19 days

Its getting longer, and longer between the posts, isn’t it? I blame Game of Thrones!

Anyways, I read this post on Marginal Revolution on how the world has become nicer, and there are people who just don’t do well in a nice world. He has a point, but I have a similar, but sort of economic explanation.

I first thought of this when I was reading Sapiens. I think I have said this before here? Surely, if banks go bust every thirty years or so, with some regularity, bankers should have figured out things by now, and changed? But, as Peter Pronovost was saying in a Coursera course I was watching the other day, every system is perfectly designed for the results it gets. Modern banking, with frequent failures built into the system, has got us into the modern world. So maybe those failures are a feature and not a bug?

Think of the investment bankers you know. Or at least, the ones I know. Without exception, they are bright, smart, well brought up middle class kids (the kind of people Tyler Cowen called nice). These kids have had a typically safe childhood, free of bad things and bad people. Their parents generally keep their promises, and provide safe spaces. A childhood like that makes you well-disposed towards fellow humans, makes you trust. Trust, remember, is the currency banking operates in.The whole imaginary edifice of money rests on trust, and- and this is the important bit- when it meets reality, and fails, governments step in and bails it out. By naively- or maybe shrewdly- trusting everyone, bankers have created a world in which someone will always repay their money.

When you get a world which runs on trust, the only way to do well in it is to play the cooperation game. One must be “trustworthy”. One must be “nice”. Must default to cooperate when forced to choose between that and defecting. There is that only way to win.

Which is problematic for the kids who do not learn to trust. Distrust is our default human emotion, being around my daughter has taught me that. In the absence of the safety nets of young childhood, people may never learn to trust blindly, and do not do well in such a trust soaked world.

Also, since I cannot think for 10 minutes without bringing in Game of Thrones, look at Westeros. Anyone half-way competent is either dead, or dismissed as unimportant because they do not function well in a power based society. To borrow from Taleb, that has made Westeros fragile, and so vulnerable to outside threats. Just look at Sansa once she has found someone she trusts and who has the power to defend her. In a nice world people would have worked together and the White Walkers would simply not be the existential threat they have become. Ramsay and Roose can outmaneuver the Starks, yes. But that’s not the point of Game of Thrones (unlike, say, House of Cards). The point was that the Starks could have, and probably still can, deal with the White Walkers. And to circle back to my earlier point, the Starks have had safe, uncomplicated, pleasant childhoods, as children of a powerful, and very nice parents.

Another 17 days


Now that I have read a couple of Sir Ken Robinson’s books, I understand his point better. I could digress and discuss it, but I want to talk about something else.

Can I still write a story? I was certainly capable of it in childhood, I could imagine in detail and with clear beginning, middle and end. I don’t know. I began this blog with the hope that I will rediscover a love for writing, and I have.

The other problem is, the story I plan to write must be anonymously written, yet would reveal more details about me than this blog ever would. Secondly, do I have the discipline to write the story I want to tell? I don’t think I do.

I think I need a proper outline.

Chapter 1: We meet our protagonist. I will call her Diya for now, but I would look for a better name. What would her family consider a “good” name? Maybe Aditi. It was a common enough name in the 90s. Anyways, she will watch a delivery. She will be shocked, and then numbed by what she sees, the complete lack of empathy important, because we can then deconstruct it later. I do not want to introduce heroics yet. I want to talk about intellectualism, and the disconnect from people and their lives that medical training is.

Yes. Everyone is nice, but has a callous cruelty and and the protagonists POV shows shock and amazement at the baby’s head turning- just like the books said it would. A connection between her academic life and reality but not to life. Not yet.

Chapter 2: We meet her friends. Girl 1- lets call her Aparajita for now, only that is a Bengali name, and I don’t think I can write a Bengali character- and a Bengali girl wouldn’t have this particular problem- has a demanding boyfriend. He is extremely intelligent, beloved of faculty, do I give him lots of papers and a path to US? No, because the story can’t go to a country I have never visited. So a commitment to stay in India. But that makes the guy nicer than I planned. Maybe I can give this interesting boyfriend to Aditi. Or call her Aparajita. Maybe he intends to stay because exams are his natural habitat, so entrances are not a problem, and his parents are rich and successful and expect him to stay. Which brings me to the problem of parents. Rich, successful. Brahmins. From where? UP. I suppose. That’s the only other background I can do, as long as I don’t have to do any details. So revised chapter. We meet her boyfriend. And then her friends. Now Girl 1 has a secretive relationship to a guy she doesn’t want anyone to know about. I want to do secrets, but I don’t see how to justify them. Anyway, something to think about. Girl 2 is single and would make a happy arranged marriage. I won’t invent any other girls because of the problem of writing about cultures. Or maybe I can put my medical college in UP/Bihar and that would solve that problem.

Chapter 3: Parents on phone, traditional, sweet, not too rich. Older sister, traditional, young gynecologist. In a okay arranged marriage? Maybe change to brother. Older brother, IIT, secret girlfriend she knows about. Or maybe finds about in this conversation with brother. We start to get the theme of secrets. And also of studying. Everyone is studying all the time.

Chapter 4: You are starting at the wrong place. There will be too much setup required at the time in their lives you want to start at. Too much detail about marriages and disapproving families which I do not want to write about. Make everyone about 3 years, or even 4 years older. Here, let me spell out the story I want to tell. Of a country changing rapidly. and yet stagnant. Of the problems of intellectualism.Of men who were brought up to be retirement plans and are incapable of becoming real people. Or maybe are capable.

But how to make this story interesting? This is the story of life, and life is boring. And a bit depressing. Let me think about this. Some magic? Some sense of danger? Where would one get danger?

Let me think about it some more.