Friday, 15 July 2016

The market of lies.

As economies expand and explode, new markets show up everyday. Markets for brands, ideologies, professions and what not. All markets, no matter how disparate they are, have this unique characteristic of being largely transactional. To say it the other way, brands, commodities or whatever it is, can often be replaced with a similar substitute without much hustle. Very few Coke fans would remain Coke fans if they were in a Coke drought for months and always had Pepsi around. Hence markets, no matter what's traded in them, are extremely dynamic, virulent and competitive. Now what if I tell you that after the tangible obvious market objects, comes a rather abstract set of entities that can also be traded? That entity is a lie! 

Oh yes! The market of lies is an old and an established one. Right form the Mayan prophecies which made a cabalistic truth stand on top of everything else and made a rotten community of profligate stay strong, to modern established religion, to industrialization, to capital markets, to augmented reality! Everything exists and promises a certain set of benefits in return for faithful unbridled, unquestioned preaching! So initial followers give it a try, and find the benefit of being the first cohort. Then more people follow suit, and more, and the chain goes on. It ceases finally only when no one checked for the veracity and the action of exchanging full loyalty with the supposed benefit is so well established that the question of questioning the worthiness of the exchange is altogether debilitated. 

Lies are in fact the most suitable candidate to be marketed, and despite our beyond all doubt Darwinian evolution bypassing human intelligence, we still allow all marketing communication appurtenant to lies to titillate us and sweep us off our feet! Why? Well, because lies are never marketed as they are. They're always, and almost infallibly, wrapped conveniently in a mesmerizing labyrinth of facts, events, happenings and incidents which all cover up the lie and give it a unique and a much more sanctified identity of its own!

Consider major wars! Looking back at WW2, it seems silly and moronic that a race suddenly considered itself far more imperial and suddenly felt the need to assert its right on supremacy of all forms. However, if you read Mein Kampf, you'll see how perfectly the harbinger of the war, Adolf Hitler, had wrapped the original agenda in a veil of purported tyranny and struggle, which justified emancipation by ripping off everyone who was not ostensibly exploited! 

Look at industrialization now. People prior to it had agriculture, no electricity, no hi-fi comm gear and nothing of what can be qualified as a 'life'. People were also struck by epidemics and one would be compelled to deem their lives miserable and filthy. But make no mistake, those people were far more happy! Why? It's simple! One, they were fewer in number so even with the limited resources, everyone just had about enough. Compare this with today when a handful have much more than the remaining 99%, and the remaining 99% have the sole and meager 1%. So we technically have more per head, but the distribution more than annihilates the advantage. 

It was all a lie. Wars, revolutions, capital markets, everything! Look beneath the many veneers, and you'd see the solemn truth. And very often, it's not the ones who work hard and wither under the hemorrhaging travails of masqueraded lies who win. It's the ones who seek the solemn truth and find it, who go on and win. It will seem pretty surprising but most of what we're told to do to appear ideal, is farcical. So why is it that despite the world becoming more transparent and more intellectually advanced, a handful of people still rule the roost? It's because the rulers know there should be only a limited number of rulers and they've upped their game to keep it that way. Lies have evolved.

A few years ago, multiple investment banks across the US created what later came to be known as Collateralized Debt Obligations(CDOs), which were a complex investment instrument tied to the repayment of loans at the US house markets. Despite the innate fallacies of the product, these products were deemed top grade by credit rating agencies either because they were fooled, or because they connived with the rulers. Later on more complex instruments CDSs(Credit Default Swaps) were invented to bet against the already complex CDOs. And that was the best example of the mired malarkey mentioned above. The instruments, despite the ridiculous perils associated, were even bought by state pension funds, thereby embroiling the hard earned pensioners' money. The lie hidden in all of it was that the US house market would crash. Everyone knew from the bottom of their hearts that most loans were bad with no securities, and yet everyone largely bet for the market's bullish future, until CDSs came in and changed the specifics. When markets crashed and multiple economies collapsed at once, everyone spoke that the downfall was obvious. Such, ladies and gentlemen, was the prowess of those who managed to market this lie. 

Consider a country torn in bits and pieces due to a dictatorial regime of a local demagogue. Now another country comes in and says we'll spend a lot of blood, we'll devastate all the infrastructure and we will then give you your country back with nothing left. So you think wow it'll be amazing to get the land back, and yet you miss on the fact that the country would not be what it was. Or consider an incumbent government raising taxes. The public goes on strike, there's massive hoopla and hubbub, and everyone goes crazy. A few days later. all rise is rolled back and suddenly everyone sings paeans of praise for the government, even though the government raised for a rollback. The welfare and egalitarianism of the outside country in first case and the govt in the second case is all a sham, but wonderfully packed in complex human perplexing mechanisms so impeccable that everyone misses the bus. 

As the world progresses and the reins move from administrative moguls to media, telecom and cyberspace moguls, the world will become an intricate network of populace ruled by extremely powerful rules who'd be in a position to hard press anything with an almost indomitable cover to break through. You're told to work hard so that you buy better houses, afford emis for the same, pay bills your whole life, have kids and die. The banality in that is obvious but the rulers have ensconced such fear and anxiety in us, that the mere thought of deviation from the set path bodes paroxysm. Lies become more and more complex to decipher, and as the world becomes more glorious in terms of materialism, the world becomes more sombre in terms of quality of life. At the end, remember how you wake up vis-a-vis a 2016 BC man. You wake up to see pictures of waterfalls on your cellphone screensaver and feel good. The other guy actually owned a couple of them! 

Thursday, 23 June 2016

The confessions of a skilled lunatic.

Trust me when I tell you! It takes quite some doing to associate with yourself the title I've mentioned above. But post the grueling realization on how apt it is, you can't help but feel an eerie aplomb about it. I'm just another guy on the tenterhooks in the 21st century corporate scenario. Confused and clueless as I am about my future, I have a barrage of self-imposed confidence about my success that I genuinely didn't foster. And much to my surprise, even with my meager quiver of limited acumen on a handful of work related aspects, I'm often extolled as a young turk to watch out for. So I've largely lived my entire life equipping myself with more sharpened skills that would serve me better in what these people think would come of me. But of late I've come to notice some very strange but palpably obvious things about this entire fiefdom I now feel caught up in, and would like to share the same with you. 

All this time when I literally loved to study a few subjects and genuinely doted for those diagrams and schematics and precise descriptions of theories and principles in various books, I felt a sense of satisfaction that I'm finally gaining a piece of knowledge. One of our prime traits that make us human beings so superior, is our inexorable quest to never stop learning. And till the time I remained a student, from one institution to another, one grade beyond the lower rut, I just felt a mental elevation parallel to the allegorical one. I felt I'm moving up because I was building upon my knowledge and with every passing grade, I believed I am equipped with more sophisticated dexterity that is usually required at higher levels. So before stepping into the corporate folderol, that was quite a feeling to be initially solving case studies pertinent to an operations manager and then finally solving ones from the perspective of the CEO. It all seemed perfect till..

Till I finally joined the corporate world. As expected I was roped in at beginning levels and all I thought I had to do was to implement those entry level skills at work, learn more about the job, hone those skills with practical experience, and then just keep going and graduating one level up to move to the skills learned in the higher grade. But just a few days into the job I realized the innate fallacy in this. One, the teaching of stratified skills in your schools is not perfect. As you move to the higher skills, you concentrate so much on the fundamentals of the higher levels, that a very deep understanding of the basic levels is lost. I don't have a perfect analogy but consider a programmer who was trained initially on binary code, then assembly language and then he went on to the higher level programming instructions. Now he once knew the assembly language coding pretty well at college but he passed out knowing higher level programming with supreme confidence. 

His confidence was not dumbfounded. Everyone told him that most of the jobs need higher level programming skills so that was the right skill to acquire. And before you could know, you're in a software company, coding 9-5 on a high level programming language. Slowly and steadily you lose a grip of your fundamental skills of breaking down higher level instructions into assembly instructions, and assembly instructions into bits. After initial practice at the sophomore when you worked on high level programming, you initially did the conversions in a tedious and stultifying fashion but became good at it with time. Now, given that no one gives a damn about your conversion skills, you lose sight of what resides within what you do. And slowly and steadily, all your progress is linked to what you do and perform at a higher abstraction level. 

You earn well and you're promoted. So you learn more and more of that higher level programming language because you can now do more things on that higher abstraction level. And suddenly, all your erudition into seeing how things move at a basic level vanquish. In fact for the larger part of it you won't even recognize the presence of the lower layers - the cogs and sprockets. Your skill becomes detached from the fundamentals and while you're technically more skilled, your skills are narrowed down to a bare minimum. In fact to such a minimum, that now you entirely depend on your higher level programming language skills for existence and progress. So the language you coded on, now codes your life.

The above fallacy is hard to find but the analogy shows how more skills in the corporate world are tantamount to a depredation of your foundation skills. So while your actual skills, the ones that are actually needed to make something new and unique, like maybe a new programming language altogether, are made to vanish in the corporate culture. And all the while the success that comes with an emboldening of the higher level programming skills makes you narcissistic. So if tomorrow a young lad comes in and questions your higher level code by breaking it into bit levels, you'd knock him out because his volley was too hard for you to even comprehend. He'd be termed a ruffian and a misfit. And the culture that killed your real skills, now uses another you to kill skills of yet another young lad. And the vicious cycle continues. 

People sitting at the top of the corporate hierarchy run your life through pretenses and delusions. They know you don't merely work for any money, but you work for the ambition to improve. So they create a virtual ecosystem, a hacienda, where the narrow set of skills they want you to wholeheartedly work on, are made to appear so astounding that you feel like a god when you attain them. While in the real world, outside the corporate ecosystem, and in the realm of founders and innovators, those skills may hold no worth at all. So when I, a skilled professional realized my place in the scenario, I branded myself a lunatic. Because on one hand I'm able enough to see the sad and flagrant truth. But on the other hand, I can only feel mawkish about not being courageous enough to move out of a trap whose next layer is made out of this confession of mine!

Friday, 3 June 2016

The Decay hidden in development - The truth behind our imagined order.

"There is no God. But don't tell that to my servant, lest he murder me at night"


 - Voltaire



There is something very sublime about the lies a society tells itself. We, the Homo Sapiens, considered to be the most advanced species on the planet, the crowning glory of evolutionary heritage, consider ourselves to be a creation of God. We consider God to be the all powerful omnipresent, benevolent and condoning force that ensures we survive and thrive. We in fact placed so much of importance to ourselves while crafting these tales to last a millennia, that we neglected the symphony of nature and conveniently ignored everything else. In simple terms, God's prime purpose was set in stone. To atone for human sins so that humans could prosper, reproduce and produce billions of copies. And in this regard we heralded god so much, that it naturally became an obligation to help Gods in these endeavors by establishing what is known as the ''imagined order". 

An imagined order is a lie that is very obvious in hindsight, but which when enshrouded in a very surreptitious and delicately carved potpourri of myths, becomes too difficult to resist. One of which is the myth of development. Since time immemorial, sporadic human societies were made to congregate just so that some development could take place. Be it the gigantic pyramids, or the veritable Great wall of China, or the Taj Mahal, or the Burj Khalifa. All these monuments had very different objectives to serve. The pyramids served to engage slaves in dedicating lives to the service of the pharaoh - the manifestation of God. The wall of China in dedication to the future generations of the caucus. The Taj Mahal to fulfill the whims of the all powerful ruler. And the Burj Khalifa to establish the impregnable supremacy of a modern center of commerce. 

All four of these man made marvels symbolize development in the highest terms. Countless men and women, and later on architects and engineers, came together for many years, and once the edifice was in place, they went back to the silos. In that regard, development always served to integrate populations and till date, all modern nations are founded on the bedrock of an idea that derives from development. While the ideal of development in literal terms united the disparate American states in 1776, development of religious supremacy united the many pariah groups of Islamic militants who established the ISIS. Development is a solid motive, and a timeless trick to get together people who won't otherwise budge. But is development really that good?

The Egyptian syndicate collapsed, The Chinese empire vanquished and the Mughal reign extirpated. And maybe pretty soon Dubai too would lose all the glamor once the energy dynamics change. No development can ensure a long term sustainability of any kingdom or country. Development has an inhered decay of liberty. All development enshrines the belief vested in the imagined order that a state follows. The imagined order in Egyptian Nile Valley fiefdom was unrelenting unbridled service to the pharaoh. In China it was service to the protection of state. In case of Taj Mahal it was once again the ruler and commons relationship. And in Burj Khalifa it was a commercial contract. In that sense all development is centered around fulfillment of an imaginary promise. The Egyptian pharaoh could have simply revoked his obligation to the countless slaves after they built a pyramid by sentencing them to perdition despite their efforts, instead of bestowing eternal blessings. The great wall of China saw countless slaves die and their ash remains buried in the wall. The promise of security never saw daylight for them. It is believed that workers who built the consecrated Taj Mahal were ridden of their hands instead of them receiving honorary benefits from the king. And in case of Burj Khalifa, while it didn't happen, but the state could have reneged any contractual obligations before formal handover of the towering structure, owing to any inability to pay for the services and any other impending bailout clauses built into the contract enforced by a powerful state no one would have believed to fallout
All of the above arrangements are imagined orders. People join in because people believe in the myths these orders are set on. The myth of Pharaoh's godlike stature or in Dubai's perpetual prosperity. And so much we tend to believe in imagined orders that we lose sight of what's real. What's real is that all imagined orders come to an end. And religion is one of them. All Kingdoms and Gods and states have this thing in common - the imagined order that binds followers together. But while the imagined order of kingdoms and states is frail and fickle; and we've seen countless examples of ancient kingdoms and modern states falling into bits and pieces. Religion has reigned supreme as the myths go pretty deep. But you never know even with religions. After all, many theologists would still tell you how Islam and Catholicism were spinoffs of Judaism

That brings us to the deeper consideration. While imagined order breeds development, and in that light development is considered a revered virtue, is development just about as pestiferous as the imagined order when it comes to spreading lies that we build our lives and social systems on? Development as it's proved through the above examples, inevitably binds us to a belief. And being bound to a belief puts liberty of conscience in a decadent state. The belief in Egyptian Pharaoh mutilated all possibility of a more just and equal society. In fact as per Hammurabi's code followed by all Egyptian Pharaohs, it was dictated that the death of a supreme woman carrying a child meant much much more than that of a an expecting woman from the slave class. Likewise the development in China and the Taj Mahal too restrained possibilities of people moving beyond what was enforced as a mandate on them.

The above seems paradoxical, and the fact that we need a paradox to spurt development is quite a bit of a blow. We don't develop because we just want to. We develop because we are forced to. And in it lies the innate murder of our freedom of thought. No surprise when Alexander the great visited Diogenes, he was so sick of Alexander and the supposed modern world's garrulous jingoism that he shooed him away. He was the only man to sense the decimation of mankind's most powerful gift - free thought, in the light of development; Development that we humans take immense pride in, till date. 

With time however, inquisitive men like Diogenes plummeted badly, and we now are left with a miraculously large set of human plenums, all developing, all competing on development, and all thinking woah! what a good time it is to live in. While in reality, we're suffering from an exponential metastasizing decay in our thoughts and the degrees of freedom we once exercised in our cerebra. Our conscience is dilapidated, our finesse mortified and our cynicism quelled. We are much more progressive when it comes to materialistic marvels. But when it comes to thoughts, ideals and principals, we can't even write a formidable constitution, such as the one that was written just half a century ago in many nations. We can't think beyond what our myths, our imagined orders, and the concept of development compels us to exercise our thought prowess within the realm of. We are a race that on paper is progressing, but which in the scheme of nature's foreplay on evolution is becoming more and more morbid and decrepit. And one day, in the veil of more development, we'd become a bunch of human heap, sitting on a database of myths and beliefs, so large to devour and digest, that we won't even have any time to create any new ideals to engulf more human subjects into more development.   We're a gone case, but we won't realize it. Our imagined orders make it so very comfortable to believe that we're moving ahead, that it is only when we depart this life that we realize how big a lunatic we were!