Posts Tagged ‘human behaviour’

Terrorists:can they be so barbaric? Yes, they can….

December 17, 2014

Obviously, I’ve been musing on this phenomenon of terrorism. War, in itself, is a form of terrorism; it’s always the innocent pawns who get slaughtered while the King and Queen look on from their safe fastnesses.

It’s interesting that we use the term “barbarism” to describe terrorists; the

Barbarian

according to the Wiki entry, is “a person who is perceived to be uncivilized.” but may also mean “an individual reference to a brutal, cruel, warlike, insensitive person.”

“Romans used the word “barbarian” for many people, such as the Berbers, Germanics, Celts, Carthaginians, Iberians, Thracians and Parthians.”

I thought the word derived from the Berber people, but apparently not.

Well…whatever it is..we thought we’d plumbed the depths of human cruelty when terrorists thought up a plan to send passenger aircraft hurtling into buildings. But to attack a school and kill children there brings our inhumanity to a new low.

One friend incredulously exclaimed:”No one can, atleast in full conscience (I feel), be so brutal and remorseless!”

Oh…but they can.

Several years ago, A was on a flight, and next to her was a woman soldier who told her she was returning from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. The conversation was desultory (A did not want to pry into what was obviously an unpleasant experience the woman had had)…when the child in the seat across the aisle started crying.

The woman soldier immediately turned her head away and just shut her ears. And, later, explained why.

In Afghanistan, American soldiers would smile at a child that was wandering from the Afghan tents into their space,hoping to offer them sweets…and knowing this, the Afghans strapped explosives to the child’s body, and sent them to the American camps….where, at the moment when the most Americans could be killed or maimed, they would detonate the charge remotely….

One of the reasons the woman soldier was returning was that she could not any longer bear to see such scenes; she was returning for counselling for her deep disturbance. She said, “I cannot bear to LOOK at a child any more. I see only death and destruction and enemity when I see one.”

It stands to reason that the children were Afghan ones….so yes, humanity can be incredibly inhuman.

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Thoughts about homosexuality

February 27, 2014

Homosexuality has been around for as long as humanity has. Hominids and other primates exhibit it, too. As a naturalist, I find it prevalent in many other species as well. It’s only human beings who see the need to attribute moral values to certain forms of behaviour.

Heterosexual behaviour shades from rape,abuse, and casual sex on one side of the spectrum to committed, loving, long-standing relationships on the other. In my experience…so, too, does homosexual behaviour.

I feel that any behaviour (of any kind) that harms others is morally and ethically repugnant. But any expression of love between two consenting adults (of any kind) cannot be bad. Love is so difficult to find, why abominate any form of its expression?

And if we think that gays or lesbians do not exist in India, we are putting our heads in the sand.

I feel that life would be simpler if we accepted people as they are, without worrying about who they are sleeping with, or judging them for it. It’s always comforting to adopt a moral high ground upon which we stand and condemn others…but life would be simpler if we accepted our fellow human-beings as they are…and condemn only behaviour that harms others.

Well, that’s my opinion, and I understand that there will be many people whose views differ diametrically…or to different degrees.

Thank you for making me think about this, and articulating my thoughts!

A poem on the human anatomy

September 2, 2013

A Poem on the Human Anatomy

Where can a man buy a cap for his knee,
Or the key to a lock of his hair?
Can his eyes be called an academy
Because there are pupils there?

Is the crown of your head where jewels are found?
Who travels the bridge of your nose?
If you wanted to shingle the roof of your mouth,
Would you use the nails on your toes?

Can you sit in the shade of the palm of your hand,
Or beat on the drum of your ear?
Can the calf in your leg eat the corn off your toe?
Then why not grow corn on the ear?

Can the crook in your elbow be sent to jail?
If so, just what did he do?
How can you sharpen your shoulder blades?
I’ll be darned if I know – do you?

Colours, and KTB

July 16, 2013

DSC03444

Me: “What’s the colour of the spinach?”

KTB: “Gween!”

Me: “What’s the colour of the curd rice?”

KTB: “White!

Me: “What’s the colour of the cherries?”

KTB: “Wed!”

Me: “What’s the colour of your dress?” (wondering what she’d say…)

KTB: “Beautiful!”

Children will always say something original!

Well, she certainly had a lip-smacking dinner, as you can see…

DSC03447

Heroes, and feet of clay

January 17, 2013

The sadness we feel at the fall of heroes is less to do with their frailty, and more to do with our need to set up heroes in the first place. If we deify humans, they are bound to prove to be only human, after all….!

The Innovation Trap

March 29, 2012

Harish Bhat, who is a friend on Facebook, and posts a lot of interesting stuff, posted about

the flexible e-paper display launch .

Though I am impressed by the innovation in terms of material use and invention, I still feel that products like this fall into what I call the classic Innovation Trap.

The Innovation Trap is the phenomenon of designers being blinkered and hobbled by designs and forms that they are familiar with. In the case of the product above, it seems to be the goal to get as close in appearance as possible to laminated paper..to resemble some form of actual paper. But one wonders why that resemblance is needed at all.

The classic example of the Innovation Trap was when automobiles started being designed. Being familiar only with horse-drawn carriages, early cars looked boxy and square, exactly like the old carriages. It took a while to realize that though it was irrelevant for horse-drawn carriages, for cars, aerodynamics would improve the efficiency, and that the shape of the automobile must be very different from that of a carriage.

This problem was once again demonstrated when, in the era of tailfins and long lines, with the cars looking like ships, the VW Beetle was introduced. It was pronounced an ugly car…when it was actually very functional in design, and hence very beautiful.

In similar fashion, there is no need for outer-space-only spacecraft to have the sleek, aerodynamic, cigar-shaped look of the rockets that lift off from the Earth’s atmosphere. Since they operate in a vacuum, and there is no resistance from the atmosphere, outer-space-only craft (I am sure there is a technical name, very scientific) for such vehicles), they can look as clunky as they want to be, with antennae, and solar panels, and such, sticking out in all directions. Maybe design has to take into account the possibility of an aerial snapping when hit by a passing meteor, but in general, it does not need the shape that a craft that needs to enter the Earth’s atmosphere should have, to reduce the friction and heat of re-entry.

Another example of this is the “qwerty” keyboard, that is still widely in use. I know that many computer techies (like ) use

the Dvorak keyboard

and many mobile phones and keyboards have an “abcd” keyboard; but the majority of all keyboards still use the “qwerty”, which does have many problems. But…it’s as if we, when used to something, are often unwilling to conceive of

something different .

This applies also when someone has made a true innovation. When Sony built the Walkman, for years, we saw me-too’s flooding the market. Now the iPad and the iPhone are cool things to imitate…even when their drawbacks are quite apparent.

I suppose one may also call it “design fashion”. One particular design becomes the “norm” and other designs, even if better, fall by the wayside sometimes, and are not commercial successes. The cathedral of “That’s the way things are always done” seems to loom large on the skyline of design, and sometimes real creativity is sacrificed at its altar.

How long it took for the no. of camera exposures to be counted downwards, or the fuel guage on cars to show how many miles the fuel available was good for (varying with the speed of the car) rather than just showing how much petrol was in the tank! With the innovation, one could get the actual information one really wants…how many exposures are left, and how many miles one can drive the car for. (Most cars in India still have only the old-fashioned petrol guages.)

But in spite of the Innovation Trap, true innovation and creativity continues to happen, and that’s the great thing about the human mind….!

Talking of s&%t

November 10, 2011

Seems strange to be posting after a few days’ gap…I usually make it part of my daily routine to post something to my blog. It sort of clarifies my thoughts, let me share my experiences, and is also good discipline for a champion procrastinator.

But over the past few days, the insomnia and the sense of tension and anxiety had come to a point where they were causing major and minor issues…I’d started forgetting more things than are good for me (beyond what is “normal”). so I decided I needed a little time off. Of course, I’d also gone for the regular nature outing on Sunday ..but instead of coming back and getting on the laptop, I spent just 10 minutes online and sat around listening to music, reading a book…the fact that my laptop has been acting up, and I could hardly use it, made things easier, as did the fact that I am getting more and more spam comments from my old posts every day.

But now I am feeling better, and my laptop is also, obviously feeling better ( because Chandan has fixed whatever the problem was…thank you!)… so before I start talking about my garbage trip yesterday (yes, I typed that right!)…here’s one of the very beautiful things one often finds on garbage:

fly sultanpur 011111 dlhi L

As with so much else, even s$^t is what one makes of it. In Nature, faeces are not something “dirty”…but actually a fertile place for many life forms to draw sustenance from, both in its freshly-produced and decomposing state. The fly sitting on a pile of ordure may either be viewed as a threat…a carrier of disease…or as an interesting natural phenomenon. As the fecal matter dries or decomposes, very often, beautiful mushrooms grow out of it. Fecal matter, to the scientist or an avid wildlife tracker, can be messages…it says what the animal was, when it passed by that way, what it ate…to the pathologist, too, it tells the story of the problems that the patient is suffering from, and helps the doctor diagnose and treat the sufferer.

Of course, fecal matter is a breeding ground for several bacteria harmful to humanity. and this is one of the reasons it is abhorred from the minute it leaves our bodies. But I have learnt to see it as something not disgusting and unclean alone, but sometimes, as a natural material, in the form of fertiliser, something that helps life to grow.

Don’t ask me why I am having such shitty thoughts…just happened! I’ll try and catch up with friends’ posts, but may not comment on everything….

People-watching…

September 30, 2011

I’m much entertained and educated at the various kolus that I visit. Little vignettes of life that I see in each drawing room seem as intriguing to me as the dolls decorated and arranged before us.

A lady, with her eyes devoutly closed through the group chanting of the Lakshmi Sahasra Naamam, busily giving instructions to her maid, and then her husband, both in exactly the same tone….I dread to think of what will happen if those grimly stated instructions are not followed….

A little girl, keen on photographing the dolls on a higher step, brushing into crookedness, the carefully drawn rangoli on the floor, and the pleasantness of disposition of the hostess, who assures the girl, and her mother, that it is all right…

A little boy, brought to the kolu by his mother, keenly eyeing the sundal and sweets kept at the side of the table, and waiting eagerly until the plate is offered to him…. the goodies are gone in a few quick chomps, and then the whispering begins, “Can we go now?”>….

Wearing a silk saree, sitting on leather cushions, with side tables that are cut tree-trunks, a lady pontificating on how much she loves nature…. loudly interrupting another young girl trying to sing….

Sweet voices of young girls, and sometimes an uninhibited boy, lifted in song at each gathering…and sometimes less-than-sweet renditions, too, rendered, however, with great devotion….

Petty comments of “Oh, at XYZ’s place they had *printed* bags, not ordinary ones!” Women who bustle in with mock-complaints of how many people they have to visit and how little time they have…

Husbands waiting at home to see what varieties of sundal have been brought home….

The delightful chaos of completely unconnected figures of gods, dancers, people, animals, and things, all jumbled up together on the steps of the displays….

Small slices of life, and social interaction, that are wonderful to observe.

Paradise Lost…

May 1, 2011

I was musing on humankind’s relationship with Nature, and it struck me forcibly that humankind’s need to dominate the environment is the source of much of the problems our planet faces now. Ohter animals, and humanity, in days gone by, were part of the environment, and accepted it as such; they have (had) no need to tame what was around them. But humankind…has become different. We need to tame the trees to manageable proportions, we need to tame plants to give us food, we need to tame animals to do our work for us…and we need to tame the forces of Nature to do our bidding, too. Development, to us, is not the sustainable path of use that can be cyclically replenished, but the “let’s take more” model that lands us in difficulties. We don’t want certain animals, and birds, and insects, and organisms, near us, or in us…. we work to eliminate them. We want others for our own short-term needs (or just desires)..and in the process, almost eliminate them. We want ONE thing and don’t seem to count the cost of getting it by eliminating others. We build a pyramidal model of dependence, and are surprised that it is not sustainable.

I think the Biblical “Loss of Eden” refers not to any physical casting out from a beautiful garden, but to the loss that our own lack of understanding of who we are, and what we are part of. Our greed, and our need to dominate what is, ultimately, indomitable…is what is causing much of the major problems we see Earth facing today.

Another of my favourite TV Series…

February 17, 2009

I have watched several TV series that were seminal to me…which shaped my thinking, and expanded my mental horizons. Of late, no one seems to know much about them, but I would like to disinter, from the past (and the ever-present internet!) one of my favourite series, “The Ascent of Man”.

Click here for the wiki on the series.

Here’s a video of the first in the series, “Lower than the Angels”…..

Be warned, it’s a 52-minute clip…but unlike me, you don’t have to wait for it to come on TV, you can watch at leisure.

I didn’t always agree with Bronowski’s words or ideas, but the series did make me think.

Do let me know how you liked this one!