Intimacy of killing” might sound incongruous, but that is what “killology” founder Lt.Col. Dave Grossman seeks to detail in his 1995 Pulitzer shortlisted book On Killing. It has since — particularly post 9/11 — become required reading at many military schools and law enforcement agencies in the U.S.
In its initial appearance, the book was primarily a detailed study of how armies the world over developed ways to make troops overcome the aversion to kill after it became evident that nearly 85 per cent of riflemen did not fire their weapon at an exposed enemy even to save their own lives or that of their comrades in World War II.
By the time of the Vietnam War, this “Johnny-can’t-kill” syndrome had been dealt with through psychological conditioning and the non-firing rate was reduced to five per cent but at a huge psychological cost; making Grossman assert that man by nature is not a killer despite the increase in violence in day-to-day existence.
And, that seems to be his main concern in this updated version of On Killingwhich includes suicide bombings, school killings and recent trends in crime. A recurrent theme in this book is the connection between violence projected in the media/celebrated in interactive video games and aggressive behaviour in children. In them, he sees a replication — minus the mandatory safeguards — of the conditioning used to enable soldiers and law-enforcement officers to kill.
In fact, Grossman’s submission is that the growing aggression in society due to violence-enabling in the electronic media poses a major threat to civilisation; second only to an attack with weapons of mass destruction by a terrorist group/nation. On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, Lt.Col. Dave Grossman, Little, Brown and Company, Rs. 595.
INDIA'S SHEET ANCHOR
The Making and Working of the Indian Constitution, Shibani Kinkar Chaube, National Book Trust, Rs. 70.
For Shibani Kinkar Chaube, the Indian Constitution is not just a body of law that the Indian people gave to themselves. “It is as much politics as it is positive law,” is the submission of the retired professor of Political Science in this National Book Trust (NBT) publication.
So, instead of going into the legalese, Chaube dwells on the politics that shaped the Indian Constitution while explaining some of its salient features, the amendments and the circumstances that dictated these changes, the aberrations, and some of the controversies.
Sticking strictly to the mandate he gave himself — to tell the story of the longest Constitution in the world — Chaube’s book makes for easy speed reading of a journey that began before 1947. As he maps the journey, Chaube draws parallels with other Constitutions, points out the borrowed features, and flags the trouble spots and the difficulties that the executive has had negotiating the diversities of the Indian nation despite the founding fathers’ attempts to anticipate such eventualities and address them through the Constitution.
Telangana: The State of Affairs, M. Bharath Bhushan and N. Venugopal, AdEd Value Ventures, Rs. 250.
Ever a festering issue in Andhra Pradesh, the Telangana question assumed national significance after a three-decade hiatus since the Jai Telangana Movement in the wake of the 2004 electoral alliance between the Congress and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi.
Sensing the widespread ignorance outside the State about the Telangana issue, M. Bharath Bhushan and N. Venugopal have sought to explain the rationale for the demand for separate Statehood in this collection of research articles on the region and literature from the area. Through these varied approaches, the attempt is to explain the reasons for the sense of alienation felt by the people of Telangana; traced in a 1969 vintage article by Duncan B. Forrester to the region being under Nizam’s rule for 200 years, cut away from the “rest of the Telugu country”.
Given that Telangana has become a major election issue in the State, the book examines whether polls foster separatism and uses government data to show how the region is lagging behind the coastal and Rayalaseema regions of Andhra Pradesh to make out a case for a separate identity. Also thrown in are two short stories in translation — the delightful “Golla Ramavva” by former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and “Bhoomi” by the doyen of Telugu short stories, Allam Rajayya.