The Inherent Corruptibility of the Great Human Mind


It took me quite a while to think and frame the title of this blog post, though I know well what I am going to write about. I added the word “great” after more thought, as I concluded that notwithstanding the negative aspects of the mind, it is still the greatest invention of man (till Artificial Intelligence unseats it from the throne).

The idea for this post came from the introduction chapter of the book “We are the Change we seek – The Speeches of Barack Obama” edited by E.J. Dionne Jr., and Joy-Ann Reid. My wife passed this book to me for weekend reading, asking me not to waste time and instead read something substantive and meaningful (Disclosure: She likes Barack and Michelle, but I am ambivalent on Obama and fond of Michelle). There must be some pointed intention in her to make me read the works of this famous orator of a president.

I did read the introduction fully, and then meandered around the book, read Barack Obama’s farewell speech at Chicago, and so on. But one thing in the introduction chapter held on to me like a leach – it was the quote from a speech delivered by FDR (Franklin Roosevelt) at Thomas Jefferson’s home at the historic Monticello venue on July 4, 1936.

To quote FDR, “……….our nation’s founders had broken away from a system of peasantry, away from indentured servitude. They could build for themselves a new economic independence. Theirs were not the gods of things as they were, but the gods of things as they ought to be. And so, as Monticello itself so well proves, they used new means and new models to build new structures”. Unquote – the purpose of the past is to serve the present and future. History is about testing institutions against standards and adapting them, as FDR puts it, to “enlarge the freedom of the human mind and to destroy the bondage imposed on it by ignorance, poverty, and political and religious intolerance”.

I rarely quote from books or articles or newspapers. Most of what I write germinates from a single idea, a single inspiration. I then think about the idea and bring together the thoughts from a racing mind, in order to make a meaningful blog post.

However, in this case, I felt that I am rather highly influenced by the idea of FDR, and so wanted to give full credit to him, before I leverage his idea for my add-ons!

To dissect FDR’s idea, you need courage, yes, I mean courage and boldness of vision. Mahatma Gandhi had that courage, to break away from traditions, and release the collective power of the minds of millions of Indians. I may not agree with his collaboration with the British during the Second World War, but that does not take away an inch from the greatness of his mind, which was as astute and visionary as the founders who wrote the Constitution of the United States.

We are held back from progress when our minds are not completely free from the bondage that FDR is referring to in his Monticello speech. When we discriminate people by their race, religion, or colour, it means only one thing – that we have not yet forgotten slavery and the hard lessons of ethnic cleansing. This discrimination exists everywhere, in all societies, and more so in that beacon of human freedom, the United States.

The human mind is highly influencable and highly corruptible. I would argue that the human mind distances itself from morality when it is forced to encounter difficult choices in society. It is rather easy to follow countless others and take the beaten path – why take the risk and chart a new path like what Gandhi did? And, face unknown troubles? It requires big courage, self-sacrifice and a certain moral steeliness.

The societal demand for conformism is a drag on the independence of human thought and freedom of the mind. Society corrupts each and every member who has chosen to be part of that society. If the cult leader (taking an extreme example of conformism) orders his disciple or follower to commit a crime, it is more than likely that the crime will be executed just so that membership benefits continue and there are no repercussions from the cult. You see what I am suggesting? Society controls the freedom of the human mind.

Gandhi protested against the religious traditions of the early 20th Century, and went against established traditions followed by Hinduism. He was a rebel and a reformer, who wanted to transform the Indian society and unlock its long held shackles. He wanted independence from the British rule, no doubt, but first he wanted Indians to achieve independence of their minds.

Human mind, as I stated above, is corruptible, as it is not immoral to amass wealth in whatever way possible. If the mind takes that view, then any logical argument to wean it from its corruptible state would be pointless.

So, in a nutshell, the human mind is corruptible, highly influencable in a negative way, and is not reform oriented due to the necessity to confirm to society’s conventions. Reformers come along once in a while, and try to persuade the people on the critical importance of positive reforms in an egalitarian manner. Mostly they fail, as Obama did, but sometimes they succeed as Gandhi did.

So what do you think?

Is your mind already corrupted? Are you forced to conform to societal norms and demands?

Or, are you a reformer? Do you feel that the society is unfair and unjust? Do you think marginal folks do not get a chance to play a meaningful and impactful role in society? How do you knock off corruption from society?

What should we do together?

There is always time to think, and no time is more suited for thinking than a Sunday evening with a nice drink in the hand and thoughts in that corruptible great mind of yours.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

02 December 2018

Long Winding Road


As I sit down to write this post, I am influenced by the vast expanse of bluish-green water body surrounded by a green forest that looks at me everyday. It is a rarity in the concrete-dense Singapore that you get both a huge lake (reservoir) and a forest just in front of your building. I guess people will pine for such a view, though there are many seaview apartments in Singapore, or even ones overlooking a hill or greenery. But the combination of both water and greenery just outside all our windows and balcony mesmerizes me regularly, and throw in the beautiful sun setting in the evening into the water, and there you go, the poet in you will come out. In my case, I am no poet, so my blog post writer comes out!

My rumination today is about life – the long and winding road that we had crossed, and more such road ahead of us. I am thinking on what constituted my life and its long road till now – it has been a good journey, though there were plenty of surprises and some disappointments, like everyone else must have endured. I was shown the path to the main road by some very important people like my parents and one of my teachers in secondary school, and I followed that path. But once I hit the main road, I was in full control of it all by myself, with occasional guidance by some other important people who kept popping up along my “own road” – these are your guides and might include a variety of folks : your own family, your relatives, your classmates, your friends, your business colleagues, your bosses, your peers, your subordinates, your remote acquaintances, and so on and so forth. In my own road, I have been lucky to receive guidance and counsel from a few people who I cannot forget under any circumstances. There were detractors too, and I cannot forget them either.

But one thing I am clear in my head – it was just me who drove my own car along this long winding road. Nobdoy even taught me how to drive my own car! I figured out how to service my car, at what speed I should travel, who should be my car companion(s), and where to load up on petrol – if you see what I mean. Sometimes before my wedding, my car was empty, I was the sole occupant, and that is the time I gained my independence, individual thinking, acceptance of my own “self” as I was, and my own moral compass. I led my own life, and refused to be drawn into any kind of stereotype. Of course, I had the big challenge when someone understood where I came from just purely from my name: that is a tough one to crack as I was expected to behave and perform in a particular way, which I did not do most of the time.

If you do not fall into that behavioural pattern, then sometimes your “own road” could get longer, as you are outside the mainstream and too individualistic. I had this problem early on in my career and had to develop a response mechanism based on how well I did in my work. This carries on through your life, and your ability to steer clear and keep the head above generic conformity required to maintain a specific pattern actually increases and eventually makes you a deep thinker.

In my life, I had to change my “car” and take a “different road” once in a while, and that requires courage. The thing which requires a big courage is of course choosing your life companion. A wrong companion will derail your life for sure, but a good companion can make the journey a pleasant happy one while enhancing your ability to deal with steep curves on the life road. When I had to make a decision to move from Singapore to Mumbai in 2006, I depended a lot on my wife’s advice – it made the difficult shift a bit easier and allowed me to reach a level in my corporate life which I was looking for. You also add companions as you travel further – I mean your children. They will be your companions for quite a long while, but eventually will get down and choose their own set of car / road / life companion. They may proceed on an entirely different road, as is to be expected.

So, each one of us have our own vehicle, companion(s) and road. Sometimes our roads intersect and we happen to meet. Such meetings are essential especially when it involves an old friend, a classmate, a distant yet good-minded relative, or even your own children. You should ensure that such meetings continue to happen and cherish them for the memories they bring along as you continue your journey towards the end of the longish road.

Is there an end to your own longish winding road?

What do you think?

If you have lived your life well and have not committed any harm to others, there is actually no end to your road.

Am I blabbering? No. You are thinking death signifies the end of every individual’s road. Not true.

As a person loved by your own family and friends, as a human being who contributed in a positive sense to this world, as a life companion to your spouse, as a companion to your children, as a mentor to many colleagues in your professional life, your soul will linger on. For the soul, the road never ends, and it is permanently “marked” as your road with your name on it. Other people will remember you for many things, but most essentially for the good things you did.

So, your road goes on. On and on. Forever. And, your soul keeps travelling on it.

You just need imagination and a serious sense of purpose in your life to visualize what I am saying here, and I am sure you do. Think about it. Do good things to others. Contribute to the well being of all your “life companions”, and persuade them to follow their own conscience.

At the end of the day, it is our conscience and soul which matter to this world.

Your road never ends friend. Keep going, and Do good.

Have a wonderful week ahead,

Cheers

Vijay Srinivasan

21st October 2018

Value of Human Life


It is a shame to see how worthless your life can be, if you are born and living in a Third World country.

In this context, as you rightly guessed, I am going to mention Africa, India, Middle East, some Asian countries, and China. May be there are plenty others, but as examples the above will do.

If you are born in a Western country, you can more or less rest assured that your country will fight to save you if you are incarcerated in any other country. If you are in your own country, you can be sure that no one is just going to take away your rights and your own right to your own life that easily (of course, here I have to mention rather strongly about how easy it is to take away a life in the most developed country on the planet – I mean the U.S. where the proliferation of guns has led to anarchy in most down town areas of large cities and elsewhere as well – like Churches, pubs and most of all, schools). However, notwithstanding such occurrences, the Western nations protect their own citizens wherever they are living, in general, at least by representing the case in a foreign court of law, and persuading foreign governments in the cause of their citizens.

Contrast that with the absolutely indifferent attitudes that governments of Third World nations depict towards their own citizens, specifically those still living within the respective borders. Human Life is simply worthless, and can easily be sacrificed in thousands of situations, which in general, won’t be tolerated in Western nations.

Look at the casual manner in which a Saudi journalist was murdered and dismembered in his own country’s Consulate in Istanbul couple of weeks ago, because he did not toe the line of the Saudi ruler. Look at the way in which China arrested a leading, well-known actress and the President of Interpol on the pretext of tax evasion or corruption, without a public hearing. Look at the way India treats its journalists and TV channels. Look at how easy it was for a train driver to kill 60 people celebrating a festival with fire crackers in North India couple of days ago – where lies the responsibility and where is the accountability?

Middle East and Africa have a whole lot of human rights violations, and that includes Israel’s unacceptable actions against unarmed Palestinian civilians. I like Israel as a nation with incredible human talent, but the way it treats non-Jewish folks needs urgent remediation. It has to think about the larger human tragedy at its borders which is not going to disappear. The tribal nature of many Middle East and African countries is hampering their development and integration into the global society. Economic integration might happen, but social connectivity will be very hard if they do not mend their ways and approach towards the critical importance of human life, human talent, and human contributions, irrespective of cultural angles and long-held customs. You can see some of these same tribal culture in North India in several states.

Look at how Myanmar has treated its Rohingya ethnic Muslim minority (I have written about this very sad situation) and is now struggling to take them back from Bangladesh, which demonstrated incredible humanity by hosting the Rohingyas in temporary camps and provided them with food.

Look at how President Duterte of the Philippines has tried to eradicate the drug menace in his country by simply choosing the option of murdering the drug addicts, drug peddlers, and innocent bystanders by brute police force. No elected official is a god, and remember, he has killed more than 12,000 citizens in a short span of 30 months or so in a highly religious, Catholic country.

The international community is weak in its protestations and actions against most of the above atrocities. What can it do, when sovereign nations make unfathomable, illegal and non-humanitarian decisions? Not much, you may think.

There is of course, a lot the international community can do, with the support of the Western nations. However, if the U.S. does not show strong commitment towards firmly eradicating some of the more egregious actions, then the world will continue to discount the value of human life.

The right to life needs to be strongly enshrined and promoted irrespective of political or sovereign affiliations. What is the difference between one human life in a Third World country and another in a Western country? None, in my opinion. No dollar value can be ascribed to any human life.

Well, that might sound moralistic, but it is not. The idea that someone’s life is only worth USD 20,000 in India at the bottom ladder of society, whereas that same life is worth USD 300,000 in another country doing similar work with similar family situation, only cries for a better and more non-judgemental view of life on this planet.

Looks like the pen is not stopping – I can write another couple of pages, I guess. This is a topic which has come to my mind quite often, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you also start thinking seriously. If the famous MBA schools cannot address this generic problem of evaluating and assessing the value of human life, then do you think that the MBA students are getting a real education for running their own lives?

THINK!

Cheers

Vijay Srinivasan

20th October 2018

Soul Cleansing


Several friends of mine ask me “how can you be so nonchalant about the jokes that you forward, while keeping the head firmly on your shoulders”. Obviously, the jokes that they are referring to are not so clean, and come from a variety of WhatsApp groups that one is tied to for various reasons.

Well, I believe that one has to have multifarious interests on a variety of subject matters at any time. The human mind is complex and unbelievably complicated in its digestion of external stimuli and interpretation, often to its benefit. It does not digest just the good material or facts available, it gets bored, and it looks for some kind of adventure every day, and that is not at all surprising. The sensitivity of different folks towards different kinds of subject matter, however is predictable along normal lines of rationale that one has positioned them over many years of interaction.

Simply put, the mind is very fragile and complex, and has its own way of cleansing itself of unnecessary interruptions to its daily routine. The same applies to the human soul. I have written a few blog posts on the topic of “soul” in the past, but not referencing the same here due to laziness on a Sunday morning here in Singapore – looking at the lake and its beauty, rather than examining the laptop.

In any case, all of us need cleansing of one type or the other – especially when we are ageing. Ageing gracefully requires a reconciliation with our soul – kind of coming to terms with it so to say. If we do not think in spiritual terms (need not be related to a religion or god), we are missing a major part of our existence as a human being on this planet. This requires a huge amount of mental concentration and effort, and cannot be ignored. One day, the time will come to take an account with the soul, and it is better to develop a relationship with our own soul as early as possible.

Looks like an arcane subject? Looks tough? Looks funny?

Not at all.

I am particularly not spiritual, I have always been materialistic, I have not made any attempt to connect with my soul till a few years ago. So, I am writing this post with some kind of personal experience. I am sure there are many, many folks who have been spiritual all along their lives and have reached perfect harmony with their respective souls. I am, unfortunately, not one of those lucky folks.

However, it is never too late.

Look all around at the people that you are connected to, the people you are working with on a daily basis. Look at people that you know of, and people who were connected to you in the past. Think through the happenings related to each one of them. For example, if it comes to one specific impactful individual from my school or college times, I spend an hour thinking about him or her. Obviously that person has impacted people around him/her in a positive manner, and in a way that would help those people recall his/her contributions to your own life. This is not tough at all, you just need time and a bit of recollection.

Connecting with your own soul is somewhat similar to the above. Your soul is not an object waiting to be picked up, though you can imagine it that way if you wish. For me, it is an invisible, though entirely perceptible “object” residing within me which cannot be seen or touched. It can be “felt” however. It is like your mind. Can you see it or touch it?

Soul searching leads to a cleansing of thoughts and deeds. Remember, soul is not god. Soul is within you, and only you can “feel” it. Your wife or children cannot feel your soul. They have to search for their respective souls, which might have no relation to you.

When I listen to some very nice and poignant music, that is when I feel that I can search for my soul. The soul is elusive and difficult to talk to. It requires a medium of communication – you do not connect the headset and start talking with your soul! That medium could be music, and could be something else in others’ cases.

I want to point out in this context that I am not a “music” man – I do not have any kind of music collection, and till date have just got four music albums in my iPhone. I have not made efforts to expand the same or subscribe to Apple Music or Spotify, as countless others have done. This means that I have lacked the music medium to connect with my own self. But, of late I have developed an ability to “read” into music that I like ignoring the lyrics and try to touch the pulse of the singer. Can you try this exercise?

Eventually, you will be able to “touch” and “feel” your soul in an effortless manner. Your soul keeps watch on you. It knows that you are forwarding obscene WhatsApp jokes to many others in your network, for example. It knows your bad deeds, your bad behaviour. However, it also knows that, at heart, you are a good guy or a good girl. Cheating the soul is not possible. Only soul-less people murder or commit crimes – they have already killed their own souls.

Well, I can keep writing on this topic!

Have a wonderful weekend,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

19th August 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feeling Good in Today’s World


Feeling good becomes a continuous challenge as one gets older and his/her social engagements continue to drop from the peaks of corporate, family or social networking, which allowed the “feel good” factor to flourish.

This is to be expected, however people who are entering or encountering such a phase in their lives sometimes struggle to deal with the challenge. It is more because they did not hone their strategy of continuous engagement with all their networks before hitting the slow down. Once such a slow down occurs, the struggle starts and re-connection with networks becomes an issue as the position from which one used to operate is now gone. It might appear that others tend to ignore you, but that is mostly not the case. Compounding this issue is the global scenario which sometimes makes anyone feel despondent. It appears the world is splitting at its seams with unnecessary conflicts.

Feeling good is a critical aspect of living well. It is crucial to keep going with a positive mindset and orientation towards life and others who are involved with you. It may be simple things like catching up with someone you have known for a while and just talking shop – like what is happening around the world, how is the weather shaping up, who is doing what, etc., The smiles and the bonhomie of meeting with someone known to you are important elements of every engagement, and keeps you full of life’s zest.

When we work in a corporate or academic setting, there are always lots of things to do, meetings to attend, deadlines to meet, targets to chase, and friends to network with. Life is full of activities and actions which keep you moving from one day to the next, looking forward to the future in a continuous but relentless fashion. Things happen, or you have to make things happen, you need to collaborate with lots of folks, talk to remote colleagues, prepare pitches to present to or convince a client, and so on and so forth. This non-stop series of activities slows down at some stage, and then declines completely once you retire from active duty.

The ability to feel good on shaping things in corporate life drops down, as the retired life is all about shaping yourself to face the oncoming uncertain future – may be you shape your spouse as well so that the journey to future could be congruous. Suddenly, the scope and variety of challenges and problems to solve reduce dramatically. Your kids have grown up and moved on. The only thing which can then keep you engaged in life is to develop a meaning or strong purpose.

A strong meaning or purpose lends a sense of direction to you, and as you keep executing and fulfilling the duties generated by that purpose, you achieve a sense of fulfillment, which in turn leads to a feeling of positivity and goodness. About yourself and about others around you. This is a very important feeling which we all should aim to achieve during every day of our lives. It makes your life credible and purposeful, with a sense of orientation towards accomplishing meaningful objectives, similar to what you were doing during your corporate life.

I assign a huge value to feeling good. I used to drink a glass of chardonnay every other evening and reminisce on what I have done during the day; but now that I have given up drinking, I do the same thing with a glass of oat or almond milk (which have become my favourite drinks, along with soda/tonic water when I go out pubbing). I was (and still am) able to focus on the positive aspects of the day to day interactions and engagements with a glass of wine. The feel good factor stayed with me till I went to sleep, and I believe it was a strong reason why I never struggled to sleep.

So, in a nutshell, I am advocating that you develop a sense of purpose – you should have meaning in your life. Think about your life and its impact on others around you. What have you done to help people? Did you mentor anyone? Did you help your colleague solve an intractable problem? Was that person happy with your help? Did you walk out of the office everyday feeling a sense of accomplishment or satisfaction on the role you had played during the day?

If the responses to the above questions are positive, then your ability to feel good is firmly in place. And, once that feeling is in place, you would look at the world around you in a positive manner. You would go out of your way to help the destitute, or your neighbours. You would not discriminate against anyone. Your helpful dispensation will not go unrecognized by the people around you, your colleagues, your neighbours and the society at large.

All this make a big difference to your own life, and it could well mean that you would live longer than the average life mortality figure. You have a strong reason to exist, and that would keep you going. This is despite all the reasons to feel down in today’s uncertain world. This is despite all the wars, conflicts, and other bad things which happen in the world every day.

So, feeling good is essential. Always aim to feel good about yourself, your family and friends. Don’t forget it has a direct impact on your mental well-being and health.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

3rd June 2018

 

The fragility of human life


When I take a long walk (around 90 minutes) in the morning, I tend to do one of three things – either I walk in total silence focusing exclusively on the terrain ahead, or listen to my old-time favourite songs (almost always Abba or Carpenters or Lionel Ritchie or Michael Jackson, or sometimes Norah Jones), or engage in some serious thoughts with good clarity of mind in a very calm environment (there are very few people walking or jogging at the time I usually go in the morning).

I have always found that thinking hard is tough when I am stationary, or just at home doing mundane things. When I am on a solo walk, I tend to be able to think more vigorously. While there are strong positives for thinking in a calm manner while walking a long distance, there are also some downsides. For example, when the mind flies into the future (or into the past occasionally), I tend to be less careful on the terrain ahead, and have fallen down a few times because I failed to “see” some obstacle on the path (there are many stones before I reach the wood-tiled pathway around a lake that I usually go to). I realized that it is not a good idea to keep falling down and hurting myself (especially on the knees) at my age, so have improved my caution while walking which reduces the intensity of thinking somewhat. The other challenge usually is the speed at which some runners tend to overtake me on a narrow path, forcing me to move to the extreme edges of the pathway which could push me into the lake if I am not careful.

This post is however not about my walking per se. It is more about thinking. I always felt that I should have devoted more of my time in my life to thinking hard about every choice open in front of me, or to every issue in my life crying for my attention and resolution. I spent far less time on thinking, or took the easy short-cut of personal advisors, or fell back on just my previous experience.

I still take advice from others close to me, but I spend more times thinking about all issues and come back home with a clarity which is difficult to beat. The result is that I am able to engage with my family members in a calmer manner, and others in a more effective way. As I walk more, I think more. The latest issue surrounding my thought process is the fragility of human life.

We see death and destruction all around the world when ideologies clash and countries end up fighting unnecessary wars or engage in unwarranted conflicts. A beautiful life which existed yesterday with lot of hopes for its future, is suddenly gone today. The ability of man to pluck another life out of this world has only grown tremendously over the years, and that man continues his life without remorse under the guise of morality, the necessity of a “good” war over evil people, or the essential nature of law enforcement – I am sure there are hundreds of reasons that a man can devise for taking the life of another human being for which he needs to answer in his own after-life – such offenses cannot be hidden or explained away under the guise of moral explanations that a government or religion can provide to the man who is plucking the life away. There is no real serious explanation that can be offered for shooting a suspect twenty times all over his body, especially on his head and chest. There is no rationale for bombing a country with cluster or chemical weapons. There is absolutely no possible reason for trying out one country’s latest weaponry on a country which cannot defend itself against such attacks.

So, what could be the reasons why bad things continue to happen all around us establishing the total fragility of human life, which should have always had a “precious” status in humanity?

While no explanations could be acceptable, the lack of fierce responses from religious guardians is absolutely stunning. When defenceless countries and people are bombed, where is the question of religions taking sides with the perpetrators? Where is the neutrality of religious intervention to stop or deter such devious things from happening?

As I think more and more on such topics, it is not unusual for me to get depressed on our inability to stop or vote against such things – there is no possibility that poeple could question or challenge a conflict or a war, unless there is a direct referendum on the most serious matters affecting this planet as a whole. However, that is unlikely.

Our own lives are so fragile, that we are not in a position to devise suitable advance responses to what is happening to our own bodies as we age. Any amount of preparation or planning is not going to help when the inevitable thing eventually occurs in our lives. We go on steering our lives taking some precautions as and when we feel necessary, but one day the fragility of our own lives will be exposed in a natural manner.

So how do we get ready for such a 100% clear possibility at an unknown date?

Try to think of whatever you had ever wanted to do, but could not do or achieve. Create a “bucket” list of such things. Spend more and more time with your family members. Do some charity. Do not expect any returns, and do not think that you will get to heaven or hell. None of that sort might exist. At the end of the day, what matters is whether you have helped people around you, stood for some good cause, made your family members successful in their respective lives, and garnered respect and admiration from friends and relatives for your ability to successfully steer your life and contribute to society in a manner that you could. Forget about emulating other successful people, or investors, or businessmen. It does not matter.

Well, more in future posts on this topic.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

6th May 2018

Great Truths


Courtesy: My Classmate

  1. In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm and three or more is a Congress.

— John Adams

2. If you don’t read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed.

— Mark Twain 

3. Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But then I repeat myself.

— Mark Twain

4. I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.

— Winston Churchill 

5. A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.

— George Bernard Shaw
6. A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to payoff with your money.

— G. Gordon Liddy 

7. Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.

— James Bovard, Civil Libertarian (1994)

8. Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries.

— Douglas Casey, Classmate of Bill Clinton at Georgetown University 

9. Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.

— P.J. O’Rourke, Civil Libertarian

10. Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.

— Frederic Bastiat, French economist(1801-1850)

11. Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.

— Ronald Reagan(1986) 

12. I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.

— Will Rogers

13. If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it’s free!

— P.J. O’Rourke 

14. In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other.

— Voltaire(1764)

15. Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you!

— Pericles (430B.C.) 

16. No man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session.

— Mark Twain(1866)

17. Talk is cheap………….except when Congress does it.

–Anonymous 

18. The government is like a baby’s alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other.

— Ronald Reagan

19. The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery.

— Winston Churchill 

20. The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin.

— Mark Twain

21. The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.

— Herbert Spencer, English Philosopher (1820-1903) 

22. There is no distinctly Native American criminal class…………save Congress.

— Mark Twain

23. What this country needs are more unemployed politicians.

— Edward Langley, Artist (1928-1995) 

24. A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.

— Thomas Jefferson

25. We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.

–Aesop 

FIVE BEST SENTENCES

1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity, by legislating the wealth out of prosperity.

2.What one person receives without working for…another person must work for without receiving.

3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.

5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work, because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work, because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation!

Courtesy: My Classmate

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

5th May 2018

 

Ability to be honest


Well, as I sit here looking at my computer, I think of many topics to write about this evening. Most of the time, I would have chosen the topic in advance and then thinking about the content for the topic. However, many a time, I run out of topics and then have to think deeply enough to write about something meaningful to me and to my audience.

For today’s blog post, I chose the topic of honesty (and, by extension, integrity). In friendships and relationships that we build, the essential building block is honesty. The ability to be totally transparent and honest with friends is one of the key tenets in building a sustainable relationship. Sometimes, it might lead to a loss of friendship due to the brutal nature of input or feedback – though rarely, as the friends that you choose would be sturdy enough to receive your feedback, otherwise they just become casual acquaintances.

Personal integrity is key to any relationship – if I say that I will do something by a certain time, I will do everything possible to deliver on that commitment to a friend, having agreed to do so in the beginning. It is fundamental to the partnership between two individuals. As I test each building block of a relationship, I am looking for potential cracks and weaknesses. The ability to sustain for the long term is a must. The ability to be honest when things do not go right is also absolutely critical to move the relationship forward on a solid footing.

However, we always encounter friends and especially relatives who do not understand the basics of building a honest partnership based on total trust and integrity. They sometimes take things for granted. I never take things for granted in any relationship. I believe sincere and hard work is always needed to keep nurturing any relationship. The ability to share experiences and expectations without any kind of reservation is also an essential component of this relationship.

I constantly keep testing friendship equations to ensure that these are always “balanced”. If someone asks for a favour, I try to fulfil it if I can figure out a way; being totally transparent as to my strengths in fulfilling the request is very important as it is not mutually beneficial to build any false hopes. I try to restrict (as much as possible) my seeking any favours, as I do not wish to create an obligation for achieving balance in a slightly unequal equation problem. It is very critical to maintain equality in the partnerships; at the same time, I would extend my hand to support genuine requests which are made in the hope that I could fulfil the same.

In a nutshell, honesty and integrity are the cornerstones for building a successful partnership, though it might take a longer time. The idea is to build a sustainable growth based on mutual trust, belief and commitment to each other. It is not necessary that we have to see “eye to eye” on every single issue. In fact, we might differ on most issues, yet see congruity in building the partnership. For example, I might belong to a different political dispensation, a uniquely different social orientation, or a corporate profile not compatible with the “equation” that we are trying to establish. Nevertheless, we both see that we could jointly achieve certain things by working together closely, and we mutually decide to pursue the same. Paths might diverge but thoughts are aligned.

Honesty and integrity are hard to maintain, should we fall prey to the damning persuasion to be just “nice” to each other all the time. While being nice is important, it should not detract us from more critical conversations on matters which are close to our hearts. It is also important to call out positions not compatible with lack of integrity at an early stage, as gradual deterioration would lead to irreversible loss. It is very important to remember this fact.

Being open, communicative, completely transparent, and honest are key ways to lay a strong foundation to building a long term partnership with anyone, even with new unknown friends. And, surely that works even between two companies!

I would say that being honest has paid me dividends over the years, though there were couple of misses, which was fine. One cannot expect the best return all the time. I also know that even in those rare cases, the friends involved maintained respect for the interaction and for me, as they understood I was not hitting them in a personal way. I was attacking the issues involved in a straightforward manner, though they did not like the matter even being raised.

So that is my thesis on the need and ability to be honest all the time in all interactions. such an approach will pay off in the long term.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

11th February 2018

The Simple Things and Pleasures of Life


Which we missed, and keep missing even now……….

The only simple things and pleasures of life that I have known in my early years of life happened well before I turned 17. In fact, most of those simple things which I relish in my memories even today happened when I was less than 12 years old.

While we can attribute the recognition and enjoyment of “simple” things and pleasures to our innocence, there is no reason why those kinds of simple things could not have continued all through our lives. “Simple” pleasures keep coming up throughout life, as when you hold your first baby in hand and he or she smiles at you. I will touch upon these things in this post, but first let me elaborate on what I mean by “Simple” stuff.

As we take baby steps into our complex life story, there are instances which we would like to keep repeating or we would like to happen every day – for instance, form a small group of close-knit friends in primary school, while all the time fighting with them; play “kabbadi” every day in school, win some games but lose some without any rancour or disappointment, looking forward to settling the scores next day; laugh and run around the class room chasing a friend who has “stolen” a pencil from you; laugh out loud (LOL) when a friend gets the rap from the teacher for none of his mistake; celebrate Deepavali with neighbours’ kids by launching competitive rockets or flower pots; eat a lot of sweets and steal some of them while others are not looking; go to Bata shop with parents to buy shoes for school and push them for what you like; run away from home for playing games when your mom shouts at you for having something to drink or eat; travel in overnight train to a “distant” place on a vacation; drink a “cool” drink (it was mostly Fanta those days) which was really cold and feel really good after the last drop, wanting some more of it; learn to run very fast so that your brother or sister cannot catch you, while you are running with some new gift or stuff that they also want to look at; sing loudly while having a cold bath; and what not…………………so on and so forth.

However, once you finish primary school (those days it was the 5th Grade), you realize you are going into a bigger school which was called the “high” school. You are still wearing half-pants and white shirt, but suddenly a new responsibility comes on you, and your parents start applying more than the normal pressure on your academic performance. They talk about passing out of high school, going to college, achieving their ambitions for you to become a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer. Now, life takes a turn.

You still play games, sports, run around a lot, eat a lot, keep looking for new things, etc., but slowly the speed of everything that has been very active in life drops and settles on your desk with an old lamp throwing light on things you have to do at school tomorrow. Your mind clouds a bit, you are surely a bit confused, your being still wants to do everything you have been doing till date, but attaining the age of 11 and moving into high school changes many things. You are soon rushing into the 8th Grade, then to the 11th Grade, and then passing out as a young guy into college. Of course, we all did naughty things between the ages of 14 and 17, converting our relative innocence about life into something more complex and somewhat mysterious.

Slowly, the “simple pleasures” of life take on a different meaning for us. It is now more self-centred. In my case, it was different because I lost my father when I turned 17, and so the complexity of life took a major toll on how my views of the world, and my views of “simple pleasures” turned out to be – it has happened to many of us, though it is a much younger age in which to face the challenges, the corruption, the ugliness, and the insincerity of life. For the rest of us, however, life had continued normally which I would call a blessing for an uninterrupted enjoyment of the simple pleasures till the next tipping point arrives in life.

What was a bit unusual in my case (don’t know about other classmates of mine – they might have ben faced with similar issues) was that I faced a series of financial and social troubles which continued from the age of 17 till I turned 29. And, I had to tackle each and every issue on my own at a relatively young age, with no support from anyone. That experience made me a tougher person, who formed an opinion on everything at my own will and pleasure. My ability to receive input and feedback from other external constituents dropped significantly. I started to think that I can solve all my problems myself, nobody really helped me till now, and so why bother. A blessing in some disguise, right?

Nothing wrong, as long as the above attitude is combined with hard work and resulting performance, which was the case in my life. I had no time for seeking out religious blessings and spirituality. I was rushing through the act of building the edifice of my life, and ensuring my siblings were all well settled in life. I was rushing through my own marriage. I was rushing through everything in my life at that time anyway.

The result? I missed out on attainment of spirituality. I do not need to be religious or ritual-bound in order to see that there is a greater spirit which guides our lives. It is very critical, in my opinion, to reach the stage of equanimity and spirituality before you turn 30 in the “Sea of Life”, or else you only keep dreaming about it.

Now I am in my late fifties, and I have rarely thought about spirituality except in occasional group talks, while continuing to discharge my duties and responsibilities in life. Do I miss anything? Yes, of course, I miss many important things and one of those key things is “spirituality” and the identification of the spirit which exists within me. I am probably not recognizing the power of the spirit or its healing capacity. I am doing things which my spirit would never approve of. I continue to be “cocky” about my sense of confidence and my ability to navigate the “Sea of Life” without faith on a higher spirit.

This is why it is very crucial to recognize the role of spirit in one’s life while one is relatively young, as any learning during those young days carry on in a sustained manner, undeleted by the passage of time. I also think such a faith would allow one to deal with very difficult health challenges such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s as the spirit should be having a way to guide our soul into “conscience” and make us see the “light” within ourselves.

As I stated before in this post, the “simple pleasures” keep occurring in our lives as we course through life, especially when our children arrive in our lives and inject a new sense of optimism, hope and confidence. Then we see them growing and attaining goals which we thought were very difficult for us! Life goes on and yields a stream of simple pleasures which need to be relished every day.

So, in a nutshell, we need to enjoy every moment of our life, like what we used to do when we were in primary school. If that can be done with the accompaniment of a spiritual guidance, so much more better for us. If not, that’s also fine as long as we are in a equanimous composition in the mental state.

I hope I am able to explain this in a better way. Don’t miss the spirit and its guidance if you can, early in life.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

19th November 2017

Our Life is not Religious anymore


What kind of topic is that?

I have been thinking of what to write this weekend in my Blog, and I was deluged with a number of potential topics. In fact, there were so many topics, I just could not decide during the course of today on the specific topic which would be of interest to me. Yes, to me. After all, my Blog exists for the pure purpose of satisfying my writing and literary skills, and nothing else/nobody else. If others read my Blog, that is fine, but that is not a pre-requisite for the existence of my Blog. I love writing and writing on a wide variety of topics which interest me. I am constantly on the prowl for issues which are of importance to me, and by extension, to other people! I am sure my readers see the relevance. It is not my intention or desire to conform to prevailing norms or practices. It is my desire to think and think deep and well, for my own benefit.

When I started my life, I was very religious and prayed everyday. My mom taught me that it is important to pray to God everyday, and especially to the Elephant God (Ganesha as we call Him in Hinduism) as He is the greatest remover of obstacles in one’s life.

So, I was religious for almost three decades. It was good, as I had some “hold” on the Hindu faith and God(s) in general, though I was not a big temple visitor, or follower of religious rituals. I believed in the power of one God and its influence for the good of mankind. I never asked God to grant me anything. In that sense, I was a man without “material” wishes. I knew that what I need for life has to come through my own hard work, and not because God decided to give me something by granting my wishes.

Since I was on my own from the age of 17 (my father died at that age of mine), I built my life on my own. People around me used to say that God always helped me, and at that time I believed in a power bigger than mine guiding my actions. I used to go to the temple near my house every week (and sometimes twice a week), and thought that it was the most appropriate thing to do. Since I had many critical responsibilities at a young age, it kind of helped me to think about God sometimes. I did very well in my studies, and in fulfilling my family responsibilities, by my sheer hard work and personal commitment and drive. I declined to marry a rich girl as I thought such a marriage would be incompatible with my socialist views and adherence to a frugal philosophy in my life (several close friends of mine know about my life and behaviour during those formative years). I went against my mom’s wishes, and told her that I was not ready for a huge marriage commitment, based purely on economic betterment.

So, life went on, and slowly but surely I discovered myself.

It is very important for each one of us to “discover” ourselves.

I began to visualize my own contributions to my own life and to the lives of my siblings and immediate family circle. I understood that nothing would have happened had it not been for my vision and hard work. Yes, it was very very hard work at a very very young age. I sacrificed many things, which I would not have done if my father had been alive.

Slowly, I stepped away from blind faith.

Slowly, I stepped away from following others.

Slowly, I stepped away from the thought that God provided guidance and help.

Slowly, I became an agnostic.

I began to question everything in life.

I kept my views private. Only my wife knew about my thought processes. However, she remained and continues to remain a devout religious person, despite the influence of my own wandering ideological thoughts and philosophy.

She always respects me for who I am. She never challenged me. She only pointed out what I was leaving on the table. Yes, of course, I was leaving several things on the table. My significant connections to a private circle of relatives. My strong connections to a religious community. My double standards when it came to very close relations, from who I have to partially hide my views (like my own mom, uncles, etc.,). However, I knew how to keep my private views away from table top discussions, it was never my intention to offend anyone for their own beliefs or faiths.

So, it has gone on for the past 15 years or so…………….I am still strongly beholden to my own religious views. I think that religions have divided rather than unified mankind. I believe (I think it is true) that religious wars have killed millions of people around the world. I think religions provoke unnecessary tensions, wars and passions. I think we can do well without all this stuff, and direct our collective energies towards the betterment of humankind.

Some folks I know think that I am idealistic. I am not pragmatic. I am not a model human. I am not a person that falls in line. I could be a trouble monger. I am not a human being that understands how other humans work. And, so on and so forth.

The issue, of course, has always been the same – people have been endowed with enormous brain power. Why are they not using it for improving the livelihood of poor people? Why are they spending so much money on religions, temples, and faiths? Why are they allowing religions to be misunderstood and crucified by gurus who are no messengers of God? Why are they allowing rape, killings and house burnings of non-conforming folks (like in the latest example of Rohingya Muslims who are being driven out of Myanmar by practicing Buddhists, Buddhism being the most pacific religion of all)? Why are injustice and inequity not being called out by religious followers? Why is there a deafening silence from “good” folks?

Well, my conclusion has been the same for the past 15 years. That is, God is a Socialist and never a Capitalist or a Communist. He wants us to help the poor. He wants us to share our wealth and savings. If He exists, He would insist that we cause no harm to others. He would emphasize the importance of Love and Peace.

I am not going to follow any religion because I was born into one, or because I was directed into another, or I was forced into one. Man and Woman have the power to think, conceptualize, contribute and improve the society. That effort is not going to happen because God asked us to do that. It happens because WE want to do that. We look out for one another. We realize the importance of LIFE. We conclude that all lives are equal and same.

So, my life is no longer religious. My life is going to be human. Just going to temples is not going to absolve us of our irresponsibility and collective darkness. The LIGHT is within us. It is up to us to discover and light it.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

21st October 2017