Something’s Itching

  • Recently I read this joke, not sure where, which said that the American and Indian middle classes are feeling sad that they cannot take part in a revolution, unlike their counterparts in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and other similar place. Instead, they can only vote
  • There needs to be some sort of an antitrust law for political parties. There is currently little to distinguish between the policies of various political parties. For example, all parties favour a greater role for the government (more govt => more opportunity to make money on the side => more corruption, etc.) .
  • Given the homogeneity in the political spectrum, there is little incentive to vote. This scoundrel may be only marginally better than that scoundrel, so why bother voting. So we have this large middle class which essentially removes itself from the political process (confession: I’m 28, and I’ve never voted. When my name’s in the list I’ve not been in town, and vice versa.)
  • Now this Anna Hazare tamasha has suddenly woken up people who never bothered to vote, and who are pained with excessive corruption. So they’re all jumping behind him, knowing that this gives them the opportunity to “do something” – something other than something as bland and simple as voting.
  • Supporters of Hazare care little about the implications of what they’re asking for. “Extra constitutional bodies”? “Eminent citizens”? Magsaysay award winners? Have you heard of the National Advisory Council? You seriously think you want more such institutions?
  • The Lok Ayukta isn’t as useless an institution as some critics have pointed out. But then again, this is highly personality-dependent. So you have a good person as a “lok pal”, you can get good results. But what if the government decides to appoint a compliant scoundrel there? Have the protesters considered that?
  • Basically when you design institutions, especially government institutions, you need to take care to build it in such a way that it’s not personality-dependent. Remember that you can have at TN Seshan as Election Commissioner, but you can also have a Navin Chawla.
  • So when you go out in droves and protest, you need to be careful what you ask for. Just make sure you understand that.

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I spent this evening at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). They have this concept of “target free friday nights” where they allow visitors free entry after 4pm on Friday evenings (on Friday alone, the museum is open till 8pm), so I happily went to take advantage of it. It was already 630 by the time I got there and I had to make a pit stop at the museum cafe since I was awfully hungry, yet it allowed me more than sufficient time to inspect all that I had to inspect.

I have a confession to make. I’m not a big fan of art. It doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate art. Just that I don’t have the patience to look at a picture from several thousand angles and make several thousand interpretations and then pass judgment on it. In that sense, for me, art is not like writing, it’s more like the cinema. See it once, form judgment, maybe blog about it and move on. I’m mentioning this here because I don’t want you to form wrong impressions of my while reading this essay.

I had a bit more than an hour to cover the museum and I spent most of my time on the fifth floor, in the “paintings and sculpture 1” section. This had a fair bit of hifunda stuff, but my level of interest in art is such that apart from Picasso, I don’t remember any of the artists’ names. Even if some of these pictures were to be shown to me in some quiz some day I don’t think I’ll recognize them. Some of it was brilliant, though, and I regret not taking along my new camera (I went straight from work). I hope to make amends by taking along my camera when I visit the Metropolitan Museum tomorrow.

I found most of the work underwhelming, though. I felt that this whole idea of “sculpture” is a complete fraud, and the biggest fraud of them all is Marcel Duchamp (no, I didn’t see “fountain” but saw some of his other “artwork”). Looking at everything it felt like I too can assemble a bunch of random objects, call a bunch of brilliant friends and ask them to interpret, and I have a great piece of art! I felt similarly underwhelmed by looking at Piet Mondrion’s paintings. Just feltĀ  like a random collection of lines.

Ok so now I’ve got this fantastic idea – of “art parties”. Basically the hosts have to collect a set of random objects, or draw some random stuff on a canvas and get in a bunch of intellectual friends. Liquor should be served and under the influence of alcohol, the brilliance of the friends will flourish, and important insights about the art will be made! New interpretations will come up, new art will get formed. Then, all guests together create another piece of art, and all together will interpret it. Great art will be produced in copious amounts by this process!

I continued my way downwards through the museum. Nothing else worth of mention here was found. There was some brilliant stuff which I wanted to hang on my walls. There was mostly stuff that I considered ordinary. Oh, and I must mention that the most underwhelming stuff (in my opinion) was in this hall sponsored by Richard S Fuld Jr. Now you know why a certain company went under a year back!