Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Some comments on the Indian government's New Education Policy draft Aug 2016

Some comments on the NEP draft Aug 2016

Probal Dasgupta, Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata

(1) In this and other policy documents and drafts, insufficient attention is paid to those middle class students who, in terms of access to equipment or resources, seem not to suffer from glaring deficits and therefore seem not to need any serious assistance from the educational system. But some middle class students, when they grow up, become makers and implementers of national policies. If they are not enabled to detect and address their own important deficits, the result is that the absence of critical scrutiny of their own situation leaves them ill-equipped to understand and address deficits in other sections of society. My main problem with the NEP draft available for comment is that this draft completely fails to notice that the near-exclusive focus on English in India’s educational system leaves the entire middle class sadly ill-equipped to understand and conduct serious discourse in Indian languages. To expect Hindi to flourish just because some classroom time is spent on it, in a nation where neither Hindi nor the other Indian languages are being encouraged for critical and academic use, is not a viable strategy.

(2) The NEP draft only pays lip service to mother tongue medium education. It fails to address the predicament of what I shall call ‘Region-Displaced’ middle class students whose mother tongue state and residential state are distinct – for example, Kannadiga students who live in Odisha. Unless Region-Displaced (RD) students are given serious resources to attain literacy in their mother tongue, their cognitive competence remains deficient. Many of us fail to notice this deficit as it is often masked by specially cultivated English skills and other social advantages. RD students, though not numerous, are a significant proportion of the vocal middle class, and often grow up to be influential; this decreases the chances of their deficits being publicly commented on.

(3) Now, Region-Displaced students often display below-average levels of public awareness and socio-cultural participation. They tend to be alienated both from their mother tongue state and from their residential state. They fail to follow the local processes in either of their states -- they cannot follow the news media, or understand film/ television content, or meaningfully take part in festivals. They thus become culturally disenfranchised ‘nebulously all-India citizens without a home state’, incapable even of casting an informed vote for this or that MLA candidate, for instance. This alienation has many side-effects that have been seriously weakening India’s integrity, self-confidence and intellectual/moral health. At the end of these remarks I note that one important side-effect is a weakening of India’s scientific and technological profile.

(4) Insisting (for doctrinal reasons) that every Region-Displaced student must receive early schooling in the medium of his or her mother tongue, come what may, is neither feasible nor a well-thought-out response to this predicament. The system needs to offer choices. At present, RD students are forced to abandon their mother tongue and get educated either (a) entirely in English, in a private English medium school, or (b) entirely in Hindi and English, in a Kendriya Vidyalaya, or (c) entirely in the regional language of the state of residence. The present dispensation has convinced everybody that augmenting this (a)-(c) list by adding any choice (d) or (e) which involves serious cultivation of the RD students’ mother tongues will overburden RD students, whereupon they will fail to compete with local students. We need to find a way out of this false sense of ‘there is no choice’, for otherwise we continue the destruction of the personal socio-cultural resources of RD students, who are an influential section of our middle class.

(5) The way out has to include innovative use of ICT resources providing long distance audio-visual access to spoken and written pedagogic materials from the RD student's mother tongue state. For a child to benefit from these resources will involve synergy between online instructors based in the mother tongue state and on-the-spot facilitators who teach at the school where the child is studying. (I am visualizing additional classes held by facilitating teachers at the child’s school, where the teachers don’t know the child’s mother tongue but will expose the child to the audio-visual resources and on-line materials. Ideally the child will have video-conferencing access to a teacher located in the mother tongue state. Even in non-ideal situations where video-conferencing is unavailable, the child’s assignments will have to be corrected by some teacher in the mother tongue state, and the facilitating teacher at the child’s school will have to liaise with that remote teacher.) Such teaching-learning materials will have to be specially developed for RD students; note that the existing primers meant for home state users presume locally available background knowledge and therefore will be opaque to RD students.

(6) How shall we find time in the curriculum to avoid overburdening RD students? There are several choices. My recommendation is that an RD student should be given mother tongue proficiency lessons in the niche that the current NEP draft reserves for Sanskrit. Other choices can be defended; I leave the ultimate choice of viable niche to those drafting the final document; I hope that a menu of reasonable options will be given to RD children, so that particular children can make choices best suited to their individual situations. Just as Sanskrit is proposed as a pedagogically enabling language, it is essential to see that the child’s mother tongue is an indispensable enabling resource. In particular, a child who has been uprooted from his or her mother tongue never acquires full-scope cognitive proficiency, especially in science research at the level that is needed to conduct debates and win arguments when challenging a position taken by a native speaker of English. That the absence of mother tongue proficiency causes such a deficit has been shown by psycholinguistic and educational research.

(7) The interface between language education and science needs attention in the context of another problem with the NEP draft. This draft expresses the aspiration that India must catch up with advanced nations in science capabilities including science research. But the overall vision as it now stands in the draft (perhaps in continuity with earlier education policy documents) completely fails to stress science education; it specifically fails to stress its importance in the context of eliminating the gender disparity (and other social disparities) in education. In this context it is important not only to recall article 51A(h) of our Constitution [It shall be the duty of every citizen of India—…(h) to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform] but also to note that UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova in her 2013 vision statement has said "Gender parity means literacy. It means access to science. It means genuine possibilities for girls to become the person they want to be, to strengthen the fabric of communities and societies as a whole." []

(8) Researchers at the language-education interface have shown that students who grow up without serious anchoring in their mother tongue – up to the level known as Cognitively Advanced Language Proficiency, CALP – are handicapped in their scientific reasoning. Unless the mother tongue tweaking of our educational policy is done along the lines I suggest above, there is no hope for a serious upswing in science education and research in India in the foreseeable future.

11 August 2016

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Organised faith or organised unfaith: review of _Muniya's Light_ and subsequent discussion

IIC Quarterly Summer 2005, 161-4:

Organised faith or organised unfaith

[Review of
Muniya’s Light: a narrative of truth and myth, by Ramchandra Gandhi. New Delhi: Roli. 2005.]

This work of fusion art combines the loosely worn format of a fictionish discursive flow with eighteen black and white reproductions of photographs and paintings. I have no doubt that this book is a generic first. The text’s cross-genre is part of its cross-message. Ramchandra Gandhi (hereinafter “RG”) mixes visuals and text, fiction and philosophizing, spiritual talk and art criticism, humour and serious formality to say that which troubles any audience’s ordinary viewing practices. A revealing, he shows, can be viewed spiritually as a revelation if the viewer is playfully complicit with the revealer and disturbed enough to pay attention to the form that is shown but is only half-accepted. As a serious spiritual seeker writing for the present, RG addresses the fact that many thinkers today who wish to see spiritual aspirations thoughtfully formalized imagine that buying into thought-denying or thought-defying forms of religiosity is the only choice they have.
Primarily a philosopher who is also a Ramana Maharshi devotee, RG’s enterprise is to clarify what we think about thinking, in the context of the fact that India has Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Tagore, Gandhiji, Ramana, Aurobindo, Krishnamurti on its epistemic screen. RG is intrigued to see the fault line splitting Indian reflections on knowledge into two segments. The popular conceptualization in India views these seven sages as figures of knowledge, not only of virtue. But the institutionalized portrayals of India’s modern history elide the epistemic dimension of these contributors. The theoretical backgrounds that inform those portrayals set aside all issues of virtue and vice (in the name of the freedom to choose diverse definitions of the good life), but more troublingly even issues of self-awareness and absent-mindedness.
RG’s writing consistently addresses this fault line, seeking formally valid images that make sense to the imagination. His images address readers (and viewers – the sequence of RG’s books is punctuated by a film or two) who are in love with the self-confident intellectual power of non-spiritual modern discourses and technologies. RG’s project is to make available to such readers a non-dismissable thought-diary of spiritual labour. His diary stays engaged with theoretical questions and with what one may call “the times”, but surrenders to no alien definition of what our times might be like, no definition that forgets or denies the spiritual. In the recent past, he has focused on how self-awareness keeps rescuing us from ossification into hardened, totemized identities; this focus enables him to oppose contemporary fundamentalisms on principled grounds.
RG sometimes cuts and refashions diary into publishabilia. While meditating on some paintings by Tyeb Mehta, he worked diary passages from the months of that meditation into a work of art criticism, Svaraj (2003). From his thinking shaped by the experience of remaining a devotee of Sri Ramana Maharshi in milieux often polarized into unreflective adherence to organized faith and unreflective adherence to organized unfaith, RG has now carved out a narrative where pain, joy and watchfulness appear in a cuisine no reader has ever visited before. He serves it to us with a smile, without hiding or being embarrassed by his sense that travelling on these paths, and travelling on them with him, can be embarrassing. None of our habits, either in traditional faith or in modern unfaith, prepare us for such journeys, or show us how to deal with these thoughts and experiences. Perhaps the scientist aware that hypothetico-deductivity runs risks and that spirituality simply is running risks writ large, or the lover aware of putting herself at stake, is a little bit prepared for this. But you will have to read RG yourselves.
In RG’s writings, perhaps most acutely in Muniya’s Light, we face the fact that risk, fear, troubledness, embarrassment, watching the way we watch ourselves and others, and related bits of self-recognition are threads that constitute us. They connect how we do science, how we paint, how we tell tales, how we manoeuvre our politics, how we weave the substance of domesticity through these forms, how we manage playing father/ mother/ child/ ex-child in these spaces. RG connects these contexts through the new idea (which he has been pressing on our attention since the early nineties) that what is distinctively human is not birth or death. It is that all adults were children, can remember having been children, and must reconnect with the truth of childhood while retaining adult dialogical capabilities within which such reconnection is felt and stated. This theoretical idea of RG’s, the notion of human as ex-child (see Dasgupta 1993 for an earlier response spelling out its theoretical import in the postmodern context), comes to life, vividly, beatifully, reflectively, in Muniya’s Light.
This book narrates the progress of a latter-day pilgrim towards the shrine located where language and the world reconfigure themselves as the self. RG’s protagonist Ravi receives as Ramana Maharshi’s gift a specific artistry-laden advaitin notion of self as communication/ communion, an image of self as imageable image. Language lives around the fact that we were once, as children, initiated into language mysteriously, by adults who came across as magical figures. The intrinsic once-upon-a-time character of such beginnings, shrouded in magical myth, can be brought into a certain opening of mythical truth when that narrative is followed, experienced, and sequelled, not by the ex-child, who cannot remember the initiating adult, but by the initiating adult watching her grow into an ex-child. Yes, her; the book imagines the child as a her, Muniya, and the initiating adult as a him, Ravi, who once gave Ananya this special name Muniya.
Muniya’s Light is an extended formulation of one question, a question of creative practice: is this task within our reach? Can one of us today, a non-parent adult who once initiated a child into language, hold in our hands the terrible beauty, the gravity of the fact that we love ourself-and-child, forever, with a love that constitutes that moment of initiation, a moment we know we never owned or fashioned, for it was only by the grace of language, not ours to own, that we were enabled into this love? Do we know how to clean up our act to the point of gazing so purely that an adult male “I” can gaze at an ex-child female “you” whom I once initiated into language, holding intact throughout my communion with you that moment of love and its potential for accretion as our biographies become richer? Or does the ineluctable materiality of our very language today, mired in all the violations that make up our routines, the violences, the fundamentalisms, the artificialities, the vision-destroying impurities, mean that such a dream is not even coherently dreamable?
Rilke shows us how beauty is the beginning of terror; Shaw shows us the artificial creation of modern language by the phonetician in love with his Pygmalion creation. Such associations populate/ circumscribe my reading of RG’s troubled creation as I explore my inability to attain a gaze focused enough to read just this book, and my sense of wonder at how the book makes me see that such a gaze is unavailable. I am shown how to seek the truth of the hybridity, the impurity of my gaze.
Our times harbour no Arjunas holding in view just that target bird-head. Our new camaraderie turns teachers into buddies who happen to be around, we just allow them to hang on as we wait to become us. We are all Yudhishthiras, acutely aware of not focusing on the bird-head, we see everybody around us, we see that we don’t see. The point is to see this truthfully, hoping somewhere in all this to find the Arjuna potential that we can reattain without lapsing either into naïve targeting or into the cardinal sin of turning our Dronacharyas into old-time patriarchal types.
RG introduces into his narrative, as a crystal that can guard us against that cardinal sin, a grown-up Muniya who knows how to get such protection, and who will nurture everybody’s vision in that direction. This crystal works on our water and tries to get us there. Maybe it gets Muniya there. RG gives this character the official name of Ananya, not-other, emblematic of the advaita concept of the self, all “others” are only apparent-others required as communicative poles but not intrinsically alien and incapable of true communion; Muniya is the dyad-bound name Ravi once gave Ananya, an undergraduate student of art and philosophy in California who now heads back home to Mumbai with Ravi, on a plane that starts on September 11 (but 2002). The intertextual links, underscored by K.S. Radhakrishnan’s cover painting, are with the tribal girl Ananya, who was crucial to the narrative of Sita’s kitchen, and with Svaraj, RG’s most recent book, an exercise in advaitin art criticism. Do read them as well!


Dasgupta, Probal. 1993. Anti-fundamentalist investigations [Review of Sita’s kitchen]. Journal of Indian Council of Philosophical Research 11:1.139-51.
Gandhi, Ramchandra. 1992. Sita’s kitchen: a testimony of faith and inquiry. New York: SUNY Press.

                                                                        Probal Dasgupta

subsequent discussion: 
IIC Quarterly Monsoon-Winter 2005, p 307:

A Communication from Ramchandra Gandhi

In his review of my philosophical novel Muniya’s Light (Roli 2005) in the IIC Quarterly (Summer 2005) entitled Organised Faith and Organised Unfaith, Probal Dasgupta seems to doubt the moral integrity of the work.
            Ravi, the protagonist of the novel is blessed with the insight that the girl child is the most poignant portrait of Atman, Self, and that when we ill-treat her we deeply dishonour ourselves.
            Ravi’s conviction awakens the dormant shakti of speech in the four year old, apparently mute daughter of a friend Ananya, or Muniya, as he calls her.
            Ravi and Muniya meet again eighteen years later in California, where she is agraduate student of Art and Religion, and he is teaching a workshop on the Mahabharata.
            Ravi finds that Muniya has grown into a radiant young woman and falls in love with her. He asks her to share his life. She declines, not because he is older than her, nor because she feels no attraction for him, but because she wants to remain a free woman!
            The knowledge that he was instrumental in awakening the power of dormant speech in her when she was a child does not figure at all as a consideration in her rejection of his love.
            Probal Dasgupta’s review (pages 162, 163, 164) mysteriously misreads Muniya’s Light as highlighting the sin of impurity which must sully an old man’s falling in love with a young woman whom he had initiated into language as a child, thus travestying the work’s attempt to bring to its readers a message of philosophical hope for the girl-child beyond the imperatives of legal and social and political action.
            Dasgupta does not cite one sentence from the book in support of his weird reading of it.
                                                                                    Ramchandra Gandhi
                                                                                    August 6, 2005

IIC Quarterly Monsoon-Winter 2005, p 308:

Response: Postscript from Probal Dasgupta

In response to Ramchandra Gandhi’s (RG’s) remarks, I immediately need to point up the Anglophone/ non-Anglophone fault line in terms of which I (explicitly, in the review) thematize my reading of RG’s work. In his spring 1992 Hyderabad lectures, RG noted that a child is normally initiated into home-language by a mother and reinitiated into world-language by society. Reading this book in the light of those lectures, we find that Muniya is a person who missed the chariot of mother-given early linguisticity. When Ravi mediates Sri Ramana’s omkara and inaugurates a differently envisaged Language for the child Muniya, it is structurally a world-language rootable in a new sense of home-language that a grown-up Muniya will need some day to discover. If this Muniya studies in California and fleshes out such world-language in her initial adult take as English, then for her to reboot her access to an Indian language becomes a new question, in the light of which readers will need to contextualize Ravi’s feelings and Muniya’s counterpoint. Further contextualization must come from Shaw’s Pygmalion, as my review notes. The necessity of these contextualizations forces the reader’s gaze into an intertextual or hybrid response to what I characterized as the cross-genre of RG’s text. When I call this gaze impure my reference is explicitly to the non-Arjunic impurity of Yudhishthira’s attempt to take visual aim at the bird-head, and thus to our inability, in these Yudhishthiric times, to be instructed by the old Dronacharya patriarchs. In recording this reading of mine, using the figure of Dronacharya remembered for his treatment of Ekalavya (for dalits too remain marginalized, not just girl children), I was hoping to walk parallel to RG’s message on how to tune our spirituality to the girl child’s needs. That a would-be fellow walker like myself may strike a major runner like RG as too slow to keep up with all he has said and intended is unsurprising. That his impatience with this walker’s dullness takes the form of hearing me as having spoken ill of his work leaves me shocked, saddened, and refuged in the hope that my review did not sound so to other ears. If it has, may these words help.
                                                                                    Probal Dasgupta
  September 9, 2005

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Kelkaj pensoj okaze de la statuta reviziado

Kelkaj pensoj okaze de la statuta reviziado
Probal Dasgupta, 27.7.2016
Revizii statuton kaj gheneralan regularon donas okazon ankau por pli rekte rigardi sin kolektive en la spegulo. Ne chio, kion ni vidas, devus au povas eniri procezon de formalaj revizioj de io institucia. Tamen, estas bone intershanghi niajn pensojn.

Ne estas mia tasko doni superrigardon pri la tute validaj klopodoj de aliaj: ni chiuj konstante -- kaj kritikeme -- spektas la tutan scenejon kaj pli-malpli scias, kio jam okazas. Mi tial nur mencios tion, kion mi volas aparte aldoni al la bildo.

(A) En lingvaj kaj kulturaj fenomenoj, malgrau longaj klopodoj fare de brilaj fakuloj, montrighis ege malfacile atingi interkonsenton pri la idealoj. Serioze dirite -- tute ne estas klare, sur la lingva au kultura tereno, kio estas justa. Tute ne estas klare, kiaj shanghoj en ies praktikoj au chies praktikoj pliegaligus la shancojn de la partoprenantoj en instituciaj procezoj au en neformalaj medioj. Fakuloj pri la justeco, inkluzive esperantistajn fakulojn, delonge debatas tiajn temojn en LPLP kaj aliaj forumoj. Kiu legas la referajhojn, tiu tuj trovas, ke la debatoj estas ege frustraj. Chiuj klopodas transpreni la ideojn kaj argumentojn pri malegaleco kaj diskriminacio el soci-ekonomiaj problemterenoj kaj apliki ilin al lingvaj kaj kulturaj fenomenoj. Sed neniu ech teorie demonstris, ke tia transpreno estas farebla au valida. Kaj en la praktiko niaj informotoj en la ghenerala publiko estas ege skeptikaj pri la ideo de lingvaj kaj kulturaj rajtoj. Tial ni devus ne meti chiuj niajn ovojn en tiun korbon. Kiaj aliaj perspektivoj povas esti pripensindaj?

(B) Nu, kio se ni pravus ke "io putras en [la mondo]" rilate al la lingvoj kaj la lingvolernada shargho, sed se nia nuna aliro al tiu malbonodoro montrighus draste maltauga? Konsideru ekzemple la ideon de Christian Declerck, esploritan en unu-du liaj romanoj, ke la trudado de granda lingvo en nian vivon suferigas nin kvazau sekse, kvazau per tia trudado oni seksperfortus nin, char perforti niajn lingvaj kutimojn estas perforti nian intiman, privatan ekziston. Kio, se tiu aliro kondukus multajn el ni al tute alia diagnozo de la suferoj kauzataj de lingva dominado? Se pro tia diagnozo ni trovus nin gravitantaj pli al la movadoj de virinoj au gejoj ktp, kaj malpli al la etnisma perspektivo, al kiu gravas konservi la lingvan diversecon per tradiciaj metodoj de agitado kaj mobilizo? Se pro tia diagnozo ni movus nian fokuson for de la sociaj kaj instituciaj demandoj, kiuj kutime obsedas nin? Se ni emus dedichi pli da atento al la ideoj de Claude Piron pri la 'felichigado' kaj enfokusigus la interpersonan dinamikon au la psikologion?

(C) Kaj, kio se iuj inter ni okupighus pri la sporto kaj la 'industrio' de plensano, al kiu gravas plialtigi nian kapablon bone farti, tauge manghi, tauge ekzerci nin, enplekti la ekzercighemon en chiutagajn kutimojn kaj tiadirekte fasoni nian libertempon? Kio, se Esperanton mem tiaj samideanoj prezentus kiel metodon maksimumigi la eluzon de nia potencialo por la plensanigho, por la farto-plibonigo?

(Ch) Certe la ghis nun chefa okupigho pri demandoj de justeco, egaleco ktp kaj la ligitaj instituciaj mobilizoj rilate la jurajn rimedojn por konstitucie pliproksimigi niajn sociojn al tiuj idealoj ne chesos aspekti grava al multaj el ni, precipe al la 'movada elito' tradicie atenta al la prioritatoj de UN kaj Unesko. La kontinueco gravas, kaj feliche la inercio garantios ke ni konservos ghin. Do plej vershajne homoj emantaj al la psikologiaj preferoj en alineo (B) au la preferantoj de la korpa-mensa sanismo de alineo (C) hisos flagojn de 'malplimultoj' en la Esperanto-movado. Sed eble tiuj tendencoj trovos motorojn kaj farighos reliefaj? 

Chu ni scipovos dedichi al tiaj tendencoj taugan atenton sen strange tordi niajn universalan kaj landajn/ fakajn statutojn por enshovi fantaziajn eblojn de agadoj sen reala bazo? Chu ni scipovos kombini la aventuremon de novaj ideoj de tiu speco -- kie oni sin demandas kiamaniere Esperanto povas prezentighi kiel novtipa kaj ekscita ideo al ni mem kaj al varbotoj -- kun la aferista prudento, sen kiu la financaj sango, limfo kaj spiraero de nia kolektiva korpo ne povos sane flui? Almenau demandoj kiel (B) kaj (C) certe povas esti esplorataj en la ekzercoj kaj ludoj, per kiuj plenighas programeroj 'distraj' en niaj diversformataj renkontighoj. Sed chu havas sencon sugesti, ke ili povas krei alternativan diagnozon pri la malboneco de la nuna lingva-kultura ordo, kie fortuloj dominas kaj subpremas malfortulojn? 

Chu eble ni diverse serchas manieron povi diri, ke la intuicio pri la maljusteco de la nuna lingva ordo estas valida, sed ke el tio ne sekvas, ke ni scias, kiamaniere konstrui justan mondon chi-rilate, kaj ke Esperanto estas unu elemento en justo-cela mozaiko, de kiu ni ankorau ne sukcesis klare identigi (kaj ligi al niaj laboroj) aliajn gravajn mozaikerojn?

Mi estas absolute certa, ke el la chi-supraj alineoj tute ne sekvas proceduraj proponoj, kiuj iru al la Komitato de UEA. Mi skribas tial al la membraro (inkluzive de membroj nun cheestantaj la kongreson en Nitra), kaj ne al la estraro. Lau mi, indas en la nuna, shangho-konsidera momento, kovi kelkajn ideojn de tiu chi ghenerala speco, kiuj koncernas niajn okupighojn kiel ordinaraj esperantistoj, kaj kiuj neniel rilatas al la detaloj de nova statuto de tiu au alia el niaj organizajhoj. Reviziante statutojn kaj regularojn, ni chiam revenas al chi tiaj gheneralaj sed konkretaj pensoj pri tio, kion ni entute faras.

Espereble el tio chi iuj elementoj aperos al vi utilaj. Dankon pro via atento.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Nia pakto kun la tagiĝo

Nia pakto kun la tagiĝo

Probal Dasgupta
KKE, 20 majo 2016

            Saluton. En 2002 mi preskaŭ vizitis Brazilon por ĉeesti la Universalan Kongreson, sed lastminute devis akcepti inviton al Srilanko. Tiujare plurnacia brigado da instruantoj pri la tradukarto volontulis per pacaj rimedoj kuraci tiun insulan landon sangantan pro enlanda milito. Ni labortendare instruis universitatanojn en Kandy pri la tradukistiko kaj parencaj lingvosciencaj konceptoj. Niaj trejnitoj intencis traduke pontofari inter la sinhala, la tamila kaj la angla, kaj tiel krei bazon por fortika paco. Tio estis grava komenco. En kaj apud la Esperanto-movado, ni faras kulturan laboron por la paco, ni semas kaj semas, neniam laciĝas – precipe en la landoj sudaj, ĉe homoj junaj, tagiĝaj, komencemaj, senlacaj. La esperantistaro estas plenplena je komencantoj pri la lingvo. Tute ne hontinde. Vidu, eĉ la plej avangardaj homoj estas komencantoj pri la homarana konscio. Ni fieras, ke niaj veturiloj startas kaj restartas kaj restartas sur tiu vojo.
            Esperanto estas homarana movado, kiu re kaj redebutas sur la arenoj de la mondo. Niaj debutoj diversas laŭ la regionoj. Brazilo investegas energion en la lerneja agado. Se la ĉefaj agantoj pacience fosados sian sulkon, pli aŭ malpli frue multaj lernejoj en Brazilo instruados nian lingvon al milmiloj da geknaboj. Tio estos unu speco de ekflorado. En dua lando gravas la universitataj studentoj. En tria lando, reliefe aktivas la maljunuloj, homoj de la ‘tria aĝo’. Ilia matura saĝo fortigas nian ĝardenon per radikoj profundaj. Kiam viaj lernejanoj amase lernos Esperanton, ili eble trovos amemajn kaj diligentajn korespondgeavojn en Pollando.
            Kiom da lokoj, tiom da vokoj. Kiom da aĝoj, tiom da saĝoj. Efektive, egale gravas la homoj el ĉiuj generacioj, ne nur la lernejanoj. Kial do emfazi la komencemon de movado re kaj redebutanta? Kial elekti por prelego la titolon ‘nia pakto kun la tagiĝo’? Sinjorinoj kaj sinjoroj, kompreneble ni bezonas agemulojn el ĉiu aĝo. Mia celo ja ne estas atentegi nur la infanaron, sed tra la tuta gamo de niaj fortostreĉoj insiste emfazi la rejunigadon de la homarana impeto. La tago rejunigas sin je la tagiĝo – je tiu momento, kiam la tago mem estas komencanto kaj rememoras havi magian pakton kun ni esperantistoj. Kian enhavon mi imagas por tiu magia pakto? Jen la ĉefa demando de ĉi tiu prelego.
            La respondo al tiu demando havas kiel ekirpunkton la fruajn paŝojn de via persona vivo. En via infanaĝo, vi ekkonis la plej senperajn personojn kaj faktojn. Koni tiun vian medion estis la ĉefa celo de viaj eklernoj. Ni nomu tiun fruan medion ‘via medieto’. Poste, plu kreski signifis por vi lerni en lernejo, eble studi en universitato, legi gazetojn, viziti sociajn retejojn. Vi abunde trinkis de tiuj fontoj de sciado. Tial, multon ne rekte konatan vi tamen scias – multajn faktojn pri sportistoj, politikistoj, kantistoj, aktoroj, montoj, riveroj, gejseroj, dezertoj. Vi neniam renkontos ilin, sed iliajn detalojn vi rapide liveras dum kvizoj. Tiuj objektoj de via serioza scio aperas do en ‘via mediego’, tiel ni nomu ĝin.
            Nun mi starigas al vi nekutiman, tute eksterkvizan demandon. Kie en la horaro de via tagnokto aperas la medieto konata ekde via infaneco kaj la mediego sciata ekde via lernejado? Pensu iomete. Dum la funkciaj horoj de la tago – ĉu labora, ĉu feria tago, tio ne gravas – la sciatoj el via mediego nepre iel-tiel aperadas sur via ekrano. Sed en la nokto, dum vi dormas, viaj sonĝoj foje venigas sur vian ekranon la medietajn, intimajn homojn kaj lokojn, la konatejojn. Jen iuj elementoj el la ordinara ritmo de viaj tagoj kaj noktoj.
            Sed vidu, la tagiĝo estas magia momento. Ĝi prezentas eblon de io eksterordinare alia, eblon de utopio. Tiu momento diras al vi, ke alia mondo eblas. La potenco de tiu sankta momento donas al vi la subitan kuraĝon revi, ke la tago nun naskiĝanta ne ripetos la ŝablonon de viaj rutinoj. Ĝi malfermos al vi aventuran pordon, trans kies sojlo vi renkontos tute novan elementon – sci-konon. Tiu mirinda sci-kono metos la konatejan, medietan realon de viaj noktoj en ĉioŝanĝan, eksterordinaran interkirladon kun via tago. For la tagordon, vi krios, for la banalan tagordon stulte truditan de tiu mediego, kiun mi rigardis kiel sciatan!
            La magie potencaj voĉoj el viaj fruaj jaroj vokas. En la nomo de la sankta senmakuleco de viaj infanjaraj ekimpresoj, tiuj potencaj voĉoj ordonas al vi, ke vi ne plu akceptu la antaŭjuĝojn kaj la misajn preferojn de tiu vialanda elito, kiu per la agordoj de la nacia eduksistemo muldis vin kiel obeeman ŝtatanon. La potencaj voĉoj admonas, ke vi ne plu malamu la fremdulojn kaj la enmigrintojn, kiujn vi estas sisteme instruita malami. Ili admonas, ke vi ĉesu ignori tiujn nevidebligitajn marĝenulojn en via socio, kiujn vi estas edukita ignori. Ili insistas, ke vi amu kaj respektu pli ol nur tiujn, kiujn pro la prioritatoj de via nacia elito vi lernis senrivale ami kaj respekti. Ili insistas, ke malobee al via elito vi nun amu kaj respektu universale ĉiujn homojn.
            Mi ne plukas utopiemon el la malplena aero, sinjorinoj kaj sinjoroj, sed el socia realo. Orienta Azio jam montris la vojon al aliaj mondpartoj. Vi eble aŭdis eĉ pri la libro aperinta en 2007 sub la titolo Historio por malfermi la estontecon, esperantigo de komuna, trilanda mezlerneja lernolibro pri la moderna historio de Koreujo, Ĉinujo kaj Japanujo, kiun dum jaroj zorge kunverkis entute 42 historiistoj (17 ĉinoj, 13 japanoj kaj 12 koreoj). Ili sukcesis produkti verkon sen mensogoj kaj sen embarasiĝo uzeblan por la mezlerneja instruado. Tiu libro ne kaŝas la hororajn faktojn pri la rivaleco inter la nacioj, pri la militoj, pri ekspluatadoj, pri hontindaj krimoj. Tamen la libro instruas, kiamaniere maturaj homoj povas ekvilibre diri la veron, plenumante la deziron de infanoj povi plenrespekte fidi al siaj plenkreskuloj.
La libro oficiale aperis en 2005 samtempe en la japana, la ĉina kaj la korea; ĉiuj tri versioj estas egale validaj. 42 homoj garantias, ke ili diras la samon. La esperantigon – faritan de 11 ĉinoj, 22 japanoj kaj 11 koreoj – kunordigis Yu Tao, Satoo Morio kaj Lee Chong-Yeong. Ili donas al nia unika interkomunumo la rajton fieri, ke ekster la orientaziaj lingvoj nur Esperanto portas al la homaro ĉi tiun unike valoran pontolibron, pontantan inter edukaj sistemoj.
            Tiu orientazia lernolibro estas iom utopia. Ĝi ja ne estas uzata por instrui la historion en ĉiuj mezlernejoj de la tri landoj. La lernejaj sistemoj eĉ ne intertraktas formale kun la celo atingi tian aranĝon aŭ komisii la produktadon de pli da neŭtralaj lernolibroj de la sama tipo por ke la lernejanoj havu elekton inter diversaj aŭtoroj, diversaj stiloj ktp. Miakomprene nur iuj lernejoj eksperimente uzas la libron. Tamen rimarku la signifon de la fakto, ke Ĉina Esperanto-Ligo, Japana Esperanto-Instituto kaj Korea Esperanto-Asocio kune aŭspiciis la aperigon de tia esperantigo, kaj ke la Redaktokomitato de tiu lernolibro sukcesis funkciadi kun la konsento de la respektivaj registaroj. La ekzisto de la libro estas grava simbolo de tiu tagiĝo, kun kiu la Esperanta interkomunumo havas unikan pakton, sed al kiu sentas allogon ĉiuj homoj de bona volo, ne nur esperantistoj.
            Bonvolu atenti, mi petas, ke la trilanda projekto ne celis liveri universitatan, enciklopediecan verkon de pluraj volumoj por profesoroj kaj studentoj. Oni prave elektis la mezlernejan nivelon. Iomete pli aĝaj infanoj – pretaj unuafoje en sia vivo aŭdi la veron pri siaj nacioj – lernu surbaze de komunaj agordoj, kiuj nuligas la apartajn mensogojn preferatajn de la elito de ĉiu unuopa lando. Jes, la revo estas utopia, alidire tro avangarda, ol ke la tuta lernejaro tuj efektivigu ĝin. Tamen, vidu, kiom da institucioj pretas sponsori la revon. Elektante la mezlernejan nivelon, tiu projekto emfaze deklaras la gravecon de ... la tagiĝo, la komenco de la serioza lernado de la moderna historio.
            Geamikoj diris al mi, ke mi erarus, se mi tro forte kaj unikige emfazus la aperon de specife tiu libro orientazia. Mi estas informita, ekzemple, ke jam pli frue aperis samtipaj komunaj lernolibroj por la francoj kaj la germanoj. Pardonu, ke mi ne esploris, precize kiom da komune verkitaj historioj aperis en tiu regiono, nek ekzakte kiom da lernejoj instruas el tiaj libroj. Tamen bonvolu rimarki, ke la landoj funkciantaj jam delonge en la Nord-Atlantika Traktata Organizaĵo plene dissolvis ne nur geopolitike sed ankaŭ kulture la formalan malamikecon, kiu ekzistis dum la dua mondmilito. Tiu situacio ne estas komparinda kun tio, kion ni trovas en Orienta Azio. Krome, mi nenie vidis esperantigon de tiaj franc-germanaj lernolibroj historiaj, nek komentarion en Esperanto pri la valoro de tiuspeca verka entrepreno. Mi tial sentas la devon insisti pri la unika valoro de la orientazia lernolibro. Certe brazilanoj bone komprenas, ke neniu venus al la ideo verki nun kredindan komunan lernolibron pri la moderna historio de la Amerikoj. Kaj mi sincere petas vin ne demandi, kian sencon havus pensi tuj pri simila komunhistoria projekto por la sudazia regiono. Iuj utopiaj pensoj trafas la sojlon de konkreta efektivigeblo pli frue ol aliaj.
            Sinjorinoj kaj sinjoroj, kiamaniere vi mem, konkrete, povas partopreni la firmigadon kaj diskonigadon de nia esperantista pakto kun la tagiĝo? Kiuj utopiaj agoj elsaltos el viaj magiaj manoj? Vi certe mem iniciatas multon. Tamen, ĉu mi rajtas fari unu-du sugestojn?
            Unue mi konkrete sugestas ion tuje fareblan. Kiam Mahatma Gandhi volis veki nin baratanojn al la neceso propraforte liberiĝi el sub la kolonia jugo de la britoj, li petis, ke ni faru volontulan laboron ĉiutage – ke dum minimume duona horo ĉiutage ni propramane ŝpinu per ŝpinrado. Tiel ĉiu baratano rekte, persone partoprenu la produktadon de ŝtofo kaj kontribuu al la malfortiĝinta teksaĵa industrio de Barato. La celo de tiu alvoko de Gandhi estis redukti nian dependecon de la vestaĵoj, kiujn Britujo amase produktis kaj trude vendadis al ni. La baratanoj de tiu epoko mobilizis sin ĉirkaŭ tiu konkreta volontula laboro. Inspirite de tiu ideo, mia patro Arun Dasgupta iam diris al mi: Probal, vi esperantistoj, kiuj volas krei socian teksaĵon de la homoj el la tuta mondo, devus ĉiutage traduki dum almenaŭ duonhoro. Traduki estas la lingva ekvivalento de ŝpinado.
            Bonvolu ne pensi, ke mi insiste petas, ke ĉiu esperantisto kontribuu ĝuste per la tradukado de altkvalitaj beletraj tekstoj, kiujn oni tuj aperigu. Certe ne al ĉiu individuo tia laboro konvenas. Ni pensu al la infanoj. Ni ja ne devus kredigi al ili, ke la arto traduki estus facilega. En la lernejaj Esperanto-programoj, pro la agordoj de la moderna lingvo-pedagogio, tute ne rolas rekte la tradukarto. Tamen, infanoj lernintaj iom da Esperanto ĝuos la sperton regule traduketi el Esperanto en sian gepatran lingvon, ekster la kursa horaro, lude kaj plezure, sen konsideroj pri aŭtoraj rajtoj kaj eldonebleco – same kiel oni biciklas aŭ naĝas sen nepre konkursi kun ĉampionoj. Mi ĉefe sugestas, ke la esperantista komunumo diversmaniere reliefigu la valoron de la tradukado kaj la gravecon de niaj tradukistoj, tre ofte neglektataj. Traduki estas pontofari inter lingvoj. Esperanto kiel pontolingvo estas natura aliancano de absolute ĉia tradukado en la mondo, ankaŭ inter la portugala kaj la hispana, inter la germana kaj la ĉina.
            Mia dua sugesto estas, ke teksante la socian ŝtofon vi ne nur atentu al diversaj longdistancaj partneroj, kion kuraĝigas la transnacia retoriko de Esperanto, sed ankaŭ pensu pri la marĝenaj socianoj neglektataj en via propra socio. En ĉiu lando troviĝas evidentaj aksoj de tia malegaleco. La urbanoj havas pli da avantaĝoj ol la kamparanoj. La viroj, ol la virinoj. La junuloj kaj mezaĝuloj, ol la maljunuloj. Kiam vi lingve ekzercas vin por plibonigi vian Esperanton, provu tuŝi la temon de tiuj malegalecoj en via interparola kaj skriba repertuaro. Ne nur babilu pri la kutimaj agrablaj kaj facilaj temoj. Kompreneble ne troigu la fortostreĉon; nepre ne perdu la gajan bazon de la Esperanta sociumado. Memoru, ke la celo de la iniciatoj, pri kiuj ni pensas hodiaŭ, estas festi la tagiĝojn, la komencojn. Ne forgesu la principon, ke ni devas kutimiĝi al la facilaj ŝtupoj antaŭ ol sufiĉe forti por la pli penaj ŝtupoj. Sed inter la komencoj gravaj al ni aperu ankaŭ la malfacilaj klopodoj fari ian komencon por konscii diversajn sociajn malegalecojn inter ni, kaj apliki la forton de la esperantista amikeco al tiuj demandoj. Se ni povas nenion pli konkretan fari por helpi, ni almenaŭ aŭskultu unu la alian. Trovi aŭskulteman amikon jam duonigas la ŝarĝon, kiun devas porti suferanto.

            Espereble vi ne pensas, ke mi emfazas komencojn nur pro retorikaj kialoj. Tute ne. Mi emfazas la komencojn, ĉar nur imperiistoj akaparas al si la rajton tuŝi per siaj krudaj, intervenemaj manoj la tutan gamon de la viveroj en fremda socio. Liberaj homoj kune iniciatas komencojn. Ili ne klopodas anticipe fiksi la kompletan tagordon de libere fluanta konversacio. Kiam la homaro estos sukcesinta pri tuta serio da komencoj, tiam la mezo de nia planeda rakonto spontane prezentos sin al ni. Neniu ja devos ion iniciati por atingi tiun rezulton. Niaj planoj estu sisteme komencemaj, utopiaj; la realon sekvontan post tiuj komencoj ni ne bezonas plani – la realo eĉ tro trude invadas nian spacon, kaj ĝuste niaj utopioj povas iom bremsi tiun invadon. La Esperanto-movado elektis por sia standardo la verdan koloron. La verdo simbolas la junon, la komencojn, la printempojn. En la jara ciklo, vivu la printempo! En la taga ciklo, vivu la tagiĝo! Vivu nia pakto kun la tagiĝo!

The Owl and Dawn

The Owl and Dawn

Probal Dasgupta


One aspect of the widely acknowledged contemporary crisis, I suggest here, is the exhaustion of Experience, which therefore needs to renew its partnership with Innocence. I unpack this thought in terms of a model of discourse reproduction. In this model, a child is born into her _milieu_, and begins to _recognize_ proximate persons and places in her _landscape_, which the model idealizes as a set of names. Subsequent instruction initiates the child into her _structures_, and she then begins to _acknowledge_ remote persons, places and institutions on her society’s _cloudscape_, which the model idealizes as another set of names. This discourse reproduction model stresses the importance of the ZPD (Zone of Proximal Development) – a dyadic relation between the child and her Educator E. E renders the cloudscape’s textbooks vivid to the child by intersemiotically translating from the structure’s discourses into the milieu’s discourses that the child can perceive. It is argued here that the narrative is the optimal mode for such intersemiotic translation, and that all cloudscape names count as fictional for semiotic purposes, regardless of the empirically demonstrable historicity of some of the names. In this context, this paper asks how pedagogues are to reconcile the ability of certain established ‘true classics’ to elicit a deep response from everybody with the need to counter cloudscape colonization by highlighting new classics from marginalized cultures. This is articulated as the question of how to steer the work of such reconciliation away from the trap of bureaucratically defensible massive anthologies for all that become pedagogic nightmares. One answer is that the practices of Esperanto literary translation provide a model worth emulating: one tries to attain a balanced basket of classics sourced from as diverse a set of cultures as one can, paying special attention to smaller speech communities to counteract the hegemonic forces of the market. This answer is contextualized by tweaking the discourse reproduction model in order to offer a new characterization of ‘true classics’ that extends the ‘cloudscape’ metaphor. Readers clued into earlier substantivist work on diglossia will recognize some abiding themes expressed in slightly different terminology here.

When I am told that a major philosopher enjoys reading crime fiction, I take it that she enjoyed the suspense. Philosophers are centrally concerned with scrutinizing claims to the effect that this or that statement is true. But the final determination of the status of these truth claims is kept pending. That a particular statement has been put forward as true gives it the status of a candidate proposition, waiting to be confirmed, keeping us in suspense until it is. Confirmation will become available only after due scrutiny removes those impediments of which some Indian philosophers have said that a cognition free of impediments is a valid cognition, a pramā. Till then, we wait.

I’m here to explore some questions connected with suspense, with having to wait. Just how somebody’s doctrine technically characterizes impediments is not my concern. I look first at some impediments affecting the scrutiny of statements about a human individual HI, pronounced ‘hi’. In some accents of English, HI is pronounced ‘your highness’. If HI elicits strong feelings of love or hate among others whose perceptions are influential, their intensity cannot but impede due scrutiny during her lifetime. Does it help the cause if HI dies? Well, if she continues to be adored or despised, the obstruction remains in place, keeping the scrutiny of truth claims in suspense.

What if we wait for even those posthumous associations to weaken? Waiting interminably places you in the predicament dramatized in an Esperanto poem by Edwin De Kock (1982: 6). At such a huge distance, the poem shows, you don’t care, you can’t care what the facts are. For you have no clue who on earth these facts are about. Cluelessness impedes comprehension. You can’t ask if a proposition is true or false when you don’t even understand what it’s saying. Here is De Kock’s poem, followed by my very rough English rendering:

identeco                                           identity

En Ekbatano                             Top banker from Babel,
ĉefbankisto fro Babel,                        based in Ekbatan –
kiu vi estis,                                         who were you,
negocante kun Kuraŝ,                         Itti-Marduk-balatu,
Itti-Marduk-balatu?                            doing business with Kurash?

From what optimal distance should we look at a body of statements about HI if we want to check whether they are true? One influential answer to this question was formulated by Hegel, who wrote: The owl of Minerva takes its flight only when the shades of night are gathering. My label for this answer, crepuscularism, is based on the Latin word crepusculum, ‘twilight’; it serves my purpose as it is crucially ambiguous between dusk, which Hegel had in mind, and dawn. In the present lecture, I offer some reasons for comprehensively revising crepuscularism, shifting our attention from dusk to dawn, reflecting on such a shift’s antecedents and consequences, keeping the essential unclarity of twilight in view.

Consider the interpersonal milieu in which an individual’s biography is situated. Contrast it with the institutional structures whose vicissitudes historians are expected to watch. Now, a child born into society and acquiring her first language – I shall imagine the mainstream philosopher’s typical monolingual child, minimizing the number of wrinkles to consider – is born into her milieu. She learns words and names for her parents or other care-givers, for her play-mates and other companions, for the places and sights and sounds of her immediate environs. Once she has been immersed in her milieu, exposure to her structures follows. Instruction of some kind introduces her to her head of state, her national and international maps, the party her well-wishers urge her to vote for, and other institutional coordinates that she grows into as she adjusts her rationality settings to the norms of others.

Now imagine a boy called Utti, growing up in the Babylonian elite as a son of Itti-Marduk-balatu, the gentleman mentioned in De Kock’s poem. In Utti’s infancy, he encounters his father as part of his milieu. Formal instruction later superimposes Itti-Marduk-balatu’s structural identity on Utti’s initial picture of him. Generalizing from this vignette, as a metonym for the way any child grows into full access to her milieu and her structures, I focus on the names of the persons and places she gets acquainted with. I thus idealize the milieu and the structures as sets of names.

Do the bits of discourse encyclopaedically associated with each name formally appear in this idealization? No, they don’t, but they are the reason for setting it up. To imagine discourse as homogeneous would be a mistake. The personal discourse surrounding names in our milieu is opaque to outsiders who share our language but not our milieu. In contrast, the bits of institutional discourse attached to names in the structures are disseminated among all adults in the community, although the manner of such dissemination is hardly uniform.

We familiarize young children with the personal discourse in our milieu when they learn how to talk. In a literate context, older children are initiated into the institutional discourse of their structures as they learn how to read and write, especially at secondary school. In contexts where formal schooling is rudimentary or missing, children make do with whatever initiations they can get. Deprived of rituals supervised by tribal elders, excluded from serious secondary schools, these adolescents do become citizens of history nonetheless – under conditions imposed by displacement, disenfranchisement and worse.

Why emphasize the messy heterogeneity of the ways in which discourse is associated with milieux and structures? I am making two points. First, the milieu/structure distinction is robust even in non-canonical contexts, and functionally corresponds to the speech/writing binary of a normative childhood. Second, the discourses of experience, or structures, are sustained across generations, but they undergo reconstruction every time, making even the normative process essentially messy. Experience is reconstructed through every fresh generation’s innocence. Young children learn how to talk. They get acquainted with the names and faces in their milieu. Only then do they find that there is a structural discourse to get initiated into. They have to access those structures of yours, which therefore need to have an exterior accessible to young children at a milieu level. Only structures with this property can survive across generations.

Aware of this challenge, some institutions explicitly try to secure flawless transmission. They set up a precaution-laden, perfection-seeking pedagogy. One iconic idealization of such norms of pedagogy and governance appears in Plato’s Republic. Hegel’s elaboration of the notion of the state inherits that enterprise. But philosophers today cannot identify with the Plato-Hegel project – for at least one reason relevant in our context. Why, we wonder, did Plato, who wrote the Meno, also write the Republic? How can we assent to these models that rationally reconstruct institutional pedagogy but ignore the non-formal transmission of the pervasive pre-institutional performative basis of humanity?

It is the cross-generational transmission of this performative basis that underwrites the systematic pedagogies. Explicit teaching systems take a free ride on that tacit transmission, for which language acquisition is our obvious metonym. Wherever we may stand on nature-nurture debates surrounding this transmission, it certainly is a tacit process. Unable to perform an adult reconstruction of our philosophically unintelligible childhood, we fail to find a launching pad for the Hegelian rocket we secretly wish to launch. This is one reason that we refuse to launch it at all.

In other words, many of us have been struggling with the challenge of shifting philosophy from the comprehensive dusk summating all experience into a pre-prehensive dawn that keeps faith with innocence. Before giving innocence primacy in philosophizing, however, our reflexes lead us to expect experience to clean up its act and resolve to make sense of its partnership with innocence. But that would be an oxymoronic expectation. Cleaning up its act is something experience can only do with ample aid from innocence.

Furthermore, in modern times, experience is in crisis. You all have a take of your own on the crisis besetting the state and its incarnations as the school the church the family usually called the ideological state apparatuses yes I know I’m speaking breathlessly but that’s the way your critical discourses are standardly conducted sorry if my mimicry gets under your skin.

I now proceed to inflict on you my own take on the crisis of experience. Experience has been busy learning how to win. Even getting something right is seen in terms of defeating rivals. This assiduous pursuit of victory has left experience incapable of inter-experiential communication or action. More concretely, the obsession with refereeing arrangements that certify victory and defeat has promoted discourses that explicitly privilege propositional claims amenable to technical adjudication – call them proceduralist discourses. Society has come to let proceduralism drive its operative structures. What does this mean for an individual adult facing a whole network of master institutions in her society and wondering whether to accept them?

It means that the decision by a typical educated adult to accept certain bodies of discourse involves her assenting to an intricate set of co-articulated networks of propositional claims. Recall that the cult of victory means that there are competing networks of this type, called Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, or the Republicans and the Democrats. Your typical informed adult is called upon to take sides in such centuries-long twiddledum-twiddledee battles, and to rejoice when ‘her side’ triumphs. In order to root for ‘her team’, she has to accept one bunch of discourses, which involves granting the credibility of many propositional claims she will never have the resources to check.

Once upon a time, your typical informed adult was indeed willing to assume those claims to be credible. Why? Because she believed that the systems of refereeing – for whose sake the whole proceduralist game was put in place, celebrated as rational, separated from emotions and ethical intuitions – would function as fair adjudication systems. The whole point of separating propositional claims from feelings and ethics had been that the procedures would deliver verifiable justice. But even the publicized cases of major cheating were so egregious, ubiquitous and preponderant that that point lost any residual validity long ago. This disappointment made many informed adults stop cheering for the usual teams. They stopped making allowances for the usual persons and institutions. They stopped believing that structures can ever deliver on their tired promises.

My rhetoric makes you think, doesn’t it, that I’m about to attack proceduralism? Defend feeling and ethical intuitions? Advocate some fresh synthesis of cognition and affect? Persuade people to listen to the margins and reverse entrenched patterns of exploitation and domination? A nice wish list, I’m sure. But you can’t uproot proceduralism through proceduralist practices. To propose to defeat the culture of victory would be oxymoronic. I’d like to try a very different tack.

Let’s step back and look again at those objectivity-seeking adjudication systems – which underwrote the whole proceduralist enterprise, you know, of separating publicly inspectable propositional claims from the more subjective type of claim for which adjudication can never be fair. Now, exactly what did the failure of those systems have to do with the culture of victory?

My short answer to this question is: sovereignty. A sovereign system seeks closure (victory and closure are related notions), which left unchecked will freeze into permanence any lies you may have told when a king was alive to avoid offending him, and correspondingly won’t have the resources for correction that openness would have made available. Modern claims about transparency, openness, accountability, however well-meant, always give way to the imperatives of a sovereign system when the chips are down.

I can only unpack my short answer properly if you let me finish setting up my little model. That child Utti (remember him, Itti-Marduk-balatu’s son in Babylon?) is born into his milieu and encounters what my model calls his landscape – a small set of proximate names whose bearers he can recognize, with private encyclopaedia entries attached. Educators later initiate Utti into his cloudscape – a large set of distal names whose bearers he acknowledges, with public encyclopaedia entries attached. Now, I want you to focus on Educator E, call him Eturuk, who has formed a bond with Utti. E serves as the structure’s ambassador, but E belongs to Utti’s milieu. Utti recognizes E personally, while he will only intellectually acknowledge the countless figures to whom E is introducing him. Utti concretely trusts E and others in his landscape, but can only abstractly believe propositions about the faces dotting the cloudscape.

Now, the cloudscape reaches Utti through Babylon’s textbooks. These books are compelled to bend many truths in favour of the state’s greater glory, thanks to the culture of victory. Cutting to the chase, we are living in a world where it is still an exceptional event that forty-two historians from China, Japan and Korea should spend years jointly writing a secondary school modern history textbook that portrays the events neutrally and is usable in all three countries. Their 2005 product, published simultaneously in the three languages, is confined to a niche market, but activists from their three countries have translated the book into Esperanto (Historio por malfermi la estontecon, ‘A history that opens up the future’, Beijing: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 2007). This is an exceptional attempt to clip the wings of national glory in the context of history textbooks. Mainstream opinion everywhere still takes it for granted that cloudscapes shall feature exaggerated formulations maximizing national glory, even if modern fashions require authors to exaggerate less flamboyantly than in classical antiquity.

Now notice that the boy Utti in my model concretely trusts his educator E and will accept E’s judgment as to which historical descriptions Utti should abstractly believe. My point is not that E tells Utti to accept what the textbooks say, and to respect the figures exactly as portrayed. The point is that Utti’s developing intellect functions not in the isolated brain of an individual child called Utti, but interpersonally, in a special dyadic relationship with E’s pedagogy, in what is technically called Utti’s ZPD, his Zone of Proximal Development, which my model sees as a zone of intersemiotic translation. If Eturuk is a gifted teacher, he makes the heroes come to life in Utti’s admiring eyes. Utti grows to admire the nation’s heroes and yet see them as human, with feet of clay that don’t detract from their worth. Utti also learns that the discourse surrounding national heroes is expected to be grandiose, not to be taken literally.

Please focus on this mediation between the structure’s cloudscape and the milieu’s landscape by the gifted teacher in the ZPD where Eturuk the teacher and Utti the student engage in intersemiotic translation. A secondary schoolchild is exposed to truths and falsehoods of one kind at the level of scraps of conversation in the milieu, and to true and false propositions of another order in the structure’s discourses. Thus, no general answer can be given to questions like whether the intersemiotic translation provided by this trustworthy educator E purges the discourse of its lies while making its heroes vivid on the student Utti’s screen. What is at stake is not the truth or falsity of propositions, but vivid perceptibility. As a Bengali poet once wrote, tumi jaa alash haate phele daao kaanaakori mullo nei taar, ‘what you casually throw away is not worth a red cent’.

Recall that my model formalizes landscapes and cloudscapes as sets of names. Effective teaching by Eturuk makes the discourses of his cloudscape vividly available to our Utti through fictional narratives, featuring fictitious names. Thus, in the process of translating from abstract objects of acknowledgement to concrete objects of recognition, the teacher-student dyad in the ZPD imagine persons, prescinding from whether they exist. Adding an imaginary court jester called Birbal to the story of the real emperor Akbar may help certain students to visualize Akbar and his court. But Akbar is an abstract name as well, and belongs to the plane of fiction. Although Akbar did exist, any story we tell about him or other cloudscape figures is imagined. There is no such thing as a real story. The telling makes the tale.

To be sure, this holds of landscape names, too: stories about people you know personally are also narratives woven by the narration. However, when your aunt Shipra spins a yarn about herself, you hear it as her story. It becomes part of your acquaintance with your aunt. This makes the story irreducibly concrete. In contrast, your experience of narrative places a historical cloudscape figure like Akbar and an invented add-on like Birbal on the same abstract plane, accessible through the imagination. A gifted teacher intersemiotically translates from the structure’s discourse into the milieu’s vividness, enhancing the student’s access to the stories. Despite this, Akbar and Birbal remain imaginary, unlike the student’s Aunt Shipra.

When a secondary schoolchild goes through the hoops of higher education, in the highest echelons of inquiry, she finds fellow scientists calling theoretical or empirical hypotheses ‘stories’. She experiences the fact that, indeed, scientific stories have to hold the interest of the audience exactly the way ordinary narratives do. It is not only when Utti’s teacher Eturuk intersemiotically translates from Babylon’s structures into Utti’s milieu that narration is called for. Stories travel well across all discourse boundaries, all genre boundaries. When scientist S – call her Sheela – and her colleagues share a hypothesis packaged as a story, they go into a mutual pedagogic huddle, forming a ZPD. They depend on each other for the intellectual incubation to bear fruit. We expect Sheela and her colleagues to be social and intellectual equals acknowledging each other’s calibre. In contrast, we expect Eturuk and his pupil Utti to be in an asymmetric teacher-student relationship. When we draw a sharp boundary between the equality-laden ZPD’s in Sheela’s research team and the hierarchical ZPD in Babylon, we miss the point that only the items that Eturuk manages to get across to Utti, in at least some preliminary form, are going to count as the set of Babylon’s transmissible discourses. To misquote Tagore slightly, shei shotto jaa bujhibe tumi, ‘only what you understand is true’. Both in Sheela’s team and in the mansion where Eturuk tutors Utti, it is stories that carry the crucial cargo; for the cargo to get across, the stories have to click.

Some works of the imagination click really well. Such songs and films are called hits. Such scientific analyses are called paradigm cases and have given the Kuhnian paradigm its name. Works of art that persistently seem to discriminating judges to really click are called classics. We return to classics and equivalents. Our first order of business now is to ask how this constellation of ideas helps address the crisis of the dusk’s Experience and helps forge a lasting relationship with the dawn’s Innocence. We shall also touch base with the CJK textbook, our acronym for the tri-national history book. Then we are ready for the little matter of classics.

This discussion of intersemiotic translation in a ZPD has stressed the point that stories are the main vehicle of such translation. Stories are not just a format particularly suited for translation at the cloudscape-landscape interface. If we look closely at the way stories work in this context, we begin to grasp how they become a resource for addressing the crisis of Experience. What we grasp, expressed briefly, is that the crisis stems from structures that take themselves too seriously and lapse into sovereigntist solipsism expressible as a triumphalist slogan “there is no game but this game”. A story addresses this malady by pressing the key “there is no play but play”. We can unpack this as follows: “All non-landscape names count as fictional, even the ones labelled as ‘real’; please suspend belief and disbelief in favour of the trust that drives the listener’s attention to the story”.

Every time a story elicits this trust, it creates a sovereignty-free enclave where the structure’s absolutist regime stands suspended. To address the crisis of Experience involves creating many such enclaves and devoting much of their ZPD-pedagogic energy to boundary-crossing ventures. It is in this context that the CJK textbook becomes an enabling resource even though thousands of schools in China, Japan and Korea haven’t carved it on the doors of their history classrooms. Given the fact that CJK exists, history teachers in those countries can personally use it to open windows. Teachers can, in their ZPD dyads with students, take them on a trip or two across cloudscape boundaries, so that the children find out how exciting, how intellectually and morally adventurous such trips can be.

Vapid, unexamined celebration of CJK won’t do, however. We must face the fact that that textbook is a response to the troubled aftermath of Japanese colonization. Facing that fact in terms of our model involves formally acknowledging that one cloudscape can colonize another. This move leads us to inquire: How are we to complete the decolonization of formerly colonized cloudscapes that have not yet overcome the effects of that violence?

This is obviously an unsolved problem in practice. The British and French educational systems to this day tell their children with a straight face that their ancestors administered colonial regimes as a benevolent enterprise whose main purpose was philanthropy and foreign aid, with only minor aberrations. Now, if the reason cultural decolonization is advancing so slowly is that formal imperialism ended only recently, then philosophical inquiry should not waste time on these contingent troubles. My take, however, is that reversing cloudscape colonization is an unsolved problem not just in practice, but in principle.

To see this, consider the fact that we are overwhelmed when we encounter classics like Dante’s Divine Comedy, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Goethe’s Faust. Imagine an organization seeking inter-cultural dialogue, like Unesco, trying to compile an equitable global collection of classics that seriously represents all cultures to all students. Such an enterprise will want to take on board both the fact that minority communities do want to see their cultures duly represented and the ability of certain texts, ‘true classics’, to elicit an extraordinary response from all audiences. How can Unesco – or anyone else engaged in this enterprise – respect both the equitable representation imperative and the intrinsic value of true classics?

Some obvious bureaucratic responses are readily available, as are their conceptual equivalents; these only evade the question. But there is at least one site of conceptual, cultural and linguistic labour where an entire community has been concretely responding to this question at a level that seems to me to deserve your attention. I am referring to authors who translate literature into Esperanto, their readers whose interest keeps such publications on the physical or virtual shelves, and the publishers, reviewers and others who mediate between translators and readers.

In order to see clearly what stands out in the production and reception of literary translation into Esperanto, try contrasting it with the state of affairs in English and French. The readership exposed to world literature through English and French does not run into Lord Tadeusz by Adam Mickiewicz of Poland, or Seven Brothers by Aleksis Kivi of Finland, or The Tragedy of Man by Imre Madách of Hungary. But adult readers in Esperanto count as illiterate if they are unfamiliar with these major nineteenth century classics, translated by iconic Esperanto authors like Grabowski, Setälä and Kalocsay.

What is at stake is not a few token peaks. The ‘east-west series’, whose items are tracked by the world Esperanto association but are published by dozens of publishers working independently of each other, is just official applause for a fraction of the extensive material routinely translated and published. Catalan author Abel Montagut has done a systematic survey and found that the Esperanto translation basket is significantly more equitable in terms of cross-regional representation than the baskets in English or other major translation vehicles.

Of course Esperanto translators have done Dante, Goethe, Shakespeare and other widely acclaimed ‘true classics’. What is the point of trying to persuade the public to look also at literatures associated with smaller speech communities, such as Finnish or Croatian or Slovenian? Does the Esperanto translation enterprise strike any identifiable balance between keeping faith with ‘true classics’ and this inclusivity enterprise? How is Esperanto’s equitable classics basket not a variant of a bureaucratic attempt to force everybody to read far too much?

My answer to this triple question turns on the ZPD formed by Utti’s gifted educator E. When I urge you to take educator E seriously and draw a parallel between teaching and translating, this is a metonym for asking you to watch not just how translations are produced but their dissemination and reception as well. The focus on children is a metonym for a wider emphasis on newcomers, especially ex-marginal new entrants into serious literate discourse and its political penumbra. The Esperanto enterprise works on the basis of actual contact and ZPDs, not politically correct production quotas that somebody has to meet for statistical reasons. Iconic authors also translate on the side, the way Buddhadeva Bose translated Baudelaire, Hölderlin and Rilke into Bangla, and their pedagogy makes an idiographic point that nomothetic rational reconstructions cannot construct a generalized conceptual equivalent for. That is the point, one has to answer the triple question by ostension, not by a verbal replication in some other language.

But you will rightly press me for a more articulate answer to the triple question. How does my little model respond, you will rightly ask, to the conundrum of balancing the intrinsic value of true classics with the inclusivity imperative. A fair question. By way of response, let’s try the following characterization of ‘true classics’. When an author leaps out of the book and stands before the reader as a gifted performer who makes the cloudscape figures extremely vivid, the cloud bursts into rain and drenches the reader, dissolving the boundary separating ground from sky. That kind of book is a true classic.

Establishing as they do a direct connection with the relation of trust that makes ZPDs special places where dusk and dawn can join hands, classics cut some of the red tape of institutions and bypass some of the ill-effects of cloudscape colonization. But love doesn’t wish war away. Classics can’t wish colonization away. The independent need for fair representation of the world’s smaller cultures remains an urgent need. Hence the unending search for unfamiliar classics.

What stops this from morphing into a wooden bureaucratic venture that just gets the numbers right? Well, Esperanto is a language that relays from ZPD to ZPD. Its very architecture, as some of you know, grapples with the question of how the simple constituents of a formal semantic decomposition can or cannot do double duty as the easy elements of a real life learner’s agenda. The actions and responses that drive the traffic in Esperanto are anchored in contexts of pedagogic need. These contexts are situated at liminal sites where newcomers are introduced to cloudscapes through the medium of narrative. Recall, from an earlier juncture of this discussion, that the flexibility of stories provides an escape hatch from the tyranny of a cloudscape’s institutional bureaucracy.

Just as my highlighting CJK was not an invitation to write a South Asian history textbook, this highlighting of the practices in Esperanto literary translation is not a unique validity claim or an exact replicability claim. The strong claim I’m making is that the unaided evening is exhausted as a theoretical itinerary. It needs the dawn as an explicit partner, and we need to understand the ZPD – perhaps intuitively rather than formally, but probably also with a formal component to this understanding – in order to work out optimal forms of such partnership in a variety of contexts. Since not all dawn-partners are children in terms of physical age, those of us who are rooting for this redirection of philosophical energies have many contexts to consider, and many genres of negotiation to grapple with.

But I have to address some loose ends in the little story I’ve been telling. Stories travel well, I’m saying; across discourse boundaries; importing chunks of foreign structure into domestic structure, and the other way round. Fine, but why should narrative be hyped as a hero capable of turning the tide, capable of undermining the credibility of the culture of victory and hegemony? What is it about stories that bears on what I’ve called the crisis of Experience?

If a classic story brings an attentive audience to catharsis, if catharsis puts us in touch with universality, if universality is experience regaining access to innocence, then I can plug all the holes in my narrative, giving you something approaching a connected sequence of propositions, and remove whatever sense of suspense you have left.

But these are wild propositions, which don’t add up to a doctrine that can be defended seriously. By this point you must have gathered that my whole purpose is to shower you with a series of wild propositions and to discourage you from trying to tame them. I do hope that your response to all this is not going to be: “Seriously?”

Hegelian owls were serious. Seriousness has reached a dead end. Adult faith is gone. But the trustingness of an audience listening to stories is not entirely gone. Some friends who know vastly more than I ever hope to learn once told me that a trusting audience imagines truth, justice and equality into reality in the context of listening to fiction. They were thinking specifically of children, which may or may not be a romanticizing move. Please tweak that move in whatever sophisticated direction you prefer. All I’m saying is that perhaps pinning our hopes on the liminal zone afforded by story-telling, the great deflater of rigid systems, is not such a terrible idea after all. Goodbye to the owl of wisdom, our old totem animal. Welcome to philosophy’s new mascot, whoever it is, my candidate is the fiction-laden figure of the hāṭṭimāṭimṭim; please tell stories vividly presenting your mascot candidates, and make sure the best candidate doesn’t win, remember that we are uncelebrating the culture of victory. Where does that leave you? In suspense again! So suspended between experience and innocence, let us all cheer for theory: theory mātā ki jai!


This paper was presented as the Pranab Kumar Sen Memorial Lecture on 26 June 2016 at Jadavpur University, Kolkata. I thank Rama Sen, Manidipa Sen and Madhucchanda Sen for giving me the opportunity to present this text at such a forum. I thank the audience for comments and questions. The usual disclaimers apply.


De Kock, Edwin. 1982. Japaneskoj. Pretoria: Pyramid.
Abstract in Esperanto
La strigo kaj la tagiĝo

Unu aspekto de la vaste agnoskata aktuala krizo en la mondo – mi sugestas en ĉi tiu prelego – estas la fakto, ke la t.n. maturaĝo trovas sin elĉerpita. Ĝi bezonas forĝi novan pakton kun la tagiĝo – kun la t.n. infanaĝo. Ĉi tiun penson mi dismetas en la formo de konkreta modelo pri la reproduktiĝo de la diskursoj trans la generacioj. Laŭ mia modelo, ĉiu infano naskiĝas en sian medieton kaj tie, en sia pejzaĝo, ekkonas konkretajn personojn kaj lokojn; tiujn mia modelo idealigas kiel aron da nomoj. Poste la instruado inicas la infanon en ties mediegajn strukturojn, kie li aŭ ŝi ekagnokas abstraktajn personojn, lokojn kaj instituciojn sur la nubzaĝo de sia socio; tiujn mia modelo idealigas kiel alian aron da nomoj. Mia modelo de la reproduktiĝo de diskursoj substrekas la gravecon de la ZPD (Zono de Proksimula Disvolviĝo) – duopa rilato inter la infano kaj ties edukanto E. E prezentas la diskursojn de la strukturoj videblige al la infano per intermedia tradukado el la strukturaj diskursoj en la medietajn diskursojn vive percepteblaj por la infano. Mi hipotezas, ke la rakontado estas la optimuma modo de tia intermedia tradukado, kaj ke ĉiuj nubzaĝaj nomoj kalkulendas kiel fikciaj por la celoj de la modelo, senkonsidere pri la empirie pruvebla historieco de iuj el la nomoj. Akceptante la ĵus skizitan fonon, la nuna referaĵo demandas, kiel do la pedagogoj kongruigu la kapablon de iuj establitaj ‘veraj klasikaĵoj’ elvoki profundan reagon ĉe ĉiuj kun la neceso diskonigi malpli establitajn klasikaĵojn el malgrandaj kulturoj por malfari la efikojn de la kultura koloniismo de iuj nubzaĝoj kontraŭ aliaj. La demando do estas, kiamaniere forstiri la laboron de tia kongruigo for de la kaptilo de burokratiecaj antologiegoj trudlegigotaj al ĉiuj kaj minacontaj la verajn bezonojn de pedagogio al vivantaj infanoj. Unu respondo estas, ke la praktikoj de la Esperanta beletra traduko konsistigas modelon serioze esplorindan kaj sekvindan: en tiu medio la tradukistoj strebadas krei ekvilibran korbon de klasikaĵoj prenitaj el kiel eble plej diversaj kulturoj, aparte atentante la malgrandajn parolkomunumojn por rezisti la hegemoniajn fortojn de la merkato. Por doni taŭgan teorian kadron al tiu ĉi praktika respondo, mi reagordas la modelon de reproduktiĝo de diskursoj per livero de nova karakterizo de ‘veraj klasikaĵoj’; tiu karakterizo frukte uzas la ‘nubzaĝan’ metaforon. Legantoj konantaj la pli fruan verkaron pri la substancismo kaj la diglosio rekonos iujn konstantajn fadenojn, kiujn mi nun aplikas al iom nova materialo.