अनिल एकलव्य ⇔ Anil Eklavya

February 13, 2011

The Moral Laws of Comedy and a Paradox

The Moral Laws of Comedy

According to Eklavya, the three moral laws of comedy can be stated as follows:

  1. The First Law: If you can’t laugh at yourself, you have no right to laugh at others.
  2. The Second Law:If you can’t laugh at more powerful people, then you have no right to laugh at less powerful people, irrespective of where you are on the power spectrum.
  3. The Third Law:If you can’t laugh at the society (or the institution or the group) you live in or belong to, then you have no right to laugh at the individuals in that society (or the institution or the group), including yourself.

An extension to the first law is:

If you can’t laugh at your own society (or institution or group), you have no right to laugh at other societies (or institutions or groups).

The revised (and recommended) statement of the same laws will have the word ‘can’t’ substituted by ‘don’t have the courage to’.

The zeroth moral law of comedy defines ‘laugh’ as a specific kind of laugh that is meant to be a negative comment or critical judgement, such as the laugh associated with ridicule, sarcasm etc. It also defines ‘comedy’ to include humour and satire.

A corollary of these laws is that if you violate any of these laws, then you are not creating comedy (or humour or satire). You are just being mean spirited, petty minded, spiteful, nasty, hateful, bitchy etc.

Simply put, you are being immoral.

A generalization of the laws can also be derived. Such a generalization would apply to criticism and punishment too. Thus, the Moral Laws of Criticism (Punishment) can be given as:

  1. The First Law: If you can’t criticize (punish) yourself, you have no right to criticize (punish) others.
  2. The Second Law:If you can’t criticize (punish) more powerful people, then you have no right to criticize (punish) less powerful people, irrespective of where you are on the power spectrum.
  3. The Third Law:If you can’t criticize (punish) the society (or the institution or the group) you live in or belong to, then you have no right to criticize (punish) the individuals in that society (or the institution or the group), including yourself.

Punishing the society needs some explanation. You can’t obviously punish the society in the way you can punish individuals. And one of the axioms of morality says that collective punishment is immoral, so punishing the society in the above sense can’t mean collective punishment (something whose innumerable manifestations we see in all ages and from all kinds of people, institutions, societies etc.). For the purpose of stating the above laws, punishment of society means changing it in some way. And only that way will be moral which changes it for the better. This sense of punishment, therefore, is nearer to treatment or curing in the medical sense.

The zeroth moral law of criticism (punishment) defines ‘criticism’ in a way that would include the ‘comedy’ mentioned above, thus the generalization.

That extension of the first law also applies here:

If you can’t criticize (punish) your own society, you have no right to criticize (punish) other societies.

The Sin-Song Paradox

Any application of the Moral Laws of Comedy (among other things) is associated with and complicated by a Paradox known as the Sin-Song Paradox.

This moral paradox can be stated (according to Eklavya) as follows:

In most societies, we are taught from our childhood (at least in schools, or perhaps only in schools) that we should hate the sin, not the sinner, i.e., it is wrong to hate the sinner (an individual) and right to hate the sin (an act). However, in practice, the norm in all societies is to hate the sinner, not necessarily the sin (if at all). That is why we have all the systems of punishment, whether legal or social or otherwise.

Similarly, we have another such inversion with regard to systems of belief. Ignoring the cases where a system of belief is respected only because of the power it wields (that being covered by a different moral paradox), we are supposed to (or we pretend to) respect those systems of belief which are shown (or proven) to be rationally and/or morally correct, but in practice, we respect those systems which are advocated by people who are, as individuals, rational and/or moral in their lives and their conduct. In other words, we are supposed to like a song because the song is good (musically and/or lyrically), but in fact we like that song (a system of belief) because the singer is good. The converse is also true.

Thus, in the first case, we focus on the individual, when we should, in fact, be focussing on the act. And in the second case, we focus again on the individual, when we should be focussing on what the individual is saying or advocating. This moral inversion is closely related to violation of the third moral law of comedy, which involves focusing on the individual, when we should actually be focussing on the society.

It is a paradox, and not simply a contradiction between theory and practice because the norm that is followed in practice is assumed to be a moral norm too.

In fact, the violation of the three laws as well the above paradox, all involve wrong focus on the individual, when the focus should be on something else.

From the moral view of the world, it can be derived from the above laws of comedy and the Sin-Song paradox that a lot of our (i.e., the world’s or the society’s) problems stem simply from this wrong focus on the individual.

July 27, 2010


मैंने सोचा था
कमीनेपन की
कोई तो हद
होती होगी

इसका उल्टा जानने की
मेरी कोई इच्छा नहीं थी

पर कोई मेरे घर
आकर और खाकर
ज़बरदस्ती बता गया
कि नहीं होती
एकदम नहीं होती

December 18, 2009

Everything You Always Wanted To Say But Were Afraid To

This must be surely on the minds of many ‘highly educated professionals’, but one of them has actually come out and said all this. And not even under the cover of anonymity…

I think that there should be planned elimination of those groups of people who are seen to create problems to the “vision” of India as an good advanced superpower democracy. These irritating problem creators talk nonsense and bring down the image of India by talking about poverty, hunger, human rights etc and counter the good work that the highly educated middle class Indians working in MNCs and abroad do,to propagate the very nice image of India as a posh country with great malls, technology and being generally great.

They should be eliminated as part of an elimination policy and which groups should be eliminated can be determined by polling and asking the good indians who work in the US, the MNCs and other good posh middle class professionals and we are sure to get many nominations of groups that should be completely eliminated .These groups should include the “intelligentsia” who are useless irritants and spoil the name and image of India and of no use compared to the highly educated professionals working in the US and in the MNCs who everyone should listen to because they are the intelligent and good people.

The only slight drawback of this policy is that it can lead to situation where the country will be significantly depopulated and we will be left with noone but the good educated middle class. There would not many people of the lower classes left to admire the goodness and the greatness of India and the highly educated professionals. One way of circumventing this problem is to have along with the program of elimination a program for brainwashing,using mind control techniques etc including psychosurgery so that some people who are the problem can be made to change their opinion of India and the educated middle class indians that they are good , that India is a wonderful country etc.

We should all admire the brave stand. The forthrightness is really like a breath of fresh air.

So when is the pogrom, I mean program, starting? May be it’s already on.

I wonder which category do I fall in.

May 6, 2008

Mr. Harvey, I Presume

I have been wondering for a long time who it is that keeps pitching in with some (written) comments (in italics) in the middle of my blog posts. The fact that I usually ignore him doesn’t seem to have affected him.

The consolation is that at least someone is reading what I write.

But still, I wanted to know who it is. And I think I might have the answer now, after watching the movie ‘Harvey‘ starring James Stewart, an actor with one of the most likable screen presences. He doesn’t play Harvey, by the way, he plays a person (Elwood P. Dowd) who was “oh so smart” till he was thirty five, but who recommends oh so “pleasant. And you may quote me.” after that, in the company of an invisible friend called Harvey, who is a six feet three and a half inches tall rabbit, visible only to Dowd, but occasionally also to his sister, and finally even to the top Doctor of the ‘sanatorium’.

At the end of the movie, he (Dowd) is saved from being given a serum that will “stop him seeing the rabbit”. He is saved by the mouthing of the experiences of a cab driver who warns Dowd’s sister, who wanted him cured so that she and her daughter could have a social life, which is denied to them due to the craziness of her brother. The cab driver says that Elwood will become “just a normal human being. And you know what stinkers they are.”

A lot goes on, obviously, between the beginning and the end of the movie. But I am not going to talk about that right now.

Self indulgence! I, I, me, me, my, oh, my!

So what I thought after seeing the movie was that perhaps this commenter-in-italics is Harvey. Not the same Harvey, of course. A great deal of water has disappeared from the rivers of this planet since that movie was made. The political and other maps have changed a lot. The Big Weapons have spread around some more. Newer kinds of wars have been invented and still newer may be on their way. Lots of us are working hard towards that. More jungles have been cleared for the onward march of the civilization. ‘Battlegrounds’ is now an insufficient term as real battles with weapons can now be fought far above the grounds, up among the stars. People have become much more polite and they now know how to be racist, sexist, fundamentalist, Fascist etc. without saying any bad words. So the progress goes on.

Naturally, then, the Harvey that is appearing on my blog is a different version. He’s is not even similar to the one that was seen in Donnie Darko. He seems to be of a post-modern (or perhaps a post-post-modern) variety.

I must confess that I don’t like this Harvey as much as Dowd liked that Harvey. But there he is. And I have to bear with him.

As I said, at least someone is reading and even commenting. So I dedicate this post to the post-modern Harvey.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to my not-friend, Mr Harv…

Quick! Someone call the sanatorium!

March 30, 2008

Discovering Delightful Connections

I have been thinking about writing a post about what (at least one thing) to do when life seems unbearably depressive and you are in the grip of the EIM (Everything Is Meaningless) syndrome. When you feel that you can’t really believe in anyone or anything. Even the ‘best’ people start turning out to be unreasonably mean and nasty. And there seems to be no point in doing anything. Even waking up. Or eating.

By the way, psychologists would love to have this one more syndrome. Or have they already (gladly) got it?

I just came across something that reminded me of one such thing. I mean one of the things you can do at such EIM etc. times. And that is discovering delightful connections. I discovered one such connection.

A few days ago I had seen a movie (La Mome) about the legendary French popular (female) singer Edith Piaf. I will write about her later, but one of the things I learnt during my post-movie (re)search on the singer was that another legendary French popular (male) singer Yves Montand was discovered and mentored by Edith Piaf. He was also, for some time, her lover. Anyway, after seeing this movie, Edith Piaf became one of my favourite (favorite for the dominant party) singers.

Some months ago I had written about the director Costa Gavras and one of his movies called ‘Z’. This happens to be one of my favorite films. But I forgot who played the role of the assassinated (really) democratic leader in that movie. I am not very good at recognizing French (or other non-Indian and non-Hollywood) actors, though I have seen many many French films. Probably because they don’t have as strong a star system as Hollywood.

Today I (re)discovered that it was Yves Montand.


This is what I call a delightful connection.

One that can bring a smile on your face.

One that can make you recall that not all is meaningless.

One that can make you happy.

A little bit, if not much.

And make you Happily write a post again.


(In case you are wondering, the use of a capital letter above is not arbitrary).

But there are one or two more connections that I would like to mention. At the end of the movie ‘Z’, when the military takes over the government, a list of things is announced which have been banned. The list goes something like this:

Peace movements, strikes, labor unions, long hair on men, The Beatles, other modern and popular music (“la musique populaire”), Sophocles, Leo Tolstoy, Aeschylus, writing that Socrates was homosexual, Eugène Ionesco, Jean-Paul Sartre, Anton Chekhov, Mark Twain, Samuel Beckett, the bar association, sociology, international encyclopedias, free press, and new math. Also banned is the letter Z, which was used as a symbolic reminder that Lambrakis and by extension the spirit of resistance lives (zi = “he (Lambrakis) lives”).

This list is from the Wikipedia page about ‘Z’, but I remember one more banned item from the movie: Pinter. The writer Harold Pinter.

Where are the connections? First, note the inclusion of popular music in the list. Second, ‘the spirit of resistance lives’ is used as a kind of a motto by the site ZNet (or ZMag) where articles (among other things) by a great many of the world’s intellectuals and activists are published.

The Hindi section of ZNet (still pretty small) was started by your’s truly. Another thing I found out today is that some of these translated articles have started making appearance on other (Hindi) sites and blogs.

Reason enough to smile. Even if the ‘best’ people are turning out to be (at least) mean and nasty and you feel EIM.

Does it sound somewhat Frank Capraesque (as in It’s a Wonderful Life)? No, I wouldn’t go that far.

A smile is enough.

March 12, 2008

Beware of Sirring a Nobody

Sirring is a technical term (so what if I have coined it) that means frequently or always addressing someone by an honorific term like ‘sir’. So, if you keep addressing someone as ‘sir’ or ‘mam’ etc., you are sirring them.

You have to know when sirring is a positive and recommended practice and when it’s not.

For example, sirring someone is a positive and recommended practice if that someone happens to be, well, Someone. Not just Anyone. And a Someone is a person, as you might know, who has some power over you or has a higher designation than your’s or has more money than you do or, in general, is materially superior (socially, financially, politically etc.) to you. It’s alright, in fact, it’s highly advisable if you practice sirring with some such materially superior person.

However, sirring can be harmful to you in some cases. For example, you can get into trouble if you practice it with someone who has no power over you, has no more money than you, has no higher designation than you, has no social, economic etc. status higher than you.

Sirring a Nobody is not alright. It’s not recommended. It’s foolish. It’s not part of civilized behavior. Please refrain from it. It might hinder communication with those who really are (materially) Somebodies.

It doesn’t matter if that person knows more than you, is more capable than you, more experienced than you, more (non-materially) accomplished than you.

Sometimes it also doesn’t matter if that someone is older than you.

Or has done much more in life than you.

Or has more publications than you.

A person who could have but hasn’t risen above you materially doesn’t deserve respect. Doesn’t deserve to be addressed by an honorific term.

Unless that person is a saint or a prophet or is, at least, recognized as one.

It’s Pragmatics, stupid!

December 31, 2007

(Wo)man’s Inhumanity to (Wo)man

Someone (Bill Blakemore), in an article about the The Shining, had said that it is a part of a multi-film oeuvre ‘about mankind’s inhumanity to man that he’s [Stanley Kubrick] been making at least since Dr. Strangelove’. In this post I will write about another movie on this topic, but directed by Giuseppe Tornatore (as I had promised once).

The movie is Malena, and some reviewers might call it a movie about erotic romance. While that is not completely wrong, I think the main theme of the movie is definitely not erotic romance. Nor is it the ‘sexual awakening of a boy entering puberty’ as one reviewer suggested, even though this is one of the themes. For me, it is quite clear that the central character of the movie is not the voyeuristic boy who is getting ‘sexually awakened’, but the woman who is the object of his (distant) love and who does not seem to be aware of him. She is the central character because it is she who is the centre of everyone’s attention in the town in which the movie is set, not just of the boy. The fact that the movie is named after her, supports my view, but my view is not dependent on that fact alone.

She, i.e., Malena (played admirably by Monica Belucci, whatever you might think of her other performances) looks like ‘the goddess of love’ or even ‘the goddess of sex’ as someone mentioned (I can’t give the references, because I had read all those reviews long ago and right now I am not in the mood to search for them again). But, for the town’s people in general, she is like a beautiful witch. And, accordingly, is constantly hunted and ultimately hounded out like a witch. For the simple reason that she is different from others and, what is an even bigger crime in our civilization, keeps away from others; doesn’t mingle with the mob. Keeps aloof. That’s unpardonable. That she is amazingly beautiful so that all the men (and boys) of the town are obsessed with her, and (like the boy narrator) not just fantasize about her but talk about her all the time. And they don’t say very nice things when they gossip about her.

The women are even more obsessed about her. First, because she is more beautiful than them; second because their men are after her (even though she doesn’t encourage any of them), and third because she keeps aloof and doesn’t put herself in her place where she won’t be (so to say) above themselves. For example, they probably wouldn’t have so much ‘pathological’ hatred for her if she kept her good looks somewhat hidden and dressed badly and became part of the gossiping community and by following the social norms, sent definite signals that she doesn’t think she is better than them.

You see, it’s not enough that she doesn’t send any signals that is she is better than them. She has to send clear signals that she doesn’t think she is better than them. That’s a social law. She could only be exempted from this law if she were something like a royalty, a princess, or if she were a powerful woman actually above all of them in the sense that she had power (legal or otherwise) to punish them, rightly or wrongly. The film is set in Cicily of the Fascist era. So, if she were the female Il Duce, or the wife of the Il Duce, or at least the wife of a powerful general, she could have been exempted from this law.

There is another fact which makes her a witch. Her husband is a soldier and is away during the war. She lives alone. And then the news comes that her husband is dead. In the extremely patriarchal society of which she is a member, another social law applies: no husband, no status. A society in which you ‘measure yourself’ in inches and there is no chance that you can go beyond ten. Your human worth is less than ten inches.

Her father is alive, but he lives in his own house. What’s more, he is deaf and a teacher in the school in which the boy protagonist studies. So we are again and again shown scenes of the classroom where Malena’s father is teaching and the boy students (I have seen the movie twice, but I don’t remember any girl student) are all the time competing with one another in saying the nastiest things about Malena while addressing her deaf father who is teaching them. Finally he is sent an anonymous note saying something like Malena sleeps with everyone in the town, after which even the father breaks his relations with his daughter. Malena used to go to her father’s place to take care of him, but suddenly one day she finds that he has locked her out.

Then the father is killed in an air raid and there is the funeral. The life goes on in the same way. By which I mean that the men, the women and the boys are making the same kinds of comments about her during the funeral ceremony while at the same time rushing to kiss her and offer their ‘support’.

Since she doesn’t really have the power to punish them and is only above them in the sense that she is more beautiful and more of an attraction to the men, she becomes the witch of the town. And, following the age old traditions of witch hunting (which are still present in all societies of the world), she is hunted and ultimately hounded out. She does return, but only when her soldier husband comes back alive from the war (who was thought to be dead) and brings her back with some anonymous help from the boy protagonist. He loved her and she loved him too, even if she was considered a prostitute by the people of the town (or village, if you please). The fact was that she was pushed into prostitution after a long spell of hunting and hounding and social boycott where no one would even sell her fresh food. She had to go to absurd lengths just to buy food and the men who obliged her, wanted to be paid back in the currency of her physical beauty.

As the war ends and the ‘liberating’ American army marches in, we are shown the culmination of the women’s hatred for Malena. We know that there are many prostitutes in the town, but as soon as the war against Fascism ends, the women celebrate the event by dragging out Malena and almost lynching her. They tear her clothes and cut her hair, leave her bloody and half naked and direct her to leave the town. (Having no other option, she does leave the town later). When there has been enough beating and the women stop, we see her shouting for the first time, facing the men who had been silently watching the whole thing. I don’t want to describe this, but as I have come so far, I can’t avoid it. Her shout or cry or whatever you call it expresses all the anguish which has been accumulated over the long preceding period. The shout is probably addressed to the men, asking them (I imagine) whether they don’t have anything to do or say about what is being done to her, when till now they were all so obsessed with her and wanted to be her lovers. In fact, earlier we are shown an almost hilarious (it would be hilarious if it wasn’t tragic) competition among the men for the claim of her affections, right in front of her door. The men actually fight over who is Malena’s lover and the fight is broken up by their wives. Malena had no direct or indirect role to play in this incident. And, of course, the public opinion decides that the culprit was Malena. Believe it or not, a court case is brought against Malena about this affair.

This court case is just one of the humiliations which she has to go through daily. Even right after the opening scene we see a bunch of teenage boys waiting for Malena to come out and to stalk her right through her walk. This turns out to be a daily routine, and the boy protagonist has an advantage in this because he has just got a bicycle. Mercifully, he is a bit discreet in doing this.

(More to come…)

December 3, 2007

Wireless Notwork

The Wireless Notwork is out with a vengeance. The duration as well as the frequency of the network notworks is increasing alarmingly. I had some very urgent work to do, which I somehow managed to finish. Often I had to wait for more than 5 seconds to see the letter I typed show up on the console of the locally remote system. Even though I did most of the work offline, what little I had to do online took a hell of a lot of time and patience. I also often have to use the phone for connectivity, which is costly for me. Even to do official work. No reimbersements, of course. But right now, I am writing this post offline in the Notepad. I will post it using the phone connection. The network is notworking for a long long time now. The Wireless Connection Window shows the system to be connected to the network. But actually it is connected to the notwork. There is also that small icon which means that there is some private (security enabled) unauthorized network which is working. And the network I (like everyone else here) am supposed to use isn’t.

Wireless Notwork

Some people somewhere are having fun. Enjoying life. Is it that they love making life hell for others (to borrow a phrase from someone, ‘to f*** someone’s happiness’), or is it just that they are indifferent to the fact that what they do makes someone’s life hellish? Let us see, which one of these would have a higher evolutionary payoff?

I know one thing for sure. Most of these are going to lead very normal and reasonably happy lives. Like they do now. So, perhaps both of the reasons suggested above are immaterial. It’s just that they live happy lives with or without making others’ lives hellish, provided of course that their own lives don’t become hellish. And the fact that they do in itself has a high evolutionary payoff. They are all going to have offsprings. Issues. With cars, not scooters. They are going to continue the life on this planet. This planet belongs to them.

Who am I? I just saw ‘The Bourne Identity’. I should again see Jackie Chan’s ‘Who am I’. May be I will get a clue.

November 18, 2007

Institutional Network Nightmares

Filed under: Individual and Society,Network,Psychology,So It Goes,Technology,Work — anileklavya @ 9:33 am

I live in a hostel room roughly 10 by 10 (feet, of course). Perhaps the only luxury, by the Indian standards, that I have (apart from the fact that I now have a personal laptop after one and half decades of hard work) is the wireless network that became accessible to me after I bought the laptop less than an year ago. Whatever may be the bandwidth, the fact is that the network is only somewhat better than a dialup line. Even so, I have become dependent on the network because that is my main connection with the world, even the nearby world.

There are other nightmares, but one more has been added. This one is about the disconnected network. You are doing some work where you need access to the network (whether LAN or the Internet), and you find that you are out of the loop. The room, living in which is anyway not very different from (self-imposed?) solitary confinement, becomes a real prison cell.

No, nothing is connected.

Why does the (wireless) network become disconnected? Since I don’t get to talk to many people, and also because till now I have not tried to explore the technical details about wireless networking, I had a great deal of trouble in finding out what was wrong, although I did send some mails to the network administrators. Even now, I am not sure about all the reasons.

The first reason that I found out was that the UPS to which the bridge computer (or whatever it is called) was connected, was faulty and would begin to beep whenever there was a power cut. And since the bridge is placed in a large hall (originally a TV room) that has been turned into a dorm, in which a lot of students live, the students would switch off the bridge to stop that noise (which is really annoying: I mean the noise).

The second reason that I found was that some students in the hostel form a private network (some say for playing games) in such a way that the network (at least on the floor on which I live) becomes inaccessible to others. Why would they do that? I don’t know. A lot of people do a lot of things which harm others unnecessarily. When I try to find the answer, a few words repeatedly come to my mind: insincerity, insensitivity, greed. And also sadism. Sadism again and again.

Now the faulty UPS has been replaced, so the first reason is presumably gone, but the second is still there. The network continues to be unavailable to me for long periods of time. Can anything be done about this? I mean without punishing a few scapegoats and imposing some new set of Draconian rules? I am still trying to figure that out. I usually avoid writing about where, why and how I live, but this problem seems to have a great symbolic significance (TFIC: tongue firmly in cheek). So, if someone can find a solution to this, that solution may be worth studying for solving many other problems.

I have a feeling that technology may have a role to play in the solution, i.e., there may be cure for my latest cause of nightmares (actually, daymares), but it is more likely to come with some help from technology, rather than with help from psychology. Nor sociology. Nor metaphysics. Definitely not from The Law.

Even though the cause, in the first place, is technology itself.

But technology might make the situation infinitely worse too.

Meanwhile, any of you who are relying on me for some work, please note that I have a good excuse (reason? explanation? protestation? apology?).

November 8, 2007

Postponing One Promise and Making Another

Filed under: Psychology,Rants and Raves,Responsible Creativity — anileklavya @ 2:58 am

I promised a fresh rant in the last post. Well, I am postponing that. Instead, I am making another promise.

A fresh rave to follow, inspired by the work of a responsible genius.

Do you also do that?! Oh yes, the manic phase!

I said to ‘to follow’. I am not going to rave now. Try depressive.

I have a very valid reason (excuse!) for these promises and postponements: I am buried, right now. Under deadlines.

God! there are so many of them! You can’t meet them all.

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