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A few weeks ago, I gathered that a friend is a homosexual. There were premonitory signs. He was eager to meet. He’d message me incessantly on Facebook. This doesn’t prove anything. I know another guy who does all this. He’s just weird. Maybe some people are neurotic. Perhaps their communication needs are much stronger. People are not straight forward, and perhaps these guys want to just feel safe.

This fellow is very good at his job. But, he’s still bothered by what happened in high school half a lifetime ago. When a guy tells me he’s depressed without giving me any good reason, my first guess would be that he’s gay. He doesn’t believe in marriage. When I probed further, no good reason seemed to be forthcoming. At some point, I felt he was hitting on me. There was nothing really sexual in what he said, but my intuitions don’t go wrong. I asked him whether he’s straight, and he said, “I don’t even know what I am”. I asked him whether he can give me a plain “Yes” or “No”, he said “You can’t put people in a box.” This is exactly the kind of thing leftist people say when they try to get away with something. I said, “Bye-Bye”. This is not my thing.  Continue Reading

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“Gail Wynand lived with his father in the basement of an old house in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen. His father was a longshoreman, a tall, silent, illiterate man who had never gone to school. His own father and his grandfather were of the same kind, and they knew of nothing but poverty in their family. But somewhere far back in the line there had been a root of aristocracy, the glory of some noble ancestor and then some tragedy, long since forgotten, that had brought the descendants to the gutter. Something about all the Wynands–in tenement, saloon and jail–did not fit their surroundings. Gail’s father was known on the waterfront as the Duke. 

Gail’s mother had died of consumption when he was two years old. He was an only son. He knew vaguely that there had been some great drama in his father’s marriage; he had seen a picture of his mother; she did not look and she was not dressed like the women of their neighborhood; she was very beautiful. All life had gone out of his father when she died. He loved Gail; but it was the kind of devotion that did not require two sentences a week. 

Gail did not look like his mother or father. He was a throwback to something no one could quite figure out; the distance had to be reckoned, not in generations, but in centuries. He was always too tall for his age, and too thin. The boys called him Stretch Wynand. Nobody knew what he used for muscles; they knew only that he used it. 

He had worked at one job after another since early childhood. For a long while he sold newspapers on street corners. One day he walked up to the pressroom boss and stated that they should start a new service–delivering the paper to the reader’s door in the morning; he explained how and why it would boost circulation. “Yeah?” said the boss. “I know it will work,” said Wynand. “Well, you don’t run things around here,” said the boss. “You’re a fool,” said Wynand.

He lost the job.  Continue Reading

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“I am bogged down with this hourly need to consult you, and with the practice of selecting articles on the basis of whether you’ve been addressed as “Malini” or “Ma’am” in the covering letters. I am also sick of this constant play of yours: to pitch one person against another for one week, and then reverse it in the next. One is also tired of your changing goalposts. The Sunday Anchor has to be reportage-driven, and then suddenly it becomes policy-driven, and then suddenly, depending on what you hear or get impressed with, it has to be made reportage-driven again. I quit because the journey had become too pointless. I had differences over editorial autonomy with the editor, Malini. There was hardly any excitement and it became too boring for me. There is freedom to pursue stories, but inside, there is no autonomy or freedom for the editors. But that is also because the majority of editors are pusillanimous and do not have the courage to stand up for their rights. It is the responsibility of every editor to tell the owner-editor where he or she may be wrong instead of agreeing to everything with a “yes ma’am, yes ma’am”

Haha. This is an excerpt from an editor’s resignation letter. I do not have a particular opinion about this guy. I suspect he is one of those brainless idiots who imagine themselves to be principled. But, he said something every editor ought to think. But, why do they behave the way they do? 

Let me try to understand this. Even if people were angels billions of years ago, when they were hunter-gatherers, many conflicts would have emerged. But, of course, they were not angels. We descended from risen apes and not descended angels. Resources were very limited. People were loyal to their tribe—at any cost. When people disagreed, the price they paid was often their life. Over billions of years, people developed strong instincts to see disagreement as a reflection of lack of personal loyalty. But, at least some people were tempted to disagree with others, or correct others, as put-down tactics, or to condescend to them. Even today, the people who disagree with their colleagues or correct their bosses are the people who do that at the cost of their own  jobs. Truth doesn’t mean anything to *most* people. So, why do they do that? Perhaps because these truth-seeking “traitors” do not like them. Otherwise why should they, or so they reason. Genuine respect for truth, fairness and principles is an evolutionary novelty. Most people, especially people with low intelligence do not comprehend such evolutionary novelties.

They do not know that there are some strange fellows who really do care for the truth. But, the modern, comfortable society produces more such people. The modern society also produces many people who spend more time with books or machines, and develop more respect for facts of reality than group loyalty. Such people (Writers, thinkers, scientists, and the nerds who grew up reading them), have developed strong norms against being a fence-sitter, or living a lie. They also verbalize these norms. The nerdy kids spend more time with books or computers, internalizing verbalized norms, while the normal kids mix with their peers, internalizing the intuitive norms of human communication. The verbalized norms are more respectable than the intuitive norms, because at least on the surface, they sound noble. The intuitive norms, if verbalized, would seem unspeakably ugly. Now, it is true that even normal folk are aware of the verbalized norms of their betters. They are dimly aware that these norms are “respectable”. But, deep inside they suspect that this is bogus. They are philistines, and cannot imagine how someone can be so deeply attached to ideas, or their own prose. So, when someone brings up these norms, or acts according to it, they feel that they are just being difficult. Or playing fool. Or blackmailing them. Not surprisingly, consistently defending the truth is harder than almost anything. If you have a valuable piece of information, it might do more harm than good if everyone responds badly to it. This piece of information might have great value. But, if people respond so badly to it that it would outweigh any benefit it might have, it might be better if you keep that to yourself. But, if people respond well to it? The point is that it should start somewhere.
 
So, the people who care for the truth might air those truths hoping that it would change others for good. But, it *probably* won’t. Perhaps they should accept idiocy, cruelty and wastefulness as a necessary price to pay for being part of a group. But, there is a problem. 1) The people who care for the truth are incredibly bad at predicting how others might respond to the truth. So, where do they draw the line? It is not clear. No one will tell you this. It is culture-specific. It is context-specific. Normal folk know it by some seraphic intuition. 2) If the truth-seekers become cynical panderers, they will sound like fakers. They will find it exhausting to the point that they cannot pull it off. This might do more harm than being plainly blunt. People might stand disagreement, but not condescension. 3) But, for artists, scientists , thinkers and other innovators, going along to get along is disastrous. If you are creative, going along to get along will never get you anywhere in the long run. If you do not know why journalism is so disappointing, this is the reason. Journalists are not intelligent, creative folk.
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Kailash_SatyarthiIf you think that Kailash Satyarthi—and his Bachpan Bachao Andolan (ROTFL)—deserves the Nobel Peace Prize, consider this: You have bronchitis. The doctor examines your symptoms and writes a brilliant report. The doctor is very “sincere”, fraudulently so. The report is evocative and accurate. The doctor thinks that the general public should be warned of the trauma of chronic diseases. He thinks that they should be enlightened. After all, it never occurs to the healthy that there could be a horrible thing such as a “disease”! They are from planet Mars. His views are considered an injection of hard reality into our otherwise hedonistic lives. He has a simple cure for your ailment: “To shoot you”. And more: He wants his cure to be enforced through legislation, because it would create paradise on earth. Would you seek the service of such a doctor? He does not lack passion or empathy. He is sincere. He is a hero by the virtue of raising awareness. Is it possible at all that something else can matter?

Economically ignorant liberals might claim that this is not a reasonable analogy, but that doesn’t change the issue. There is nothing wrong with child labor. The economist Ludwig Von Mises observed many decades ago:

“The factory owners did not have the power to compel anybody to take a factory job. They could only hire people who were ready to work for the wages offered to them. Low as these wage rates were, they were nonetheless much more than these paupers could earn in any other field open to them. It is a distortion of facts to say that the factories carried off the housewives from the nurseries and the kitchen and the children from their play. These women had nothing to cook with and to feed their children. These children were destitute and starving. Their only refuge was the factory. It saved them, in the strict sense of the term, from death by starvation.” 

Robert Hessen argues in “Capitalism-The Unknown Ideal”:

“The result of legislative intervention was that these dismissed children, who needed to work in order to survive, were forced to seek jobs in smaller, older, and more out-of-the-way factories, where the conditions of employment, sanitation, and safety were markedly inferior. Those who could not find new jobs were reduced to the status of their counterparts a hundred years before, that is, to irregular agricultural labor, or worse—in the words of Professor von Mises—to “infest the country as vagabonds, beggars, tramps, robbers and prostitutes.” Child labor was not ended by legislative fiat; child labor ended when it became economically unnecessary for children to earn wages in order to survive—when the income of their parents became sufficient to support them. The emancipators and benefactors of those children were not legislators or factory inspectors, but manufacturers and financiers. Their efforts and investments in machinery led to a rise in real wages, to a growing abundance of goods at lower prices, and to an incomparable improvement in the general standard of living.”

This is not a malicious view which only Twitter trolls would believe in. This is elementary social science which the journalists and activists would have known if they had read an elementary text on economics. They would have known this even if they had only a superficial understanding of human history.

If Kailash Satyarthi’s cause is fundamentally flawed, even if it is true that he is doing a wonderful job, he is inflicting enormous harm. He is probably sincere, but when you judge someone by sincerity, you are setting the bar way too low. People can do pretty much anything, and convince themselves that their motives are noble. What does that even prove? If his motives were truly noble, he would have tried to find out whether his cause is fundamentally flawed or not. The fact that is has never tried to find out is enough proof that he is a fraud.

The pursuit of truth is a reflection of great character strength. Convincing yourself of something or the other and posing as a messiah of underprivileged children is a reflection of weak character—of poor personal standards, of greed.  

Of course, there are allegations of corruption against this fellow, but the liberals want to conveniently ignore this. But, if they truly care for truth and morality, wouldn’t they try to find out whether these allegations are true? They claim that someone is innocent until proven guilty, and that we should give him the benefit of doubt (as long as he can hit back or hand out favors?).

Megha Bahri writes in Forbes:

Satyarthi, and his BBA, is a flawed hero and I have first hand experience of it. While reporting the story for Forbes I met with BBA representatives (not Satyarthi, but a deputy). BBA had some credibility, for sure. It had busted a subcontractor of Gap Inc. using child labor just a few months earlier and the incident had made a huge splash. The BBA representative told me that apart from the garment sector, one area that had one of the worst problems of child labor was the carpet belt in Uttar Pradesh. I remember the guy’s words to date: each house, each village is filled with children making carpets for export.

I said, show me.

We set off from Delhi and drove around a few villages but I only saw adults weaving carpets. As my suspicion became more obvious, and my questions more pertinent, the guy finally took me to one house and told me to wait in the car while he went in first. That, itself, was not a good sign in my book so I immediately followed. In the verandah of the house I was shown two boys, 6 years old or so, who were sitting before a loom. When I asked them to show their weaving skills, they didn’t have a clue what was expected of them. More importantly, they were wearing steel grey shorts and shirts–a typical school uniform in India.”

The problem is that the more children you show “rescued”, the more funds you get from foreign donors. That’s not to say that child labor isn’t a vast, and severe, problem in India. It is. And the fact remains that every time you buy an imported handmade carpet, an embroidered pair of jeans, a beaded purse, a decorated box or a soccer ball there’s a good chance you’re acquiring something fashioned by a child.

His ex-colleagues too have made corruption allegations against him:

“Having worked with Kailash Satyarthi in 1999 and surely having loved working there, i (Indu) feel he still didn’t deserve the award. For what he did with his one of the oldest colleague, Ms. Suman Srivastava, is condemnable. He and his team did a total character assassination of her. And anyone who came against this rot setting in, were slapped criminal defamation cases. We’ve one such case against us in the Rohini Court.”

This sort of thing happens in almost every non-profit. It would be surprising if this is not true.

Robin Hanson of Overcoming bias brilliantly observes:

“School seems useful for basic training and for socializing folks into industrial workplaces. But how much schooling do we need – closer to eight or to sixteen years? You might think the more school option has clearly proven its superiority by now. But it wasn’t exactly a fair fight – we forbade kids to work, and then required them to school. Watching some young girls sitting for hours in front of a grocery store selling girl scout cookies recently, I wondered, “Why isn’t this child labor?” People often talk as they feel revulsion at the image of a miserable child, working at some hard tedious job, and so they are glad child labor laws prohibit such cruel scenarios. But in fact our society is full of kids working away at hard and/or tedious jobs. Kids work hard at school, housework, sports, practicing music, supporting clubs, etc. and none of this cruelty is prevented by “child labor” laws. Such laws only prevent getting paid to work; they don’t even stop kids interning for free. If child labor laws come from our revulsion at miserable kids, why are there no laws preventing tiger moms from making their kids practice music for hours straight without a bathroom break, or against parents who make their older kids work full time taking care of younger kids? If job safety is our worry, why not just regulate that more directly? The history of child labor law is closely associated with unions seeking less competition for adult labor. Like minimum lot sizes for houses, child labor laws also helped to keep out poor folks. And today self-righteous indication about foreign child labor supports protectionism, to keep out foreign products that compete with local firms. Alas, keeping poor kids from working for money not only unfairly biases the work vs. school competition, it needlessly impoverishes poor kids and their families. While we claim to care so so much about kids forced to do hard and tedious tasks, we only actually prevent doing such tasks for money – many kids around us end up doing such tasks anyway, just not for money, and we hardly care. And yet somehow we’ve used all this to tell ourselves how morally superior we are to the cruel poor folk who might even consider having their kids “work.” Hypocrisy can be amazingly shallow.”

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A social nerd sure is too happy.

In the battle between nerds and jocks, the jocks have always the last laugh. Well, almost. For much of human history. But, what might happen if the influential nerds decide to oust jocks from positions of power? The nerds will engage in traditional jock pursuits, pressurizing others nerds to follow suit. The traditional nerd pursuits will take a backseat. The nerds are now living a lie, attending the social gatherings they do not want to attend and exchanging meaningless words with jocks when they would rather be writing novels, doing Math or learning to program.

The old neurotypical taunt will be hurled against the nerds who refuse to toe the official line: “Apart from writing and Facebook, do you have a life? You must be really sad!” The influential nerds will see them as traitors to their own tribe. The influential nerds will claim that the nerdy nerds are violating their own nature while they themselves itch to do “their own thing”. The media will publish studies on how the nerd-jock gap is being bridged, with the nerds replacing the jocks in traditional jock pursuits like sales and marketing. (No nerd is yet a successful politician.)

The nerd is rising. Slowly, but assiduously. 

One day, the long-suffering nerd finds himself old, long past his prime. He has not written the novels he had wanted to write when he was a teen. He has not invented anything worth mentioning. He is still recovering from a hangover from the previous night’s party. Then he hauls himself to work, where he is beaten fair and square by the jocks. They are pros at office intrigue. A social nerd sure is too happy. Like the much ridiculed post-menopausal cat woman.

If you know what this means, it is not hard to understand why women claim that women are too smart to even try their hand at traditional male pursuits. Satoshi Kanazawa is probably right:

“Contrary to what they may have told you, it is very unlikely that money, promotions, the corner office, social status, and political power will make women happy.  Similarly, it is very unlikely that quitting their jobs, dropping out of the rat race, and becoming stay-at-home dads to spend all their times with their children will make men happy.”

The traditional male pursuits are not useless. But, neither are the wide, shallow networks created by jocks. That is how humans built culture.