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Showing posts from June, 2011

Telling India

'Nobody loves India like the Indian who does not live here anymore. When they were in India, they just had to emerge from their house, go onto the road, and the whole nation would assemble itself into an unambiguous pyramid of social hierarchy with them somewhere at the top. Respect came with the lottery of birth.

But in the First World, it is not so easy. This, and the natural love for home, make the expatriate so patriotic that he or she finds it hard to tolerate the often embarrassing portrayal of the nation, especially in the news media outside the country...

It is not as if Indians have not had good reasons to puff their chests in recent times. But, sometimes what makes a country proud is actually a poignant indicator of how far behind it lags. For instance, when a country’s tennis doubles players are national celebrities, as they are in India, you know that there is something wrong with its general sport talent...

India’s status as a software giant has long been a happy story. …

Judge, lest ye be judged!

Parenting has much to do with making judgements. Take Jaden for example. His mild reluctance to go to school requires me to make a judgement as to why. And I have to get it right because the remedy that follows will be based on that judgement. Now why are parenting judgements difficult? Surely the answer may differ from parent to parent, but one thing I can tell you that will find universal acceptance is, there's much at stake!

Now I am not sure if Indian schools are run with much wisdom. Frankly I can't do anything about it even if I feel otherwise. So what I need to do is to get my judgment call right so Jaden goes to school, and doesn't hate having to do so. What makes this even more difficult is that at four and a half, Jaden isn't at his articulative best. Of course, I know it won't be any better when he's older for then it won't be as much about what he's saying as what he isn't. Anyway when Jaden's asked why, he says he doesn't want to…

'You will be responsible'

'Regardless of what you choose to do with your new degree, your new skills, you will be responsible.

If you have an iPod like mine, or a cellphone, or a Wii, you are connected to the 14-year-olds I have met who are enslaved by rebel groups in the Congo and who dig for coltan, the mineral that is the essential ingredient in our gadgets.

If you have a Gap T-shirt like I do, then you are connected to the Bangladeshi women who stitched it for five bucks a day, and who cannot develop their textile sector into better-paying jobs because of our trade restrictions.

If, like me, you are a Canadian citizen, you are connected to the children in Swaziland who cannot go to school today, who will never have the moment you are having today, because Canada, as a voting, policy-setting member of the World Bank, forces the Swazi government to charge school fees for their primary schools — even though ours are free.

And if, like me, you enjoy the occasional Starbucks latte, you are connected to the wome…

Merlin for the Magic Man

There's something lovely about magic. Having a trick unfold and turning spellbound is so much fun. What the mind can't comprehend surely can confuse as well as delight. Magic is what takes the unexplainable into delightful territory. One that's pure entertainment.

Magic is what Muthukad does with aplomb. And now he's been rewarded for all he's done with magic by being conferred with the Merlin Prize by the International Magicians Society (IMS) in New York. What makes Muthukad even more deserved is that he's used magic to impact society for the better.

Way to go, Magic Man!

Building Babel

'Throughout history, model after model of the "perfect society" has been proposed. All of these perfect societies suffer from the same flaw, they cannot, even feebly, compensate for the differences that pervade humanity. Every attempt suffers in inequity to some degree and subjection to another. The values of society determining the extent to which they will tolerate either. The folly in the modern world exists mainly on one side of the scales. Those who value freedom and individuality, except for a bare few, understand deeply the inherent limitations of man, and, what role the coercive will of the collective as it manifests as man's law must play in molding a society. We are each cannot be free to do as we please, and we must, to some degree, give over some of the fruits of our labor to the common good. Atheist and Believer see clearly the role of law even in a society that deeply respects the unique nature and will of every human.

The other side of the scale, those …

Why order, or lack of it becomes norm

Roads in Bangalore have lane markings. Yet its almost as if drivers are blind to them painted on the road. The need to stay within lanes is never felt despite the markings. The concept of lanes exists to bring order to roads. Such order can't happen unless there is an element of enforcement. A certain period of enforcement may condition one to order, after which 'blind compliance' may become the norm.

In India when it comes to what's the norm on roads, its the exact opposite that happens. No enforcements results in near zero compliance. Therefore what follows soon is conditioned 'blind non-compliance'. Extend such scenes to consumption too. This is why there is and isn't order in consumption situations too. The initial order to checkout-billing may require the 'hand of guidance' at a retail store. Someone ushers people into queues. But once that guidance hits home, queuing up at check out becomes the 'blind' norm.

Lane order on Indian roads is…

The myth of Regulation ensuring Quality

KST's question is one that echoes what most people have come to believe. That unregulated supply into a market would translate into a drop in quality. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Before I reason why, let me point to another fallacy.

Many, including the accomplished Mr. Sreedharan (of Delhi Metro fame) seem to think the glory years in India were the yesteryears. That in the past, regulated supply in education ensured we produced the finest engineers and managers. Really? If the yesteryears with a handful of government engineering and management colleges did produce fine quality graduates, how come you and I as consumers lived with the most pathetic goods and services ever produced? Remember those times when nothing worked. The cars rattled till your bones were rearranged, the scooters needed all kinds of nudges and pushes so they would spurt to feeble life, the roads travelled on turned into flowing gutters at the first rain...., the list was endless. Remember? How come t…

Who we all are

'Here is who we all are, more or less: We are, each one of us, the sum of many conflicting truths. In our most secret souls, we know--although we'd rather not--that certain of our personal truths might well be seen as dark and shameful truths. When a man falls, without exception, it is only these dark truths that emerge and resonate and expand, eclipsing all other truths that should matter as well but no longer do. We feast on the disgrace of the fallen, feel better about ourselves while doing so, and then await the next fallen one to turn up so as to feast once more. It is, alas, the blood sport of human nature.'

- Bill Zehme, 'The Confessions of Bob Greene'.

Clowning around is/isn't funny

Clowns are fun in the ring. Outside, there are as many clowns. Even at workplaces. The response to people who do the clown act at work is twofold. Most are amused, especially if they aren't at the receiving end, others detest the joker in their pack.

Clowning around if not a career choice, is about escapism. Its about enjoying fleeting moments of wild revelry that go up in smoke once real life take over. Joining in is just about the same. Detesting it and berating the clown may not mean you're uptight, only that reality doesn't afford you any escape.

As people we seek the 'escape'. At, and outside work. That's why we turn consumers and see movies, go bowling, or do the bungee. Of course there'll be ones that don't, and even if they do it'll probably be an art movie that plays on screen the misery they live.

Funny.

What's your story?

The lies we tell are so we can preserve our selves. The stories we feed are so we can live an image. Brands too tell stories. If they resonate, chances are we'll connect and then buy.

Conversely, look at the brand you sport and you'll spot the story you're trying to tell. The man you're trying to be.

Regulation is why cutoffs go up

The stupidity surrounding cutoff marks is unbelievable! The solution being offered? Lower the cutoff marks. Change the grading system. Unbelievable again!

The solution to the kind of dumb clamour to get into certain colleges is to ask the colleges to lower their so called 'standards'? But then again, I am not surprised. What do you expect in a country where regulation rules? Where regulation ensures there's artificial scarcity? In this case scarcity of college seats. Of course the fallout to regulation is abnormal demand that drives up whatever it is the seller is offering. In this case the driven up entity is cutoff marks.

The real answer to such absurdity is to increase supply. Increasing supply in turn requires that regulation be throttled. Which of course isn't forthcoming as we know crony capitalism (read socialism) is what thrives here. If any country wants consumers to be kings it requires that as many sellers are brought into market to compete, and peddle their w…

The 'Legitimate' Crowd

What legitimises an act for an individual is if its part of social behaviour. For example, a child who finds it normal to beat another may have either experienced or witnessed violence in the family. And such violence may have been used so often that it may seem as if its use is legitimate. Many of India's institutional problems arise from practices having survived generations only because there's crowd (read social) legitimacy backing up.

Social Behaviour by default means its general behaviour. Meaning the majority engage in it. The interesting point to note in such settings is what happens to fence-sitters who aren't quite sure of how they must behave. What the undecideds generally tend to do is follow majority (general) behaviour. A 'general' public engaging in certain behaviour paves way, and provides direction to those who are trying to make up their mind. In fact it will indeed be rare occurrence if the undecideds go against what is general behaviour. Remember…

Inking Love

It was Angelina who took blood and ink to the level of psycho-art. Since then there have been too many wannabes trying to take the ink route to 'artistic infamy'. Sadly none have registered any appeal or recall. The latest has been another actress who's tattooed her boyfriend's name on to her hide.

Three reasons why they do it. One, delirious love loosens the left brain's grip. The right takes over. Sure hormones play a part and so emotions run wild. Two, its only natural that we show off stuff. The Gucci beside, and the tattoo on the hide are all symptomatic of our desire to 'display' to the rest of the world. Three, its the 'theory of leisure class' at play. To the actress, the inking of her love is in fact the display of a trophy she has, that other's can't. The guy in question in this particular case isn't local, he's an foreign, and therefore exotic. How many of her peers, mere mortals, can tattoo a 'Raphael'?

Conspicous c…

Marxist Morality

'Now, I have the word "capitalism" in quotation marks because it was originated by a communist, and we shouldn't allow enemies of the good to define the vocabulary of the debate. I prefer to call the mostly free market in question a "natural economy," as it is what naturally occurs when people are afforded economic freedom; they will buy, produce, sell and compete. In contrast, communism (in the real world, not in the stateless utopia of textbook fantasies) requires a large, intrusive, freedom-squelching government to micromanage people's endeavors and quash the yearnings of man's spirit. And because the Natural Economy does allow people the most freedom practical (we still must have courts to enforce contracts, for instance), it is infinitely morally superior to Marxism.

Having said this, the Natural Economy doesn't have "moral ethics"; it just is. It is, again, what naturally occurs when man is permitted to spread his wings. And it wi…

Liberal Morality

'At some point, I expect liberal women to have suffered enough public degradation, enough personal heartache and enough wising up, to finally be willing to face reality. The reality is that "sexual liberation" has always been a social construct without a shred of scientific or rational, much less moral, validity...

Morally, it would take a complete idiot not to know by now that societally-imposed monogamy produces true liberation from humankind's constant quest for sexual satisfaction, thereby freeing men and women for building civilization -- those higher forms of achievement, such as architecture, art, philosophy, medicine, compiling knowledge, and so forth. Those pesky morality rules actually do spring from reason, whether one had the advantage of getting that reason at an early age from the Bible, or from trial and error in the adult world. Anyone past the age of 12 understands that civilizations don't just happen while all the humans are out chasing tail, but…

Ruinous 'Care'

'Medicare deserves to be destroyed, and destroying it would be better for current and future generations, young and old. So why not make that case? Other than a committed socialist ideologue, no one in his right mind would vote to implement Medicare today — not if we were on a clean slate and knew what we know now about its ruinous operation. Ryan’s essential point is that health care is increasingly expensive because it is not permitted to function as a regular market commodity — one with sentient consumers shopping carefully, spurring competition, driving down prices, and encouraging innovation. That kind of market can never happen with the government as a central player. And we can provide some sensible measure of assistance to the truly needy without giving everyone an unsustainable “entitlement” that will destroy the economy.

Medicare is a scam. The people who designed and perpetuated it would be serving more jail time than Bernie Madoff if they pulled a fraud like it in the p…

The lesson Baba needs

What Baba Ramdev needs in these desperate times is a communication agency that can patch up his dented image. His 'in-disguise' escape video sure will only sully his image further. I can't think there'll be anyone who won't crack up seeing the video.

Think about it. A Yoga guru who was talking himself into Gandhian mould taking flight in women's clothing! The lessons Baba needs pronto panders totally into Marketing territory. Baba needs to know products can't sell on their own. If its a first buy, its always an image buy based on perceptions. Yoga can sell only so much. Only to so many people. Beyond that, its an image game. Building mass appeal is a far cry from doing body-calisthenics on stage. It calls for smart positioning and communication. On those counts Baba is going down, and fast.

The best route out for the moment is to stop talking and start building. An image via acts that connect with people at large. Fasting may not be the best of ideas. Running…

When questions are statements

Its isn't surprising there are many who ask questions not intending to know anything. What they are actually doing is making statements. About themselves, in the guise of questions. Their questions though directed at someone, aren't intended for that person at all. Instead their questions are their illustrations of their selves.

Why is this done? The answer lies many a times in our desire for esteem. And we believe that esteem will come only if people know who we are, and how important we are. Putting that out in the open can happen via the questioning route. Like I said, the questions are more to tell than to ask.

As consumers we are always making statements. About ourselves. Some of them emerge out of a need to exhibit our identity so we can draw to us, people who are similar. At other times our statements are about our status, so we can tell the world how important we are, or how suave and sophisticated we are.

The kid wearing cutoffs is pronouncing rebellion. The guy with the…

Your Love Is My Drug

2011 Index of Economic Freedom

RankCountryOverallChange1Hong Kong89.70.02Singapore87.21.13Australia82.5-0.14New Zealand82.30.25Switzerland81.90.86Canada80.80.47Ireland78.7-2.68Denmark78.60.79United States77.8-0.210Bahrain77.71.4
See the complete list here.

What is economic freedom?Economic freedom is the fundamental right of every human to control his or her own labor and property. In an economically free society, individuals are free to work, produce, consume, and invest in any way they please, with that freedom both protected by the state and unconstrained by the state. In economically free societies, governments allow labor, capital and goods to move freely, and refrain from coercion or constraint of liberty beyond the extent necessary to protect and maintain liberty itself.

Maintaining Democracy

'If we wish to maintain democracy not merely in form, but also in fact, what must we do? The first thing in my judgement we must do is to hold fast to constitutional methods of achieving our social and economic objectives. It means we must abandon the bloody methods of revolution. It means that we must abandon the method of civil disobedience, non-cooperation and satyagraha. When there was no way left for constitutional methods for achieving economic and social objectives, there was a great deal of justification for unconstitutional methods. But where constitutional methods are open, there can be no justification for these unconstitutional methods. These methods are nothing but the Grammar of Anarchy and the sooner they are abandoned, the better for us.

The second thing we must do is to observe the caution which John Stuart Mill has given to all who are interested in the maintenance of democracy, namely, not “to lay their liberties at the feet of even a great man, or to trust him w…

Yoga can't save us, democracy and free markets can.

What's frightening about the Ramdev movement is its subversion of the constitutional process in putting forward a 'diktat' under the guise of popular demand, through an act that can only be seen as blackmail. What's laughable are the propositions he advocates, that the World Health Organisation (WHO) is an American big pharma "conspiracy", that his exercises can cure HIV, that capital punishment must be handed down to the corrupt, and that yoga can "rescue" India.

India is a constitutional democracy. Which means there's a due process and an institutional way to doing things. A democracy works by the power of the ballot. Propositions that must turn into law must come via that democratic constitutional process. This what ensures fairness and a guarantee that the law being enacted comes via ballot driven wishes of a state's citizenry. Laws must never be the outcome of what is positioned as 'popular' demand, and 3 day fasts.

I've said …