Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Art of Dying - ....(an economics fairly tale).

An article in The Economist stomped the government in Zimbabwe on its economic policies. In the wake of its destruction, a closed factory that was making Dettol and beer companies that said “this bud’s not for you”. Now the hapless citizen has to drink homemade brews instead of aluminium can beer. Ideology apart - who the hell needs Dettol or beer from somewhere, to lead a fulfilled life. The guy under the Bodhi tree had neither, and look what happened. (others did in more challenging locations...but that’s a side lane to this plot).

The refrain amongst political parties and, indeed, most Indian educated is exactly the same. Why do we need all these * ****** ? ***** list of candidates include Coke, MacDonald’s, WalMart, Hollywood movies, English language...and many other things. In fact we often learn this after a multiplex Hollywood movie at MacDonald’s over a Coke and Spicy Burger in English. The trigger may be the expensive ticket, charged by the Indian owner and taxed humungously by the local government, that results in “see how they are looting us and killing our culture” reactions.  We didn’t know that someone had held a guy to the speaker’s head to go the movie……(but you cleverly deciphered that part). “Entertainment” is philosophically frowned upon.. its a luxury, that’s why its so heavily taxed. The country needs serious people.

Lets accept we don’t need all those products and services. So what do we need to live? Food and water. Clothes aren’t necessary. There isn’t any main street with latest trends in the Amazon. Google’s revenue model may struggle there.

Constant availability of food, and the struggle to ensure it, resulted in agriculture. Instead of expeditions everyday to find food, it’d just outside the sleeping place (no...not office, home). In fact “it’d be easier to live together and grow food” was the vote-on-feet referendum without media influence around the globe..

Even with all this - people were dying mysteriously. Cashing in on the mysteries were the mystics aka religion equivalent guys who know everything there is to know. Nowadays we call them management consultants. Till some bloke called Hippocrates reduced the felony counts on the god domain. To cut a long story short, people live longer because its safer to eat and drink water and combat other species who end up killing us, in their quest for living happily after. The bacteria and virus kind - real virus, not the computer kind. We haven’t reached the “save the virus” stage yet on those species, so for now they’re against us and not with us.

The quality of health care is closely linked to the spread of knowledge (think printing press so its captured forever), travel (so the globe can now pool in knowledge) and speed (our lovely 21st net era, at least us rich folks). So the real glitch is knowledge poverty - because of which we die young before we fully realized our potential as, say,  a rapper.

The knowledge doesn’t come free. It needs education - the toolkit to assimilate knowledge. That we each generation doesn’t have to learn about fire from….er….scratch.

So we don’t need Dettol and the Spicy Mac, but we need education to help us live longer. We’ll leave out entertainment from this list for now. Who says entertainment has to be paid for? You can watch your local politician, in person, for free.

Science, as a means of predictable knowledge, has a very high failure rate in its quest to discover predictable. 99% if Edison is to be believed, 99.99 % if Pharma companies are to be believed (1 product in market for 10,000 investigate). And 99.9999% (1 in a million) according to reliable social media, if you’re hoping to take that nice girl next door out for dinner tonight.

So we don’t need resources, we need huge resources to figure out the science of living healthily longer and without entertainment. Entertainment is not equal to happiness (please go to

Unfortunately, all this resource gathering stuff has spun off into the gigantic global economy that we now have. Please don’t knock this. Massive changes happen in life are triggered by such trivial matters. A global leader in lighting engineering discovered use of manipulating light frequencies as he wanted his secretary’s lipstick to be seen properly at work.

The life where we discover that most people on this planet agree with our views, viz., everyone else is killing our culture. An Amazonian researcher (he lived there for nearly three decades) says that community size is around 15, and everyone mistrusts each other. But they don’t have to drive to work in this traffic and watch powerpoints in the board room, so their children can earn the right to do the same. They must be happier.

People now routinely live about three times as long as  they used to about 125 years ago. The focus of public health studies have expanded from battling disease to postponing how we die of old age.  To some this is progress. To others it isn’t.

So the philosophical choice isn’t about some crappy movie and the popcorn on the one hand, and our culture on the other. (there won’t be much culture going around if no one recorded it)..

Its more like “do you want to live longer?”. The art of dying.

A key to living longer is approaching life like a team sport.  Who says you gotta join a team? As they say on TV, “The choice is yours”. (Just pretend I have a baritone, a nice suit and a raised eyebrow).