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.
Continue reading The virtual alter-ego
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.
Continue reading Welcome to Platonic Flatland or the reinvention of insanity
My 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 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
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.
Continue reading The implicit bias in misogyny
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.
Continue reading Bizarro world’s Arundhati Roy
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.
Continue reading The confidence trick
It was all quite innocuous, till it was not. Looking up crockpot chicken dinner recipes on YouTube would lead me to a puzzle at the heart of the modern world.
There is a theory doing the rounds that we all live in bubbles of our own making and this is supposedly behind the divisiveness of the present time. In an earlier post, I tried to work out the fundamental problems with the bubble theory. Social media is probably more responsible than we are for the bubbles of our own making. Although, it is true that we live in bubbles we fill with biased opinions and people that second these views, bubble-living isn’t unique to this or any other time period.
Continue reading Not yet Westworld: Do social media algorithms determine how we think?
People lie all the time. For an intuitive reflex, a survival strategy, aided by something called unethical amnesia, it is irreparably damaging when the people around us indulge in disingenuousness. The truth; now that is a whole other quantity. A paradigm, a learned habit touching the boundaries of ideology, it helped secure civilisation against the delusions of tribalism. And we had it pedastaled, venerated as dear and sacred. Today as with all things sacred, the very idea of truth is under siege. So what is truth, and why is it so important? In the dawning age of post-truth, we feel the need now more than ever to try and outline the importance of being earnest.
When as children we were told repeatedly to speak the truth, what did we think it was? At that age all we could comprehend was that truth had an aura of righteousness and it was attached to that other abstract thing goodness. We didn’t examine anything too closely. For instance, were we telling the truth when we described an event as we experienced it? The problem is that everyone has a different impression of the same experience. Everyone has a different version. Truth will be nebulous if the actual mechanics of it escapes us even in adulthood.
Continue reading The pernicious bubble theory and why the Truth is no longer self-evident
It’s the internet, stupid.
Horror became so quotidian, that when the trolls crawled out of their comment boxes and bayoneted away the experts and nerds, who had acquired their information through study, we didn’t blink. How did the ghost of uninformed opinion gain substantiation, corporalise and destroy nuanced perspective?
Perhaps we have always felt it, that slow, burning resentment against anyone who dares to know better, more than than us the average person. A troll is born in burning, silent resentment.
That resentful undercurrent ran through long-ago Friends episodes, where dumb Joey was always more popular than know-it-all Ross, it was why The Simpsons’ nerdy Lisa could never sell as many t-shirts as her prankster brother Bart. But whereas both Joey and Bart had heart, the troll is devoid of it.
Continue reading We the troll and the horror of a laterally inverted world