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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Post-Hindu India

"Gandhi was one of the most popular and important moral philosophers that the Baniya community of India produced. Against their Baniya ethic of conducting a lie-based guptadhana business, he talked about 'truth' becoming the process of life. As against their wasteful expensive life, he preached simplicity. Borrowing from the Jain Vardhamana Mahavira, he lived in an ashram, wearing only loin-cloth and talked about eating simple food… He has come to be known as the father of the Indian nation. Yet the Baniyas of India, true to their historical nature, did not own him. Why?"

"If you visit any Baniya house in India, you will discover that Gandhi's photograph does not hang from their walls. Even in Gujarat, where he was born and brought up, Gandhi's photo is not a household symbol of heritage. He is not their revered hero as Ambedkar is the revered hero of the Dalits of India. The Baniyas did not adopt Gandhi as their hero because Gandhi stood for frugality. They worship gods like Ganapati and Kubera because both the gods stand for accumulation of wealth and gluttony. As opposed to Gandhi's frugal eating habits, the Baniyas of India are known for the heavy consumption of rich vegetarian and sweet food products… Their day-to-day lifestyles in terms of the places of residence, use of ornaments of gold and silver, clothes, cars and other movable and immovable properties point to the fact that they are totally anti-Gandhian. Having come from this caste, Gandhi talked about loving people of all castes, but in their day-to-day life many Baniyas hate people of all other castes, even after 60 years of Gandhi's death."

(Kancha Ilaiah in 'Post-Hindu India: A discourse on Dalit-Bahujan, socio-spiritual and scientific revolution,' p. 177 Sage)

Crossing the Divide

"Effective intergroup leaders make it clear that everyone belongs, regardless of individual or subgroup differences. One way to do this, and to get people to invest in each other, is for leaders to invest resources in material changes that benefit all. To stress inclusiveness, some leaders get everyone a new item or new offices. To help integrate Gillette into Procter & Gamble after it was acquired by P&G, the head of P&G moved everyone, not only former Gillette employees, to a new office. Turnaround leaders hired to heal rivalries and antagonisms at the BBC (where radio and television divisions had faced acrimonious conflict) renovated rundown buildings or refurbished dingy offices. Improvements in something tangible that people see every day reinforce the message that everyone is important."

"Such actions help reverse characteristic patterns in losing streaks: decisions made in secret behind closed doors; inequalities reflecting favouritism, not fairness; exclusionary practices. Jim Kilts of Gillette was lauded for not playing favourites, for giving everyone the same objective measures and holding everyone to the same standards. Steve Luczo of Seagate Technology removed assigned seats from top executive meetings and added new meeting rooms with round tables. The symbolism of round table works everywhere; Akin Ongor of GarantiBank in Turkey replaced rectangular tables with round ones."

(Ed: Todd L. Pittinsky in 'Crossing the Divide: Intergroup leadership in a world of difference,' 82 HBP)

Your Next Move

"To increase their odds of success in their new roles, onboarding executives need to recognise that each company has its own distinct 'immune system,' comprising the organisation's culture and political networks. Just as the function of the human immune system is to protect the body from foreign organisms, so is the organisational immune system ready to isolate and destroy outsiders who seek to introduce 'bad' ideas."

"To protect the human body, the immune system must demonstrate equal parts under- and over-reactivity. If it responds too weakly to warning signals, it may fail to mount an effective attack against a virus or may permit a damaged cell to grow into a cancerous tumour. But if the system overreacts, it will go after good things in the body, producing autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or multiple sclerosis."

"Similarly, when the culture and political networks in organisations are working well, they prevent 'bad thinking' and 'bad people' from entering the building and doing damage. If the company's immune system responds weakly to warning signs, bad leadership can infect the business and do tremendous damage. But if the system is working too well, even potentially good things coming from the outside can be destroyed."

(Michael D. Watkins in 'Your Next Move: The leader's guide to navigating major career transitions,' p. 93 HBP)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Criminology and Political Theory

"The Belgium astronomer and mathematician Adolphe Quetelet (1796-1874) looked at the location and instances of crime, and undertook crime mapping for the French government. While employed as a statistician, Quetelet had the task of providing some of the information which the French state required in order to plan and develop a coherent social policy. His work focused upon government statistics and it aimed at scientific rigour. Quetelet was a positivist in that he saw human behaviour as governed by scientifically verifiable laws. His methodology was derived from the natural sciences, in which he had been trained. His observation that crime rates seemed to obey the same 'law-like' regularities that govern the natural world mark him out as a man of his time. Quetelet was engaged in work which had definite economic aspects to it, for example, measuring costs to the state."

"The French state under Napoleon wanted to normalise the 'dangerous classes' through moral rehabilitation, but this was seen as a failure by both politicians and the people. Theft and public order offences almost doubled between 1813 and 1820. There were huge numbers of poor people (les misérables) in the cities, notably Paris, who resorted to crime to make ends meet and who routinely rioted over the dreadful social conditions they had to endure. The initial response to this failure of rehabilitation policy was for the French state to commission a number of detailed studies and to build up a statistical picture of who made up the dangerous classes and why they were committing crimes against their fellow citizens… This entailed analysing such matters as parish records for births, baptisms, marriages and deaths as well as looking at data on poor relief, taxation, fire and general insurance claims and information concerning public health, especially rates of venereal disease, held at the local, regional and national level… The population was analysed as never before and particular note was made of mortality, age, occupation, disease and levels of intelligence. For the first time the prisons were analysed by a variety of researchers…"

(Anthony Amatrudo in 'Criminology and Political Theory,' p. 14 Sage)

Strategic Technologies for the Military

"Armies all over the world are interested in increasing the 'tooth-to-tail' ratio, which is, increasing combat effectiveness and reducing logistics support requirements. The biotechnological evolution of sensor technologies could enable the armed forces to chart a course towards the miniaturisation of multifunctional systems, such as the laboratory-on-a-chip, which would reduce logistics burden. Similarly, agricultural biotechnology for creating edible, digestible, nourishing food from raw materials that might be foraged on the battlefield would reduce transportation needs. Biological methods of recycling air, food and water would improve army stems that require soldiers to work in confined spaces for extended periods of time and could decrease the logistical support requirements of soldiers in the field."

"'Functional foods' show a lot of promise in the usage of biotechnology to help shorten the military-logistics demands. These foods provide something more than normal nutrition; they can contain so-called nutraceuticals that provide compounds offering both nutritional benefit and health protection. It could also be possible to bioengineer the foods with naturally occurring antimicrobials that inhibit certain pathogens known to exist in a given operational area. Even foods could be designed with vaccines in them, for quick and efficient vaccination of many troops simultaneously. Manufacturing and supplying foods that maximise digestion could be an additional way to shorten the logistics tail. Long shelf life foods could reduce refrigeration and supply requirements."

(Ajay Lele in 'Strategic Technologies for the Military: Breaking new frontiers,' p. 154 Sage)

Monday, November 16, 2009

An Idealist View of Life

"The roots of all great thinking and noble living lie deep in life itself and not in the dry light of mere reasoning. All creative work in science and philosophy, in art and life, is inspired by intuitive experience. While we all possess intuitive perception and exercise it to some extent, in exceptional minds it is well developed. Intuitive life, spiritual wisdom at its highest, is a type of achievement which belongs only to the highest range of mental life. The great scientific discoveries are due to the inventive genius of the creative thinkers and not the plodding processes of the intellect. The latter might give us more precise measurements, more detailed demonstrations of well-established theories, but they cannot by themselves yield the great discoveries which have made science so wonderful. Creative work is not blind imitation or mechanical repetition. It is synthetic insight which advances by leaps. A new truth altogether unknown, startling in its strangeness, comes into being suddenly and spontaneously owing to the intense and concentrated interest in the problem. When we light upon the controlling idea, a wealth of unco-ordinated detail falls into proper order and becomes a perfect whole. Genius is extreme sensibility to truth. Scientific discovery is more like artistic creation in its reaching out after new truth…. A new law in mathematics is just as much a bit of spontaneous intuition as is a composition in music by Mozart."

(S. Radhakrishnan in 'An Idealist View of Life,' p. 176 Harper)

An Idealist View of Life

Viral Loop

"People devote only 5 per cent of their time online on search engines. The rest is spent on social networks and browsing other sites. If marketers could follow us without actually eavesdropping, they would be able to compile comprehensive dossiers based on the types of sites we visit, the things we read, the videos we watch, the products we shop for. It sounds spooky, of course, and people claim they do care about the lack of privacy…"

"Over the course of a day the typical American is caught on camera two hundred times: at traffic lights, paying highway tolls, walking the dogs, taking money from ATMs, shopping in convenience stores, and a tiny fraction are caught committing crimes. Within a twenty-block radius of New York University, there are more than five hundred surveillance cameras, which catch students and professors doing everything from buying a falafel, racing past the iconic fountain in Washington Square Park on the way to class, or purchasing allergy medicine like Claritin-D, for which they are required by law to show their driver's licences because it contains a common substance used in meth."

(Adam L. Penenberg in 'Viral Loop: The power of pass-it-on,' p. 224 Hachette)

Hachette-Viral Loop revised

The Heart of a Leader

"Moneymaking is about what you can get; perpetual prosperity is about what you can give. Success at the money level is about what you can achieve; perpetual prosperity is about how you can serve. There are many good reasons to earn money, but some people seek money because of the power and status it will give them to control events and other people."

"While some of us never get beyond money or the things money buys, most of us know a void in our lives needs to be filled if we only pay attention to making money."

"When we reach out to help someone else, we often get more back in return. That's not why we help people; that's just how it works sometimes."

(Ken Blanchard in 'The Heart of a Leader: Insights on the art of influence,' p. 127 Jaico)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Decoding Intolerance

"Ascension of Muslims to high positions such as those of the president and vice president of India, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, or even chief of the air force, does not hold more than a symbolic value. When it comes to hard numbers, Muslims are indeed under-represented, relative to their population, in the armed forces, paramilitary forces, the police and sometimes even in corporate fields."

"The well-regarded actor Shabana Azmi, former Rajya Sabha member and a social activist, equally respected for her thespian qualities as well as her intellect, recently bemoaned the fact that builders in Mumbai, her city of residence, had refused to sell her property because she was a Muslim. This brought in a torrent of letters from similarly discriminated Muslims wishing to buy or rent property in Mumbai. Subsequent media attention to this episode brought to light the expected fact that this happens in other metro and non-metro cities with clockwork regularity."

"This underscores the social discrimination Muslims have to contend with, even when they are celebrities, in the cities and towns where they live. Such discrimination leads to the 'ghettoization' of Muslims, wherein they have to restrict themselves to certain areas in a town or city. In these areas, property is almost exclusively owned by and given out to Muslims. Its fallout can occur in terms of reverse discrimination in the sense that non-Muslims cannot find place in Muslim-dominated areas."

(Prateep K. Lahiri in 'Decoding Intolerance: Riots and the emergence of terrorism in India,' (Prateep K. Lahiri in 'Decoding Intolerance: Riots and the emergence of terrorism in India,' p. 84 Roli)

Roli-Decoding Intolerance

Nine Dragons

"The first thing that hit Bosch as he stepped up into the first level of the Chungking Mansions was the smell. Intense odors of spices and fried food invaded his nostrils as his eyes became accustomed to the dimly lit third-world farmers' market that spread before him in narrow aisles and warrens. The place was just opening for the day but was already crowded with shopkeepers and customers. Six-foot-wide shops stalls offered everything from watches and cell phones to newspapers of every language and foods of any taste. There was an edgy, gritty feel to the place that left Bosch casually checking his wake every few steps. He wanted to know who was behind him."

"He moved to the center, where he came to an elevator alcove. There was a line fifteen people deep waiting for two elevators, and Bosch noticed that one elevator was open, dark inside and obviously out of commission. There were two security guards at the front of the line, checking to make sure everybody going up had a room key or was with somebody who had a key. Above the door of the one functioning elevator was a video screen that showed its interior. It was crowded to maximum capacity, sardines in a can."

(Michael Connelly in 'Nine Dragons,' p. 211 Hachette)

Hachette-Nine Dragons

Cyberabad Days

"Sul the astrologer nodded slowly. I sat on the floor of yts observatory. Incense rose on all sides of me from perforated brass censors. At first glance the room was so simple and bare that even a sadhu would have been uncomfortable, but as my eyes grew accustomed to the shadow in which it must be kept to work as a prediction machine, I saw that every centimetre of the bare pink marble was covered in curving lines and Hindi inscriptions, so small and precise they might be the work of tiny gods. The only light came from a star-shaped hole in the domed ceiling: Sul's star chamber was in the topmost turret of the Hijra Mahal, closest to heaven. As yt worked with its palmer and made the gestures in the air of the janampatri calculations, I watched a star of dazzling sunlight crawl along an arc etched in the floor, measuring out the phases of the House of Meena. Sul caught me staring it, but I had only been curious to see what another nute looked like, close up."

(Ian McDonald in 'Cyberabad Days,' p. 55 Hachette)

Hachette-Cyberabad Days

Blocked by Caste

"31 per cent of the villages specified the form of caste discrimination in their MDMS (Mid-day Meal Scheme) and identified separate seating as the primary problem. IN these instances, Dalit children are required to sit apart from the dominant caste children – sometimes simply apart within the same space or, at other times, outside the school building while the dominant caste children sit inside; on the floor or on dirt when dominant caste children sit on mats; or on a lower level than their dominant caste peers."

"Dalit children and dominant caste children were required to eat separate meals altogether in 9.8 per cent of the villages. This was most often the case where there were two MDMS cooks for the same school – one Dalit and one dominant caste. The practice of separate meals usually implies segregated drinking water arrangements as well."

"Another 9.8 per cent reported more subtle forms of discrimination. In these villages, dominant caste teachers practised caste favouritism in serving the MDMS meals, treating the dominant caste children preferentially and reserving the smaller or less desirable portions for Dalit children."

(Ed: Sukhadeo Thorat and Katherine S. Newman in 'Blocked by Caste: Economic discrimination in modern India,' p. 295 OUP)

OUP-Blocked by Caste

Sarpanch Sahib

"Organised pressure to elect women into positions of power has not necessarily led to a society willing to accept women as political entities. Despite the fact that there are many women in positions of power at the state and central government levels in the country, it does not seem to have translated into a ready acceptance at the rural level. Traditional roles of housewives and age-old expectations of womanly submission has led to a somewhat alarming syndrome called pati-sarpanch, where it is in fact the husband of the woman elected, who actually controls affairs. In parts of Tamil Nadu, there have also been allegations where certain Dalit women panchayats have been auctioned off to the highest bidder. The 'auctioned' panchayat's role then, is to literally serve as a rubber stamp to the person who has bought her! In the face of such corruption, Lalitha says, women still have a lot to overcome within the Panchayati Raj system: the weight of bureaucracy, the restriction of mobility and non-literacy-based dependency, to name just a few."

(Ed: Manjima Bhattacharjya 'Sarpanch Sahib: Changing the face of India,' p. 49 Harper)

Harper-Sarpanch Sahib

How People Tick

"Stay open-minded, and if the persons who have been causing anxiety have shown that they do in fact deliver on time, remember that how people do what they do is very individual, and it may cramp someone's style to insist on a different approach from them. However, if it's a consistent problem, you have every right to discuss it with them and to work out other ways for 1) them to work, and 2) you to feel reassured."

"In very extreme cases, however, your expectations and their preferences might be mutually incompatible and you may need some help to be flexible. (Otherwise you could only work with people who are 'like you,' and that limits everyone's field, doesn't it?)"

(Mike Leibling in 'How People Tick,' 2e p. 109 Viva)

How People Tick