Thursday, March 14, 2013

Blaming the politicians? They're the decoy!

If you're going to blame the country's politicians for the problems
afflicting it, then you've fallen for a very elaborate trap.

The politicians aren't the ones causing the problems. They're the
decoys. As the establishment stands today, they're designed to divert
the nation's anger to themselves while the real culprits get away.

Let's conduct a simple experiment:
"These corrupt Congress and BJP, good for nothing leaders draining the
nation's wealth..."

Was this statement acceptable? Totally. You won't find it problematic to
express this anywhere. Now,
"These corrupt Tatas, Birlas, Jindals, Ambanis, Vedantas... corrupt WTO,
FIIs, good for nothing business leaders draining the nation's wealth..."
--not so acceptable now, is it?

See, it's the richest people and the ones with the largest turnovers
that are calling the shots in a top-down, money-dependent structure. To
maintain their rule, it's necessary to direct the people's anger to
players other than themselves that are under their control. This way
they can conduct a nation-wide anger management program and make sure it
doesn't result in any action hostile towards themselves.

Just sample this: if a case comes up of a reputed Industries occupying
vast tracts of land at throwaway prices (after getting the native
farmers thrown out by underhanded use of the Land Acquisition Act), we
tend to blame the local corrupt politicians, the state govt, the land
But what about the guys who actually did the occupying, the people who
stand to gain the maximum from this grab? Our news media carefully words
their reports so as to avoid pointing fingers at the top execs of these

You will typically never see any calls being made for the resignation of
the execs who presided over the scandal. Any hint towards this would be
seen as unacceptable. Yet we will bend over ourselves in demonizing the
politicos involved, and call for their ouster and arrests. It's like
going after the assassin but not bothering to investigate who hired the
assassin and why.

The social environment we are in is very carefully constructed: you have
to really step outside and look at things differently to even realize
that something's odd here.

On the one hand, Ratan Tata's, Mukesh Ambani etc etc's involvements in
shady practices get exposed with the various scams. But all calls for
punishment are applied to the ministers, the bureaucrats etc involved.
Ratan and Mukesh remain untouchable.. somehow "above" these politics and
above the law as well. To counter this we'll have endless reruns of the
greatness, the enterprising spirit, the patriotism, the legacy, the
hospitals and schools set up, the generous donations of the Tatas... how
Ratan individually cared for the families of the Tata employees killed
in the Mumbai attacks... everything possible to put them up there on
that pedestal, so anyone who doubts them is branded an idiot or an
attention grabber or whatever.

What about all their generosity? You see, when you're stealing Rs.100
worth of a country's natural resources, it's a good idea to return Rs.1
in cash to the people whose resources you stole and make a big deal out
of it. Keeps the attention turned away from the remaining Rs.99 that
you've pocketed.

Sharad Pawar gets the flak for huge irrigation project scams, but you
don't see anybody calling for the arrest of the heads of the companies
that directly benefited from these scams. A Raja goes to jail, but the
people he worked for, are holy angels sent down by God to rescue us all
from poverty, we dare not lay a finger on them.

The best defence is obscurity... the names of our politicos we know, but
the heads of the companies they serve? Nada. At best we'll find out
about them when they're invited as speakers and lecturers and chief
guests in seminars, IIMs, international conventions, award ceremonies etc.

My dear friends, Politics, as it stands sullied today, is not the root
of our evils. It is not causing the problems, rather it is designed to
take the blame for them. It's the carefully planned construct of a
top-down monetary system where dominance is seen as the ultimate goal.
The real roots of your problems are the ones you are being trained to
respect the most, the ones that, you're being told, your country cannot
afford to offend, let alone punish.

You cannot hope to reverse the immense pollution damage being caused in
our countryside by arresting a politician. You can do it only by
shutting down the factories causing the damage. There is much more long
term wealth to be made from clean practices, but see, the catch is that
it's decentralized wealth.

Rs.1 lakh of decentralized business cannot get the reigning
industrialists any profit, it doesn't give them control over the
country's affairs.
Rs. 10,000 of centralized business is way more profitable for them, and
places them in control of things, ensures their hegemony. So for all
those of you who keep wondering "if green practices could really create
more wealth, why don't we see the private sector gunning for them?"...
This is why. More wealth overall doesn't necessarily lead to more
private profit for the wealthy few.

And when the taxpayer is milked to pay some costs, even more honey!
Nuclear power, despite being much more expensive, is the go-to industry
because private players can make much higher profit margins here than in
renewable sector, plus costs and damages are borne by the people. Double

Their central goal is expanding their personal coffers, not everyone
else's. And the politicians you love to blame, are placed there like the
whistle of a pressure cooker to blow off your steam on every now and
then. This ensures the cooker never explodes, that you remain trapped
and exploited, and the invisible reign continues. They know this. It's
time you did too.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Simple event creator for live calendar

Check this out! Want something like this for your org ?
putting in a screenshot of the page since I can't share the link with you...

..and it gets posted instantly to a live Google Calendar on your website.
So we just put in a line, submit, and go. No tedious logging in, creating post, filling in different boxes, etc


Nikhil Sheth
Udaipur/Pune, India
Self-designed learner at Swaraj University

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Nuclear power: they profit, you pay

Hundreds of thousands of people in Japan lost their homes, jobs and communities. None of them have received enough compensation to rebuild their lives. The costs of Fukushima are being paid by the Japanese people themselves, as taxpayers they are footing the bill for this nuclear disaster.

General Electric, Hitachi and Toshiba designed, built and serviced the reactors which directly contributed to the Fukushima nuclear disaster, yet these companies have not paid one cent of the cost for the reactor failures.

The cost of the Fukushima nuclear disaster is estimated at $250 billion US dollars.
That much money, if put into renewables could have given Japan 292TWh/yr of energy: more than 54 nuclear reactors and 4 large coal plants put together.

So which option, after seeing the risks as well as the costs comparison, do you think is better?

Friday, March 8, 2013

You are still very choosy

I was visiting at a long-time family-friends' place after a.. long time.

Uncle and aunty knew me since I was a baby, and with their kids we all
grew up together. We'd parted after high school. Aunty was recollecting
how incredibly choosy I was with my food in my childhood... there were
very few things I'd allow into my mouth, and I would be intensely
skeptical of anything new I was confronted with : I wouldn't take other
people's word for it.

So we were catching up, and I told him about the recent turns in my life
and my decisions that went contrary to the status quo, my deeper
analysis of the way the world was working.

When we sat at lunch, Aunty cautiously asked me if I was ok with the
food she'd cooked. I protested that I'm not choosy anymore, don't worry.
Uncle promptly exclaimed, "No, you are still very choosy!"

I couldn't understand, so went on to explain how I eat anything now, I
have no issues with...

And then he cut in, "you are still choosy, only what you're choosy in
has shifted from food to something else!"

Right. My life choices. Not accepting the status quo. Not joining the
bandwagon. Questioning what is generally assumed. Peeking behind the
scenes. Choosy is as choosy does.
Thanks, Uncle, for pointing it out!

on importance of Gurus in a learner's life

My two cents on teachers/gurus:

In the real world, there is no such thing as 0% or 100% or infinity. Everything is in between. The guru is important - yes. But to say that the guru is God and decides the student's fate... is a little on the extreme side. What is the logical conclusion of this? Children who pass through 18-odd years of obeying all orders from one human being will only grow to yet again obey all orders of another. In a system of unquestioning adulation and respect, there is no opportunity for the follower to cross-check on the abilities of his/her leader.

I know nothing about the Gurukul system, but I have been a teacher myself for an year and in an organisation where the importance of the Guru was constantly drilled into our heads, and where my students were the typical helpless slum children that have no one but me to look up to. I've seen that it's all too tempting to assume the powers of a God, to believe that I alone hold the keys to 34 destinies. I've been through that and came out despising myself for the monster I had become in the process. There are some roles and structures that had best be left to the Gods.

After that experience, I have interacted and lived for a considerable time with unschooling children and their parents. What I found was that rather than the absence the all-so-critical guru, these kids had innumerable gurus all around them, and had developed an ability to pick and choose the ones most suited for the circumstances - to follow what was meaningful and discard what wasn't. They learned flash programming from me for an hour and then went on to create some amazing films, without even once having to elevate me or lower themselves. We exchanged skills like equals. And then again, in many aspects they became my Gurus and I learned immeasurably from them.

I would say that we should live in a multiplayer world, filled with multiple paths, players, options and directions.

And just like how the importance of a guru in a child's life is so often touted as critical, it is said with equal gusto by often the same parties that competition is essential to create a good and successful human being. Today there is mounting evidence that this isn't true either. What else in our age-old wisdoms may be debatable?

Further reading: Children Educate Themselves IV: Lessons from Sudbury Valley

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Download and distribute Khan Academy hindi/urdu videos

Follow the instructions below, to download these Hindi-language educational videos from youtube (the whole lot!), and then distribute them to learners who are more comfortable in Hindi / Urdu :

1. You should be using Firefox web browser :

2. Install this extension: (save to your computer, then drag and drop it on top of the open Firefox browser.)

3. Install this extension: (download manager)

4. Restart the browser (or close and open again)

5. Go to the Chemistry Humari Boli page:

6. Right-click in a blank (non-clicking) space and select "ByTubeD"

7. A selection window pops up. There are 112 videos on this playlist. So select All, then scroll to the bottom of the list and de-select the last few videos by pressing and holding Ctrl key. Set the settings to how you see here: MP4 360p quality, Generate Links. Keep any destination folder for now. And then press Start.

8. Wait for some time. It will process all the videos one by one. In a minute or so a new page will be opened in Firefox with all the videos listed. Here, again in an empty space, right-click and select DownThemAll > DownThemAll

9. Another window pops up. Choose your folder, type ".mp4" under Fast Filtering (this should select all our files), and Start.

10. Now your downloads should start. All the best! Please repeat the same for all such collections...

call me up on +91-966-583-1250 if you have any questions!

Passive consumers Vs Active participants

I have some problems with "Atithi Devo Bhava" >> Guests are God,
or the commonly accepted rules of engagement when guests have come over.

I would like to propose an alternative philosophy : Insaan Hain Hum >> We are People.

Imagine having 10 people coming over to your home for 2 days.
Compare 2 different scenarios:

They are your guests. Atithi Devo Bhava.
You are the host.

You have to make proper arrangements to cater to their needs.
You have to cook food for all of them.

You have to go and get the ingredients for the food.
You have to pay for all the food consumed by them.
You have to make provisions for the sleepover.
You have to maintain the toilet and supply the hot water.
You have to make sure each guest is properly entertained.
You have to ensure nothing in your house gets damaged.

You cannot do the chores you had planned and have to attend to your guests.

Your normal way of life is disrupted.

Work increases and leisure is zapped.
They are people. Insaan Hain Hum.
You are a person like they are. We'll refer to the combine as "we".
We will make all arrangements needed.
Some of us will opt to cook the food for everyone; you may or may not join.
Some of us will opt to fetch the ingredients for the food.
We will split all the costs amongst ourselves.
We will manage the sleepover and make any adjustments necessary.
We will maintain the toilet and take care of the water.
We take full responsibility for entertaining ourselves.
We take full responsibility for making sure your house suffers no damage due to us.
We will take over and complete your chores as much as we can in gratitude for this hospitality.
Your normal way of life gets comradeship and extra assistance. Work is reduced and made more fun in company; leisure gets addons.
After they leave, you have to clean everything up.
 You might hear complaints later on on what all went wrong when they were over.

You will never want to have this many people over at your place for as long as you live.
We will clean everything up before we leave.

You will hear talk later on on what a great time everybody had, and fond recollections of all the accidents.
You will look forward to having them come over again.

So. Which line of action do you think is the better one?

This is the difference between passive consumers and active participants. Which group do you want coming over?

Online action CAN bring real change

This is in reply to the statement I hear now and then about internet activism, clicking on online petitions, forwarding emails, sharing links, taking pledges etc not making any real, practical change in the world.

I'd like to say here that the statement above is false. Not that I'm saying the opposite is true, but that the statement above is false in the sense that it is incomplete and by lack of being complete, it gives a false message to a reader who may think that it is complete.

By personal experience I have seen that merely an email campaign that includes writing stuff, putting stuff together, and emailing large numbers of people, inviting people to participate simply online, while at the time simply living my normal life and doing my normal things, has had real, practical effects.

And I mean a complete reversal of a bad action, I mean actual money getting deposited in a bank account (ka-chink!), I mean people holding positions of authority having to admit a wrongdoing. Real change has happened. And not in the distant past or in another country: it happened around this time last year, in Pune, India. Just by sending emails to a limited group of people. If you want to dig into the details of this, contact me sometime, or see this video: (it's 44min long! and sorry but you'll have to see all of it to understand the matter)

What the complete picture entails, is that the online action can do a job of thawing the ice, heating the pot, of paving the way to on-the-ground action. It can act as a converger of hearts and minds. It can unite people behind a cause. And it DOES make a difference. Maybe not immediately. Maybe not in that particular case. But it does. If not in body then in mind. Because such is the irreversible nature of awareness: once you are aware of something, even if you don't do anything about it, you're very likely to stay aware and not get fooled in that department again. If you've ever done chemistry seriously, you'll know that there is no such thing as 0% or 100% concentration in the real world.

I'd like to invoke an old phrase once more :
Knowledge is power.
And add a line to it :
Awareness makes change possible.
If you're feeling curious, you can go to or and see examples on their website of petitions that made a difference, that brought about real change on the ground or that set the ball rolling. In scientific circles, it takes only one practically observed event that doesn't follow a theory, to disprove that theory. Let's use that here as well. While all online actions can't be guaranteed to bring real change, it is equally untrue to say that every online action is absolutely hopeless. That is a lie. There is always hope, and it is convergent instead of divergent, meaning at some tipping point, hope WILL convert to action.

Which means that even a failed campaign of today only sets the stage for a successful one tomorrow. In a sense, if you support a cause that you know is right, you can never, ever really fail : that is a practical impossibility.

The change that you want to see in the world does not come from any one ninja master stroke. There will never be one person or one superhero who does all the work for you. There may be one initiator, but it will spread. It's more like drops of water coming together, that form great rivers. The drops will come from many different places. Similarly, actions that bring about change can come from many different places: including your facebook activity.

So, in the case where you CAN and WANT to take part in a physical effort to bring change on-the-ground, DO IT. And in the case where you can't or don't want to do it for whatever reason, don't. Similarly, if you can and want to sign an online petition or share something on your social profile, or forward something to spread awareness about an issue that you care for, then instead of listening to all that "be realistic, yaar" advice,


and be the drop that converges into a mighty river.

Stop watching TV

Stop watching TV.

It is a well-established and proven tool for social control, which gives you completely wrong notions about the world around you, and which makes you behave in ways a normal human being wouldn't. You don't need me to prove it to you... just google it and you'll come across innumerable research, campaigns, etc.

By watching News on TV, many of you (especially the men) may think that you're beating the game, you're not getting trapped into those stupid soaps and reality shows. But you're wrong there. It's even more dangerous than watching entertainment.

Why? Well, with watching entertainment on TV, you know from advance that this is entertainment only and for awareness about what's going on in your world, you'll need to look around.. newspapers, internet, talking with friends and colleagues. But after watching news on TV, you feel like your awareness needs have been met! 

Compare the two scenarios and just say out loud which one actually gives you news aka information, and which one simply feeds one sensational thing after another, repetitively? In which case are you left to decide on your own what is good or bad, and where are you told that this is good, this is bad? In which case are your emotions exploited?

Who owns the TV Stations? Who funds them? Would they stand to benefit more by giving you the hard facts, or by keeping you glued more and more to them?

Keep your wits about you. Stop watching TV.

And this comes from personal experience. Take a look at the articles on this blog. See my recent Facebook posts. Over the past 10 years, if there was one thing that contributed to my thinking and helped me question and understand the world better, it was this. I gradually stopped watching TV, it stopped being part and parcel of my life.

If you're interested, watch these episodes, "How TV ruined your life" :
Incredibly funny, incredibly correct.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A personal catalog / database to manage movies etc

The last few days I was looking for ways to organize my several documentaries, ted talks, ebooks etc in a convenient, local way using tagging so i can find and manage them better. The problem with putting these guys into folders is that there are videos which may pertain to more than just one category. So there might be one video relevant to unschooling and globalisation and off-grid living; and there would be other videos which are relevant to only unschooling and globalisation. And then there are some nice animations in every segment so I'd want a way to find them too.

I'm sure anyone's who's ever collected something must have had this problem. On the internet, websites solve that issue by putting tags or categories on their articles and one article can have more than one tag or category. I've done that with Jugaadibility and it's been wonderful.

I wanted to bring that convenience, as well as ability to search instantly, as well as the possibility of adding whatever info I want to about the videos, to a personal computer, to a personal collection that I can even take along on a pen drive or hard disk to other computers, without having to install anything, and independent of the OS. And it had to be organic: I should be able to add tags, remove them, add more files etc as I go along.

I couldn't find anything on the net that could help me with this, so this week I went DIY and made it, using a technology called "tiddlywiki" that I've previously used for work, to wreak havoc somewhere, and which I use as a personal journal now. The whole database/catalog is in one single .html file, and has a creation wizard with neat instructions inside itself, so anyone can make their own catalog using this!

As always, I'm sharing it with the world, under Creative Commons, so everyone is free to take it, use it, modify it and share it.

You can get it from here:

Do share with friends you know who want help with managing their movies/collections!

The true purpose of schooling organizations

Had a great conversation with a former colleague in Teach for India (TFI) and a friend yesterday, and I'd like to share a thought experiment we did.

Given a kid from the slums who goes through all the compulsory factory schooling that TFI wants her to Vs. a kid from the slums who drops out early and learns life living on the streets,

Which one of those kids, following Zinn's train of thoughts, is going to be more obedient to authority when the shit hits the fan?

So if you wanted to make a world that is free of the oppressive structures that are poisoning the world of today, would you rather compulsorily educate (referring to TFI's model) the children of the poor, or leave them be?

Moreover, if you were a big MNC that had everything to lose if the masses ever figured out how you were plundering them and became disobedient, which organizations would you fund as your CSR, to safeguard your continued profits?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The missing child abuse

There's a very helpful graphic being shared these days on what sort of actions are child abuse.

However, I felt that it misses out one of the most widespread forms of child abuse taking place today:

The act of holding human beings in physical confinement against their natural wishes, of ordering them to do what you judge to be best for their future (the judgement being sorely under-researched and prejudiced), and creating elaborate structures to justify that confinement as being good for them while neglecting the consequences that are resulting from it.

Right to free and compulsory education? Bullshit.

No one should be made to do anything compulsorily, no matter what the justification. This is one of the most basic human rights accorded to every human being, including children who are humans first. If this provision is to be bent even a little for realism, it should only happen at the hands of the people who are closest to that child. Outsourcing it to people who have nothing to lose and much to gain from violating this basic human right, is what we today known as schooling.

Sure, it may be everywhere and generally accepted as necessary today. But so was slavery, so was colonialism, so was women's repression, so is reckless consumption of fossil fuels, so are wars, so is bailing out large irresponsible corporations with taxpayers' money. In case you forgot, all those practices were also being done in the name of the greater good. Just because the status quo tells you something, doesn't make it automatically right. It must be held and inspected in its own light, and the devil in the details brought out instead of grandiose rhetoric.

Intellectual frustration Vs Unconditional sharing

A familiar complaint from the "intellectual" facebookers (Yes, I'm one of them!):
You post an article that's in all likelihood more informative than anything you've got to say and most people just ignore it. You post a rant or express an opinion of your own and suddenly everyone's interested. That's actually rather sad....Has anyone else found themselves noticing this pattern regarding their posts on FB? :/
My comment on that:
Common mistake we make: blame people instead of analyzing the surrounding structure. Your reasons for being on FB may differ from those of others. And no one has any authority to judge which are the right reasons and which are the wrong.

Anyways, if you're keen on public sharing then make your post settings to public, that way they're "out there" for someone unknown to catch. (A parent in Nagpur recently contacted me and thanked me for gathering Khan Academy subtitles which I'd done and put out there last year, it helped his daughter in preparing for her 11th exams. I'm high on random gratitude right now!) Also blog in parallel. Be like a tree : give out your ideas and let them be spread wherever, without bothering or monitoring any "success rate"

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Here is one who...

An invite to anyone and everyone:

If there was one sentence you'd like to be said about you after you have
passed on from this world (aka died as in dead), what would it be? Fill
in the blanks:

Here is one who ______________________________________________________

So, put yours in the comments below! No need to sum everything up in one
sentence; you can always come back to put in more! And don't try too
hard to be accurate.. nobody's judging or anything. Let's think out of
the box, we'll have more fun that way.

Let me start off:

Here is one who always spoke his mind.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Feedback to wikipedia

Feedback I gave to wikipedia in a survey form that came after its donation page:

Go a little easy on people who are starting to contribute; love,
encourage and forgive them instead of being so critical and punishing.
Create page-tags/templates that can illustrate the fact that it's a
work-in-progress, assign this status by default on new articles so a
newbie isn't expected to already have advanced skills (which is a
stupid, stupid thing wikipedia is doing right now. Adding references and
templates is difficult, period. Don't expect a person with less than 50
edit counts to know or even want to learn about it). When a visitor
comes at a page, maybe an age or number of edits can be displayed at the
top to convey an idea of how mature or immature the article is.

Having permanent-tenure editors is as bad an idea as having permanent
bureaucrats or government leaders: There should be limited terms and
off-periods between them and retirement times; that will be good for the
editing community and will encourage editors to pass the baton on rather
than be in a permanent status contest of entrenchment, edit-counts,
deletions etc that I see at present. I got totally turned off at the
last wikipedia meetup I attended in my city when people started showing
off their edit-counts and were treating them like army medals. Many of
the veteran editors today would never have participated in Wikipedia if
they'd faced the kind of treatment given to newbies today. Obviously,
this is an unsustainable model and headed for collapse when the present
generation of editors dies out. Remove any element of competition; there
is no such thing as healthy competition. There is no need for
wikipedia's editors to have an obsessive compulsive quality control
behaviour : we are NOT competing with peer-reviewed journals or
mainstream publications; we are NOT supposed to be 100% accurate
"no-matter-what". That much is obvious in the disclaimers; we need to
remind the editors lobby about it. Quality is achieved through time,
love, room for experimentation and prolonged attention; not through
rushed editing and deletions. Beware of throwing out the baby with the

And then there's the mainstream bias flaw. If wikipedia were around in
the decade before WW2, then going by its guidelines its content would
have been more and more encouraging of the Nazis, as its references are
mostly mainstream and well-entrenched institutions. And owing to the
influence it exerts, it would have helped the powers-that-be. That
situation hasn't changed today either: wikipedia is not being neutral
but rather helping the predominant world powers by according more
credibility to richer, bigger and well-entrenched media institutions who
reflect the wishes of the status quo. If by now we know that New York
Times, Fox News, Time, Wall Street Journal etc were so encouraging of
the Iraq invasion and by now it's obvious, with detailed factual
evidence to prove it, that they did shoddy reporting and acted as
mouthpieces of the then US administration, then why the hell are ANY
articles published by these organisations being quoted as references in
wikipedia articles? Instead of credibility, we are giving more weightage
to clout. And there's no way for anyone to really judge which
organisations are credible and which aren't. A personal blog entry might
have more truth than a front-page news article -- as it was before the
Iraqi invasion. If wikipedia is truly neutral then ALL viewpoints ought
to be given the chance to present themselves, instead of deleting some
references and keeping others. Heck, for the goal of neutrality it would
be advisable to make it mandatory to mention to readers that so-and-so
paragraph is based on what mainstream media is saying, so please tread
with caution. I like wikipedia, but 20 years from now, people may look
back at it as a liar and a mouthpiece of the status quo. We need
policies to fix the mainstream bias and be more tolerant of citizen
reporting, in references.

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