Weekly Reading List

October 8, 2019

In this edition, let us see three pieces with each highlighting an important issue.

  1. The first one is from Nobel laureate and legendary writer Toni Morrison , who wrote an article in connection with the 150th anniversary of ‘The Nation’ sometime back.  What artists must do in times of dread?  When nations pass through suffering at the hands of despots how they are supposed to react?  As Toni Morrison writes, tyrants have a standard plan. i) Select a useful enemy—an “Other”—to convert rage into conflict, ii) Limit or erase the imagination that art provides, as well as the critical thinking of scholars and journalists. iii) Distract with toys, dreams of loot, and themes of superior religion or defiant national pride that enshrine past hurts and humiliations. This was written a few years back. In 2019, as India watches its own methods to suffocate freethought and artistic freedom, we understand how prescient was Toni Morrison.  And she concludes with a huge hope. “  This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language.” That is how civilizations heal.” Read Toni Morrison here:
  2. Joseph Ledoux is a professor of science at New York University and his latest book is “The Deep History of Ourselves.” In this edited extract from his book,  he discusses whether our self-conscious minds can save us from our selfish nature?  Human-animal is different from all others in its supreme cognitive capacity. We can remember or past and imagine various futures.  “The increased consciousness has enabled us to invent a superior quality of life. We have the power to change the environment to meet our needs; satisfy our whims, desires and fantasies; and protect ourselves from our fears and anxieties”. However, the pursuit of progress has also resulted in environmental degradation of unprecedented scale. Now the question is can our selfish nature confront this reality for the good of mankind? As Joseph Ledoux says, “We persist as individuals only if we persist as a species.”  Read this stimulating piece here:
  3. Zata  Rana writes about something which most people are addicted to. They worry about their social status. The question is why the pecking order in the social hierarchy should affect us so much? He treats the subject historically and tells that in every age, the stress due to status was an issue.  We always worry about what others think about us. When you consider even a person like Bill gates,  think that he had different values, background and goals. Whenever we attempt comparisons, we are rejecting our individuality and uniqueness.  Think that there are no better or worse people but only different and hence judgement does not matter. As Zat Rana says , ” Let anyone be the richest or the prettiest. But we must have the freedom not to be impressed by these things alone” … Read  this  lovely  essay here:

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