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,


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,

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


‘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,