August 31, 2020

Rich mélange of humour, solemnity, horror and poignancy

Those familiar with Holland’s oeuvre will already be acquainted with his extraordinary talent for fusing gripping story telling with historical narrative and his latest work, Dominion proves no exception. Poignant vignettes of saintliness and sacrifice coalesce with visceral anecdotes of barbarism, fanaticism, revolution and slaughter as the narrative sashays its way through the epochs before arriving at its post-modernist terminus. 

... as a Muslim I concede I’m perhaps not best placed to adjudicate dispassionately. As with In the Shadow of the Sword before it, the dark blemishes of the author’s prepossessions and confirmation bias – the bane of genuine historical enquiry – maculate the pages of Dominion. Holland began his career as a fiction writer, and one gets the feeling it is a field he has never fully abandoned. The need to entertain, to shock and to inspire pathos vie with historical accuracy and balance, the hallmarks of academic disquisitions, but it’s to the former the author invariably lends greater weight. Given the commercial considerations of publishing houses (dry, factual, analytic history books don’t sell in the tens of thousands) it’s an understandable methodology but then the reader should be aware that popular history constitutes a very different genre to its academic counterpart.
As is too often the case when it comes to such topics, Holland is guilty of telling only half the story and of carefully curating the facts for his readers.
Personally, I have difficulty buying into the idea that post facto expressions of remorse for cold blooded acts of depravity are in any way exculpatory or even remotely mitigatory. Whenever the West’s supposed “universal love” ethic has collided with the exigencies of dominion (pun intended) it has always been the former that has given way to the latter.
If the ascent of the West could be traced back to a single moment in time, then it would surely be the day a German priest and professor of theology (of then minor repute) nailed his dissertation reproving the sale of indulgences to the door of All Saints’ church in Wittenberg. And even if the anecdote itself might be apocryphal its after-effects most certainly were not.
Modernity, as we understand it today in a Western European context was not bred then from the marrow of Christian thought as much as it was an escapee from it. It represented the penultimate stage in a long process of releasing the metaphysical bindings which had for so long held people in thrall. When Nietzsche declared God to be dead he was declaring in effect, that every man (and woman) was henceforth their own god. It is a message that in the one hundred and twenty years since his passing has found widespread acceptance across Western Europe. While, as Holland points out, Nietzsche had lamented that Christianity’s sternutatory pollen still afflicted European noses back in the late 1800s, were he a witness to our current post-modernist era I suspect his mood would be far more upbeat.
I began this review by lauding Holland’s literary talents and with Dominion he has delivered, in a manner only he can, a thoroughly captivating tale, bursting with the spirit and energy of its protagonists, and one guaranteed to hold its readers in thrall until the very final page. Superbly written in his distinctive punchy style, one senses an almost hymnal rhythm to the prose, punctuated by occasional ribaldry and with a soupcon of dry English wit. Holland’s rich mélange of humour, solemnity, horror and poignancy is served with an elegance few writers could hope to emulate. And as the West grasps for meaning in the age of agnosticism and atheism, Dominion provides, for those willing to look beyond the façade, a revealing insight into the perturbations of its intelligentsia. As a work of literature, it is as sublime as it is enchanting. As an intellectual thesis it is singularly unconvincing, fatally undermined by the obvious prepossessions of its author. That it will be warmly received and embraced with alacrity by its target demographic, I suppose is a given. But in the end posterity will be the judge of whether the idea it propounds succeeds in taking root and bearing fruit.

Posted by MASKED AVENGER on AUGUST 16, 2020

[Ok, so I've finally published my musings on @holland_tom's latest book Dominion (it was recently released in paperback). It's long (9700 words) but of all my blog posts over the years I really do recommend you read this one.]

August 10, 2020

Literary sources, Perceptions, and Reasoned assumption

#ExpressResearch| Seven decades after India freed itself from the clutches of British rule, how exactly is the political philosophy of Sri Aurobindo remembered?

OPINION | This National Education Policy Is Something Sri Aurobindo Had Envisioned For A Liberated Indian Mind
#NEP2020 @HRDMinistry

When the Zoroastrian (Parsi) refugees first arrived in India seeking asylum, they introduced themselves to the local king-
"We are the descendants of Jamshid (Yama).We venerate the cow (gāv), Sun (Khworshid) and moon (mahtāb). We hold dear the cow(gāv), water(āb) and fire(ātash)"
The Zoroastrian refugees also had a special request. In the city where they would establish their Zoroastrian holy fire (Atash E Bahram), " There should not be a single non Zoroastrian (dar ānjāi yaki joddin nabāyad). Otherwise they feared their ritual would not work"

There are many similarities. There are many differences. At one point in the very remote past, both the religions may have shared a common origin but that was certainly the case later. They developed significant differences
When Ashoka became Buddhist: 4th year of his rule.
When he invaded Kalinga: 8th year.
Ashoka was a BUDDHIST when he waged Kalinga war.
After war,he killεd 18,000 Non-Buddhists who allegedly "insulted Buddhism".
Whom do they finally blame? Yes, Hindus and Hinduism
No, this is incorrect. Can you tell me something about ancient Indian history where archaeological and literary sources are in perfect agreement?
Try that YOURSELF. You will find NOTHING. What you are arguing here is a perfect straw man. Nobody said there are NO discrepancies.
You will not find anything about Ancient Indian history where literary & archaeological sources are in complete agreement. Does that mean we have to dismiss all our literature and epigraphic records?
If so, you might as well dismiss every single information about Ancient India
Does that mean literary records are all wrong? 
No. On the contrary, Guruge says the reliability of literary sources has been proven beyond doubt and they are not inferior to inscriptions when it comes to their reliability.
So when the literary source says that Ashoka become a Buddhist in the fourth year of his coronation, there is really nothing in the literary source which merits any dismissal, apart from the bias of some scholars who somehow seem to believe inscriptional sources hold more value

If you read Sanjeev Sanyal's work, he again made a amazing point that these edicts are no way near the erstwhile Kalinga but in far fetched North Western frontiers and areas far flung from Kalinga. So they can be a propaganda tool as well!

Ravana kidnapped Sitamata and kept her in Ashok Vatika. That means Ashoka was born before Lord Rama. Otherwise how come there was a garden named Ashok Vatika?
Thanks those history writers for not considering this.
I said Devi was Hindu.There is just a small reference about Devi that she was a merchant's daughter from other evidence or proof so ofcourse it's quite clear we hv to take the help of reasoned  assumption. Bcoz no other evidence is available.
Yes, History is mostly based on perceptions. Remember the saying"History is always written by victors".

Perceptions and Reasoned assumption.

Odisha situation is interesting as some are exasperated that Jagannath is reluctant to give right of way to Rama. Today #Kalinga and #Ashoka also are at loggerheads. Not to mortgage one's intelligence to some grand narrative is the task. Reading #SriAurobindo can open new vistas.
Disinformation campaigns have multiplied and institutional initiative needed to unearth truth. But a basic challenge is to accept the new interpretation of the Veda by Sri Aurobindo so that falsehoods can be dismantled. Research on root sounds will open many pathways to meaning.

What The Mother & Sri Aurobindo mean by All life is yoga is the need for remembering that no one is separate. This is a scientific fact and how it operates for each person is unique. Since remembering is a conscious action, it spurs Evolutionary trigger for fighting the adversary
Rescuing light or transparency from obscurity and falsehood is the Vedic task. Banning of some foreign Apps can be seen in this light but the challenge is enormous. Commercial motive is to profit by information asymmetry but the political duty is to break nexus and goad scrutiny.
RW worthies have ensured that my tweets don't reach them but a slight appreciation would have prepared them for greater tasks in future. Grasping at old quotations from Sri Aurobindo is not the right clue at present. We are indicating many lines of action, but lukewarm reception!
Life is nothing but change and different seasons keep on reminding. Religion however is static or at least most like to believe it that way. Modern gurus in India have succeeded in infusing some dynamism but intellectual content is meagre. Awareness about Sri Aurobindo is too low
Many are allergic to Secularism and Liberalism and believe them to have been created by Communists. But it's a wrong conception. These principles have evolved over many centuries and through enormous sacrifice. Understanding that is necessary instead of sloganeering or parroting.
Some handles are spreading hatred against Urdu but each and every song sung by Mohammad Rafi has Urdu words. How to reverse that? And, if at all it becomes possible then half of my individuality will also vanish. When young, it was Radio Ceylon; now YouTube. Nothing Indian, alas!
You are in power at the Centre and in many States
You have your persons in most Institutions
You have loyal Media houses
Your Education policy is ready
Your temple construction has commenced
So stop victimhood and whining
Stop hatred and scouting for appeasement
Live and let live

Bhakti is fine but is it not unusual in a Democracy of 138 crore people that not a single person (apart from the dynasty) is capable of aspiring for becoming the Prime Minister? No political party has even national level ambition; all are bit players. So rally round Sri Aurobindo.
For many years it was mainstream and everyone believed in the same paradigm. So much so that even Girilal Jain had to wait for his retirement. Now also most seem to have succumbed to a similar kind of smugness but Savitri Era Party keeps on reminding them about lack of legitimacy
War among religions has been a constant feature during the last two thousand years but life and society calls for a much larger horizon. The Mother & Sri Aurobindo have succeeded in presenting an alternative paradigm of Human Unity signalling collapse of present set of religions.
Difficult to find even a single handle which espouses right views; to be just and fair is rare now. Perhaps, same was the case, always; but failed to notice. Sri Aurobindo is the only symbol of hope midst this gloom; an infallible touchstone to decipher dishonesty and hypocrisy.
Modi is not upto the mark as per Hindutva expectations and that goes in our favour. The more he sticks to the Constitutional propriety, the better it is for the country and its future. But the challenge is to be an instrument of Evolution and give shape to Sri Aurobindo's Dreams.

[Valmiki has drawn for us both the divine and anarchic in extraordinary proportions; an Akbar or a Napoleon might find  his spiritual kindred in Rama or Ravana. It was left  for Vyasa to create epically idealisms of conflicting moral types] - Sri Aurobindo

The Gnostic Individual: the Consummation of the Spiritual Man