Risk Latte - The “Curry” Perspective on War

The “Curry” Perspective on War

Rahul Bhattacharya
November 12,2006

Why is Massachusetts important? I asked this question, almost by accident while experiencing a severe fit of frustration listening to the conversation of a group of investment bankers in a posh club in Hong Kong recently. They were talking about the energy markets and more importantly the Iraq war. The conversation touched upon the issues like the US policy in Iraq, the crude futures market, Senator Kerry's recent remarks about the troops, expected policy change in the Administration, Fed policy on rates, etc. But what was amazing was that they were talking about war as if it was a business school case study, as if they were trying to fit a linear regression equation to the number of people dead in Iraq to the volatility of the crude futures prices!

I was only a listener as my erudition has severe limitation. And besides, I didn't belong to that group; I was there only by default.....well that is another story.

What a silly question to ask, my dear Rahul, bellowed my English friend, the most senior person in that group and who works for the prestigious American investment bank Kerry, Bush, Pelosi & Clinton in Hong Kong. And who is talking about Massachusetts ? We are talking about Iraq and crude futures, in case you missed the last half and hour.....ha, ha. But if you must know, then let me tell you that Massachusetts is important because of Harvard, MIT and then there is the Charles River and oh dear, don't forget Senator Kerry. And as if, scared that someone might lose the perspective on the history of that city and that of the entire United States , his colleague another old school English banker, seated to my right and fairly reticent until that moment, said: by the way, don't forget the Boston Tea Party. I couldn't believe he said that.

But I was adamant, yes, yes, but why is Massachusetts important? I was surprised by the intensity of my own voice, frustration perhaps, at not being able to talk about oil markets or Federal Reserve policies or intelligently about the Iraq war?

What's gotten into you, Rahul? Now I could see the hint of embarrassment in the eyes of my friend, who was responsible for my presence there. However, the quiet Englishman this time with a distinct air of irritation quickly interrupted and said: well, maybe it is the new software hub in America populated by thousands of newly arrived Indian software engineers. Is that what you are trying to tell? C'mon tell us why you think Massachusetts is important? Give us the "curry" perspective.

What I was trying to tell to that august gathering that evening, dear readers, was that a man named R Buckminster Fuller was born in Milton, Massachusetts on July 12, 1895. And Massachusetts is important, very important indeed, because of that, as well, besides Harvard and MIT and John Kerry. To me he was one of the greatest Americans that lived on this planet. And why ask a silly, off the tangent question like 'why is Massachusetts important?' because if I had asked 'who is Buckminster Fuller?' to that group, they would have thought I was talking about the Managing Director of a rival bank's global markets division.

Do you know him? Have you heard of him? Well, he was a philosopher, visionary, architect, innovator, engineer, mathematician and a poet; and of course, he was an American. He was one of the very few of his generation, perhaps the only one, who asked the question: "Does humanity have a chance to survive lastingly and successfully on planet Earth." But why bring up an obscure and an unimportant person like that in such an important discussion about Iraq war and crude futures market?

Buckminster Fuller may not have had any knowledge or understanding of crude futures market, but he understood the nature of war and its impact on humanity very well. Recently, on the eve of US mid term elections, there was a great war of words between Senator Kerry and President Bush regarding the Iraq war. The President accused the Senator of "troop bashing" and the Senator called the President's men "hacks who are willing to lie".

I am not an American, I am an Indian. I belong to the nation of the Mahatma, Tagore, Nehru, C++, Java and of course the "curry". And I would like to draw the attention of Senator Kerry, President Bush and indeed of all those present in that club that evening to what R Buckminster Fuller said in an interview with the New Yorker on January 8 th , 1966:

" Either war is obsolete or men are".

And that, dear Mr Braithwaite, is the "curry" perspective on war.

© Rahul Bhattacharya
This column is written by Rahul Bhattacharya and reflects his own views about life and business. It does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of other members of Risk Latte Americas Inc., Hong Kong (“the Company”) and the Company accepts no responsibility for any factual errors contained in the column and strongly advises readers not to pay much attention to it.

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