That’s what friends are for

“We have beaten back the spirited challenge from other BRICS nations.”

It was evening. As per long-established tradition, during the days Parliament is in session, daytime adversaries met informally in the evening. Their concern for the common man had led to the daytime debate being continued in the evening, normally a time for conciliation. The Minister for IT and Telecom was the star of the show, after having ably quelled what had, at first, appeared to be a logical and well-meaning challenge, mounted to protect the interests of the common man. He was holding forth once again.

(see post: Only snooping around)

“In the secret surveillance programme carried out by NSA (National Security Agency) of the US, we are now the most spied upon BRICS nation. India stands fifth overall, only after Iran, Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, but with active connivance of the government we will inch towards the top spot. Let nobody say that India is no.1 only in corruption and population growth”, the Minister said to the sound of clapping.

“What do you think will come out of all this anyway? Without meaning any disrespect, till the time Americans run this, we have nothing to worry about. Poring through tonnes of data this exercise generates is painstaking work. Who do you think has the stomach for it? You guessed it; only our countrymen. Especially when they are in a foreign country, and paid in dollars. This will create job opportunities for scores of graduates from our well-known educational institutions. Have you any idea how many peoples’ dreams of going to America this project will fulfil?”

Opposition members knew. They had already calculated. They could see new job avenues opening up for their near and dear ones. The ones not cut out for a career in politics; the educated ones that is.

The Minister continued, “We will need to start worrying about the data when Indians start running the show. We know how effective Indians are in pulling down other Indians. The real benefits of this system will be felt only when Indians start running it, while the Americans are busy lobbying government to enact laws to get innocent taxpayers to pay for being spied upon.”

Opposition members had to grudgingly agree.

“And have you given a thought to the common man?” the Minister asked.

Opposition members looked at him blankly. They did not understand the question. None of their training and years of experience had ever required them to think of the common man.

“The common man is happy being spied upon by the US. He can proudly say he is being spied upon by the US and not by any local government. I can already see people starting to change their Resumes to reflect this accomplishment. Can you imagine the social advancement opportunity this creates? Can you imagine what this will do to the marriage market of the young men and women who can demonstrate being spied upon by the US?”

After the dressing down during the day, the opposition had been a tame lot, slinking in corners, keeping to themselves. With each revelation they were getting more and more animated. Even tame politicians can identify a sensible argument even if they cannot understand it. Their ears perked up at the question even though it was rhetorical.

“And it is really not so bad. Why, even John Kerry, during his recent tour of UAE, has said that Barack Obama ‘didn’t order all NSA snooping’. He has also said, in no uncertain terms, that the administration was close to finding out who issues orders in the country”, the Minister said with some finality.

“By the way, do you know who John Kerry is?”, he asked.

Noticing the blank look on the faces of Opposition members, he continued, “I don’t, either. They say he is an American. By the way, do you know who an American is?”

He could see their faces brighten up. They nodded vigorously. Each one of them knew who an American was. In fact most of them had an American in their immediate family who they were proud of. They knew that an American was an Indian who loudly said he did not understand Hindi, and conducted his conversations in English mainly with the help of three words, ‘gonna’, ‘wanna’ and ‘like’. They all agreed that John Kerry did not look like an American one bit. Besides, and this was damning evidence, he used more than three different words.

“And, like respectable Opposition parties, you may choose to disregard what I say, but surely you cannot disregard what John Kerry has to say about this issue. You know Americans believe everyone believes them when they say something.”

“Besides, one has to help friends, is it not?”, posed the Minister, a little softly. “What can we do? Our hands our tied. US laws allow for snooping on other countries even though US law does not apply to other countries.”

Opposition members could empathise. They knew what it was like to help a friend. On numerous occasions they had helped friends get out of jail, or escape the clutches of the law by tampering with evidence or threatening witnesses. Their friends had done the same for them on numerous occasions. There could not be a more convincing argument.

National Service

Amid the din of rising disenchantment about the government’s inability to tackle the economic woes besetting the country, the cabinet met in secret today to approve the new policy for tackling the economic situation.

In a master-stroke, and through a simple declaration, the government has elevated shopping to the level of “national sport”, ahead of cricket, and hockey, which of course nobody knows about. The doors to the riches that only a few successful sportspersons, particularly of the cricketing variety, could hitherto aspire to, have now been unlocked for the common man. A democratic policy, if ever there was one.

This stroke of genius has taken the opposition by surprise. Everyone may not be able to play cricket, but everyone can shop. The opposition has not been able to call the policy discriminatory and one that panders only to the interests of particular group of society, and not society at large. The only criticism they have been able to come up with, so far, is that the government is blindly aping the West without heed to our culture, where, in many countries, shopping is already the national sport.

The logic is simple. The more shopping you do, the more the economic situation will improve. At least for the seller, if not the buyer. This way, even if half the country benefits, the government would have reduced the economic situation critics to half, from 100% of the population to only 50%. Merely through the act of a declaration.

And, even for the buyer, there is hope. The more he buys, the more he will need to borrow. The more he borrows the more he will contribute as interest income to the banks and financial institutions that are essential services in a modern economy and must be made and kept prosperous at all costs. If not, the government may have to resort to using taxpayer money to prop up these noble institutions. The stronger these institutions are, the more people will be able to borrow from them. Hence, buyers should consider this to be equivalent to a patriotic duty.

Spending more is also expected to have a salubrious impact on the work ethic in the country. The more you spend the more you will borrow. The more you borrow the more rich you will feel. The more rich you feel the more you will borrow to maintain a rich lifestyle. The more you keep borrowing the more interest costs you will need to service. The more interest you service, the harder you will need to keep working, well beyond your normal retirement years. The harder you work the more the work-ethic of the nation improves.

In order to give a further fillip to shopping, the government has also introduced a national reward scheme which is based on incentive points for the amount of shopping done. Weightages have been assigned to various product categories normally shopped for, based on how essential the products bought are to the normal person. All essential items like food will have a NIL weightage. Items like jewellery, fourth car, second house, racehorses, yachts, etc. will be in the highest weightage category. Other items like refrigerators, washing machines, clothes, school textbooks are somewhere in between.

In a rare moment of enlightenment, displaying their complete grasp of the situation and the reality of the modern day shopper, the privileges accorded to shoppers in the national reward scheme will be available even for shopping done online.

The reward scheme will be funded through a new tax that will be levied on shopping done henceforth (the committee disagreed on taxing past shopping), and almost seven percent of the money collected through this tax will be paid back in the form of rewards, after paying for the expenses of the bureaucrats and ministers engaged in administering this scheme, and after purchasing new SUVs for them and their teams, to enable them to smoothly handle this added responsibility.

The opposition has finally been able to find fault with the scheme. They have criticised the government for ignoring the interest of the armed forces, engaged in securing the boundaries of the nation. They have said that the armed forces will not have an equal opportunity of participating in this patriotic programme and contributing to the development of the nation, as they are placed in remote areas. This amounts to discrimination. They have asked that this scheme be placed on par with military service in terms of a patriotism index which they have suggested the government set-up. They have also suggested that all members of the armed forces be given a choice whether they wish to serve the country through risking life and limb in armed combat or doing shopping.