The Cruelty of Separations


Governments seem to take pleasure in separating even young children from their parents, with no plan to eventually reunite them. I am referring to the border crossing across the Mexico – U.S. border, wherein thousands of migrants have crossed over into the U.S. territories. These migrants are from various South American countries which are impoverished, plagued by violence, or having other serious problems, pushing their long-suffering citizens out of their respective countries. Many of them seek political asylum, fleeing from political persecution.

While this kind of migration into the U.S. is not unusual from across its southern borders, the Trump Administration’s vigorous opposition to admitting even asylum seekers, and to allowing the migration to continue unabated has stunted the migration. The push towards building Trump’s favourite border wall, the strengthening of border security operations, and other actions have frightened the would-be migrants. Trump constantly attacks the migrants and the migrant convoys as we have seen over the past year or so.

However, what is really cruel is the forced separation of young children from their parents at the border by U.S. border officials. Apparently, there is no proper accounting or tracking of these children, scaring off the parents as to their whereabouts and well-being. The intent seems to be to scare the parents as such examples would completely put off the would-be migrants on the way to the border. The idea behind the separation is to initiate proceedings against the parents for their illegal entry into the U.S., while their children are kept somewhere under foster care.

While Trump has since rescinded this cruel family separation policy in June 2018 under intense public pressure and judicial scrutiny, separations continued for a few months after this official suspension. More than anything else, multiple official agencies of the U.S. government have not been able to account, reconcile and reunite the children with their parents.

This very cruel practice of separating children from even asylum seekers (who should enjoy a higher status than just any illegal migrant seeking better economic status) is very unusual and does not reflect the high-ground moralistic American values. We know that such values have been taken to the laundry by the Trump Administration’s rather inconsistent policies and incoherent policy execution by rather incompetent Cabinet secretaries.

I am reminded of the Nazi Concentration Camps and the herding of children into rickety trains carrying all of them to the camps. Such a comparison is not appropriate, but I am not able to remove the images in my mind from some of the gruesome movies that I saw, after I saw pictures of “cages” in which the separated children were kept at the U.S. border. How can you cage children? Where is the conscience of the border protection people? We of course, know that Trump’s Cabinet members mostly lack conscience. Comparisons are inevitable unfortunately, and it is a huge irony to compare the actions of the U.S. Government with the most cruel government that ever existed on this planet. But then, intentionally separating a migrant family fleeing their own country and thereby causing much more fear and anxiety in that family is a very serious international crime. Further, there might be no possibility of the family reuniting with their children, due entirely to the fault of the U.S. government agencies, for which they need to be prosecuted. In combination, the blame needs to fall squarely on the big shoulders of President Trump, who intentionally aggravated this unnecessary crisis at the border with his poorly conceived zero tolerance policy.

There is no other country in the world which is facing such a huge immigration problem as the U.S. faces today. Most of the migrants are from Central American countries which are impoverished with hardly any economic opportunities for their people. Parents want a better life for their children, and so they undertake the arduous, long journey to the Mexican border with the U.S. Not unusual, but the scale of migration has stepped up over the past couple of years.

Whatever be the reason, it is not proper for a government to separate children from their parents, whether the separation occurs at the border or elsewhere. Parents will be totally desperate and completely anguished when their children are forcibly taken away, and the children will be confused, hungry and messed up totally due to lack of access to their parents. One does not need to learn human psychology and sociology to figure this out. Simple common sense will be adequate.

Things seem to be getting better at the Mexican border with less and less number of separations happening. However, the Trump Administration needs to ensure that each and every child is reunited with his/her parents as mandated by a federal court order. No child should be left alone in foster care or in a federal shelter in a cage.

Governments can be firm and tough, but they cannot be harsh, they cannot be mean, and they cannot be heartless. It is a simple policy which the Trump Administration officials can learn to adopt as they run their government.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

20th May 2019

The World of Intolerance


The world is becoming more intolerant. This is a fact, and not fake news!

I am here specifically referring to intolerance within a society, or towards immigrants in a society. This intolerance is a by-product of animosity which has always existed in any society towards minority religions, minority races, and immigrants from economically disadvantaged countries. Immigrants include asylum seekers who are facing religious or racial persecution in their own countries. Immigrants include folks who just want a better life for their children and who are fleeing countries like Venezuela where their own currency is completely worthless. Apart from immigrants, any society has built-in, embedded fault lines. In some societies, these are well managed and duly contained by governmental and social leadership. In some other societies, these fault lines manifest in terms of on and off violence towards other religions or races which fall under the minority category.

The entire world has been witnessing the serious fault lines in the U.S. society, where minority freedoms are under serious threat (there has always been a serious issue in the U.S. when it comes to minority rights) in the vicious atmosphere created by President Trump’s utterances, and the increasingly reckless shootings of unarmed Blacks by the police. I laugh when the U.S. State Department issues their reports on religious and racial freedom issues in other countries – I am not belittling such issues, but how can the U.S. take the high moral ground when its own house is in serious disarray? But then, there is no other nation which issues such reports, and we need to really know the status in the countries that the U.S. is pointing fingers at. It would be better if the U.N. does its job properly, but unfortunately it does not perform the “policing” and “monitoring” activities well when it comes to religious and racial persecution – and if it does, then it always comes very late, by the time most damage is already done. The U.N. also does not have the moral high ground as it listens to the powerful countries which fund its operations more than the poorer countries where most issues are present. The U.N. also does not have the guts to investigate similar issues in the most powerful countries such as the U.S.

When right-wing political parties take power in democratic nations, the problem of intolerance gets accentuated. Why is this so? It is because the right-wingers resent the traditional libertarian left-wing activists, who elegantly combine their elitism with egalitarianism. The right-wingers generally wear their likes and dislikes on their sleeves, and are mostly dominated by religious and racist tendencies leading to non-separation of powers between the state and the religion, even where such separation is mandated as in the U.S. or India. The emergence of right-wing governments in large, diverse countries is a serious cause of concern, though the fight has always got to be at the hustings and not in the streets. The problem with left-wing activists is that they are very quick to take to the streets and their activism could rapidly degenerate into street violence. That should be avoided at all costs, as such violence gives strong rationale for the right-wing governments to take retaliatory action and squelch any revolutionary tendencies.

The feeling of intolerance is insidious, it seeps into the veins – and it is trans-generational. The Black slavery matter is still a huge problem in the U.S. for the past three centuries, and the blatant discrimination of the Blacks in American society is no secret. The scar on the conscience of Whites is so bad that even Congressmen have started talking about reparations to the Black people. Universities are discussing about how to compensate Blacks for all the slavery and atrocities committed by White slave masters. I am no student of American history, and cannot comment further on what should be done, but all of us see the hugely negative media coverage about unarmed Blacks being shot at by mostly White policemen in American cities and counties. Such recurring problems are not prevalent in most other democratic countries, including India.

Why are people so influenced by race and religion?

There is no simple straightforward answer. It is a complex matter with no clear answer. Since “old” and even “middle-aged” folks cannot be changed easily, we have to rely on the education system to properly educate the next generation on such serious matters. Since we cannot depend just on self-policing by the society, the governments of the day have to legislate non-discrimination with violations to be punished vigorously. Law enforcement requires to be seriously educated, surely in the U.S., where guns are pulled out by the police at the drop of the hat and aimed at the head or chest rather than the leg!

All this does not address the emergence of right-wingism, unless the moderates come to the fore and fight the battle. Right-wing politicians prefer brute force in general, and law enforcement gets encouragement by such people; they push through their ideologies and policies in a rather vigorous manner, and create new intolerance in societies where none existed. They inflame passions wherein these were simmering just below the surface. Of course, they will claim that they want to change the country for the better, make it more secure, reclaim its past glory, et al. However, the intolerance quotient will keep raising, and will eventually damage the society at its core, like it has happened in the U.S.

I am not a left-winger. The best way to characterise me is that I am a moderate. But since I am liberal in my thoughts, it comes through as left-wing activism when I write on matters such as these. My preference is to seek a balance in whatever we do both in our personal life as well as social life. Government should be even more balanced, as it is the government for all of the citizens, not just for the people who voted for it to be elected to office.

So, let us carefully think about the imbalances and inequities in the society in which we live in. We are worthless if we cannot collectively address the problems in our society. We are also worthless if we do not grasp the inequalities in other societies and share our thoughts about such problems, as what happens in one society has influence in other societies. We are, at the end of the day, totally interlinked in this new world of social media, right?

Intolerance is insidious and should not be encouraged or tolerated in any society.

Have a good weekend, folks.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

11th May 2019

The Venezuelan Conundrum


Let me share my conclusion right at the beginning of this post. Given my original reading that foreign military forces should not invade Venezuela and kick out the current President Nicolas Maduro, my current conclusion is surprising. Though the recent elections which Mr Maduro won were considered to be heavily rigged, Venezuela still continues to be a socialist democracy, and my thinking was that it is not appropriate to intervene militarily in a democratic nation just because you do not like the current leadership.

So, what is the rationale for my revised conclusion that it would now be OK for a military overthrow of a democratically elected government?

Well, it is strange, but one cannot ignore the humanitarian crisis that has plunged Venezuela from one of the richest Latin American countries to the poorest country in about a span of two decades. Further, its economy has shrunk by half in the past 5 years. More than 10% of the population has fled from the country. Children are dying of malnutrition and shortage of essential medicines. Venezuela has the distinction of the first country ever to cross a million % inflation. People are not able to sustain their livelihood. Oil exports have fallen dramatically after the imposition of sanctions by the U.S., which was also Venezuela’s biggest oil consumer.

I do not agree that the way to punish a country is via sanctions which are designed to punish the government, but instead punishes the poor citizens. The U.S. has again erred in its judgement on sanctioning Venezuela. The sanctions have worsened an already very bad situation, while the government and the rich folks seem to be sailing along.

Juan Guaido, the self-appointed President, has been unable to secure the support of the military which appears to remain loyal to Nicolas Maduro. Guaido has the support of the U.S., Canada, the EU as well as many other countries.

But Maduro has the support of Cuba, Russia and China.

Venezuela is becoming the next flashpoint in the proxy war between the U.S. and Russia. Looking at what Russia was able to achieve in Syria, it is only natural that the U.S. should be concerned.

So, what is my conclusion?

Nicolas Maduro should go and there should be an interim government installed under the auspices of the United Nations. Russia and the U.S. should not play their hands in the manner in which Venezuela will be run or governed (though it is a tall order, as Juan Guaido has been open about his alignment with the U.S.). The United Nations should take immediate globally supported actions to address the humanitarian crisis, and provide food, medicines and other essential items to the long suffering Venezuelan people.

So, again, how is Maduro going to be dislodged?

That would require military intervention by the U.S., or a joint effort by the UN Security Council. Nicolas Maduro should be let go, instead of bombing him and his leadership – may be Cuba will receive him with honours. Russia should be able to protect its massive oil investments in the country without being dictated to by the incoming Venezuelan government. The sooner this happens, the better it is for Venezuela. Continuing the status quo, punctuated by weak protests organised by the Opposition and lack of support of the military, will only compound the crisis and make it the worst humanitarian disaster in the world itself.

So, this would require cooperation between Russia and the U.S. (China will just follow Russia’s lead), which would not be difficult to secure if both parties negotiate in good faith. The U.S. Congress should be ignored as they are totally against any form of cooperation with Russia. We are not talking about the U.S. here, we are talking about Venezuela and its humanitarian crisis, so let there not be any hurdles in the process of resolution.

This is what I think is the right approach given the ground situation, which remains unsolvable. Nicolas Maduro has to be told by the Russians to leave, and the military generals should be given an opportunity to work for the new government, or else they can go as well. A military intervention could just be a show of force supporting the Russian actions on the ground – no bombing or foreign boots on the ground might be necessary. This is not like Syria – people are not fighting against each other. The current government should just pack up and leave peacefully.

Looks like a big deal. May not happen at all.

But, there might be no other option.

Think about it – Juan Guaido is not going anywhere. Nicolas Maduro, however, can be “persuaded” by the Russians, instead of the U.S. who hate him and his guts. He can then survive an inevitable coup attempt which could occur in the future and the resultant incarceration.

Let us see how this develops in the next couple of weeks. It should be precipitated by intervention, no other choice.

Have a great week ahead, folks,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

5th May 2019

Globalization is Dead……….almost


For the past two decades or so, “globalization” was a sacrosanct terminology, not just in business but across the entire world. It was revered as the capitalistic solution to solving all the ills of the global economy. Several famous authors have written entire books on this concept of globalization, which have endeared millions of people.

Nothing wrong with the concept itself. In simple terms, “globalization” aims for a borderless world, with supply chains spread all over the world, providing jobs and revenues to countries which had been left out in the blitzkrieg of capitalism. Flow of capital and labour was supposed to follow the opportunities and cost arbitrage. China was the first country to figure out how all this works to their advantage, and over the past quarter century it has built up an incredible economy to rival that of the U.S. and the European Union, leveraging the supply side economics. Of course, it had all the advantages, such as a very low cost labour force, frictionless manufacturing and logistics capabilities, a non-bureaucratic way of governmental functioning, and a fierce commitment towards upgrading the lives of more than a billion people (which other countries lacked in various measures). Would you be surprised to learn that in 1993, the size of the Indian economy was about the same as that of China, but now China’s economy is some 5 times bigger than that of India? I am not, as I am from India, and understand full well that it takes a long while for an elephant to join the economic dance compared to a dragon which is swifter and more agile.

However, now globalization has had its full run, and its impact is waning with the onslaught of economic inequalities – wage disparities are so high that people are not able to sustain their lives while the corporate executives earn 100 times or more. Work as a denominator of productivity should lead to higher wages (not just in the U.S. of course), reduce wage disparities, and generate wealth eventually. Uniform wealth distribution is neither feasible nor possible, but people must have wage growth and more money in their hands to invest. Their nest eggs have to grow as well.

Apart from the inequality factor staring at their faces, Capitalists also have to contend with the new emergence of Socialism, as exemplified by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and others in the U.S. These are powerful voices emanating from the U.S. Capitol and cannot be ignored. The youngsters movement is gathering speed, and most young people are disgusted with corporate excesses and greed.

More and more countries are instituting protectionist trade policies, taking the cue from the U.S. At least the economically stronger countries are following this approach, as their domestic markets are big enough to sustain their economies and on the flip side, cannot be ignored by huge market making corporations. For instance, despite eCommerce Retail policies recently promulgated by the Indian government (to support local companies), Amazon and Walmart cannot ignore the size of the Indian consumer market. While protectionism will rear its head (in the same old fashioned ways from yesteryears), the MNCs have to figure out a suitable way to tackle policy issues, and still grow their business, as their growth can only come from outside their home countries (while their biggest share of profits come from their own home countries).

Where does all this lead us to?

Globalization is going to become rather selective – only if there is serious benefit to both parties, instead of 80% benefit to just one party. The manner in which the U.S. has dealt with China in the recent trade war shows that it is entirely possible to leverage sheer buying power to push the other party to come to the table and negotiate. Actions speak definitely louder than words, and the U.S. has demonstrated that by imposing tariffs which have started biting the suppliers’ top market. For a foreseeable future, the U.S., followed by the EU, will continue to be the world’s top two markets for almost anything that China can produce. India is emerging to be the third such top market, but it has someway to go.

Globalization should never have meant “loss of jobs” in the consuming market. While some jobs will be lost, entire industries disappearing was not postulated under the economic and market globalization theory. Free market philosophies failed to forecast that there will be serious impact to the consuming economies while most of the manufacturing jobs shift to the newly producing economies. The resulting trade imbalance was tolerated while economies were growing just about fine, but when the rust belt disappeared and key high tech manufacturing jobs started migrating elsewhere, the U.S. had to take action. Both George W Bush and Barack Obama did not do anything specific to counter this trend and negotiate with China to reduce the trade imbalance. Trump is the first President who ever dared China to respond, forced China to negotiate, and probably he will also be the first President to win a trade war with China.

Globalization and supply chain coordination will now take a “slightly” back seat, as other economic factors such as protectionism, short term labour issues, and socialism take precedence across the world. Leveraging trade prowess is nothing new but is now seen as a bulwark against one-sided globalization. Asian countries have benefited a lot over the past three decades or so, but now they have to redraft their economic, market and trade strategies to align with the emergence of these new forces in world trade, capital flows, labour movements, and the pressing need for political leaders to respond to their electorate on such issues. Economics 101 is now a critical aspect for running an election, and we will see that in the next U.S. Presidential Elections 2020.

Have a wonderful weekend folks,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

04 May 2019

Social Media and Privacy


I was dismayed to read the following article from CNBC today. And I am sure you will be as well, if you use any Google service at all. I am sure all of you use one or the other type of Google service, such as Gmail, YouTube, etc.,

Read the article written by Todd Haselton on 25th April 2019 at https://www.cnbc.com/2019/04/25/how-to-stop-google-from-storing-your-location-history.html?&qsearchterm=how%20to%20stop%20google

You will be shocked to see the level of detail that Google keeps about you on its servers. Especially if you have turned on the location services, you will be surprised to find out that every movement of yours is being tracked by Google.

Is this the right thing for the user of Google services? The jury is totally out on this issue as we have seen a series of data scandals affecting these famous social media companies. I do not think that users can totally trust them anymore. While Google says that only you can see your data, it takes just one more data breach by yet another fantastic hacker out there.

Even democratic governments the world over are now going after these companies to control privacy, fake news, spread of hate news, and terrorist preachings. Almost anyone can maintain a Facebook page and propagate his hate agenda against the rest of us. Where does it stop?

Previously, such bad guys were running their own websites which were tracked by law enforcement and taken down if they ever crossed the limits. Now we have to depend on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Google to enforce mechanisms of law enforcement on a voluntary basis, which have not worked out to the satisfaction of governments, individual users, corporate users, and law enforcement officials. The European Union has taken the hardest stand against social media companies especially when it comes to safeguarding the privacy of individual users located in EU countries. Large fines have been imposed (in various cases).

Notwithstanding all the turmoil surrounding them, these companies are still flourishing in the U.S. and globally as well. Look at their stock prices! As individuals, we may not be able to make our protest heard loudly when it comes to our own privacy, as we are not part of any social movement against social media. So, I took the next best action: I followed the recommendation by Todd Haselton in his above article, and deleted all history in various categories such as “Web & App Activity”, “Location History”, “Device Information”, “Voice & Audio Activity”, “YouTube Search History”, “YouTube Watch History”, etc., Just go to https://myaccount.google.com/privacycheckup
and do the needful for yourself!

I suppose we cannot ignore the possibility of such data being made available to a third party, or sold to a third party, or hacked by external agencies or hackers. This is simple common sense to control data about ourselves. There should be no excuse for not doing this – in fact, now I have started looking at all IT services that I use as an avid web user, specifically focusing on privacy and the kind of data about myself that I am willing to share with these services.

I was not surprised at all when the Sri Lankan Government decided to turn off social media access to its citizens. It was an unprecedented step, but much warranted in the aftermath of the recent terror attack on churches and hotels which killed 253 people last weekend. We cannot cry hoarse on the matter of freedom and liberty, when terrorism is spawned by leveraging access to social media. Governments have to take actions, and sometimes (not always) such actions might infringe on the fundamental rights of social media companies. I am sure the Sri Lankan citizens will understand why their government enforced such a ban on social media. The argument that social media are crucial for communication during disasters is of course valid, and the world has moved on from mobile SMS text messages to WhatsApp and other such effective tools. However, the decision on what to do in any specific situation has to be left to the best judgement of the law enforcement agencies, and not to libertarians and social media companies.

Increasingly, the battle field on social media is shaping up around the world. People do recognise the positive aspects of social media for various purposes, especially communication one-to-one or to a socially connected private community. I use WhatsApp extensively every day – it takes up most of my mobile screen time. I stopped using Facebook couple of years ago (prescient, it appears!), and do not use any of the other social media except LinkedIn for corporate and business use. I got out of even Google Plus services quite some time ago. However, I cannot be complacent – I am investigating all my “touch” points with the web via any kind of app, to see what kind of personal information is “forcibly” or “unconsciously” being shared. Of course, this is my own website on WordPress platform, and I am not censoring it!

On privacy matters, I tend to side more with the EU than with the U.S., except on matters involving crime or violence. Privacy should remain sacrosanct, except when law enforcement seeks access to your personal data with appropriate legal warrants for a justifiable purpose – it cannot be on a fishing expedition. I am against community or sectarian policing – one bad apple is still one bad apple only, and an entire community cannot be blamed, monitored or tracked because that one bad apple is a violent criminal or murderer or a terrorist. It is pertinent to point out in this context that the specific community or sect will do well to identify bad apples in the midst of them, and try to correct their ill-advised ways, and if that does not work, report them to law enforcement. Even tacit silence will be construed as support for the bad apples in their midst, and these bad elements could then feel encouraged.

The U.S. government believes that it can and should access ANYBODY’s personal devices, irrespective of whether that person is a suspected criminal or not. Even ordinary, regular travellers to the U.S. have been subjected to this particularly overbearing exercise of border protection officers. What the government does with the data that they retrieve from those devices is anybody’s guess. This does not happen in any other country, to the best of my knowledge.

Turning “off” social media in very serious situations like a terror attack, as recently happened in Sri Lanka”, is to be supported due to various reasons, the most critical being the spread of intentionally malicious information which could cause panic amongst the general public, and aggravate an already worse situation for the government and law enforcement. I entirely agree that it is the right thing to do under the special circumstances, and I am sure that the Sri Lankan government will turn “on” the social media that it switched off very soon, once investigations are completed.

The inconvenience caused due to such a ban will be best understood by the affected citizens, and should not be misconstrued as censorship.

I think it is high time for social media companies to increase their own self-censorship and prove that they are responsible corporate citizens in the very near future. Otherwise, they will be fined, regulated and controlled by the government(s), and deserted by users such as myself!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

28th April 2019

The Sri Lankan Massacre


It was totally avoidable.

What happened on Easter Sunday 21st April 2019 at several locations in Sri Lanka is a prime example of how governments and law enforcement authorities ignore actionable intelligence on impending terrorist attacks. 253 people were dead and over 500 injured due to the Sri Lankan government’s apathy towards valuable and credible intelligence provided to them by the U.S. and Indian intelligence agencies.

May be the Sri Lankan government thought that they knew better about their own citizens. May be they thought that military style terrorist attacks were not possible in Sri Lanka after the total elimination of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamile Eelam) movement in 2009. May be they thought that their country has now reclaimed its spot as one of the most tranquil and peace-loving tourist destinations of Asia.

All such assumptions were totally shattered last weekend when several churches and five star hotels were attacked by unconscionable terrorists. Some of them were known to Sri Lankan intelligence and the police and ought to have been closely monitored and tracked. But obviously they were not.

It is not about the clash of religions or civilizations anymore. It is pure terrorism against common innocent citizens who pursue their daily chores in the most routine, mundane, peaceful manner in any society. It is the total responsibility of an elected government to protect its people from such mindless violence. If the government fails in this most critical duty, there is only one thing to do – resign. The Sri Lankan government should have immediately resigned once it was established that they had received actionable intelligence but on which they did nothing – they abdicated their most important responsibility. Incompetence should not be tolerated by the citizens who elect their governments in a democracy (they have no such freedoms in an authoritarian form of government). Citizens pay taxes and fund the government, so they have the right to expect performance from their government.

However, as an external observer, I should commend the Sri Lankan government for certain quick actions it took in the aftermath of this sad attack. It imposed dusk to dawn curfews, suspended certain civic rights, aggressively moved against certain places known to be harbouring terrorist agenda, sent out the right kind of messages to the citizens who were panicky and anguished, arrested scores of suspicious people, refused to announce their names even, and declared a national emergency. It also suspended social media like Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, etc., which is considered an unprecedented step. These are the actions which a determined and very upset government will and should take.

Suspension of civil rights of suspected terrorists is entirely acceptable given the innocent victim toll that has occurred, which is at least partially attributable to the sympathies and support of sections of society, thereby encouraging the perpetrators to commit such mindless atrocities. However, all these governmental actions do not let the ministers and the bureaucrats off the hook. Their total inaction is what led to this massacre in the first place.

Given that Catholic Churches were targeted on a Easter Sunday, the religious implication cannot be missed. However, I believe that it would be futile to emphasize religious conflicts as the basis for this tragedy. As long as there are many different kinds of religious faiths, tensions are bound to exist. But we as human beings first, should try to celebrate our differences rather than exacerbate the differences and get into a conflict. After all, everyone has got to live. The inalienable right to live is more critical and much more important than a simple allegiance to one’s own faith which could lead to monumental blunders due to blind teachings, which the victims cannot even contest.

No religion is going to condone violence against fellow humans who have an absolute right to live the way they deem fit. No one can be forced to follow a way of living or a way of religious faith. That should be left to individuals. Anger and irrational thinking driven by extreme forms of faith should not be allowed to flourish and should be nipped in the bud. This would mean some sacrifices of personal and religious freedoms, which are a better way to resolve potential conflicts and violence.

And, finally, an elected government can never abdicate its responsibility towards protecting the lives of its citizens. The Sri Lankan massacre tragedy has proved beyond doubt that government should eternally be vigilant, monitor its own citizens, watch religious schools which tend to impart some kind of extremist thinking, take foreign intelligence seriously, strengthen its own intelligence apparatus, invest more on law and order, etc.,

Of course, there will be loss of privacy. There will be some inconvenience. There will be some restrictions in free speech and movement. There will be push back from powerful global social media companies. There will be some loss of freedom. There will be more government controls on what is happening in society.

But then, who is responsible for national security? Social media companies or the government?

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

27th April 2019

The Corruptibility of the Rich and Famous


There is a certain community of almost “untouchable” rich and famous people/families in almost all countries.

What do I mean by “untouchable”?

These folks are so powerful that the usual rules that apply to all people in a society do not apply to them (mostly). They cannot be easily arrested for any crimes, which otherwise would lead to automatic arrests when any commoner is involved. “Special” treatment will be accorded to this rich and famous people, just by making a phone call to a government official or a minister. We have seen this on so many occasions in countries such as India and also elsewhere. Police dare not arrest these people, and if they do arrest, they will be forced to release them very soon. Rarely ever a rich and famous person spends time overnight sleeping on the cold floor of a police jail.

Societies are constructed on a fundamental, underlying system of a give and take philosophy, with a built-in deference to certain groups of people, such as priests, political masters, and of course people who generate wealth. Wealth signifies achievement and fame determines untouchability. Since corruption is one of the building blocks of the give and take philosophy, favours can easily be reciprocated by money, which, in itself, could be ill-gotten wealth. So, the rich and famous can walk out with their heads held high, while the commoners and poor folks do not get any special treatment in comparison. It is not that any group of people should indeed get special treatment, it is the inherent injustice that is embedded in the system of governance and administration.

Let us also not overlook the fact that many Western societies are afflicted by similar occurrences. The difference is that deployment of powerful lawyers and tweaking of political funding could achieve results similar to what we see in Third World countries. So, we cannot just blame the emerging or developing nations, but also the developed nations which are also affected by such scenarios producing results which are not dissimilar in terms of the escape of the rich and famous from serious punishment as compared to that meted out to commoners.

How can this injustice be addressed?

Only a systemic approach based on equal access to a justice administration system can address this inequality. Power and money politics are the bane of any democratic society, leading to the inevitable corruptibility of the society as a whole. If I know that I can get away from being charge-sheeted by just giving some pre-specified money, why would I follow the rules? Humans are inherently corruptible from day #1 of origin, as we all know!

There is no easy answer.

Only if primary level education can instil the notion of equality and justice in the minds of very young students firmly, can we expect to see a change in the next generation. Plus, governments should educate law and order administration to render appropriate action irrespective of the status of the perpetrator of the specific crime. It is easier said than done, of course. It is rather easy to be taken in by the fame of a big actor, as happens so often in India. Many justice systems are also susceptible to manipulation of evidence against the interests of victims, when a rich and famous person is the perpetrator.

Money is very powerful as we know!!!

As we saw in the recently exposed higher education admissions scandal involving well-known celebrities in the U.S., the rich and powerful do not apologize and atone for their sins quickly even when all the evidence is against them. They have the money and the stamina to wage a court battle against the government with their highly paid lawyers. They do not understand, or want to understand, that their bribery has costed admissions for candidates more deserving than their children. The bad effect on society and setting bad examples for their own children, do not bother them at all. Their emptiness astounds me.

In a nutshell, the rich and famous wish to maintain their superiority over us, the normal citizens, come what may. There are, and there will be, exceptions, of course. There will be some who would truly repent their sins and seek forgiveness, and thereby, reduced sentence!

Well, think about this obnoxious behaviour of the rich and famous, and you will understand why millennials are rising up against greed and capitalism.

Cheers, and have a good weekend,

Vijay Srinivasan

6th April 2019