Wednesday, August 24, 2005



If you read texts of faiths other than yours, are you a heretic?

If you believe in clean air, water, and forests, and the environment are you anti-development?

If you believe in industry and growing economies, are you anti-environment?

If you believe in the freedom of other faiths, customs, languages and cultures, are you anti-national?

If you don’t believe in subsidies, handouts and trade barriers, are you a free-marketer?

If you believe in a meritocracy, are you anti-downtrodden?

If you feel the less-enfranchised should be provided all possible means to become more enfranchised, are you anti-meritocracy?

If you don’t like gas-guzzling cars and an oil-economy, are you anti-industry?

If you do not subscribe to ritual, and overt religious evangelicalism, are you godless and irreligious?

If you believe in separation of church and state, are you immoral?

If you believe in scientific fact, are you no longer allowed to pray?

If you find other cultures as fascinating as your own, do you become “against your culture”?

If you don’t wrap the flag around you, are you unpatriotic?

If you believe in economic opportunity independent of State control, are you a right-wing hawk?

If you point out what you think is a flaw in your own culture, are you a “brown sahib”?

If you aren’t part of the political-religious right, are you a communist?

If you don’t like communists, are you a socialist?

If you don’t like socialists, are you a capitalist?

If you don’t like capitalists, are you leftist?

If you don’t like leftists, do you even exist?

My old school, my alma mater, has a motto, composed over a century ago, when the world was different.

Or was it?

Nec decstrosum, nec sinistrosum

Neither to the right, nor to the left, but on straight on.


gawker said...

ouch. That was the sound of a nail being hit on it's head.

Michael Higgins said...

Hi Sunil
This is excellent.
But I wonder, could I label you an anti-labelist?

PK said...

If you are against obscene and lewd comments and behaviour in public places are you a moral police?

Sunil said...

Michael....perhaps, but i wouldn't like that label as wel., not in my view at least. Freedom of speech does not mean getting abusive, or insulting or offending another. Or imposing/forcing views. There is a big difference......and if you pause and reflect a little bit, you might see what i'm saying (or failing to say). Freedom of expression does not mean you do what ever you want, at any one else's cost. Nor does one protest against some thing by forming a large mob, issuing bans or going on a rampage tearing down buildings.

Sunil said...

In other words....freedom of expression, and abuse of freedom of expression. Very different things, though often confused.

But this topic completely digresses from this post (IMO), so I would request comments avoid digressing if possible.

Anonymous said...

The weirdest label that I've come across is "pseudo-secularist" (p-sec in certain circles). People don't know what they are talking about and feel free to call almost anyone a p-sec. If you ask them what is a p-sec, they'll go round and round trying to explain.

Ravi said...

So little inconsistencies... so many realities.

Sujatha Bagal said...

Sunil, well said. My beliefs, as are everyone's I'm sure, are constantly evolving, and may even appear inconsistent to an objective observer. But to me, they make sense and may make sense to an objective observer as well if only they took the time to view all the facts that I am looking at. In the quest to label people and their views, the details get lost. It is very difficult to categorize anything, least of all people what will all the different experiences each one of us has had. It amazes me when someone is called this or that. My rambling alarm is going off. So I'll stop.

Dilip D'Souza said...

"If" this, "If" that, "If" the other ... My guess, Sunil, is that you're sort of ... iffy.

Anonymous said...

well said.
but, looks like you are spending too much time with George Bush type of people. if you aren't for me, you are against me.
shades are so much nicer than extremes :)

Sunil said...

Vishnu...I must apologize for forgetting that one.....the classic. I did not know that it is now abbreviated as p-sec!

Mustang......deep dude! Hope you didn't bump your head while moving to your new apartment :-))

Sujatha......It amazes me when someone is called this or that. It amazes me too. Greatly., probably slept in's always IF this THEN that. Not iffy :-)

Harini......actually, surprisingly, most of the people i'm around appreciate shades of grey just fine (i'm in a university setting)...but most of what's happening all around this island doesn't seem to like the greys. Shades indeed are nicer, and softer, and merge in to one and another.

Minal said...

If you choose the Ashes over the Indian Series are you being a Raj follower?

Good one? Bad one? I dunno:-) Just tried to lighten the mood. Sorry could not resist the cricket bit!

But a lovely post again from you.

Abi said...

Nice post!

Not to nit-pick, but:

"If you don’t believe in subsidies, handouts and removal of trade barriers, are you a free-marketer?"

Um, I think you would like to get rid of 'removal of'. Also, isn't 'handout' itself a label?

Finally, if you are bogged down by so many questions and their associated labels, aren't you being 'merely academic'? ;-)

Sourin Rao said...

Good post. I wrote a long response earlier and didnt enter the cursed word verification. So lost my comments. Damn.

Sunil said...

No Minal....if you choose the Ashes over the Indian series, you are a cricket enthusiast who likes a good contest. Aus vs. a resurgent Eng team, compared to India vs. Zimbabwe, and Tatenda Taibu's terrifying sledging? Oooh....i'm shaking! :-)

abi....yes, indeed, will remove the removal. No, not being merely academic...:-)

Sourin, i apologize deeply. I had to turn that word verification on only because i was suddenly being spammed extensively....and it was out of control.

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

nice post... the only labels i've ever paid attention too are the ones on product packaging!

Ravi said...

Did I say that?? might have been sleep-commenting!

Anonymous said...

awesome....this is a "bookmark this" post.

U've given me a lot of ammo for verbal warfare !!

Veena said...

Great labels! One particular label that I am quite fond of - if you read anything other than pulp, are you pseudo-intellectual?:)

Sunil said...

Shoe that is great, great wisdom. I try to look at product labels alone too.....but it usually depresses me since there's waaaay too much that i cant afford :-(

Mustang...sleep commenting, huh? Are you labelling me a sleep inducing bore? :-)

Arzan....thanks. But whom are you going to declare verbal war on?

Veena......awesome. I'll try to stick to pulp.

Anonymous said...

The motto of your Alma Mater itself contains a kind of label : if you are neither sinister nor dexterous what are you ?

Sunil said..., not at all. I was just questioning the necessity to dub some one to be some thing, just because they are not some thing else. That is, I was just commenting upon the trend of branding someone "if you are not with me, then you are against me". Life is not in black and white, but in shades of grey.

Neither to the right, nor to the left, but on straight on. In this post's means not taking up a label. No absolutes, but only parts. Never "if not all this, then you are all that".

Anonymous said...

Wow.. what an interesting discussion going on here. Really.

Nice post Sunil.

Rhyncus said...

You should allow labels, they make people feel secure. Once an unknown thing is branded with some label that they can make sense of, they can move on with their lives. Which is why you have 'if it is not hot, it must be cold' statements happening. Consider it the logic of the blind-and-scared. There's a limit to the number of dimensions people can make sense of, no?

Sunil said...

Thanks truman....

rhyncus....whoa! I'm not allowing or not allowing labels! This are just some thought. But if it is not hot, it needn't be can be warm, luke warm, cool, or cold. That's the point.

Rhyncus said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Queasy Rider said...

Good post! Exactly what I've thought on more than one occasion. Btw, I've noticed the growing band of 'libertarians' in the Indi-blogosphere, some of them espousing the libertarian ideology.

- Nanda Kishore

Sunil said...

but yes,'s really difficult to escape labels.

Gameboys....yeah, i've been noticing the growing band of "libertarians" too.......but i don't care too much about libertarian ideology......there isn't much of that on the West Coast....

Anonymous said...

Hi Sunil,
Have been reading your blog for a while now but this post inpired me to stop lurking and comment. It's a great post. My economic philosophy has been so difficult to define since I came to the US. Back in India, it was easy: we had to give up the 'license raj' that was strangulating us, which I guess would make me a capitalist. But the last 5 years in US have taught me that unless there are checks and balances on the said capitalism, i.e. affordable and equivalent education for all, affordable healthcare for all etc etc, it is back to the feudalistic society we are trying to escape from.

On an unrelated note: the dictionary definition of secularism is "a doctrine that rejects religion and religious considerations". It does not mean "equal respect for all religions" as it has been interpreted by several 'secular' political parties in India. And by that definition we have very few, if any, secularists in India so the label 'p-sec' may be relevant.

Sunil said...

Urmila, thanks for your comment.

I will agree with you in that the stifled system of license raj in India is perhaps the worst thing that can happen for any form of economic development. But, in a capitalistic system, there definitely does need to be some checks and balances (accessible and affordable education and healthcare, accountability for civic services, protection of national parks and resources, preservation of ecologically fragile areas, economic checks in place to prevent absolute business monopolies (which will lead to inefficiency).....unfortunately, the license raj ended up creating these problems! As does unchecked capitalism).

Yes, secularism is a complex debate. But a state cannot be secular if it actively supports all religions. Only if there is a separation of religion from state can a state become secular. And handouts to religious groups (mostly for votes) is the worst thing that can happen to secularism.

Amit said...

Sunil - Excellent Posts and you have put forth some very pertinent questions or should I say Labels?

As for the debate on Secularism, I think the STATE has to be secular to the extent that it is an atheist. Secularism I feel (from a State point of view) is being equally intolerant of any religion as long as equality , justice and democracy is at stake.... on a personal level it is tolerance to the extent that personal space is not encroached


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