Saturday, 31 March 2018

A literal loss of words...

Opportunities to write are becoming an increasingly rare privilege for me. It is not merely a writers' block or the lack of leisurely time. It is in fact apprehension; and a rather dumbfounded one, but an apprehension nonetheless. Of late, I've been getting this mortifying feeling, of being denuded of words. There is a lot that I feel like expressing and there are still those limited modes of expression. So while writing still sits at the apex of the list, here I am, finding myself at a literal loss of words.

A lot has changed in my life over the last couple of months and as I prattle and meander through this quarter life crisis, the speed of change continues to wreak rampage. It seems as if change has accelerated exponentially. Over a span of a month, I'm not able to observe the pages turn, but over a year, the very book has been rendered derelict. Last 3 years have seen more change than the last 9 for me. And my loss of words, is largely attributed to this inexorable panache of change.
It took my family 15 years to graduate from a CRT color TV to an LCD and not even 5 to switch from the latter to an LED. Likewise, it took my home 20 years to graduate from a landline to a polyphonic tune based frugal looking cellphone, while it took barely a year to switch from 3G to LTE. You must be thinking I'm going to prescribe the usual technology bickering, but my loss of words is only partly predicated to that. It's a result of something else.

In this ever changing world, what petrifies me is putting myself in context. As a human being when I imagine my great great grandfathers, who would have been nomads, ferreting for pastures and hunting prey, they were largely driven by the basic human needs. In fact as children even we were sensitized to the fulfillment of the basic paraphernalia - Roti, Kapda and Makaan! But of late, things seem to have changed.

Suddenly, at the helm of everything, is the need of fitting in. While the slang Fear of Missing Out (#FOMO) is no longer the heirloom of rebellious revanchists and is in fact a part of the mainstream culture, this fear is actually much more deep rooted than we can imagine. Our actions are no longer dictated by what we were taught or by what we always believed to be the truth. In fact, our actions are now solely driven by the vagaries of the social fabric. 

About a decade and a half ago, when Orkut and some nascent social media platforms were prevalent and text messaging didn't allow anyone to see you, even someone visiting your profile was such a profound event that Orkut kept a count of it. And here we are today, oblivious about what facet of our life is out in the open and what information we're unknowingly serving on the digital platter. In fact we're so absorbed by the appeal of proclamation, that concerns of privacy are now only limited to privacy settings and 2 factor authentication.

We're taking pictures not with the intent of preserving a moment, but with the intent of making sure it is shared. We're using a hashtag, no matter how incongruous it is, just to prove that we're not luddites and that we're a part of the clan as well. We send whatsapp messages and are on groups, just to feed that sense of belongingness. Most of the correspondence or most of the content we're exposed to, is not of any use to us, but yet we chose to filter through it, instead of blocking the same. It is this insane amount of data that makes me feel helpless. 

We, the Homo Sapiens, might have come really far and might have accomplished unprecedented feats on our sojourn, but we're still made of flesh and bone and not of silicon and solid state devices. While our systems upgrade from single to dual and quad cores, we still have one single cranium supporting one delicate kilogram of mass running the show of our lives. Simply put, I'm too afraid of all the communication that now controls my life.

Right from the beep of the alarm till the final scroll through Facebook feed, it seems like we're not the ones in control, but we've surrendered it to what we now believe to be the supreme commander. Every few years, some piece of technology takes over mankind, but cellphones, while they're used for facilitation of some job, are used by everyone alike.

While the working class needs smartphones, you'd find it even with the most idle fellow on the street. He is not using it for accomplishing any task, but such is the appeal of technology's inextricable illusion of social circles, that even he is welcomed. Just by joining Facebook or Instagram, even this fainéant forays into this virtual world where he is given an identity. Truth be told, he or that 5 year old school going toddler still don't have an identity. But this manifestation in a social circle, and this certificate of existence are the most important identity ever. 

This crotchety change will only intensify with time. Same people are on multiple platforms, all allowing seamless movement of data. Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram and Snapchat have all the same stories, tailored for different crowds, suited to different tastes. There would have been a time when you were not obliged to prove that you're happy, but now you are! 

They say change is the only constant, but here, we're compelled to change for pleasure, rather than changing to combat adversity, which otherwise has been the hallmark of human progress. Entropy, the agent of change, used to make us adapt by forcing us to learn new ways of tackling some nettlesome chagrining situation. But entropy today is the massive obligation of trying to fit in, and it just makes us succumb to the art of putting considerable effort in fitting in. 

I was just never prepared for this onslaught. I have been through gargantuan personal and professional upheavals in the past and I didn't wither, but this speed of change, and this ever piling weight of extraneous obligations, is facetious enough to knock out the wits. Suddenly, the sound that the pen made over the chasms of paper as I wrote, is replaced by tick of the keys on the keypad. I couldn't undo what I wrote on paper alright, but suddenly I can't write anymore what I once could have. Such is my literal loss of words...  

Monday, 18 September 2017

The quest for chaos.

One of the most overlooked subjects in the modern times is anthropology. We human beings consider ourselves the cognoscenti. The ever so mighty and ever so equipped race that has both the volition and the ability to single-handedly steer the course of the future. Truth be told, we have accomplished feats which were once deemed to be the wildest imaginations of a grotesque maniac. We believe we are the creators of the modern world, which is indeed the nirvana for all the successors who are yet to come. We believe every major move we have made in our lives interstices the gap between the plebian that we once were and the aristocrat that we now are. We attribute all the greatness and grandeur to ourselves, and all the leftover misery and all the jejune order of the world to mother nature. We believe that we should take great pride in the gargantuan structures we have made across the rivers and the peaks to protect ourselves from the wrath of nature, and should loather and disparage our own foibles in tackling the remaining streaks of the nature for all the mishaps that occur on these edifices. We are the great grand mighty race, always looking to exceed, looking to improve, aren't we? 

Well, to every man who has succumbed to the system, like me, the answer to the above seems very obvious. All our adulation does go out to ourselves and our feats, and all our chagrin is indeed reserved for what we are yet to do. But for some reason, the world's course post humans took over, doesn't really fit in if our own palpable view of ourselves were to hold true. Our moves are not in fact dictated by an unnerving urge to improve, but by an inexorable craving to extirpate the order we so dearly cherish! 

Picture this. Every great invention came with a substitute of a well functioning product or a concept. The existing solution was adored, with one or two well qualified cynics admonishing the masses for using the substandard solution, and the previous inventors for offering the same. They chastised the norms and made way for a better solution, and viola! a new miracle emerged. The new solution quickly usurped the older one. Massive industries dealing in the former solution are uprooted with many thousands of millions of people losing their jobs and receding to the alcoves of poverty. With time, the new solution becomes the new norm and with improved efficiency, it makes some aspect of human life more prosperous and convenient, thereby making it better for the standard average human being to survive and exist, resulting in greater predilection for more humans to feel elated and grow their species as a whole to further on the current prosperity. As our forefathers did this, we became more and more prolific as a race, with the rich-poor divide holding on the percentage facet diligently, resulting in the more and more overall poverty with a larger span, and more and more prosperity and convenience with a smaller span. So the percentage of the happy and impervious ones remained the same, with just the overall population increasing. 

Hence what held the pretense of making the overall situation better, simply made us become a much larger menace to manage than we once were. In a nutshell, what was ostensibly a great grand move towards improvement, was just a quest for chaos!

It's not that we do this unaware and are supposed to be caught by surprise. Every action of ours has an inherent unwanted ramification waiting to happen. What seems like the current "best choice" has repercussions so far and wide that we inevitably cause much larger tumult, obviously hidden from the normal eye, that they can make a large and unattended to sect perish into oblivion. Consider the invention example above. What seemed to the inventor as the next big revolution, unknowingly put many families out of business, some of which survived courtesy of being docile and hence adaptable, but most of which vanquished because of their belief in the order ensconced by the formal invention, which was extirpated in one single go. 

When we look at this phenomenon in day to day life, the same role play is replicated, minus the theatricality of the greater human pursuits. What seems like the best possible move in regards to our career, may wreak havoc in our lives and the lives of those impacted by our presence, for what is left of their lifetimes, in irreparable ways, beyond anyone's imagination. Or what may seem to be the right guy or the right girl, may not only turn out to be wrong for the spouse in consideration, but for the immediate and even the remotely related members of the connected family. 

This may seem like an inherent flaw of being myopic. But in reality, this is not another one of those fallacies we may again abhor and try to improve on. It's not that we are trying to ignore it and move on either. It is in fact an inextricable part of how we function as a collective species!

Entropy! All the actions of all the people result in changes to equilibrium. Some positives turn to negatives or neutrals, but as we move forward with our actions, and as we multiply and make ourselves a larger species as a part of which more people take actions today and hence there are more actions than ever taken by us, we are just causing more equilibrium changes every passing moment, than we ever did. The universal order may seem intact, but with every new action, more and more entropy is created, and more and more resistance is developed by us to surpass the dogma of considering its presence. We are a self correcting system in terms of how we impede contemplation with surreal ease. But that still doesn't discount the fact that we are the masters of this legerdemain already. Every action, every decision and every move made by you and me, makes things better for someone and things worse for many more. Thus every day you and I live and breathe, we just manifest this quest for harmony to us, which in real is nothing more than a quest for chaos!

Saturday, 5 August 2017

The tyranny of tradition.

We, human beings, have an enormous knack for making things. We are the great grand inventors of some of the most marvelous wonders of the present times. We are such great creators, that at times we take immense pride in that very trait being the harbinger of our superiority. Surely, given how much we have accomplished in the last handful of decades itself, heralds a lot of mirth. However, there is something that we do even better than we are in making things. And that, folks, is making up things! While the things we make do consume a lot of our time and dictate most of our lives, it's the things we make up, that make up for the idyll. 

Money, God, law; they're all mercenaries of the bounty that we have come to gift ourselves. As grand as these concepts may sound, having deloused us out of our disheveled unorganized past to our glorious institutionalized present, these are no better than mere ponzi schemes. Throughout our lives we fight for triviality. We need everything to be linked to something material. If we give a small service, we need money. If we sense any trouble, we need legal indemnity. All the time, all the while, we are looking for a solution that culminates into something tangible in the form of money, or a legal writ, or a verse from the holy books for that matter. But so naive are we, that we don't know that the final quest of these tangible elements, inevitably ends in one of the many made up elements. The one I want to twaddle about today, is tradition.

Tradition is a very ribald vice. It's inherently baseless, but is often concomitant with other baseless entities like God or maybe the institution of marriage. Tradition, unlike other intangible imaginations of mankind, is under a level of protection. In that sense, tradition will only be questioned, after the first layer is questioned. For instance, the concept of voting, which is a tradition in a democracy, would only be questioned after the ideology which this democracy follows, would be put to question. People will always attack the upper and the much stronger layer, encapsulated within which are the much more feeble seeds of tradition. There is a reason why traditions have come to assume this sanctimonious status. 

Ever since we're born, we're enshrined with the facets and applications of traditions. Long before we become capable enough of knowing what god or money is, we are asked to respect and venerate both, and we see everyone around us doing the same. As a result, vicissitudes of tradition, soon transform into various learned behaviors. Later on, courtesy of these learned behaviors, we develop an incessant meretricious craving for making the traditions thrive and prevail. During the course of our lifetimes, some traditions do succumb to the winds of change, but the basic element remains the same. And thus, without even once being questioned, traditions keep going on. In certain rare cases a society may decide to abnegate the outer shell - the larger phenomenon, but traditions are by and large protected because they are much more a part of our subconscious psyche, than they are of our conscious belief. 

Now you must be wondering what's wrong with traditions. Well, the thing that's wrong is that traditions get stronger with time, if they are followed, and their outcomes are never questioned. One very interesting thing to note is that traditions are much more fragile than the belief or the concept that covers them. The very simple reason for that is traditions are dependent on a human agent carrying them out. The Mayan traditions ceased, but the Mayan religion can still be found in their books and architectural edifices. Traditions are weak, because they need actions or they need to be imparted through instruction pleonasms. However, traditions, as long as they exist, courtesy of being ubiquitous, reign supreme over everything else, and thrive. So one day when the world blows up, we'd realize we were following the wrong traditions. But till then, as long as the tradition is being practiced, it continues to live.

One very quirky thing is that from the perspective of the outsiders, traditions are often questioned. However, just like questions on the outer phenomenon, questions on traditions too are dodged. The nemesis of tradition can only come once and there can be no resurrection because traditions, once they cease to exist, either because the humans who kept them alive were wiped off, or because they became a minority largely by the virtue of those traditions, are completely gone. Traditions can never be brought back because once the commoners do realize how vile and full of turpitude they were, they're more than willing to disparage and abjure them. The outer cover, say religion for instance, on the other hand remains strong enough to be passed on despite the foibles, because it has been questioned or tested before as well, and it doesn't need mere humans to keep it alive. 

The above makes traditions both preposterous and jeopardizing. We do know that some tradition is wrong but so deeply ingrained within us are the seeds of fortitude to keep them alive, that we are willing to sacrifice any questioning or beseeching of morality on the altar of conscience, just to keep the tradition alive, because we were simply told to! Consider this. A woman from a sect or a community, who has seen since her childhood members getting married within the community as a tradition. Now even if she grows up to fall in love with someone from outside her community, and even if she has seen many members of her community in the past not deriving any happiness from their marriages because they followed this tradition, she will still go on and do that, because she has been programmed to keep the tradition alive!

Tradition is like a ticking time bomb. It may be woefully wrong since the beginning, but it is considered both mordant and even contumacious to question the same. It, by the very virtue of it prevailing, is given a holier than thou status, and being put at a pedestal beyond all approach of being inundated with questions. Amid the large menagerie that our societies have become, traditions continue to keep us in the dark, and to give us that panacea, which is just a placebo otherwise. Traditions give us this belief that we are larger than just our corporeal composition, and just to cajole ourselves in acceding to that, we let traditions dictate everything, right till them time they destroy us, and destroy themselves in the process. Such is the tyranny of tradition.