Thursday, 26 April 2012

How to Change the World


You might remember the essays you used to write in junior school. One of the topics that would require you to scratch your head was that of Ambition. Or, as your junior school teachers tended to elucidate for the benefit of your puerile mind..” What do you want to be when you grow up” 

Now most people want to be doctors or engineers (yes.. that’s the Great Indian Dream). A few want to be rockstars or astronauts. A few want to travel the world and meet new and exotic species of camels. But every so often, some weird kid decides to write an essay on how he would like to change the world. Predictably this kid gets lambasted by his teacher, scores the lowest grade on the paper, and gets a severe bout of head shaking and fist pumping from his parents. But what is really surprising, is the statistics of it all. You see, with an occurrence this rare, in schools across the world, you can be sure that there would be a million such weirdos who would do something like this (Pareto distribution..huh??). And for the million who have the dream in their head, there would be at least a hundred thousand with the necessary talent to pull it off.

But if everything ended there we would be living in an ideal world, and alcohol would be free of cost and professors would be your best friends and drinking buddies. It is really NOT an ideal world, as the most perceptive of you must have already figured out. It is a cancerous world, and we are all living out our own sad little versions of non Hodgkins lymphoma. The point is, of those hundred thousand weird kids who have the dream and the talent to change the world, only five would ever get the chance to make it happen. Three would die early in road accidents involving Yamaha bikes. One would die accidentally while trying to plug her hair dryer into a two pin socket with no earthing. And the ONE, would grow depressed, and question his motivation at every single point in his life.

In the end, that is what it all boils down to..motivation. Very few people with the wherewithal (the REAL talent, not the sort of shit that passes off as talent these days) to change the world are actually concerned about money, so there that goes down the drain. And even fewer are motivated by power and prestige and the ability to become their own personal version of God. What most people would like though, is recognition, and a little bit of appreciation.

And this is where everything falls apart. The world, you see, is made up of idiots. And in the end, if you are looking to them for motivation, you are bound to come up short in some respect or the other. Most people would not appreciate the changing of the world, albeit for the better, because most people love to be safely ensconced in the security of their own static world. Most people also tend to appreciate people like themselves, which means idiots would earn most of the acclaim from the other idiots of this world.

The motivation to change this world should not hinge on the appreciation or recognition you get from it. The world is a thankless creature, and would do anything to ensure the status quo is maintained. The motivation should hinge on your own personal satisfaction, dear weirdo, to be able to stand up to yourself one day, and say that you did it.

You changed the world.

Altruism

We have often heard the words human nature bandied about. These two words are used to cover everything from repetitive excesses of indulgence to rape and murder. We can allow ourselves to believe that whatever mistakes we commit, and whatever fraud we are guilty of can be explained away so easily because we are in effect the sort of flawed creatures we call human. In fact, this is so ingrained into our psychology there is a very famous saying in our society, we say, to err is human, and to forgive divine. We tend to associate our nature with the least desirable of our qualities. In essence, most humans tend to deviate towards evil, and this has been reflected to no small extent in our history and our religion.

If this is true, then what is most repugnant to human nature, would in fact be altruism. You see, what makes altruism so brilliant is that it bucks the trend.

Most, if not all humans, can in effect be categorised as being self centred. Now, wait a minute, you look at yourself, dear reader, and for all that you know, you are probably the most generous person in the world. Hell, you probably give more to charity than you save up in a year. But, keep in mind, you only do this because it makes you feel GOOD. It gives you the right to look down your nose at all those other idiots who seem to be wasting their lives (and a considerable part of their incomes) satisfying meaningless cravings. It allows you to scoff at materialistic pleasures and earthly avarice. The point is, dear reader, that in being GOOD, or probably BETTER than most, you are still acting in your own self interest.

Human nature then, can be defined as actions undertaken by us in our own self interest. Or so you would THINK.

Because, you see, what sets us apart(from animals and magic talking lizards) is the fact that we can be altruistic. And altruism isn;t just doing good, or doing the right thing. Altruism is doing the right thing even when there is no perceptible reward available for the same. And if there is a severe detriment to us for doing the right thing, then some of us still go ahead and do it. This is known as sacrifice, and is something that our religion and all of our mythology has gone into great detail on. Human beings are capable of great sacrifice, almost other worldly sacrifice, the sort of scrifice that you would normally reserve for epic tomes of fiction, like one of our fabled epics.

Now, after all of this dear reader, the question still remains. What exactly is human nature? And the only way to answer this is through a quasi-answer, something that does not satisfy the question at all.

You see, the only thing that is consistent in human nature is that it is random. And that is what makes us human. The fact that we can be utterly random. This allows us to make great sacrifices, or act in our own self interest. We will always deviate towards evil, the only thing that saves us from its overreaching clutches is that sometimes, spontaneously, and rather randomly, we decide to do good things.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Like Crocodile, but not spelt that way

So, after the launch of the Agni 5 which, rather predictably, failed to create any major ripples in the international militaristic scene, we can rest safely knowing that if perchance China were to destroy all of our major cities we would be able to defend ourselves by blowing up the least important part of Beijing. Indeed, so apathetic were the Chinese, that in their nonchalance they remarked that the ballistic missile might not even reach its intended target and might blow up somewhere over Tibet, which would give the Dalai Lama a bit of respite... no doubt. The Americans seemed happy though, and are very content to let the bleddy Injuns and the bleddy Chinks blow themselves up while they go about prospecting for oil. However, there is still that North Korea hassle that sticks up rather persistently like a sore thumb. You see, the other side of Korea (rather imaginatively named the South) is a rather favourite ally of the Yanks. They make their iPods, their iPads and their other tidbits of inspired engineering available to the unwashed masses. And they seem to have a healthy disrespect for patent infringement lawsuits.

Blowing up South Korea then, would be a severe inconvenience for the Americans. And rather like in the movie Battleship (or Jungi Jahaj, depending upon where you watched the damn thing) the Americans, with all their naval firepower would be rather powerless to stop it. So while North Korea drew severe reproofs for testing some sad ballistic missile, the Injuns got a pat on the back, and a thumbs up, and a promise of some saltwater taffy and retrofitted fighter jets. However, and it must be of severe concern this, our defence budget has remained a rather stationary 2% or thereabouts of GDP. This while it seems impressive, really does not equip us to go into battle with China. The Chinks have seen their defence budget grow to 2.5% of their GDP, which in turn is growing at a phenomenally underwhelming rate.

You see, Hu Jintao, before stepping down addressed a General Body Meeting of the Chinks, and rather regretfully informed them that under global pressure, and due to a shift in emphasis to infrastructure growth, the economy would grow at a rather laggard 7.5%. Our own finance minister responded with an emphatic bout of fist pumping and a middle finger to assembled journalists. Keep in mind though, that the Chinks usually release figures adjusted to a minimum, whereas we tend to squeeze every last drop out of a positive statistic. In the end, we have been rather unfortunately relegated to a position where our maximum growth rate(in ANY field) is almost(but not quite) equivalent to the Chinky minimum growth rate.

And while creative manipulation (yes..I shall cover this in another blog) does allow us to stay at the forefront of the GDP charts, our joy must be shortlived. For we cannot be as myopic as not to see the creative crocodile snapping at our heels, and waiting to get at us..

Monday, 16 April 2012

The Generosity of Strangers

The best part about writing blogs is you could randomly criticise anybody without any fear of retribution whatsoever. That is , provided your blog does not become immediately popular. Then again, if you do indeed have any sort of substance about your blog, you will want it to become immediately popular, which, then again, puts you in the sort of catch 22 situation only Mamata Bannerjee should have to face. The point of all of this being, that most blogs do not become immediately popular, unless written by a hot girl typecasting boys as being general idiots. What goes into making a blog popular, then,( really popular I mean, not just the 100 likes on facebook chickenshit,) is the ability to merge sexual frustration, teenage(or middle aged) angst and vedic karma into one neatly wrapped package.

For those of you wondering what I'm going on about, nevermind. Very few things are as profligately underappreciated and as mundanely devalued as the really good blog post and the generosity of strangers.

But let's just focus on the latter for a change. As a recent trip to Mumbai reminded me, kindness does still exist as does virtue. And there are still good people in this world. And, rather sadly, very few peple remaining to appreciate the true goodness of such. And like the blanket erythema that seems to be so much a rubric of society these days, apathy seems to be a better option to appreciation. Indeed, so many people prefer to remain wrapped in their own little bubbles of isolation. If they could just pause to reflect on just how much of their life is owedd to the generosity of strangers the moral obligation to repay them in kind would be so large that we would either have an ideal society or no society at all.

But the best part is, most people take such kindness for granted, most people would not stop to wonder about any of what I am writing. Yes and that does include YOU. So the next time someone goes out of their way to be nice to you or do something for you, make sure to return the favour.

Because most of our life, most of us will always be dependent on the generosity of strangers..