Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Capitalist Jungle

Christopher McDougall told us the story of the lion and the gazelle in the African jungle.  Both the lion and the gazelle have to outrun the other in order to survive.  Unless the lion runs faster than the gazelle, it will starve to death.  Unless the gazelle outruns the lion, it will become the latter’s food.

That is also the policy of capitalism.  The richest one percent of India’s population own 58% of the country’s total wealth, says Oxfam’s latest report.  In plain figures, just 57 Indians own as much wealth as about 875,000,000 other Indians.  India is a jungle of lions and gazelles where the latter may die under the wheels of Land Cruisers driven by the former while they sleep huddled together on the footpaths after the weary day in a sweatshop.

There’s much wealth in India.  But the majority of people are poor.  You will find this majority sleeping on the footpaths if you take a walk in the cities at night.  You will see them struggling to earn a livelihood working in subhuman conditions.  You will find them using the railway tracks as their toilets though they may have a mobile phone in hand by which they may be arranging the day’s work as you pass them by in the train on the other track. 

Capitalism is about wealth creation at any cost.  At the cost of your fellow human beings.  At the cost of environment.  At the cost of anything.  Is that really different from the law of the jungle?

Capitalism is about winning.  We are all born to win, tell the gurus paid for by capitalists.  The gurus are also lions who feed on the gullible gazelles. 

Going by the theory of evolution, capitalism and the gurus are both right.  There is no equality among human beings if we look from the viewpoint of evolution.  We are all differently abled.  [That euphemism comes in handy here.]  Some are abler than others in various ways.  Equality is an ideological construct.  It is a concept we created in order to promote the welfare of all the members of the species in spite of the weaknesses and liabilities of certain sections or individual members.  It means that every member of the species has an equal right to certain things like legal protection, food and water, shelter, and so on. 

Capitalism, however, denies that idea.  It says that you compete for whatever is available there.  You compete for the 4G spectrum, for example.  There is an auction and the highest bidder gets it. 

Rights to belong to the highest bidder in capitalism.  The highest bidder can monopolise anything in such a system.  Even drinking water.  Even the air we breathe.  Those who cannot bid for clean air and clean water can suffocate to death, die of thirst.  Or die slowly breathing the polluted air and drinking the contaminated water.

Won’t there be a problem in the future then?  Can the lions survive without the gazelles?  Will the lions start eating one another once the gazelles become extinct?  Well, monopoly is about swallowing the same kind, isn’t it?  In the jungle, however, the animals don’t stoop so low.  Usually.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Arun Shourie on Narendra Modi

People of my generation are very familiar with the name Arun Shourie.  As editor of the Indian Express, he did a tremendously bold job of questioning Indira Gandhi in the days of the dreaded Emergency.  Later he joined the BJP and became an MP in the Rajya Sabha.  He has written a number of books which are thought-provoking.  The 75 year-old intellectual spoke to Swati Chaturvedi, author of I am a Troll, a book which exposed the BJP’s digital army which abuses and harasses people online for questioning Narendra Modi and the party.  Let me highlight some interesting points from the interview.
In happier times

Emergency-like situation in India

Mr Shourie thinks that the Prime Minister has created a “decentralised emergency”.  The country is run by mafia groups who terrorise those who criticise Modi or his policies.  Gau rakshaks, for example, are not motivated by “love for the cow” but the need to dominate other people.  Mr Modi’s emergency is worse than Indira Gandhi’s because the latter relied on the law machinery for imposing her will on the people while Mr Modi supports people who “act outside the law”.  People’s rights are being choked to death.  “... the Right to Information (RTI) is being choked, the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) is being denigrated unless it’s in your favour. The judiciary is being denigrated...”

Mr Modi is a bully

Mr Shourie says that like all bullies Mr Modi gets easily frightened.  When something wrong, he immediately panics and announces some populist schemes.  Like bullies, he resorts to intimidation and abuse when that suits him.  “Anybody who opposes Modi is immediately embroiled in cases – like Pradeep Sharma, the [IAS] official in Gujarat, and Teesta Setalvad. A third instrument towards the same end is all Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to be put in the dock and then to be intimidated and troubled.”

Mr Modi and antinationals

India has been divided into them versus us by Modi and Amit Shah.  “... if you look at Modi versus the cabinet, there is nobody, Modi and the party, there is no party – only Modi and Shah. Look at the choice of chief ministers – [Vijay] Rupani [of Gujarat], [Devendra] Fadnavis [of Maharashtra], [Manohar Lal] Khattar [in Haryana] – persons who do not have any base at all.”  Anyone who questions them is antinational and may be asked to go to Pakistan.   They might even face death threats.  Arvind Kejriwal’s allegation that Mr Modi wants to kill him is not false because Mr Modi supports those who act as his hounds and will do the hunting for him. 

You can read the whole interview HERE.

Saturday, January 14, 2017


I dream a lot.  I mean the real dreams that visit us during our sleep.  Most of my dreams are neither sweet nor scary.  I don’t take them seriously either.  I don’t remember them in the morning.  Except very rarely when the dreams seem to be related to some problem I’m grappling with.

I had a dream last night too.  In the normal course of events this one too should have met with the fate of the others and vanished from my memory before I woke up in the morning.  But I chose to remember it because I wanted to write this blog.

Three men robed in white, looking more like the Arabs than Catholic priests, came to me.  The place was not at all clear.  The conversation was.  They said they came to take me away because my time on the earth was over.  I said it was a surprise since I didn’t believe in a life beyond the earth.  “That’s not a problem. You can come with us.”  And I went.

I think that’s how it ended.  The end was really not so clear.  I got up as usual, drank some water from the bottle always kept near the bed and went back to sleep.  Peacefully.  The dream belongs to my category of ‘neither sweet nor scary’.

Dreams are closely associated with the deeper layers of our minds.  They may reflect our fears and anxieties, longings and aspirations, emotional conflicts, etc.  I don’t believe in life after death.  But I consider death as the inevitable end which is a welcome relief once you think you have had enough on the earth. 

There are billions of galaxies in the universe and each galaxy has billions of stars and their planets.  They are all held together by certain laws such as gravity.  They all came from the same origin in the beginning.  A singularity.  A point of extremely compressed matter with tremendous energy.  Unable to contain the energy any further, it exploded one day. And spread out forming stars and planets.  Not heavens and hells.  Any such place as heaven and hell would make the universe impossible.  The universe has its own laws which are contrary to the arbitrariness of a God, say, who will appear gloriously on a cloud one day and set us all (human beings) on his left and right and condemn us either to hell or to heaven according to his judgment of our lives.  The hell must have its own hilarious share of arbitrariness since it is inhabited by anarchists and iconoclasts.  No, the universe is too complex a system to be sustained by such arbitrariness.  Even the black hole has the decency to stick to the laws that sustain the universe unlike the gods and spirits in our myths and creeds.

Those three spirits in my dream came from my mind which was shaped partly by Christianity with its Arab-looking angels, Catholic priests who wear the same Arab robes (for reasons I have never understood) and later by my own experiences and understanding of life which found more meaning in stars and black holes than gods and devils.  The dream may point to some death wish which has caught my fancy recently.  It may also point to a lot of jokes which keep rising and falling in my conscious mind as I revisit in my reflections the innumerable ghosts that haunted my life.

PS. Written for Indispire Edition 152: #Dreams