The other day I was watching this documentary on TV about the internet revolution. The documentary seemed dated and had nothing ‘revolutionary’ to talk about. But it got me thinking on the amount of content on the internet in all shapes and forms. There is so much content out there that the mind boggles and I am slowly migrating away from the internet to the more manageable print media. But even with all this extra content I maybe better informed, I am none the wiser. I don’t know where is the next big idea going to come from, where or when is the next religion going to come or which company is going to be the largest/biggest in the next 10 years. What countries are going to be the top three or five in the world. Yes India, China and US will be there, but crucially where will the next Japan come from. Which country will punch many times above its size ?

In my economics class I was taught about lead and lag indicators and I have found them to be quite fascinating. The lag indicators are easier to identify – global warming is to me primarily a lag indicator and can be also used as a lead indicator. Another lag indicator is the G20 grouping which represents the slow decline of power of G8. Maybe a lead indicator of G20 was when  years ago Goldman Sachs grouped BRICS together. I certainly missed that and as I write this today I am struggling to identify the lead indicators in the world today. Even if I was to put aside the bigger questions and ask the more ‘mundane’ questions like – when will the Security council be expanded and who will be part of the new grouping, what will Afghanistan be like 5 years from now or will I still be blogging 10 years from now ?

Sometimes the obvious answer is not the right answer. Who would have thought that even five years ago that by 2010, the world would have more or less forgotten Iraq and moved onto bigger and better things. What little was left of Iraq memory was wiped out by the recession or by the upsurge of violence in Afghanistan. No one remembers that the war was fought on lies and is probably the most expensive settling of scores that the world has ever seen. Yet the old adage , to the victor go the spoils, continues. One architect of the war has retired to his ranch probably trying to be born again into someone else. The other who is now an ambassador of inter-faith peace, middle east peace, global warming resolution, advisor to big corporates and a star guest speaker, appeared before a parliament inquiry to defend his decision to go to war over Iraq.Everyone now has a different fish to fry. Someone is after Iran, others are after China, someone thinks that Russian is the new Satan. Two wars later the original Satan , Osama Bin Laden, is still around and is in the middle of a PR transformation to a global warming campaigner !

In 2o2o, who will the biggest devil, who will be the biggest sheriff and more importantly what will they be fighting about ?

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There is a lot going on and,as always, I am struggling to make sense of it.  I am struggling to get away from the event to point of it all. I am almost afraid to write about it because I don’t quite know what I am going to write about. Its almost like I am listening to this concert orchestra and all I want to do is listen to the violinist in the 3rd row. To me she holds the key to the symphony , if only I can shut out the rest and manage to focus on her. I feel more disturbed than usual and I can’t seem to be able to look at a glass half full.

I can’t seem to watch/read/listen to anything without being depressed about something. I read a book on Economics and it talks about how the minority are able to successfully lobby for something which is against the interests of a majority. It goes through because the minority want it more than the majority. I thought that this is exactly the problem that democracy was supposed to solve. What is the point of having an election when lobbyists are going have a sway over decision making. If that wasn’t enough there is this subtle difference between bigotry and rational discrimination. If done properly the rational one can actually improve the bottomline. Especially so if the majority discriminate against the minority.

So I sit down to watch some cricket. Good old IPL with some ‘Citi moments of success’ and ‘DLF sixes’ ! For once I am not enjoying the commentary at all and I am not sure where is cricket trying to be with this. Its like the entire game has been compressed into a little test tube.  I really long for a good test match which won’t get over in 4 hours with a zillion ads in the middle and where a boundary is just a boundary and not a Citi moment of success. Maybe I am now spoilt with the BBC’s coverage of F1 with no ads, maybe I am getting old, maybe I am missing the point of it all. Maybe.

I try to keep up with news on the Indian elections. Again I try to shift the chaff from the real issues. I try to read between the lines and I try to understand what do these politicians really stand for, sometimes I give up. But then I tell myself that I can’t give up when people in rural areas are registering high voter turnouts. What are they registering that I am not. What can they see that I can’t. Why this faith in the undeserving politicians of the country. I see people like Malika and Shashi Tharoor stand for elections and I can’t understand why. They are not standing for power and money , so what is it for them. That’s when the cynic in me gives up.

I pop out for lunch today and the Tamils are in full force in front of the high commission with their bells and whistles. They break some windows and call for a ceasefire. I can’t help but question the timing. I almost wanted to stop and reason with the cheer leaders. To me this is an act of desperation if there was one.  This along with my last post on Pakistan and an interesting situation in Nepal . I blogged late last year on how I think South asia will go through significant changes,  but four months into the year and the contours are not clear to me at all.

I wonder what is the capacity of the world to manufacture and handle global events. So America manufactured the Iraq and the Afghan war and is now straddled with them. On top of it there are the crisis in Africa (Sudan, Somalia etc), the global economic crisis, a fast developing pandemic not to mention that the UN millennium goals (remember them ? ) are not going to be met by a far way. As the developed countries try to look after their own economies and citizens who looks after the world’s poor. If their local war won’t get to them then the trade barriers will. The case has been to reduce to trade barriers to let less developed countries export to the rich countries but even an Obama can’t sell that to his countrymen, much easier to give money to car makers.

Nothing seems to get resolved these days. It  just get pushed down the high table only to re-emerge bigger and dirtier.

I studied Economics for my bachelor degree. It was actually by accident how I got into Economics.  But it wasn’t like I had a burning desire to do something else, so when Economics presented itself I was like why not. On hindsight I am glad I studied it, I loved every bit of it and it opened my mind to the world like nothing else. Among other things, I loved reading about people’s behaviour patterns and the fact that if you know enough about it then it is ridiculously easy to influence them. Since then I have understood Economics to offer insights into issues which I thought were far away from it. But I digress.

For some time I have been thinking about the fact that booms and recession in an economic cycle are dependent on people buying goods and services. If people continue to buy more and more (in value and/or quantity) of goods and services then the economy stays healthy and grows and if people start to spend less or stop altogether that is a sure sign of a recession or an imminent one. As much as I want to I can’t disassociate with the logic of the idea. It makes sense to me and also defines to me the sort of world I live in.

Yet inside me I don’t like this at all. I don’t like the fact that we live in a world where ‘prosperity’ and ‘growth’ are dependent on people going out and spending money and more and more of it. And so we spend money, companies make more profits and they inturn pay their employees more money who then in turn buy more and that completes the circle.  When the circle breaks there is general discontent and misery all around as it is these days.I don’t have an alternative solution to offer, but I wonder if after so many centuries of civilisation is this the best model that we could come up with. A model that is based on human greed, to want more and more, is sustaining the world. A model that puts buying as the most noblest of all deeds.

I am part of this and yet I feel I don’t have a choice. Its either this or nothing. Surely this is no freedom of choice.