80 Minutes of Solitude

I look forward to my Sundays.

Not for the inherent laziness it entails. Not for the food that I can cheat on, at least for a day. Not for the multitude of TV shows, movies and cricket matches.

I love my Sunday morning walks, which are always longer ones compared to other days of the week. I typically do 50 minutes of walking on weekday mornings (sometimes 60 minutes), but on Sundays I tend to stay on my walk somewhat longer, typically reaching 80 minutes of continuous, non-stop walk.

It is not just for the sake of satisfying my Fitbit (of course, sheepishly I keep looking at it once in a while to check how I am doing!).

The idea is to have some focused aerobic exercise, for sure. It kind of make my lungs breathe some early morning fresh air, which is just pure goodness in these times of pollution percolating into our lives every moment. I feel good at the end of the walk though I am soaked in sweat.

However, the key benefit that I have to claim is the impervious solitude that I seem to be achieving during every such long walk in areas surrounded by thick shrubbery and water. While my mind keeps processing the inputs from the environment surrounding me during my walk, it also is replaying portions of my life. It also is forcing me to think about life choices. It is in a unique position of quietude when it can challenge me on difficult issues pertaining to my own life. How did I perform when faced with a difficult situation? How did I handle a tough matter? Did I do well when dealing with one of my family members? How would have my life changed had I selected a different option in a decision-tree?

I find the exercise fascinating. Since there is hardly any distraction (apart from bird sounds and ruffling of leaves), the mind is absolutely clear with an unparalleled ability to dissect issues threadbare and lay these down in front of your eyes. Yes, while walking I have been able to witness the power of the mind, which I would not have been able to under normal circumstances.

I have come to love my Sunday morning walks due to the impact that these “walk with me” kind of solitude they provide to me. I did 80 minutes of walk this morning as well, and sheepishly counted 8,000 steps when I walked back into my home on my Fitbit – more or less accurate, I should say. But what is more important to me personally is the “review” that my mind conducted of my doings, behaviour, performance, and life choices.

Where else can I get this kind of service, feedback and advice?

At the end of the day, everything is in our hands. There are many folks who say that everything is in God’s hands, but I disagree. Man and Woman are intelligent human beings created by a greater force, so they are in a position to evaluate things and make appropriate decisions for themselves. Help might come in many different ways, but the responsibility for their actions is always theirs. They cannot and should not blame God for any of their failures.

So, it is very critical to listen to your own self. You are the master of your thoughts, your behaviour, your being and your actions. And the best way to listen to yourself is to seek solitude. I would suggest that you do not go for a walk with your partner as that could become an extension of the household – you do not wish to be debating the same issues that you would be discussing with your better half at the park. Try to be all alone in absolute solitude. And stay that way as long as possible, giving enough space to your mind to debate with YOU.

This works for me. I can tell you that I have come up short during many instances in my life, and now I am staring at the learning that I can indeed achieve by listening to my own mind – it is indeed beautiful, and all of us have beautiful minds.

Think about it, and you might agree with my observation which comes from practice. By the way, I met my target of 98,000 steps for the week of 7 days finishing today (Sunday), so I am doing well on the Fitbit count. Keep walking but also keep thinking.


Vijay Srinivasan

23rd June 2019

The Hong Kong Fiasco

Hong Kong is a truly global city – sometimes, I tend to think that it is even more global and open than Singapore. There is no other city in the world which comes close to Hong Kong if you factor in all key parameters which define a global city, except for one very major thing: cost of living. I will not agree that Singapore is the most expensive city in all of Asia Pacific – it is Hong Kong, very closely followed by Tokyo, then comes Singapore.

In economic dynamism, the resolute hard working attitude of its people, financial strengths of its banking institutions, and several other key parameters, Hong Kong has remained No. 1 in Asia Pacific, though Singapore has tried and succeeded in dislodging it from the coveted perch more often than not. Singapore studied Hong Kong for a long time before adopting some of its success formulas, so it is not surprising that both cities appear to be “similar” in many ways.

Now, let me come to the topic of this blog post!

The world witnessed how a global city can be brought to its knees during this past week, when student agitators and the general public (more than a million people) protested against the rash introduction of an extradition bill, which would have allowed the Hong Kong government to extradite its citizens (and other residents) to Mainland China. I totally agree that the HK government could have been more prudent, more cautious, and more measured in the way it approached this extremely sensitive matter of extradition to China. It also did not do a proper Public Relations job, communicating the intricacies of the bill to the general public. There is only one reason for all of this fiasco: the blame points to Carrie Lam, the obstinate Chief Executive of the Hong Kong government (yes, they have a CEO!). She did a very bad job, and was forced to tender a weak apology to the people which further inflamed the public, because she only suspended the introduction of the bill (meaning it is not fully withdrawn from the Legislature) and did not show any inclination to resign.

As a third party not involved in any of this, one can only do some rational thinking (like what most of the media analysts were doing anyway). Hong Kong has extradition agreements with many countries, including the U.S. It is totally funny that Hong Kong is actually an integral part of China, but its people would not permit such an agreement with their own “motherland”. This signifies a total mistrust that the Hong Kong people have on the Mainland China government and its system of rendering judicial decisions. Hong Kongers of course, trust their well embedded British-style system of justice which has been in place for over a hundred years.

It looks absolutely strange to me, however. Hong Kong can never separate from the Mainland, and yet wishes to go against the Mainland government and judicial system (which are not going to change anyway). I don’t believe that the Mainland government wanted this headache when it had to deal with more pressing trade issues. The key issue is that Carrie Lam tried to push the legislation through when it was not even a key demand of the China federal government – she just wanted to stay in their good books forever, I guess.

So, the fault lies at the doorsteps of the Hong Kong government. There should be no doubt about it. The right thing to do is for Carrie Lam to withdraw the bill totally and persuade the attorney general (or whatever equivalent they have in Hong Kong) to release the people arrested. That will assuage the feelings of the people who felt victimised by the police force. Her resignation may not be required, but if she makes one more misstep she will be gone for sure.

Further, the student activists need to realise that China is always going to be their “mother”, irrespective of whatever else happens. The honeymoon period is long since over, though the official integration date lies far into the future in 2047, when the 50-year period after the British handover comes to pause. China can do anything even in the interim.

Why fight? Show your steely determination. But, call everyone to the table for a negotiation. Violence is never an option for both sides, especially so in such a hugely important financial centre. It will knock Hong Kong from its stable perch, and create big doubts in the minds of global corporations and financial institutions. Further, the preferential treatment that the U.S. and the European Union accord to Hong Kong on trade and finance related matters will come under scrutiny. That will also happen if Mainland China is seen as intruding into the freedoms of operation in Hong Kong, so it has to watch out as well. All these factors become very critical in the light of serious trade conflict that is in progress currently between China and the U.S.

So, in conclusion, Carrie Lam has to withdraw the legislation and curb her obstinacy from playing again and damaging Hong Kong; the students and the general public have to go back to their vocations and not continue to disturb peace on the island. China was in any case, not doing anything in this matter, it was not demanding anything to be done. The problem is entirely conceived by Carrie Lam.

I hope Hong Kong will be back on its feet by Monday and proceed to do trade and finance in the usual manner which the entire world has always appreciated. All the best to Hong Kong and its most energetic and capable citizens!


Vijay Srinivasan

22nd June 2019

Edging towards a Conflict

The U.S. is “itching” for the next war in the Middle East, and is edging towards a potential conflict with Iran. Very soon. Not at all good for the U.S. Hopefully the President of the U.S. will now take a better quality decision based on real facts on the ground, instead of getting prodded by Saudi Arabia, which has been itching to eliminate its only major religious enemy in the Middle East, which is Iran.

When the U.S. has gone to war, its cabinet has always managed to cook up an excuse. If the excuse is credible, like what appeared to be in the case of Iraq (when the evidence was presented in the U.N.), then the U.S. Allies would join in a common cause against a common enemy. But now we know that the WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) excuse cooked up by the U.S. was non-existent in Iraq – and Colin Powell sullied his name and reputation forever, along with George W Bush and other officials. Collectively, they created a major fake excuse to wage a war on a defenseless country, which has caused probably close to a million deaths over the past 15 years, and not less than USD 2T in cost to the American taxpayers (which could have been invested on U.S. infrastructure). A totally unnecessary war, which fed the appetite of the war-hungry defence manufacturing companies, and which managed to create a huge backlash via the ISIS formation, and subsequent blowbacks. Let us also not forget the fact that over 5,000 U.S. servicemen sacrificed their lives. I do not have the count of how many allied servicemen died in the Iraqi war (which started in 2003).

A similar thing happened in Vietnam when a fax communication from a U.S. warship was construed as an excuse to attack Vietnam, which then caused huge miseries on both sides of the conflict. All in the name of eliminating Communism, which was considered an arch-enemy of Democratic Capitalism in the Sixties and Seventies………but Communism is still not dead. Vietnam is still a Communist country, so is China, Russia, Cuba and several other nations. The main issue is the calamity of deaths caused by wars.

I agree with President Donald Trump on one thing: the U.S. should not take up the role of the world’s policeman, and should withdraw from unnecessary conflicts. It is up to the individual countries affected to forge an international opinion and a coalition if needed. The U.S. is a very large country and the world’s #1 economy, and it should worry more about China than any other nation on earth (not even Russia!). President Trump is absolutely right to say that the U.S. actually does not benefit from any war situation (apart from selling more arms to Saudi Arabia!), and should not get drawn into any new conflict.

The jury is out on Iran, of course. Without the U.S., the rest of the signatories to the JCPOA nuclear agreement with Iran are not able to make much progress – they are, in fact, struggling to talk to Iran and contain the fallout of the U.S. pullout from the JCPOA. Iran has set ultimatums, and is now on the verge of breaking free from several commitments made in that agreement. If it does so, and enriches Uranium to a weapons-grade level with more advanced centrifuges (which it has the capability to manufacture and run), then all hell will break loose. The Europeans will have no stomach to continue their support for Iran. The U.S. will then get its “allies” back in any potential conflict with Iran. Look at how this story is playing out!

Well, none of us would like to have yet another useless war in the Middle East, which, apart from more casualties and destruction of a very ancient Persian culture, would also lead to oil breaching the USD 100 per barrel price point. This will lead to huge inflation in all oil-consuming countries, including the U.S. We cannot also forget the real fact that Iran is a much stronger adversary than Iraq (and Saddam Hussein), with significant resources at its disposal. And further, any UN Security Council resolution on waging war on Iran will most certainly be defeated by BOTH Russia and China (who have now banded together against the U.S. for good). I am also not sure if Germany, France and the U.K. will support such a resolution, given the world’s very fragile situation.

We should hope that wiser counsel influences the White House and the U.S. Congress. I support President Trump’s call for negotiations with Iran. I am surprised that the Iranian Government rejected it during their meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last week in Tehran. It does not show positive intent to avoid a looming conflict, which Iran should avoid at any cost. While national pride and self-respect are very important to any nation, it is also critical to avoid unnecessary bloodshed against the most powerful country in a completely avoidable war. I hope the Iranians see the point and start talking via their usual interlocutors – any positive communication will be sure to get an overtly and strongly positive tweet response from President Trump. He can then go on to demonstrate how good a negotiator he is and work out a new agreement with Iran.

We all know that if he solves the North Korea, Israel-Palestine and Iran problems, he is destined to get the Nobel Peace Prize! Does he deserve it? I don’t know, but then he is the most powerful guy on this planet and is surely capable of getting things done and solving intractable problems faced by the world. Every U.S. President tries to do so, the only difference now is the occupation of the White House by one of the most unique Presidents ever, who is trying a completely different undiplomatic approach in a very public manner. Let us give him a chance!

Welcome to the continuing world of “seat of the edge conflicts” with a romantic mix of diplomatic tweets thrown in. Enjoy the rest of the weekend, and have a wonderful week ahead,


Vijay Srinivasan

16th June 2019

The “Wellbeing” National Budget

How do you measure the success of a nation state?

From 1930’s, the single most popular measure has been the GDP, or the Gross Domestic Product, which purports to measure the economic output of a country. It is widely used as an economic growth parameter, and a continuously growing country is supposed to create wealth for its citizens. This has generally been true, and the economically prosperous countries also have some of the highest per capita incomes in the world.

But do economic measures such as GDP and GNP truly reflect the state of “wellbeing” of a country’s citizens? Do these measures accurately portray poverty levels, education standards, homelessness, mental health and healthcare status of citizens? Does every citizen benefit from the national economic growth of his or her country? Do citizens feel happy, or constantly complain about rising costs which affect their daily livelihood? Do citizens think that enough of the national budget is being allocated for education, healthcare and eliminating the scourge of poverty? What is the extent of inequality in a developed country – is it low enough to be ignored? Do citizens feel safe and secure?

The simple and rather simplistic answer is a NO.

There are very few nations which focus on the above non-economic measures to ensure that their citizens are well taken care of. The Nordic countries such as Finland come to mind. Education is completely free, and kids get free lunch at school. We cannot dismiss the Finnish model as a “nanny” state, which it is not. Norway, Sweden, Denmark all have higher status as “happiness” producing countries in the minds of their citizens. Unfortunately, there is no Asian country in the top 10 happiest countries – Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong do not make the cut. Bhutan is a happy country, being the first in the world to have a Gross National Happiness index, but did not make it to the global top 10 ranking in the 2018 report. According to the World Happiness Report published by the United Nations, New Zealand comes in at the 8th place, which is already great.

Now, New Zealand has become the first country in the world to actually publish a “wellbeing” National Budget. The focus is on a set of “wellbeing” priorities which will be adopted by all the ministries. According to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, the indomitable Jacinda Ardern, it is more critical to measure the health, satisfaction and safety of the citizens, than to just constantly fixate on GDP growth as a wellbeing measure.

I totally agree.

Though I cannot understand one thing: why do the Kiwis feel that their country is not a happy one? Why are they having one of the highest suicide rates in all of OECD (the league of economically developed Western countries)? Why is domestic violence so high in New Zealand, and yet the United Nations chose to place NZ in its 8th global rank on the world happiness report?

Nevertheless, this initiative to build the entire national budget around wellbeing of citizens is a fantastic one, a new concept, which will be closely watched by the rest of the developed world. NZ needs to ensure that it succeeds in implementation. Otherwise, it will be considered as a flash in the pan, with no measurable impact in creating a sense of well being and reducing levels of poverty and homelessness.

We have to wait and see the impact. In whichever manner we see it, the “wellbeing” budget is a novel concept focused on certain clear national people-centric priorities, which should, with effective implementation and followup, generate a significant sense of wellbeing in NZ citizens. My two cents is that PM Ardern has a new strategic thinking and should be commended for taking the risk to release such a budget to the scrutiny of the public and economic analysts.

All the best to her and her forward-thinking government.

Note: I visited NZ on a family vacation many years ago and came to the conclusion it is one of the best in the world, and my family has always wanted to return to NZ for a second vacation.

Cheers, and have a great weekend folks,

Vijay Srinivasan

15th June 2019

New Emerging Global Alignments

The world was ordered in a specific way for the past over seven decades.

The Western Alliance has dominated the world order all these years with its commitment towards freedom and democracy, international institutions, peace and capitalistic form of economic growth.

The Eastern or Russia-dominated Alliance generally failed in its mission of establishing Communism as a preferred form of government, and collapsed in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is also considered as an economic failure with state-dominated economic paradigms which relied on curtailing individual freedoms and free enterprise. The only difference was that the countries in this alliance belonged to the same international institutions and were forced to respect their rules and regulations.

The West and the East never met in a happy manner all this while with few exceptions – one comes to mind: the collaboration on the International Space Station, launched by Russia in 1998, and still operating with multinational participation.

Now, in 2019, things are changing. The Western Alliance has become shaky in itself, due to reasons now well understood by the entire world: President Donald Trump and Brexit. There are fissures appearing all over this successful alliance, due to leadership differences and approaches. Western Europe is caught in a bind, as the iron-clad support that they had been enjoying from the U.S. all these years suddenly appear to be not so firm. The U.K. is destined to leave the European Union (EU) very soon. Russia has been flexing its muscles with the inscrutable President Putin running the show on the Eastern flank of Western Europe. Turkey (a NATO member) is threatening to collaborate more closely with Russia than with the U.S. with the induction of sophisticated S-400 missile systems and is likely to be ejected from the F-35 fighter plane program by the U.S. as a result. And so on and so forth……….you just need to keep abreast of the news and you will know what I am talking about.

Whereas the “Eastern” Alliance is suddenly on the resurgence, though not with the same set of old USSR partner countries, but with the potent combination of two Super Powers – Russia and China. At the St Petersburg economic forum earlier this week, the bonhomie between President Putin and President Xi Jinping was on show for everyone to see. If and when they combine militarily and economically, they could easily challenge the mightiness of the U.S. all around the world. We already see them cooperating in Venezuela keeping Mr Nicolas Maduro in power, who is detested by the U.S. There is no question about the combined might of Russia and China – both well-established nuclear and missile powers with UN Security Council vetoes on hand. It is inevitable that bilateral trade between the two countries will now increase dramatically, with one variation: the balance of trade will be in favour of Russia!

Other countries will now be left in the lurch as this emerging global alliance will demand commitment to their cause. Most Asian countries play both ways – they welcome U.S. investment and military policing in the oceans around them, while also embracing China which is well on its way to becoming the world’s biggest economy by GDP in the next few years. Big claims by China on the ownership of the South China Sea has upset many Asian nations, but they can hardly do anything against China. The African countries will follow China in general, as it has been extending huge loans for their development.

The emergence of China on the world stage as an economic and military super power will now have the full support of Russia, another super power though on a weakened platform. Most countries will do business with both alliances for military procurement, and keep their silence on contentious issues which could cloud bilateral relations.

So, for the next decade or so, there will be global challenges on almost all issues which dominate the world’s attention, and a fight between the two alliances. The unfortunate thing is that the Western Alliance as we know it today, might get further weakened, though not decimated. We should also not forget that the member countries have democratic elections, and governments change every few years, potentially causing more instability, which is generally not the case with Russia and China. There is of course, a significant price for freedom and democracy as we all know.

The worry is that a deliberate miscalculation, such as an invasion of Taiwan by China, could cause a limited global war. Russia will surely support China in that eventuality, and Japan will support Taiwan; and the U.S. will defend Taiwan, as required by a law passed by the U.S. Congress in the Seventies. China might impose a trade and shipping embargo in the South China Sea. All this is entirely possible.

While I am not offering any “consultancy” (!) towards averting the West – East Cold War from emanating again, it is only reasonable to expect that nations sit down and talk instead of war mongering. While Washington think tanks are active on scenario projection especially focused on the doomsday, peace overtures do not create enough attention. President Putin has been constantly seeking to reduce the tension by asking for a full presidential summit with President Trump – it is now absolutely clear that the U.S. sanctions on Russia have not had the desired effect, and Russia is making economic progress on its own with or without the U.S. and the Western countries. You cannot just sanction off every difference with other nations who just could not care less!

A lot of food for intense thought amongst concerned people like us, I guess!

Cheers, and have a great week ahead,

Vijay Srinivasan

09 June 2019

The Nuclear Disaster

I saw the “Chernobyl” miniseries on HBO recently. This huge nuclear explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant happened in 1986 in what is now Ukraine – it was part of the USSR (Soviet Russia) at that time.

Almost everyone knows what could have happened to completely decimate the European Continent if things had been allowed to further deteriorate from the precipice at which the Chernobyl nuclear power plant found itself on the 24th April 1986. Most of the western part of Russia and Western Europe would have become uninhabitable for at least a hundred years.

I am not going to delve into the technicalities of the nuclear disaster itself, which pertains to the faulty Russian design of the specific type of reactor (there are still some 10 such reactors in operation in Russia even today, can you believe it?).

What puzzled me the most while viewing the Chernobyl miniseries (which had 5 episodes) was the arrogance of the power plant management hierarchy which refused to see or believe what really happened, and tried to hide behind the Soviet Communist Party hierarchy, blaming various technical folks for their mismanagement. The other more critical aspect was the absolute loyalty that the Party and the Government expected of its managers, rather than the scientific analysis that was put in front of them by one of the most seasoned nuclear veterans in the country (who was almost thrown to the dogs by the KGB in 1988). All the occurrences depicted in the play may not be true or accurate, but I would expect a close adherence to what the witnesses stated in many depositions over the years, and that was surely the case.

Communism was and is never a form of government that can be suitably justified – there have been a long string of failures of Communist governments, the still ongoing examples being that of Cuba and North Korea, and several others. Communism depended on an absolute commitment to respecting and serving a dilapidated party hierarchy, which was far removed from the realities on the ground (or, which chose to remain isolated). Compare the Chernobyl nuclear disaster with the The Three Mile Island nuclear disaster in the U.S. – you can immediately see the vast difference between the transparency and accountability of a Democratic dispensation and an autocratic functioning of the Communist form of government.

It is no wonder to infer that the Chernobyl disaster eventually led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, though the Communist Party survived. Russia became a bit more transparent as a result, after several countries broke away from its orbit. Gorbachev did the right thing of bringing in “Glasnost” or transparency in the way that USSR operated, he realised that he needed Western technology and assistance. As we see in this miniseries episodes, Gorbachev made the right decisions as the disaster unfolded with total support to the effort to contain it.

I am not commenting here on the way that Russia had progressed ever since, but am still bothered that the Chernobyl-kind of reactors still operating in Russia have not yet been decommissioned. The big issue with nuclear power is that it is not fool-proof, and also the very damaging and life-threatening effects of any disaster involving a nuclear power plant are not contained within the country which operates the plant. It could be a disaster for the entire world. Lack of transparency and accountability are the key areas of concern under an opaque system of governance, and these issues have not gone away. Thousands of lives could have been saved if stupid administrators of the power station and party-driven bureaucrats had done their job in the case of the Chernobyl disaster.

I am not giving a clean chit to democratic countries however. They are also eminently capable of hiding problems, but if a problem is likely to explode beyond their control, they instantly become totally transparent. They would seek cooperation across the government. Not like the manner in which the noted Soviet nuclear scientist Legasov was treated by the Soviet government bureaucracy with apathy and disdain.

There are good and capable scientists on both sides – there is no doubt about it. However, scientist operate in only one way, seeking the underlying truth and addressing the problems. Exactly like the way Legasov approached the Chernobyl disaster with a series of solutions while explaining the fundamentals of nuclear fission to Communist party officials. Democracy or Communism – these ideologies are not going to change science, but they can undermine science by relegating scientific findings to the backyard of trash, exactly like what U.S. President is doing with the science of Climate Change, which he refuses to understand or appreciate, while the outcomes of climate change are spreading throughout the world.

So, if we learn one lesson from Chernobyl, it is respect for science and its findings. It cannot be cost optimisation due to lack of budget, which is a key reason why the Soviet nuclear reactor was badly designed and implemented, with no regard to safety. It is also the reason why the Chernobyl Reactor No. 3 was run at low power for 12 hours, instead of its rated power, and the reactor design was not suited to long hours of low power operation, etc…….there were several reasons why the nuclear core exploded, and there is a lot of physics and chemistry involved!

See the HBO miniseries – it will have a serious impact on you, and let me tell you that you can neither ignore the power of science nor the stupidity of politicians or bureaucrats.



Vijay Srinivasan

08 June 2019

It’s Never Going to End

It has been the bane of the U.S. for a long, long time. And, it continues even more aggressively in the 21st Century, wherein we are all supposed to be living in an evolved social civilization of cultured, refined and civilized human beings living together amicably.

And, it is happening in the most economically and militarily advanced nation on the planet, which is considered to be the only “super power” left after the complete domination and total ascendancy of one single country leaving all the others far behind.

I am referring here to the mutual killings of American citizens by each other, the latest being the mass killing of 12 people in a municipal office building on Virginia Beach on the East Coast of the U.S.

Terrible, and completely avoidable.

Why do civilized people need guns to protect themselves? The U.S. has a very large, dispersed and credible law enforcement department in all its states to guard and protect the people. There should really be no need for weapons, even of the milder variety. In this case of mass shooting, the killer used a high-capacity magazine (to provide him with many more bullets) and a silencer. In previous killings in the U.S., the killers have used military style weapons, which should not have been made available to normal citizens in any case.

As I was watching the episode being played out on CNN yesterday, and then on Michael Smerconish show late in the evening Singapore time, I could feel that this issue of guns and gun violence is not going to go away in the U.S. Smerconish revealed at the end of his session that 73% of the viewers who took part in an online survey which he initiated at the beginning of his show felt the same way. Only 27% of his viewers who participated in the survey felt that something could be done. This shows that the U.S. is inextricably entangled in the gun issue, and the killings that ensue which are unlikely to stop, irrespective of any government legislation.

Why will the most advanced nation on earth allow such unnecessary killings to happen? This was not a terrorist act. The killer was a disgruntled long time municipal employee. Apart from the easy availability of legal guns, the U.S. also has to contend with a more serious issue: that of mental health in a population that is considered to be generally prosperous as per world standards. The per capita income exceeds USD 60,000 and in comparison, India’s per capita income is around USD 2,000 and China’s is around USD 8,000.

If incomes are a determinant of crime in a society, then low incomes in poorer countries should be a leading indicator of endemic violence but that does not seem to be the case. So, it is not income per se that is the cause of violence in society – higher incomes would then have meant a drop in violence and crime. The U.S. is suffering from a combination of mental health problems, segmented unemployment, and very easy availability of weapons. If problems at home can be taken out on one’s colleagues, that is a very bad indication of deteriorating mental stability. It is very difficult to monitor such developments in an individual, unless his or her colleagues report on behavioural changes to the negative extent to their superiors. Oftentimes, the superiors and the HR department ignore such issues as they probably think these will eventually get resolved and should not be bothered with as long as there is no measurable impact on the business.

However, in a developed country with “affluenza”, it becomes critical to observe how employees behave and conduct themselves. Imagine what would be the impact if a large Silicon Valley company or a large Wall Street Bank had a disgruntled, totally frustrated employee who takes out an assault weapon and starts shooting his or her colleagues. Is it unlikely? No, it is not. It can very well happen anytime. We have seen a series of school shootings in the U.S. and the huge psychological and traumatic impact these shootings have had on school going children.

Does any other advanced and civilized nation has this kind of gun problem?

The answer is an emphatic NO. There might be occasional violence and petty crimes, and terrorist attacks in countries such as France and elsewhere. The recent mosque shooting in New Zealand is clearly a terrorist attack. But there is hardly any developed country wherein a guy pulls out his gun from his person and shoots at others in a bar, and these kind of shootings have happened multiple times in the U.S.

The U.S. has a real serious problem on which the government is not paying any attention. The Congress is not paying attention either. Gun violence is coming up only as part of the Presidential Campaign primaries, and even the Democratic hopefuls are tentative as no one wants to take on the most powerful NRA (National Rifle Association) which funds many politicians in the U.S. There are other very powerful Conservative Political Thinktanks and Political Action Committee Funds which keep influencing and funding politicians on the right and the extreme right, and this only means that there will be no legislative solution to the gun violence problem in the U.S. anytime soon. This problem will persist and innocent Americans will keep dying for no fault of theirs.

Is the U.S. setting up a role model on this matter for the rest of the world? I am afraid that such happenings will influence not only the potential gun killers hiding in the U.S. waiting for their turn to unleash their weapons on the slightest pretext, but will also influence killers elsewhere even in better gun-free societies.

And, that is the worst part of the emerging scenario on gun violence in the U.S. It is really high time that the U.S. Government, the Congress and the Supreme Court get together in a non-political manner and launch a new gun violence reduction initiative, part of which should be targeted at offering a gun amnesty program like what Australia executed in the Nineties.

If innocent people continue dying because of gun violence in a peaceful society environment, and not in war or conflict, then the government should ask itself some serious questions. And, take some serious actions.

Will the U.S. government do that?

Surely NO.

Have a great week ahead, folks,


Vijay Srinivasan

02 June 2019