All posts by Lawrence Liang

The Patriot Act of Intellectual Property

I was at a meeting recently to discuss what is now being termed, as The Patriot Act of Intellectual Property. Some of the leading economic powers including the US, European Commission and Japan have been negotiating an agreement, the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) which attempts to redefine IP enforcement. The Bush administration is particularly keen that they finalize this agreement before the end of his term. At the moment the substantive content of the agreement is not known, and the few details that are available are only because of a leaked document of the US government available in Wikileaks.

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Vanzara’s Parable

Economy of language, as we know, is vital in an era marked by the proliferation of too many words. So my plea is that we stop using the phrase ‘fake encounter’ because encounter will suffice. Fake encounters somehow seems to posit a difference between a real encounter (that’s the one in which the police go on an investigation and the assailants open fire and the police gun them down in self defense) and a fake one (that’s the one in which the police go on an investigation and the assailants open fire and the police gun them down in self defense). A difference, which has clearly escaped my comprehension. In India we have got used to accommodating words that don’t really serve a purpose, or where their meaning has been displaced, and they serve almost as empty pronouns. The names of shops like Zevar Jewelry, Chitra Pictures serve as good examples. Fake encounter is a good addition to the list. Continue reading Vanzara’s Parable

The Impossibility of Satire

The first impulse that one has after coming out of a court hearing is to create a satire that accurately captures the slightly bizarre and terrifying vision of judges that one has had a chance to experience. But can caricature really live up to its responsibility of laughing truth to power? John Beger has said that “Graphic caricature is dead because life has outstripped it. Or more accurately, because satire is only possible when a moral reserve still exists, and those reserves have been used up. We are too used to being appalled by ourselves to be able to react to the idea of caricature”. So instead of imposing an impossible goal for satire, let us allow the court speak for themselves. Continue reading The Impossibility of Satire

Devastating Looks: Smirks, Quirks and Judicial Authority

Devastating Looks: Smirks, Quirks and Judicial Authority

Raoul Vaneigem, the Belgian philosopher writes that “The economy of everyday life is based on a continuous exchange of humiliations and aggressive attitudes. It conceals a technique of wear and tear which is itself prey to the gift of destruction which it invites contradictorily”. In an incredible story in his chapter on humiliation, Vaneigem says that one day, when Rousseau was traveling through a crowded village, he was insulted by a lowly peasant whose insults delighted the crowd. The great philosopher Rousseau was completely taken aback and flushed with anger, but could not think of a single thing to say in reply and was forced to take to his heels amidst the jeers of the crowd. By the time he had finally regained his composure and thought of a thousand possible retorts, any one of which would have silenced the joker once and for all, he was at two hours distance from the village.

Vaneigem then says “Aren’t most of the trivial incidents of everyday life like this ridiculous adventure? but in an attenuated and diluted form, reduced to the duration of a step, a glance, a thought, experienced as a muffled impact, a fleeting discomfort barely registered by consciousness and leaving in the mind only the dull irritation at a loss to discover its own origin?”
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Doublethink in the Time of Criminal Reform

Orwell created a range of wonderful concepts in his dystopic novel 1984 to characterize the language of power. One such phrase Doublethink referred to the ability to hold “two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them” without being aware of their contradictions.

The latest addition to the vast repository of doublethinks in the archives of the Indian state comes from the background note of the new committee formed for the reform of the criminal justice system. Barely a few years after the controversial Malimath Committee, yet another committee has been formed under the chairmanship of Dr. Madhava Menon (the founder of the National Law School in Bangalore). The National Criminal Justice System Policy Drafting Committee (“NCJSPDC”) has been constituted “taking into account changing profile of the crime and criminal” We can safely assume in the context of the global war against terror, what the changing profile of the crime and the criminal refers to. Continue reading Doublethink in the Time of Criminal Reform