Charles Baudelaire introduced the idea that no woman is so beautiful that her beauty would not be enhanced by cosmetics.
For much of the history of humanity, the wearing of cosmetics by women has been viewed, in the West at least, as something associated with harlots and stage performers (with those two professions once being considered almost equally disreputable). As an early nineteenth-century song once asserted, it is nature itself that “embellishes beauty,” so what need would a virtuous woman have for makeup?
The French poet and essayist Charles Baudelaire (1821- 67) was raised in this culture of “naturalized beauty” and never really questioned it in his early years. But then, in the 1860s, the man who coined the word “modernity” began to question what Romantic artists and writers referred to as the “supremacy of nature.” In his book, The Painter of Modern Life (1863), he turned his attention to the nature of beauty in the chapter titled “In Praise of Cosmetics.” Charles Baudelaire wrote in his “In Praise of Cosmetics” (1863,) “I am perfectly happy for those whose owlish gravity prevents them from seeking beauty in its most minute manifestations to laugh at these reflections of mine … .”
Baudelaire had always felt especially drawn to the opposite sex, and was conscious of how society’s notion of beauty was changing in an increasingly industrialized world. His essay on beauty was a little too whimsical to be taken absolutely seriously, but it was nonetheless a triumphant defense of the notion that makeup can make the beautiful even more beautiful. “External finery,” Baudelaire wrote, is “one of the signs of the primitive nobility of the human soul.” Every fash ion is “charming,” and every woman is bound by “a kind of duty” to appear magical, to astonish, and to charm her fellows. Accordingly, nature could now be imaginatively surpassed by applying black eyeliner, which “gives the eye a more decisive appearance,” and rouge, which “sets fire to the cheekbone.” Baudelaire’s emphasis on the beauty of artifice over nature marked a significant departure from the Romanticism of the first half of the century, reflecting the rise of decadence and Aestheticism, to many of whose practitioners he was a hero.
But Guha is cautious not to completely belittle India’s progress in the last 7 decades and is in fact very hopeful of India’s future. This comes across in most of his writings.
As for Guha’s reasons why India should not become a superpower his talk mentions something to that effect. He is suspicious of superpowers because the 20th century’s experience with political/economic superpowers (Britain, USA, Russia mainly) is by and large not a good one when you see the record of colonial and post-colonial 20th century. Africa and all parts of Asia were left in tatters and the effects are still unfolding especially in the Middle East and South Asia (Indo-Pakistan conflict/ Hindu-Muslim communal rivalry).
However is it possible to define a superpower differently? Can India become a superpower of a different kind? There is no answer to this question since the model does not exist for the 21st century of such a superpower (EU is a close alternative but EU is historically unique and cannot be replicated). But the model being pursued by India since the last 20 years or a little more does not lend itself to an interpretation that India, even if it became a superpower, will be different from China or USA. And hence my opinion would be in agreement with Guha that India is better off not being a superpower but taking care of its internal issues as best as possible. This does not mean that we cannot unleash Indian potential. The day we unleash Indian potential by and for Indians will actually be the day India might actually claim “superpower” status. (There you go! a new understanding of what it means to be a superpower!)
Over the last fifteen years, Japan has experienced a steady decrease in the number of people in the working age of 15 to 64. Experts estimate that by 2050, this working population may shrink to just 54 million from a high of as much as 87 million.
Simultaneously, Japan’s population is rapidly aging. A 2007 report by Japan’s government stated that Japan’s population dropped for the first time since the first census records from early 1900s. Overall, Japan’s population of 129 million is expected to decline to 100 million by 2050. An estimated 30% of Japanese are older than age 65 leaving a smaller workforce to sustain the ever-increasing needs of the country’s national pension system.
Compounding these problems is the fact that Japan has the lowest birthrate among developed countries — 1.34 children per woman. Fewer women get married and have children. In addition, employed women work long hours leaving little time to devote to childcare.
The Japanese government announced an elaborate plan to stimulate the birthrate, provide for better day care in hopes that it would increase the number of women in the Japanese workforce, and ultimately boost economic growth.