I guess I haven't been very diligent in keeping up with my journal, have I? Ah well...
I have been reading the newspaper every morning however. It's always interesting. I've been chatting with the cab driver, Deva and my co-worker, Manesh as well. I've learned a few more interesting things about what's going on here.
First of all, it appears that Chennai and India as a whole has a thoroughly corrupt police force that is in cahoots with a thoroughly corrupt political system. At least that's the few of the two guys I've chatted with about it.
Deva got a nice haircut with the extra money I'd given him for a working the holiday. He laughed about the fact that the barber asked him if he was a policeman because of the style of haircut he was getting. That triggered the conversation about the police in Chennai. Deva said he'd thought about becoming a policeman. Better, steady pay. When I asked what they make he gave more details. He said they don't really think too much about their government salary of about $6k Rupees / month. It's what they get by tapping the people for fines.
Oh? Tell me more about that "system"... Deva explained that the police keep the "fines". What they're actually doing is extracting bribes from the people at 20-30 Rupees a whack for not hitting them up with a real fine. The people pay it I guess because the real fines would be in the hundreds of Rupees and who could afford that?!
The police typically get $15-20k Rupees / month this way if Deva is to be believed. I explained that this sort of thing probably goes on quite a bit in the U.S. but it isn't widely tolerated and "expected behavior" like it apparently is here. If a policeman is caught doing something like this in the U.S. he is punished by losing his job or even landing in jail himself. That was Deva's view of the U.S. He said he knew the U.S. to be a place of law. "In India, there's no Law.", he said.
I said that a "system" such as that would lead to oppression. It would tend to keep people stratified socially. It would keep the poor, poor and the rich, rich.
In the news this morning on the editorial page, there was an column about how much the U.S. spends on pet care. This year we are expected to fork out about $38.4 billion which includes $9 on food. (The rest is clothes, equipment and toys.) You need to add another $9 billion for medicines and yet another $9 billion for veterinary care. That adds up to $56 billion buckaroos, babe!
By contrast, the UN had failed to pass a resolution to spend $40 billion on humanitarian aid last year. The column was obviously stilted, slanted and trying to point out (rather rightly imho) that the US is a bit decadent.
But so are people everywhere.
I read a great quote by Mark Twain: "Facts are stubborn things. Statistics are more pliable." Yep. You can get statistics to say just about anything you want them to say. Americans spend $56 billion on pets. What does that really say? That they're decadent or that they're rich and they spend a reasonable amount of their well-earned wealth on pets that they love?
What portion of their well-earned income to do Indians spend feeding the Brahman bulls that wander the streets freely? Hmmm? They do that ya know... I've also heard it said, "There's two sides to every story and if you're not telling both sides... you're lying."
I'm of the strong opinion that people are the same everywhere. They spend their money foolishly and wisely in much the same way and in much the same proportion no matter where you go. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer no matter where you go, no matter what age you're living in. It's always been that way. Yet I think the modern age and I think especially in America, it's a little better than most places on earth. That's my humble opinion.
America is still the Land of Opportunity, Home of the Brave, Land of the Free. We're free to spend our money the way we like.
We'll, maybe the 55% of it that's left after taxes...