Showing posts from November, 2010

Getting to YES

The Morality of Wikileaks has done it again: This time a set of US diplomatic cables talking about countries and their leaders without mincing the words. I picked up from the BBC website some of its content. It says things like : " US officials are said to have described Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi as feckless, vain and ineffective, sharing a close relationship with "alpha dog" Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France is said to be thin-skinned and authoritarian, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel is described as risk-averse. Afghan President Hamid Karzai is referred to as "extremely weak" and susceptible to conspiracy theories. Meanwhile, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi of Libya always travels with a "voluptuous blonde" Ukrainian nurse, according to one of the cables. Concerns aired include the security of Pakistani nuclear material that could be used to make an atomic weapon, while the widespread use of computer hacki

A Real Sunday Post

This is writing about laziness, in laziness. This is one of the Sundays with no work. And that's a lie, because I have postponed most of what needed to be done. And, have not done some of the work that I should have finished Saturday night. This is authentic laziness, no doubt. Zygmunt Bauman argued that in contemporary societies, work is the normal state of humans: Not working is abnormal. Life has come to mean work. And, the meaning of work has been usurped, and work means participating in the economy, doing something productive - money! So, even if I am working away on my Mac now, because this post may never be read by anyone, or be of no interest of anyone, and will never earn any money, this isn't work: This is a sheer abnormal thing to do on a Sunday morning. The usual state is to go out and shop. If I have nothing to buy, I should still go see shop-windows, so that I can find something that I don't need. That way, as The Economist will argue, I do my bit to keep th

Isaac Mizrahi on Creative Life

Working The Next Idea: A School of Digital Media

This is the nearest thing to a Liberal Arts college I can get to do in the Private Sector. So I am interested: In fact, I am completely focused on this now. This is an interesting turn in my life. Six months ago, I made a career transition into higher education - but did not exactly know what I wanted to do. I wanted to teach, do research and write a bit, but living inside a Private College 24x7 meant more than that. I entered with an open mind, never said no to any work and learnt many things. About now, I am ready to pursue my ideas yet again. This is an interesting and scary time in British private education. Government clearly wants to shift to private funding of higher education. They have come up with a middle of the way review report, which seems radical and slightly woolly at this time. (Alan Ryan in Times Higher Education is sceptical that the recommendations will ever be implemented) But I would rather take Browne report as a statement of intent and a hint rather than a poli

Where Do You Go To Work?

Immigration in Britain: Time to Make Sense

Theresa May made a statement in parliament which was remarkable for being so unremarkable: Almost everyone in the country knew what she is going to say, and she did. In some ways, politicians feel happy when everyone is forewarned. In fact, this is a common practice today to release the texts of major speeches of world leaders to press well ahead of the actual speeches. But, Ms May should not draw comfort from this: Her lack of impact does not come from meeting expectations, but failing them. If anything, the speech continues to show the 'fudge' that this government made its signature policy. The fact that they make big pronouncements backed by little tinkering of policy is by now well known. So far, for all the talk of reform, direction changes, big ideas, David Cameron's government is New Labour in Wolf's clothing. Most of the 'big' changes are not that big, most of the direction changes are actually the usual turn of the road, and most of its revolutions are

The Limit of Internet

Tim Barnes Lee warns that Internet is now threatened by the very beast it helped to create - virtual communities. He singles out Facebook , for its vast number of users and closed fence network, but this could be equally applied to the other darling of the Internet age, Apple. His points out that Facebook collects a vast amount of information which then is retained privately, which was not what Internet was created for. He calls upon everyone to 'defend' the Internet's Open standards and neutrality, and argues that this is essential for our liberty and continued progress. There is a lot of concern about the future of the Internet now a days. Jonathan Zittrain has written an engaging book on this, and The Economist recently wondered whether the Internet will soon be breaking down into smaller national networks , each nation demanding control over what information is passed on. This is a somewhat perfect antidote of the euphoria about the arrival of the network age. Call

Churchill's Genocide

Madhusree Mukherjee has written an important book. Churchill's Secret War chronicles the story of the Great Bengal Famine, a famine almost deliberately engineered by the British War Administration, under the excuse of supply to British troops, but also with a deeper agenda of crushing the Indian Independence Movement beyond repair. The 1943 famine in Bengal killed three million people. The famine affected a generation and accentuated the city/village divide which persists even today. Economists, particularly Amartya Sen, has made efforts to prove that this devastating famine did not happen due to shortage of food. Ms Mukherjee argues that this had happened to a deliberate policy of the British War Administration of diverting food supplies from Bengal to Ceylon and then onto the British troops in Burma and elsewhere. Professor Sen has talked about the 'entitlement problem' and Ms Mukherjee also points to the practice of British Administration of buying grains at an in

The Irish Crisis

The crisis that did not happen, will possibly be the way history will remember this. Indeed, if there is a history to be written still, and if the events of last two years are to get a place in the usual boom-and-bust ride of the market capitalism. I say this because this may just be the end of history, no return to life as usual may be around the corner; or, may be that's just too pessimistic, we will just be unleashed in a brave new world where such things won't matter. One would love to think the Irish crisis, which didn't happen, won't matter. After all, we have now learned to be prepared. The lessons were learned when one had to get Greece out of water, and we almost always knew Spain and Ireland were coming. It is after all, just a monetary thing, which can be solved by pumping money in. And, it was. The trouble is, it does not end there. When you pump money in, you are plugging a whole today by taking away the wealth of the future generations. Or of people's

Journal Entry: Waiting For New Year

I said before: This part of my life is about WAITING. But this year-end is a wonderful thing. Nothing will change on 1st January morning but you can sure imagine to be a fresh start. You can do that every morning, indeed; but, on 1st January, your fresh start meets fresh starts of almost every other person, and except the very cynical, most of them meet you with an instant readiness to start again. This makes it such a potent day for making a real break. And, since you know the date well in advance, you can plan ahead a little. So, as I approach the end of November, it is time for me take stock, close chapters and prepare myself to move on. 2010 has been a better year for me than 2009. That matters: I shall feel happy that at the end of this year, I am far more stable and forward looking than I was a year back. But, then, 2009 was an exceptionally bad year for me. I had a frustrating job, my credit card debt (primarily due to my travel commitments and less than regular reimbursement pa

On the Politics of Student Fees

Last weeks riots in London, if it was ever reported, largely went unnoticed in other countries. Indeed, no one died: Just a few disaffected students with support from serial troublemakers ransacked the Conservative Party Headquarter and threw, in totality, one empty Fire Extinguisher from the roof towards the police. Such things happen, particularly in the context of severe 'cuts' that the British society is going through. We shrugged this off as a minor event. It should be, coming after the Tube Strikes in London the previous week which caused more disruption for a greater number of people. And, also, seen in the context of the proposed (but later canceled) strike by Fire Wardens on the Bonfire day, this incident snapped up less Column space in the newspapers. BBC mentioned it in the passing: Most of people moved on, including the protesters. Nick Clegg , the Liberal Democratic party leader and the Deputy Prime Minister, whose party got elected after signing a pledge not to r

Journal Entry: Getting Back to Reading

I am now struggling to write. I do intend to post everyday, but ideas are now quite difficult to come by. I am left guessing the reason: I am extremely busy and engrossed at what I am doing; the winter is suddenly severe and given me an unseasonal flu; and the commitments of study has eaten away the little time I had left. But, I would argue, none of this will keep me from doing what I love doing: My fear is that I am slipping into a waiting mode of some description. The state of my life at this time can be called - WAITING. I have committed myself to Education, and made significant progress in the last six months. My lack of confidence, arising out of my failures in the last couple of years, is quite safely behind me. I have discovered a new set of skills: The ability to engage a class and teach them something is giving me enormous pleasure; the ability to drive concrete change is another, and despite its slowness, progress always makes all efforts worthwhile. But, all of this seems t

Journal Entry: Licensed to Dream

I wrote that I am no businessman and many people agreed. But a friend kindly reminded that may be no one is born one. I tend to agree, it will be wrong to say that there is just one kind of person who can succeed in the world of business. That will be cynical. Perhaps, I was indeed cynical: After my disappointments in the recent years, I may have been generalizing the specific. But I must now liberate myself from my own experience, and not generalize: Despite the narrow focus on money, business in general has been a force for progress in our societies and entrepreneurs in particular can bring about social changes, for better. This view is quite heartening: I got drawn into the idea of business not because I was drawn to money, but because this seemed to be the only vehicle of bringing about social change. There is a bit of mythology around this, which I have possibly unwittingly bought. But, given that social change is usually brought about technological progress (or violence, i

Globalization or Localization?

The Nature of Violence

I am reading Slavoj Zizek's Violence: Six sideways reflection and affected by the idea of three kinds of violence - subjective, objective and symbolic. Indeed, Subjective violence is what we know as violence, where a violent act is carried out by an identifiable actor, which disturbs the status quo. This ranges from institutional to personal, from individuals fighting to genocide to atomic annihilation, and this is what attracts the maximum attention. Zizek says, we have a frontal view of subjective violence, and we either condone (as in state sanctioned wars) or condemn (as in violent acts of peace breaking) this violence. The objective violence, as Zizek points out, is the state of peace itself. This is a difficult concept to accept, but not to see. We indeed live in an apparently 'unfair' world. The unequal consumption is one of the most visible aspects of this unfairness; the inequality of opportunity is its most damning proof. But, the system is still kept in its plac

The Nature of Travel Writing: Guest Contribution by Maria Rainer

How does one define travel? There are many different definitions to choose from, but ultimately, the decision is personal. Objectively, travel is almost analogous to making a journey, or changing one’s physical surroundings by moving outside of them. Another definition calls travel a way to proceed or advance. This second conceptualization of travel implies some sort of mental progress or learning, and the first idea of moving outside of one’s surroundings can also be subjectively applied to the human mind. Why We Travel and Write For many travel writers, the act of traveling can be both a physical journey and mental progress at once, and sometimes one or the other separately. Additionally, there is the possibility of mental travel, practicing out-of-body experiences in the literal sense. But no matter how I define travel for myself, I use it to make inquiries into my own human nature and individuality. These two entities are at opposite ends of the spectrum – human nature is ubiquitou

Can India's Future Be Taken For Granted?

There is a lot of talk about India as a developed nation. Developed nation by 2020, that seems to be the consensus everywhere. In India, every businessman or policy maker you meet are absolutely convinced that this is going to happen. Already grand plans are being made to accelerate the speed of growth: The Chinese benchmark of 10% GDP growth is what Indian government wants to beat. In the West, commentators are going one up on the debate: They are not just talking about India and China and their growth, they are talking about how this century will be shaped by the rivalry of China and India, and whether we will have the rerun of the great wars that afflicted the last century. All of it takes Indian prosperity for granted. There is ample reason to do so. The young population, English speaking urban class, huge natural resources, all of it may count towards it. In fact, no one knows what the unlocking of this vast economy has in store: India's villages and millions have hibernated f

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