Liberal Views


I have always considered myself as a “liberal”, not in political terms, but in terms of maintaining and sustaining a very open mindset towards receiving and assimilating contrarian views. Occasionally I have veered towards conservative or rightist opinions, because I thought the thought process behind those opinions were valid and resonated with my own thinking.

But on most issues, I have been a liberal – very open, not toeing the majority line, building my own logic for arguing the strengths of my case, and always receptive to other peoples’ opinions – whether they are conservative, liberal, right wing or left wing. I always thought that the charm of a liberal thinker is his or her ability to keep an open mind at all times.

However, I found that I could be severely challenged in the midst of a group of close friends, it happened recently to me when all their guns were individually and jointly trained on me. Initially, I took it in my own way – not very seriously, raising points of contention and questioning their rationale. As the noise increased incessantly over WhatsApp, I had to keep pressing my points, because I believed strongly in my views on humanity.

The issue on hand was Kashmir. I have no problem with India trying to integrate Kashmir finally in its own fold firmly – I think it is the right thing to do after 70 years of vacillation. Kashmir people will get access to investments, job opportunities and increased tourism. And, many other benefits that Indian citizens are entitled to.

However, I believe firmly that violence and retaliation to violence both should fully stop. Military deployment by India should not lead to completely avoidable things such as pellet shooting at protesters and even at common people going about their daily tasks. The counter-argument of my influential group of friends is simple: terrorists do not deserve any sympathy and must be dealt with even by brutal means, and collateral damage is unavoidable when dealing mostly with Kashmiri terrorists.

There are 7M Kashmiris living in Jammu & Kashmir State. Most of them are just normal folks like us. If the idea of integration with India is to bring these people into an Indian warm embrace, where is the need to treat all of them as violent terrorists?

I sent out the media coverage on Kashmir from WSJ, CNN, BBC, etc., and my friends pooh-poohed all the global media publications – slandering them as anti-India. So far, I have not seen negative media coverage by the Indian mainstream media, with the exception of few online publications. I agree that CNN is mostly anti-India and somewhat pro-Pakistan. But the others are generally well balanced, though upset with India’s total lockdown of Kashmir.

In a nutshell, here are my two cents: Kashmiris are surely going to protest loss of their freedom, and need to be strongly persuaded on India’s rationale for the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A. This cannot be done with machine guns and bayonettes, and requires finesse with big heart and big commitments from Indian Government. Kashmiris should be made to feel like they are fully Indian citizens.

My friends would not buy this approach, and I know it. For them, appeasement of any minority community is totally unacceptable. According to them, it is the failed policies of the previous many Congress governments that resulted in the current chaos. But the difference is stark: Kashmir is a border state with two adversaries staring at India – Pakistan and China. Pakistan trained terrorists keep sneaking into Kashmir to create chaos. With what India has done now, it is not difficult to fathom the mind of the average Kashmiri.

Pakistan and China are hard at work trying to internationalize the Kashmir problem. India is ignoring them, and that is the right approach. India’s challenge is all internal – it has to convince Kashmiris of its genuine good intentions and fully integrate them into India. It is not going to be easy at all, and in the meantime, Pakistan is bound to create all kinds of problems for India. As emotions appear to be high, there may be attacks by Pakistan along the Line of Control in Kashmir.

Given the current political support for the Indian government’s actions, it is unlikely that India will accommodate any views contrary to its actions and plans that it will further implement. So it is a dead end for either party, and Pakistan should not expect anything positive as it has unilaterally downgraded relations, ejected the Indian Ambassador, compared Mr. Modi to Nazis, and so on and so forth. India will not show the hand of friendship to Imran Khan.

So, coming back to the idea of this blog post, “liberal” views are not “separatist” views, as one of my close friends hinted. Liberals are not siding with “anti-national” forces. Liberals are just expressing their views with their own logic, and I am no different. Unnecessary killings, blinding and maiming of ordinary citizens – even those who have sympathetic views on separatist efforts – have to be completely avoided at all costs, thereby eliminating potential global concerns on police atrocities. By this statement, I do not mean that India should keep its hands tied when encountering terrorism.

Let us see how the Kashmir situation unfolds in the coming days and weeks. I do hope it will turn out positive for both ordinary Kashmiris and India as a whole.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

17th August 2019

People Power – not the right approach


Is People Power, meaning protests, demonstrations, civil disobedience and disruptions by common citizens, the right approach to dislodge elected governments?

Increasingly, we are witnessing people power protests even in democracies. Of course, it is no wonder if people protest in countries like Russia (happened yesterday in Moscow in support of opposition party leaders who could not get on to the ballot), which falls in a grey area between truly elected democracies and autocratic form of almost essentially single party governments (though apparently elected).

But it becomes challenging to define people protests in countries like Hong Kong (which is not a country but a special administrative region of China) which disrupt the normal functioning of a global financial centre, with no apparent end in sight. When such protests turn violent, then the governments have to enforce law and order.

Then you have the long-running people protests in Venezuela against the incumbent government of President Nicolas Maduro. If an elected President has to succumb to people protests, that is not a sustainable form of government, irrespective of the moral rights and wrongs facing Venezuelans. What is the guarantee such protest mechanism will not be re-used in the future to pull down a duly elected government with popular mandate? How is Venezuela going to eliminate foreign governmental influence in such a situation?

If you dial back to 2010, you would recall the “Arab Spring” – a series of protests, demonstrations and violence which spread across a series of North African and Middle Eastern countries. Only Tunisia achieved a transition to democratic form of government as a result of the Arab Spring people protests. All the other countries failed in their democratic transformation efforts, though some changes occurred in the way governance was administered.

If you dial back to some 100 years ago, you would recall the non-violent people protests organised by Mahatma Gandhi against British rule of India, which eventually succeeded in securing independence for India.

But things are very different today. Social, political and economic situations are vastly different. Social media has been instrumental in driving the Arab Spring revolution across several countries. However, what has become clear is that anti-democratic governments are not going to give up power despite people protests and in some cases, armed rebellion like in Syria. The deeply entrenched political and ruling elite will fight back against the common people, and will win the battle most of the time.

Given this kind of evolution of people power, is it any wonder that most people protests are not succeeding anymore? For unorganised people to wage a protest against the power of a government, it is essential that violence should be avoided – at least on the people side. Gandhi took the physical attacks on him by the British police valiantly as he knew that he needed to show both to the British government and to his own people that he was totally unafraid and capable of facing the police baton. He did not encourage his people to indulge in any form of violence or conflict with the police. It is only futile to expect that the government will strive to avoid violence in the face of threat to its own existence.

In my opinion, people protests are definitely futile in truly anti-democratic government run countries. In democratic countries, people protests should not be warranted at all as people have access to ballots in an election. The only situations which warrant people power are (a) liberation of a country from an occupying foreign nation; (b) serious endemic corruption in any kind of country; and, (c) lack of action by the government to implement its commitments made via election manifesto of the ruling party presented to the people during elections, leading to increased poverty and unemployment. There could be couple more situations, but in any such protests, people should totally avoid violence and should not give a basis for their governments to perpetrate official violence.

On the situation in Hong Kong, I am on the side of the government though I sympathise with the protesters, especially the students. Protesters cannot impose pre-conditions for negotiations, which we have seen are mostly deal-breakers.

So, in a nutshell, people power is not a good idea as it leads to quick deterioration in civil society and economy, and brings a nation to its knees. Is that something that the people desire? I am not sure.

Cheers, and have a good week ahead,

Vijay Srinivasan

28th July 2019

It’s Never Going to End


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

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

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

Terrible, and completely avoidable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will the U.S. government do that?

Surely NO.

Have a great week ahead, folks,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

02 June 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

So Trump is CLEAN


Finally, the Mueller Report is out.

Though the Attorney General’s Office has redacted a number of things in the report that was released to the Congress and the general public last Thursday, the conclusion of the report is crystal clear: Trump and his Presidential Campaign did not collude or coordinate with the Russian Government to try and influence the 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections, which Donald Trump won against Hillary Clinton.

Why are the Democrats then persisting with the Russia collusion theory? Is it not clear to one and all that Donald Trump is now “clean” with no taint of Collusion with Russia?

Apparently not totally clean.

The issues on the table are two-fold: one is the “obstruction of justice” charge on which Mueller did not make any specific conclusion and left it for Congress to take further action, as the evidence against Trump was not rock solid. The other is the unfortunate manner in which William Barr, the Attorney General, portrayed the report in his press conference held ahead of the release of the report to Congress – totally siding with the President’s position all along, which has been “no collusion, no obstruction”.

And, as Trump says often, the Democrats will never be satisfied on any aspect of the investigation which goes against their expectations.

I agree with President Trump. One has to be totally prepared for the outcome of any independent investigation, irrespective of the outcome as such. One cannot keep praising the independent nature of the investigation by the Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and then when his conclusions are unpalatable, raise new angles and new doubts and cause disruptions to the effective functioning of an already disrupted and damaged U.S. Government. I am saying this notwithstanding similar damages caused by the Republicans to the Obama administration. Mutual recriminations based on ideology and dislike of a specific individual (Obama by Republicans and Trump by Democrats) are not a civil way to resolve governmental or legislative problems and take the country forward.

I think Trump suffered during the past two years of his Presidency, because he did not know for sure what would happen to him under the Mueller investigation. He was unsure, disoriented, combative, and dysfunctional. That would explain the daily rants that he delivered over his Twitter feed. Some of his utterings could easily have been cited in a Court of Law, if he were a private individual, to his detriment. But then he is the President of the U.S., and a sitting President cannot be indicted. May be if he loses the next election, he can still be indicted as a private individual.

So, we should give him a break, and let him conclude his Presidential term without further legal disruptions not based on fact or strong proven evidence. I am not saying that the Democrats should not fight him on the election front – they have to do that by all means aggressively, given that Trump is going to leverage his “total exoneration” at the hands of the Special Counsel for his electoral campaign in a hugely significant manner. Democrats should stop wasting time now that the report is out, and focus on defeating Trump at the hustings.

To clarify matters, I am personally not a Trump supporter – I only feel that some of his policies are appropriate (not all) for the effective functioning of the government. Securing the borders, protecting the interests of the U.S. when it comes to trade and intellectual property, asking allies not to depend entirely on the U.S. for their security but to increase their own defence investments, seeking a rapprochement with sworn enemies like North Korea by proactively adopting unconventional means, and so on cannot be construed as the misguided actions of a deviant President. He has a right to his own contrarian views and policy directions, and he has repeatedly demonstrated his commitment to those policies by showing the door to those on his team who do not subscribe to his vision. I cannot find anything wrong in his approach, though his hire and fire cabinet has caused discomfort at the Capitol and depicted a sense of dysfunctional government to the general public.

In a nutshell, the Congress should let President Trump govern and run the administration, while keeping a tight leash on his spending and new legislation which do not correspond with their sense of fairness or appropriateness. There is no point in causing constant hurdles simply because the Republicans did that to Obama, and without solid evidence of any wrong doing.

This is my view, and I am ready to be challenged. I wish to caution that appearance of collusion is not a credible legal charge, and appearance of obstruction of justice is also not a credible accusation. It looks like President Trump was bad and sometimes incorrigible in his tweets, he obviously lied in his tweets, he made bad policy decisions, he fired cabinet officials he did not like and more, but all that put together or analyzed separately do not provide adequate evidence of offences worthy of impeachment.

So everyone should get back to work in the U.S. Government and the U.S. Congress. That will also help the ROW (Rest of The World) take a breather from the daily fun show, perpetuated so well by stand up comedians. Not that we don’t like the same, but more of the same in the absence of more news or fake news will be absolutely boring. Right?

Have a wonderful week ahead, folks.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

21st 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