A random assortment of opinions as Monsoon 2021 starts.
The past month has not been easy for me (personally) at all in many ways. However, in many ways, it was better than April 2021, but it was not particularly better.
Consider that my explanation regarding the complete absence of any article/post on this platform in May - in essence due to my lackadaisical productivity. I thought I’d offer up a random assortment of my thoughts on certain news items that I wanted to comment on here as a reminder of my existence to you and the presence of my writing skills to myself.
Lab-leak theory, fact checking and China
The deep political and social divide in the United States of America is having a real consequence on each and every single discourse in the world due to the country’s pre-eminence. Many American social and political issues and questions are needlessly paraded around and transferred meaninglessly to other countries and their internal discourse as well.
The history of the lab-leak theory of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus causing the Chinese Viral Disease) is evidence about this. A certain consensus was developed that the virus was not leaked from a lab but crossed the species barrier naturally. Any suggestions to the contrary were xenophobic and a conspiracy theory. This was primarily because the former US President Donald Trump suggested the same. (He is obviously gloating about being right now).
The Lancet, an eminent international science journal had in January 2020 published a statement from a set of ‘experts’ that COVID-19 did not leak from a lab and those suggestions that it did are xenophobic, bigoted and racist.
Today, these claims can be called out for what they are: objections rooted in answering supposed social issues rather than in the pursuit of scientific inquiry.
Facebook had ‘banned’ the lab-leak theory from publication on its platform before just being revised a few days ago.
Many supposed fact-checkers “fact-checked” the origin of the virus, who all look quite foolish now. In fact, in many ways this was a perfect illustration of how fact-checkers work. Summed up by Eric Weinstein:
“Consensus-checking” is a great summation of what fact checkers are.
Returning to the point - the lab-leak theory was dismissed out of hand in a bid to secure and utilize political and social capital rather than a scientific dismissal of the same. There are certainly more such questions that are unanswered, or dismissed as conspiracy theories because it suits certain people.
Speaking of Conspiracy theories, UFOs are real
If one were to subtract the craziness of UFO conspiracy theories and Aliens, it would be quite easy to think that Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) are real. There are quite a lot of natural phenomena that humans still find hard to explain or understand. That the same is true while we fly through the world also seems eminently possible. However, due to a self-enforcing stigma around it - due to the US Government’s consistent denial based on the need to reassure a Cold War era public fears and the crazy theories many have about alien technology and more - UFO sightings and Unexplained Aerial Phenomena was buried.
Increasingly thought, there’s been a cultural shift on the issue, partially due to popular anxieties surrounding such issues subsiding as well as the meticulous research and outspoken public personalities such as Joe Rogan.
To know more, read How the Pentagon Started Taking U.F.O.s Seriously | The New Yorker
Statues, statues and statues
The Kerala Government is on a statue building spree apparently. In the Interim Budget presented earlier this year, two statues - that of Socialist leader M.P. Veerendra Kumar who died last year and that of Swami Vivekananda.
In the full Budget presented today (4 June, 2021), the second term Pinarayi Government has decided to announce two more statues -
It amuses me that M.P. Veerendra Kumar’s monument is at ₹5 crore while R. Balakrishna Pillai and K. Gowri Amma gets monuments worth ₹2 crore each. This is amusing because while Veerendra Kumar had a significant presence, both Balakrishna Pillai and Gowri Amma had a towering presence in Kerala Politics. Gowri Amma, arguably more than both men combined.
I am not opposed to the building of statues, to be clear. After all, Kozhikode is Shilpanagaram (City of Statues) and a good statue is aesthetically pleasing. Besides all this, I don’t subscribe to the theory that public money is a zero-sum game. I hope that these statues, especially the Veerendra Kumar one since it’ll come up in my hometown of Kozhikode, is good.
More Vaccines, Vaccines and Vaccines
In an earlier post I had discussed the amount of vaccines that are going to be in play for India:
There are more vaccines on the way as well. In India, we have a variety of vaccines that are pending regulatory approval, such as the Zydus Cadilla Vaccine, another two vaccines from Serum, A vaccine manufactured by Biological E., as well as the intranasal vaccine from Bharat BioTech. Johnson & Johnson is also set to introduce its vaccine in India, with a bridging trial about to be conducted. Serum also plans to supply the vaccine jointly manufactured with Novavax in September. This is all not to mention the Sputnik V developed by Russia, though initially set to be imported, will be manufactured domestically in India by July. Eroom's Law might be broken partially, and that will be a great breakthrough - Chhit (substack.com)
The full availability of vaccines was confirmed by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare sometime back:
The Government has recently confirmed the purchase of the 30 crore doses of the Biological E vaccine as has been listed above. The entry of more vaccines will definitely boost the rates of vaccination later this year, which had declined before picking up late in May.
Now, back to Kerala.
The 2021 Assembly Elections produced a Red Sweep of the State that not many, including the CPM, expected. While I expected the ruling Left Democratic Front to retain power, the results were a washout with the Left Democratic Front winning 99 seats and the United Democratic Front (UDF) winning 41 seats. The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) lost its only seat it had, Nemom and failed to win any other seat as well.
While I plan on writing a comprehensive piece analysing the elections, for the time being I have a few opinions to share on the new Leader of Opposition, V.D. Satheesan.
Satheesan is a good legislator without a doubt and has his utility to the Indian National Congress in the State. He is however not going to revive Congress in Kerala. As I have written before, the fundamental problem that Congress faces is that it has lost the trust of one of its primary electorates, the Nair community, which has increasingly turned to the BJP. The other major constituent, the Chrisitan Community, has seen some major denominations warm up to the LDF. This collapse of the social coalition is the Congress’s fundamental issue in Kerala, as I had touched upon in my March 2021 article in Swarajya regarding the Congress in the State.
Satheesan, a Nair elected five times from the Paravur Constituency which has a significant, if not dominant presence of the Christian community looks like a great person to mend this social coalition. Yet Satheesan seems quite impervious to this idea. Satheesan seems to not have realised that the secular consensus that drove the Congress has been broken. The Nair community’s pattern has decisively shifted, and the Chrisitan Churches cosying up to the Pinarayi Vijayan Government is no accident either.
Satheesan comes across a committed ideologue than a political leader keen on reworking his party. This might be of course one of the reasons Rahul Gandhi is thought to have favoured the former High Court Advocate.
My impression however is that he was a bad choice for the Congress and its fate seems increasingly sealed, at least in the prism of state politics.
The New IT Rules are a-okay in my book.
I have lots of thoughts on the new Information Technology Intermediary Rules . These rules that were notified earlier this year had many people’s pants on fire last two weeks or so due to unfounded rumours that Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp would be banned.
This was of course, not the case. The rules had provided that non-compliance would result in the inability to take protection of Section 79 of the Information Technology Act as a platform for the content hosted and not an automatic ban.
More thoughts in an article that has been pending since March 2021.
The Credibility of the Judiciary is under threat
Primarily due to the expectations that itself has cast up on it, but also due to many seeking resolutions of political disputes through its process dilutes the credibility of the Constitutional courts are increasingly under threat.
On one hand, its needless and never-ending interventions of judges on issue of legislative and executive domain and on the other its supposed inaction on contentious issues means that both sides have more than enough reasons to doubt its credibility.
The news of absurd and frivolous suits being filed by actors are not particularly encouraging in re-establishing the credibility of institutions. That the system itself is warped in favour of a coterie does not benefit either.
Finally, Actual Thoughts about the Monsoon.
In many ways, monsoon to me brings memories of my school days, which arrive with the Monsoon. What I cannot forget and it seems to me that I will never forget is my memories of a Mahagony Tree sapling I received from school as part of the World Environment Day celebrations, as a part of the “Ente Maram” or My Tree Programme. That Mahagony Sapling is in many ways the first ‘pet’ I had. This was way back in 2007, when I was a young child in 5th Standard.
I planted it in front of the rented accommodation that my family was staying at the time while our current home was being built close by. I named the sapling Appoopan (Grandfather) and rather weirdly, talked to it regularly. My father had dime-a-dozen advice about my Appoopan and for some reason, I remember him (my father) not being particularly thrilled by it.
Anywhoot, I shifted houses almost two or so years later to our current home and used to occasionally see my Appoopan in my former home. I had left Kozhikode in 2013 as part of my education and saw Appoopan was no longer there one fine day when I came back home in October 2016. That motivated me to write what can liberally be described as a poem: “A Tribute”.
While I have planted many trees since then, I have never felt any sort of emotional connection that I did with Appoopan. I sometimes sit a few minutes on a random monsoon day such as this, thinking about Appoopan. May he always be remembered.
Some Final Thoughts
I am inclined to think that these random dollops of opinion would be done again and promise the same. But that’s not really a great possibility considering, eh, me. Though it was fun to create an assortment of opinion in a similar vein to my Twitter Timeline.
Let me know what you thought about this particular piece here or feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.