Bakavaas (बकवास) – bullshit, in Hindi.
The simultaneous shift, globally, toward populism and demagoguery is being referred to as a Political Revolution. Any revolution in which hatred takes center stage is a bakavaas revolution! It is ludicrous to think that we brought down a wall that symbolized hatred in 1989 only to build another one in 2017! (insert emoticon that shakes its head so vigorously that its brains are flying out). Enough hasn’t been said about this bakavaas revolution.
This is my attempt at addressing the issues that plague our society today: populism and demagoguery.
Our societies seem to be travelling backwards in time; they seem fragmented and ready to implode. Our technologies, on the other hand, are pressing ahead at the speed of light! Metaphorically speaking. A screenshot from http://www.ted.com/ says it all.
This polarization between our societies and our technologies is nothing new. Mankind has been accustomed to this kind of polarization, where on one hand we have individuals, who dare to dream of building beautiful things we can’t even imagine and on the other hand we have individuals, that want to tear everything apart and make this world a disjointed, disconnected, place. I do not want to give the reader the wrong impression that this article is about the divide between technology and society, I highlight the polarization to:
- emphasize where, as a species, we have excelled (in our sciences) and where we have faltered (in our societies), and;
- stress that the reason for this divergence is rooted in logic, or the absence of it.
Technology pulls us forward and society keeps us grounded. The two are just as much at odds with one another as they are each other’s savior.
A case in point:
Facebook – Egyptian Revolution (2011)
|Television – Romanian Revolution (1989)|
Page dedicated to Khaled Said, who had been killed by police, gained nearly 500,000 followers; website announced first protest at Tahrir Square, which attracted tens of thousands of protestors.
Revolutionaries took over Studio 4 and broadcast news of revolt from renamed Free Romanian Television channel; government security police attacked studio; poet Mircea Dinescu announced to viewing audience, “We’ve won!”
|YouTube – Tunisian Revolution (2010)||Telephone – Bolshevik Revolution (1917)|
Protests incited by street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation-in response to his wares being confiscated by authorities – resulted in clashes with police, video clips of which were posted to the site, leading to more demonstrations.
Vladimir Lenin had wanted to establish headquarters in central telephone exchange of Moscow so as to connect “all points of armed uprising,” but he was voted down; Petrograd’s switchboard seized by Red Guards before they stormed the Winter Palace.
|Fax machine – Tiananmen Square (1989)||Semaphore – French Revolution (1791)|
Death of liberal reformer Hu Yaobang prompted demonstrations on Beijing streets; information faxed between protestors and foreign journalists provided uncensored reports of unfolding events.
Claude Chappe invented signaling system using relay towers; in response to threat of royalist-supported British invasion, republicans commissioned first line between Paris and Lille; messages traveled the 136 miles in half an hour.
SOURCE: LAPHAM’S QUARTERLY, VOLUME VII, NUMBER 2 — REVOLUTIONS
The Bakavaas (बकवास) Revolution 😦2017)
“One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize bullshit and to avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern, or attracted much sustained inquiry. In consequence, we have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves.”
– Harry Frankfurt, Princeton University
If you haven’t read Trump’s biography, I suggest that you at least read Harry Frankfurt’s essay: “on-bullshit“
Revolutions are good. They displace societies and rid them of their inertia but not all revolutions move us forward, some plunge us into darkness; regardless, revolutions are good because while they are supposed to move us forward sometimes they do that by taking a few steps backward. What is important is for the society to recognize whether our displacement resulting from a revolution is forward or backward. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t have felt compelled to think so deeply about our current political revolution if it wasn’t for all the demagogues in power.
“In considering how dissensions and political revolutions arise, we must first of all ascertain the beginnings and causes of them which affect constitutions generally. They may be said to be three in number, and we have now to give an outline of each. We want to know: first, What is the feeling?; secondly, What are the motives of those who make them?; thirdly, Whence arise political disturbances and quarrels? The universal and chief cause of this revolutionary feeling is the desire of equality, when men think that they are equal to others who have more than themselves; or, again, the desire of inequality and superiority, when conceiving themselves to be superior they think that they have not more but the same or less than their inferiors; pretensions which may and may not be just. Inferiors revolt in order that they may be equal, and equals that they may be superior. Such is the state of mind that creates revolutions. The motives for making them are the desire of gain and honor, or the fear of dishonor and loss; the authors of them want to divert punishment or dishonor from themselves or their friends. The causes and reasons of these motives and dispositions that are excited in men, about the things that I have mentioned, viewed in one way, may be regarded as seven, and in another more than seven. Two of them have been already noticed: but they act in a different manner, for men are excited against one another by the love of gain and honor–not, as in the case that I have just supposed, in order to obtain them for themselves, but at seeing others, justly or unjustly, engrossing them. Other causes are insolence, fear, love of superiority, contempt, disproportionate increase in some part of the state; causes of another sort are election intrigues, carelessness, neglect about trifles, dissimilarity of elements.”
– Aristotle, from The Politics.
The Cambridge dictionary defines populism as “political ideas and activities that are intended to get the support of ordinary people by giving them what they want”; and demagogue as “a political leader who wins support by exciting people’s emotions rather than giving them reasons“.
Populism and demagoguery are rooted in deception and the absence of logic/reason and are, by default, proponents of big government; I’ll even go one step further and say that it is also the existence of a big government, in the first place, that eventually always leads to populist uprisings.
“Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.”
– Sun Tzu, The Art of War
“Never attempt to win by force what can be won by deception.”
– Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince
I am not against deception, in general. I, in fact, admire both men quoted above. As a matter of fact, as nature reveals in many of its own examples, deception is an essential tool of survival for many specie. Deception in war is one thing and deception in the governance of a society is completely another. When deception is used for the latter, it rots the very foundation on which civilized societies are built, TRUST.
Absence of logic/reason
“Man is the Reasoning Animal. Such is the claim. I think it is open to dispute. Indeed, my experiments have proven to me that he is the Unreasoning Animal… In truth, man is incurably foolish. Simple things which other animals easily learn, he is incapable of learning. Among my experiments was this. In an hour I taught a cat and a dog to be friends. I put them in a cage. In another hour I taught them to be friends with a rabbit. In the course of two days I was able to add a fox, a goose, a squirrel and some doves. Finally, a monkey. They lived together in peace; even affectionately. Next, in another cage I confined an Irish Catholic from Tipperary, and as soon as he seemed tame I added a Scotch Presbyterian from Aberdeen. Next a Turk from Constantinople; a Greek Christian from Crete; an Armenian; a Methodist from the wilds of Arkansas; a Buddhist from China; a Brahman from Benares. Finally, a Salvation Army Colonel from Wapping. Then I stayed away for two whole days. When I came back to note results, the cage of Higher Animals was all right, but in the other there was but a chaos of gory odds and ends of turbans and fezzes and plaids and bones and flesh–not a specimen left alive. These Reasoning Animals had disagreed on a theological detail and carried the matter to a Higher Court.”
― Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth: Uncensored Writings
“In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.”
― Galileo Galilei
As a student of Austrian economics, nothing irks me more than the absence of logic. It is logic that makes us rational beings and without it we are nothing but savages. If one looks back at our entire history he/she is almost certain to find that all barbaric acts against humanity stemmed from behavior that was completely irrational. Our sciences are rooted in logic, and our societies, not so much. One only needs to look at how much we have advanced in our sciences relative to our advancement in our societies to conclude that our societies need to form new foundations rooted in logic.
The fact that we had kings before we had governments is probably why the notion that governments should be responsible for everything is so deeply rooted in the minds of so many.
Mengzi said to King Xuan of Qi,” Suppose a subject of Your Majesty’s, having entrusted his wife and children to the care of a friend, were to go on a trip to Chu, only to find, upon his return, that his friend had allowed his wife and children to suffer cold and hunger, then what should he do about it?” “Break with his friend.” “If the marshal of the guards was unable to keep his guards in order, then what should be done about it?” “Remove him from office.” “If the whole realm within the four borders was ill-governed, then what should be done about it?” The king turned to his attendants and changed the subject.
– Mengzi, from The Book of Mengzi.
It should come as no surprise to my readers, considering my tilt toward the Austrian school, that I am a believer in limited government. The case against big government is well made, by people far more experienced and knowledgeable than I am, and I have nothing new to add. Who better than Dr. Ron Paul to make this case:
When legislators delude themselves of their power over legislation they use it as their tool to garner support from their constituents and bend laws to their whims and fancies but what they never seem to understand is that by bending laws in favor of their constituents they are also bending them against those outside their constituencies.
“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
– Newton’s third law of motion.
This inevitably causes jealousy and envy among other legislators, who wait their turn to grab onto power only to bend those laws again. The only winner, in this well orchestrated power struggle, is always the legislator. From time to time, however, there is always one segment of the population that gets ignored for far too long and then its only a matter of time that an outsider uses this population to his advantage and rises to power through his populist agendas.
It is the existence of a big government, in the first place, that eventually always leads to populist uprisings. I’ll come back to it.
Political Soul Searching
At the onset, I’ll gladly admit that I’m not a political expert. I am merely writing this as a student of history.
To move forward does not always mean to discard what is old but rather to learn from it. So, rather than indulge in a praxeological debate to reinvent the wheel and redefine good governance, good legislation, and good law, I will refer back to an essay that was first published in 1850 by a man called Frédéric Bastiat. It was titled: “The Law”.
“The law perverted! The law–and, in its wake, all the collective forces of the nation–the law, I say, not only diverted from its proper direction, but made to pursue one entirely contrary! The law become the tool of every kind of avarice, instead of being its check! The law guilty of that very iniquity which it was its mission to punish! Truly, this is a serious fact, if it exists, and one to which I feel bound to call the attention of my fellow citizens.
We hold from God the gift that, as far as we are concerned, contains all others, Life–physical, intellectual, and moral life.
But life cannot support itself. He who has bestowed it, has entrusted us with the care of supporting it, of developing it, and of perfecting it. To that end, He has provided us with a collection of wonderful faculties; He has plunged us into the midst of a variety of elements. It is by the application of our faculties to these elements that the phenomena of assimilation and of appropriation, by which life pursues the circle that has been assigned to it are realized.
Existence, faculties, assimilation–in other words, personality, liberty, property–this is man.
It is of these three things that it may be said, apart from all demagogic subtlety, that they are anterior and superior to all human legislation.
It is not because men have made laws, that personality, liberty, and property exist. On the contrary, it is because personality, liberty, and property exist beforehand, that men make laws…
…What is law? What ought it to be? What is its domain? What are its limits? Where, in fact, does the prerogative of the legislator stop? I have no hesitation in answering, Law is common force organized to prevent injustice;—in short, Law is Justice. It is not true that the legislator has absolute power over our persons and property, since they pre-exist, and his work is only to secure them from injury. It is not true that the mission of the law is to regulate our consciences, our ideas, our will, our education, our sentiments, our works, our exchanges, our gifts, our enjoyments. Its mission is to prevent the rights of one from interfering with those of another, in any one of these things. Law, because it has force for its necessary sanction, can only have the domain of force, which is justice. And as every individual has a right to have recourse to force only in cases of lawful defense, so collective force, so which is only the union of individual forces, cannot be rationally used for any other end. The law, then, is solely the organization of individual rights that existed before law. Law is justice.”
– Frédéric Bastiat, The Law, 1850.
So, as you can see, if you subscribe to this basic narrative of what life really is: Existence, faculties, and assimilation, as I do, it is easy to see where we went wrong. The wrong lies in our expectation, as a society, as people, that we have to be taken care of, that we are, somehow, incapable of doing it ourselves, that it is the government’s job to ensure not just our liberty but also our survival. If you do not subscribe to this basic view of life, however, then there is nothing that I can say here that will convince you of my arguments.
Big governments almost always, eventually, lead to populist uprisings.
It is only when people expect legislation to provide for their well being that crooks and cronies can assert to give people what they want. The existence of a big government is the, fertile, breeding ground of demagogues. History is aghast with innumerable accounts of those that rise to power by claiming to give people what they want. One can never promise to give to a group of people anything without, first, taking it away from another group.
I see many of my leftist friends, and family members, get riled up by the mere mention of Mr. Trump; I don’t blame them but is it enough to criticize the likes of Mr. Trump without also questioning, at the same time, the system that allows them to use demagoguery and populism as their tools? Is it enough to stop at questioning their audacity to infringe upon our liberties without questioning, first, what enables them to do so? My school of thought suggests that when someone wrongs you, it is not enough to just ask yourself why they’ve wronged you, in self pity, but it is more important to ask yourself: “how the hell could you let them wrong you, in the first place?”
I am just as irritated as my leftist friends by the demagogues of today’s world but I’m more irked by the system that lets those demagogues rise to power. I can go on but I rather subject the reader to sound reasoning and logic than my incessant rant.
Another gem from Bastiat:
“But if the fatal principle should come to be introduced, that, under pretense of organization, regulation, protection, or encouragement, the law may take from one party in order to give to another, help itself to the wealth acquired by all the classes that it may increase that of one class, whether that of the agriculturists, the manufactures, the ship owners, or artists and comedians; then certainly, in this case, there is no class which may not try, and with reason, to place its hand upon the law, that would not demand with fury its right of election and eligibility, and that would overturn society rather than not obtain it. Even beggars and vagabonds will prove to you that they have an incontestable title to it.
They will say:
We never buy wine, tobacco, or salt, without paying the tax, and a part of this tax is given by law in perquisites and gratuities to men who are richer than we are. Others make use of the law to create an artificial rise in the price of bread, meat, iron, or cloth.
Since everybody traffics in law for his own profit, we should like to do the same. We should like to make it produce the right to assistance, which is the poor man’s plunder. To effect this, we ought to be electors and legislators, that we may organize, on a large scale, alms for our own class, as you have organized, on a large scale, protection for yours. Don’t tell us that you will take our cause upon yourselves, and throw to us 600,000 francs to keep us quite, like giving us a bone to pick. We have other claims, and, at any rate, we wish to stipulate for ourselves, as other classes have stipulated for themselves!
How is this argument to be answered? Yes, as long as it is admitted that the law may be diverted from its true mission, that it may violate property instead of securing it, everybody will be wanted to manufacture law, either to defend himself against plunder, or to organize it for his own profit. The political question will always be prejudicial, predominant, and absorbing; in a word, there will be fighting around the door of the Legislative Place…
…The Socialists say, since the law organizes justice, why should it not organize labor, instruction, and religion? Why? Because it could not organize labor, instruction, and religion, without disorganizing justice. For remember. That law is force, and that consequently the domain of the law cannot properly extend beyond the domain of force.
When law and force keep a man within the bounds of justice, they impose nothing upon him but a mere negation. They only oblige him to abstain from doing harm. They violate neither his personality, his liberty, nor his property. They only guard the personality, the liberty, the property of others.
But when the law, through the medium of its necessary agent—force—imposes a form of labor, a method or a subject of instruction, a creed, or a worship, it is no longer negative; it acts positively upon men. It substitutes the will of the legislator for their own will, the initiative of the legislator for their own initiative. They have no need to consult, to compare, or to foresee; the law does all that for them. The intellect is for them a useless encumbrance; they cease to be men; they lose their personality, their liberty, their property.
Try to imagine a form of labor imposed by force, that is not a violation of liberty; a transmission of wealth imposed by force, that is not a violation of property. If you cannot succeed in reconciling this, you are bound to conclude that the law cannot organize labor and industry without organizing injustice…
…In regulating industry, it has undertaken to make it prosper, otherwise it would have been absurd to deprive it of its liberty; and if it suffers, whose fault is it? In pretending to adjust the balance of commerce by the game of tariffs, it undertakes to make commerce prosper; and if, so far from prospering, it is destroyed, whose fault is it? In granting its protection to maritime armaments in exchange for their liberty, it has undertaken to render them self-sufficient; if they become burdensome, whose fault is it?
Thus, there is not a grievance in the nation for which the Government does not voluntarily make itself responsible. Is it any wonder that every failure threatens to cause a revolution? And what is the remedy proposed? To extend indefinitely the dominion of the law, i.e., the responsibility of Government. But if the Government undertakes to raise and to regulate wages, and is not able to do it; if it undertakes to assist all those who are in want, and is not able to do it; if it undertakes to provide work for every laborer, and is not able to do it; if it undertakes to offer to all who wish to borrow, easy credit, and is not able to do it; if, in words that we regret should have escaped the pen of Mr. de Lamartine, “the State considers that its mission is to enlighten, to develop, to enlarge, to strengthen, to spiritualize, and to sanctify the soul of the people”—if it fails in this, is it not obvious that after every disappointment, which, alas! is more than probable, there will be a no less inevitable revolution?
I am acting with regard to it in the spirit that animated a celebrated traveler. He found himself in the midst of a savage tribe. A child had just been born, and a crowd of soothsayers, magicians, and quacks were around it, armed with rings, hooks, and bandages. One said—”This child will never smell the perfume of a calumet, unless I stretch his nostrils.” Another said—”He will be without the sense of hearing, unless I draw his ears down to his shoulders.” A third said—”He will never see the light of the sun, unless I give his eyes an oblique direction.” A fourth said—”He will never be upright, unless I bend his legs.” A fifth said—”He will not be able to think, unless I press his brain.” “Stop!” said the traveler. “Whatever God does, is well done; do not pretend to know more than He; and as He has given organs to this frail creature, allow those organs to develop themselves, to strengthen themselves by exercise, use, experience, and liberty.”
God has implanted in mankind also all that is necessary to enable it to accomplish its destinies. There is a providential social physiology, as well as a providential human physiology. The social organs are constituted so as to enable them to develop harmoniously in the grand air of liberty. Away, then, with quacks and organizers! Away with their rings, and their chains, and their hooks, and their pincers! Away with their artificial methods! Away with their social laboratories, their governmental whims, their centralization, their tariffs, their universities, their State religions, their inflationary or monopolizing banks, their limitations, their restrictions, their moralizations, and their equalization by taxation! And now, after having vainly inflicted upon the social body so many systems, let them end where they ought to have begun—reject all systems, and try liberty—liberty, which is an act of faith in God and in His work.”
– Frédéric Bastiat, The Law, 1850.
Unless we self impose on ourselves, and as an extension our societies, an indefinite moratorium on bakavaas, we will keep finding ourselves in many bakavaas revolutions. Our revolutions should promote love and tolerance not hatred and discrimination. It is logic that needs to be the root of our governance, not deception and demagoguery.
‘No bakavaas (बकवास)’ needs to be our new mantra.
“Look at the United States. There is no country in the world where the law is kept more within its proper domain—which is, to secure to everyone his liberty and his property. Therefore, there is no country in the world where social order appears to rest upon a more solid basis. Nevertheless, even in the United States, there are two questions, and only two, that from the beginning have endangered political order. And what are these two questions? That of slavery and that of tariffs; that is, precisely the only two questions in which, contrary to the general spirit of this republic, law has taken the character of a plunderer. Slavery is a violation, sanctioned by law, of the rights of the person. Protection is a violation perpetrated by the law upon the rights of property; and certainly very remarkable that, in the midst of so many other debates, this double legal scourge, the sorrowful inheritance of the Old World, should be the only one which can, and perhaps will, cause the rupture of the Union.”
– Frédéric Bastiat, The Law, 1850.
Don’t you find it interesting that his essay was first published in 1850, eleven years before the American Civil War, and the first of the two reasons, slavery and tariffs, that he outlines in his essay as the only two that can rupture the Union almost brought it down in 1861? At least in 1861 it was Lincoln’s administration that was against slavery, the sad part today is that the second of his two reasons is very much the agenda of the current administration. One can only hope and pray that the United States of America does not have to go through another Civil War before this lunacy stops.
Real growth comes from competition, not protectionism. We have ‘Doctors Without Borders’, ‘Engineers Without Borders’, ‘Reporters Without Borders’, Lawyers Without Borders’, ‘Students Without Borders’; It’s about time we had ‘Politicians Without Borders’, no pun intended.