Tuesday, November 22, 2016

To fight hate, we need utopias


21st century Weather report

The world is reeling under the hate wave of right wing xenophobia, binaries of 'us v/s them'. The hate wave is projected to continue and expand as people turn their back on ideals of liberty and fraternity which had yielded unequal fruits for the majority in the globalised world of 20th Century. While the globalisation of 20th century opened up the barriers for free flow of money across the world, the flow of people has been artificially impeded creating great pressures at the arbitrary borders. The potential energy arising from the stalled flow is bound to turn into kinetic energy, overpowering the borders - sooner or later. And that possibility of bursting of dam obviously scares people on either side. Uncertain times, Uncertain times.

In times of uncertainty, people obviously seek certainty - Certainty of 'walls' to save their way of life. These hate filled winds have given wings to proponents of wall builders everywhere - Trump in US, Modi in India, Le Pen in France, Duterte in Phillipines. The only places where there has been no sizeable turbulence so far are places where walls already exist! Putin's Russia and communist party's China. Walls are in big demand. For now.

But it is in the nature of things for winds to blow walls away. If there is flow of money, there must be flow of people. If not, the natural forces of globalised economy will power men on one side to overpower any wall that other men might build.

The reason of existence of hate wave

To reverse the hate wave, we need to understand the hate wave first. The Trumps and Modis of the world rose to power because they gave a concrete idea of an utopia to a scared people. Trump promised an actual wall and a reversal of the system that has created inequality. Modi promised 'acche din' (good days) of hindu hegemony and global recognition. (A narcissistic nation elects a narcissistic leader. The headwind of Narcissism fueled with digital media is a major contributor to the polarisation in the world.)

Dear secularists/ democrats/ left wing/ rationalists...
Now if you try to find faults with their plan with reason and facts, in their view, you are actually only nitpicking and putting unnecessary obstacles for their great leader. You are being a nuisance in the way of their glory. YOU ARE NOT HELPING THEM IN THE REALISATION OF THEIR UTOPIA. You are being an obstacle, hence "either with us or against us" rhetoric.The 'others' have been depicted as at best distractors, at worst enemies in their path to glory. But the object of the utopia remains the same for everyone - wealth, health, community.
What good does it do to those goals if you only point out their mistakes without offering suggestions?
You must give them an alternative vision, an alternative utopia that also gives them wealth, health and community that does not come from harming the others, but from including others. 
Globalisation was supposed to help in that - best and brightest of others (developing countries) contributed to the developed world. But that narrative meant that they must keep out the ones who are not the best and brightest. That kind of distinction wasn't seen as necessary when they removed regulations for flow of money. Blood money, oil money, dictator's money... all flowed together, mixing together, growing together. Why should then flow of people be seen any differently?
Meritocracy is a caste system in its own right. Artificial divisions cannot sustain naturally without violence and coercion. (Violence and coercion are the walls to sustain systems of othering.)

Devising a better Utopia

You have your reasons why 'their' idea of utopia is flawed. Use those reasons and facts and lessons from past to build your own versions of Utopia then. Fight their utopian ideas (your dystopia) with your utopian ideas (hopefully utopia for all)... not with violent jab of facts in their bubble.

Use facts not to puncture egos... in today's age, nothing bruises as badly as an ego. and a bruised ego will only react violently, not with reason.
Use facts to help the other person see an alternate vision of tomorrow. make him/ her feel part of that vision. Make him/her feel that she is a co-architect of this vision along with you and hundreds of yous and thems.

We need everybody's utopias become utopias with everybody in them. 
Examples of utopias envisioned and worked towards by Indian Intellectuals
I highly recommend you to buy and read this book at Navayana -

Monday, November 21, 2016

All the way, maybe

This is a Charles Bukowski poem called "All the way".

Essentially, his thesis is that you must go 'all the way' whatever the cost may be. And I felt, what a fucking loser is this wierdo. I mean, I have read his 'Post office' and it is a kickass piece of literature. But what I realise now is that an incomplete and naive philosophy of self-absorbed nihilism possibly informed his work.

Problem 1: All the way with what?
We see a lot of this kind of inspirational bullshit being shared by people these days - exhorting people to do what they want to do. But the problem is no one these days knows what he/she wants to do. These videos and poems only add to consumerist angst whose only beneficiary is the capitalist power centers and not the social organism called human.("Must do something, don't know what.. running with expensive shoes seems to be working for some as per commercials, let me try that.")
Purposeless souls are angstily drifting from one insecurity to next, never being able to see reality, reflect and choose a fight to fight. This philosophy blinds them from seeing the reality that surrounds them, for them to react to. All it does is, it makes people flay in uncertain directions without impact. This philosophy is a pile of dung excreted by blind narcissism.

Problem 2: Consequence-less hero
What it essentially conveys is that you shouldn't bother about the consequences of your actions. 'Just do it'. So should a pedophile just follow his desires? Where is the virtue now? In restrain or in 'going all the way'. Without a context, these words mean nothing. 
Being free to do also means being responsible with that freedom. Freedom is a responsibility.
 "...This could mean losing, girlfriends, wives, jobs..."says Bukowski.
 Ofcourse. How great it would be to live without responsibility. Sartre would have called out his 'bad faith'. To pursue your goals, if you let your partner do the heavy-lifting in responsibilities of life, is it fair? Does it only hurt you when you 'lose' a girlfriend? Does she not get affected?
This is being narcissist. To relinquish one's responsibility with an excuse of passion for some indeterminate goal. Nobody has ever achieved anything of any consequence by being alone.
Jyotirao Phule changed reality of thousands of marginalised Indians with his wife by his side as an equal. That was a goal worth going 'all the way for' - women right, fight against caste based oppression. He fought the right fights without giving up either responsibility or denying anyone's agency. Why lose anyone when they can be your partner in your goals?

Problem 3: Isolation is not a worthy pursuit by itself
All your intellect, your thoughts, your ideals... are useless unless it reacts with another mind. If your thoughts don't inspire a debate, if your actions don't cause a reaction, if your ideals remain unsaid and untested.. would your existence even matter?
If you are forced in isolation because of your thoughts (probably thoughts against existing power structures? why else would you be made silent?), and you fight against it, that is a fight worth fighting for and isolation worth bearing.
Isolation as a scar cannot be a choice, it is a medal only if it foisted on you  by the powers that be for upsets you cause to the power centers. Don't romanticize effect, without appreciation for the cause. 

Friday, September 02, 2016

Suicidal aliens

The vent
So.. I watched the new 'Independence Day' movie. First off - what an amazing combo of  terrible film making and thrilling sfx. I can't believe someone gets paid gazillions to write such shitty scripts. The disaster is really not in the movie but in the making of the movie - the end of intellect and start of idiotopia.
I think they should have edited out all the dialogs. It would then have been a better movie. A 'disaster movie' porn of sorts. With just the sfx to get thrilled with and no jarring and stupid dialogs and no non-sense attempts at building emotional arcs and no lame character building.

Anyways, here's some more venting about current lack of imagination - 

Tired trope 1: The kill switch - Aliens with a death wish
Independence day, Star wars, 10 Cloverfield Lane...
So to defeat a highly advanced aggressor civilisation that has apparently destroyed many civilisations before us, all you need to do is find and kill 'ONE' queen bee/ shoot down 'ONE' spaceship. Yes that makes sense. The alien species that is atleast a thousand years ahead of us in terms of technological and social evolution is smart enough to have a kill switch for its opponent to use. And to have it apparently accessible. That makes sense.
Centralisation is a primitive mode of organisation. I bet no decently advanced civilisation will be as centralised as the modern globalised era on today's Earth. All eggs in one basket?

Tired trope 2: The outlaw hero 
All Hollywood movies.
So all you need to save the world is one man. Never a woman. Just one man. Any more than that, or any organisation gets involved and the Earth will be destroyed for sure. It must be a solitary exercise. The role of others, is only to supplement this one man's acts, to listen to him unquestioningly, to cover his ass when he messes. They are worthless and they know it.
He need not be intelligent, trustworthy or well - balanced. He must be a cowboy who shoots from his hip. He takes impossible odds. He doesn't listen to others. He does what he feels like. And somehow always manages to hit the quite apparent killswitch that the aggressor civilisation has been waiting for him to push for them - the aliens with a death wish. 

The End of the World
Cloverfield, Independence day, Transformers and so on.
Hollywood makes you think it's inevitable. Ofcourse, the alien is a metaphor. But I forget what the metaphor stands for. So the aliens are after Earth's resources. They want to kill us because they want to access Earth's resources. So the aliens are really our greed externalised and projected? And the utopian belief is that we will one day win over our greed?
Or is it a fantasy to 'start over'?

An antithesis to 'No country for old men'
'No country for old men' brought alive the concern that we feel - world changing in ways that are out of our comprehension. We are losing control over our reality, our relations, our communities, our towns... and then a new generation rolls in that is essentially nomadic - chasing money in big cities. everything is liquid - money - to them. They are running the show now. And the show is violent to its core - uprooting things, paving paradise. living high speed towards self-destruction.

So what would be the utopia for these people who feel out of control and have lost their worlds?
They want to start over. They want the 'world to end'.

Start over to do what?
And here's the idea for better movies. Right now movies and even modern literature seems to be clueless about the utopia they want to build and to share with others. Why are we so unsure about our utopia in the age of 'big data'?
Well, for ideas one can start by reading Ursula Le Guin or even Ian Banks' 'Culture' series. (Well, these come to mind because I am reading these now. I am sure there are more futurists out there.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

21st century man: Being clueless

How many among us are sure about our 'careers'? Doesn't it seem odd that in modern times, where we think we have answers to most problems, we are most clueless about our selves?
Never in the history of human civilisation have we been so privileged to be confused about our 'purpose'.
If you look at it from a certain high enough vantage, humanity looks like a drunk colony of ants. tittering around in uncertain directions - bumping into each other, getting lost even when around other people.

20th century would be seen as the time when these infant species won a lottery of hydrocarbons with which it fueled mindless orgy of consumption. 21st century would be the time when the species would be forced to 'grow up': To wake up with a hangover.

 In that sense, 21st century humanity is really an 'early growth stage' civilisation. (borrowing from marketing jargon). We are far from maturity as a civilisation. We have no clue what humanity wants to do collectively. We are forever busy waging internecine skirmishes. We have no clue what we want individually. We are eternally malleable in our wants and desires.
Here's an example of our nascent state. We have digital connectedness, but we have yet to make that connectedness work to our advantage fully. Currently, we are turning technologies into weapons - either militarily (PRISM, drones and a thousand other things) or socially (facebook turning social networks into narrow echo chamber seething with jealousy) or economically (uber malevolently destroying existing taxi networks instead of enabling existing taxi networks).

Typically, chaos finds some order and order finds some chaos. Its the yin-yang of the universe. For 20th century humans, the organising energy was selfish accumulation of currency. And humanity reorganised itself around that principle, with the most selfish and extractive people at the center in charge of earth's resources. It was a welcome change from the earlier organising principle - religious violence, which saw astroturfing of cultures with mindless violence in the name of fictitious entities.

 Every new organising principle leaves chaos in its wake as it reshuffles the lottery of beneficiaries. The major difference between the chaos of previous generation and the one we are experiencing now is that of lack of violence. A whole majority of our generation will be out of work in the coming decades without having been killed in a battle, in sickness or rendered incapacitated. This chaos is toxic in a whole different way.

I. Going-with-the-flow
People tend to 'go with the flow'. That's natural. I find myself working in an advertising agency because I live in a newish capitalist society and I went with the flow. I question the flow, certainly. That is healthy. That is also almost all my content (or discontent) on this blog.
But the thing is - the flux is global now. There in no alternative wave to ride if this one goes bust. There is no other ways to organise ourselves unless we are willing to be brave. The system is global and hence roles for us to take are fairly set.
The variety is cosmetic - there might be a proliferation of 'careers' but they are all quite similar in their impact and routines. commute-push buttons-commute-consume.
The impact of our work is diffused across the globe. We feel useless and yet rewarded for seemingly irrelevant associations. (An activist gets punished economically even if he/she is more useful for the economy in the long run. whereas a paper pusher in a bank is rewarded with fat pay-cheque even if his/her work is trivial. The thing is, people who are in the system get rewarded, not the ones outside.

II. Building alternatives
Well, this is for the brave among us.
a. Why can't the organising principle be decentralised compassion? Developmental sector tries to do that on a small scale. Various small communes have done it over the course of last century. Why can't that be the central organising principle of global economy?

b. Why can't the organising principle be open ideas? An anti-capitalist stance essentially. Instead of walled innovations and litigative and predatory patent system, this system would grow with open sharing of ideas. Imagine uber but without the 40Bn worth of malevolence that is used to violently rip apart taxi networks across the world. An open source uber would instead be used to streamline taxi services across the globe for free.

c. Why can't the organising principle be ecological conservation?  Or for the next few decades, overseeing the handover to a machine led world where humans have a role beyond sustenance. Maybe everyone becomes an explorers of the universe in a world run by machines. 

We must be open to ideas and utopias. We need sci-fi fiction to open our eyes to possibilities of our world now.

III. The choice

So essentially it really is a simple choice. Are you brave enough to contribute in building an alternative? Or would you rather find prosperity in the current globalised system?

IV. The context: The infant civilisation  

The choice is really not that simple. There is a sub-clause to that choice. The question is would you want to work for a better future for many or for better present for yourself?

The morning after, sunshine stings the eye of today's humanity. Would you rather try and wake up or put on a shade and spend the days hung-over?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Walls are inevitable, unless….

Today, UK decided to leave EU. EU itself has now far more ‘far right’ xenophobic parties in the European parliament than ever before in its history. On the back of very virulent xenophobia, Trump, otherwise a sideshow freak in the branding/entertainment industry, is now a presidential contender in USA – His promise of the ‘wall’ between mexico and USA garnering him followers among republican US citizens. India recently elected a right wing government with an unprecedented majority – putting majoritarian fictions in the central consciousness of the nation, instead of actual issues that need public debate. From Netherlands to Australia to Nigeria to Philippines… people everywhere are electing xenophobic parties and leaders. Are we collectively getting dumber? Or is their something beneath our collective psyches that needs recognition?

The fear of loss of control

If the last century was about opening the world with fast rails, concordes & the internet. This century would be about making sense of this uncontrollable openness and ensuing vulnerability that individuals & groups perceive.
If the last century was about the individual removed from his immediate world, this century would be about a new social consciousness of & want of belonging.
The openness of last century does not really benefit the individuals and small groups as much as it does to the big corporates and governments. The new government has already started to purge the internet of dissidents with arrests and threats. Facebook & Google collectively know more about you and you do yourself.
In a wall less world, you can’t even chose your adversary. you are vulnerable to dangers you don’t even know yet from people you would never know personally. wall less world is vulnerable and anarchic.
The only language of 21st century would be the doublespeak. People 20 years from now would only be able to read between the lines and sideways. They would be illiterate to direct words. Sarcasm would be the only humor.
The walls, that people would build to protect themselves would also aid bigger power centres to keep the people from organising. as a matter of fact, strategic walls would always be incentivised.
The walls are inevitable. Unless, we do something about it.

First step: Understand
Globalised economies = alienated people

The global economic system incentivises capital consolidation and human alienation. Money requires no visa to move, and nor does it get racially profiled.
Free movement of people is allowed only so far that a cheap labour replaces a slightly better valued labour. Theoretically, this system of replacing new labour to the detriment of existing labour communities will go on forever, with consistently manufactured chaos ‘elsewhere’.
This is the real bed rock of current global capitalism – expanding margins for the 0.1% at the expense of lower and lower wages for labour everywhere and destruction of valuable ecological resources.
It pits labour in one nation against labour in another; one people against another. It manufactures a vicious competition until all working class people are reduced to serfs – minimum wage, maximum extraction of labour, minimum security.
The vote for brexit is due to economical anxiety of the working class which they incorrectly attribute to migrants. The rise of xenophobia across the world is a fallout of globalised capitalism that is increasingly alienating people. People do not realise that the ‘others’ are not taking away their jobs, machines are. Capitalism will turn the human into a machine cog, until it perfects machine to replace the human entirely.


Second step: Imagine
“Left” solution but “Right” reaction

The real reason for the wave of right wing zealots across the globe is the failure of imagination of left wing leaders. In absence of political movement that addresses current reality and works towards building an imaginative utopia, people default to the base values of hatred and selfishness. The world needs conceptions of each of our utopias.
The irony is the political party called ‘labour’ hardly represents labour’s interest. Even Communist party of India is but a mere joke on the national scale. The left cannot think for itself. It does not understand that it need not be a monolith – it need not follow the hairbrained and faulty conceptions of Marx, Stalin or Mao. It needs to devise an utopia and strategy by itself, putting one’s own people’s interest at the heart of political movement. Currently, Left cannot define a new reason, a new perspective on labour in the current world. and that is the modern tragedy.
The right response would be for labour across the world to unite against the 0.1% that is pitting them against one another. This is the make or break decade for sustainable future for global economy – from a sociological, economical and ecological perspective. It might seem somewhat counter-intuitive but, the world requires a left solution to save itself from descending into mindless chaos fueled by blind ignorant hatred.

Lack of constructive imagination leads to blind ignorant hatred.