Image from Dan Hodges blog on

When I read this news the first time, I read it with little discomfort. I realized there is nothing much I can do to change it so it didn’t bother me. Till I read it again this morning when it appeared on my feed. This time I read it while I was reading the recent debate going on between Sen-Bhagwati, here’s a good piece to get updated on whats happened so far. In a nutshell its about two views on India’s economic reform policy from two leading economists. Amartya Sen’s view is more investment in social infrastructure boosts the productivity of a nations people and thereby raises growth, Bhagwati on the other hand views that only a focus on growth can yield enough resources for investing in social sector schemes. Both may disagree on what is more important but it cant be denied that Sen weds his conception of enhancing the poor’s capabilities to the presence and expansion of capitalist markets. Lets leave this thought for a moment, and come back to why the gmail news bothered me today.

I adopted gmail because it was free (well not really, but you know what I mean), new and the invite was a birthday gift in 2004. So I dropped all previous email clients, (yahoo, rediffmail, hotmail) and moved lock stock and barrel to gmail. The adoption came easy, everyone who was internet savvy at the time had a gmail address. I joined in the exclusive category, even offered to forward invites when I was bestowed with them to my select few. This modus operandi can be applied to adoption of other free internet based platforms to meet various social needs, to name a few: facebook, orkut, twitter etc. Disguised as free these are all fruits of capitalism. They are funded by venture capitalists, though they may have been started by young innovators in their dorm rooms initially but they all have very deep pockets behind them that want them to make their pockets deeper. In our society today, capitalism defines every aspect of our social being and that applies profoundly to the internet. In fact this gmail news was a huge reality check of sorts and that bothered me.

I, like many others am interested in social change and social good. I like many others have seen the potential benefits of technology in changing power dynamics for the better. Not naive about it, I have also been aware of the negative implications. But at the same time the crude capitalistic undertones had not become more obvious than now [partly because am slow :)]. But the complete unfazed profit motive of today’s corporates is a matter of both grave concern not just for those online but those offline as well. When Herbert Marcuse wrote in his 1964 book One-Dimensional Man: “The traditional notion of the ‘neutrality’ of technology can no longer be maintained. Technology as such cannot be isolated from the use to which it is put; the technological society is a system of domination which operates already in the concept and construction of techniques.”

As I ranted in my other post, “The effects of a technology are a product of the interaction of its components with other components, where each component has a purpose and is a technology in itself.” the Internet and the companies that provide services on it are shaped by how we as society opt to develop them. When we as a society are driven by our capitalist, profit driven agenda then it is no wonder that the Internet itself becomes a capitalist’s ultimate tool. So whether one agrees with Sen or Bhagwati economic reform policy in either cases seems to lead us to greater presence and expansion of capitalism.

I couldnt have come to the US and not gone to Walmart to get all my necessities, could I? So a friend and I decided to go THE place to shop in the US, well atleast for people on a budget. So we headed out in downtown LA to find Walmart and live the American life. Guiding us was our piece of paper with directions, metro numbers and names of places we needed to change the metro at.

For all those who know me, I cant make the left from the right based on names. Coz what if you are giving me directions thinking I am facing the street, when I could have the street behind me or perpendicular to me. So seriously your directions will only confuse me. But its good to have someone who can take charge of the directions I went in.

Ok now began the saga which ended with not such short walks in the hot sunny afternoon with not so friendly looking people walking up to us, trying to sell bus passes on the road (which the bus pass says is illegal to do), really unhappy rag pickers throwing out the trash from the trash can. I wish I had pictures to show but really taking out my camera to take pictures was inviting trouble coz then you dont know who is after you to take it ALL from you! Feel sorry that I couldnt. But dont give up have one picture from my trip today to show.

Enter – Walmart! Whats the deal with the place. Says ask for assistance but no one there to assist you! Anyway we look and decide and figure out what we want to buy and head to the counter to pay up. This lady keeps repeating CASH ONLY, and we are like heard ya, but no she has to say it gazillion times! So we finally pay in CASH and move out!

Walk around the mall attached to Walmart and decide to buy some more stuff and finally head back. Oh did I already say have a bad sense of direction? I DO! But well the positive and saving grace is that I dont get mad at you if you make me lose my way! Since anyway I would get lost so atleast here is someone trying to keep me on track!

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