Democracy and the Media: The relationship between Public Relations industry and democratic process.

The four-part documentary series The Century of the Self captures the rise of one of the definitive industries of the 20th century, namely, Public Relations (PR). The term Public Relations is somewhat of a euphemism, for far from maintaining healthy relations with consumers the industry actually acts against their interests. It is true that the role of PR is to keep the public contended, but the problem lies in the means it adopts to achieve this end. Instead of addressing genuine public grievances through transparent sharing of information, PR firms specialize in manufacturing misinformation and spinning dubious facts.

The Century of the Self exposes how thorough and scientific the PR industry has become. In its early days the industry concerned itself with selling products by highlighting its features. However, quite soon, as the Unique Selling Propositions (USPs) of competing products decreased, the only way of distinguishing products was through their perceptions. This . . . Read More

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Various treatments of love in chosen literary works.

The nature and context of love in the chosen literary works is somewhat different. Each of these works belong to a different era and represent the sensibilities and customs of their times. At the same time, love is a universal human phenomenon, which transcends time and localized culture. To this extent there is unity within the diverse manifestations of love that the chosen works illustrate. The rest of this essay will highlight the various treatments of love in this set of five literary works.

In the classic 14th century book Decameron, the 100 tales of love are narrated by seven young women and three young men. Having isolated themselves from other humans during the devastating epidemic of Black Death, the ten secluded individuals give vent to their creative imagination through these tales. Love is expressed under a range of situations and characters. Some of the tales border on ribaldry while others are narratives of tragedy. There are numerous instances of adultery and . . . Read More

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To what extent does the poetry of Matthew Arnold faithfully illustrate his ideas on literature as represented in his essay ‘The Function of Criticism at the Present Time’?

Arnold argues in his essay that criticism is as (if not more) important an aspect of literature as the creative effort. He took this stance at a time when criticism was being looked at as an academic pursuit. Some even considered it a sign of cynicism. Arnold clarifies the conventional definition of criticism thus: “the endeavor, in all branches of knowledge, theology, philosophy, history, art, science, to see the object as in itself it really is”. (Arnold) Hence, criticism is much more than comment and analysis – it is indeed a process of seeking the truth. That Arnold does not restrict his observation to merely literary art but includes all disciplines of inquiry speaks of his conviction. There is a great deal of convergence between Arnold’s views in his classic essay and his own poetry. Foremost,

“The active response Arnold always seeks in his prose criticism, as in his poetry, is the participation of his audience in the process of exercising the very . . . Read More

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Author style in A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner

William Faulkner is identified as a Southern writer, showcasing the issues and peculiarities of this part of the USA. To this extent, his short stories and novels reflect the culture, language and religion of the American hinterland. A Rose for Emily is no exception. Although set in a fictional city named Jefferson in Mississippi, the details distinguish it as a southern city.

A clear indicator of a southern city is the style of language – the southern dialect as it were. Through all dialogues, especially those used by the illiterate or rural folk, the southern accent is evident. Faulkner’s style also captures the social hierarchy within the city. It is on account of Emily’s high social status that her tax evasions are tolerated and her privileged lifestyle permitted. The epitome of this is when the town police pour lime around Emily’s house to absorb the foul smell emanating, instead of actually going inside and investigating.

Faulkner uses tragic irony in . . . Read More

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St. Anselm’s version of the Ontological Argument and Gaunilo’s objection to it

Anselm of Canterbury was one of the early promoters of the Ontological Argument supporting the existence of God. He argues that God exists on the basis that ‘something-than-which-nothing-greater-can-be-thought’ should necessarily exist in reality. In other words, just as anything a painter can conceive of can be materialized into a painting, the conception of God is a terminal point for human imagination. To the extent that it is imaginable, the object exists. To the extent that it is the ultimate in the scale of imagination, it must be God. Anselm goes on to claim that that God cannot be thought not to exist is further proof. He says, ‘something-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought’ exists so truly that it cannot even be thought not to exist. If a creature is able to think of something better and bigger than God, it would have to be above its Creator and be judging its Creator. Since this is logically impossible, it is only God who not only truly exists but also exists to . . . Read More

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Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience by Sharon Salzberg

It is important for all of us to have spiritual moorings. To be able to negotiate the vagaries of life, a spiritual support is essential. Sharon Salzberg’s informative book Faith is a personalized account of the necessity of faith. Talking from her experiences as an American Buddhist teacher, Salzberg offers readers several insights on the subject.

One of the main concepts spoken by Salzberg is the ‘discovery of truth’. Citing Buddhist understanding of cognitive processes, she reckons that human senses are not adequate to comprehend spiritual insights. To be able to get enlightened, disciplined pursuit of truth is necessary. Salzberg talks about how her own spiritual journey was marked by phases of doubt and confusion. Indeed, it is these challenges which make knowledge concrete, pulling away from its conceptual abstractions. In her own case, she encountered confusion whether to follow the Burmese or the Tibetan tradition of spiritual contemplation. She states that such . . . Read More

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The considerable overlap between Buddhism and Neuroscience

Following the thesis of Weisman’s article for the Seed Magazine, this essay will further furnish evidence in support of its claims. This essay will argue that much of the distilled wisdom of Buddhist thought is congruent with modern findings in neuroscience.

Of late Buddhism has found a following in the West. The major reason is that it is seen as a practical and philosophical system than a dogmatic religion. For example, the practice of meditation is far from being an esoteric mystical aspiration. There are palpable everyday benefits arising from regular meditation practice. Just as working out in the gym is good for the body, the daily practice of meditation is seen as a mind-exercise. To the extent that the mind is a manifestation of the physiology of the brain, meditation can also be seen as a brain exercise. Neuroplasticity is the term used by neurologists for describing the mutability of brain structures. Just as a body builder can shape and grow his muscles . . . Read More

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Can political regimes have legitimacy without democracy?

It is imperative that any political regime first gains its legitimacy before enforcing its authority on people. At the outset, it is important to differentiate legitimacy from legality. Legality is a technical concept, which may or may not always satisfy criteria for legitimacy. Legitimacy, on the other hand, is ascertained through an ethical evaluation of an action, phenomenon or an institution. In public affairs, many laws get contested on claims of their illegitimacy. Inversely, many laws are enacted on the basis of legitimate necessities for their existence. The role of democracy, in this context, is to legitimate what is legal and vice versa. Whether it is a representative democracy or direct democracy, the role of democratic processes is to bring a moral bearing to the legislatures. More broadly, democracy is the force of virtue through which a state can exercise its authority. The rest of this essay will elaborate various facets to the interrelation between legitimacy and . . . Read More

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Stalin’s Barber by Paul M. Levitt

Consciously or not, Stalin conjoins religion and politics. Why?

Religion, especially the monotheistic religions profess the idea of damnation and divine retribution for sinners. Stalin must have thought that where bullets and the baton are inadequate in suppressing dissent, the fear of God would serve as a complete deterrent. Another explanation for Stalin’s mixing of politics and religion is to develop cult followership. In religion, we find how the revealed word of God is never contested. It would suit Stalin’s totalitarian agenda quite well to have the citizens worship him as a cult figure. By encouraging religion, Stalin is promoting certain personality traits that are complementary to running a totalitarian regime.

What is the point of having numerous Stalins? (the plaster of Paris busts in the basement)

Although Stalin was a man in possession of enormous political power, deep inside he was very insecure. Some consider . . . Read More

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Characteristics of 19th century Nation States

The 19th century saw many key developments in political science. It was a period of fertile intellectual discussion about various forms of government and their merits and demerits. It was a time when many societies were coming out of agrarian economies and embracing industrialization. On the political front, imperialism still held sway as the dominant geo-political formation, even as older forms of monarchies and principalities continued to exist. In the flux created by new industrial methods of production, warfare and administration, the idea of ‘nationalism’ came to fore. With Europe as its epicentre, nationalism was mooted as the collective geo-political representation of a race (ethnicity) of people. Another feature of most modern nation-states is their capitalist orientation, although it was less pronounced in the 19th century. (Cottam & Cottam, 2001)

The modern state is defined by a few key characteristics: contiguous territory, salaried bureaucrats, common . . . Read More

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