Learning about Sex without Sex Education

 

Here is an article on Sex Ed I managed to get published on Badal Ja!

After all the mocking on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere of Dr. Harshwardhan’s comment on sex education in India, the #YoBJPSoSanskaari hashtag trend slowed down and opened space for actual dialogue. I chose this opportunity to read meaningful content and write a post on the issue—and here I am with one.

Digging into the archives of the place where I work in Bombay, I found Bertrand Russell’s book On Education, and as curiosity dictates, I was on the index page in the hope of finding something interesting. And I did find something interesting: an essay titled “Sex Education.”

After reading Russell’s essay, I decided to write about my personal experiences learning about sex, and I hope many others share their own stories and open up a new window of dialogue.

Satirical video about sex education in India goes viral

I am strongly in favour of sex education, and I draw from my own childhood, adolescent and post-teenage experiences—how I came to know about sex—to argue in favour of the subject.

My first encounter with sexual curiosity came during the era of Hindu epic shows on television—from Mahabharata to Ramayana to Krishna, etc. I still remember a scene so vividly that I doubt if it will ever go off my memory. Here, God sends a small baby (not an embryo) through a woman’s nostrils so that she gives birth to a great baby, and everything goes according to the divine plan. Unfortunately, I do not remember which particular show this was. However, seeing a surgery mark on her stomach, I remember asking my mother how was I born. Or rather, asking: Where did I come from? I had the impression that we all came from our mothers’ stomachs being cut by the doctors. As the popular idiom had it: mere petmein tumhara bachha hai. She replied, as most mothers would, “You came from the stomach.”

Well, curiosity number one solved!

where do babies come from comic

A similar incident happened with the well known psychiatrist R.D. Laing, when he questioned his mother.

Reproduced from R.D. Laing’s The Facts of Life:

RONALD: Where do babies come from?
MUMMY: From heaven.
RONALD: I know that. But how do they get there?
MUMMY: Their mummy and daddy pray to God to send them one.
RONALD: And how is one sent?
MUMMY: You’ll learn that when you’re older.
RONALD: Why can’t you tell me now?
MUMMY: You’re too young to learn that. You’ll learn that when you grow up.

That was that.

Fast forward to my adolescent days when we—a bunch of boys—used to sit in a dark corner and tell each other erotic stories.

A friend often mentioned a story about a particular lady whose husband fucked her in the arse. He seemed too obsessed with the arse. All his stories began and ended up at the same place. This led me to the idea that it is the spot, while with the other one (the vagina), I had to ask, “Yeah, well, what is the spot for?” I do not remember how my friends answered. It was only after a few years that I discovered what the vagina is!

Another stray incident in my personal sex education comes from my days in high school—7th grade, I guess. I picked up a paper ball thrown on the road. Curious as always, I decided to see what was inside. For a child, these things are of great interest for you never know what could be inside. My hope then was always to find some money.

Sadly, no money—but a used condom. And I touched it!

Nothing scared me more then than the fact that I touched a used condom. I feared that I could now be infected by AIDS. Yes, I did think that! That is because of the rumours, ill-informed advertisement about AIDS and Nirodh. It was only when I grew old enough to understand what a condom is that I realised the Nirodh advertisements were about condoms.

And AIDS? Well, I am fine. Phew!

nirodh condom india

Speaking of AIDS, I should also mention that till 9th grade, I believed masturbation causes AIDS and many ill effects to health. Those high school days of masturbation frequently led to guilt and fear.

Moving along, let me also tell you — till college I had no clue about the menstrual cycle, other than “they bleed.” Maybe because I did not pay worth a paisa of attention in my science class. But, the major factor was the absence of any dialogue on these issues. Dialogue occurred neither between adults and children nor between the two sexes.

These are only a few of the many incidents that I remember. Like me, many others could recollect such incidents about sex and related topics. Yet, there is no mechanism in place to answer our questions!

How do we normalise sex education?

Bertrand Russell answers:

Parents must stop using ambiguous language to answer questions on sex, give up our obsession with protecting our children form the outer world, instead, to let them experiment and learn, and establish a public culture where sex is not looked down upon.

We all know what is to be done concerning sex education. Instead of depending so much on authority, we must start contributing as groups—us and them—equally. Use your talents to create dialogue: write, draw, animate, dance, etc. and most important of all, really engage with such initiatives. Democratisation isn’t limited to the sphere of politics alone. Decentralising actions such as sex education and making people the authority of it would be a step further towards real democracy, and also an example for others to start their own initiatives.

“The only alternative to reason is violence.” — Bertrand Russell

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Notes on Nuclear

 

Nuclear

Some History

Chernobyl nuclear accident occurred on Saturday, April 26, 1986,
Ukraine. The Chernobyl disaster is considered the worst nuclear power
plant accident in history. Shortly after the accident a massive steel and
concrete structure covering the reactor was built. However this was a
temporarily solution (according to some Soviet reports, the present
shelter would last only 30 years), and by 2015 a new “Safe Confinement
structure” is expected to be completed. The estimated price is 1.54
billion euro.

A report by the Center for Independent Environmental Assessment of the
Russian Academy of Sciences found a dramatic increase in mortality since
1990—60,000 deaths in Russia and an estimated 140,000 deaths in Ukraine
and Belarus—probably due to Chernobyl radiation. Radioactivity in the
damaged reactor would need to be contained for 100,000 years to ensure
safety. That is a challenge not only for today, but for many generations
to come.

Scary?

And yet governments world over are nuclearising nations with bigger and
bigger nuclear power plants ignoring the ‘omnicidal’ effects of nuclear
energy.

Indian Scenario

India too is a highly nuclearised State with eight active reactors, while
seven other reactors in construction. Our politicians want us to believe
that nuclear energy is the new ‘green’ energy and is absolutely safe. If
so, why there was (and still is) so much pressure to dilute the civil
nuclear liability bill? And, if Germany can afford to shut down all its
nuclear reactors, why can’t India learn from the German ‘model’?

This brings in the larger question of ‘alternative/green’ energy in the
context of climate change and the mitigation goals required to safeguard
us from the catastrophic effects of climate change.

Culture and Nuclear

Undoubtedly, it is America along with the Soviet Union responsible for the nuclear emergency today. There are several ways to manufacture opinion and one the most effective since the last hundred years is the cinema. Watch this documentary to see how America convinced its people to nuclearise itself.

And also this video by John Oliver.

Above all, the ‘economics’ behind nuclear energy

The two 1,000-MWe VVER reactors at Kudankulam are being constructed with
Russian assistance at an outlay of Rs. 13,171 crore. If the government can
afford to spend thousands of crores of rupees in to ‘omnicidal’ nuclear
energy, then why not in solar and other forms of green energy? This
definitely has to do with the thriving crony-capitalism in India and also
the corruption at the highest level of ‘power’ in the world’s largest
democracy.

Read more:

Nuclear Energy: A story of Unkept Promises

The Nuclear Energy Debate in India

The purpose of this article is to invoke conscientizacao!

“We do live in a society of risky choices, but one in which some do the
choosing and others the risking”.
– Slavoj Zizek

New Government, Wrong Priorities

 

Let us accept Modi’s statement on completing 30 days in office as justified- No luxury of ‘honeymoon period’ for my government’. Now, let us consider as to what shall be the course of his government after promising ‘achhe din‘?

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Modi’s statement clearly indicates, even accuses the UPA of misgovernment and abuse of power which ultimately led to the ‘economic and political’ problems in the nation. These would include loss due to scams, tax benefits/evasions. black money, industrial slowdown and an upper hand which the NGOs have gained under UPA (the NDA is looking to solve this through institutional vendetta ie, the Intelligence Bureau).

Now, instead of heavily taxing the rich or #EatTheRich as UK’s radical Strike Magazine puts it, the Modi government is busy taking the fight with the wrong sector and the wrong people.

1. Removal of several State Governors appointed by the UPA. This clearly was an act of ‘political vengeance’, as the UPA did the same after coming to power in 2004.

We must question, and surprisingly even the media did by asking the question- what is the priority of the new government? A good argument against NDA’s move was presented by Pratap Bhanu Mehta in the Indian Express.

2. It chose rail hike pointing again to the misdeeds of the UPA government. Ironically, the last time railways saw a hike was in 1998 under the NDA government. The immediate reaction to this was public outrage- on ground helped by the political parties in opposition and on the internet. The outrage was not against the hike, but to the increase in amount.

List of revised rail hike for local trains in Mumbai:

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3. The new government’s Union Health Minister Dr. Harshvardhan has sparked controversy by suggesting that sex education in schools should be banned and to use ‘Indian Culture’ to curb AIDS.

What must one comment and avoid commenting on such a naive and ridiculous statement? This clearly reflects the conservative and right-wing mind-set which the BJP advocates.

4. The Centre now has chosen to replicate the model of village in Gujrat which boasts of WiFi, Air Conditioner, et cetera. A Times Of India report carried a report on this which read, ‘Image a village that offers WiFi connectivity, has A/C schools with CCTV cameras and mid-day meals’. My immediate reaction to this was, ‘Imagine a village with no-caste, gender equality and 100% literacy?’

The government has failed to realise that the the ‘primary’ necessity of a village is not what it is trying to impose which stems out of its ‘one-dimensional’ (as Herbert Marcuse defines it) ideas of ‘development’, but rather socio-economic equality and beyond.

Would it be right to call the new government as UPA-III?

– takeleft@outlook.com

 

AAP and the Occupy Movement

This is my response on an article on the Occupy Movement in New York.

I have also tried to draw a comparison between the ‘leadership’ aspects and practices of Occupy Movement and AAP Movement.

Occupy

Our movement is leaderless and leaderful.” —Dr. Cornel West, American philosopher, academic, activist, author.

Here I would like to draw a direct connection between the Occupy Movement and the AAP movement strictly in terms of “leadership”. As the above quote by Dr. Cornel West makes the stand on leadership very evident, the movement therefore raises several fundamental questions like the need for a central leader or a central body as has always been the case in the politics of organisation and agitation.

In the episodes of The Julian Assange Show, Assange in discussion with activists of the Occupy movement raised the question of, ‘how did they manage to co-operate events’? And the answer was, a ‘common’ understanding that automatically develops when you confront the Police-State and can’t afford to be violent. They split up in small groups and and every evening AAP style mohalla meetings were taken to discuss the next day’s action where every person present could give his/her opinion. Each unit of protestors still remained autonomous and free to takes it own course. And this is what they claim led to the success (if I may say so) of the Occupy movement (while this does not seems to be true of the AAP movement due to its leaders and media-faces).

An example from history of such a common understanding among protestors in America:

As the last aspect of the opposition I should like now to mention a new dimension of protest, which consists in the unity of moral-sexual and political rebellion. I should like to give you an illustration that I experienced as an eyewitness, which will show you the difference between what is happening in the United States and here. It was at one of the large anti-war demonstrations in Berkeley. The police, it is true, had permitted the demonstration, but forbidden access to the target of the demonstration, the military railroad station at Oakland. This meant that, beyond a particular and clearly defined point, the demonstration would have become illegal by violating the police order. When thousands of students neared the point at which the forbidden road began they came upon a barricade consisting of about 10 rows of heavily armed policemen outfitted in black uniforms and steel helmets. The march approached this police barricade, and as usual there were several people at the head of the march who yelled that the demonstration should not stop but try instead to break through the police cordon, which naturally would have led to a bloody defeat without achieving any aim. The march itself had erected a counter-cordon, so that the demonstrators would first have had to break through their own cordon in order to cross that of the police. Naturally this did not happen. After two or three scary minutes the thousands of marchers sat down in the street, guitars and harmonicas appeared, people began “necking” and “petting,” and so the demonstration ended. You may find this ridiculous, but I believe that a unity spontaneously and anarchically emerged here that perhaps in the end cannot fail to make an impression even on the enemy.

Herbert Marcuse, The Problem of Violence and the Radical Opposition, 1967.

AAP 1

Whereas, loosely speaking, the AAP has a central leader i.e. Arvind Kejrival and a central body comprising of Yogendra Yadav, Manish Sisodia, Vishwas Kumar and others. And their recent actions too have raised eyebrows among their believers. The point that I am trying to make is, ‘What is it that drives the actions of AAP? Is it the “consensus” or the self-morality of the “leadership”?

Can AAP afford to have several autonomous units of protestors (also geographically) and chose their own course of action, but in solidarity with the whole movement? One may point out about the difference between the Occupy Movement and AAP as the former being a social and the latter being political. If so, are political movements doomed till eternity, with vertical leadership being the only option, and give up the hope for a better model of horizontal leadership?

 – takeleft@outlook.com

Putin: standing up to the Empire

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin

For the lack of creativity (in this case) and also for its completeness, I borrow Frontline Magazine’s headline for Putin i.e. standing up to the Empire. Much has already been written about American empire’s history, present and future, with authors like Prem Shankar Jha from India arguing about the extinction of the ‘nation-state’ under the current globalised order and the further strengthening of American power. (Jha’s book (Twilight of the Nation-State) won him a foreword by Eric Hobsbawn! Who was surprised and also happy to see such an insightful book coming from a country which is bound to play an important role in the 21st century.

However, recent events as that of America’s failure to invade Syria and the ever-confusing events in Ukraine-Crimea point to a paradigm shift in the way power (strictly in the political sense) is exercised, by the ‘Empire’. The Empire seems to be losing its absolute grip on the world, and as things would naturally (even scientifically) flow in a vaccum is, giving way to other power contenders, Russia in this case, as was evident in Syria and Crimea.

Now, let’s try and examine the emergence of Russia as a challenger to the Empire, strictly in descriptive terms and not in prescriptive terms i.e. what is rather than what ought to be. The main points highlighted by the news media (as it is the only ‘manufacturer’ of content due to its monopoly), global and local (information flowing downwards) are:

1. Russia is power hungry and is indulging in Cold-War like actions to undermine the USA, and its allies, of course!

2. Russia is supporting the ‘bad guys’ like Assad and Yanukovich.

3. If not contained, Russia could be a threat to the world security, especially to the Eastern and European region.

As a student of political science I would find this very naïve; anyone who is of the opinion that ‘power’ can be dissolved and buried forever, and also that it is an essential per-condition for the world to live in peace. Power is an inevitable outcome and the ultimate game-changer, and the clues to this could be find in Marx’s phrase, ‘the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle’ (for control over power) and also in Social Contract theorist Rousseau, who highlighted on the inevitable process of ‘power generation’ when humans come together to live as a whole and also emphasized on the need to ‘consolidate and control’ power i.e. of the Sovereign against the individual.

If this is so, then wouldn’t there be a tussle among different Sovereigns to control power and exercise it for the benefit of its own class? Why does Russia’s action gets so fiercely criticized and not the Empire’s, by the mainstream media primarily, and why should the Empire’s claim to power be taken as absolute (it is not in many cases, though)?

What evil it is if smaller countries (how much ever evil back home) like Syria and Ukraine are getting saved from ‘humanitarian intervention’?

The benefits of it to Russia are a totally different matter all together and are not the concern here. We are simply concerned about the shift in global power.

The Empire didn’t cry foul when former the USSR under Stalin defeated the Nazi Army and saved the world history from taking a different and even an undesirable turn? The same USSR against which the Empire was trying to save the worls throughout the 20th Century. Isn’t it all about Empire’s convenience?

Putin (Russia) has dared to contain the Empire as it has already done many times back in the past, unlike other countries which have become Empire’s satellite, turning blind eye towards the repercussions of its power. My support for Putin is not absolute and is strictly issue based. Providing Edward Snowden (a modern day hero no less than the Marxist revolutionaries of the 20th century, I would say!) with asylum is one such issue.

To talk of the Ukrainian matter, I would simply draw attention to India.

Did India not intervene in the Bangladesh War in 1971? For reasons well known and even unknown.

The reason for the Russian paranoia is West’s own prejudices against the Russians, which is further strengthen by cultural ‘hegemony’ through global media empires and the eternal and inevitable struggle for power which will keep giving rise to such events!

Read more on American Propaganda manufacturing:

The strangelove effect:- or how we are hookwinked into accepting a new world war

Unbearable Bears: Media’s cliched portrayal of Russia

Post-scriptum: Power is never neutral, it tilts.

AAP, the Media and Public Opinion

A political party which identifies itself as a critique and reformer, rather than being a partner, of a power (political) system, which is overtly corrupt, powered by the media can create ‘chaos’ (the word critics of AAP use for its work) can bring sweeping reforms through public opinion i.e. the ballot box.

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Why not?

 

However, it’s easier said than done, as was evident in the Arvind Kejriwal Google Hangout on 14th April, 2014 anchored by Rajdeep Sardesai. I was baffled by the stupid questions asked by the viewers and also saddened because, the people, brainwashed by the media are targeting only AAP.

The following are a few questions and accusations raised against AAP:

1. Why did they go back on their word of not taking support from the Congress in the Delhi Assembly Elections?

2. Why did AAP betray the people of Delhi by dissolving the government in just 49 days?

3. Arvind Kejriwal earned the title of ‘bhagoda’ for resigning from the Chief Minister’ship.

4. The AAP does not have a clear economic and international relations policy.

These questions and accusations are repeated time and again by the media and have become the cornerstone for public debate, moulding the public opinion against the AAP.

The most important question to ask is, ‘why is AAP being used as a scapegoat?’

Answer:

The big and powerful political parties (mainly Congress and BJP) along with the corporate news media have the resources as institutions of power and ideas which cannot be rivaled by the AAP. The media works only on one principle: maximization of profit through advertisements, and for this they need viewers to be sold to their advertisers. So, their support to AAP isn’t issue based, but TRP based. The media is an institution which ‘manufactures’ public opinion. How can the media play a non-partisan role if their primary task of it is to ‘maximize’ profit?

Politics isn’t about rigid principles which can never be changed. Prescriptively, it is about values which form the core of any party or individual which adjusts itself in that core to the changing circumstances.

Example: It was the BJP which proposed to introduce 100% FDI during its term (1998-2003). However, BJP changed its stance on FDI when it was introduced by the UPA. Despite such a major change in its policy the BJP expects to come out as the largest party in the coming national elections and also harbours the dream to have one of its candidates as the prime minister.

Post-scriptum: The people, as a whole, should come out of their sectarian circles of caste, class, gender, et cetera and above all their political convictions and voluntarily educate themselves to be able to make the right decisions.

– Avinay

takeleft@outlook.com

In Solidarity!

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When was the last time Hindus and Muslims stood united on an issue?

Well, it’s a rare occurrence. For the politics that breeds the Hindu-Muslim hatred is more complex and entwined  and just cannot be ended by the rhetoric of “Hindu-Muslim bhai bhai”. Their “respective” religious leaders and the nation’s political leaders know this, for they themselves are responsible for it!

However, there is one issue against which they both stand united i.e. Free Speech.

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What is it that forced Penguin to agree to ‘pulp’ all the existing copies of Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus?

I think, the best answer from the flood of articles being published since yesterday is given by Kenan Malik in The Hindu:

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/changing-landscape-of-free-speech/article5677713.ece

“The notion of giving offence suggests that certain beliefs are so important or valuable to certain people that they should be put beyond the possibility of being insulted, or caricatured or even questioned. The importance of the principle of free speech is precisely that it provides a permanent challenge to the idea that some questions are beyond contention, and hence acts as a permanent challenge to authority.”

Here are some instances when both, Saffron and Green stood together hand-in-hand to curb free speech:

1. Rajiv Gandhi’s government in 1989 bans Salman Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses

2. The Maharashtra government bans James Laine’s book Shivaji

3. The Saffron witch hunt to persecute M.F. Hussain for his paintings on Hindu Goddesses

4. The Withdrawal of A.K. Ramanujan’s essay ‘Three Hundred Ramayanas’ from Delhi University syllabus under Saffron pressure

How could the God-less Communists stay behind and just be mere spectators of this drama?

So, they chose to ban two books of Taslima Nasreen, author of Lajja. But, they didn’t stop at that and made sure that she be persecuted further under the pressure from Muslims in West Bengal (the so called land of Indian Renaissance!). The communists refused even to provide protection for her in Kolkata, so that she had to leave the city to seek refuge elsewhere.

In the name of God?

In July 1991, Hitoshi Igarashi, a Japanese professor of literature and translator of The Satanic Verses, was knifed to death on the campus of Tsukuba University. That same month another translator of Rushdie’s novel, the Italian Ettore Capriolo, was beaten up and stabbed in his Milan apartment. In October 1993, William Nygaard, the Norwegian publisher of The Satanic Verses, was shot three times and left for dead outside his home in Oslo. Bookshops were firebombed for stocking the novel.

What do these events point out?

Shut your f***ing mouth!

A humble suggestion by Ramchadra Guha

In December 2006, when (MF) Husain was still alive, He (Guha) wrote an article suggesting that, in the next Republic Day awards, he (M.F. Hussain) be given the Bharat Ratna, with Salman Rushdie being simultaneously honoured with the Padma Vibhushan. That would have been a just assessment of their respective contributions to art and literature, as well as a blow for artistic freedom.

I end up this post with a poem by Faiz Ahmed Faiz who was jailed for his poems in Pakistan.

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Speak

Speak, your lips are free.
Speak, it is your own tongue.
Speak, it is your own body.
Speak, your life is still yours.

See how in the blacksmith’s shop
The flame burns wild, the iron glows red;
The locks open their jaws,
And every chain begins to break.

Speak, this brief hour is long enough
Before the death of body and tongue:
Speak, ’cause the truth is not dead yet,
Speak, speak, whatever you must speak.

– Faiz Ahmed Faiz

 

– Avinay

takeleft@outlook.com