Plight of us lovely huggers amongst the aloof…

We love Thanksgiving. We cook everything. But we’re still learning many things about the American culture. Back home everyone likes to hug and kiss on the cheek. It communicates that you care about someone. But here it is different. My friend tried to give me a Thanksgiving handshake at the gym today. But I went in for a Thanksgiving hug. And he only gave me a Thanksgiving half-hug. A few months ago I was called into Human Resources, and they said: ‘Mr. Mauricio, no more hugging at the office. It is making people uncomfortable.’

— Mr. Mauricio, in ‘Humans of New York

P.S.: I’m a big time hugger. The British around me are definitely not. I’m available for hugs.

Laws, institutions, and republics

Pompey the Great would snap at magistrates who challenged him: “Cease quoting laws to those of us with swords.”

Eventually all pretense of civility was dropped and Rome was engulfed by a series of destructive civil wars that destroyed the republic once and for all.

— The Washington Post, in Perspective | This is how republics end

The power balance – India v Facebook

Even officials in India, a major power, struggled to get the company to listen. Indian pressure on Facebook, however, has dropped since the arrival of new government leaders who rose, in part, on a Hindu nationalist wave still prevalent on social media.

NYT: With Alex Jones, Facebook’s Worst Demons Abroad Begin to Come Home

Culture of Relativism

Mandela was prepared to break ranks with his fellow African leaders and condemn oppression. He did not indulge the ruinous culture of relativism and solidarity that had led to so many abuses in Africa passing unrebuked.

—Alec Russell, in ‘After Mandela


I love the term ‘Culture of relativism’. It’s a much better name for what’s come to be known as ‘whataboutery’ in the social media age.

Culture of relativism is also something that’s made a strong comeback in the era of social media empowered populism across the globe.

Welcome to the UK…

They were initially bemused by the complexity of bus timetables, bin collections and—most of all—by the changeable weather. “In our country, when it’s summer, it’s summer,” says Ziead Alsaouah, Mr Batak’s son-in-law.

—The Economist | After the exodus


I had a very similar reaction to the weather when I moved here 8 years ago.

North India, where I spent the first 24 years of my life, has a very predictable weather. When it’s summer, it’s hot and dry for months on end. When it’s the rain season, it’s raining almost every day for a month. And when winter arrives, it’s bitterly cold, mostly dry, and frequently foggy (recently smoggy) for months on end.

Contrast that to the weather here on the island – it’s common to have at least two seasons in a day. Three’s not uncommon either. We had two months of constant dry, warm summers this year, and it’s already caused a mild panic. If we get a week of snow in the winter, news bulletins are full of ‘snowcalypse’ references.

It’s unsettling, at least initially, for people coming from places with stable, ‘continental’ weather patterns. Where culture, life, traditions, activities are based on the season, what do we do when the seasons just aren’t anymore?

Continue reading Welcome to the UK…

Friendship, intimacy, commerce, and the West

In the East, I’ve heard it said, there’s intimacy without friendship; in the West, there’s friendship without intimacy.

Karan Mahajan, in The New Yorker

Continue reading Friendship, intimacy, commerce, and the West