Saturday, November 11, 2006


I just saw a news story on TV, where the person who threw the grenade in Kashmir's Pulwama district yesterday, killing 5 people, was being interviewed. He said that he had been paid Rs. 1000 by the militants to throw the grenade. He was caught and beaten up by the villages and handed over to the army. When the interviewer asked him if he had any idea before throwing the grenade, that it would kill so many people, he said, I am a little slow of understanding, I did not realise this would happen. He was asked what he felt now, when he had killed so many people. He replied that he has made a mistake and wouldn't do it again. My heart went out to the youth, who probably doesn't have any employment and had to go to the lengths of killing people for Rs. 1000 (approx. $20 for those who need the conversion). He will now probably go to jail and will stay there till he is at least middle-aged if not more, that is, if he is not executed. To watch this news just after coming back from lunch at a restaurant where I paid Rs. 900 for two, made me hang my head in shame, and I am still hurting. But then, to be perfectly honest, I suppose I shall get over it in a few hours and it will be business as usual for us, while that young man's life is ruined forever, all for Rs. 1000.

Friday, November 10, 2006

No explosion?

It's only in the past few years, with increased exposure to discussion forums on the internet, that I have found out, there are a lot of people who believe that population explosion is a myth, and that there are a whole lot of benefits to having a huge population. Here's my take on it:

1) It should be obvious to anyone that the resources on this planet are not unlimited and that more people means less to go around. A lot of people would say that we are underuitilising our food production capabilities, or that there is an unequal distribution, and that fair and equitable distribution of resources would make sure that there is enough for everyone. This may be true for today. But what will happen when all the young people born today start having kids of their own. Wouldn't the population increase exponentially? Would you still have enough capacity to produce food for the population, say, 50 years later? Even if we keep aside the fact that humans are not the only species on this planet and the resources are not just for us to plunder, we still cannot continue to increase our numbers without regard for where the food, air and water are going to come from.

2) The situation of equitable distribution of resource is idealistic. The reality is of resource distribution being extremely skewed. Which leads to wars. With the advances in technology, wars are more devastating today than they have ever been in the past. Growing population only means more war, where people will suck out the resources from their own lands and then move on to other relatively unused areas. Don't we learn anything from history???

3) There is the idea of a large population giving a large labor base. For more than a hundred years now, we have steadily been decreasing our dependence on manual labor. We have technologies to farm huge tracts of land with a handful of people and so on. We had supposedly freed humans from manual toil to explore higher pursuits. But we still say that we need billions of people for the workforce. Yes, if you have a population of more than a billion, you will definitely have a few hundred thousand who have managed to fight their way to the top, having parents who could scrounge up enough resources to send them to school to learn English and other important languages like Java and C. But what about the majority of the billion people? They are still in the same illiterate state, subsisting on barely one meal a day. Now imagine there is a smaller number of people, so that there are greater chances of a student getting into an institution of tertiary education or of getting a job that lets him live at a level above subsistence. Wouldn't it be easier all around? Isn't producing a billion of a commodity to use only a few hundred thousand a bit wasteful? If people have fewer children, they can feed them better, so that they are be more healthy and more productive. The state could even afford to provide quality education to them for free, hence giving them better chances of earning a living.

4) The problem of a large set of elderly people is cited as a reason for not drastically controlling the population. If the elderly people are able to live healthy lives, the retirement age could well be extended and they could live productive lives, instead of having to be a "burden" on the young population. Fewer people would mean fewer patients to admit in hospitals, and more medication to go around for sick people, a higher propoportion of doctors to patients, better care for elderly and so on. If all the people can be involved in gainful labor in their youth, then they can save a sum of money to tide them over in their old age too. In any case, having been freed from manual labor, age is not really a restriction on the productivity of an individual.

All this seems like common sense to me. No experts have been quoted in the making of this post. This is all simply from my own observations. I would like to find out more abount how people can justify not controlling the population. I would hope that they would reply in a similar vein, though.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

My religion doesn't teach that!

I have seen a lot of religious and irreligious people who say that religion is not the evil we need to fight, rather it is the evil interpretations of religion that are the enemy. They will tell us that the Hindu philosophies revere the female and exalt her to a position of godess, that the ancient vedic texts tell us to lead a righteous life, rather than praying to stone idols and so forth. Other's will tell us that their religion is a "religion of peace" or that their messiah had acutally invalidated all the concepts of their holy book that were written before he came to earth. And then they will go on to say that all the evils we face today: sati and exploitation of women, the caste system, the suicide bombers, the fanatics who kills doctors because they are giving women control over their bodies, all these happen because the pure and loving religions were interpreted wrongly.

These people want to tell you that the religion still actually exists in the pure form that it was concieved. I don't agree. Religion is what people believe. If there is a clergy or a head of the religion, then it is also what these people decree it to be. Today, Hinduism to a majority of people is actually believing that their god Ram was born in Ayodhya, where a mosque had been built over his birthplace. They will have you believe that their gods actually live inside the marble idols and drink up the offerings of milk once in a while. Hindus will tell you that travelling thousands of miles to such and such a temple will make your wishes come true, because the god that resides there is benevolent. That is Hinduism. It is not the abstract thought of the Rigveda and the Vedantas. Hindus are as much salad-bar worshippers as most of the Christians of the western world.

Christians are the ones that will want to post their ten commandments in public buildings. They will tell you that a 3-day old bunch of cells has the same intrinsic value as an adult human being. So they would rather keep that 3-day old bunch of cells alive (preferably in a nice, safe womb, so that it can grow up to be another of their "flock") than use those cells to give an adult a chance at living a normal life after a spinal injury or loss of an organ. And when you confront them on it, they will say that their book only teaches to "love thy neighbour". These are the people who believe that the earth is 6000 years old and that we were all created as-is by some divine force. The will not believe evolution despite the very dangerous fact of drug resistant strains of diseases like tuberculosis.

And of course, let us not forget the "religion of peace". Of course, their god doesn't tell you to kill innocent people. But you are allowed to kill non-believers and apostates. Who decides who is innocent or not? Surely their god isn't here to tell them that, and so the people who take these matters into their own hands decide that according to their own understanding.

When "tolerant" atheists tell me that they are atheist but they respect other people's "freedom" to believe what they want, it is very nice to hear. But what about my freedom to believe what I want. Where I live, I have that freedom at least. But there are many other nations where I could be killed for my beliefs. Because of the interpretation of religion that their leaders are forcing upon the people. That is the religion we all deal with on a daily basis and not the sacred texts and scriptures which had been written in long-dead languages.