Saturday, May 31, 2008

Taking your shoes off…

For those of you who have dealt with the Chinese, you would know what I am talking about. It is absolutely a different experience when you do business with the Chinese. But here is the interesting part, when I say Chinese, these are not the Chinese that live in China. That’s right, the Chinese that live in China, they’re not Chinese, they’re some bunch of people who look like Chinese, sure they drink those herbal teas in their offices, and the talk Chinese, but the real Chinese, you find in Singapore, Taiwan, Hongkong, Thailand, Malaysia, well we’re really talking about non communist Chinese here.

From the moment you are about to enter their offices, the first thing that you have to do, is to take your shoes off. Now, I really do not have an issue with sitting bare feet or in my socks on a negotiation table, but hell, I was sitting on one last week, and I kept saying to myself, what on Gods sweet earth am I doing, I have no shoes on! I’ve negotiated for a decade now, yet this was the first time I was negotiating without my shoes on, hell its difficult. You know for anyone who takes his dressing from the English, shoes are what give you confidence, well, a nice starched shirt, cufflinks, good tie, creased trousers, they all stand for a lot, but, Shoes is what really gives you confidence. So im at this negotiation table, and we are negotiating, there are six Chinese Buddhists sitting around the table, and they all have no shoes on, absolutely barefeet. I’m telling this guy, you know, I’ve travelled half way around the world just to come see you, this is how important your business is to me, and this is how much respect my company gives to you, you will never get this from my competition, and I’m looking deep into his eyes. A decade of negotiation, and I normally make the kill at this point, by the time I stop looking deep into their eyes, they are shaking hands. But just as I am looking into his eyes, I feel my feet, so that’s what they mean cold feet! You just cannot be confident without shoes, its plain and simple as that.

And it gets even better, sure you have Feung Shui water dropping all over the place, there are fat statuettes of nominally clad bald men under whom water is running, and red colored markings that talk about religious shit that probably means lord help my refinery produce more oil, its not the statutory things that matter to me, they are intriguing, it’s the live things that make me upset. They take a look at you, and then they start staring, what you never saw a barefoot man walking around with a laptop before? The equation is just not right. And here is what is really intriguing, every time I have taken my shoes off, I have asked them, is this a Buddhist thing, is this feung shui, no, this is so that we don’t get the floor dirty, ah c’mon

Revolutions - the reign of terror – creating a nation

Societies revolt, that’s what they are bound to do when those in number are deprived and those in power are free to abuse the powers vested in them. A quick glance at the revolutions that have taken place in the world in the last few centuries starting from the French revolution, up until as late as the Iranian revolution, if there is one common factor, it is the reign of terror.
So here is how this story goes, factions within society decide that the people are being abused by those who have been either vested with power, or were born with the right to those powers. These factions present or develop a plan on how they think the society should be governed, these plans could be democratic, socialist or fundamentalist in nature, examples would be the French, the Russian and the Iranian revolutions. Once these factions seize control from the forces in power (a bloody series of events in its own right), they go about transforming the way society had been governed thus fur, and transforming it into the beliefs that they bring with them. More often than not, elements that were subscribers to the previous arrangement, are eradicated. This act of extinguishing is more than just removing people who had the beliefs that were over thrown by putting them under a guillotine, it is about changing the way the society thinks, what it believes or had been believing to be right, and making the factions at large subscribe to the agenda laid out by the revolutionaries.
Simply put, when Cambodia revolted, and turned into an Agrarian Socialist state, the future of the nation was laid by the party, in the hands of the children, who were thought to be pure of the accumulation of resources phenomenon specifically, and knew nothing of commerce generally. What yielded was a nation where the adults who could work hard were put under the control of the children who were thought to have pure beliefs. Who placed family above society and nation, and lived for the cause of the party, paving the way for the birth of a nation.
So what follows is possibly decades of efforts to either change the mind set of the entire nation, or to instill a new generation with the freshly prepared mindset. The concept is, if you can sacrifice the current generation, what will come out at the end of the effort will be a pure nation that will work for the entire society.
The obvious assumption is the b beliefs of the select few are in conformation with the nation at large. The second assumption is that the beliefs are actually correct and the sacrifices will actually result in a nation stronger and closer than before.
History is witness that this has actually never happened. The French revolutions, or the socialist revolutions, or the Islamic revolution, have all failed to create a nation that is stronger than what they have replaced. This is not to say that the concept is wrong, just because it has never worked out. The fact is, there have been two reasons why this does not work out. The first is, during the reign of terror, economic viability is not created, wealth is not created, or that nations go into isolation and seize international economic activity. With out the lack of resources a downward spiral is created, one that has seen most revolutions fail thus far. The second reason is more potent. Almost all revolutions have seen power going from the hands of a select few, who abused the power, to the hands of a select few who abused the power. What resulted, at least in the case of the French was a revolution spiral and a reign of instability never before in the history of the nation.
To create a new nation by a select few in a matter of decades is easier said that done. I do not have a single example of where an individual or a group of individuals were able to create a nations in years, it takes generations upon generations to come together over a range of overlapping variables to create a nation.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Pencils and Pens....

I walked into the hotel lobby, and I was greeted by a pleasant looking asian lady. Although she was wearing a name tag that said "Golf" which was intriguing at least, what was more intriguing was that she was holding her hair with a pencil. I looked at her colleague, and she too had a pencil stuck in her head to keep her hair together. So here is what I asked her:

Me: Your name is golf
She: (smiling skirmishly) its my nick name
Me: you have a pencil in your head
She: (On the defensive now, still smiling though) Uhhh, Its part of my uniform
Me: What would happen if I pulled it out
She: My hair would fall open
Me: so you can't use this pencil
She: Uhhh, no
Me: You mind if I try and pull it out
She: Uhhh, no
Me: If your hair falls open, will you let me do it up again
She: Uhhhh, ok

So I pulled the pencil out, and surely the hair does fall open, she went ooops, and then shrugged her head from left to right, and smiled at me, surely she was upset, but putting up a mighty good show at playing the hostess. So I looked into her eyes, the pencil in my hand, I have to do your hair now, she's freaking out by now, takes the pencil from my hand, and says, oh I can do it, please dont bother. I bring a stare of disdain to my face, but i want to do it, i say. She turns her head, and says, have you ever done this before, no, I said. What happened later is not important

After a long day at work, I come back to the hotel and decide to goto the bar to have a drink before dinner. The ladies in the bar were wearing these amazing thai silk dresses, yet the one making my Singapore sling, had two pens stuck smack in the middle of her lovely cleavage! You're killing me I said, she looked at me inquisitively, excuse me she said. Lose the pens please, I said, but I need them to take orders, you should have some place else to stick them, would you mind if i removed them. She is thinking this cant be happening, but before she says any thing, I reach forward and take the pens out one by one. Don't tell me they are part of your uniform, no she says. Funny, I said, the front desk ladies wear pencils in their heads, and thats part of their uniform, and they dont need the pencils, you need the pens, but they are not part of your uniform, can you answer that. She is done making my sling, she smiles, can I have the pens back, she says. Only if you promise never to put them there again, I replied. She nods, and I gave her the pens