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Some of the placards attested to food being the greatest unifier. I agree.

Some of the placards attested to food being the greatest unifier. I agree.

Yesterday’s Rally For Unity, I think, was a resounding success. There was a fair bit of commotion in the run-up to it with various would be social media saboteurs attempting to close the event down. But the turnout was a testament to its reach. By my estimates, around 500-700 people were present, but I could be wrong, being notoriously bad at guessing at this sort of thing.

Some alien flyers (there’s a translation up) invaded the rally as well. Claiming that it was an NGO/foreign funded operation. Now where have we heard that story before? It certainly rings a bell. The Police soon dealt with the trouble makers however, telling them to ‘samakamiwa yanna putha’ (walk away in peace, son) before they slunk off into the inner reaches of Viharamahadevi Park. Volunteers reported being tailed by unknown vehicles after the rally ended as well, but no other disturbances were heard of.

An expanding list of politicians and dignitaries were coming out in support of it as the rally drew near, I think this helped build the credibility of the group involved, which is denying any organizational affiliations, projecting itself only as a loose group of individuals committed to fighting hate speech in Sri Lanka, unaffiliated to the BQBBS which organized the Candlelit Vigil on 12 April.

But the experience of the Vigil appears to have taught some lessons. Police permissions were obtained, and legal loopholes looked into. The role of the Police as a matter of fact, took a 180 degree turn in terms of how they reacted to peaceful protesters, I’m sure everyone appreciated this.

Endorsements by the presence of people like Dayan Jayatilleke (who was interviewed by Charles Haviland for the BBC) and others; and Imtiaz Bakeer Markar and Baddegama Samitha Thero who spoke at the event cemented a sense of officialism.

More than anything though, it was the people that turned up, after everything that happened after the Vigil, that made the Rally work. Families turned up with kids, students came, passers by, random uncles and aunties, clergy, activists, executives, business people, government servants, it was truly an urban motley crowd. Kudos to them.

Photos:

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The rogue leaflet

The rogue leaflet

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Imtiaz Bakeer Markar and Samitha Thero

Imtiaz Bakeer Markar and Samitha Thero

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Dayan Jayatilleke

Dayan Jayatilleke

Update: More pictures here and on Indi’s flickr

The BBS ringing tone on Mobitel had recorded nearly  a 1000 buys as of 9am, 27 March

The BBS ringing tone on Mobitel had recorded nearly a 1000 buys as of 9am, 27 March

Racist and hate groups are supposed to remain on the sidelines of society, screaming their subversive rhetoric in order to appeal to the seedier side of the collective conscience. Their funding usually comes from shadowy sources with powerful interests and money to be made from destruction and chaos. All of them invariably will remain behind the scenes, after all  who in the name of God would want to be publicly associated with hatred?

Mobitel, apparently. Mobitel the subsidiary of the publicly listed Sri Lanka Telecom. One of the country’s largest telecom services companies, and one of the most visible corporates in Sri Lanka. Mobitel has been openly funding hate groups such as the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) and Sinhala Ravaya. Evidence of Mobitel support for extremists first emerged at a BBS rally held in Panadura when it was announced that a ringing tone available for download via Mobitel would help fund the organization’s racist activity. Images (later published on Sanjaya Senanayake’s facebook profile, who by the way i must thank for much of the research for this post) revealed Mobitel advertisements in a newsletter of the Sinhala Ravaya. Uncharacteristically, Mobitel’s Facebook group has been avoiding all contact and even deleting posts of protests against this, for now, their once dynamic social media team seems to have slunk under a rock.

Widely known for their extremist nationalism, these groups have already attacked mosques, churches and even other Buddhist temples conducted illegal raids, spread fear and paranoia and generally taken a very loud and belligerent stance toward the country’s minorities. After initially targeting the Halal certification of the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (which was peacefully resolved thanks in part to the ACJU’s good sense), the BBS has now turned its attention on the Hijab an element of Muslim culture that in some form or the other has been present in this country for centuries, and always in peaceful coexistence with other communities. The emergence of apparent large scale corporate backing for their activity is worrying to say the least.

A quick look at the ownership of Sri Lanka Telecom reveals some unsurprising and surprising details. Unsurprisingly you would find that the majority of the shares (49.5%) is owned by the government, 5.5% by the general public. This is kind of well known. SLT was fully owned by the government until it was partially privatized some years ago. But surprisingly, if you’d forgotten this little detail, shares owned by the Japanese NTT Communications were then sold to Treasury and Global Telecommunication Holdings N.V. This is supposedly an entity based in Netherlands but is actually a fully owned subsidiary of Usaha Tegas Sdn. Bhd  an investment firm based in Malaysia. Usaha Tegas also owns Maxis a Malaysian telecom giant. Sandip Das and Chan Chee Beng from Usaha Tegas serve on the boards of both Maxis and SLT.

It is rather ironic that Mobitel’s second biggest shareholder and the lifeline of its management and capital is based in a Muslim country, while at the same time it funds extremist right wing organizations pursuing strong racist agendas against Muslims and other minorities in Sri Lanka. If the BBS is anything to go by, Mobitel’s senior management probably has no issue with this glaring inconsistency in its moral standpoint. Last week I heard an Australian-Sri Lankan citizen and a member of the BBS, Chanaka Perera, comment on help received from a monk based in Malaysia to the BBS whilst at the same time condemning Muslims as a whole purely based on his views on Saudi Arabia. Hate is deaf to reason they say.

Mobitel has so far shown a complete lack of responsibility in responding to the thousands of calls for it to stop funding these extremist groups. Its continued silence is a gross violation of its public accountability. Cricketers like Mahela Jayawardene are brand ambassadors for Mobitel. I respect Mahela, and as a public figure and a person of influence being sponsored by Mobitel he should step up and say something about this.

Sri Lanka just came out of a 30 year war. I’m just saying that out loud you know, in case anyone has forgotten. The government so far seems to be perfectly happy to allow the BBS and its affiliated groups to carry on with their campaign of hate, although voices of dissent have begun to emerge; you know things are getting really out of hand when Mervyn Silva himself stands up for what is right. The president has been strong worded on the racist issue, but so far all of that has been lip service and none of it directed at any specific racist organizations. The all powerful Government of Sri Lanka has failed to take any concrete steps to stop this spread of hate and violence. Meanwhile, the Police is cooperating with extremists, and now government owned companies are openly funding them.

UPDATE: Mobitel has since issued a highly inadequate response.

I saw this eyebrow raising advertisement today trying to sell fairness cream for vaginas or, so corrects my spellchecker, vaginae. What will these ingenious Indians think of next? Was going to blog about it but seems Indi has beat me to it. Also, the topic has caused some debate among the more figuratively enlightened as well, refer this hilarious post by Jezebel*.

Anyway, this led me down a train of thought that I’ve often climbed on before, but rarely sat inside until the last stop. Which was ‘Makeup and Fashion’. I heard somewhere that lipstick is mostly red because it mimics the color of a woman’s lips when she is feeling amorous. The same with mascara. And let’s not get started on that dusky affect your eye-shadow is supposed to produce. A lot of the fashion industry is aimed at beautifying a woman’s body, making it more appealing and sexually attractive to men/other women.

Seems to me that these things have accelerated the objectification of women, sexually or otherwise. If so, many women who champion freedom from objectification have failed to recognize their attachment to the very things that chain them. Is it plausible to expect general society to respect you for your intellect and personality when the first thing thrust at them are your aesthetic credentials? The mechanism should belie logic.

If you’re a militant feminist that walks around with no shirt and copious amounts of chest hair, you’re still not proving anything. Surely, a woman can preserve her dignity and grace while still refusing to be judged predominantly by her looks alone, and still progress independently in the world?

Because otherwise, we must all only be sexually charged animals. And fairness cream for ‘vaginae’ the next item in a long line of products (presumably originating in the sex industry) that seek to transform women into socially acceptable porn stars.

Hmmm…

*if the link doesn’t work, you can access the cached page here

Just watched Dirty Pretty Things.

It depicts a seedier side of London. A London where illegal immigrants sell their kidneys for a forged passport. The operations are butcheries, and some survive, most don’t.

The operations manager, lets call him the villain, justifies the whole thing because he is in the business of making people happy. The immigrant gets a passport so he is happy. The villain sells the kidney for ten thousand pounds so he is happy and a dying rich person get’s a new kidney and a new lease on life so they are happy.

When it comes down to it, it’s all just plain economics. The villain is exploiting a ready market, he is an intermediary. Intermediaries spring up wherever there is a demand for a product and a ready supply. He connects the buyer with the seller, and finishes the deal. Of course he is a villain because he uses sub-standard medical procedures, unqualified doctors and plainly exploits his suppliers. This is why many die.

He doesn’t use proper equipment and qualified doctors because he is a criminal. But also because he has to operate outside the system. And the system does not give health services to those outside its limits, because what it can’t see doesn’t exist. Illegal organ transplants are a criminal operation, never mind that most of its victims participate voluntarily, because they are desperate.

The desperate immigrants run away from home due to poverty or war. The countries they are running away from are often run by corrupt regimes where people have no rights. Banana republics exploited for their natural resources by their ruling elites and behind the scenes, multinational corporations with the implicit support of the very countries towards which the desperate immigrants run to.

So who is to blame? Where does the moral responsibility rest? Does morality even have a role? Morality here is outsourced, everyone is technically happy. Except those at the bottom who are just technically desperate. They are reaped like so many harvests.

The movie is great. Its poignant and, unlike the trailer, doesn’t have an annoying deep bass voice telling you how many people live in London.

The Fight of the Century is a cool video that depicts a rap battle between John Maynard Keynes and FA Hayek. Arguably the most influential guys in economics in the last century. Of course, they had opposing views otherwise this wouldn’t be a rap battle it would be a fist bumping gangland bop in caddies, or whatever.

Good for econ noobs and econ geeks alike. And for people in between, like me. Good for the lolz also i think. But not as lol worthy as Darth Vader Vs. Hitler say, but thats just slap dash humor. This here my good sir is intellectulolz. I reserve the coinage on that one. thankyou.

Keynes is famously known as the man who ended the Great Depression. His policies have somewhat stop started the Great Recession (these names i tellya) as well, but only barely. And many argue that the great recession wasn’t all that great as it was stupid. And the slacking rate of job creation makes them wonder if it has even ended as they say.

Hayek is the geek of the schoolyard who gets the last laugh (or the last lolz) on this one. He argues that u need to look at things from the bottom up and not top down. Advocates the free reign of markets and the surfing of the boom and bust economic cycle. You can’t let prices function if you bail out the failures.

Anyway, the above was a very disfigured narrative. I was just thinking that it was time for a blog post, then i saw this video courtesy Tim Harford (http://twitter.com/timharford). Or it could have been the other way about. Anyway ’tis pretty epic.

Now, enough talking. Here..

I can feel the press press push of the oceans surrounding me. I am a landmass pressed upwards by a volcano erupting in my depths, except it is a slow eruption, building up layers upon layers of lava that pressurized and pushed the little island that is me upwards and upwards and upwards. I am an island, this man is an island except i am a man no more.

I miss running. The freedom might be superficial but it is still freedom. In those few fleeting moments when there is acid burning in your veins powering you on, when you thought that you couldn’t run any more but you ran anyway, when your legs seem to move like some otherworldly steam engine is powering them through a dimensional gateway; all links to your pain receptors removed, when your lungs are beyond bursting point, bursting point is a dream. You can go on, but you are afraid that your body will collapse without your knowledge.

In those fleeting moments you live, and you are introduced to something called exhilaration. The Runner’s High.

Mount Beach is lazy with sunset. Kids, mothers, touch rugby players flash past like you are watching some dream sequence in a movie. All you can see is that boat you are aiming for banked on the beach. Like some beast trapped from the smooth mobility that the waters offer, so close yet so far. Your feet hardly touch the ground. You hardly feel the sand. Your face is screwed up probably. Your eyes like a madman’s. Rushing, fuzz, fizz, swoosh.

I need release. I am not built for confinement, I am only miserable in confinement. Man must roam free. Physically, intellectually, emotionally. He  must roam free so that his internal compass can align to that which his soul naturally knows it belongs to. Yet i am afraid. Petty fears plague. I know they  are petty but i know that pettiness creates dependencies. Or dependencies are based on pettiness. I am not being coherent any longer.

Running is about goals, about sacrifice about giving up for beliefs. Its about shrugging off the friction that life gives you with its insignificant distractions, running is about freeing your soul so that it can race home. race to its end, to its beginning. Running. I want to run to my death.

Someone wise said that a poem is never finished, it is only abandoned. This may not be a poem but it feels like one. and even though i could go on. I will abandon this here.

Or wait, i must tell you about the shot. The shot that goes off in your head. A bullet in your brain. You shoot and you are off. The start. The point. The beginning. The initiation of the run. And that my friend, must come from your own will. Your coherent mind must release you into incoherence. Your being must release your soul. And that is where the shot comes in. Ok i’m done.

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.

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