Hiding Place!

In many religions, Confession is the acknowledgement of one’s sins or wrongs. In Christianity, people make Confession formally. A person goes to the church and confesses to evil deeds and asks for penance. This arrangement between the person and the priest is like a lawyer-client relationship. It is an arrangement which is always upheld as sacrosanct.

But not every religion has this arrangement. But each human needs to share his/her thoughts with someone who is very close to them. All of us go through difficult times, good times and tough times. Some of these are so tough that our reactions to such situations can be, “Oh! I want to kill that fellow”! But killing someone is not an option. But what should one do if such feeling arises in mind? We need to vent out strong emotions, but this is possible only when you have intimacy with someone with whom you can share any details. At the same time, there is a need to get your feelings validated by someone. Why would you say that you want to kill someone? It is an extreme reaction to a situation. If you don’t forget this incident and keep brooding about it, you may explode (you might kill that person), or you will implode and go into depression.

In such situations, you need a “Hiding Place”! The concept of “Hiding Place” comes from Bible Psalm 32:7! (Correct me about psalms, I am reading details about them for the first time)

https://biblehub.com/psalms/32-7.htm

In the Bible the hiding place is HIM! God is the “Hiding Place” place because he is

  • Safe
  • Sure
  • Secret
  • Comfortable
  • Strong
  • Secure
  • Communing (means share one’s intimate thoughts or feelings with (someone), especially on a spiritual level.)

I said that there is a need for “Hiding Place” in the real world too; the hiding place is you and me or any other person. A person can be a friend, brother, sister, or anybody really intimate with you. What is the importance of “Hiding Place” in our life? The incident mentioned above resulted in a feeling “I wanted to kill that person.” The “Hiding Place” is a sounding board who will listen to you, encourage you to open out and vent your steam. At the same time, “Hiding Place” or the person will not be judgemental and say that you were wrong to react this way. The person will listen to you and accept that you responded strongly. At the same time, the person will tell you the futility of such a reaction. By “hiding” we have achieved a few things. Your strong emotions were vented out, you are assured that your strong feelings, though not justified, get vetted. Once you have cooled down, you can discuss the real-life solution!

Some people are born with extreme emotions, some are cool, but most are in between. They are likely to lose their shirt in a situation! Some are lucky that they have a “hiding place”. You use someone as a sounding board, and if that person has most of the traits mentioned above, you are lucky. We read every day in newspapers stories about murders. The reasons for some of these murders are so flimsy that problems could have been quickly resolved by discussing with someone.

The root cause of unwelcome behaviour in society is unresolved conflicts from the minds of the people. Such unresolved disputes, and locked up feelings fo not find the healthy outlet and end result are simple problems getting converted to road rage events and sometimes into a murder.

In today’s times, we hear many stories about couples divorcing. If the reason for such divorces is listed out, then all the couples in the world should be divorced. Relations between pairs are very personal so unless they have access to a “hiding place”, issues are never going to be resolved. Recently I heard of a surprising way in which marital discord was resolved between a couple, who got married three years back. Both were lucky to have sensible friends. On husbands side, he had some females as his close friends, and they discussed the issues with him. They explained to him the women’s perspective of looking at things. At the same time on the wife’s side, some male friends discussed the issue and explained to her the male’s view of looking at problems. Of course, both were sensible persons. They later sorted out the problems amongst themselves, and now most of the discord related issues are overcome.

I read one beautiful story about a British movie The Wingless Bird! In this movie, a British Army Captain has come back on a short leave during the First World War. The war has affected his mind deeply. But he is trying to keep up the tradition of the British Family of being in the army. He is very uneasy and does not know what to do because he is very much troubled. Finally, he finds the courage to open out with his brother’s wife. He explains to her the whole situation on the war front. The dismembered bodies, rain, the trenches, the mud, fleece and the rats. To add to this the wrong orders from seniors lead to many unnecessary deaths. Of course, the seniors are safe, far away from the front!  After sharing these ghastly details, the Captain had a smile on his face. The situation on the front was not going to change, but he could unburden his thoughts. He thanked his brother’s wife that he could talk to her. She in return told him that she was delighted that he trusted her. The lady was the Captain’s Hiding Place!

Friends, I have simplistic solutions for everything as I very rarely react very strongly to a situation. I always think about the Utopian world. But let me assure you, it is not very difficult. Let us form a bank of “Hiding Places”! The newspapers have a section on agony aunt. As this correspondence is anonymous, it works like the confession box from the Churches. I am lucky to be a “Hiding Place” to many. Ultimately every individual has to solve his or her dilemma! A bit of shoulder to “cry on” always helps. People smoke, go to pubs sometimes when they are tense. Instead look for a “hiding place”. You have them around, there are many good people around, you need to locate them.

As usual, this is my simplistic solution, but it is worthwhile trying.

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Jingoism or Pragmatism!

Years back when Japan started exporting good cars to the USA in a big way in the ’80 s of the last century, there was a lot of noise created in the US! The US decided that this needs to be handled at the highest level. During a visit of a President of the US, they had informed the Japanese government that the President would push Japanese to open their market for American cars. Japanese agreed immediately. During the meeting it was it was declared officially. When the detailing was being worked out, Americans found that American car makers, engineering-wise, were unprepared, to make right-hand drive cars needed in Japan. They lost ¾ years in this! Rest as they say is history.

In the last few years, the winds against the so-called free trade have started blowing in the USA! Even in Britain, Brexit has happened, and Britain is hoping to walk out of the European Union. Brexit is a classic case of a referendum. The young people who did not want Brexit were too busy to take part in the poll. The seniors did. Currently, the British people have a significant advantage of visa-less travel to Europe. The young brigade could jump to holiday locations, for a job or weekend excursions to the places of their choice. British business had a big, trade barrier-free market available to them. Current British Government is trying its best to find a face-saving formula or do what the majority population wants. (even though referendum said otherwise) Another option may be a second referendum.

Every nation, every society needs to look after self-interest and self-respect. As the country grows, its business grows. The business growth will make the nation and its people proud. Value-added growth could happen when modern products and services are developed in the nation internally. The business needs support from the government, for such a growth. The Indian government is attempting to follow this method. When they sign a contract for import of high technology defence items like radar, planes etc. they try to ensure that the deal is in two parts. Initially, India imports some quantities fully assembled; later at least 30% of production is done in India along with some local partners. Make in India is the name of this project. The results of such initiatives will be seen 20 or 30 years hence.

Why do nations change their thought processes? A country like the United States is technologically the most advanced nation in the world. In the last 50 years, they have many world-class organisations, especially in the IT field. Most of the other countries play the catch-up game with them. They have created world-class hardware and software products like iPhone, Android OS, Windows OS, Microsoft Office to name a few of them. They are also famous for aircraft manufacturing facilities. But where hardware manufacturing was involved, they slowly moved production to China. China also has done a terrific job of going up the value chain; China is now called the world’s manufacturing setup.   Similarly, India has become back office of the world. Since the last couple of years, India is also trying to go up the value chain.

jingo1

With the election of Trump, thinking in the US has started changing. Why did this happen? When we refer to the USA, we think only of the East coast and the West coast. We never bother regarding the Rust Belt. Rust Belt is the American midwestern area where industries went into decline due to various reasons. The decrease is mainly in sectors like steel, mining and to some extent automobile.  Add to that the local culture which went into a social rot. The problems of this area can be understood if you read a book called “HillyBilly Elegy” by D Vance.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillbilly_Elegy

We will understand better, Trump’s election victory, after reading this book. Jingoism has started after the win and America began to looking inwards by having tariff wars with China and India. Trade wars also led to the wave, “Make in America”!

History repeats due to lack of proper planning. Apple is the classic case of Make In America failure. There is the story “A Tiny Screw Shows Why iPhones Won’t Be Assembled in the U.S.A.” in New York Times. Apple started churning out great products in the last decade, after struggling since ’80 s of the previous century. They wanted to make the most of it and began subcontracting work. This improved their profitability. Over a period, they shifted all their assembly work in China to Foxconn. Most of the significant components in iPhone were made in the USA or other parts of the world. Assemblies and small parts were made in China. As assemblies entirely moved to China, US industries were left with unused capacity for many small items, and they closed shop or moved to other business. The classic case is of a non-standard screw needed in the assembly. China can produce any quantity of such screws. When an attempt was made to move production back to the USA, capabilities for producing such items were found missing. On top of this, Chinese wages are the US $ 2.10/hr for workers as against the US rates which are very high. On top of this, the totalitarian regime in China does not bother about labour laws. Meeting the targets are achieved by waking up the workers from home at night (when required) and are made to work the night shift. Getting people out of bed for factory work is not possible with US laws and culture.

Jingoism does not solve the problems; it merely creates an unhealthy atmosphere. In the case of Apple, history is getting repeated as it did in the case of cars in the last century! Governments and industry both need to be pragmatic. Apple is facing another issue. The iPhones assembled in China get a tag “Made in China”! The US government wants to charge high tariffs on “Made in China” items. On one side iPhone sells are sliding, margins are slipping; market capitalisation is dropping fast. Higher tariffs will add to Apple’s woes!

While taking any decisions in life, especially when these decisions are business related pragmatism should come to the fore and not Jingoism. The British decided in the referendum about Brexit. The analysis found that high % of citizens in the group above 55 age were for Brexit. Whereas against Brexit was a mixed group, young and old. Brexit is going to create problems for the young ones.

Jingoism takes a society towards a situation where governments promise something during an election or political rhetoric but are not able to deliver — not being pragmatic leads to further churning. Governments try to show their strength by taking a firm stand which is not sustainable. Politicians remain in political mode all the time leading to Jingoism.

Hope the leaders and nations who are following the path of Jingoism learn their lessons quickly; otherwise, the voters correct the same anyway. But for the period till next election, a lot of damage is done to the fabric of the society, and most importantly economic setbacks can cause long term damage to all concerned.

Surprise Tool! Daily Routines & Rituals!

People take education; they train themselves in specialised areas. But few things impact your daily productivity, career path, and overall well-being as much as your routines. What daily routines are we talking about in this discussion? Each has his routines. I will explain what I mean.  

I write a little more than what I used to do in the olden days. I consider myself a bit of writer these days. In the year 2018, I have written 212,000 words as per WordPress site! In a day on an average, it is approximately 580 words or 1 ½ page. I published 180 blogs in 2018. As a writer, I have my routines set up. The routines are not right or wrong but these are my routines, and I follow them.  

Here is what I do. I do my fine-tuning, publishing and other entries related to publishing after I wake up early morning. Essential work takes about 45 minutes. When I wake up, I take my medicine, wake my laptop, heat water for drinking. I drink hot water with turmeric as per terrific suggestion by friend Jayprakash. It helps my throat. I  read what I wrote on the previous day; reading again aids in fine-tuning and getting into the groove. One of my rituals is to publish my blog at 5 am. Why five am? No reason, it is my routine. When I follow my routine, my published matter is generally free of errors, as my mind is fresh and helps me correct my mistakes. Will I make any mistakes if I don’t follow the routines? Will I be comfortable? I do not know. But If I am comfortable doing my work with a specific routine, I may not want to experiment.  

  ritual1

You may write down your own routines/rituals as displayed above!

In the office scenario we check our documents, our emails, we have one on one meetings. We have group meetings. We meet with outsiders. We have telephonic conversations. We are not robots. We take some time to switch from one task to another. Just imagine that you have come from a heated interdepartmental meeting. Next on the agenda is a one on one meeting with a talented colleague. She may be thinking regarding resigning due to some complex issue. A good idea will be to take a five-minute break. It could be tea break, washroom break (maybe to wash your face). This break will bring some normalcy in your mind, and you will be able to handle the one on one meeting better. 

You may have observed routines followed by batsmen during cricket matches. Some twirl their bat, some walk five steps away from stumps and come back. All such routines help them to keep their concentration. But there are some smart bowlers like Ravindra Jadeja. They bowl their balls one after another in quick succession if a run is not scored. The hastening up helps the bowler to break the concentration of batsmen as they are not able to twirl their bat or remove the hand gloves.  

Our persona or personality is made up of what we repeatedly do. If you are a voracious reader, then people may call you as a well-read man; because during the chats, you can give quotes or examples from what you read.  

The rituals aid the routines that we follow! Publishing my blog at 5 am is a ritual too! When we follow some rituals, it sends signals to our mind that we are planning to start some new activity. After using Laptop for emails, before one on one meeting, we can put the laptop in sleep mode by closing it down. After coming back from group meeting before looking into your computer, you may have a cup of tea to indicate the switch over. I had said above that we are not robots and this is what it means. Our attention doesn’t immediately follow the new task. Some thinking and part of our attention remain stuck in the original work. 

Such rituals are not connected directly to any task. These are parallel to some of the religious rituals we follow in our life. On a specific day after a death in the family, we invite people for lunch, as a ritual indicating that the mourning is over.  

When we perform two different tasks, our thinking can be entirely different. For example, you were creating a document, and then you are switching to a one on one meeting with a colleague. These two tasks require vastly different thinking. Writing will need referencing of old documents, talking to a colleague, looking for old emails. The one on one meeting will require you to switch to the understanding of the specific issues being discussed, and you may need to check something with your HR department. Mental changeover, information collection and preparation in general for every event is different. We have to find our ritual that makes the transition smooth. 

Each of us has a way of doing things. Our body cycles are different. Some of us are morning people, and some are night owls. There is no point trying to wake up at four in the morning because the CEO of a successful company in the line of your business does so. “Early to bed and early to rise” is the right thing to say. But your work requires that you take calls thrice a week that ends at midnight! You may not be able to follow this idiom.  

So how do routines and rituals fit into the modern workday? And how can we develop ones that maximise our ability to do meaningful work? One might ask do we need these routines and rituals to pass the day? We have to understand that in the modern world days can be long, tedious. Sometimes these can be boring too! Routines and rituals can introduce some break in the tedious nature of jobs.  

I will share with you some different routines/rituals that people follow. 

  • I have seen many roadside kiosk owners, after preparing their first cup of tea to dump it on the ground. On checking, I was told that it brings them good luck. 
  • Churchill used to take a nap at 5 p.m. This was his siesta, a habit gained in Cuba, allowed him to work 1 1/2 days in every 24 hours. At 6:30 p.m. he awoke, bathed again, and dressed for dinner at 8 p.m. 
  • Some athletes, don’t change their socks throughout a small tournament.  
  • Some cricketers always wear their gear in a specific sequence.  

You are what your routines are, and these are specific to you! So go ahead and follow them religiously.

I found one slide about rituals about our life! I thought it was interesting.

ritual2

  

  

  

 

Managing Moods!

mood2

Our life is about managing things, managing the boss, managing the wife and managing finances. If we can handle these things then probably we do not have to manage our mood. Yes, the mood is another crucial thing that we need to manage. Can we manage our mood? Is the mood control in our hands? Yes, it is! In our lives, nothing lasts forever. There could be a financial loss, there could be a death in the family, there could be a heartbreak; the human brain is designed to overcome such issues over some time.

Our mood changes on day to day basis! Serious events could catch you in a melancholy mood for some days. But on day to day basis, our mood can be good, bad and the average of good and bad. It can be nasty for a short period. Similarly, it can be boisterous too. Nobody would like to be in bad or a sad mood. If we attempt to come out of it, we can do it.

We generally think that we are disturbed because another individual said something to you, or thought you were doing your things correctly, but still, you have been wronged. You passed through when the green signal was turning yellow, but you were given a ticket because you jumped the signal. Yes, there will be annoying people or events, but that is always not the case. It is not others all the time who spoil our mood.

Some of the reasons for your foul mood can be

  • You have not slept well during the night
  • Weather is nasty
  • Traffic snarls due to which you almost missed your flight
  • You have to deal with an idiot at the workplace
  • You are unnecessarily insulted by a salesman or a clerk

These things are bound to happen. These incidents happen to healthy, wealthy or happy people all the time; such events occur in case of all the people. Before we can improve anything by way of correcting the process, we must understand what the problem is. We should not avoid things that destroy our mood. In life sometimes we need to confront people or situations. Human weakness is to avoid such things, but that does not solve the issue. So we must give priority to understand the problem first.

The event or the situation is not harmful, it is the human reaction to the situation, is what creates the foul mood. Many times adverse events can generate a response in us which can lead to improving the situation and getting into a better spirit. The good idea is to keep a log of such events for a period and analyse why it is happening. Keeping a record can help us understand ourselves better. There is no point in trying not to confront such situations.

Now that you know a bit about getting into the foul mood, it will be a good idea to know how to come out of it.

It’s simple. Come out of a lousy mood! Ok, it is not that simple. First and foremost is shrug off and don’t react. Let things cool down for at least some time. Why this needs to be done is because our first reaction to such situations is always emotional and not rational. Emotional response can further aggravate the situation rather than diffusing it. But at the same time, do not leave things open; there has to be a closure otherwise we stay in a foul mood for a long time.

We keep on getting text messages, emails which can create a tough situation. I will share an example. I had received an email from a business associate who was very unfair and nasty. There was no fault from my side. I wrote a nasty email which I did not send. I saved it in the draft folder. I slept over the email. Next day, I reread the mail. I realised that considering long term relationship, my original mail would have cost us dearly. I diluted my mail by 95% and sent it. Of course, I mildly registered my protest and also wrote how it was not our fault. Two things happened because of this. The gentleman called me and said that he was forced to write that mail due to some awkward situation in their organisation but he did not mean it. He made up for our loss in the next project. Secondly, since I had written a nasty mail and stored it in the draft file, I had blown up steam and had cooled down considerably. Two things together gave the situation a proper closure.

There are situations when you react, and in some cases, you don’t respond. You need to consider what is involved. Does this affect your integrity? Is your relationship with someone close and dear at stake? In such cases the action is necessary.

mood1

The relationship may involve your girlfriend or a boyfriend. If some angry words are used there can be overall disappointment with girlfriend refusing to talk to you. You get angrier because she does not speak to you and the situation may get out of control. It is a good idea not to let emotions take control of the situation. If you value your relationship, it is better not to say something harsh, though it might make you feel better at that time.

Managing your moods is tough, and you need to practice it. First few times you may not handle it well. But over a period you do!

But something is bound to trigger your bad mood. Try not to get soaked in that mood. Try to come out of it. Getting stuck in that lousy mood is a recipe for situation worsening. Overcome it, move on!

Life is about moving on! Try and set “Time Out T” like in a basketball game! Give yourself ten minutes, thirty minutes! Never allow yourself into foul mood indefinitely. Ultimately life has to go on!

It’s your life and unfortunately the only one you have. Try and enjoy it but remaining in a foul mood is not going to help.

US Government Shut down!

Currently, there is shut down going on in specific departments of the US government. From what I have been reading it appears that the United States is the only country where such shutdowns can occur. All other nations have alternative methods of keeping the departments working. Why has this shutdown occurred?

A government shut down occurs when non-essential discretionary federal programs close. It occurs when Congress fails to appropriate funds. In the normal budget process, Congress appropriates funds by September 30 for the following fiscal year. When that doesn’t happen, it enacts a continuing funding resolution. If Congress can’t even agree on that, it forces a shutdown. That signals a complete breakdown in the budget process.

In the United States, the financial year is from 1st January to 31st December. These shutdowns can occur if certain political adjustments do not happen in time. Current shutdown is the longest ever shut down in the US history. Before ’80 s of the last centuries, such events did not occur because though people did not get paid during the shutdown, they could continue to work without pay. At the beginning of ’80 s, the then attorney general gave a legal opinion that during the shutdown nobody can work. In today’s reference, this means that the affected government employees need to return the government issued electronic devices like cell phones and laptops. They cannot even access their official emails. Not allowed to access the official emails is a real “shut down”. If you have some work pending it will not get done until the government resolves the issue.

Imagine day to day problems in the USA. The flights have taken off, and the Air Traffic controllers come under the shutdown. The flights will not be able to land. (Ok, I am exaggerating!) Assume that security guys come under the shutdown, no flights can take off. I need to check up with my niece; she works for the US government in Washington DC if she is under the shutdown. What will be the effect on people? They will not be paid during this period. Some departments may use their emergency funds to pay the employees for this period, but that has limits. Then they will have to keep on working without pay. The contract workers are the worst hit. They do not get back pay. They go home and await instructions. The people who are on pay cheque to pay cheque budget will be walloped. Their loan default will start. Loan default, in turn, will decrease their credit ratings. There will be a mad rush to look for temporary jobs to handle the financial crisis. Three hundred eighty thousand non-critical employees have been told to go home, but 50000 out of these have been called back, without pay. Four hundred twenty thousand critical employees are already working without pay.

On January 8, 2019, the president Trump addressed the nation. He said a $5.7 billion wall on the border with Mexico is the only solution for a growing crisis at the border. The wall is a crucial piece of Trump’s immigration policy. Since November, the number of migrant families applying for asylum at the border has increased. Homeland Security does not have the funding to process the new surge. Many are showing up in remote areas.

The House had approved a bill on January 3, that would fund all departments except Homeland Security. It would support that department through February 8, 2019. The Senate won’t vote on the bill because Trump opposes it.

On January 4, 2019, President Trump announced that he would continue the shutdown until Congress included $5.7 billion for the wall. He has threatened to declare a national emergency. Trump could then readjust military spending to build the wall without Congressional approval. The administration is also exploring whether it could adjust the funds from the Army Core of Engineers designated for hurricane disaster relief.

But the main problem in all this is that along with Democrats many Republicans also are against the Mexican Wall proposed by Trump. How this will get resolved is anybody’s guess because this issue has now taken a political turn. Republicans say that the wall may not work; there is a need for additional security forces. Democrats say that these funds should be used to improve medical health support given to the public in Obamacare.

There are still a lot of federal cybersecurity workers at their posts carrying out what has been deemed “essential” operations, like defending government networks from attacks and keeping confidential documents from being compromised. But experts warn that trying to thwart hackers at less than full strength is risky. It is evident that cyber threats don’t operate on Washington’s political timetable, and they don’t stop because of a shutdown.

What are the similarities and differences between the world’s two largest democracies? Indian parliament many times does not do any work and is suspended because of chaos. Parliamentary chaos affects future lawmaking and future policies. Non-functional parliament makes sure that the new proposals are not taken for discussion. In the US, the government does not allow the day to day functioning of departments. Who are critical workers and who are non-critical? If workers are non-critical, does it mean that they are surplus?  By this action, there must be a small dent in the GDP too! The conclusion is because government spending is also a part of GDP.

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In the US, the system stops current working and in India system allows the future to be delayed. What system are we discussing? It is the politicians who do all this under the garb of principles. But when it comes to horse trading, politicians in both countries are replicas of each other. Their first priority is always their own seat, then their party and finally their nation. Nation first is a slogan for election times. But then there are many things said in the election time. Elected representatives follow their chosen path, self before everything else!

 

Moral Dilemmas!

A cat has nine lives but we humans have only one. So, we must ensure that we lead a good life and a moral one, virtuous one. It means that we need to live a life with some fundamental values of life. As we have only one life, we need to correct ourselves in this one life, if we are erring! We need to be morally right in the only life we have.  

There are two kinds of people 

  • People with values 
  • People without values  

Society defines Values by social norms and social behaviour over a while or a period of centuries! Some values which were considered taboo in olden times are treated as good today. The change happened because of thought process changes. But there are some values which will never change. For example, keeping up the promises given to others. Talking bad about someone behind the back or scheming to do bad things against others while in a group can never be a good thing. The incorrect group behaviour many times happens in the professional situation. It can be like taking disadvantage of your power for personal gain or for mistreating others!  

We can easily detect ethic values followed by humans in life. When we see people’s personality changing in front of our eyes, we know that such a person is without ethics. Each person is a distinct entity, and God has gifted everybody with a sixth sense, we all have a particular antenna which catches signals from others. Ladies have a great gift from God to pick the signs. We should use this ability for us and our family’s benefit. 

In our life, we are in regular touch with a few people, including our family. Our behaviour gets influenced by this closed group of people which may not be more than five to 7 people. So it is always good to be choosy. You can be fussy about your friends. As a group, we keep on exchanging desirable or bad traits among each other, all the time. Hence ethic standards get normalised in this group.

If you can find the right friends besides the family, then you have made it. You will start becoming more positive if you don’t like your work;  your close-knit circle will help you become a better person. They will suggest you change your current job. They will reduce toxicity in your life.  You can not choose your family. But family tries to correct toxicity, if any,  among its members all the time.

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In our lives, we gather many assets, but the one asset that always remains liquid is time. Time keeps on adding and subtracting. If you use the time well, you gain, but out of the available time, we always use some time basic things like sleeping, eating and ordinary things in life. Hence we must use balance time fruitfully. How are you going to decide if you want to give time to a person?  Will you give a person, hundred thousand  Rupees? If we are not comfortable giving him the money, then it is not worth sharing time, the most critical asset in your life, with him. We don’t realise the importance of time till we understand how much time we have wasted.  

We need to set our standards. Not only that but we must strive to improve upon our standards, all the time. All this is fine up to an extent, probably what I am writing is about utopia. But does the real world have the same intensity to have morality? Does it have very high standards? I don’t think so. From my experience with the world, a tiny percentage of people have the so-called high moral standards. Does it mean that almost everybody is a wrong person? No, don’t think so. 

That we are morally not perfect does not mean that we are evil persons. We can be perfectly pleasant, without being perfectly moral! I am not trying to say what is right and what is wrong. Suppose you have some money balance with you at the end of the month! You are an average guy like you and me. Your child is after you to buy a pair of shoes. But your colleague is prodding you to donate some money to a cause of homeless people. What will you do? What will be the correct action? That you are not able to help poor people all the time does not mean that you tolerate poverty.

As I said above, nothing is correct or wrong. It depends on the prevailing circumstances. You have duties to your family, and you have responsibilities to the society too! Whatever you choose, that one act does not make you right or a bad. No person in the world is like God. God is supposed to look after us. Does it mean that nothing wrong happens in our life? It always does happen. Why should something terrible happen to us when He is looking after us?  We can’t explain this, then we say that it is because of destiny.  

There can be a person with a 100% focus on morality. Who can do that? Maybe Bill Gates! His wealth is so massive that even after donating 60% of it,  he is left with, what else, wealth! But is Bill Gates a person of 100% morality? I don’t think so. But you and I who have limited wealth and need some money to live life, also raise the family; hence we do have limitations. If you want to feed poor people of this world all the time, it is monetarily not going to be possible. A married person has obligations to his family too!  

What can happen to us, in the company of 100% morality brigade? If you buy yourself a bar of chocolate, you may start feeling guilty. Such people can make you feel guilty all the time. Do you want to go on that trip?  

Leading a good life can be defined by different people differently. The idea of leading morally right life becomes muddled in the mind of everybody. I have been reading about a morally right social worker. He wants to change the way of life and convert India into a corruption free society. He had started a movement which many intellectuals joined. This movement ultimately got turned into the AAP party. AAP had started with a bang, but later on, it has become a party led by an autocrat. It has its quota of corrupt people and scandals. The byline of a “Morally Good party” has become almost “a routine party”.  

Now about the social worker. He lived a frugal life but was required to travel all over India. How did he manage that? Of course, an industrial house helped him all the time with air tickets and whatever was needed. He stayed in their guest houses while travelling. Whenever he went to jail, during this movement, he was provided home cooked food from the home of the industrialist. Was this moral corruption? I don’t think so! To be fair to the industrial group, they never suggested what activity the social worker should take up. Was social worker morally corrupt in using all the logistics support provided?  

Our life is made up of various segments. The segments are finding time for family, friends, appreciating, art, paintings. Watching sporting events. Going on holidays. Helping others, donating is also part of the segments. These acts may not be in the list of 100% pure moral pursuit. To that extent, one can be and may be morally corrupt, in the eyes of the purist. We have an equal responsibility to the society as well as family, friends and self! Use the only life we have got in doing all things in correct proportion. They may not be equal proportions. And yes, there need not be any dilemma about the ratio, it can change with individuals!

  

  

  

 

Latest Orwell!

You may think that Pramod is thinking like George Orwell! This is where the comparison ends. Orwell was a great British thinker whereas I am just a blogger!  But from what I have been reading and what I observe things, are going to get quite complex. Similar to Orwell’s theory of big brother watching, a group of companies are jointly becoming this New Big Brother (NBB). No, they are not coming together or forming a cartel or a caucus, nothing of that sort is happening. But Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook jointly have a large amount of information about us, stored on their servers.   

Orwell

The adjective “Orwellian” connotes an attitude and a policy of control by propaganda, surveillance, misinformation, denial of truth and manipulation of the past. In the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell described a totalitarian government that controlled thought by controlling language, making certain ideas literally unthinkable. Several words and phrases from Nineteen Eighty-Four have entered the popular language. “Newspeak” is a simplified and confusing language designed to make independent thought impossible. “Doublethink” means holding two contradictory beliefs simultaneously. The “Thought Police” are those who suppress all dissenting opinion. “Prolefeed” is homogenised, manufactured superficial literature, film and music used to control and indoctrinate the populace through docility. “Big Brother” is a supreme dictator who watches everyone.   

All the liberals and radicals in India had raised a hue and cry about Aadhar data going to Government. Firstly, we have been sharing a lot of information about us through Income tax department, when we get our PAN card or Election card made. Aadhar additionally took biometric data. Apple, Microsoft has been encouraging biometric recognition using thumbprint and face recognition, we have not even thought for a second whether to share these details with them or not. This is going to create a more secure environment, we were told. We shared this info with no questions asked!  

The New Big Brother (NBB) is very powerful. They not only have our data but also have the wherewithal to use analytical tools and understand everything about us. Let me give a very intimate example, then you will know what I mean. Suppose a lady buys her sanitary requirements for her monthly period on Amazon. Amazon has her age and buying history, so don’t be surprised if she gets a reminder from them, “Hey, you seem to have forgotten to buy your Tampons!” Whether Amazon is using the data for such purpose, I don’t know, yet.   

You have been always taught since childhood not to accept chocolates or biscuits from strangers or never to talk with them. Here you become friends with hundreds of near strangers and share your very intimate details with the whole world. People share their cell number on FB wall! Is it not risky in the cyber world? Fraudsters can cheat you, with your money; some people use this for stalking!  There was a big scandal regarding data sharing and breach by a company called Cambridge Analytica! They were given data of US citizens by Facebook. This data was used to create a campaign against Hillary Clinton in her election campaign against Trump. Later on, it was found out that this company used data about sexual scandals to help a group of politicians in Sri Lanka! It seems the cyber tentacles have spread in all directions!   

How can the NBB be stopped from taking policy decisions which can be against the right to secrecy? The option is for workers, many having entered tech company with idealistic rather than financial motives, to help regulate and restrict their own employers. Many have already begun to express regret over the effectiveness of their innovations, a phenomenon perhaps best exemplified by the Center for Humane Technology, led by the former Google design ethicist Tristan Harris. But the problem in this method is that the employees who are protesting or are whistleblowers are ultimately products of the same system that created the issue in the first place.  

Less clear to most people, however, is the extent to which the companies that make the technology, apps, and browsers that we use are not just tracking but shaping our behaviour. Thanks to the border-breaking nature of these technologies, and particularly the smartphone, the success of the NBB companies has put an unfathomable amount of wealth, power, and direct influence on the consumer in the hands of just a few individuals – individuals who can affect billions of lives with a tweak in the code of their products.  

Self-driving and electric vehicles are expected to come in a big way. These vehicles will use a lot of onboard computers. Any issue reported in the vehicle will be instantaneously captured on servers. Experts will analyze and create a software solution. The correction software patch will be released simultaneously to hundreds of thousands of vehicles. Great, no more visits to the workshop; next time you start the car the patch will be auto-downloaded. Does this bother you? No. But it bothers me. In the same way, the patch is released, a malicious person can send a malicious program and release it in the computers of thousands of cars. You just put imagination glasses on and wonder how damaging this can be!   

NBB may be shaping our behaviour! This is where the fundamental democracy deficit comes from: you have this incredibly concentrated private power with zero transparency or accountability, and then they have this unprecedented wealth of data about their users to work with. We have allowed these private companies to take over a lot of functions that we have historically thought of as public functions or social goods, like letting Google be the world’s library. Microsoft runs our life by controlling the operating systems on computers. Android and IOS control our cell phone operating systems. Android has a remarkable share of 80% plus. Democracy and the very concept of social goods – that tradition is so eroded globally that people are ready to let these private companies assume control.   

Democratic governments can be changed through elections but how can you change ways NBB works, with lack of transparency? But at the same time for NBB, everything is not a walk in the park. They are multinationals, incidentally all having headquarters in the USA. But they are answerable to all governments in the world.  Zuckerberg faced the music in the US after Cambridge Analytica fiasco. He was called by the British Government but somehow managed to skip the “invite”! Sundar Pichai is being grilled by US Government about suppressing conservative views on Google search engine. European Union has been really pushing Google about their search engine monopoly. In China Google had to withdraw in 2010 because of censorship and other issues, thereby losing big business. The Indian government is pressurizing Microsoft/Amazon that cloud servers for Government data must be on Indian soil! They will have to relent, looking at the size of business that India operations can generate. Indian Government has been after WhatsApp and Apple about certain issues.  

NBB is forced to use freedom available to multinationals with care and responsibility because they are being forced to become transparent in their dealings by combined efforts of whistleblowers and governments. These checks and balances will fall in place over a period of time.   

Orwell’s theory of Totalitarianism gets challenged, every time we see somebody trying to control freedom. Indira Gandhi was forced to cancel emergency, Russian communism collapsed in the late 80’s/ early ’90s of the last century. Berlin Wall fell in 1989. How China and NBB fight with each other is a test case for the world. Both are trying to keep each other’s monopoly in check. Its early days of this battle but as computers become more and more powerful, as software becomes all compassing there can be spectacular battles. But as an optimist, I am sure the good will win in the end! By the way, I don’t believe in Orwellian thoughts!

GoodALwaysWins