Monday, July 31, 2006

Can Blogging Derail Your Career?

7 Bloggers Discuss the Case of Juan Cole

With the debut of his Web log, Informed Comment, four years ago, Juan R.I. Cole became arguably the most visible commentator writing on the Middle East today. A professor of modern Middle East and South Asian history at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and president of the Middle East Studies Association, Cole has voiced strong opposition to the war in Iraq and to the treatment of the Palestinians, garnering him plaudits from the left and condemnation from supporters of Israel and President Bush's foreign policy. In the words of a colleague, Cole has done something no other scholar of the region has done since Bernard Lewis: "become a household word."

In the spring, Informed Comment took center stage in another arena — Cole's own career. After two departments recommended him for a tenured position at Yale University, a senior committee decided last month not to offer him the job after all. Although Yale has declined to explain its decision, numerous accounts in the news media have speculated that Cole's appointment was shot down because of views he expressed on his blog. We asked seven academic bloggers to weigh in on Cole's case and on the hazards of academic blogging.
The Lessons of Juan Cole, by Siva Vaidhyanathan
The Politics of Academic Appointments, by Glenn Reynolds
The Trouble With Blogs, by Daniel W. Drezner
Exposed in the Blogosphere, by Ann Althouse
The Invisible College, by J. Bradford DeLong
The Attention Blogs Bring, by Michael Bérubé

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Ragging Makes Us Bold by Varun Aggarwal

Ragging makes one Bold, Part I

I have several times been confronted with the argument that Ragging makes one bold. So many times, I have I been challenged on this, that I thought I would try to analyse it and thus I present this article.

To pick up with examples, people tell me that in life we would face situations where our seniors in our professional life (other high end people) would stress us and ask for unwarranted things from us. Ragging prepares us for the same, so that we dont break down in such circumstances. Thus it makes us strong! It increases our resistance power.

Let us consider, what is BOLDness. I think boldness is actually taking a stand for ones principles and truth, even when the person knows that he could lose something for taking this stand or it can become dangerous for him. Acceptance of wrong done to you and not breaking-down is not in my conception BOLDness. It is revolting against the wrong done to you and not breaking down!

Boldness cannot be equated with `sahansheelta', forbearance makes sense only with a feeling of forgiveness... I shall 'not act against evil' due to forgiveness (inspired from Leo Tolstoy) and not because I think that I dont have another option!!!

Boldness as instilled by ragging is a weak acceptance of fate by people who dont believe in themselves. Teaching such boldness is definitely wrong, you are converting people into non-believers. It is not true boldness which means to fight for ones cause, rights and principles.

Thus I dont believe that ragging makes one bold, it teaches us how to be exploited and mutely, non-resistively accept it. It is maybe the reason, why any one can come and spit on the face of us Indians AND we say its OK! It happens this way!!!!

Ragging makes one Bold, Part II

In Part I of this article, I argued that tolerating wrong-doing to oneself and not breaking-down in such circumstances is not boldness, but 'learning' to accept exploitation. In this second part, I take-up the line where ragging victims are asked to do funny/stupid/sexual/unsocial things and their performing the same is claimed to make them bold.

During ragging session, one is often asked to dance in public, do funny things as to climb the tree, or say something stupid loudly in public/college/bus travel. I accept that this does help the person in defeating his shyness and introvert character (if it is the case with him/her). Infact I wont say I completely oppose this kind of ragging. However, this behaviour does attribute to challenge a person's fundamental freedom of choice, adds to destroying the individuality of the person and playing with his sensitivity. Thus there is a trade-off. It is debatable whether it is fair to strip one of his freedom of choice arguing that it is beneficial for him in the long run!

The usefulness of the above kind of ragging can be achieved in other ways of interaction like group discussions, debates, theatre, sports, social visits, etc. during the first year which can be made compulsary. My idea is that if this kind of ragging has some educational value, it should be made a part of the curriculum and done in a systematic way. We rather leave it to the senior who I feel is not driven by the educational experience he is providing to the junior, but for his want of deriving sadistic pleasure and revenge through a new ' murga '; we cannot be sure when he crosses the line and moves to the other side of the trade off!

Let us now consider ragging where a person is asked to do something stupid in public, but this time the ragging act has a sexual/physical/unethical attributes. This could be hurling nasty/sexual abusation to someone, holding your private parts in publics, making an indecent proposal to a girl, stripping oneself, etc. Yes, indeed this makes once courageous! But, is it the courage to do the wrong? Ragging tend to instill the courage in an individual that he shouldnt be afraid to be something which is socially unacceptable and wrong, since their consequence wont be much! One can appreciate that this boldness is actually 'gunda-gardi'. This is the courage which all unsocial elements like eve-teasers, bullies and even muderers possess. The courage is not derived from the truth of one's stand, but the non-existence of dire consequence. It is once again a perverted boldness/courage.

Thus, I strongly object to this kind of ragging not only due to its inprincipled and unethical nature, but because it instills the worst kind of courage into a person. [May I compare it here with the courage of the suicide bombers?] The other day, I heard a psychatrist say that wrong-doers are persons who lose sensitivity towards the self-respect of the other person and who are not afraid to do the wrong. This ragging indeed moulds freshers in this way, as is proved when the freshers become perpetrators in the second year!

Conclusively, I will jump too far to say that ragging has a inherent invisible role in increaing the crime in India ! And, through this series of articles, I have been able to convince myself that severe sexual and physical ragging doesn't instill BOLDNESS and COURAGE into a person.