Gawking Diplomacy and Internet Commenting

My friend Anand Subramanian shared this Gawker article on the gaffe of an American diplomat calling the Tamil people “dirty and dark” as a joke. I’m from Sri Lanka, not too far from my fellow South Asians (note: there’s a significant Tamil population in Sri Lanka as well) so I’m close to the target group that was insulted. I racked myself pretty hard to feel the indignity of it all couldn’t muster it. I wanted to rage against my oppressors, but I didn’t. There have been times, of course, that I have felt the bigoted spears of nescient assholes.

I guess the lack of impact may be due to the source of the article (Gawker) and the funny vitriol in its sensationalist delivery style. I found it more entertaining than anything. I also felt pity for my fellow humans on both sides of the spectrum. It’s a reminder how some have been treated unjustly because of skin color, and how some can be persecuted so intensely for what are ultimately innocuous remarks in the grand scheme of things. Yes, those remarks were unbelievably ignorant, another case for pity, but we have more important issues to unify ourselves on than focus on superficial divisive distractions like this.

This is all an interesting interlude, but what really motivates me to write a blog post are the comments in the article. One of my favorite effects of the Internet is the running dialogue after the initial article. So much insight, humor, and passion is displayed. For the most part, the phenomenon of “Comments” in web posts helps to progress our society rather than retard it. With the good and the bad, comes the ugly of course, but I find our collective wisdom and humor more enlightening in general. In their way, people’s comments in posts across the Internet give me faith in humanity. This article in particular is a good example. I learned quite a lot about skin color in the comments section. I also cracked up. Rock on Internet commenters.

 

Milton Friedman

Thanks to my friend Joe Fulwiler for forwarding this video of Milton Friedman. I remember seeing him speak at Stanford’s Kresge Hall 10 years ago and was impressed by his deep convictions on vast global issues. As an economics major, it was a real treat to see him live and well worth the several hours in line. In the video Milton Friedman comes across as a genuine, engaging, and utterly rational man. Wish I could say the same for Phil Donahue. Not to hate on Phil, but watching him ask Milton questions is like me trying to lay up on Manute Bol.

The video touches upon a somewhat opposing duality that I’ve been reflecting about lately — how does one serve their self-interest while contributing to the greater good in a real tangible way? Semantics aside, what’s the best way to serve yourself and others at the same time? Not “self-interest” in an evil, greased up maniac Gordon Gecko type of greed, but rather an objectivist approach to the concept like Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. Our behavior is largely dictated by economic incentive so it makes sense to think of what is surely a common denominator in all of us, namely, the process of efficiently allocating scarce resources. The hope is to serve ourselves well and in surplus in order to have a greater chance of serving others.