Monday, December 01, 2008

"Next Is What?"

I generally try to keep my blog posts light, short, and if I can manage it, funny. Not this one. I feel heavy and dark in the aftermath of the terrorist attack in Mumbai last week. For me, this was a déjà vu of the '93 bomb blasts that I was fortunate to have survived. (I was in my office, interviewing candidates to recruit for my BOLT team when the first bomb rocked the Stock Exchange building.) Like others, I have been feeling anger too - not just a passing annoyance or mild indignation, but a deep, visceral kind of rage, the kind that manifests itself not in a one-time tempestuous outburst of temper, but in wave upon wave of wrath. At first, I was furious at the sheer audacity and impunity of the attacks on November 26. Over the next couple of days, as I kept checking the news every few hours across half a dozen channels waiting for the nightmare to get over, I started getting increasingly pissed off at a whole bunch of people - the politicians (for their negligence: allowing national security to be compromised while playing their power games) the news media (for being insensitive to the repercussions of their actions, in their frenetic competition to uncover the most startling facts, break the most sensational story and win better ratings) the celebrities and the wannabes (for most of whom this was a PR / photo opportunity) etc. Then there were the panel discussions, and there were all kinds of preposterous demands being made by all kinds of people including film and theatre personalities, corporate executives, college students, journalists, business tycoons and so on. Some called for a mass boycott of the elections, some called for mass tax avoidance by Mumbaikars, some called for carpet bombing of suspected camps in Pakistan, and some called for outright war!

I have been learning to let my raw anger settle within me, like tar inside a smoker's lungs, telling myself (and anyone else who might read my status update on Twitter or Facebook): "Hold your anger inside you. Let it sublimate into a constructive plan and let it propel you to take positive steps". It is Monday morning as I start writing this post, and the city is back to normal (whatever that means from now on - it can only be a 'terror-adjusted' normalcy). Some politicians have resigned, some are resigned to resigning and on some resignation has been thrust upon (to paraphrase Shakespeare). This had me asking myself, quoting the Samsung ad - "Next is what?" From the time the attacks started, I have not reacted except for status updates or a few choice comments on social networks, and forwarding some well-written (in my opinion) articles to friends and associates. I wanted to calm my mind, 'still my beating heart' and compose my thoughts as I developed my response to this situation. I think I am approaching readiness now, so I've started writing this post. Don't expect brevity, though I shall give it a shot. My line of reasoning, after a dull weekend speckled with a few bright moments of epiphany, developed around the following sets of questions, in the sequence presented here (fairly simple, really and I would bet that most people with half a brain would have gone through more or less the same questions, more or less in the same sequence):

1. What can we do to stop this once and for all? What is the root cause? What would a permanent solution involve?

2. While we try to find a permanent solution, it is likely that such attacks will continue. How do we manage to protect ourselves each time we are attacked? How do we mitigate the impact of such attacks? How do we recover quickly?

3. What can the common man do to help? What are the avenues for the average person to contribute in solving this problem at various levels?

First, the root cause analysis and the search for a strategic resolution that is both long-term (if not permanent) as well as wider in geographic coverage (if not global). To my mind, terrorist activity in the years after 9/11 resembles a global corporation that operates through a two-tiered distributed franchise model and has embraced the mantra 'think global, act local' (now a stale cliché in business circles). At the apex there seems to be a core group of like minded individuals - a virtual team that is not necessarily tied down by geography, that is responsible for (i) vision, mission, ideology development and evangelism (ii) sourcing of funds and financial sponsorship of strategic programs and tactical strikes (iii) infrastructure, technology / tools, provisioning and project enablement, and (iv) franchise management consisting of indoctrination / recruitment, skills training and deployment. The only major difference between this approach and that of say Yum Brands (KFC, Pizza Hut, etc.), is in terms of branding strategy: when it comes to terrorist networks, brands are amorphous and fluid - terrorists want to remain anonymous to the extent possible and therefore throw out as many brand names as they can, just to confuse the world, making some of them up as they go along, dropping old ones and creating new ones as new recruits and new franchisees enter their operating ecosystem. Some franchisees take on names and those names stick to them, and they are then banned or outlawed in their host country/ies. When this happens, it is not at all difficult for them to morph into another band of outlaws with a brand new brand name. The growth strategy of this global enterprise is to identify pockets of disenchanted but smart, enterprising and able-bodied young men, to stoke their anger and brainwash them with messages of hate (which is not difficult if those smart, enterprising and able-bodied young men are also poor, hungry and unemployed) and to get them to volunteer for missions and strikes, and then train them to deliver terror. The final aim is to destroy everyone who is not 'them' and terrorize those who survive their attacks into submission (conversion). By doing this repeatedly, in different places, they hope that the world will be left with people who either convert to their point of view / system of beliefs out of sheer terror, or die resisting. The core group may not directly get involved with routine business operations - autonomous franchisees are the delivery vehicles of the message, but they would certainly approve specific missions or projects for sponsorship, if not actually advocate, plan and direct them. Quite simply, they want to build a franchise network of the 'disenfranchised' in as many parts of the world they can.

To neutralize this omnipresent yet invisible and intangible network, one may wage war (unconventional war, of course, given the nature of the 'enemy'), or one may try the language of love and peace. It is unlikely that we will ever know which of the two will succeed, but let us think through the options. Personally, I am all for resolution of conflict through peaceful dialogue and negotiation. Not only is war a less civilized approach, but also war is expensive from all points of view (though some may argue that war can trigger economic growth). And this war - in this specific case - involves fighting a hydra-like monster (or Ravana, if you prefer): you cannot behead it one head at a time; you have to take out all its heads, all at the same time, and kill its very core, and that to my mind is an impossible task. I am sure many experts will differ and will assert that taking out just one bearded guy up in the mountains and perhaps a few of his evil cronies will neutralize this problem. Well, let them do that first. If they can. I wish them luck, but my money is on the franchise network that has already been created across the diaspora which, though geographically dispersed, is bound together by the teachings of extremism and the power of hate. No. If you want to take these guys out, you have take them all out - there are way too many of them - and all within a very short timeframe if not simultaneously, so that they don't live to fight another day. Let me go a step further, though I am now venturing into the realm of the ludicrous, and assume that we will be successful in eliminating each and every individual known or even suspected to belong to this network of terror, as well as its financiers. Even if we have done this, it will still not be possible to eliminate the 'meme' since the meme will stay dormant in history books and news archives and the hearts and minds of silent supporters, and will find manifestation again in another space and time, in the not-too-distant future (e.g., neo-Nazism / white supremacism). No, war would not work. To fight hate, we need an equally strong force - love. And if conflict is what 'the enemy' is spoiling for, let us respond with peace.

Love and Peace. Two words I grew up with back in the seventies, of which the Beatles sang many songs. If we were to go down that path, we would need the key western nations of the world to partner with countries like India and others, to jointly go to these guys and smoke the peace pipe. Is this possible? Or am I smoking a pipe with some other stuff in it? I am not sure, but my sense is that this is our only hope. Be that as it may, India could still try and do whatever we can by way of making it difficult for them to recruit disenfranchised Indians to their cause, by keeping its citizens (especially the pockets targeted for recruitment by the preachers of hate) more or less happy with normal life. It is important to remember that most volunteers do not necessarily buy into the grand vision of the core group or perhaps even understand it. But their immature, impressionable minds are fertile grounds to sow the seeds of hatred on the one hand and to impart a sense of purpose on the other. To the disenfranchised youth, the call of the fundamentalist preaching becomes something that gives their lives meaning, a cause they can espouse, an institution they can belong to, a group of people who respect and value them and who they can call their own. If they were not disenfranchised to begin with, they would be less likely candidates for a mission such as the Mumbai attack on November 26. Messages of love can counter those of hate. The more difficult it becomes for fundamentalists to recruit volunteers, the less potent they become. Love and Peace can help in disarming the terrorist apparatus, if not neutralize their agenda. ("All you need is love", "Give peace a chance"!) If our population is by and large enfranchised and happy, if children feel loved and cared for, if young men and women have a sense of belonging to the communities and societies that they are a part of, we would be successful in isolating the core group, who we could then work on, through a process of peaceful dialogue. While this sounds simple, I have no doubt that it is a humongous task. It would be imprudent to assume that we can do so in a short period of time, and to be content with this assumption. We must therefore prepare for a world where such attacks will recur, recur often and recur in different parts of the globe, while we work towards a world of peace and love.

Given that we may be attacked again, what do we do? In listening to the news reports over the last few days, I learned that there was adequate intelligence in the system, for us to have taken precautionary measures to safeguard against this attack, as also to respond to it (when it did happen) with rapid counter-measures. Where did the system fail? It could be that the people who were alerted and needed to act did not see this as a serious threat. It could be that they lacked the will to act. It could be that there were pre-occupied (justifiably or otherwise) with other matters that seemed more important at that time. It could be that they receive several such alerts every day and have grown insensitive to them. It could be anything (and I don't want to speculate on the more sinister possibilities). This needs investigation - it is always good to know what went wrong in the past. However, the bottom line is that each of the "it-could-be's" above needs attention, so that it does not become the reason for inaction in the future (including the more sinister possibilities). Let us consider a three-pronged approach to effective crisis management of terrorist strikes, consisting of:
- prevention of terrorist strikes (how to avert / deflect the occurrence of an attack),
- damage control of inevitable strikes (how to minimize the harm done to lives and property, in cases where the attack could not be averted)
- recovery, reconciliation and retribution in the aftermath of the event (how to restore 'normalcy', how to assess and come to grips with the loss of lives and property, how to deliver justice, learn from this experience and improve the way we handle such attacks in the future).

Prevention requires, firstly, that we have a robust intelligence network that gathers accurate information well in advance, assimilates it and passes it on to the executive authorities. Secondly, it requires that the people who receive such information are empowered to mobilize the various local as well as federal agencies that would be involved in implementing preventive measures. Thirdly, it requires that the agencies who are provided the information and directed to act upon it have access to the right kind of resources, infrastructure and tools which they are able to deploy and execute their mandate speedily. Damage control requires that we improve the efficiency as well as effectiveness of all law enforcement vehicles and our disaster management machinery. These agencies need to be properly funded and their staff appropriately compensated (so pay your taxes, please), adequately trained and equipped with the tools and techniques, and enabled through suitable infrastructure and processes to do their job. Recovery, reconciliation and retribution require that we improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our rescue teams, medical response teams and other agencies that provide relief to victims and their families. Our judicial system needs to be reformed so that we quickly bring justice where justice is needed. This would also send a message to potential terrorists that they cannot escape - we are not a soft target any more.

Which brings us to the last set of questions - what can each of us do to help? The ordinary citizen can contribute in many ways to produce concrete results in each of these areas. Peace marches and demonstrations and expressions of solidarity and resilience are great morale boosters, but we need more, and we need our anger and our energies to be channelled in other, more concrete constructive ways. Ideally, we should prevail on politicians, diplomats and policy makers to work with their counterparts in other countries and adopt a unified approach in peacefully neutralizing the source of terrorist threat through a process of dialogue and negotiation (i.e., try to solve the problem once and for all). Within each country or society, we could work at the individual, community as well as national level to embrace diversity, eschew bigotry and jingoism and achieve harmony with our brethren. India already has a strong secular culture - let's strengthen it and build on it. Our goal should be to not let any section of society feel discriminated against because of their culture or beliefs. As far as safeguards are concerned (i.e., reducing the probability and impact of strikes), at the very least we can help in creating a culture of accountability by constantly persuading the people we elect to take appropriate action. By building adequate pressure on those in power, it should be possible to get them to act on simple practical recommendations towards prevention of, control of, and recovery from terrorists strikes in the future, thereby making the world a safer place. So please vote, and please engage with your elected representatives to make sure they do their job and remain accountable to you. If they fail (regardless of whether they can't or won't take appropriate action), find someone else who can and will do a better job. If they fail too, then, if you really care, take on the mantle yourself. Be the change.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Across the Universe: Concerns about the Big Bang Theory

The CERN experiment launched last week brought out a few concerns about the Big Bang Theory that I've been quietly nursing over the last several years. Since my day-to-day life at work or at play does not in any way deal with such things, I've had no option but to toss around my thoughts on the subject in the private silence of my open mind when "in vacant or in pensive mood". Now that the CERN thing happened and now that I have a blog, it gives me a window to vent and a place to vent at. But before I go any further, I need you to forgive me the weak pun on CERN / concern - it was unintentional, believe me (and if you missed it in the first place, please excuse my having pointed it out). Also, before I go further - this is not about how the $10 billion or so spent on building the Large Hadron Collider could have been spent instead on more deserving causes (e.g., hunger, healthcare, education ... the list is quite long). I am not saying there is no merit in that discussion: on the contrary, there needs to be some debate on the matter of prioritising the expenditure of globally available funds. However, this blog post is not about that. This is about the methodology of science and scientific research as currently practised, and issues about the integrity of the scientific community. So, for the moment, let's say it is worth $10 billion to find out whatever it is that we are trying to find out through the CERN experiment. (Like most research projects, the expected outcome is not known / not clear - they want to create a set of conditions, which they believe prevailed at the instant the universe was 'born', and then sit back and see what happens.)

First, let me deal with the issue of the veracity of the Big Bang Theory (BBT for short). From what I have understood so far, the BBT is still a theory. It has not been proven beyond doubt to be a 'fact' (benchmark: it is a 'fact' that the Earth is round, not flat). Over the last several decades, numerous scientists and scholars have attempted numerous other explanations and proposed them as coherent and credible alternatives. Most notable of these is Sir Fred Hoyle who together with his student Jayant Narlikar and others, authored the Steady State Theory (SST) and who, right till the time he died in 2001 did not accept the BBT (though most of the scientific community considered it a done deal by then). Over the years, the BBT has found an incredible amount of traction with the scientific community, which keeps finding more and more evidence that suggests that the BBT provides a reasonably robust set of explanations to questions on the origin of the Universe. And sadly, there does not seem to be adequate encouragement to upholders of SST and other theories - by way of resources, for instance, or even a platform of credibility, to prove or disprove theirs. For more on this, please read "An Open Letter to the Scientific Community", especially the last few paragraphs. It almost looks like the BBT meme is bullying all other competing memes out of existence. (To know more about the concept of 'meme', wiki it here .)

So what's the problem? Well - quite simply, the scientific temper does not tolerate bullying. When it comes to the quest for knowledge, if there is a doctrine I have learned to uphold above and beyond all else, it is this - let ideas be developed and be heard for what they are worth (even if nothing) and let them stand up (or not) to the strictest scrutiny of the sharpest and finest minds available at the time, before we accept them as valid (or not). For a theory to be accepted as fact, over alternative and competing hypotheses (e.g., heliocentricity vs. geocentricity), it must be proven to be true beyond all doubt; it is not enough to say "we have sufficient observed data that points to X being true". Finding "adequate" or "sufficient" evidence to "believe" that X must be true does not mean that X "is" true. It only means that there's a more than fair chance that it is true. Until, of course, it is proven to be false. The BBT is an instance in point: it stands on about 2 or 3 key premises which are backed up by observed data (e.g., Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation, Hubble Red-shift / Expansion, etc.). Now, if those same phenomena could be explained in some other way (e.g., click here), that would take a substantial quantum of wind out of the BBT sail. In legal terms such observations may be termed 'circumstantial evidence' - stuff that is highly suggestive but doesn't prove anything conclusively.

Second, let me deal with the possibility that some 'secret influences' just might have made the BBT a far more compelling proposition to the minds of key influential scientists, than pure scientific investigation could ever do on its own. The history of intelligent inquiry into the nature and origin of the world around us is full of theories that were taken to be true till someone found evidence shattering those beliefs. Scientific inquiry is just one of many methods that human civilisation has used to understand our world and the worlds around us, and over the last couple of centuries Science has established itself to the rational mind to be the only credible and meaningful way to really know or understand something. It thus has its own sets of believers - good people who have faith in the premises and methods of Science - and its own agnostics and doubters. The same is the case with all other ways to knowledge including various schools of astrology, various religions, spiritualistic paths and other belief systems and practices. To the credit of Science, it has maintained the ability to question and correct itself when faced with irrefutable contradictions. But does this always happen? I am not so sure. Is there a sub-conscious belief system - religiously and/or politically motivated - underlying the process of scientific investigation that might have, at least in a few cases, sacrificed the unflinching search for Truth at the altar of Belief? Quite possibly so. We are all human and we all have our own predilections that might secretly influence what we consider to be our rational thought. It is perhaps as important to understand our minds, as it is to use those minds to understand the Universe. Let me elaborate on that a bit ...

One of the things the BBT does is to assert that the Universe had a finite beginning. In other words, the BBT says that in the beginning there was nothing and then suddenly there was the Universe. This sounds a lot like the first few lines in Genesis 1! At the very least, it suggests that there was a spontaneous prime cause (which has no cause that preceded it) - and raises the question of the 'metaphysical why'. Let me take a quick moment to go on a side-bar to explain what I mean ... there's the physical / mechanical why, which is answered by cause and effect relationships (e.g., why did the ship sink? because it struck an iceberg that tore a hole in its hull) and there is the metaphysical why, the answer to which involves something that may be understood to be an intention or purpose or a will, which only a sentient being could possibly have (e.g., why am I writing this blog post? because I want to express my thoughts on this subject ... or whatever other reason YOU, dear reader, think I may be writing it for). If the Big Bang were spontaneous (i.e. there is no prior physical or mechanical cause which effected it), then the only 'cause' could be will (God's?) or intent or purpose. The concept of a Universe that was spontaneously created (space, time, forces, fields, energy, matter, momentum) from nothing resonates really well with the Creationistic view of many religions that, one way or other believe that God created the Universe, and that too for a Purpose. Perhaps then, the teachings of these religions have taken such deep roots in the minds of some scientists that they lean in favour of the BBT without even realising their own predilections? On the other hand, the SST does not involve the proposition that the Universe had a finite beginning - to know why something happened, you needed to go further back up the causal chain, and to know that, go further back ... look for the mechanical 'why' ad infinitum. With the SST all you have is the mechanical why - no suggestion of purpose or intention, just continuous creation / evolution.

Lastly, there's the question of symmetry / balance / harmony of opposites. The human mind is trained to look for symmetry and when presented with the concept of a beginning, it tends to believe that there should also be the concept of an end. Similarly if there is no beginning then there may be no end. I am not sure what believers in the BBT have to say about the end of the Universe, or even if they have any clear thoughts on that part of it and if they do, how many of them are in agreement. Speaking for myself, I would be more comfortable with a BBT that also explained how the Universe would end, and found adequate evidence to back that up as well. The SST on the other hand, is more symmetrical. But let me hasten to add that I am not saying that this makes the SST 'better' or - Heaven forbid - makes it 'right' or 'true'. Just that it does have more appeal (to me) probably because of my Taoistic outlook on things. (See? I know where that comes from!) Of what use is a Universe that has a finite beginning, of which nothing can be said about its end (even whether it is finite and closed or infinite and unbound)?

I have no idea, but I am not going to pay 10 billion bucks (in any currency) to find out. Over the years, I've pondered a lot about the origin of the Universe and the fascinating workings of Nature with awe and wonder. And today, when I come across something I just don't get, despite hard attempts over a prolonged period, I smile quietly to myself and hum "... she moves in mysterious ways".

Monday, April 21, 2008

Cultural Xenophobia: The New Racism

In my travels in North America, quite often I'd enter into conversation with a fellow traveller, especially if the journey afforded us the luxury of time and neither of us had much else to do. I met all kinds of men and women from different walks of American life - some young, some old, of different ethnic origins, with varying socio-economic backgrounds, residing in various parts of North America, and with different political inclinations. There were just three things common in the people I met, the first two being the more obvious ones - the fact that they were on a journey with me, and the fact that they were Americans. The third common element is what I am about to describe in this post.

At some point in the conversation, my travel companion's attention would turn to me and there would be carefully worded casual expressions of curiosity and interest in where I was headed, who I was, what I did for a living, etc. Quite often people assumed that the destination city of that journey was where I lived and when the conversations were shorter I would let them stay with that impression. When I did finally reveal that I was from Mumbai, I'd get a range of responses. Some did not know where exactly that was, and some others thought I was a Pakistani and on being corrected couldn't stop the "yeah whatever" response, though few were rude enough to be verbal. Even for those who did know their South Asian geography, the assumption would be that I was from there originally but had settled somewhere in the US more recently and was basically an American (invariably, the next question was "Oh and when did you move here?") I would then point out that Mumbai was home for me even now - I lived and worked there, had a family there, and that's where I would be returning to, after completing my business visit to America. This was when I would notice the subtle but distinctly palpable shift in my companion's expression and tone. Usually it was one of surprise - as in "Are you really an Indian from India?" This was the moment of truth. An Indian from India (not an Indian-American) who spoke your language fluently (without a heavy accent like the guy in the Simpsons), who grew up reading Hemingway and Dashiell Hammett and listening to CCR and Bob Dylan, who enjoyed Hollywood movies, loved modern Jazz and who, for all intents and purposes, sounded like a free-spirited, egalitarian and secular individual with a nuclear family (including a spouse with a career), familiar with all the aspects of modern life in the Western world.

How could this be? Surely, I was educated in the US? or Canada? or the UK? or perhaps lived in an English-speaking western country over a period of time in my formative years? I would watch with amusement the increasingly bewildered expressions of amazement when all my responses were in the negative. What they did not ask about, though I was keen on revealing, was that I had also grown up reading Dostoyevsky, Hesse and Sartre, listening to Jethro Tull and old Hindi film songs, loved Mozart and Rachmaninoff and had an interest in Greek philosophy. In other words, they did not see or were not interested in the part of me that was shaped by other cultures; did not notice that I had a more global, rather than an American outlook. While some were intrigued and curious to know how I had come to resemble what to their minds appeared like an American clone, others became suspicious and closed up. The more open-minded ones would immediately want to know more about India, and I would proceed to give them an overview of Indian history, geography, culture, current affairs, etc. But what they really wanted to know was how come a widget like me got manufactured in that factory to American specifications and whether my other compatriots were also like this.

As the conversation progressed, my companion's disposition towards me would vary from a benignly patronising concern ("So - are we treating you well here?") to mild wariness, to, at times (though rare) open suspicion (was I one of those fundamentalists?) Common theme: alienation - I was not one of "us". It would not matter to them where I was from originally, as long as I was one of "us" now. In other words, foreigners are welcome as long as they learn to become Americans. I found it strange that while they love it when you come from outside and adopt their culture, they would not do the same when they travel to your part of the world. Of course, there are exceptions to this (I know a few myself) and I'm sure that if I were to meet more people, I'd find more Americans who were different. But for most of them, 'American' is the de-facto standard culture that everyone must adopt as their core identity, to be considered one of "us" and therefore, an equal. Anything else is either not sophisticated or cool enough (euphemisms for backward or obsolete) or, even if not that, altogether too complex and in any case needing too much effort to get into and understand, leave alone appreciate or respect. Sadly, such people don't realise that such an attitude can only invite mockery (e.g., Borat), or worse still, hostility (needs no examples).

I came away from these chance encouters with a sense of disappointment - that such a great people, forged by the amalgamation of several hundreds (if not thousands) of diverse cultures, have, in more recent times, developed a non-inclusive attitude on the grounds of, for want of a better word, nationality (though its not really about the passport you hold). On the positive side, I must mention that I never encountered even a single instance of discrimination on the basis of my skin colour (paradoxically, I have experienced more racial discrimination here in India from other Indians, when visiting a restaurant, say, accompanied by colleagues or friends from overseas). So clearly, its not about skin colour. Its about being American (or not) and being assimilated (or not) into the mainstream American culture - be it East Coast or West Coast or Mid-west or wherever (even Canadian!) Being a non-American set me apart in America, to Americans. I was prepared for some racial discrimination, but this I had not expected.

On one of my long journeys back home, I spent some time thinking about cultural diversity and the emerging global order. In my job as a globalization consultant, this also formed part of my professional sphere of interest. I concluded then that 'tolerance' was just the beginning, and that there's so much more that all of us need to learn. Most of the world seems to be struggling with just the idea of tolerance - so much so that we appreciate tolerance when we see it. Sadly, we need to go way beyond that to make this a planet with less conflict - we have to evolve beyond 'tolerating' to 'respecting' to 'embracing' and finally, 'celebrating' diversity. It takes a lot of effort but its a journey worth every bit of the effort we put into it. And perhaps the only journey that could lead us away from the path of self-destruction through hatred and intolerance.

Friday, February 08, 2008

If by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!