Tuesday, 21 July 2015

The Divine Right

It's summer again and Stockholm roads are infested with enthusiastic cyclists.

Of course it's clean, green and healthy mode of transportation and I'm all for it; but that doesn't necessarily mean that bikers are beyond traffic rules though, does it?

As soon as people ride on their bikes I think they feel uplifted to a higher moral grounds and traffic rules are only for mere mortals!

It goes absolutely bizarre at the traffic lights; when it's green for pedestrians the cyclists go, when it's green for cars then also they go! Which means they can cross the junctions at their free will.

All road users are equal, but cyclists are more equal than the others!

Apparently zero carbon vehicles are entitled to a default right of the way over those abominable gas guzzling cars. If it's not written explicitly in the traffic rule book then obviously it's the book's fault!

Though this explains the sneers I get from the haughty cyclists every time  I try to inch forward my car obeying the signals, I get completely baffled when I almost get pushed to the ditches by them while walking!

The same people who unleash their wrath to the walkers for being too slow, ride on the main roads at 15 km per hour, totally oblivious to the trail of cars forced to crawl behind them.

And if they happen to ride one of those sleek, racing bikes, wearing full gears of the Olympic performers, then they'll ride on the main roads EVEN when the beautiful cycling tracks run just parallelly; to avoid the snail-pacing pedestrians.

Talk about grabbing the best of all worlds!

On one hand authorities in Sweden are pushing people more and more to use the bikes; free parking places at the station or community center are diminishing and are getting replaced by cycle stands.

And once again it's without much thought on practicality, demographic diversity and treacherous weather conditions. Everybody,of all age, physical ability...have to bike everywhere,to jobs, schools or fare grounds...in all weather,in rain, snow or gale.

One can only hope that the emission cut down achieved by this mass biking will be enough to offset other first world wasteful extravaganza like wrapping bananas in plastics, using ten paper napkins to eat a sausage or having the headlights always on... even during 22 hours of broad daylight!

It's probably just a matter of time before the fully geared bikers race on to the motorways to exercise their Divine Rights!

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Let it go

When the Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras called for a referendum to allow his people to have a say on the atrocious measures of austerity, I was truly mesmerized.

And I felt almost ecstatic when the Greek population gave an overwhelming OXI against all kinds of blackmailing and bullying from Brussels.

Thought Greece just gave the world a repeat course on democracy after 3000 years.

But how my ecstasy changed into agony in just one week! It beggars belief that, the defiant Mr. Tsipras would surrender so meekly just within days.

He first tried to broker a deal while remaining in Euro, which was fair enough. He thought the overwhelming mandate from his own people will give him an edge while negotiating.

But like many of us, he also couldn't fathom the utter worthlessness of his fellow Euro-zone leaders.

None of them has any leadership qualities or a strong popular base in their own countries. They're surviving on coalition trickery,talent voids in oppositions and political agnosticism of general public in their homelands.

The popularity and support of the masses like Mr. Tsipras got in that referendum, is something beyond their wildest dreams;They can't mobilize a mass even to save their lives.

They're just a bunch of mediocre bureaucrats, who at best can serve in the boardrooms of medium size companies. But true leaders of the people, with long term visions, they are absolutely not!

Moreover, they play in the hands of big banks and business houses who want to nip any sign of socialist movement at the bud.

Hence it's no wonder that Brussels played vindictive politics. They saved the Euro (for now) but broke the spirit of the Union.

When the European politicians got the Greek prime minister on their home turf of European parliament, they savaged him for his audacity of asking for a mandate from his own people.

Soon economics took a back seat, it became a "trust issue" or in other words, game of revenge and humiliation.

The debates reached such a low that Nigel Farage's speech seemed more sensible than most of them!

But shouldn't Mr. Tsipras have had a plan B? to leave the Euro?
What's so special about it anyway? When clearly it is failing for Greece?

True, most Greeks wanted to remain within Euro. But was it for no matter what? Event at the cost of their future, their sovereignty, their standard of life?

When the  Union itself has failed...when it proved to be nothing more than a club of bully boys...why still then this obsession with Euro?

Eurozone obviously professed Grexit synonymous to unimaginable abyss, but why would Syriza, of all people, have to buy into that?

Even when eminent economists like Paul Krugman or  Mark Weisbort argued along the opposite line and Argentina did make it happen in the past!

May be Tsipras together with his Syriza colleagues should have talked to people to ease out their fear of the uncertainty by presenting an alternative plan. It's already been proved that the Greeks trust them, even when the choice is difficult!

After all there is world beyond Euro. Very many countries not only exist but also thrive with growth far beyond Euro-zone.

It would be difficult, especially the initial months, but definitely a doable and viable solution, unlike the present joke of a deal!

Euro was probably worth fighting or negotiating for; but only up to a certain point.
Beyond which, like many other once precious things in life, you've to let it go and move on!

Friday, 13 March 2015

Not In X-Chromosome

Just read an article on how the inner "nesting" tendency is the biggest obstacle in women's true empowerment.

Written by a woman, known broadly as a feminist, surprisingly ranted on how women "happily" give up career to focus on family and kids. 

It lamented the fact that women PhD are actually "leaking pipe" of knowledge as a large number of them don't pursue their subjects after starting a family.

The author blamed this inner "femininity" for” the all-round failure of women in every sphere of life". 

Nothing could possibly be further from the truth.

Blaming women's “gross failure” in all sphere of life squarely on themselves is misogyny at its best.

Firstly, I doubt it's really a big failure; considering the fact that women only got any human rights worth speaking of, after the Second World War, they're not doing that badly in the fields of science, technology, politics or literature.

The fact that creativity didn't die within women during the millennia of patriarchal oppression just proves its fundamentality.

In a society most of the people are mediocre and they often find solace in little blisses of life...men and women alike...rather than mind numbing, physically draining hard work.

Only a handful of people driven by the passion for their work makes a remarkable scientist or poet. And I believe that fraction is same in both genders...if you discount effect of forceful oppression.

What she described...like women leaving their jobs midway...is a social problem. It can be handled socially with affordable child care, generous parental leave and more egalitarian division of domestic chores between men and women.

If we map the percentage of women giving up career in a given country against the socio-economic condition there, we’ll clearly see this.

If it were really in the X chromosome, as she apparently suggests...then this trend would have been universal everywhere.

But in Sweden and in other Scandinavian countries, we see the exact opposite; here the majority of women don't give up their career midway.

True most of them don't become Madam Curie or Agatha Christie, but then we don't see that many Heisenberg or Conan Doyle either!

As I said, it's the difference between genius and mediocre...not between men and women.

 Also, it's pretty naive to blame the women ONLY for their apparent affinity towards triviality and trinkets when the “boys’ toys” are a booming industry.

Some men spends as much time and energy on cars or x-box as some women do on curtains and cushions. Both are equally harmless but neither encourage career fulfilment or doing something for the greater mankind!

If this is what a feminist does to fellow women then who needs an MCP!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

It's collaboration, not competetion

No ones knows who invented the wheel...but we always try not to re-invent it!

Somebody in ancient China was clever enough to invent the printing machine while another discovered the formula for gun powder. But they didn't file any patent for that!.

Some brilliant mathematician in India came up with the idea of using zero and built the foundation of mathematics; yet s/he fell short of protecting its intellectual rights!

Yet there are billion dollar law suits being fought all over the world over "a rounded cornered rectangle" or a tiny-winy change in the chemical composition of a life saving drug.

Sometimes these corporate houses win and sometime they lose. But what I abhor is the very idea of hogging and hiding the knowledge and related benefits.

It's not for the benefit of the inventors as these big companies often claim. If anything, it protects the interest of lawyers and shareholders in expensive suits, rather than the actual "inventors" who often work in their R-n-D labs for a modest salary.

Knowledge is for sharing, not for hiding. But today's immensely complicated patent laws and fierce corporate battles for minuscule "inventions" seem to differ.

How the world would look like if the real important theories and inventions were well hidden? If Ohms law and Lenze's law could be "patented" to be used by a privileged few? Or the method of Pasteurization, the penicillin, the semiconductor? I could go on for ever with this list....

Most actual scientists and inventors don't like or want such hedging of knowledge. Evidence is Wikipedia, Linux, Java and the numerous other open source projects!

With all their money and PR power, these big corporate houses have successfully created an atmosphere where the common people think that the intellectual property right is a fundamental right. It nurtures a culture of so-called healthy competition which would, according to many today,  enhance intellectual capabilities of human race.

Even if we discard the fact that these competitions are never healthy and are always heavily rigged in favor of big players in the field; this whole philosophy is wrong. It's collaboration, not competition which made today's human civilization the way we know it.

As the raspberry pie founder Eben Upton pointed out so rightly, we've become alienated from the technology in last 20 years. There are ever more users but so fewer innovators in technology.

And all these patent laws, legal complexities and ban on sharing and collaborating in the name of protecting the IP rights, deter the very spirit of innovation.

Instead, all the focus is on branding, packaging and doing mild tweaks to create another business channel selling to those ever increasing tech users.

This might very well suit the big corporate houses and their pet lawyers, but as the only intelligent species of this planet, we've a thing to worry!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Fair Play

It was such such an refreshing site to see Dilma Rousseff and Angela Merkel in the VIP box of World Cup final!

No, I'm not a fan of either of them. But at least they brought some balance to the otherwise hopelessly male dominant gala fest of power, money and muscle!

From players, to coaches, support stuffs, FIFA officials, even the vast majority of reporters and photographers....it was such an overwhelming male dominance to everything that were important!

It's not the World Cup Football for men...it is THE World Cup.
All women's sports of course always comes with the tag "for women".

If aliens had watched the clippings from the prize distribution arena, they would've thought us to be a species without sexual dichotomy! Other decorative elements such as those Emirates hostesses standing behind with plastic smiles fixed permanently into their lovely lips....could easily be mistaken as aesthetically designed robots.

Two other middle aged, bald, male politicians would have blended so well with the scene, if not for these two ladies! May be I'm too optimistic, but at least to me it symbolized an world where the power dynamics are changing...slowly, but surely!

You can no longer ignore the "weaker sex" even in high testosterone activities such as the world cup football final; where traditionally the "fairer sex" would only be used as show piece elements like those bubbly-bouncy cheer leaders.

Now suddenly you have two feisty ladies at the center...with the power and importance to actually distribute the mega prize! And they didn't even have to be any important man's daughter/wife/widow to be there; they earned it themselves through years of professional rigor.

Surely the world is changing! Just wait till Ms. Clinton joins the gang!

Once again, I'm not a Clinton supporter; yet the prospect of having an woman at helm of the most powerful nation makes me a little excited.

Some people believe that an world led by women will be a much better place to live in; as women, according to them, are more compassionate and nurturing. This I find almost as stupid as any other stereotypes like "men have aptitudes for technology and women for fine arts".

I don't believe that women leaders...as a generic category....will be any better than their male counterparts. You just can't attribute characteristics...good or bad...which will be true for all the members of any gender.

There will be good woman leaders and bad ones; possibly more bad than the good ones; just as we have had with male ones.

It'll not make the world any better;just a little fairer!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

We the people

Who would have imagined that Vladimir Putin would look better at least in one single human rights issue, than the Nobel peace prize winner Brack Obama!

Yes we all know that Putin is no saint, has many skeletons in his cupboard and has his own axe to grind in this whole saga of asylum to Snowden.

Yet he deserves some respect as the only one having the guts to stand firm against the monumental intimidation from US.

Let's  have a stock of the reactions from world's big players around this issue:

The "conscience of the world", Scandinavian countries, chickened out citing technicalities.
France and Austria meekly succumbed to US dictates against global protocols.
Germany cried foul-play without having any impact on the issue whatsoever.
UK once again shamelessly wagged it's tail behind the almighty US.
....at least Putin's Russia had the courage to do ONE right thing.

That one good act doesn't negate hundreds of blatant civil rights breaches, but at the same time those blemishes can not tarnish this one heroic defiance.

After all someone had to support this courageous young man...and I welcome it even if it comes from Putin. With their medieval treatment to Bradly Manning, handing him over to US for a "fair trial" would have been totally inhuman.

We are all hugely indebted to Snowden, not just for exposing NSA's Prism; but also for tearing off the fake moral cloak that US and European countries pretend to wear.

It reinstates our faith in humanity. For every secret court they form and every lie they spin in NSA (and alike world wide), there would be a Manning or a Snowden...bearing a legacy of Daniel Ellsberg.

Their acts might be illegal but not unjust. And it certainly does not condone the bullying and witch hunt US had been engaged into ever since.

"when tyranny becomes law, rebellion becomes duty".

It's neither the alienated lawmakers nor the big corporations who would decide the fate of 8 billion inhabitant of this planet.

At the end of the day democracy will triumph as "of the people, for the people, by the people".

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

A different yardstick

The Indian government finally got into action after the double whammy of a massive domestic protest together with a surmounting international pressure after the Delhi gang rape. However, it is still not convincing how much of it were triggered by the urge to "stop the bad press" as opposed to an honest intention to protect it's women!

Otherwise how do you interpret the trial of one of the accused in Juvenile court with a maximum possible sentence of three and a half years?

They are claiming it is the law of the land; well it is not. At least there can be exceptions to that law, such as for the terrorist activities. A special court upheld the life sentence of one of the accused from 1993 Mumbai blast who was minor at that time.

The sentenced terrorist Qureshi was deemed unfit to be tried under Juvenile Justice system as "It is clear that Qureshi from his conduct referred to above cannot by any stretch of imagination qualify as a child in need of care and protection as the acts committed by him are so grave and heinous warranting the maximum penalty but the designated court after considering all these factors awarded him lesser punishment when the co-accused who accompanied him to fisherman's colony and committed similar acts were awarded with maximum punishment for heinous acts committed by them along the co-accused."

I fail to understand which one of these arguments are inapplicable to the minor accused in the Delhi rape case. Is his crime not grave or heinous enough? Are his co-accused not likely to get maximum punishments?
Most importantly, which part of his conduct "by any stretch of imagination qualify as a child in need of care and protection"?

If terrorist acts are heinous so are such horrific gang rapes. And this "minor" accused was reportedly the most brutal.

So clearly the yardsticks are different when it comes to crime against women in India. Even when there is so much mass protests and international pressure is involved!

This is just the tip of the iceberg; this was not the first rape nor will be the last rape in India in any time soon. Everyday women are getting raped, molested or being subjected to domestic violence. The society just refuses to change!

From low level police constables to commissioner, from politicians to spiritual gurus, every one think the victim "must have instigated it to some degree" when it comes to rape; perhaps the only crime where the "fault" is seek in victim, rather than in accused.

Society won't change overnight. But government must treat the crime against women in the harshest possible way, if they are sincere about bringing the change. If it can pass a special law to counter terrorism, then it can do the same to clamp down rapes.

This particular incident terrified a lot more people than any terrorist group can ever dream of. Every Indian woman's fear to board a late night bus has intensified. A billion people are afraid of the safety of their female family members when they are out and about for regular business. Foreign tourists are afraid to visit the country. In immediate aftermath of the incident, the women employees were leaving the office before dark in Delhi. In some organisations they were even advised to do so by the authorities themselves.

A whole society is paralyzed by terror to function normally and even began to forget what normalcy is. Indian government must change their outlook. And the international community should keep their pressure on as it involves one-fourteenth human beings of this planet!