Saturday, January 20, 2018

My thoughts on increasing taxes on electricity and petrol for promoting sustainability

This is regarding a statement I saw in a survey where we had to agree or disagree:

"I would oppose policies that increase taxes on electricity and petrol because they make them more expensive for me."

I felt the part "because they make them more expensive for me" disabled me from agreeing or disagreeing, because now the statement assumes there can only be one reason for opposing such policies : that if I don't support them then it is automatically assumed I am selfish.

I'd like to explain my thoughts on it here.

The original purpose of taxation, when invented, was to fund the various governmental mechanisms needed to ensure smooth functioning of society. Example: transport, law and order, public infrastructure, education, healthcare services. The purpose of taxation was not to discourage use of said service. Tariffs and duties were used, of course for that.

At a macro level, there are many arguments against increasing taxation, saying that money collected by force only ends to doing harm, that the people collecting more taxes don't really have our best interests in mind, that forcing people into something increases the likelihood that they will act to damage it.

Even while keeping all the ills of capitalism in mind, Socialist policies of infinite government expansion haven't been so good either, and their combination that we see today is even worse (subsidies and cheap credit for the rich, burdensome regulations for the small entrepreneurs, and poorer part of population paying more taxes than richer part). History is witness to the fact that many things are too inefficiently and insensitively done by putting governments in charge of everything. Taxing our way out of problems has not really worked out as theorized, because it assumes that those collecting the taxes are Gods or Angels.

In the case of India, recollect the various reportings of massive funds collected by the government for clean energy, environmental work etc lying unspent for long time, and/or redirected into something else totally (like GST reimbursements recently)

In a research project on Pune's Budget data, we found that a large part of expenditures being done under some green label turned out to be unsustainable things like cementing the banks of rivers, streams, canals : a move that kills biodiversity, prevents water retention, increases runoff and leads to floods. Rather, our team felt that if those funds had been directly given to local citizens bodies who actually live there, they would have taken far better decisions and promoted sustainability.

Another problem with taxing essentials (as of today) like electricity and petrol is that you end up burdening everybody, and the people living more sustainably are far more burdened than the people living unsustainably. There is a compounding effect on costs of living. Raising a rupee here will have a 10-fold impact elsewhere.

Another major effect of taxation is a reduced sense of responsibilty. Because I am already being taxed "for sustainability", I will opt for styrofoam or plastic plates etc to cut costs. If I'm paying a swachh bharat cess then I don't care about segregating my waste. My sense of civic duty towards a cause is reduced when you're already pulling money out of my pocket for that cause (and then ending up not doing much good as highlighted above). (Note: I'm just putting myself in the shoes of people around me here)

So, I would say that if we cannot guarantee proper accountability and transparency of our government (which, frankly, we cannot), then it is a bad idea to promote taxation of electricity, petrol and other such baseline things as a way to promote sustainablity. I fully support taxing jewellery (update : GST on diamonds slashed to 0.25%, on biofuel buses to 18%. See the priorities of our leaders? ), imported cars, liquor, cigarettes and stuff through the roof, sure, but let's call it "duty" or "tariff" and not call them taxes. There are more chances of citizens voluntarily putting money into sustainability causes if it stays in their pockets instead of being fleeced out by overbearing governments. Between placing my faith in citizens or government, I choose citizens. I'd rather have folks like Azim Premji creating places like APU than getting taxed out only to fund river cementing :P

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

How to tackle the bad consequences of noble intentions

Sharing an opinion / inference of mine regarding the question of what is it that makes things like this happen:

Here's my take.

Evil cannot accomplish these things. To accomplish things like these, you need to be two things:

1. Full of noble intentions.

2. Convinced that you, more than anyone else, know what is the right thing to do.

So following up on that, if you were to ask me what is the antidote, here's what I'll say :

1. Dump the noble intentions thing. Just stop using it as a metric for measurement.

2. Avoid like the plague, people who are convinced that they know what is the right thing to do. Instead, have room for doubt, feedback, multiple minds.

And then, to all the people who want to do something about these things, here's some unsolicited advice:

1. Don't accuse them of being evil or having bad intentions. You'll be barking up the wrong tree, and will make their noble intentions feel braver under fire.

2. Look up to folks who value feedback and who want to give more power to mechanisms that enable actual stakeholders to fix things by themselves. Rather than looking up to folks who say that they know how to fix everything.

an experience of the Learning Societies UnConference, December 2017

Reposting a testimonial about the Learning Societies UnConference, December 2017 posted by one of the attendees:

Dear LSuC Family,

i'd been to a couple of LSuCs in the past, so kind of knew what to expect. But this time was different for me as i came in as a tentative and slightly tense, temporarily full-time, single parent to 2 kids for 5 days. Yes, i've engaged with all the various ideologies and approaches to learning over the years, worked extensively with children and youth in my professional capacity and done a lot of back-seat driving on parenting the kids in my family and friends' circles, but this was my first hands-on 24*7 living experience, 5 days exclusively with my 13 year old nephew and 11 year old niece, who i normally meet for just about a week during family vacations each year. When i hesitatingly proposed to them, spending a week of their winter vacations alone with me at the LSuC, they trusted in me and readily said 'yes', much to my surprise, and i trusted the larger community and immediately sent in our registration. And then followed all the hard work of getting the others on board, adjusting the dates and other schedules, getting their complicated and extended travel organised, with a lot of sustained effort on my sister's part to eventually make it happen.

Despite all my pre-conceptions and latent concerns about how children who've grown up in the cut-throat competitive environment of the 'maximum' city, and used to a comfortable and protected way of life, would cope in an 'alternative', 'minimalist' setup, and how a space strongly rooted in 'decolonisation' and 'unschooling' would welcome 'city-bred' children studying in 'mainstream' schools, i took the plunge and trusted the universe that we would all emerge wiser at the end of it.

The only thing that gave me the confidence was the trust that there is a larger family to hold and support us, to help us learn and grow with us, and that's exactly how it was. We felt really held, and loved and cared for in every way over the 5 days! The kids instantly took to the space like fish to water, forged great friendships with people who initially seemed 'a bit different', extended the circle of trust to all the people and the process and the place, suspended all inhibitions about getting out of their comfort zones and getting their hands dirty (quite literally!), found the perfect playground for their incessant questions and unique explorations, and happily disappeared into the dust and crowds and vastness of the nature-endowed campus... leaving me pinching myself to see if it was real ... only to be reassured by a glimpse of their excited, joyful faces occasionally at meal times.

And even as the magical 5 days came to a close, we are carrying huge chunks of the LSuC magic back with us in the form of conversations, reflections, anecdotes, insights, dances, jokes, hugs, songs, games, photos, memorabilia (including the precious TUCs!) ,and a whole host of lovely friends from different corners of the country and world who had become family in those 5 days. And to top all of this, the anxious aunt in me was replaced by a special friend, co-learner and companion to two amazingly beautiful children, and hopefully to many others as well.

It is with tremendous gratitude and love that i am writing to thank each one of you for making space for us in the LSuC, and in your hearts.... and i'm inviting all of us to extend the LSuC into our lives, welcoming the free spirited child in all of us, beyond labels of 'schooled', 'unschooled', 'colonised', 'decolonised', 'alternative', 'mainstream',... because as Manish beautifully put it, it is with 'many streams' flowing that the rich diversity of flora and fauna truly flourish.

It's been a really beautiful closure to 2017 and wonderful start to 2018 for me. [..]

Best wishes,

Monday, January 8, 2018

#PositiveIndia pledge on voting

I hereby pledgeto make #PositiveIndia by not voting for any party that runs on black money, which accepts money from crony capitalists in exchange of extrajudicial favours like unrepayable loans from taxpayer-backed national banks, which makes its own leaders' children exponentially rich, which refuses to use VVPATs for the purpose for which they were invented, or which gives safe harbour to goons, murderers and rapists.

Big thanks to PM Modi for starting the #PositiveIndia campaign!


Saturday, January 6, 2018

What I mean by SJWs #FreeCountDankula

Hi friends,

If you have any confusions regarding what this whole SJW (Social
Justice Warrior) stuff that I keep critiquing actually means, look no
further. Go through this and I promise you you'll have a proper grip
on the whole thing.

Let's start with what I came across first:
NAZI DOG COURT VERDICT pt1 -Lauren Southern, 2018-01-05
Nazi Pug Trial PT2 -Lauren Southern, 2018-01-05

My comment at the first vid:
Scotland is jailing a man for teaching his dog a funny trick. (and if
you think it's not funny, then you must have absolutely hated Eurotrip
and that Charlie Chaplin movie and everything in between)
In all these SJW cases, the sheer absence of the value of FORGIVENESS;
the inability to forgive a slight or to let things go, really stands
out as a repeating pattern. So what if you think you're right; who the
bloody hell told you you can live out your entire life without having
to forgive anybody? It's because they're no longer seeing reality;
because everything is just a symbol of some or the other injustice or
patriarchy or whatever to these people. The cake is a symbol, the dog
is a symbol, the cartoon frog is a symbol, everything is a symbol to
these people. They've lost all sense of reality. #FreeCountDankula
Free Count Dankula! -Ogre, 2018-01-05

Here are two videos from the guy at the centre of this controversy,
Count Dankula himself:
Nazi Pug : Update #1 -Count Dankula, 2016-07-21
Nazi Pug : Update #3 -Count Dankula, 2017-03-09

>> They are ruining a perfectly nice bloke's entire life. It's for real. And they're not stopping or realizing what they're doing... look at Lauren Souther's videos linked above to know what's happening in the courtroom.

Tweet by Count Dankula :

One reply there: "Nazis banned mocking them. Now eccentric liberals
are persecuting just like the regime would have."

Another reply : "The most aggravating thing here is being a jew and
see it being done in your name.#freecountdankula #freepewdipie
#learntotakeafreakingjoke "

Article explaining the case and why "hate speech" laws are a bad idea:

>> Disclosure : As recent as 2012, I was this SJW myself (parts of it still lingering about.. old habits die hard). This inability to let things be, to forgive or to understand even, was my thing. I was totally ON the high horse. It's only because of some amazing people who came into my life (plug for: ) and showed me the mirror that I realized what an idiot I was being, how at the end of it all I was only screwing my own causes and making myself unnecessarily miserable. I'm especially thankful for all the people who saw the humour in my antics and had a good laugh off it. That really sent me into cognitive dissonance and made me question my certainties. And now I'm seeing people from my generation, just like myself, actually wrecking people's lives, ending all freedom of speech under the excuse of protecting "vulnerable" minds from "hate speech", turning the western world into police states and the damage is spreading everywhere with the profiteering social media giants deploying the same censorship mechanisms to aid dictatorial right-wing governments too (ironic seeing who campaigned to install them). We're screwing everyone with this urge to protect. That's what I mean by SJWs and why I criticise them so. They're paving the road to hell with their good intentions and if nothing else I'm at least going to laugh at them. Tyrants need to be laughed at.

PS: No you lazy-brain, this one case isn't what the Entire SJW thing
is about. It's one real-world, in-your-face example. There's SOOO many
cases across the spectrum, try seeing my monthly interesting links
posts to get a hold of them.

PPS: "Why isn't Huffpost or The Guardian or any mainstream, "socially
acceptable" outlet covering this or showing me this angle to the
topic? Why are they writing so much negative about these people but
never actually bringing the counter perspectives on board? Why will
Guardian never interview Lauren Southern despite having done hit
pieces on her?" >> Because they're FULL OF SJWs my dear. Welcome to
the real world!

One more, for the SJW readers : "Oh so you mean you support so and so
racist things?" >> Thank you for your binary thinking. Since your mom
was right about a few things, that must automatically make your dad
wrong about everything, right? Learn some nuance, dear. Reality may be
a little more complex than what the one-dimensional worldview tells

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Interesting Links for December 2017

In this month (Dec'17) I came across two amazing sources for ALTERNATIVE Indian news commentary:

I'm seeing some hallmarks of good journalism here : stringing together news stories from different time periods, to quote proper published facts and stories of the mainstream media to counter their own present day narratives. Great use of images, screenshots of news articles to drive in the point.

Janta Ka Reporter:

And these guys who I already knew, have done some amazing exposes that mainstream media was too afraid to touch:

The Wire

For all who want to see the stranglehold of the biased corporate owned and black money political party controlled media loosen its grip on India, I suggest you give as much power as possible to alternative news media.

Note : Only dead people and nonliving things are "unbiased". Treat any news source claiming to be unbiased with extreme caution. Better to know the biases the other side has in advance, in a transparent manner. And for controversial things, you can only get to the facts through looking at multiple opinions on the same thing. So to readers, my advice : stop being lazy and start using your head, especially your memory to string together different events across time spans.

Alright let's begin the rundown for Interesting Links for December 2017 :

Gift Economy

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