world’s most pressing questions

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
— J R R Tolkien

The bachelors have been reduced from five to three (and one of them is actually taken but his partner is back home in India.) I will move out soon (when I stop procrastinating). I don’t WANT to leave, because I keep getting introduced to new yummy food (recipe for
sabudana khichadi below).
While we ate, we engaged in a lengthy political discussion. [sidebar] (Well, they did, mostly I listened. The guys drift into and out of Hindi and English. I’ve deduced that they’ve made a decision to include me – or at least make the topic accessible – when they use English. Otherwise they’re just doing their thing while I’m doing mine – usually on the computer. 🙂 Very comfortable.) [end of sidebar]
During the reprise at dinner time, Ambarish complained (!) “why do we always talk about right and wrong?” Perhaps as preparation for the extraordinary upcoming conversation hosted by Dropping Knowledge?
They have a one minute video describing a global Table of Free Voices. If you register you can rate the questions for discussion on September 9th – the questions have gone through a generation and prioritization process on the web over the past several months, being cut from 20,000 submitted to 500 condensed. Now they’re working on the top 100. (Barry Wellman posted info on this to the aoir-listserv. Thanks.)
This is what Koushik, Puru, and Ambarish were debating, inspired by a question posed by The Bohemian the night before. Their examples were based in India, especially the urban/rural split and the efforts of the Maoists there. Dada kept arguing that basic citizenship will resolve most problems: “Whatever you are doing, do it with absolute honesty. Basic thing – do primary school teaching with absolute honesty; whatever else you do is bonus.” He had several personal examples illustrating his own process of learning good citizenship. Puru argued against the idealism of this solution, describing four individual options:
1. I don’t care, just get along the best I can: the system will do what it does with/without me.
2. I embrace the system, i.e., try to make money.
3. Work inside the system toward change.
4. Work against/outside the system.
As I listened I thought, these orientations are evident in these units of languages I’ve been calling discourses. Perhaps the challenge I perceive, and the juxtapostion I seek to both co-create and proactively engage, is at the “places” where these orientations meet? Because there is an incommensurability between the person who can choose Options 1-3, and the person who is forced into Option 4. Anyone with a choice has relative privilege compared with those revolutionary movements who do not experience this luxury. (It seems possible to me that one point of contention is whether or not choice does exist, and to what extent. Another point is the transition process from an orientation/mode of Option 4 to one of the others: both systemically – institutionally and culturally – and individually.)
Ambarish argued that everyone simply keeps on moving: one chooses a point-of-view and tries to implement it. The key that he emphasized, is that there are consequences regardless of which choice one makes. The “consequence” I’m trying to resist is a predetermined channeling of viewpoints/discourses into more-or-less “traditional” lines. By “traditional” I mean customary to that political perspective or point-of-view, and I include my own!
Puruman claimed there is “no answer in any of the four options.” I agree. Any “answer”, if there is to be one, must be a confluence of the options, it must include/accommodate them all.
Dada offered a phenomenological example of time and living. He revisiting a movie they had watched the previous night (Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi) (situated in the 1970s) and argued that we make parallel choices now – living “in this time” with the choices made, for instance, by people living in the time of the 1920s in India (during the revolt against the British).
There were many other nuances, examples, and illustrations. I could imagine this conversation in various forms (different languages, different contexts) and the same overall pattern (individual range-of-choice vs systematic impositions & constraints, circumstantial differences setting distinct and variable limits, the struggle of finding adequate points of leverage, the resistance of the elites to change).
I missed the moment to actually submit a question to the Table of Free Voices event, and – in truth – I’m still formulating it, but I know it is along these lines. It was fitting that the evening ended with a game of Carrom, which illustrates the precise challenge of dialogue: how do we shift patterns of talk that produces sharp (even if minute) concussions to talk that allows some kind of merger or blending? Simultaneously, can we develop skills to absorb the subtle shocks of real difference and work past them together?
MeiMei & Carrom.JPG.jpg

Sabudana (name of “grain”) Khichadi (a generic dish, sortof like “stir fry”)


Ingredients: sabudana, ground peanut, green chili’s, cumin seeds, finely chopped potato, salt, tiny bit of sugar (optional)
soak sabudana in a small amount of water overnight (ideally all water is absorbed)
add ground peanut
finely chop potatos & chili’s and fry in oil & cumin seeds
combine and add salt (a fair amount) and sugar (tiny tiny) to taste
As kids it was received as a feast during fasting 🙂

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