Monday, March 27, 2006


A few self-contradictory expressions that I could recollect off-the-cuff...

Cosmopolitan Nationalism

Evenhanded Fairness

Libertarian Conservative (William Safire considers himself to be one)

Authoritarian Communism (this one is no longer widely recognised as an oxymoron)

Pagan Fundamentalism

Contemplative Business Graduate

Do pour in with a few more....



Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Riveting Conversations

Conversations with History
is a remarkable website. Definitely recommended for
anyone with more than a passing interest in politics/economics/public policy.
The videos are available as well for most of the interviews.

For starters, I would recommend the following interviews -
(video links at the bottom of each page)

Shashi Tharoor

UN diplomat and one of the leading Indian writers.
Talks about his education, influences and work.
The video is a must-watch. Tharoor is probably the best speaker I've ever listened to. Wish I could talk like him.

Robert McNamara

Former President of Ford Motor Company
Former US Secretary of Defense
Former World Bank President

That's SOME resume!
Again, a very edifying interview. Provocative views on the Auto Industry. Honest Retrospection on the Vietnam War - of which he was one of the architects.

Christopher Hitchens

Controversial Journalist. Notorious for his irreverent views on holy cows like Mother Teresa.

Even if you are only remotely interested in these figures, it would still be worth watching as one can listen to some very fine conversationalists and hopefully get a few cues from them.


Monday, March 20, 2006

Pearl of Wisdom from a former Auto Executive

Robert McNamara, former President of the Ford Motor Company and former US Secretary of Defence, on fuel consumption in the US -

The objective and responsibility of the auto industry should be to produce safer cars. Cheaper cars, more functional cars, more environmentally sustainable cars..................... I just read the other day that gasoline consumption has risen, I think they said 25 percent per year from 1980 until today. And that is disgraceful. In the first place, our(i.e the US) automotive fuel consumption per capita is roughly twice that of, say, Germany. And this is a problem. It's an environmental problem: we are putting more greenhouse gas emissions in the upper atmosphere that are going to lead to climate change. It's a financial problem: it costs us far more. It's a security problem, this fuel comes out of the Middle East and we are more dependent on a very volatile region. We are not buying anything for it. We are not buying greater comfort, more convenience, or greater mobility. We could achieve the comfort, the convenience, the safety, and the mobility with much greater fuel efficiency. The automobile industry today, I think responsibly, would move toward greater fuel efficiency. The petroleum companies are not willing to do so.


Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Power of the Written Word

Maintaining a high level of Self-esteem all the time can be very demanding in this world , where chinks in your armour are being exposed just about every day.
Getting depressed is quite a natural thing for me on such occasions.
On one such occasion about three weeks ago, I was wallowing in self-pity after returning from a tough day in office. Opened the book that I've always wanted to read since a long time - VS Naipaul's Bend in the River
The opening line arrested my attention -

"The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it."

I read the line about a dozen times. After every reading, I felt as though a spear is being pierced through my innards. The Catharsis lasted for about three minutes, at the end of which I was relieved of all those despicable emotions that were threatening to maim me for life.

Naipaul rocks.


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Evolving New Standards for Human Behavior

Homicide is a punishable offence in almost all countries, and has been so, for millenia, in most cultures. The Reason why it is proscribed is not very evident.
Is it because murdering a fellow human is an intrinsically immoral act?
If yes, why is it considered immoral?
After all, no one was ever convicted for murdering chicken, cows and sheep. It was and is perfectly moral to kill and consume these creatures. But if the animal happens to be a human being, all hell breaks loose.

The answer to this can be found in the memorable Christian precept -

Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

This simple, yet profound, statement stands out as a perfect guide to human behavior.
The Reason why we desist from Murder is because we wouldn't relish the prospect of others murdering us.
The Reason why we don't bat an eyelid before maiming a chicken to death is because we very well know that chickens don't pose a threat to us even if they were granted the right to kill their masters.

Hence, Morals are products of circumstances and expediencies, and it would be foolish to think of them as an invariant set of rules.
Morals are relative and their suitability varies with time and location.
A few examples -

The Primitive man contracted sexually transmitted diseases upon leading a promiscuous life, and drew the inference that it is immoral to be promiscuous. But we know better. The cause behind the STD's is a virus and not the wrath of God. If we still hold on to the primitive notion that promiscuity is immoral, we are being foolish.

The Practice of Respecting Elders is another universal moral that has been challenged lately, and rightly so. In the good old days, when education was limited to the act of learning to read, write and count, most of the learnings were derived from experience, i.e on the job. Hence, it would be quite natural to expect a fifty year old person to exhibit greater wisdom and maturity than an upstart of twenty. This would hold in most cases, as there never was much difference in the education received by the father and son and more pertinently, the nature of their respective jobs, as in - the learnings to be derived from various jobs used to be roughly the same. Hence, one's wisdom was directly proportional to the number of years spent on Mother Earth! Ergo, it made ample sense to defer to the judgment of elders.

Today, thanks to advancement in various spheres of human activity, education is more specialised and as a result labour is more specialised! The Education you receive almost invariably determines your occupation - something that was never the case before the twentieth century. Moreover, the opportunities to learn vary from one job to another.
Besides all this, the Digital Divide between the youth and the middle-aged accentuates the disparity.
Having the right upbringing and the right exposure, being at the right place at the right time matter far more in determining the course of one's intellectual development than the amount of experience. Therefore, unconditionally deferring to the judgement of Elders is an outworn Moral that must be sent to the dustbin, where it belongs.



Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Economist's take on the Nuclear Deal

Disconcerting, if you're an American.

Does being Devout make you feel Happy?

Here's a very interesting link that discusses the results of an Opinion Poll on the levels of Happiness among Americans.

One of the results is particularly startling -

People who worship frequently are happier than those who don't.

One would definitely not expect this to be the case in India, where the poor and the lower middle classes are far more pious than the well-to-do. Given the positive correlation that exists between affluence and happiness, it can be categorically stated that in India, the unbelievers are far happier than the devoutly religious.

What could possibly account for this discrepancy? Could it be because of the nature of the respective religions in these countries? Protestant Christianity, with its moral certitude and simplistic teachings, probably offers greater solace to Americans, than does Hinduism, a religion (if you can call it that) that revels in ambiguity and philosophical speculation, to Indians!

The finding is certainly disturbing from an American perspective, as becoming an agnostic/atheist would imply being less happy!!
Thankfully, Indians don't seem to be facing such a predicament.



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