Thursday, January 9, 2014

Cultural Obsessions

I read somewhere on travel.stackexchange that one of the things to do to learn about someone's culture is asking them what their mom used to cook for breakfast. I can't find the link right now.

A much better thing to ask is to ask what a person's culture is obsessive about. For example,

  • Easter Islanders obsessed about building big stone bodies.
  • The Yapese obsessed about stone money.
  • The Indo-Aryans were obsessed about cows.
  • Central Asian tribes in the times of Changez Khan were obsessed with raiding India, China and Persia.
  • Present urban folk in any place are obsessed about vacations :-)

These are just examples. Presently, in the post-modern age of specialization, people are too varied to have cultural obsessions. But this is not entirely true. Abscence of evidence is not evidence of abscence.

That said, if you ever ask someone about any obsession of their culture, make sure you do that tactfully.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

You are a psychologist

Have you ever had to talk your parents into buying you something? Did you need to throw a tantrum? Did you negotiate, saying things like all my friends have [it], or no more [things] for me this year?

Who hasn't made an excuse for a leave at the workplace because their best friend from school was in town? Don't you always try to get off work early on the day of some great sports event? Haven't you seen people wait to drink in office parties, just to let someone else do it first?

Do you tell bad news straight away or wait for some time, or for the right moment? Or do you tell bad news straight away only when it suits the situation? Have you ever sat on good news, except to give someone a surprise?

If the answer to any of the above questions is Yes, then yes, you are a psychologist. You may not want to admit it, but you are one. It is kind of implied in the fact that we humans are social animals. Manipulation is like a knife. We can either use it to make great food, or to cut through a jungle, or, we can use it to kill others. We are all psychologists, but it is upto us how to use this 'gift' of ours.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The problem of the world

The problem of the world is that we humans only see the USP of something.

We only see the one thing that lets us make a decision. And we ignore all else.

We get into the wrong job, shift to the wrong place, move in with the wrong person (not me at least, not yet at least).

We choose a religion, a sports club, a social networking website, a programming language, a political ideology etc. based on one or another USP, and then we stick to it no matter what. I bet at least 1 person is reading this line ONLY because they found the title of this post interesting.

Maybe it is not just humans. Many flowers lure insects by their color. Many female insects lure seduce the males, procreate and then eat them up. Biology has its explanations, but I am not that intelligent :-)

I am not saying that there is something wrong with USPs. Sure something good is needed to get us attracted to something. But that should not result in defamation, bullying, hypocrisy etc. You know,

All this means that if we can get past this USP thing, we can be more knowledgeable and insightful. And this can lead to better decisions and actions. Or at least better retrospection.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Indian journalism issues

 There are 2 problems with our journalism, whether print or electronic. 

Firstly, we need a better standard, which is only possible if we as consumers demand it. A rather famous Hindi newspaper here in Punjab is kind of famous for printing just about anything. 

Secondly, we need better a regulatory environment for the media. 
  1. Ownership should be printed on each newspaper. Currently, as per law, only the name and address of the editor/producer is printed. Many news channels are owned by Maruitious based companies. 
  2. Reports, surveys, exit polls, opinion polls etc. should have mandatory disclosure of methodology, sample size, sample demographics etc.
  3. Paid news should be controlled. Maybe a money amount 'cap' can be set up, under which excessive surcharge can be imposed. For example, if the 'cap' is set at Rs. 100 Crore/day, then any company spending more than this amount on a single news channel should be forced to shell out 10% or 20% of amount exceeding the 'cap.'

We need proactive regulators and not reactive or complaint-based ones like now.
Anything you would like to suggest is welcome.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Space and Time and Stereotypes

The world at a time is not defined by what it lacks in, but by what it has too much of. As persons, we don't define ourselves as poor, or lacking in intelligence. We define ourselves in being too lazy, or being too good for our own good.  Similarly, the current world is not lacking in environmental knowledge or effort, we are very good at industrialization.

Space and Time mean Geography and History, respectively.

There was a time when there was too much space. It is another way of saying that there was no good transport. People could not go beyond certain distances. For many people today, going to another continent might take less effort, time and money (converted to money in old times), than what it might have taken someone to go a few tens of kilometers.

Currently, we have too much information. This means we have too little time to consume it. Maybe that is why governments are going for things like PRISM and Five Eyes instead of 'normal' espionage. 

Too much information and too less time makes us forget past things. We have limited minds. Maybe this is why we get so happy when USA gets a new black president, but we forget that the same country has had Afghanistan and Iraq as its neo-colonies. Most people will forget their bully acquaintances when they get famous, at which stage the 'bully' will be substituted with 'naughty friend'.

Our stereotypes are changing to reflect this change. What earlier used to be on the lines of "People from xxx area are  bad/mean", is now "I should use less electricity. But first I should reboot my computer, it is on since the past week."

[The idea for this post came when I was chatting with my friend, Arpit Rawat.]