The virtual alter-ego

Were we always like this? Precocious virtual conquerors. Facebook, WhatsApp groups are filling with so many of us seeking instant validation: each one a more concerned citizen than the next. It’s counter intuitive but, perhaps, this is how everything went wrong. Everyone a plastic activist, animal lover, tree planter, vegetarian or crusading meat eater. We should have changed the world for the better, except for the troubling evangelism of the unquestioning do-gooders—Us.

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Welcome to Platonic Flatland or the reinvention of insanity

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Everything starts at the feet of our matriarchs. It is at the hearth where we are first lulled by fairy tales of the morally mighty, the self righteous who uphold the truth. We have to overturn everything that our matriarchs taught us. They loved us, but did not prepare us for the real world in which facts don’t matter. They did not tell us that with self righteousness comes vanity and naivete, a naivete that can ruin the world. A grudgy naivete that insists that every individual, especially them, might have his or her own version of the truth, their reasoning based on the science of changing eyewitness statements at the scene of a crime. But at this point we have entered the realm of prestidigitation. To save truth from the various bubbles we inhabit, let’s state at the outset that fundamental truth is the all-seeing security camera at the scene that saw what happened and not a version of it. Thanks to the amplifying mechanism that is social media we now know that the self righteous are illusionists able to shift the truth around as they please. And like Narcissus they have glimpsed their reflections and cannot peel their eyes away.

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Privilege envy or the loathing of dynasts

IMG_8111My country is rich with paradox, for instance, the patriarchs and the privileged loath dynasts. Anyone who was ever ‘heard’, or has a column, is privileged, right? They have the resources to be heard, they were born into castes that had access to higher education when the majority did not have those resources. They had the means to succeed and then feel sorry for themselves, where others did not. The loathing of dynasts seems somehow convenient, when the loathers are themselves dynasts. Perhaps they hate themselves, or are guilty of how they got what they have? But no, it’s not that either. Continue reading Privilege envy or the loathing of dynasts

The new sophistication

IMG_9646The sophist is always canny, master of doublethink. He can convince you that up is down. He will point out that really there is no up or down, as we bob around in cosmic space and it is all in our head, those tiny vestibular bones, this notion of up and down. And he believes he charms you as he cons you into being convinced. He converts you in fits and starts, he is not high priest of vaudeville, a proselytiser, he aims to be less obvious. Continue reading The new sophistication

Puncturing the paleo idyll

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Sepia-toned view from a home town

The Hadzas of Tanzania on Body Hack, with Todd Sampson on the National Geographic channel, were simplified for the want of a better word into idealized hunter-gatherers. The documentary concluded with Mr Sampson saying it was refreshing to live in a society without politics. But it feels implausible that the Hadzas do not have politics. As a concurrent primogenitor to our own agriculture-based societies, the Hadzas should definitely have politics of some sort, even if it is of an internecine kind between family groupings, leading to arguments and skirmishes from time to time.  Continue reading Puncturing the paleo idyll

The implicit bias in misogyny

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Our face, a genteel masquerade. Sometimes opaque, at other times transparent. Beneath, a scarier, second face. Which the face, which the mask, can we tell?

Like online trolling, anything can become the norm if enough people have grown used to it, approve and give it mass approbation. Even an evil like misogyny. But unlike online trolling, misogyny has been manifest, as a form of offline trolling so to say, for centuries perhaps aeons. So much a part of us now, it’s a bio-cultural entity we have absorbed and turned into a second face. For some it is feudally grotesque, angrier than most. For others, it’s an urbane facade.

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The transcendent edge

Edgy folk are defined by their openness to experiment and novelty of all kinds. This openness to meta-physical and material evolution crosses over to permaculture in a popular, transcendence-inducing topic called the edge effect. Simply put an edge is a junctional area between two ecological zones, which attracts bio diversity as these borderlands combine the qualities and species of the two zones that meet here, often leading to the evolution of micro climates and new species.

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Bizarro world’s Arundhati Roy

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I must be bizarro world’s Arundhati Roy. Opening up the weekend paper a few days ago, there, spread across four pages was every minute detail of Roy’s new book, from how the cover got made to how many translations were in the works. It must have induced the green-eyed monster in me to open up its beady little jade eyes. Hence the following.

We only ever hear stories of success, also known as the survivorship bias, and never hear from those who failed. Well, I failed, and even if my story does not inspire anyone it could perhaps contain a kernel of value. My book did not get published. Although its manuscript was longlisted for the Man Asian Literary prize in 2009. Immediately after this announcement, a leading Indian literary critic wrote in a column that a manuscript longlisted for the Man Asian Literary prize does not mean much. Though she did not say so in these exact words, she more or less said only the shortlist that follows matters as it weeds out the chaff. After the shortlist came out, I realised I was human chaff. Ultimately, only getting published is of merit. But in India, perhaps elsewhere, getting published is about effective networking. This means that the writer either needs to market themselves, move in the right closed-publishing-group circles, know the right people, so that the powers-that-be will give you a reasonable hearing.

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The confidence trick

So much of what we see today appears strange to the universal eye of the generalist beholder. We cannot for the life of us fathom why a lot of lay folk do not want to believe in expert prognostication, choosing instead to rely on their own strong beliefs, which belie all evidence.

Scientists and journalists have lost their cachet to the amateur online peddler of all matters requiring detailed attention. The more we insist on the evidence-based truthfulness of a concept, the more the lay side resorts to Colbert’s ‘truthiness’. At this point in these kinds of arguments after we have hit a wall, all communication ceases.

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The loneliness of dissent

It’s 1984.

But we will continue to insist it’s 2017 as we cannot ignore the calendar year, although we do consistently ignore what is going on around us. Loud, aggressive groupthink is spreading through the air waves and we have been subsumed. There are few left here to sound the voice of dissent or resistance. Even Bob Dylan has finally accepted his Nobel, that most establishment of awards.

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