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After stewing about it for more than two days ‘Team Mobitel’ appears to have finally come up with a response.

Mobitel response

It’s actually quite ridiculous. They apologize for any ‘inconvenience or pain of mind’ caused but reiterate that the racist ringtone will remain on their site on a ‘revenue share basis’. Apparently they still care about upholding the ‘true values of unity and ethnic harmony’ by allowing an organization that stands for just the opposite to make money off its site, and on a revenue sharing basis too.

The image is accompanied by an expanding thread of comments of largely unimpressed people. Mobitel’s social media team and at least one fake account is also feebly attempting to respond, but are only succeeding in digging itself deeper into this hole.

Many are asking if Mobitel would allow an LTTE song to be put up to fund the terrorist group on a ‘revenue sharing’ basis too. The answer, even though it has not been articulated yet, is obviously no. Why in the world would Mobitel do that? Therefore Mobitel definitely does NOT consider the Bodu Bala Sena to be a hate group or a group with any negative social connotations at all.

The utter chutzpah of this response is rather hard to digest, I will say that at my next tea party. The lyrics of the BBS song call for a “Holy War” to destroy the “rallying cry of the unrighteous” and “the heathens” “who have all united into one camp”. Yup, practically dripping with peace and harmony there.

Actually if this song came from any other group, or was just a song released by an individual artist. Its message could have been construed as one meant purely to inspire and provoke steadfastness on a personal level or whatever (the lyrics are actually quite well written). But the BBS has made its intentions clear through its actions, they possibly really do want a holy war. In denouncing imaginary Islamic terrorism in Sri Lanka and countless other made up threats, the BBS is fast mirroring its non-existent worst enemy.

Therefore by allowing the BBS to make money from its ring back tone services (and sharing in the moolah no less) Mobitel is sending a strong message that they support, or at least are indifferent, to its extremist standpoint.

Here’s a poster being shared around on Facebook, which carries the full lyrics of the song and calls for a boycott of all Mobitel products.

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-Cheaper than the cheapest

Just a while ago, i walked into Keells, to buy some milk. Being dark, sweaty and sandy from the beach, and wearing a worn pair of beach shorts and a rust stained (don’t ask) t-shirt i was in no way expecting to be treated like royalty.

So i walk up to the counter (grab a deviously placed bar of chocolate while there) to find a dude loading 100g packs of virtually everything on to it. I mean, his basket was brimming with stuff. The counter girls were having a nice old chat and i’m thinking meh, this is gonna take a while. But just to try my luck i venture an ‘is the next counter open?’ in the general direction of the twittering sales girls and much to my surprise, one of them breaks off in mid chatter, smiles widely and says ‘of course sir! i’m sorry i didn’t notice you!’

So i’m feeling all important and go over to the counter where she continues to smile widely and generally give the impression of greatly appreciating my presence. She politely (and unnecessarily) asks me to place my things on the counter. She is smiling so widely that i almost have trouble making out what she is saying.

Anyway she swipes my carton of milk and my measly little bar of chocolate and puts them in a bag and directs that 100 watt smile at me again and says thank you! In the meanwhile, i am noticing those little service cards with smiley faces and sad faces on them that customers can use to indicate their feelings about the service received. So i decide to do her a good turn for al the smiling and making me feel important so i (who had never done this before) politely asked her, pointing at the smiley faced card, ‘can i swipe this?’

She looks at me. In the eyes. Her smile falters, then freezes at somewhere around 90 watts. ‘ Er, i’m sorry sir you can’t swipe that if you only buy two items’.

😦 – was pretty much my internal reaction. Of course, with much manliness i managed to conceal my emotions and grin and say ‘ah!’ awkwardly and swagger out the door and drive off. But absurdly, a part of me was hoping that no one had thought i was hitting on her.

Am i too cheap to appreciate good things damnit? I too, am a human being. I too feel. I too hurt when you prick me. I too, have loved. Keells might offer the cheapest prices but it also made me feel pretty cheap in the process.

But after a few milliseconds of such self derogatory thought, my trusty ego took over and did what t does best, found a way to trash Keells for its unforgivable act. It hardly makes sense to categorize the service given to customers by the amount they buy. In addition to making them feel cheap, like yours truly, they are also letting go of valuable feedback. Isn’t service offered simply service offered? I mean what if she had glared at me and treated me like dirt? Don’t i get to swipe the sad face to show how much i was hurt?

Following is a brief synopsis of the history of economics as i understand it together with a subjective viewpoint on its inherently oppressive nature. This viewpoint as written below does not necessarily reflect my personal opinion on economics, it is simply a viewpoint, that should stand alone in its own right.

-The Raj

Since industrialization humans have focussed on getting more efficient, becoming more profitable. I shouldn’t say humans in this regard, for it is mostly the capitalists who expound such thought processes into practical application. Economics after all, cannot be taken away from the self interest of its proponents, and when brought into the fray of politics, self interest largely depends on who is in power. And, money being tantamount to nearly everything in entering politics, most modern democracies flout the interests of capitalism over ‘what is good for the masses’. Of course this is cleverly disguised, more so from the politicians themselves, but GDP is not a measure of quality of life. Getting richer as a country, with it’s complete wealth distributed according to the laws of the Pareto Principle, is questionable as a purpose of being. Most modern economies can be highlighted as examples.

The prevailing ‘what is good for the powerful is good for the economy’ philosophy can be easily illustrated with simple look at the history of economics. Initial feudal establishments (which were centered around the absolute power of the landowning class and its default omni-ownership of all capital) crumbled with the increase of trade and the appearance of ‘marketplaces’. This only exacerbated with colonialism and eventually led to the Merchant class surpassing in wealth the landowning overlords of feudalistic society. Eventually, the reign of Merchants was the norm.

Mercantilism

‘Mercantilism’ was their philosophy. Mercanltilists were of the opinion that to prosper, a nation must sell more than it buys. In other words, its exports must exceed its  imports. This kind of thinking will seem absurd in the modern day world with interdependencies among nations causing more deficits than surpluses. A system like that cannot survive, for the simple reason that were every country in the world to follow identical princples, trade would simply halt! leading to eventual collapse of the system. As it happened Mercantilism survived for a long while, primarily due to cheap resources readily available from colonized nations and also by oppression of its own country’s peasant class, and economies in that day were controlled more by guilds of merchants that functioned more like cartels; monopolizing trade and commanding prices. Not very good for the quality of life of your average peasant, I would say.

Moving on, the rise of capitalism happened when the industrialists got into the game. They were a class of people who believed in the use of capital to control the arena of trade. They would supply capital to small scale artisans and contract merchants to sell them. This practice formed the basis of what would become the modern company.

Capitalism

‘Capitalism’ full blown, had names like the Dutch and British East India Companies as its flag bearers.  They allowed joint stock ownership and modern share markets found their origin here. They used their vast capital and trade monopolies to import cheap and sell dear. Making their owners’ wealth increase to previously unimagined proportions. Along with the emergence of capitalism, the seeds of the destruction of mercantilism were sown. Some advantage was gained to the common man with the abolition of protectionist measures like monopolies. And free market systems ensured competitive prices but along with its advantages the market economy also increased the sense of work ethic. Previously idyllic lives were now to be spent slaving at factories and workplaces eking out a living.

This hasn’t changed much. In the world of globalization and international trade, corporate interest is the main driving force behind ‘growth’. Obama treads lightly with BP because Obama possibly knows who has a fatal but light grip on his balls. The ecosystem and the small people making a living off it are not really significant. And this is not really a one off example. Trade barriers, free markets, international trade agreements, multinationals etc are all ‘good for growth’ but not really good for the increment of the quality of life of the small man. At least, such increment does not make the betterment of the common good its priority. Leading us to question the validity of the whole system, and our perceptions of human nature.

or, information superhighway my ass.

Information is wealth and knowledge is power. It seemed at one point that this knowledge was now open to all with the internet throwing open the doors to the masses to access the best of the news sources free of charge. The power to the masses seemed less of an idealistic dream than usual. And i guess what i was saying is that the early days of the Industrial Revolution seemed somewhat reproduced in terms of the emotions we felt.

But soon, freedom was taboo. Free books are harder to get. News is harder to get. I was a big fan of the Economist online from right about when I decided I couldn’t really be bothered shelving over 500 rupees for a hard copy. But even the Economist, free market proponent, has restricted some of its sections to paying customers. What we’re missing here is that pro-free market often means pro-capitalist and pro-profit as well.

Good intelligence like the stuff found in Stratfor is restricted to people who pay $360 annually. The rest are forced to rely on tabloid esque sources of news that paint sensationalist black and white pictures distorting everything in the world. Defining the good guys and bad guys, right and wrong etc for people, when it is the people who need the information to decide things for themselves.

Most of the ‘free’ news out there can sometimes cater to the unheeding masses. Can brainfeed and brainwash and render them even more ignorant than when they started off. This may seem to go against my previously expressed staunch support for the ‘new media’ revolution, but not necessarily. New media is about freedom, and restriction, be it for financial or propagandist/security reasons, only serves to destroy that freedom.

People need good clean information. For example, just read up on any conflict happening in the world right now. Be it Israel-Palestine, Iran-Iraq-US, India’s internal conflicts or Sri Lanka’s own bloody history of fighting, and the deeper you go in, the more you realize that what you thought was right and wrong usually merges into mass of grey subjective matter that can be looked at and judged at based purely on your standpoint.

Mass media doesn’t really communicate underlying reasons for conflict. It prefers to dwell on symptoms of conflict. The impacts of conflict. It tends to perceive the general mass of persons out there as uninterested people who simply look to the news for cheap thrills to go along with an early morning caffeine boost. And they may be right. But then again if cause makes effect and vice versa. A freer environment of true and objective information will probably be able to change public perceptions of news and how they look to it.

Achieving this can be a problem i am aware. Good information costs a lot to obtain, and hence, the people who obtain it need some incentive to go after it. But then if the information they get is only restricted to an elite few, what is the purpose of what they do? This is a problem indeedy. I’ll stick by something I’ve said before, some piracy like book piracy and illegal circulation of information, is wholly good. Although it may be wrong.

Lumala bikes are bitch when their chains come off. The chain is covered by a tough steel cover and not a bit of it is visible on the outside. So how does one go about fixing it when one is stuck in the middle of a dry zone desert with the nearest bicycle winkle (or repair shop) kilometres away? I will now provide you with an answer to this searing question.

One must proceed to curse loudly at the retarded design concept of the Lumala bike makers and their utter incapacity at perceiving situations where complicated bike repairing tools will be unavailable to riders at all places and times of the day. Then one will proceed to try and prise open the cover near the back when with a swiss army knife in the vain hope that this will magically render the whole cover lose, in the face of all evidence to the contrary.

One you manage to prise the back flap off. you will realize that this has nothing to do with the front part of the cover and is an entity completely homogenous to it. You will then again take a few moments to curse the designers and then you will proceed to shake the front cover violently in a fit of anger (you will secretly hope that no visible damage is caused that you will have to pay for later).

You will then, in a bout of illusory desperation, mount the accursed machine and pedal away in the hope that the chain will automatically come back on. Once this fails and once you narrowly avoid falling in the dust face first, you will be forced to look at the only alternative that has been glaring at you for all this time with bulbous eyes. The same alternative that you have been trying to avoid looking at; walking.

You will put on heroic airs and, with a long-suffering look indicative of staunch inner strength and indefatigable stamina, you will proceed to walk across fields rent asunder by a fierce noonday sun. You will push your two-wheeled chariot though potholes the size of foot deep elephant footprints and you will take a moment to revel in the glory of adventurous hardship. You will begin a long trek across rough country and after long hours will finally reach the first signs of civilization; a helpful police checkpoint.

They will weigh your plight and sympathize with you, they will look at you with some regard in their eyes and will speak in tones of respect deserving of two presumed city boys who have cast aside their perceived weakness in order to prove to the world that they are made of tough stuff; having crossed the most barren landscapes known to man on this side of the Indian Ocean on foot and having lived to tell the tale.

They will inquire at your problem and upon being told that your chain has come loose, they will come to investigate. Then they will miraculously pop the front part of that abominable flap as if it was a biscuit tin and solve all your problems in a second. Amidst your utter bafflement they will then proceed to try and maintain straight faces while you avoid their eyes and start wishing for a convenient hole to temporarily swallow you up to save you from the demon of embarrassment.

You will have learnt a valuable lesson on the power of information. And preparation. You will come home better men as a result of your hard wrestle with trying forces of nature. On an unrelated note, you will also remember to carry sunblock the next time.

IMG_8161 

pic courtesy jfphotography

Sri Lanka’s interest rates have been abnormally high for ages. This is not because of want of trying by the Central Bank, the sole reason for this disparity was our monopolistic banking market.

Monopoly

More than half the market is controlled by state banks. So when the central bank cut its rates a few months ago, these banks simply colluded amongst themselves and refused to reduce their rates, effectively setting the market standard which private banks weren’t going to go against.

Our rates of inflation, however dubious, appear to be falling down. This of course does not signify goods becoming cheaper; it only tells us that they are getting expensive at a lesser pace. The economy is slowing down and now the government has decided to enforce its monetary policy through giving a directive to state banks to cut the crap and get on with it.

In a less skewed market, we may have seen a more gradual and comfortable decline in rates. Instead, because of our badly managed state sector banks and lack of governmental foresight, this sudden need to cut the floor beneath the feet of the interest rate has arisen.

Losers

A drastic reduction in rates will not harm anyone except the people who depend on interest income. They should have been prepared for such an eventuality ever since the central bank cut its rates several months ago. There really is no point blaming the government if you can’t understand that the rates going down was inevitable given the current policy stance and market dynamics. But I guess you can’t assume your average Jayasinghe is always a savvy investor, even in the most plainly obvious areas.

So what you can blame the government is for its usual last-minute-drastic-action oriented approach. There is absolutely no reason why they couldn’t have imposed a gradual reduction of state bank interest rates before; thereby ensuring the public got the right signals in time to re invest their funds as they saw fit.

Woot

Meanwhile, everyone who is not a dependant on interest income is happy. The stock market will rise again because companies can now borrow more to invest in their businesses, the people are happy now that they can get cheaper loans to buy their houses, cars and fund extravagant lifestyles shamelessly beyond their needs. The government will be happy because money will start flowing through and savings will be cut down. Spending will rise and GDP will improve. The people who lost interest income need simply to reinvest in the stock market. And then we’ll have a happy cycle where everybody gets rich.

Sounds too good to be true? Well that’s cause it is. Monetary policy is just a temporary boost to the economy. As spending rises, so will inflation and consequentially interest rates as well. Yes, it is a somewhat of a self defeating cycle; but what it does do is give that electric burst of energy to the heart of the economy that gets it pumping again. And, like every heart in cardiac arrest, the shock treatment is to help it start beating happily on its own again.

It surprises me the amount of people there are out there who claim to respect gay people but still use the word ‘gay’ as a derogatory. Like that show is gay or those pants are uber gay. amazing phenomenon.

on an unrelated note, my appearance on the kottu print edition got me no end of lecturing at home. all about how i shouldn’t diss the president directly and how i should watch out for kidnappings and assault etc. i felt like a right royal down and dirty street fighting journalist, almost like Dinindu De Alwis. So thanks indi. Here’s to more newspaper write ups.

But seriously, my experience and Ahamed Nizar‘s probably shows how much fear there really is out there when it comes to speaking up. we might hapr about how much this is a free country and still a democracy but the government’s fear machine has done its job well. Its targeted the people strategically.

anyone who speaks up or talks about the powers that be in anything other than flattering terms is a walking dead man, or thereabouts. big brother is watching you, or in this case, a whole range of brothers, and a son or two to boot. now im not saying that really happens, there are much worse things written in the papers about the prez than what i jotted down, and obviously my mom panicked because it was me who wrote it, but still.

Orweillan take on opression of free speech

Orweillan take on opression of free speech

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