Monday, November 21, 2005

Celebrating the Sisyphean contest between knowledge and confusion

Welcome readers,

Raison d'etre of this blog :-
The usual fare of reviews, media articles and random musings will form the backbone of this blog. But that isn't its existential purpose. Resting on that strong backbone would be posts containing contrarian views. When conventional wisdom seems to congeal around some theory/ideology/policy issue, this blog will raise a red flag. In financial market terms, a contrarian would tend to take the view that, in most circumstances, widespread bearishness leads to rallies while widespread optimism leads to disappointments. For the proponents of a particular ideology and their readers (sometimes including myself) the reasoning I will be arguing against may be self-evident, and the path to be followed crystal clear. That is precisely the time when someone needs to infuse conflict for making the process more efficient by creating confusion and therefore forcing a fresh look at the arguments trying to make their foolproof through an iterative process.

The next generation usually finds the chinks in their preceding generation’s intellectual armour that too in an unlikely case when they don’t manage to pierce through it altogether. I am not in a mood to wait that long. All the despised ideologies of today were once championed by the intellectuals of that time and we have seen the consequences of their intellectual myopia be it the communists, the socialists, existentialists and people belonging to any other lists. I believe what we think in a particular era as self-evident, is just a matter of groupthink. Somebody needs to take up the dirty work of playing the devil's advocate. It's very difficult to prevent intellectuals of an era from being swayed by the dominant ideology of their time and therefore it is always fruitful to pause and think if we are following the same fate.

Given the times, that always curve our thinking in a particular direction, it seems this blog might take cudgels with free market chaps. Propriety demands that I must mention here that as things stand today I am an Adam Smith Wealth of Nation-thumper true-blue dyed-in-the-wool-free-marketer myself. But I am tired of all those blogs lamenting things-would-be-so-much-better-only-if government pulls out its nose... or just-free-the-entrepreneurship-spirit and look at the miracles. Most read similar books, follow the same blogs and go ga-ga over the same theories and dismiss the others’ reasoning, since they rarely give it a hearing. Yes their arguments may ring true, but the entire thing is intellectually boring for me as a reader. Every time I read such posts I go Duh! Tell me something I don’t know… What’s the big deal? I don't feel challenged and neither am I forced to think critically. I feel given their readers' socio-economic background, especially in India, free-market theories are like preaching to the converted.

Such contrarian posts won’t be too frequent. However, rest assured they would be most unsettling and sometimes even infuriating. Many a times my own personal views may clash against the view I am advocating and therefore such posts may not be entirely convincing.

Whatever they are, one thing is for sure, in true Truman tradition they are intended at confusing.

If you cannot convince them, confuse them. --- Harry S Truman

In blogosphere most humans tend to veer in directions that bolster their points of view. I find it intellectually lazy that people search for comfort in views of the followers of their own ideology instead of challenging their views by reading and analyzing the other side’s argument which is available in ample measure thanks to the blogosphere.

The name of this blog reflects its philosophy. The posts here will try to look at issues from different frames of reference, from different pehlu or perspectives/dimesions, which may not be obvious at first glance. Personally I love the ‘Aha’ moments in life when suddenly just by changing my perspective I am forced to take a fresh look at the entire gamut of knowledge I have networked in my brain. I would strive to create those Aha moments for my readers.

Celebrating the Sisyphean contest between knowledge and confusion is the catch phrase of the blog. Here the word Sisyphean is not used in the normal context implying futility. Instead it’s part of an imagery. If one were to imagine oneself as Sisyphus – just that instead of pushing a rock, constantly acquiring knowledge to clear confusion and just when a person acquires that knowledge he/she realizes it leads to even more confusion. So it’s like being condemned to push that rock, as soon as it reaches the top, it rolls down and one has to start all over again. The blurry objects on the horizon towards which we rush, once cleared, are merely replaced by newer blurry objects. Yet there is a sense of achievement despite the futility. The tug-of-war between confusion and knowledge is in itself enjoyable regardless of the outcome. And hence the raison d’etre of this blog I proudly proclaim is to engender confusion, loads of it and above all to celebrate it.

“Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart,” wrote Albert Camus.

I agree, one must imagine Sisyphus happy.


anangbhai said...

Wow. Wowee wowee wow.
Very nice blog. Wish I had your powers of erudition. So you're from DC eh? Where from DC exactly? I'm in the DC metro area.
As for sisyphus, story of my life.
Visit my blog if you can.

Yogesh bhatt said...

Thousand thanks for the link to Camus.Please keep peppering your writings with such links.


Gautam said...

An admirable charter indeed. I sympathise completely, with your views about conformism within the free-market movement. It is stifling sometimes. Unfortunately I think that many people are so taken aback by the weighty arguments that they uncritically accept any tripe that is thrown around. Also unfortunately, this does not let people with critical frames of mind easily accept the ideas of free-markets, and excludes many "liberals". To complete a troika of misfortune, free-marketeers are by no means a majority in any part of the world, not even in the high citadels of freedom like your current locus operandi. How much more misfortune can an ideology have and still survive? Happy blogging. I'm subscribing to you.