High-Flying, Inspired!


Premchand

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

 

Premchand (pronounced [mʊnʃi preːm t͡ʃənd̪] (31 July 1880 – 8 October 1936), better known as Munshi PremchandMunshi being an honorary prefix, was an Indian writer famous for his modern Hindustani literature. He is one of the most celebrated writers of the Indian subcontinent and is regarded as one of the foremost Hindustani writers of the early twentieth century. Born Dhanpat Rai Srivastav, he began writing under the pen name “Nawab Rai”, but subsequently switched to “Premchand”. A novel writer, story writer and dramatist, he has been referred to as the “Upanyas Samrat” (“Emperor among Novelists”) by some Hindi writers. His works include more than a dozen novels, around 250 short stories, several essays and translations of a number of foreign literary works into Hindi.

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“Intoxication” – A Tale by Munshi Premchand (as penned by this author)

 

This story has been written in the first person.

1.

Ishwari, my friend, was the son of a wealthy and a powerful landlord. I, Bir, on the other hand, was the son of a poor and lowly clerk who owned no property and who in fact, was a wage-earner and labourer. Ishwari and I were constantly having heated debates. I would speak very derogatorily about landlords calling them fierce predators, blood-sucking leeches and power-hungry parasites. Ishwari was in a weaker position and had no real arguments to defend himself. He would only go so far as to state that any society always has a system of hierarchy and that all humans are not born equal. It was difficult to prove the correctness of these arguments, based on either human or ethical principles.  While I sometimes became very harsh, critical and hurtful concerning this subject, Ishwari forever remained good-natured about it all.

Ishwari always spoke rudely to the servants – he had plenty of the callousness, inconsideration, heartlessness and arrogance that is to be found in the wealthy. He lost his temper for the most trivial of things. He had no patience with laziness or indolence of any kind. Yet, with his friends and especially with me, he was always empathetic, sympathetic, kind-hearted and gentle. Perhaps in his position, I too would have developed this callous attitude because my love for the people was based not on principle but on my personal circumstances. In my position, Ishwari, would most likely remain lordly because he loved pleasure and luxury.

I had decided not to go home for the Dassehra holidays. I didn’t have the money for the fare and I didn’t want to trouble my family by asking for it. I was concerned about my studies for the upcoming exams. I didn’t want to stay alone in the boarding house either. So, when Ishwari invited me to his house, I accepted without hesitation. Despite Ishwari’s wealth, he is hard-working and intelligent and I felt that I would be able to study well in his company. Ishwari took the time to caution me not to denounce landlords in any way while I stayed at his home. Things would get complicated and his family would feel hurt. All landlords – and labourers alike – feel that God has made the workers so that they might serve the land-owners. If I were hence to state that there exists no basic difference between landlords and workers, it would be the end of the landlords.

Ishwari felt strongly that I would change my attitude when I got to live with his wealthy family members. I pointed out that he was mistaken in this notion. Ishwari remained silent on this point and just as well, otherwise, I would have felt offended.

2.

I had never traveled by the intermediate class, let alone the second class. The train was due at 9 p.m., yet in our eagerness to get going, we arrived at the station in the evening. We walked around for a bit before proceeding for food at the cafeteria. It did not take the cooks long to figure out from my dress and demeanor who was the master and who the hanger-on, yet I resented their insolence. Ishwari paid for the entire meal and gave the cooks a handsome tip of eight annas. Yet I expected them all to wait on me with the same alacrity and humility and I was much disappointed when it was not the case. I didn’t enjoy the meal and these distinctions took all my attention. When the train came, the cooks saluted Ishwari but they did not deign to give me so much as a glance. I began to express vocally my resentment to Ishwari telling him that it was due to the large tip that he had got this unstinting respect. Ishwari felt however that good manners and politeness were ingrained into the mind of any worker.

Our train – a mail train – set out from Prayag and stopped at Pratapgarh. A man opened the compartment door and I immediately shouted out to him in Hindi and then in English that this was the second class compartment and that he should descend at once.  The man spoke contemptuously to me and came and sat down on the middle berth. I was overwhelmed by embarrassment and settled for silence instead.

At dawn, we reached Muradabad. Two respectable gentlemen and five peasants, enlisted as free labourers, were waiting at the station to welcome us. The peasants lifted our luggage and the two respectable gentlemen walked behind us. One was a Muslim called Riyasat Ali and the other was a Brahmin named Ramharakh. They both looked at me inquiringly as if to ask what a crow was doing in the company of a swan. We were like chalk and cheese – so noticeable was the difference in each of our statuses.

Riyasat Ali asked Ishwari if I was his room-mate. Ishwari wholeheartedly agreed; he stated with alacrity that it was only due to me that he stayed on in Allahabad to study. Ishwari claimed that he had compelled me to join him at his home despite several urgent and expensive telegrams, to the contrary, that had supposedly arrived from my home. The two gentlemen looked downright astonished and had to make a visible effort to look impressed. To the statement that I dressed very simply, Ishwari stated that I only wore khadi since I was an ardent follower of Mahatma Gandhi. He claimed that I was actually a prince who had set fire to all his fine clothes and that my estate produced a princely amount of two hundred and fifty thousand a year. Ishwari dispelled all their doubts by stating that they should not be misled by appearances which actually seemed to give the impression that I had just emerged from an orphanage. Ramharakh stated respectfully to this statement that the rich rarely exhibit such a temperament of simplicity and humility and that one could never tell just be looking at me. Riyasat Ali compared my simple appearance to that of the Maharaja of Changli. I felt embarrassed by this shower of praise, yet for some reason, these white lies did not seem absurd to me in the least. Each such sentence seemed to bring me closer to this imagined glory and I reveled in it.

Two thoroughbred horses were waiting to transport us. In my childhood, I had ridden horses that were used only to transport goods. I was quaking with fright and took the time to ride at a slow pace, lest I broke several of my limbs. Ishwari seemed to understand my plight.

3.

Ishwari’s home was not a house but a fortress. It had a gate as large as a mausoleum and a watchman stood at the door. There were numerous servants and a tethered elephant. Ishwari introduced me to his father and to several other relatives giving the same white lie of who I actually was. Everyone, including the servants and even the family members, started showing me great respect.  They were landlords, yet they were rustics and despite their great wealth they were humble enough to consider a police constable as an officer. Several of them started addressing me respectfully as, “Huzoor.” Ishwari himself started referring to me as Kunwar Sahib.

Later, I questioned Ishwari privately as to why he was intent on poking fun at me. He replied that such a trick was necessary otherwise no one would even bother to give me the time of day.

Just then, the barber arrived to press the feet of the ‘two tired princes.’ Ishwari insisted that the barber should press my feet first, while I lay on a string bed. Rarely if ever has anyone pressed my feet. I used to always tell Ishwari that this practice was the whim of the aristocrats and the arrogance of great men. Yet, here was I pretending to be from the manor born!

Ishwari’s family was traditional minded. At ten o’clock, we were summoned for the night-time meal. We went first to bathe. I left my dhoti lying on the floor, just as Ishwari did. I felt ashamed to rinse out my own dhoti, with my own hands, even though this was my usual practice at home. We went inside. In the hostel, we used to sit at the table with our shoes on. Here, it was necessary to have one’s feet washed before eating. The water- bearer washed Ishwari’s feet and then I held out my feet to be washed likewise. Where had all my earlier high-fangled ideas gone?

4.

I had planned to concentrate on my studies in the countryside but here the whole day was spent instead in entertainment of some kind or the other. We went on the river in a barge; we hunted birds or went fishing; we watched wresting matches and played chess. Ishwari would make egg omelettes in our room while we were constantly surrounded by an army of servants. All one had to do was to wag one’s tongue and the work got done. A man helped us to have a bath; when one lay down another servant appeared to fan one.

Mahatma Gandhi’s princely disciple not only became famous, I was honored and respected both inside and outside the house. Everything had to be done in a timely fashion and exactly as per the Kunwar Sahib’s wishes lest he get offended or annoyed. I had become, or been forced to become, even more demanding and exacting than even Ishwari himself. Ishwari might make his own bed with his own hands, but how could his guest, the prince, spread his own bedding? It was asking for too much and I was far too grand for that.

One day, exactly such an occurrence arose. Ishwari was delayed in the house, perhaps talking to his mother. It was already past my bed-time and no servant had showed up to lay out my bedding. How could I, the prince, be expected to lay out, with my own hands, my bed? When a servant, a presumptuous fellow, who had been held up with household chores, came running at ten-thirty, to finally make my bed, I gave him such a “telling-off” that he would remember it.

Another day, the lamp was not lighted even though it was already dusk. The lamp was lying on the table, but how could the prince be expected to light it? I was getting highly agitated and irritated at this obvious oversight. The newspaper was lying on the table but I couldn’t read it because no one was present to light the lamp for me. I was getting very angry with each passing minute. When Riyasat Ali entered the room, I rebuked him sharply and spoke so rudely and insolently to him, that he himself – a respectable gentleman – lit the lamp for me with trembling hands.

A Thakur, a capricious fellow, but a prime devotee of the Mahatma, came by one day. He always showed me great respect but was shy about asking me about anything. One day, finding me alone, he asked me respectfully, with folded hands, if we would get self-rule once the landlords left. I answered grandly that the landlords knew no better than to suck the blood of the poor. If they did not give up their land willingly, it would have to be seized from them. I stated that my family was ready to transfer all their land to the labourers, as soon as we had self-rule.

I was sitting with my feet on a chair. The Thakur took to pressing my feet. He referred to me as “your honour” and asked me humbly for a job on my estate. I promised him that as soon as I was in a position of authority and inherited some property, I would have him learn driving and make him my chauffeur.

I heard later that the Thakur took lots of opium that night; beat up his wife and got ready to fight with the village moneylender.

5.

The vacation was finally over and Ishwari and I set out for Prayag. Many villagers came to bid us farewell. The Thakur accompanied us to the station. I acted my part well till the end, leaving the imprint on each heart of courtesy and divinity appropriate to the God of Wealth that I was. I would have liked to have given a substantial tip to the servants but how could I afford it? When the train arrived it was packed beyond imagination. This was the last train and there was not an inch of breathing space in the second class. The intermediate class was in an even worse condition. We could not miss this train by any means and boarded with great difficulty into the third class. Our grandeur made an impression but I was very upset by this sort of discomfort after all the pleasures and luxuries that we had enjoyed. There was barely place to move in the compartment.

Some educated men, in the third class compartment, were praising the British rule. They praised the sense of justice and fair rule of the British where courts had even ruled against kings.

A man with a big bundle on his back was traveling to Calcutta. He was very uncomfortable and kept going and standing by the doorway, in the hopes of getting some fresh air. I was sitting just by the doorway. Inadvertently, the bundle kept rubbing against my face, again and again. I was getting increasingly annoyed because it was, as it is, difficult to breathe and to top it all, this rustic kept standing right in my face, as if determined to suffocate me. For some time, I tolerated this horrific inconvenience. Then I suddenly flew into a rage. I caught hold of the man, by the throat, pushed him back roughly and slapped him hard, twice across the face. The man objected, naturally, and asked me why I was intent on slapping him when he too had paid the same fare as me. I glared at him and in response gave him two or three more slaps.

A commotion arose in the compartment and reproaches rained on me from all sides. They started telling me that if I was such a great and ‘delicate’ man, why did I not travel by first class instead? Another stated that he would not hesitate to slap me back if I so much as dared to raise a hand against him. Another asked me if I, a rich man, had completely lost my humanity – after all, this poor man was just trying to get a breath of air. Another villager claimed that it seemed possible that I could not even get a clerkship, yet I was so unfeeling and arrogant.

Ishwari said then in English, “What an idiot you are, Bir!” And now, my intoxication seemed to be wearing off a little bit.

 

 

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The “intoxication” in this story refers to the absurdity of snobbish ways.

It is a story of how simple-minded, poor or middle-class people can get to be hypocritical, superficial and fickle-minded in the face of sudden and great wealth. It tells us how society will forever be ridden with a class system and that indeed, in this system of hierarchy, all human beings are not born equal. The rich shall forever feel that it is their right to exploit workers, servants and labourers and in turn, the latter consider it their lot and their fate to serve the rich, even when some of the tasks that they are forced to perform are menial and demeaning.

It is a story that tells us how the hostilities and communal hatred and violence between Hindus and Muslims are a politically-motivated game where the politicians gain from promoting a policy of “Divide and Rule.” In reality, Hindus and Muslims can co-exist peacefully and can be gainful neighbours to each other.

In the end, the protagonist of the story, Bir, realizes what a laughing stock he has made of himself. He had become as power-hungry, lustful and greedy as the landlords themselves who he was so fond of verbally denouncing. This intoxication had made him into a typical “nouveau riche” (newly rich) person and he had undoubtedly made a complete fool of himself. He experiences a sense of anti-climax and realizes that he must be down-to-earth and accept his lot in life cheerfully. If he wanted to be treated as a rich man, he should have either been born into wealth or he ought to work hard to earn that kind of wealth, in the first place.

This is not the first time that the intoxication and scent of money and the lust for power and status has led to a complete detrimental change in a person’s character and personality. It will certainly not be the last time when the uncontrollable

Munshi Premchand - The Shakespeare of Indian Literature.

Munshi Premchand – The Shakespeare of Indian Literature.

Munshi Premchand - The Voice of Truth

Munshi Premchand – The Voice of Truth

greed for gold leads an individual to make a total fool of himself.

Munshi Premchand - The Shakespeare of Indian Literature.

Munshi Premchand – The Shakespeare of Indian Literature.

Greed - one of the Seven Deadly Sins

Greed – one of the Seven Deadly Sins

Greed - one of the Seven Deadly Sins

Greed – one of the Seven Deadly Sins

Love over Gold

Love over Gold

Wealthy versus Poor

Wealthy versus Poor

Feudalism in Europe

Feudalism in Europe

Love over Gold

Love over Gold

The Intoxication of Wealth

The Intoxication of Wealth

Greed - one of the Seven Deadly Sins

Greed – one of the Seven Deadly Sins

The landlord's Haveli in Medieval Indian Times

The landlord’s Haveli in Medieval Indian Times

The landlord's Haveli in Medieval Indian Times

The landlord’s Haveli in Medieval Indian Times

The interior of a landlord's Haveli in Medieval Indian Times.

The interior of a landlord’s Haveli in Medieval Indian Times.

The interior of a landlord's Haveli in Medieval Indian Times.

The interior of a landlord’s Haveli in Medieval Indian Times.

The interior of a landlord's Haveli in Medieval Indian Times.

The interior of a landlord’s Haveli in Medieval Indian Times.

The interior of a landlord's Haveli in Medieval Indian Times.

The interior of a landlord’s Haveli in Medieval Indian Times.

The interior of a landlord's Haveli in Medieval Indian Times.

The interior of a landlord’s Haveli in Medieval Indian Times.

The labourers in Medieval India

The labourers in Medieval India

Sport in Medieval India

Sport in Medieval India

Wrestling in medieval times

Wrestling in medieval times

Feudalism - Then and Now

Feudalism – Then and Now

A Family Scene in a Medieval Indian Home

A Family Scene in a Medieval Indian Home

The landlords of Medieval India

The landlords of Medieval India

Medieval India

Medieval India


Mary Renault Quote

Mary Renault Quote

Mary Renault Quote

Mary Renault Quote

Biological Warfare Definition

Biological Warfare Definition

Biological Warfare Defence

Biological Warfare Defence

Biological Warfare

Biological Warfare

 

 

“In All Men is Evil Sleeping;

The good man is he who will not awaken it

in himself or in other men.”

 

  • MARY RENAULT

 

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Bio-Warfare

Bio-Warfare

Bio-Terrorism

Bio-Terrorism

Biological Warfare Agents

Biological Warfare Agents

Biological Warfare Agents

Biological Warfare Agents

Biological Warfare Agents

Biological Warfare Agents

Biological Warfare Agents

Biological Warfare Agents

Biological Warfare Agents

Biological Warfare Agents

Biological Warfare Agents

Biological Warfare Agents

Biological Warfare Agents

Biological Warfare Agents

Chemical Grenades

Chemical Grenades

Chemical Warfare Defence

Chemical Warfare Defence

 

 

Biological warfare (BW)—also known as germ warfare—is the use of biological toxins or infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi with intent to kill or incapacitate humans, animals or plants as an act of war.

 

History of Biological Warfare

Source: http://www.emedicinehealth.

Chemical Warfare Agents

Chemical Warfare Agents

Chemical Warfare Agents

Chemical Warfare Agents

Chemical Warfare Agents

Chemical Warfare Agents

Chemical Warfare Agents

Chemical Warfare Agents

Genes and DNA

Genes and DNA

"Evil Genes" by Barbara Oakley

“Evil Genes” by Barbara Oakley

com/biological_warfare/article_em.htm

Cherokee Legend of Two Wolves

Cherokee Legend of Two Wolves

Cherokee Legend of Two Wolves

Cherokee Legend of Two Wolves

#history_of_biological_warfare

"The Science of Evil" By Simon Baron-Cohen

“The Science of Evil” By Simon Baron-Cohen

 

Biological weapons include any organism (such as bacteria, viruses, or fungi) or toxin found in nature that can be used to kill or injure people. (Toxins are poisonous compounds produced by organisms.)

 

The act of bioterrorism can range from a simple hoax to the actual use of these biological weapons, also referred to as agents. A number of nations have or are seeking to acquire biological warfare agents, and there are concerns that terrorist groups or individuals may acquire the technologies and expertise to use these destructive agents. Biological agents may be used for an isolated assassination, as well as to cause incapacitation or death to thousands. If the environment is contaminated, a long-term threat to the population could be created.

  • History: The use of biological agents is not a new concept, and historyis filled with examples of their use.
    • Attempts to use biological warfare agents date back to antiquity. Scythian archers infected their arrows by dipping them in decomposing bodies or in blood mixed with manure as far back as 400 BC. Persian, Greek, and Roman literature from 300 BC quotes examples of dead animals used to contaminate wells and other sources of water. In the Battle of Eurymedon in 190 BC, Hannibal won a naval victory over King Eumenes II of Pergamon by firing earthen vessels full of venomous snakes into the enemy ships.
    • During the battle of Tortona in the 12th century AD, Barbarossa used the bodies of dead and decomposing soldiers to poison wells. During the siege of Kaffa in the 14th century AD, the attacking Tatar forces hurled plague-infected corpses into the city in an attempt to cause an epidemic within enemy forces. This was repeated in 1710, when the Russians besieging Swedish forces at Reval in Estonia catapulted bodies of people who had died from plague.
    • During the French and Indian War in the 18th century AD, British forces under the direction of Sir Jeffrey Amherst gave blankets that had been used bysmallpox victims to the Native Americans in a plan to spread the disease.
    • Allegations were made during the American Civil War by both sides, but especially against the Confederate Army, of the attempted use of smallpox to cause disease among enemy forces.
  • Modern times: Biological warfare reached sophistication during the 1900s.
    • During World War I, the German Army developedanthraxglanders, cholera, and a wheat fungus specifically for use as biological weapons. They allegedly spread plague in Petersburg, Russia, infected mules with glanders in Mesopotamia, and attempted to do the same with the horses of the French Cavalry.
    • The Geneva Protocol of 1925 was signed by 108 nations. This was the first multilateral agreement that extended prohibition of chemical agents to biological agents. Unfortunately, no method for verification of compliance was addressed.
    • During World War II, Japanese forces operated a secret biological warfare research facility (Unit 731) in Manchuria that carried out human experiments on prisoners. They exposed more than 3,000 victims to plague, anthrax,syphilis, and other agents in an attempt to develop and observe the disease. Some victims were executed or died from their infections. Autopsies were also performed for greater understanding of the effects on the human body.
    • In 1942, the United States formed the War Research Service. Anthrax andbotulinum toxin initially were investigated for use as weapons. Sufficient quantities of botulinum toxin and anthrax were stockpiled by June 1944 to allow unlimited retaliation if the German forces first used biological agents. The British also tested anthrax bombs on Gruinard Island off the northwest coast of Scotland in 1942 and 1943 and then prepared and stockpiled anthrax-laced cattle cakes for the same reason.
    • The United States continued research on various offensive biological weapons during the 1950s and 1960s. From 1951-1954, harmless organisms were released off both coasts of the United States to demonstrate the vulnerability of American cities to biological attacks. This weakness was tested again in 1966 when a test substance was released in the New York City subway system.
    • During the Vietnam War, Viet Cong guerrillas used needle-sharp punji sticks dipped in feces to cause severe infections after an enemy soldier had been stabbed.
    • In 1979, an accidental release of anthrax from a weapons facility in Sverdlovsk, USSR, killed at least 66 people. The Russian government claimed these deaths were due to infected meat and maintained this position until 1992, when Russian President Boris Yeltsin finally admitted to the accident.

Medical Author: Edmond Hooker, MD, DrPH

Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

 

Bioterrorism and Biowarfare Today

Source: http://www.emedicinehealth.com/biological_warfare/page2_em.htm#bioterrorism_and_biowarfare_today

  • Bioterrorism andbiowarfare today: A number of countries have continued offensive biological weapons research and use. Additionally, since the 1980s, terrorist organizations have become users of biological agents. Usually, these cases amount only to hoaxes. However, the following exceptionshave been noted:
    • In 1985, Iraq began an offensive biological weapons program producing anthrax, botulinum toxin, andaflatoxin. During Operation Desert Storm, the coalition of allied forces faced the threat of chemical and biological agents. Following the Persian Gulf War, Iraq disclosed that it had bombs, Scud missiles, 122-mm rockets, and artillery shells armed with botulinum toxin, anthrax, and aflatoxin. They also had spray tanks fitted to aircraft that could distribute agents over a specific target.
    • In September and October of 1984, 751 people were intentionally infected withSalmonella, an agent that causes foodpoisoning, when followers of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh contaminated restaurant salad bars in Oregon.
    • In 1994, a Japanese sect of the Aum Shinrikyo cult attempted an aerosolized (sprayed into the air) release of anthrax from the tops of buildings in Tokyo.
    • In 1995, two members of a Minnesota militia group were convicted of possession ofricin, which they had produced themselves for use in retaliation against local government officials.
    • In 1996, an Ohio man attempted to obtainbubonic plague cultures through the mail.
    • In 2001, anthrax was delivered by mail to S. media and government offices. There were four deaths.
    • In December 2002, six terrorist suspects were arrested in Manchester, England; their apartment was serving as a “ricin laboratory.” Among them was a 27-year-old chemist who was producing the toxin. Later, on 5, 2003, British police raided two residences around London and found traces of ricin, which led to an investigation of a possible Chechen separatist plan to attack the Russian embassy with the toxin; several arrests were made.
    • On 3, 2004, three U.S. Senate office buildings were closed after the toxin ricin was found in a mailroom that serves Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s office.

 

The threat that biological agents will be used on both military forces and civilian populations is now more likely than it was at any other point in history.

Medical Author: Edmond Hooker, MD, DrPH

Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

 

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Chemical warfare (CW) involves using the toxic properties of chemical substances as weapons.

 

Brief History of Chemical Weapons Use

Source: http://www.opcw.org/about-chemical-weapons/history-of-cw-use/

 

Although chemicals had been used as tools of war for thousands of years—e.g. poisoned arrows, boiling tar, arsenic smoke and noxious fumes, etc.—modern chemical warfare has its genesis on the battlefields of World War I.

 

 

During World War I, chlorine and phosgene gases were released from canisters on the battlefield and dispersed by the wind. These chemicals were manufactured in large quantities by the turn of the century and were deployed as weapons during the protracted period of trench warfare. The first large-scale attack with chlorine gas occurred 22 April 1915 at Ieper in Belgium. The use of several different types of chemical weapons, including mustard gas (yperite), resulted in 90,000 deaths and over one million casualties during the war. Those injured in chemical warfare suffered from the effects for the rest of their lives; thus the events at Ieper during World War I scarred a generation. By the end of World War I, 124,000 tonnes of chemical agent had been expended. The means of delivery for chemical agent evolved over the first half of the twentieth century, increasing these weapons’ already frightening capacity to kill and maim through the development of chemical munitions in the form of artillery shells, mortar projectiles, aerial bombs, spray tanks and landmines.

 

 

After witnessing the effects of such weapons in World War I, it appeared that few countries wanted to be the first to introduce even deadlier chemical weapons onto the World War II battlefields. However, preparations were made by many countries to retaliate in kind should chemical weapons be used in warfare. Chemical weapons were deployed on a large scale in almost all theatres in the First and Second World Wars, leaving behind a legacy of old and abandoned chemical weapons, which still presents a problem for many countries.

 

 

During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union both maintained enormous stockpiles of chemical weapons, amounting to tens of thousands of tonnes. The amount of chemical weapons held by these two countries was enough to destroy much of the human and animal life on Earth.

 

 

Iraq used chemical weapons in Iran during the war in the 1980s, and Iraq also used mustard gas and nerve agents against Kurdish residents of Halabja, in Northern Iraq, in 1988. The horrific pictures of Halabja victims shocked the world at the time of the negotiations in Geneva on the Chemical Weapons Convention. The two most recent examples of the use of chemical weapons were the sarin poisoning incident in Matsumoto, a Japanese residential community, in 1994, and the sarin attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995, both perpetrated by the Aum Shinrikyu doomsday cult. These two attacks re-focussed international attention on the potential use of chemical weapons by terrorists, and on the dangers posed by chemical weapons.

 

 

The devastating impact chemical weapons have had in the past, and the potential for the use of modern—even more deadly—chemical agents not only by States at war but in other violent conflicts and by non-State actors, provide the imperative for the international effort to uphold the ban on such weapons and to work towards the complete, global elimination of chemical weapons.

 

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[Science Solitaire] Is evil in our genes?

We still have no way of knowing with pinpoint precision how much of our genes and our environment make us mean-minded

Maria Isabel Garcia

Published 8:00 AM, Aug 16, 2013

Updated 1:10 PM, Aug 16, 2013

 

 

Humans have demonstrated that we are ambidextrous in our morality. We can do great acts of compassion as well as evil.

 

It is a lot easier to see how the spheres of “nurture,” if horrible, starting with family, school, and community can make people mean. But do we really start out “good?” If not, how much of our meanness could be blamed on our genes?

 

“Meanness” mainly springs from a lack of empathy – of failing to understand what another would feel if certain things happen to them and thus, not give value to the other. If you do not give value to another, you do not care about the consequences of what you do to them.

 

Meanness could range from small, consistent acts of selfishness like always wanting to be the center of attention aware that you are doing this at the expense of others, to patently evil acts like the rape of a child.

 

To answer our question, we have to look at what science has found out so far about the nature of our morality. Some of them start with a niche of the population which we used to largely dismiss as “blank slates:” babies.

 

Wired for good?

 

A few centers for cognition of these very young humans have uncovered something remarkable about babies. Through their ingeniously designed experiments, babies as early as 3 months old, when shown a puppet scene with characters, were found to prefer the puppet that did “good” over the one who did not. This means that we are wired, before any significant moral shaping is done by the parents, to recognize and prefer a good deed.

 

Another body of research we can look to in order to answer our question has to do with brain scans of adults. Neuroscientists have been studying the brain activity and speech patterns when we make moral choices including those of convicted sociopaths.

 

They indeed found that these individuals do register reduced activity in the brain region that lights up when empathy is felt and as it connects to the decision-making region of our brains. This tells us that there are brain cells that correspond to empathy and these cells are not talking to each other as they should and thus fail to “inform” our choices.

 

While it may be reasonable to assume that genes could be at least partly responsible for this brain behavior, it will be more difficult to trace since these are adults who have already been “nurtured” before they reached the point of imprisonment for a crime.

 

Self control

 

I think the landmark research on “self control” among children and the effects it has on criminal record (effect on wealth and health were also investigated in the same study) also bears on “meanness.”

 

Their study, conducted on the same 1,000 individuals for over 30 years, showed that “self-control” as a trait, when exhibited or learned as a child, especially between 3-5 years old, would least likely get these same individuals into trouble in criminal proportions as adults.

 

The parenting “techniques” were not examined in the study mentioned so that the self control demonstrated by the subjects when they were kids may not be wholly attributed to “nurture.”

 

Study after study show that babies are not “blank slates.” We are born predisposed to certain traits. To know this, you only need to look at siblings who are not very far apart in age, who have been raised the same way but exhibit fundamentally different behavior even as infants.

 

Before you jump and conclude that the experiment on babies I cited is incontrovertible proof that we are all born good, don’t. In the other related studies that the center conducted, they also found that babies have a strong sense of siding with the ones more similar to them rather than it springing from even a most basic sense of “fairness.”

 

Thus, while babies seem to innately recognize “cooperation” and prefer it, they are also ingrained with a sense of “competition.” This is the beginning of the “us” and “them” in the life of a human being. A sense of “us” and “them” innately resides in each of us.

 

Meanies

 

Like a Tale of Two Cities, we each tell a tale of two natures: the worst and best of us. Our biology is not exclusively predisposed to “goodness” and messed up later by “sin.” We are born with tendencies to go either way because the traits associated with both like cooperation, sacrifice, envy and aggression, all helped us survive.

 

Every time we make a choice, it is a tug-o-war. That is so far, how science can enlighten, if not answer, the question. How we choose between doing good and otherwise is a struggle we are all familiar with in each junction of our personal and collective lives. We still have no way of knowing with pinpoint precision how much of our genes and our environment make us mean.

 

But it has not stopped people like comedian Baba Brinkman to launch a campaign to weed out meanies from the gene people by urging people to avoid sleeping with meanies or to be more precise, not have babies with them. He aims to raise money to fund a video educating people about genetics and evolution.

 

This obviously acknowledges that some part of meanness could be blamed on genes. Whether it will really diminish the proportion of “meanies” in the gene pool or not, I think it is a fun, “science may be able to do something about evil” campaign. Besides, who would want to sleep with a meanie? – Rappler.com

 

Maria Isabel Garcia is a science writer. She has written two books, “Science Solitaire” and “Twenty One Grams of Spirit and Seven Ounces of Desire.” Her column appears every Friday and you can reach her at sciencesolitaire@gmail.com.

 

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‘MIND READING’

Q&A: Psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen on Empathy and the Science of Evil

By Maia Szalavitz

 

Source: http://healthland.time.com/2011/05/30/mind-reading-psychologist-simon-baron-cohen-on-empathy-and-the-science-of-evil/

 

Cambridge psychology professor and leading autism expert Simon Baron-Cohen is best known for studying the theory that a key problem in autistic disorders is “mind blindness,” difficulty understanding the thoughts, feelings and intentions of others.He’s also known for positing the “extreme male brain” concept of autism, which suggests that exposure to high levels of testosterone in the womb can cause the brain to focus on systematic knowledge and patterns more than on emotions and connection with others. (Oh, and yes, he’s also the cousin of British comedian Sacha “Borat” Baron Cohen.)

Baron-Cohen’s new book, The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty, examines the role of empathy, the ability to understand and care about the emotions of others, not only in autism but in conditions like psychopathy in which lack of care for others leads to antisocial and destructive behavior.

What do you mean when you write about “zero negative” empathy?

Zero empathy refers to people at the extremely low end of the scale. They tend to be people with personality disorders, particularly antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). I focus quite a lot on psychopathy [the extreme form of ASPD] and also on two other personality disorders, borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder.

The ‘negative’ is meant to be shorthand for this being negative for the individual but also for the people around them. It’s meant to contrast with what I call ‘zero positive’ empathy, which effectively describes the autistic spectrum.

[Autistic people] struggle with empathy just like zero negatives but it seems to be for very different reasons. I’m arguing that their low empathy is a result of a particular cognitive style, which is attentive to details and patterns or rules, which in shorthand, I call systemizing.

If we think about the autism spectrum as involving a very strong drive to systemize, that can have very positive consequences for the individual and for society. The downside is that when you try to systemize certain parts of the world like people and emotions, those sorts of phenomena are less lawful and harder to systemize. That can lead to having low empathy, almost like a byproduct of strong systemizing.

How do you account for people who are both highly empathetic and highly systematic, such as some of those with Asperger’s who are actually oversensitive to the emotions of others?

I’ve certainly come across subgroups like that. There are people with Asperger’s whom I’ve met who certainly would be very upset to learn they’d hurt another person’s feelings. They often have very strong moral consciences and moral codes. They care about not hurting people. They may not always be aware [that they've said something rude or hurtful], but if it’s pointed out, they would want to do something about it.

The other side of their moral sense is that they often have a strong sense of justice or fairness. They may have arrived at it through looking for logical patterns rather than necessarily because they can easily identify with someone, however.

People often think that autistic people are dangerous, like psychopaths, when they hear this idea that they have “no empathy.”

In a way, that was one of my motivations for writing the book. Low empathy is a characteristic of many different conditions or disorders. Often books are written where they either focus on psychopathy or autism but [not both].

We have to look at them side by side, and when we do that, we see that they are very different and it’s important to bring that out.

Is it the case, then, that autistic people are not good at the “mind reading” part of empathy, in terms of predicting people’s behavior and feelings, while psychopaths are able to do that but are not able to care?

I think the contrast between these two conditions provides some evidence for that dissociation within empathy. People with psychopathy are very good at reading the minds of their victims. That’s probably most clearly seen in deception. You have to be good at mind reading before it would even occur to you want [to deceive someone]. So you can see the cognitive part of empathy as functioning very well, but the fact that they don’t have the appropriate emotional response to someone else’s state of mind, the feeling of wanting to alleviate distress if someone’s in pain, [that suggests that] the affective part of empathy is not functioning normally.

What stunts the development of empathy in personality disorders?

In the book, I explore both early environmental factors and biological and genetic factors. I think it’s particularly clear in borderline personality disorder (BPD) that there’s a strong association between early environmental deprivation and neglect and abuse and later outcome of BPD. There’s an association [with abuse and trauma early in life] in psychopathy, but it’s not strong as in BPD.

What defines borderline personality disorder?

There seems to be quite a lot of difficulty in self-regulation, in the regulation of their own emotional state. A lot of people with BPD also have depression. Many are suicidal. Many have had a history of feeling attacked or uncared for’ they are almost hypersensitive to possible threats from others.

They react almost with a hair trigger — if they perceive they are being attacked, they go on the attack. People with BPD can be so preoccupied by their own sense of not being cared for and not being understood that they can become blind to the impact of their own behavior on others.

So how would you address increasing empathy in these conditions?

There are interesting and imaginative new approaches to treatment for empathy. Some are medications like oxytocin. Some are psychological treatments like Peter Fonagy’s work on mentalization therapy. I haven’t ever watched it done but the idea is to encourage the patient to stop and think about others’ thoughts and feelings. It’s particularly useful for BPD. When someone with that condition is mostly focusing on themselves, the therapist prompts them to take other people’s perspectives. And just through repetition and practice, people get better and better.

I don’t see how that would work with psychopaths.

People are doing some clinical approaches with psychopaths too, like getting them to meet their victims. That’s obviously got lots of traumatic risk attached to it [for the victim], but again, it’s an exercise in perspective-taking.

I think if we take seriously the idea that behavior is the result of the brain — that having low empathy [is] the result of the way the empathy circuit is functioning or has developed — it does raise moral questions. When someone is acting with low empathy, why do we judge them as bad and punish them? It does shift the locus of where [they should be treated] philosophically, from the criminal justice system to health care.

Don’t you think there are people who are actually evil, who know what they’re doing is wrong and harmful but choose to do it anyway?

I argue in the book that I don’t find the term evil very useful. Once you are down at zero degrees of empathy, all kinds of behavior become possible. I don’t find it scientifically useful to use that term. Empathy is a scientific term in a way that evil isn’t. You can try to localize it in the brain; you can look for which part of brain is activated. It’s normative behavior. Evil is kind of the opposite of good, I guess, but empathy, as we were talking earlier, is quantifiable and normal. You can measure it and look for it, whereas you don’t see evil in the brain.

It’s argued that humans were able to evolve cooperation and altruism only by having a way to detect and punish those who didn’t cooperate.

I could see an evolutionary benefit for both empathy and lack of empathy too. Low empathy allows you to act selfishly, which could be in your interest, but high empathy fosters social cohesion and it’s good for the individual to end up as part of a social network.

I speculate that maybe most people end up in the middle, which may be the optimal position. It’s good to have some empathy, so at the very least you avoid offending or inadvertently hurting someone, but too much empathy might mean never completing your own projects.

How does your cousin Sacha Baron Cohen, creator of Borat, rate on empathy? His work can really make you cringe, but he must be excellent at mind reading to do it.

First of all, he and I have a family agreement that we don’t talk about each other. I respect his work. I think that sometimes that kind of comedy can create what you called a “cringe reaction,” cringing with embarrassment, but that has a purpose.

Why does empathy seem especially lacking in the teen years?

It’s kind of interesting that parents comment on adolescence as being a low point in empathy. But there’s still quite a lot of maturation going on in the part of the brain that involves empathy during that period. There could also be hormonal factors, particularly in males with the increase in testosterone. That could change empathy levels.

I’m struck that if you look at the “terrible two’s,” kids who have tantrums when they don’t get their way, and teens, at one level it looks like very little development has gone on. There’s a transition at around age four to becoming able to apprehend that others have different perspectives. You would imagine that empathy would almost reach a peak in early childhood, but it seems to have a long protracted development.

It seems to me that the terrible twos and adolescence are both the most intense periods of brain development. Could that be why empathy is impaired then?

That’s really interesting. I think brain maturation is one thing and also just the experience of relationships. I think that empathy has to have an environment in which to work, and that environment is relationships. Making mistakes in relationships is all part of learning to empathize.

There was an interesting study I was part of. Women who took extra testosterone were given the ‘reading the mind in eyes test.’ [The test measures how well people can read others' emotions by looking at their eyes.] A dose of testosterone lowered scores on this test. It was one of the first demonstrations that changing testosterone levels affects your empathy.

If you’re taking an evolutionary approach, it might be very adaptive if you have to use aggression for self-defense. You’d be more effective if you didn’t have empathy getting in the way.

A U.S. doctor tried to treat autism by lowering testosterone levels, citing your work as justification, although he actually didn’t get the research right. He just lost his license because he was using a “chemical castration” drug on kids to do this.

We haven’t considering [lowering testosterone] as a treatment to study for autism. I’m not comfortable with it ethically in terms of side effects. They misquoted [our research], and cited it as evidence that there was elevated testosterone in autism when, in fact, we haven’t shown that. They presented it as if we’re endorsing it, which I’m certainly not.

 

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A CHEROKEE LEGEND OF TWO WOLVES

Source: http://howleadersmanage.com/2013/02/05/a-cherokee-legend-of-two-wolves/

 

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

 

Today, more than ever, you have a multitude of negativity competing for your attention; television showing commercials of how you can’t be happy without their newest products, news media telling about the doom and gloom of the world, the internet and the drama of what is social media, talk radio, and personal acquaintances. Everything you take in effects the way you perceive the world. You become the average of the input you take in and the people you spend your time with.

 

Believe it or not, that’s good news. All of that information you take in is in your control. You can control the amount (if any) of negative television you take in. You can control the destructive news you absorb. You can control the radio station you listen to. You can even determine who you spend your time with. There’s an easy way to select who or what gets your attention. After spending time with that person or doing that activity ask yourself, “Do I feel drained or do I feel energized?” If it drains you…….DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME WITH IT. If you feel energized, it’s probably adding value to your life and making you better.

 

Your mind is an empty glass. When you fill it with dirty water that is the lens you see the world through. The only thing you can see is negativity, doom and gloom. When you begin to pour clean water into it, the dirty water begins to overflow and leave the glass. Soon, if enough clean clear water is poured into the glass container, it will flush out all the murky water and you will be left with a glass of clean beautiful water, and that how you will see the world.

 

Are you taking in more clean water that dirty?
Which wolf are you feeding?

 

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