Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Yash Chopra Jokes Aside

I'm going to Switzerland.

Joy is one of the things that is sadly understated in prose. Unless its in Punjabi. However, I'm neither qualified, nor able to write Punjabi Prose. Someday, I shall be.

The Joy, however, is perfectly understandable.

As it is with most Good Indian Boys (and as I've mentioned earlier before getting lost in a semi-lament of my inability to write in Punjabi, oh damn I better get back to the point already), I'm going to Switzerland. I'm exceedingly over the moon about this, because as it is not with most good Indian Boys, I'm not going on an SOTC tour accompanied by Gujju bhais, bens and tour chef, nor am I starring in a major Bollywood movie. However, I do hope to get to see beautiful women in Chiffon Saris on the slopes of the Alps. Yes, I realize that they don't come as a part of the regular scenery.

What I am going for is the International Student Conference at St. Gallen University. It's this really great world wide symposium, and they select 200 students based on an essay competition and fly them down and board and feed them for free. Yes,I'm one of them. Spontaneous Joy Explodes.

Needless to say, I'm very excited.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

In Defense of America

The United States comes in for a lot of bashing, and I can't say that I haven't indulged in it myself. Given that their public face to the world is an imbecile, and their foreign policy has in the present and in the past left a lot to be desired, its easy to "Satan-ize" the land of the free.

Given that, I think its important to remember why they like to call themselves the land of the free in the first place. By a stroke of luck, fate or unnatural intelligence, very early in the life of their country they managed to draft a document of such simplicity and beauty, that it has only been amended 27 times in its 300 plus year history. They've got this constitution of theirs, that many nations including ours have tried to copy. Its very short, with seven articles, and ten of its amendments outlining the bill of rights. It is, by word count and sans amendments, shorter than the insanely long document outlining the rules of debating that the National Law School of India University provides for its collegiate debates. And therein lies the beauty. In contrast, we have a behemoth of a constitution with countless articles, and amendments who's only prerequisite to be passed seems to be bearing the surname Gandhi.

The meat of the matter is this. Outlined in their bill of rights is something our and every country wishes to aspire to. Human rights, or general rights accorded to the citizens of land. Free speech, expression, public property, you get the drift.
Okay, but the serious difference and indeed the difference why one is nice and concise and the other is practically unreadable is the philosophy. The land of the free basically says, okay do what you like, and we the state specifically cannot interfere in so and so things. So their article doesn't say, "Hey, we're giving you the freedom of speech and not much else", it says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
See, that's it. That's what it takes articles 12-35 to outline in ours, and it comes along with numerous caveats.

And that's why its the land of the free. It might sound naive, but the superstructure that a state creates for itself affects the fortunes of its citizens greatly. So, if the constitution allows the creation of laws in India that allow the state to basically stop us from doing whatever the hell we want to, well those are the kind of laws that we'll get (and have gotten!).

On the other side of the world, The Supreme Court of the United States is probably going to rule to allow a high school student to display a large banner supporting "Bong Hits 4 Jesus". The issue of it "offending religious sensibilities" itself would have stricken down the same in India. It was censored as being "against the educational mission" in the States, that is, against their continuing message to kids over there to not do drugs. Their court of appeals disallowed that kind of censorship, saying that it wasn't a good enough reason to go against the right to free speech.
So, here's a state that's saying that its okay to speak against our state sponsored education message in a public space, and I have to stand up and applaud that. There's a lot of noise about a culture of fear being created in the western world, but appreciate judgments for what they are. These are people who know that putting up a banner like that is childish, immature, inflammatory and stupid, hell I bet even the kid who did it knows that but a large majority of the people also support his right to make that statement.

That's the kind of country I'd like to live in.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Straw men, and other fanciful creations

Singapore continues to surprise me. Yesterday, I got up to a pretty ordinary day, had a pretty ordinary morning, went to college to do some pretty ordinary maths homework and an hour and a half later, I was shivering uncontrollably and had 103 F fever. Needless to say, I was scared out of my wits, was rushed to Singapore General Hospital (Where the emergency wing has all of 1 room and 1 attending doctor, something that well, disgusted me even more than my general low opinion of the medical profession in Singapore) to wait 5 hours before finding out that the doctors had no clue what was wrong with me, but it seemed like a bacterial infection.

Two days later, I'm seemingly fine, albeit still kinda tired, have another day of bed rest ahead of me, and am generally a bit bored in life. I should study today, as my fever seems to be off but have a tremendous disinclination towards doing so. Well, that's hardly new now, is it?

But on a more fun note, one has seen some of the more random things the internet has to present. As a teaching assistant for this course called Analytical Skills, I must congratulate the very pissed off Cuckolds over at Save Indian Family Foundation, for giving the most visually striking example of a Straw man Argument. Here's how it goes, basically. Feminism is leading to unfair treatment of men in India, and ruining our families. Some women have misused the law to put false allegations as fraud to get dowry. This is wrong. Therefore, feminism in its entirety is wrong. Oh, and if the Straw man wasn't enough, they throw in a slippery slope as well, and tell us that because of these off instances, the entire Indian Family system as we know it is in danger. How deliciously droll. They even want to celebrate Men's day, for some odd reason.

Aside from getting "Biggest Wusses On the Planet" award, I think the nice men over here need a reality check. Their 10 news reports of things going wrong because some gold-digger laid false charges is hardly a reflection of Indian Society. Yes, it does happen. And yes, the cause behind the misuse of the law is the well...startling ease that the current law in India on dowry and domestic violence allows. You're basically guilty until proven innocent under it. But I think the nice men should also remember who's fault the creation of this very biased law is. It didn't come out of thin air, nor a vacuum. If we're in a country in which there's no equality offered, then obviously laws to correct that inequality are going to be passed. I hate to see it, personally, but its bound to happen. The reason is surprisingly utilitarian. For every one misuse of the new law, there's at least a hundred cases of the law being used to protect victims of dowry or domestic violence. I'd say that it's those hundred that are a larger threat to the "Indian Family" than the one, but either the nice men at SIFF are blind to those cases, or simply think that it's an acceptable part of the Indian Family Tradition. In either case, god bless the lot of them.

That said, a check and balance is needed in the current laws. My very fun Economic Analysis of Law course would argue increasing the liability of a false charge, to change the dominant strategy of the game to Not File False Charges. That said, my very fun Economic Analysis of Law course also assumes an efficient and just legal system, and rational economic individuals.

I'd like to have both some day.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

In my Defense

Okay, so I haven't written or posted about my life in donkey's ages. Last time I existed over here, I had just returned from Vanc, life was getting back to the college groove and generally things weren't all so bad. So what happened in between? In a word, shit. A more detailed explanation would be the wonderful way SMU's been treating me off late.

Before I get into that, I'd like to rant a minute here. One of the advantages of SMU is the sheer variety of CCAs and general activities you can take part in, compared to college back in India. One of the disadvantages of SMU is that you have absolutely not time in which to enjoy these various student life activities. A "differentiating" feature of SMU is starting to become not only the fact that there's always some concert/exhibition/competition/strange balloon related event on, but also there's absolutely no one watching. Why? Well, its quite simple. They're all busy meeting five billion deadlines, while also trying to juggle arranging for the next concert/exhibition/competition/strange balloon related event. Which basically means that the only real people who get to enjoy and appreciate the myriad of talent this little university has are the talented individuals themselves.

But of course, my following rant is based on the above. I don't remember my last 2 and a half months frankly, and that's disturbing. Since I last wrote, I've had six courses times a minimum of 5 graded components in each, projects, homework assignments, midterms, dastardly weekly presentations, readings, the works. Beyond that, I'm holding down two part time jobs, one as a teaching assistant for Analytical Skills, which involves me spending my free time correcting assignments, and as a Debate Coach for a local Secondary school, which involves me earning an inordinate amount of money for well, coaching debates. I like the word "Inordinate". Its sadly not an inordinate amount of money, as the ordinate (yes, its a fancy word for average) amount of money said coaches get is a lot more than me. But still, its monies and that's always a good thing. Oh, and lest I forget I'm president of a club, I've been trying my hand at Business Case Competitions, and of course to save myself from the insanity of it all I took a one week break during Chinese New Year time and flew back home.

I'd like to take a moment to thank the one week break. It's given me the kind of perspective that makes me realize that I no longer wish to work. Which is good, because term is winding up and I only have the full sum of Three Deadlines left. Sigh. I wish I could tell you of times I've been happier, but sadly that sort of stuff never gets written about on Blah!

So anyhow, I'll spend a vain attempt in trying to be back. Major projects and minor final exams concern me, be not too much. Chee, I think I'll grow up just yet.