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.

It’s as if the Borg from Star Trek announced “Resistance is Futile”, and humans mutely submitted to become one with the hive mind.

Most of us sheeple have always lived at the intersections of conservatism and modernity and to survive now in 1984 during this reversion to atavism, we have adopted a type of existentialism of the absurd. It helps to be a little blind, a little deaf, a little dumb at this moment in history, perhaps unbox some of those old escapist chestnuts where they were buried all these years during the rat race.

Journeying through this life living on the boundary, the deep conservatism, orthodoxy on one side of these borderlands set me on the path to find an opposite, an antonym world where I was welcome rather than just tolerated. I am still waiting to arrive at the place I’ve christened ‘the antipode garden’, a permaculture ‘topia’ as bio-diverse as our mono-cropped world is not, where I am welcome as I am, not for the services my gender is supposed to offer, and in spite of the societal norms I have broken.

Somtimes I envy the superficial, like the ease of modern young city women outside, comfortable in their casual shorts, whose families do not tell them off saying shorts do not belong in our cultural apparel. Whose families do not blame their daughter’s molestation on those self-same shorts, or the fact that she went out in the evening.

I am so alone in my dissent that I no longer even stand up to protest. There is no one to listen as everyone is absorbed in their own grievances and have no time for anyone else’s. All I can do is dissolve into these pages. I should be grateful that I’ve come this far, but I feel thwarted that I could not go all the way.

Loneliness results when the very idea of dissent comes under siege. Comedy and art have been so effectively muzzled, we sense an end time approaching for all things dissentful.

There are few contrarian funny women and men remaining where I am at. It takes courage and risk to be publicly funny at such a time and place. Funny people play a very important role in society, holding a Shakesperean mirror up to it, making us uncomfortable by showing us what we really are, a narcissistic bunch in love with undefined grudges. In an atavistic world reverting to a state before the founders, present with all the functionality defined by the term development, but absent of satire and intellectual curiosity, no longer do we dare satirise.

For satire is looked upon as war. The reactions to satire are always warlike. In my world, there are no jokes, as we have been fattened on our own gargantuan sense of self, and we will brook no judgement. This is a selfie-world in which we constantly feel “judged”. A judgement was always a hard pill to swallow, but we used to be at least willing to consider critical ideas, finding perhaps some hitherto undiscovered worth in them, before summarily dismissing them.

In Bob Dylan’s reluctance to pick up his Nobel prize was there perhaps a tiny speck of dissent against an establishment, dare I say an elitist award that most networking intellectuals hanker after. This present juncture began with the affectations and influence-peddling of the elite leaving behind the rest. These ‘rest’ have now risen leaving a twisted unsightly democracy in its wake. ‘ The rest’ have no humour. This is why any criticism, leave alone satire, is equated with elitism, even if it is not.

In a discussion on television one right-wing intellectual said democracy was in transition. His words brought to mind the science-fiction horror classic The Fly from 1986 in which Jeff Goldblum’s character is also in transition from human to grizzly fly monster. In my city, littered around the old town, are these beautiful crumbling bungalows and abandoned gardens. Passersby will notice these houses disappearing from the street one by one as they get walled off. The old buildings are now in transition.

Developers buy an old house and transform it into the egalitarian unaesthetic monster that is an Indian multistoreyed apartment building. On closer inspection, however, there is nothing egalitarian about any of these new buildings as each apartment will sell for millions of rupees. All that happened was that one version of conservatism was replaced by a different type of orthodoxy. And here we are, We the People, still left behind.


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