Saturday, 11 April 2015

Greenpeace, NGOs & WYSINWYG

Swami Gulagulaananda paraphrased Jacob Braude:
"The duck seems calm and unruffled at the outset, but paddles like crazy under water"

In the good ol' days when I was trying to learn HTML, there were a set of editors called WYSIWYG - What You See Is What You Get, where you could visually design web pages as you would write a Word document without writing a single line of code, and the final page would look as it did in the editor.

However, a majority of the times, life is not WYSIWYG (pronounced wee-see-wig). It is the opposite of that - thus WYSINWYG.

Several years ago, before Facebook (and perhaps before Orkut) became a rage, I had a chance encounter with a website called Greenpeace. I was very young and I didn't know anything about them. The page I was looking at was campaigning for turtles against an industrial conglomerate. I immediately decided to join the fight - My reasoning at that time was simple: I love animals, I know turtles are getting extinct, industrial conglomerates are evil; Greenpeace sounded like an amazing organisation, a small group of people fighting a large evil organisation. Even the name Greenpeace had a nice ring to it - Green, for the bountiful prosperity and nature that we have come to associate it with, and of course, peace, for we are all supposed to be peace-lovers...

Without even knowing anything about Greenpeace or their arch enemy, Tata & Sons (the industrial conglomerate they were against), I decided to sign their petition and join the fight. I felt very good for fighting evil. Now, however, I can easily tell that my reasoning at that time was completely immature and wrong. I have heard that youth is a period of idealism - and I think it was this idealistic notion combined with lack of knowledge and understanding compounded with immaturity that got me so wrong. It's a different story that I marked them as spam for bombarding me with newsletters.

First of all, the idea that all industrial conglomerates are evil is not necessarily correct. Second, the idea that all turtles are getting extinct is not correct. It's true that they had mentioned the species of turtle - but I hadn't bothered to check if that particular species was in the place that Tata intended to build their factory (or something) and if Tata's factories would indeed cause harm to the turtles. I also assumed that Greenpeace was a small organisation because I hadn't heard about them while everyone knows about Tata. Another mistake. However, I was very incensed at that time - I was completely convinced that an industry was destroying an entire species of unique turtles.

Let's take a look at another story that has allegedly happened in Bangalore. A lady from Delhi boarded an auto - the driver agreed to a certain rate and some time later asked for a higher rate. The lady apparently questioned this and the driver suddenly turned around and climbed up behind and started hitting her, got out of the auto, pulled her by her wrist and started beating her etc. On questioning his atrocious behaviour, he started claiming he is from Ola Cabs and that was supposed to be some kind of a threat. Eventually she called up the police and they didn't respond well, nor did the local public etc. She posted it on Social Media and immediately people reacted to it, linking and threatening Ola with poor ratings, linking Bangalore Police etc. and sharing it and making it viral. I even saw some lady from the press asking her if she wanted to publish this in the papers to increase pressure.

The beauty of this little narrative is that we immediately side with the lady without knowing facts on the ground. We don't know what happened in reality and if what she claims is even true. We are inclined to agree with the lady because auto drivers have a history of being a rude lot, the police are believed to be insensitive to the plight of the general public and that there is a strong inclination to believe "victims" - everyone loves the underdog and this is especially true if the victim is a lady. Have you ever stopped to wonder if this lady is partially telling the truth? For instance, I don't see why Ola Cabs is supposed to be a threat - it's just another company that provide cabs. It doesn't even make sense for him to say it. Secondly, just saying, "You are reneging on our earlier agreement" resulted in the man becoming that violent also sounds sketchy to me.

In fact, I believe there is a lot of omission of details here - She might have been beaten up and this is no way a justification of his actions. Also, perhaps her narrative is 100% true. What I am questioning here is our reactions to such stories. We immediately take sides and don't do a thorough investigation before choosing sides. This is a huge blunder because if pictures are painted in a certain fashion, it is very easy to sway public opinion.

This is very well understood by countries such as the US. Now imagine a situation - India starts to realise that there is severe power shortage and decides to put up a nuclear power plant. If India gets more power, it can result in boosting of industries. This will result in less dependence on imports, thereby resulting in strengthening of the nation. On the other hand, this will hit the exports of other countries who are generating revenue from us. Assume a group of locals are paid a lot of money by a foreign country to organise protests. They start holding placards, shout out slogans and send out email newsletters to "educate" the masses. The media (presstitutes) are known to be heavily biased (allegedly :P) towards people who pay more money and they immediately start to cover this. Ordinary people now start believing that there is going to be destruction of natural treasures, forests, death of animals, possibility of radiation leakages etc. By repeatedly showing these telecasts, we start thinking that the govt. is indeed working towards some self-annihilation. "Use renewable sources of energy instead!", people say. Have we done enough research to compare costs and output and compare it with need? Have we taken time to build into consideration? We simply blurt out suggestions without applying deep thought. Considering the entire movement is spearheaded by a lovely organisation like Greenpeace, you probably might begin to have more faith in all this. The more the protests, the slower the development and you know what can happen. At the outset, we do not see any connection between a foreign country and people protesting...

There is also this other post that talks about the indifference of Jet Airways after their plane was made to land in Muscat instead of Dubai due to sandstorm - The narrative talks against the crew and paints a beautiful picture of gross indifference and apathy. People are writing comments supporting the writer without knowing full facts. Just because you are not privy to all details doesn't make you an expert on the matter.

To summarise, it's extremely important to analyse and research every single article or news item that we come across before taking sides. We shouldn't take them at face value. If the media was truly unbiased, perhaps, this would not have been necessary. They are clearly biased and they take sides. This is one of the main reasons why I hate Times Of India's "Times View" - They shouldn't have views - they should just report information (White Hat) in an unbiased manner. By carefully omitting certain details and portraying half-truths, it is possible to swing public opinions in certain directions. This is why videos like Deepika Padukone's dumb "My Choice" video was hailed by some - they truly believe that women are given second class status and that the video is a true reflection of what needs to happen. This is especially true when media depicts "minority" religions getting stamped on. It's a load of balderdash when you do more research.

Analyse everything and don't take things as they seem... For the duck seems calm and unruffled at the outset, but paddles like crazy under water

Comments from Facebook:

  • Bhargava Aswathanarayan Soopar Writing. As for these thugs, you should read the suspension order (Available here In one of the audits, starting balance (from foreign funds) was mentioned as NIL while it actually was 6.6 crores. When questioned, the thugs said it was a typo...yes TYPO
    Apparently a drone was used for filming in Mahan forest without prior permission from the defence ministry. This is not a trivial matter..its a threat to our national security. What stops them from doing shit like these in the future ?
    Its not for nothing that these thugs have been called out in places like Canada and South-Korea. Its high time we weed out these pests
    4 hrs · Edited · Like
  • Bhavana Rangaraj Yes correct!!! I had a bad experience with Greenpeace.. I had donated 3000 rupees once as their annual donation.. The guy came to my office , made me sign forms and also took card details.. I should have not shared details but I was naive.. They continuously cut money from my account for 3 months, I happen to neglect second thinking they cut for next annual fee.. Its when they cut 3rd month I changed my cars details and emailed them for refund.. No one bothered and then after almost a year they started calling me and telling they can repay and all that.. They are big fraud
    2 hrs · Like
  • Aditya Kiran You should start making podcasts 
  • Nikhil Baliga That's not a bad idea  maybe I will. Thanks maga
  • Goutham Kamath Or start a website which only publishes unbiased true story. Will research hot trending topics and try to establish the true story and keep updating. It will be one stop for anyone to get real story of any topics. It is hard to research on any topics these days especially if you are remote. I am not sure if there is one. Nice writing btw and your story telling aligns with that of Malcom Gladwell 

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