Word of the day: brisk

I like the word, ‘brisk’.
It’s like a tight slap to wake you up for night driving.
It’s like being dunked in ice-cold water by a communist.
It’s like meeting an ex with a better better-half by your side.
It’s like black coffee on a fuzzy morning, tearing your mind apart.
I like the word, ‘brisk’.

Inspired by the current weather and this comic by fowllanguagecomics –

hey-nature

Check out the link above for the bonus strip, interesting comics about fowl parents and other misdeeds.

Word of the day: Russophobia

Ever since I read the novel Poland by James Michener, I’ve been interested in Poland and its neighbors. Thus, I follow a few organizations which often talk about Poland, one of which is the Center for Eastern Studies(OSW) based in Warsaw. They run an online publication which explains what‘s been going on in Eastern Europe in detail. Today, I can across a Point of View article on their site which talks about Russophobia, which is the political and information strategy used by Russia to make its residents believe that the Western world hates/fears/wants to destroy Russia. All well and good. They run a propaganda machine and we understand that.

Reading the paper, I came across this quote, found in footnote 11 on page 16 of the PDF document –

He regrets that the “ungrateful” Ukrainians are dismantling monuments to Lenin, “to whom, after all, they owe the awakening of Ukrainian national consciousness.”

‘He’ is a former head of a Russian intelligence analytic group. The words above echoed in my mind and connected the dots with another topic I’ve read about today. What could I be thinking of while reading those words? Well, here‘s the quote –

“Those involved in this ludicrous case should recognize that the British Crown Jewels is precisely the right place for the Koh-i-Noor diamond to reside, in grateful recognition for over three centuries of British involvement in India, which led to the modernization, development, protection, agrarian advance, linguistic unification and ultimately the democratization of the sub-continent.”

Who said that? Historian Andrew Roberts, in regards to the latest case by an Indian group, asking for the return of the crown jewel, Koh-i-noor, of which they believe India is the rightful owner. Andrew Roberts, of course, disagrees.

Notice the similarity in the statements? The oppressive power, having trampled, abused, stripped of all riches and domineered over the oppressed nation, then assumes a state of victim-hood and faux-chivalry. “We gave you education, liberty, civilization and nationality, and this is how you repay us?”

Frankly, this ugly act is ill-suited to super-powers. They are aware of their transgressions and should accept their role in enslaving the masses of their colonies instead of acting like hurt Starfleet officers thwarted in their attempts to uplift the masses of an alien civilization.

The fact of the matter is that the Prime Directive has only been a myth of science fiction and history has always shown that the greater power will only suppress the lesser, no matter how much their historians wax eloquent about the noble goals with which these super-powers stepped on foreign soil. At the end of the day, this propagandist Russophobia and this false British victim-hood isn’t fooling anyone.

 

Word of the day: bugbear

A bugbear, according to Wikipedia is a legendary creature (not epic, just the stuff of stories) similar to a bogeyman, mostly used to frighten children into obedience. It was used in this article today to describe how India perceives China’s influence (interference?) in regional affairs in South East Asia –

And then there is China, India’s regional bugbear.

The article is titled ‘Why India is concerned about Nepal’s constitution’ and talks about how India is worried that Nepal’s new constitution is not comprehensive enough. This has caused concern among residents of the southern plains of Nepal, known as the Terai. The communities living in Terai, including the Madeshis and the Tharu ethnic minorities, which comprise about 40% of Nepal’s population do not agree with the seven federal provinces delineated in the constitution and this has caused violence in those regions. India is rightfully concerned that this violence will spill over to Bihar, which is something that has happened in the past, during Nepal’s long and bloody battle with Maoism.

I spent some time this year reading the book ‘The Bullet and the Ballot Box’ by Aditya Adhikari, which talks about Nepal’s struggle with the Maoist revolution and how everything in Nepali politics has one looming external factor which plays a heavy role in deciding things – India. No analysis of Nepal’s history is complete without looking at India’s interference in their local politics. The following are some highlights which I made while reading the book. They may seem out of context, but I hope to write these out along with explanations in a later post one day, so please skim through them for now. These are excerpts from the book –

At the heart of the matter was the question of how Nepali communists should view the monarchy, the parliamentary parties and the Indian state.

The monarchy, the parliamentary parties and the Indian government were equally their enemy.

A number of Bhattarai’s colleagues from university had gone on to careers in Indian politics, civil service and academia, and so he was tasked with contacting them. In early 2002, Bhattarai managed to contact the Indian Prime Minister’s Office through his old acquaintance, S. D. Muni, a scholar of Nepali politics at the Jawaharlal Nehru University who had briefly been ambassador to Laos.

Prachanda raised the spectre of an Indian invasion to provide ideological justification for a royalist–Maoist alliance among the party’s rank and file […]

Soon after, India announced a freeze on military aid to Nepal, as did the United Kingdom and the United States.

But India, unplacated, maintained its arms embargo. Gyanendra then resorted to a strategy his father had used in the past: he sought to cultivate China as a counterweight against India. India, ever wary of Chinese influence in Nepal, only grew more hostile towards the Nepali government.

Never before had the Maoists been able to establish contacts at such high levels of the Indian establishment. Antagonized by Gyanendra’s extreme measures and his efforts to cultivate China, the Indian political class, which had hitherto seen the Maoists only as a terrorist group, was growing less reluctant to recognize them as a political force.

Although India was not a signatory to the twelve-point agreement, it did influence its content. Various Nepali leaders had long been requesting mediation from international bodies like the UN to resolve the conflict. India did not want any third-party involvement […]

Hindu groups in both Nepal and India were outraged by the godless regime’s tampering with sacred tradition.

Indian Ambassador Rakesh Sood and Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee had assured the president of their support for revoking the government’s decision.

The Indian state was familiar with such games. They had, after all, been played before, often successfully, in dealing with hostile groups in Kashmir and Northeast India.

The above notes may seem as random lines picked up from the book, but the underlying pattern is clear – While India may always be afraid of China and their growing strength in every country around India, for smaller countries like Nepal and Sri Lanka, the only bugbear to be scared of is India, their giant next door neighbor.

Word of the Day: sabre-rattling

Sabre-rattling, according to Wiktionary, is from the early 20th century when a military officer would threaten to draw his sabre as part of an argument. But the metaphorical meaning is an overt show of military strength to prove a point or to imply a threat. It was recently used by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, to accuse Russia of unwarranted “sabre rattling” when Russia declared that it would be adding forty Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) to its nuclear arsenal this year. That, of course, in response to increased US activity in NATO allied eastern European countries, which of course, Putin sees as a threat.

“This nuclear sabre-rattling of Russia is unjustified. This is something we are addressing, and it’s also one of the reasons we are now increasing the readiness and preparedness of our forces,” Stoltenberg said.

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Word of the Day: illiberalism

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, illiberalism, quite simply, is the lack of liberal values. But that begs the question, what is liberalism? Is it the ability of a community to be forward thinking and self-critical? Is it the incessant forward march of a government without caring for the social, political and emotive values of its peoples? Or is it the protection of the freedom of expression of an author writing about a sensitive topic with the backdrop of a community to which he does not belong? Hindustan Times certainly believes in the last definition.

First, it shows that it is not only the sangh parivar or Islamic organisations that are at the forefront of such illiberalism.

Source: Liberal values are being trampled upon in Tamil Nadu

The issue at hand is that the author Puliyur Murugesan wrote a bookBalachandran Enra Peyarum Enakkundu (I am also known as Balachandran), about the life and troubles of a transgender, who is sexually harassed throughout life and faces an upward battle of identity. The protagonist belongs to the Gounder community and by now, you would have guessed where this is going.

The Gounder community decided to take offence to this ‘insult’ to their people and instead of rationally sitting down with the writer and asking for edits to the story or a total redaction, decided that the better course of action would be to abduct the author and brutally beat him up in the middle of nowhere. To add insult to literal injury, the police has filed a case against the author for provoking a riot, writing and circulating obscene content, selling a book containing defamatory matter, intentional provocation of breach of peace and causing fear or alarm to public. Wonderful, isn’t it?

HT, in their laconic article, asked an interesting question – why is it that only current authors face the brunt of such injustice? Why do authors such as Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, the acclaimed author of Devdas, who “had made uncharitable remarks about some non-Bengali Brahmin clans”, not face such public ridicule and outrage? Perhaps, if it were in fashion, political parties and illiberal communities will also start attacking famous people from India’s history books. Oh wait, they already do!

Word of the Day: Fungible

Fungibility, according to Wikipedia, is an economic term used to describe the property of a commodity whereby it is directly interchangeable with something else. For example, if you don’t care whether the rental car you get is a Mercedes or a BMW, then they are fungible. It was used by journalist Stijn Debrouwere in an awesome article about the future of newspapers and media companies in the age of the Internet, by calling his article –

A treatise on fungibility, or, a framework for understanding the mess the news industry is in and the opportunities that lie ahead.

Source: Fungible

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Word of the day: rubric

According to TheFreeDictionary, rubric means a title, class or category. It’s also used when referring to a subheading or the full title of a file/post or page. Neiman Journalism Lab used it as follows –

The Brief, a tailored summary of business and international news under the rubric of “Your world right now.”

Source: Maybe the homepage is alive after all: Quartz is trying a new twist on the traditional website front door » Nieman Journalism Lab

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Word of the day: calumny

(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

According to Bing Definitions, calumny means defamation or a defamatory statement. Most certainly applied where the writer wants to depict the vilest of attacks on a person’s character, calumny is used by Sunil Dutta in his piece today, talking about the terrible tragedy currently unfolding in Ferguson, MO. He uses it as follows –

It is also a terrible calumny; cops are not murderers.

Source: I’m a cop. If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t challenge me. – The Washington Post

Sunil talks about the Ferguson riots and the near-military state situation from a seat of experience. He was with the LAPD for 17 years before he started his teaching career. While some might see the article as a simple Do/Do Not list for when one is approached by a police officer, the underlying tone is that of frustration. Too often, people overreact to a casual situation when a cop is involved, myself included. Sunil explains how the officers themselves are mere humans who are trained well to be calm in all situations, but have legal backing to take action in case they feel that their own life or the lives of others is threatened.

Sunil’s explanation for police violence is that it is never brought forth against people who follow the rules, remain calm and obey orders. He agrees there are exceptions in terms of corrupt or aggressive cops, but the majority of incidents that happen are because of people who act out against cops. This might seem like a very opinionated view, but that’s exactly what’s needed right now. No one is talking from a coherent point of view from the other side. The police are being demonized by media from all over the world and no one from the authorities are talking about the investigation into the incident.

John Gruber, a blogger and Internet personality, has criticized this article by summarizing the suggestions laid out by the article as follows – “Don’t question authority or you might get beaten or shot. Astounding.” Frankly, that’s a fairly negative and populist opinion. What happened that night in Ferguson was a tragedy, but if you look at it from the side of those charged with not just uphold the law but also to enforce it, you’ll realize that there’s more to every such story than mere shades of black and white.