Saturday, December 31, 2005

On the British Court of Appeal's grant, to a Muslim schoolgirl, of the right to wear the hijab, in a uniform-wearing school

In March 2005, a Muslim girl was given the right to wear the traditional Muslim dress, the hijab (or, in Bengali, the jibab) in schools that have, up to now, had a school uniform.

This is as unhelpful a decision as the decision was some years ago for Sikh boys to be allowed to wear a turban in school.

Neither is essential to the religions concerned, according to their own texts.

A turban is a traditional sign being "respectable" in traditional Indian society and is worn by people of EVERY religion in India either all the time in public (for example, among landlords) or on appropriate public or ceremonial occasions (e.g. marriage). Sikhism elevated all converts to sikhism to the upper-caste and the turban was the sign of this elevation.

Similarly, the neither the Koran nor the Hadith says anything about wearing the long shapeless robe that was traditional for women in the Arab world and has now become part of the fashion for some religiously-committed Muslims also in other parts of the world.

What Islam is adamant on (and, in my opinion, given the sorts of minds men have, the Islam is quite correctly adamant on this) is that women should be modestly and fully dressed.

That requirement does not have to be met by a jibab. It can be met as fully with a school uniform as it can by a salwar kameez (traditional dress among Muslims and NON-Muslims in Pakistan, North India and areas of the world influenced by fashions there).

The requirement can also be met by long Western dresses.

By contrast, there are now some highly expensive and fashionable long Arabian dresses, that are supposed to be hijabs, that can be quite as sexually-provocative as any short Western dress.

The ignorance of Cherie Blair in representing this case is only topped by the unbelievable ignorance of the British Appeal Court.

We will next be told that all sorts of other totally non-Islamic things are also "fundamental" to practicing Islam.

These kinds of decisions do nothing to bring the law into respect with most British people today, whether they be Asians or others.

So this is now the end of the school uniform, which has been the single greatest leveller of class in the UK.

We will now have materialists who will no doubt claim that it is part of their fundamental right to practice their religion to wear diamond-encrusted clothes and accoutrements to school – leaving those students who can't afford these, or whose parents on principle object to such displays of wealth, feeling like second-class citizens.

Shame on the Labour Party for further accentuating such nonsensical divisions within schools.

This "victory" for Islam is a classic case of winning on something superficial, while losing thereby something equally valuable and much more important: equality in schools.

In Western societies, Muslims ought to focus on decreasing, not increasing, class differences.

In British society (unlike most Islamic societies), the girl concerned certainly has the right to wear whatever she wants outside school, and she would of course continue to have the right to wear whatever she likes after she finishes school.

There are much bigger and more important battles for Islam to fight. In so-called "Islamic" societies, Muslims need to focus their energies on working towards freedom of religion, as freedom of thought is the fundamental building block of personal happiness, social well-being and economic prosperity - and all of these are at risk in all so-called "Islamic" societies today.

ENDS Sphere: Related Content

Monday, December 26, 2005

The Demonisation of Regulation

The global elites have now made it politically correct to demonise regulation.

All attempts at any kind of regulation are regularly ridiculed by them.

Particular bits of regulation can of course be incompetent or worse.

But the solution to bad bits of regulation is the right political process so that it can turn out the right kind of regulation.

Without government regulation, all business activity would immediately cease.

Why? Because money is itself a product of government regulation, as are the existence of the Internet and the financial agreements which make international trade possible.

The global elites understand this very well.

That is why, alongside demonising regulation in public, they privately spend such vast sums of money in lobbying politicians to try to ensure that regulation benefits themselves!

In a discussion on a private e-mail discussion group, I called for taxation on the development and implementation of a particular technology. A representative of a large multinational company responded that my observation and analysis were entirely correct, but that my solution was not, because "nothing good ever came out of regulation".

I felt like asking (but politely did not, specially as there were more substantial issues at stake) how much his corporation had spent on lobbying every single day in the last 12 months.

Routine demonisation of government regulations started in the USA. Tom Delay, till recently arguably the most powerful man in the US congress, started his very successful political career in the 1980's crusading against environmental regulations he saw as "unfairly" constraining his Texas-based pest control business.

Today, this demonisation has spread worldwide and, to my surprise, I find otherwise good-hearted and publicly-spirited people falling prey to this political correctness.

People who are good-hearted and publicly-spirited should undoubtedly decry all bad legislation and regulation. But we should also try to work toward the right political processes, so that the best kind of regulation and legislation is produced.

Today, what is vitiating the legislative and regulatory process is not only this kind of demonisation of regulation (and indeed of all politics) but also the weakening of politics. That is, in turn, the result of the weakening of the civic impulse in the West (in the rest of the world it was never as strong anyway). And the civic impulse was itself the result, as I have pointed out elsewhere, of the European Reformation with its strong emphasis on duties rather than rights - an emphasis that began to be weakened by the French Revolution, which emphasised rights instead – with results that are plain for all to see.

So we need to kick aside the debilitating effects of the French Revolution and get back to the public spirited sense of duty that was inculcated by the European Reformation.

Of course, we don't all have to be Evangelicals and Protestants if we want our countries to have public-spiritedness, good-heartedness, proper legislation and healthy politics. But it is essential to find ways of inculcating in the masses that sense of duty which alone leads to healthy politics.

Through history, Marxism, Nationalism and various other "isms" have succeeded in inculcating a sense of duty, but none of them have done so as effectively or with such long-lasting effect as the Reformation. Countries which were most influenced by the Reformation remain to this day the countries which have the most extensively-demonstrated sense of duty, public spirit, good-heartedness, clean politics and responsible legislation.

ENDS Sphere: Related Content


Just back from business travels in India and Jordan (which concluded nearly 16 weeks of more or less unceasing travel), the family whisked me off for a couple of days skiing in the Swiss Alps, after which we came back to the beautiful Christmas Eve service at the International Protestant Church in Zurich (standing room only!) with its Zurich Opera singers and Conductor, who outdid themselves this year.

Then on to the next hightlight, director Andrew Adamson's cinematic retelling of C S Lewis's classic THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE. I should say that I know the story only from dim memories of overhearing my wife reading it at bedtime to the kids a couple of decades ago. However, I do remember seeing the BBC film of the story, so the inevitable comparison in my mind was with that.

First, I must say that Adamson's version is thoroughly enjoyable, and I warmly recommend it.

Then, I probably ought to say that as the BBC version was more "British", it was probably more in keeping with the spirit of the original story (all the villains in the Adamson version story have American accents!). And the BBC version's Ice Queen (or Witch) was more striking (more deliberately beautiful, so more likely to gain at least initially to attract one character's as well as the audience). Apart from that, the two versions are comparably good, with a greater use of special effects in this version.

For those who don't know the story, here is my summary of it (no doubt a melange of memories from long ago, the BBC version and this version!):

The four young Pevensie children are evacuated (as so many other children were) to a country estate while London suffers under the German Blitz during World War II. There, the bored kids—Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy—discover a mysterious wardrobe that leads them all to a land called Narnia, which has familiar elements from our world as well as fantastical creatures from Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology. An Evil Witch (the Ice Queen) has usurped Narnia from its rightful owner, Aslan the Lion, and keeps Narnia in a perpetual state of winter (with no hope of Christmas, let alone Spring). It turns out that the arrival of the two Sons of Adam and the two Daughters of Eve in Narnia has a unique role to play in fulfilling an ancient prophecy so that the witch's spell will be broken and her reign ended. One of them (Edmund) betrays the rest to the Ice Queen, with the result that, when he is rescued, she demands his life. Aslan offers his own life instead, and is killed by the triumphant Ice Queen, leaving a transformed Peter and company to lead Aslan's troops in a valiant but losing battle against the hordes led by the Queen. However, Aslan is miraculously restored to life and intervenes in the battle, so that the Foursome are, at the end, elevated to four royal thrones, before Aslan leaves.

Adamson's film, and especially Georgie Henley as Lucy, convey wonderfully Lewis's childlike entrancement in the story and though I have various minor cavils, there is excellent use of motion picture technology, particularly in the visualization of C.S. Lewis' beloved creatures.

However, the highlight of the film, for me, is James McAvoy's acting as the faun Tumnus, with human torso and lower body of a goat - believably awkward but comfortable.

One word of warning. When you go to see the film, don't walk out when the credits begin to roll: the final scenes of the film are still to come before the final roll of credits continues.

I am not sure why Adamson took to this gimmick. It detracts from the film: the cinema that I was in opened the doors at this point and several people got up to leave (this probably happens in other cinemas too!), depriving the final scenes of the film of some of their poignance.

ENDS Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, December 25, 2005

The Corruption of Ideals in our Time

Having just been in Delhi for a week, travelling around on business, I could not help noticing the enormous increase in the number, size and spendour of the temples there.

In my youth, Delhi had only one Hindu temple with any size and that was the Birla Mandir. Though architecturally impressive, it is not particularly splendid, and the Birla family achieved a nice balance (to my mind) between creating something attractive on the one hand, and something reasonably in keeping with the spirit of most Indians.

The recent penchant for temple-expansion and temple-glory reminds me of Europe in the 14th to 16th centuries when all the splendid Roman Catholic cathedrals were built.

Europe was then, as India is now, increasingly corrupt, with religion itself part of that corruption.

In conversation in India, you will find any number of people ready to regale you with tales of the corruption and the incredible wealth of Indian "religious leaders".

When religion itself becomes a corrupting influence then there is no hope for the masses.

And we are now witnessing the world-wide corruption not only of religion but also of idealism of all sorts.

There are now innumerable examples of people using "high and noble and apparently humanistic" objectives only to make money for themselves. The biggest secular temple in the world, the World Economic Forum in Davos, is (as far as I can make out) one such example. Various gurus (from different religious traditions!) are other examples. I am not saying that all gurus are charlatans or that WEF necessarily belong in this category till one has evidence one way or the other.

But we have sadly reached a situation worldwide that one has to be specially careful and suspicious when people invoke what is "high and noble and humanistic". Or, to put it differently, the more "high and noble and humanistic" the aims of the individual or organisation, the more careful and suspicious one needs to be....

Idealistic people can be gullible and that tendency has always been exploited by the hypocritical – think back to Chaucer's The Pardoner's Tale in the 14th Century!

That is why there has always been a danger of "dharma" (principles, ideals, values, religion) becoming "dhanda" (business).

Of course idealisms and religions do not have to become corrupt and corrupting. Religion can also be a great cleansing and progressive force, as it was in Reformation Europe, when it struggled with a corrupt and corrupting Roman Catholicism and finally to a large extend cleaning up feudal society and transforming it into what we would today call a modern society.

Similarly, as I have pointed out elsewhere, religion was an enormous positive force in early nineteenth century England, where the Evangelical movement both saved the nation from revolution and cleaned it up, transforming one of the most corrupt countries (including a corrupt and corrupting religion) and making it one of the cleanest that history had known till then. I am not saying that Victorian England was perfect. I am saying merely that in terms of social and environmental concern, political freedom and public justice, no society till then had achieved what it did (and this involved, moreover, cleaning up as much as any colonial power had ever done in history in its colonies, by means of a relatively enlightened colonial policy). I am also saying that the achievement was entirely the fruit of the Evangelical movement.

The challenge for people of all idealistic, humanitarian and/ or religious motivations is how to match the achievements of the European Reformation and the Evangelical movement in nineteenth century England.

The sad thing is that, since the end of the Second World War, the systematic inculcation by the British and global elite of the Theory of Evolution, and the consequent rise of godlessness, has had the result that the achievements of the Reformation and Evangelicalism are understood, even in Christian circles, only "religiously" and not in terms of transformation in knowledge generation, intellectual power, economic progress, political justice and social and environmental concern.

Recovering and studying the real history of the European Reformation and of the Evangelical movement in eighteenth century England has important lessons for our struggle today to clean up idealisms, clean up religions, and focus energy on addressing the enormous challenges posed by the totalitarianism of the capitalist elite, whether in India or around the world.

That is great theory.

But how can you, in practice, tell whether someone (let us call this person Mr Krishna) is a charlatan or whether s/he is truly idealistic/religious/committed to human values?

I have 3 simple questions that I ask myself, and I commend these questions to you as a reasonable place to begin:

1. Considering other people who run charitable organisations of a size similar to that run by Mr Krishna in her/his country, does Mr Krishna have property, possessions and a lifestyle approximating the middle class among such people?

2. How sacrificially does Mr Krishna live?

3. How much of his personal income does Mr Krishna give away to people who are not related to him (by blood, marriage, caste, and so on)?

ENDS Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Financial Bubbles, Damaged Brains and the Condition of Society Today

On 21 July this year (2005), there was an intriguing article published by Jane Spencer, a staff reporter, in The Wall Street Journal.

Titled "Lessons from the Brain Damaged Investor", it said that researchers from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Iowa had concluded that people with an impaired ability to experience emotions might be able to make better financial decisions than other people under certain circumstances.

Intrigued, I thought I would follow up at some convenient time. That has finally arrived, and I found that the research had been published the previous month in the peer-reviewed journal, Psychological Science, so we can be confident that the study is "scientifically valid", at least from the viewpoint of the peculiar mixture of science and art that is called psychology. Actually, the research is part of a fast-growing interdisciplinary field called "neuroeconomics" that explores among other things the role biology plays in economic decision making, by combining insights from cognitive neuroscience, psychology and economics.

The fifteen brain-damaged participants who were the focus of the study had normal IQs, and the areas of their brains responsible for logic and cognitive reasoning were intact. But they had lesions in the region of the brain that controls emotions, which inhibited their ability to experience basic feelings such as fear or anxiety. The lesions were due to a range of causes, including stroke and disease, but they impaired the participants' emotional functioning in a similar manner.

In the study, the participants' lack of emotional responsiveness gave them an advantage when they played a simple investment game. The emotionally impaired players were more willing to take gambles that had high payoffs because they lacked fear. Players with undamaged brain wiring, however, were more cautious and reactive during the game, and wound up with less money at the end.

The trouble with biologists and psychologists is that they do not understand real-world finance. The way their game was constructed "rewarded" taking high risks. In the real world, high risk can sometimes equal high reward, but it can also mean high loss, or complete loss, of capital.

The highest-risk form of investment is straightforward gambling, and the returns from that are well established. If you are in love with gambling, then the best way to "play" is not to place bets, it is to set up a company that organises gambling games or, better, invest in a company that is already successful at gambling. (NOTE: I am not recommending that you be involved in gambling at all. I personally consider gambling immoral – not necessarily to participate as a gambler (that is merely financially stupid but if you enjoy the activity I can't see that a moderate amount of the activity does any harm – the problem is only that one can get "hooked" on gambling, but then one can also get "hooked" on chocolate or coffee or anything else, so it is not the coffee or the gambling that is the problem here, but one's tendency to get "hooked"); however, organising gambling as a commercial activity is immoral because it exploits the weakness of those who are most vulnerable to the "attractions" of gambling, such as emotionally and financially weak people.)

Having considered the study, I can only conclude that the researchers "fixed" the results by "fixing" the rules of their game. If you construct a game in which those who take high-risks win (which is not necessarily the case in the real world) then you will get high-risk takers winning.

The only thing that the study proves is that brain-damaged people are less able to take a balanced view of the nuances of a situation, and so are more likely to take higher (and probably unrealistic) risks.

So all that the study proves is that brain-damaged people are likely to take high risks – but we did not need the experiment to tell us that!

Modern academic activity is unfortunately now too full of such rubbish. My advice to anyone thinking of investing their lives in such research is to stay away till the researchers can learn some basic lessons about logic, experimental design and real-life economics, finance and investing.

In fact, we have known from experience for at least a hundred years that successful investing requires objectivity. To put it differently, it requires the ability to look at all the facts and come to one's own rational conclusions. It requires the ability not to be swayed by emotions such as fear or greed or ambition or what might be called the "herd factor".

On the other hand, the successful investor does have to take the "herd mentality" into account rationally as a factor in making any investment decision today, because so much of the market has stopped being driven by fundamentals. Most of the market is in fact driven by emotions as more and more "small investors" are doing their own investment and disinvestment. As these inexperienced and professionally untrained and perhaps even psychologically-unsuitable investors have entered the market in greater and greater numbers, they have changed the nature of the market from a more or less rational field, to an increasingly emotion-driven field.

The challenge as an investor is how to "sense" where the market is going, when there are no (or few) fundamentals to guide you. The current housing bubble in metropolitan areas around the world clearly illustrates the challenge. We know that, from the viewpoint of fundamentals, house prices should have started coming down a long while ago. The key questions are: WHEN will they actually start coming down and how far will they fall.

A parallel case was the IT bubble from 1998 or so till Spring 2000. No one knew when the "bust" would begin or how low prices would fall, even though it was clear (certainly from 1998) that the situation was a real bubble. But we had apparently serious students of economics, technology and finance telling us that we were in a "new economy" where the old rules did not apply. The old rules certainly did not apply in this market for a couple of years or more, but then they struck with a vengeance.

So investors who were stupid, emotionally-challenged or even brain-damaged could profit for a couple of years from a market gone mad. And they did profit. Many executives ended up in top positions simply because they were functioning in an area which "benefited" from that madness. Many CEOs earned millions who should never have been CEOs in the first place. Many companies were bought and sold that should never have been bought or sold (think AOL-TimeWarner). The ability to be genuinely objective is unfortunately too rare, whether among investors, executives or CEOs. It is easy to be influenced by what is currently fashionable or by your class or your nation or your own family.

However, the good thing is that everyone can play and you might be lucky or unlucky with your timing. The "irrational exuberance" regarding shares the late 1990s has, since then, been replaced by the "irrational exuberance" regarding housing now. Only a fool will invest in housing now. But fools can get lucky. (I am just buying a house myself at present, but that is for domestic reasons and because I have no option in the location where I need a house).

The interesting question, as more and more people enter the investment market and realise that ones needs to be either lucky or "brain damaged" in order to be successful is the following: "What are the consequences of living in a brain-damaged society such as we are producing today?" Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Response to John Seely Brown and John Hagel III's new book, THE ONLY SUSTAINABLE EDGE

John Seely Brown and John Hagel III in their recent book The Only Sustainable Edge
suggest a three-stage future transformation in business (deepening specialization within firms; mobilizing best-in-class capabilities across enterprises; and, ultimately, accelerating learning across broad networks of enterprises). When they do this, however, they come to the limits of what is possible within our current global economic and political system.

It is entirely true that, at present, advantage does come from an institutional capacity to work closely with other highly specialized firms to get better faster. However, long-term, we need, as companies and as society, much more system-wide approaches creating a genuinely "flat" world (in Friedman's terminology) rather than merely a digitally and financially "flat" world, which is what we have at present. A genuinely "flat" world would also be "flat", for example, in terms of environmental and social legislation and infrastructural requirements.

In fact, the first two stages of their "future stages" are already occurring. Beyond their third stage (accelerating learning across broad networks of enterprises), I see the creation of genuine "mega-corporations", which will be the natural and inevitable result of their suggested "learning" phase.

How will these megacorporations be different from old-fashioned conglomerates? Well, conglomerates hold an unrelated portfolio of business for the purpose of balancing potential income over differing business cycles in different industrial sectors, and the reason they generally failed (though let us not forget that there are some outstanding successes such as GE in the USA and Virgin in the UK) was that understanding and experience of one industry does not necessarily enable you to manage another industry. Moreover, having a conglomerate was fine when the various industries in your portfolio were performing as you expected, but the structure of world industry has changed since 1989 and we have seen supposedly counter-cyclical industries converge, so that they have turned sour at very similar times. Since the business cycles have changed and the world has become increasingly chaotic, it is no longer possible with certainty to identify counter-cyclical businesses.

In any case, the essential difference between the old-style conglomerates and the new megacorporations is that the latter will leverage across industries the emerging changes in the relationship between customers and producers on the one hand, and on the other hand between producers and suppliers, producers and marketers, and producers and financiers or investors.

Megacorporations will need to employ very few people and will entirely reconstruct the value chain – again across industries - by providing customers a confidential, convenient, quick, cheap way of getting an extremely wide range of products and services (or indeed ALL products and services) with the assistance of worldwide electronic networks stretching from production to delivery. We can see this already beginning to happen with companies such as Amazon and e-bay. The first of these warehouses products, the second does not since it simply acts as a marketing platform. I think neither model will obtain, but rather a megacorporation model, in which the company handles not only the marketing, warehousing and delivery, but also the manufacture of all its products and services (Amazon has just begun to move in this direction). That Amazon and e-bay are enabled to do reasonably well even in the current world of text-based electronics should persuade us that the tendency to move in the direction of supplying all possible goods and services will be multiplied as video-based electronic nets come into being, and are complemented by networks which are designed to carry Virtual Reality as well. The first move in this direction can just be discerned as Sprint Sprint Nextel announced on the 2nd of November 2005 a partnership with the #1, #2, #4, and #7 cable (MSOs) in the US - Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, and Advance/Newhouse, respectively. Their mutual goal is to offer combined wireless broadband, cable video, and telephone services to consumers in a single package. This is of course not yet a megacorporation, but it testifies to the move to supplying in an increasing range of goods and services. Why is it not a merger? Why is it only a co-operative venture or partnership? Because of the Street's fixation with competences and with "sticking to one's own knitting".

There is much talk of core competences at present, but the Street will soon learn a few basic lessons. A "core competence" by itself means nothing. For example, if I am the world's expert in the structure of the Mongolian language, that by itself may not even enable me to make a living let alone become a millionnaire. The question is always: For what core competences will which market pay how much? So let us think in a clearer way about the core competences which will be required by the best-paying markets in the future. If the megacorporations which I have theorised about do in fact come into being, as I think they will, then it is fairly evident that the core competences of that world will be three principal ones: marketing-related, logistics-related and innovation-related. Anyone who can help in the brand wars which already exist and which will intensify in the times ahead will be worth a lot. So will anyone who can help re-engineer the logistics-chain. Finally innovation will be much in demand, whether it is a rich elite who come to dominate the world, or a more just world for everyone.

In this new world, the new core competences are not going to be along the old lines of industry. The core competences of the future are going to focus on only three areas:
- excellence in marketing (or, rather, excellence in recruiting and
retaining a loyal base of customers);
- excellence in organising and operating an "intelligent“/robotised value
chain; and,
- excellence in innovation (new products, services, ways of
marketing and ways of organising logistics, perhaps
through technological creativity and innovation).

These could form the basis of the "industrial divisions“ of the immediate future, though it is likely that even more genuinely massive mega-corporations will already emerge first, which will integrate such "industry divisions“.

So what are the key competences that will enable companies to survive and flourish? Let us think of that question along the following lines. At present, we are going through another phase in the world economy in which the slogan of the day is "return to roots" or "back to the core". Executives do not seem to understand that, while we built up our present level of success on the basis of our original core business, the current situation does not guarantee survival. One cannot "return to innocence". An angel with a flaming sword guards the way back to Eden! Radically new strategies are needed for our times. The key competence for the future is the willingness and ability to recreate one's company in radical fashion: much bigger or much smaller.

Today, the choice is either to shrink your company down to a suitable niche in order to enable it to continue being profitable, or to integrate existing corporate giants or, alternatively, to build from scratch the chain across industries which can supply a range of cross-sectoral products and services to the customer.

Some people do not and will not believe that this is possible. They will of course never attempt to build such megacorporations. But some people do believe this is possible. Clearly, the people who will attempt to build these megacorporations will come from the ranks of such "believers".

Many such people may fail in their attempts to build these megacorporations. It could be argued that AOLTimeWarner and Vivendi Universal were attempts to create the first such megacorporations and that these attempts have failed. But the point to remember is that just because those executives failed, or some other fail in their attempts, it does not mean that every one of those who tries to create a megacorporaton will fail - many people die in their attempts to scale mountains, but that does not prevent others from trying, and when the first hardy soul succeeds in climbing a particular mountain, he or she not only makes history, he or she reshapes our horizons regarding what is possible and indeed changes our perception of reality. In fact, Dick Parsons, the Chairman and CEO of AOL TimeWarner has recently said that he believes the AOL TimeWarner combination still makes sense and he wants to make it work better as a single corporation.

It is not "politically correct" to speak about "mega-corporations", that is why no one discusses them. The moment anyone succeeds in creating such a mega-corporation, the entire game will change, and we will go from the third stage suggested John Seely Brown and John Hagel III, to my fourth stage of mega-corporations.

In any case, you don’t need many megacorporations to succeed. In fact, not many can succeed. There is room for somewhere between, say, twelve and 25 megacorporations, depending on anti-trust activity on the part of governments. Without that activity, there is room for perhaps five megacorporations in the world.

The point to keep in mind is that today’s industrial, technological and economic logic is undoubtedly in favour of the creation of megacorporations, and that the limits to the creation of such megacorporations are set not in the worlds of industry, business, management, technology, finance and economics, but in the worlds of society and politics.

The basic issue that the world needs to address, sooner rather than later, is: should we allow such mega-corporations to be created? (Existing legislation in the USA and Europe certainly allows for their potential creation, as seen by the short-lived flourishing of AOL Time Warner and Vivendi Universal). If we do continue to allow the creation of such mega-corporations, then the basic issue for the world is: how many mega-corporations do we need or should we allow? These are of course political questions. And the mark of the age into which we are now embarked is that political, economic, business, ethical and social questions come together more and more.

Regretfully, most companies are not equipped, at present, to negotiate their way through this complex modern reality. So the real challenge for companies today is not merely making joint ventures and learning alliances of various sorts work effectively. It is rather how to learn to negotiate their way through the complex and multi-dimensional and at the same time rapidly-changing world in which we now live. That is why most companies are in strategic paralysis today.

In other words, the only sustainable edge does not consist in partnerships, of the sort suggested by Seely Brown and Hagel. The next sustainable business edge consists in the creation of mega-corporations. The problem is that the creation of such mega-corporations also poses an enormous socio-political question and challenge to the whole of our globalising world.

ENDS Sphere: Related Content

What is the difference between being a Follower of Jesus and being a Christian?

Within the last few weeks, I was invited by a Christian to get involved in a seminar seeking to explore "Christian perspectives" on a certain field that is of interest to me.

Now, I should make it clear that I treat in an exactly equally way all invitations whether they come from Christians or from Atheists, Agnostics, Buddhists, Confucians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Tribalists, or whatever. So I am, in principle, open to being involved in exploring "Jewish perspectives", "Muslim Perspectives", "Utilitarian perspectives" and so on.

However, it is not always necessary for me to make clear to people that I am a follower of Jesus. This particular case was one of those where I felt that it was necessary to make this clear. Usually, this creates no difficulty. In this particular case, I had the following response:

After much thought on my part, and upon discussion with the Planning Committee for the project, I judge it best to not re-invite you to this seminar. My decision is based primarily on your own words that you "do not wish to be involved with any project that has the word 'Christian' associated with it". I understand your reasons for feeling this way, and I also am grieved by the fact that many professing Christians (myself possibly included) do not adequately live up to their profession, and do not adequately conform their actions to true "biblical perspectives". Nevertheless, I do not believe this is sufficient reason to discard the name "Christian" (who I believe is a person who aspires to be a "follower of Jesus", however imperfectly that may be lived out). So, we are not prepared to eliminate the word "Christian" from our description of this project.

Nevertheless, I wish you well in all your endeavors as you seek to be a "follower of Jesus", which, I assure you, is also my aspiration and the aspiration of all those participating in this project.

I provide my response below, as this may help readers to understand the distinction between being "a good Christian" and "a follower of Jesus":

Dear …

Many thanks for your kind message.

I quite understand your decision.

However, I cannot help responding to the *basis* of your decision by saying that just as there have always been Christians who do seek to follow Jesus,
there have also been people who like to call themselves Christians while publicly making clear that they have no intention of following Jesus as Lord
Historically, these "Christians without Christ" have included Popes, Bishops, Priests, and Theologians, as well as lay people

On the other hand, today, there are Hindus who follow Jesus (such as myself), Jews who follow Jesus (but are not christians - "Messianic Jews"), Muslims who follow Jesus ("True Muslims") and so on

So Americans need to wake up and realise that "Christian" is an irrelevant category today.

The relevant category is not "Christian" but "follower of Jesus".

We are not likely to agree on this matter in a hurry, so I will close with prayers and blessings


For those who are interested, the distinctions between "Christians with Christ", "Christians without Christ", "Non-Christians without Christ" and "Non-Christians with Christ" were first made in writing by Sadhu Sundar Singh in the early twentieth century.

However, the distinctions implicitly go all the way back to the Jewish Bible which distinguishes between "righteous vs. unrighteous gentiles" and "righteous vs. unrighteous Jews".

As far as I am aware, Atheists, Agnostics, Buddhists, Confucians, Hindus, Muslims, Tribalists and others have not so far made this sort of distinction in writing.

ENDS Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Indo-Caribbean Custom of "Jhandi"

The latest issue of the Newsletter of the Indian Diaspora Project raises a fascinating question. Is the Caribbean Indian custom of raising a "jhandi" (a little flag on a long bamboo stick, planted after a Hindu ritual of sacrifice), an unique Indo-Caribbean invention? The custom is apparently hardly found in India nor is it found in other Indian diaspora communities.

In order to understand my answer, readers will have to familiarize themselves with at least the bare bones of the history of sacrifice in Indian tradition and Indian spirituality (available on my website ( - please click on "Articles and Reviews", and then "by subject" and then (at the very bottom), "Vedas", where you will find two articles, one "Sacrifice" and the other on "Indian Spirituality". These will provide the background in terms of India.

When the practice of raising the flag came in, I am not sure, but I would guess that it had to do with the horse sacrifice (aswamedha), which was performed originally to assert a claim of kingship over a certain geographical area.

I would further guess that this notion was then extended to assertion of spiritual rule over a certain area by the spirit or god that was being propitiated by the sacrifice over which the flag was raised.

The practice was probably first started in India, but then discontinued in India because of the objection of either British or Indian rulers who did not want such flags raised in competition to theirs.

The objection to "religious flags" probably disappeared in India with the rise of the independence movement, when various flags of all sorts began to be raised.
However, this is simply "informed speculation" on my part. I will be pleased to have any further scholarly or anecdotal information on the subject.

ENDS Sphere: Related Content

Friday, September 09, 2005

Reflections on Buddhism, Christianity and Jesus in the Contemporary West

The Dalai Lama's recent visit to Switzerland was incredibly popular. Tens of thousands of people turned up to his public lectures, quite apart from the private visits which were possible for the really rich and distinguished.

I have been reflecting on why India, the country in which Buddhism was founded, eventually rejected Buddhism. Equally, I have been reflecting on why, while the Churches continue to be surprisingly popular in the contemporary West, Jesus himself is so unpopular with the Western elite.

It is worth recollecting that Buddhism was, in essence, a movement to break the hold of the corrupt and corrupting Hindu caste system, which had come into existence some centuries earlier. At one stage, something like half of India was Buddhist - the other half gave its allegiance to the competing reform movement of Jainism, which is now practically unknown outside Indian circles. Buddhism, however, was internationalised as a result of the missionary activities of the Emperor Ashoka who sent out missionaries with diplomatic status to all the surrounding countries. As Buddhism grew in numbers and in countries which were geographically diverse, it absorbed many of the features of these cultures (as happened with what is now the Roman Catholic Church in Europe initially, and has now happened with it worldwide). The result was that a corrupt priestly caste developed in Buddhism too. And, as far as I can discover, that is the main reason that India then rejected Buddhism - if Buddhist priests were going to be as corrupt as the Hindu priests has been earlier, then there was no reason to be Buddhist! This rejection was facilitated by Hindus who incorporated the best aspects of Buddhist thought and learning into our own philosophy and practice (for example, in what came to be called "Advaita" philosophy). For a fuller discussion of the history of the development of Indian religion and philosophy, see my short publication, Indian Spirituality, available for free download on my website.

In any case, the story of the Buddha (the enlightened one) provokes many questions. Here is a young man who suddenly awakens to human suffering, gives up his life of princely comfort, trains himself in the disciplines of yoga and undergoes the physical trauma of other ascetic practices, faces tremendous temptations, eventually awakens to enlightenment, and goes on to teach others how they too can find his way to enlightenment.

It is worth asking:

- Where did this young Prince's intense awareness of suffering come from? And from what source came the compassion he felt? Why do some people feel such compassion more than others? Why do some people apparently never feel such compassion? Why do those who feel it, not always follow its impulses?

- Why in all his seeking and thinking and teaching, did the Buddha neglect or ignore the question of the existence of social and political evil?

- To fight such evil in the world, is it enough to simply focus on the psychological dimension of individual peace as Buddhism does?

- Does the peaceful idividualism of Buddhism actually explain its lack of interest in tackling political and social evil, as is clearly seen (with few exceptions) in countries which have been Buddhist for centuries?

- Might it be the case that we have here also the secret of the popularity of Buddhism in the West as well as the secret of the current unpopularity of Jesus in the West? Is it possible that Westerners are so exhausted by the emotial battering of daily life that they are attracted to the Buddhist offer of personal peace and comfort, and are equally happy with the comforting rituals of Christian Churches, but do not wish to cope with the demands of the teachings of Jesus, who offers us a living relationship with God on condition that we are willing to die to our own interests and spend our lives fighting ignorance, disease, scientific and technological irresponsibility, economic exploitation, environmental degradation, political oppression and social injustice worldwide? Sphere: Related Content

Amartya Sen on Democracy

Amartya Sen is highly respected both for winning the Nobel Prize in Economics and for his wisdom and humaneness.

His latest book, The Argumentative Indian, among other things documents for how long and how extensively the world has strained after democracy.

However, he fails to answer or even raise some key questions:

- why was it the case that the only cultures able to create, nurture and maintain a democratic culture for more than three generations have been Protestant ones?

- Why do non-Protestant cultures (tribal African Tanzania with "Uhuru", China under Mao, Japan since WWII, Russia under the Marxists, Iran under the Shah) accommodate democratic tendencies only so far as to begin to clean up the usual kleptocracies and initiate "participatory reasoning and public decision-making", but then become static as has Japan for the last two decades or descend into chaos as has Russia since Gorbachev, or return to authoritarianism as has Russia under Putin? Or as Ukraine seems to be doing now? Sphere: Related Content

The current situation of Hedge Funds

A few weeks ago there was a news item in the UK's Financial Times: "Hedge funds flat in dodging bullet".

I hope it was hugely reassuring to everyone now playing hedge funds.

However, it did raise some interesting questions:

- are the "sophisticated financial customers", to whom these sorts of funds supposedly sell under UK law, actually as sophisticated as they appear, if they are willing to pay more as fees to hedge fund operators now than was the case when these funds were new, innovative and in scarce supply?

- are these "sophisticated financial customers" perhaps even a little stupid, if they are paying more in fees now, when hedge funds are broadly losing money, than was the case when hedge funds were clearly making a lot of money?

- why is it that a supposedly intelligent marketplace allows hedge fund operators, who take no risk, to cream off 20% or more of the upside, while not sharing in the downside?

- in what other business is it the case that an involved party can share in the upside without sharing in the downside?

- should hedge fund operators be allowed to share in the upside only if they also take on the burden of sharing the downside? Sphere: Related Content

On the Prospects of Democracy in China

Liberal Westerners often express the view, "Sooner or later China will embrace democracy".

However, I have never heard a Chinese national, let alone a Chinese official, express this view.

Have you?

So how much do these liberal Westerners know of China? Are they aware that China has not had democracy for some 5000 years? Are they aware that China has done very well for the last 20 years without democracy - indeed precisely because of a lack of democracy?

Terrified as the Communist Party is of losing power, as well as of domestic chaos, what will ever prompt it to want to loosen the handcuffs?

If the international community is interested in seeing democracy come to China, it has to do more than simply crow a bit.

We have the ridiculous situation of having, as a Member of the UN Security Council, a country that has, systematically and openly, never stopped flouting the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

So, for a start, how about a campaign agains companies that invest in China - unless China implements basic human rights of association and freedom of thought and religion and association, to which it has already signed up? Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The difficult question of the rate of immigration

One key issue is the rate at which immigrants can be absorbed.

The question is: absorption into what?

Clearly, there is an economic dimension: "too many" immigrants could certainly lower salaries. However, this dimension is well understood and has historically been paid enough attention (moreover, we have at least some tools with which to examine this issue).

Then there is the emotional dimension. That has been thrust to the forefront recently in the UK when it emerged that the recent London bombers were "homegrown". So the issue is: at what rate can the receiving country ensure that new immigrants *lose* their old allegiances and develop sufficiently strong new ones? A politically incorrect question for some people! And the political incorrectness is intimately related to the following point, which is the most important of the three and the one for which there are the least number of tools.

That is the "values dimension". Immigrants bring their own values with them. If they can make the transition to accepting the values of the receiving country, then genuine integration can happen. Race, religion, educational level are contributing factors, but are neither absolute enablers nor absolute precluders.

The challenge is that receiving countries, at least in the West, often no longer have a clear sense of what their "own" set of values IS....and without such clarity, the task of enabling immigrant groups to immigrate in terms of values is of course much more difficult.

The reason receiving countries have no clear sense of their "own" set of values is that, in the West, it is part of a contested discourse: is Europe a "Christian" continent? Every Muslim and every Hindu understands instinctively that that is so. Not every European, agrees, however (and the ruling establishment in Europe certainly does not agree at present). But even that question cannot be answered without being clear about what exactly is meant by "Christian"? Nor is the job made easier if we simply abandon the word "Christian" and substitute "Humanist": what exactly is meant by that?!

The simplest way of resolving this "values dilemma" is not by trying to clarify definitions of such words as "Christian" or "Humanist" or "European", but developing a sophisticated and detailed contrast between "the way in which things are done" in the receiving country as against that in the sending country.

To the degree that the contrast is in fact sophisticated and detailed, it will be easier to set up ways of nurturing, examining, monitoring and "rewarding" integration at the level of values.

What exactly might be covered if one is to develop a "sophisticated and detailed analysis of the way in which things are done" in the receiving country as against that in the sending country?

Well, here is a starting list, for discussion:

- education (purpose of, pattern of, style of...)
- friendships (how deep? How wide? ...)
- love, sex (public displays?)
- marriage (Arranged?...)
- work (ethic of, remuneration for....)
- politics (how active is one expected to be? What routes are there for ambition? Dissent?....)
- morality (bribery and corruption...)
- private sphere versus public sphere.....
- role of individual versus role of family versus role of community...
- conversational style (polite? Confrontational? Explicit? Wordy? Gestures? ....)
- attitudes to hierarchy....
- attitudes to history....
- attitudes to time....
- attitudes to language...
- attitudes to dress.....

The difficulty is that, in the US, discussion of such issues has been banned to the private sphere since the 1930s (in Europe, since even earlier, probably the 1880s).

So the earlier ban needs to be reversed and we need to re-commence, now, a discussion of the values of receiving countries, with the intention of becoming clear at least about the actual culture of the receiving countries.

ENDS Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The work of the Contemporary Indian Painter, Ramesh Darji

(not to be quoted or published without permission)

Dear Ambassador, Dear dignitaries and Invited guests,

it is an honour to be asked to place Ramesh Darji's work in the context of 5000 years of Indian painting - though I have only a few minutes in which to do it! And I will do so by means of seven key observations.

Let me start by saying that I was immediately struck by Ramesh's work the very first time I saw it. It has become totally unexpected to have contemporary paintings with no melancholy in them, no abstractions of colour which express and embody the painter's negative feelings, no rage - human beings not distorted or chopped up. Instead, here is elegant, inspiring, uplifiting, cheering work combining what Ramesh sees with what he feels. In Western painting, either the emotion finds non-figurative expression, or what is there (landscapes, still life) becomes a substitute for emotion. And in conceptual art, the concept is sometimes so strong compared to the depiction, that you wonder whether it is really art. Which naturally raises the question "What is art?"

Well, with Darji, there is no doubt that this is art. This is rare work where what is SEEN works not only with what is FELT but also with what is THOUGHT, to produce works of BEAUTY. Of course not all that is beautiful is artistic and art is not always "beautiful". But Darji's art is beautiful because it flows out of a genuinely beautiful human being. And he is a genuinely beautiful human being because his thoughts and his feelings, his heart and his eye and his outstandingly skilled painterly hand, have all been refined and purified emotionally and spiritually since his transforming encounter with Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus the Lord, whom he met when he was a young student and with whom he has walked these many years. Ramesh's work is therefore the response of a transformed Indian sensibility to - or we may say, a conversation between a transformed Indian sensibility - and landscapes and people, and indeed art itself, whether Indian or European.

You will have seen that Ramesh's work has developed in three distinct phases. He was born and brought up and trained in India, where he won the Gold Medal at the Art Academy in Mumbai in 1970. His first solo exhibition was in 1982 where his expansive "black and white" works, the Touch of Class series, were a huge success and his entire output till then was sold out in four days! Fortunately for us, he has continued working in that style, and we have some of that represented here. His men and women are not beautiful in a conventional sense but his simplification of form has much of the purity and balance which Gupta period sculptors brought to the dreaming Buddhas of the Indo-Greek school of painting.

His second style, which we might call his Dutch style, developed after he moved to Holland in 1987 with his wife Paula, who we are honoured to have with us today, as well as their delightful children, Nunita and Faresha. If you see some cubism in his work or motifs such as tulips or jazz and blues and western classical music, that is where they originate, though cubism and indeed impressionism immediately influenced Indian art because India was so well linked to international trends, thanks to the British Empire.

The third phase in his work began when Ramesh moved with his family to England some six years ago, and landscapes as well as what may be called his "Fusion" paintings start here.

Naturally, the dialogue with European landscapes and life and art, you are much better placed to comment on than I am. However, I now come to my seven key observations about Ramesh's work in the context of Indian painting.

First, Ramesh's Touch of Class series departs from the tradition of Indian folk & tribal art, which manifests itself in scrolls and souvenirs and village patas - "primitive" paintings on clay surfaces. An important development of that indigenous folk art school was Kalighat painting. Apart from their glowing colors - red, yellow, blue, green, black - the strongest point of the "flat" Kalighat painting, with its judiciously borrowed shadings sparingly used, was its lines. The Kalighat style has influenced the whole folk genre in contemporary Indian art; starting with Jamini Roy, but including Ramananda Bandopadhyaya, Manjit Bawa, Madhavi Parekh, and Sakti Burman. If Jamini Roy was seeking to:
- capture the essence of simplicity embodied in the life of the folk people;
- to make art accessible to a wider section of people; and
- to give Indian art its own identity,
you can see that Ramesh's A Touch of Class series seeks to do that too but by using very different materials and techniques.

Second, much of Indian painting is obviously religious in theme, starting with the cave paintings of Ajanta and Ellora, around 200 B.C. While Ramesh's work is NOT obviously religious in its themes and motifs at all, his work is highly spiritual, as you will see from the titles of many of his paintings as well as from the few hints that he places here and there, such as the doves or other birds that are a hallmark of his work.

Third, some of his work has been if not quite on the same scale as the cave paintings, certainly on a massive scale which captures some of the qualities peculiar to fresco (sadly we have none of the massively large-scale paintings here today).

Fourth, India has a tradition of illuminated manuscripts and book illustrations from medieval times. I think you can all see that Ramesh has taken that genre and done something unique with it. Here is the kind of art that MIGHT be in a book, but is not…he has taken the genre quite outside itself, in a way similar to what Amrita Sher-Gil did in bringing the influence of Pahari miniatures to large scale using different techniques of course in canvasses such as "The Story Teller".

Fifth, though we Indians had sophisticated means of rendering the human figure and specifically the human face, this achieved its most marked development in the court paintings and portraits of the Indo-Persian school from the 15th century onward, and with the patronage of the Moghuls from the sixteenth century, when the royal atelier produced highly innovative bird and animal studies as well as landscapes. You find that Ramesh's work is a conversation with that traidition, and a challenge to that tradition, and a development of that tradition, specifically in the context of his European experience.

Sixth, you may be aware of the Ragamalas of Rajasthan, of Kangra and of the Pahari school in the Himalayan foothills. At times not only the musical modes (ragamala) were represented pictorially, but also seasons and moods - all in fine detail though typically in a miniature format. I don't recollect seeing Ramesh do anything quite like that, but he has done their equivalent in his larger scale capturing of Jazz and Blues and classical music in his Dutch style.

Seventh, you can see that Ramesh's latest, Fusion works, use montage and takes off from the Bengal school which emphasized handicrafts and which was, in its own way a fusion with Japanese art Ramesh's Fusion series also takes off from K. G. Subramanyan's juxtaposition ofcontemporary art with popular culture, and folk art with urban trends. However, Ramesh's Fusion work is in complete contrast to his most famous contemporaries Francis Newton Souza and Maqbool Fida Husain, whose work is so infuenced by Expressionism and Surrealism, by Emil Nolde and Oskar Kokoschka. However, you do have in Ramesh's work something of Natvar Bhavsar's throbbing and breathing colour, and of Nasreen Mohamedi's minimalist ink drawings, as well as Krishna Reddy's multiple printmaking techniques.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have no doubt gone on too long, and I could still go on, comparing Ramesh to other contemporary Indian painters in terms of style and form and materials and substance and point of view. However, I want to conclude by saying that Ramesh's work flows out of and develops the art tradition of India in wholly unique and unusual manner, but in a manner entirely worthy of the great but unkown artists of India's dim but beloved past.

Coming to the present, you will have noticed that this is not a gallery, so we have no professional display or lighting here, but as this is only the second private viewing of his work in Switzerland, we hope that it will be a sort of introduction to his work, which is in individual and corporate collections mostly in India, the USA, the Netherlands and the UK. Perhaps some of you know galleries in which his work ought to be exhibited, so that next time we will have his work properly displayed - this is merely the attempt of a few of his enthusiastic admirers, having failed so far to interest the more obvioius places in his work over the last few years, to introduce his work in Switzerland, specially as Indian art is underpriced by world standards but is now rising in popularity as well as price the world over.
Thank you. Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Why did European economies suddely outperform Asian economies?

A fascinating book has recently been published on this subject, edited by Peter Bernholz and Roland Vaubel: POLITICAL COMPETITION, INNOVATION AND GROWTH IN THE HISTORY OF ASIAN CIVILIZATIONS (Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar. 2004. xii + 225 pp. $100 (cloth), ISBN: 1-84376-919-0).

The question explored by the book is: was political fragmentation in Europe the key reason why post-Reformation Europe grew at historically unprecedented speeds, outdoing Asian growth? The idea is that just as competition between firms improves economic performance within a country, so economic competition between countries might also improve the performance of that bloc of countries.

The question was originally raised by David Hume and Immanuel Kant in the eighteenth century. Recent expositions of the thesis are Jean Baechler's THE ORIGINS OF CAPITALISM and Eric Jones's _THE EUROPEAN MIRACLE.

The papers in this volume resulted from a conference held in Heidelberg in September 2002. Contributors include historians, sociologists, economists and a socio-psychologist. The thesis is tested by examining the four major Asian "empires" -- China, Japan, India, and the Middle East.

The book has three general essays on creativity and fragmentation, and four Asian case studies.

The introductory essay by the editors provides some background to the general arguments and the case studies in the book, arguing for the importance of geographic mobility, religious diversity, political stability, peace, and "institutional pluralism within the political units."

The social psychologist, D.K. Simonton, uses earlier estimates of Asian creativity, to argue for the importance of political fragmentation and of cultural homogeneity. Jean Baechler discusses the debate on the hypothesis claiming that it "is not a yardstick to be applied rigidly and mechanically ... but a hypothesis and a method of inquiry" (whatever that means!).

Deepak Lal's account of India and Timur Kuran's discussion of the Islamic Middle East agree that growth in these two societies was stunted by their monolithic nature. (I conclude that different belief-systems can be equally "monolithic" in relation to their effect on economic growth).

On the other hand, Pak Hung Mo's study of China argues the drawbacks of centralized control, and Günther Distelrath's study of Japan describes the difficulties confronted by Japan at times of "total decentralization."

So: political fragmentation helps to explain bursts of creativity in some cases, but not in others!

Thinking through this book raises some rather simple questions:

1. Is there an optimum degree of fragmentation?

2. How come Reformed Europe hit upon precisely this degree of fragmentation?

3. In a global context, there was plenty of "political competition" between Northern Europe and Southern Europe, but also between Europe and the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire itself was in political competition with Africa to the South, and with other Islamic kingdoms to the East and the North. A similar picture can be painted of East Asia, with the struggle between India and China for hegemony there (as a result of which the area came to be divided into "Indian Asia" and "Chinese Asia").

4. If the hypothesis is correct, why was it that the transition in South America from a unified empire to separate countries in the early nineteenth century did not facilitate substantially speedier growth?

5. Finally, if political fragmentation encourages cultural and economic growth only under certain conditions, what exactly are these conditions? (No prizes for guessing my hypothesis: it has to do precisely with the cultural revolution that was the Reformation).

We know that the Reformation was not bloodless because the Unreformed parts of Europe not only resisted being reformed themselves, but also had a vested interested in trying to prevent any part of their previously relatively united "continent" from being reformed.

Northern Europe succeeded in being reformed only because thousands of common people were prepared to die for their beliefs.

This was bottom-up Reformation.

By contrast, top-down reformation (such as we see in China today, and we saw in recent history in Japan and Singapore, and in various African countries in the Sixties - and saw earlier for example in Marxist-Leninist Russia) does succeed for a time but usually only for one or two or a maximum of three generations (which I posit as being roughly 70 years). Why? Because an elite can "control" liberalisation for a certain length of time, so that the population benefits but the elite benefits even more…but there eventually comes a point where the country has to decide between the elite and the population. At that point, the country collapses into chaos (Africa), stasis (Japan) or dictatorship (Iran).

Only a genuine revolution in the hearts and minds of ordinary people ensures a bottom-up Reformation which transforms equally and simultaneously the social, educational, political, and economic structures. That is the only thing that has historically ever led to sustained growth.

Modern global elites insist on ignoring this simple fact. That is why the World Bank and related organisations have consistently failed in their attempts to encourage growth in so-called "developing societies": a focus on structures and mechanics is no substitute for the organic growth represented by changed beliefs and behaviours. Jesus of Nazareth compared this change to the way that yeast grows and the way a tree grows.

Those who refuse to understand these rather simple truths will never gain insight into what creates genuine growth as distinct from the artificially-engineered or manipulatory bubbles that fill out the globalised economy today.

ENDS Sphere: Related Content

The Disputed Connection between Terrorism and Islam

Probably the sanest and most balanced short discussion of the subject I have seen so far is the article: THE MYTH OF MODERATE ISLAM by Patrick Sookhdeo

"The funeral of British suicide bomber Shehzad Tanweer was held in absentia in his family’s ancestral village, near Lahore, Pakistan. Thousands of people attended, as they did again the following day when a qul ceremony was held for Tanweer. During qul, the Koran is recited to speed the deceased’s journey to paradise, though in Tanweer’s case this was hardly necessary. Being a shahid (martyr), he is deemed to have gone straight to paradise. The 22-year-old from Leeds, whose bomb at Aldgate station killed seven people, was hailed by the crowd as ‘a hero of Islam’. "

To access the full article, please go to:

Do note that free registration is required (if you are not already registered) but it IS quick and easy.

And the publication gives you the possibility of voting on the article, so that you can express your agreement or disagreement with the author.

ENDS Sphere: Related Content

On Short-Termism, Corporate Culture, CSR and Tax Regimes

A friend draws my attention to the following article ( and asks, "Do you think his assessment of short-termism (and suggestion on tax regimes) has value, and any prospect of happening?".

I provide my answer below, as it may be of wider interest, but please note that the acronym "CSR" stands for "Corporate Social Responsibility":

Dear Jonathan

Thanks for drawing my attention to this

If rhetoric is part of a systematic attempt to create a corporate culture that is focused on values, then it can work, but only then

Very few companies have anything like a systematic and comprehensive approach to creating the right corporate culture

He is right in noting that, before the 1980s, corporations had a social purpose - though this was not because of what we would today call CSR, it was because both owners and workers were better integrated into communities. As a result of the impact of the theory of evolution combined with the impact of technology, we live very fragmented lives today, and rarely have what might be called a genuine community (by which I mean a community consisting of varied political persuasions, economic status, and family background) - usually, we live in stratified ghettoes of gated communities (if we are seriously rich), or in middle-class suburbs, or in working class areas, or in the inner city and so on (though gentrification complicates the picture a bit if one is speaking spatially, the principle holds in terms of the actual lived experience of the people concerned)

Many other things changed in the 80s (e.g. legislation worldwide removed the remaining restrictions on charging interest and took the situation back to what it was before Christians abolished usury in the West)

Short-termism: he is entirely right in observing that " the causes of corporate malfeasance lie in managers' roles as short-term "profit maximisers". The role of maximising short-term profit is another of the things that accelerated in the 80s - earlier, most people kept their money in savings accounts. The 80s saw the beginning of the mass move to shares (and bonds) and loans-against-mortgages....and, as capital flowed into corporations, the pressure on them grew to "perform" short-term

Though some of this short-termism has begun to be countered at some level by the rhetoric of CSR, mostly CSR remains merely rhetoric, with some marginal things being done here and there as a sop to the conscience and to CSR.

Basically, we have a worldwide culture of individual greed and its corporate equivalent: corporate short-termism.

His three key recommendations are that:

* Boards of directors should be elected for a reasonably long-
term: shareholders should be permitted to vote only every five years, rather than annually.

* Taxes should be applied on short-term share trading and tax-
forgiveness encouraged with regard to long-term investing. Corporate tax regimes should be designed to meet financial needs of particular industries.

* Companies should treat investments in staff as corporate assets rather than expenses. He said this would disincentivise lay-offs as a means of boosting profits")

These would go a long way towards ameliorating the situation.

However, the chances of these and other such recommendations being implemented depend on the vigour with which the global public understands the urgency of the issues and presses for such changes. At present, I would put such chances at no more than 50-50 over the next 5 years, though you never know how quickly the climate changes one way or the other

ENDS Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Spirituality, Atheism and Business

A publication in India wants to do an interview with me on this subject, and asked the following questions. I provide my answers as they may be of interest to a wider group:

Q. Many of us fail to distinguish between religion and spirituality. Is there a difference between the two? What according to you is the difference between religion and spirituality?

Answer: It is fashionable nowadays to try and make a distinction between "religion" as consisting in Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and so on (that is, established and formal religions) and "spirituality" as consisting in attempts to relate to the Divine outside the established formalities of such religions.

In India, we have had a long tradition (since the first century before Christ) of a split between religion (as in temples) and spirituality (as in meditation, and so on).

However, in fact, there is no real distinction between "religion" and "spirituality" - or, if there is a distinction, it is a purely academic and theoretical one.

In actuality, all devotees of any religion are seeking to experience God and to be guided by Him. And everyone who is
"spiritual" is seeking exactly the same.

Q: What are the challenges faced by the world of business today? Can spirituality play a role in overcoming these challenges?

Answer: The main challenges faced by business are:
A. How to survive in a hyper-competitive world, and
B. How to deal with the increasing demands of regulation, corporate governance, ethics, corporate social responsibility, and so on.

Spirituality/ religion can indeed play a key part in this, in terms of motivation, fair play, and providing a means of understanding and relating not only to the world in general but also specifically to financial, economic, environmental, health and other challenges. This is too wide and complex a subject to go into in this brief space, but a Google search for my somewhat unusual name will indicate at least some materials with which to begin an exploration of some of these matters.

Q: Companies like ServiceMaster in the US states one of its company objectives as "To honor God in all we do", while Kyocera from Japan has its corporate motto as "Respect the Divine and Love People." Even leaders from Indian companies are speaking about application of spirituality in business. What is the reason behind this increasing interest in spirituality? Is it a fad?

Answer: It is a fad, but what is wrong with that? Fads can be good and useful as well as useless and even horrible! But at least some of the reasons for the fad are negative ones, in that the impact of evolution in the West tore many people away from their spiritual roots in Christianity and the Bible. Now the children and grandchildren of these people are discovering that atheism may be fine as a means of protest against hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty, but atheism provides no answers regarding how to live as an individual or family or how to conduct business or political life - so spirituality is coming back…..

Q. Are concepts like 'spirituality at workplace', 'organisation renewal' etc meant only for mature organisations which have financial and human resources to support such activities? What about start-ups/ small scale industries etc?

Answer: In my experience, it does not matter whether companies are mature or start-ups: some of both sorts of companies welcome and nurture spiritual interests. By contrast, other companies (mature or start-ups) are hostile or negligent of spirituality.

Q. Are there experiments/studies to show that tapping spirituality at work has resulted in a positive impact on business? Can you cite examples of companies boldly engaging in spiritual dialogues inside and outside the organisation? Any specific examples you would like to share...?

Answer: The evidence is solid. Read books such as Jesus C.E.O. or Moses on Leadership (if you would like a more extensive reading list, please contact me and I will happily send it to you).

Moreover, the evidence is growing greater and spreading wider each week. Read publications such as Faith in Business Quarterly or Sojourners magazine or Business Ethics.

Companies: you mention ServiceMaster above - a fine example. Others include, in the USA, Herman Miller, PepsiCola, FedEx, and so on. In the UK, companies such as Barclays Bank and Shell have had "christian fellowship" groups for decades.

Q. Your messages to a business leader who would like to tap spirituality at her/his workplace?

Answer: First, go yourself personally to a relatively "neutral" or "non-threatening" or "safe" meeting, such as those sponsored by The Trinity Forum in Europe. Then explore the subject in some minimum depth yourself, in order to understand the most common pitfalls and mistakes made in this field, so that you can steer around these. Spirituality is powerful - even Hitler was highly religious! So don't mess around naively. Study the subject, and decide the best way forward before moving in public on it.

Q. Any other thoughts you would like to share?

Spirituality is not only for our private or individual lives. Spirituality has also historically shaped things that we take for granted today, such as democracy and literacy and science and technology and economic progress and company law and monetary practice and banking and women's rights and children's rights and animal rights and environmental concern.

Spirituality also shapes families, communities, businesses, economics and politics.

Atheistic views have slaughtered more people in the twentieth century alone than all the religious wars throughout history. Moreover, atheists have contributed little of positive value to any area of life.

ENDS Sphere: Related Content

A Vision for our Century

I was asked to contribute my "personal vision" for one of the conferences in which I am participating. Here is what I have sent in:

Ever since the sixteenth century, when the Protestant Reformers sowed, for the first time in history, the seeds of education, political freedom, science, technology and economic progress, these seeds have sprouted and their flowers have spread far and wide, increasingly bringing blessings everywhere around the globe.

Officially, we may be Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, and so on but, in practice, we are all culturally Protestant now, since we are committed to education, political freedom and all the other cultural fruits of the Reformation.

However, the Darwinist Revolution (which started in the 1860s and became powerful in Europe from the 1880s onwards, and in the USA from the 1930s onwards) has also spread worldwide, resulting in the spread of purposelessness, anomie, individualism, social fragmentation, sensationalism, overwork, over-exploitation of natural resources, and the maximisation of profits for the few who own productive assets worldwide.

The reason that Darwinism became (and remains) popular have nothing to do with science and everything to do with humankind's desire to evade accountability. We would rather like to be free to live our own lives, make our own decisions and go our own way without having to consider the consequences for ourselves, for others, for humanity, and for nature.

With the rise of the latest technologies (now known macabrely as GRIN - Genetics, Robotics, Information and Nanotech), the necessity and identity of humankind is at stake. These technologies form as potent a threat to humankind as nuclear bombs did in the Sixties.

My vision is that we will together be able to find ways to harness these technologies, so that they are instruments for good rather than means of evil. But that will only happen if we are willing to look into our own hearts to locate the sources of greed, lust, power-hunger, fear and other such negative emotions - *and* if we are willing to look clear-headedly at the institutions we have created which embody these negative emotions and amplify their effect - institutions such as the limited company, fiat money, and usury.

Naturally, we also need to find the solution to these negative emotions, and the motivation to work for the continued reformation of society. As a Hindu, I have found both the solution and the motivation in my relationship with Jesus of Nazareth, the Guru and the Lord, who forgives me, cleans me, and energises me.

Regardless of beliefs (or lack of them), I welcome everyone who wishes to join me on the journey to the core of the heart, which is also a quest for the fulfilment of the vision of a humane future.

ENDS Sphere: Related Content

India versus China in the World Economy

A friend has just sent me a copy of the paper, "China and India in the World Economy", which will be presented on 7 July 2005 to the International Conference of Commercial Bank Economists in Bahia, Brazil, by the Chief Economist of ANZ Bank in Australia, Saul Eslake.

Quite simply the best and most comprehensive paper on the subject that I have seen so far, it makes for uncomfortable reading by Indians. For example, Eslake points out that "growth rates (in China and India) are rapid by historical standards, but they are by no means unprecedented for economies at China’s and India’s stage of economic development….Despite … impressive growth, China and India are still relatively poor countries. China’s per capita GDP (in US$ at PPP) in 2005 of $5,642 places it in 95th position among the IMF’s sample, while India with $3,029 ranks 120th".

Even in 2015, when (assuming that the long-term consensus projections compiled by Consensus Economics earlier this year are vindicated), China will have just overtaken the United States as the world’s largest economy, and India will have moved past Japan into third place, "China and India will still be relatively poor countries in 2015, despite their size….China’s per capita GDP will be barely more than one-fifth that of the US (cf. about one-seventh in 2004) and slightly less than one-third of Japan’s (cf. a little over one-sixth in 2004); while India’s per capita GDP would be about one-tenth that of the US (cf. about one-thirteenth in 2004) and about oneseventh of Japan’s (cf. about one-tenth in 2004)".

Eslake seems to be more sanguine about China than about India: " While India does enjoy an advantage over China in regard to its relatively large number of English speakers, in other respects it seems difficult to argue that India is better placed than China to compete internationally in this field. China spends 5.3% of its GDP on IT, compared with India’s 3.7%; China has 27.6 personal computers per 1000 people, as against India’s 7.2; and China has 63 internet users per 1000 people, compared with 17 in India. More generally, China has 633 R&D researchers per million people, more than five times as many as India’s 120 per million, publishes almost twice as many scientific and technical journal articles per million people, and spends half as much again of its GDP on R&D (1.2% against 0.8%)".

He seems to me to underrate or ignore some key factors and questions

1. However clever the rulers of China may be, they can only make decisions on the basis of the information that reaches them - and systems (both in politics and in business) have a way of ensuring that unlikeable information is not sent as a matter of preference to people in power. In addition, people (whether or not in power) themselves do not like to look at information that is disagreeable to them or confronts their prejudices. The result is that systems tend to brainwash themselves in line with their own prejudices. Sometimes, this is called "tunnel vision".
An open culture is the only safeguard against this kind of "boxed-in thinking".
That is why the open system of democracy and a free press, though in the short- and medium-term slower and more unsatisfactory than a benign dictatorship, is so much better in the long run. Everyone in a democracy can see the problems, issues and challenges quite clearly, can check the facts, propose solutions, put pressure on those in power, and so on. Let's take a simple point: how much of Pudong is let at all? How much is let on commercially viable rates? Who knows? Who can find out?

2. One-pary rule makes sense if it is entirely meritocratic (Singapore's system went a long way towards this under Lee Kuan Yew), but such a system is also open to abuse (as we have started seeing alread in Singapore).
One-party rule also makes some sort of sense where it is driven by an ideology (as in Maoist China and Mullah-run Iran). What sense does it make in a China which has decided to integrate into the world economy? The "Party" now consists only of those who have a vested interest in controlling the system - to their own advantage of course (even a preliminary investigation of the purchases and investments made by Party members outside China is very revealing).

3. If bank loans amount to 160% of GDP, as in China (according to Eslake, the highest in the world), can that really be considered a stable economy? In a closed polity, where these loans are still made on the basis of political considerations, how much of the economy consists of bad loans? Who knows? Who can check?

4. Eslake acknowledges that the money supply is controlled by the People's Bank of China, but he does not tell us whether and to what degree the money supply is manipulated by the Bank in such a way that the outside world can have confidence in its ability to handle downturns in the world economy. In other words, how much of a bubble is the Chinese economy?

For Indians, the most interesting question raised by Eslake's paper is: If India was really the world's largest economy till the 14th or 15th century AD, what caused it to begin to lose that position? Eslake suggests (in line with Jared Diamond) that the Chinese were more technologically innovative than Indians. And if that is so, does that say something about the Chinese character as against the Indian one? Or is it possible that the rise of Vedantic philosophy and specifically Tantra made us more gradually more and more unworldly than the Chinese, allowing us first to be increasingly plundered by foreigners and then to be ruled more and more by foreigners - which, in turn, increased the corruption and venality of our ruling classes in line with the increasing rigidity of the caste system?

India's problem was, and remains, principally that of a corrupt political elite that wants to continue political and economic controls primarily because that is to its own benefit. The people want change but the rulers don't.

China, by contrast, has a political elite determined to build the country even, where necessary at the cost of its own advantage.

The challenge for China is that its elite has credibility but little legitimacy. The challenge for India is that its elite has legitimacy but little credibility. Both countries need to move to more open markets as well as a properly open polity.

The final question Eslake raises, in terms of possible power struggles between China and the rest of the world is a worrying one. However, he mindlessly echoes Lee Kuan
Yew's view that , “in 20 years time the centre of gravity of the world will shift from the Atlantic to the Pacific and Indian Oceans”. Yew, and Eslake, ignore the essential question of who owns and who will own these economies (assuming they undertake sufficient political reform to stay stable in the meanwhile). We live in an increasingly interdependent world, in which Europe, China, India and other developing countries own an increasing part of the United States economy, at the same time as Americans (including Chinese and Indians resident in the US) own increasing proportions of China's and India's economies. That is the best guarantee of peace, even though it does not guarantee that the political elite in China will move sufficiently quickly to prevent internal chaos or collapse, much to the discomfort of the world economy.

ENDS Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, July 02, 2005

About skeptics and Sceptics: Theism as scepticism regarding Atheism

Today, a correspondent draws my attention to the following site:

I am posting my response as it may interest others:

Dear XXX

I do know the site AND much of the material....

Atheism is fine as a negative - as a sort of intellectual and emotional cocoon - as long as things are going well with us physically and financially....

However, apart from the question of truth and Truth (which is always interesting to debate), the issue with not acknowledging a higer being than ourselves is that such lack of acknowledgement:

- tells us nothing about how we should live

- shows us nothing about how or with what values to bring up our children

- gives us nothing with which to cope with sickness or bereavement or indeed our own mortality

- does not tell us how to rebuild our nation - or why we should or how we can work to improve our world...

So it is not surprising that I am sceptical about atheism.

A reading of Alister McGrath's THE TWILIGHT OF ATHEISM: THE RISE AND FALL OF DISBELIEF IN THE MODERN WORLD (published in 2004 by Doubleday) is recommended.

ENDS Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Robots at Aichi and the Future of Humanity

Recently, I was able to visit the World Expo in Aichi which is about a two and a half hour journey from Tokyo - one needs to take a Shinkansen (“bullet”) train to Nagoya, and then the Shuttle Bus (more expensive) or local trains/linimo (cheaper).

The Expo will close in September and is extremely popular They were originally hoping to have 15 million visitors, but they have already sold 10 million tickets…and there were very looooooooooooooong queues everywhere (usually took up to an hour just to get INTO the Expo, and then up to an hour at each of the most-popular pavilions, though you could walk into the less popular pavilions, which is most of them). Fortunately, I was an official guest, so was able to bypass most of the queues.

I did look around the British, French. German, Indian and Swiss pavilions, but my main interest was Robotics, as Japan is the world’s leading nation in this field. The robot highlights (in my experience) are at the Robot Station, the Morizo & Kiccoro Messe, the Toyota Pavilion, and the NEDO Pavilion.

What I saw was both exciting/amazing and frightening.

Exciting/amazing because of what these robots can do now, from playing music in an opera, to acting as guards (able to fire 20 paint balls a minute at an intruder, check for fires – 360* vision! – can even spot a human on the other side of a (thin) wall, multiply the physical strength of an old or sick or weak person manifold, clean surfaces (including vertical windows in high-rise buildings), play baseball (bowling as well as batting), assist surgery…there were therapeutic robots, child-care robots (able to talk and play with children and even give them quizzes etc to do), dog robots, snake robots, amphibious robots, self-reshaping robots, bomb-disposal robots, robots that communicate with each other, robots that tell you “I am hungry” when they start running out of electricity and then take themselves off for recharging, robots for Reception work in Hotels or Offices (already able to speak in 4 languages – very good voice recognition, though a bit slow), robots that have “legs” so that they can then walk along or go up stairs BUT can also able to transfer their own weight to wheels in order to speed along a paved surface (tolerance of irregularities in the surface only 10 cm at present, and able to go up/down inclines of only 10% at present, moreover their speed is only 6km at present but in principle there is no reason why they can’t in future go at the same speed as a car or aeroplane), robots that will take you around obstacles (living and non-living) to a predetermined destination without you having to “drive” them, an “artist” robot that creates caricatures of the people in front of it, using crayons on huge rice crackers (you could take the caricature of yourself home, but the queue was too long so I did not bother to have mine done).

There was also a “dance” robot but, so far as I could make out, the poor male dancer was actually pushing and shoving the “female dance robot” around – the robot was not dancing by itself …

OK, so these are all prototypes and there remain many glitches to be sorted out and the “active life” of these prototypes seems rather short (there were an enormous number of them out of commission, being repaired, that I did not see in action – presumably I would have been even more impressed if they had also been in commission!), but what will happen when these glitches have been sorted out and such robots can be mass-manufactured?

The whole drive at the Expo was to soothe and reassure the public that these robots were intended to assist particularly an ageing society in Japan, and the propaganda was in full swing, using music, multimedia and interpersonal interaction by the scientists and technologists involved with developing robots.

But if the main problem is ageing, it is much easier (and it would contribute to sorting out many more world problems) if an appropriate number of poor unemployed young people from round the world were to be imported into Japan and taught Japanese language and culture - the spoken language one can begin to cope with in about 2 months, the written language I understand is an entirely different matter, and the the culture is rather more difficult - but presumably robots will not be able to cope with nuances of culture in the foreseeable future?

In any case, the propaganda did not address the question: if we have robots that can do all these things, what “jobs” will be left for humans to do? (So far as I can make out, only the creative ones of *creating* art, music, literature, cuisine and so on, the “scientific” ones of discovering new knowledge and systematising it (including, for example, history and so on), and the technological ones of *conceiving, designing, prototyping, manufacturing and maintaining* robots)…Not a small number of jobs but nowhere near the half a billion or so "jobs" that exist today...

The jobs that would be left to do in a robot-driven world are not jobs that the mass of human beings can do and, if we could do them, the oversupply would be so great as to render the resulting “products” (under the current economic system) nearly worthless….

Anyway, I conclude that the real question for the future of the globe is not sustainability (true, the impact of our non-sustainable policies has started effecting us and will gradually worsen, but it is not going to be catastrophic for humanity for probably the next 50 or so years, as far as I can make out), the real question is how we will as a human society adjust to a world with such sophisticated robots (which the Japanese guess will start making an impact within 7-15 years)

More precisely, the question is: who will own the robots - and will the owners be humanitarians or despots?

If despots, they could use all these robots to keep the rest of the world population in virtual slavery - finally bringing about the world of "1984", and demonstrating that Orwell was only about 30 years out in his estimates (though of course he had in mind a different kind of fascism).

No doubt, my concerns will be dismissed by many as mere doom-mongering.

However, I am convinced that the question facing the world by 2015 (or 2020 at the latest) is how to build a global system, using the unparalleled prosperity and freedom from drudgery which will be possible due to robot-driven agricultural and industrial production, to enable every human being to live a more dignified and worthwhile human life.

An eminently political (that is, ultimately, a spiritual) question.

The frightening thing is that the most able people in the world are largely focused on (a) making more money for themselves or (b) wrestling with the enormous challenges already facing humanity today.

I don’t duck the making of money (I do work for one of the world’s largest banks!). Nor do I duck the challenge of the present (e.g. corruption in India, or the challenge of social justice and sustainability worldwide).

However, no one seems to be working on the challenge of robots – and this challenge will very quickly dwarf all the other challenges facing humanity at present.

So who wants to join me in addressing the key challenge posed by robots to the future of humanity?

ENDS Sphere: Related Content

On Nick Robins's article regarding The East India Company

Nick Robins's article "The world's first multinational" (below) is a a good and thought-provoking piece in the current context, but it takes too negative a view of the East India Company.

Moreover, it fails to distinguish between the three phases of the Company's involvement with India:

1. from 1600 to 1827 or so, when it was a simple matter of looting India as much as possible, as Robins notes (leading to the Nabobs in Britain)

2. from 1827 or so till 1880 or so, when the Co was forced to develop and implement what we would today call "Corporate Social Responsibility", as a result of the work of the Clapham Group (sometimes called the "Clapham Sect") - that work is an entirely untold story, because of the impact of the Darwinists who have obliterated their story as well as many other such stories from history - Robins seems to be unaware of this

3. from 1880 or so till the independence of India in 1947, when (as a result of the impact of Darwinism) the Raj became a sort of "hangover" of the past with no purpose to it (in the first phase, it was loot; in the second phase, it was stewardship; in the third phase, after the impact of the Darwinists, naturally all purpose was lost, not only to the Raj, but also to humanity and indeed to all life and to the universe itself) - again, something of which Robins seems to be unaware.

Given, additionally, the lack of men in Britain following the two World Wars, it was only a matter of time before the Raj came to end - surprising, really, that it lasted 70 years or so after Phase 2 (comes back, possibly, to my point about generations?)

"The world's first multinational"
by Nick Robins's
Published in New Statesman, 9 December 2004

NS Essay 1- Corporate greed, the ruination of traditional ways of life, share-price bubbles, western imperialism: all these modern complaints were made against the British East India Company in the 18th century. Nick Robins draws the lessons:

In The Discovery of India, the final and perhaps most profound part of his "prison trilogy", written in 1944 from Ahmednagar Fort, Jawaharlal Nehru described the effect of the East India Company on the country he would shortly rule. "The corruption, venality, nepotism, violence and greed of money of these early generations of British rule in India," he wrote, "is something which passes comprehension." It was, he added, "significant that one of the Hindustani words which has become part of the English language is 'loot'".


ENDS Sphere: Related Content