Monday, October 20, 2008

The heady smell of failure

Most good stories come full circle. The adventurers who return to their village, the hero who comes back to his roots, richer for the ride and wiser for the experience, but essentially coming back to starting point after victory to share it with his tribe. The sense of belonging is one we can all identify with, and is used in no small measure by good story tellers. But for that, we must identify with the characters, the journey they chose to go on, and the ordeals on the way that made them better. In the very least, we must care.

Of late, Americans have shown up to be the drunks who went to the party, trashed the palace, and puked on the lawn and let it flow down the street called Wall Street. That's no hero's journey - it is a fool's parade and isn't funny when it takes 700 billion dollars to begin to fix, and most of the people who paid this in taxes weren't even invited to the party. But some people have such a hangover that they still don't realize the palace stinks to high heaven, and the neighbourhood is sick of the scene.

There was a segment today on NDTV called "A view from Wharton", which had a bunch of Indian clowns studying at Wharton Business School, offering their views on the financial crisis. The puppies all had rather optimistic views about them finding jobs and I wondered how and why any of us would give a rat's arse if any of them got jobs or not! When none of them was talking about getting jobs in India, how could this possibly be relevant to us here, apart from paying bored attention to some specimens from a well known tribe of Indians wanting to study and work abroad. Who cares if some Indian guy graduating from some school in the USA gets a job or not?

More than anything, I'd be worried if we're celebrating those who have chosen to learn from a failed system! I really don't want to hear from the losers on how it is done! I have always believed that you get expert opinions from people who are reasonably successful at what they do. If you want to talk about a formula one racing, you try and get Michael Schumacher, or if you have to settle for someone less, maybe Narain Karthikeyan has some insights. You most certainly do not ask the village idiot who crashed his bullock cart into the train you can hear two miles away.

But the amusement value, priceless! One of these puppies thought they had the best ringside view of this crisis, and it helped them learn first hand from their faculty how exactly these things came about and they were interested in seeing how this kind of crisis could be prevented from spilling over to the rest of the world, and affect countries like India that might be more vulnerable to this kind of situation! I can usually smell stupidity coming round the corner at full speed, and even the geniuses at Wharton did not disappoint!

What exactly are these idiots learning at Wharton? This financial crisis isn't a nuclear bomb that somehow spills over the border with the wind carrying deadly radiation to other countries. It simply isn't going to be felt in areas that are not vested and dependent on the American economy. It most certainly isn't going to affect countries that have long since insulated themselves from this kind of fly and crash cycle by keeping their economies slow and steady. We in India certainly know what slow is even if we may forget steady once in a while, so who exactly has been affected in our "vulnerable" country? We don't know yet, but we are not the country pissing off billions in a war with no end in sight, and we certainly aren't going ga-ga lending to people who can never pay back.

The professor at Wharton had a better view of Indian economic experts - he said they had a mindset quite different from those of their American counterparts and while they thought about building their companies, they also thought about building their countries. Quite a fascinating viewpoint, and timely. When America was trying its best to bully us to open our markets some more in the 90s, nobody quite thought about India as being correctly cautious. Our own "financial experts" were busy comparing us to the rapid growth of the Far East and wanted more and more deregulation right away. Are we in the same planet today?

So, why are we supposed to take Wharton seriously? Apparently, there is a Wharton business school alumnus who is in charge of Bush's $700 billion bailout package, which he must dispense with in the next two months. All right genius. What about the thousands of idiots schools like Wharton must have unleashed over the years to cause this mess in the first place?

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