Saturday, May 28, 2016

Pundit, पण्डित , پنڈت

This is one of those occasions where I came across the quote, was inspired to create the quibcag, and then wrote a blog post to go with it. The quote strikes me, because, as I've written many times before, one's ideology is supposed to be a way of understanding and managing reality. It shouldn't work the other way around, where you cut-and-paste reality to make if match the ideology you're so fond of. Most of us fail in this, but the best of us try really hard not to. So, a good rule of thumb might be that pundits who have a clear, obvious ideology are probably the most likely to cherry-pick facts to support their ideology, instead of constantly updating their ideology to reflect the facts. I'm referring to a wide-ranging phenomenon here, but I'm especially thinking about those special snowflakes, open-borders libertarians, whose precious, unmodifiable ideology states that human being's freedom of travel to any country, anywhere is absolute, and we must therefore ignore the lessons of history, which demonstrate that all civilizations that fail to control immigration perish. Sorry. Had to get that out of my system. 

One of the pair who operate this blog, Baloo the cartoonist, took a course in Urdu in the Army forty-odd years ago, and has been fascinated by the language ever since. Especially fascinated by Urdu words that have wandered into the English language. Before confusion results, you should know that the two languages, Hindi and Urdu, are basically the same language, often known collectively as Hindustani. They differ in that the first is considered a Hindu language, and is written with Devanagri, as in the second word in the title, and the second a Muslim language, consequently written with the Arabic alphabet, as in the third word. All three words are pronounced "pundit," of course.

Wiktionary's etymology of the English word:

From Hindi पण्डित ‎(paṇḍit), from Sanskrit पण्डित ‎(paṇḍitáscholar, learned man, teacher, philosopher).

From "learned man," in the original, it of course has come to mean a public expert in something, usually politics. And the unique Greg Cochran, on his blog West Hunter [link], writes about them this way:

Public intellectuals, pundits, and all that

In principle, public intellectuals should have something interesting to say, ideally not just interesting because ridiculous or incredibly stupid. The ideal P.I. might have a special area of expertise and apply that to current events and questions, or whatever struck his fancy.. He might have a wide range of interests and make connections that others can’t see. He might be smart, or independent minded, or both. It would be nice if he had a decent predictive track record, better than a dart board. He should be stubborn enough to resist currently fashionable errors. 
As for ideology, that’s a poor substitute for understanding how things actually work. 
In my opinion, elegant prose isn’t very important. 
He probably does all this for $25 dollars a day and expenses, mostly gasoline and whiskey. That’s about all he’s going to get, because there’s not much demand for analysts, as opposed to cheerleaders. 
If most PIs are schlockmeisters, that’s because of popular demand. Bullshit walks.
I invite nominations: either a P.I. that is actually good-for-something (if you can find one), or give an amusingly damning quote for one of the vast majority of vile drones. 
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Ex-Army speaking again. Now you need to go to the original [link] and read the many comments on who the best pundits are. You'll find it fascinating. I found some of my favorites there, and maybe you will too. Or add them there, or here if you're more comfortable in a smaller group.
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Quibcag: Yep, my favorite science girl, Rika Shiguma of Haganai (はがない).

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