Thursday, June 11, 2009

Some of the Stuff Around Me #3

I am back from a trip to Delhi. I've stayed there for about a week for the yearly ritual of hanging out with a few school friends who get together once a year. I've been in a boarding school for 12 years and have made some great friends in that time. Each year, we get together, hang out in a friend's apartment and load ourselves with lots of drinks and surround ourselves with roars of laughter. Here is some of the stuff that came up --

1. I've always got a mixed response when the movie Slumdog Millionaire comes up. I know of many Westerners who like the movie and many Indians who say it's totally not Oscar material and that it's just ok. I agree with the Indians and definitely think that the movie was not all that great. I mean, it's not even the case that the guy actually studies hard and answers questions, he luckily encounters situations in his life where he comes across the questions that would be asked in the game show he participated in. But I think why Westerners generally end up liking the movie is because of it was multi-ethnic. It brought forth a whole new culture, poverty unimaginable by Westerners and two brothers fighting through it. The presentation of the movie was pretty good I admit. However, when it comes to the central story or the theme of the movie, it gets pretty bad. If the purpose of the movie was to show a kid fighting poverty and answering questions in the game show by his own conviction and relentless work and not by chance, then the movie utterly failed at it.

Here's what Ayn Rand had to say about the movies

Today, the movies have gone all the way back to the pre-Griffith days; or rather, they have accepted, on a broad scale, the error that destroyed D. W. Griffith: the belief that a movie is primarily a director's art, that content, story, and cast do not matter—i.e., that it is an art concerned only with the "how," not the "what"—i.e., that it is an art of means, without ends—i.e., that it is the field of trick photographers, not of artists.

If anybody is looking for a great Indian suspense movie, I highly recommend Johhny G. I really, really liked that movie. Although, I don't think its great art, it is just so much more intelligent and well-written than Slumdog Millionaire.

2. Whenever I call terrorism by its proper name, Islamic terrorism, people [Muslims and non-Muslims alike] end up getting pretty pissed. One of the most oft-repeated retort I've been offered is that if Islam is really that totalitarian, with so many Muslims around me in India, one of them would have surely done me in. I usually tell angry Muslims [at this point] that if the Quran enshrines violence [which it does], and the followers don't, then they simply aren't good Muslims – good people probably. You can't eat your cake and have it staring in front you too, you know. But I think we should find something that unites the Muslim attitude towards life if they believe in Islam [to whatever extent that they actually do believe in it]. It was startling to discover that most old cities – i.e. the part of city which is usually the least developed consists of Muslims. Consider a few examples: Old Hyderabad, Old Delhi, Old Ahmadabad, Old Calcutta. These are the ones I know of but I am sure there are more to add to the list.

3. Over a couple of beers, I was introduced to a friend of a friend. He was a strict vegetarian and it came as a kind of a shock to me. Upon some polite enquiry, he told me that his girlfriend was against the killing of "innocent" [as they could be anything else] animals. I asked him what did he think about it. He said he was convinced that eating meat was not a bad thing to do and was sure that his girl would somehow be convinced otherwise. I told him that, to the contrary, he was emboldening her stand and was not even close to convincing her.

She is the third girl I've heard of who is a vegetarian and wants her boyfriend to convert too. I've been dating a girl for a couple of years now, and she seems to have a big problem with using animals as viable values for humans. Of course, she doesn't force me to convert. I think that the animal should be given a good life when it's alive and given a quick death. She tells me that it's hardly the case in India and that animals are tortured on a regular basis. Her solution: meat eaters should quit eating meat which would in turn force the producers to rethink their ways. My take on the issue is that if there was a choice and somebody to offer good, torture-free meat, I would definitely go for it but I am not sure, devoid of such a choice, if one could transfer the guilt of the torturing producer to the consumer who purchases it. Moreover, killing higher animals is still a big no-no. I wonder how will the animals that are never to be hunted sustain themselves in the first place. Consider whales. Even if all the countries unanimously passed an anti-hunting law against whales, there would still be poachers who will kill animals for free because they don't have to nurture them anymore. More so, I don't think any police force could actually police the seven seas. Since each poacher knows that sparing a whale only means leaving it for the next poacher, why wait? Kill as many as possible and drive them to extinction. People and governments alike will come along crying along that people are just too corrupt and "selfish" for their code. Never once do they question their code since resting the blame on human nature is so much more convenient. We've had so many heated arguments about the whole thing that we don't talk about it much anymore. I am happy that she doesn't scorn at me like the girlfriend of a "friend of a friend" for eating meat and lets me do my thing. Still, what is it with women and vegetarianism?

4. All in all, the trip to Delhi was great and most of my friends are on the side of "common-sense". However, there are a few downsides like think "America shows off too much" and the likes. I told them that only seems so because to each country, the relationship to the US is a pretty important one and one shouldn't be surprised to find the US almost ubiquitous.

Anyway, that's that.


Realist Theorist said...

On the vegetarian thing, I'm not sure if you'll find this funny or interesting; but, John Stossel can provoke some thinking. Here's a link.

khartoum said...


Thanks for the link.

I've heard the argument before i.e. the argument from the tragedy of the commons. I think John Stossel also has a great piece at The Atlasphere.

However, I think what most vegetarians have a problem with is the ethical aspect of meat eating. It usually goes something to the effect of "why eat meat or use medicines from animal products when we have perfect alternatives?"

Until people look at sale and purchase of animal products as some sort of a "necessary evil" to keep species from extinction, I don't think it will ever become a part of mainstream discourse.

I think the error stems from taking suffering or pain as the standard of moral value instead of taking man's life as the standard of moral value. Ergo at Leitmotif has a set of great posts on animal rights.

If it has to become mainstream thinking, I think we ought to take them on ethically and show that it is a moral thing to eat animals or use them for other human values.

Thanks for stopping by!

Realist Theorist said...

Sure, ethics is the ultimate thing. If people think it is wrong, they will avoid killing animals.