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This Website Has Heritage Roots
By John B. Monteiro
Many years ago, a few days after I took up a new job as a communications professional, a senior colleague approached me with a strange request. Ram, his son, who was studying in Standard V, had to write an essay on the topic “Honesty is the best policy”. He knew, he said, I had written a well reviewed book (Corruption—Control of Maladministration). So, would I please write the essay for his son?
I was initially shocked by the request which was, of course, politely turned down. When I later thought over this incident, I was truck by the irony of the situation of a parent trying to corrupt this child with the help of the author of Corruption.
But a nagging question continued to assail me. Is honesty indeed the best policy? Or, for that matter, are we to accept without questioning all those adages and dictums That have been trotted out to us through the generations? Is there a finality about issues?
That there are two or more angles to any issue was the basis of a series of essays that I wrote over the past several years. I first published them through a column called “Forum” in Powai Pageant, the monthly employee tabloid of Larsen & Toubro Limited. Topics chosen were based on current issues for replies from readers. There was a spirited response from readers and their submissions were rated and published in the tabloid. Since this intellectual exercise took up much space, and to make space for more current news concerning the company and its employees, the column was discontinued after four years.
The exercise was resumed in Home Life, a general interest monthly published from Bombay. The column’s new name was “Exchange”, where issues were “offered” and “bids” invited.
One of the reasons why these columns could run for so long is the case study approach used in presenting thes issues. This is based on the premise that we are not easily provoked by abstractions and apparently settled dictums like “Honesty is the best policy”. If an issue is dissected sufficiently, but not conclusively, there is much scope for provoking people into looking at it from unexpectedly hidden angles—aided by personal experience, observation and logical reasoning.
(Excerpts from the introduction to Some Current Issues For Debate.)
Why Welcome To Reason?
O Judgement! thou are fled to brutish beasts And men have lost their reason!
—William Shakespeare, English dramatist (1564-1616).
Shakespeare’s shock is in the context of the then prevailing view of man. For instance, Seneca, Roman philosopher (BC 4-AD 65), had declared: “Man is a social animal". After him, Aristotle, Greek philosopher (circa second century), had said: " Man is by nature a civil animal”. A contemporary of Shakespeare, Sir Thomas Browne, English writer (1605-1662), also had a positive take on man: “Man is a noble animal, splendid in ashes and pompous in the grave”. Those of us who had logic as a subject in the college started with the proposition that man is a rational animal.
The above picture painted by writers and philosophers has been vitiated by Shakespear’s “brutishbeasts”. Our world today is marked and marred by wide-ranging conflicts, terrorism, rebellion and subversion. Even in the realm of ideas, we are living in the shadow of civilisational conflict which has violent manifestations.
In the midst of these, Welcome To Reason stands for what it says. It hopes to bring together a large assembly of cerebral men and women on a common platform in quest of sanity in human relationships. Sounds ambitious? We will work it out together. This website can win only with your participation and support. Welcome aboard at the starting point itself—and stay put.
This inaugural issue has some pump-priming content. Now on we will only be catalysts and facilitators for men of goodwill and intelligence by posting dressed-up topics. We will provide a platform to readers and respondents by provoking them to come to Welcome To Reason.
There is one humourous ditty which says that man can go to heaven by drinking, because when one is in a drunken stupor, he goes to sleep and there is no time to sin. Similarly, if we are preoccupied with healthy ideas, as Welcome To Reason seeks to promote, we will have no time or inclination for violence that mars our polity. We have a choice and let us make it right. Come to Welcome To Reason.
It is apt to conclude with John Milton, English poet (1564-1616) of Paradise Lost fame: The mind is its own place, and in itself, Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.
John B. Monteiro
Welcome To Reason, the new website, Commencing from July 17, 2007, seeks to provide an arena for intellectual exercises. It will deal with life and matters and afford opportunities to readers to have their own say on the topical themes presented. Response should be within 200 words. This limit is set to provide space for responses from as many as possible and to promote the virtue of brevity – which Shakespeare says is the soul of wit. We will provide this forum on topics of current interest for discussion by briefly outlining the main dimensions and leaving the conclusion open-ended.
Welcome To Reason - 1
Why Not Noise Meters For Vehicles?
By John B. Monteiro
This forum on a topic of current interest for discussion briefly outlines its main dimensions. Readers are invited to respond within two weeks of publication of the Topic under Welcome To Reason. The responses, within 200 words, will be featured on the Welcome To Reason website.
There was a time when noise was sign of life. Barry Cornwall said:
The sweetest noise on earth, a woman’s tongue, A string which hath no discord.
But, today noise is viewed differently. As Ambrose Bierce notes, “Noise: a stench in the ear. The chief product and authenticating sign of civilization”. One of the manifestations of civilisation is the motor vehicle. There are two sources of noise in an automobile – the engine and the horn. Knowing the harmful aspects of noise, laws and rules governing motor vehicles have made provisions in this respect. First, The Central Motor Vehicles Act, 1988:
Reduction of Noise
119. Horns. — (1) Every motor vehicle shall be fitted with an electric horn or other device conforming to the specifications of the Bureau of Indian Standards for use by the driver of the vehicle and capable of giving audible and sufficient warning of approach and position of the vehicle.
(2) No motor vehicle shall be fitted with any multi-toned horn giving a succession of different notes or with any other sound-producing device giving unduly harsh, shrill, loud or alarming noise.
120. Silencers. — (1) Every motor vehicle shall be fitted with a device (silencer) which by means of an expansion chamber or otherwise reduces as far as practicable, the noise that would otherwise be made by the (escaping) exhaust gases from the engine.
Then there are Karnataka Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989:
221. Restriction on Use of Sound Signals.— (1) No driver of a motor vehicle shall sound the horn or other device for giving audible warning with which the motor vehicle is equipped, or shall cause or allow any other person to do so needlessly or continuously or to an extent beyond that which is necessary to ensure safety.
Against the laws and rules cited above, what we see (or hear) is blatant misuse of horns by drivers. (If This you want to experience this, take a ride on the Mangalore-Udupi express bus.) Nationwide there are antinoise pollution laws and rules and the Supreme Court has severely restricted the use of loudspeakers in public places even during festivals like Ganesh and Navarathri. On the other hand, the use of horns by drivers to carve out their right of way (overtaking) is beyond the scope of, and contrary to, the Acts and Rules cited above. If traffic police or RTO do not book such violations, they are either ignorant of legal provisions or inefficient to enforce them or have their personal hidden agenda to collude with the violators. It may be argued that the vehicles are too numerous and violations are so frequent that it is humanly impossible to bring violators to book.
Against this background, we are presenting here a novel idea to encash horn violations. Drivers can be
disciplined by installing horn meters which cumulatively register the noise generated by the horn. This should be monitored (read) periodically (say once in three or six months) and charged on a graduated slab rate— after giving an initial free allowance for use of horn for safety and warning purposes. While the vehicle owner is obviously the person to pay for the metered amount, it should be possible for him to recover the whole or part of the amount from the driver. That would put the fear of the devil into him next time he is tempted to extend his itchy hand to the horn and tame the horn-happy maniacs.
The issue is open to many views. What are yours? Your response, within 200 words and preferably with passport photo, should reach the Editor at E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org within two weeks of posting this Topic on Welcome To Reason website. Over to you.
Beyond the website, Welcome To Reason has credible other uses. One can download the Topic, make photocopies and distribute to essay and elocution competitors. After giving reasonably sufficient time for the topic to sink, competitors will write on, or debate, it. This can also be used in newspapers, magazines and corporate house journals to promote interactive and presentation skill competitions. It is possible to grade the responses, oral or written, and award prizes.
We foresee the forming of Welcome To Reason Clubs all over to periodically hold debates and essay competitions centred the topics from this website. These clubs can be under the auspices of schools, colleges, Rotary, Lions, social and religious groups. We will support these collateral uses of Welcome To Reason through streamlined, easy-to- follow guidelines. We will charge a nominal to modest fee for such collateral use on the principle of what the traffic can bear. For specifics on this, Email:email@example.com
Founded in 1998, on my retirement from L&T, this feature service has provided content for publications, mainly as columns and human interest stories. While I am the core resource person for Jaybeam Features, I have on tap a network of writers who offer content with or without bylines. The contact point is: