Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Consumerist environmentalism? Hypocricism

The Ad says it all "Is your home green? Want it to be?...moderng*eenliv* my house is smarter than yours"!!
Hemp t-shirts, holidays in eco-forests (what are those, aren't all forests "eco"?), biodiesel cars ( don't they pollute as much and increase food prices to top it off?).. take your pick, just pay a premium for the "green" tag.

Married with so ubiquitous a consumerist society that we don't even see the hypocrisy or irony of our actions. What can you do to save the environment? "Buy a Prius" it seems. I got this sarcastic soundbite from an article on the freegans in the NYT
Freegans in urban United States
The freegans are a community that basically lives off the fringes and throw-aways of a consumerist society
Umm... I certainly wouldn't meet them even half-way in terms of opinion but they certainly have a point.

One might easily be tempted to call the freegans parasites but they aren't. That they CAN live off cities' refuse doesn't mean they have to. Their way of living is sustainable and scalable to a point. In an enabled environment, they can immediately move to locally produced food and environmentally friendly housing, furniture and other items for living made within the community. And at its peak they might resemble some sort of a marriage between the Amish and Marx in a modern and liberal setting. While the majority seem to lean far far away into the left, you can see that they're educated, middle class younger people who're not doing these to be parasitic but to reduce the impact of society on the environment. My understanding of this comes from as simple a gesture as sharing the half full bottle of tide down the line insead of hoarding it. And while the left is always at the forefront of such campaigns, everyone can in fact be partly freegan simply by watching what you throw out and watching what you buy. Given that the fashion world couldn't possibly survive if people don't throw out last season's clothes or the automobile industry or the electronics industry... developed countries especially can build better, tighter reduce, reuse, recycle regimens.

I don't buy the argument of "exploiting resources" though. There is a certain price we pay for being who we are. Physics experiments take up enough electricity that could power cities for a whole year in minutes... are we gonna stop progress in physics then? How about stopping space exploration, the billions of tons of fuel that go up in...well .. smoke? Or giving up progress in nano technology, metals and materials, even garment technology because we don't like nuclear technology? Fashion stimulates and so does research in finance.

Another example of popular consumerism masquerading as environmentalism
Are people so stupid that the don't understand that globalisation is so entrenched that even if the t-shirt says "Made in Downtown LA", the cotton comes from Egypt, the dye from China and the rubber for printing from Malaysia and its worse to import all these including that large percentage which will inevitably be waste. Moreover its economically harmful for poorer countries if you import the raw materials and export finished goods and that is a throwback to colonial imperialist times?

Instead people with a voice can lobby for better public transport, faster and better trains instead of letting airlines proliferate, policy toward de-centralisation of the food market and encouraging local foods, policy that favours power from renewable energy, advertisements directed at children etc.... These issues do not restrict the pro effects of capitalism such as enablement of entrepreneurship but help reduce the irresponsible consumerist aspect of capitalism.

The latest Oxymoron - Consumer driven Environmentalism

Are we taking it too far? The New environmentalism.

Ask my friends, I would be the first on the wire about climate change, ecological footprints, energy efficiency et all.
But are we taking all this a bit too far? Sure being ecologically sensitive is great. But fashion statements are making all this a bit too frivolous. People are making supposedly ecologically sensitive statements in their lives because it is fashionable to do so, not because it is the right thing to do. Do you say, "So what? whatever their motives, people are treading down the right path aren't they?"? True. But only to a certain point in time. If being ecologically sensitive is but a fad, it will run its course and we will be right back in square 1.

Take a look at this
The Cardiff Diet
The ecologically sensitive diet for Cardiff residents is all bloody brilliant. But even a vegan hermit wouldn't stick to it. When people who've started replacing their incandescent bulbs with fluorescent ones see that the Jones' are doing the Cardiff diet... well , need I elaborate? I'll tell you what faddists will do. They'll shop where the Jones' do for all the stuff in the cardiff diet and then when they've been seen doing the right things, they swing the SUV around and go to the nearest Tesco to get their kiwi fruit, Chilean wine and Indian mangoes.

We need to be more rational about the whole ecologically sensitive thingy. People are living in a world of plenty where being a planet saving super-family doesn't just take a lot of effort but also a lot of self-control.

And we should take every possible effort to discourage the faddists. When we create faddists who'll simply look for air miles on Caribbean bananas, we're creating people who've no vested interest in creating a better world. When their interest wanes, they will not simply give up their fad and go away. Rather they will attempt to justify their leaving and tell all and sundry about why they left and why the others should too. And you can be sure they won't pick up the next eco-sensitive fad. "Oh I tried that, it all just so much bull".

It indeed is better to have a smaller if genuine bunch of people who understand how they impact the world with their choices. This bunch will grow organically(pardon the pun :D) and we'll find in a generation, a genuinely concerned people instead of a bunch of people who're so proud of having funneled their bathwater to their garden that they are done with their eco-sensitive deed for the lifetime.
Greywater recycling
This though is the way people need to be aware. To conserve, reduce, reuse and recycle whenever, wherever, however they can and yet not make hermits out of themselves. Opinion leaders from the growing community of responsible people can push for policy changes to make regions more responsible and then nations.


Well it started off quite nicely too... I was asked to write up something on the "freedom of expression" side of the debate on banning SMS/Insta polls. And I did. And true to type I didn't believe a word of what I said :D Anybody with half a brain could pick a million holes in my ~500 word article :D

I'd rather have written the other side of the article. I'd have concluded that banning wasn't the way because banning simply isn't the way and put up a strong argument for restrictive controls and cumbersome disclaimers on SMS/Insta polls. But hey! I wasn't going to give up my first shot at getting my voice heard in a reasonably famous newspaper :D

And though I should've expected it, that of course is retrospect... my rant was mangled almost beyond recognition, terms reinvented and deleted and added, grammar and spellings messed up, the argumentative tone(ok ok :D that's how I hope it sounds) impotent-ised and the slightly scientific tone totally erased! Ok... so it wasn't that bad... but it was bad never the less.

The article in the Pioneer

OK... there seems to be a problem with the direct link to the article. So one needs to go to the bottom of this page and click "Edits" on the "Today's Stories" section and then go to the "No case for Ban on SMS Polls" article... finally.... :D... whoever said the first step to opinion leadership is easy?

My Original Rant.

Nirmal TS Kumar,

Whatever the apology for a ban it can never be strong enough to override
the preponderance of as simple a concept as freedom of expression. Freedom
of expression of both the audience and the media.

Firstly SMS/Internet polls are not used to elect premiers of countries or
create theories of the universe. They're primarily used to know whether the
saas needs to be bumped off or the bahu be sent to a mental institution.
Neither the marketer nor audience make earth shattering decisions with the
help of these polls. The prime excuse against polls is that they're not
representative and the respondents are self-selecting. Why may I ask do
they need to be representative or non-self-selecting in the first place?
From an audience's or the marketer's or even from the statistician's
perspective, there is simply no need to be representative. The people who
respond to these polls maybe skewed by their tech-savviness or their
predisposition toward wanting to involve themselves in what they are an
audience to. Yes, but opinion-wise they're as good as any carefully
selected sample. And yet they have no need to be representative as, well,
the poll simply makes no promise to.

Another argument is that the options are very restrictive. All
statisticians worth their salt will tell you about their struggle with
marketers to reduce the number of options. Sure more options mean more
information for a marketer but more options immediately open up the sample
to bias and also increases the marketer's ability to introduce "leading"
options. Faced with a poll, people almost never take an "agree strongly" or
"disagree strongly" option. It is almost always one of the middle options.
The results do not adequately reflect the respondents' opinion. The lesser
the options the better and two is the ideal number with "can't say/don't
know" a necessary auxiliary.

Lets be frank, the polls are a marketer's tool to make the audience feel
involved with the media. In their single dimensional world where they
disseminate information with no idea where it goes or how it is received,
marketers are desperate for any feedback. They know that a feedback loop is
a powerful tool to pull in an audience and retain them but even internet
based media doesn't have effective feedback loops. So marketers do the next
best thing, a semblance of a feedback loop that doesn't give them audience
information but nevertheless makes the audience feel involved.

Let's remember that there are no victims here. Any argument that supports
the banning of such polls can also be used to ban suffrage, advertising,
non-state controlled media and any form of free expression. Any argument
that supports a ban essentially presupposes that an audience needs to be
"protected" from evil polls from which they lack the capability to protect
themselves from. Considering, especially, the audience of today which is
exposed to media that carries such polls, that is certainly not so. There
simply is no place for such a ban.

The Japanese way

Unlike a Penitent Germany Japan resolutely refuses to de-glossify its past. Probably one of the most cruel campaigns in the history of Civilization, the Japanese WW2 campaign encompassed most of Asia. But Korea and China had a special place in the hearts of the Japanese. A special place reserved for its worst forms of cruelty.
Japanese War Crimes
The not so famous but equally tumultuous Japanese version of Nuremberg
Japan's incapability to learn from and accept its past

The disgusting and unforgivable hate and supremacism of the Nazis, is almost matched at times by the incredible havoc the marauding Japanese wrecked on these two nations.
“I express my sympathy for the hardships they suffered and offer my apology for the situation they found themselves in.”Yasukini Shrine
Says Shinzo Abe. !!!. "they found themselves in" Indeed. The oldest trick in apologies. Would be funny if only the issue weren't quite as disgusting.

Shinzo Abe's apology for an apology

Instead of offering even a modicum of penitence, the Japanese have indeed chosen to make it a rallying point for jingoistic Nationalism and Premier after Japanese Premier has paid homage at the contentious shrine of Japanese "War heroes" instead of at the very least ignoring it.
Japanese ongoing work at rewriting and glossing over their history

Even the Sangh attempts at changing the curriculum in India weren't as blatant. The Japanese run roughshod over their war crimes, comfort women, treatment of POWs and a hundred other indignities

Incredibly roundabout ways of absolving itself of responsibility.

It is well know that the Japanese are an emasculated nation. A nation where people commit suicide because of their inability to say no. In a spectacularly schizophrenic hedonistic milieu also run some of the hardest feelings of Racism, Casteism and Cultural Conservatism.
Probably the world's most closed cultures, the Japanese are neither understood nor willing to be. In a increasingly global world where the Indians and the Chinese cut costs 10 times better than them, Germany beats them in quality, the US in productivity and never having been a center of creativity, invention or innovation and mostly dependent on incremental modifications to existing concepts, the Japanese are the verge of imploding. And are already mostly irrelevant
Its time the Japanese realise that there is a world out there that would never miss them. And what is fast becoming the world's most powerful country would rather it didn't exist at all

It is indeed time that the Japanese re-invent themselves and get over their collective hang-up. At the very least they ought to have their own classical music !!

Why didn't any Indian IT company win the Idea deal? One could've thought that the Bharti deal was a one-off and Bharti was labouring under the false impression that Indian companies couldn't handle the breadth of what it required - Telecom consulting, IT infrastructure, Application Development and Maintenance, Telecom Technology-IT interfacing, BPO, Shared Services etc. Lets for arguments sake say that if some Indian company say Wipro which was supposedly a contender or HCl which has the breadth but not the depth had stretched themselves, they would've won Bharti.
But two successive major deals lost means the impression is not false and Indian IT companies are indeed short on competencies.
And whose fault is it. And what does it portend?
For one, MNC IT companies like IBM, HP, Accenture, EDS have quickly scaled up to the challenge of cost arbitration posed by the Indians. But the Indian companies have not built their depth or breadth in ADM, or consulting or Infrastructure management. Are they going to live off the little maintenance deals that the MNC majors throw at them? What happens when the majors figure that they don't want to give those around anymore? Once they have the infrastructure market cornered among them and away from Western minors which've been wiped out by lower costs from the Indians, the Majors are going to not only have the expertise and economies of scale to to ADMs cost effective, but also the hegemony to demand fatter margins off ADMs.

The Hindu article says India will maintain a lead on cost arbitrage for 20 more years. Even if that were true, the implicit thought that "India" refers to Infosys, TCS, Wipro, HCL will be replaced by names like IBM, Accenture, EDS, HP and Cap Gemini.

And this Business Today article says the Indians still stand a chance as the market wants to spread their risk with breaking up contracts and bigger chunks are being given o Indians. I say that the market is instead swinging the other way round. IT clients like consolidation nowadays. They don't want to maintain a hundred legacy systems and hundred times hundred interfaces. They don't want uncertainty in vendors. They want a reliable vendor who can perform the breadth of their IT needs and if the vendor is a globally acknowledged brand like CSC or IBM... that's just peachy.

First they didn't notice that India was not just the fastest in being a service provider but also one of the fastest growing in requiring services... Techies and consultants having cut their teeth in the tough Indian market would've been hardened veterans before stepping into the International space.

Second, ADM is a cash cow. And Cash Cows breed complacency.

Thirdly the Indians are usually happy with being told that they have the potential to be world winning. Potentially world winning is enough... it isn't really necessary to actually go do the wining... too much like real creativity needed. We're happy correcting bugs till we're fired and the coffee machine is taken away.

The Indians are still too concerned fighting among themselves for lower billing rates to notice that they're in very real danger of having being just a flash in the pan. They lived and fought gloriously and made the world sit up and notice but defeated they will be, if they continue to be so blase about their future. Oh they'll probably survive. They'll probably even grow bigger they become smaller but they'll survive but as sad remnants of the famous Indian IT Service majors that sent shivers down the collective spine of the MNC IT majors.

Piped Music..... in my Office!!

There is a very democratic quality to the music that wafts through the corridors of my consulting office. From kitschy baby sounds, to pavarotti to carnatic to japanese tunes to something quite zulu-like. Its continuous, sometimes tinny sometimes crystal clear sometimes danceable, starts at about 8.00 in the morning and is shut off at about 8.00 in the evening. Heyyyy.... waitaminute....
:D oh yeah...oh caught on.. music in offices?? that too a consulting one??.
One second everyone was blissfully involved with steel companies, video technologies and process flows and the next, everyone is looking accusingly at a person embarrassedly shutting of a phone call he just made. The culprit? A rather tinny "O mere sona re.." from the caller tune of a client on speaker phone.
Nowadays its not just the ringing tone of your phone that makes a statement about you...its also your caller tune. Its become a minor business of its own what with Airtel coming out with its songcatcher thingamajig that can make 15 seconds of just about any noise your caller tune.
The problem in my office being, everyone dials numbers routinely on speaker phonefor conferences which usually gave those nice soft safe sounding rings now suddenly blasts unsuspecting Consultants with Iron Maiden, Shakira, totoboy, wirepins(!)... and horrendously..BappiDa.

Grey haired and Subject matter experts and friends of Prince Charles and Stephen Hawking are routinely blasted. Do they cringe??? NO sireee.. They hold out their own blackberries to do the Songcatcher thingy.

For a better experience of music in office logon to the one of the best freesites I've ever seen.

and have awesome fun. Yeah but I warn you, you'll be clogging up bandwidth in your office. we care...:D

Finally do ring/caller tunes really make a statement? Honestly they do. And they're almost always negative unless your taste matches exactly..yes, exactly, with the person you're calling. Mostly Caller/Ring tunes elicit chuckles and not gasps of admiration as we'd like to believe. You know that and I know that.. its just that we'd like to believe otherwise :D

Squatters in the Fourth Estate - II

And on one hand India suffers from repression of reportage. On the other we have a race among media houses to the bottom of the intelligence quotient.

A 5 minute snap-shot across the Indian news channels, a 10 minute read of the largest Indian newspapers (with the honourable exception of the Hindu) sends me directly into depression. Even the eminently anti-establishment Outlook comes up with inane sex surveys to prop up its readership.

Isn't it time Vinod Mehta realised that the english literate Indian is not anti-establishment, socialist and culturally liberal but conformist to the point of being painful, gangster-capitalist and a lemon-sucking prissy prude? S/He wants the sex-surveys, Yes, but please don't advertise it on the cover. How're they supposed to leave it on the coffee table then? eh? follow the India Today path of popular gratification with a condescending snapshot of social(passe) issues maybe twice a year.

The race to the bottom is led by the incredibly numerous Indian TV News Channels. The genre has hardly been noticeable for more than half a decade but it has already plumbed the depths that American TV news networks took half a century to achieve. The worst of journalistic sensationalism, insensitivity and sheer dumbfuckedness has been borrowed from the Americans with none of the professionalism, dedication to sources and confidentiality, presentation and language...nothing.

Rajdeep Sardesai speaks coherently on his opinion on electronic news media but why does it take a third party to see the irony that his channel CNN-IBN leads the moron-quotient in news channels by a huge margin? Doesn't he realise that CNN-IBN has become the epitome of misguidedly market-led media. His market interpreters do not give enough credit to the Indian viewer and think of us, as Sardesai himself puts it, passive morons.

Most media houses follow the lead of CNN-IBN and consider us passive morons. Therefore we have 3 full days of Rakhi Sawant being kissed by Mika across EVERY channel, we have every anchor, newscaster waiting with bated breath to make sarcastic comments on lawmakers they're interviewing, on-site anchors who blissfully sail through painfully bad english and insist on holding on to their monologue and half-baked opinions while the studio-anchor embarrassedly tries to cut him/her off.

A very pertinent view by Daya Kishan Thussu, on Indian mass media

He raises even more questions about the Delhi/Mumbai centered media which is blissfully unaware of realities outside the municipal limits of these cities, not they aren't important but in an universe in which the primary consumers of English media are down south and even fleeting focus on rural India can make a real difference, they remain ignorant of both actual market realities and their duty as the Fourth estate.
Times of India reduced farmer suicides in Vidarbha to a cool numerical Count-Up statistic.

Is it even conscionable on its part to start a "India Poised" campaign during such times? Even the language of the campaign is moronic blaming that part of India that has never seen much less given better opportunities as the ones "holding back" India. And not only is Indian media getting dumbed down, it in the true form of stupidity fostering insecurity and thus vindictiveness we also see bullying by them

Not to mention the increasing reduction of pride in independence of editorial, None of the major news media commented on the blatantly repressive affair a'la IIPM

In the throes of the initial years of becoming a mature market, Indian Media has shown its worst face. And there is no where to go but up. Will it?