Settled Unsettling

Leave taking I have always wondered why the Buddha left his wife and child and went into the forest. The usual explanations are pretty patriarchal aren’t they, e.g., – that he was escaping from the bonds that tie us to this earthly life. – Attachment brings suffering. etc. Here’s how that story is told: A […]

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Subversive Intelligence

Photographer: James Lee | Source: Unsplash If you read or watch any mainstream media source that deals with facts instead of imaginary threats, you will notice the constant invocation of two civilizational threats: automation and climate change. This is mainstream media btw, not leftie radical sources; you know we are in a genuine crisis when hunks […]

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The Great Unsettling

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jayjayrobertson/5724336908 Introduction I have written a few hundred essays over the last five years, with a year and a half in the middle being devoted to a single text, the Mahabharata. I might start the Jayary again this fall, prompted by a seminar I am organizing this semester. The Mahabharata is unique in that it […]

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Startup Thinking

Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash Startup Thinking I have a firm leg in the doom and gloom camp. My friends alternate between sending images of the burning Amazon and pictures of Amazon — the company, not the lungs of the planet — replacing all jobs with robots. Not that I mind; all that misery gives my optimist brain something […]

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The Failing State

Photographer: Jason Leung | Source: Unsplash The nation state is the most successful and important social institution in the world. Anything larger — the EU for example — tends to be a technocratic exercise without emotional pull. Anything smaller lives at the mercy of the nation; Kashmir being this week’s illustration of that general principle. For most of us, a […]

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Money can’t buy me love

Photographer: Fabian Blank | Source: Unsplash Man is the measure of all things. So sayeth Protagoras, ancient scientist. If you’re the religious kind you might condemn Protagoras for idolatry, for only God has the measure of all things. Or if you’re William Blake, you might condemn Isaac Newton for succeeding at the task. Newton By William […]

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The Great Game 2.0

Photographer: Anagha Varrier | Source: Unsplash After the recent actions in Kashmir, I have read numerous comparisons between India and Israel, of turning Kashmir into Gaza. Not surprising, since both the Indian and the international left have historical sympathies with the Palestinian struggle and perhaps more importantly, know the Middle East well because of their personal […]

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The State of Algorithmic Politics

Emotional Truths Why is it that at a time when the future of human existence is threatened by climate change, the future of work is threatened by automation and the future of every other living being is threatened by humans, why is it that we are increasingly electing regimes guaranteed to destroy life as we […]

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Why is Liberalism in Trouble?

Photographer: Pedro Lastra | Source: Unsplash One of the characteristics of the modern era is the importance of politics. We expect it to give us freedom and equality, prosperity and progress, and in a dystopian mode, fear and destruction. It’s a heavy lift, combining the job of religion and community with generous servings of science and […]

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Every Utopia becomes a Dystopia

A Map of Utopia I remember Reagan saying to Gorbachev “Tear down this wall.” Sorry, that’s fake news. Or at least white lie news. There’s no way I could have heard a live conference in West Berlin in 1987. It was probably past my bedtime in Delhi. I also have a memory of reading it in […]

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