The Value of Adding Value

November 11, 2007 at 6:44 pm | Posted in developing economy, goods and services, medical transcription, per capita, poverty, real value, starvation, tempigrant, trickle down, value addition, wealth distribution, world GDP | 8 Comments

As mechanisation has been a staple reality world over for the last couple of centuries, it has shaped our societies and cultures.

In honour of the industrial revolution, engineering became one of the most sought after professions that only the most brilliant could aspire to. Courses in civil and mechanical engineering initially held pride of place, but then gave way to electronics and electrical engineering, and now even these have become less popular than communications and software ‘engineering’ – courses that are now even found in the ubiquitous ‘Arts College’. The professions have tried to keep pace with cultural developments.

The agricultural revolution and rapid advances in medicine have also combined to make the world’s huge population explosion just barely manageable. Of course, out of 6.6 billion people only 1 billion live well. Of the rest, around 25% are in abject poverty and in danger of starving (that’s about 1.65 billion people). In absolute terms compared to a century ago, the percentage of poor has declined by half but the absolute number of the very very poor has gone up by about 40 million!

It is argued quite successfully (on paper) that the way to deal with poverty is not to give handouts but to give a hand-up. In other words, bring the poor of the world into the mainstream of production, and poverty will be licked. Is this realistic? Is it even possible? What jobs can we envision creating for the billions of poor?

In 2006, it was calculated that if a real U.S. dollar value were to be placed on the per person share of the entire world’s economy (per capita on the world’s GDP), it would work out to about $6,600 each. Such figures are heavily disputed by economists, mostly depending on where the economist hails from and what turf they are seeking to protect, so I take this as merely illustrative. The plain fact is that this is well below what an American or a European would consider the barest minimum subsistence level. In other words, if one were to pay an American $6,600 a year, they would starve to death. The poverty level cutoff in the U.S. last year was over $13,000 per annum. On the other hand, in India or China or in Africa six and a half thousand dollars would support a whole family of four at a ‘middle class’ level for a whole year.

Another little illustration that might illustrate the difference is that a good Medical Transcriptionist (MT) in the U.S. would earn about 65 cents a line. An average MT may pull in about 45 cents a line. The same work, when outsourced to the Philippines or India will earn the MT there, anywhere from 2 cents to 3 cents a line. In both types of economies this would constitute a middle class occupation.

The difference lies in the ways in which “value” has been added to products and services in these developed economies. People eat, they wear clothes, pay rent, they go to and from work, their kids get educated… all over the world. But in the ‘developed economies’, it costs a heck of a lot more to live even in this basic-needs sort of way.

Marketing and management have become the most honoured professions. The highest paid of all professionals in the world are the managers of large corporations. Now knowledge is the key to money and power. The knowledge that is most valued is the alchemical secret of value addition. It has to be done insidiously and so effectively that the consumer will consume both the product and the mythical value and feel pleased. Now, that’s MAGIC !

Is it all worth it? The corporations think so and to tell the truth the answer is that without the layers upon layers of value addition, these developed economies would collapse.

Big business absolutely relies on the inflationary effects of exploitable, value addition, in order to pump profit margins up to a level where there remains little connection between what a goods or service costs to perform/produce and what the end user ends up paying for it. The value addition is self justifying also because it is the primary means of distributing “wealth” or more accurately earnings in the strictly trickle down economy.

Now, these economies want the developing world also to faithfully follow the same route. Everyone should buy-in to the concept of breaking the connection between the real value and what we collectively end up paying for anything after value addition.

Is Mass Production Ethical ?

November 7, 2007 at 9:56 am | Posted in communism, consumerism, economy, free market, industrial evolution, loss of self, mechanisation, redundancy, specialisation | 3 Comments

Successful and well developed economies in today’s world are mostly of the ‘free market’ design. These are economies where a modicum of free enterprise is only slightly limited by government regulation (except in agriculture, but we are not taking that topic up today). The alternative of top down control and no private ownership (communism) has died a natural death.

Both systems were outgrowths of the industrial revolution of the 19C. When looked at from an individual standpoint, by relieving the individual or family unit of the need to accomplish all basic tasks pretty much for themselves, and by introducing the incredible efficiencies of mechanisation, the individual is freed up to do other things, and these things necessarily, will now involve specialisation if one is to fit in to the overall framework. The economy mass produces stuff by mechanised processes that are increasingly automated with as few people as possible controlling as much process as possible.

Work, for an individual, is defined as the specialised, narrow, thing that that individual has been trained to do. The individual has to fit into whatever slots are available in the economy of the day.

So, the training of the individual, education also has to become specialised. Now, in India, there is no more point in getting an ‘arts degree’. There is no utility in it. Job requirements do not include something as impractical and unspecialised as an ‘arts degree’. Furthermore, if one wants to change lines of work, say after five or ten years of experience, one finds that one is starting the new job at the bottom of the ladder- the earnings ladder! The only thing that counts is a proven ability to perform and that comes only with experience.

We know all of these things and they don’t overly disturb us for we are fairly confident that the whole thing hangs together and works pretty durn well. After all, what we need is a job, and some job security, and for prices to remain affordable, and for there to be opportunities and time for recreation and the family. What else does one want from a healthy, sound economy?

I would suggest that we have blinded ourselves to who and what we really are. We do this and allow ourselves to be duped because it is the easiest thing to do. We are comfortable enough, our families are pretty much taken care of, so what could really be wrong?

What we have gained is security.
What we have lost is our SELVES.

What happens to human beings that become redundant? What happens to machines that become redundant? The human has become nothing more than a machine, filling a slot in the endless cycle of mass production.

Mass production is good. Mass production runs the economy. Without mass production there would be no economy and there would be no prosperity.

We have gained the whole world-
But, we have lost ourSELVES.

War Games – Musharraf goes the "Cheney-Me-To-A-Rice-Bush" Route

November 4, 2007 at 7:29 am | Posted in 123 Nuclear Treaty, CheneyMeToARiceBush, democracy, Dickied Rice Bush, dictator, Indian Constitution, Kargil War, Musharraf, Mushy, neocononial, spin, statesmanship | Leave a comment

India has been toying with doing things in ‘The New American Way’ for some time now. Our present almost misadventures with the 1-2-3 Nuclear Power Treaty has clearly indicated our own Junta’s leanings. We too seem to be actively seeking ways to democratically subvert our democracy, but thankfully have so far failed.

Still the Dickied Rice Bush has had a visible measure of success with our neighbour Pakistan.

America kept insisting that this Mushy stuff was the closest that the Pakistani people could get to democracy. Instead, with the decle3ration of Emergency Rule, what was all along a dictatorship in democratic guise has now reverted to form and proved that it was indeed a full blown military dictatorship all along.

Musharraf is a suave, smooth, polite, educated, and eminently reasonable dictator, but a dictator and a ruthless and brutal one nonetheless. He is photogenic, soft spoken, and charismatic (wonder where I’ve heard that before) and an ideal stooge for the U.S. State Department’s deeper designs in this part of the world.
The last time Musharraf needed to consolidate his power he engineered a war (the ’99 Kargil War) with India. The then democratically elected Pakistani leader (Nawaz Sharrif) had to flee for his life.

This time Mushy has been concentrating on his Afghany front, and let’s hope that he stays focussed there. The chances are that as long as the current U.S. administration is wooing India, Mushy will have to bite his tongue and wait, but nothing is certain in todays global village.

Who knows perhaps in international parlance, engineering Emergencies is just one more way of delivering a hidden ultimatum? An openly militaristic Pakistan should certainly fuel the the local arms race and that itself would have made Dickey & Co. very happy. Every cloud should have a silver and gold lining, as should every pocket…

It’s too much to hope that India would have learned anything substantial from this, except that there’re always ways to make a quick buck. The depth of the pocket is actually what drives politics in India anyway.

Statesmanship is a thing of the rather distant past – a blurry, fading, black and white memory of what was always something of a hazy backlit dream.

“Do, you know that the U.S. tried ever so strongly to dissuade Mushy from such a drastic step?” At least that’s the current spin, being disseminated through the hidden alleyways of a ‘leaky’ State Department.

What everyone here does know, is that Mussharraf would never have dared unless he was offered tacit U.S. support.

  • We have blown it on Myanmar. We are supporting a brutal military junta.
  • We have blown it with Tibet; we have shamed ourselves, the Tibetan people and the Dalai Lama.

But it is not too late to change tack.

Let us try to realise the reality of our own proud constitution.
Let us once more try to stand for FREEDOM,
to truly uphold DEMOCRACY, and
to be the champions of JUSTICE
that we once thought that we could be,
and that we would be.

UPDATE 1 (Nov. 5) The headlines about 6 months down the road after a bit of NYT force fed journalism:

RENDERING (justice to) THE COURTS:

Gen. Pervez Mussharaf had exported Pakistan’s supreme court justices to the U.S. under the Democracy Re-education Program (DemRep) sponsored by the US Department of State.

Now, we are not so surprised to report that the use of waterboarding and other assorted (recreationally educational) nontortures at Guantanamo for the recalcitrant Pakistani Supreme Court justices has finally resulted in signed confessions of connections to terrorism from all 60 of the judges who had originally refused to swear allegiance to General Musharraf after he imposed martial law in order to SAVE Pakistani democracy. All the judges now unanimously support the continuation of Mr. Mussharaf as he is “clearly the only dictator capable of restoring true democracy.”

The Secretary of State is very pleased that the U.S. has been “able to further promote democracy in the world while simultaneously dealing a death blow to terrorist oriented judiciaries.”

AUTISM, the latest in the LD series at PONNVANDU

October 30, 2007 at 9:15 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


The latest article in the series on Learning Disabilities is up at Ponnvandu. Click on this link:

LD-4 Autism,

Earlier posts in the series are :

DYSLEXIA
DYSGRAPHIA
DYSPRAXIA
NUTRITION FOR KIDS WITH LD
DEVELOPMENTALLY CHALLENGED KIDS – TIPS FOR PARENTS

Freedom dies, dying, dead.

October 29, 2007 at 6:21 am | Posted in Aung san Suu Kyi, bush, Craig Murray, Darfur, FRCS, freedom of speech, human rights, junta, MNC nexus, Myanmar, NHS, Uzbekistan | Leave a comment

Our world has lost the desire for justice. We are now losing our desire for freedom. Our politicians have become slaves of power and thus slaves of money, for they believe that without money there is no power.

Let me illustrate with two different examples:

The NHS, (National Health Service) and indeed the very practice of English Medicine itself, is being steadily dismantled (read ‘redefined’ or ‘efficientised’) in the “Formerly Great” Britain.

  • All medical super-specialties are being segregated to a very limited number of treatment facilities that also happen to be as far apart as possible.
  • The FRCS is soon to follow the MRCP to becoming just an empty qualification. It already requires a Training Completion certificate to get the proud owner any respect at all!
  • Most hospitals will be turned into Primary Health Centers where only routine medical procedures will be performed by doctors who have no additional qualifications – in other words “doctor” = “glorified technician”.

The government will (of course) save tremendously on salaries, facilities, maintenance, equipment and training expenditures. But that’s not all – the current Labour government is now actively looking for ways to quietly privatise as many of the facilities as possible and to then back that up with private health insurance.

In other words, healthcare will turn into the same sort of disastrous mess that now prevails in the U.S. with the average human simply being denied even basic healthcare…

The first step to getting the public behind these moves is to castrate the existing system. Create a demand and then let the privatisers move in for the kill!

Secondly, look at what’s happening in Darfur, Uzbekistan (see title link) and Myanmar… In all these instances, we see tremendous oppression. It is selective homicide and extreme oppression against members of one’s own nation being perpetrated by dictator style governments.

The world is silent!

YET, this same international community was happy enough to attack an Iraq that had already been decimated by sanctions. Do you know that a very conservative estimate of unnecessary child death (due to sanctions) puts the Iraqi toll at over 2,000,000? Did you know?

But try to get anything more forceful than pious declarations of commiseration about the really nasty stuff that’s going on, that every single person knows is going on, and you are met with a deafening silence!

There was a British ex-ambassador to Uzbekistan who dared to raise a voice of protest against the tacit support that both Britain and the U.S. were giving to the dictator there. He was promptly recalled, criticised and then canned from the Foreign Service. The issue appears to also have something to do with the Uzbek’s huge gas deposits which are being tapped by MNCs and their parent governments (see this fascinating fax linking Bush, Enron and Uzbekistan). There is also a suspicion that the American base in Uzbekistan was one of the primary holding grounds for the detention and torture of the victims of America’s Renditions.

On Myanmar, my own Indian government, democratically elected and the upholders of one of the worlds best constitutions has chosen to sell itself down the river of looting the helpless.

I am particularly and utterly amazed, and very deeply pained, that there has not been even so much as a whimper of protest in India’s press against the ridiculous moral – material support that our democratically elected junta is supplying openly to their brothers in Myanmar.

This same junta granted a high civilian honour to Aung San Suu Kyi just a short while ago! Obviously the two juntas are not strange bedfellows at all!

The only difference between then and now is that now our Indian corporates and their MNC friends have figured out how to make very substantial money from the misfortunes of the ineptly pacifistic Burmese monks.

PRIME PRINCIPLE : Good sources of ROI are not to be scoffed at;

And the easiest way to silence criticism is to enlist the help of our postmodern world’s ubiquitous Master of Spin – the POLITICIAN, whose only real agenda is to stay in power for as long as possible, in order to make their pockets as well lined as absolutely possible, while duping the dupable populace that only conscientiously good governance is the goal.

Guns N Roses

October 17, 2007 at 9:12 pm | Posted in Bhopal, Chernobyl, global evils, global warming, guns, Hiroshima, Iraq War, Ngobel Prize, peace, self destruction, spin, unnatural disaster, weapons of mass destruction, WMD, WW1 | 2 Comments

It used to be that the worst we could do was to kill off a few of our own species by instigating nasty but localised disasters,

think: Chernobyl, Hiroshima, the Holocaust, Cambodia’s Killing Fields, Bhopal, WW1, Iraq…

And with a little minor collateral damage thrown in such as loss of habitats and some consequent reduction in biodiversity.

Global evils are a relatively new creation of mankind.

The reality is that somewhere in the 1950s we created enough nuclear firepower to completely destroy all life on earth.

Now, that’s global!

Of course, TODAY the United States of America can be proud of having the ABILITY, and all on their lonesome, to destroy a hundred earths.

Russia may have more, or less and China? Then there’s Israel, India, South Africa, Great Britain, France, Germany, maybe and now Brazil too and maybe Iran.

So let’s say, for the sake of argument, that’s another few hundred worlds worth…

I wonder whether that is why there are so many astronomers looking for habitable earthlike planets?

Well, when they do get started, (on using all of that lovely firepower) let’s just hope that they start as far away from this earth as possible!

Now we are also being told, that without ever having intended any such harm, nonetheless, we are well on our way to warming our own little globe so much that it may destroy all of life – at least life as we now know it.

The exciting part of that is that it gives evolution a fresh start and maybe, just maybe, something as purely self (and other) destructive as humankind will not be the result the next time round, but then, it is nature, “red in tooth and claw”(1) that we are talking about! It could even be worse. maybe, we’re not so bad after all?

So, this is not ultimately about survival. It looks like sooner (odds on), or later (less and less likely), we will most certainly cease to exist.

But, it certainly is about what we are doing in the meantime.

I think it would be nice if we could go out in a blaze of glory. I really do think that this is something that we can perhaps manage. It’s just a small matter of trying not to do any harm to others for the next few years.

Now, is that such a big deal?

Think of posterity.

Think of what some species in the year 3,000 is going to find as they sift through the archaeological dust. Era after era of nastiness, wars, destruction, one upmanship, weapons of destruction and then weapons of mass destruction and then wars based on spin about WMD that never existed, and then… peace.

Peace,

did I hear someone say

PEACE????

And the Ngobel Prize in History for the year 3,001 goes to – #$(*&%)@@*!!!, for the discovoverery of “Peace”…

“The History of Peace”

A richly and horrifyingly illustrated guide to the heroic end of what can only be termed as the most unimaginably uncivilized species to have ever gained intelligence.

It all began in the year 2007, when the species Humanus selfdestructivus realised that they were soon to no longer exist.

#$(*&%)@@*!!! finally succeeded in translating the digital data after almost 300 years of deciphering in base 2, and the result is the publication of a truly remarkable document that has been miraculously preserved. The story recounts how, when this realisation of imminent and irrevocable demise suddenly spread on the WWW, the entire Humanus selfdestructivus decided, mysteriously, and courageously, to spend their last years alive on the planet Ge, in PEACE…

(read more…)

(1) Canto LVI, Alfred Lord Tennnyson, “In Memoriam”

Good for you, Jimmy Carter!

October 4, 2007 at 5:43 am | Posted in Borneo, Darfur, DR Congo, Egypt, Guantanamo, H.A. Carr, human rights, Iraq, Jimmy Carter, Kosovo, MNC nexus, MNCs, Myanmar, N.Korea, Palestine, Papua, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, World Bank rapes forest, Zimbabwe | 2 Comments

Something about this article on Jimmy Carter taking on a hostile bunch of cops in the Sudan [title link] reminded me powerfully of my dad (H.A. Carr). When he got the bit between his teeth he was going to get wherever he had determined to go, and no one, nothing, was going to stop him.

Where questions of human rights, and more basically human lives, are concerned it’s about time we stopped letting the democracies, juntas, and dictatorships give us the royal runaround.

We all need a bit of the Jimmy Carter spirit to start getting things done.

Myanmar, Darfur, Egypt, Palestine, Uzbekistan, DR Congo, Iraq, Zimbabwe, Guantanamo, Kosovo, North Korea, Saudi Arabia (and much of the M.E.) , and then the almost complete blind spots like Indonesia’s Papua and Borneo…

Places like DR Congo, Myanmar, and the Indonesian islands, are kept under wraps quite actively by the MNCs that quietly operate there. We have posted about the timber mafias before and this recent TIME article shows how the MNCs, backed solidly by their hypocritical countries of origin, have gone so far as to subvert critically important international aid organizations like the Wold Bank to help them to quietly do their dirty work.

The World Bank is actually governed by government representatives, so without the involvement of the various governments…

It isn’t just a matter of quietly making money with a bit of biosphere rape thrown in. The MNCs-govt. nexus always results in human rights abuses. The countries involved will also end up being permanently crippled by the corruption and unequal distribution of wealth and power that the MNCs have encouraged.

Such then is the hidden nexus in today’s world, where supposedly democratic and freedom-oriented, nations are actually actively subverting the world’s poor (and raping their hapless environments) through their corporations and just for a bit of quick ‘filthy lucre’!

Tangled Rights

October 1, 2007 at 2:13 pm | Posted in development, freedom of speech, habeas corpus, human rights, IMF, International Monetary Fund, LRB, MNC. economics, neocononialism, Slavoj Zizek, WB, World Bank, Zimbabwe | Leave a comment

At issue across the world today is the question of basic human rights. The most endangered right is the right to freedom of speech, but freedom of opinion/religious belief, the right to a fair trial, and rights of habeas Corpus have also been shot full of holes.

The world’s political will to uphold human rights has been severely compromised by a number of factors.

First and foremost has been the change that has taken place in the West since the start of the 1970s drive to globalise.

Globalisation has primarily spawned massive international corporations that are not answerable to anyone. The bottom line is profit. And how one gets it, simply doesn’t matter. MNCs are designed to ensure their own survival and growth, while sharing a pittance of their ill gotten gains with their shareholders to keep them happy.

Secondly, the swing to right wing politics has had a disastrous effect. Bush Jr. in the U.S.A. led the way followed very closely by Blair and Great Britain. The world’s most prosperous nations, those whose corporations are reaping immense benefits from their MNC fostering and spawning neocononialism, have lost sight entirely of human rights. The open support to tyranny, backed by massive monetary support to any type of cooperating petty dictatorships has ensured hat human rights have no importance at all.

The idea of development is much touted as being the one and only route to economic prosperity for the ‘developing’ nation. In this model the involvement of MNCs is a basic requirement. The MNC brings in the technology, the knowhow, the foreign markets, and the working business models, that are together the key ingredients of success. The MNC is also well capitalised and can afford to wait until all the pieces fall into place to generate its profits. In the process, jobs are created, infrastructure is developed and a nation’s economy is supposed to ‘develop’. But that’s all a pie in the sky theory. It sounds plausible. It sounds good and so we choose to believe that this is what development means, that this is the win-win formula that the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are all trying to promote – this holistic and positive model that will bring prosperity to poor ‘underdeveloped’ nations.

What really happens is that the absolute minimum of infrastructure is put in place to allow the MNC to remove the resources, finished/semi-finished goods that it has come there for. Technology will not be transferred. A few jobs, as few as possible, will be created. the jobs will be mostly menial and manual in nature with a lean and mean administration to extract the most for the least.

The government will be corrupted as environmental and developmental norms are given the go bye. The population will suffer as their natural resources are sucked out. There will be little to even trickle down as the majority of the earning is realised in international markets and the MNC pockets the huge profits. Local market systems that have functioned and self regulated for centuries will be shut down or subverted overnight. And when there are complaints, as there must be,

HUMAN RIGHTS WILL BE THE FIRST TO GO.

Aside: I often wonder if places like Zimbabwe are not encouraged and paid to go down the tubes to frighten the unwary. “This is exactly what will happen to you too if you don’t do exactly as the WB-IMF consultants advise you.”

I was struck by the incisive and pointed analysis in a not o recent Slavoj Žižek commentary

Are we in a war? Do we have an enemy?

Does “we were all living in a state of emergency because of the worldwide struggle between freedom and Communism, the full implementation of the Constitution was forever postponed and a permanent state of emergency obtained. This state of emergency was suspended every four years for one day only, election day, to legitimise the rule” somehow sound familiar?

in The LRB of May 23, 2002.

Myanmar – India supports the Junta’s Freedom to Loot

September 29, 2007 at 5:08 am | Posted in british empire, Burma, China, democracy, forest department, India's double standards, Indian foreign policy, junta, JV, MNC, multinational corporartion, Myanmar, Name and Shame, subversion | 2 Comments

The world has already expressed its disgust at the criminal actions of the military Junta in Myanmar. There are just two things that I would like to stress:

India’s voice has been silent. Why? What is the vested interest that shuts our mouth, or is it that our government actually secretly approves of the actions of the “Generals”?

As an immediate neighbor to Myanmar, one would think that we would be the first to express our dismay, but nowadays many ‘immediate neighbors’ are complicit by their silence; take South Africa and Zambia for example, and how they have chosen to ‘deal’ with Zimbabwe. India is proving to be a similarly adept tightrope walker.

Our Indian Junta does not believe in principles any more. The shock of the interim success of the religiously fundamentalist BJP seems to have stripped all of the remaining ideals from todays so-called leadership. The long-term game is to remain in power and in order to do that they feel the need for support and encouragement from other morally bankrupt (but rich) democratic allies. One can see that a certain world power is counting on inciting India to act as a bulwark against the ultimate ascendancy of the growing economic might of China. That particular power in turn unhesitatingly subverts the remaining principles of their chosen allies by the simple expedient of financing whomsoever will ‘toe its line’.

Western talk of promoting democracy has proved to be cheap. Belief in the benefits of true democracy have altogether disappeared. The result is seen here as India had backed away from doing anything about Tibet, and then ‘on request’ did the dirty to our long-time allies the Iranians, so too now will we sell the Myanmarese peoples to the highest bidder.

Both India and Burma (Myanmar) are ex-colonies of Great Britain! The British understood globalisation, and Realpolitik long before anyone else. They had to to be able to maintain a dominance, an empire for over two whole centuries, on which the sun never did set! At the same time the Brits have been busy writing histories of how selflessly they used their empire to educate and develop an uncivilised world. Our Indian leaders have learned too well at the feet of their former masters.

The unholy alliance of a China along with a subverted democracy, both joining in in the shenanigans of the key MNCs ensures the continuance of the military regime in Myanmar. This is my second point. The survival of the military junta is because they are tremendously rich. These riches fund the control of the army that then backs up completely the Junta’s undemocratic hegemony.

The money in the case of Myanmar, comes mainly from timber, oil, gas, opium, and mining. All of the timber, oil, and mineral wealth is harvested from the vast pristine tropical wilderness by multinational corporations (MNCs) whose activity is known and approved of by the nations that host and spawn these Money alone is God behemoths. The facts are not even denied; it is called progress, development and globalisation. Shamelessly such MNCs continue to operate without any controls, raping the lands and forests and simultaneously doing all in their power to ensure the continuance and enrichment of the ‘oh so cooperative’ golden-egg-laying-gooses of a Junta. The nations that spawn such monstrosities as these MNCs are the very ones that also piously speak of promoting democracy!

The majority of investment in oil and gas was made by multinational companies from France, United States and United Kingdom in entering joint venture projects with the state-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE)

India and China in different ways are great supporters of today’s Myanmar, and even rivals for influence there, though there is little question that China’s economic influence does dominate.. India has its stake more as the key cutout and staging point for any MNC that wants to get round the ‘minor sanctions’ and the ‘muted murmurs of disapproval’ that are occasionally felt from Europe and America.

Myanmar is one nation where there is no need for any mafia. The looting and environmental destruction are legal! But MNCs prefer the anonymity of JVs and offshoring their activities through ‘friendlies’ like India.

It is also a little-recognised fact that the vast British empire was built on wood from Africa and Asia. In all former colonies one will find that some of the oldest surviving government departments are the FDs (Forest Departments) and that the systematic rape of third world forests was almost the first thing that the colonial British actually did to their colonies. While wood is still a very major money spinner, the future clearly lies in the oil and gas reserves. India and China in their unholy partnerships with the MNCs have their eyes and policies firmly fixed on all that gas and quite some oil reserves too.

  • India’s double standards and their hidden activity as proxies to ‘higher’ powers needs to be recognised and CONDEMNED.
  • The MNCs that are actually doing the damage but who have remained faceless need to be NAMED and SHAMED.

We Indians have been witness to the insidious but definite shift in our own nation’s foreign policies as it increasingly leans towards outright doing whatever the richest of nations want. The Indian activity is mediated (dare we suspect ‘funded’?) by these same nations and their MNCs i.e. the very ones who are consistently exploiting Myanmar (and wherever else the opportunity to act without any controls makes the process maximally profitable). It is a sad truth that both of our leading political parties have already been ‘converted’ into backboneless and unprincipled supporters of “that which should not be named”. While that pristine state in public speaks loudly of championing democracy, at the same time the word to the MNCs boardrooms is to quietly get on with getting the loot.

I am not at this moment much concerned about the sins of the rest of the world.
It is India’s shameless tactics that have confounded me.

Folks, it’s time to make a change!
Let’s stand up for what’s right, for a change…
India needs to get its act together NOW.

Pray for the peoples of Myanmar.

On Looking Good

September 26, 2007 at 6:33 am | Posted in "in" crowd, acceptance, beauty, dating, forced marriage, friendship, physical appearance, popularity | 2 Comments

Appearance, concepts like ugliness, and beauty; should these make any difference to how we relate to other human beings?

Given that for a person with functioning eyesight, most often the very first contact that we make with another person is visual, that ‘first impression’ certainly must have an impact. Is the person tall, short, lean, fat, fair, dark, handsome, ugly, having some unusual or outstanding feature…? We register these impressions almost subconsciously, and they stay with us. We associate this set of physical attributes with that person.

I’ve had the same sort of experience while talking to people on the phone. Folks that I have never met respond to things like the quality of one’s voice, pronunciation/accent, and how articulate one is. I remember a classical music host on our university FM station that I used to call to make requests to when working the midnight shift at the blood bank. It got so that we became good phone friends and one night she had broadcast an appeal for blood just before I called her with a request. She wanted to know how acute the crisis was, and it was a bit of a crunch, in the dead of winter and after some bad snowfalls the trickle of donors had pretty much dried up. Then she asked me whether I had a vehicle and whether I could give her a ride the next morning so that she could donate. I was quite amazed at her confidence and lack of fear! I asked her later how she had had the courage to trust a ‘caller-in’ stranger, and she just said, “it’s your voice”. I then had a long talk with her about NEVER doing that again.

When sexuality and finding a mate get thrown into the mix, the questions become more acute, easier to answer, but harder to deal with. Dating is not a very common practice in India. Here the culture is still dominated by Families (with a capital F, see my earlier post here) and particularly so when marriage and mate matching is in view. Families here tend not to look too much at physical beauty, and are perhaps even a bit suspicious of it, but they will not consider people with physical handicaps (especially girls) and will dig deeply into a lot of other things including the other family’s caste background, antecedents (is it a ‘good’ family?), health history, whether the boy is taller/girl shorter, and strangely enough, especially for girls, whether they are fair – i.e. light skinned!

After getting past the critical step of matching horoscopes, the investigation of a potential match can take months, with involvement by much of the extended family and input coming from all sides. One negative opinion freely expressed can spell doom!

With the dowry system also stubbornly hanging around, it is possible that the ‘detected deficiencies’ on the part of the girl can be compensated by the girl’s parents by suitably ‘enhancing’ the pot. On the boy’s side, if there are problems, the opposite occurs, and the amount demanded will be suitably reduced!

In such an environment, Families are terrified of having any hint of controversy surrounding them or attaching to them even from a distance. Any nonconformity is anathema. The usual sexual discrimination is also obvious, for ‘boys will be boys’ and are allowed to get themselves into a certain amount of hot water, but for the girls, never.

Western culture though, seems keen to let their youth figure out for themselves whom they will make life commitments to, and nowadays, even whether they will permanently settle down with one particular ‘significant other’. The role of physical appearance therefore is very prominent. Popularity seems to be first and foremost governed by how good one looks. The other questions, initially at least, take a back seat. If you like someones looks, you are more likely to go out with them when invited. You are much more likely to invite someone out whom you think looks good. Being popular and looking good seem to have more than a casual connection.

Corollaries to this are that everyone is very concerned about their appearance. One should certainly try to look as good as one can! The amount of angst and therefore outflows of money are directly proportional to the tremendous anxiety generated all round. Also, The beautiful and the handsome, are much more likely to pair up with others who are ‘beautiful and handsome’ and subsequently be envied by all those who do not fit into these categories.

In a youth and young adult fellowship group that I once frequented* about 60% were girls. Out of about 200 people attending, my guess would be that there were about 15 really ‘popular’ girls ( judging from their calenders) with another 30 or so who generally had a date at least once a week. The rest (roughly 80) pretty much languished in a sea of envy and pretended nonchalance! The unintended but very real cruelty of this system didn’t seem to unduly worry anyone. It was a very Darwinian sort of thing to find in a Christian fellowship group: The popular will survive!

In both systems the rules of engagement seem to relax somewhat when ‘just friendship’ is envisaged. But even here, for some folks, the idea that handsome is as handsome does is not acceptable. The company one keeps should also be from and of the ‘beautiful people’.

Pragmatically, either system (Eastern or Western) does seem to ‘work’. The respective cultures also do not seem to feel any great discomfort with how their system works and in both cultures, the advertising community finds a rich storehouse of stuff with which to manipulate demand. One can’t blame them, for the resulting ideas are powerful as well as seductive!

Being rich, being famous, being beautiful, and their opposites are all factors that we seem to take for granted should make a difference in how we relate to others.

But, I find it horrifying that we take it all as a matter of course. ‘That’s just the way it is, and that’s just the way it always has been’! I’m sorry, but however strongly these ideas are embedded in our cultures, it doesn’t make them right. Our ethic must challenge both of these contrasting but nasty systems.
The question is not “does it work?” but is “is it right?”.

*quite some ways back so I could be needing correction on this if these trends have changed…

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