To exist is to fight existential dread. The human species survived extinction level events, tribal skirmishes, plagues and world wars, but the descendants of those who survived paid the price with post civilisational trauma. This dread is the background hum to our waking and sleeping existence. It is the anticipation with which we live.
The lockdown is meant to stop us from spreading a very efficient virus. In every nation, leaders and experts use the idioms of nationalism to move people into a war against the virus. But the lockdown did something else that cannot be addressed by those in charge of fighting a tactical war against a virus with medicine weapons and harried physician soldiers at hospital frontlines.
Old patterns in our working brains could use rewiring from time to time. A decade ago, pop science asked if we were left brained or right brained. Now that question has been tweaked to: is your brain conservative or liberal? Conservative ideas are connected to strong emotions and spring from deep inside the brain from the region of the amygdala. While in liberal brains, parts of the anterior cingulate cortex light up, as these areas are involved in reasoning out conflicted issues. It could be that such partitioning will always be imperfect like everything else in life. We could be conservative about some things and liberal about others.
Often I come across readers and commenters indignant when newer analyses or younger readers find older, beloved works of literature or art to be racist or sexist. The year-end Christmas special of Sherlock Holmes: The Abominable Bride was trying to make up for the original, which had mostly minor submissive female characters dedicated to the male universe of Sherlock Holmes. As a young child, I would curl up with Conan Doyle’s stories with nary a consciousness that my gender was being excluded in some way. With dawning adulthood, I realised my existence had been circumscribed by way of gender, and that I could never be a Holmes or a Watson without upsetting or upending the world in which I lived. My society had chosen for me the limited role of Mrs Hudson.
Selfies. If it wasn’t so profoundly absurd, it could be funny. Preening for preening’s sake, harmless innocuousness, carefree self-indulgence, or is there something more to this unquestioning self-as-centre mass delusion, which has consumed the connected world? Continue reading Selfie as simulacrum→
As strange and counter-intuitive as it may sound, nothing can warp civil society and whittle away the rights of women like an extended family unit. Witness India. Here, big families rule. The most famous companies, and even Bollywood, are family-run enterprises. Civil society requires citizens to reserve some of their focus for the world outside, but this challenges the internal-focus instilled in a big family unit. Within families, we learn the value of being good little insiders. Institutions like caste, religion, race and even the state have co-opted the extended family paradigm to harness this loyalty to institution that comes with individuals, who, almost drone like, have their gaze turned inwards. Continue reading Family versus civil society→