A much-maligned Mughal

Resultado de imagem para Prince Aurangzeb, 1653-1655, gouache with gold on paper. Image © Ashmolean Museum, University of OxfordPrince Aurangzeb, 1653-1655, gouache with gold on paper. Image © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

The great king Aurangzeb is among the most hated men in Indian history. A historian claims he’s been unjustly demonised

Audrey Truschke is assistant professor of South Asian history at Rutgers University, Newark. Her first book, Culture of Encounters: Sanskrit at the Mughal Court, was published by Columbia University Press in 2016. Her latest book is Aurangzeb: The Life and Legacy of India’s Most Controversial King ( Stanford University Press 2017). 

Aurangzeb Alamgir, the sixth ruler of the Mughal Empire, is the most hated king in Indian history. He ruled for nearly 50 years, from 1658 until 1707, the last great imperial power in India before British colonialism. According to many, he destroyed India politically, socially and culturally.

Aurangzeb’s list of alleged crimes is long and grave. He is charged with fighting protracted, pointless wars in central and southern India and thereby fatally weakening the Mughal state. He is envisioned as a cruel despot who brutally murdered enemies, including his own brothers. He is regarded as a cultural dolt, uninterested in the extraordinary arts of south Asia, even hostile to them.

Above all, many modern Indians see Aurangzeb as a brutal oppressor of Hindus. He was a pious Muslim, and it is widely believed that he spent his long reign, nearly half a century, rampaging against Hindus and Hinduism. The popular story goes that Aurangzeb tried to convert all Hindus to Islam, and when that project failed he supposedly slaughtered millions of Hindus. People claim that Aurangzeb systematically destroyed Hindu cultural institutions, levelling thousands of Hindu temples. Some have even said that the reason why north India lacks the tall, elaborate temples that one finds in south India is because Aurangzeb smashed them all to pieces.

In 2015, a successful petition to rename Aurangzeb Road in Delhi summarised this despised ruler as ‘one of the most tyrannical tormentor perpetrator of Intolerant Inhuman Barbaric crimes in India [sic]’. However, these views of Aurangzeb owe more to myth than reality. Worse, the modern attacks on Aurangzeb are themselves rooted in dark motives.

Over the centuries, many groups have found Aurangzeb a convenient villain, for reasons more to do with their agendas than with Aurangzeb’s reign. The British, for example, disseminated great calumnies against him, as well as against other premodern Indian Muslim kings, because a barbaric Aurangzeb made British colonial rule look civilised by comparison. The British fostered their portrayal of Aurangzeb as a cartoonish bigot with misleading scholarly work, including selective and sometimes blatantly wrong translations of Mughal histories designed to highlight Aurangzeb’s alleged loathing for Hindus.

British colonialism ended in India 70 years ago, but their misrepresentations of the Mughals and other Indo-Muslim rulers have had a long and poisonous afterlife. In India, many still cite biased colonial-era British translations of Mughal texts as evidence of supposed Muslim wrongdoings. At least some of this reliance on questionable scholarship and translations is relatively innocent, but not all of it. Several notable groups in independent India have found maligning Aurangzeb to be useful for other, more sinister purposes, especially attempts to discredit modern Indian Muslims.

Today, Hindu nationalist groups lead the charge in creating a popular image of ‘Aurangzeb the bigot’. For Hindu nationalists, Muslims are a threat to India’s alleged identity as a fundamentally Hindu nation. Through most of the 20th century, Hindu nationalism was not a mainstream view. Especially after a Hindu nationalist assassinated Mahatma Gandhi, India’s beloved independence leader, in 1948, many Indians recoiled from the idea that India was or should be a Hindu nation. Instead, they embraced a view of India as a secular state, and a pluralistic one with equal room for followers of all religions. But, in the past decade, Hindu nationalism has surged in popularity, and in 2014, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a Hindu Right-wing political party, swept to power. More recently, in March of 2017, the BJP dominated legislative elections in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state.

Despite its recent popularity, Hindu nationalism is an ideology with little, if any, grounding in Indian history. For most of its past, India was neither Hindu nor a nation, in the sense that Hindu nationalists typically use these terms. Mughal rule, a period in which a Muslim minority ruled over a Hindu majority in South Asia, embarrasses Hindu nationalists. If, as Hindu nationalists aver, India has long been a Hindu nation, why was it for a long time ruled by Muslims? Even more troubling to the claims of Hindu nationalism, why was Mughal India characterised by fruitful Hindu-Muslim relations in many areas, including state administration, literature, painting, music, and even religion and spirituality? Instead of admitting the complexity of the past, Hindu nationalists insist that religious oppression must have been the signature trait of Mughal rule. Aurangzeb’s reign in particular has become a focal point for this distortion…

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https://aeon.co/essays/the-great-aurangzeb-is-everybodys-least-favourite-mughal

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Noise Is a Drug and New York Is Full of Addicts

Neilson_BR-artworkILLUSTRATION BY RYAN PELTIER

We may complain about a defining feature of the city, but we also feed off it.

As soon as the door slams, I slide to the floor in a cross-legged position and hold my breath. The room in which I have just barricaded myself looks a bit like Matilda’s chokey; a single light bulb casts a sickly yellow glow about the room, its walls lined with triangle-shaped chunks of fiberglass straining against wire mesh. In 15 minutes I will leave this room for the cacophonous world of Manhattan. I should, theoretically, be appreciating this small respite for what it is. Even so, with every second, I feel as if I’m going deeper underwater.

I am sitting in an anechoic chamber, the only one in New York City. Nestled in the hip, angled building of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, the anechoic chamber is where acoustics students, headed by the aptly-named Melody Baglione, conduct research—it’s the equivalent of a zero-gravity chamber, only in this case, the variable is sound. The room is designed to be as noise-free as possible; its chunky walls completely absorb reflections of sound waves, and insulate the space within from all exterior sources of noise. While the chamber is not exactly silent, per se—at 20 decibels, the ambient noise level is quieter than a whisper, but twice as loud as a pin drop— it’s almost certainly the quietest space in New York.

And the silence, as they say, is deafening. Sitting in here, it’s as if someone has turned the volume up inside of my head. I helplessly observe my mind as thoughts careen across it, stop in the middle and, after a brief, flailing, Wile E. Coyote-esque interval, plummet into the abyss. Desperate for distraction, I check my phone, crack my knuckles, make tiny coughing sounds. Each tiny rupture of quiet attains such specialness, such texture, you can practically touch it. It takes tremendous effort to be silent: yet that’s what I’m here to be. In a futile, self-defeating moment, I try to force myself to un-tense. “Just relax!” I scold myself. I am in what you might call a state of withdrawal: and, like it must be when withdrawing from anything at first, sobriety is deeply uncomfortable.

Neilson_BR-chamber.
QUIET ZONE: Michael J. Pimpinella, who received his master’s degree in engineering at Cooper Union, conducts research in the school’s anechoic chamber. At 20 decibels, the chamber is likely the quietest place in New York City.Courtesy of the Cooper Union / Photo by Mario Morgado

What am I detoxing from? Noise. I live in the East Village, which is very noisy—illegally noisy. Last year, Jackie Le and Matthew Palmer, acoustics engineering students at Cooper Union, decided to investigate the noise levels of the area near their school for their senior project. Le and Palmer went to various apartments around this neighborhood and, using a decibel meter, calculated the average level of volume coming in through the open windows of multiple apartments, and compared them with “safe” levels defined by New York City’s recently-revised noise code. “In every instance, we found the noise coming into these people’s apartments was above code,” Le says.

If noise is a drug, then it’s a performance drug.

I can vouch for this. I’ve spent this whole year telling anyone who will listen that the hundreds of nights I’ve spent trying to fall asleep in my apartment constitute a Sisyphean Hell of endurance: the iterating, irritating garbage trucks, the construction that starts at promptly 6 a.m. and continues into evening. I make a lot of noise about the noise, and I’m not the only one. Noise is the single greatest quality-of-life complaint New Yorkers have (we lodged 18,000 phone complaints with the Department of Environmental Protection last July alone). We all love to hate the noise. And yet sitting in silence, I do not feel as if I’ve found an escape from pain: I have simply traded it for a new variety. Shockingly, I realize I want to trade back.

In this city of complainers, who could admit to loving something so easy to complain about? Lewis Black, a comedian, couches his praise of noise in a cynical one-liner, noting dryly, “The reason I live in New York City is because it’s the loudest city on the planet Earth. It’s so loud I never have to listen to any of the shit that’s going on in my own head.”

Black might be on to something. Noise can cause us distress and pain, but it can also help us think, perceive, remember, and be more creative. It turns out that it’s even necessary for our physiological and mental functioning. If it’s a drug, then it’s a performance drug. And New York is full of addicts.

Though it’s counterintuitive, numerous experiments have demonstrated that the addition of noise can actually improve signal detection. This phenomenon, known as stochastic resonance, was first developed to describe the periodic nature of glacial climate change, and is thought to occur across many nonlinear dynamic systems—including the human brain…

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http://nautil.us/issue/46/balance/noise-is-a-drug-and-new-york-is-full-of-addicts-rp

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Who Are All These Strange Women Trying to Friend Me on Facebook?

 Recently, the men on our staff have been inundated by Facebook friend requests from strange women with whom we share zero mutual friends.

Just in the past couple weeks alone, Chelsie Dugan, Aurelia Justina Oviedo, Elisabeth Voland, Abigail Dixon, Marian Sayre, Marina Protonotariou and Helen Savoie have expressed an interest in networking with us. And those are just the ones we can remember and who still have active Facebook accounts. Plenty more have come and gone before seemingly disappearing altogether.

It’s not just women, either. As a gay man, I’ve received a carousel of friend requests from smiling, chiseled Europeans like Francisco Bastida Pulido, reminiscent of the Belgian orphan who catfished me back in the mid-aughts.

Fool me once…

Admittedly, I have attempted to engage with a few of them — for journalistic purposes, of course. But alas, my messages have never received a response.

“Does anyone really fall for this?” I wondered aloud in the office last week.

“Absolutely,” replied my fellow staff writer John McDermott, laying out the logic:

Brain: You’re getting catfished, idiot!
Penis: She’s hot and French.
Me: Let’s give her a chance guys!

It’s obviously a scam, but to what end?

“People may try to create fake accounts for a variety of reasons,” a Facebook spokesman tells me. Said reasons can include: To spam or spread a virus; to market and advertise; to test friends behind their back; or to harass an ex. “But usually the goal is to make connections and then send spam links or try to pull off scams,” e.g., romance scams, lottery scams, loan scams, access token scams, etc.

The spokesperson says Facebook uses a range of automated systems to help detect and stop fake accounts, but they recommend not accepting suspicious requests — i.e., those from people you’re already friends with on Facebook; those from an attractive member of the opposite sex with whom you have no mutual friends; or those claiming to be “looking for love.” He adds that you should also be cautious of links, files and offers you receive unexpectedly — especially from people you don’t know.

The scam seems nebulous and minor-league — so much so that it’s tough to understand the endgame. That said, they probably warrant caution, so I reach out to Paul Roberts, who covers hacking and cyber threats as editor-in-chief of the cyber-security website The Security Ledger, to better understand what these alluring — yet clearly malevolent — Facebook friend requests are all about. Here’s what he told me:

They’re bots. Most people aren’t that beautiful, Roberts says, stating the obvious. The scam is basically to become friends with you to gain access to your friend network. The defense, of course, is to convince the brain to overrule the penis in John’s sample dialogue above.

“More sophisticated scams might have actually engaged with you and tried to cultivate your interest and get you to friend them. In security circles, we talk about ‘social engineering,’ which is basically online grifting. So a note with the friend request like: ‘Hey [YOUR NAME]! I’m a friend of [YOUR FRIEND’S NAME]. Just thought I’d connect with you on Facebook, too! LOL!’ That may not fool you, but it fools a lot of people and is low-hanging fruit for any scam.’”

Friend requests with no context but with ample cleavage or shredded abs suggest little premeditation, Roberts explains, and aren’t likely to work on anyone but the loneliest and most clueless targets. “This is basically Facebook spam — send it, forget it, and wait for some sucker to friend you back because ‘So pretty!!!’”

That said, nefarious forces could do a lot with an accepted friend request. Since friending them will give them access to your friend network, they can then target your friends, and so on. “Unless you’re scrupulous about setting up friend groups and sticking untrusted people in low-privilege ‘acquaintance ghettos’ where they have limited access to your profile,” says Roberts.

And who the fuck does that? Hardly anyone, which is why the scams exist in the first place. Also, Roberts explains, we tend to blindly trust our Facebook friends, which is an open door for them to slip you a malicious link that will take you off Facebook to some drive-by download site that can put bad stuff on your computer or phone: “This could be as simple as an innocuous Facebook message like ‘OMG! This is the funniest video, check it out!!!’ and then a link. It could be a clickbait post that you can’t investigate. You’ll only see it because they’re your ‘friend,’ and you’ll have forgotten that you don’t actually know this person, or how you (never) met. So Facebook becomes a platform for reaching people and scamming them. Who the hell reads email anymore, right? ‘Fish where the fish are,’ as the saying goes.”

The scam is intelligent enough to send me hot guys because I’m gay while sending my straight colleagues hot women. Facebook makes it easy to target users based on their interests and other various identifiers, Roberts explains. Anyone who’s hosted an ad on Facebook has seen this firsthand. “You can slice and dice their audience to an almost ridiculous degree,” Roberts says. I’m not sure how they ‘found’ you, but my guess is they have a few standard profiles set up with different photos and orientations, and they just click and repeat…

more…

https://melmagazine.com/who-are-all-these-strange-women-trying-to-friend-me-on-facebook-e5a5e07c07a8

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