Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Proposal for job growth in our economy

Unemployed receive points for being unemployed that can be redeemed for goods and services. Companies and small business, voluntarily, can use these points to contract services or buy goods - only from the unemployed.

But once an unemployed person gets work - he/she must give all excess points equally to businesses that accepted these points. Thus, businesses will consistently get added redeemable points from time to time and be able to run a shadow part of their business that helps the unemployed.

We do not need to touch the fiscal debt this way. It will provide relief but not hurt the books. It will an essence do the same as what a direct payment would do without political and psychological constraints associated with such direct transfers of cash.

The value of how many points a service is valued will be left up to the market. Window washing, 10 points an hour? Sure, but another business can choose to pay 15, no restrictions, the market will decide and the unemployed will have a choice of where to spend their points.

But doesn't this incentivize businesses from laying off workers who earn real wages and rely on the employed ? But then in order to continue paying their point system based staff, businesses will have to continue to accept and court points from the unemployed. Thus the new unemployed would have points to buy services and join the new point based economy.

Things probably wouldn't take this absolutist turn, given the attraction and faith in real money.

And many of the point based employees, would build skills and experiences that would make them competitors for wage jobs - far easier to get another job when you already have one and have built skills and references.

It would provide a competitive edge for early adopter companies as well with low cost labor and a way to utilize surplus and perhaps would add a boost in production for local consumption and , eventually, everyone would have to adopt this to survive and it would be a way to get people employed without a government hand out. The investment would come from the private sector.

In order not to cause severe havoc to the system, as of course there are unknowns and Unintended consequences, the program should be run as a pilot in a local geographic area - much thinking will have to be whether this is an urban area or an area with high or moderate unemployment.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

UN official oral history of UN staff in Haiti

10-03-29-PAP-ITV-Gabo-Arora-JLOC - Haiti Quake Archive

WNYC interview

Interview of Human RIghts FIeld work in Colombia

In support of farmworkers - 2002 - Memphis, MLK museum press conference

Gaurav Deep Arora-"It's important for students to be involved in this movement, especially because young people 18 to 24 are the prime consumers for Taco Bell. Taco Bell spends $220 million a year to make us eat their food, so we have a right to demand the food is not produced under conditions of slavery.
It's fitting that we're here in front of the Civil Rights Museum because of the role of students in the Civil Rights Movement. We have to carry that on. We have an important role to keep on fighting for fair work. The workers are teaching the students something our schools don't: to challenge power."

My guru article from South America - 2003

Meditación y yoga como cura

Fecha:2003-11-29 00:00:00
CUENCA.- La meditación y el yoga es un procedimiento muy utilizado para superar algunas dolencias y abandonar hábitos perjudiciales para la salud.

Es un buen tratamiento para tener mayor conciencia de lo que es bueno y malo para su cuerpo. Gabo Arora, instructor de la India dice que mucha gente conoce que comer rico es malo para el cuerpo, pero, no hace nada para mejorar su alimentación. "Esto sucede porque la persona no tiene conciencia de su cuerpo".
Por ejemplo, el estrés concentra el dolor en el cuello, y cuando el afectado recibe masajes, la molestia desaparece. Asimismo, los dolores del cuerpo son emocionales y muchas veces tienen relación con la mente.

El Yoga, con ejercicios de meditación ayuda a superar problemas de adicción, obesidad y estrés. El Yoga no lucha, no analiza, no impone, solo observa y experimenta, después pide cambio.
Con principiantes, el instructor observa la expresión, porque en ella encuentra un mensaje para su vida. "La mayoría respiran por la boca, pero eso es malo para su cuerpo; lo ideal es respirar con la nariz y contar su respiración para conseguir una mayor conciencia".

Gabo Arora explica que el cuerpo tiene siete chakras (energías diferentes) que están unidos a distintos órganos. La meditación pone luz a sus chakras.

"Mucha gente llora porque ve resultados en la mejoría de su cuerpo; siente calor porque está en su mente, pero no siente dolor porque en su mente no hay dolor"
En el Yoga participan grupos de siete personas que practican ejercicio de respiración. Es importante que participe en varias sesiones para que tenga conciencia.

Arora dice que resulta muy difícil para nuestra gente entender la importancia del yoga, porque es muy rápida; está acostumbrada a ingerir medicina para curar sus dolencias. La filosofía del yoga es lenta; en dos semanas, con diez minutos de meditación diarios, la gente se siente diferente. (FOO)

Monday, October 22, 2012

What is your novella, Half a Home, about ?

"Half a Home" aspires to be "The Great NRI Novella" - a story about family relations vis-a-vis the diaspora before and after 1991 - when economic reforms revolutionized India both materially and socially. Rishi, the main character, is of an age where he is caught in between - remembering the India of old - and unable to deal with the new changes that slowly take hold. It's a story of nostalgia, naiveté and the heartbreak associated with losing one's "Imaginary Homeland". It's also a love story.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Why don't you shut up about New York Already ?!!

I'm a child of immigrants. And this city was built by immigrants and its kin. And continues to be a home for the world. That's extraordinary on many levels, besides my own very personal connection to this city.

Yes, I was born and raised here and am a proud product of its public schools. Both my parents worked for the City of New York. My father built the Roosevelt trolley in the 70s. My mother was part of the rescue efforts of 9/11.

But there is a simpler answer. New York has, and to lesser degree now, but still significantly, positioned itself in opposition to heartland America.

Things which are considered staples in the rest of the country are hardly central to NYC living. No cars and no TV needed here. You get all your entertainment on the streets, walking.  The midget on a tricycle with blue hair on the G train singing opera while juggling is a usual everyday occurrence.

In contrast to say, Ohio, there is a strong preference for the local, original, authentic mom and pops shops.  We don't like Big Box branded stores, as Wal-Mart, after all these years, still has not received approval for opening up its doors here.  We have our share of big brands, but we equally nurture and support local enterprise.  The Brooklyn Brand, focusing on the artisanal and hyper attention to detail, magnifies this trend and is in line with New York tradition.

New York is also the only major metropolitan area in the US where white people are a minority (since 1980!)  The minorities are the majority. This diversity lends itself to a city teeming with creative energy and a cosmopolitanism that's lived rather than imagined.  We're super into gay people and Jews. We are a bastion for the the historically oppressed and value difference highly.

And the diversity is much more than ethnic or related to identity, it's also ideological.  It's a city that attracts both the capitalist and the social activist. People with highly disparate world views and goals all congregate here and think this is the place to be. The place that will take them to greater heights. And they're probably right.

So all those people, those ideas and possibilities. It just makes everything go boom boom boom in your mind.

My father ended up building nuclear bunkers in Israel given his love of falafels. He got to talking to some Jews and one thing led to another and next thing he knew he was living in Tel Aviv being blind folded every morning to work.

I myself went out one night to find myself taking a flight to Namibia, a couple of months later, to fight the African Aids epidemic in the 90s.

You never know what could happen here. You meet people, you get to talking over drinks and things HAPPEN.

There are many more stories I have like this and I'm not alone, I assure you. It's kind of like one big human super computer. The city was the Internet manifested, before the Internet existed. A living breathing search engine, social network and connector. And still is ..

And then there are the other, superficial, aspects that may be superficial but add to make life pleasant and hedonistic. The food, the culture, and how the best of the best rolls through here. The competition leads to a quality that makes one often spend an enormous sum of money and think it's worth it.

Of course, the city also constantly destroys itself with its own success.  Neighborhoods get gentrified and historical landmarks are constantly under threat from over development.  Creative destruction is wired into the DNA of the city. Build it to bring it down and those very vicious and strong cycles keeps this place ...apocalyptic. A feeling that it can all come crashing down becomes slightly comforting and humbling. You take your highs and lows in stride as a result and know that neither is ever-lasting.

What most fascinates me though, is how this place is a dump in many ways, and not nice in the traditional common sensical way that Rio or Paris or anywhere else that shines and relies on its sheer inherent beauty to charm you.

New York is a glorified sewer and everyone knows it. It's an emperor without clothes, at times, and somehow creates meaning, myth and glory from what it's got. All this concrete. All this madness. It knows it cannot rest on its physical beauty so it creates its charm and a personality from the anarchy, energy and hustle.

Somehow all of its shortcomings become its strength. The dirt, the grime, the chaos, the frustration somehow become a badge of honor for people who are used to greater comforts, from wherever they come from, yet who continue to choose to masochistically live here.  You have to be warped to want to live here.  

We all question why we are here and convince ourselves that it's great. We over-sell New York, almost as a defense mechanism, in order to avoid confronting the sad truths about life. We make life extraordinary by feeling like we're a part of greatness when really, we're mortal and flawed like the rest of mankind.

But this city is a self fulfilling prophecy. And that's why it works. Somehow, confoundedly, it moves and works, in mysterious ways...

So that's my answer of why I don't shut up about New York. I've tried to provide some very objective reasons. Of course, I'm deeply biased as this place is Home for me and the one place in the world I am at peace and don't feel suicidal.  I've left for better and worse places and they all had me longing to come back and ride the subway and eat a bagel.  And I'm glad I'm here. I have a feeling I'll be here on the last night on Earth and feel perfectly content knowing I'm in the place to be.

Friday, October 05, 2012

What have been your greatest literary influences ?

It's funny. I got turned on to words as a 16 year old troubled adolescent. It was a world literature class and I hated school, my teacher, the world. I graduated in the bottom 30th percent of my class and did well on standardized exams when I felt like it but generally I felt school was one big waste of time.

I think I got caught smoking a joint in the boys bathroom or something and was given what was called "in school suspension" which was basically where they separated you and MADE you do your homework under strict supervision.

Primeval shit. But anyway. I had to read The Stranger by Albert Camus or I'd get even into deeper trouble.

So on a starry New Jersey night I started to read and had what can only be described as an outer body experience.

I read it all in one sitting through the night. I didn't sleep and said please please ! I need to go to class ! I need to talk about this ! I was so deeply moved and frightened. I thought I was the stranger. I could feel myself killing the other. The Arab or whatever it represented. I could taste the salt ocean kisses Mersault had with Marie. I could see myself accepting the benign indifference of the world.

And they let me go. And I sat in the front row. I took someone else's seat and hadn't slept so I had a delirious look. But I was ready.

And then my very boring teacher proceeded to talk about the themes and world war 2. And didn't speak to me. I wanted to know if I really was The Stranger. And if other people felt they might be too.

But nothing came of that lecture. And I remember thinking. Wait. Maybe there is more. What is this literature thing about.

And then I went looking for that same high. And I think I still continue to feel and search for that same thing now, you know. That feeling that you are out of your body. That you feel and see things in a new and transcendent way.

So to answer your question, in a circuitous manner, Albert Camus. And then came Herman Hesse and then came Dostoevsky. And finally Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The original Gabo. My namesake.

And since then I am influenced and moved by certain writers. Tolstoy and Bulgakov, for example. But it's not the same.

I'm not sure if that is because I'm older and less susceptible to the wonder of first love or what. But basically my early influences remain my current ones. The ones I look back on and want to re read and know more about.

I feel bad for people who never experienced what I experienced. It's like not having sex or something. Or the experience of a French meal.

That's why I taught literature to under privileged kids as they call them, in the inner city of New York.

The government wanted to give them skills. I wanted them to experience the pleasure and the wonder that comes from understanding who you are and what the hell you are doing here.

To this day, despite my numerous accolades and achievements. The best thing I did was turn a 15 year old on to James Baldwin.

Everything else is just gravy compared to that.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Remembering Haiti

I never imagined that my evacuation from Haiti, after the earth quake, would be with a glass of prosecco in hand, alone on a private luxury jet, being served ham and cheese by a beautiful stewardess, as we flew through the sky leaving the chaos and madness below. 


I had spent the day before waiting in the US embassy with no passport, little money, and had been wandering for 2 days in the haze of confusion that surrounded Port-au-Prince.  I had lost everything; my house and my office, everything in rubble, with many friends and colleagues dead, and my own health deteriorating, I needed to get out. 


The earthquake was the ultimate leveler and brought me directly in touch with people I had lived amongst and helped as an Aid worker.  The first night I made it to the main park in Petionville, where people gathered the dead and wounded.  Dead children strewn out like toy dolls, ritualistic dancing and people singing mournful songs collectively.  The entire night illuminated by the vibrations of these sounds and scenes.  I huddled in a corner with some other expats, in front of a hotel lobby not understanding anything, and able to be moved but unable to share and touch, their suffering.  I was an outsider.


I won't go into much more detail, because it's not easy to describe it.  But I will say something comes over you, in such situations, which makes you move with a sense of purpose.  Having been in New York on 9/11 and the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in November 2008, my purpose was clear:  to get back home, be with loved ones, regroup and figure out how to contribute meaningfully. 


I thought about my mother, the Empire State building, former lovers.  Anything to help me focus, a goal in mind, to reach it, to help me move forward, to not get caught up in the confusion, anarchy and helplessness engulfing me.      


I was not alone in this sentiment, never knowing that there are 45,000 Americans in Haiti, most of whom would be dual citizens if Haiti allowed it, and that many of them would be out in full force at the US embassy, also demanding evacuation.  People slept on lawns overnight, overcrowding was an issue, with people slowly transferred to the airport where food and water became scarce.  Logistically things were breaking down and made no easier by someone's bright idea to tell people to just show up at the airport in the morning. 


In the morning there was a surge of what looked like Haitians, though on closer view with blue passports clutched in raised fists in the air, were Americans just like me trying to get into the airport being pushed back, as there were too many people and the planes and embassy staff were nowhere in site.  Complete chaos, and a sinking feeling came over me.  Word and panic was spreading about violence, and I was fatigued and sick after 4 days. 


I did what any hustler would do, and looked for white people.  I asked them how they were getting in, I saw some with cameras, media people, and followed them, tagging along to get inside, pretending to be one of them.  I made it in to see more white faces, young 20 something Foreign Service officers with their jaw's to the ground.  They didn't know what to do, nobody did, and I knew I had to fend for myself. 


I had to hitchhike on the tarmac, after sneaking into the airport without a passport and then, like out of some 80s B film, I saw some Dominicans in crisp white uniforms wearing aviator sunglasses smoking at the tail side of a pristine plane (which I mistook for a US plane).  They told me to hop on after they saw me desperately trying to make my way through the circus-like panoply of Aid planes, Marines and the media, not to mention the wounded and stranded, a kaleidoscope under the Caribbean Sun with no water and provisions in sight.  I had no idea what this plane was doing there, and when I asked, received only nebulous answers. 


It felt strange, I was both awkward and grateful, alone in an empty plane, flying to safety and leaving behind people in need of desperate help.  I was not only fortunate enough to survive, but was leaving in style!  Quite a contrast to everything I experienced in the days following the earthquake.               


I got out, probably because I don't look Haitian and can work the angle of being an international aid worker.  But is there some grander metaphor for inefficiency and privilege in being evacuated alone on a luxury jet?  I don't know, but I am surprised that this surprises some, enrages others.  When did we ever collectively engrain this notion that the world is fair?    


If anything, my sense of entitlement, as an American and an Aid worker, was severely challenged that day.  None of it meant anything amidst catastrophe and many people far privileged than me died.  The earthquake hit everybody equally, rich and poor, but the aftermath with its survivors will be a different story.  A story many people will not want to hear.