Sunday, January 15, 2017

About concerns

1500 children have died in Ashram schools in last decade in Maharashtra. 
Out of the countless atrocities, 16 brave women came forward to tell harrowing tales of sexual exploitation by state sponsored terrorists.

These are two of the news stories that appeared in media yesterday. I got to know of them, because I recently put a Google Alert to 'adivasi'. (Because mainstream media simply does not 'cover' their lives) Otherwise, I would have not known about them as well. What if the 1500 children were not adivasis in remote Maharashtra - what if they were from affluent households in south Mumbai. How big the news event would have been then?

We are as primitive in our worldviews, if not more, as our manu time ancestors and their patriarchal power games. We have not evolved one bit. Time in its passing throws up one revolutionary after another - Phule, Ambedkar - but even these giants can't illuminate the apathetic darkness of humanity's soul for long. All that can be achieved is to shame people into behaving in more humane manner for a while. Once the spotlight of shame is off of them though, the game is over. People revert back to their petty privileges and narrow worldviews. Rich-poor, all are united in their apathy and narrow mindedness.
The poor have the power structure and institutionalized lobotomy of reason (in the form of shoddy school system and culture of unquestioning, 'yes sir') to blame for their ignorance. What is your excuse?

About ready made point of views about Trump and other aliens

I see quite a few people, who I know are Indian citizen and have lived here since birth, are sharing posts about Trump not being 'my president'. About supporting Bernie. Or supporting victims of the latest US/ Berlin/ France terror/ gun violence.
Well, Trump actually is not your president.Your support to Bernie matters little, unless you leave for US and do something along with his team for the next four years. And, while gun violence and terror attacks are deplorable, how come the empathy bubbles out selectively for rich white aliens instead of dark poor aliens who live among us. So many of you employ underage girls as domestic help who come from Chattisgarh and other poorer areas of India. They are running away from far bigger tragedies ending up at your home. Yet, you don't know their stories. You don't care. But you do care for images of people from white rich countries. It's the classic case of 'problems I wish I had'.

The problem is - even critical thought is being outsourced to 4-min videos and listicles online. Even intelligent people from elite schools do not want to trouble themselves with actual critical thought of their own. And most intelligently produced content like this is centered around USA. So what ends up happening is, people are far more clued in about happenings in US than about their own neighborhood. I am guilty of this too to an extent. But I do dig for news that matters to me beyond the easy snack of feel-smart content on social media.

A sign of intelligence is to put two plus two together and think of the implication it has on our lives and of lives of people who matter to us. At least. 
Shouldn't any reasonably intelligent person be concerned about their surroundings, the people around them - at least their own people from their own community? There are so many things affecting our lives. Even if we stick to urban issues - there is pollution, water woes, climate change, civic corruption, overwhelming poverty, sanitation and as if it was not enough Modi invented one more tragedy - Demonetisation. How come we are unconcerned about these until an opinion piece comes along whose sharing makes us feel smarter about ourselves?

Even if someone shares an 'opinion piece' about these things (and it is always opinions, never facts from which they formed an opinion.), they share the opinions verbatim, not their reading of it.

Sigh. How can we get the smartest of Indian people to think critically and act logically in their own interests? In interest of people around them?What will goad them out of their social-media induced stupor?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The nature of corruption and the blue pill Mr. Modi offers in return

"Surgical strikes" of Mr. Modi

Mr. Modi loves the metaphor of surgical strike - precise, effective, absolute. If surgeries are for flesh-and-bones bodies of living beings, the surgical strikes that Mr. Modi likes to unleash on are bodies of 'terrorism', 'corruption','poverty' etc.
In a physical body, a 'surgical strike' can be contained. The target and the weapon is definite and known. The cause-effect are immediately visible. The metaphor loses its meaning when you try to use it on conceptually elastic exchanges such as terrorism and corruption. What I mean by conceptually elastic is - terrorism or corruption are fairly fluid in their meaning and depends on who is defining whom as being a terrorist or corrupt. 'Corruption' or 'Terrorism' is not a thing or a person that we can see, smell, touch. It exists between people as an exchange.

Take for example the concept of "Terrorism"

State sponsored terrorism is called nation building and poor Adivasis in Chattisgarh spend years behind jail, get raped, their lands get snatched away from them for merely being inconvenient to the interests of the powerful. And who is labeled as terrorist here? Adivasis, mining companies or state sponsored militias/ military?

Even if you understand it in terms of geography - Kashmir as a geographically definite and contained area in need of disinfection from 'terrorism'. Is it then 'physically' possible to actually contain it on all sides and do a 'surgical strike'? Are terrorists physically different from non-terrorists? Even if you contain, how do you know, whom to target?
What happens in reality is that a neighbor gives a false lead to usurp neighbor's property. Or a corrupt government rounds up inconvenient journalists and activists as 'terrorists'. Terrorist then becomes a convenient 'badge' to label enemies with.

All that manifests is power and human interests. "Terrorism" in the meanwhile gets much needed oxygen of public anger and distrust towards state sponsored terrorism.
A bullet can never solve a human interest problem. There is no 'final solution'.


Corruption is even more difficult to solve - not just with surgical strike but in any which way. What is corruption really? Does it reside in bank notes or gold or uniforms? Is it something definite? If we get rid of certain notes, or certain people, would corruption get 'solved'? And that's the problem with the imagination of Mr. Modi. Corruption is not inherent in things or people. So you can't get rid of it by disposing of notes or killing a few people. Well thank god India has not(?) seen extra judicial killings like Latin America has or what Philippines is witnessing now. This imagination is not new though - McCarthy, Duterte, Hitler... all subscribed to the idea that getting rid of a people would solve problems. It doesn't.

Corruption is a byproduct of power systems. It is the way in which the people access services, people influence each other or people accumulate wealth and social prestige. In a sense, it is a way of life as a function of the nature of power structure in that society. In a society where power differentials are large, where the distance between the haves and have-nots is large, corruption becomes a necessity.
In the current system, when a kid without birth certificate wants an admission, he needs corruption so that he can access education. Farmers needs corruption to accept subsidies. Government servants need corruption to remain in favour of their superiors. Politicians need corruption to enrich his supporters in exchange for keeping him in power. Industrialists need corruption to protect their interests.
I am not making a moral judgement here. I am pointing out the truth of the current system. With so many artificial gates, there will be gatekeepers. gatekeepers in turn, will extract a price in the form of corruption, to maintain legitimacy and perpetuate the beneficial (to them) system. 

Narrower the base of people who hold power, more is the corruption. (look at dictatorships)
The broader the base of people in power, less will be the corruption. (look at Scandinavia)

To remove corruption, there must not be gates and no gatekeepers. Which is  not possible in its entirety. What is possible is to reduce these gates to an absolute minimum. Reduce the power differential. Do away with representative democracy - one man for a million: that is a dangerous power differential, prone to corruption. We need as many people to be directly empowered to take decisions as possible. That will be true democracy - Direct democracy. For that to be feasible, there needs to be decentralisation too. People should decide about roads and water and resources in their own towns, not about identities. Hence, incentivise for that eventuality.

A fool's daydreams / A rhetorical masterstroke

As a strategy, surgical strike is a fool's daydreaming. As a rhetoric to win and sustain power, it is a 'masterstroke'. A desperately poor people with no recourse (physically, spiritually, economically), must believe in this 'masterstroke' and the many that might come their way. They must believe because that is the only way they can find peace, find some hope. "Others do nothing. Atleast he is doing something. Something will stick?!" It is a matter of the innermost urgency for a desperate people. They need that faith to go on with their lives. It is their soma, their quarter. This dream is their means of survival.

Terrorism, corruption, poverty = Power's byproducts

Terrorism, corruption, poverty are the byproducts of power struggles. Power struggles will remain as long as humanity exists. To truly address these issues, we must work towards an equitable distribution of power and wealth. Even then, these things would exist - but if the payoff of corruption is less than payoff for actual work/ exchange, why would anyone attempt corruption? Because we create artificial barriers, people seek shortcuts. Because we create artificial insecurities and inequalities, people become 'corrupt'. Because we do not heed the reality of injustices and respect identities, people become 'terrorists'.

The only 'surgical strike' that can work to cure them was attempted in one form by Mahatma Phule a century ago with his Bhudan movement - an attack on power structure, redistribution of wealth. Even then, it was not a complete solution. A complete solution is not possible. We must accept that limitation. We must decentralise and wrest control (power) in our own hands. Empowered people = world with less corruption. 

Monday, January 09, 2017

There's an idea in the soap sud

Grooming is magical.
I am not talking about hygiene here. I am talking about the fantastic ability of our minds to groom its thoughts while we groom our bodies. It is as if there are switches on our bodies - on the scalp, on tooth, on the skin. As water falls/ razor shears/ tooth brushes on these switches, the mind wakes up an army of little switchboard operators in our heads. These little people get busy connecting all the ideas that lay flaying unconnected, unrecognised so far. And while we stare at ourselves stupidly in mirrors/ at soap suds/ at the objective zero (our own personal abyss our thoughts sometimes gets lost in), a fresh new thought bubbles out of that stupor, like a ray of sun piercing a dark cloud. And it is these thoughts that truly wake you up. They wake you up to a new reality, a new perspective, an obvious truth, a solution to problem that was grinding down our lives and we didn't even know that it was.
And now you can walk confident in the day, unafraid of all the invisible hands, of invisible interests, of deceitful exchanges, of useless greetings and inane content. For every morning, the grime of the world will wash away as ideas will slowly illuminate the truth of all that was unseen so far.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

the momentum

So here's the thing - writing blogs is atleast ten times easier than writing a cohesive and engaging story. I am writing a series these days. Series because I am still not confident about writing one long novel (or even novella) sized story. I am starting small with small stories that are united by one context. Anyways, the point is, once I thought of the idea, I wrote the first two stories fairly quickly. I was 'in the flow'. I wrote it when I was busy at work and home too. 3-4 projects at work, chores at home and yet I could write these stories fairly quickly. Now I have the idea for the third and fourth (and a complete new set of ideas for another series), but I simply have not written 'anything' in the last two months. I have been less  busy at work in this time, and home chores are now more manageable now that we are settled in a routine. Yet, I struggle.
One of the reasons for it taking that long is my lack of confidence in the subject matter. I spent considerable time in researching about the people and the world of the people I was writing about. But I think, something gave away after a week. I mean, the playful elasticity of time being spent writing the first two stories, was broken somehow after spending too much time researching the material. I have the story in my mind - I can visualise it- but I am not interested in it as much. I must write it and I will.
The way to that 'willed writing' is through writing more, I think. Hence these succession of blogs. I have noticed that I write more when I am busier. It is easy to start something when you already are doing something than to start something when you are not doing much. The momentum helps.
So, here's to that momentum. 

I am a writer

There. said it. This should force me to do it everyday. 

Recently, I decided to 'become' a writer. By this I mean, being more committed to write things that build up to something. As against, random posts here and other blogs. (this blog was, among other things, once called 'Repository of random hearts'.) I want to write stories, novels and useful thought-through articles. I want to write because I believe there is a shocking paucity of 'utopias' and ideas of future of humanity currently in popular imagination. I think I have the imagination and the ability to dream of better futures for us that we can use to then achieve. Action starts with ideas. Unfortunately, most ideas these days are either dystopian (Look at all the hollywood movies these days. The world is forever ending it seems. Or worldwide trends - right wing xenophobia, a sense of overwhelming inevitability of capitalism.) or very narrow minded (Look at tech - of all the things that are possible with AI, companies are building them to serve you more annoying ads or creating more intrusive platforms.)
I believe this has happened because the 20th century had been a very confusing time. Humanity went through a population explosion, a technological explosion, many nuclear explosions and an explosion of ideas. It is as if Humanity is the little girl standing in the middle of a busy highway, unable to cross the road as the fast paced changes zoom by her threateningly. This phase of awkward attempts at grasping for meanings of purpose, perspectives and change is sometimes understood as post-modernity.
The profusion of everything has not helped us become smarter, it has only left us more confused. And that confusion has left us dangerously ill equipped to handle the global connected world - too big to survive. The human remains a small creature with a limited means and ability to comprehend her world. But increasingly she is being positioned at more and more critical junctures. The simple animal is bound to fail - economic crisis, ecological crisis, idiots as world leaders (we are all idiots to some degree, are we not?). We are destined to fail and since the globalised world is one organism now, there might not be a second chance as humanity perhaps did have earlier. (Mayan civilisation collapsed but others flourished elsewhere. But now there is one civilisation. and if it collapses, there is no other to replace it.)

But there is hope. Humanity can survive and thrive. But not unless it acts. And for her to act, she needs good ideas. And I hope to give some positive ones. And so should you.