Saturday, April 26, 2008
HFSD: You want to spend he night in my bed so we can wake up together?
Me: No, I want to give it to my dad so he knows where to look if I never turn up at home again.
HSFD: I can't thank you enough! (For going with him to check out dentist and make sure he's doing ok.)
Me: Don't worry I'll make you pay for it :)
HSFD: In flesh?
Jesus! I guess Russell Peters was right eh? (The bit on oversexed Latin men is at 2.45)
Friday, April 11, 2008
The Weekend of Fluff!!
In Honour of which...
You Belong in London
A little old fashioned, and a little modern.
A little traditional, and a little bit punk rock.
A unique soul like you needs a city that offers everything.
No wonder you and London will get along so well.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
The Prime Minister of India has to be a member of Parliament within six months of his/her appointment to the post. Manmohan Singh was quickly elected to the Rajya Sabha (upper house) under the P.V. Narasimha Rao government, so that he could be Finance Minister and save our butts. Since the members of the Rajya Sabha are not directly elected by the people, i.e. they do not run a campaign and have a majority of some constituency press the button corresponding to their name in the voting booth, their eligibility for Prime Ministership attacks the foundation of democracy.
The reason for the consternation of my friends was their understanding of the term democracy. Democracy has changed greatly in meaning over the years, especially in terms of its acceptance as the optimal form of government. The conditions of nationhood have also changed vastly since Athens, and this has affected the definition of democracy. At one point, liberalism was terrified of democracy, and now neoliberalism waves it about wildly as its very own flag. Obviously there are multiple understandings of the term and what its relevance is to the experiences of individual nations.
I remember learning, in Civics class in school, that a democracy is a government "of the people, by the people, for the people". I think I can safely say that this is also how democracy is generally understood: the general body of people select their leaders, usually through a free and secret ballot in such a manner that the person/party that is selected by the greatest number of people wins. The crux of the process being, of course, that the people choose, by directly picking the person or indirectly picking the party, who has the right to rule them; i.e power to the people.
The people, or the majority, are the important factor here, something that comes from the very origins of modern democracy: citizens have the right to a say in who governs them and therefore how they are governed. Of course this system is far from foolproof. For starters, who IS a citizen? The 18% of adult males who had enough property to pass the bar after the famed 1832 Reform Act in Britain? In the modern world, after we have come to accept universal suffrage as sacrosanct, issues like race, gender and money don't come into it, theoretically anyway. So universal suffrage is definitely a part of the definition. Which means that the world's first modern democracy becomes New Zealand, where universal suffrage was introduced in 1893.*
Secondly, what does majority mean? What about the tyranny of the majority? Just because 51% of people pick someone (of course it's usually more like 40% or even less. Rafael Correa of Ecuador won with 36% of the vote!) does not mean that said person can actually be fair to everyone. Ah you might counter, said person is fair to more than 50% of the people, which better than a system that is fair to 50% or 5% of the people. Well, this is true in theory. But think about it, DO all 51% of the people get what they want? Obviously not. The wider the voter base, the greater the standard deviation from the ideal. But that comes with the territory; after all parties exist to create a platform and continuity that enables identification with voter bases. Fair enough.
But, to use an example dear to my most obnoxious professor, what happens in the case of a coalition? The 10%, the 20% and the 30% parties might all get together and form a government putting the 40% party in the Opposition. But, if the interests of the 20% and the 30% are widely different, then in actual fact the coalition cannot really be said to represent 60% of the people's interests. Obviously, somewhere along the way the one-to-one correspondence with individual voter needs has morphed into representation. And how could it not; the only reason the idealised Athenian city state flourished was because its size and suffrage were tightly controlled.
Mexico, from 1929 to 2000, had regular elections, secret ballot, universal suffrage and a revolutionary democratic government. And only one major party. Some people say that in Mexico, when you ask someone who they're going to vote for, they say whoever wins. Obviously there is more to democracy than an electoral system. In the Indian case, the elected leader of the party with an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament) is invited, by the President, to form the government. However, sometimes no single party holds an absolute majority. In this case, a coalition is formed, by haggling between the parties, and some person is put forth as the head of the coalition. The President then invites that person to form the Government.
The president of the majority party can also choose to nominate another person for the office, which is what Sonia Gandhi did in the case of Manmohan Singh. Which means that there a way to put someone in office that does not involve the people - except in their election of the majority party, of course. Which, one might say, is as good as it gets in today's world, and I tend to agree. However, it could be argued that the people might not have voted for the party in question if they had known that this new person could end up being PM.** True. But this person one might not have voted for might actually be the most effective person for the job, just bad at campaigning. On the other hand, a party leader who's completely useless at governing but very good at campaigning could be elected in good faith and turn out to be USELESS. Or, because of inter-party politics, an idiot is chosen to head a coalition simply because he# doesn't step on anyone's toes. Does that mean that the second guy, despite being bad for the majority of the people, solely because of the process of election, is a better democratic government than the first one? Or does it mean that the first guy, because he actually acts in the interests of the majority of the people, despite the indirect process of selection, is a better democratic government than the second?
Neither, according to me. Well, the first guy is a better choice because he benefits the country, but that has to with competence not democracy. What would make the government democratic in the most contemporarily relevant sense of the word would be if the next elections reflected the public reaction to the person in office: they re-elect guy number 1 because he acted to their benefit, they reject him because they take exception to the manner of his ascendancy to office, they reject guy number 2 because they are sick of incompetence, or they re-elect him because they believe in his campaign again. Well ok, to me the definitive proof would be re-electing the competent guy on the basis of his strengths or rejecting the incompetent one on his weaknesses. But the point is the enactment of public opinion through the ballot, and the acceptance of this public opinion by those in office.
Therefore, democracy in the contemporary world means accountability. A system of elected governance that ensures the accountability of persons in office is, for me, the definitive democracy.
*To compare, it was introduced in England in 1928, and in the USA in 1920 but not enforced until 1964. Wow, India has been a democracy longer than the USA!
**For example, many people expected Sonia Gandhi to be PM as president of the ruling party, which is why I did not vote for the Congress in 2004.
# He here referring to person with no intended gender bias. If you take offence from gender bias that you derive, go stuff yourself :)
The single fact that drives me insane with anger when it comes to drugs is the complete erasure of the responsibility of the drug-using countries, combined with their refusal to see any solution other than those that penalise the countries where the source plants are grown.
Let us examine the famous USAmerican "War on Drugs". To begin with, why is it a war? Who are they waging the war against? Nature? Chemistry? Their own citizens who are caught with
Let's start at the beginning though. Coca. Coca is the root of cocaine (and Coca-Cola and Novocaine, but you know that). Coca is also a plant with many traditional religious and nonreligious uses all over the
Along came a German, Friedrich Gaedcke, who proceeded to isolate the cocaine alkaloid in 1855. Albert Neimann, another German scientist, improved the purification process in his PhD and published the thesis in 1860. Richard Willstätter synthesised it in five steps first in 1898. An Italian doctor, Paolo Mantegazza, was the first recorded person to experiment with the alkaloid. A chemist Angelo Marani, became the first person to market it in Vin Marani in
To recap, cocaine was first isolated by a German. The purification process was developed by a German. An Italian began experimenting with cocaine, and another Italian began marketing it in wine. A USAmerican manufacturer began selling the drug in various forms. And finally the
I cannot stress enough the fact that WITHOUT THE PROCESSING THE COCA PLANT IS PRETTY USELESS TO ADDICTS AND DEALERS.
Moving on to the mechanism of the War on Drugs. In my not so very intensive internet research and one and a half years of listening in class, I have gathered that the main prongs of the war are:
- Eradication of Coca
- Military assistance to
, to control growing, processing and trafficking Colombia
- Zero tolerance of drugs inside the
- Extreme pressure on Andean nations to involve themselves in the eradication of coca
The observed effects have been an increase in coca growing, an increase in the drug trade, increased civil war in Colombia, the spread of cultivation to other parts of existing coca-growing countries as well as non-coca growing countries, ridiculously escalating violence inside and outside the drug producing and consuming countries, increase in entry points and routes to the USA and a ridiculous number of people in jail in the USA on charges of possession of marijuana.
Eradication of coca is a ludicrous strategy because, firstly, it kills all plant life, including food and cash crops, without affecting coca itself too much, since coca was originally a weed. It has also been noticed that new strains of the plant are emerging that are resistant to the herbicides being used. The destruction of plant life then causes erosion in the delicately balanced areas of the
In the hypothetical Utopia where these things are all surmounted, there remains the issue of the violence. Agreed
Firstly, the average campesino in this situation is basically shot. You don’t cooperate with the military, they shoot because you're a guerrilla; you don’t cooperate with the guerrillas, they shoot you because you're a spy. You don’t cooperate with the narcos, you're a problem and they shoot you; you don’t cooperate with the anti-narcos, you're a narco and they shoot you. It is inevitable that they are sucked into one of the sides in this kaleidescope of a conflict.
Secondly, everyone is in the drug trade! This is the most incredible story ever, of the wife of a US Army Colonel, posted to
The self-interest of the "enlightened" "developed" world never ceases to amaze me. Despite the costs to themselves, their own population languising in jail, dying of overdoses, lives destroyed by drugs, they cannot begin to admit that perhaps a significant part of the problem comes from themselves, and take healthy steps to address it, because those steps might actually have more benefit for "developing" nations than themselves. I hate to make such emotional and frankly excessive accusations, but I can think of no other reason for the persistent destructive belief in the rightness of their stand of the part these nations in the face of lives lost and years of evidence to the contrary.
Coming soon, Neoliberalism is Evil!
*Evo Morales - The coca plant is not cocaine.
**Somebody find me some statistics that show what percentage of the population of various countries are hard drug users. I tried and got lost in anger along the way. I'm willing to BET it will bear me out. From what I know
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
The most often seen explanation for a terrible thing like this is that us brown countries don't know the first thing about law and order, we can't keep our cities safe, we don't enforce the law and most police officers are easily and cheaply bribed, local mafias control everything, there are no reliable sources of tourist information, everyone is looking to make a quick buck off of the innocent, pure and gullible white tourist, who has only come there to appreciate the wondrous exoticism of said country and doesn't even speak the language, etc.
First off, yes, law and order and safety have a LONG way to go. I have wished on several occasions that it were possible for me to feel safe at night, or on my own, or in whatever clothes I want to wear. But, when I am in New York, where, ostensibly, I AM safe to do these things, I don't go cavorting about with diminished judgement. If I'm drunk, I stick to my friends as far as possible and I make sure people know what I'm doing. If I'm out of my own house, I do NOT get so drunk that I cannot assess my surroundings for threat. Most importantly, when I was fifteen, I was barely allowed to drink COFFEE! The fact that a parent, however hippie, hep and matey, takes a child to a place where it can access hard drugs and then leaves it there to access them while she toodles on further on her holiday makes me so angry I want to have the power to expel her from the gene pool.
When I was in Goa last week, I saw about twenty little English children, under the age of sixteen, in various groups, holidaying there unsupervised. They spent the day drinking beer and smoking pot, and when I saw them at night they were so incredibly drugged I could have chopped a hand off and they wouldn't have noticed. Now I'm guessing drugs are cheaper in India than they are in England, but that doesn't mean they are free. Where do these children get the money to make these trips? Who signs off their visa applications? Who pays for the plane tickets? Daily expenses in Goa can easily be accommodated under 10 quid a day, so I imagine pocket money or a paper route could cover that. But who are these parents who let their children run off like this?
Secondly, when I go to a foreign country, or even a different state where I don't speak the local language, I don't hop into a random cab. In Mexico City I made the hostel owner who called the cab from a well-known and trusted cab company write down the cab's number and the driver's name before I got in. Because cabs in Mexico City are DANGEROUS. I do the same when I take a prepaid taxi from Delhi airport when it's dark. I don't take lifts from random people, I'm very cautious about making friends with strangers, and, most importantly, I don't partake of cerebral activity diminishing substances with them!
Thirdly, and most importantly, why does this white tourist come here? Because most of them want a nice tantric psychedelic experience. Several of them, especially people from Europe who live on welfare, come here because they can have luxurious intoxicated lifestyles without paying tax, doing any work or taking any social responsibility. We can't help it, if you earn in GBP, Euros or USD India is CHEAP. India's GDP per capita is about 1000USD, but in rural areas and for the majority of the people I'd go so far as to say it's about 300USD. OBVIOUSLY cost of living has to be low. Our population is 1,100,000,000 people. Yes, one billion one hundred million people. Of our own. Can you imagine how difficult it is to keep track of visitors? Especially when we have been conditioned to think "Oh, white person from white country can't possibly mean any harm to us! Dollars will come in! Dollars are good!" If on a resident visa or a work visa foreigners are supposed to report to police stations. But if on a tourist visa a person can just disappear. Gregory David Roberts for one. Just as US immigration worries about illegal Mexican immigrants and ignores all the illegal Canadian ones, we are more worried about Nepalis and Bangladeshis and Pakistani and Afghani terrorists than some nice person with a UK passport and a cache of cocaine.
And here's the thing about drugs: With all the people we have, possibly 0.0001% of Indians actually use hard drugs on a scale for their import to be profitable. Yes, marijuana and hashish are widely used traditionally, but cocaine and heroin are not. We simply can't afford them. So who are these drugs for then? I'll give you one guess.
Tourism is a very important part of the economies of places like Goa, as well as being important to the country as a whole. The impulse to attract dollars is a very healthy one; Cuba, for example, gets all its foreign exchange from remittances and tourists. However, there is a desperate need for controls and order in India today. We need some sort of ethics of visa-issuance, or at least to instil some sense of consequences into visitors so that they will treat out country with the same respect they accord their own ones. Why don't people take ecstasy in rave parties on Brighton beach? Because they'll be caught and shoved in jail, that's why! I'm not saying become a fine country like Singapore; but surely we can do something? Of course the entire tantric/spiritual hoo haa about India definitely contributes to attracting a hippie crowd that likes to do drugs and find themselves (don't get me wrong I love hippies), but at least one can say they are adult and as such have some understanding, in theory anyway, of their responsibilities and of the consequences of their actions.
Sunday, April 06, 2008
Annie Rhiannon is the Irish photographic goddess who just writes to well I don't know whether to leap up and clap or give up my own blog. She is also famous for being the first and only blonker in the world.
Atanu Dey is a man who writes many of the Earnest posts that clog the starred section of my reader, and who never ceases to amaze me by the amount his writing motivates me to use my brain.
James is, of course, the famous Green Wing screenwriter cum comic genius responsible for the Toy-Fu series.
Broom is the wonderful woman who inspired this rant some time ago, who inspires me with her strength, courage and sense of humour.
Surly Girl, who writeth not much no more, is hilarious, thought provoking and probably one of the reasons I began to blog regularly, in the hope of achieving that ability to find humour in my life.
Dilip D'Souza is a bit of an enigma, I don't know why he's always travelling, and I can't seem to figure him out much, but I do love the things he chooses to write about, and secretly wonder what this fabulously travelly life must be like and how I can get one!
Krishashok is THE single funniest blogger I have ever read, and make me proud to be Tamizh and get most of this jokes. His diagrammatic illustrated style is simply the BESHT!
Erm Dude is an old xanga pal, and I just love to see how his writing has changed over the years.
Lee is, of course, simply Fabulous! I wish I were a gay man so I could try and be him. One of my most memorable moments at work was snorting coffee through my nose at his description of a doctor's visit and the doctor's surprise at the *ahem* ease of access. I wish I had bookmarked it!
Jabberwock is part of my non-fluff reading, though he can also be hilarious at times. He helps me keep up with my culture and Indian things.
Dave is Dave. I started reading him because I wanted to see if life was, indeed, a metaphor for cricket, but now I read him cos I can't not.
Chaucer's Bitch I love firstly for her name! And reading her story has made me smile so many times, it's lovely when good things happen to good people!
Namaste, aside from the obvious, draws me precisely because of her plurality; her life, the things she writes of and how she writes them entice me in this very mellow way. It's like Earnest blog meets daily life blog! Perfect!
Johnny B is just enchanting in his writing style, with all these little snippets about Norfolk that make me want to hop into a train and REALLY SEE THE CHICKENS FLY!
La Rebelde fascinates me because she has this mouthwateringly intersecting context, the research, the latina identity, the other layers to it, the history....
Charade is one of my real life goddesses, and I read her because I have to! Also because she can be SO FUNNY, and she seems to manage the whole life+Serious stuff very well too!
The Chasing Iamb I read because a little part of me wishes I had the balls to be her.
GSE I read cos she took my name!!! :)
Amit Varma is my wonderful source of tidbits, snippets and news from India; invaluable when I was in phoren and unavoidable now. Even if I do disagree with some of the things he says, I can't help but admire the mind that thinks them.
Veo Claramente I read because she's so cool! I could have been her if I hadn't decided to leave science. She writes with such clarity, I could probably learn a lot from her.
Gopaldass has me bewitched by his stories, HEAVEN knows where he gets the inspiration! Jealous!
The Matrix Warrior is another Xangan who is the most brilliant young writer I have ever read. If only he still WROTE regularly.
Vaat Laagli is quite the genius writer herself, once again I wish she wrote more!
Vibgyaan is one of me dearest friends, how could I not read? :)
YOnEarthNot is the funniest mommyblog I have ever read! I hope I can pull off that kinda humour when I have kids.
Friday, April 04, 2008
In Mexico it wasn't so bad, because there would be the occasional wizened old man who would grin and wish me morning, or the guy cleaning the car who would ask me where I am from, but I never really caught anyone staring. Of course all that voluptuous white Argentine flesh was definitely a factor, but still.
Travelling all over Safe Secure South India I have noticed that I have moved on from being flustered by the staring to extreme irritation. I wonder if it is a result of Having Lived in Phoren and Having Possessed Liberty or just thinking that it's about time Indian men stopped staring at a woman if she doesn't install a forcefield that will electrocute them for looking. When a guy is staring endlessly I just fix him with a basilisk glare and stare right back, which is perfectly safe in SSSIndia since they won't see it as a come on unlike Barbaric North India. The result is usually a start, and shake and a modest avoidance of looking at me until courage has reasserted itself.
Now, here's the thing. As I have stated before, I have no objection to the appreciation of someone's attractiveness. But seriously. I admit I was wearing a skirt and a bandanna and travelling with a gaggle of guys, but that latter factor, if anything, should have been a deterrent. It certainly enabled me to outstare the three men instead of retreating into my book. I would also never have done it without my *ahem* bodyguard. It is just incredibly irritating to constantly have to be worrying about something as ridiculous as some strange man's libido! I sometimes want to turn around and snap, GET OVER IT! GET A COMPUTER AND LEARN ABOUT PORN!
This book I was reading, about a USAmerican housewife in Cuba, has a bit where she is being cooed at by Cuban boys and she wants to turn around and scream, what are you trying to do, what are you trying to prove????* Sometimes I want to do just that.
* "... you wish you felt safe enough to be able to turn around and ask them, Are you doing this because you think I am attractive, because you think I am ugly and need the attention, or just because...?" p194
Seriously though, sometimes my head hurts at the thought of tackling my Google reader after travel. Perhaps I shouldn't subscribe to so many Earnest blogs about the world, economics, India, development and whatnot, but they're fun to read! Except I end up with so many starred items that I can't be arsed to read at the time that I never actually read the interesting pieces. Sheh. Maybe it's the fluff I should discard. But then it's the fluff that keeps me riveted with little snippets about Other People's Lives, which, after General Hospital, is the single most interesting thing in creation.
But I digress.
Here I am, home again after a(nother) trip. This one was wildly spur of the moment, but oh so deliciously decadent! Why is it that, even though MinCat hates the heat and her hair and her temper go wild when the humidity rises above 30%, she still ADORES the beach? And this is the beach in India, in the SUMMER. But ah the contentment that spreads over one when one is splayed out in a chair with sunglasses on, with an endless languid supply of food and drink, and one spends all one's time playing cards and desultorily leafing through a book! (On travel, incidentally. In Asia, without planes! What an idea!)
The only disquieting note was the ambiguity that I felt at enjoying one person's company. Now Said Person I used to know back in the days when I Was Not So Very Young, But Still Young All The Same, and I used to hang out with a certain group of people who were a very closely-knit bunch. But they were all very nice to pore lil MinCat when she needed it, and even though she fell out of touch with most of them over the years, in some cases deliberately, she did acquire her beloved Scientist by virtue of the group. But the beloved Scientist has ALSO fallen out of touch with them, and since they were her Very Good Friends, and just my friends, it has obviously cost her more. The Scientist, Darwin bless her soul, is truly one of the very few people who simply cannot be blamed for the decline of a relationship. And Said Person used to be very close to her. And then SP let it all decline. Which must have hurt Scientist a lot. But Scientist found new friends and a new gang.
Said Person has, by virtue of the twists of fate, become part of a new gang, which, ironically, is partly if not wholly made up of the Scientist's second gang, which includes my Fabulous Fag and Acrosticus Anonymous. So when I was sitting on the beach and giggling at Said Person cursing, once again, the cards for their treachery, when the culprit was SP's optimistic bidding, my delight was disturbed by a sharp jab of guilt. It goes without saying that any close friend of The Scientist is bound to endear themself to me and vice versa, because of how we are. And SP doubly so cos of Acrosticus Anonymous' approval as well. But somewhere I feel so bad, because it feels wrong to be liking SP and enjoying SP's company when The Scientist can't/isn't. Even if SHE doesn't care!
Ah the convoluted mind of a MinCat.
And not everything is its fault! It IS a convoluted world we live in too. Seriously though, The Scientist makes me believe in Fate. If there ever were a tale of two lives so incestuously entwined t'would be ours. Though, to be honest, I mostly seem to acquire her friends! Which is awesome, so yay Scientist!
Tú eres mi hermana del alma, realmente el amiga
Que en todo camino y jornada está siempre conmigo
Aunque eres una mujer aún tienes alma de niña
Aquel que me da su amistad su respeto y cariño
Recuerdo que juntas pasamos muy duros momentos
Y tú no cambiaste por fuertes que fueran los vientos
Es tu corazón una casa de puertas abiertas
Tú eres realmente la más cierta en horas inciertas
En ciertos momentos difíciles que hay en la vida
Buscamos a quien nos ayude a encontrar la salida
Y aquella palabra de fuerza y de fe que me has dado
Me da la certeza que siempre estuviste a mi lado
Tú eres el amiga del alma que en toda jornada
Sonrisa y abrazo festivo a cada llegada
Me dices verdades tan grandes con frases abiertas
Tú eres realmente la más cierta en horas inciertas
No preciso ni decir
Todo eso que te digo
Pero es bueno así sentir
Que eres tú mi gran amiga
No preciso ni decir
Todo eso que te digo
Pero es bueno así sentir
Que yo tengo una gran amiga...
You are my soul sister, in reality the friend
Who is always with me every day every step of the way
Even though you are a woman grown you have the soul of a child
Which gives me your friendship your respect and your love
I remember that we’ve been through many tough times together
And you never changed no matter how strong the winds were
Your heart is a house with open doors
You are, in reality, the most certain thing in uncertain times
In certain difficult moments we face in life
We seek someone to help us find a way out
And that word of strength and faith that you have given me
Makes me certain you’ll always be by my side
You are my heart’s friend who in every day
With a smile and a festive hug at every arrival
Tells me great truths in open phrases
You are, in reality, the most certain thing in uncertain times
I don’t need to say
All this that I say
But it is good to feel this way
That you are my great friend
I don’t need to say
All this that I say
But it is good to feel like this
That I have a great friend…
*With apologies to Marc Anthony