Category Archives: Philosophy

Forces

“What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?”

A young priest fresh out of seminary once asked me, when he learned that I was a fan of philosophy and other arcane things. I remember the delight on his face, watching me struggle to come up with an answer. He did not give me one. This is a famous paradox also known as the omnipotence paradox.

Much later, I learned that the correct answer is- such a meeting is not possible, because, by definition, if there is an irresistible force, there cannot be an immovable object. This is a rule in logic.

Life doesn’t give a rats ass about the above rule.

You will face things that simply should not exist, but do. Good things and bad. Forces, events, emotions, people that cannot possibly be, but are. Life’s like that.

Hierarchies

There is a hierarchy of needs. A hierarchy might not imply one is more important than the other, but it often implies one is more urgent than the other.Roti, kapda, makaan, (survival) always gets more attention than freedom and equality.

For a society to reach a place where a “higher” goal becomes important, the “lower” goals need to be met. This is why, even amongst widespread agitation against corruption among politicians, corruption in the common man goes un-challenged. It is assumed that the common man needs corruption for survival. More accurate would be how, as people rally against corruption, that theie leader is a homophobe is not important. To them it is more urgent  to have a nation that is not corrupt, than a nation that treats everyone, even the queer, equally.

Around 60% of this country does not have its basic needs met. of the remaining, only about 10% have enough to sustain themselves and some more. only around 2%of the country can be considered “upper middle class”. Clean streets, therefore, have a lower priority than clean water.

The common indian understands this. We prioritize.

This is why all voices are important. Even that of the homophobe who fights corruption. As important as the enlightened, non-homophobic, non-corrupt, highly ethical leader. (Except that the latter does not exist. Yet) Because it takes many small voices crying out about their priority to transform a small thing into a massive movement.

This is why activists take a lifetime to get awards.

What is your priority?

 

 

Fixing the healthcare mess; Satyameva Jayate or showmanship?

Dear fellow Doctor; from your Facebook posts, emails to me and tweets, it is obvious to me that the Satyamev Jayate episode on corruption in healthcare worried you deeply. some of you were happy that such an exposé happened, but most of you were worried that there was over-dramatization and untruth in the presentation, and that this would lead to doctors loosing respect in the sights of their patients. As it is, India is known for its violence towards healthcare personnel, it is only fair that you feel that people would use this show as an excuse to attack more doctors.

I too, felt that many of the things Mr. Amir Khan said were unbelievable, some of them were clearly exaggerations and one-sided and I wondered about the truth behind the cases he presented.

But before we jump into another analysis of how Amir Khan got his medicine wrong, let’s look at a few other things.

Here is a list of some of the recent healthcare related scams and exposes that happened independent of Mr. Khan
  1. Senior Professors of prestigious institutions caught following orders from Pharma companies about drug safety reports to the DCGCI.
  2. AMRI, Kolkata hospital fire – revealed bad infrastructure, collusion of top doctors in hushing up things, lack of training and preparation in dealing with emergencies.
  3. Female infanticide – Millions of female babies are being aborted. A phenomenon Involving parents, Radiologists, Gynecologists.
  4. IMA protesting against nurses strike even as they support doctor’s strikes. This, in-spite of the horrendous working conditions and pay of nurses.
  5. MCI’s dissolution – It was so corrupt, that even a corrupt government had to agree.
  6. Surrogate mother industry - poor women being exploited, paid, but not as much as promised, not following international norms in number of pregnancies.
  7. Harvesting of ova- recent report shows how this is probably harming young girls without their knowledge.
  8. NRHM scam for which 22 doctors were suspended – INR6000 Crores is thought to have been stolen.
  9. Hysterectomy epidemic. – Need I explain?
  10. Illegal clinical trials and deaths from them.
  11. Reports of patients being affected from drug trials and not being compensated.
  12. The AYUSH report – No standardization, AYUSH doctors prescribing non AYUSH medication.

There are more, of course.

Let’s now look at the main points raised by Amir Khan in his program; not specific cases, because he is not a doctor and is not qualified to make judgment calls on treatments given to patients. Let us just look at the basic complaints patients had.

  • There is lack of communication between doctors and patients. They don’t feel like they are part of the decision-making process about their own disease.
  • There is a lot of bad handling of deaths, accidental deaths etc. News not being shared, defensiveness, etc.
  • Actions of many or some doctors is leading to a wide-spread distrust or doctors, more so because if you go to 2-3 doctors for the same problem, they often suggest different treatments
  • Issues with improper consent taking and explaining of need for surgeries and other procedures.
  • Lack of information about what a hospital is licensed to do, what training doctors have, and the fear that people without sufficient training are treating them.
  • Referral fees, cuts and other forms of bribes paid to doctors affecting medical judgment.
  • Money being a major deciding factor in issuing medical college licenses and other kinds of licensees.
  • Bad policing by medical bodies leading to un-checked unethical and bad medical practices.
  • Too much power held by private players who don’t care about medicine, just profit.
  • For the government, healthcare spending seems to be low priority.
  • Poor get differential treatment.

Is any of this fabricated or unreal?

They are real; you and I know this.

We are poor communicators, busy as hell, running between wards and OPD or from one clinic to other, often we just cannot find the time to sit down and explain things to each patient. There is also the problem that what we think is communication might not be what the patient wants, and our training does not really help or prepare us to communicate better.

All of you have heard stories, of patients being admitted into the ICU for what turned out to be gastritis, and probably seen patients who have had two cholecystectomies and appendixes removed from both sides of the body. This happens, a lot, and it is a frustration we all share.

How can we reconcile with the fact that an unknown, but very large part of healthcare practice in India has a less than ideal or even acceptable level of quality and that the system is designed not for the patient, but for the professional?

While we mull on that, here are some things he got wrong, in brief.

  1. Using branded expensive drugs and not cheap generics – Not all drugs have generics, not all generics are tested, and in many instances there is significant difference in quality. There is also the patient’s expectation to use standard medicines. Much as I hate them, I can trust the quality of medicine made by a large pharma company, how do I trust a generic?
  2. Healthcare as a business is not necessarily evil, and the solutions that were put forward, including making everything government run is simply out of touch with reality. Your neighborhood green grocer is a businessman; this does not mean he will sell you poisoned vegetables if it gives him better profits. Businesses can be run ethically, and markets have great power of self-regulation.
  3. Doctors have a right to livelihood. Just because we are doctors, to expect sacrificial living is ridiculous. If indeed, as Amir Khan suggests, we are the smartest of the lot, then we deserve proportionate incomes.
  4. Doctors control only a part of the healthcare system; costs of drugs are for most parts out of our control, as are institutional costs. Blaming doctors for high cost of drugs comes from not understanding the basics.
  5. Doctors have an exalted position, but this kind of a mess could not have been created without collusion and involvement of regulators, businesses, government, other members of the medical team, and the market. Blaming just us is myopic.
  6. “Most doctors in India need to get their licenses revoked” is an unforgivably careless and unsubstantiated claim. While I don’t want an apology from him, Mr. Khan should know that it only displays his ignorance.
  7. “Will not see a doctor in India” What about Devi Shetty? Again, a very careless thing to say, but hey, it’s his choice. There are people who don’t want to vaccinate their kids, some people even say this on TV, but that is their choice, their life.

Back to the show.

Most of the reactions against the show hinged on one of the cases discussed in which there was ambiguity about the process. In this clamor to prove that Amir Khan got his medicine wrong, we forgot and ignored the other stuff, the stuff that I listed above.

Dr. R Srivatsan, Senior Fellow at Anveshi Research Centre for Women’s Studies wrote this in an email when this episode came out:

I think when a critique is mounted against you, it is important to look close and hard at yourself and the community you belong to. Where there is smoke, there is bound to be a fire you don’t want!  Most often people don’t have the time to bother to criticize you — except when you cause a great deal of pain.  Criticism is an opportunity, a possible door to transform a process — it has to be nurtured, not snuffed out with hurt defensiveness.

Could we benefit from such a show? Can we use this time to weed out or at least distance ourselves from those whose practices all of us find distasteful?

Doctors are at a particular advantage here; it doesn’t matter how famous Amir khan is, it doesn’t matter how widely his message reaches, people still need doctors. Maybe we can use this as an opportunity to make things better.

Let’s agree to this:

  1. People who were on the show are real people; I think it is safe to assume that they were speaking their truth. Even if one of them was not, there were others who were. They don’t need to speak untruth because there is no lack of bad diagnoses being handed out. We need to live with the fact that there are unscrupulous doctors, and we all know people who fit the bill.  Protesting this fact is only helping them.
  2. Amir Khan is an actor.  He runs a reality TV show. He is not a scientist, has no background in public administration, and the show is not a journal nor a scientific exposition. There will be things wrong with the show. He will get facts wrong. Have you met people who spend their Sunday morning reading out the Journal of Industrial Biochemistry to their families? Didn’t think so. Facts are often boring, Mr. Khan will try to make them attractive and sometimes, the real face will get buried under the make-up.
  3. No silly excuses. Some of you made what is possibly the silliest of excuses, ever. “Everybody is doing it, why target Doctors?” SILLY. I’m going to let you figure out why.

We work long hours, the pay isn’t amazing, the system is corrupt, without cutbacks and the pharma parties, life would be tough. We want that to change, we want to practice great medicine and have a life.  We want pays that are proportionate to our effort and attainment, we would like to be respected and acknowledged for the good work we do.

How is cursing Amir Khan helping us achieve any of that? What will help? I think we know some of the answers, not all of them. What are they? Lets talk.

The cinema situation : A symposium on the struggle for a genuine approach

The success formula- Shyam Benegal on Hindi Cinema and the challenges of New cinema

The cinema situation : A symposium on the struggle for a genuine approach

In 1977 there was a symposium examining “THE CINEMA SITUATION”. The symposium was attended by some greats of Indian Cinema like Mani Kaul,  Kumar Shahani, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Shyam Benegal etc.

I discovered a quote from Shyam Benegal’s essay on tumblr via Dhrupad and was hooked. I discovered that the quote was from a longer essay on the formulaic nature of Hindi cinema and the problems new cinema was facing and some solutions. I have a 1400 word long excerpt from that essay, which you can read in full at the above link. But before we jump into Shyam Benegal and his lovely essay, here is the symposium’s topic defined.

The problem

India’s film industry has manufactured and peddled over many decades a distinctly unique commodity to a wide and unsuspecting audience. Based primarily on fantasy, it has mocked at every value in a richly diverse culture. Mock heroism, mock sex, mock dancing,mock singing, mock religion, mock revolution — the lot. In its end product, it has shown the degree of degradation to which a transparently synthetic approach can lead. Its influence on society has been startling — in dress, styles of living, methods of working and,most shatteringly, in the dreams and aspirations of a deprived people. The bizarre world of the screen is the world to reach for. Unfortunately, this commodity faced no challenge of any stature until the arrival of the new Bengali film under Satyajit Ray. His Pather Panchali showed that films could be made with little finance, and no stars, and with integrity. Since then, there has been a gentle struggling, a push here, an upsurge there, a raising of more authentic voices, the slow birth of an indigenous cinema. But, it is beset with problems. Finance, distribution and, infinitely more serious, that of communicating in a medium which is not mock fantasy any more. For, the audience has come to regard the film as synonymous with a particular breed of song, dance, vulgarity, burlesque, violence, crudity, escape, often under the mush of misleading progressive situations — rich man poor girl, rigid father growing son, erring husband devoted wife, etc. Is it ready, even in small measure, to receive a new experience from a familiar medium? If not, then how can the struggling new cinema survive and break through an obvious initial rejection.

The success formula Shyam Benegal

The success formula by Shyam bengal

THE Hindi film business ,in India consists largely of working out the equations to make commercially successful films and then to work out a strategy of publicity and distribution to fake in the largest profits possible—a vast, speculative activity that begins with formulating and analysing the success of any one or more films running at any given time in terms of what makes them tick, which usually means the right mix of ‘ingredients’ such as stars, songs, and music, the plot innovations and a generous helping of what are known as production values such as enormously expensive sets and property, lavish public relations’ devices like parties replete with cabaret items in five star hotel suites.

There are storywriters who will produce on call’ several plot lines lifted from successful films, mainly from Bombay and Hollywood as well as from popular western writers like James Hadley Chase to produce a biryani of a film all ready to be hogged by the film-going public for 50 weeks or more in cinemas all over the country. There is a huge demand for well-known stars to act in these films and for music directors to turn out their lilting songs, and for dancers to give new, sexy turns to’ their cabaret items.

The directors who direct them are recipients of paeans of praise for their originality. The producers are the happiest with their success and end up signing up more and bigger stars for their next ventures as distributors willingly take even greater risks by committing larger sums of money for each territory. The pattern of business points to an industry that is happily and profitably stewing in its own juice.

There are several kinds of success formulae. Each one is specifically categorised, such as social drama (meaning poor boy/rich girl or vice versa), family drama (lost child, suffering widow, large doses of amnesia), action movie (good man-turned-bad dacoit-turned-good man), historical (now not much in vogue) or mythological (generous helpings of sex relating to gods and goddesses). In each category, the need is for the biggest star or stars. If you can afford it, you would have all of them together. The music director is chosen according to the size of his contribution to the latest hit songs (do I hear a resemblance between his tunes and the top-of-the-pop in London?). Similarly, the ace writers. Writers, of course, do not really write. They sit in posh hotel suites and narrate scenes for the next day’s shooting.

It is an expensive and serious business. Very expensive. And films flop. Despite or, perhaps, because of this, the Indian film industry ticks. Flop is a relative term. Very few films are known to fail altogether. The only thing that might happen to a film is that it may recover its cost over a longer period of time

Shyam Bengal in his Office

Shyam Benegal 2010

The serious problems that beset the industry are the highly inflated rates paid to the marquee names in the film—the stars, the music directors and, recently, the music directors. There are stars who sign up for as many as 50 films at a time. Logically, it would take him or her about ten years or more of work every day to complete so many films, but they are signed up nevertheless. Similarly with music directors. The chances are that a lot of money spent on such films will prove to be irrecoverable because the films are not likely to see the light of day. And whatever is spent in signing up to start the film will be lost forever. This constitutes an enormous waste. Then,again, there is the matter of dates.

It costs a lot of money to set up a shooting schedule. In this situation, if a star cannot give dates the entire expense in mounting the schedule is lost. The stars themselves under these conditions tend to develop an inflated sense of their own importance. They feel
no obligation to keep to their schedules, nor do they feel the slightest compunction to break appointments—a bit like successful politicians. They appear to follow no normal set of rules.

Again, there is a reason for this behavior. Most producers have no money to begin with. They trade on the names of stars, music directors and writers to raise money. The stars are generally very insecure, never sure that any of their films ar going to be completed. They cannot possibly take the risk of signing just one of two films. if the films do not get off the ground and get stuck mid way they are out of jobs. Nothing is worse than an actor without a job.

The distributors who market films have defined their films as those meant: (a) for the masses, (b) for the classes, (c) art films that will attract no audiences. The films that are likely to be the biggest successes are the ones made for the ‘masses’. They could be defined as films that are utterly naive in their story content, with non-existent character development and two dimensional emotional and intellectual attitudes.

Films that will fetch the highest price are the ones that have the largest number of stars, a storyline replete with what are now essentials — thrills and chills, rape scenes, dance numbers and cabarets, choreographed fights and comedy. (There are specialists who are known as ‘thrill masters’ apart from ‘fight masters’ and ‘dance master’. Soon one expects there will be ‘rape masters’) Brilliant colours and sharp cutting is a must.

…….xxx…………

He goes on to talk about the costs incurred by producers in a typical film and establishes the reason why the films are shot they way they are.  Then he moves on into the need for a sustaining structure for alternate cinema

…….xxx……..

If we are serious about developing an alternate cinema, the FFC would have to develop a distribution circuit that is able to compete for audiences with the regular so called commercial films. In addition to this the cost liability for the production would have to be borne

Censorship

A more insidious development in films has been caused by outside factors. Paternalistic and straight-laced censorship has made film producers increasingly irresponsible. As we all know, authority of a certain kind often creates an irresponsible attitude in those who are under it—they expect to be corrected rather than correct themselves. This has become so acute, that many films only attempt to push in directions in which the censor board is likely to be heavy-handed, only to check out how far they can go. Often, the only innovation in a film comes in the techniques to project ‘soft’ pornography or violence that would catch the censors napping. This has led to the making of films which encourage ugly social attitudes, particularly between men and women. They are done with such crudity that one wonders whether those who see such films come unscathed out of them.

As is well known that with cinema, particularly when it happens to be the only entertainment medium, life starts to imitate film. We have only to look at those parts of the country where film is the only entertainment, medium to see that this is true. The way boys regard girls, the way they dress themselves, the kind of music they enjoy most, the speech they use—and with the new-rich—the kind of interiors they have, replicas of film sets.

Yet. with all this, a different kind of film also runs. Audiences will see films that reflect social realities. All that it requires is the kind of distribution which the commercial industry provides. The movement has already started. What is needed is the infra-structure that will make it self-generating.

Indian film or, more particularly, the Hindi film, from its very origin has developed its formats’ from the existing theatrical forms. The songs, The dances, the main plot and its comic parody, have all been absorbed by the cinema. If the alternate cinema has to grow, it cannot ignore these factors^ An extension of these forms is needed rather than unfamiliar ones and a far truer depiction of social realities. Only then will it be able to seriously compete for audiences. Short of this, the new cinema will be guilty of producing films for the sake of a small cineaste elite

Morality, reason and Porn-gate (impressive title, eh?)

Three ministers in Karnataka’s legislative assembly resigned today following a TV expose  showing them watching a porn clip in the assembly. While the MLAs were defensive at first and claimed that they were doing research, their resignations and the multiple inquiries that have been ordered seals their fates.

Opposition MLAs and the media has painted this as a moral low for Karnataka. Twitter has responded (of course) and BJP supporters and detractors alike have bashed the ministers for having watched porn in the legislative assembly.

Two things have seemingly united the right and the left against the accused

  1. BJP and its allies are known to take a conservative stand on morality and culture, and watching of porn is blatantly immoral.
  2. One of the MLAs is the minister for Women and Child development and had previously made a remark to the effect of  ”women should not dress provocatively or they are inviting trouble”.

Of the many hours of Lok sabha TV I have watched and what I gather from others, MPs and MLAs routinely sit around totally distracted, reading something unrelated, talking to each other and in general paying absolutely no attention. The grave error of these MLA’s was that they watched porn not that they  watched  porn. That these elected representatives were doing “research” or “entertaining themselves” is less relevant than that it was an obscene clip.

Call it prudishness or political opportunism, this episode  is a good reminder that when we take sides without paying attention to what we are taking sides about, we end up making silly arguments.

Do ministers dealing with women and children have to affirm to a “higher” moral code which includes abstaining from pornography? Is linking his statement about women to his watching porn not a case of confirmation bias? (I knew it, this is typical male chauvinistic behavior!) . Does the right have any objective or consistent standard of obscenity or morality? Does the BJP believe watching pornography is not suitable for people of high moral fiber and culture like its cadre?

How many of India’s ministers have any educational background related to the ministries they are handed? Is there any meritocracy in the handing out of cabinet portfolios?  Do we have any mechanism for public appraisal of personal beliefs and practices of our representatives  with relation to their  effect on their political decisions?

These questions are for examining of our biases and for finding the right reasons to condemn someone. For condemn we must, and from what I gather, these MLAs are condemned not because they watched porn but because they were caught.

Update: Edited for grammatical errors

Small steps, large impact: the Linux story

25th august 1991, a nobody named Linus Trovaldis did something bold, without any clue about what he was setting in motion.

Hello everybody out there using minix -
I’m doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won’t be big and
professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones. This has been brewing
since april, and is starting to get ready. I’d like any feedback on
things people like/dislike in minix, as my OS resembles it somewhat
(same physical layout of the file-system (due to practical reasons)
among other things).
I’ve currently ported bash(1.08) and gcc(1.40), and things seem to work.
This implies that I’ll get something practical within a few months, and
I’d like to know what features most people would want. Any suggestions
are welcome, but I won’t promise I’ll implement them
Linus (torva…@kruuna.helsinki.fi)
PS. Yes – it’s free of any minix code, and it has a multi-threaded fs.
It is NOT protable (uses 386 task switching etc), and it probably never
will support anything other than AT-harddisks, as that’s all I have :-(.

yes, it says what you think it does

Here is something we know today about human beings; we can never predict the future with reasonable degree of surety. Even in situations where the outcome seems to be “either this, or that”, we cannot deduce how things will turn out. This does not stop us from trying, though, or from re interpreting the past to make sense of the present/future.

The story of Linux is a story of how a simple action can lead to worldwide change. Linux is not just about software now, it gave birth to philosophies, life styles and much more.

Linux.com as well as the Linux foundation have some great articles, infographics and videos up celebrating the 20th anniversary of Linux.

The lokpal bill situation seems to have drowned out the Indian Linux lover voices, and that is a sad thing.

I'll be celebrating 20 years of Linux with The Linux Foundation!

Image by  nitot

Social Media Addiction Confusion

Social media has taken the world by storm, everyone from my maid to my grandpa seem to know about facebook, and are possibly on it. But I remember till a few years ago how, when I was found glued to my CRT monitor (remember those?) blogging, or reading blogs on wordpress.com, scouring the digg.com front page, it would drive my mom crazy. She could never really understand why I needed to be online all the time and what I could possibly gain out it. The words crazy, addict and waste of time were frequently hurled at me. Last week, at a family gathering, my mom was holding forth on how being on facebook is a necessity.

My mom is not the only one, from large media houses which ridiculed twitter as a fad, to the medical fraternity which rushed to diagnose various pathologies associated with social media, from reduced attention spans to twitter thumbs, are now doing it. What was once a fad or an addiction is now hotly sold as a necessity.

It is fairly obvious to the discerning reader that “addiction or necessity” are not really opposites. Many necessary things can become addictions and some addictions are necessary. But these divisions are commonly used and are broadly how haters as well as fans qualify their indulgence in social media. However, instead of making a statement like “it is an addiction from some and a necessity for others”, I would like to look at why such a dichotomy came to be.

Three principles that apply broadly to the behavior of those who react adversely to it and to those who use social media are

  1. Xenophobia
  2. Power always tries to conserve power.
  3. Variable-ratio schedules in operant conditioning
Xenophobia

might seem like a harsh diagnosis, but taken in the sense that we fear that which we do not understand and ridicule that wich we fear, it fits well.

We are creatures of routine. With the advent of social media, many of the older methods of making connections, networking and even romance have been changed radically. Also, with social media the tools keep on changing, once it was orkut, now it is facebook. Now it is twitter, who knows what it will be tomorrow. And all new technologies come with a steep learning curve and favor early adopters. For the slightly older, it is only natural that who are adept at their own social media (the neighborhood tea shop, cocktail party etc.) the break in routine, the long hours and constant connectivity of social media seems absurd. To this confusion, add the disruption it creates in the normal lives of users, and what you have is an easy target to be labeled addiction.

Conservation of Power

The Internet is disruptive, and it keeps becoming more disruptive with time. In the past decade, the Internet has made stupendous changes in the way we think, act and make our living. One of the key hallmarks of the new web is that its users use it for more than its intended purpose. Look at Twitter. The owners dared to release it without a business plan or even an intended audience, today it has transformed the world.

Till the advent of these social-levelers, who gets famous and what becomes the talk of the town was largely controlled by a highly concentrated coccus of king makers.

This is the more subtle reason why the Mainstream, be it media houses or ad companies,did not look favorably toward social media at first. While there were always forums and irc rooms where the “geeks” spoke of obscure things, a flattening of the news/opinion making did not happen even online till the advent of blogs first and later, to a much larger extent till the advent of facebook, twitter and a few other similar services. It is doubtful that the powers that be consciously understood what social media was going to do, but it instinctively realized that there was an implicit threat in a medium where everyone had and opinion and anyone could technically become an opinion maker. Now, we know who had the last laugh.

Variable-ratio schedules in Operant Conditioning.

It has been noticed that in situations where there is an action and a response, If the response follows an action, but not at every instance of the action, the behavior that leads to the action is reinforced and habits thus formed are very resistant to change

This is the reason we spend so much time, so much effort and allow social media to make massive changes to our lives. We can never be sure which tweet is going to get 100 re tweets or what pic is going to reach reddit front page, there are formulas, but they dont always work, this hooks us in, just like it does gamblers. This pattern of reward has been shown by psychologists to be more resistant of change (read: addiction inducing) than when there is always a reward.

addiction is characterized by impairment in behavioral control, craving, inability to consistently abstain, and diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships.

looking at the definitions alone, you might feel that you qualify, but the most important factors that makes something an addiction are

  1. Inability to manage without it
  2. Severe/serious disruption in normal life due to it
  3. Continuing the activity even after demonstrable ill effects to self.

While there are social media addicts, they are a minute minority and I am pretty sure that there are not many tweeters who get divorced due to excessive tweeting.

Obsession: the domination of one’s thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, desire, etc.

Obsessions on the other hand are more common, they are characterized by preoccupation and craving. If you have been blogging or tweeting for a while you have an almost constant mental conversation trying to fit real life into tweets and blog posts. Yes, that is an obsession, and it can be healthy, it can be your bread and butter, it can keep you online 10 hours a day and make your mom go crazy. So, take a step back if your mom threatens to throw you out, but chances are she will join facebook tomorrow, its addictive you see.

On belief and disbelief

One of the issues that makes people in the agnostic range stay on in the hinterlands of “have not made up my mind” is that going over to either sides creates new problems.

To choose to beleive in a being/force/purpose bigger than oneself and Super-natural naturally means having to accept the existence of the inherently un-comprehensible. So when the new problems from believing in God arise, the answers or solutions often are just more mystery. For example, irrespective of what system of belief you subscribe to, It is really difficult to give a satisfactory aswer to the problem of human suffering, to the evil done in the name of good. Worse, to explain these things, from within the framework of belief, one is forced to accept some fundamental presuppositions, that are basically more mysterious than the problem in itself.

On the other hand to embrace random chance as the ultimate reason raises its own issues. Among others, it brings up questions of ultimate purpose, and morality and other frameworks and their need. You cant justify drawing lines if there is no fixed point of reference. There is also the problem of moving from having a point of reference, as most ppl do, due to childhood indoctrination, to a position of no accountability. It stands to reason that such a point of view would ultimately lead to pure hedonism and lack of purpose and ultimately a purposeless life.

An entirely different factor in this equation is that fact that the majority of those who beleive, as well as those who do not, do not descend into the extreme outcomes. The average theist is not likely to turn an acetic or a mystic any more than the average atheist is likely to turn a suicidal hedonistic maniac.

In conclusion, it is fairly obvious to the thinking person that much of the man-made evil we see in this world today comes in one way or other, due to belief, or in spite of professed belief, from the war on terror, to the terror itself. This fact will and has been the biggest bane of those who preach belief, that their own actions declare them hypocrites.
Religiosity and torture

Image: ‘Religiosity and Torture‘ From Flickr.

Social Network ; A review and some sociology

Why then is this movie important?  It is important because it chronicles not so much the technological revolution, but the desperate need for connectivity, for social networks on the part of millions of people, both in America and elsewhere in the early 21rst century. It aptly diagnoses the desperation of the young, the desperate need to be wanted, to be liked, to be ‘friended’.  In a world that lacks love, people will settle for ‘like’ or even just ‘connection’.  But when socializing and even sex becomes just ‘connectivity’ it has been cheapened and trivialized out of all recognition.  It has turned something beautiful into something sad and tawdry, and meaningless.  The paradox chronicled in this movie is in a world of ever increasing connection, there seems to be less and less real love.

Ben Witherington’s review of the Facebook movie. ‘Let’s Face It’– “Social Network” is stimulating.

A story about the founders of the social-networking website, Facebook. Who would pass a chance to keep in touch with long lost friends? But what is it that drives people to display their friendships- traditionally a private affair, for all the world to see is something worth thinking over. I doubt that all of social networking can be attributed to a desire to be loved, but familial bonds and community support is nothing like it used to be.  Keeping that in mind, looking outside families and communities for support is not surprising.

Other reasons why facebook and social networking is so popular are

1. People are capital, the number of friends on FB, the number or and quality of connections on linkedin etc point toward your social worth.

2. Information is capital – it has now become absolutely necessary to keep up with the world.  If you are not “in the know” then you are not important/cool/hip anymore.

3. Everyone is an expert We love showing off our expertise, be it in selecting the best youtube video for our friends or posting the best limerick. On facebook, we have something of a captive audience, and posting cool stuff goes a long way to building our street cred.

4. Connecting with people is fun! let us not be too cynical and technical, I certainly enjoy knowing what my friend in the Netherlands is up to, even if don’t actively stalk her profile.

What do you say?