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
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
Humans: we can be strange. Take for instance, how much we enjoy labelling ourselves then stage-managing our lives to adhere to chosen monikers. Clever, stupid, left-brained, right-brained, hindu, muslim, christian, brahmin, conservative, liberal. These labels like magical mantras possess subliminal powers of suggestion over us. But maintaining the personae suggested by said labeling is hard work, sometimes involving complex ritual and even violence. The reality is that we are a mix of so many changing characteristics it’s hard to adopt any one label at any given time.
Continue reading The strange case of the liberal conservative change-up
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
The Indian Republic Day was supposed to be a glorious representation of how a people triumphed. But in the real world, as we sat around staring into our television screens, we were really on the outside looking in at the privileged seated in the galleries having their day. We watched a parade of kitschy floats, the day of the public January 26 appeared to be a facade behind which the oligarchs and powers-that-be gathered to triumphalise. Democracy was supposed to be, at least here in the early half of the 21st century, the triumph of the outsider over the elitist. But that is not how it transpired in our country, a land that was one of the early inventors of elitism in the form of caste, which is euphemism for race. Incidentally, caste is the institution that legitimised racism in India. Continue reading From the outside looking in
In India, we are all kinds of complicated. Being ‘good’ is simply too spartan. We prefer embellishment instead in a myth-making culture that has primed our senses to the make-believe. The contradictions in daily life are immense because of this clash between the bare minimal rules of modernity, goodness, and the florid curlicues of a persistently fictionalising, feudal past. People can be soap-opera mean, as they cannot suppress the urge to crush and subjugate, top other people, with a kind of remorselessness that is subconscious, ancient and passed down.
Continue reading The trouble with being good