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Terrorist attack in Banglore

The terrorist attack in Banglore on Dec 28th has made a lot of people nervous about the outsourcing industry. Of course, people who’ve been against outsourcing to begin with will seize this as yet another opportunity to talk about the drawbacks of outsourcing. Many mainstream media outlets have picked up the story and are talking about the adequacy of security measures in Banglore.

Of course, it will take a lot more than a few terrorist attacks to turn the tide of business and technical outsourcing but this attack comes at a time when the IT industry is already under attack from the likes of Deve Gowda. Maybe the terrorists can sense that the IT industry does not have full support of the local and national government and they can get away literally with murder. In fact, I can imagine the likes of Deve Gowda almost gloating at anything that would bring the IT industry down to its knees if only because it will give back some of the power that our politicians have lost recently.

What makes the US tick?

What makes the US tick? What makes it the most powerful nation in the world? Well the events of last month provided us with many examples all leading to the same answer; that it is the honesty and integrity of the ordinary people. Sure there is corruption in the highest places (which a simple Google news search on Jack Abramoff or Randy “Duke” Cunningham will show you), sure there was an Enron or a Worldcom scandal but at the end of the day, sense of decency and uprightness of regular people sticking to their jobs brings home the bacon. Justice is swift and punishment is not delayed no matter how high and mighty the person is.
It does not happen because a Mahatma, a Messiah or a Savior comes and punishes people for their crimes. It is because a state attorney general here, a vigilant employee there, a small judge here, and ordinary citizens everywhere – stick to their duty and their voice of conscience.

I’ll give you an example. For a few months now, it looked that in the US, science and scientific enquiry would come to a grinding halt because of religious zealots. They insisted on schools letting their students know that Darwin’s theory of evolution is just a theory and not justified by facts and that there is another theory out there called Creationism that is intellectually on par with the theory of evolution. In effect, their game plan is to muddy up the water so that people start confusing theory of evolution as just another theory, probably on par with Creationism. For some time it did seem like they were winning. In Dover, Pennsylvania this is what teachers were forced to read out the students before teaching evolution:

The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin’s theory of evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.

Because Darwin’s theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The theory is not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.

Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view. The reference book, “Of Pandas and People,” is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves.

With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the origins of life to individual students and their families. As a standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on standards-based assessments.

And this trend looked like growing by leaps and bounds across the country, in Kansas, in Tennessee, in Texas and for a while it looked as if the entire country was only too eager to say “Here likes theory of evolution, RIP”. What it took to stop it? A bunch of parents in Dover, Pennsylvania who decided that they could not be mute spectators while their kids were being taught religious beliefs in the garb of science. It is important to realize that they did not have any grand vision about the clash of science and religion, they just wanted to ensure the best education for their kids and were willing to stand up for it. It also took a relatively junior Federal judge, a Republican no less, appointed by President Bush no less, to listen to the arguments in the court, put aside his own ideology and beliefs and come out with thus stunning blow of a judgment:

Judge Jones said that intelligent design has no place in a public school’s biology classroom. That it is a thinly-veiled religious teaching of creationism and Christianity. It’s a fine belief, he said, but it’s not science. Period.

And all of a sudden religious zealots across the country were stopped in their tracks. Just a handful of parents with conviction and a judge true to his conscience was all it took.

French!

Now why do you think that the people who are against Globalization, American hegemony, America’s corrupting influence on the world, Capitalism and it evil consequences, the people who come out of their caves every time there is a WTO meet, disappear when it comes to the French?
Where are the hordes of Muslim protesters who come out to trample upon the US flag (in a mosque in Lucknow) or in the streets of Karachi over alleged treatment of Muslims by the US when they realize that it is France and not the US which has been mistreating its Muslim immigrants?

Are they are drunk on French wine? Maybe they are too busy watching French models cat walking down the fashion aisles in Paris!

Look at what happened during the recently concluded Hong Kong round of the World Trade Organization. Here’s what the NY Times had to say about it:

The talks were supposed to move countries toward eliminating all of the trade-distorting subsidies that America, Japan and Europe employ to give their coddled farmers an unfair leg up on the global competition. Doha also called for liberalization in services, which would be extremely beneficial to rich countries. But since those countries, egged on by France, balked at making good on their promises to liberalize farm trade, which would help poor countries, those poor countries weren’t exactly feeling very amenable to liberalizing services.

But the interests of textile companies in America and farmers in France and Japan continue to mean more in the trade negotiating world than the fate of a hungry child in West Africa.

In my opinion, the United States has done more than its fair share in advancing the cause of Globalization. It is the Europeans, specially the French and the Germans who get into this drag and retreat mode. And yet, due to some reason, it is the US which always bears the brunt of anger in a lot of developing nations. What gives?

Jack of all master of none

I am nothing if not eclectic in my reading tastes. Well that’s a euphemism. A less charitable person would call me “Jack of all and Master of none”. In any case, here are some of the books that I am simultaneously trying to finish right now:

  • The story of my experiments with truth by MK Gandhi
  • Bhagwadgita by Sir Edwin Arnold
  • Code Complete on software construction and programming
  • Home buying for dummies

Of course this is over and above keeping a 50 hour work week and trying to watch as many episodes of the West Wing and PBS documentaries that I can watch. Imagine my surprise then when some people ask me, “How do you pass your free time?”

Today I was watching the PBS documentary on Benjamin Franklin. As far as I can remember, Mr. Franklin was one of the main characters in my science textbooks as published by NCERT, but I do not recall him ever making an appearance in either my civics or history text books. Imagine my surprise then when I learnt today that he was the “Sardar Patel” of the American Revolution! Or should I say that Sardar Patel was the Benjamin Franklin of India? In any case, it seems to me that there are a lot of similarities between Patel and Franklin in the roles that they played in formation of their respective nations. It is kind of fascinating. I’ve not yet read any book on Sardar Patel but my opinion is based on whatever little I know of him.

Isn’t it ironic that I know much less about Patel than I know about Franklin? Is it my fault or is it the fault of historians in India who’ve never paid any attention to people who really helped shape India beyond the Nehru clan? Well here again is another similarity. The documentary that I saw today seemed to imply that Franklin was neglected by historians in favor of George Washington. Just like Patel was ignored in favor of Nehru.

Regardless, I feel that I would have been much better off if Indian education system had been better at introducing me to people like them and help me learn more about life from them rather than rote repetition.