May 26, 2006

A Letter to My Brother in India

My dear brother,

You are always glowing in your tributes to China in your letters. Yes, the world, especially the developing world, is awestruck by the amazing speed at which that country is growing economically. Yet, I don't share your enthusiasm for the Chinese model, and you are upset with me for abhorring China on the contrary.

I don't abhor China, I abhor its totalitarian regime. If, in my lifespan, China were to become the richest nation in the world, and the US the poorest, but remained as free as it is today, I'd still prefer to live as a proud US citizen. I don't like a system where, someone else — god, government, Manu, Mohammed, Mao, whatever — has the power to dictate to me, what I should or should not know, how I should or should not behave, and what I should or should not say or write. I must be free to think and choose. It's as simple as that.

I live for myself, and not for the society. I am interested in my personal welfare, and the welfare of my family and friends. I have the highest reverence for someone who is passionate about what she does, and fiercely defends her right to do so; not for someone who's selfless or "caring and sharing". If there was ever a question of trade off between my personal freedom and roti, kapada, aur makan (food, clothing, and shelter) for the faceless masses, I'd choose the former over the latter.

Please do not misunderstand me. If I saw a child in danger of being run over by a truck, or a woman about to be raped, I'd give my life to prevent it from happening. I do empathize with others who are less able, or less fortunate, and I personally would like to help them in the best way I can. I don't, however, acknowledge the authority of someone else to force me to care for them. I know that you spend a lot of time and effort, thinking about making the government more efficient and less cynical. I worry less about it than the very existence of the government itself. I wish it withered away into oblivion, as John Lennon, Karl Marx, Robert Nozick, and a host of others dreamed it would.

I am a rebel, my brother, a rebel against the establishment; I have always been, and I will always be one. My heroes are rebels and iconoclasts - Ayn Rand, Bharathi, Feynman, Jankiraman, Sartre, and Trotsky. Not that I agreed with all their respective ideals - I have my own - but I admired their rebellious spirit. I rebelled against the established religion when I was just seventeen, and ever since I have been an atheist. Around that time, I also thought that communism represented the rebellion against the powers that were then; so, I empathized with those who professed that ideology. Today, I realize that the battle has always been between the individual and the establishment - government, society, religion, community, etc.

It has been that from day one, when Eve plucked the apple from the tree of knowledge, if one were to believe in the genesis (I don't; I am merely using it as an illustration). How could a supposedly loving god punish Eve, that too for seeking knowledge! I could not but battle on the side of Eve against god. A friend of mine once said that I made a fetish of rebelliousness. Perhaps, I still do.

In an earlier mail, you talked about your memories of our younger days, and how you liked my views of the world then. I am not the person that I was in the sixties and seventies, and you'll have to learn to accept that. I am nearly thirty years older now, and we have lived far apart for that many years. Over these years, the events in my life, the people whom I have met, and the books that I have read, have all influenced the way I think now. I have changed, my thoughts have evolved, and I have become what I am today. Simply put, I have grown up. Haven't you?

I look at the world from 37N 119W, and you look at it from 13N 80E — different latitudes, different time zones. Why is it surprising to you that our world views are so different now? No matter how our views differ, I'll always remain your brother, and I'll always care about you.


The Rational Fool

  1. I was about to open my mouth to say a few words from my POV and read it again. I came to the line:
    "I look at the world from 37N 119W, and you look at it from 13N 80E — different latitudes.."
    Ya, that is it.That accounts for the differences.

  2. Usha,
    That, after all, is the byline for your blog Ageless Bonding, is it not? :)

  3. Hey, I almost didn't remember that!

  4. You may find this interesting: 37°N 119°W (visit #1)

  5. When I read about Karl Marx and his theories for the first time I received a sudden jolt of realization, especially from the concepts of the base and the superstructure, and alienation. It was an eye opener. I started liking communism, since Karl Marx recommended Communism as the best way to achieve the right kind of economic system. But, over a year my views have changed again. After reading the letter to your brother I wonder how much I will change thirty years from now. :)


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