Thursday, March 17, 2016

Don't let peddlers of hate turn you into a tool

JNU students are not stealing money from public banks. The powerful but immoral business men and their cronies in the nation's bureaucracy are.
Beef eaters are not stealing your food; subsidizing for the politicians and driving farmers to kill themselves. The culprit are the flawed policies of the apathetic government shaped in no small measure by lobbying corporate and business-politician nexus.
The 'Muslims'/ 'Hindus'/ 'Flying Spaghetti Monster worshippers' are not attacking your dignity as a human being. It is the capitalist power centers who would not let you organise and rise as equals. It perpetuates inequality and dreams of 'making it big', a lottery rigged from the start.
The 'Anti-nationals' are only really anti-stupor. They are not endangering your survival. Your existence is being endangered by blind corporates and corrupt bureaucrats who subvert moral responsibilities, and who prioritise profit over human life.
Jats/ Dalits/ OBCs are not stealing your livelihood. The culprit is the government which prioritizes vote bank politics over building a decent educational infrastructure and access to skill developmental platforms.

When you see any politician, media personality blaming a people, blaming each other, blaming you, blaming weak scapegoats for state failure, you should know you are being sold hatred. you are being fooled. you are being turned into a tool. an expendable vote giving tool.

Don't be a tool. Be better than that. Recognise the merchants of hate and banish them from your life.  Recognise your interests and fight for them.

The only true struggle is that of the powerless against the unjust powerful. Any other struggle is merely a smokescreen where you are a 'bali ka bakra'. Don't be. Fight with eyes wide open. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Life is a swamp

21st century humanity is the century of living in 'bad faith'. And if humanity survives through it, it will only do so by fighting its bad faith. So what exactly is this bad faith that I am talking about?

I. What is 'Bad Faith'?
Well, it quite simply is the web of lies we build around ourselves to avoid having to make hard choices. Bad faith is when you resist change or you refuse to accept the responsibility of responding to change or initiating change. It is a cocoon made of lies that keeps painful truth outside. It manifests every time we are forced to wade through an uncomfortable or even mildly critical question/ decision. It is a refusal to react/ act. It is a refusal to live consciously.

So the next time someone points out your mistake and instead of acknowledging them or trying to understand why those mistakes were being pointed out, you fill your heart and mind with resentment and anger towards the messenger, you  are reacting in bad faith. You are choosing not to correct your mistake. You are pushing the choice onto other person to change.

Or if instead of reacting to inefficiencies or mistakes of others, you react to your expectation of them, then you are reacting in bad faith.You are choosing to not take charge of the situation. You are scuttling the responsibility onto your past.

Or if you let abstract ideas of nationality, caste or religious affiliation define your behaviour towards strangers, then you are living in bad faith.  If you react to people's affiliation instead of their actions, you are living in bad faith.  You are choosing to dehumanise the other. You are cowardly refusing to be responsible for your own dignity.

II. Matter of skin thickness
None of us are strong enough to experience truth in its entirety. Everyone has his/her's own set of lies that she must tell herself to make it through her life. We all have our insecurities, our fears, our weaknesses, our cognitive limitations. It is a matter of degree. Some have a thick skin, either born with the gift of reason and self-awareness. Some others earn it through experience. While most of us just go on blindly with a thin skin, raw nerves, wary of new experiences - opportunities to unravel the true nature of our existence.

III. The essential truth about bad faith
Life essentially is lived through actions and reactions to/ for other people. Our lives are in relation to other people. And most of us (which includes the others) would be severely incapable of living with full consciousness of the truth or even prioritized appraisal of truths/ lies. And to expect otherwise from people is to live in bad faith. And it is these others living in bad faith who are impacting our lives daily in one way or another.
What this means is, life cannot ever be  a smooth operation. It is not an arrow flying through vacuum towards its target. Life will not be reasonable. Life will remain uncertain at all times.You will have to deal with idiots and wise-asses all the time. There is no escape. You will have to deal with mistakes of others and catastrophes that are irreparable. There is no recourse. LIFE IS A SWAMP. And the only option for us is to accept it, assess it objectively and deal with it. Sure there will be opportunities that you can make. Be grateful for those. and get on with it.

The only thing you can do is to ask yourself honestly - "Now what?" .Not why, no blame game... but 'Now What'.
"What can i do now in view of the shit I find myself in?" That is being alive fully. Accept, assess and deal with it.
Quote by, art by me

The global web of bad faith
From what little I understand of evolution, I don't see humans growing out of the cocoon of self-deception. Bad faith is a survival strategy. With the 21st century that strategy now plays out globally on a scale that will make the best human minds boggle. With lies that are 'too big to fail', and lies that have terribly long tail, the global web of bad faith has firmed up its grip on our lives. The only recourse is to fight it out. Enable the 'too big to fail' lies to fail. Enable the long tail and absent heads to be answerable at each end of its tentacles. Question it and react to it at all times.
The individual's survival strategy will not play out well for the collective of humanity. We will end up digging our graves if we don't start addressing the truth collectively.

Monday, February 29, 2016

How to abuse two dimensions at once

In advertising, we often come across this four legged spider called 'the perceptual map'. It is quite an interesting tool really. If done right, it is a very efficient visual representation of chosen facts (not the whole truth, but the part that helps win an argument. :P) The uglier mutations of this spider are the intuitive/ judgemental/ consensus maps. The difference is, while the prior is based on numbers, the later are approximate 'gut feelings' of people who sit often removed from reality.  Even then, these are useful, if only in finding new perspectives to see with.
We planners tend to use it quite often for its efficiency in meaning making and sharing of perspective. But lately even the clients have wizened up to it. But not entirely. Recently, we were briefed with a perceptual map that had four categories of the product at the four legs of the graph. That makes no sense. I can't share the actual figure of-course, but here's something similar (different category).
 It is the age of cross-over products. And you must convey the uniqueness of your cross over somehow. But this is not the best way to do it. seriously.

Shit that makes no sense.

Here's some handy tips to do these graphs right.

1. Oppositions: Humans understand things better with a frame of reference of opposites. An apple is edible for a human baby, as against a rubber ball (inedible). So here the concept of the opposition between edible and inedible things is absolute. The borders are drawn and they are distinguishable (mostly). So apple can sit at one end of the spectrum (definitely edible) with a rubber ball sitting at the other end (definitely inedible) with a piece of squid meat sitting somewhere in the middle. (depends. On the nationality of the mother/ father to start with.)
The perceptual maps work if you identify such oppositions to represent. So dig for the 'cultural tensions' if you must. For example, Contentious meal options v/s non-contentious meal options in India, where cow/ pig meat will sit in one extreme whereas a vada pav or a masala dosa will sit in the other.
Commuter bike is not conceptually the opposite of a racing bike. it is just a different kind of bike. So they can't sit on different ends in a conceptual map.

2. The two dimensions: The map is in two dimensions. One horizontal. One vertical. Each dimension represents a variable. And for the map to work, each dimension must stand for a unique, independent but related variable. In the example of bikes, all four legs belonged to a single variable. Hence it did not make any sense.
Secondly, if it is dependent variable, then it will simply create a predictable curve on the graph. Which might be good for a maths class, but it doesn't provide new insights to position your brand or surprising segments of consumers to target.

3. One universe of related variables: The two variable must belong to the same universe. There is no point in comparing countries to fruits. Not only should the variables belong to the same universe but they should be about a single thing/ concept. If  one variable is about the height of people in Vanuatu, then the other cannot be about skin color of New Zealanders. Neither is the heigh and skin color related to each other, nor is their a commonality between the universe. It might still make sense instead if height of people (short v/s tall) in vanuatu is put in perspective with the diet of people of vanuatu (malnourished v/s over eaters). That perhaps might throw up some insights.

Hmm.. may be you know more about this than I do. I am merely a peddler of perspective. Share yours.

Powerpoint is a con

Men in air-conditioned glass boxes often feel the need to powerpoint. This might be because what they want to say (or what their counterparts want to hear) is not well formed enough. And saying it simply will unravel the artifice.

Powerpoint in that sense is a tool that holds together the artifice. The red ribbon on top of a decorated gift package which possibly holds junk inside. Or the shiny credit rating that hides the shitty credit quality of CDOs. 

You might now say that - "No no, it is only a tool. It depends on who uses it for what purpose."
Wrong. The medium is the message. And the message is 'suspension of disbelief'.
Here the medium necessitates one speaker who often is standing to deliver the message and as such gets into an authoritative position and the listeners have to hold their horses and give their attention to the presenter for a period of time. It gives enough space and time for the con to take effect. The medium of powerpoint intrinsically creates an imbalance. Even when a powerpoint is sent over e-mail, it is not read as you might read a normal mail. It is still being presented to you in your head. There is a certain suspension of disbelief before the show begins.
Secondly, the linear quality of the narrative favours certain kinds of arguments more than others - deductive over abductive for example.
Imagine a typical presentation being discussed instead by the streetside or in a cafe. The listener won't just listen then. He/ she will interject, question the logic, the premise or simply might look away if he/she finds the whole thing a sour adrak. It is the real world, the hustle, the con has to be that more earnest.

The beauty of powerpoint is in letting the time slow down and place settled and enclosed. With a powerpoint, even a shy young kid with little knowledge can demand attention of a CEO. Powerpoint 'scaled up' the business of conning! Now more people could con, even when they didn't know they were doing it. It made con artists of people who didn't know that they are being turned into one. 

Powerpoint exists in the service of the economic bubbles. The tool that lets reasonable men assume that there must be solid rationality behind the shiny proposition being presented to them. And the reasonable man who assumes that what he is presenting is rational 'enough'.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

The one thing you should see in the Auto Expo this year

99% of auto expo will appeal to your vanity, 1% of it will appeal to your intelligence.
If you have patience only for ground breaking original stuff.. straight go to a certain corner in Hall no. 2 (besides the TVS extravaganza).
There you will find this unassuming duo with afro hairdo and a patented technology that they are eager to sell to automobile majors.

I am not much on an engineer, (because I am (with a degree) but not really (because I don't work as one)) so I am not in a position to validate what they were saying. But what they said sounds very very interesting.
They have made a working bike with no valves, no chains, no cam shaft... as a matter of fact, their engine has only 32 moving parts.

Yes. An engine with only 32 moving parts. 

Apart from that, the engine can make use of various kinds of fuels (hydrocarbons) apart from petrol.
I still have to get to know their offering better, but this sounds exciting. Imagine the service, economy and efficiency improvements this technology can enable.

They still need to figure out quite a few things yet - they don't have a website or even a flier to start with. They also will need to improve the design and finish of the model for their Geneva ambition.

But here's wishing them the best of luck.
Check them out. They call themselves - 'Beast-Bird Motor Cars'.

Apart from that, here's a few things I observed.

1. All automotive brands want to become lifestyle brands

Mahindra started 'Mojo Tribe' yesterday. Which seemed odd actually. A ready-made club for a brand.. seems kinda bleh. a force fit. the club even has an anthem, the genre of which is 'blues'. I understand Mahindra's love for jazz and blues, but a bike anthem in blues? really? 
Usually, clubs are made of people. Clubs are even better if started by the people themselves. I don't know of actual clubs started by brands that have any real impact. well, here's wishing the best of luck to Mojo.
Most brands had merchandise that was given prominence. Nexa watches anyone? Tata's 'OK TATA' bag, I can buy though.

2. And the lifestyle is 'outdoors'

I am really thrilled with RE's Himalayan. I probably will buy it too. It is the first proper off-roader for India. Though RE was not participation in the expo, the theme of off-roads and outdoors was all pervasive. From Mahindra's Thar and Mojo Tribe to Mercedes's monster 4x4 and even a feeble attempt by Renault with its Kwid Climber (with that ground clearance, what outdoor activity would it really do?). 

3. Cutomisability

From Honda's Navi to Renault's Kwid versions .. there was a concerted effort at urging people to get creative with their vehicles.. to turn their vehicles into a canvas for their identity. That already happens to an extent and guess its a symptom of the category maturing with people spending more and more on their vehicles.

4. Caucasians flown in for cleaning cars :P

5. Models with feet instead of wheels, obstructing the view of cars/ bikes :P way too many of them.

6. Terrible displays

UM is not a well known brand. One would expect it to put signs and displays about its models, its credentials. The problem persisted with most brands ranging from no display information, bland printout of specs to unimaginative ipad videos of the model. These were the only three modes of communication about the products. All terrible. It is amazing that brands that spend upwards of tens of crores can't spend a little more in communicating core propositions and details about vehicles.