Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Monkey us

It rained finally here in Gurgaon. Obviously we all are delighted in this drought stricken desert of a city. But before you can race down your balcony to enjoy that rain, usually you are greeted with a sight of water logged streets on which cars thunder past hapless pedestrians/ cyclists who get their clothes soiled with the holy water splashed by the fast SUV tyres.
And car after car, keeps on doing the same thing. No one slows down to perhaps not be as big a dick and not splash dirty water on pedestrians. Perhaps, the bad weather is affecting the driver's visibility and he/she is so intent on watching the road that they don't notice humans by the side. Perhaps, they are racing to some safe haven away from the evil corrosive rain. Perhaps, they are submerged in self pity - 'why are these idiots clogging the road, don't they know how precious my time is?'. 

I was wondering, why do we become such assholes at times?  Well, to be honest, i might have done something similar a few times myself. Perhaps, its just that we can't be aware about others all the time. and then i read a Cracked article which talks about something similar.
Well, the real paper from which this article is inspired is this one, http://www.liv.ac.uk/researchintelligence/issue17/brainteaser.html
It turns out, we humans are monkeys after all. And apparently our top limit of people who we can care about is about 150 people. 
we now have hundreds of 'friends' on social networks with different kind of engagements, we have different contexts in which we interact with different people (work, pleasure, social groups, neighbours, etc)... This is what Zengotita sort of premised his work on, and what Mclluhan took further when he talked about media being extension of our being and 'numbing' of our senses & thinning of consciousness. And this is a huge cost that we pay.. 

I would like to talk of one particular effect.
Read this. http://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/column_can-india-inc-face-the-truth-about-the-manesar-violence_1721167-all Its worth the time. Its an article about the recent violence at the MSIL factory in Gurgaon. Contrast that to the reports being printed in Economic Times, the most influential business daily of India. ET is constantly talking about the bad 'image' this incident projects, or about the possible involvement of 'red hand'. One would expect a business daily to be rational at least if not unbiased. There is hardly any coverage about the worker's point of view.

So what I am saying is, essentially, the large scale of corporates and the medias is making them into un-empathetic baboons. They look at workers unrest as a 'law and order' issue and not as something symptomatic of a deeper malaise of their doing.
(Image by  SD Dirk on Flickr )

So until these baboons actually take cognizance of the world that they are creating, they are bound to face the consequence in one way or another. For a nation of large labor class with socialist moorings, do corporates really think that they can unabashedly chase viral-growth like rates of profits at the cost of the humanity?

The scales is what has alienated people from people. The scale is what is allowing ET to consistently lobby for the benefit of the creamy layer consistently. The scale is what is driving discontent as rich get richer and yet find their growth not enough. Its the scales that makes bystanders out of masses who witness the stellar rise of a few, and then are asked to conform without being given a share of the riches. Its the scales that allow for indoctrination of young ones through schooling systems where classes are still segregated and where cartoons that question are banned.

Its only a matter of time, when the structural violence perpetrated by the capital class is met with physical violence of the masses. The result will be chaotic reorientation of scales.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Olympian farce

Once is 4 years, eyes and excitement of the whole connected world converge onto a single event - The Olympics. Its a grand beautiful idea about sports bringing the world together. Indeed, when it was started it was an amateur undertaking with pleasure of sports being at the center of the event. The media  never tires of talking about the 'spirit of the games'. But sitting here in India, there are hardly any ripples we see of this event.. Even the grand commonwealth games that our Capital city hosted recently, didn't create any long standing infrastructure for sports, or inculcated habit of sports, or even inspired the youth to take up sports seriously. It was a farce and everyone saw it as one, as the government, in its quest to save its face, dusted its poor behind hoardings of brands and overburdened  the city traffic. As officials lined their pockets with Olympian bribes, Indian athletes who represented their country were facing crushing poverty and neglect.
...So much for the beneficial effect of the games. Here, NGC has tried to compile a few snapshots of the aftereffect of the games. While some infrastructure gets utilized, the bill size of the games hardly seems to justify itself. (China spent 40 Billion dollars apparently, London spent 20 billion.. Imagine that kind of money spent on healthcare, public housing or creating open spaces. In a connected world, do you really need such huge spectacles to drive tourism?( the only justification for inflating the games) a fraction of that money spent on creating friendly infrastructure and improving visa regimens would bring instead marvelous changes.)

Lets go back to the question of the 'spirit of the game'.
I read a perspective about a great change that has come about over the course of time.
Here's a BBC article and an excellent video about the changes that the increase in scale of the games has brought on - the moneys involved, the brands ownership and its effect on small businesses and host cities.
As the games get bigger and bigger, its increasingly alienating communities and people from the said 'spirit'. Echoing that spirit is costing people lawsuits and restriction of what they consume & what they say. Apparently, branding on such massive scales is leading to restrictions that Communist countries could not even dream - so efficient, so ruthless, so utterly absurd.
Check out the 'protected words' section in the BBC article. Using words such as '2012 Games' or 'Gold games' and such combinations, would get a small brand/ communication/ small business owner in trouble. Isn't it absurd? Normal language is getting restricted, as was the case with the usage of 'Faster, Higher, Stronger', the Olympic motto, by a Brit artist. Imagine sections of spaces/ languages/ consumptive practices/ emotions being cordoned off by global brands... Its an act of siege. Our conscience is under siege by the global brands and Olympics and such global events are merely stooges of these brands, the temporary mediums through which they effect their muscles.
Do you want to be a part of it really? Do you want to be part of a spectacle where increasingly the athletes are symbols of brands and freak strength born of artificial manipulations and training?
For one, I am not going to see Olypics or partake in any of its events. The major reason being the complete undermining of the human spirit of compassion by IOC. Olympic 2012 is sponsored in part by  DOW chemicals, which is responsible for thousands of death in Bhopal, India. I simply cannot be party to any event that supports the perpetrators of such heinous crimes. What good are these games, if the world cannot act as a community together and stand together against such criminals corporations?

What is needed is to chip away the ridiculous trappings of scale that this event is staged on. This means, breaking down the games to more manageable scale that does not require billions in infrastructure development every 4 years, that does not need support of global brands.
The games should truly create a difference for local communities and instills in them a love for the beauty of human will and ability. It should become a showcase of the global brotherhood, not global consumerism.

I have an idea. How about Olympics being spread out into many venues instead of one venue? How about making it a continuous process of sports excellence rather than a spectacle that leaves behind empty useless stadiums? How about re-imagining sports with an emphasis on the game aspect of it, rather than skill part of it, to bring back joy to sports?

That entails creation of local sports infrastructure by communities worldwide, where the continuous process of playing and perfecting skills leads to global competitions that could use any of local facilities. As such the onus of funding lies with local communities, governments, businesses. I am sure, world would be a healthier place then. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Whose water is it anyway?

Today's episode of Satyamev Jayate about water crisis in India, brought to light the huge difference in the way different classes of our society consume and treat water.
One example was very telling. The water supply to the maga city of Mumbai largely comes from the lakes in Shahpur district, some 60 km away from the city. The irony is, the villagers that were displaced in construction of the Bhatsa Dam (that supplies the city's water) do not have access to the water now. They were the ones who labored to create the dam. They now stay barely a few km from the lake. and yet, no water flows through pipelines into these villages, while the water is being ferried hundreds of km away to cities. Read here about the reality.
The contention is the modern notion of 'control'. The government wants the villagers to pay for the water, whereas Villagers rightly feel a kinship towards the lakes and mountains and want unrestricted access to it.
The creation of the dam distanced them from water that was always accessible to them through traditional means. Government's actions amount to cheating, as they have the moral responsibility to villagers' well being, after having foisted on them the monstrous change of ecology.

Scale accelerator: Dam. The megapolis is sustained artificially through pipelines from the villages. The large city requires large scale infrastructure that some times affect small communities adversely

Cause effect: Government is evading its responsibility since its the one who caused change. Also, as was evident on the show, no one knew where mumbai's water came from. A typical metropolitan Mumbaikar's water supply runs unabated without him ever having to worry about its source and its effect. If the protesters who are threatening to burst the pipe lines to Mumbai, succeed, it will be seen as merely a 'law and order' problem by the citizens and the government.

Pace of change: This factor is better illustrated with the reality of Gurgaon. Recently, the Haryana high court restrained construction of new buildings that would consume groundwater for its construction. This welcome move addresses the scarce water supply available in the geography, that is being overburdened with accelerating population growth of Gurgaon, which has doubled in the last 10 years. And in the last 5 years, the three large lakes that provided water to the surrounding areas have all gone barren. Tremendous amount of illegal mining in the area is bringing in drastic geological changes that are not being completely comprehended. (possible effects for NCR of Aravalli minings - Desertification, Depletion of water table & adverse ecological changes that will affect human survival) 


Rain water harvesting, regeneration of lakes, small interventions and systematic irrigation... These were some of the solutions showcased that have worked for some villages. what is common to all these  solutions is a local approach with community partnership towards creating sustainable green solutions. What is conspicuously absent is the language of 'control and structures'. The displaced villagers in Shahpur received a system of water containers that were to be filled by tankers periodically. But that does not happen and communities remain parched. Indian reality cannot be sustained on the philosophy of control and structures. a thousand examples can be enumerated where a local, community based system was dismantled and replaced with 'modern' control systems administered by the government and not the community, which did not sustain and led to eventual demise of the local ecosystem.

One such system that was talked about in the show was the system of lakes that were created and maintained in villages of India prior to British era.

Pre-british india: india had a system of rain harvesting where many of its towns and villages would maintain community based lakes. A city typically had thousands of life-filled lakes. 
Earlier Rajas would contribute to the expense of maintaining the lake. The British didn't contribute, 
and on top of it, they started to tax the water usage from these lakes. 

Eventually, the community was alienated from the lake and caused the demise of the whole system. The vocabulary of control that defined western way of looking at global problems, instituted apathy towards local resources, that was not there before. The 'control' shifted responsibility of the local resources from the local community to the 'government'. And being so big, government has never been known to be sensitive to its subjects. Now city water comes from hundreds of miles away, from rural areas. Cities waste their water, whereas rural areas do not have access to any water. 

Lets not just look at water bodies as a 'exchangeable resource'. It has to be given its due importance as a life giving force for a community, its ecology, its culture, its economy.
For start, I will implement rain water harvesting in my home.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

On how revolutions flatten the world

Reading 'life is elsewhere' by Kundera; a poet's story through a revolution ( and vice versa. Kundera's oeuvre is as if the story of his disillusionment with the czech revolution)
In the progression of the young Poet towards manhood, he rejects his earlier muse and strongly subscribes to the narrow view of socialism to his own art's detriment. In his rejection, he is abandoning his richness of divergent views and narrowing his thoughts through the constricting prism of socialism. 
This act of believing in something passionately, made me think of the nature of a revolution.

I wonder, wouldn't any revolution be essentially oppressive? A revolution is centered around an anti status-quo point of view regarding something. For a revolution to be effective, it has to have a strong large base of people believing in it. and unfortunately, the nature of believing is in the narrowness of the thought, in rejecting the many strands and holding on to singularity of a thought, to be bathed in the glorious promise of a singular thought, to hope in a 'final solution'. 

But that very essentiality creates the condition of intolerance towards divergent views, towards the minority. Its a game of gathering 'enough' ayes. a game of majority building. with globalisation, the scope of the majority is global. This in turn necessitates flattening of differences. 

Is this the world we really want? Large revolutions, large scale changes and narrow views with homogenous beliefs? or would you rather have this little planet to hold many different worlds, small scale beliefs and hence richer and divergent views.

Caliphates and christian crusades bathed the world red in their quest for domination of their belief. The blind juggernauts razed much richer cultures in its path. Now consumerism is razing any other thoughts from our minds. The nature of consumerist world is to turn our eye inwards, rejecting the outside world by drowning us with self-centered thoughts of consumption. (if you spend so much of ur mindspace on questions of which restaurant to go to, which shampoo to buy and so on, when can u really be involved in thoughts of mountains, of rivers, of nothingness and of everything-ness. that mind needs to be vacant too at times, u know? its cathartic)

Through the consistent razing of thoughts, i wonder what we will be left with soon? Histories, stories, cultures razed. all we will have is a soda bottle.  nothing else. is that what we want for our children? we are eating richer food now and sitting on more comfortable cushions, but we are feeding our souls much much filthier and sparse beauty.

perhaps it means to create some sort of walls around us. It would be  a better world if the walls are confident walls of self-sustained cultures rather than them being reactionary fundamentalist walls.
For the former to come about, we need to start appreciating differences, to start seeing the world beyond our shampoos and to not expect 'service' when you step out of your home.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The manifesto - I

There are three main pillars to my theory for a better world.
1. scale_ Towards smallness, decentralization
2. Pace of change_ towards slowness, towards change whose effects we know with sufficient certainty and the change instigator is not removed from the effect.
3. Cause effect cognizance_ Towards greater empathy. and towards greater understanding of how is an individual affecting the lives around him/her

This is not an absolute model for a better world. Its reactionary. What this means is that, given today's condition, this is the direction we should work on to leave a better world for our future generation. When I say its not absolute, it means that I don't know if it would be a good idea in any other time/ reality. This model assumes certain structural changes that technology has brought on. So when i say smallness, I am not talking about the secret island of your fantasies. (your fantasy is so last century :P ) Internet, railroads, cheap air flights.. we are connected and how! So to be in a small enough world to be empathetic to all that is around us redefines the way we see the words 'small, change, empathy'.
The language of this model is not that of control as is with most things modern. Circumstances are not to be viewed through the prism of containment, control or ownership. They are rather to be viewed through the hallmark view that digital ecology created - the vision of co-creation, co-existence, and equality. So this means that an individual does not strive to control anything other than his own reality. But he may contribute and help outwards.

There is another condition that affects our collective behavior though and that needs to be considered here as well. Lets call it the 'condition of lowest common denominator'. This condition sort of explains why we chose the path of least resistance, why trashy movies are biggest hits, why so many talented people work on wall street and screw the economy by not lending their skills to entrepreneurship, engineering, sciences, arts and so on. Will expand on it later. 

to be continued... :)

Monday, October 25, 2010


The first thing that one may notice about the title of the blog is that that it has a strong politic to it, a simplistic notion perhaps, about the way the world is to be viewed. I won't disagree. I do not think things have to be complicated to be right. Non-intelligibility and reverence to complexity are never solution providers. and its high time, solutions are sought to alter the prevalent world view that is hell bent on destruction and violence. Though, scale may be only a factor among many that give rise to this violence (structural or literal), I believe its one of the most important. Through this blog, i hope to advocate for the cause of smallness, for the cause of our survival.