Sunday, June 29, 2014

Ivan Illich on education, and more..

Ivan Illich was one of the first people in modern times to start challenging mainstream factory schooling, in "Deschooling Society" in 1973. This excerpt, and the page having it, might give you a link between rethinking education and the thoughts that go against institutionalization and statism:

Many students, especially those who are poor, intuitively know what the schools do for them. They school them to confuse process and substance. Once these become blurred, a new logic is assumed: the more treatment there is, the better are the results; or, escalation leads to success. The pupil is thereby "schooled" to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new. His imagination is "schooled" to accept service in place of value. Medical treatment is mistaken for health care, social work for the improvement of community life, police protection for safety, military poise for national security, the rat race for productive work. Health, learning, dignity, independence, and creative endeavour are defined as little more than the performance of the institutions which claim to serve these ends, and their improvement is made to depend on allocating more resources to the management of hospitals, schools, and other agencies in question. Ivan Illich Deschooling Society (1973: 9)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Back to the Land UnConference, Pune, 19-20 July 2014

Dear Friends in and around Pune,

We cordially invite you to the Back to the Land UnConference, Pune, 
An informal, co-creative gathering of thinkers, doers and dreamers
To share and collaborate about the transition to a more sustainable way of life

Date: 19 & 20 July 2014 (Sat-Sun)
Time: 9 am to 6 pm
Venue: Indradhanushya Environment Education and Citizenship Centre, nr. Mhatre Bridge

Who can come: Everyone, kids and elders included.
Fees: Zero
Please see the website for more information and to register :

This is a pilot event, and we hope to conduct more such events : small, easy and frequent, to deepen our connections and start doing things together. Due to capacity constraints, we have to limit the number of participants to 100. If we cross the capacity (a good problem to have!) by the time you register, we'll put you on waitlist, and at the next event you'll have priority. But there is an exhibition space that will be open to all during the two days. Registration closes on 12 July 2014 11:59pm.

Tentative schedule:
Day 1 : Saturday, 19 July 2014
9 am - 10 am          : Doors open, people start arriving, informal interactions, putting up charts / posters / exhibits
10 am - 11 am        : Morning gathering. Announcements, Short introduction, Explanation about the event, Co-creating sessions
11 am - 12.30 pm : Session 1
12.30 pm - 2 pm    : Lunch break, see exhibits, informal interactions
2 - 3.30 pm               : Session 2
3.30 - 4 pm               : Tea break, informal interactions, music
4 pm - 5.30 pm       : Session 3
5:30 pm - 6 pm       : Evening gathering, people sharing their learnings, takeaways, feedback

Day 2 : Sunday, 20 July 2014
9 am - 10 am           : Doors open, people start arriving, informal interactions, putting up charts / posters / exhibits
10 am - 11 am        : Morning gathering. Announcements, Games, Co-creating sessions
11 am - 12.30 pm : Session 1
12.30 pm - 2 pm   : Lunch break, see exhibits, informal interactions
2 pm - 3.30 pm      : Session 2
3.30 pm - 4 pm      : Tea break, informal interactions
4 pm - 5.30 pm      : Session 3
5:30 pm - 6 pm      : Evening gathering, people sharing their learnings, takeaways, feedback, plans ahead

We're looking for volunteers who can help out at the event, photographers, video graphers, voice recorders for each session, and musicians / singers (no electronics besides mic!). Students are welcome! You'll get a letter of appreciation and we'll feature you on the website. Write back to us!

Please forward this email to the people who you think may be interested. Share the poster on facebook. And quick! Limited seats available!

Contact Persons:
Nikhil Sheth : 9665831250, nikhil.js [at]
Urmila Samson : 9422330377, umrilasamson [at]
Please try to SMS/Whatsapp first before calling.

Thanks for reading this far! Feeling good about this? Then sign up quick! :

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Swaraj University Admissions 2014

Swaraj University is a community of individuals who are on the same boat as you. They are creating their own paths by stretching themselves, seeking to find meaningfulness in life and by building deeper perspectives to understand the self, soil, and society..  
If you or anyone you know would like to know more and be a part of this process, please visit our website and send this out to people.
You can also call 08764279302 or write to for more details.
The orientation meet for joining this program is coming up soon, on the 12th and 13th of July 2014. Hurry and hit the Join button on our website.
Copyleft © 2014 Swaraj University, NO rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Eco-school to Eco-university

From a mailer from :

Dear Nature Lovers,
Greetings from oikos !

What should be the main goal of human race…
To live happy and healthy life and let future generations live the same ?
Obviously education should be focused to earn a livelihood in a cautious way.

We are totally dependent on Nature for survival.
But our education system seems to deny this fact.

Current education increases aspirations of people towards -
maximum generation of wealth and standard of living
with respect to highest consumption beyond needs.
Question is whether we really get happy and healthy life after that ?

Even if we accept that comforts and contentedness has increased,
number of diseases and hospitals are equally increasing.
We still feel that technology can provide solution for everything,
… even deteriorated life style and dwindling resources.
Also technology based solutions, being expensive, are enjoyed only by few rich.
And many poor are deprived of it, so crime increases.

There is no value for morals and self realization.

There are ways wherein we can earn a better future, based on natural wealth.
Nature is the best guide for us to make livelihood.
Education must consider any facet of life as subset of nature.
If we ignore this fact, effects are coming back to us in the form of climate change.

So education, be it primary, higher or graduation level, must have ecological perspective.
Prakash Gole had suggested a new education stream - 'Eco-school to Eco-university'.
Students coming from such education system may take care of nature as well as
sustainable, happy and healthy living  options !

Education should not be a burden and formality for students.
It should facilitate enjoyment.
It should incorporate morals.
It should improve learning ability.
It should also improve ability for self realization.

And this is best possible through learning in company of nature…

Sunday, June 15, 2014

On IB accusing Greenpeace and other NGOs

This accusation by IB analogous to accusing a mother of decreasing the family's income when she prevents her husband from selling their daughter to the sex trade.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Elephant in the Elevator

Why the whole overpopulation debate  is so ridiculous.

Imagine this situation: There's several different kinds of animals in an elevator, and the panel beeps and says it's too heavy: some occupants will have to get off to reduce the weight so that the elevator can proceed. There's several hundred ants in the elevator, dozens of butterflies, some squirrels, foxes, tigers, a couple of bears and one elephant. The elephant is assuming leadership of the elevator; and imploring all the ants to get off.. "there's too many of you! Please, you need to reduce your numbers to something like ours (elephant and bears), only then can this elevator move ahead."

That's what's happening with the overpopulation debate.. or should I say monologue (the other side is silenced), right now.

It's not about what the population is. It's about how much is the consumption.. the carbon footprint, the resource depletion, the burden being put on this planet etc.

All the so-called overpopulated regions of India, Asia, Africa : are on a per capital level consuming NOTHING compared to USA, the West. Even in absolute terms, when you trace out the consumers of the products of all the outsourced industries and credit those consumptions to their original masters, it's still the West (US mostly) cornering the top.

Now, let's put on the thinking hat of Efficiency and think in those terms. Supposing you were really proceeding with reducing the population as a means of cutting down the planet's resource depletion. Where would you begin?

Logically, the first step would be to list, in descending order, the populations of the world with their resource consumption statistics. Maybe an index that combines food, fuels, petrochemicals, expenditure, electricity, minerals etc. You would make a descending list of countries, with the countries having the highest per capita consumption at the top. If necessary, you would split the countries where there's a distinct difference between different regions. For example, India's metro cities stand in stark contrast with the rest of India. So list them separately.

Then, using the principles of maximum efficiency, where would you begin? Naturally, you'd begin at the top.

It makes obvious sense, doesn't it? Taking a white upper-class American off the planet is far more efficient and easier than taking out some 1000+ Africans or Indians who are consuming less than he is.

So, here's where the ridiculousness if this whole overpopulation topic manifests : Anyone who was honestly, sincerely believing that controlling the earth's population of human beings is an acceptable way to prevent runaway resource depletion.. would have to be talking about starting with depopulating USA first, followed by whichever countries, regions you have on that list. The poorest parts of Africa, Asia would have to be the very last on the list. Only after you've seriously, satisfactorily brought down the populations of the "West".. or at the least, after you've shut down most of the industries they've outsourced and which are heavily subsidized by the corrupt governments of the developing nations : only then should you even begin to look at the rest.

Instead, what do we get to see? Like the elephant in the elevator, we see mostly white-skinned, upper class people, belonging to the demoraphics that consume the most, talking in alarmed tones about overpopulation, and pointing fingers at the guys who are at the bottom of the consumption charts.

Complete hypocrisy.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

HOW TO send audio to the HDMI-connected TV

We now have HDMI cables to connect the laptop to a projector or large LCD/LED TV for screening something.
The HDMI cable also sends sound; and if you're screening movies etc on a big-screen TV, then it's best to use the TV's own audio rather than getting a separate set of speakers.

But you might find it difficult to get the sound to come on the TV instead of your laptop. Ideally this should happen automatically but I guess we'll have to manage with some manual tweaking right now.

If you're playing video on VLC player, you have to go to Tools > Preferences (or hit Ctrl+P on keyboard)
See the screenshot below... 
click to enlarge

1. you have to set the Preferences window to show All settings (bottom left)
2. Navigate to Audio > Output modules > DirectX on the left side tree
3. Your plugged in HDMI device should appear in the dropdown list on the right. Choose it.
4. Press Save button on bottom right.
5. Don't panic if the sound is still coming from your laptop. You have to STOP the movie, and start playing it again for the change to take effect.

I went through some trouble to get this straight. Here's hoping you find it easier. Once done, you can really feel the difference as the sound comes on the TV nice and loud.

Note: You'll probably have to use the same technique to change it back when you want to hear sound on the laptop again. Don't panic if you're playing a movie later on and there's no sound coming!

Rethinking Property, Housing


Q. Another area of your work which is becoming increasingly popular in anticapitalist circles is the idea of the commons. Could you briefly explain what it means and why it is important to the struggle against capitalism?

DH. Let's examine the question of housing for the moment. It is almost standard thinking that in order to get housing you have to be a homeowner. Therefore the private property system dominates housing provision. I think that's really problematic. For a lot of people being a homeowner is not good economics – they don't have the incomes. But being a tenant is a vulnerable situation. So, you might want to have a completely different kind of property regime for the delivery of use values to a significant section of the population.

I think there are ways to try to reorganise what goes on in housing provision through common property regimes. Not state-owned, I want to be clear. This would be social housing which would be co-operatively developed, managed and structured. There are interesting schemes in the United States, for example, called 'limited equity co-operatives'. If you participate you can't sell out at a market price. You can only get close to the value you started with. If you got into the housing co-op for €100,000 and twenty years later you want to get out – you get €100,000 plus the inflation or something similar. You can't go and sell it for a million. So this means there is a permanent pool of housing which is available for a population that can't afford a million but could afford €100,000 on a reasonable mortgage.

On housing provision, we have to get out of that frame of mind that says 'the only way you can really do this is through home ownership'. That idea of home ownership has been pedaled for political and economic reasons. Most people have absorbed the idea that this is the only way in which housing can be provided. Arguing for a different property rights regime seems to me to be critical. Many areas that have been commodified need to be returned to a common property idea. I think education and health care are common property rights. To the degree that our world is not delivering good use values for those things it is because it is privatised and turned into a private property right. I'm concerned to support wherever I can initiatives which start to generate common property rights regimes in place of private ones.

That common property regime is not state ownership. We've got a dichotomy right now between state and market which is misleading. Neither state nor market but a collective form of provision.

New political party in US emerges from the Occupy Movement

I love their short, single-sentence style Manifesto, and Plan pages. Also, the intentions are very clear and boldly not trying to compromise with mainstream fallacies. They're very much imbibing the principles of Swaraj which override economic policies, ideologies etc because you just basically do what the particular area in question needs.

Here's a line from a video that I really identified with, and would love to see manifesting in AAP:
"For 364 days in the year we are going to be a humanitarian movement helping people solve their day to day problems..."

Article: Why JP Singh is every Indian farmer's best friend

How did an unassuming Varanasi farmer and school dropout come to be sought after by farmers, praised by experts and awarded by the government for his famous seeds?

His claim to fame? He develops indigenous, high-yielding and disease resistant varieties of plants.  So far, he's perfected more than 460 types of paddy, 120 of wheat, 40 kinds of arhar dal and three of mustard. He's also grown a special type of wood apple or bel, one that yields 8-10 fruits in a single bunch, multiplying harvests for poor farmers.

One million farmers in about seven Indian states swear by the seeds he provides. He sells them for Rs 30-40 per kilo, compared to the Rs 200-300 that agents charge for genetically modified (GM) crops. Still, his crops outperform the GM ones on yield. And from their grain, farmers plant for the next harvest - something they can't do with a GM crop.

Break out of the box and the fake dream chase

We really need to break out of the box that India's mainstream media has trapped us in. It rarely ever covers what's happening on planet Earth.. India is treated as if we're in some different world alltogether. At the same time, we are shown fantasy images of how the West is and we are made to believe that our sole purpose in life is to mimic them. We are not at all shown the reality. 

1. How many people reading this know that the US has the largest % of its population in jail? 
2. And nearly half of its jailed population are the US's "Dalits" (blacks and latinos). 
3. Also, it has the highest number of murders and random shootings happening, 
4. and a huge number of citizens getting shot dead by police in times of confusion. 
5. It has highest rates of cancer and addiction to pharmaceutical drugs. 
6. Its children are forced to take psychotropic drugs to get them to behave properly in the classroom, and are getting permanent damage in the process. 
7. Their meat industry is equal to Nazi's concentration camps.. horrendous abuse, extremely horrific way of killing animals and esp of cows happening there at enormous scale. 
8. There are more people homeless in US than there are vacant houses that have been taken over by banks over failed home loans ("Mortgages, foreclosures"). 

All these details are left out by India's media and we are made to believe that the US is some magical fairyland whereas that is not the case. Their upper classes are similar to our upper classes. If you only focus on them, you would think that even India is very well off. Plus, it's a mathematical impossibility for India to "get there".. US is at its place because it exploits India, Asia, China, Africa etc. India does not have any more Indias, Asias, Chinas, Africas on this planet left to exploit. And we shouldn't anyway. The dollar is the world's reserve currency and the US can print as much as it wants to escape reality; India cannot do that. In the blind chase of aping the US, India is quickly getting all the negative realities of US and far worse.

So, break out of this box as well as out of this fake dream chase : this wild goose chase that the media has mentally trapped us in.

Article about accident in May 2014 at Koodankulam nuclear power plant

Exposed: Not following of safety, emergency or transparency standards, and hiring of unskilled contract labour, without any adequate protection or training, at the plant, who are migrants and cannot be tracked down later for checking for long term radiation effects.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Video: How Television and Sports are used to control the masses

While this video is from the US, the same formulas have been played out very recently in India too, and I think when you watch this video you might have some "aha" moments. On the optimistic side, I must note that hoodwinking the people has been getting progressively tougher and more expensive and risky; and the social isolation that empowered this all has passed its peak and is now on the decline.

Pune riots : triggered by FB posts? Really??

Roads and Highways Blocked.
A young professional murdered.
Stone pelting at several cities in state.
Number of buses were burnt.
Shops forcefully shut down for over 2 days.
Lot of private vehicles were also damaged.
Just for the sake of protesting against a FB post.
And we still have people who say "someone triggered it".

If the people of Maharashtra were really so trigger-happy and violent and easy to provoke, then some cyber criminals would have simply hacked into a few fb accounts and wiped out the population by now. No, sir, let's not insult the people of Maharashtra. 

This wasn't triggered. It was planned.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Wall of Films : 500 documentaries hand-picked to change the world

An email from a parallel universe

<Sfx: mysterious space music>
Could this email have come through an inter-dimensional space-time warp from a parallel universe where an alter-ego of mine might be living a life path that i might have been on had i not diverged from the de facto script in 2010?

what might your alternate-universe life look like?

(read below to understand)

---------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Jun 3, 2014 1:08 PM
Subject: To: Nikhil D. Sheth / Purdue University

Dear  Nikhil D. Sheth,

As stated by the Purdue University's electronic repository, you authored the work entitled "A Micromechanical Spectrum Analyzer" in the framework of your postgraduate degree.
Due to the fact that we are currently planning publications in this subject field, we would be pleased to know whether you would be interested in publishing the above mentioned work with us.

[..] Academic Publishing is a member of an international publishing group, which has almost 10 years of experience in the publication of high-quality research works from well-known institutions across the globe.

Besides producing printed scientific books, we also market them actively through more than 80,000 booksellers.

Kindly confirm your interest in receiving more detailed information in this respect.

I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Article: Two divergent poles of Indian democracy

A take on the diverging core values of the opposing sides, linking our growing consumerism and childishness, selfishness with our political choices. 

---------- Forwarded message ----------

Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal: Two divergent poles of Indian democracy

Modi and Kejriwal have managed to secure a place for themselves at the forefront of the national political imagination

Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal: Two divergent poles of Indian democracy
In the Narendra Modi paradigm, the voter is a customer who has paid his vote, and expects prompt and efficient delivery of political services in return. Photo: PTI
Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal represent two contradictory impulses within the work-in-progress that is Indian democracy. Modi fans might balk at the mention of both the names in the same breath—one is the country's prime minister, while the other is struggling to stay afloat in an environment that seems to have turned hostile toward him and his kind of politics.
Nevertheless, there is no denying that—with Rahul Gandhi fading out of the frame—in the aftermath of the 2014 general elections, it is Modi and Kejriwal who have managed to secure a place for themselves at the forefront of the national political imagination. This is also borne out by media analyses of election coverage which clearly reveal that the top two politicians who enjoyed the highest exposure in mass media, as well as being dominant on social media, were Modi and Kejriwal, in that order .
A couple of caveats: It can be counter-productive and misleading to reduce political analysis to a matter of personalities. So the referents of 'Modi' and 'Kejriwal' here are not the respective politicians per se but the kind of democratic politics they signal to their respective publics. Also, I'm not suggesting here that there are no other leaders in India right now around whom other, different kinds of politics might not coalesce—this is merely a useful schema to map a significant binary among the many political undercurrents roiling in our democracy.
What Modi represents in terms of democratic practice is best understood by looking at what he means to his own supporters—not what he represents to his critics. By 'supporters', I don't mean here the moneybags who bankrolled his campaign and have concrete expectations of return. Nor am I concerned with those of his supporters—though they form a sizeable number—who might be said to be sympathetic to the ideology of Hindutva. I am referring to the sub-section of ideologically indifferent voters who cut across socio-economic barriers to, if not actively support Modi, at least give him a chance.
This segment of Modi voters does not care much for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), let alone Hindutva, but chose the lotus symbol only because of Modi. And if there is one constant refrain in their answers to the question of 'why Modi', it is this: they chose Modi because they wanted a 'strong leader'. A leader who has the force of personality to take charge, be decisive, get things done.
On the other hand, Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) represent the diametrically opposite impulse in mainstream politics at this juncture. They embody a participatory dynamic that involves dispersion of—as opposed to concentration of—power. It is a different matter how successful Kejriwal has been in following this ethos in his own party. But going purely by self-projected image, if Modi embodies strength, then Kejriwal embodies a self-effacing humility—symbolically, if not always in practice.
There is also another dynamic that differentiates the opposing tendencies these two represent. Modi's appeal to voters is premised on distance—vote for me, and then leave me to do my job. He whole-heartedly embraces political authority. Kejriwal's appeal, on the other hand, is premised on closing the distance between the governed and those who govern. He works from a default position of holding all political authority under suspicion—except where it is under the direct scrutiny of those subjected to a given political authority.
If Modi's modality can be summed up as "Trust me to deliver the change you want", Kejriwal's message has been: if you want change, then take on the responsibility for making the change happen.
In the Modi paradigm, the voter is a customer who has paid his vote, and expects prompt and efficient delivery of political services in return. In the Kejriwal paradigm, nothing is a given unless you are willing to go out and make some effort. And in the Kejriwal worldview, this is necessary because the system needs overhauling, and changing the system is an uphill task which cannot be accomplished by one man or one leader alone but needs the people to remain politically engaged.
In other words, Modi recreates the subjectivity of the voter as a consumer, while Kejriwal speaks to the voter-as-citizen. In such a scenario where political work has been recast in the idiom of running a private limited company—incidentally, the motto of 'minimum government, maximum governance' encapsulates the quintessential corporate virtue of efficiency—the model of the ideal leader is the CEO, not the democrat. A key leadership trait of the world's most admired CEOs is their toughness, not their penchant for participatory decision-making.
So, while Modi's self-assured pronouncements have served to project him as strong and decisive, Kejriwal's openness to changing his mind after every process of democratic engagement have rendered him susceptible to charges of being wishy-washy and weak.
In a mass culture dominated by consumerism—where, for instance, the discourse of rights can move seamlessly from politics to animals to parking—it is easy to see why the Modi paradigm might hold a greater appeal among voters.
This brings us to a fundamental question: Why does a democracy—any democracy—need a strong leader? Is it not enough that people have political rights, that those rights are zealously protected, and that they get to choose one among themselves—one from a community of equals—to represent them? And is it not enough if this representative does his best to further their interests? Why should it matter whether he is strong or weak any more than whether he is tall or short, or fat or slim?
Well, one answer could be that in an era where politics has been marketised, and the idea of the market de-politicised, the values of the market underwrite political choices as well. So if greed is good, it is strength that can make greed win. Self-effacement, then, is for those who cannot match the strong—it is a signifier of weakness.
Thus humility is for those destined to be losers in a winner-takes-all system. Today, it is as obsolete as that weird economic system Indians used to suffer in the pre-historic era that ended in 1991. While Modi's message of strength evoked prosperity with great clarity, Kejriwal's projected humility, in the currency of political communication, translated as weakness and ambiguity.
Besides, where you have a plurality of competing interests, and different points of view held by multiple stakeholders, the strong can ram through their agenda at the expense of the weak. But is that democratic? Well, in this scheme of things where speed is of the essence, there is no time to waste on such questions.
Another way of formulating this answer would be to say that we don't want to grow up as a democracy. For growing up means taking responsibility—not just for oneself, but for the entire (political) family. In a mature democracy, the majority takes responsibility for the minority; the strong, for the weak; the centre, for the margins; the well-fed, for the starving. That is the meaning of the social covenant we call a state.
But we only care about narrow self-interest—it is the only thing the market recognises, it is the default setting of the earning-consuming apolitical animal. Though older than 18, the majority in India is a political minor, uninterested in the responsibilities of adulthood. Whether you're a political collective or an individual, if you do not want to grow up for whatever reason, a father figure is precisely what you need. Simply put, the strong leader is popular—here, as elsewhere—because he sparks a delicious regression into a world of magical thinking where choices are happily divorced from consequences, and effects are independent of causes.
This is also why Kejriwal evokes such tremendous hatred in sections of the Indian middle class—a hatred and aversion that is out of all proportion to whatever may be his sins of commission and omission—for he is a constant, and annoying, reminder of our own political subjectivity, a subjectivity that we have not only happily exiled, but actually recreated as the Other of our normative (a) political self. It was therefore fitting, and not merely in symbolic terms, that Indian democracy had Kejriwal in prison on the day it got its new prime minister.

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