Just finished reading Something Fresh by P.G.Wodehouse. I thought I would take a break from looking at a lot of MOSFETs connected together in confusing ways and read something fun. It was an extremely rewarding experience. The subtle humor(the kind that you cannot get tired of), the variety of characters, a little bit of romance, drama and suspense, the kind that doesn’t tense you up(you know that everything will turn out just fine in a book by P.G. Wodehouse) together make you feel kind of warm inside.
Another book that I got to read recently was Winds of War by Herman Wouk. It tells the story of a few characters in the backdrop of the lead-up to WW II. It’s hard for a book about the World War to be NOT interesting. Even Wikipedia is pretty riveting. But, this book with it’s portrayal of various key scenes in the unfolding of the war from the perspective of ordinary people on the ground and the people in power, the insights into the various personalities that played a key role in it, the strategic and tactical moves, mistakes and triumphs that both sides made, the unique insights into the manner in which Hitler gained the suicidal devotion of a whole country of inherently nice people, the tasty tidbits about Roosevelt, Hitler, Stalin and Churchill, all of them held together beautifully by a coherent story involving some characters connected with the war… is definitely worth a read.
It’s hard to think of anything else once you start reading the book. I still sometimes dream that I am in Poland and the German Blitzkrieg has just started and I am going to be all brave and gallant and I have a beautiful girl for company…(it sounds a little far fetched when I write it, but the book sure does make it sound more plausible). Also, I really liked the description of life in diplomatic circles that the book contains.
Another point that I want to mention is, it in a way made me understand a little the war mongering mentality of some of America’s conservative leaders. Even during the run up to the US engagement in the World War there were severe anti-war protests in the US. There were people word-wide who urged for a peaceful solution. It took the attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbour to finally silence them. The people in the present government can say that had they listened to the communists and the anti-war protesters then, then Hitler would have taken over the world. It is sometimes true that peace especially the dogmatic, inflexible kind can be impractical. Even Nehru who was a pacifist had issues with Gandhi when it came to the question of supporting the war effort.
But, we should not look to the past to provide us with easy solutions when it comes to facing new threats. The continuing use of military strength by the US to enforce it’s writ over other people in the name of “freedom” and “democracy” should not escape questioning because it once rescued the world from great destruction.
Animal Farm by George Orwell was a book that I was planning to read for a long time. I finally did it and I loved it. After reading Winds of War which has quite a few pages devoted to Soviet Russia and the description of Stalin’s character the parallels and allusions become impossible to miss. The book stops where 1984 by the same author starts. It demonstrates how there cannot be a solution to the world’s problems that involve rigid dogma and unquestioning submission of the “individual” to any “higher” idea or entity. The idea of a utopia/heaven resulting from the unquestioning, unthinking loyalty and submission of people to a central authority is flawed. What that idea is exactly doesn’t matter as much as whether the individual has a sufficient degree of freedom to live as he sees fit. Whether the doctrine being enforced is religion or intellectual bull shit that hasn’t been convincingly demonstrated doesn’t really make a difference. If it is being enforced by a clique 0n the collective with little hope of reversing the change, then it is bad. It is even more so, when violence is involved.
Also, it emphasizes the need to take into consideration human nature and weaknesses along with strengths and design systems that are robust even when manned by weak people. We can sacrifice a little speed and efficiency and bear the difficulty of convincing the majority in return for greater immunity against tyranny and subjugation of sections of society.