*Obsessing about Records:  Yoga and the Guinness Book

What is it about the Guinness Book of World Records that makes Indians dizzy with longing and anticipation and sends them on a bizarre journey of self-gratification?   A number of public commentators, among them a New York Times correspondent, appear to have stumbled upon this phenomenon in recent months, but it is something that struck my attention nearly twenty years ago, leading to a longish essay that I first published in the stylish but short-lived journal Suitcase in 1995 and since published in a revised essay in my collection, Of Cricket, Guinness and Gandhi:  Essays on Indian History and Culture (Seagull Books, 2003; paperback edition, Penguin Books, 2005).

India's Rubber Man who, in the caption in the Daily Mail (UK), is described thus:  Vijay Sharma demonstrates his flexibility by winding his arms around his back and wrapping then around his waist in Delhi Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1254391/The-real-life-flexible-friend-Indias-Rubber-Man-makes-Guinness-Book-World-Records.html#ixzz3eJZpUFFI

India’s Rubber Man who, in the caption in the Daily Mail (UK), is described thus: Vijay Sharma demonstrates his flexibility by winding his arms around his back and wrapping then around his waist in Delhi
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1254391/The-real-life-flexible-friend-Indias-Rubber-Man-makes-Guinness-Book-World-Records.html#ixzz3eJZpUFFI

Last year, apparently at the behest of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a man who is rather keen on records—witness, for example, the infamous jacket on which his name had been embroidered with gold color thread in stripes, or the construction that is afoot to build the largest statue in the world just outside Baroda, a monument of faith and folly to Sardar Patel, the architect (as the statue seeks to recognize) of Indian “unity”—the UN General Assembly, which Modi addressed in September at the annual conclave of the heads of government, agreed to designate June 21st as International Yoga Day.

The Modi Jacket

The Modi Jacket

And so it was celebrated this June 21st: there is much that is newsworthy about the events that transpired, not the least the fact that yoga, as more than one commentator has noted, may well be India’s most successful and globalized spiritual commodity.  Therein lies the source of an anxiety that success has ironically generated:  even as many Indians or rather Hindus rejoice in the universalization of yoga, some are also alarmed by its commodification, giving little thought to the fact that increasingly globalization and commodification necessarily go hand-in-hand; and indeed there are others, the self-appointed guardians of the faith, such as the relatively young and cocksure acolytes of the faith who staff diasporic organizations of the likes of the Hindu American Foundation, who have strenuously sought to wage a war against those who, stripping yoga of its purported roots in Hindu traditions or what is vaguely described as Indian/Hindu spiritual traditions, have embraced it purely as a system of exercises and meditational techniques.

International Yoga Day, however, was most interesting for something altogether different, namely an attempt in Delhi, spearheaded by Modi himself, to bring laurels to India by having the country set two new records that would merit mention in the Guinness Book of Records.  In the matter of records, at least, Indians recognize a copy or a cheap imitation when they see one, and the truly aspiring Indians who seek what they think is global recognition have never settled for the Indian Book of Records or the Limca Book of Records.  Never mind the fact that some who have sought to blaze a trail of glory by having themselves recognized as the holder of a world record are probably clueless about “Guinness” and might even be teetotalers.  They are certainly knowledgeable enough about the fact that an entry in the Limca Book of Records isn’t going to earn them any cultural capital.  Modi and his ministers were, moreover, resolved that International Yoga Day should be marked by India claiming, in some distinct fashion, ownership and exclusive authorship of the idea of yoga.  (Bikram has only attempted to patent certain asanas or, to be more precise, his particular style of yoga and even the milieu for yoga—the temperature of the room in each and every Bikram yoga studio is set at 40.6 Celsius or 105 Fahrenheit; what the Government of India seeks to do is to patent the very idea of yoga.)  One government official interviewed recently on the subject of India’s preparations for the celebration of International Yoga Day admitted that the “PM [Prime Minister] is insistent that the event makes an impact internationally.”  Another official at the newly created AYUSH [Ayurveda], Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homeopathy] ministry charged with organizing events for the momentous day described his team as “trying very hard to get the record set but the rules of the record are tough.”

On the anointed day the Prime Minister decided to lead the country by example.  The photograph published in the Hindustan Times the following day (reproduced below) captured the event well:  the leader must be part of a collective and yet singular, showing both his affinity with the masses and his ability to guide and inspire them.

Modi leading the faithful at Rajpath on International  Yoga Day.  Photo:  Hindustan Times

Modi leading the faithful at Rajpath on International Yoga Day. Photo: Hindustan Times

Here he is at the head of the masses; strikingly, it is a group of women, the cadres who one is tempted to say form the storm troopers of his movement, who are immediately seated behind him in rows. Much more can be said about this photograph and the interplay of masculinity and a feminized nation; but what is not less striking is that Modi and the thousands who followed him in this orchestrated display are seated on the Rajpath, the Path of Kings, a colonial thoroughfare now appropriated in the service of a rejuvenated and disciplined nation.

Nearly 40,000 women and men—35,985 to be precise, since to deal with records is to give one’s allegiance to precision—followed Modi, thus establishing a new world record for the largest yoga class and eclipsing the old record which was set in November 2005 when 29,973 students attended a yoga class, drawn from 362 schools, at the Vivekananda Kendra at Jiwaji University, Gwalior, in central India.  Shripad Naik, the Minister of AYUSH, declared that “it is a matter of pride for India that we have broken two records in one day”, but Mr. Naik neglected to say that the second Guinness World Record noted (but not yet official recognized) at that day’s yoga event, namely the presence of nationals from 84 countries, did not previously exist.  It is doubtless an interesting and perhaps impressive fact that nationals of seven dozen countries thought it fit to become part of history (to use the common idiom of our times), but no record was broken.  One suspects that this second record is much like the attempt to introduce kabaddi—a contact team sport which, to invoke a very personal definition, is yoga on the run and revolves around strategies of breathing and tagging one’s opponents— at the Olympics games:  since India is generally starved for medals, kabaddi is nearly a fool-proof way of ensuring that India does not appear at the rock bottom of the medals tally, alongside the Ivory Coast, Bhutan, Zambia, and the like.  As the entry on kabaddi on Wikipedia states, “India is the most successful team on the world stage, having won every world cup and Asian Games title so far, in both men’s and women’s categories.”  Kabaddi is, however, only played in South Asian countries and among some of the more enthusiastic diasporic communities from the Indian sub-continent.

We are, of course, still far from understanding what is it that prompts Indians to make a run for the Guinness Book of Records. In my first ruminations on this subject, in the aforementioned article from 1995, I wrote thus:  “A certain anxiety, first generated during the colonial period, and subsequently aggravated by the process of nation-building, over masculinity and the manliness of a people, no less of a nation, must also account to a great degree for the quest among Indians to have their names etched in the Guinness Book. Part of the ethos of manliness consists simply in gaining recognition, in being acknowledged. One long-lasting effect of colonialism has been that the Indian continues to look up to the white European male, who confers recognition upon inferiors, and who has established the standard that the Indian (like other formerly colonized people) must meet. That is the canonical truth, the qanoon of this world.”  However, as I then argued, and would still insist upon today, the matter is considerably more complex, since many of the records established by the Indians—for running backwards over the longest distance, for having the longest fingernails, or for standing for a period of 17 years—are profoundly disturbing to some Indian elites, who would much rather see India recognized for “genuine achievements” rather than be dubbed a nation of freaks, charlatans, and eccentrics.

Ram Singh Chauhan, the man with the longest moustache in the world.   Source:  The Telegraph, UK.  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/fashion-and-style/movember/10416984/Movember-2013-famous-moustaches-in-pictures.html

Ram Singh Chauhan, the man with the longest moustache in the world.
Source: The Telegraph, UK. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/fashion-and-style/movember/10416984/Movember-2013-famous-moustaches-in-pictures.html

More of India's Rubber Man. Source:  www.dailymail.co.uk

More of India’s Rubber Man.
Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk

These freakish records furnish, as I have argued, “a counter-hegemonic force to modern orthodoxies about development, production, competition, management, and modernity itself.  Readers keen on pursuing these arguments further are invited to read—with, ideally, a Guinness at hand—my longer piece on Indians and their obsession with the Guinness Book of Records.

*Climate Change:  The Pope’s Encyclical and the Dominion of Religion

The thinking person, Walter Benjamin had occasion to remark, appears to experience crisis at every juncture of her or his life.  How can this not be so if one were to experience the pain of someone else as one’s own?  How can this not be so when, amidst growing stockpiles of food in many countries, millions continue to suffer from malnutrition, and the lengthening shadows of poverty give lie to the pious promises and pompous proclamations by the world’s leaders over the last several decades that humanity is determined to achieve victory in its quest to eradicate poverty?  With war, violence, disease, and the myriad manifestations of racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination which man’s ingenuity has wrought all around us, how might a person not be experiencing crisis?  One Foundation after another—whether it be named after Bill and Melinda Gates, the Clintons, Ford, Rockefeller, or other tycoons—has claimed to have helped “millions” of people around the world, but the crises appear to be multiplying.

There is, yet, a larger crisis that engulfs us all, even those who are sheltered from the cruel afflictions to which a good portion of humankind is still subject, especially in the global South.  Pope Francis, singularly among “world leaders”, has dared to address the “crisis” that overwhelms all others in his recently released encyclical, Laudato Si’ (“Praise Be to You”), which poignantly sets the tone for a conversation that ought to engage the entire world with its declaration at the outset that the subject of his letter is “the care for our common home”.  Over the last few years, a consensus has slowly been emerging among members of the scientific community that climate change is presently taking place at a rate which is unprecedented in comparison with the natural climate change cycles that have characterized our earth in the course of the last half a million years; moreover, as successive Assessment Reports of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have affirmed, global warming is, to an overwhelming degree, the consequence of human activity.  IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report (2007) suggested that scientists were reasonably certain in their finding that global warming had been produced by the increasing accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere owing to the massive burning of fossil fuels, the industrialized use of animal stocks, and significant changes in land use.

Source:  Cook, John (2010) Ten Human Indicators on Climate Change - See more at: http://blogs.law.widener.edu/climate/category/us-congress-and-climate-change-ethics/#sthash.lxq2hc8I.dpuf

Source: Cook, John (2010) Ten Human Indicators on Climate Change – See more at: http://blogs.law.widener.edu/climate/category/us-congress-and-climate-change-ethics/#sthash.lxq2hc8I.dpuf

The recently issued Fifth Assessment Report (2013) describes the environmental risks in even more unequivocal language:  “It is extremely likely (95-100%) that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century”.  Scientists and increasingly other commentators—various practitioners of the social sciences, journalists, and policy makers—are now inclined to the view that this anthropogenic climate change is of such a magnitude that we might reasonably speak of a new geological epoch, defined by the action of humans, that the atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen termed the Anthropocene.  Signs of the acute malady—among others, record temperatures in much of the global North, intense heat waves and droughts in Australia, melting glaciers in the Himalayan mountain range, cyclones of increasing ferocity, rising sea levels, massive flooding—began to proliferate over a decade ago and could no longer be ignored.  Speaking just before the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, the chief scientific adviser to the UK government would be bold enough to hazard the view that climate change poses a greater threat than does terrorism to the ability of humans to “live safely.”

The Pope has, with his eloquently and passionately argued encyclical, justly intervened in a matter which cannot and must not be left only to the jurisdiction of scientists and policy makers.  It is, in the first instance, notable that Francis speaks not so much of ‘global warming’ as of ‘climate change’, though in common usage the two terms are often used interchangeably.  Neither term was part of the global vocabulary until the late 1970s, even if the geochemist Wallace S. Broecker warned, in a 1975 piece entitled “Climate Change:  Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?”, that the complacency about the warming effect of carbon dioxide produced by the burning of chemical fuels was not warranted.   The NASA scientist James E. Hansen is sometimes credited with having made the term ‘global warming’, which is much less encompassing than ‘climate change’, referring as it does only to the increase in the earth’s average surface temperature as a consequence of rising levels of greenhouse gases, acceptable to a wider public with his 1988 testimony before Congress where he asserted that scientists could “ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause and effect relationship between the greenhouse effect and the observed warming.”  Pope Francis is astute in directing his attention at ‘climate change’, recognizing that the environmental catastrophes which are upon us take myriad forms and have repercussions which extend to the entire question of the future of all species on this earth and the moral implications of present human conduct.  Not only is ‘climate change’ in the ordinarily understood sense of the term a palpable reality, but there has been at work for some time a change in the climate—of thought, feeling, and opinion—that has brought humankind to the brink of ecological, social, and moral devastation.

Beginning, as Francis does, with the claim that “climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods,” it is not surprising, and is indeed heartening, that his letter is attentive to the grave and pervasive inequalities between countries.  “The foreign debt of poor countries has become a way of controlling them, yet this is not the case where ecological debt is concerned,” the encyclical states, and Francis adds that “in different ways, developing countries, where the most important reserves of the biosphere are found, continue to fuel the development of richer countries at the cost of their own present and future.”  Francis recommends that the developed countries “help pay this debt by significantly limiting their consumption of non-renewable energy and by assisting poorer countries to support policies and programmes of sustainable development.”  Not many have dared to suggest that equality cannot be gained only be attempting to raise the standard of living in the countries that comprise the global South; those who are rich, wherever they may be, will surely have to curtain their extraordinary levels of consumption.  (This reprises a debate between Ambedkar and Gandhi in India—but we leave that aside for the present.)  The Pope goes on to offer an indictment of the shallow market-based solutions proffered by the economists—when, one might ask, were the economists not shallow—and suggests with considerable astuteness that “carbon credits” are to rejected as they “may simply become a ploy which permits maintaining the excessive consumption of some countries and sectors.”  It is these remarks which prompted Jeb Bush, a Presidential “hopeful” as they are characterized in the US, to tell his adoring audience somewhere on Main Street in Anytown, America, that “I hope I’m not going to get castigated for saying this by my priest back home, but I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinal or my pope.”  The enlightened soul that he is, Jeb doubtless gets his economic philosophy from George W., the light on the hill that has been shining on baby brother since he came into this world and blinding him ever since.

Source:  CDC, Atlanta

Source: CDC, Atlanta

Francis rightly rejects the view that the question of climate change must be left only to environmentalists, economists, and policy makers.  As I have argued at some length in a recent article, “Climate Change:  Insights from Hinduism”, in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion (June 2015)—and I shall in the remaining part of this blog be drawing entirely upon my article, which is a contribution to a roundtable discussion on climate change and religion—students of religion must be particularly sensitive to what climate change portends for the future of humankind and all of creation.  In a world beset by extraordinary calamities, it is difficult for most people to turn their attention to something called climate change.  But it is not only those who are devastated by war, sexual violence, grave civil unrest, disease, a deadly virus, or a natural calamity such as an earthquake who see themselves as without the luxury to ruminate over the afflictions engendered by climate change.  Suffering is in the here and now; the privations that are effects of climate change, such as they are understood, happen—or are likely to happen—elsewhere, at a remote distance, and to others.  No doubt some people are aware that melting glaciers and rising temperatures have already wrought havoc, but nevertheless those who issue warnings about the calamitous consequences of climate change are unable to derive much emotional or spiritual purchase from arguments that invoke the future of our children, grandchildren, and generations to come when they speak solely or predominantly in the language of science.

More so than other practitioners of other disciplines and areas of inquiry, students of religion ought to consider the question of climate change their special provenance.  In many respects, religious studies scholars are especially equipped to address the social, cultural, and ethical implications of climate change.  First, the notion of an afterlife, howsoever it may be interpreted, occupies a critical space in every religion:  the religious sensibility is one that insists not only on the imperative of ethical conduct in the present, but also on the persistence of good outcomes of such conduct in the long run.  Religion helps us to think of different registers of temporality and it holds up the future as a mode and space of being that is of at least as much critical importance as the present; similarly, the ecological awareness that proponents of climate change seek to elicit in every person rests in part on the idea that proper custodianship of the earth will yield rich dividends for those who are to follow us.

Secondly, there is another idiom of temporality in which the student of religion, or more particularly of Hinduism, can hope to render understandable an argument about the reality of climate change.  As the scholar of religion, Harold Coward, reminds us, “it took all of human history up to the early 1800s for the earth’s population to reach one billion.  It took 130 years to add the second billion, 30 years to add the third, 15 years to add the fourth, and 12 years to add the fifth.”  A like argument may be advanced apropos of climate change:  the first several decades of the industrial revolution led to greater accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere than the preceding tens of thousands of years, and it is quite likely that the last two decades—which have seen not only increased levels of consumption in most of the major economies, but exponential growth in China and a substantial increase of the middle class in India, Brazil, and elsewhere—have contributed as much to global warming as the preceding century.  However, what is equally germane is that a phrase such as “all of human history up to the early 1800s” evokes gargantuan periods of time—a notion that is remote to ordinary human experience but rather more readily available to the practitioners of Hinduism, who have long been habituated to the idea of the Yugas, or the four ages—Satya Yuga, spanning 1,728,000 years; Treta Yuga, lasting 1,296,000 years; Dwapara Yuga, spanning 864,000 years; and Kali Yuga, which is half the duration of the Dwapara Yuga and a quarter of the Satya Yuga—through which human history is said to have passed.  The point here is that even if the scientific evidence for climate change is compelling, there is a different sensibility at work in the suggestion that the very idea of climate change also commands us to think of strikingly varying temporalities—both of the eons of time that have passed and the eons of time well into the future.  Hinduism’s mytho-geological conception of time immensely facilitates such leaps of imagination.

Thirdly, whatever the inclination of adherents of each religion to prize their own faith as the correct and wholly distinct path to emancipation, the religious-minded generally recognize that every religion affirms the oneness of humankind.  Arguments that draw attention to the precariousness of human existence, an existence rendered all the more fragile by widespread, devastating, and often unpredictable changes in nature that can be explicitly traced to human activity, are likewise predicated on the idea that climate change provides yet another affirmation of the oneness of existence.  The common maladies that afflict the poor, the marginalized, and the disempowered, mainly in the global South and certain pockets of the affluent North, are after all not our maladies, even if activists, social workers, and idealists choose to alleviate their suffering and occasionally even partake in it as the most meaningful gesture of solidarity.  Yet what does the recognition of climate change entail if not precisely the notion that there are certain forms of suffering that are indivisible, that the problems of one might well be the problems of all?  If religion may be defined as an attempt to teach us how we can share in the suffering of others, can it not be said that awareness of climate change leads to the same outcome?

In a sequel to this piece, I shall take up the question of the insights that Hinduism has to contribute to our understanding of climate change.  Though Pope Francis did not draw upon any Hindu texts, his encyclical displays the same ecumenism that he would like to see characterized in human relations and in the dialogue between nations rich and poor.  He draws, quite expectedly, upon the Bible, the teachings of St. Francis, the insights of  Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and his two most recent papal predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI; but also upon the ninth-century Sufi mystic, Ali al-Khawas, and such international conventions as the Rio Declaration on the Environment and Development (2002).  Home is where one begins from; after the journeying of the last two hundred years, Francis’s letter seeks to ground humans so that they may once again become sensitive to the earth, sky, air, water and the dust to which everything returns.

*Annals of the Rogue American University –- First in a New Series

American newspapers have been abuzz with the news that the President of Sudan, Omar Hasan al-Bashir, in whose name a warrant of arrest has been issued by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide, was able to flee South Africa with the connivance of its government despite a ruling by the country’s high court that he should have been detained. There is but no question that South Africa, which at the inception of the court was one of its most enthusiastic advocates, has reneged on its international obligations. What is not less pertinent is that the major world powers, for the most part, are not signatories to the convention that led to the establishment of the International Criminal Court, and indeed there is a large and vocal body of opinion in the United States that is vociferously opposed to American participation in the court. The opposition stems, quite predictably, from considerations such as the supposed fact that the US, being the world’s eminent superpower, cannot permit its politicians and officials to be held hostage to an international body, and that the United States holds its own laws to be sovereign over and above any international treaties and covenants. The court, according to its American opponents, may prevent the United States from the open pursuit of its foreign policy, which is another way of saying that the US cannot obviously permit an international body to exercise some restraint upon its war-mongering policy makers.

I do not, however, propose at this juncture to examine the politics of the International Criminal Court. The question that comes to mind, prompted by a news release from Johns Hopkins University some weeks ago, is why—the why here is to be read with its full rhetorical effect, rather than as a query only about the legal limitations of this international body— a warrant for the arrest of Henry Kissinger has never been issued by the court. This former Secretary of State is, to the contrary, still celebrated as a wise policy maker, and his idiotic punditry, which is a rather mild phrase for the ramblings of a criminally deranged man, earns him not merely the approbation but the purses of his admirers. The cormorant crew of harpies that follows every word of Kissinger as if it were the revealed truth includes among its numbers the former Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, who has gifted Johns Hopkins University in excess of US $500 million, much of it to endow dozens of “Bloomberg Professorships”.

Bloomberg’s latest gift to Johns Hopkins, according to a news release from the university in late April, is $20 million for the establishment of a Kissinger Institute at Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). The proposed institution’s precise location within Johns Hopkins is of little interest; what is certainly germane is the fact that Bloomberg has sought to honor his “great friend” with a token of his esteem for a man who in numerous parts of the world is rightly recognized as a war criminal. Many others have documented Kissinger’s crimes against humanity, whether in Chile, where the US engineered a coup under his watch, or in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, where millions were killed by the mightiest military machine in the world that would in time be humbled and humiliated by a people fighting for their very independence. One is reminded of the verdict given by more than one observer at Nuremberg, namely that had the victors at the end of World War II been the Nazis and the fascists, the likes of Churchill and Curtis LeMay, the US Air Force general who bore responsibility for the fire-bombing of Japanese cities, could justifiably have been tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity. None of these considerations appear to have weighed upon Bloomberg, nor indeed upon the President of Johns Hopkins University, a certain Roger Daniels, who in a message to the wider Johns Hopkins University rejoiced in the gift with the usual anodyne words about “excellence” and facilitating research into conditions that might lead humankind towards “peace”. To place Kissinger and “peace” side by side is rather like putting vomit and nectar together. Mr. Daniels’ announcement moved me to send him this missive on 24 April 2015:

Professor Ronald J. Daniels

President, The Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore, Maryland

Dear Professor Daniels,

I take the liberty of writing to you as a graduate of Johns Hopkins. I earned my BA in 1982 and my MA in the same year (though the latter degree was conferred in 1983), both from the Humanities Center. I later went on to earn my Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and have since 1993 been on the faculty in the history department at UCLA.

I read with great dismay, to put it mildly, of the creation of an institute in the name of Henry Kissinger at the behest of his friend and a major benefactor of Johns Hopkins, Michael Bloomberg. I am aware, as no doubt you are, that there can be conflicting opinions about people who have been influential if controversial figures in the course of history. But, not to mince words, I find it disgraceful that an institution should be established in the name of the former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who is justifiably viewed by many people around the world as a war criminal. His role in the secret bombing of Cambodia is well known; lesser known is his role in permitting a genocide in what was then East Pakistan, though the recent book [by Gary J. Bass] called The Blood Telegram leaves little doubt about his complicity in this matter. There have been calls for his prosecution in many countries and by several peoples’ tribunals. I will not enumerate the various other sins of the man called Henry Kissinger, rather repugnantly lionized in the United States as a “senior world statesman”.

The action of Johns Hopkins in accepting this gift is shocking and I call upon you to reconsider this decision. I can certainly say that I feel ashamed to be a graduate of Johns Hopkins and will wish to sever all my links to the university henceforth; moreover, I think it is my bounden duty to bring this matter before a wider public and to shame a university that, implicitly, makes light of the sufferings of millions who were the victims of the arrogance and brutal conduct of a man who, on account of American power, cannot be brought to justice. There is a lesson in this about how great universities get corrupted and I hope that you will not lead Johns Hopkins on a course which, though it cannot be understood now by most people, can only lead to its decline.

Best wishes,

Vinay Lal

Needless to say, President Daniels has not honored me with a reply. Like most other American university presidents, Mr Daniels claims to be solicitous of the views of alumni, but like nearly all of his peers he cannot see beyond the money dangling before his eyes. One should not, however, suppose that Johns Hopkins is distinct among American research universities in its unscrupulous conduct or in its susceptibility to blood money; indeed, it may not even be the most profligate offender among the major American universities. This series will, from time to time, document what Bill Readings so exquisitely described as the “university in ruins”.