26 August, 2011

Confessions of an Economic Hitman

Reading this autobiographical, tell-all book by John Perkins seemed surreal.
I am not someone who is very naive about manipulations; I would at least be able to discern between genuine attempts of foreign support, with those of attempts towards hegemonic domination, better than a lot many of us who are blinded and fooled by the corporate media.
But, this detailed reporting from an insider sends shivers down my spine.

A "superpower", pushing beyond the realms of being anything but ethical in order to dominate countries under its vindicative goverment, run by selfish, greed mongers in the background is hard to believe. The USA with its ancient Manifest Destiny and other crap, now has accomplished an indomitable position, where it has the say about anything and everything about every country.

While even countries like India (ironically the largest democracy in the world) is far from being soveriegn, as revealed in the recent WikiLeaks cables, where a cabinet reshuffle in Indian Ministers portfolio was instigated by the lobbyisits of US. When such is the case with the largest democracy, other countries in the middle east, African continent and Latin America, except for a 'few nations' are all entangled in this web unleashed by the aspirations of one country in its distopian dreams of a global empire with a "free" world market, based on exploitation of the majority for the benefits of a small minority, increasing the disparity ruthlessly at a global scale, including amongst its own people.

Instiutions such as the IMF, World Bank and even the UN have evolved to become primary tools used by this superpower and its allies to arm twist countries retaliating against the submissive nature of their hegemony.

This book gives a scintillating account of all the dirty tricks, evil ploys and inhumane nature of functioning of the system as it is today.

Defying the system when it is this hostile is the most natural response anyone who recognizes this hostility would end up doing. But, the efficacy of this system has been its subtle and orchestrated perpetration which keeps all of this hostility hidden from us.

That system is our enemy. But when you're inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system, and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.
Something on the lines of what Morpheus says to Neo in The Matrix, is the current state of the world.

Nonetheless, this ain't no movie - People are dying, countries are getting impoverished and future is getting bleaker. We are all part of this megaplan of hegemony and exploitation,both by getting exploited and exploiting at various levels.

Defy and change!
We need to change it to a different world: A world as we dream of it, as John perkins puts it in the book.
Now what is the dream of the world we wish to live in is upto each individual to choose upon.

25 August, 2011

Less personal,More social

A personal observation about the contents I'm discoursing on my personal blog: It certainly is getting unbalanced. Unbalanced in terms of the contexts of the content being discoursed.

My initial posts, if some of you have read/ been reading, would make it obvious that those were primarily venting out of personal experiences, with a narrow scope in the content. Those posts, if read now seem trivial, nonetheless seem special and cute to me. They imbibe some of the best moments of my life: Rendering those moments immortal.

Off late, the content of the discussions in my posts are seldom pertaining to anything intimately personal at all, and seem to be digressing into wider realms of understanding everything around me, keeping myself as the observer. This again is a phase, which I attribute to the growth I have had. An evolution into mindsets which are capable of comprehending some crucial aspects which shape our lives and mould the society. This again is important and  I am glad to be able to doubt, understand and critique these subtle, yet powerful forces honing us.

This stop and look back post was instigated by the observation that my audience is getting diversified, and some of you have been part of this journey seeing me metamorphose into someone that you think that you know.

Be it personal or social, ideas will forever remain immortal.

21 August, 2011

Life and works of Acharya PC Ray

Talk by Prof.S Chatterjee

Science can afford to wait but Swaraj cannot ...
P C Ray

The prolonged Indian Freedom struggle, and its chronicling in retrospect seem to focus only on the efforts by a select few national heroes. Whereas the freedom struggle itself was brought to its momentum by hundreds of intellectuals and revolutionaries, thousands of toilers and millions of the masses. Reminiscing the contributions by many other great minds are certainly needed to expand the understanding of our History, legacy of our struggle, to further interpret the current state of affairs.

Prafulla Chandra Ray, the entrepreneur and scientist behind the Bengal Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals, who was dearly called as Acharya Ray played an important role. Acquainting with his life and works, certainly help us to understand the Indian freedom struggle better from other necessary dimensions.

On the 15th of August, 2011 a talk about the Life and Works of PC Ray by Prof. Chatterjee was organized at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, IISc,Bangalore. This informative talk, followed by a detailed discussion session certainly threw light upon the life of the great confluence of an academician, entrepreneur, scientist, historian, nationalist, pacifist and patriot that Acharya PC Ray was.

Prof.Chatterjee traversed through the life, ideals, work and accomplishments of Acharya Ray in an exhilarating talk which span for about an hour. Prof.Chatterjee communicated all the dimensions of this multi-faceted being in the most convincing manner. The correlation that was brought between science, scientists and their social responsibilities were elucidated in a comprehensive and riveting manner.

PC Ray apart from being the entrepreneur behind the Bengal Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals, was one of the important scientific visionaries of pre-independent India. Under his guidance, his students would go on to expand the realms of scientific contribution in India. His students were of the likes of Meghnad Saha, Atul Chandra Ghosh, and others who made significant contributions to develop science and technology in India.

Acharya PC Ray was contemporary to Rabindranath Tagore, Jagadish Chandra Bose, Subhash Chandra Bose, MK Gandhi and other influential personalities during the Independence movement. PC Ray had his own crucial contributions to the Freedom struggle. Apart from propagating science and grooming technology, PC Ray was known to have sheltered numerous revolutionaries and provided them with support for their work.

Prof. Chatterjee in his talk brought out the contradiction between today's statesmen and the so called 'intelligentsia', with that of the statesmen and intellectuals of the era of PC Ray, using PC Ray's notions about self-reliance and sovereignty as examples.
The audience resonated to this contradiction, when excerpts from Acharya PC Ray and another modern statesman were quoted for comparison.

PC Ray in his Essay “India before and after the mutiny” written in 1885, makes a profound analysis of the British rule in India:

"England unfortunately now refuses to recognize the hard and irresistible logic of facts and does her best to smother the nascent aspirations of a rising nationality. The selfish, and therefore, harsh and cruel exigencies of an alien rule have imposed various disqualifications and disabilities upon the children of the soil.... The lamentable condition of India at present is due to England’s culpable neglect of, and gross apathy to, the affairs of that Empire. England has failed, grievously failed in the discharge of her sacred duties to India... Tomorrow you will be the arbiters of the destinies of 250 millions of human beings, your fellow subjects. We fervently hope your advent to power will be a death knell to the existing un –English regime... I was a believer in those days in the doctrine of mendicancy and with child like simplicity held that if the wrongs and the grievances under which our country groaned could be brought home to the British people, they could be remedied. The disillusionment was not long in coming...

The great mutiny had entirely unhinged the financial equilibrium. In 1857 the public debt had stood at 60,000,000 pounds. In 1863 it rose to the incredible sum of nearly 110,000,000 pounds. Thus the indirect expenditure incurred for mutiny amounts to almost 45,000,000 pounds. And it is notorious that England did not contribute a farthing to India as financial help.... India is a famished nation rather than of Rajas and Nababs....A government which can squander 10,000,000 pounds on palatial barracks, but cannot spare a farthing for laboratories should forfeit the title of a civilized government....The Indian government is essentially a tax squeezing machinery and not a government for the people...."

And here's an excerpt from one modern Indian statesman, who has the following perception of the same relationship, and was quoted by Prof.Chatterjee towards the end of his talk:

Today, with the balance and perspective offered by the passage of time and the benefit of hindsight, it is possible for an Indian Prime Minister to assert that India's experience with Britain had its beneficial consequences. Our notions of the rule of law, of a Constitutional government, of a free press, of a professional civil service, of modern universities and research laboratories have all been fashioned in the crucible where an age old civilization met the dominant Empire of the day. These are all elements which we still value and cherish. Our judiciary, our legal system, our bureaucracy and our police are all great institutions, derived from British-Indian administration and they have served the country well. Of all the legacies of the Raj, none is more important than the English language and the modern school system. That is, if you leave out cricket!
Like in the audience at the talk by Prof. Chatterjee, it is hard to guess that the above mentioned statesman is the Dr.Manmohan Singh, exhibiting what could be termed an anti-nationalist stand.
This instigated a good round of discussion amongst the panel members. Arguments whatever arose, ultimately ended up rebuking the statements that were made by Dr.Manmohan Singh in his convocation speech at Oxford University in 2005.
Also detailed questions about Acharya PC Ray's principles happened to be discussed, during which again the multifaceted maverick that PC Ray was was much discussed and reminisced further.
One important aspect of the talk itself was the manner in which it was presented by Prof.Chatterjee. The audience present can be categorized conveniently as the intellectual elite and mostly apolitical. Prof. Chatterjee, nonetheless was able to communicate all the aspects of the life of Acharya PC Ray in a subtle but impacting manner, which certainly got the audience thinking in relation to the current scenarios. And that was the objective of the talk, which was well accomplished.
Slides of the talk by Prof.Chatterjee: http://bit.ly/rrek5w

18 August, 2011

The God Delusion

How lucky we are to be alive, given that the vast majority of people who could potentially be thrown up by the combinatorial lottery of DNA will in fact never be born. However brief our time in the sun, if we waste a second of it, or complain that it is dull or barren or (like a child) boring, couldn't this be seen as a callous insult to those unborn trillions who will never even be offered life in the first place?

Think about it. On one planet, and possibly only one planet in the entire universe, molecules that would normally make nothing
more complicated than a chunk of rock, gather themselves together into chunks of rock-sized matter of such staggering complexity that they are capable of running, jumping, swimming, flying, seeing, hearing, capturing and eating other such animated chunks of complexity; capable in some cases of thinking and feeling, and falling in love with yet other chunks of complex matter!

-Excerpts from the book "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins

I have already attributed Richard Dawkins to have facilitated my transition to become the ardent and absolute atheist that I am now, in previous posts. And like in his documentaries, he is cleverer and super accurate with his arguments in The God Delusion.Impeccably convincing!

Turning towards the book itself, it is a quick and joyous read in the literary sense. But, this book symbolizes an apprehension of serious scale and it ain't just the literature one needs to ponder about. What actually dawned upon me while reading the book was the intent of the book itself. Pushing science and rationality amidst the infinite bandwidth white noise of religion, Gods, and the related blah blah!

Religion is ubiquitous, and it certainly is perilous, whatever small subjective positives one might have experienced. This ancient dogma has to be stigmatized for, eradicating it would take a long long struggle against many maniacs.

Nevertheless, increasing the consciousness of people pertaining to the futilities encapsulated in religion as a whole will slowly evolve to eliminate this weird but natural seeming, artificial digression of us humans.

While Science is what has given us answers, drawing us out from the shrouded clouds of ignorance, into light and still leading, Religion is that strong regressive force holding back majority of the Homo sapiens , bound to the shackles of faith, blind faith and dumb blind faith!

The God Delusion is a must read for everyone: Of course it will be offensive to the strong theists. But, for anyone who's just swaying away from the absolutism attached to religion, it will certainly help and enable them start drifting farther away from religion and closer to rationality - All for the good.

I might personally want to see religion eliminated from the face of the earth; But, it is even more complexly interleaved than even Dawkins himself projects.

Let's hope there's light, sometime soon, if not spontaneously!

I don't try to imagine a personal God; it suffices to stand in awe at the structure of the world, insofar as it allows our inadequate senses to appreciate it.
Albert Einstein

13 August, 2011

Totem revolutions

The exaggerated rumours during the Egyptian revolution, that the revolution itself was a ramification of the existence of social networks like Facebook and Twitter is preposterous, and indicates the myopic understanding of such analysts.
While Facebook and Twitter did influence the rate of information dissemination and to some extent online mobilization, the idea that if for no Facebook and Twitter the Egyptian revolution and the Tahrir Square struggle would not have occurred is simply ridiculous.

The reason I am delving upon this example is to show the contorted reasoning people end up believing in. The idea that a revolution/ a change/ metamorphosis could be instigated and perpetuated via social networks or some other online token actions has been imbibed into the minds of people by the media, and a majority of the gullible have certainly endorsed this idea.

The Facebook Campaigns like Save Tigers, Support Anna Hazare, Stop Corruption, and others are to be treated as awareness increasing campaigns, using a new means of reaching out to people:Online Networks.
Unfortunately, posting up these campaigns on one's page and clicking the 'LIKE' button seems to be the end of this campaign to a lot many.

While nothing can replace the basic ground work in terms of understanding the problems, mobilizing people beyond the online networks (for, there is at least three quarters of the country out of this reach), contemplating pragmatic solutions and persuading the authorities to implement them, or in compelling cases (like in Egypt, and middle east) involving in struggles will what reap benefits. And certainly not just the Likes, reposts and shares of links and tweets.

The tendency of individuals to have executed their duties of being a citizen by performing these token actions online is highly increasing. People, I guess are considering this to be an extrapolation of online payment of taxes. Performing your duties online!
And such tendencies is what I am terming as "Totem Revolutions".

The token-like actions, the symbols which rise to become powerful totems in the current context are futile. Manifestation of the the cliche: "Means mistaken to be the ends". The acts of sharing web links, retweeting, forwarding mails, display picture badges, giving out one-ring calls (!?) and other product marketing-like strategies are most efficient in attracting the less concerned crowds, for the ones who really bother wouldn't require any of these wake up calls. These tokens, growing into totems should not be given anymore reverence than treating them for their worth,i.e, they are the newer means of mobilizing and awareness increasing methods at our disposal.  I again reiterate, these are no ends by themselves!

"Symbols are given power by the people. Alone a symbol is meaningless but with enough people blowing up a building (symbol) can change the world."
V for Vendetta

And a converse of this is also true. People who only cling on to a symbol forget the reality and are busy obsessing the totems! This, off late, has become the ubiquitous behavior of the 'concerned citizens'.

Online protests like the Anonymous groups, and the DDoS attacks in support of WikiLeaks had some tangible results, for, they didn't only mobilize online, they were conducting their struggle online, for they were fighting a peril being perpetuated online!
The arenas were different.

Further, using centralized and Government monitored networks like Facebook, Twitter would cripple any such movements. WikiLeaks versus VISA/Paypal/Amazon incident is a manifestation of this apprehension.

Here's the link of the manual circulated during the Tahrir Square protests, urging people not to use Facebook/Twitter!

Cumulative observations on these lines, through months has made me sit down and write this post. The increasing tendencies of the online activists, to trigger campaigns online is perfect. But, the aspect of clarifying that the means aren't the end have not been profoundly proclaimed by many of them.

And please, no more of Totem Revolutions.

10 August, 2011

Understanding the Information Economy: ITEC Seminar

ITEC has been around for sometime now and has been taking up some important tasks pertaining to the 'elusive' IT industry. Attempts at increasing the awareness about the pitfalls in the industry using instances to be concerned about, like fraudulent IT companies, work pressure and related issues have already been basis of their work.

In the recent campaign ITEC had organized a seminar on understanding the "Information Economy". It certainly was an eye-opener to all the 50 participants. Suresh Kodoor and Vasantharaj were the speakers, highly apt for lecturing on the lines of "Information Economy", moderated by Prof S Chatterjee.

The seminar was arranged at the new Jaaga, on an overcast Sunday afternoon.

The gist of the talk, as I have understood would be as follows:

The transition from a manufacturing and product based economy, which primarily produces tangible products,  to now an economy extensively 'speculative' in their own jargon has turned out to be more on the lines of selling out information as products, driven by finance capital. This new era  (which is at least a few decades old) has brought in a paradigm shift in the businesses of the world.
To understand the contradiction between the two ways, look at the growth rates: The information economy mammoths show 20% + growth on a normal basis, while the veterans of the manufacturing industry still are steady with their 8-10 % growth.

To understand the differences that have been ushered in by the Information economy a brief comparative study in the way these two business models are run was explained by both the speakers. The common contention putforth was the lack of innovation in India, even in terms of self-reliance of software products to cater to our domestic needs. Secondly, the lag in investing in hardware manufacturing for telecom, defense and other critical sectors needs was discussed. The need to resuscitate the dying PSU's was mentioned as well.

On Sunday, when day the seminar was held is when the news of the S&P downgrading of the US creditability from AAA to AA+ had occured and we were only speculating what else could go wrong. It seems as if most of the talk that proceeded on that day was as if prophesizing the subsequent hours which were to put the financial world at unrest. Once the markets reopened on Monday the symptoms of the second dip recession have surfaced visibly and lot of suppression tactics are being implemented, as I am speaking of it. There's turmoil and apprehension filling in the air.

And this time, in case a second wave of global recession would hit, India wouldn't be as immune as it was in 2008! The 'outsourcing' menace as naturally seen by the people of the US and other European countries has taken its toll and now stands at the threshold of a breakpoint. Unemployment, public benefits cut down , inflation, taxation and dipping stock market are gelling up to become a dangerous threat to the global stability.

The ITEC seminar did certainly help us to comprehend both sides of the stories, while the speakers convicned us of what could be the solution as well: Self Reliance!

03 August, 2011

Secluded in the cities

Over a casual chat, a friend discussed an observation to me, which was rather very interesting, and worth pondering further, beyond the discussion.

According to him,in the daily urban chaos, the aspect of socializing (in the real terms), which is the essence of all humanity is being lost, and that we are getting narrowed down to really small, shrinking diaspora, which consists of very few people.

And after thinking some more on these lines, I tend to agree with his observation. It ain't even individualism that is being practiced. These conditions which are getting so ubiquitous around us, I might want to term them as a kind of forced urban seclusion, and that has come to be the widely agreed standard. Each is left with little, or no time to bother about anything apart from very personal matters.

Socializing (only) on online networks has deteriorated the already bad situation. While it can never be a replacement to interpersonal rapport, these networks have played the subtle but hostile roles of alienating the social beings within us.

Coming back to the point of forced urban seclusion, it is a convergence of the hectic and reckless lives that the city drives one to lead, with no care whatsoever to the conditions around. It is a pathetic state to be in, for, it breeds cynicism about the (world minus us), and an expanding void within.

There is little that the 'bhag bhag' lifestyle has ultimately showered us with on the bright side. While there's a lot more it has forced upon us to crib about.

All said and done, if one wants to break free, there's all the control given, but then aren't most of us either way, comfortably, or uncomfortably numb about it ?


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