Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Modern Indian Politician's rule book

Nowadays politics is a hard game but that doesn't mean everyone who gets in bypasses the merit test. When power's in play, the human is spurred to get their bite. And since it's full up and there's way more competition than just the top layer you see, there is an intermediate dynamic that has driven and taught people a few survival tactics. It's almost become like a call centre employee rule response guide that can sometimes be hilarious and true, at the same time. Note: we're saying nothing about how much sense they make or whether they should even be endorsed. Here are just some of the entries you'd find in there.

Foot-in-mouth: This is suggested when you need to a big presence but you don't have one. Just go for it. The limelight is far more important. Your intelligence may see some sunlight but that's alright. Don't let that bother you. Just go straight back into your hole after. The thumb rule is to get all the attention you need from a passing momentous opportunity. As far as your intelligence is concerned, don't worry about it. You may just feel a little dizzy but you'll go back to being your old stupid self in no time.

Out of context: Here's a trick that will save you from the trouble of pre-thinking and being generally aware. If in case you're caught red lipped, just say you were quoted out of context. To give your context, you can immediately say a number of things: the people I was speaking to understood it right, it makes sense when heard with all the points that I made or I was referring to the larger picture... anything that gets you off the hook. 

I need to pay toll?!: Use this one when you're an absolute nobody. Yes, I know you also pay taxes and use good highways where you find them but let's ignore that for a prosperous career in politics. If you don't happen to pass a toll booth (or just reroute so you do), create a scene there. I won't give you a "how" to do this because it's always better completely left to your own imagination. Just make sure you get on the news! In most cases, you will even if you forget to manage it beforehand. So don't let it bother you if you can't. Just break a few glass panes, thrash at least one computer and make one person bleed (the idea is not to have a massacre). Remember, you're just looking for really cheap, toll-free publicity. 

The slap: The classic one. This one doesn't need a setup. Two steps: get mad and fadak! Put some power onto the action. Try and get some fireworks without actual fireworks. Preferably do it to someone for a whimsical reason. Make sure she/he's a public servant. On a private professional, you need a bigger reason, but make sure your landing is as powerful. Don't over think any of it but. Just go with the opportunity. 

The clarification: One of the cheapest ways to repair the damage you've done with a statement that you made. Just say something that's more tangible. Be diplomatic and give people what they've been demanding to hear. Good examples of this are statements like I'm sorry if what I said actually hurt someone or I did not intend to offend anyone intentionally. If in doubt whether it's good enough, run it by your party unit head to check. But never make the mistake of taking back your statement. That undoes any progress you've made.

Let me really show you who I am: You don't need any introduction to this one! Throw your weight around as much as necessary, even if you don't actually have any pull. You'll get your support from the party local office.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

It's time to change the election conversation!

It's that time of the year again: election season. When a politician's worst fear comes alive, and they outdo themselves to prevent it from happening using many methods, sane and insane. Some of these include foot-in-mouth, out of context, talk to the hand, the clarification and many other such methods. There are so many there's a dedicated dictionary that has documented the old and the new ones we know of. Check it out here. 

But they aren't the only ones to blame. Everyone's also gets wagging, tongue or not, when they see the banners come out, roads decorated sans occasion and their politicians getting some sun. Now we all make hay when the sun shines, so let's talk about everyone else reveling the sun too. Let's keep the conversation balanced with truth. 

To start with, the news. This is one of those times when it's blooming season for them. Then there's the extra party party: everyone who isn't important enough to be a part of their favourite party. They do their selfless duty towards making India a better place according to them. Then, the people. All of these people get talking about motives, possible inside reasons, somebody's uncouthness and somebody else's far more respectable campaign. But we see a clear trail which has some things we should avoid. 

Party central politics

One widely engaged-in angle of discussion is a party's strategy and its benefit to itself in terms of winning most seats and coming to power. There is nothing wrong in the analysis but the focus is off why they're there: the people. Talking about their strategy with perspective of how it suits their coming to/remaining in power only normalises any selfish motives a party may have more. If we'd rather evaluate the benefits of the policies they promise to have that the country will benefit from, the conversation goes forward. By sticking with the incumbency circle talk, we only give the politicians' ego more power, along with a license for them to slyly bypass voter accountability. Saying, "Why would they if it doesn't suit their party interests?" is less empowering to the nation and its people (including you) than looking at what their idea of good governance and good policies are and calling out the gaps in their higher ideals. 


There are lesser benefits to a politician having a fan club than you can imagine. The politician's fan club phemenon is a product of populism. Defined right, it is not a good thing. The presence of it marks an non-thinking electrolate. A thinking voter knows that he doesn't vote for 50 And 100 day runs. He knows that he needs results that his taxes will be paying for. Thinking voters don't make political fans.

A non-thinking one is the political fan boy you see. He believes in saviors for himself, only other than himself. He deems himself worthy of his own political wisdom, only when his party or candidate is insulted. The rest of the times he's the loyal court jester. He doesn't count the costs. His is a very selfish inclination in the sense that it doesn't consider the larger picture. He sides with identity/personal identity politics that needs no reasons. He's high on the freedom to politik with respect received (and none given) but won't answer the critical questions that come. He doesn't make sense of his conviction but thinks he has a right to make any amount of noise about non-sense. When he tries, he follows pre-sold ideas and phrases and thrives on the arguments to support his favourite politician and party that are taught. 

His counterpart, on the other hand, doesn't feel the need to pick a side. He will when he's convinced. He'll as easily break with that side with equal conviction. If he can't find a side that's good enough, he'll also stay on the fence but also stay sensible and reasonable. 

Playing to win

It's only fair to expect someone to contest to intend to win. Assuming all intentions are good, representatives can't bring change and betterment if they don't win. So pulling all stops to make the dream real can't be wrong. What is out of place, though, is seeing winning as the goal, and not the by product of fighting for the right things. The difference is in your starting point and goal. When the goal is to win, the starting point is just about anywhere that takes them there: freebies, sops, concessions (as much as lockdowns and scrapping). The means justifies the end, and the poeple, issues and solutions have no place. There's no more respectable morality left to boast of, that makes it noteworthy. When it's the opposite, with the goal service and the starting point also service, you have a more sustainable combination. But then, who wants sustainability? We want power, strangely!

The oft asked question between candidates is who will win, and the obvious answer is themselves each. But why bother about it if we're worried about why anyone, or anyone else needs, ought to win. If we stay preoccupied about that, we can keep the winners conversation at minimum and reasonably conclude who should win. The more we bypass what makes one or the other winning worthy, the more we obsess about our own forward growth than who keeps the chair, keeping the main thing the main thing. 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

India and the wars her children wage

Nationhood is very much like parenthood with the disappointment, or happiness, of children choosing their own ways when they grow older. All of us have common historical identity. We all studied in the same schools, learnt the same history, had almost similar cultural influences... we're the same bunch. We practically grew up in the same, albeit, large house. Hers is the typical Indian family with a lot of children. Just like any children who grew up together, we made our adult choices of inclination towards one side. Our own situations compelled us to make our choices with clear conviction, however ridiculous, including the one to stay away from politics completely. 

Like any happy family that accepts its own siblings, despite differences, we ought to do exactly that. Whatever we stand for and fight for apart, we're still one big happy family. Slightly irritating, maybe, but nonetheless. When in a tight spot, we help each other out in brotherly & sisterly love. At home, there ought to be no bones broken or blood shed. At times, the elder ones do the controlling but we all have each other's back, no matter what. 

But then there's the thing of family honour. I'm not talking about the family honour that defines honour killings. There's precisely zero honour in that. I'm talking about when you disrespect your own, especially the one that you grew up with. It doesn't mean you should accept it. It just means that you shouldn't disrespect it. You don't trash what was undeniably home, unless it wasn't made home for you at all. If you do, you don't get murdered. You just get ousted and disowned. You'd still have mother's, brother's and sister's love. They'd still secretly leave food out for you. But they will stop if you still attack them from the outside. They may even retaliate proactively and attack in defense. 

This is the setting of fair game that politics ought to be. Our political choices or non-choices are always primarily personal. They have a personal backstory that comes with a lot of attachment, which is our primary decision-driving factor with them. Our choices don't make us traitors as long as we make our choices from the same identity base: we're all from this land that we know as home, and we have different ideas of how things should be. Our views should be allowed basis the fact that this is our home. 

Democracy gives us that space: to dissent as a right if we choose to practice it. What's possible and pragmatic from our views is a different discussion. We have power to change things in democratic process, through voting, expression and active participation. We shouldn't be disallowed that, if our ideas differ, unless we're causing collateral damage. The laxman rekha starts where you are against the idea of India itself, its healthy history (and evolution), and want it to be anything but that. It doesn't start from when you are anti-successive governments for their people oppression or when you don't hold the view that we have the best soil in the world (and therefore a superior everything). 

Lately though, politics has become the worst ever replacement for humanity as a standard. It has embraced that very best soil argument. It defines you like being a Planet Earth human used to. The soil you're from makes you less worthy and more deserving of the right to exist even. What you wish and fight for later can make you even more undeserving. You can think otherwise and be damned to oblivion. 

To her obedient children (turned parents), India isn't the progressive parent that believes its children can be different and have the freedom to choose their own path. The obedient sons don't know how to think beyond how they've been brought up and won't allow "dishonour" from the ones with more free minds who are capable of thinking beyond, even if for the better. What recognising and understanding what's beyond your identity makes you aware and enlightened. It also shows you better ways to be. Your history needn't always be right.

We've gone into the politics of right and wrong, where you can only be right or be damned. It's a case of being right or being condemned for being left (because you're not right). What should be essentially an attempt to order the world into a happy, prosperous place where identity is intact becomes a power craze where none of those factors are even considered. The point becomes to win. Identity that was always a non-negotiable trumps administration. Emotion trumps common sense. Passion trumps a sustainable form of society. None of them at wrong. They're all just stemmed in a false sense of insecurity that some people will lose their identity if they don't keep it. Instead of keeping it, we're fighting for and bullying people with it because, you know, we are, and have, the best. The absolute best. Nothing else deserves any credit, right of existence be or thriving. Even if you're not Indian, or not taking about India, or even if you're an alien from Mars.

Some of her children though have taken an easier route: apathy. Understandable, but it doesn't help. They couldn't be more wrong. While it's easier to be ignorant, every sworn apolitical's set of privileges are defined, permitted and allowed directly by the very politics they shun and avoid. An apathetic stance is as detrimental to a country as is an overzealous one. If you want to ensure your freedoms and rights, you've got to at least think while you vote and check and ensure the citizen privileges you're granted.

That being said, all political views are always personal. You always have more than logical reasons to stand by your choice. It has to do with how you grew up and the variety that you have seen. There isn't a supposed-to-be about it; no right, no wrong, just who it hurts, benefits and whether it actually helps. It's always people, and not politics. Politics should be helpful by product.

We will only realise this if we care to look beyond our views into what we actually believe. We usually stick with those views because that's our primary identity, and we know that primary identity always trumps common sense in practice (at least for most of us). Despite differences, we should be able to stick to our views and not hurt each other. When it's about people, everyone gets their space. 

So there's no need to fight at all. Hopefully, this big fat, Indian family stays one, and sense prevails.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The sad tale of John and Sarah: The eulogy


We are gathered here to pay tribute to this sad tale of John & Sarah. Seasons come and go, but this stubborn tale refuses to evolve. Winds can blow, to and fro, but this tale just shall not prevail (or so Sarah says). Life is people, and people are stubborn. When we don’t have a choice, we blame life and get on with it. Eventually, people or at least somebody, bears the brunt of it. Who gets that privilege is your best guess.

So here is a final goodbye note to Sarah from John.

Dear Sarah,

 It was fun. Thanks, but you have decided that I’ll never do right by you. The only way I will, ever, is to be left hanging... waiting... till you go back into oblivion again. So, I’ll sing you some from a Dylan song and “leave” (as you often suggest I should do even if I don’t do or say something annoying):

Still I wish there was somethin’ you would do or say
To try and make me change my mind and stay
We never did too much talkin’ anyway
So don’t think twice, it’s all right

It ain’t no use in callin’ out my name, gal
I can’t hear you anymore
I’m a-thinkin’ and a-wond’rin’ all the way down the road
I once loved a woman, a child I’m told
I give her my heart but she wanted my soul
But don’t think twice, it’s all right

I ain’t sayin’ you treated me unkind
You could have done better but I don’t mind
You just kinda wasted my precious time
But don’t think twice, it’s all right   

I’m sure you’ll never to get to see this eulogy. So, like the silence I’ve lived with so long, I’ll just speak straight into it... and leave... first. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A societal black hole, and our consistent attempt to defy it

This post comes from reading about Frank Abagnale Jr., the real life story of whom has been portrayed in the movie Catch Me If You Can. He actually did all that Leornardo Di Caprio did in the movie, and more! In a recent interview with him, he was quoted saying:

I am a true believer that one of the biggest problems for crime in America today is lack of ethics and character.  True, we do not teach ethics at home. We don’t teach it in school because the teacher would be accused of teaching morality.

...and I agree with that. Ethics is taught, not got. Morals, on the other hand, are got. The fine line between something being taught and got is consistency. Every society in the world that survives peacefully and respectably, most importantly to its own members, thrives on balance and balance leads to consistency. We need balance and consistency. Yes, both.

Consistency implies linearity in values and functioning. Balance implies growing from that linearity into newer territory which may deviate from that but which expands that to the new, more accommodating linear nature of society. For example, if society endorsed that pointy shoes were the shoes to be worn in public, and all agreed, that's what we would be taught by and brought up with. We would consider it highly unfashionable to wear anything but pointy shoes to a formal occasion and the person who did would be booed/looked down upon or expelled. That's linearity (or consistency).

Now, times move forward and people bring along vans as acceptable wear. So people start booing while being countered with the logic of moving forward in the world. Soon enough, vans will be accepted as acceptable footwear too, and people with vans and pointy shoes are not booed, perhaps over a much longer time but nonetheless. That's balance.

While society leans well on consistency, it provides adequate and reasonable room for tolerance in balance. That's an openminded, reasonable society. But don't be mistaken, society had to be led. When a child is brought up, he/she is brought up in a particular way, some particular way. Children can't be brought up in no way. Instructions can't be empty and unintentional, even if they're just passed on culturally. And when we don't think about the instructions we impart, we teach what was always taught and cycle of meaninglessness in society goes on and on and on.

Each of the things we teach them, meaninglessly, just like how it could have been taught to us, become the basis of how we percieve, act and behave. And, collectively, that contributes to the stupidity of society which we'll never realise because we become (and are) that exact stupidity and stupidity cannot recognise itself. Duh! So if you want to not get to that stage, think before you become it. Once you've crossed that line, you can never turn back to being the unstupid people that society will need at all points in time.    

This is where the right ethics comes in. It was either always taught, or never taught. People who were taught know them. People who weren't don't. So the ones who steal and crime don't consider it to be wrong simply because they were never taught that it was wrong, and it's way too late now. It's the opposite case with those who were taught that it is. And that's what Frank Abegnale Jr's right about.

But go one step back, and you'll realise that if you ever have the ethics problem that you don't realise, you didn't have parents who questioned what they lived and therefore what they taught you. They never considered life a (positive) contributive force that evolves into greater society goodness that advances how we live together as a society. That's exactly why you do what you do, and speak of wrong, right, bad and good the way you specifically do. 

They just lived, and never wondered to ask why, except wonder how someone can ask them how they could just simply do that. Doing that creates habitual but meaningless ways and values of living that defies the fact that a societal black hole cannot exist, by logic, whether good or bad. When we do that, we ignore the inherent meaning in the meaninglessness. Habits that are loaded with values that build people and society are treated like the fancy toilet paper that ends up being used because there's so much extra, and there's only that (and nothing else). Like we're so used to it, we don't even see the irony. Like we never will.

That's why Frank Abagnale Jr. is right. We've go to think about 1) how we live 2) the world we live in (minus the obvious unquestioned comfort about how things have been how they will be) 3) how we bring up our children (and the next generation).

Thoughts on that, anyone? Let's start with 1) first.

Monday, December 28, 2015

We have no rights (The Consumer Rights Extension)

Coming from We have no rights...

In this age of rising consumerism, there is a strange sense of what's due to usin the services these Pvt. Ltds. provide, from their very stated purpose and motive to exist and thrive to the freedoms and sops that are freely expected so that a favourable economic system is available for their growth (of course, not forgetting our benefit as well *sly wink*).

A capitalistic society considers the rise of industry the foundation of its prosperity, but a more objective look will show you that we are creating a monster that we are breeding our complete dependence on. It will become its own and will control us. It's like a stilt house on a river that's poorly built but which we yet insist on additionally supporting because of the convenient, mostly blind short-term attention span that we exercise with things like success, aspiration, achievement and glory.

Most obsessions over these concepts are by people who haven't been imbibed with better, primary inner-soul filling obsessions when they were growing up. They didn't have enough self-interests to follow so the empty space was sold to the next thing that would make them bakrasand who wouldn't want to make shitloads of cash and maybe become a billionaire. Counting the cost can go to hell. Who wastes time with things like that anyway? All that you burn and the bridges you destroy will never match upto the grandeur you create. What's this life for anyway? Certainly not to keep memories intact, however beautiful they may be. We have to advance on in victory. If we don't destroy and kill, we will never recreate and cross barriers. 

While such romanticism can engage a bored mind that any high-ended education system leaves you with, it will go nowhere. We'll be right back to where we started, maybe even at a point before tyhat point. We'd realise that the only reason we champion this gaint capitalistic effort: because we know no better because we've been taught to know no better by people who have been taught to know no better. I wonder when greed will surface with a face eventually. It gives a sense of entitlement of what is "expected", because you gotta keep with the flow, bro, or lose out big time—lose the attention of people who had no attention in the first place and have it (the attention of ones who you are in "threat" of losing) on sale for the next slimy offer.

This brings up the question of why this is such an important thing in the first place. A captalist culture is one-sided (sorry, competitive). You're forced to change to the best player(s) side, or die, just that you can't die and you're forced to change. What it does is take the pre-sanctity of a life which we're supposed to ensure without a price on it and jack up that price to make it cost a million lifetimes at least. Happy times, a daily meal, a roof on your head, daily humanity, compassion and such are things that we never had a price (even a hidden one) for us to put a price on them in the first place. The competition we're forced to live in compels us to make the easier, more expensive gamble to offer them up to the market so that they remain accessible at a more expensive price than when they had no price on it! Like how fresh extracted juice with no additives costs more than fruit juice with additives. Or organic food is more expensive that inorganic food.

Apparently, we need the competition because it helps us do better. But when did games become real life and real life games? At school when we had sports days, we competed our hearts out. When all the fun was over, all the children (champions, cheerers and non-winners) were equal in front of the teacher for something as inconspicuous as marks.The latter is the important goal; the former is an add-on perk. We need to be running after development with profit as a mode of operation, not the opposite. Any development we need that badly will easily be on the upcoming horizon, and pretty much a regular, normal thing—not something we have to out-of-the-box strategise about like how we play games. Any extra responses to growth that is by any means slow (once you define what external factors you need to "keep up" with) will be something that we respond to because we still remain people who use our brains, hands, legs and feet on the go (because we didn't sell their use away as well for the comfortable lifestyle we're not offered a choice out of).  

What's left to be seen is how the people who swear by above described logic design their life when they have all the money but no more resources, cultural beliefs or people's lives to squeeze. All hail (crony) capitalism!  

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Activism Crunch

Honest confession: I'm a green-lover and a poacher/hunter hater. What does that have to do with anything? Everything, given how these things have come to a common point these days. If many critics have their way, the clearer answer to that is slacktivism, or arm chair activism. A bunch of people who don't share these views and some who don't care for energy being spent on them who think we should spend our time "actually doing 'something' about them".

There's so much irony and ignorance in that statement that if it was packed in a grenade and placed at the centre of the earth, the planet would explode with pieces going to the far expanses of a galaxy beyond, and we'd learn so much more than just poking from light years away at them with telescopes, satellites and what not. Hopefully this post will explain why.

News recently has been inundated with outrage over Cecil the lion. Prior to this, for a considerable amount of time, I was subjected to questions that asked me what I was "doing" about the green myself instead of just making a noise about it going away. See. Here's the thing. I wouldn't have to scream and shout and wave my activism all about if the people who I was raising my voice against the actions of didn't do them in the first place.

I'm reminded of a conversation another person of similar mind. Whether it's the forests of Mahan, my own church campus which was wantonly destroyed end-to-end, Lavasa or Cecil (the list is long), the people who wreck the destruction are the people to whom the beauty didn't belong in the first place. As much as a multi-billion corporate honcho wants to take away someone else's forest land for development, he wouldn't dare give up his own for any cause that he'd tag with equal nobility. If his home (and his own) is as precious as a home should be, he would fight for it tooth and nail. He wouldn't need to either with his billions and the pull that they cause. God forbid he stops churning it lest all us poor people lose out on their trickle down effect and wreck us all. He is God and when God speaks we all shut up.

All these homely values go down the drain the moment he has destroy forest land or convert well, balanced urban space into "development" fodder. What he has is the Itchy Hands Effect.It's when you have nothing to and your hands itch and you just gotta, you know? It is caused by the Empty Brain Phenomena. That's when stuff is heaped into our brain that as useless and leaving it empty. Heave a whole bunch of thanks of our inane education system and societal values. Combine that with itchy hands and you've got a recipe for destruction. You may as well hold a grenade in your hands and play with the pin, or carve it for fun, because you're such a dimwit about how grenades work. Basically, wrong person, wrong hands, wrong timing... wrong everything. As Bob Dylan would put it, "there ought to be a law against you coming around."

But, sadly, these mismatches of hands, people and resources  happen way, way, way, way, way too often for any activism to be overrated or underplayed. In fact, that's why we need activism in all kinds—armchair, placard, online, tailing... you name it. The wrong people keep on handling the wrong things oblivious of the Itchy Hands Effect and they ask the right people what they've "done about it" apart from preaching their values down other people's throat. Why would over-dependent industries (and hunting maniacs) cripple entire ecosystems and then say that activism is "lazy". It wouldn't need to exist in the first place without their dimwittedness and their perceived right to touch and "transform" everything they see. They need to go and get their Itchy Hands Effect checked and corrected. Once done, their hands won't be itchy and they won't spurn anything that deserves activism. But, the problem lies deeper. It's a mind problem. Remember the Empty Brain Phenomena? Because of it, they will never, ever get around to understanding this because, well, their brains are empty and they have been fed with too much ego to admit that and quit. They justify it with even more mismatching and mandhandling with empty brain logic so that the precious little nothing in their heads stand is not off-balanced.  
The right people, in these cases, are arguing the opposite—just leave it alone. There's nothing anyone needs to "do" about anything. Corporates, activists, everyone. Even if the activists do whatever it is they're supposed to do about it, that's what they'd do—leave it alone!