May 16, 2009
[Beware of impersonators! There are at least two persons currently impersonating me on the internet, one blatantly on The Economist online’s website. Despite repeated requests The Economist has not taken steps to remove this impersonator’s comments. I don’t have a lawyer to give them a legal notice nor the time to pursue this further. All I can do is to warn you that if you have been reading those fraudulent comments, please be aware those comments were NOT made by me! Details here.]
Who am I?
I like to imagine that I am a practitioner of human affairs – on the lines of Kautiliya, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, or Burke. But the reality is that (at least so far!) I’ve been a mundane bureaucrat who has spent nearly three decades eking out a modest living (sufficient for my modest needs, though) by managing public policy projects and large organisations on behalf of governments in India, and by providing public policy advice and managing rather smallish public policy projects in Australia.
The more enlightened souls amongst you will readily discern, of course, that there is a deeper question I’ve avoided by talking superficial things about myself. That is the following: “Who exactly am I?” This question will need a response more subtle and complex than the mere routine description about my career or life journey. But unfortunately, I’m not quite sure at the moment who, or more precisely, what I am. Does my consciousness, also found equally among all human beings, exist outside space and time – or does it have properties like any other form of energy? I’m going to explore this issue in one of my future books, but it currently appears unlikely to me that I’ll make any major breakthrough. Let me park this question for now, anyway, and revert to more mundane, material things that we are more comfortable talking about. [For those wanting to explore this basic question, this Facebook group might be useful; and also this blog post. Sadly, I think we are universally ignorant in relation to all basic questions about ourselves.]
What’s my background?
I was a member of the 1982 batch of the IAS (India’s elite, senior executive government service) till I resigned in January 2001. Thereafter I’ve been working as a modest, mid-level public servant in Victoria (Australia) doing many interesting things between 9am to 6 pm, five days a week (and many even more interesting things after work).
If you are really keen to find out about my school or educational ‘history’, and jobs held, I’ve got just the thing you are looking for. Plunge yourself into the information I’ve provided on my Linkedin page and a web-based resume I designed long ago. You can also check out my academic and training certificates (if you think I’m fibbing) and browse through a rather flippant old home page (try the “beach wear” option if you have idle time on your hands to go through this page!)
What’s the proof I know anything?
Moving on to difficult issues. I am supposed to know something, but what precisely it is no one knows. Whether what I have been taught – at considerable expense by the Indian, Australian, and Japanese taxpayers through publicly funded scholarships (also an American private university fellowship for three years) – is sensible in any way or useful to anyone remains a moot question.
As a result of what I have learnt through my bumbling journeys across three continents, one thing I can confidently claim – that I continue to know very little. I have found that there is only one ultimate scientific truth: that we, individually, know almost nothing. Not only are my underlying mental faculties limited (despite an alleged intellectual ability in the 99.9th percentile – a truly questionable conception I’d argue if my abilities are considered exceptional), but the amount of knowledge I have so far accessed, understood, and assimilated is scant beyond description. Millions of books I’ve yet to read and digest. Libraries FULL of books that I’ve not read. There’s much to know but so little that I know. And because we know so little, it is certain that most of what we think is wrong.
All the certificates and collectibles(signals to the job market) are no substitute for a strong capacity for critical thinking and robust self-reflection (including reflecting on one’s deep ignorance). Because EVERYBODY ELSE is equally, or comparably ignorant, and only very few people think critically, I have formed the view that I believe no one nor trust anyone: no one, that is, but myself. I therefore verify all facts for myself and only then form a view. The view I then form is MY view. I do not take anyone else’s view to be true just because the person holding that view happens to be in a position of authority.
My main message to everyone is simple: Find the truth YOURSELF. That means everything you think you know (and I think I know) is subject to question. Our lives are therefore only a preliminary essay in the truth; a feeble attempt to seek answers. Any ambition beyond that is, that we may actually know something, is delusional.
What do I ‘believe’ in?
It should be abundantly clear that I do not believe in anything without personal verification. But after extensive personal verification I do form clear beliefs about things. For instance I am convinced that the principle of freedom, or more precisely, the principle of maximising freedom subject to accountability, can help humankind achieve peace and prosperity as a species. Freedom would let each of us pursue happiness our own way (if that is what we want to pursue).
In other words, I profess the political and moral philosophy called classical liberalism. To find more about this world-view, please browse through my books, writings and publications. In particular do read my 2008 book, Breaking Free of Nehru . I also seek your views on my draft manuscript, The Discovery of Freedom .
What’s the best way to keep in touch with me and my ‘work’?
I announce almost everything I do, or think about, on the internet. That is very convenient. It is like a ripe flower that spreads its seeds in the wind. Who knows where the seeds will land and find fertile soil? The minds of my readers is what I seek – to free them from bondage to false belief, and to force them to think for themselves, often for the first time in their lives.
It is easy to keep in touch with my work:
- You can subscribe to my blog where I post thoughts on various issues.
- You can also be my internet friend on Facebook, Linkedin, Plaxo, Myspace, Yahoo , Sulekha, Orkut, or Shelfari. I’m quite open to making new friends since I’ve got unequivocal political motives and I need friends to carry my message and become my supporters! See, I’m very transparent and don’t hide my motives! But in doing so I would like to assure you that my message is for your own good. Have a think about it. No compulsion.
What do I do apart from being a faceless bureaucrat?
I do mainly three things in my spare time (basically I put in about 40 hours of work a week to earn a living, and 40-70 hours a week on my personal interests).
One: India-related political work
Since February 1998 I have done (and started again) a fair amount of political work to promote liberalism in India. I’m currently developing the Freedom Team of India (FTI) – a concept that I proposed in Breaking Free of Nehru initially in draft form in mid-2006, and kick-started, after considerable thought, in December 2007.
[Recap: In mid-2005 I had started the Liberal Party of India along with a handful of excellent people but that fizzled out. Prior to that, between 2004-05, I had promoted the Swatantra Bharat Paksha (Party). See the decision of 2004 re: Swatantra Bharat Party (pictures). Earlier, in 2000 I had proposed starting work towards a liberal political party in India but there were no takers. So there were these three failed attempts before FTI.]
What has been the result so far? Nothing. It would therefore appear, at first sight, that I am a failure as a reformer, to which I can reasonably offer in my defence a reasonable claim that there is not much demand for freedom in India yet. Some things only take off once the entire society has shifted in that direction. India is still happy to live with intense corruption and government meddling.
Why I continue political activity is because I must. I don’t see much of a choice. We ought to do, and advocate, the right things in life, regardless of whether we “succeed” in the normal sense of the word. (Of course, I do want to succeed, and so I periodically review and change strategies.)
Two: A bit of policy work on India
In 1998 I started the IndiaPolicy mailing list which then led to the formation of the
India Policy Institute of which I am the Executive Director. In July 2009 I released a policy magazine called India Policy Update. I hope you can join me in this effort as well. Join me at this Google group. (Sadly this is now languishing – simply no time.)
Three: Manage my chronic RSI
I developed a very bad case of RSI in 1998 due to excessive typing (PhD stuff, IPI, etc.). My extremely painful and difficult experience with this muscular problem is discussed here: My (now 11) year experience of RSI – and its ‘cure’. It is much better now, hence I’m writing more than I did ever before. Once I find time, I’ll also write a book on how to manage RSI. My RSI was actually quite an eye-opener. It showed me how little our “super-qualified” doctors and “experts” know about the human body. That’s a good lesson for everyone to take home. Trust no one but yourself! Surviving the “expert” fools who clutter this world is no joke.
That’s it for now! I’ll update this introduction about myself periodically when I find a spare moment.