Monday, July 9, 2018

When abuse becomes the norm of discourse, there is no discourse

When abuse becomes the norm of discourse, then there is no discourse. This is the tragedy of most of the discussion happening over the internet or on news channels. There are arguments, fights, trolling, bullying, but hardly any constructive discussion. Most political or discussions on sensitive social topics are always very passionate, one side normally tries to rip through other side's arguments, but even while doing this passionately people tried not to abuse each other, not to insult or humiliate on a personal level. However, today it seems the intent of every discussion is to humiliate the opponent on a personal level, to demonstrate the contempt for opponent views in whatever way one can. People are willing to use fake news, manipulated data, fabricated images, and whatever they can to prove that their opponent is wrong. Abuse in many forms is becoming a norm and in this process, the level of discourse is at all time low.

With an increased access to information and data, theoretically our discussions should become more fact-based and data-driven, we should be using the more relevant information to enlighten each other with all sides of any given issue or topic. But practically exactly the reverse is happening in most of the cases. People are creating, using, and succumbing to more false information, the internet has become a fertile ground to spread rumors and create tension anywhere in the world. Technology is making discussions more superficial and argumentative rather than more deep and enlightening. This is not the fault of the technology itself, it is just a medium which is bound to produce the results based on the way users use it. It's up to users to make the best use of technology for the benefit of their surroundings. Similar to any scientific discovery technology can be used or misused, it can enrich any discussion or it can make it utterly useless. Assertiveness, aggressive advocacy, or even an aggressive attack on opponent's views can be very effective tools to be used in any discourse, but abusing opponents just for having a different view than ours is not one of those tools. When abuse becomes the norm of any discourse, then there is no discourse, there is just abuse. Abuse can be either from one side or both the sides, it really doesn't matter. Therefore, each side has the responsibility to maintain civility and dignity of discourse if they desire to produce any positive outcome from any discussion. I hope people realize the difference between being aggressive and being abusive. I hope dignity and aggressiveness of civil discourse are maintained without being abusive so that we can keep on resolving most complex issues via the way to discussion and don't shut one of the most useful and effective avenues available for us to resolve our issues.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

You cannot become good at something by not doing it

Many of us harbor fear for many things in our personal and professional lives. Some of us fear about public speaking, some about writing, some about expressing their opinions because they think they can't be articulate their opinions properly or people will laugh at them, some fear about taking initiative, we can add many things to make this list more comprehensive but I think you got my point. Many of these fears are due to our failures when we tried some of those things for the first time; maybe our first presentation was disaster, maybe when you tried to express your opinion people didn't understand it as there was no clarity, maybe some of us  think that we cannot write, the list can go on and on. The problem with such fears is that we try our best to avoid doing the things which we think we are not good at. In spite of knowing that we might need those skills to progress professionally and personally, we try to avoid taking any steps to master those skills due to our fear. We somehow feel that one fine day suddenly we are going to get better and overcome those hurdles or somehow we can avoid them altogether and navigate our path smoothly, but this rarely happens. We face many situations where we face situations, where we need to speak in front of public or we are told to express our ideas. Such instances solidify our fears as we don't perform any better than our previous attempts as we never tried to fix that problem. The only way to overcome our fears is to practice the skills which we lack or need to improve. There is no way to master anything without practicing it, we need to do the things regularly which we need to master. Regular practice is not necessary only in sports but in each and every skill which you want to master.

I suggest one approach to overcome such fears: make a list of things which you want to learn or improve, prioritize that list as per your need or preference, and then start acting on one item at a time. It is not advisable to start working on each and every item from the list at the same time unless you have enough stamina and time to devote for each of them. Choose the platform and community where you are most comfortable, this is very important as you will need a very encouraging atmosphere. The journey of personal development is not easy, it requires a hard push as well as a cushion of support. If you have some other responsibilities, like work or study also, it is advisable to practice that skill with that group at your own comfort level. The journey should be fun and challenging at the same time. It should not be burdensome and affect other parts of your life negatively. Of course, this approach will require an honest effort and sincere commitment from your side, it will test your patience as there will be many challenges and failures, but remember persistence helps and there are no shortcuts to achieve amazing things. If you want to improve on something start working on it, this is the only way to improve. You cannot become good at something by not doing it, all the very best.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Try to improve your standard of life and your standard of living will automatically improve

We often talk about improving the standard of living. There are many things which contribute towards improving our standard of living: a big and beautiful home to live, a luxury car to commute, expensive wardrobe, the latest technology gadgets, comfortable footwear, perfumes, deodorants, makeup, latest fashion stuff, and many other things. Most of us also have an illusion that improving our standard of living also improves our quality of life, but is this really true? Do we really get better life with more physical or material comfort?

I don't think there is any doubt that standard of living has increased in many parts of the world. Increased food production, access to education, and economic prosperity have contributed towards increasing standard of living across the social class all over the world. But, this improvement in the standard of living doesn't seem to translate directly to an improved standard of life. I understand that the answer to this question is not that straightforward. I am sure many of us will pause and think to answer a question about how much physical comfort have really contributed towards improving our standard of life. Are we so focused on improving our standard of living that we do not even bother to think about improving our standard of life? If this is the case, then it is time for us to take a pause and try to think about ways to improve our standard of life.

Material things definitely contribute to improving the standard of living and this can many times translate into improving the standard of life. More healthy and comfortable life could be a very desirable objective to achieve, but it seems we are going in the exact reverse direction. More and more physical comfort is somehow bringing more and more dissatisfaction. The problem is not more physical comfort, but our inability to deal with changing cultural and social surroundings. Our civilization is going through a radical shift in the way we communicate and interact with each other. Technology has become an integral part of our lives. For many of us, our day starts in front of a screen and ends in front of it. Our phones and computers are no more just gadgets but they are more like a trusted companion with whom we spent most of the time when we are awake. Definitely, technology has broadened our horizons, we get a lot more information than our brain can process or digest, we can interact with a lot more people than we could have in absence of all technological help. This all should have brought us together and bridged the gap, made us more social and less divisive, but it seems we are getting more isolated and more polarized. It seems with all the progress in each and every field our life is getting more messed up rather than getting peaceful.

Our standard of life is getting deteriorated and increase in suicide rates is a warning signal for us. The truth is that we all are in a much better situation to help each other in every possible way, we can offer each other emotional support without the need of being in physical proximity of each other, technology allows us to do that, but this will happen only if we are willing to extend a helping hand to each other. We have the capability to improve each other's standard of life by helping each other to overcome our personal problems, but somehow we are failing to do that. Probably, we could not figure out whether we are using the technology or technology is using us.

Improving our standard of life was not supposed to be such a hard task, humans are master of it, this is how we climbed up the ladder and control the world. But all this progress doesn't mean we should lose our simplicity.  We need to keep things simple, enjoy simple things in life. We should pay equal attention to people around us as much as we pay attention to the virtual world. We must realize that emotional well being or comfort is as important as physical comfort. We must learn to enjoy our work and our free time equally. Try to give best and enjoy the journey, not to worry too much about the destination. Give it a shot, try to improve your standard of life and see that your standard of living will automatically go up.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The art of happiness

A disclaimer first, this post has nothing to do with the book "The Art Of Happiness" written by Dalai Lama, I have not read the book, but only came to know about it when I was searching if anyone has already used this title and no surprise that Mr. Dalai Lama has already written a book about it. The post is about my own experiences and struggles, it has nothing to do with the above-mentioned book.

If we look at the history of human civilization, the level and type of stress change generation by generation. We improved our physical comforts a lot because of progress in technological aspects of our lives. Our generation has more access to travel, education, clean water, food, information, medicines, and many other things compared to our previous generations. However, our generation also has more complicated psychological problems. We also have two parallel worlds now: the real world and a virtual world in which we live simultaneously. In spite of all this progress in the physical world, why are we struggling to keep up the same speed in the psychological or mental world? Why suicide rates are going up? Why are we not happy and more connected with each other and help each other in moments of need and desperation? Questions are many, and each individual need to search an answer for himself or herself, the matter of the fact is, we humans are extremely complex organisms and hence our problems are complex and their solutions are going to differ from person to person.

Can we learn how to be happy or is it something depends entirely on our surroundings? Is being happy is a habit or an art? I think one can definitely learn how to be happy. Happiness is extremely personal and this is what people are forgetting, they are getting more into comparative happiness. I see that many people base their own happiness on how happy others are around them. They want to buy that dream house because everyone in their age group has such house, they want that car because that's a status symbol, they want to have a job with six-figure income because that's what they are being told is a successful career is. Many of these perceptions and beliefs are acquired without giving any serious thought what do we want, what are our own needs and desires which make us happy? The biggest problem is that this conditioning of mind starts so early in our lives that we don't even develop a capacity to think about our own needs and desires. This conditioning wires our mind in such a way that we knowingly or unknowingly we start walking on a path paved for us by culture, religion, media, society, or people around us. And mind it, this conditioning is very intense and organized, it's not easy to escape it.

So, how to learn the art of being happy? The basic question is, do we even know what the real happiness means? Is pursuit of personal happiness worth the effort it will take, or it is better to surrender to what our society dictates to us? Why anyone should believe whatever I am writing is the right way to think about the happiness? Actually, that's the whole point of the post, the post is not about to educate you what is happiness and how to be happy, but it is about recognizing the problems which are prohibiting us from being happy or illuding us on a fabricated path of happiness. The first step which anyone can take is to stop engaging in comparative happiness. Not everyone has to go on a vacation, not everyone needs to own a house or a car; we all are different and there is nothing wrong with it; our sex, sexual orientation, race, nationality or any otehr trait doesn't make us any better or worst, we all are unique and recongize this aspect not only about yourself but about others around you as well; education is important not from which college or university you get it; it is important to have fun while doing your job, so if you are dragging every day yourself to work then it is not the right area of work for you try something different. There are many small-small steps which we can take to take control of our own life. 

We need to enjoy the journey, struggle, efforts, preparations as much as we enjoy the destination, success, and achievements. If we focus too much on the end-product then we miss so much which is equally important and on which we spent more time than the end-result. We need to recognize that failures, fear, anxiety, depression, stress, joy, and grief all are an integral part of our lives. These emotions are bound to come we need to recognize them and be conscious of our mental hygiene. We should give equal importance to our mental hygiene as we give it to our physical hygiene. All these things will help us to learn the art of happiness. But please remember, there is no universal formula to learn this art. Everyone has to find their own way, you can only tell and decide what makes you happy or sad. You can only decide when you want to buy the house or what type of profession you want to choose, others can always help you to take this decision, but the final decision should be yours and yours only. 

Learn to spend some time with your self, try to understand your own identity and value. We get too busy in our daily struggles and get so lost in our surroundings that we don't get time to understand who we are and what we really want. If this post kindles a desire to search for your own path of happiness, then it has served its purpose. No matter how different that path is, how weird you think you are, try to be yourself, try to spread love and compassion. Imagine the world where all are happy and no matter how impossible that task looks we can at least give it a shot. Let's try to make this word a happy place, and let's start by making happy ourselves first. 

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

For good policies, you need good politics.

Many countries in the world struggle to accelerate development or to make sure that the benefits of development can be enjoyed by most of the population. One of the main reason for this problem is lack of good policies. All these countries are not ruled by dictators or going through civil war or something like that, many of them have well established democratic election system which seems to be working the way it should, elections happen regularly, people seem to participate in the electoral process, and elected governments seem to enjoy people's support for their policies (that's why they vote for them). India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Srilanka are some such countries where it seems no matter who is in power nothing much changes on the ground, parties win or lose but it seems country always looses in every election. Every party thinks about their own political future first. They all use their country as a tool to solidify their own political base, to win an election, to propagate a personality cult, to suppress opposition, but never to bring any important reforms, never to take some forward-looking steps which might harm politically but are good for the country's future. I was excited when current Indian government came to power and even wrote a post about their historical election victory.

For good policies, you need good politics; and for good politics, you need well-functioning institutions of various branches of the government which perform their work independently. This doesn't happen in most of the countries who struggle in spite of being democratic countries for so long. I have seen this happening in India. Corruption on various levels cripples most of these countries. When I say corruption, I am not just talking about the bribe culture, I am talking about the culture of corruption. A country where not allowing a largest political party to form a government is not unusual, horse-trading to buy legislatures of other political parties to gain a majority is not considered as a wrong practice, open collusion between various branches of the government doesn't disturb people, political opponents are not only ridiculed but branded as anti-nationals, where one political party talks about eliminating their oppositions from the country. These are not signs of good politics, and no wonder India still struggles to get a government who can dare to implement good policies. As I said I was hopeful about this government that they will implement some good policies but after five years all I can see that they spent all their time in establishing their brand and winning state elections, nothing else. I am not bothered by some mistakes which happen while taking some radical steps (like demonetization), but I am surprised that government which so many resources at its hand can't figure out the possible outcomes of their actions before taking that step and take all precautionary measures. Announcing any reform is not a big deal, making sure that it gets implemented to produce its desired result is where all the skills of governance and management are required and I am still waiting to witness this in India. One such opportunity was lost in 1984, where few reforms (like telecommunications and introduction of computers) were performed, but nothing spectacular was done as far as political and social reforms are concerned, and now this is another opportunity which didn't live to its expectations. Please remember, "for good policies, you need good politics."

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

When religion of the rape victim becomes more important than her pain, there is a serious problem.

Two rape cases created a big splash on India news channels and on social media. One was rape and murder of eight-year-old girl, another was rape of 17-year-old girl by a lawmaker from the ruling party of that state. Both cases are equally horrible and condemnable. But, surprisingly on social media, there was extensive discussion about the religion of one of the victims and perpetrators of the crime. Some people accused people who were protesting about this case for their selective outrage. I wonder how these people come up with such twisted logic. There was huge outrage in India after Nirbhaya rape case, that time no one was accused of selective outrage, no one said that there are so many rapes happening in the country so why are you just protesting about this one case? But it seems just because in one of these cases rapists and the victim are from different religions this question about the religious identity of the victim and accused suddenly became relevant.

I wonder in which direction that society is moving where the religion of the rape victim becomes more important than her own and her family's suffering? In which direction that society is moving where lawyers and lawmakers participate in a protest march in favor of accused persons? There is no doubt that every accused of any crime must get a fair and transparent trial, the law should treat everyone equally. Every accused deserves a legal support and representation to defend their side. But this is not even an issue here, there are people who are trying hard to justify this heinous act. They are questioning motives of people who feel outraged by such incidents, and this should worry any society where outrage over heinous crimes depends on from which religion victim or accused come from. Reactions on social media and some debates on news channels should stir the consciousness of every Indian no matter which religion they belong or which political party they support. 

I hope polarization created due to political propaganda doesn't create an unbridgeable gap between different sections of society that they can't even come together even to protest against overtly criminal acts. When your every discussion ends up getting connected with the religion, then there is a problem. When we look for person's caste, nationality, race, or religion before showing your outrage to a crime, then there is a problem. We all are humans first, and then political supporters or religion followers. If we forget our basic human qualities of empathy and compassion towards our fellow human beings and look at everything through the prism of politics or religion then why type of people are we becoming? I think we all need to question ourselves about this and look for the answer within, maybe our conscious might help us more than these social media posts or news channel debates or statements from some senseless politicians. I request everyone reacting to this issue to see if they are reacting like a compassionate human, a responsible citizen, a blind political supporter, or a blind religious follower. In the end, the choice is always yours, and I hope humanity is still the most attractive choice for most of us.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this issue.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Six years..

It has been six years since I started writing this blog. I published my first post on 5th March, 2012, the blog has now more than 400 posts. The main aim to write a blog is to share your thoughts and not to publish something regularly. This journey was started with an intention to share my views on various social, political, and personal issues while getting feedback from readers about their own views about these things. It has been a very rewarding experience for me so far. I hope to continue it as long as possible, the frequency of posts might get reduced based on how busy I get with various other things in my life, but the blog should remain active place to share ideas in near future also. 

As I already mentioned, so far, this has been a really rewarding experience for me and I hope all blog readers also enjoyed reading the blog. Please feel free to share your thoughts, it is very important for all of us to express ourselves in whatever medium we feel comfortable with, this is how we educate each other and learn from each other.

Thanks for reading and encouraging me. I wish happy reading to all readers.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Peer pressure- good or bad?

We all face or must have faced "peer pressure" at some point of our lives. Peer pressure is not only the pressure one feels from their friends during high school or college which force them to do the stuff which they don't want to do or when they take drastic steps to fit in the stereotyped definition of "cool person," it is the pressure which we feel from people from our age group. It can be in school, college, workplace, society, family, or on online social media. In today's era of social media these people don't have to be our school or college friends, they can be anyone from anywhere in the world, and this aspect has broaden the group of people who can exert peer pressure on us. I see many people get affected not only by their friends and relatives which are part of their inner circle, but also by people whom they only know from social media.

Is peer pressure good or bad? If it is only bad then why people succumb to it or get affected by it so much? The truth is, many of us need continuous validation from people around us. We crave for recognition, praise. Why? Because it motivates us, makes us feel happy and valuable. And this is where peer pressure kicks in, in order to get that validation and recognition one needs to cater what is demanded by the people around us, especially the ones who are in our peer group, people whose validation we crave the most. This why we try to fit in stereotyped definition of beauty, try to achieve success in ways the society defines it to us, try to live the life the way it is being advertised, even our definition of happiness and success is heavily influenced by the advertisements and market forces. Today, there are so many things apart from real people around us which can create peer pressure on us.

If this pressure encourages you, helps to work harder and motivates you to wake up everyday and go to your work, then it is good for you and it is helping you. But, if this peer pressure is making you frustrated, feel overburdened with expectations of people around you, feel dejected and worthless about yourself, adding to your anxiety, making you depressed, then definitely it is hurting you and is bad for you. It can work either as a motivator or depressor depending on how you react to it.

The first step is try to recognize what this pressure is doing to you and based on that one can plan how to deal with it. The best way is to immunize yourself from it so that it can't affect you in any way, but in this case you also lose the positive effects of it. Another way is to be aware of its existence and use it only in positive way and consciously avoid getting affected by it negatively. It is not that easy, but I think it is necessary in today's expanding world that we keep focus on our mental hygiene as much we focus on our physical hygiene. There is lot of help available (books, blogs, and online forums) to learn how to use peer pressure to our advantage. So take advantage of all these resources and make peer pressure work for you, and don't get consumed by it. The truth is, it is very difficult to avoid to, so better learn how to deal with it so that it can help you rather than drag you down. All the very best.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Being a devil's advocate.

To be a devil's advocate is not that easy, normally while doing so a person tries to defend a less popular view or a minority stand. This is not an easy task and also not that popular for obvious reasons. Some people do it just for the fun as they love to engage in any sort of argument, but there are many good reasons to do this. I do this with my kids, not because I love to engage in argument with them, many times they really get mad at me when I do this, but as a parent I think it is my responsibility to make them realize that there can be another side to every issue or every opinion. At the same time, when I challenge their stand I my main aim is to know on what grounds they are basing their opinion: is it a very superficial and weak base like, just because everyone thinks like that I also believe in it or is it because of peer pressure or they really thought about the issue seriously before reaching to their conclusion. By being a devil's advocate in front of my kids I make sure that they are not blindly following either me or someone without testing those opinions independently. My aim is to initiate that mechanism where they start considering alternative opinions which are contrary to their own.

Actually, I didn't start doing this consciously, it happened over the period of time. I observed that there are families who follow same political ideologies for generations, just like their religion. They become so devout to that particular ideology that they can't even imagine that other side has anything good to offer, it almost becomes like a religion for them. Parents and kids share same political and social ideology, religion, dietary restrictions, and even superstitions. I felt that many families are becoming factories where carbon copies are produced under the name of culture and traditions. I don't mean to say that following culture and traditions is wrong or parents should not guide their kids, I just want to emphasis that these things also should be challenged and refined to tune them with the changing time. Not every tradition is timeless which can survive the test of time, but if we make them immune from any attack then off course they will survive for generations. This cannot be called the greatness of that tradition, but rather should be called weakness of that culture, society, religion, or group who failed to modify or change with the changing time. 

Being a devil's advocate doesn't mean you have to defend each and every unpopular issue, there are many things which can't be defended. May main aim is to bring forward unrepresented view to that discussion-if it is pro-republican setting I try to highlight some democrat policies which make sense and vice versa. If it is anti-Trump group, I try to present some policies of his organization which look very promising. If it is a pro-BJP group I try to question the performance of the BJP govt so far and want to know if their supporters are analyzing it in same way or blindly following it. The list can go on, the real point is I try to project another side of the issue or spectrum to the group which may not bother to look at it under the normal circumstances. I try to engage in discussion in such a way that they realize that other side also has some valuable ideas which as a society we need to consider and shouldn't ignore just because it is coming from our opposition. Opposition and diversity of views are very necessary for any society to progress. A society with monotonous views or where there is no opposition runs into the risk of living under blissful ignorance that they are always on the right path (which may or may not be true).

I should also give one warning for everyone who want to try this method, the risk is that it might make you less popular in that particular group. People normally don't like when their core beliefs or deep rooted political ideologies are challenged, they feel uncomfortable when you ask really difficult questions about their leader, religion, or political party. So, one has to be really careful as there is a very thin line between being inquisitive and offensive. You might even sound arrogant to some (especially when you question some religious beliefs) or elite (especially when you are trying to defend capitalism in a group who believes in socialism or communism). So one has to take the risk of being labeled by various names if you want to try to do this exercise, but I think it is worth that risk.

I think my kids got benefited by this exercise, at least they are aware that there can be an equally compelling argument from the other side which they should at least listen and analyze objectively before rejecting it. If you want to test this methodology with your kids, friends, or relatives just try it, at least you will know the tolerance level of people around you if nothing else :)

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Gender equality is as much about educating men as it is about empowering women.

It is a common perception that "gender equality" is all about women empowerment and equal rights for them. It is true, but that's not the entire truth, gender equality is also about making men aware about this changing environment and shifting of gender dynamics where there is no weaker sex anymore. This might sound trivial and obvious, and many might think why is it hard for men to understand this simple thing about gender equality? But it seems, it's not that easy for many men to grasp and adjust to this change. Many of them sincerely want to support gender equality but fail to understand to practice it in their private lives, especially during those special moments like going on date or during intimate moments like sexual encounters. Recent story about Indian American comedian Aziz Ansari is an example of one such behavior where things can go terribly wrong without malice from either side.

Why people fail to grasp the real meaning of gender equality? Why many societies and cultures fail to accept gender equality in its true sense? Even in developed countries who pioneered and fiercely advocated gender equality in the modern era, why there are many people who fail to treat their partners the way any society who believes in gender equality should treat? These all questions point towards only one  major problem, somehow men were not as involved in this moment as they should have been. Maybe entire focus was to make women aware about their rights and encourage them to stand up against the blatant discrimination practiced against them. It was a right thing to do, but at the same time it was also necessary to engage men equally in this process. After all, they are the rest of the 50% population who are equally important factor if as a society we aim to succeed in our efforts to develop a culture without gender discrimination. Lot of progress has been achieved towards gender equality, still it is not perfect but it is much better than just a few decades before. As women became aware of their rights and started demanding equal treatment, men also should have been made aware of changing dynamics of the man-woman relationship.

The concept of male as a dominant partner in a relationship is very old. Men were supposed to take initiative, they were supposed to initiate the relationship and were supposed to play aggressive or lead role even in sexual encounter. The concept of enthusiastic consent was alien to most couples, but now times have changed for good and every individual participating in any relationship must make sure that he or she is aware of these changed notions. There are initiatives undertaken by many Colleges and Universities in the USA to make their students aware about these things. These educational tools are useful for everyone and I think everyone who is willing to be in a relationship should go through these materials to learn what is proper and what is improper conduct. Old social norms won't change unless people get aware about new norms and educate themselves. I hope Aziz Ansari incident acts as a wake up call for all who didn't bother to educate themselves about importance of enthusiastic consent in any relationship. Relationships are beautiful only when both partners voluntarily participate in it, one's enjoyment should not become other partner's trauma. Gender equality is as much about educating men as it is about empowering women, and without their education we will not be able to achieve true gender equality.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.