"Sita Sings the Blues": animated film by Nina Paley
#13
(07-Aug-2011, 11:13 PM)Ajita Kamal Wrote: A perfect example of Hindu fundamentalists curtailing freedom of speech.

And here is an example of someone wholly missing the point of the movie to the extent of using stills from the movie in a post to illustrate the ethical teachings of this myth. Value education indeed!
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#14
(07-Aug-2011, 11:19 PM)arvindiyer Wrote: And here is an example of someone wholly missing the point of the movie to the extent of using stills from the movie in a post to illustrate the ethical teachings of this myth. Value education indeed!

I couldn't help noticing that the brevity encouraged by the format could be used to turn the slideshow on its head and point out the absurdity of some of these "life lessons" in a succinct manner. Perhaps someone else can.
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#15
(08-Aug-2011, 11:53 PM)Ajita Kamal Wrote:
(07-Aug-2011, 11:19 PM)arvindiyer Wrote: And here is an example of someone wholly missing the point of the movie to the extent of using stills from the movie in a post to illustrate the ethical teachings of this myth. Value education indeed!

I couldn't help noticing that the brevity encouraged by the format could be used to turn the slideshow on its head and point out the absurdity of some of these "life lessons" in a succinct manner. Perhaps someone else can.

The brevity encouraged by the format can be used, perhaps even more profitably, to create bite-sized summaries of books like Shermer's 'The Believing Brain' or Prof. Dennett's 'Breaking the Spell'. Perhaps participants in the recent 'What book are you reading?' thread in the Facebook Nirmukta group maybe up to the task. Possible uses for these presentations are many. The 7th Chennai Freethinkers meet seems to have featured presentations like these.

In any case, the possibility of a smackdown seems too tempting to pass up. So here goes a take on the 14 lessons in the linked slide-show. Intended to be read side-by-side with the original slide-show, this isn't as much a 'takedown' as a critique of how oversimplified a mythology-based ethical worldview is. Many of the comments below allude to the mismatch between the conduct of contemporary society and the much-vaunted value-system of the Ramayana it claims to follow. A voiced-over slide-show can make a decent video of the overrated ethical precepts of the Ramayana. Of course whatever is said below is subject to the disclaimer that Indians can be as proud of the Ramayana as the Greeks are of the Iliad and Odyssey say, so long as they do not glorify the 'ethics' of these epics as anything more than primitive at best and oppressive at worst.

Lesson 1: Neither ascetic deprivation nor withdrawal from productive activity is necessary for leading an Ethical Life. Oppressive injunctions such as these which religions are replete with, all too obviously hinder rather than help the realization of human potential.

Lesson 2: Marriage as a human institution of civil union must be one which any pair of mutually consenting adults has the freedom to solemnize without needing approval from or facing persecution from any religious authority enforcing its own writ upon this fundamentally private communion.

Lesson 3: Great caution and prudence ought to be exercised while entering contractual obligations and unilateral commitments without taking all stakeholders into confidence must be eschewed. For any kind of leader, a corporate or a Head of State, assuming the consent of the team before briefing them of risks amounts to a breach of trust and abuse of power.

Lesson 4: Obligations towards one's parents are matters best left to the conscience of the persons concerned and not topics of jurisprudence. To consider such obligations as divinely mandated to be unconditional and exclusively applicable in a patriarchal setting, is indefensible from a contemporary standpoint.

Lesson 5: Persons in a leadership role are not always entitled to the luxury of doctrinaire posturing at the cost of pragmatic decision-making, especially when the imperative of welfare of the very people whose trust vests the powers in the leader dictates otherwise.

Lesson 6: Declining political office that comes one's way in the fitness of things, is an act that is often glorified with de facto sainthood, when all that this decision maybe is a heeding of the dictates of prudence based on a reading of the public mood. Conferring sainthood upon political renouncers in a modern democracy is fraught with the risk of creating an unaccountable, extra-constitutional power center.

Lesson 7: The traditional marital setting where one spouse lives in a state of financial dependence on the other for their every need, is anachronistic in contemporary societies, where every individual should be entitled to pursue their aspirations as professionals, consumers and citizens in a personal capacity irrespective of their marital status.

Lesson 8: In much human communication there is difficult tradeoff between frankness and mindfulness to the sensibilities of others, and it seems unconvincing that readings of epics are sufficient to cultivate such prudence.

Lesson 9: Crimes against women occur most in a society that tacitly through a conspiracy of silence and winks allows the conditions for such crimes to thrive, by encouraging opportunity denial, commoditization and perpetuation of exploitative institutions.

Lesson 10: Centuries of banishment and exclusion are not magically undone overnight by carefully orchestrated visits by high-profile politicians to dwellings of the underprivileged in a media blitz of the 'politics of inclusion'.

Lesson 11: Servility and obsequiousness to uphold and flaunt a fetishized modesty hinder professional accomplishment in the workplace in all sectors and have the risk of creating personality cults sustained by sycophancy.

Lesson 12: Dignifying opportunistic alliances in the shadow of which connivance is facilitated thanks to diluted responsibility and plausible deniability, remains the refuge of a political class which remains indifferent to much wrongdoing in the name of 'coalition dharma'.

Lesson 13: Subjecting military personnel under his or her command to additional avoidable combat risks by withholding, in deference to 'international opinion', options that could have concluded the mission, remains a tough call and a major occupational hazard for any Commander in Chief.

Lesson 14: Obligations of marital fidelity rest equally on both the spouses and they are entitled to a withdrawal of such obligation with mutual consent, without either spouse being entitled to unilaterally 'issue punishment' as it were, on grounds of unmet obligation.

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#16
Arvind, shall we post your smackdown on Nirmukta? I could link it up to the slideshow, or better still, post the images from the original slideshow as 'fair use' content used for the sake of criticism.
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#17
(13-Aug-2011, 01:42 PM)Ajita Kamal Wrote: Arvind, shall we post your smackdown on Nirmukta? I could link it up to the slideshow, or better still, post the images from the original slideshow as 'fair use' content used for the sake of criticism.

Fine by me. Preferably, the 14-point list can be prefaced by the following:

Beyond the shadow of 'role models' and rogue mannequins
-Lessons from the Ramayana revisited-

What the storytellers of old engagingly brought to life in vivid verse, trust the sermonizers of today to condescendingly stiffen into commandments to be set in stone...and in slideshows! A slideshow like '14 Life Lessons From the Ramayana' currently being circulated online, is like all sermons, voiced with fervour but vulnerable to parody, and therefore this response to it is not as much a furious takedown as a good-natured double-take.

Intended to be read side-by-side with the original slide-show, what this is not is a 'smackdown' and what it is is a critique of how oversimplified a mythology-based ethical worldview is. Many of the comments below allude to the mismatch between the conduct of contemporary society and the much-vaunted value-system of the Ramayana it claims to follow. Far from being a parody, this exercise is actually quite the opposite; an attempt to inject more seriousness into the discourse on ethics.

Some perennial ethical challenges are indeed presented in such epics but only in archaic caricature, and as for the unprecedented ethical challenges peculiar to us, those were understandably inconceivable to the writers of the epics. Of course whatever is said below is subject to the disclaimer that Indians can be as proud of the Ramayana as the Greeks are of the Iliad and Odyssey, so long as they do not glorify the 'ethics' of these epics as anything more than primitive at best and oppressive at worst.

EDIT: Altered title to better adhere to the spirit of the piece.
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#18
Prof. Wendy Doniger reviews a new book "Lost Loves: Exploring Rama's Anguish' in Outlook here.

The book is of interest because,

Quote:She (auhtor Arshia Sattar) brings out important aspects of the Valmiki Ramayana that others have managed to overlook, partly because they have been blinkered by the heavily censored reading of the Ramayana that contemporary political factions broadcast everywhere. Sattar is steeped in the Ramayana (hers is by far the best single-volume English translation) and has the gift of noticing things that the rest of us tend to miss
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