Sunday, January 25, 2015

Offensive Expression

“Hey Kaf, how are you? Why do you look upset?” she asked.  Kaf looked at her, his eyes were red with rage, said “When freedom of speech became an excuse for slander, I wonder.” She smiled and said “Ouch, slander, Err well slander is something you don’t do, not because it is illegal but just out of decency. There is no law that prevents from slander. So well who said what about your mother?” she chuckled when she said mother. That is the easiest way to get someone as agitated as Kaf is now.  Somehow, mocking not the person (or his sexuality), but his mother’s sexuality makes men so mad, she never understood why.  Kaf paused, “No, it is not my mother, it is my people. They are calling them names and I don’t understand why they do it.”

She looked surprised, “Never heard you say that Kaffy boy, what is that you mean by my people? How are you dividing the world as in your people and the rest?” Kaf inhaled slowly now, trying to relax “I meant people like me as in who did certain things like me or people who think like me. These fellas have published offensive stuff in a book and selling many copies of it.”  She raised an eyebrow and said “That’s it? Kaf, no one is forcing you to buy the book or read it. People have a choice of buying it if they want. It is their freedom.” Kaf shot back “What about my freedom then? I feel that book is a wrong influence on people and I why don’t you think about my freedom too”

She gently touched his hand and said “Your freedom is important too. Maybe you should write a book saying how offensive that book is. Let people see your side of the story too and then decide. No point in telling - what to write and sell, just like they cannot tell you the same”. Kaf scoffed. She continued “Who knows, someone could find what you write - offensive. I don’t know if anyone could ever write a book that is not offensive to anyone. Think practically Kaf, someone might get offended with anything anyone says or writes, who knows. Well for that matter, any form of expression could be offensive to someone.”

Kaf closed his eyes “Yeah I guess I have to live with it. You are right; someone will get offended no matter what. I can only respond to some writing by writing. No point in trying to make them shut up.” She gently rubbed his back, “Okay now Kaf, you can tell me what was so bad in that book that made you so upset. You can let it go, you just have to share. Was it a joke in a bad taste?”
Shrugging Kaf replied “I hope it is a joke. I don’t know what to make of it. The book says people like me are some kind of sub-humans. People like me will burn in hell. My actions are so bad that me and people like me are some kind of untouchable. Some of my people even deserve to be stoned to death. Imagine the wrath in that book. People believe the book too.”  He paused and sat down “I am no longer angry. I just feel sad now.”

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Word Smiths

American political system revolves around public perception. Anyone who could sculpt perception the way one wants is the winner. Political parties employ such people (who are good at changing public perception) to edit interviews, speeches, behavior and even dressing to drive their political philosophy. Usual techniques involve merging their philosophy with things that are already popular with public, creating public sympathy, canvassing using heroic or charismatic figures etc. There is one technique however I found really intriguing, not sure if there is a term for that, I call the people who do that as “Word Smiths”. I define word smith as a person who could change public opinion for a particular word. For instance antonym of the word good is bad, a word smith can start using the word “evil” instead of “bad” as an antonym for “good”. So whenever someone says “Not good”, public will think of “Evil” instead of “bad”. You can realize how much of a difference that makes. (Bad policy – Evil policy, Bad system – Evil system or even Bad tool – Evil tool).
One of the words, the word smiths have successfully redefined is “Socialism”. Somehow the word “Socialism” now means “Welfare state”. Socialism as a political system has its share of pros and cons, which can be debated. Word smiths have made people argue about the pros and cons of a welfare state under the name of socialism. What is socialism really??... Let us start with that.
Wikipedia defines socialism as an economic system as the organizational precept of production for use, meaning the production of goods and services to directly satisfy economic demand and human needs where objects are valued based on their use-value or utility, as opposed to being structured upon the accumulation of capital and production for profit. In a socialist economy, coordination, accounting and valuation would be performed in kind using physical quantities, by a common physical magnitude, or by a direct measure of labor-time in place of financial calculation. (To each according to his contribution). Socialist movement includes State Socialism and Libertarian Socialism. State socialism calls for nationalization for the means of production as a strategy while libertarian socialism calls for decentralized means of democracy such as municipals, trade unions, assemblies that calls for anti-authoritarian stance. (Yeah, something Ron Paul talks about!) Other socialist movements include liberalism, environmentalism, feminism etc. The socialistic critique of capitalism is that it concentrates power and wealth within a small segment of society that controls the means of production and derives its wealth through economic exploitation. This creates unequal social relations which fail to provide opportunities for every individual to maximize their potential and after a certain stage of development, fails to utilize available technology and resources to their maximum potential due to restrictive property relations.

We do not see any meaningful conversation beyond what the wordsmiths have already set, so much so that even the basic definition is long forgotten. I now see the same technique being applied to scientific terms too. The scientific term “Theory” is being changed to mean “Hypothesis”. Hypothesis is defined as a suggested explanation for an observable phenomenon or prediction of a possible causal correlation among multiple phenomena, while a Theory can be defined as a well-substantiated, unifying explanation for a set of verified, proven hypotheses based on certainty, verification and repeated testing. When you hear the phrase “Theory of Evolution” used in a national conversation, it is used in a way to suggest “The hypothesis of Evolution”, thanks to the word smiths. Same goes for the “theory of global warming”. I wonder if they want to dumb things for their strategy or eliminate a real conversation once for all. Is it a conscious effort to divide people who bother to read and investigate (so called elites) and people who are heavily influenced by the national media? Whatsoever I do think the word smiths are winning. 

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Followers of the BOOK

      Bukris was a very smart philanthropic man who lived in the 6th century. He was one of the wise advisers of his village. His scientific curiosities made him come up with innovative methods in different fields such as farming, fishing and even building infrastructure. Those really helped people in the village and even gave them competitive advantage over nearby villages. He also became personal adviser for some. He promoted moral steadiness. He kept a book in which he recorded his personal discoveries and his vision of moral steadiness that could bring a good society.
     One day he saw some poison berries in the common well. It was dawn and he saw some kids who were playing trying to drink water from the well. He yelled at them to leave. The parents were angry and felt Bukris was acting like a bully. He tried explaining the poison berries in the well to them, but fell in deaf ears. No one was believing him. That day he made a move that would change history. He drank some water from the well in front of everyone and as expected he died in front of all.
     People cried their hearts out. They mourned for days. His sacrifice was something that everyone in the village trembled at the very thought of it. They constructed a shrine with his statue and gave him a very grand funeral. People did not stop coming to the shrine much later. Some of them cried out of guilt and some thanked him. When they had questions they ended up looking at the book.
     The BOOK helped the ones who followed. It soon became the moral code and the authority to the way of life in every field. As days passed other villagers also ended up following the BOOK and Bukris soon became a legend. His life story was sung as songs during village festivals. It did not take long before the legend of Bukris became the anthem of the whole country. Even when the nation was at war the BOOK helped them tactically. This lead to the BOOK soon being followed by the neighboring nations. The BOOK brought prosperity to the nations.
       Decades passed and almost everyone in the country and good number of people of the neighboring countries carried a copy of the BOOK. Even the nation's constitution borrowed some language from the BOOK. People ensured that their kids and everyone around knew about the legend of Bukris and the BOOK. They ensured knowledge passed to the generations and not kept as a secret (as Bukris wanted).
        Civilizations gradually grew and there were new discoveries. People now had electricity and they could travel much faster to really far off places. World slowly but steadily started becoming smaller. People still followed the BOOK.  The rules of the society were around the teachings of the BOOK. Rich or poor, weak or powerful, the BOOK was the ultimate guide.
         Some younger kids found certain rules of the BOOK silly. For instance it recommended people not to eat anything before sunrise or after sunset. (Bukris believed that you need to see what you eat and without light you might end up eating something you are not supposed to. Aah yes the BOOK did not tell this.) With electricity in place kids thought this rule did not make sense. Parents however ensured they followed it. Some even fasted for longer hours when they traveled to places closer to the poles.
          A small group of people started pointing out the inaccuracies in the BOOK. That's when hell broke loose. Others got offended and asked "So you guys think the Great Bukris who sacrificed his life for us lied?" "You guys have no gratitude. No way we can tolerate you." One of the guys replied "Not saying he lied but there is no way he could have seen things through such long time and different places" Unfortunately his reply was not heard. The larger crowd ended up chanting "Hail Hero Bukris the Great" and ended up beating these guys. 
            I don't think today is any different. Be it any of the holy books or the constitution or any old source of knowledge, they are defended like the fundamental laws and not treated like theories. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

We are getting married

I woke up with just my eyes half open. My body was nicely wrapped inside the cozy comfortor. Smell of coffee was strong. I looked at the table near by bed and there it was. My coffee mug, sugar and cream was neatly placed nearby. Unable to resist, I finally got up sipped the coffee. There was a note saying "Getting some breakfast. Will be back soon. - Love Mark 08/12". I smiled thinking "Ohh dear Mark, who writes date on a love note like this." I quickly showered and began blow-drying my hair.

Mark entered with some crossiants and fruits. He stared at me for a minute and said "You are becoming adorable each day. Come on lets eat. We have a big day...". He stopped and asked "you sure you are ready for this?" I blushed and nodded. Of course I am ready for this. It has been almost 8 months since I moved into Mark's apartment and we were dating for almost 2 years now. It is really time to get to the next step of commitment. Mark did sense how I felt. Last month only he gave me the ring and asked me to marry him. We did briefly talk about the pros and cons and now here we are, getting ready for our day.

Mark came out handsome looking in his suit. We got into his car and drove to Pamgrove street. We got down near a big red house. I looked at Mark and I knocked the door. A big lady opened the door. Mark said "Hello Ma'm. Just wanted to ask..... err we are getting married". She gave a disgusted look. She only said "Get lost" and slammed the door. Mark shrugged and we knocked the next door. A young woman opened the door, she looked like a college kid, I thought to myself. Mark repeated the same words. She smiled shook hands with us and said "Congrats". We smiled too and we knocked the next door. A nerdy looking guy opened the door this time. When Mark told him he simply said "Err well no problem" and went back to his nerdy stuff.

By noon I was really tired. Office buildings check, residentials check, shopping malls check... ohh list is long. I wanted a break. Mark wasnt even a bit exhausted. He was full of energy. How could he do it, I thought to myself. He noticed my slow pace. He put his arm around me and said "Lets get something to drink". He is so understanding, I thought to myself and I am lucky to have a man like him. That thing still irks though.

We were munching nachos with drinking some iced soda in a Chipotle nearby. This time he looked straight into my eyes and asked "I see something bothering you. Are you sure..." before he could finish his sentence, he saw a tiny tear in corner of my eye. "Hey.... Are you okay?" he asked. I replied "I only wish we were just like everyone else, with an easy life; fall in love, get married without all this BullS***. Why are we so treated like this? Why should a majority of people agree for us to get married?" Mark laughed and said "My dear Dan, we got so many ayes, just a few nays. We are special and some time in the future, special people like us need not do this....because we would have already fought this battle. People will see us for who we are and not judge us by our orientation. We are not hurting them any way by living our lives the way we are. But for now we need to get the majority of them to accept and pass laws. I am optimistic about this. Are you with me?" I did not reply. I just kissed him and smiled. I may not be as optimist like Mark but I am willing to fight this battle for my love for him.

Gays like Dan and Mark do not have the rights which is generally taken for granted from hospital visitation to funeral rights. Hope this battle ends soon with the outcome predicted by Mark.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

They banned it

We sat near a local coffee shop and started our usual conversation on controversial topics. Sipping his coffee he looked at me and began,

“Consider this. I have some random enquiry to do and go around knocking doors. I go to one particular house and I knock the door. The landlady invites me in and politely offers me to sit and gets something to drink. However she speaks to me sitting behind a curtain. I cannot see her when I speak to her. Now tell me how will I feel?”

To this pretty straight forward question I instantly replied “Offended of course. That’s rude man”.

He looked at me with a half-smile and said “Well that’s what I feel when I am around someone with a burqa.”

For a moment I almost spilled my coffee. Gathering my thoughts I said “Is it fair to compare a type of clothing with that?”

“Aah” he exclaimed, “Just think how different is that?”

“Maybe not much, but is that not a matter of religious freedom? I understand the secularist ideals of the French that prompted them to do that but to go to an extent of clothing …. Is that not too much?”

He shot back “Come on, when Saudi can force women to wear them why can’t the French force them to remove the same? Or should we allow nudists to roam on the streets nude because it is their freedom?” I smiled and he continued “well let me not digress here. Do you agree that any freedom has a limit and the extent to which it is implemented can be restricted?”

“Like….. Do you mean you have the right to shout as much as you want until your neighbor complains?”

“Well yes let go by that example. As French I have the right to say practice your religious freedom but not to the extent that it actually offends me. Wear it if you like in your home but not in public places”

“Don’t you think it is actually being too touchy? The women who wear them may now be restricted to even go out in that case. They may even be denied of basic needs like education. Just because you are offended don’t you think you are actually restricting them and even pushing them even further back?”

He gave his usual half smile “Let them fight for it and evolve. Why is it so difficult for them not to cover their faces just in public and that too only in France? I heard terrorists use the same. That could even be a security threat. If they want to live in France, why don’t they just live and let live”

My mouth was wide open when I heard final words “Live and let live”, it was used by the other side only. Support or oppose burqa ban but either side has very deep and valid points. I smiled and finished my coffee. Well yes I should say I allowed him to conclude with those words

Next day, I did see the final draft of the bill passed by the French govt. The words “burqa”, “Islam” or even “religion” was not found. Hurray…. Well done France J.

Wanted to thank Ravi Maams for encouraging me to finish this long unfinished post. Finally!!

Monday, March 15, 2010

My younger brother - spoilt by my mother

It has been a while since I wrote. I really feel inspired to write this post today and it feels good.

I was 7 years old and my younger brother Nicky was 5. Nicky has a handicap. He cannot think or run fast. Doctor gave us hope. He said his handicap can be cured. All that Nicky needed was attention and some training and the handicap will disappear as he grows up. Doc liked my bro too. Like my mom he was another person who wanted to see my bro grow up strong.

My mom was all protective about my bro. She would not let him play on the ground, walk alone on the road or mingle with other kids. She feared other kids will tease him and that would kill his confidence. She took extra care for him and showered him with all love which sometimes made me feel a little jealous.

Dad was always about learning. He made us read books. The more pages we read, more the candies we get. That really made learning interesting. I would eagerly look at my mom who gives me candies every time after I am done with my reading. However Mom started giving more candies to my brother so that that encourages him. He got more candies even if he did not read even half the number of pages I read. I protested and said that was unfair. Mom replied "Understand dear, your brother needs help. He is not as strong as you are." I agreed as I thought Mom knows the best. I knew she is all about giving us care and love without any expectation. Nicky started eating more candies. He knew he got a free pass. He sometimes even faked his handicap to get more candies. That made me angry but as I started getting older I started caring less about the candies.

Dad's way of making me learn really paid off well. I learned a lot. I did pretty good in school. Everyone saw me evolve as a stronger person. Nicky however did not grow. He did not do well in school. He did not learn much. He continued to get freebies though. Even when he did something good and earned his candies, our relatives believed that he got them for free. This did hurt Nicky. He felt disrespected by our relatives. That made him so low on confidence that he did not feel like learning. It weakened him more. Doc could not figure out why his condition is not improving.

I got a cash award for writing. I bought some candies home. When I was opening the box, Nicky demanded "I anyway get most of it right?". I looked at him with my eyes wide open. He continued "Well you know I am the weaker person and I deserve more." I noticed some pride in his eyes when he said "I am weaker". I went to my mom and said "Mom you made him weak and also somehow made him feel proud about it".

Well with this piece I want to say my country is my mom and Nicky can be replaced with any underprivileged group - Women, Backward classes, minority etc...

As a woman I say the "33% Reservation for Women" bill in the parliament is shameful. Creating constituencies where only women can compete is certainly not the path for women empowerment. This will only lead to women with political background (wife/daughter/sister of male candidate) come into parliament. Does the bill care about empowerment or just numbers? Does it mean women should be kept weak and slowly feel proud about it, just the way Nicky felt? Does it just mean vote bank politics? Well they say the bill is going to expire in 15 years. Well when was the reservation for backward classes supposed to expire?

Allow Nicky to grow. Allow him to fall and learn from the fall. Protect him from being exploited. But please don't give him freebies like reservation and spoil him. Mom listen to me now.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A theist, an atheist and an agnostic

Living in an on-campus residential apartment is a rich experience. Varieties of people, international community makes life simply wonderful. People with different beliefs always gather to party, drink, dine or watch movies in the common lounge. I was involved into this interesting conversation (well at least I find so) between people of different beliefs.

Atheist: A very easy way to prove God doesn’t exist. God is all powerful and good. If that is so there must be no evil. Since u see evil in the world it either means God is not all powerful or not fully good. If God is not all powerful why do we worship him? If he is not fully good what is the point in worshiping him. It is very simple logic. This proves that there is no God.

Theist: Don’t always depend on science and logic for complicated issues like God.

Atheist: Come on, we are familiar with science and logic only. Talk in these grounds.

Theist: You need faith to understand about God. You can’t rationalize everything

Atheist: Faith doesn’t mean anything. Educated people are expected to question and ask for proofs and not accept things as they are.

Agnostic: I beg to differ. (Looking at atheist) You cannot say that u rely purely on logic. You make certain assumptions too. You rely on the accuracy of the instruments u use. I can say lot more. Science and logic cannot explain every phenomenon happening. Take NDE (near death experience) for instance.

Atheist: Well then how can u answer the proofs I said first? I mean how could you say God is all powerful?

Agnostic: If I say “Love conquers all.” Will u accept it? Same way, you can’t argue that there are people living without love.

Atheist: You are using the word play. How can you believe God exists just like that?

Agnostic: Can you disprove that he doesn’t exist? We all don’t know. Better to admit what we don’t know as we don’t know.

Theist: Well talking about science, we say that there was a big bang and all planets and stars came and then coacervates came and then life evolved. Who do you think made the environment for all these?

Agnostic: they need not be planned. It could have been a coincidence or a result of randomness.

Atheist: Come on don’t now talk about religion. Don’t say that God created Adam and Eve and we all came to existence.

Theist: What makes u disagree with that?

Agnostic: Ok. I give it to you. Now let me assume that God created Adam and Eve. Why did he do that? What does he expect us to do or what does he want from us?

Theist: He doesn’t expect anything. He is the giver.

Agnostic and Atheist: Ohh then where is the need to worship him?

Theist: Thank him for the gifts he had given to you. If you live in the guidelines he had given to you, then you will be enlightened.

Atheist: Why should God expect this “thank you” from us? If he is really fair he should enlighten everyone no matter they accept him or not.

Theist: I think this argument leads nowhere. Just like you love your parents with no reason I say I believe and love God. I cannot prove or give any explanations but that doesn’t mean that I am wrong. Religion makes a man to lead a good life and makes him help others and love his fellow brothers.

Atheist: Well I don’t see any point in believing in supernatural unless I see any miracle happening. Regarding religions, they are just a set of rules that you are supposed to follow and not question why. I agree that religions came into practice to make man lead a good life and help his fellow brothers. But now at this present world when people are killing each other what is the use in having religions? Better abolish them all and let peace rule the world.

Agnostic: Well, God - whether he exists or not I really don’t care. If at all he exists I think the better way is to pursue The Divine would be not through religions but through your own personal way. And regarding religion I think people should consider religion as something personal and not kill each other in the name of religion. Of course no religion preaches anything bad to humanity but people using religion in a wrong way made me hate religions. I personally place humanity above divinity. I don’t need a religion to be good. My love for humanity will prevent me from hurting any of my fellow brothers. Man could be a mistake of God or God could be a mistake of man’s (Nietzsche). I somehow like the latter.

The theist smiled at these words followed by the atheist. Three of them agreed to disagree on their ideas. There ended the conversation.