Thursday, March 29, 2007

governance II

The much debated and much maligned sequel to the block buster – governance :D
Like so many movies, the story takes an abrupt turn though!

Democracy as is practiced currently in almost all countries is indirect. The people vote to elect their representatives. These representatives represent their electorate in a quorum where their votes are considered to represent the vote of their entire electorate. This quorum again decides on all policies based on the votes of these chosen representatives.

This was perhaps the best way to go about creating a democracy because the logistics involved in allowing every person in a state to have a say in each and every decision made were too great to be managed.

However, if we see the two largest democracies in the world today, we see how this system can go hopelessly wrong.

There may be numerous political parties within a democracy. If the voter chooses to vote for a particular person, it is relatively easy. However, if a voter decides to choose for a particular candidate based on the candidate’s political affiliation to a particular party based on the principles of that party, things get murky.

If no party gets a majority, we have this concept of the single largest party getting an opportunity to form the government first … but things often break down, and weird coalitions come into existence after the election that have agendas very different from those that the voter voted for.

Sure, we can reduce the number of parties in the system to ensure that there aren’t too many different ideologies (though one could argue that this is undemocratic in itself). Now, if they don’t like what your government is doing, you can change it … but not for another five years at least … unless the chosen representatives take some drastic actions …

Dictionaries differentiate between democracy as described above and a “pure democracy” where policy decisions are always taken by a direct vote of each and every citizen of the nation.

Perhaps, it is time for us to move towards this concept of pure democracy.

If a country has a telecommunication network that covers it in its entirety, supplemented by an internet that reaches a fair percentage of the population, it can easily overcome the logistics issue that we have always had previously.

People have enough access to information thanks to the media and the internet to make informed decisions about most everyday issues.
Are there any short comings to this approach?

Well, if people are expected to vote on issues and the media is where they get their information, it gives a fearful power to the media – which can obviously be misused.

One may argue why everyone would even be interested in voting … the answer to which would be that they need not be - as long as there is a requirement that a minimum percentage of the population needs to vote in order for the results to be valid.

Issues involving sensitive intelligence data and so forth would be a little hard to deal with. We would need some mechanism to handle such issues.

I obviously cannot design the ideal mechanism for governance while sitting and writing out a blog. However, this is something that we all need to start thinking of.

The Greeks and Romans and other civilizations evolved a system of thought and governance that was way ahead of their times - so much so that they work pretty well even today.

But if you look at it the other way, what have we done? What have we created?
We are using a system of governance that was dreamt up ages ago without even bothering to tailor it to our current circumstances … forget about creating something that will work for future generations.

Now, just how shortsighted is that?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

personality test :)

Your Personality is Somewhat Rare (ENFP)

Your personality type is enthusiastic, giving, cautious, and loyal.

Only about 8% of all people have your personality, including 9% of all women and 6% of all men
You are Extroverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Perceiving.

Monday, March 12, 2007


Is democracy really the best system of governance?

One of our news channels has been covering a story about one of our para-military divisions. The members of that force want their salary etc. to be at par with the armed forces since their duties are as risky and the nature of their work, they feel is similar.

As part of the campaign, one guy has been detained on charges since mid January if I remember correctly. Now, many of the members of that force have gone on a signature campaign and have sent a letter to the President of India asking him for his intervention.

Apparently, this is illegal - members of the armed forces are not allowed to form unions or take collective action of this sort, and every signatory to the petition could potentially lose their jobs at the least.

While the logic of the law is understandable, probably something meant to stem out mutinies at the very basic level, I found it somewhat ironic that the people charged with the duty of protecting our freedom need to give up their own rights.

This led me to consider the fact that no matter what the nature of the political system of a state - be it communist, democratic or dictatorial (and whatever other vague combinations are possible) - the ones that are charged with ensuring that the way of life of the state is not disturbed by external influences is always the army. And, all armies have a more or less similar, authoritarian, strictly hierarchical social order.

Julius Caesar - may his soul rest in peace - was probably among the first that died for what was perceived to be an opposition to the cause of the republic. And most mature governments have always tried to ensure that the army is kept where it ought to be ... on the borders … and away from the cities and the seat of the republic – the parliament or whatever you decide to call it.

However, perhaps we should consider whether the manner in which armies are governed is a more efficient and natural order for society as well.

(Perhaps, on the other hand the army can also consider whether it is better to follow the prevalent social order within their ranks - for example, an officer in a democratic army could be voted out of office for taking decisions that his subordinates don't like!)

Thursday, March 08, 2007

World Women's Day

Thankfully no one calls it WWD as yet :)

In the spirit of the day, I would like to wish all the women in the world a wonderful day and all that ... while knowing that today despite being the day it is, there are millions around the world who probably will have to go through the same crap that they do every day and face the same injustices and brutalities that they have suffered so long.

On a more optimistic note, I would like to shrink it down to the women in My world. Those that cared for me from child hood and even before, those that were friends, those that are friends, those I have been good to, and those that I have not been so good to, those that I care for, and those that care for me .... Thank you for making my world so much better.

To be a little ruminative, not sure whether that is the right word as the thought itself is more forward looking than backwards, I think that this is probably a time when this has much more meaning than ever before.

Thanks to technology, we are on the brink of an era when one of the most important of the relationships between men and women - that of procreation - will cease to require two. There will be cloning, and thanks to genetics, I am sure that down the line, even those in a same sex marriage will be able to have children who are a genetic cocktail of both.

We will probably be the ones to see this one relation that was considered imperative, become optional. When that happens, I am sure that there will be social changes. Mutual respect is the only thing that will hold things together then (apart from love). And it helps to begin early.

Frankly, I would prefer to be in a world where there was no women's day or men's day - for that would imply that all were socially equal to begin with. Perhaps, I would prefer the day when these days would be a celebration of who we are and what we are ...

But till that day dawns, let us at least stop careening towards a time when the war of the worlds is fought on earth ... between the "Venetians" and the Martians ... and one has to win at the loss of the other ... for if one loses, both lose.

So, today, let us celebrate all the Women in the world and tell them just how wonderful they are ...

Saturday, March 03, 2007


We are caught...
No. I cannot pretend to represent any one other than myself.

Every generation must have this problem - that of being caught between the old and the new. Things change ... and not always for the better.

I come from a time (or perhaps this has more to do with the sort of education we were given) when the biggest things in life weren't the size of your car, the carpet area of your house ... or how many frills it has which you shall ever use.

The reason I chose to be an engineer was to be able to create. The reason I chose to be a computer engineer (and perhaps the reason for my love of the subject in the first place) was that - at least on first impression - it seems to give a more immediate sense of fulfillment. Things get done faster ... and there are no bricks. So, to build your bridge, you need to begin by designing the brick itself. So, at the end of each day, you have the satisfaction of having done something new. of having overcome a problem, of having provided a solution, of being a step closer to your goal ... immediate gratification perhaps if you would like to call it so.

However, having migrated to a city, I too am caught up in the same things that I mention so disdainfully to begin with. Though I earn way more than my parents ever did, at the end of the day, everything seems to cost that much more ... so you are no better off...

These may be contentious things. What prompted me to start blogging tonight, despite having a terrible headache and a stomach ache to go with it is that I came across the biography of Bob Dylan on the History channel.

What I say may not be true for millions of people around the world. However, in my protected life (I have a family, a good job, a house over my head, 3 square meals a day if I choose to have them or have the time, my biggest problem in life is trying to ensure that I get enough sleep and some time to exercise), I don't see it being very easy to really go do something remarkable.

In a world where not a stone has been left unturned, most of the challenges left are the ones that we ourselves have created. War, terrorism, war on terrorism, crime, corruption, religious hatred (an oxymoron?) ... mostly created by us - to keep us preoccupied it would appear. But what has happened is that there are almost no significant and meaningful challenges to come by (easily). There are no new lands to find. There are no new hills to climb. Someone has pooped on the moon even.

When the big challenges disappear, what you are left with is a sheltered life. And the challenges are the small challenges - the terrible traffic, the quarrelsome auto-wallahs, the corrupt bureaucracy, the price of onions, the dust on the road, the power cuts - and half of these again may not really exist in our lives. Just watching TV, reading the paper and raising our blood pressure. Not enough challenges.

That leaves us with just one avenue ... work. What do you do? How much do you do? What do you accomplish? How much do you accomplish? But is that enough?

I am not a teacher. At the end of the day, unlike my parents, I won't have a list of kids I transformed in to men. Unlike doctors I won't have a list of people I saved. Unlike a nurse, I won't have a list of people I would have helped ... and I wouldn't have conquered any new lands either.

So, at the end of the day, what would I have done that wouldn't be for me or my immediate family? Something that would make a difference to the way people live? Not to be remembered perhaps - like the inventor of the wheel - but something that touches lives everywhere and makes them better?

Isn't it a terrible waste of all the faculties that we have been gifted with ... if all we can use it for is our own personal benefit?

I don't even know the right question to ask.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

here-ness and now-ness revisited

Over time I know I get boring and repetitive. I talk about hereness and nowness in quite a few of my previous posts. I have also mentioned that you teach best what you need to learn most ... misquoted and so on in a dozen posts.

Yesterday I realized that for all my preaching, hereness and nowness is exactly what is missing in my life (proving the teaching-learning thingy right). Ever since i started working, I have always assumed that the hectic schedules are temporary. That there will come a time when, miraculously, work will be less, and I will have a load of time on my hands in which to learn swimming, join the taichi class near my house, check out the art of living course, resume meditation, re-start yoga, take up photography in a bigger way, write a book, paint, write poems, go para-sailing, go sky-diving, go meet my granny, call up my friends more often, join the british council library (and the american council library if it was here), watch all the classic movies, read all the classic novels, go to goa - this has been pending since October 2000, take parents on a holiday ... recent additions to the list include spending more time with my girl, work on some of my ideas (techie stuff), work on getting an MS ....etc.

It has finally dawned on me that this is how hectic work will always be. If anything it can only get more hectic ... and take up more and more of my personal time. Given this scenario, if I keep waiting for a time when I will have time to do these things, I will have gone through life having done nothing at all. It is time that I understand that this is how life will be and work out a schedule that will allow me to do the things that I really want to do in addition to my work.

Hereness and nowness begins with being here now.