Archive for the ‘history’ Category

It is said lightening never strikes the same place twice. The Woodstock festival of 1969 and 2009 bear proof to this adage.

The Woodstock festival of 1969 was one of the pivotal moments in popular music history. It was a three day gathering held in a dairy farm in the Catskills near the White Lake in the town of Bethel, New York. Woodstock was designed as a profit-making venture, aptly titled “Woodstock Ventures”. It famously became a “free concert” only after it became obvious that the event was drawing hundreds of thousands more people than the organizers had prepared for. It resonated with the idealistic hopes of the 1960s; Woodstock satisfied most who had assembled for the event. There was a sense of social harmony, which, with the quality of music, and the overwhelming mass of people, an electrifying influx of spontaneity that swept through the youth gave hint to spirit of the times. The Beat generation of the Fifties could jell with the flower power as though there were no schism. Integration principle had laid the groundwork for the Anti-Establishment subculture to express itself in manifestations as varied as Eastern spirituality, hedonism, anti-establishment drug culture and Marxism and music made it all seamless. Forty years on in 2009 there was replay of Woodstock festival and it was evident that spirit of the times felt at that time had gone.

History is made by events happening at random; but each event does not owe to the other for its  power. Vietnam War owed nothing to Eastern culture; neither did flower power draw from the fashion trends prevailing at that time.  Chains of events have spontaneity as if certain other worldly agency has had a hand in completing some jigsaw puzzle in that time and place. Never shall these come together; nor history repeats itself. When I see some noise about Caliphate and mindless bloodshed I know the fools are at it. It is the Tower of Babel again over the blood of innocents and persons far greater than them.


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“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man”. Heraclitus

Great ideas are the children of so many parents both of low and noble bloodline. These are called chains of events. Christianity was the pariah at the time of Nero and Domitian. But times changed and the Imperial Rome was somewhat like Ottoman Empire in 1916, sick and lacking in fresh blood.

Constantine the Great legitimized his shifting the capital of the empire to Rome from Constantinople as continuation of the old. This came to be called as New Rome. Giuseppe Mazzini, Italian nationalist and patriot found it useful to promote the notion of the Third Rome. He said, “After the Rome of the emperors, after the Rome of the Popes, there will come the Rome of the people”, and it had to do with the struggle of Italian unification with Rome as the capital. Benito Mussolini also in his speeches referred to Fascist Rome as Terza Roma and here was proposing expansion of Rome towards Ostia and the sea.

There were many such attempts at reviving the vanished glory of the old. One such attempt was to retake Constantinople after the Ottomans had captured it in 1453. Historical process that went into shape the Church of Rome after the collapse of the Empire brought out its backlash in the form of Reformation and Counter-Reformation and it deflected much of the force to prevent recapture of Constantinople a reality. France had once espoused the Crusades and in these cross currents of religious movements it allied with the Ottomans thereby preventing a concerted war effort. Constantinople remained in the hands of Ottoman Empire. After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in WWI Greek armies invaded Turkey during the Greco- Turkish War of 1919-1922 but their dream of reviving the old glory of Rome did not realize.

Large forces that rake up past lessons in history and pass on as in the case the Fall of Constantinople led to Renaissance and liberal thought all across the globe keep only way forward. Pax Romana did not either repeat itself in the Pax Britannia or in the Pax American. Integration principle sees to that the lessons in history impact collective experience of mankind so evolution of man’s attempt to recreate a New Canaan in the New World would fail as much as the Great Leap Forward by Republic of China in a Soviet Model would lead to altogether new. In fact China would strike a different path forward different from that of Soviet model.


As history moved on, Islam spread over a vast region, encountering and adjusting to numerous other societies, faiths and cultures. Inevitably in practice it mutated in different ways, often becoming more pragmatic and indulgent, often given second place to the demands of power and politics and temporal rulers.

For hardline Muslim traditionalists this amounted to deviationism, and from early on, there was a clash of ideas in which those arguing for a strict return to the “purity” of the early days of Islam often paid a price.

The eminent scholar Ahmad ibn Hanbal (780-855), who founded one of the main schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence, was jailed and once flogged unconscious in a dispute with the Abbasid caliph in Baghdad. Nearly five centuries later, another supreme theologian of the same strict orthodox school, Ibn Taymiyya, died in prison in Damascus.

These two men are seen as the spiritual forefathers of later thinkers and movements which became known as “salafist”, advocating a return to the ways of the first Muslim ancestors, the salaf al-salih (righteous ancestors).

They inspired a later figure whose thinking and writings were to have a huge and continuing impact on the region and on the salafist movement, one form of which, Wahhabism, took his name. Now the biggest underwriters of Wahhabism, the Saudi Regime whose petrodollars under the guise of charities in the late Eighties went on to spread their own brand of Islam. Are they safe in the way the religion has morphed into a religion of hate? (ack: Jim Muir/IS Group,-the full story/BBC)

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There exists an uneasy alliance between science and politics. When governments adopt certain policies they seek an ideological basis and it has its uses to give them an air of credibility and convince the world that they are the vehicles for progress whichever way you may interpret the term. On looking back however we find such mixture without exception tends to create monsters instead. Firstly ideology of politics adopting latest advances in technology is from above. There may be several scientific advisors in the panel the government inducts in order to formulate a policy but politics shall in the end determine the course. Look at the ideology of “eugenics” to describe the modern concept of improving the quality of human beings born into the world, It was Francis Galton’s brain child who however borrowed his half-cousin Charles Darwin‘s theory of evolution, which sought to explain the development of plant and animal species, and desired to apply it to humans. Galton believed that desirable traits were hereditary based on biographical studies; Darwin strongly disagreed with his interpretation of the book. In 1883, one year after Darwin’s death, Galton gave his research a name: eugenics. Throughout its recent history, eugenics has remained a controversial concept. Eugenic policies were first implemented in the early 1900s in the United States. It has roots in France, Germany, Great Britain, and the United States. Later, in the 1920s and 30s, the eugenic policy of sterilizing certain mental patients was implemented in other countries, including Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Japan and Sweden.

The scientific reputation of eugenics started to decline in the 1930s, a time when Ernst Rüdin used eugenics as a justification for the racial policies of Nazi Germany. I shall cite another:

In the mid-19th Century, it was common economic wisdom that government intervention in famines was unnecessary and even harmful. The market would restore a proper balance. Any excess deaths, according to Malthusian principles, were nature’s way of responding to overpopulation.

This logic had been used with devastating effect two decades beforehand in Ireland, where the government in Britain had, for the most part, decided that no relief was the best relief.


The Great Famine in Ireland began as a natural catastrophe of extraordinary magnitude, but its effects were severely worsened by the actions and inactions of the Whig government, headed by Lord John Russell in the crucial years from 1846 to 1852.

Altogether, about a million people in Ireland are reliably estimated to have died of starvation and epidemic disease between 1846 and 1851, and some two million emigrated in a period of a little more than a decade (1845-55). Comparison with other modern and contemporary famines establishes beyond any doubt that the Irish famine of the late 1840s, which killed nearly one-eighth of the entire population, was proportionally much more destructive of human life than the vast majority of famines in modern times.

The government might have prohibited the export of grain from Ireland, especially during the winter of 1846-47 and early in the following spring, when there was little food in the country and before large supplies of foreign grain began to arrive. Once there was sufficient food in the country (imported Indian corn or maize), from perhaps the beginning of 1848, the government could have taken steps to ensure that this imported food was distributed to those in greatest need. Second, the government could have continued its so-called soup-kitchen scheme for a much longer time. It was in effect for only about six months, from March to September 1847. As many as three million people were fed daily at the peak of this scheme in July 1847. The scheme was remarkably inexpensive and effective. It should not have been dismantled after only six months and in spite of the enormous harvest deficiency of 1847.

Third, the wages that the government paid on its vast but short-lived public works in the winter of 1846-47 needed to be much higher if those toiling on the public works were going to be able to afford the greatly inflated price of food. Fourth, the poor-law system of providing relief, either within workhouses or outside them, a system that served as virtually the only form of public assistance from the autumn of 1847 onwards, needed to be much less restrictive. All sorts of obstacles were placed in the way, or allowed to stand in the way, of generous relief to those in need of food. This was done in a horribly misguided effort to keep expenses down and to promote greater self-reliance and self-exertion among the Irish poor. (The Irish Famine- By Jim Donnelly/BBC history)

Despite of being aware of consequences the British government 150 years ago let Orissa suffer a similar catastrophe. Famine, while no stranger to the subcontinent, increased in frequency and deadliness with the advent of British colonial rule. As a background to this we need to understand how the East India Company helped kill off India’s once-robust textile industries, pushing more and more people into agriculture. This, in turn, made the Indian economy much more dependent on the whims of seasonal monsoons.

One hundred and fifty years ago, as is the case with today’s drought, a weak monsoon appeared as the first ill omen.

In modern-day Orissa state, the worst hit region, one out of every three people perished, a mortality rate far more staggering than that caused by the Irish Potato Famine. Yet the Orissa famine killed over a million people in eastern India.

On a flying visit to Orissa in February 1866, Cecil Beadon, the colonial governor of Bengal (which then included Orissa), staked out a similar position. “Such visitations of providence as these no government can do much either to prevent or alleviate,” he pronounced.

‘Too late, too rotten’

Regulating the skyrocketing grain prices would risk tampering with the natural laws of economics. “If I were to attempt to do this,” the governor said, “I should consider myself no better than a dacoit or thief.” With that, Mr Beadon deserted his emaciated subjects in Orissa and returned to Kolkata (Calcutta) and busied himself with quashing privately funded relief efforts.

In May 1866, it was no longer easy to ignore the mounting catastrophe in Orissa. British administrators in Cuttack found their troops and police officers starving. The remaining inhabitants of Puri were carving out trenches in which to pile the dead. “For miles round you heard their yell for food,” commented one observer. The Orissa famine also became an important turning point in India’s political development, stimulating nationalist discussions on Indian poverty. Faint echoes of these debates still resonate today amid drought-relief efforts.


Malthusian principle dictates war as a necessary means to control all unequal demands of population explosion in the face of dwindling food reserves. Nature must have had her last laugh at the British Imperial pretensions by leading them down the primrose path of colonialism and two great wars gave their comeuppance at last.

Ack: (Viewpoint: How British let one million Indians die in famine By Dinyar Patel

/11 June,2016; wikipedia-eugenics)

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Man for whom abstract thinking is natural can always latch onto an idea, however impractical it may turn out in the end. Like the hero of Cervantes ideas turn always, blades one blowing this way and another in that way. History is such ideas creating a blur that only a fool would want to claim his idea is the best.

There is nothing heroic about taking on impossible if it is going to end in wholesale bloodshed. See the savage butchery recently perpetrated by the so called Daesh. They imagine they would thereby revive a Caliphate. Earlier  Joseph Stalin sent some millions to gulags and to death for creating a Worker’s paradise. How did it fare?

We only need consider Lenin’s idea of a Worker’s paradise when the Bolsheviks violently over threw the Tsarist regime. It was similar to a theocratic state John Calvin ushered in Geneva several centuries before. It did not work in Europe then; neither did it in Soviet Russia. Ideas are fine but man cannot stick to it all the way through. Did not the Allies set about ridding the post-war world of Totalitarian ideology? Nuremberg, the German city associated with the pageantry which the Nazi regime staged as they climbed to power was a potent symbol for the German nation. The Allies was sending a message loud and clear to the world. Nuremburg Trials was to be a show trial but as the legal process went about its rounds there was a perception among the Western powers that Soviet Union was the Threat that they needed to thwart. After all did not they dismantle the Nazi apparatus root and all? The US saw to that scientists who had helped Hitler’s war efforts were smuggled out to their country under Operation Paperclip*. V2 rocket program soon would provide the nucleus for the space war that came in play in the 60s. It was not surprising that the Trial of the century evaporated in the hustle and bustle of meeting the Cold War in offing.

Man has capacity to develop an idea like a Nuclear bomb to bring the WWII quickly to a halt. Neither his foresight and hindsight do match evenly. Of this we see even now. The Allies are at presented seized of the fact the Jihadi elements may lay hands on a dirty nuclear bomb. It has been thus progress that man cobbled up in the many innovations, has fared. Progress without exception has proved false.

Man is loath to turn 180 degrees from an idea, to which he has sold himself as well in which his experience also gives him certain pointers. Though failed in practice he trusts in his own power to pull it off. After the demise of the Imperial Rome, under Constantine the Great and Charlemagne (the Holy Roman Empire) the idea has been tried; Under Mussolini it was revived to no avail. Each idea and those who stake their legitimacy on its basis must cope with changed circumstances. In France the Second Empire under Napoleon III was a fiasco. He did not anticipate the revolutionary spirit of Europe and emergence of Germany under Bismarck. The events across the globe never stand still but like group waves negotiate with new ones where energy is passed around. Who shall cash in on these transactions by means of war, religion and cultural trade off remains to be seen. Pagan Rome under Constantine underwent a sea-change. Christianity became the state religion. The split between Rome and Constantinople as a result of political upheavals, became further weakened: The Church of Rome and the Greek Orthodox Church of the East would no longer come as one due to the  doctrinal differences. At present the idea of Caliphate like the idea of Imperial idea of Rome is doomed if lessons of history are of any guide. Cashing in on the demise of an old order of Byzantine Empire the hordes of Saracens, Moors and Arabs created a Caliphate that died its natural death. Those who are beating the dead donkey shall soon know what it is to stop the tide engulfing them from all across the globe.


* Operation Paperclip (1949–1990) was the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) program in which more than 1,500 German scientists, engineers, and technicians were brought to the United States from Nazi Germany and other countries for employment in the aftermath of World War II. It was conducted by the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA) and in the context of the burgeoning Cold War. One purpose of Operation Paperclip was to deny German scientific expertise and knowledge to the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom, as well as to inhibit post-war Germany from redeveloping its military research capabilities. The Soviet Union had competing extraction programs known as “trophy brigades” and Operation Osoaviakhim. (ack:wikipedia)



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Let me first take up the Euler’s theorem or Euler’s Identity. It is an equation as neat as Einstein’s e=mc2 and in the words of Prof. David Percy of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications, it was “a real classic and you can do no better than that … It is simple to look at and yet incredibly profound, it comprises the five most important mathematical constants.”

Euler’s Identity is written simply as: e + 1 = 0

The five constants are:

  • The number 0.
  • The number 1.
  • The number π, an irrational number (with unending digits) that is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. It is approximately 3.14159…
  • The number e, also an irrational number as π . It is approximately 2.71828….

But the weirdest thing about Euler’s formula—given that it relies on imaginary numbers—is that it’s so immensely useful in the real world. By translating one type of motion into another this equation has application in real world. π and e are deeply related, but in a very weird way, as adventures of Alice after falling through the rabbit hole.

Such irrational events that Alice experienced are in a dimension perpendicular to the world of real things—a place measured in units of i. The square root of –1, which of course doesn’t exist. Mathematicians call it an imaginary number.

Because Alice shows effects from obeying instructions ‘Drink me or Eat me’ down there is in literal sense while in real world what one faces is no less embarrassing as losing face or feeling small. In short our existence is the axis around which both irrational and real world make their claims on us, even if it is only limited to a nightmare. This equation is all pervasive in human affairs where an element of irrationality is in-built.

We cannot multiply a number by itself to produce a negative number anymore than we can repeat a dream by our will, The letter i is therefore used as a sort of stand-in to mark places where this was done.

The Queen of Hearts in the Lewis Carroll’s story might order about but Alice holds the ultimate authority and when she asserts it shows what is wrong with the authority of the Queen. She is only a number in the deck of playing cards.

e + 1 = 0

In the Euler’s Identity Alice is the constant 1. As seen earlier her place in the equation makes the pother and the strange procedure of the trial of the Knave of Hearts as zero another constant!

The beauty of the Euler’s theorem is that it has a transcendental quality of human existence where a person or an event (represented by the number 1) can undo all the carefully orchestrated Power Games of nations to mean nothing. Even while Austro-Hungarian monarchy or Dual Monarchy was lording over the ethnic minorities of the Balkans little did it realize a single event like assassination of the Archduke of Austria (1914) would bring down the empire like a pack of cards!

Similarly all that the Great Britain had amassed as a maritime nation, with colonies stretched into far corners of the globe (The Sun will never set on their empire’) shall with two Great Wars evaporate.(the constant 1 can represent both Great Wars as one set)




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Pi can be used to describe the geometry of the world.” says Chris Budd of the University of Bath in the UK, “We have to calculate it to very high precision for modern technology such as GPS to work at all.  He also has to add this,”I tell my students that if this formula doesn’t completely blow them away then they simply have no soul,”

The number π is a mathematical constant, the ratio of a circle‘s circumference to its diameter, commonly approximated as 3.14159. It has been represented by the Greek letter “π” since the mid-18th century. . It simply describes how the circumference of a circle varies with its diameter. The ratio of the two is a number called pi.

The mystery of Pi is the relationship an integral part on a two dimension can have with the whole. For example  Area of a circle can be calculated in which we know PI is a constant :A=πr2. This constant does not lose its power a whit even while we need think of the circle in another dimension. For example a sphere: Area of a sphere A=4πr2

This being the case doesn’t this constant speak of its mysterious hold past the dimensions in which we consider the circle? Suppose we introduce Man into this circle does it not define his position in terms of the circle as a shape? The Vitruvian Man with which we associate da Vinci, has Man with outstretched arms inscribed in a circle. Human activities thus are within circumscribed circles where the constant PI holds true.

Pi is roughly 3.14, but not exactly: pi is an irrational number, meaning the digits go on forever without repeating and never repeating itself. This continuity is the flux that has a relevance to the whole. Let us look at history itself. Julius Caesar in his Gallic Wars  writes about the people of Helvetii. These tribes finding they were constrained geographically and ever in a conflict with their Eastern neighbours had to do something. They decided to search for better territories to settle down. They burnt down their villages and fanned out. This diaspora put all the European tribes agog. Each tribe wanted a piece of the action. It is thus man is seized by a constant that has been built in,- and must explain the stuff history is made of. We consider history is made by man but there is a constant which never repeats itself since all the nations are all drawn into the pull and push of the general equation. Pax Romana thus will never repeat as was before neither will caliphate as was in the middle ages.


The first six digits of pi are 3.14159. It is called pi because π is the first letter of the Greek word “perimetros” or perimeter. But it was not the ancient Greeks who first discussed the value of pi. About 2000BC Mathematicians in the Babylonian Empire, had already figured out that pi was about 25/8, or 3.125. By about 1700 BC, in the Middle Kingdom, Egyptian mathematicians calculated pi to be about 3.16. Archimedes calculated that π was a little bigger than 3.1408 while the Chinese mathematician Liu Hui had calculated that pi was 3.141 (Ack: Wikipedia, quart.us/ BBC-earth/Melissa Hogenboom-20 January 2016)


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Paris, in Balzac’s words ‘is a sentient being’. If you need understand its sense of being one need only have entered into one of its houses in the early nineteenth- century Paris. Different classes and degrees of affluence might well be housed in the same building; only a subtle hint clued you in: higher you climbed you were entering a world of its own something out of Dante’s inferno. For every casual visitor again to quote Balzac, ‘Paris is still the same monstrous miracle, as astounding assemblage of movements, machines and ideas, the city of thousand different romances, the world’s thinking voice.’

Paris in the fin de siècle for all the restless movements must not have imagined it was standing on the rim of a crater and the beguiling way of living was merely a mood; despite swirling in a whirligig of ideas and fads the city would soon be swallowed up by the events of 1914. As such the good old days of Paris mark socially as well as culturally  a distinct social phenomenon called La Belle Époque.

France had much to be proud about. The nations industrial, scientific and cultural advances would be showcased by the International Exposition of 1900 and the Eifel Tower was its jewel in the crown. A million visitors ascended the Tower, which was completed 11 years before, all blissfully forgotten of its scathing reception during its erection (‘A ghastly dream’ it was called in 1887; Guy de Maupassant supposedly ate lunch in the tower’s restaurant every day because it was the one place in Paris where the tower was not visible.)

On April, 14,1900 at four in the afternoon a balloon rose from the Tuileries Garden while 15,000 Parisians watched the cameraman who filmed the city for the coming Cinéorama, to be screened at the Exhibition that was due to open on the Left Bank.

The city was remodeled in the 1850s during the Empire Days by Baron Haussmann and had survived great many upheavals since then( the Commune of 1871 and Metro, whose first line opened to coincide with the Exhibition) and was the pleasure ground for two and a half million people. Symptomatic of the grand vision of the city everything was gigantic: the Ferris wheel 350 feet high, could carry 1,600 people at a time; The President of the Third Republic threw a party for 20,000 of mayors who were served by waiters on roller skates. The guide to the Exposition called the century ending ‘the most fertile in discoveries, the most prodigious in sciences’, that the world had had known and it spoke of a revolution in the economic order of the universe.’

In summer 1913, a party of San Francisco boy scouts passed through the city, and Le Figaro newspaper ran a survey – what had struck them the most?

Apart from the monuments and the gardens, they loved the trees lining the streets, and the general cleanliness. They thought the red trousers worn by soldiers most impressive, but it was odd how many young men wore moustaches and how many women smoked.

They loved the way policemen still wore swords, the dog barbers by the Seine, the glorious outdoor cafes. At the opera, one young American stared at the women “pivoting on their high heels, offering a fine view of their resplendent gowns and jewels”. This was Paris on the eve of war. Just doing what it did. Typical of the city, a thinking box, merely skirted the past, living for the moment. (Balzac quote is from his novel-Ferragus)( To be continued)


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