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Posts Tagged ‘Sri Lanka’

‘Strong’ cultures go weak in their knees

August 19, 2010 2 comments
Click for larger image.

Click for larger image.

Lingua Franca

Soon after the French Revolution (1789-1799), the new republic of France decided that it needed to stamp out all the local languages – and have One language – lingua franca. At the time of the French Revolution in France,

regional languages such as Provençal, Breton, and Basque were still strong competitors against standard French, the French of the Ile de France. As late as 1789, when the Revolution began, half the population of the south of France, which spoke Provençal, did not understand French. A century earlier the playwright Racine said that he had had to resort to Spanish and Italian to make himself understood in the southern French town of Uzès. After the Revolution nationhood itself became aligned with language.

Adds another writer

at the time of the French Revolution, only 10-12 % of France spoke French. Over the next 100 years, public schools and conscription armies turned “peasants into Frenchmen”. France simply did not allow diversities to flourish. Everyone came to speak French.

Look Again (While the British were busy in India, America's Founding Father's stole America from Britain - and the Native Americans.).

Look Again (While the British were busy in India, America's Founding Father's stole America from Britain - and the Native Americans.).

In the land of the Free

Americans were not allowed to learn or teach non-English languages for the best part of 200 years. All other language groups had to become American by giving up their own languages – and adopt the language of the land of the free.

By 1923, thirty-four states had laws that declared English the language of school instruction.  Since then, most states have enacted laws that require the use of English in specific situations, such as in testing for occupational licenses.

During the 1980s, resurgent xenophobia, directed this time toward Latino/a and Asian immigrants, revived interest in and support for comprehensive English language laws.  Organizations, such as U.S. English, formed to urge states and Congress to enact Official English and English-Only laws that encompass all aspects of government. (from Impact of English Language Movement on Consumer Protection Regulation By Steven W.  Bender Excerpted from Consumer Protection for Latinos: Overcoming Language Fraud and English-Only in the Marketplace, 45 American. University Law Review – 1027-348, 1047-1054 (1996).)

Various US state governments outlawed all languages – except English. It was only in 1923, was this was finally set aside after the matter reached the US Supreme Court (read Meyer vs Nebraska). The USA gathered some courage to start timidly with more than English only after seeing India’s success with 15 languages.

Why are these countries so ‘protective’ about their language? Why do they then want to ‘spread’ their language (English or French) to others?

Coming to India

In India, from a Western stand-point

Contrary to public perception (in the West), India gets along pretty well with a host of different languages. The Indian constitution officially recognizes nineteen languages, English among them.

Why is it that India preserves its unity with not just two languages to contend with, as Belgium, Canada, and Sri Lanka have, but nineteen? The answer is that India, like Switzerland, has a strong national identity.

As for India, what Vincent Smith, in the Oxford History of India, calls its “deep underlying fundamental unity” resides in institutions and beliefs such as caste, cow worship, sacred places, and much more. Consider dharma, karma, and maya, the three root convictions of Hinduism; India’s historical epics; Gandhi; ahimsa (nonviolence); vegetarianism; a distinctive cuisine and way of eating; marriage customs; a shared past; and what the Indologist Ainslie Embree calls “Brahmanical ideology.” In other words, “We are Indian; we are different.” (via Should English Be the Law? underlined text supplied for clarity).

How can we ever credit this poor, vernacular, dhoti-wearing man with such 'liberalism'? (Cartoon character - RK Laxman's Common Man).

How can we ever credit this poor, vernacular, dhoti-wearing man with such 'liberalism'? (Cartoon character - RK Laxman's Common Man).

Credit Gandhi or Nehru

Robert D.King (quoted above) after a fair amount of research makes a few missteps. He writes how in India

Hindi absolutists wanted to force Hindi on the entire country, which would have split India between north and south and opened up other fracture lines as well. For as long as possible Jawaharlal Nehru, independent India’s first Prime Minister, resisted nationalist demands to redraw the capricious state boundaries of British India according to language.

How long would Nehru have lasted if really tried imposing Hindi? In this Hindi-imposition charade, some read a ruse by Nehru to actually impose English on the Indian population. His ‘tryst with destiny speech gives the game away completely – as his many other statements on English.

Similarly, Ashutosh Varshney (quoted above) makes a fine distinction between Indian‘mosaic’ and  the Western ‘melting pot’ models. He goes then and he misses the beat, completely, by crediting Gandhiji for this Indic construct!

He says, “Under Gandhi, India consciously embraced diversities” is he implying that before Gandhiji, India was a mono-bloc society. Was it under the thrall of ‘One’? Would Gandhiji have become a Mahatma in India, if tried the ‘melting pot’ strategy?

I think not!

Gandhiji would have been rejected, rubbished and trashed before he could have said M – of mosaic, melting pot or Mahatma. The only people who cannot be credited are the nearly 120 crore Indians who get by using each others languages! What role did they play in this?

Strange logic, this!

Exporting disease, making a killing

May 22, 2010 7 comments

How pharma lobby uses misuses money to subvert law, opinion and science!

How pharma lobby uses misuses money to subvert law, opinion and science!

Mental illnesses popular in the US, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anorexia and depression, in particular, are now spreading across the world with the speed of contagious diseases, says Watters, who went about investigating why this was happening although different cultures view mental illnesses through a complex prism of religious, scientific and social attitudes. In short, the West, primarily the US, has been homogenising the way the world goes mad.

Underlying this trend is the western assumption that human beings are innately fragile and should consider many common emotional experiences as illness that require professional intervention. There is also the dangerous assumption that certain types of events in a person’s life, such as being laid off, are certain to result in psychological trauma that requires psychiatric care and medication. Why is mental illness being globalised to such an alarming degree that different conceptions of the troubled mind in different cultures are being overridden by the dominant view and are fast vanishing? (via Exporting disease, making a killing).

View from a bridge

Many years ago, reading The Constant Gardener by John Le Carre, only confirmed suspicions and common knowledge about medical malpractices – at least in India. In the last 10-15 years, it has become commonplace for doctors to get beaten up at hospitals in India. Medical malpractice was, personally, never an issue as I have been off Western medicines for nearly 40 years.

But to see the exploitation, from a distance, by the combination of ‘doctor-pharma company’ is a study in nausea. Western medical system is the single biggest creator of disease! Apart from the cases of Japan-Paxil, Sri Lanka-PTSD-Pfizer, there is the well known case of how family planning activists misused quinacrine in India.

From being highly respected citizens, to being beaten up regularly is sad decline for the medical community.

But it had to happen.

Rajarathnam did not talk about the American dream

January 20, 2010 Leave a comment

In Sanskrit, the difference between लाभ labh (profit) लोभ lobh (greed) is सूक्ष्म thin. Very thin. Government should not be greedy in matters of taxes and imprisonment.

He told the story with the broad, toothy smile that had ingratiated him to a generation of Silicon Valley executives. The grin softened the edge of a boss who d call you an idiot or prod you into some humiliating stunt: Would you take $5,000 to be shocked with a stun gun?

In a mansion on a manmade island in Biscayne Bay in February 2007, Mr. Rajaratnam seemed determined to live up to his regal description of his name. It was Super Bowl weekend, and America s rich and powerful had descended on South Florida to watch the Indianapolis Colts play the Chicago Bears. Mostly they were there to do business. Mr. Rajaratnam s business was running a hedge fund, Galleon Group, that had made him a billionaire. And that business was based on contacts. (via The Man Who Wired Silicon Valley – WSJ.com).

Hatchet job … or a smear

This rather long post in WSJ was rather interesting. Some things stand out.

  1. The article mentions how the SEC and FBI was working to “build the biggest insider trading case in a generation.” What makes it the largest insider trading case? US$20-US$25 million? By the way, nowhere do the writers mention that the amount in question is US$20 million (as per FBI and US$25 million per SEC). In more than 15 A4 pages, and 6500 words.
  2. The whole article is about anecdotes – I counted more than 32 anecdotes and gave up.
    Maddof and his craft is alive and in the US Fed's office

    Maddof and his craft is alive and in the US Fed's office

  3. This WSJ article talks of a “dizzying picture of multiple insider-trading rings”. Worth US$20 million in insider trading?
  4. This article talks of a how Rajarathnam had earlier handed over a huge cache of documents in an investigation relating to his younger brother Rengan, in “early 2007 in cooperation with an SEC investigation of his younger brother, a probe that hasn’t resulted in charges.”
  5. “There is reason to fear that there is a culture –not only at hedge funds but at large firms in the financial sector — that thinks nothing of casually exchanging material nonpublic information,” said Preet Bharara. Now if this is the pervasive culture, how come only Rajarathnam and his ‘associates’ were investigated, charged and arrested.
  6. Is Preet Bharara expecting that every word of every conversation be released to the public before talking to anyone – or is he talking of a simul-cast of all conversations! Google are you listening!!
  7. “Insider-trading charges are notoriously difficult to prove. That’s because Wall Street is awash in information, and every savvy investor tries to be the first to ferret out important tidbits. To gain a conviction, prosecutors have to persuade a jury that a person traded on information that they knew was not only confidential but was also important enough to move a company’s stock price.” Why is it difficult to prove? Because it is difficult to define? Now if the WSJ knows this, should it not be fair and balance the coverage. But nowhere do they examine the difficulty of defining insider trading.
  8. Would you like to prosecute Citibank, Goldman Sachs and Alan Greenspan for the way they ‘saved’ LTCM? If you ask me, it was a mix of inside information, racketeering and anti-trust rolled in one.
  9. WSJ articles talk about how another case had to be dropped as they were “unable to prove that Mr. Rajaratnam traded on the information.”

On Wall Street

Coconut Bharara - Brown outside, vindictive inside?

Coconut Bharara - Brown outside, vindictive inside?

The case of the Sri Lankan Rajarathnam has similar smell to it. The US prosecuting authority, Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, alleges that the Galleon Fund made some US$20 million out of this insider trading.

Galleon Fund (more than US$5 billion in assets under management) probably spent more than US$20 million on tea, coffee, espresso, soda, Evian and paper napkins.

Rajrathnam’s own net worth was estimated by “Forbes” to be US$ 1.3 billion. Is there any sense, any balance to these cases. Especially, when what constitutes ‘insider’ trading itself is so vague and nebulous!

Is Preet Bharara, indulging in reverse ‘affirmative action’ by prosecuting Rajarathnam? Is a ‘Whiter-than-White’ Preet Bharara trying to prove that he is colour blind?

“If you’re a wealthy trader, you aren’t special,” Bloomberg quoted Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara as saying at a press conference. “Knock on our door before we come knocking on yours.”

What Preet Bharara should do is investigate Hank Paulson, the Former Treasury Secretary, under whose watch many bankruptcies happened conveniently in favour of JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs.

Character certificates from prosecutors?

Robert Khuzami, director of enforcement at the SEC, said the charges show Rajaratnam’s “secret of success was not genius trading strategies.”

“He is not the master of the universe. He is a master of the Rolodex,” Khuzami said.

Is Khuzami here to pronounce judgment on Rajarathnam’s business skills? How is this comment relevant at all? All that Khuzami & Co needs to do is show culpability for specific action(s) – and not pronounce or give character or competency certificates.

What Khuzami is doing is usually called vilification. And why do you need to indulge in vilification, Mr.Khuzami? Is that not abuse of your office and statutory powers? Is that not misuse of Government machinery?

“Greed is not good,” Bharara said. “This case should be a wake-up call for Wall Street.”

I think I know …

I agree with you on this one, Mr.Bharara. Greed indeed is not good. Now you (might) know that in Sanskrit, the difference between लाभ labh (profit) लोभ lobh (greed) is सूक्ष्म thin. Very thin. A government official should not be greedy in justice and convictions.  America’s overflowing prison population is proof enough that rigid justice wont work. It is always better to be a little lenient – rather than being repressive.

Checking out the American Dream

Checking out the American Dream

But then maybe it is beyond your tolerance. After all, in all the articles and posts, which covered Rajarathnam, not once did Rajarathnam bang his head at the altar of the ‘American Dream.’

It is galling, isn’t it? I understand your frustration and anger. Everyone else does it. Why is Rajarathnam not doing it? Maybe that is what is beyond tolerance.

I fully understand!

Lee Kuan Yew On Chinese ‘superiority’

October 12, 2008 2 comments
Lee Kuan Yew - A modern follower of the Confucius

Lee Kuan Yew - A modern follower of the Confucius

To begin with we don’t have the ingredients of a nation, the elementary factors, a homogenous population, common language, common culture and common destiny. (via We saw Sri Lanka: Lee Kwan Yew says it again).

How tough it must have been

He is talking about the difficulty of ‘creating’ the nation-state of Singapore – with a population of 45 lakhs (4.5 million). To put that in perspective, that is little less than twice the population of AIDS-affected in India. And to think that India believes that the success of Singapore has any lessons.

Confucius - The Chinese Government loves him!

Confucius - The Chinese Government loves him!

Lee Kuan Yew, who is sure that India will never grow beyond 60%-70% of China and how the Confucian ethic is superior.

Platonic-Confucian axis

The axis of Confucian-Platonic authoritarian, ‘wise’ rulers was the overwhelming model for the world. Property rights remained with less than o.1% of the people. Under the CRER principle, (cuius regio, eius religio, meaning whose land, his religion; CRER) even the personal and private aspects of a person, like religious beliefs of the individual, were subject to State approval.

One thing, Mr.Lee, why don’t you ever talk about how beneficial it was for you (meaning Singapore, since  your family practically owns and runs Singapore) to become a client state of the US. That is the one lesson that Singapore can teach, Mr.Lee.

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