Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron is a critique of overstated equality. As members of civil society we all agree upon the value of equal rights and equal opportunities. But when equality is taken too seriously, it can have counterproductive effects. All of us have experienced inequality of power, fortune and endowments in our personal and social lives. We accept it to be part of the game of life and adapt ourselves to the fact. In contrast, the political realm endeavors to offer equality of individual rights, liberties and entitlements. The eligibility to vote to elect our public representatives is one such right. The right of electoral franchise is equal to the extent that one person is allowed one vote and that each vote is weighted equally. It is telling that this fundamental observation of equality still does not make the United States an ideal model of democracy. Hence, there is disconnection between lofty principles and ground realities in both the short-story as well as . . . Read More
It is self-evidently true that a liberal-democratic government should protect the ‘social rights’ of its citizens. There are copious arguments from various eminent thinkers that back up this claim. Ranging across eras and philosophical schools, various intellectuals have endorsed the protection of social rights of citizens. This essay will draw upon the ideas of philosopher Socrates (through his disciple Plato), American founding father James Madison, and 20th century political scientist T.H. Marshall. In doing so, the essay will back the position that a liberal-democratic government should protect the ‘social-rights’ of its citizens.
Social rights can be loosely defined as those rights which are operant in public places. While this is not a legal definition of the term, it serves as a guideline for the essay. In a nation with diverse racial, ethnic and religious demography as the United States, it is expected that the laws reflect secularism and social equity. These . . . Read More
Concentration of media ownership is a serious problem across the world. Since the media is considered the ‘Fourth Pillar’ of democracy, it is imperative that it remains diverse and free of commercialization. Unfortunately, the reality is quite the opposite. In this context, Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, stands as a symbol of this dire imbalance. News Corporation, under the leadership of Rupert Murdoch, has unparalleled power and reach in the news media industry. The Murdoch Empire spans several continents, with significant footholds in Australia, United States and the United Kingdom. Founded and headquartered in Australia, the company now boasts of being the number one newspaper publisher in the world, with a cumulative daily readership of 14 million in these three countries alone. Murdoch has a near monopoly in the media space in Australia, owning two-thirds of all newspaper circulation in the country. Across the Tasman Sea, in New Zealand, he owns nearly half. Further, he . . . Read More
One of the topics that had garnered media space in recent months is the issue of global warming. Without doubt it is one of the critical issues facing humanity. If solutions are not identified and implemented urgently, irrevocable damage could occur to the prospects of the species as well as the larger habitable environment. There are different stakeholders involved, including the policymakers, media, general public, the business community and the scientific community. The direction of the future discourse on the subject would depend on persuasiveness and collective representation of each of these groups. What follows is an evaluation of their relative ‘weight’ in terms of shaping the discourse on climate change. Newspapers such as New York Times and Washington Times were perused for this exercise.
The scientific community performs the crucial role of studying the problem and accurately projecting the future implications. But they have relatively weak influence over the . . . Read More
The relevance of the book by Aseltine et al cannot be overstated. With respect to the state of education in the United States, the book takes a comprehensive survey of the education system. By doing so, it identifies the inherent weaknesses of the system, while also suggesting robust corrective measures. At the heart of the training philosophy promoted by the book, is recognition of the role of teachers in molding students, but also in the reputation of the school as a whole. In the process of reading the book I had noted down my impressions, reactions, criticisms and an overall evaluation of the work. These have synthesized into my thesis statement. Giving due acknowledgement for the positive facets of the book, including its numerous insights and action plans for teacher and school improvement, I will however argue that as a result of its limited focus the book fails to recognize and address larger systemic factors that have undermined the education system.
One of the . . . Read More
Both Paulo Freire and William Brickman stand as giants in the field of education. However, their views and concerns hardly ever converged. While Freire’s basic focus was the relation between education and socio-economy, Brickman’s scholarship was on comparative education at the international level. It is fair to say that these two areas are worlds apart. Yet, the work of both thinkers is integral to modern thought on education. Their theories and views continue to influence contemporary education professionals.
One of the major focus areas of Freire’s work was the role of education in maintaining the existing social order. In other words, he sought to answer the question of how the oppressed in society continues to remain so? If the purpose of education is to enlighten, and in consequence, liberate the individual, then why are human relationships ripe with domination of one party over the other? It is a fair question and the answer lies in the way content, structure and . . . Read More
Freedom of the Press is an essential aspect of functioning democracies. Be it an institution or an individual, the liberty to express openly is the most important of attributes. The press, in particular, being the Fourth Estate of a democratic society, is expected to be bold and articulate. But ground realities differ from ideal conceptions of the function of the press. In the real world, an array of external factors coaxes or coerces the press into acting against democratic principles. These include advertisers, political parties, businesses and even special interest citizen groups. In this backdrop, it is interesting to analyze the state of freedom of press in the world today. It is an interesting exercise to find out which countries are exemplary and which are at a nadir. After all, freedom of press has an immediate bearing on the lives and prospects of citizens. It is not an abstract idea whose relevance is confined merely to the academia.
The Freedom House . . . Read More
The advent of cognitive science at the centre of studying psychology is widely portrayed to be a revolutionary event. It was in the 1950s that the shift from behaviourism to cognitive psychology took its first bold step. There has been no reverting back to behaviourism as the dominant paradigm within psychology ever since. Cognitive psychology is one of the disciplines in psychology that focuses on studying internal mental processes. How individuals perceive, conceive, recall from memory, articulate their views and arrive at conclusions, etc, are studied. As opposed to Behavioural psychology, Cognitive psychology adopts a scientific analytic method rather than introspective or speculative theorizing. At the outset, it acknowledges the presence of such internal mental states as knowledge, belief, motivation, desire, etc. This essay will evaluate how ‘revolutionary’ an event, in the Kuhnian sense, was the placement of cognitive science at the centre of . . . Read More
Taxes are always a contentious issue in American politics. The two leading parties in the country have their own views on taxes. The Republicans are mostly in favor of tax cuts for businesses, whereas the Democrats generally favor proportionately high taxes for the rich. In my personal opinion I support a progressive tax regime that levies a greater tax rate on corporations and rich individuals. The rationale for this position is the prevailing disparities in American society. Despite being the richest country in the world, the United States lags behind in welfare and social security features.
The revenues collected through a progressive tax regime can be utilized to strengthen the public healthcare system. As it stands, the United States has more than 50 million citizens without health insurance. This is a shocking statistic, for with only a fraction of the yearly military budget, health access and healthcare outcomes in the country could be improved multifold. . . . Read More
John O’Neill’s career in service of his country is one spent in frustration and futility. Despite valiant efforts by this sincere and hardworking law enforcement agent, the terror attacks on September 11 2001 could not be prevented. More tragically, John O’Neill himself would perish in the attack as he was then working in the World Trade Centre as a security officer.
John O’Neill has had an impressive career path covering various roles within and without the FBI. Always drawn to the allure of a special agent for the FBI, John’s first job was as a fingerprint clerk and tour guide at FBI Headquarters in Washington. He was barely twenty years old when he started out with FBI in this modest fashion. He climbed up the career ladder steadily thereafter. His appointment as the Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC) in Chicago is a notable milestone. But it is the World Trade Center (WTC) bombing at Oklahoma in 1993 that would prove to be a turning point in his . . . Read More