Sunday, January 28, 2007


What is Utopia?

The year is 2142, and the world has changed. The world is, against all odds, undergoing an unprecedented era of prosperity. And this era of prosperity has come as a consequence of true globalisation. In the old, primitive 1900s and early 2000s, globalisation meant the unrestricted flow of capital, with a severely restricted flow of labour. Nations had impervious borders.

But today, anyone can live anywhere. A Sri - Lankan peasant has a fair chance of landing a job in Seattle; as does a Seattle peasant have a chance of landing a job in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan will not have that miserable, lengthy wait for a Visa. He can just pop into a plane and find himself in Seattle - just like he would travel from Colombo to Jaffna in the 2000s. [The ticket, of course, would cost a tad bit more].

The world is no longer a set of little nations. It is a just one large nation. The various (erstwhile) countries are analogous to states in a Federation - they are divided just for administrative ease. Borders are also purely for administrative purposes. Movement is not hindered at all. And since there is absolutely no patriotic nationalism, there are no wars. Just like Ohio is unlikely to wage a war against Florida, or Andhra is unlikely to wage a war against Uttar Pradesh, America is unlikely to wage a war against Iraq. The horrific imperialist reality of war is a relic of a barbaric bygone era dictated not by democracy but by corporate agenda (in the name of democracy).

A brief history of Utopia:

The situation back in the early 2000s was one of major disparity. The difference between the developed world and the developing world was huge. The difference between the rich and the poor in the developing world was even greater. The rich in the developing world led lives more prosperous than those in the developed world: and the poor lived like animals. The people in the developed world ignored the problems in the developing world; taking the the token developments as competitive threats. For instance, commentators such as Thomas Friedman painted blissfully ignorant pictures of India in the west.

Islamic fundamentalism was being waged a propaganda war (and a real war) against by American Fundamentalism. For most of the war, the Americans were not winning against fanatic will of the islamists. Neither were the muslim fundamentalists prevailing against the lean mean killing machines that the Americans used against them. The war pointlessly continued for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, After a lot of innocent bloodshed, the Americans crushed the Fundamentalists.

In the meanwhile, India, China and Latin America were still growing as was a lot of the rest of the world. Though from a per-capita point of view, India and China could not hold a candle to US and Europe, they had a lot more people. Their overall economies were forces to be reckoned with.

And then came the weather. Well, it had always been coming. More typhoons, cyclones and hurricanes each year; shorter winters and longer, murderous summers. Extremely intense monsoons in the sub-continent. That was just the beginning. Then, in a span of 10 years, Europe punged into deep freeze. The polular press was harping about the irony of a global warming induced ice age.The onset of misery was quick. Climate modelers had been caught unawares.

This time coincided with the rise of China and India. Both countries had been devastated by Climate Change too - the whole world had been devastated. The US suffered a huge loss: the east coast and the west coast suffered a pounding. The city by the bay became the city under the bay.

The developed countries were held responsible of continuing with greenhouse gas emissions despite having explicit knowledge of the consequences. In other words, short sighted corporate agendas had let the west down. This resulted in something unprecedented in History. The rich nations were sanctioned by the much poorer nations in the UN. And these sanctions are viewed as a turning point in human history; the triumph of Human beings over corporations.

Wheras the treaties of the old days forced poor countries to open their borders to Capital Investment, the new treaties forced the "rich nations" to open their doors to human beings from everywhere. This was unprecedented in the history of the world. The poor farmer in drought ravaged Darfur had a chance finally, to go and start a business in Houston, Texas. Real globalisation finally happened. Milton Friedman was turning in his grave; yet Adam Smith was smiling.

Of course, the developed world opposed this tooth and nail. Lou Dobbs and O'Rielly were quite vocal about this. But they really had no choice. If India and China booted out American Coporates, and stopped buying weapons from the USA, then an economic depression exceeding in magnitude that of 1929 by a few hundred times would doubtlessly ensue. The US' arm was being twisted. The hunter just got hunted. "Intellectuals" started saying "Our culture will get diluted". But they were brushed aside, much as resistance to British Imperialism in India was brushed aside by the barbaric conquerors in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Setting Global Warming Right

In order to set the world right, the new powers of the world had their work cut out. Human beings are extremely good when it comes to crisis management.

A rather interesting refinement of the European carbon exchange was used to set global warming right. It went something like this: each person was allowed a "carbon quota". Carbon quotas were distributed equally among all human beings. A labourer in Cairo, a slum dweller in Mumbai and a little child in New York City - they all were allowed to pollute a "set" amount. They could "trade" their individual carbon credits, much like money. If you wanted to buy a loaf of bread, you would pay Rs. 10 and 0.0001 carbon credits. If you wanted to buy 5 litres of coal gas (no oil anymore!), you would pay Rs. 400 and 0.01 carbon credits. You were allowed to spend only 1 carbon credit per year. If you overshot your alloted carbon credits, you would have to purchase them from, say, a farmer in South Africa. The price that you would have to pay for this would be market determined. The going rate for a carbon credit right now is $400,000 - or half the annual per capita income of the US. You could purchase even minute fractions of carbon credits.

And the market worked. For the first time in the history of humanity, the market really worked. It did not deceive people into thinking that it was working like in the Thatcher-Reagan era. It really worked. For the poor people sold their carbon credits to the rich and became richer. Resources began to reach the poor people like they never did before: and the rich had a severe disincentive from actually consuming a lot more than they were entitled to.

Utopian Society

Since there is almost no more poverty in the world, it is a much safer place. But prosperity does not stop child molesters. Prosperity does not stop greed, it does not stop crimes of passion. And people don't stop being evil just because they are rich. If that were true, the US would have been a utopian society in the 2000s.

Crimes of need have halted. Crimes of greed have not. The words "stick-em-up" have been consigned to museums of history; yet a large company was in trouble for fudging its accounts last year. And the number of children molested keeps growing every year in the world.

People still believe in religion - but the religions have lost the extremist fringes. Islam realized that there was no point in fighting for its holy land when the whole world welcomed it. Christians and Jews make trips to Israel-Palestine. And Hindus pray everywhere from Pittsburgh to Madurai.

The people of the world go about their daily lives. Their worries are only the usual ones: they are worried about getting food on their family's plate. About retirement and how to deal with heart attacks. They are not worried about being bombed the next day. They live carefree lives.

Until today. Today, SETI will make a discovery of alien life on a planet far away. And what is worse is that the planet will have had picked up radio signals from earth, will have had interpreted them as threats and will have had sent an army to annihilate all intelligent life from Planet Earth. Deja Vu?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

What you don't want to know about India.

0.2% of Indian women are prostitutes. 80% of the 0.2% do not want to be prostitutes. They are forced to be prostitutes by the "pimp". The remaining 20% of the same 0.2% are forced into it by economics. That makes it 1 million prostitutes in India. That's as many as the population of Vizag. Oh, and by the way, Prostitution is legal in India. Not that it matters anyway, because being legal has little meaning in Indian society, which works more on the bribe.

Mumbai's Falkland Red light area has 100,000 prostitutes. It generates $ 0.5 billion a year. If we had a thousand such areas, then we'd have roughly the GDP of the country. Mumbai is Asia's largest red light district, if not the world's. [Factbook on Global Sexual Exploitation]

Eurpoeans come to India because India's laws of sexual exploitation are notoriously lax. Sex tourism is rampant in India.

India is the world leader in the number of sexually abused children. India is home to 400,000 sexually abused children. That beats even the US hollow. And remember: most child sex abuse does not even get reported. As much as 95% of child abuse is not reported. [Unicef]

India's per-capita GDP is $3700 (ppp). That of Iraq is $3600. Mexico has $10000 and China has $7200. Indians are as poor as Iraqis. Those Iraqis who were raped by Saddam, his Sons and now the American Imperialists. Indians are as poor as they are. 40% of India lives under a dollar a day. That's more than the Population of the US. 400,000,000 people. [Wikipedia , Wikipedia Again]

Hindu homosexuals are often castrated and paraded around as "hijras". [The claim that they are homosexuals is somewhat contentious, yet the stigma and the discrimination the hijra lives under cannot be over-emphasized]. The term "hijra" is an abuse.

Seriously, I don't think India's biggest problem right now is Shilpa Shetty's little adventure in the UK. Certainly, Indians have no moral higher ground in calling the British "racist". Indians are the genuine racists. Servants are shouted at and humiliated. And don't even get me started on casteism.

And the only thing that will get us out of this rut is progress, employment and a significant reduction in corruption. The importance of the RTI legislation cannot be over-emphasized. I have faith in Dr. Singh.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

American TV

Scotsman John Logie Baird, one fine day in 1924 invented the television: and it is due to this unfortunate folly that Suddenlink Inc. fleeces me of $40 a month. That's the cable bill for the utter bilge that parades under the name of programming on my Television here.

Long Long ago, when I was still on the cozy shores of Motherland, I had (in the incarnation of a couch potato) posted about the status of television in India. I shall attempt to do something on those lines now. If you read the previous paragraph, you more or less know the stand I am about to take.

I need to get it out of my system, so I will talk about this first. There are many religious channels here on TV. There's these televangelists (usually corrupt-gigolo hiring closet homosexuals) preaching about the love of god. Comparing god to a loving mother is standard fare; requesting money ("donations") to make "god" grant wishes is equally standard. "God will grant your wish if you just move to the phone and pledge the paltry sum of $58".

And then there's the news channels. Fox, CNN and MSNBC. The former can fall into the religious category too: for all it shows is fawning republicans and subtle anti-Islamic propaganda. Fox's commentators defend the American way: how the American culture is under threat from those poor Mexicans they stole this land from more than a century ago; how the Iraqis are irresponsible and are refusing to let the American soldiers leave. ("Our troops are stuck in the middle of a civil war.") The president of the nation in question, Mr. Bush is a rather constant fixture on all these channels. It's almost like a reality show: each and every little movement of his is magnified, scrutinized and advertised. Of course, real issues are forgotten.

looks (one hour specials) are taken at destitute nations such as Iran, Iraq, North Korea and Cuba as potential sinks for weapons. [How would a war with Iran look?] Intense looking anchors (somehow) find themselves in one of the aforementioned nations and try to imagine how war would be with one of these nations. International news is usually restricted to nations of fair skin: viz. Europe and Australia. India does not get a mention unless effigies of Bush are being burnt or unless there's massive terrorist attacks in Mumbai. (Right now, there seems to be a love-fest of sorts. Indians seem to be in love with the US right now. Effigies of Bush are safer in India than any other nation in the world - including the US!). Some four prostitutes are killed in London and the US press just laps it up; but 20+ dead children, cannibalism, organ trade the Noida disaster does not get even a passing mention in the press here.

And now Let's move along onto MTV and VH1, which are in all probably the worst channels that I have ever seen. And I am comparing them with Alpha Punjabi and and DD Gujarati. TI thought they would have music videos on them: but I am still yet to see a music video on either channel. They just show some skimpily clad female carrying a dog in a purse in tears or something. Unless they're showing the 100 most hairy Hollywood eyelashes or something.

And then there's comedy Central and TBS, two watchable channels. Since they are not terrible, I will not describe them. Suffice it so say that they, along with the History Channel and the Weather Channel are the only channels that I watch in this country. The History channel, though partial to newly disovered Hitler videos and American Military propaganga, does show a lot of quality programming in series such as "Engineering an Empire".

The Discovery channel in this country is disgusting. All the science is essentially tremendously dumbed down. It's usually some repulsive weapons thing: when some smug military guy demonstrates how the US uses 5% its GDP annually to develop weapons that can destroy the whole world over some thousands of times. And then there's the programs about NASA's missions to mars and other planets. Presumably to bomb them with the American nukes at a future date, after failing to find WMDs in them.

As you can understand, the TV in this country is quite boring. Ah, what a great invention the remote is.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Voices of Reason in the Land of Plenty

Pomp Alert

It really does not matter to the world if a relatively insignificant country (economically) like India has ureasonable international policy. But when you're talking of the US' mammoth economy, it's a whole new ball game. Because of its sheer economic magnitude, the US policies (and agression) affect other countries all the more. Therefore, the US must desist from falling prey to bouts of jingoistic nationalism.

And alas, the US has fared miserably in that respect. Turn on your TV and you see some O'Rielly or Sean Hannity bellowing hate and intolterance; you see politicians contemplate building a fence between US and Mexico (conveniently neglecting how shamelessly the US pilfered California and Texas from Mexico - and how brutally they supressed the Indigenous Americans everywhere). And of course, the CIA has created more problems for the world than all the middle east put together(except Israel).

The recent American mid-term elections saw, as a result, Rumsfeld get the much deserved boot. And I believe he got it for all the wrong reasons. Americans did not like the fact that 3000 of their troops died fighting "for" Iraq. The little inconvenient statistic that 500,000 Iraqis perished in Iraq as a concequence of a nightmare that Bush had does not cut any ice with the average American. The Democrats in power will do everything to keep their troops safe (which they should). But they will do nothing to save Iraqis. Even if they do something, it's way down on the to-do list.

It's all about the 3000 dead troops. It is really unfortunate that 3000 troops had to die, but 500,000 people dying is the real bloody fiasco, the real catastrophe*. As far as war goes, there is very little rationality left in America. This country lives under a fog of supercilious obliviousness.

Take for instance, Ted Kennedy's (a so-called "liberal") tirade against Bush today. He opposed the idea of more troops in Iraq tooth and nail - because of the 3000 dead soldiers. All reference he made to dead Iraqi civilians, if any, was made as an afterthought. Everywhere, you hear rhetoric about the mess in Iraq being the Iraqis' fault. Nobody admits that America got them into this mess. Nobody, except a few voices of reason.

If there is one person in this country who calls a spade a spade, it is Noam Chomsky. He is much loathed by the media of this country because he speaks the truth. He is shunned because no one can risk arguing with someone as logically sound has he is. His ideas on how the art of engineering consent in Democracies works have been vindicated by recent developments in Iraq - and perhaps by every development of international politics that one can "see" in the news. From a distance, his theories sound like conspiracy theories, but when one learns to accept certain hard truths, one finds his theories quite obvious and intuitive. He does not call the American president a "devil". He is not a Nazi sympathizer (despite what some Jewish Columnists think). He is a man with more knowledge about politics than anyone else - making him a tough person to argue with.

If there is one person in this country who calls a spade everything but a spade, it is Stephen Colbert. His acerbic sarcasm along with Jon Stewart's often brutal but hilarious bellicosity shows an astonishing amount of empathy (compared with other "journalists") for the suffering of the victims of agression in Iraq. These are not "run-of-the-mill" liberals whose view is limited to their country. No. These satirists are the conscience of the nation (otherwise overrun by the Limbaughs and the O'riellys) that the South Park Guys talk of in their fabulous episode on the American founding fathers.

It would be a stretch to call the South Park Guys voices of reason. They pooh-poohed (effectively) global warming; they almost did the Prophet Mohammad cartoons again. So, yeah.. they are not entirely reasonable. Just thought they deserved a partial mention.

These are only voices. What a voice can do is very limited. But there are some who put their money where their mouth is. Bill Gates and his troupe (Buffet et. al.) have decided that they've had enough of poverty. Just like Bill eradicated his competition (Netscape comes to mind), he wants to eradicate poverty using, among other things, micro-credit. Sensible, but history has shown that people from the first world have almost no effect on third world issues. Sachs and Bono (the latter, though irish, is assumed to be an American) have raised a lot of issues about third world poverty - and have made them public. The sheer magnitude of the poverty trap automatically brings out one's skeptical side. But it is nice to know that billionaires and geniuses are attempting to change the world. And it is nicer to know that they have done it despite hailing from a country that remains largely insulated from suffering of any sort.

There are many who feel that if that Chapman had been killed at birth or something, then John Lennon would still be alive - and concequently, there would be no war in Iraq. One can only imagine a world without war, a world which would give peace a chance.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Better than Clocky

What could sell better than a furry little alarm clock made by an oh-so-rare single (presumably) female engineer cum entrepreneur? It just can't go wrong: it has the "cute" factor going for it in each and every way. The MIT educated Ms. Gauri- something (these Indians - we have such complicated surnames) came up with a furry contraption which roams around the house making a racket at the waking hour. Much like the rooster in the days of old. Clocky, she calls it. If Marc Abrahams notices, it must be significant.

I don't want to be-little Ms. Nanda's idea, so I will desist from doing so explicitly. Suffice it to say that she is not the first person who has had such an idea. I have had such ideas on numerous occasions and am in fact using one on a regular basis. You see, I have one of those Bose wave radio thingamajigs. These things can be operated only by remote control. They have an FM - Radio alarm clock function too. What I do before sleeping, of course, is toss my remote control into one of the heaps of unwashed clothes that surround my bed. The alarm is usually set to a show called "The Big Show" with a couple of moronic rednecks called John Boy and Billy. In my opinion, these two are the most repugnant purveyors of excrement that can be found on this planet. Every minute of their show is pure torture. You can understand the urgency that the waker-upper is faced with when his ears are confronted with this show. The remote is searched for desperately, and in searching for the same, a wake-up is affected.

A few more schemes are suggested below. Each of them, I am sure is more effective than "clocky".

First, the door bell ringer. Rather than the alarm clock, the door bell rings in the a.m. The door must be answered. The person wakes up. A lukewarm cup of fresh coffee can be poured onto the profile of the asleep, of course. Temperatures below 40C must be ascertained, lest scalding be a problem. And pray, what would one think of the oven going on at a preset time? If you don't wake up and turn it off, your electricity bill will go through the roof. And what about programming your phone to call up an arbitrary number in Pakistan at a preset time? [$1 connection fee, 50c per minute]. You will have to get up to cancel the call.

Too bad I can't patent these ideas and sell them to unsuspecting people like Ms. Nanda is tying to. Wait. This is America. Maybe I can. They patent everything in this country. If they can patent Basmati, then I am sure the oven-alarm clock will be patented too. These are exciting times we're living in. And in a land where a rich sucker is born every minute, the usa. [Of the 5 suckers born in India every minute, 4.89, alas are poor.]