Power dynamics – finding your place

I see a lot of people talking about differences. What they hold dear, what they despise… sometimes it is language, sometimes religion, sometimes it is how they treat women, and sometimes it is about the sports, or even looks.

There is certain fun to be had in recognizing these differences and pulling each-others leg over it, but it is important for an adult to realize that these do not matter in the long run. The true value of these differences is in how much fun they provide, and if they don’t, it is important for an adult to let them go.

Unfortunately, due to huge advances made in the richness of life in recent history of humankind, a lot of us are forced to dwell into these differences more than we ought to. Now that we are busy watching goats on Discovery channel instead of maintaining farms, we have allowed ourselves a certain level of freedom to look at everything from a distant perspective. And in this process, I believe, we have forgotten the true purpose of these differences. Instead of having fun, we have made it an identity issue. By being more free, we have become more enslaved instead of liberated. An average man works more hours today than 100 or even 50 years ago, while, apparently, everything has become easier to do. By being surrounded by people who are free, we have put ourselves in a race and that binds us to its constraints.

Instead of having fun, these differences are why people are fighting, living a powerless life full of misery! Hence, to live a more content life, it is important to go back to the basics and realize the only thing that can affect your life – power.

There are 4 types of people in a society:

  1. Those who are in power. Let’s call them (A). Those in power don’t want to let it go and so are by definition, conservative.

Those who don’t have it can be divided into 3 categories

  1. “I want to do the nitty-gritty to have power” (B). These are the opposite of conservatives, and so we call them liberal politicians.
  2. “I want to be draw attention to my victimhood, and someone should come and take care of myself” (C). These can be far-left/far-right plebs.
  3. “I want to continue just like this but I support those who talk good about me” (D). Affluent people who haven’t been forced into a harder life, yet.

That’s it. Those are the true definitions of conservative and liberals, and those are the only differences that actually have an effect on your life. It has got nothing to do with individual freedom or culture or values etc. Those who talk about individual freedom, time and time again it has been proven, are actually more… liberal (excuse the pun)… in silencing critics by ignoring/making fun/showing overt hostility etc. They are passive aggressive. Conservatives, on the other hand, when in power, are persecutory. They are openly aggressive. That is the only difference between conservatives and liberals. When liberals come into power, they become (A) and openly aggressive, and conservatives become (B) and passive aggressive. And thus the cycle has continued forever.

All the other labels that create differences, it is important to remember, have zero meaning outside of your very close circle. You can test it by getting into a debate with a total stranger and soon you will find yourself being frequently misunderstood.

In historical context, one finds Holocaust to be one extreme where fighting over differences has lead towards utter destruction. It has been studied over and over and it has left marks on the psyche of both the Jews and Germans. If one instead accepts that Jews had a lot of money but no power, and were effectively part of (D), one begins to see the sad inevitability. One also begins to appreciate the current state of affairs in Israel.

The people we see today, spreading hatred against men in the name of feminism, are part of (C). It is important to note here that Hillary Clinton is outspokenly (A) and she is getting support of large chunk of (C). I cannot see the future so I cannot tell how large that chunk is, but I suspect we are going to have very dangerous times ahead of us.

Seems like reputation of politics is in need for a reboot. People say that it used to be an honorable profession, but it has now become entrenched with sleaze and corruption and that is why public has become very cynical about it.

I find this thinking to be basically running away from responsibility. Politicians are but a reflection of their constituencies. The skill of politics is all about finding out the true hierarchy and then bargaining your place in it. When those in power define what is good and what is bad, how can anyone find that corruption has increased? Only the powerless can talk like that, for they know this talk has got no value. The truth is that all politicians are same – no more or less corrupt than previous ones – and that is the exact reason why it never gets better or we never move towards utopia. In fact, I will go ahead and say that all the good in our society has come via sacrifices made by some great souls in (D). Our safety depends on them. They are the soldiers, the doctors, the engineers, scientists, and artists.

Once you realize this truth, that you have the power inside you, to chose which category you fall into, you become part of the group (Z), those who have peace of mind.

What is the problem?

Here is a sample conversion from my Facebook feed:

Hindu friend 1: Be wise…vote BJP. http://www.indianexpress.com/news/27-communal-riots-in-up-since-sp-formed-govt-cm-admits-in-house/1083234/ (The secular SP government has overseen more riots in last 2 years than the communal BJP in Gujarat which saw only 1 riot in last 10 years)
Muslim friend: solution of communal riot is communal party??? I wonder how
Hindu friend 2: Extraordinary Popular Delusion #1 is that India is a Secular country. A Secular state treats all its citizens equally irrespective of religion – which means same laws govern all citizens. Abolishing the Muslim personal law is required to make this communal country Secular. BJP is the only party that would probably do that. Male reactionaries and conservatives in the Muslim communities who want to perpetuate their dominance and subjugation of women are the most vehement critics of these reforms. Muslim psyche in India is fearful and paranoid but the reality is opposite – Rest of India has much more reason to fear totalitarian, monolith Islamic ideology. “Communal Party” will do more good for Muslims than Congress and SP ever will.
Hindu friend 1: @Muslim friend Riots in BJP ruled sates vs Congress/SP ruled states in last 10 years?

You can’t help but feel sorry for the Muslim friend. What he says is logical, but somehow the data doesn’t match.

Even if 0.1% of each sect is problematic/extremist, minority will still encounter more problematic people than vice versa. The chances of meeting a person of different sect rise exponentially with total population. Thus, sectarian issues become much more important for minorities than the majority.

Communalism in India is not an issue for Hindu voters. Most of them can’t be expected to care either – they have never faced it! Where minorities see systematic problem, Hindus have more basic concerns like economics (how to earn money) and corruption (how to keep that money). Christians aren’t that loud against the system because the prescribed ideal system is based on christian values in the first place. Sikhs, at least after 1984 riots, are either scouting foreign countries or, as of yet, are unsuccessfully trying to create a Sikh country. Kind of like Jews before Israel. Muslims, as the biggest minority in India and as one of the biggest religions in the world, end up mostly alone, and due to the (consequential) varying response among them, let the louder mouths be more prominent.

Solution to Muslim problem? I am not a Muslim so I won’t know.

But personally, as a Buddhist/Atheist, I think Sikh’s are mostly right.

Do Ankhen Barah Haath – 1958 Film

The movie is good. Without a doubt. But a little too Christian for my taste.

For starters, the protagonist is called Adinath, meaning ‘Lord of the beginning’. This is not a Hindu concept, and I have never heard it used by anyone to refer to (any) God. It is used by Jains, but V. Shantaram is not concerned with it, he is concerned with making something he can sell in the west.

  1. The idea that God (Adinath) is different (as compared to Hindu idea that God is present in everyone).
  2. The idea that God is inherently superior (everyone starts calling the protagonist ‘Babu-ji’ immediately). He is not better, he is just different.
  3. The idea that God has a father figure to play.
  4. Babu-ji is western (and characteristically wears western clothes), while rest of them are ‘savages’ (with raw expressions and uncivilized movements).
  5. Men carrying the burden of sin, of which they are never absolved, but forgiven.
  6. The idea that God is ‘disappointed’, but always gives another chance to those who ask for it.
  7. That the right way is to surrender yourself to the God. (I mean, they leave their wife and children to stay with ‘Babu-ji’!!!)

I might be forgetting some more points, but the fact that movie is all about christian morality being bestowed over lowly Indians is beyond doubt. Not to mention that the director’s other movies also bear his trademark pandering to Western audience.

Due to this reason I put this movie in the same category as The Birth of a Nation, though probably much more thinly veiled and not as controversial. And looking at current day India, probably apt.

Technically good never the less.

“I hear what are you saying” and related signs of problematic management

“I hear what you are saying”

“Hmm… I usually do following in this situation”

Let me stop just after two examples. If you have heard it being said to you, start looking somewhere else for help. And there is 99% chance that you have heard this said to you before. Don’t lie – not to yourself! Remember, you HAVE heard it at one point of time or another, haven’t you?

You see, when someone faces a problem and has got no particular answer, maybe because they don’t think the problem is worth their time, or when they really think you need help and they need to be the person who helps you but have got no idea how, they will scavenge for an escapist answer while you think they are going to do something about it. Make no mistake! The correct and only correct answer is “I don’t know what you are talking about. (Because of … ) Can you please try to explain it further?”

This is something many people don’t realize. Listeners are good at listening because they have got nothing to say. And more they listen, longer they are not trying to get to an answer.

There is nothing inherently malicious or evil about it. This is just how communication goes. In a very profound way, THE problem, is still in you. And in not very profound way, the answer is out there. Its like digging a hole in ground looking for a treasure. There has to be a limit after which you need to find new location for starting anew.

And ‘I hear what you are saying’ is just one sign where it makes sense to stop expecting an answer and start looking for it some place else.

Male Chauvinism, Masculinity and Logic

I have encountered following traits as socially being interchangeable:

  1. Male Chauvinism
  2. Masculinity
  3. Logic

If you don’t follow this list, try reading it from below. Examples:

Men are logical while women are not.
Men don’t cry.
Women are emotional.
Girls are’t good at Maths.

I mean to say, it is fairly obvious that masculinity is confused with logical thinking. This has historically been understood, and it is easy to find proofs of it in historical texts. I will not dwell into it further.

No, the point of concern here is how often masculinity and male chauvinism are confused. For example, these are sentences I have heard from my friends over time:

  1. A man should control his woman’s mind. It shouldn’t be allowed to wander too much.
  2. It is better if your woman sees the world through your eyes.
  3. A younger girl is better because she will trust you more than herself.
  4. Women crave a commanding authority.

As such, a ‘masculine’ liberal is a man who forces freedom upon the women (and not shares it). A ‘masculine’ conservative is a man who doesn’t think freedom is for women.

It is easy to digress from here into a discussion about women’s rights. But that would be missing the subtle charge laid upon men to be ‘masculine’. Or rather, accept the authority of those who are more masculine. By forcing a man to govern over a women, and thus derive masculine identity from it, one forces a man to accept an order. That the indicter, by the very fact of being a part of such an order before the latter, is proven to be more masculine becomes an essential side effect.

Of course, once indiction is completed, one needs to find another victim to boss around and include in the hierarchy.

Marketing and Technology

So I had a chat with my boss. After a massive fuck-up, where I refused to deal with constant belittling from a DTL (Domain Tech Lead in PayPal) and then started working from home instead, I was contacted by managers and architects to ask me ‘what is going on?’.

After several rounds of talk, I came up with a feeling of being used and disillusioned. I felt like not taking shit is a sign of immaturity.

This is a big deal for me because I have been constantly abused for ‘being immature’ and ‘childish’ before, and now I consider myself to be a grown-up after all these years. To have that self-image shattered and belittled by people appearing to be helpful to you is very confusing.

So lets get back to the topic in hand.

PayPal is trying to reinvent itself as a brand of high technologists. Kind of like Google. The only problem is that it is not really a technology dependent company. PayPal website is historically known to be bad and slow. PayPal as a company has inspired countless incidents of bad publicity. PayPal is a business leader because it had a first mover’s advantage and it has maintained this lead due to network effect. Only now it is getting to see some competition.

And that has PayPal board panicked. A new president, David Marcus, is on board who is all about being lean and nimble. Except that before this, the only way to the top was by sucking-it-up or moving into management. Suddenly a hammer has come down and met this age old force, naturally causing much chaos and confusion.

I am writing this from PayPal India branch (Chennai) and all anyone is talking about is what is going to happen. Everyone is scared about their job and those who aren’t are planning to leave anyway. The only people remaining are the people who have got support from the upper management. And that is where the circle is completed. The action of the president has caused blatant nepotism to be visible all over the company; something that was hidden and situated above the common workers until now.

One would wonder if this wasn’t visible to the board before. Let us consider both possibilities:

  1. Yes.
    If board knew this is what was going to happen, then it means that the board doesn’t care. Which probably makes sense. A business is run on cost-price basis and not on human currency. There might be some causalities but hopefully some good is also in pipeline after this. One possibility is that PayPal had been hiring from named institutes of India all summer and by firing the old guard it will enable the new one to thrive. In such scenario one would assume that even the managers aren’t safe and are just as scared. It might very well be true.
  2. No.
    Board is highly myopic in this scenario. The future of the company boils down to the power of president in changing the culture. A highly chaotic environment is to follow soon. Anybody who sees it coming will definitely leave for calmer waters.

In either case, it is a bad time to be a developer in the company. The pay isn’t that good for most people in Chennai (because almost all of them are on contract) and the only reason to remain in the company is nepotism.

This post consists and represents my and only my opinions. I have tried to avoid mentioning personal anecdotes (of which I have plenty), many other company wide directives etc.


Just updated fvwm_patches project on github, so all the patches apply on latest FVWM cvs snapshot. This has sent me back to those times when I was amply free and was full of enthusiasm. Let me tell you a story…

Those were the times when I thought installing Gentoo was an accomplishment one brags about to win a girl friend (I didn’t). It was a new world! I couldn’t understand Mandrake, I hated RedHat, SuSE was giving me graphics problems and I hadn’t heard of Debian or Slackware. So I was excited to have a functioning system after 2 days of hard work and, as a man, was probably closest to what a mother feels holding her baby.

As usual I installed KDE and for some time it was awesome.

Oops… that is not when I found out about FVWM… my memory… it stinks.

Then I completed my bachelors and went to Germany for doing an internship. I was given the “best” machine, but I had no root access on it and the sysadmin was a jerk. So KDE used to run like molasses. I tried many different window managers, including openbox, fluxbox, windowmaker and then some more. I saw fvwm and it was as intuitive as something made by Apple on opposite day. So I didn’t even consider it.

But I was still unsatisfied. Stuff just didn’t meet my expectations. And I hated right-click to get a menu with ‘Terminals’ and ‘Applications’ as two separate options. I even tried FVWM95.

Anyway, at some point in my quest I landed at Tavis Ormandy’s config file. And it was as awesome as it is now. I have, actually, never gotten around to learn any of the fvwm commands. But I had learnt enough to modify it to my tastes.

In last two years I didn’t get to use Linux a lot. But some days ago I finally installed Kubuntu on my office laptop, untarred the old config files saved in my backup drive, and was surprised to learn that it was throwing many many errors and warnings, as well as not being transparent. That is easy, I thought – fix fix fix, and then patch patch patch. Except this time the patches weren’t working anymore and I didn’t have Gentoo to manage it all by itself.

Which brings me back to today. I intend to maintain those patches so people like me won’t have to hunt around the internet and obscure mailing lists.