I have always wondered why people live in places with harsh climate – why struggle every day as if it’s a battle to be won? Having been in Sweden for a while now, has brought some perspective into that thought.
For most people, their place of birth is their home – the place where they feel most comfortable, experience a sense of freedom and a confidence of security. I miss this. How long before I can feel the same way here? I don’t know. If this is my feeling after choosing to be here, I cannot begin to imagine the plight of people who are forced to leave behind their war-torn homelands and start anew seeking asylum.
I truly believe that immigrants forced to leave their countries would happily return if social and economic safety is guaranteed, but that’s another discussion for another post.
Speaking of harsh climates, Sweden isn’t the toughest to live in. The winter was bearable – coming from an Indian, this is remarkable. However, my wife and my parents would vehemently disagree. The spring is beautiful and has brought everyone out of their homes.
Irrespective of the weather, Swedes generally have an active lifestyle. Soccer, ice hockey and skiing are the top favorites. There are people jogging at all times of the day, come rain or snow.
As a person who had never experienced temperatures below ~10°C, I couldn’t have imagined the effort that goes into keeping the roads and tracks working during the winter. Trains are still functioning, nevertheless with some delays and cancelations. I had taken a lot of things for granted.
With lesser population, manual labor is expensive the concept of DIY – do it yourself – is the norm. People assemble their own furniture, fix almost everything themselves – from kitchens to roofs – and building an entire house isn’t a far-fetched idea. I feel like I’m inadequately equipped to be here.
I feel nature keeps people on their toes, challenging them every season to adapt and live many lives, plan better and be self-sufficient.
As a side note, I am yet to find a place which isn’t accessible by a differently-abled person. Every place has a ramp, elevator; busses are equipped with designated spots for wheelchairs. It’s so nice to know how disability doesn’t have to make a person lose access to the same life as everyone else. This is such a contrast from how pathetic things are in India. 😦
P.S.: A roller coaster ride had an elevator for persons on wheelchair! 🙂
The truth is, we live in a male dominated society where men enjoy a privilege of exercising certain rights that do not extend to women. This culture has transcended generations and centuries. And it is going to take longer than that to clean up.
Why did things come to be as they are? Are we genetically so sexist? In the early days, the men used to hunt for meat while the women-folk would tend to the young ones and managed the caves. If perhaps, the root cause for sexism started there, it should have changed when civilizations evolved, correct? Nothing much changed during the times of the great kings and kingdoms. Further, during the industrial revolution, there was an explosion of many new jobs – engineers, architects, soldiers – most of them were reserved for men because either they needed an increased physical exertion or the necessary training for the required skill set was never extended to women. This was amplified by the fact that education was considered a “luxury”. Only the ones who would “use” the skills they learned at school, were educated. This is the reason why there were considerably lesser number of women scientists during the 18th century. Over the years, the patriarchal society got itself established as only men had “knowledge” of how the world “functioned”.
Evolution in economies resulted in industries taking a background as the main money-making entities. People in industries were replaced by machines as a result of automation. Fields like science, technology, research, banking, took prominence. The jobs that are created for this generation of workforce are gender-neutral; they break the need for physical strength that the jobs during industrial revolution demanded.
So, now what?
Gradually, women began fending for themselves thus reducing their dependency upon men for basic needs. This “shift of power” was not welcomed by men and thus began the long struggle for women’s rights and freedom. This is yet an ongoing battle for equality not just limited to the under-developed or developing countries, but to the developed economies as well. Many organizations worldwide are doing a great job of making the world aware – like the UN.
UN Google search ads
The entire premise of this post was the “powerful” advertisements by the UN which used the Google auto-complete (a feature that suggests popular search terms as you type your search query) to show the widespread prevalence of sexism in our society.
Is the problem real? Yes. Equality between the sexes is something that is truly necessary for a society!
Are ads like these necessary? Yes, very much.
Are they doing a good job of raising awareness? They are doing great!
Are they truthful? No.
Here’s what’s wrong
Google uses a certain algorithm nicknamed Google Instant to get popular keywords related to the terms that you are typing in, using data collected from earlier searches by many other people, and displays it, in the assumption that you may also be searching for something similar. By the way that it works, what Google suggests is in no way connected to what you would be actually looking for. For instance, when you search for “save water”, the suggestions shown are hardly practical, are they?
This article may help understand how the Google Instant suggestions work. Further, going by the Google Trends, the term “woman should” was searched for the most number of times just about after the UN ads were posted.
Google suggestions can be easily misinterpreted
Sexism is a real issue. Everyday there is news about how crimes against women have increased drastically, and how women are denied even basic rights by many Governments around the world. Yes, women are suffering and something needs to be done! By writing about the technicality behind the UN ads, I do not undermine the need for the awareness for this issue; I only felt that Google search suggestions are not indicators of how far-reaching sexism is.
Facebook is a hugephenomenon, that took the world by storm. Just when everybody was getting tired of Orkut, and sharing was limited to IMs and Emails, Facebook emerged with a solution to it all. It has email – your Facebook username works as an email id (firstname.lastname@example.org). It has chat, with video calling too! It has ways of sharing your thoughts, ideas, and your day-to-day activities so much so that it has shrunk the general perception of people’s privacy.
In the early days of Facebook (the last days of MySpace), Google became aware of what was happening and tried remodeling Orkut… and failed miserably. Anything Google tried doing with Orkut seemed like it was trying to create a Facebook clone – a bad one at that. Orkut had never taken off outside of Brazil and India. With the advent of Facebook, began the decline of Orkut there too.
While all of this may sound like an excellent advertisement for Facebook, it is not. Facebook has affected productivity and many studies have shown that employers have seen a decline in productivity compared to time before Facebook. Facebook is a black hole of time – I cannot think of one useful thing that I do on Facebook! Facebook reminds me of my friends’ birthdays; so I don’t take that extra effort to remember. It has somehow become acceptable to wish someone on their birthday on their “Wall”, as opposed to a call – telecom companies suffer meanwhile.
If you haven’t noticed, the right sidebar of your Facebook page is now filled with advertisements. If you are a business owner, you would do well if you published your ad on Facebook. Why? Because Facebook knows when I bought my last motorcycle (from my status), it knows my computer, it knows I’m a tech freak (because I link to a lot of Tech websites). It knows what exactly to sell me – well, mostly. Individual ad targeting is what a company would want. I never see an ad about a lipstick or a mascara – why? Because Facebook knows that I’m less likely to click on an ad of Lakme or Maybelline! So, every hour you spend on Facebook, some body makes money – no points for realizing that it is not YOU!
Another very sad thing about what Facebook has done is, that it has generated a false sense of action. I have seen many requests to “support a cause” – “Save the Tiger”, “Help Earth”, “Feed the poor” – so on and so forth. While the intention is noble, I quote my good friend who runs an NGO called Vanamitra (meaning, Friend of the Forest), recently posted on Facebook (ironically) – “Facebook has sadly resulted in a prolific increase in Armchair Activists”. Clicking “Support Cause” on Facebook does very little to help, but people I think, are experiencing a false satisfaction having been led to believe that they have helped in some way – NO – clicking on a button on a website does not count as helping!
Here’s an idea for Facebook – Why not verify these causes and donate an amount towards that cause each time a person supports it? Then maybe clicking “Support” makes sense!
All said, will this stop me from using Facebook? Maybe not, but I hope to audit how much time I spend on it and cut down to bare minimum. Like I have saidbefore, Facebook is definitely bringing the world closer and at the same time, distancing relationships further.