Thanks to Hillary for Harriet Tubman quote: “keep going”

I got to Washington from my Hawaii experience in the summer of 1992, and I remained there through 1993, the first year the Clinton couple came.  I am afraid I have never liked the Clinton couple much, for a mixture of objective and subjective reasons. I also think Mrs Clinton’s bid for the Presidency may have been constitutionally barred by the 22nd Amendment as she has been married to a two-term President and may have been considered the same legal person by the authors of the 22nd Amendment.   (Suppose Barack Obama becomes a two-term President; can his wife then run on her own and have him campaign for her?  Before his term ends or even after?)

But I did hear Mrs Clinton’s speech at the Denver convention the other day, and I was grateful to hear her quote the fine words of Harriet Tubman about slaves running to freedom:

“If you hear the dogs, keep going.
If you see the torches in the woods, keep going.
If they’re shouting after you, keep going.
Don’t ever stop. Keep going.
If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.”

Harriet Tubman (c. 1820-1913)

That is indeed what the individual must do in face of all tyrannies: keep going.

Subroto Roy

Postscript:  February 10 2009.  I think Mrs Clinton has been very sporting  since her loss to Barack Obama , and that she may become as good a foreign minister for the United States as there has been.  Hence the cancellation of the sentence above.

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“Rangarajan Effect”

Reddy’s reckoning

Tolstoy on Science and Art

Tolstoy has been admired by many millions, and I shall plan to upload when I can some rare photos of him with his family and contemporaries from a Russian book in our Library which my father had given my sister in 1962.  Here is an interesting excerpt from his On the Significance of Science and Art translated by Isabel F. Hapgood and published in the Project Gutenberg edition.

“The thinker or the artist will never sit calmly on Olympian heights, as we have become accustomed to represent them to ourselves.  The thinker or the artist should suffer in company with the people, in order that he may find salvation or consolation.  Besides this, he will suffer because he is always and eternally in turmoil and agitation: he might decide and say that which would confer welfare on men, would free them from suffering, would afford them consolation; but he has not said so, and has not presented it as he should have done; he has not decided, and he has not spoken; and tomorrow, possibly, it will be too late, — he will die.  And therefore suffering and self-sacrifice will always be the lot of the thinker and the artist.  Not of this description will be the thinker and artist who is reared in an establishment where, apparently, they manufacture the learned man or the artist (but in point of fact, they manufacture destroyers of science and of art), who receives a diploma and a certificate, who would be glad not to think and not to express that which is imposed on his soul, but who cannot avoid doing that to which two irresistible forces draw him,—an inward prompting, and the demand of men…. It is possible to study out how many beetles there are in the world, to view the spots on the sun, to write romances and operas, without suffering; but it is impossible, without self-sacrifice, to instruct people in their true happiness, which consists solely in renunciation of self and the service of others, and to give strong expression to this doctrine, without self-sacrifice. Christ did not die on the cross in vain; not in vain does the sacrifice of suffering conquer all things.  But our art and science are provided with certificates and diplomas; and the only anxiety of all men is, how to still better guarantee them, i.e., how to render the service of the people impracticable for them.

True art and true science possess two unmistakable marks: the first, an inward mark, which is this, that the servitor of art and science will fulfill his vocation, not for profit but with self-sacrifice; and the second, an external sign,—his productions will be intelligible to all the people whose welfare he has in view. No matter what people have fixed upon as their vocation and their welfare, science will be the doctrine of this vocation and welfare, and art will be the expression of that doctrine.  That which is called science and art, among us, is the product of idle minds and feelings, which have for their object to tickle similar idle minds and feelings.  Our arts and sciences are incomprehensible, and say nothing to the people, for they have not the welfare of the common people in view.  Ever since the life of men has been known to us, we find, always and everywhere, the reigning doctrine falsely designating itself as science, not manifesting itself to the common people, but obscuring for them the meaning of life. Thus it was among the Greeks the sophists, then among the Christians the mystics, gnostics, scholastics, among the Hebrews the Talmudists and Cabalists, and so on everywhere, down to our own times….”

Death of Solzhenitsyn

In Chapter 6 of my Philosophy of Economics, is to be found a quote from Solzhenitsyn: “(Also Solzhenitsyn: “Fastenko, on the other hand, was the most cheerful person in the cell, even though, in view of his age, he was the only one who could not count on surviving and returning to freedom. Flinging an arm around my shoulders, he would say: To stand up for truth is nothing! For truth you have to sit in jail!”)”.

Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, along with Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov, were heroes of mine after I had left school in India in December 1971 and reached Paris where my father was with the Embassy.  My father had purchased Solzhenitsyn’s books and these I devoured eagerly at our then-home at 14 Rue Eugene Manuel, during breaks from my pre-University education at Haileybury College, across the English Channel.  We had been in Odessa before Paris, and in Stockholm before Odessa.  In 1969, we had travelled by ship and train from Stockholm via Helsinki to Leningrad, Moscow and Odessa.   In December 1967, my father had gotten me to fly to Stockholm through Moscow and stay for a day or two with a colleague of his during my winter holidays from India.  Moscow in December 1967 was celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution — I recall what the city felt and seemed like to me as a 12 year old: foreboding, awesome, intimidating.

Now in 1972-73 in Paris, the works of Solzhenitsyn and the example of Sakharov explained to me that brief boyhood experience of the USSR and a great deal more.

As it happens, the present PM of India, as a friend of my father’s, visited us at 14 Rue Eugene Manuel in the summer of 1973 at my father’s request to  advise me about studying economics (I was on my way to the London School of Economics as an undergraduate).  He stayed about 40 minutes during his busy schedule as part of an Indian economic delegation.  I was 18, he was about 41.  We ended up having a tense debate about the merits (as he saw them) and demerits (as I saw them) of the Soviet influence on Indian economic “planning”.  He had not expected such controversy from a lad but he was kindly disposed and offered when departing to write a letter of introduction to a well-known Indian professor at the LSE for me to carry, which I did.

The works and example of Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov built my youthful understanding of the USSR at age 17-18.  This contributed to my libertarianism at Cambridge University and later in America (until my experience of the American federal judiciary at age 37 or so).

When I mentioned my admiration for Solzhenitsyn’s work to Milton Friedman at a memorable luncheon at his San Francisco home in 1989, he said that they had been neighbours in Vermont though they had not interacted because of Solzhenitsyn’s desire to be reclusive.

Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov symbolised shoots of new life in the swamp that had been Soviet totalitarianism.