May 19, 2015

Book Review : The Rich by John Kampfner

(This book review was published in the Business World magazine dated 1-June-2015)

When Gordon Gecko utters  his famous words of Greed, for the lack of better words, being Good, little did we comprehend the thought process that goes into psychology of the money-making business that has rarely changed for generations. John Kampfner in The Rich: From Slaves to Super-Yachts: A 2,000-Year History (Hachette) shows us that the gap between the super-rich and rich (not to mention the poor) has only continued to widen and grow as he focuses on the world of haves and have-mores in his brilliant treatise on The Rich.

The author runs through the individualities starting from Marcus Licinius Crassuw, from the Roman times, to the likes of The Krupps, Andrew Carnegie and Mobutu Sese Seko. The theme throughout the book is money and wealth and the process of making and accumulating it. Kampfner never romanticises his subjects and his discernible commentary is restricted to the subjects alone and ignores the families and friends.

The rich live in a parallel world and belong to a globalised and gilded class flaunting their opulence in their own ways. The author deep dives into a world in which power, influence and position are the pillars of the new establishment and creating and maintaining the reputation is the motivating force. The rich swoon and fraternise on each other’s yachts as the tax regime and infrastructure go hand in hand with glamour and gigantism, to give birth to cities like Dubai. The panorama of the current wealthy people includes the sheikhs, the oligarchs, the geeks and the bankers with a combined wealth to buy out complete economies and also to bequeath important and much needed political muscle, while societies continue to indulge the super-rich.

The fossilisation of the previous dynasties of billionaires has been a wakeup call to the current super-rich, as the latter has indulged in ‘philanthrocapitalism’ for serving the broader societal needs. The moral commitment of the Giving Pledge is overshadowed by words of Buffett when he says “enough so they feel they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing”.

Envy, detest and abhorrence often runs across the reader’s mind as the author profiles some of the wealthiest who have ever lived on this planet. While the reader might sometimes be embarrassed with means adopted to accumulate the wealth, the author maintains a distant journalistic view, only reporting what he sees and observes as he concludes that the victory of the present super-rich is a product of the 2,000 years of history. 

May 05, 2015

Understanding Reality and Truth

How does one differentiate between Reality and Truth? But, before that, how does one even define the respective terms? My perpetual complaint with the English language is the lack of expressions and phrases that can be used to define or be expanded upon a term for a good definition for easier assimilation and understanding. Probably, this is one of the reasons as to why many groups prefer having the mother-tongue as the language of instruction and education. But, given the limited  resources at hand, let us try to understand using anecdotes.

In schools and also at home, we are taught that Sun rises in the East and sets in the West. Now, our mind has been tuned to this thought process right from the school. We are rational beings, and with the passage of time, begin to understand language and science. We have also observed that Sun indeed rises in the East and sets in the West, almost everyday. But, during the due course of our education, we are also taught that Sun is always stationary and it is the Earth that rotates on it's own axis and also revolves around the Sun. The phenomenon is the same; one is Reality and the other - the Truth.

As we have seen, the observation of Sun rising and setting is the Reality as it is the one that we perceive and can explain easily, but the larger truth that is often forgotten is : though reality gives us the perception that the planet Earth is stationary, it is the Sun which does not move. And this exactly points to the larger realm - i.e, Truth.

So, what does this mean?

Whenever you observe things around you and form conclusions, you almost always are experiencing reality based on your learnings, assumptions, logic and rationality. You continue to assume things based on the priors "alone". This is Reality for you. Some try to escape away from this reality under the guise of 'Maya' and hush it under the carpet. Disappointment is the difference between your expectations and reality. Many restrict themselves behind the facade called 'Mythya' or 'Maya'. They do not try to understand or make efforts to explore and go and in search of - Truth. When something confounds and confuses you, you hardly make attempts to understand the meaning associated with it and the causality of the phenomenon. You are in limbo and try to come up with your own logic to explain the sequence of events. The journey of the seeker on this path is arduous and painful, but once he reaches the destination, the journey and the destination make a new Man of himselves.

It is Truth alone that liberates one from everything.  "Truth alone sets you free." These are not philosophical words but actual experiences that speak for themselves.

In the real world : We often form opinions about others based on their behavior or come to conclusions about certain actions based on the rationality that we have been endowed with since birth. Any normal or unusual occurrence of an event follows the same course of logic. We restrict our thought process to that alone. (Did someone call-out being 'judgemental'??) But the 'seeker' when he goes beyond the realms of the reality and understands the hidden truths(and lies), he *alone* knows what is happening. Knowing the "What" is followed up with the more rigorous "Why". But, the "What" itself clears many of the ambiguities present in the minds of the seeker. Truth makes the seeker understand the various actions and variables and then he indeed transcends the arena of confusion and misjudged logic.

We all are born rational, few use reasoning, but.

The seeker now knows what needs to be done based on the Truth alone and need not be restricted to limited frame of Reality.