Monday, June 28, 2021

Status Quoism

If you are like me, you would have had that story popping up all over the place on Social media. The one about the fisherman and the business executive. Where the corporate honcho tells the fisherman to stop idling and go dashing about, hither and yon, collecting money. So that, eventually, he can relax and enjoy life fishing. To which the fisherman says, "So what exactly am I doing now?"

Now, me, I think about the business executive...not being a fisherman. Not that I was much of a business executive but for the fact that I have the degree. See, the whole point about all that dashing about, climbing the corporate ladder (rung by slippery rung, as one of my friends put it pithily) IS to end up in a position where you can just coast along eventually, metaphorically fishing.

Which, essentially, is to say that you try to reach a position where change is something that other people have to do, not yourself. I mean, really, what's the point in huffing and puffing up the ladder if you still have to handle the stress of change?

And, thus, the biggest proponents of the status quo are the people with power. I mean, yeah, they are not necessarily against change as long it is only others who have to grapple with change. Not when it interferes with their own 'fishing'. Not to mention that you never know what will happen with change. After all, it IS the status quo in which they hold power. Who knows if change will allow them to keep their position or topple them?

You can visibly see that in the inter-functional interactions within an organisation. There are these production-centric organisations where the production guys have the last word. Finance may scream that their product is expensive, marketing can cry themselves hoarse that the features they build are not seen by the customers as worth the price, but their attitude would be, "We will build the sort of product we want to build; it is for you people to find a way to keep the costs as low as possible and/or to sell it at a price which makes it profitable."

Give the marketing guys the final say and it will all be, "Oh! This won't sell! People are only buying this, so produce it." I mean, like, take a look at the world of books, these days. It's all chick lit and myth re-tellings in India because that is what sells. As and when someone, normally a self-published author, manages to prove that some other genre sells, THEN there will be a beeline for that.

Essentially, the moment a chap or a function gets power his attempt is to make HIS job easy. Which essentially means that he no longer tries to DRIVE change, cos THAT means he has to work and innovate at it. It is only someone who is still hungry for success who strives to upend the status quo, not the one whose 'fishing' will get affected by any disturbance in the status quo.

Which applies as much to sociology in general, not just management. The people who expect to BENEFIT from the change and the people who expect not to LOSE anything by the change (either because they have already got theirs or because they have got nothing) are generally the most ardent supporters of the change. People who see something to lose, though...

WHAT? You know people who have something to lose and still support change? Sure you do, there are always exceptions to any rule. They do not prove that the rule is wrong, though.

Otherwise, you'd be giving out career advice saying, "Drop out of school and moon around in your garage. You'll become a billionaire"!

Monday, June 21, 2021


Even the Buddha, today, would probably find his enlightenment in the shadow of social media, I suppose. (Yeah, I mean a prince can leave his palace, wife and all even now but leaving social media may be a sacrifice too far as a lot of people who try to take sanyas from it have found out. Like the Prince who did leave behind his royalty, though not his wife and kids, but finds the attraction of media impossible to resist.) So, it is hardly surprising that even I find it there.

Before your mind starts boggling, let me hasten to add that it is not realization with the capital 'R'. You know, the sort of thing that encompasses the whole universe, your purpose in life, life after death and so on...(even the way you ought to dress and what you eat etc etc, according to some.) Nope, it is merely a realization with a small 'r', the sort of thing where you go 'Ah! NOW I get it. 2+2 IS 4' sort of thing.

The other day, there was this news item about how a few kids were playing loud music in a train and a couple of men were enraged when the kids refused to tone it down despite multiple requests. (The sort of news which makes headlines on Social media, I tell you. Israel and Hamas may be going hammer and tongs at each other, but the headlines on my Timeline will be about a mother who did not invite her kid's bully to a birthday party and such like things of earthshaking importance. Unless, of course, some actor or sportsperson tweets about this Israel-Hamas conflict. Then the TWEET becomes NEWS!)

Where was I? Ah! Kids playing loud music on a train. Yeah, the comments on that post were illuminating to say the least. It started off with, 'These modern day kids...' to which some, presumably, kid retorts, 'The problem with the Boomers...' and from there on it built up to a really GREAT meeting of minds...minds that either met on one side of the fence or the other. But, of course, the twain grew farther and farther apart from each other.

That is when it struck me that on helluva lot of problems were being created merely because we like to generalize about things rather than react specifically. I mean, if you just commented that 'These kids should have had more consideration for their co-passengers', you'd probably have found a lot of the 'modern day kids' aligning with you in their opinions. The moment you started off with this 'These modern day kids...' and made the issue about ALL modern kids and not just those specific kids, you started a ruckus. THAT sets them off defending those kids and their actions, even though they may not themselves agree with them. To say that 'But all kids do not act like that' not only makes them look like wusses but also invites the 'other party' to start cataloging all the other things that kids do DO. I mean, come on, do you really think #NotAllKids is an impressive hashtag, really?

The problem is that generalizing is such an important thing to maintain your dignity. You complain about a couple of kids in a bus or your own kids, it is too much like whining. Now YOU look like a wuss. On the other hand, if you talk of 'These modern kids...', you are merely discussing dispassionately the pros and cons of modern parenting.

Likewise with, say, a troublesome neighbor. If you complain of him throwing garbage in front of your gate, you are a whinging coward. If, on the other hand, you say, 'People of this community...they have no sense of hygiene', it's a learned discussion on sociology.

So, end of the day, people WILL generalize. And, thanks to that, 'Othering' WILL continue. Come rage, come Hate, come War, come what may.

And we will all sit around and talk piously about how hate is evil and it is love that makes the world go around.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Comparison (Again?)

There is this story, a Birbal or Tenali Raman story depending on which side of the Vindhyas you live in, about the chap being asked to make a line small without touching it. And the lad draws a bigger line by the side, in comparison to which the original line is smaller. That, essentially, taught me the value of comparisons. (Should have taught me lateral thinking? What's that? THINKING is something I try to do as little as possible without you complicating the matter with all these various flavors of thinking)

The problem, though, is that I think that example is sort of not really applicable to real life. The basic idea is all right, if they had drawn two lines and asked the chap to make the smaller line larger without touching the smaller line, it would be more appropriate. THEN, you know you only have to rub out a enough of the larger line to make it the smaller line. Which, essentially, is how comparisons seem to work for most of humanity.

I mean, yes, we have all heard about this so-called healthy competition and how you should learn to work to become better than the guy who is currently doing better than you. That is all very well in theory but in practice, though...

"Oh! He sucks up to the teacher which is why he gets better marks." Or, sucks up to the boss and so on and so forth.

It's far simpler to belittle the other chap's achievements, sort of rub off the larger line, so to speak, than to buckle down and actually work, you know. I mean, look at the relative effort involved and it is a frigging no-brainer.

THAT comparison strategy is what really works across the board. "These guys call themselves engineers and climb the ladder based on their degrees. Don't know the first thing about why the motor conks." "These MBAs, just because they can TALK..." and so on and so forth. (Yeah, there are times when these things are true of specific people but I'm yet to see anyone made happy by wallowing in such comparisons. The happy guys are the ones who either get away from that situation or ignore it, not the ones who perpetually scratch at it.)

Thankfully, to an extent, the comparisons do NOT work this way as long as the person concerned thinks he CAN get to that level. If the person both realizes that there is no Akbar or Krishnadevaraya who has prohibited extending the 'smaller line' AND thinks that it IS possible to extend it to the level, if not beyond, the 'larger line' which it is being compared to...well, if both those things hold true and if he is willing to put in the hard yards, then the comparison is healthy. How often does that happen, though?

As you keep growing, the 'larger lines' which you CANNOT supersede keep increasing. (Except, of course, if you are Elon Musk or Bezos or some such. In which case you probably fume about a Trump or a Modi OR envy a Nadal or a Federer OR some such...IF you are made that way, that is.) If you have mucked up at school, these engineers and MBAs WILL probably be lines you cannot become larger than...except if you have a garage where you can churn out a Microsoft or Facebook. By the time you hit middle age, if youngsters have crossed you on the career ladder, they probably ARE going to be 'larger' than you. AND so on.

As long as comparisons push you to extend YOUR smaller line, they are the savor of life. When all it causes you to do is to belittle others in order to feel better about yourself...

Me? Why should you always make it about me? Have I not said enough times before? The only comparison I make is with beasts in hibernation and...

I have not YET given up on beating them at their game!

Monday, June 7, 2021

No place for introverts?

You know, there is such a lot about the world that I never could understand. (A pity, for it keeps me blathering continuously on this blog? If you are that bothered why don't you go over to that Facebook ad there for shaving creams?) Whenever something gets discussed, there is an officious nincompoop who proclaims, "Them are the rules." The point that WHY 'them' should BE the rules clearly does not cross his mind. And then there are those who say, "Everyone does it", as though THAT makes it the right thing. In my experience, this phrase is used almost exclusively to justify something wrong. ("You are fudging your expense account." "Oh! But everyone does it.")

Then, of course, there is the 'It may be in the rules but it is not in the spirit' things that pops up every now and then. It has always perplexed me as to why someone ALLOW the doing of some things IN the rules which are immoral to do. Experience says that it is ALWAYS the other way around. There are things that may be MORAL to do but contravene the rules. AND, quite often, rules tend to be IMMORAL in what they force people to do because rules tend to favor the rule-maker and not necessarily the ones who have to live by them.

Around this time I expect the more astute of my readers will have guessed where I am heading. (The non-astute would have, as usual, jumped off to that shaving cream ad after the first paragraph, anyway.) Yeah, this Naomi Osaka affair of not giving post-match interviews.

You know, in the days gone by when I used to watch cricket on TV, I was not aware that I was watching the match impatiently, waiting for it to end so that I could hear Azharuddin mumble at the end in reply to questions. For me, it was the post-match interviews which I was impatiently waiting for to end so that I could see the highlights package. To find myself SO at odds with today's world where, apparently, the post-match interview is all-important for the sport to attracts viewers...

But, then, Youtube also seems to be caught in the same time-warp like me. I mean, they are still stupid enough to show, almost exclusively, clippings from the largely irrelevant tennis action of the past and barely anything from these all-important interviews which, apparently, is such an important reason why tennis is such a much-watched sport.

True, spice is added to the game when the sportsmen are personalized. You hear of a Kumble bowling over after over with a broken jaw and you start watching him with new interest. You hear of the technical soundness of a batsman, the flamboyance of another, the obstacles a third had to work through in order to get to where he was and the sport becomes all the more interesting to watch. Yet, you know what, if all I learned of Tendulkar had been from HIS post-match interviews and if post-match interviews were ALL that would make me watch the sport or respect the sportsman...well, 'God of Cricket'?

I shudder to think of where it is all heading. If your skill in sports is seen as merely the certificate that gets you to go on that all-important interview (Much like your degree certificate is mainly a passport for you to attend a job interview) and it is the INTERVIEW that is the touchstone of whether you belong in that arena and deserve prominence in it...I mean, is it all "Yeah, fine, you can PLAY the game. But can you TALK it?"

So, if you have a Lara or a Tendulkar who is too shy to handle media, you'd rather dispense with them for someone with the gift of the gab more than any gift with the bat? A Nadal or a Federer is useless for tennis if he breaks into cold sweat at the thought of facing a crowd? (Yeah, yeah, I know all that 'if he can be so courageous as to play with a sprained ankle, it is nonsense that he cannot face media' sort of shit. Well, a soldier who can face death can break-down in the face of a cross-examination in court. Courage in one thing does not mean courage in all things.) Looks to me like, if you are an introvert, the world thinks that you should be in self-effacing jobs that do not bring you into any sort of prominence. No matter how much of a genius you have for jobs where you are in public view.

And, you know what, there were some arguments which really put the icing on the cake for what I had started feeling ever since the advent of social media. You know, the 'You are being paid so much for that only' argument. So, the bulk of the money that sportspeople get is for the purpose of giving interviews, then. Which, I suppose, satisfies the need to people to talk about the person's life and moods rather than her game.

I HAD always felt that. That 90% of the world's GDP (Yes, the percentage is drawn from studies conducted in the all-famous WhatsApp university)  and, therefore, 90% of the world's resources and efforts are being put in towards satisfying ONE major need of people. The need for...