"You're starting to see some recognition just in the last few days that the obsession with India as the mortal threat to Pakistan has been misguided, and that their biggest threat right now comes internally".
- Barack Obama (Speech on his first 100 days in office)
Strong, and belated, words.
The sad part is that even if you switch the order of the two names in that sentence, it's almost as valid.
Yes, I know they train terrorists and shelter wanted gangsters and export nuclear weapons training to other countries, but we obsess about them and allow our politicians to use them as a bogeyman to deflect attention from the miserable state of our country's infrastructure, planning, healthcare, education, and civil rights.
We've allowed ourselves to get warped into a mentality where we agree that most Pakistanis are "probably all right", but still froth with rabid jingoism the minute we see that green-and-white flag, just like they love our Bollywood stars but fall for the manipulative games their leaders play.
We've allowed ourselves to be defined by our hate, just like them.
"You're starting to see some recognition just in the last few days that the obsession with India as the mortal threat to Pakistan has been misguided, and that their biggest threat right now comes internally".
It's a given that in dire economic straits, crime (especially petty crime) increases. And so it has been proved.
But there are other more obvious-in-hindsight trends that are emerging, such as the increased levels of pets being abandoned.
And then there's this story, which predicts that we can expect more lag over the Net in the next few years. Ok, it's not directly linked, and it's primarily it's a case of increased demand and middling-antiquated infrastructure. However, it's worth considering if the demand hasn't spiked right about now because people are spending more time at home, either because it's too expensive to eat/party out, or because they've got more free time from their jobs, or because it's cheaper to shop online than going to a store.
It's also interesting to contemplate just how this problem will be tackled. It's probably safe to assume that people will turn more to the Net as the technology gets more advanced. But somewhere down the line, the increased demand for all this - memory-hungry online-streaming videos and music, shopping portals that rely on flash-heavy advertisements to survive, social networking sites that encourage people to add more photos and videos, blogs that encourage more people to churn out more matter that uses up more data - will begin to hurt. Noticeably.
And how will we react? The only remote hope of a voice of reason being heard will be if there are independent volunteer bodies that work towards getting people to reduce their Net usage (nobody's going to listen to the government). But even then, how many will be willing to give up what will have become an essential part of their lives, just on the say-so of somebody else - even if that person makes sense? How many will have the inclination and the willpower to sacrifice putting up blogposts, or downloading more than a certain number of songs, or even stop just surfing all the time? How many of us will even remember what it means to actually phone someone and email someone, instead of putting up quick post-it notes on their Facebook page?
How much will you be willing to give up?
If you live in, or have visited, London and know about this already, please move on down to the previous posts and comment on them. Or not.
But for those of you do live in the city, and like me are clueless enough not to have heard of this place, or are going to be visiting the city and stand a chance of feeling home-sick for some really good, as-authentic-as-you-can-get-outside-India food, I have two words for you:
I can only vouch for the Wembley branch, but holy purple pearls, can I vouch for it. It was easily the best non-homemade South Indian food I've eaten in this country, and heck, one of the better ones I've even eaten anywhere upwards of the Vindhyas. And it's cheap, ridiculously so. And most importantly, it introduced me to a whole new sub-genre of food (again, if this is old news, some of us are slow, ok? Ok) : South-Indian-Chinese.
That's right. Chilly Fried Idlis, baby. Lots of ajinomoto and too much colour, but oh so brilliantly good.
Go (if you haven't). And then come thank me. One shall accept all gratitude with due graciousness.
Labels: Announcements and such
In one of the chapters of Himalaya, Michael Palin writes about this Bhutanese concert he's attended. And there's a throwaway line where he mentions that the final piece is "anti-climactic", because it's this slow flute solo that follows a tempesteous group number.
And it struck me, that that's the perfect example of how we look at or expect our entertainment to be (or not, in this case).
All concerts must end with a bang. All jokes must have that punchy one-liner. All stories must have that all-conclusive tying up of threads. All films must reach soaring new heights. We litter our lives with such words - Showstopper. Crescendo.
And when anything goes against the grain, we instinctively react with a sense of discomfort and alienation. It's such an ingrained process this - that everything must build/converge to a singularity of maximum impact - that the concept of serene goings-on after the big explosion feels....wrong.
And what struck me particularly, was that's it's just like sex.
Build up, build up, buiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiild up....bang. See?
Oh sure, a song may have a quiet note or two after the screech, and a book may have a small epilogue. And that's just like sex too, the gradual climbdown after the big event (that is, if you have one).
But a slow piece following a rock anthem? A film where the crux happens in the first half, and the rest is spent meandering? A crime thriller where the motive/identity is revealed with six chapters to spare, and the rest going on about food? Happens, but very rarely. And when it does, the large proportion of those who partake of it, don't like it. For instance, remember how many people cribbed about the ending of LoTR 3 - despite the fact that it was based on the book, and they even cut out the Battle of the Shire - just because it followed the blowing up of Sauron?
And I wonder whether all these other modes of entertainment happen to imitate sex (because that was the original template), or whether it's just coincidental that they do? Did we subconsciously mould our....expressions to resemble that which first gave them joy, or is it just that this behaviour indicates that this is how humans prefer to enjoy anything? I'll even throw in a feminist angle, about how it could be argued that this 'standard' template of songs/books/stories/films resembles sex because for large parts of human history, they were created and propagated by men.
Fanciful theory, but interesting, na?
Labels: Some life
So it's that time of the half-decade again, where one's moral and social integrity will be repeatedly appealed to and put up for questioning. Where whether or not you did it matters more than if you didn't do it, regardless of their being better reasons for choosing the latter. Where either you're part of the progress, or you're just a whining ingrate.
Oh yeh, baby, it's Election Time.
And by this time, you will have spent at least six months being bombarded by slick ads, flyers in your mail, group invites on social networking sites, and dinner-party arguments. Most of which will say that you have to vote, because it's your duty, and because the alternative isn't really a viable option, and because if you don't vote, you're as bad as a woodpecker on caffeine, and why are you still living here, again?
All valid arguments, surely?
Let's get this straight. People should vote, it's just that it's not like they must. I'm still to hear an argument that offers more reasons to vote than reasons not to if the candidates do not deserve to be elected .
Let's examine those pro-reasons a bit -
1) Elections are expensive. Re-elections would cost more money to a country that can't afford it anyway.
2) Elections are time-consuming. The amount of time spent in organising and holding one is a drain on society, which could be used for better productivity.
3) If you don't like the candidates, vote for the least worst of the lot.
4) It's your duty as a citizen to vote. If nobody voted, how would anybody get elected, and if nobody got elected, how would any government form, and if no government was formed, how would any decisions be made, and if no decisions got made, how would the country run?
5) Oh, and if you don't vote, you don't get to complain.
To which I say, poppycock.
I don't know why I say it, except that the word is rather pleasing, even if it is rather suggestive. It's also a delightfully dismissive word. Say it. Poppycock. Popppppycock. Even better, say Tosh and poppycock. It flows, does it not? Also, it sounds more dismissive, if possible.
However, I suspect that would not suffice, and I would be required to present some more coherent rebuttals. So 'erewegothen.
Firstly - and (to me) most importantly - it's not my duty to vote.
It's my right to.
Just like it's my right to be given a choice of candidates who may differ in ideals and strategems and plans, but who do aim to do some good.
Just like it's my right to expect those who want to be responsible for the futures of numerous others, to be responsible enough to be chosen.
Just like it's my right to decide not to exercise that right, if I judge that those who yearn for it are not equal to the task.
I can vote, but that does not mean I have to. I would like to, but I do not accept that I must, whether I like it or not.
Because a choice between a thug and a thief is no choice at all.
Because a choice between someone with a personal agenda and someone who plunges into the fray with no ideas but with "good intent" is even worse.
Because, in good conscience, I cannot help select someone I know is unworthy.
Because I refuse to bring someone to power just for the sake of it.
And because the lesser of two evils is always - always - still an evil.
I've never got that theory - Choose him, he'll only build 14 totally pointless flyovers....No, no, choose her, she'll only let her brothers build 20 new skyscrapers....No, no, choose one of them, they have no criminal records.
If you will not hire somebody in your house, or in your business, who you know is incompetent; if you will ask them for references to show that they're not going to kill you while you sleep; if you're going to report them to the police if they steal your belongings - then how can you hire somebody like that to rule over the fate of hundreds of thousands of people?
It's a sad state of affairs when you're voting for someone solely because of their lack of criminal activity, regardless of whether anything in their lives has prepared them for the kind of multi-tasking, people-oriented, negotiating-heavy skills that politics requires.
Yes, elections may be expensive - but they're less expensive than the money that gets wasted by and on incompetent idiots elected from them. Think salaries, housing, travel, security and all the other perks that get given to someone who doesn't do their job properly. And all the money that gets thrown at unnecessary projects by these people, or worse, on not doing anything.
I'd rather not vote to power someone who I know is going to waste all the money that is collected from me after I work hard to earn it - even if it means wasting all the money that goes into organising an election.
I'm not asking for saints. I'm not asking for Mr. Perfect or Ms. Awesome. I'm just asking for people who have some understanding of the world around them. Who have some basic understanding of socio-economics, health, and infrastructure. Who have some reason that drove them to do this job besides the greed of all that loot they could wallow in. Who have some sense of shame and accountability.
And since all of that's not going to happen anytime soon, don't expect me to vote either.
As for the last point, if you dare tell me that I can't complain because I didn't vote, then - as the lovable Irish so politely put it - feck off, ya gobby piece of shite.
I didn't give a driving license to the idiots who zoom past me while I'm cycling round a blind corner, but I sure as heck can complain about them. I didn't ask the damn banks to mess around with the world's economy, but I sure as heck can complain about them. And while I may not have voted the idiot who's ruining my city/state/country, I sure as heck can complain about the idiots who did.
Don't tell me I can't complain, because hey, did you see the alternatives? I can refuse to be part of what is at best a compromise, and at worse, a total surrender of beliefs and ideals - and still retain the right to complain about those who do (at least...I think I can).
And yes, yes, stop jumping about, I haven't forgotten point 4.
So, what option does this leave us? No elected candidates, hung parliaments and President's Rule? Like that would help. But, it's not like the option we've gone for all these years has been that brilliant in comparison, has it? I've never been a fan of the government system, and in countries like India, a lot of the progress that has taken place has come about because of the aims and work of interested citizen groups. Despite the government, not because of it.
Of course, that's a simplistic argument. We've unfortunately painted ourselves into a corner where it is pretty nigh impossible to break out of the country-state model that has emerged, and governments are a necessary evil. I'd like to think there's a better way of making the system better than by not voting, but the simple answer is - I don't know.
I'd like to think that if we keep rejecting candidates, the people who put them up for our approval will get the hint and propose somebody else. And that method of elimination, however arbitrary and faulty (and it is both, to an extreme degree), will be better than the system we currently have. But I'm not getting my hopes up too much there, either.
So, vote if you want to, and please vote if you find somebody who's decent and looks like they could improve (or at least change) things. But for the love of all things purple, don't do it because you're told you have to, don't do it and feel you've "done your bit" for the country, and please please don't do it because you're accused of "being asleep" by a holier-than-thou advertisement.
Right. That's me done. Now, bring on the grief.
In case you were going to vote, and thinking of using that much-hyped '49-0' clause, the actual rule, as detailed in The Conduct of Elections Rules 1961, is as follows:
"If an elector, after his electoral roll number has been duly entered in the register of voters in Form-17A and has put his signature or thumb impression thereon as required under sub-rule (1) of rule 49L, decided not to record his vote, a remark to this effect shall be made against the said entry in Form 17A by the presiding officer and the signature or thumb impression of the elector shall be obtained against such remark".Which, in itself, raises a whole host of issues.
Such as, Oi you parochial jerk, whatever happened to 'his/her'?
And Oi, isn't this a secret ballot?
And So.....this doesn't come under 'pressuring the voter'?
However, let's leave those for the moment. Do note that there's nothing in the rules which specifies that if the number of 'non-votes' is greater than the number of votes for any candidate, that particular election will be declared null and void. Which obviously puts paid to the theory being suggested that the same candidates can therefore not stand in that election again.
As of now, all that happens is that you go to the polling station, prove that you are who your card claims you to be, get ready to vote and then spring this option on the polling officials. Who will then sigh and bang their foreheads on the nearest wall and wonder why they had to be assigned to this station and suffer such fools, after which melodrama they will note your non-vote against your name in the voting register (since the Electronic Voting Machines do not allow for a non-vote), and everybody around you will stare at you as if you just pulled a purple skateboard from your left nostril.
And, if you're really unlucky, one of those avid starers will be the snitch for one of the candidates' local henchmen, who will then come around to thump you some after his boss loses by one vote.
What's worse, although the details of how many votes were cast for each candidate are proudly proclaimed, the number of non-votes currently aren't. They will just go in the 'Abstain' tally, and won't go towards the overall number of votes cast, thus skewing each candidate's actual percentage of votes won/total number of votes cast. Now, Wikiboo says there's a petition and all to alter this, but nothing's official yet.
"They feel debased by this confrontation. Meat from the store in cardboard trays wrapped in plastic, meat with tidy price stickers and labels, that meat is food, is flank steak, chuck roast, ground round. None of it is labeled, "Cut from the shoulder of a large dead animal in a snowy field at night". There is nothing to remind them that the hide was pulled away from the flesh while it was still warm, and the steam rose into the night to the greedy waiting stars. They do not want to remember that they are predators. Carnivores. They'd rather eat the flabby muscles of an animal raised hock-deep in its own shit, castrated and injected and inspected, a smack in the head to fell it, a large white room to chill it, humming machines to cut it into neat slices. De-animalized meat."
- Megan Lindholm* (Cloven Hooves)
* If you're even remotely into SF&F, you have got to read all the books she's written as Robin Hobb.
Labels: Brilliant others
And when we're done fighting each other, having tired of throwing unbearable insults and sharpened rocks and sleek-nosed deliveries of scorching metals, we still fight on.
Fending off the prejudices and assumptions and suspicions and hopes that others have of us.
Refusing to believe in ourselves, or stop believing in ourselves, no matter the growing pile of evidence thrown in front of us.
Trying to crash through glass ceilings of all kinds, and break down barriers of race and religion and gender and colour and language and nationality and choice.
Battling our own fears and demons, against the stumbling blocks we place in front of ourselves, against the restrictions we so arbitrarily impose on the way we live our lives.
Internalising it all, with every cell resisting death, our blood straining against gravity, our minds struggling to retain what they have absorbed so far, and all the while, trying to resist the ravages of the glacial cleansweeping force that is Time.
And always, always scratching away at the mysteries of the world, and those in it, hoping to learn what no one before us has.
And yet, we talk and dream of Peace.
What a quaint little concept.
Labels: Some life
Of all the magnificently crackpot ideas masquerading as a sensible solution, this has to be one of the best.
Oh I get the point beyond it - let's show those who make our policies that we don't like the way they're shrugging off the rapid way we're erasing the options our future holds, and let's do it when energy consumption is at its highest, and let's do it in a totally dramatic way, and heyyyy! what better way than by showing those who are not convinced what it would be like if we had no energy. Right? Alright!
Look, I like to think I'm green(ish). Public transport has always been my first and most common choice, I cycle when the cities I'm living in allow me to do so with some hope of surviving the first 30 metres, I have energy-saving bulbs all over my house, I recycle - heck, I even compost. Sure, I buy the occasional non-local food item, but that's just me cashing in my carbon credits.
But this - this is just such a pointless demonstration. On so many counts.
First, why just the one hour on one day every year? If you're really serious about getting people to reduce energy usage (and hence carbon emissions), why not make it a more regular affair, like once every month? Surely that will have more of an actual impact on saving energy.
What, you think people will refuse to make do without electricity for one hour every single month? Well, then the whole idea of this campaign is flawed, isn't it? Because if you can't convince people that if we keep going the way we do, somewhere down the line we will have to do without energy for large chunks of the day (oh wait, that already happens in India - good old load-shedding), and so they better do without their AC for 60 frikkin' minutes once every 30 days, then you've already lost.
Also, the timing. Oh sure, the photo-op is hard to pass up on. But if there's one thing that has always prevented me from being a green activist, and the one thing that has always pissed me off about green activists, is that with them it's either all or nothing. Moderation, you see, is a bad word. It's got to have Drama!
Of course, playing on humankind's oldest possible fear - darkness - is just as likely to piss off those who are on the fence, and just make those who don't believe more entrenched in their behaviour. Because why wouldn't everybody like to grope about in the dark, making do with candles (which, by the way, weren't just picked in the fields but were manufactured, and packaged, and transported to the shops - hello energy usage!), wondering if that sound they just heard is a burglar chuckling at the way some people just lay down the red carpet? And why wouldn't ambulances, and firefighters, and the police like the challenge of doing their jobs with their vision impeded?
Besides, I'm not even sure that energy usage is higher at night. Yes, the streets are lit while they're not in the day, lights come on at home which they don't in the day. But (most) offices and shopping outlets don't use ACs and heaters and computers and faxes and coffee machines during the night do they? I'd be happy to see statistics that prove me wrong, but I'm willing to guess that they balance out, and daytime energy usage is as much as that at night.
So then, I would have thought it would be better to do something like this during the day. At least that way, people can decide to go out for a walk instead of sitting in a dark office, or sweltering in the heat of their homes. Children can be entertained in parks, elderly folk can have get-togethers, neighbours can catch up on their gossip or even just get to know each other. People might realise that they actually like just sitting around and reading a book. Or just strolling round and noticing their neighbourhood properly. Who knows, even museums might see an attendance boost.
Isn't all of that preferable to people muttering away to themselves in the dark, running the risk of setting something on fire or hurting themselves? Isn't the chance of generating a more social environment preferable to effectively having people lock themselves in? And most importantly, doesn't this make it more practical, and hence, more likely to be adopted by more people, and hence, result in less energy usage, and hence, give us a few more weeks before the flood swamps us all?
Which, surely, is the point. Unless it's all just for a dramatic photo-op.
In which case, as I said earlier - what shite.