Saturday, 8 June 2019

A euphemism for outright stalking

There is a term that is thrown around freely and loosely by recruitment consultants, which is networking. Let’s take the root of the conjugated word – network – it is always associated with something that is positive and thus, when they say, ‘you must network’, it invariably has a positive vibe to it and the persons listening are intrigued by what the speaker or the counsellor has to say.

It sounds very good when they throw in positive words like – ‘givers gain in the network’ (a way of saying quid pro quo) and how larger your network, the more your chances of finding a job. While I agree that it is good to have a large network of people – I have been a beneficiary of it myself wherein I always have someone to consult when in doubt over a topic I do not possess the expertise.

However, my bone of contention is hardly over the act of having a network and rather, over the manner in which you are advised to proceed with acquiring this network. A point is to be noted here is that I am talking only from the context of recruitment.

To start with, there is the website LinkedIn, a social networking site for professionals. I have had a LinkedIn account myself for nearly nine years and people in my networks included people from my personal relationships, school, university or workplace and that was that. I observed a change in around 2015 where I started getting requests from random people whom I have never met before, the chance of meeting them in the foreseeable future being remote, and the only common aspect being that we might be in a similar profession or possess the same qualification. Sometimes, it might be an aspirant and this observation was not isolated, a few of my colleagues also remarked that ‘LinkedIn is getting annoying, I am getting multiple requests from complete strangers’.

Little did I realise back then that this was a result of ‘network with professionals’ advice from consultants. Again, adding strangers, sending messages to a stranger is not something that I fundamentally object so long as the stranger has consented to receiving them (I take the acceptance of the connection request to be approval for receiving messages from the connection). After all, it is the same as meeting strangers at a party and striking up a conversation.

The common advice to jobseekers is to expand network and message as many people as possible. If the intention behind this is to only seek first hand insights on working in the place / profession where you wish to work, it is fantastic! However, you are suggested this as a means to overcome two aspects to a job search – to become aware of jobs that were never published or known OR to circumvent a rejection of your earlier application made through the website.

It is well known that a lot of their filtering of CVs is done by algorithms and thus, most rejections are not the result of human decision making whereas if you make your credentials known to a person working within, they might overlook the system and still offer an interview.

Again, all this sounds fine and there seems nothing prima facie wrong about it. However, it is an issue when you are often told that the reason why you are yet to land a job is because you have not networked enough. What needs to be understood here is that chatting up random people is not everyone’s cup of tea, it is probably an introvert’s nightmare whereas the person might be very comfortable to fill up forms over and over again in a portal.

I understand that certain jobs require an extroverted personality and an introvert cannot demand equality in such circumstances; however, if the same is demanded in jobs which does not require much of outside interaction, that is where the playing field is no longer level and candidates are no longer tested for their competencies but rather, merely based on whom they know and whom they have talked to before.

While one could say – this is the system, accept it and be a part of it; it is easier said than done. Let us take a situation, there are tickets for a show high on demand and there is a counter selling tickets, with ten tickets remaining, ten people are in the queue; another group enters through the back entrance since they know the event manager and get the last ten tickets – fundamentally, got ahead of the queue at the cost of those who were already there. One could argue that it is the event manager’s choice as to whom they need to let in and whom to sell it to. However, in this case, most of us would agree that it was not normal and it was unfair on the people already in the queue. But then, what would be your reaction if I say that if these ten in the queue were really keen, they should have tried to somehow find the event manager on Facebook, befriend the person and got the tickets and that it was their fault that they were not proactive enough to get the tickets. Much as I played the devil’s advocate in this statement, I find the logic completely ridiculous.

However, that is exactly what we are doing right now, and the consultants and head-hunters from all across the board are trying to normalise this situation. I have even heard suggestions like, ‘if they don’t respond to your mail, try to find a directory where they have disclosed their phone number and call them’ – that is something that I find blatantly unethical and the extent to which this is being normalised is shocking.

In a way, I feel that the terms networking, cold e-mail are euphemisms created because if you say ‘stalk someone online, find out about them, get all details and get into conversation’, sounds less appealing and attractive than saying ‘network with people online and get into a conversation’ even though both of them are prima facie the same.

The situation here is not normal and it leads us to a situation where the networks generated are no longer with altruistic motives (which is normally the case) which could lead to pecuniary relationships but rather, in this case, we are clearly going in seeking for something with ulterior motives, with no real intention to build a network and probably not give a second thought about the person with whom we had a conversation unless we had got we had wanted (I can’t paint everybody with the same brush but I can certainly speak for the average).

To conclude, I would say that this system seems to have been unconditionally accepted and since I am not on the other side, I cannot offer solutions but the very fact that I am raising my voice calling this out to be not normal (hoping more join the bandwagon), perhaps it could trigger the thought and the situation could be better in the future.

Have a nice day,

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Shores of Time

The next step, took his legs, a virulent flash,
The blinding pain, encompassed his gaze within
Spinning around, dancing in zeal, a gash
Flowing red, viscous from when it was thin;
The sight down, he saw, the glassy stone,
Jagged and rigid, unyielding and brazen
For the harm, saw it no reason to moan,
Weathered was it, to cut unaware men.
Strewn across, the undulating scene of stones,
Hindered around, he looked for harmless ways,
The prickly tops, surmounting the archaic cones,
More cuts, the hurt, thoughts for him to faze,
A gust of wind, a vortex violent, arose atop
The obstinate surface, now the seeming bullets clash
Tumultuously, the serene chaos, the dance lop,
Rain unto, now withered into dunes they mash.
In waning amazement, upon a healed foot, walks
He, dune after dune, raises and falls.
With a dune beneath, a figure with locks
Wild, untethered, frail stands he, distraught with galls.
The wraith of sand, the ethereal ancient beast
Wise and timeless, calls him upon,
To him, offers the wise, a luscious feast
Of time, into which, he was now born.
Asks he thus, “Ancient one, upon the lands
Gaze I, unbeknownst to me, for what I should see.
The sands I feel, warm though slip through my hands,
The truth of these shores, learn I through thee.”
The wraith, wordless, engulfed his thoughts,
View the far distances, through which he shall see
His time, the stream which blooms and which rots
Into expanses, time flows, ceased to be free.
“The stream meanders, untouched and pristine,
Not a grain, not the stones, not the shores pour
Into, pulling away, or muddling its sheen
None within, or around, calming its mighty roar.
Dawns in me, of the ceaseless flow, devout, infinite,
Pouring itself into the void, mysterious and dark.
Though grandiose, what story am I to knit
When my senses, is now but a lark?”
Stared into the abyss, the wraith, unbound
By words, dripping through it, without a thought,
His thoughts, the pressing words, a heaping mound,
Prodding the wraith, answers to it wrought.
A wave, tall, drowns the shores, the stream,
The man fluid, now flowing calm and serene,
Teases him visions, the astral story of time.
The waters from where begotten, him to ween,
Where from, where to, to him it to mime.
A past, unearthed, sees he his life.
To him, his past, a period forgotten since,
Memories of time, unfettered, a melodious fife,
Like the water, contained in, cannot rinse.
A present, unearthed, sees he his self.
To him, the present, a mirror upon which,
Reflects he, projecting a giant, a dwarf and an elf,
All he, his dreams, lustrous and rich.
A future, unearthed, sees he a dark void.
To him, the future, featureless and grey,
Sees he none, what he yearns, what to avoid,
The fife of his past, sees, at the end of his fray.
Blinks, focuses, stands the wraith, as before,
Puzzles he, “Know I not, of the truths foretold,
I saw, the visions, moments of my lore.
The latter lore, told me of my start,
My tunes, my days, my nights and my ways.
My living, of which some are sweet, bitter and tart,
Blinding once, my lore felt devoid of rays.
Ignorant, felt I, darkened and blotted by
The palette, where upon, laid the colours mine,
Thought I to vigour, not that they’d wry.
Making unseen, the tails that the heads dine.”
Asked he again, “The cycle of time profound
Realized I, and yet, I stand, devour
The tail, as the head. I acquiesce unbound,
And am still solid, should dissolve like the hour.”
Still unhinged, he sought his fate, looked on
Still, the wraith, into the meandering stream.
Gone, without a trace, like the dusk from one dawn,
Befuddling him, unable to let out even a faint scream.
A blurring sight, cleared into the known,
The rocks, stones, rigid through time, weathered.
Within the rocks, the sands had grown,
Unmoving and quiet, not even the wind heard.
“My hurt felt I, upon the bloody graze,
Never the warmth, once the sanded shores,
Each bend, each trough and each peak a maze
Flowing through time, with their infinite doors.”
The next step, took his legs, a virulent flash,
The blinding pain, encompassed his gaze within
Quietened and calm, healing in zeal, a gash
Flowing red, yet the pleasure and pain was akin.

  - Victor Van Volkner

Background of the poem
This poem, to me, represents how we, as humans, view the trials and tribulations of life. While we realise that time flows only in one direction, we don't often see it in that direction. Often clinging onto the past, the veritable dramas that unfold in our lives are all that we see, ignoring the happier moments that define who we are, in equal proportion to the more dramatic moments. This is about such a man, who is shown that his time includes both of these, and he needs to learn to take both with equal zeal and see the best of both. I'll hope that this intention of mine reaches someone reading the poem. 

Monday, 30 April 2018

The Olivenza Dispute

The red dot near Badajoz is the location of Olivenza

People outside of Iberia and rest of Western Europe probably misunderstand the smaller of these countries as also a part of the larger country. These two countries are extremely friendly and often, are seen exchanging twelve points to each other in Eurovision Song Contests. However, little does anyone know that they have a territorial dispute running for over two centuries. The two countries in question here are Spain and Portugal and the territory in question here is the Spanish town of Olivenza in the Spanish community of Extremadura.
Note: Throughout the article, I shall be using the Spanish spelling ‘Olivenza’ rather than the Portuguese ‘Olivença’ because as of today, it is Spanish territory. I don't lean towards the Spanish position, but I merely prefer using the de facto position.

History of Olivenza: A town which kept switching hands
I had the timeline handwritten to add a personal touch, please zoom the image for better viewing

While it was a Portuguese settlement in 12th Century, the town was quickly taken by the Spanish Moors in 1189 and came under Muslim rule. This was retaken in 1278 by the conquest by Castille and Leon (later on Spain) during their long Reconquista.
However, two decades later, Portugal regained the territory through the Treaty of Alcañices in exchange for peace with Castille. Post that, the Portuguese fortified the town and have signed several treaties with the Kingdom of Spain, including the Treaty of Lisbon in the 17th century reaffirming the border between the countries.
This continued till Spain invaded Portugal in 1801 with French support and occupied Olivenza. Post the Franco-Spanish treaty, Portugal was forced into the Treaty of Badajoz which handed over Olivenza back to Spain.
This position exists till date wherein, Spain claims sovereignty over Olivenza by virtue of the Treaty of Badajoz.

Portuguese counter-claim

Portugal, till date, has never officially recognized Spanish sovereignty over Olivenza.
Portugal unilaterally revoked the Treaty of Badajoz during the Napoleonic Wars as they accused Spain of violating the peace treaty, thus, declaring the same void.
Post the defeat of the Napoleon and Portugal being part of the winning British alliance, in the Congress of Vienna, Portugal successfully included a clause wherein:
‘winning countries are to endeavour with the mightiest conciliatory effort to return Olivenza to Portuguese authority.’
However, Spain interprets this clause as being optional and has never acted upon the same.

Olivenza of today

Olivenza is a town with barely 12,000 people living as of today. Spanish is the most dominant language in the town, considering:

·       Teaching in Portuguese was banned since the takeover in 1805.

·       Spanish was made the sole official language for all documents of the council.

·       Spanish was aggressively imposed during the regime of General Francisco Franco in all the regions of Spain ever where Castillian was not the dominant language and Olivenza was no exception.

·       Elapse of time; they have been a part of Spain for over 2 centuries that many of the current generation are not said to associate themselves with Portugal.

With Spain and Portugal both being part of the European Union and the Eurozone, there is practically no practical difference for the residents of Olivenza; even for those who wish to identify themselves as Portuguese as when they cross into Elvas (bordering Portuguese town), there is no hard border and they use the same currency. Only difference is that their taxes go to Madrid instead of Lisbon. Elvas and Olivenza are sister cities as of today and there is a bridge connecting the two paid for by the Portuguese government.
However, the two countries, are still quite sensitive about what the territory. When the former Prime Minister of Portugal, Pinheiro de Azevedo visited Olivenza in 1981, the Spanish responded by sending their Guardia (police force) to prevent any potential trouble caused by Portuguese nationalists in the town.
While rest of Spain is hardly aware of there being a dispute over Olivenza, the Portuguese in general are said to be becoming more conscious of the dispute. As recently as 2010, the Portuguese street names in Olivenza that were forcibly changed have now returned. A few residents of Olivenza who applied for Portuguese citizenship have now acquired the nationality. Going by the trends, it can’t be said as to what would be the situation in a few years from now.
The case of Olivenza is very similar to the case of Nice between France and Italy (which was ceded to France by Italy by means of treaty in exchange for French recognition of unified Italy); just that Italy does not dispute French sovereignty over the same. However, with Portugal never officially ending the dispute, one could never know what could be the situation in the future.
My personal opinion on such matters always is that there is no point in prolonging this dispute considering it is 2 centuries old, the Portuguese minority is not persecuted and is free to use their language and that Spain and Portugal are two very friendly neighbours. However, leaving my personal opinions aside, this is unlikely to be a burning issue till European Union exists and both the states remain members. Nonetheless, it is a very interesting case which I have always found it very interesting to read about.

Have a nice day,

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Plagues of Humanity

The coloured yonder, blots from afar a wail,
A visage of marvel, spotted out dark,
Leading a road to the parts which pale,
Nestling beneath foliage, the infant, hurting and stark,
Dancing around the nest, in blissful ignorant glee,
Creatures hideous, shaming unabashedly, even the ugly,
Playing a dirge, for even the birds, animals, life to flee,
Pricking the innocent, bleeding it snugly.

A creature close, bites upon the nape, gnarls, 
Off with the child, in pursuit the others,
Into an edifice, adorns it, crosses and stars enthrals
From Zion, drop indulgent, faith induced feathers
Permanence of which, unbeknownst to it, imbibes the child,
By providence, its birth, to the cross, star, moon or sun,
The infinite sands, each grain upon, echoes no in mild,
Deities, snatching from the abstract, from which none run.

The nape, another creature, inherits now to bleed,
From the crosses, sprouts the anteroom, inscribed paper,
Fables for posterity, mythical rules into, they feed,
Who is a king, cyclical lives profound, who the leper.
To the innocent, stories, supposed values, ingrained
Each paper, a brick to the edifice, bolstering the height,
The mind, a prison, each fable the bars framed,
A library, the members, foundations for the upheaving might.

The nape, another creature, accepts now to bleed,
 Excerpts of the texts, read between the lines,
To perform acts, to endear with water or reed,
In absentia, the fears of condemned, upon, the ritual dines,
Words with meaning, now archaic, followed unknown,
Once told for sanity, now told to the blind, 
Stagnant, incorrigible, in spite of the times flown,
Commanding obedience, boundaries for the mind.

The nape, another creature, leads not to bleed,
Practices of the yore, descending from the kings, 
Elevation of the sophisticated, plebeians wherein to weed,
Marks of humans, violation of other kingdoms, their links.
Once done, twice repeated, forever they live,
To the innocent, taught it a rule, for it to break
Others of innocence, a cardinal sin they give,
The spirit, once shone, succumbed now, to the fake.

The nape, another creature, passed now to bleed,
The graveyard, etched upon stones, humanity,
Its deeds, misdeeds, highs and conquering its need,
Mistakes for victors, richness of learning, for others, vanity,
Within wailing, is it taught, the tales of heroes, 
Villains, martyrs and empires, all human, 
A glorified past, vast lands torn, endless rows,
Cares it not, to create its history, will be done.

The nape, another creature, pulls now to bleed,
A cellar, brimming with gems, bones and gold,
Though menacing, the creature, its efforts bewilder greed,
Knows not the child, the treasures which unfold,
Relentless, the creature, plagues the innocence till grown,
The glitters of the Earth, familiar now, a little less
Shine and allure, the want of which leaves forlorn,
Innocence into desire, for its life, it to digress.

The wailing worse, darkening the bright day,
Splattered blood, upon it, the creatures cherish,
Vapours red, calling upon more, to the innocence fray,
Clinging onto it, infecting the world, the relish.
The creatures, the plagues, brazen and bold,
Never to be expunged, else the innocent flourish,
Knowing of religion, texts, past and gold,
Nonetheless, not enraptured the creatures, its wish.

   - Victor Van Volkner

Monday, 2 October 2017

Was the referendum Catalonia’s equivalent of Easter Rising?

Is the centuries old union on the brink?

Britain and Spain don’t see eye to eye on most things. Historically, there was the rivalry over Catholicism versus Protestantism leading to wars such as the Spanish Armada. There was also the loss of Gibraltar to the British over which fighting is going on, till date. However, there seem to be many issues on which these two are similar and the most evident is that both have a region to the North of their capital fighting for secession from the larger state.

When Scotland called for an independence referendum in 2012 to be conducted in 2014, while many considered it an internal matter of the UK, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain was quick to announce his support to the British and voiced his opinion against Scottish independence. He went on to announce that Spain would veto an application by an independent Scotland to enter the European Union. All this was done as Rajoy didn’t want the Catalan separatists to be provided a fillip by the Scottish nationalists.
The British soldiers leading the surrendered rebels post Easter Rising

But even before Scotland, in the early 20th century, there was the issue of Ireland and home rule for Ireland. It led to a very violent uprising by the Irish rebels for five days in April, 1916. Even in Ireland, some favoured a violent approach to seek freedom, some were pacifist and some pro-British. However, the manner in which the British cracked down on the Irish (there were more civilian casualties than combatants), even those who didn’t support the rebels initially, the public opinion starting turning and the seeds towards eventual independence in 1922 were planted and thus, the Irish nationalists consider the Easter Rising a success for this very reason.

Now fast forward a hundred years to Catalonia – they have faced oppression in the past, under Dictator General Francisco Franco, Catalan cultural events were banned such as their dance – Sardana, and so was their language, Catalan, with a total imposition of Castilian Spanish. However, ever since General Franco ceded power, Catalonia as a region gain autonomy, today, Catalan has become the primary language of instruction in most schools in Catalonia and of course, Barcelona is one of the most important centres of the European Union.

However, with all this, the resentment is not done away with for some Catalans, with a separatist coalition managing to gain power in the regional government; a referendum was called for on 1st October, 2017 – which the Spanish government and the Constitutional court declared illegal. Similar to Ireland, even in Catalonia – there are people with pro-independence views who support a unilateral referendum, there are pro-independence views who support a referendum within the framework of the Spanish constitution and not a unilateral solution and of course, there are people who are for the union (which some polls suggest are the majority).

The major issue that the Catalans kept raising were to spend the taxes in Catalonia, considering they were receiving €10 billion less than what they were sending to Madrid. Indeed, Catalonia, with the presence of Barcelona is one of the wealthiest regions in Spain and it is only inevitable that the government in Madrid channels some of the money to the regions more in need of the money and those less fortunate than Catalonia. So, on the other hand, unlike Ireland, the reason why Catalans want to secede is mostly economic and has very little to do with civil rights of the locals which further weakens the case as economic fortunes have never been permanent.
Clashes between the police and the public leading to injuries of roughly 450-750 people

On 1st October, 2017, the Spanish Guardia police were indulged in violent crackdown on people going to vote, snatching of ballot boxes, the number of injured are ranging from 450 to as much 750 as per various reports from the resulting violence. There are calls for Mariano Rajoy to resign but the question is – was it an overreaction from the Rajoy-led government? He had already secured a victory in the courts and also the fact that only 42% of the registered voters ultimately turned out for the referendum (of whom 90% voted independence) – the referendum would have lacked any international recognition and the violence that the Spanish police indulged in was perhaps not necessary. Even FC Barcelona (considering their global popularity), staged protest by playing their match closed doors. 
FC Barcelona facing Las Palmas in front of no one

With the extent of violence, maybe, similar to Ireland, those who wanted independence following a referendum within the framework of the Spanish constitution might now start leaning towards the side of those in favour of the unilateral secession.

Whether an independent Catalonia is viable is an entirely different question altogether and perhaps deserves an article of its own. It might also trigger movements in other regions of Spain, especially Basque, Galicia and Asturias. Moreover, on a lighter note, it would be a big blow to Spanish football, considering their 2010 World Cup victory – 6/11 players in the starting eleven of the final were Catalans (Joan Capdevila, Gerard Piqué, Carles Puyol, Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta and Sergio Busquets) and thus, would be a big blow to the La Furia Roja.

As far as yesterday (1st October, 2017) was concerned, Catalan separatists were probably not the winners, they are unlikely to get their desired result. However, Rajoy surely lost the plot – there was a lesson that was available from the case of Ireland which he has surely chosen to ignore. Have the seeds of Catalan independence been sown? Only time will tell.

Have a nice day,