Monday, 3 September 2012

Ponderous Pandering: And why the world stands at the brink of total collapse

We, as a race of human beings,(as opposed to Bonobo monkeys, who are much friendlier) have a nasty irritating habit of placing bear traps in our own path. A bit like the sort of creative hara-kiri you would expect of lemmings and the Japanese, only much more incredulous. In a few sad months for the impressive ideals of free speech and capitalism we have managed to subvert the patent system, persecute(rather than prosecute, or even prostitute) Julian Assange, and close down some rather useless file sharing sites. All the while, Tim Cook, or some other parvenu left swimming in his own desultory money bin, would be contemplating the paraboloid nature of karma. Or why, when a boomerang is left to its own devices, inevitably tends to return to its thrower.

What we have achieved, is scary to the point of being completely ignored by most of the human populace. The logic goes, hey..if you cant stop it..don't worry about it..ooh look, a bonobo!! After the closing down of Megaupload.com, and the purported extradition of Kim Schmidt, that brought with it a raft of other closures, the founder of The Pirate Bay has been arrested in Cambodia, FileSonic.com has decided to down its shutters, and well, the world is pretty much going to hell even without Wikileaks to provide running commentary.

The idea is to prevent that most cataclysmically pernicious of all human evils...piracy. Because piracy stops the author getting his legitimate due, the executives who write up the author getting their legitimate cut, the distributors who do such a hard job distributing from getting their cut, and the fat cats who spot the author's talent from getting their cut. In short, pirates probably cause half of the world's poverty, and record company moguls probably routinely have to send their kids to bed hungry because of depraved lechers like you downloading stuff free off the internet. Yes you!! dont pretend to be innocent, you've done it too.

It's shameful. In a world of "Occupy...." and "The Protester" , to enact laws that prevent the free and easy sharing of entertainment, to people who can't afford it, or probably do not have easy access to it. It is also shameful to restrict the sale of products and restrict competition based on a couple of ridiculous arguments. Frivolity is probably the buzzword in America's courtrooms today, with lawsuits probably being filed now on who invented the shoelace, and on who Santa Claus really is. It is shameful also to assert that piracy causes people to lost their jobs, or restricts talent, or that it is tantamount to theft.

As a demotivaitonal poster once put it..think of it as your car getting stolen, but its still there the next day, piracy isn't theft,it's just..piracy. Piracy helps talented people get inspiration, helps talented people get the tools to harness that inspiration and  create quality without requiring startup capital. Most importantly, piracy makes things better, because you know you've got to go that extra mile to get people off their asses and buy your product. Piracy helps promote your product to areas with little knowledge, but a fast internet connection, going viral(anyone?), and piracy helps cultivate free speech and the ideals of democracy that we have so long cherished.

If  your product is good enough, then people who form an emotional attachment to it will surely support you. Hell or hard weather, fans are fans, and the right way to do things is by creating something that people need and that people would be enriched by. Rather than spending those billions on marketing.

But no one really gets that. The whole of human kind now seems to be one large cattle market, at the mercy of our overlords. The only question is how fat we would be allowed to get before we're slaughtered.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

A History of Violence


The last time I went to Assam it was unseasonably hot and humid. The roads were in bad shape, and there seemed to be little to indicate that the state was in a steady state of progress. The people seemd reasonably content with their fortune, but ominously, they had seen very little of the progress that the rest of India had made. Now this is a region of the country that is connected to it by a 20 km odd wide umbilical cord of land. The mainland seems to have very little influence here. I went there a couple of years ago, and even then the atmosphere seemed quietened into a lull that could only bode a storm.

Things have gone steadily downhill since then. A mix of despondency and apathy has beset the Seven Sisters, and Assam, as the largest, and the putative spokesperson of the group is probably the most obvious bellwether of the climate of unrest that has gripped them. Many people tend to classify the unrest as communal, or societal, but that would, in effect be too simplistic a definition. You see, we as a country have been communal ever since our inception. We were never meant to be united as one nation, for most periods in our history we have never been as such. When we have, however, our unity has been cemented by comparatively long periods of productivity and prosperity, and by a strong charismatic leader with the will power to hold us together. Neither seems to be available today.

Communalism has always been a disitnct part of the state. You need only to indulge people in casual conversation in order to confirm their deep rooted xenophobia against Muslims. But then again,this had to be  an issue in a state which is so close to Bangladesh. We are not the first country to have problems with illegal immigration. Most European countries and the US have had much worse. The immigration that Assam has witnessed is in keeping with the sort to be expected when your neighbour is unable to enocurage the sort of growth that your country takes for granted.

Coming back then, to the great leadership, adn the issue of productivity and prosperity. The government at the centre is a farce, now, and by extension, so is the government at the state level. However, the average man on the street has little to do with the government at the center or at the state levels. He is happy as long as he has some money in his pocket, and enough work to keep him busy until the end of the day as a means to earn it. This is something of a concern here, not because the state does not generate enough work opportunity, but because the people in the state are simply not skilled enough to match up to them. The chief minister had even admitted as such in a recent interview, and vowed to rectify the situation.

The idle hands, presumably would be taken care of, but then, what about the empty pockets. And this is where some of the most telling revelations take place. The Indian per capita income has been bandied about a lot in some of the more skeptical publications abroad as being a measly Rs. 33,793. This is a paltry sum when compared even to some of the African nations. However in Assam, an average worker can expect to earn only Rs. 20,500 odd. This is a sharp difference, and is probably the reason why most youths would choose to look for work elsewhere, thus leading to an exodus to more  lucrative climes.

Poverty in this country has long been the subject of academic and political debate, however, almost everyone would agree that nothing has been done in the short term to effectively ameliorate the situation. Reasons range from the very endemic nature of poverty to the fact that the government has its hands tied on absolutely any issue by the opposition. Whatever the reason may be, idle minds and empty pockets are surely fecund breeding grounds for the devil. Unemployment and monetary woes are the real devils here, not communalism or immigration.

The only effective solution is to fill people's pockets rather than prick their conscience. But then again, money has this anachronous way of getting lost in transit somehow, and it does certainly seem easier to fill people with hatred rather than put food on their plate.