Sunday, 20 December 2015

Westernisation?

With the advent of technology people have access to all know about every type of culture. In my country of residence, India, westernisation is always a very popular debate as to how, we're forgetting our culture, our values and imitating the west in every aspect of life. I don't completely disagree with this view, considering we do have a lot of circumstances where we've adopted a lot of practices of theirs, some of them without even knowing as to why.

However, my problem is never with the moderates, but those who go to the extreme levels of patriotism, blaming every single problem of country to westernisation, be it position of women in the society, crimes, alcoholism (well, it has existed from the time of Indus valley civilisation), unemployment, food habits, poor quality of graduates, or some even go to the extent of saying that if we stick to our own culture, we need not face all these problems.

So, I come to the question - what is culture? I'd take the exact definition from Oxford dictionary, like I've been doing in my previous posts, for this purpose:

'The ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society'

As seen above, these are mere customs and ideas and social behaviour changes with time. During the current information age, it is senseless to expect somebody to adopt a practice without being asked as to 'why?' and the mere reason that it was followed by the forefathers no longer holds good with most people today, for instance, I have dismissed so many practices of the family simply because I found no logic in it or because the same is no longer relevant today, considering the technology changes and changes on account of zeitgeist. My approach towards culture and ethics have always been that I don't care about its place of origin, it is only a question of whether it is right or wrong or whether it is ideal or not and if the answers to these questions is yes, I incorporate it no matter what.

I've been often accused of being one of those highly westernised and someone who has forgotten the culture (even though those who accuse me of the same, a significant majority of them haven't done half the reading I've done to arrive at my conclusions); for the simple reasons being - the English language, attire, the books I read, food habits, my atheism, etc but then, for me individually, these are minor issues and I'd handle these minor issues in this post by keeping myself as the example.

English - I agree, I do speak English as my first language, think in English, read books only in English but then, that is how the circumstances are and I have no hesitation in admitting the same. India, being a country so diverse needs a language to connect them all and English is what is providing this connection. Personally, I've lived in almost five different places in the country each of them being culturally and linguistically different and the only language that connected us all was English which meant, learning English is not exactly an option. Moreover, embracing English is not just an Indian trend, more and more countries are embracing the language to ensure the objective of achieving the global village (be it Azerbaijan or Slovakia, neither being British colonies). And for everyone's general information, I can communicate very fluently in two other Indian languages, being Tamil and Hindi but I agree to the extent that in either of these languages, I can't do literary reading and to be very honest, I have never had the need to and people learn only on a need basis.

Attire - I agree with this point that there are people who blindly copy the west in this aspect with schools imposing ties which are totally unnecessary but then beyond a point, clothing is purely a personal choice, personally, I find myself most comfortable in a western casual attire than the Indian counterpart and not because I wish to copy the west; and that doesn't make me 'anti national' in anyway. It is ultimately a matter of personal choices and at present, it so happens that many have views similar to mine.

Food habits - Brits love Indian curry, Indians love European food, people love to try what is not ordinary to them and this is just a global phenomenon and I don't understand the hue and cry over it. The idea that western food is the reason for obesity is a reasoning I find to be very childish and just a means to pass the blame; all cuisines have healthy food and junk food (including the Indian cuisine, several Indian fast food); if any, what needs to change is people's habit as such and blaming westernisation for that is nothing but escapism.

Religion - Another popular accusation - people are looking towards the west and forgetting their religion; well, I'm accused of this too, because I quit religion, in fact, at a very young age, but at that age, I wasn't exposed to too much western idea either, it was just that I didn't get satisfying answers to questions raised out of my inherent scepticism and a lot of people are in a similar position as to mine and it is really unfair to blame it on westernisation. In fact, I actually don't see what is the harm in people quitting religion, after all it is personal choice, the ideology that you choose, nobody bats an eye about people becoming communists or leaving the ideology, I fail to understand why this is an issue.

Moreover, I very often find historic references or even pre historic references citing how liberal the Indian culture was and the current state of affairs is solely on account of western affairs. I shall not go into how things were in the historical context but then, I am someone who prefers to live in the real world and in this real world, if the state of affairs with regard to something is better in West, rather than comparing the situation to be better than what it is in Saudi Arabia or North Korea, it is better to embrace the policy or at least, demonstrate how it was better in ancient India and embrace the same but ultimately don't be averse to change citing cultural reasons. The current trend of blaming westernisation is a mere escape route for all the wrongs in the society by those who don't want to take any corrective action. 

The point I am coming to is the point that all these choices that I've taken is a personal choice and none of them had anything to do with trying to imitate the west because I felt they were superior (a feeling which I shall never have). Culture is not proven theory like science that it can't change with time and it is better we embrace changes by taking the best across all irrespective of the origin. The person who I am today is a mixture of my Indian upbringing and an influence of several other cultures across the world based on whatever I've read, and from the people whom I have met and I shall continue to update myself about cultures across the world for I am a citizen of the world, and that shall be my primary identity. Let us stop finding petty excuses for our problems, look at more serious issues and develop ourselves and the society for a better tomorrow.

Have a nice day,
Andy

PS: Don't target me for my 'western' diminutive

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Gory Glory?

From a very young age, we’ve been indoctrinated into developing patriotic feelings towards the country where you’re born and are always told that ‘One day, you must make your country feel proud about you’. Well, fair enough, I’m not opposed to that in principle, either but then, how should we achieve it?

I don’t know how it became that way, but then, only people belonging to two lines of profession are considered as those who bring glory, one being sports and the other being the armed forces. A victory in sport makes the whole country gaga; ‘Xyz does the country proud’ would be the repetitive headline across papers for the next few days. While I understand that it is a great personal achievement, I fail to understand as to why people go around saying ‘I’m proud of my country as I hail from the same country as Xyz’. If you take inspiration from Xyz, use the resources provided by the country which Xyz could exploit and achieve the success and manage to replicate the same or go a step further, I’d agree with the pride but mere pride on account of sharing a passport, I find it to be utterly pointless.

The second point I am coming to is – who exactly brings glory to the country? I’m not denying that soldiers and sportspersons don’t bring glory to the country but the idea that I reject is that these are these are the only two professions that does bring glory to the country. In my opinion, what really drives a country is a group of committed individuals who play their part with absolute dedication in sincerity, starting from the clerk working in the office of the head of state till the head of state.

We glorify sport a lot, let us go to the most commercial sports which are usually played by a team and let me take the example of the world’s most widely watched sport – football; there are varied roles; the role of a goalkeeper or a defender seems lousy from afar or at least, not glamorous enough but if they don’t perform, the team is going to get screwed and same with holding midfielders and central midfielders. Akin to the real world where we seem to glorify only soldiers and sportspersons as bringing glory to the team, the status as legends go only to those who get all the glory, usually the forwards and the inside forwards but then, the one who win is the complete team, Paolo Rossi wouldn’t have got the glory if not for Claudio Gentile and Dino Zoff.

The whole point that I am asserting is, the football team example could even be taken to a macro level, and the politics of running a country is also a team game which has roles much more than the eleven roles in a football match and each role is important to steer the country forward and yes, the ones who bring the country forward ultimately are every member of the populace, starting from the all and sundry till the one who performs the role of getting all the glory. However, the attitude right now seems to be like, how in football, it is deemed as sacrilege if you say anything against Ronaldo or Messi, similarly, you can’t say anything against those who’ve been glorified, even constructive criticism is condemned. After all, a successful economy is the one where most individuals (all is practically impossible and utopian) perform their role to precision, similar to a team in a sport.

The point I am trying to make is to not stop glorifying those who’re into the aforementioned activities but then rather answer the question that I initially asked as to how you make your feel country proud about you; the country has every reason to feel proud about you so long as you play your part properly, you get the share of the glory too. After all, once a team wins the world cup, every member of the squad gets the medal and similarly, every person who has elevated the country to the position can feel they’ve done the country proud and need not be envious about those who are gifted enough to bear the flag.


Have a nice day,
Andy

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Playing right into their hands?

Would the flag continue to wave at Brussels for long?



Disclaimer: I haven't had the time to read too deep into the subject, and the post is solely based on whatever I've casually read till date, I shall post a more detailed article on the subject when the reality is nearer.

I recently read an article which said that for the first time, a majority of the British people favoured an exit from the European Union, in the upcoming referendum following David Cameron's promise if re-elected to power. The immediate cause stated for the change of mind amongst the public was the tragedy that took place in Paris last month and that is what made me confused, as to whether we're giving in to what the perpetrators of the attacks wanted - a weaker UK, a weaker Europe.

The present decade, post the EU crisis has seen a rise in support for the Eurosceptics, especially the UKIP, who despite managing to win just one seat, is in fact the third largest party in the UK by vote share whose sole ideology is an immediate exit from the EU. Post the release of the results of this survey, Nigel Farage might have been celebrating privately but then - are we, inadvertently giving in to the plot of the perpetrators?

Brexit is not a new subject and has always been a discussion where the trends have been similar to the Scottish Independence Referendum where a silent majority opposed the idea but the loud minority were a significant number (refer to my earlier post on Noise or Voice) and all that you need to swing it in favour of the loud significant minority is ONE event and that is exactly what the perpetrators of the Paris attacks perhaps intended - rattle Europe, cause fear and distrust amongst the member nations and the last of it, provide a fillip to the Brexit movement ultimately weakening the Union.

Britain is isolated within Europe and historically, they could use this isolation to their advantage by controlling the seas but in the present era, it is doubtful whether that can still work, but that apart, there are a lot of ramifications on a Brexit - for starters, a significant drop in GDP upto 3% is estimated owing to a Brexit and I am not going to dwell on this too much as the exact figures are always under dispute. As Obama said earlier during a Brexit debate, the special relationship with a strong UK in a very strong Europe and not otherwise and hence, the special relationship with the US is under threat with a Brexit in prospect. Moreover, from what I understand, it could also threaten London's position as Europe's financial centre, with the speculation that many companies possibly moving to other locations within Europe and also, there is also the question of the relationship with the Netherlands, Malta and Cyprus who have significant trade interests in the UK.

But before I go too much into the isolation part of it - there are very little answers to the question from the Eurosceptics as to what would happen post Brexit, if it were to happen, except the very loose suggestion from Nigel Farage that he'd increase cooperation with the non-contiguous Commonwealth. The question to whether this would just be an exit from the EU or whether this would imply an exit from the EEA as well and the Council of Europe / the customs union are questions that don't have very precise answers - would UK continue to be a de facto member akin to Switzerland and Norway or are they going to isolate themselves totally? If UK is going to stay in the EEA, I guess Brexit is a mere symbolism where there would be no real result except that probably, Farage would have moved a step closer to No. 10. Moreover, what about the other complications - the UK have themselves aligned to the Maastricht Treaty in every way possible and if the government wants to repeal that, how long would such legislations take, driving the very question on when a real Brexit can practically happen? I wouldn't even get into the debate as to which side should Cameron be on, for the campaign as, members of his party have been on either sides and if an exit does happen, what would a subsequent Labour government which is pro Union do post being elected to power, if it happens?

Let me not get too much into technical details for two reasons - one; whatever I know is only out of what I have read casually from the papers that I get in a distant land and two; the technical aspects are certainly not the core discussion at Harrods or Hyde Park, it'd be all about how EU is the reason for the Paris attack and how moving out of it would secure Britain from all possible attacks. There is also the popular sentiment that the Romanians and the Bulgarians would stop grabbing British jobs and the dole.

But then, with a Brexit - we're just going to show that we've just made ourselves vulnerable, there would obviously be chaos for a while when one EU 3 member leaves the union and of course, this is exactly the opportunity that the perpetrators are probably looking for and we've played right into their hands, by swinging in favour of the result they want which is something that we should avoid at all costs.

This is a time when Europe ought to be together, the reason why Paris could get back strongly was not in spite of the Union but because of the Union (I know that this statement is a rip off from Gordon Brown), with the cooperation from Belgium, Greece and other member states alike and the enemy is common, even for Britain and it is the perpetrators of the Paris attack and not the European Union. This is a time where unity is required, more than ever, not just in Europe but throughout the world and more countries need to come together than break away. May there be success against the perpetrators of the Paris attacks and may the success of a joint European operation bring kill the Eurosceptic sentiment.

Long live Europe!

Have a nice day,
Andy

Saturday, 30 May 2015

The Totalitarian State – From a Concerned Football Fan

Their actions evidently seem contradictory to their motto.

Very often, you’d find that inside a totalitarian state, like that of China, Syria, Cuba, Kazakhstan, Belarus or even Russia, there are so many things about it that are so good but it is because of the regime, the outside world in general has a very poor opinion on the countries. This need not be just in politics, there is politics everywhere and even though it is always said that sport should be independent from politics, we still can’t separate the two, can we?

Well, with the conclusion of the 65th Congress of FIFA, it was inevitable that the public was going to go gaga following the re-election of the controversial president Sepp Blatter despite the wake of the recent corruption scandal that has hit the headlines, yet another time, where FIFA has been in the headline for all the wrong reasons with the previous prominent one being four years ago where the World Cup for 2018 and 2022 was unexpectedly awarded to Russia and Qatar respectively, making it very clear that the organisation was being taken over by oligarchs and sheikhs. This re-election from the outside simply implies Blatter would have ruled the beautiful game for nearly twenty years, since 1998.

Too many similarities in the picture?

Why Belarus is called a totalitarian state? It does have elections, but then, the elections aren’t exactly fair, there is only one person (Lukashenko, in this case) who gets a thumping victory every time such elections are held and Belarus hasn’t seen any other president till date. But in comparison, Blatter doesn’t seem to be much different from Lukashenko, barring the fact that his reign started four years after that of the latter, but then, their tactics aren’t a lot different, like in 2011, how Blatter abused his presidential powers to get both his nearest rivals suspended, being Mohammed bin Hammam (AFC) and Jack Warner (CONCACAF) just before the 61st Congress. I believe FIFA has seen more presidents only because it has lasted longer than Belarus, so far. The recent one goes without saying, Blatter lobbied enough to get enough support for his re-election despite the fierce opposition from the all-powerful UEFA; who were vocal about their support for the Hashemite Prince Ali (ignore the irony of a Hashemite running for power, they normally just get it). As far as the lobbying is concerned, I’d just take the example of my own country of residence, the president of All India Football Federation (AIFF) – Praful Patel, gave a press interview declaring India’s support for Blatter and didn’t offer any valid justification as to why he was rooting for Blatter rather the fact that he had been at the helm for too long. It’d be interesting to know that Patel actually happens to be a politician from a party called the NCP, expanded as Naturally Corrupt Party by the current Prime Minister in one of his rallies (not entirely unsubstantiated) and so, I guess Blatter couldn’t have asked for a better ally. But jokes apart, to think of it a little seriously, the larger question arises, is FIFA really the democratic organisation acting in the best interests of the beautiful game?
  
The misfortune about FIFA’s democratic structure is that, the presidential candidate, in most cases just needs to gain the favour of one person from each country to become the guardian of the most followed sport in the world and taking my own Praful Patel example, as far as I know, a significant ardent football fans whom I have spoken to in India were absolutely against the re-election of Blatter but still, it absolutely doesn’t matter, you get a headline in BBC World News saying that ‘India supports Blatter’ as that man has managed to lobby enough to gain the support of ONE person in the country.

The Ghost Goal

 To go on with the other shortcomings, FIFA have been holding on to their archaic rules in the name of holding on to antiquity and have not taken any step to develop the game in anyway whatsoever and amongst all the sports that I follow, football uses technology the least, thanks to FIFA. While other sports voluntarily implemented technology, it took Frank Lampard’s ghost goal in the 2010 World Cup (can’t believe it is more than five years, the frustration is felt to this date) for Blatter and his congress of loons to realise the importance of goal line technology. So, here you find the next feature of a typical totalitarian state in FIFA, that there is no step voluntarily taken towards development unless you’re forced to and you ingratiate only those whom you’re close to and I’d come to that in the next paragraph.

Ingratiating the people whom you want, another typical feature you’d find in any totalitarian state, shrunk to a single word – ‘cronyism’. The incident that could be immediately recalled is the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where alcohol is prohibited inside stadiums to curtail violence. But then, Budweiser was a chief sponsor of the FIFA and hence, even before Brazil raised any talk of amending the laws to make an exception for the world cup, FIFA released a statement saying that Budweiser would be allowed to sell and eventually, Brazil had to budge by passing a bill, colloquially termed as the Budweiser Bill. See, here you go, you’ve the next feature – suppression of the interests of citizens (members in this case) to support the interests of a select few large corporations.

Coming back to what I stated in my first paragraph, take the case of, say, Syria, said to have so many excellent relics of the Mesopotamian civilisation, the early Roman structures, Islamic structures in Aleppo, etc. and most tourists have narrated very positive experiences with the people of Syria but still, people had a negative opinion from the outside because of the Al-Assad regime (although, considering the alternatives after the break out of the civil war, Al-Assad seems the best option available) and similarly, the headlines that the guardian of the beautiful game is grabbing is doing the game more harm than good and the game is going to make no inroads into countries where the game isn’t very popular when an organisation like FIFA is promoting the same.

To conclude, I’d say that FIFA isn’t doing the game any good, corruption is so deep rooted, and it is akin to an absolute totalitarian state as substantiated above. This means, to protect the game, only two things could be done – either a complete overhaul is required in FIFA to correct the mess that they’re in and the recent scandal wasn’t a revelation in anyway, but just something known to everyone and it took a lot of time to come out. The second alternative is a complete boycott of the organisation and I’m happy that UEFA is taking the courageous step and I hope they carry it forward. The latter seems the only option at the moment as with the re-election of Blatter, things certainly don’t seem to change for the better and as such, he is someone who has the audacity to say, ‘I’d forgive but not forget’ while referring to Platini’s critical comments. I read some positive headlines that England is willing to boycott 2018 if more join the movement and I hope the movement gains the momentum and hopefully, sooner rather than later, FIFA, the way we know it today no longer exists and what we see is a reformed guardian of the sport whose priority is the welfare of the sport.

Have a nice day,

Andy

Friday, 15 May 2015

Noise or Voice?

Your level of influence on the people around you is often said to be very important and I'm someone who very strongly believes in it. However, the key question is, how do you achieve this level of influence and moreover, how do you judge whether a person's voice really has an influence on the people - often put in simple terms - whether the person has charisma.

While I'm really not sure as to how that is achieved, whether it is innate or whether it is something achievable by conscious effort but what I've observed over the years is that there is a misconceived notion on achieving the same and here I merely intend to touch upon this misconception.

What I find is, there are some kinds of people who are very loud, who push their ideas and views very aggressively and and make a lot of noise in the name of expressing theirs voice. Interestingly, such people have followers of two kinds, one set of people who are too submissive and another set of people who see themselves in that person and are equally noisy and obnoxious. What I'm immediately reminded of is the two recently concluded events that upheld the democratic traditions of the United Kingdom - one being the Scottish independence referendum, 2014 and the general election, 2015.

Where the former is concerned, whenever I read any article or watched any YouTube video regarding the same, I found the nationalists commenting all over the place as to how everyone is biased and the general public wants to vote yes in the referendum and accusing every journalist and panelist of bias. Anybody from a far away place such as myself, by reading such comments is that the UK is going to shatter and that the nationalists are going to win it hands down.

The next is the general election with respect to Nigel Farage and his party UKIP. Farage pushed his rather radical ideas in a very very aggressive manner throughout his campaign, which has been going on for sometime now, who ran a single point agenda and somehow believed that the single point would resolve every other problem that the country is facing. Even in television debates, he goes about making wild claims, in a very aggressive manner, a lot of them completely untrue, but then, just because there was a man standing behind the podium expressing something angrily, a lot of people I knew thought the statements to be legitimate. In fact, Farage's supporters were so advanced that I read in an article in The Guardian that going just by Google search against their name, Farage would heavily outnumber Ed Miliband to become the leader of opposition in the House of Commons.

However, the reality in both the cases was quiet different - with Scotland deciding to stay in the Union and Nigel Farage's UKIP winning just one seat in the 650 member house with Farage losing his own seat (for the purpose of this article, I'm going to ignore that fact that UKIP got more votes than Lib Dems and the SNP).

Coming back to my observations, what I see in all these cases, is that, the majority is always silent and are not really bothered by the noise that is created by the people who vociferously promote their thoughts and the truth is, they do so because they actually feel insecure about being in this minority that they try to show their presence by making a lot of noise and this goes on till the day when the silent majority finally decide to exercise their choice as Gordon Brown said, in his speech at Glasgow a day before the referendum - "The silent majority shall be silent no more".

So, all I wish to say is, especially to those who wish to gain an influence amongst the people around them, merely making a noise doesn't indicate that you're having a voice, you'd live under an illusion till you're pulled down when you needed that voice.

Have a nice day,
Andy

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Satiety – Modern and precarious

I see plenty of people around me who crumble under the corporate pressure of the age. Is it of any surprise that the world in moving in an unfathomable direction? We feel that we understand how our lives are moving. But how much control do we have on our lives? I for one, feel that I have very limited control over my activities. Anything I do is effectively controlled by how our economy wants it to move.

The world today is a dynamic one, with an effervescent population running a race where the path is predefined by the nation’s corporate democracy. Since the reforms of 1990’s, India has seen a boom in number of companies aligning themselves with the corporate culture employed in the US. We have been using the US structure to bolster ourselves and our beliefs. This however does not ring true when considering the core labour that implants its roots into our workplace behavior. On comparing the efforts put in by an Indian with that of the national of a significantly developed country, we can find that our manifold efforts overshadow, at least in quantity, overshadow theirs. This situation has come across through one phenomenon; man’s greed.

Being the country that is infamous/famous for its adaptability, we have the distinct disadvantage of being exploited. Being almost without exception, the needy side of the bargain, we tend to stoop lower to please the providers. The Atticism of the providers in making us work elongated hours is profound. As expected, we adapt a so called flexible working time, and the eventuality for earning an extra dime increases. This has led to the redefinition of the word ‘Professionalism’ in today’s lingo. However much we think that we are the masters of our lives, the redefined word masters us all. In today’s terms, the word practically means catering to all the needs of the provider, forgoing personal time for  the dime, appending our time with international time to create really drawn out hours of work, addressing the whims of the bosses, etcetera. These are only a few of the numerous ravenous changes to the word that used to stand for effective and efficient service to a client with an objective mind.

I for one believe that man’s deity has always been connected to, or directly implying man’s insatiable character. Regardless of how much a man gets, his hunger just grows. I am not saying that all humans are the same. I have known many humans who are meek. Out of this population as well, there are ones who have succumbed to the snobbishness of society. Our work is defined by this pretense now. Just as how Midas ended up solidifying his daughter in his greed, humans of this generation would end up crumbling their souls, which are representative of their persons and their loved ones. There is this precedent of working for hours at hand, for weeks, months and years. Finally, at the brink of destruction or inutility, whichever comes earlier, a trip is undertaken to the Bahamas, Europe, or to some tropical rainforest, or some other place devoid of human civilization. This is what is popularly known as vacation in the modern context. Its former meaning held for centuries, being a regular break in between work to spend time with family. With the increasing demand for our presence in our workplaces, regular breaks are a fallacy. What we could have is definitely not what we get. What we get is a miniscule portion of the bare minimum.

People are in need of a better life across this country. Instead of bending down and letting the culture at work, trample your dreams, catch on to something. That something can be a hobby or a dream or anything for that matter. This is what I believe, keeps me going. If that something has a monetary tail, beyond a point it may render a person defenseless and inutile against the bulging demands of today’s society. It took me a while to understand that my greed for materials is not everything but only something. My greed could get me things, but made me lose a lot more.


-           - Victor Van Volkner

Friday, 1 May 2015

Racism?

‘He is a racist!’, ‘She is a racist!’, ‘They’re a bunch of racists!’, ‘It is a racist nation!’ etc. are phrases that you keep hearing all the time. I don’t aim to post another article over and above a million already posted on how condemnable the culture of racism is and how it affects those targeted, etc. Very often, I often find that people, who accuse everyone else of being racist, often do have such inclinations themselves and I wonder, how many people making such allegations are actually aware what the term means?

Well, I understand that there is a dilemma with regard to whether the term is applicable only for racial discrimination or it also includes ethnic discrimination? Is it applicable only from those perceived to be from a so called ‘superior’ race / ethnicity or is it neutral? If you go blindly by the lexicon, this is what it says:

‘Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior’ Oxford Dictionary

Here, it talks only about the race of the person but nothing beyond the race (where the scope is very limited) and more importantly, it also is neutral in its definition, by which, it means, a Caucasian making a snide remark on a Black based on her / his race is a racist remark and so is the converse, equally so, which is very often ignored. But then, based on what I have observed, if the simile monkey is used on a Black, it is immediately deemed racist but the same isn’t done so when a Caucasian is referred to as a swine (while I don’t encourage the use of the former, and is in fact quite condemnable but I’d say that if the former qualifies as a racist remark, the latter equally does). The reason why I contemplate on this a lot is, because, very often, I find that the historic victims of racism love playing the card and the same is often exploited, be it in football matches or political speeches wherein, anything is accused as being racist but at the same time, those who play the victim card, make similar personal attacks on their opponent which just gets termed as a ‘aggressive speech’ or at the most, an ‘abusive speech’ but is never termed racist unlike what normally happens to speeches given by delegates of a race who haven’t been victims of the phenomenon historically. At this moment, I’m reminded of a couple of dialogues from Yes Prime Minister where Prime Minister James Hacker was discussing education and when a concern was raised that some of the public schools teach more Hindi than English, this is what James Hacker had to say –

‘I know that English is more important than Hindi in this country but I’d dare not say that in public for I’d immediately by accused of racism. Last week, at the ethnic awareness council, I happened to glance at my watch when a black woman delegate was delivering her speech and I was immediately accused of racist body language.’ – The National Education Service – Season 2, Episode 7

The next is the confusion regarding ethnic discrimination and as seen above, while the dictionary doesn’t touch upon it and doesn’t include it within the ambit, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination does not differentiate between ethnic and racial discrimination and is very much included in the scope of the term. So, now comes the question, very often , friends of mine who return from abroad claim that some were racist towards her/him and when I ask how, in most cases, the reason would be owing to some stereotype or plain ignorance of the other person and occasionally, it is a racist remark indicating superiority. However, a lot of these people, make such snide remarks about people from other provinces, often based on ethnicity, make a lot of judgements based on stereotypes and at the same time are hypocritical enough to accuse everyone else of racism barring themselves.

While personally, I myself am from a region in this world usually perceived as victims of racism (even though the situation in this region by itself, isn’t much different, internally) but the reason why I’ve a soft corner for those from a so called ‘superior’ race is because, I know a lot of people from that category, who have no belief in racism, see everyone as equals and are yet, accused of being racism and that is when, I feel, the so called oppressed are taking advantage of the laws in favour of them and take every single jibe far too seriously and interpret them as racist (I recall a lot of incidents in sports).

Before concluding on this, let me make it very clear that I’m completely against racism, of all kinds, personally, I don’t even acknowledge race and ethnicity and also, I don’t deny that there are people who are victims to racism but at the same time, the more we introspect, the more we realise that there is a racist within most of us (even the victims – actual or perceived) and the reason why I wrote this is for us to do that introspection and kill that racist in us.

May the future be a world where we sail beyond all these narrow ideologies carried forward from the medieval era.

Have a nice day,

Andy

Thursday, 9 April 2015

If an organisational setup was CIS / a collection of ex-Soviet States



Disclaimer: This is an ill researched article on the situation in the former Soviet states. While I’m not completely in the dark regarding the subject, but at the same time, I’m not a connoisseur on the same. This is in no way a serious article and is meant to be taken in a light sense.

So, while I was sitting through yet another one of those countless late nights, I was just imagining the political situation in the former Soviet Union. From Eastern Europe to Caucasus and to as east as Central Asia, the situation is the same. All of them are united by a big brother; in this case a really big one. Everybody needs the big brother, for all fundamental aspects, being survival, growth and development but at the same time, nobody is fully satisfied with the big brother either, and day after day, it is always a war, either live or cold, but the action is always the same.

The view that any naïve foreigner with nothing more than a bird’s eye view about what we know as the former Soviet states is, that all of them (maybe with the exception of the Baltic states) are so dependent on their Big Brother, being Russia, but at the same time, nobody is per se comfortable with the Big Brother, being you lose your sense of independence and may begin to wonder what is the difference between the nostalgic Cold War days and today, barring the flags under whom we’re united. The terms are clearly set by the Big Brother and after setting those terms, there is no question of personal needs, the needs of the Big Brother becomes the priority.

This could be applicable to large corporations too, every time I open a newspaper on a Sunday morning, I find editorials filled with articles criticising the ‘corporate culture’ of the organisation they work for in every possible way and the bitter sweet relationship that they share with them – for they need them for their day to day survival, growth in the society and development as a person, just similar to the case of the former Soviet States.

As I’m ‘blessed’ enough to get those Sunday mornings unlike those who write those articles, with the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and the war against Georgia in 2008 and also the internal division inside Moldova, I could think of only one thing, what they are facing is so similar to the reality in the former Soviet States. They mention about some of the people, and what strikes me immediately is that of Belarus; yet again, what a naïve foreigner can see from afar is, Belarus is hated by many for the reasons that – it is the last remaining dictatorship in Europe, is almost like a black mark in Europe considering they’re the only country in Europe that still practises capital punishment (even their Big Brother has it done away with) and for all practical purposes, is a puppet of the Big Brother, has ingratiated them enough, much to the ire of everyone else around it. But these opinions about them simply don’t matter, for the only priority of Belarus is to please Russia, rise up the ladder and secure their position with the big brother. Evidently, the authors do seem to detest the characters akin to those in the position of Belarus.

But at the same time, the writers do see themselves as Ukraine – their only crime was an attempt to join a stronger and better organisation (the EU, in this case) which was intercepted through the grapevine channels and thereby being given a totally miserable time – a part of yourself is taken away as price, in most cases, your peace of mind (just like the loss of Crimea) and a part of yourself is always in conflict with the Big Brother at the other end (what else is happening at Donbass?) and of course, you still have to carry on with your own work and answerable to your own family (the government at Kiev, ultimately has to do what a normal government does and is answerable to the people and also, has to handle these conflicts). Ukraine might have the sympathy of everyone around and a supposed support but then, it doesn't really matter to the Big Brother, and these supporters aren't really interested in outrightly going against the Big Brother, for, take the case of EU, they love Ukraine, supporting them supports their ideology, but then, with the Big Brother being an important trade partner, they prefer to do nothing more than lip service and merely pretend to share the pain of Ukraine. 

Or always, the most common claim is that the Big Brother always practices the divide and rule, if a union is against you, break that union into those who’d sway in your favour and create trouble in the union and then, the union, individually would become so insignificant that it doesn’t matter anymore. Take the case of Moldova – how the Big Brother supported the War of Transnistria and broke the union, with the split being prevalent till date. The even more recent case would be that of the break-up of Georgia were the Big Brother went into war and created two new states that’d always support them – being South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The bottom-line of the whole thing is clear – try to screw around with the big brother, you’re certainly screwed before you even raise a finger.

There are also always the street-smart cases who’d progress, in spite of all their animosity and hatred for the culture in the organisation, owing to their sheer ability, and would eventually drift away, and make it big in a larger organisation, like the case of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Then of course, there are always those insignificant characters in the office who are always shocked, witnessing the plight of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, they would dare not take their path and instead be like the Belarus or at least move towards it. You want a state of the art space launching facility? Please, take it as long as you’d need – so says Kazakhstan to the Big Brother. Turkmenistan would say that its needs are secondary, would offer the Big Brother its oil and natural resources as satisfying Gazprom thereby satisfying the Big Brother is the ultimate priority at the moment.

As I said earlier, I’m in no way a political commentator on this subject, but as I read this, I just attempted relating what I read in the editorials to what I read in the current affairs section. Your criticism and feedback is most welcome.

Have a nice day,

Andy

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Right to offend or Right to be offended

‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.’ – Article 19 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

With the advent of Twitter, Facebook and other social media, noticing your voice is no longer a very difficult task; however the pragmatic question always arises owing to the noticeable nature of our voice – whether we actually have the right to voice?

Lately; a furore is often created by a certain mob over any insignificant remark made by any person whose identity less than 100 people would’ve known till the person hits the headlines over an alleged ‘hurting sentiments of the masses’ charge. Now, this leads to further questions – were people as such never strong in their opinion till the 21st century or is it just that people are getting offended too easily.

Recently, during an occasion, a certain well known person had tweeted which caused outrage leading news outlets to put up a headline questioning whether ‘Does Freedom of speech give people the right to offend?’ None of the other headlines bothered me as much as this one considering, in all the other incidents I’ve witnessed regarding misuse of law over petty comments in social media, the media has always given unconditional support to the victim of such misuse, however, this headline sent me to deep thoughts questioning whether the media has finally sucked up to the extremists and the cultural terrorists.

When you question whether people have the right to offend, there is something that fundamentally needs to be defined – what is an offence and how can you do it to people otherwise than by means of physical contact or direct hurling of abuse / dirt slinging. However, more often than not, the ones that hit the headlines are not the ones that fall under the aforementioned categories, rather, remarks made on issues that have a direct impact on either of the parties. Usually, these events are triggered by those remarks that are made with intent to hurt the sentiments of the masses. This simply leads to another question, what are these sentiments? Does this mean that people, fundamentally, have the right to be offended than the converse? Based on what I understand, you can be offended by anything – personally, I could very easily claim that I’m profoundly offended when someone speaks of ill of Chelsea Football Club, a club that I support but is it covered under the purview of these sentiments? Understandably so, it isn’t, so, there is an unwritten distinction between significant sentiments and those that aren’t significant but that distinction practically can never be made and that is when those who wish to be expressive are being hindered.

I’m reminded of a statement of author Philip Pullman when he was asked about his new book, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ (click the link to read the review in Astute) and the same being offensive to an ordinary Christian –

‘No one has the right to live without being shocked, nobody has the right to live their life without being offended, nobody has to read this book, nobody has to pick it up, nobody has to open it but if they open it up and read it, they don’t have to like it and if you read it and you dislike it, you don’t have to remain silent; you can write to me, you can write to the publisher, you can write to the papers, or you can write your own book; you can do all those things but there your rights stop. No one has the right to stop me writing this book, no one has the right to stop this book being published or sold or bought or read and that’s all I’ve to say on this.’

Well, this pretty much nails it – people have various means to voice their dissent but their dissent can’t be the sole reason to stop somebody from expressing or saying something.

We’re always told that we live in a free, multi-faceted society but I fail to understand how for anything and everything, one of the elements of this multi-faceted society raise an issue of being offended over anything and everything. In my opinion, people are beginning to take things far too seriously and we all must understand something when it comes to the concept of Freedom of Speech – nobody is ever going to exercise this right to say that ‘The sun rises from the east’ or ‘Life is finite’ for these are facts that nobody is going to dispute and you don’t need to be protected by a freedom to state a fact. So, the entire concept comes in only when you’re going to say something that is controversial or offensive to certain groups of people and that is when you require the protection of the law to uphold the freedom and not have other laws to revoke this freedom and give people the right to be offended and when that is done, the whole the entire concept loses its meaning.

In my strongest of opinions, the right to offend is very much necessary in a free society and I’d end this write-up with another quote from a well-known author who has written a lot on the subject –

‘What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.’ – Sir Salman Rushdie

Have a nice day,

Andy