Monday, July 31, 2017

A Visit to a Village Fair

All across India are temples of the Almighty recognized in various names and forms, the most prominent of all being the Lord of The Universe named as Shiva. For worship, Shiva is recognized in diverse forms ranging from the formless infinite to various symbols and the human form known as Shiva Shankar. Yesterday I wrote a small note on Shiva Shankar and a spiritual mantra associated with him. It can be found in a companion blog here:

In the Hindu lunar month of Sawan that falls around the monsoon month of July every year, the Lord Shiv Shankar is especially worshiped on Mondays regarded, the favorite of the Lord known as Shiva. In this month, a fair is organized near Shiva temples across villages and towns of India. Although I rarely visit temples, being content to pray to the Lord in my heart, home or indeed anywhere, especially secluded natural green forests and mountains where the Lord may be most easily accessed, I do make it a point of visiting the fair that comes once a year. And today being Monday, I made a visit to one near my home in the morning.

The fair has street food, various merry go rounds etc. for the kids and a number of street shops selling an assorted variety of goods needed in a home. This last is what interest me most. Here one can find the same items one would in a large store at one fifth or even less in price. These traveling salesman manage to collect factory surpluses etc. at throw away prices from across the land to sell here. Moreover they have no overhead costs or taxes to pay like shop keepers. I had not taken a camera or phone with me to the fair but took a picture of the stuff I purchased today on return after laying it out on the kitchen table as shown in the picture. It was all for less than ten dollars and in the stores the same would have cost easily around a fifty or even a hundred dollars.

A set of six fine bone china mugs were for less than two dollars as were the laced table cloths I bought for the kitchen table. I have several other sets of mugs at home but they keep breaking. One of the table cloths has been spread out on the table for the picture. It is not real handmade lace but a synthetic machine one which is good for the rough use we put the kitchen table to. There were picture frames and a carry bag in an attractive design and so on.

On the way down to the fair I saw a poignant scene. It was a very old man on a wheel chair from the lower middle class type background being pushed on the roadside to the fair by an equally old wife. The old man too pushed furiously on the wheels with his hands perhaps to hurry or perhaps to help out his old wife. I remarked to the auto rickshaw man that it is sad that in this age it is rare for old folk to get help from children busy with their own lives and he agreed fully adding that it is indeed rare now and a dark cloud of selfishness hangs over the world. I overheard the old man say later when I got down from the rickshaw that it might be the last Monday and they must visit the temple of the Lord. Truly the Lord is the only solace of those left bereft of help by family and society.

I thanked the Lord for all he provides with ease, without asking, on my return from the fair, and uttered his spiritual mantra

Jai Shiv Shankar.

Note: To share the experience of joy that prevails on a visit to a Shiva temple see this song and dance outside  a Shiva temple on YouTube: 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

How humans may be losing Freedom of Speech, Time and Money on Some Social Media

Text on The Lamentation over the Dead Christ. Tempera on canvas

Information and news is what humans base many of their actions on. The worst possible human atrocities may be taking place in your town not very far from where you live but if you do not hear of it at all then nothing can be done. In authoritarian countries, flow of information and freedom of speech is carefully controlled by the ruler. However modern democracies pride themselves on freedom of speech. It is necessary in democracies so that people may express their opinions to frame policies that influence their lives as also make to the best possible choices in selecting representatives at time of elections. However even in some of leading democracies media is not totally free, it may have corporate owners who have their own interests to maintain and grow their fortunes.

Against this backdrop, the internet has offered a valuable place to seven billion humans on earth to share information and services like google have made a great contribution to this. A prominent place where humans share news and opinions is social media of which perhaps facebook and twitter are the most popular ones at the present time.

However, the powers that wish to control and exploit humanity have not given up. They too are ever devising new ways to conquer this threat and some of these new ways are not honorable. One of them is stealth banning. You can read about it on Wikipedia here.

Through stealth banning or shadow banning method, if you post something on some social media, it will appear on your wall and timeline but not on homepages of followers. Few will see it and you may as well shout in the wilderness. The associated software may let a little slip through so that you remain blissfully unawares for long, even years. In case the odd post of yours is shared, the software would ensure that shared posts become similarly invisible to other users.

Social media companies are private companies and they have a full right to what is posted on web pages they host. However when this is done through an open and transparent policy it may be fully legal and ethical even though you may disagree with their policy. On the other hand, when it is done through stealth it is unethical, deception and may even amount to illegal fraud through which users waste their time and money because of the deception.

Recently in the US elections, during the primaries to select their nominee, the Democratic Party used methods in favor of one of the two candidates in the race. Many millions have objected to that. Some have gone to court feeling cheated. The Party on the other hand says that they are within their rights to choose any candidate they want by most any method. They may be right. It is an internal party process and anyone can make a political party with a different agenda or method if they like. However, what is wrong is that they kept millions under the illusion that a fair contest was taking place. Many donated money to the candidate of their choice and spent valuable hours in his support (Bernie Sanders) while if the outcome had already been pre-decided by the party they got fraudulently cheated out of their time and money.

The same sort of logic may apply to social media that carries out stealth banning of users.