Friday, February 17, 2012

The New World Order

I am currently enrolled in a class called International Business Fellows. This class has a mix of MBA's, students from the law school, the school of public affairs, middle eastern studies and foreign policy. Each week we discuss current international affairs topics and we have super renowed speakers, ex militia, [ 2 weeks ago, the head of the national security and advisor to the President of the United States, a retd Admiral spoke to us. ] I love this class even though it goes 3 hours. One of our assignments is to write a 4 page paper each week on the topics we discussed. I love this class and find that I am learning so much that I will occasionally put up my papers [ condensed, removing speaker references and external opinions and just leaving mine ] for posterity and for me to come back to years from now. The topic of this paper was to critique the theories of International politics and come up with a world order, if possible. I got an A for this paper :) 

"This week the topic under consideration is the new world order and how the international community should interact and also how the US should feature in the new scheme of things.
I found this class particularly interesting – firstly because it taught me many new concepts and made me think about things I would usually not consider. I will briefly touch upon topics like ‘Wilsonianism’ and ‘Global Zero’ which are concepts I spent time understanding even after the class was over.

In thinking of the new world and how dynamics of international policy will, or should evolve in this century, it is important to first consider the unit of importance and Prof. touched on this as well- Is it the country that matters? Civilizations? Non-public actors? Geographical boundaries? Who and what should be accountable to whom? Determining this ‘hierarchy’ in the system would enable us to find a starting point in International politics, since it is the ‘system’ that provides incentives for human economic and political behavior. I think I would uphold countries as the sovereign entity as a ‘unit’ in the system – only because it would make the most sense in a political, social and economic context.

The readings speak of different theories of world dynamics. While I agree with some aspects of all of them, I could not bring myself to wholly commit to any one school of thought. For instance, while I do believe that world politics is driven by competitive self-interest which is a part of the theory of realists, I also think that in today’s converging economic and political situation we would evolve a better world if nations behaved not only in their own, but also in global interest. In short, realists believe that mankind’s basic nature is not to behave in an ethical and benevolent manner always, but is rather driven by an aggressive, competitive spirit.  I agree in part, but at the same time, there is a part of me who is an idealist who believes that man can be trusted to be good, and do good, unless provoked otherwise.

This is where the ‘security dilemma’ that the Prof. speaks of comes into play. The perception of power (actual or perceived) can upset political and trade balance between countries.  Breaking this example down into easy to understand terms I believe idealism will work until there is a perception of balance of power and the existence of an ethical and fair playing ground. So long as everyone trusts everyone else and is given no reason to think otherwise, free trade, market liberalization, political goodwill will exist, which will breakdown the minute there is a disruption in the balance of power. Therefore, I am wary of both theories, but probably argue that components of both would work in different circumstances.

In todays converging world of increasing global context where countries are wound together economically, politically, where no one part of the world can be buffered by goings’on in another part of the world, I think liberalism is definitely imperative to further impetus to world growth. I agree with three main policies of liberalism – the support of democracy to emerge globally, free trade, liberal economies and politics. Democracy is inherently a people’s system – and therefore probably more peace promoting than other political system. I have mixed feelings about the interventionist policy that liberalism promotes – of more powerful sovereign states interfering in the domestic affairs of other smaller sovereign states in order to pursue liberalist objectives.

On the same lines, thinking about China’s foreign policy as stated in the readings which says that Beijing argued that national governments should be the sole legitimate users of force within their boundaries. Even to this day, if we look at Chinese investments in politically and economicaly unstable Africa, they’re solely driven by energy and other economically driven objectives. China does not expect to exert any political will on Africa, nor does it hold Africa to any standards of imposing political stability in its own country. In other words, it’s not being the moral policeman that the west would try to be with developing countries. A few years ago when the US was not reeling in economic debt, and had the option to, it opted out of investing in Africa citing stability as an issue. China had no such moral concerns, and it continues wide scale investment as well as deeper penetration and (in my opinion) exploitation of Africa.

Which segways nicely into the new emerging world order – the rise of the east. I recently read both Friedman books – The world is flat, as well as ‘The way we used to be’ and I firmly believe that both capture in essence, what’s happening today, and why.

The end of the cold war freed up 2 billion new consumers for America – but on the flip side, it created new competitors. New countries which saw the American life, and with their new open markets and technological exchange learned to make things better and faster and cheaper while America was playing the part of ‘Too big to fail’. The reading where we exploit the myth of American exceptionalism was extremely accurate in my opinion, where one of the biggest mistakes America has made is thinking it does not have to work as hard as other countries to stay competitive stay innovative and that its power is permanent. Complacency has been the downfall of the west – with emerging markets fighting hard to stimulate their economy and evolve into serious competitors.

Today we live in a world where nothing and no country is too big to fail. We’re inheriting a world of debt and crisis and it is truly the survival of the fittest. Look at the Eurozone – once hailed a brilliant master move to promote free trade and create a new superpower almost, we see how just bringing currencies into one euro has led to the breakdown of this new system. The imbalance in debt and economic policies between member countries has led to the disintegration of all things good about this system in the first place.

A few decades ago, jobs all moved east – to China, India. Now we see jobs moving centrally – to Africa – at some point in this century or the next, we will be saturated – no country will have competitive advantage over the other in terms of manufacturing with the scarcity of resources making things equally expensive. I believe we will reach a point in time where most of the population of the world’s poor will move into the middle class, and no country will have competitive advantage of having a burgeoning middle class to offer as consumers to woo bigger companies to invest in FDI’s. At that point, I think the world order and the balance of power will lie with the countries willing to be tough, aggressive, inflective, competitive, and innovative. It will lie with the countries willing to continuously strive to be better than itself and not believe in its established credentials.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

No matter what I do

I wore my knee high boots for almost 6 hours today. What a joyous day it was, strutting around in shoes I KNOW people were checking out. Hellyeh! It was great to wear them to school since the moment I was reaching a point of excruciating pain, I had a class and was seated 1.5 hours to balance out the ache. By the time class got done my feet could take another 10-15 mins of walking.

On other note, tomorrow is Valentines day. Every single persons nightmare? No, really. My facebook wall is full of all the single people poking fun of valentines, how ridiculous it is, how everyone's getting married and they're getting awesome and all that jazz. We learnt a lesson very early in life - sour grapes. Its easy to pretend to not want something when you dont have it already but most of your friend list does. It's in bad humor to belittle their day. Really? do you really NOT want a guy / girl to surprise you with something absolutely fantastic and shower you with love and affection?! You say yes, and Im King Kong.

I got home to a package on my front door and a few seconds of gushing who it could be and what not I realized it was for my roommate - she's married. I thought it was absolutely adorable of her husband [ long distance ] we had a brief conversation about that and she was all happy and said 'he shouldnt have' to which i said 'of course he SHOULD'VE!' Social cliches aside, like it or lump it, you cannot ignore this day. I'm irritated with people on my facebook being frumpy and groaning about how it is a media gimmick, sales pitch and what not.

It is! I agree! But maybe, MAYBE, a congregation of women got together in the 1700's and realized that men are such fools that they need to create a day to impose societal pressure on men to acknowledge and appreciate women. If not, men would'nt ever feel the need to! This is a great thing! and social cliches are fantastic. they're every unimaginative man's best answer.

Think of your boyfriend being madly in love with you, but just being a complete NUMBNUT when it comes to expressing himself. If he were to choose a complete romantic cliche and propose in a basketball game, or with letters flying across a plane or hide a ring in your wine glass, it wouldn't be the worst, would it? I'd go so far as to say that men need to collude and make an encyclopedia of 'how to's' to refer in dire straits.

I love valentines day. I love having a day where you can unabashedly receive flowers at your workplace and walk around dreamy have a date in the evening or receive a gift in the mail... not that any of these things has happened to me BUT i like them nonetheless.
How am I celebrating it you ask? I'm going to my girl Anne's house and we're hanging out - 25 of us single folks who have 'plans' for the evening of feb 14th - lest anyone ask. We'll have wine and cheese and desert, and mostly, good company. Sounds perfect to me!

And oh, shout out to my boy Nelly and my all time favorite song he ever sang - Dilemma.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The price of high fashion? Two painful toes.

I'm off to Turkey in 3 weeks. After spending last years spring break at home, being broke I decided this time I'll starve if I need to, but I'm going somewhere. Turkey was a great choice at the time since I have some really good Turkish friends living in Istanbul [ they were exchange students at school for a semester ] - and I wont incur hotel expenses. I'll also get to see Turkey from the eyes of a local, which in my opinion, opens up a depth in a place which is not visible to the tourist eye.

Thanks to political instability and civilian violence in Egypt and Athens, my grand plans of visiting either / both places are now paused. I will most likely be restricted to places within Turkey only. I'm not sad, but realigning expectations when you dream of a Turkey + Egypt + Athens triple bonanza reduced to one place only it is definitely a let down. Rant out of the way, I feel better now.

On other irrelevant news, I broke in my bigblackboots today. They're these gorgeous 4 inch knee high painful monstrosities which make my legs look like they actually belong to Lara Croft. The only problem being, as is the case with all things sexy and fashionable, they come at a price - pain. While I carefully chose slanted wedge heels to give a heel-ish appearance without the clunkiness that wedges lend to shoes, they're still pretty painful to walk in. Therefore, as with my standard operating procedure with most things I buy on a whim and then never wear, I would often prance around the house in them for a few minutes, longingly will for them to magically get more comfortable and then, never wear them outside.
TODAY, I had to go get groceries - and i knew I needed just about 7-8 things. which meant not much walking around. I decided to 'break in' my new boots.

Armed with a spare pair of flats in my bag, 4 inch knee high boots, I did my grocery. I dint look much out of place because a) it was -2c outside today b) they're not stilettos. Outcome? yeh, they're painful BUT not un-wearable. I felt confident, sassy and probably sexier than I actually am. Funny how much a pair of shoes can change your mood!

Why is this a big deal? Thing is, I undermine myself sometimes. I'm too comfortable being comfortable that I wear only painless, flowy stuff while sometimes wishing I'd be sexy or pretty or other ridiculous things like that. While I am a very confident outgoing person, I do have the ability to self deprecate sometimes just because i spent so much of my life being a tomboy and doing the opposite of girly things. I remember wearing loose anti fit pants, socks with floaters, with superduperobscenely short hair, no earrings, no make up, no pink, no red. Therefore, although its been over 5 years since I grew my hair, I still have the tendency to think I'm still boyish, or that something sexy would look strange on me.

Last weekend we went out to Carnaval Brasiliero - in Austin. I had this one black dress in my closet since 2 years but never wore it cause it was a little too 'sexy' for me by which I mean it had a little cleavage, short and hugged the body. I got coaxed into wearing it that night and while I spent the first few hours that evening hiding behind my kitchen counter and covering up with my red coat [ which turned out to be longer than the dress and when I buttoned up the coat it looked like I was on stripper duty #FML! ] BUT, i gotta say, I felt great! By the time we got to Carnaval, and seeing the amount of nudity there, I realized I was overdressed. and had a fabulous time. And promptly got sick for the last two weeks.

Every so often we cut ourselves short. We undermine who we are, and what we can be. We stand in the way of our own horizon and our own progress. The more I think about it, the more I realize that often, our own insecurities are the sole cause of failed relationships, appearance related opinions, work performance.. thing is, we're our own greatest advocate. The more you believe in you, the more your boyfriend, boss, best friend, or dog will believe in you. The single worst thing I see friends around me doing is looking for validation from an external source - appearance related validation is most often the honor of boys - the often verbally and emotionally underdeveloped sex [ you see why this is a bad idea? ] good person related validation comes from people ONLY saying nice things about you [ this is a myth. Even if you are the NICEST thing that happened to mankind since sliced bread, believe you me there will be someone who hates you, the sooner you deal with it, the better ].. I could go on.

So how bout tomorrow, we all wake up, I'll do my thing and wear my sassy boots and be sexy and pretend I look great in jeggings, and anyone reading this thinks of the one thing they keep downplaying about themselves and decide to think differently? One step at a time!

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Last night I watched Zindagi na milegi dobara with a friend from school - white American. She's truly a fantastic person - very culturally sensitive, fun to be with, adorable. She also loves everything Indian and owns about 40 DVD's of movies even I haven't watched. I bought her a saree from India and we spent a few tries teaching her to drape her own saree. I had so much fun!

More importantly, as we spoke about life, and boys and graduating, I realized that no matter which part of the world you come from, or which culture you're brought up in, people have very similar insecurities and basic expectations from life. She asked me if my parents would be ok if I were to marry a white boy - I genuinely believe my parents would be open to any boy, so long as he is smart, ambitious, loving and respectful. HOWEVER, I do feel that an American boy would have to jump through more hoops and hurdles to prove to (me &) my parents that he is genuinely interested in spending his life with me and takes commitment seriously. I call this the Bold and Beautiful fall out - where incest, short casual marriages and adultery almost feels like the way of American life.

In reality, all the American classmates I have interacted with seem to want a happy stable married life with a man who will make a grand gesture of love.. a lot of my classmates are married already [ They think I'm an exceptional Indian girl whose not married ] Course, hook ups., one night stands and drunk escapades are also a way of life, but given conversations with a few of them right after a hook up, they're always hoping that it converts into an 'AHA' moment for the guy where he goes home, cant get them out of his head, calls back, asks her out and they live happily ever after. Seldom does that happen. I truly believe that if you meet a guy at a bar, take him home and let him hit a home run on the first time [ you've met 3 hours ago ] he's going to feel like he has nothing to conquer!

Truth be told, every guy wants that 'good girl' who will play hard to get, who hasn't been around much, who makes him work hard. I know a girl in school who is ridiculously pretty, adorable, and has half the school in love with her. She also is drunk I go to. She's been seen randomly hooking up with different boys - from the first and second year on many many occasions. Recently, we both were just chatting in school, and she was telling me about how she liked a boy but he isn't taking her seriously.. he's just hooking up. 'Why wont he take me seriously?' she asked me - REALLY? that's a rhetoric question she doesn't want to answer herself.

I hate when we get so caught up in self pity that we fail to see ourselves and our behavior objectively. People will judge us based on what we project of ourselves, and if you hang around a boy taking all the shit he throws at you, you will be his doormat! If you get drunk at each party and stumble home and are ok hooking up randomly, he will think you're easy. If you want the guy to know what a nice, sensible, intelligent and affable person you are, BE THAT WAY!

Friday, February 10, 2012

That one heartbreak

Contrary to many posts about me ranting about being single and sometimes craving stability I have come to the conclusion that settling down is not what I want, this very instant. It's that I want to know that it will happen, that romantic story of the perfect guy who will consume my every thought and to who I will want to belong, desperately and entirely.. I just want to not believe in the Indian adage of 'there are no nice guys post 28' or I'm 'overqualified' for great guys in the arranged marriage pool because of my work experience and MBA. I just want to know that it will happen. At some point when I want it to.

Which means I'm more than happy to enjoy being single in the meantime. MORE than happy. The past few months have been a 'coming out' of sorts for me. I got out of a perfectly nice relationship just because it wasn't tugging at my heart strings - this is a great guy and a fantastic friend, but at some point I felt like we were it because there wasn't a reason not to be.. and that's not good enough. For me, or him. I almost feel like the relationship before this was the same way - it ended way later than it should have. Was I just afraid of being single? The more I think about it, the more I believe I was. Through my life I've always had an emotional anchor - someone I outsource my craziness to, my stupid crying at ridiculous romantic movies, always had a 'go-to' person as company to my insane spontaneous ideas of jumping off a plane. While I have some of the bestest set of girl friends (yes, we actually like each other) there is a different camaraderie and chemistry with guys. They're as daring, challenging and stimulated as I can be sometimes, without the hassle of worrying about dresses and hormones. In short, easier to be with. So, imagining being myself without this 'anchor' probably scared me into dating sincere, really nice guys who I wasn't in love with really. That's a bad move.

Not only have I cheated myself out of what could have been a few super fun years and bogged myself down to relationship(s) which I really shouldn't have, I probably hurt the boy (s) way more who actually fell in love with me and envisioned a life with me before I bolted. Ah, well I guess 28 is as good a year as any to realize some of the things I've done wrong.

I remember being in love with that best friend for years... I remember how painful it was, that dull ache in my stomach when he'd say another girls name, that quickening heartbeat when he'd say 'I love you' to me, and mean it, only as a bestfriendforever and how in my mind I would add a jingle and sparkle to it as though he's coming around. I remember being consumed by wanting to spend each moment with him and not tiring of looking out for him and trying to make life easier for him each and every day - I could do it back then. I could give off myself, and be vulnerable and let each and every pore in my body be involved in one emotion - of longing, belonging and letting go. I had it in me.. and then I lost it.

When things went downhill with us, I shut myself off.. realized that its too risky to give all of you to one person, that that knowledge can make the other person very powerful, in ways you don't want them to be. He used his power. He used exactly the words and actions and people in my life that he knew would leave permanent marks on my heart. I know he knew it. He knew exactly how to hug me and make me love him again, and exactly how to sidle up to my best friend to see that hurt in my eye he enjoyed so much.

Its strange, right? Ego makes a man do unimaginable things. I can only imagine how enjoyable it is to look into someones eyes and see desperate longing, love, jealousy, hurt, pining and restraint - all for you. It's one hell of a kick. At B school we learn that money makes the world go round - I respectfully disagree. Its Power. It's enjoying that 'hold' you have over someone, something.. it's knowing that you have the strings.

Last Sunday night as I watched a movie, and after a long conversation with a girlfriend at a hippie coffee shop where I swear I smelled weed, I came to the realization that this past experience has made me exactly what I hoped I'd never be - that person always wanting to be in control. I don't think I ever let go, loved or let anyone else have me. It's almost like I'm as afraid of someone falling in love with me as I am doing the same. In the last few years whenever I have had it said to me, it invariably that moment from when my relationship goes downhill. Am I just too scared to know that once the other person has crossed the line into 'love' I should too, do the same? Have I ever said I love you back without feeling it completely? In hindsight, I have.

How does this impact me now? I've realized that my first few interactions with ANY guy will be in combat mode. I will crack (smart) jokes and go out of my way to prove how comfortable I am in my own skin, how unspecial this new guy is to me, and how I am not impressed by silly tricks and cheap dinners and cliches. I'd even go as far to say that the more I am genuinely interested in a guy, the more I will go out of my way to make him feel as though he doesnt make a difference to my life. [ My point being if he's really THE ONE he will fight all obstacles I put forth and make a valiant effort to stand out as 'not one of those guys'. yeh, I know, wishful thinking ] While all of the above is true, I am a very fun loving, independent person whose always surrounded by friends, I NEVER come across as the sweet, gentle, docile, vulnerable girl who bats her eyelashes at guys. I'm VERY hard to get, and I don't like silly boys who beat around the bush. This narrows the pool of boys I'm interested in to nearly ZERO.

So what was the point of this post? Just to acknowledge formally how much baggage I carry with me still, and how things so far back in the past seem so near, so recent. How that girl who gave her all is now that girl who holds it all back.