Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Can we live and let live...

Seems like the world is continually getting smaller given the quick and vast spread of internet and technology. It is rather amazing to realize that there are groups of people and a number of communities that are still isolated from the 'global party'. Earlier this week, Brazilian agency FUNAI discovered a group of indigenous people living in a deep pocket of the Amazon that remain isolated from the rest of the world.
The community strength is estimated to be about 200 and their dwellings were captured in aerial shots through satellite pictures. It takes some effort for our imagination to wrap around the idea that "Pandora" could be an actual place, without the special effects. Prior to all this technology and the cyber takeover, there was a time when people could be self sufficient and reliant and basic human instincts were put to better use. The group is confirmed to be growing their own crops and don't depend on outside resources for their survival.
But our discovery of this tribe is not necessarily a blessing. For the sake of our own curiosity and wonderment we will bother them more than we intend to. According to previous uncontacted-tribe encounters, whenever we try to mingle with these groups, the outcomes are rather grim for the group. So far every tribe encountered by us has fallen prey to our germs. Germs of the modern world that are not present in nature. Through our vaccinations and "latest" biotechnology discoveries, the complexity of virus and bacteria have ten folded in nature and it is clear how unnatural we have become by merely contacting the indigenous.
In the last thirty years, the Maku nomadic group and the Zo'e tribe, both out of the Amazon basin, have lost over half of their populations by contracting diseases after we (the civilized) tried to contact them. But we don't learn our lessons well. An American mission called Jocum is persevering to end these preserving people. Based on a film documentary that captures a tribe burying a child alive, the Jocum mission is fighting to approve a law in Brazil that permits intervening in such practices.
These tribes have been in existence for as long as the rest of human race and have been surviving without our help or guidance for over 10,000 years. Are we really the ones to judge their practices and determine what's right for them to do? Radiation, nuclear power, pollution, and industrial wastes have become a part of our environment for the past few centuries. The developed world has enveloped a self destructive perspective. Perhaps we shouldn't be the ones judging the wiser indigenous people from the outside. We might have mastered mathematics, physics, and learned to defy the rules of gravity but given their survival instincts and self reliance it would be fair to say that they know some things better than we do or will ever understand.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Save the political jargon: Facts please!

A recent online article in The Trumpet news magazine caught my irritated attention. The article titled President Obama's Disagreement with Winston Churchill 'claims', citing history and Winston Churchill's philosophy, that President Obama is making a huge mistake by underestimating Germany and not paying attention to what a powerful and influential Germany represents - as suggested by Churchill during World War II.
Every journalist or reporter that covers a story has a right to their opinion. Leaking it over into a story without stating all the facts is not only bad journalism, but it is also irresponsible. For most people, the 'mainstream media' is their only source for news. People don't have the time to dig up facts and old international affairs to crosscheck stories and facts claimed in the media bias. Which is why a good reporter will give sufficient background information and even share facts that might seem to hurt his or her own position on the issue at hand.
Winston Churchill has been raised on a pedestal in America. Agreed that he was a tremendous leader with a vast influential potential and stood for the premises of democracy, capitalism, and 'righteousness' as comprehended by most Americans. But he also had his share of questionable episodes that are often overlooked by the Western media.
During his time served in the British forces during India's independence period, Mr.Churchill had been less than supportive of India's independence movement. Not only did he openly state his discontentment with the idea of an independent India, he also conveyed his dismay with Gandhi's nonviolent movement. He went far enough to state that Gandhi's death was a necessity and that him going on a hunger strike and surviving triumphantly was a failure of Britain's national interest. There are historians that claim that Churchill's wartime government during the Bengal 1943 famine should bear significant blame for the mortality of 3 million people.
Leaders have to thrive midst controversies. Given. But to highlight the positives while ignoring questionable judgement and decisions is a disservice to the masses.
It is considered taboo for leaders of the West to sway against vetted leadership. It is time to take a detour from acceptable and expected leadership and pave way for one that is dynamic, fair and encompassing. Reporters have to promote the idea of global leadership and newfound principles that don't rely on stale, stereotypical schools of thought. Churchill with India, Nixon on Iran Contra Affairs, Roosevelt and his socialist policies, even Jefferson and slavery have all been branded as great leadership, yet share substantial controversial politics. Perhaps Obama's stance on strong German leadership has an agenda bigger than what was needed to be fetched 60 years ago. He doesn't have to equivocate with political jargon and blindly follow acceptable stances given today's world affairs. A good leader's decisions don't need unwarranted following. They can be backed up with unfaltering pragmatism and the truth.

Find the complete Trumpet article here: http://www.thetrumpet.com/?q=8378.7073.0.0

Monday, June 13, 2011

Weiner attracts negative publicity..(Pun Intended)

Turning on the news channel off late has been a hub of "bizarre" happenings. Protests, wars, earthquakes, waterspouts, scandals!
It is interesting to note how sex scandals get a taboo sort of undivided attention, while illegal lobbying, suicide bombings in war zones and third world agendas (or lack thereof) get less air-time. It's the great media masterminds at work. They know what sells and riding on that for as long as possible drives ratings and of course lots of dollar bills. But the reasons on why such issues sell are double standard and hypocritical in nature.
Case of Democrat House Rep from New York, Mr. Anthony Weiner is one that comes to mind when talking of recent media obsessions. Mr. Weiner thought it would be a good idea to post some sexually explicit photographs of himself via Twitter to his "followers". This caused an uproar in the House and apparently some people were upset. Mostly because he was married, and partially because such actions by an elected official are highly inappropriate. Apparently inappropriate enough to not be fit for the job. Really? Hmm.
Not saying that what he did was okay, but the consequences and reactions arising from these findings deserves some analysis. Even though 56% of the people he was representing believe he was still fit for the job, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi along with Chairwoman Schultz called for his resignation. The reason for their position is not needed. Mr. Weiner's actions are attracting negative publicity for the democratic party. Republicans, hungry for any substantial boost in their chances of winning, are capitalizing on Weiner's goof. Granted his actions were irresponsible and perhaps showed bad judgement, but is he really the sole one guilty of this "worst crime possible"? A large number of Americans, pardon me, millions of people from around the world indulge in such controversial activities on a daily basis. Some of them are surely CEO's of big companies, political figures, and other influential personalities. The rest guilty of this are average people with interests in what seems to be inappropriate virtual hobbies. But these activities don't necessarily make people unfit for their jobs. It's safe to say that by not getting caught most people are able to hide that they have such interests at all.
The cyber-world has become a new ground for political battles. But the true question is whether just because someone gets caught implies they are the only ones guilty. Before the chip-age took front stage, such events took place behind closed doors and sealed envelopes. Before we make judgments and start ridiculing high profile personalities, it is perhaps worth considering how many others were guilty of doing something similar but didn't get caught. In a country obsessed with violence, sex, and reality shows, America is acting a bit too prude-ish on this one. Just because things are more accessible these days, doesn't mean there was nothing to access prior to this digital age. After all, leaders are average people like you and me. They do, agreed, have an edge over us when it comes to influence and power, but believe it or not are human nonetheless. For Mr. Weiner, however, guilty as charged will sum up his time of shame.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

America: Still got it!

Returning to the US of A after a year (exactly) was crazy and eye-opening. We hear so much in the news about how America is deteriorating and the quality of life is depreciating, etc, etc. But living in India just for a year has opened my eyes to the harsh realities that exist in third world countries that in this day and age are only getting worse. It begins with something even as simple as the airport restrooms. In the states, they are clean and people are courteous. Basic hygiene is in order. Then you step out of the airport and wow, the traffic is organized. There aren't swarms of cars getting in your way as you proceed in traffic. Civic Sense. Two magic words. It is a sigh of relief to KNOW for a fact that other people on the road or using other public amenities will behave in a certain manner. They will not be rude or intrude in your personal space.
Despite all the negative news coming from America, basic comforts remain untouched. It's business as usual for most professional people. They are still pursuing the American dream and enjoying basic liberties. Yes, there are some things very wrong in the political arena, and social issues often clutter democratic principles. But it is still possible to be away from that and life goes on. You can choose to not get involved and go about your everyday business. This concept is non existent in India. No matter how rich or upper class you consider yourself to be, everyone has to deal with the corruption, greedy politicians, dirty water and food scandals. Everyone's gotta watch his own back.
Granted, India has come a long way. More people have access to internet, telephones and televisions. Sure. But it's a long haul ahead. The educated class in India is self interested and self concerned. India is starting to suffer with an ego-centric culture. People are delving into reality shows and propaganda driven news rather than an awareness in a global sense. It's the same problem that America has been suffering from for the last decade, maybe longer. The few things that most Indians feel proud of are being lost to West-obsessed culture while the country itself is lacking in basic infrastructure, access to education, and most importantly a government that cares.
Most Indians that call themselves "patriotic" take offense to constructive criticism. They downplay the positive aspects of the first world. There is nothing wrong with loving your country, no matter how downtrodden it is. But unconditional zest with no room for social improvement is not constructive. One strong argument for India in this context is a powerful word: culture. India is known for it's rich heritage and customs. But that is in fact a hindrance to social and economic growth. People hold on to the culture argument with all their intellectual might. If all else fails, one can always come back and say, "Well, India has culture, it is secular yet relatively peaceful. What country has that?" Good point, but that doesn't make a great nation. Culture alone isn't enough to be a successful country. What about culture though? Since that too is declining. Youth are astray and chase instant gratification. Nothing wrong in that. But that's what most people dislike about America.
It's time we talk about what we like about America. Perhaps that will steer India in the right direction. Focusing on the negative is having an unwanted after effect. A fact that is unquestionably true and remains undebatable: America is a standard and trend-setter in the developed world. As Stephen Colbert wittingly titled his book : 'I am America, and So Can You'. India, the alarm is going off, and we can't snooze any longer...