Insightful newsletter of Drishtikone: Issue #214 - The Modern Opium Wars

Forcing widespread addiction for conquest is what brought China to its knees. What the British did with Opium, the new system is doing with social media. Be beaten if you fall behind!

Insightful newsletter of Drishtikone: Issue #214 - The Modern Opium Wars

Photo by mali maeder from Pexels

“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

From the 18th century onwards, the British found a way to tie China up and push opium they bought from India to create an addicted population in China.  A willing and weak populace who couldn’t stand up.  The foreign traders would just push opium at will.  In 1839, the Chinese government destroyed 20,000 chests (some 1,400 tons) of opium at Canton (Guangzhou).

The subsequent events started the opium wars that were defining in China’s history in many ways.

The first Opium war was fought between China and Britain from 1839 to 1842 and the second Opium war is also known as Arrow War or the Anglo-French War between 1856–60.  China lost both the wars and was humiliated with a treaty that ceded the territory of Hong Kong to British rule, open treaty ports to trade with outsiders, and grant them special rights.  Also, in the name of free trade, the British got to increase opium sales in China without regard to the health or well-being of the Chinese people.

One of the lessons that the Chinese took with them from that time is often summed by their current generation as 落後就要挨打 (Luòhòu jiù yào āidǎ) which means “Be beaten if you fall behind.”

The current social media platforms are planned as addictions.  And are pushed in the name of free speech and expression.  Facebook and Instagram, for example, use Fear-Of-Missing-Out (FOMO) and other techniques to create addiction amongst its users and make them desperately dependent just as painkillers would.

Once they have created an addicted population and gathered their most intimate information, they have then gone ahead with dictating and interfering in democracies, elections, and even local narratives.  Just as the Chinese saw as a result of the Opium wars, nations’ populations and leadership can only keep watching while the hegemonic social media companies lead the new Opium wars.  Except in China, which sagaciously created its own apps and blocked the new opium of the West.

Be beaten if you fall behind.

the unapologetically hegemonic social platforms

Instagram like the other hegemonic social media platforms is expanding its intrusive ways and also consolidating its power.  And with that, we will see things that give a glimpse into what they are really up to.

One guy got a rude shock.  Apparently, he and his girlfriend came across an ad that had a photo that they were very familiar with.  Where did they see it?  It came back quite easily.  It was their bedroom!

A few days ago, my girlfriend and I saw an Instagram ad that felt eerily familiar. The image was a bedroom featuring a white designer cabinet, a bed with yellow and white-striped sheets and soft furnishings in shades of beige and light brown. Just like our bedroom. (Source)

The ad was for a French linen company Bonsoirs’ “Club Holiday” Campaign.

They hadn’t provided their bedroom’s picture to them. So the obvious question was - is Instagram spying on them?

Well, Instagram just announced a new set of Terms of Use which went effective from December 20th, 2020.  If you want to understand what it does to us in terms of our security and privacy, then watch this.

There has been a major uproar about the whole change of terms. In fact, Madonna came out with her reactions to the new terms and what they threaten to do against the Instagram users. (Source)

Apart from the privacy issues, these dictatorial terms do even more.  If you are an Instagram influencer and a blogger, then if your Instagram account name is the same as your domain name then that could get your account disabled.

And, it is not just a conjecture.  Facebook apparently confirmed it to Kate, the person who tweeted this.


Facebook owns Instagram.

One person asked the obvious question - Why are they doing it?

Now, that is a great question.  And why now?  Is there a way that users can push back against?

The problem is that so many influencers have built their entire businesses on Instagram and brands have built their advertising platforms based on Instagrams with millions of advertising and promotion dollars riding on it.

Now… when the entire structure has been built, Instagram just changes the whole game.  Why?  Because they can!

More specifically, because they are a hegemon and a monopoly!

The manner in which the top social media platforms have not just become hegemonic, intrusive, and dictatorial, even when millions have already built their businesses on them it is time to think differently for us all.  Just because someone can make a few thousand on these social media platforms does not give these platforms the right to switch on the camera in their users’ bedrooms without their real and explicit consent.  Even more importantly - without any challenge to that arbitrary and extremely significant change!

To fully comprehend the twisted situation and reality we live in, please watch this documentary called “The Social Dilemma.”

The right way forward for everyone who has some respect for him/herself and ambition will be to create their own platform whether it is a blog or social networking.  For social networking, the correct way forward has to be Federated Networked applications.  But you can make one viable for yourself only when the group that is engaged and bought into it is large and self-sufficient enough.

Please read the following newsletter edition - Issue #125 - How to create your own Social Media Ecosystem - A Guide - for one possible way to create one.

effectiveness of Pfizer COVID vaccine

Here is an interesting piece of news.  A nurse in California took the Pfizer COVID vaccine and then fell sick and tested positive for COVID-19 anyhow.  (Source)

Many have started using this to question the efficacy of vaccines in the first place.  Specifically, on the “right-wing” politics in the US, there is a big issue with vaccines and medicines and they jump on every little straw they can get to somehow establish, however poorly, that vaccines are useless.  Now, I personally have not taken a flu shot ever since I landed in the US over 23 years back.  I get the flu once in 4 years and I deal with the consequences because they aren’t that bad.  I like my own body immunity to handle it.  Also, I ensure that when in India (once a year mostly) I eat from the street vendors, drink normal tap (via regular water purifiers - no boiling).  Again, I get sick once in the trip but that is the price I pay for keeping my immunity that I got growing up.

But COVID is not flu or diarrhea.  It destroys the body in many ways.  Just like, say polio.  It has very serious consequences that my personal immunity will not be able to deal with.  So, in my view, while I would not take the flu shot, I will go for the COVID shot just as it is recommended.

And, just for context and reference, here are the effectiveness rates for different vaccines that we and our kids have taken over the years.  This information gives an indication as to why the California nurse got COVID-positive even after the vaccine.

Two doses of MMR vaccine are 97% effective against measles and 88% against mumps. (Source)

One dose of MMR vaccine is 93% effective against measles, 78% effective against mumps, and 97% effective against rubella. Two doses of MMR vaccine are 97% effective against measles and 88% effective against mumps.  (Source)

Chickenpox has been 88-98% effective. (Source)

Polio vaccine effectiveness is between 90-100% given the number of doses.  Four is the recommended dosage for kids. (Source)

The Pfizer vaccine is 95% effective.

Based on evidence from clinical trials, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 95% effective at preventing laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 illness in people without evidence of the previous infection. (Source)

The trials have shown that there could be cases, very few where someone with the COVID vaccine could get infected.  That is what the vaccine effectiveness rate is all about.

market corner: 10 quick bytes

  1. ‘Make in India’ success! Indian Railways’ CLW creates record by manufacturing 250 locos in 188 working days - more
  2. The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved an interest subvention of Rs 4,573 crore for new distilleries producing ethanol, which can be used for doping in petrol.  India will need about 1,000 crore liter of ethanol for doping in petrol by 2030 with a view to cut dependency on imports for meeting oil needs. India currently has a capacity of 684 crore liters. - more
  3. Rs 8 lakh crore worth of loans were written off by Indian banks in the last decade - more
  4. Average ad volumes per day on TV rose 39% in Q4 2020: TAM AdEx - more
  5. Office space absorption down 51% in 2020; Bengaluru, information technology show resilience - more
  6. Cabinet approves Industrial Corridor nodes at Krishnapatnam and Tumakuru at an estimated cost of ₹7,725 cr - more
  7. Government approves Rs 3,000 crore project for Paradip port - more
  8. The government has extended the deadlines for filing 'Income Tax' and 'GST' returns for the assessment year 2020-21 -  deadline for filing ITR by those taxpayers whose accounts are to be audited: February 15, 2021/ for  other taxpayers: January 10/ GST annual returns for 2019-20 can now be filed till February 28, 2021 - more
  9. Ahmedabad most affordable housing market in 2020, Mumbai most expensive: Report - more
  10. Tata Sons to acquire 32.67 % more in AirAsia India for $37.66 m - more

nota bene

India is an Arms seller: In a big boost to India's indigenous defense capabilities, the government approved on Wednesday the sale of the Akash missile system to foreign nations, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said. A surface-to-air missile with a range of 25 km with over 96 percent indigenization, Akash, developed by the DRDO, is India's first indigenously designed missile system and can target fighter jets, cruise missiles, drones, and other aerial assets. It was inducted into the Indian Air Force in 2014 and in the Indian Army in 2015. (Source)

Only RFID tagged commercial vehicles coming into Delhi: In a move to help reduce pollution from vehicles entering the national capital, commercial vehicles without Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags or inadequate balance in the tags will not be allowed entry from January 1. The Commission for Air Quality Management for Delhi NCR and adjoining areas has called for strict implementation of the RFID system at thirteen toll plazas of the national capital. (Source)

New visual way to evaluate COVID spread: A new method for visualizing the air exhaled while someone is speaking or singing could shed light on how diseases such as COVID-19 spread, and help evaluate the effectiveness of face masks, according to a study. The novel system, described in the journal Applied Optics, images temperature differences between exhaled breath and the surrounding air to estimate how far the breath travels before being dispersed into the surrounding air. According to study author Thomas Moore from Rollins College in the US, the new technique can also be used to study the details of how the breath flows from the mouth while speaking or singing, which could be useful for music instruction and speech therapy. (Source)

US rivers turning yellow and green: A third of U.S. rivers have significantly changed color over the last 36 years, turning from blue to yellow and green, striking new images reveal.  Researchers analyzed 235,000 satellite images — taken over a 34-year period between 1984 and 2018 — from NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Landsat program. The changing hues can be viewed in an interactive map.  Researchers believe color changes could be a proxy for the health of river ecosystems.(Source)

video corner: India’s first cricket test and pace combo

We all talk about the fast bowling attack for India now with Jaspreet Bumrah and Mohammad Siraj that devastated in the just concluded test match in Australia.  For many decades, India would not have anything close to anything fast.  Or even medium pace.  There were so many times that Chandrasekhar, the quick leg spinner would open.  Or Mohinder Amarnath the only bowler I have seen who started his run-up faster than he ended it!

But on India’s Test cricket debut, on June 25, 1932, at Lord’s when CK Nayudu and Douglas Jardine (the man who later architected the bodyline attack on Bradman’s Aussie team) were the captains, India started off in style.  The two pacers Mohammad Nissar and Amar Singh took charge.  By many accounts, Nissar was much faster than Harold Larwood the man who wrote the legend of bodyline attack.

Nissar was in his elements - with the very first ball of his second over, dismissed Herbert Sutcliffe for 3, knocking over Sutcliffe's stumps so far off it was a spectacle.  You have to check how his stumps flew off that in the video below.

Then, with the fifth ball of the very same over, he bowled the other opener, Percy Holmes.  And, just ten days after Sutcliffe and Holmes had created a world record partnership of 555 runs for Yorkshire! (Source)

These two pacers were tall and strong.  Amar Singh was 6’2” from Rajkot, Gujarat and Nissar was 6 feet and powerfully built from Hoshiarpur, Punjab.

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