, socially backward and alienated communities constitute the core of empowerment. The concept of ‘Pareto optimality’ much used in welfare economics, and further used by Sen in terms of liberty, may apply in case of empowerment as well. Corresponding to Pareto optimality in the space of utilities, efficiency in terms of empowerment would demand that the situation is such that no community’s empowerment can be increased without cutting down the empowerment of some other community.
In our case, in a general democratic set-up, a system of reserved constituencies, panchayati raj institutions with reservations, provision for autonomy under sixth and seventh
schedules, institution of zonal and inter-state councils, reservations in jobs and educational institutions, various financial institutions and distribution systems exclusively catering to the needs of poor, depressed and backward communities, etc. provide ample cushion for withstanding the demands of empowerment. Moreover, due to new economic initiatives, new groups pressing for power-sharing. Empowerment too is an ongoing process.
Giving proper weightage to its different variables, we can deduct an Index of Empowerment (I E) in a political structure.
C. GOVERNANCE : Every political structure has a system that is exclusively meant to ensure the smooth functioning of all other systems. It is a sort of delivery vehicle (which scientists call a vector) in the body politic. Governance is precisely that system, and it too incorporates a number of variables.
Any democratic polity can hardly afford to ignore the issues that have a direct bearing upon the livelihood problems of the vast masses. Hence, macro-economic management
is one of the important tasks of governance. How is this task accomplished may be debated, but good governance involves ensuring an impressive rate of economic growth, keeping the rate of unemployment and inflation well within manageable limits, declining rate of people living below the poverty line (i.e., effectively putting in place a system of poverty-alleviation and social security), ensuring the accomplishments of national goals ( as, in our case, enshrined in the Directive Principles of our Constitution ), etc.
Second, good governance means transparent, responsive and (result-oriented) accountable administration. Third, governance obviously involves law and order management. Lack of effective governance or mis-governance leads to the overgrowth of other factors in the political structure. This overgrowth may in turn develop into malignant tumors, and to prevent the entire body politic from getting sceptic and collapsed, urgent surgery is required.
Index of Governance ( I G ) can also be calculated taking into account the variables of governance.
D. GLOBAL CONVERGENCE : The evolution of human society has been an interactive process since ancient times. However, the form and content of interactions among tribes, societies, nations vary according to the varying modes of production. In our age, in the wake of Information-Communication-Entertainment (ICE) revolution and con-committant globalization, almost all the classes and sections ( be it capitalists, peasants or workers ) are getting dislocated and striving to readjust and protect their interests.
Internet and satellite technologies have exposed every society to an unheard-of global exposure, both materially and culturally.
Every political structure since ancient times has an inherent system of interacting with the world around itself. In this process, some societies get dominated and colonized and some emerge as hegemonic powers. Yet there are ample examples of beneficial interactions beyond this hegemon-vassal framework. In this age too a dynamic political structure can venture into a beneficial global convergence through bilateral, multilateral and global mechanisms successfully enlarging its identity, legitimacy and security among the comity of nations.
There are many variables involving global convergence, and in this case too, we can arrive at an Index of Global Convergence ( IGC ) in the political structure.

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Here we have briefly narrated the four factors of a political structure. Their combined operation can be termed as the quadra-force behind a dynamic polity. Taking the indexes of these four factors as variables, we can well determine the composite Index of a Dynamic Political Structure ( IDPS ). This index, in my opinion, is more important than many other indexes currently in vogue. Other indexes base on actual achievements, while this index informs us on the inherent ability of a polity to achieve. This index even helps us
to foresee possible areas of political crisis, conflict and agitations, and to identify the remedial measures. By the way, it should be made clear that of all the four variables of a dynamic polity, focal variable keeps changing depending on the changes in society (e.g. democracy became the focal variable during the emergency; in late 80s and 90s, empowerment of rural middle classes – as distinct from the metropolitan middle classes – comprising of intermediate castes became the focal variable in north India ). In the Index of Dynamic Political Structure on a scale of 0 to 9, 0 obviously means an absence of any political structure whatsoever, while 9 stands for a perfect state in all its dimensions. This state too is unattainable and has only a comparative theoretical value. There has never been a time in human history ( nor there will be any time in future ) when human communities lived in perfect peace and harmony. Such ideals at best give vent to our some inherent wish. Spiritualists would like to co-relate that wish with our inherent longing to merge with the Infinite, while the psycho-analysts will identify that wish as a sublimated manifestation of our inherent death instinct. Politics, however, belongs to the realm of erotic instinct.
Below I can now elaborate my own classification of the index-points. 8-7: Excellent; 6.9-6: Very good; 5.9-4.5: Good; 4.4-3.5: Average; 3.4-3: Bad; Below 3: Worse. Decay sets in between 3.4-3, and disintegration begins in the last category. If remedial drastic measures are not taken, all-round anarchy may result in Balkanization or colonization.
EPILOGUE
A dynamic political structure facilitates, in an increasingly better way, the self-reproduction of the given society. It is supposed to be capable of successfully meeting the challenge of grass-root level violence, of withstanding various stresses and strains of a changing society, and of forging and strengthening, amidst million mutinies, a million unities.

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Photos: Courtesy: ibtimes.co.in; india.blogs.nytimes.com; voanews.in.com

Firework shows welcome 2014

Originally posted on Flickr Blog:

happy new years!!

New Years Fireworks from the Auckland Sky Tower

Burj New Year

The worlds largest fireworks display over the Palm Dubai New Year 2014

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Dubai NYE extravaganza !

2014 Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

New Years Eve 2013 London!

Happy New year 2014 !!

The first fireworks of the New Year in NY Harbor.

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Happy New Year 2014

Fireworks 2014

Happynewyear

Home

New Years Eve 2013-14

Happy 2014 San Antonio!

The night skies around the world hosted an array of firework shows in a magnificent farewell to 2013 and collective greeting for 2014.

See, and share, more celebration photos in the New Year Celebrations gallery and Firework Crew group.

Photos from flyryd, MR2R2M, Lee Dolman, Joe’s World 2013, JGBO, !!sahrizvi!!, Oscar Yang Image, chris.chabot, Bear.about, MelIndia ^..^, Jay Fine, Lim Su Seng, © Nik Cyclist, spsbettencourt, amper.reiner, Nuno Caldeira, Guðmundur Guðbergsson, and sarider1.

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The Drax Files 14: Immersiveness and creativity

Originally posted on Living in the Modem World:

rose-1Second Life has always been a powerful medium for artistic expression, whether it be 2D (through the creation of photographs and machinima  taken in-world, or the use of SL as a means to display paintings and drawings, and so on), 3D (in the form of sculptures, models, etc.), or immersive (such as partial or full region builds).

Such is the platform’s versatility, that it has always attracted amateur and professional artists, who have formed one of Second Life’s strongest and most vibrant communities of users who have created some of the most stunning pieces demonstrating the creative power inherent within the platform.

Rose Borchovski an artist in both RL and Second Life is renowned for both her immersive works in the latter and for her multimedia music theatre performances and multimedia art installations in real life, of which perhaps the more internationally recognised being The Blue Planet, produced in…

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Shutdown victims tribute

Originally posted on Flickr Blog:

Antares Rocket With Cygnus Spacecraft Launches

Grand Canyon National Park: North Rim: Muted Sunrise From Cape Royal 0163

Dew in the morning, NPSphoto, G.Gardner

Sinnott Overlook panorama with June snow

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Mother's Day at the Smithsonian's National Zoo

December 2, 2012 - Sea of tanks, collected following EPA's curbside Hazardous Waste pickup days

Aspens in Demotte Park-1a

Islands in the Stream 2002: Exploring Underwater Oases: August 15 log

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Rainbow During a Badlands Storm

Harbor Seals

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Many branches of the U.S. Federal Government share their activities in photos on Flickr, and we’re always happy to see what they’re up to and what they offer. But on this day, a shutdown from Congress has furloughed 800,000 federal workers and closed hundreds of national parks, causing a nationwide disruption that’s been absent for 17 years. It’s an immensely impactful paralysis of governmental services and a massive financial setback for many Americans. And to illustrate this result of political gridlock, here are the photographic contributions from sources suffering from closures and images of disappointment during this debacle.

What will you miss? Partake in this tribute by sharing your photos of U.S. National Parks as comments in the Shutdown Victims Tribute gallery.

Photos from NASA Goddard Photo and Video, Grand Canyon NPS, evergladesnps, CraterLakeNPS, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, NPS, Smithsonian’s National Zoo, usepagov

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