There were 427 custodial deaths in India between 2016 and 2019. A 2019 survey of 12,000 police personnel across 21 states by Common Cause, a civil society organisation, and the Lokniti Programme of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, an MHRD-supported research institute, noted, among other things, a very high approval rating for police violence towards criminals. Nearly three-fourths of those interviewed thought it was acceptable for police to be violent with criminals for the greater good of society. Four out of five surveyed submitted that there was nothing wrong in beating up criminals to extract a confession.
THE YEAR WAS 1957. He was the king of Hollywood, having won an Oscar for On the Waterfront (1954). She was a rising star with blue blood, an Indian princess, having played the survivor of a plane crash in The Mountain, starring Spencer Tracy. Together, they made a beautiful couple, with the world seemingly at their feet. That was until Marlon Brando realised that Anna Kashfi, the woman he had married, was actually Joan O’Callaghan, a Welsh butcher’s assistant who owed her exotic looks to her Anglo-Indian ancestry rather than a royal lineage. By 1959, they were divorced.
American Psycho successfully creates our materialist society by using brand names and personal fitness and beauty regimens as brick and mortar to build the plot. Sample this description of Bateman’s morning routine: ‘After I change into Ralph Lauren monogrammed boxer shorts and a Fair Isle sweater and slide into silk polka-dot Enrico Hidolin slippers, I tie a plastic ice pack around my face and commence with the morning’s stretching exercises…Then I squeeze Rembrandt onto a faux-tortoiseshell toothbrush…The shower has a universal all-directional shower head that adjusts within a thirty-inch vertical range. It’s made from Australian gold-black brass and covered with a white enamel finish.’
The young shall change the world. Amen.
WHEN IT COMES to Greta Thunberg, people fall into one of three camps: they either love her, hate her or don’t know about her. Those who appreciate her are leaders like António Guterres (Secretary-General of the UN), US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Barack Obama. Those who dismiss her are the likes of Canadian businessman and politician Maxime Bernier, Harvard historian Niall Ferguson and climate sceptic Bjørn Lomborg. But this much is clear, she is arguably the world’s best-known 16-year-old today.
The urban epidemic – loneliness.
That people are feeling lonely in today’s world seems ironical. We are better ‘connected’ than ever—at least on social media. Today, one gets the instant gratification of sharing something with others and watching the ‘likes’ and comments come in. Duke University psychologist Jenna Clark and her team have pointed at the superficiality of what they call ‘social snacking’, where one browses the Facebook timelines of other people for a sense of belonging. “Social media just gives the appearance of intimacy,” says Dr Vishal Sawant, a Mumbai-based psychiatrist. “A few years ago, if we got bored in a place like Mumbai, we would go call a friend. But now we open our laptops. Something has got to give.”
A damning critique.
But the principal victims of Winston Churchill were Indians, ‘a beastly people with a beastly religion’, as he charmingly called us. Churchill’s beatification as an apostle of freedom seems all the more preposterous given his explicit declaration in 1941 that the principles of the Atlantic Charter would not apply to India. Churchill’s notions of freedom and democracy faltered at the frontiers of empire: he was an appalling racialist, one who could not bring himself to see people of colour as entitled to the same rights as himself. “Gandhi-ism and all it stands for,” declared Churchill, “will, sooner or later, have to be grappled with and finally crushed.” He spoke luridly of having the Mahatma tied to the ground and trampled upon by elephants.
How did Sherlock Holmes become one of the most enduring characters that has ever been created? Today’s needull is a book review of — Arthur and Sherlock: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes | Michael Sims | Bloomsbury. Arthur Conan Doyle’s life experiences were instrumental in shaping up Sherlock.
To be able to create a scientific detective ‘who solved cases on his own merits, and not through the folly of the criminal’, one has to understand science, and what was revered as a scientific method in Arthur’s period. As Joseph Hoffman in Philosophies of Crime Fiction points out, the age of science and technology began in the late 19th century, and with that the expectation that there would be greater social and humanitarian progress. The world expected greater insight and more justice from its scientists. Sims allows us to glimpse the spirit of those times through the experience of a particular person, Arthur. We learn that the University of Edinburgh’s medical department, where Arthur enrolled in 1876, brimmed with eccentric and brilliant professors who excelled in induction—reasoning from the particular to the general (example: these footprints are very far apart, only tall persons can manage such a stride; ergo, this person is tall).
Why do young people, who are well-educated and doing good for themselves and their family decide to leave all behind and join ISIS? Today’s needull looks at a small village in Kerala in India and tries to find out what is happening on the ground. An eye opener on the harsh realities today.
As a family, Hafisuddin’s has been well exposed to cosmopolitan life. His grandfather was among the early residents of Padanna to open a hotel in Bombay. “He was the first man to own cars in our village. He also owned a flat in Mumbai,” says Rahman. “You have to see the irony in it. The grandfather was a man who was urbanised in the 1960s, but the grandson [fifty years later] went back to conservative values and wanted the life of a jihadi.”
Radicalisation, however, may have little to do with such exposure. Or even geography. “It is certain that the seeds of extremism are sowed somewhere else, and not in Kerala. I think they got their wrong understanding of Islam from the internet,” says Rahman, “They are educated and exposed to foreign countries.”
I am guilty of this and so are most people these days. Our reliance on ratings and stars to make a decision or a judgment is progressively increasing. Today’s needull looks a little deeper into how the ratings are generated and should we blindly trust them.
On Zomato, a 29-year-old who is a ’13 connoisseur’ (having hit 20,000 points) says, “I am not a food critic. I am a food influencer.” He adds, “When we bloggers and microbloggers go to a restaurant, we are treated like gods. We get 15 dishes on the table, in the hope that we will like one. I am equivalent to five reviewers, so my rating matters more.” In the last year-and-a-half, he has been to more than 600 restaurants in NCR and says that he has two meals out nearly every day.”
Ayaan Hirsi Ali was a refugee from Somalia. Through sheer grit she has transformed herself into a forceful critic of what is wrong with Islam.
In her latest book, Hirsi Ali urges the governments of the West—and the Trump Administration in particular—to take sides in this battle for the soul of Islam. She wants Washington to develop, with some urgency, an ‘anti-dawa strategy’ that will ‘tackle the menace of dawa’. Since the ultimate goal of dawa is ‘to destroy the political institutions of a free society and replace them with sharia’, should we not, she asks, neutralise the dawa activists first? She invokes Karl Popper, the philosopher, who wrote in 1945: ‘If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.’ America has the right, she says, to be intolerant of the intolerant in order to safeguard its primordial tolerance.