A drop of music

It is one of those moments of deep joy. Those fragments of time that are covered in darkness. In quiet music. A lonely night under the clouds masks this dance of victory in a sleepy apartment of a busy city — tired from the day’s run.

What is it about wordless music that touches so deep a chord in our hearts. The memories that awaken, the sadness mixed in past visions, the people that we care for, all canvassed into a painting of fulfillment. Tonight, after a long time I rediscover the power of music on mind.

Drunken confidence is  overpowering and self-affirming.  So it is with music- once you let it touch you. You wish to be at its command- crying, laughing, wallowing in its joy.

No More Revolutions?

The age of social revolution that brought us into the 21st century – the struggles that human endeavor overcame since Industrial Revolution- seems to have passed us. We seem to live in a state of ‘no-more-sorrow’ today where luxury for all has become the drive of governments in the western world. This condition of society , however, makes one wonder of the possibility of social revolutions in modern world of the kind that uplifted a huge population into political consciousness.

The comparison that comes to mind when one sees a peaceful society are the opium wars in China. While the populace is blissfully unaware of their own sufferings, the institutions in power carryout a dirty war for control over trade. In such a setting of mist and sedation, it is difficult for a people led revolution to gain strength. The local population is usually awakened by an outsider as was in case of Indian Freedom Struggle- where most of Indian leaders were educated in western ways of life and were hence able to demand the same for their Indian kin. Another factor that is important in any social movement against the establishment is the feeling of actual repression by the people. A people that actually feel threatened by the state in their basic rights will find ways of countering any power no matter how insurmountable it may appear. The state itself is aware of it and therefore it provides institutions to channel and address the grievances of its people. Democratic societies of modern age have been successful in providing important institutions to address these concerns to a large extent and that has seen a large number of people that feel integrated into the ideas of nationhood. In a successful state administration, the feeling of alienation should be minimal and the faith in institutions must largely be strong throughout people of all strata.

The recent emergence of technology however, has given a different flavor to our established notions of power distribution socially and representation of political aspirations through elections. On the one hand- technology has in many ways allowed inter communication and facilitated organized voicing of common concerns by people that were before this unheard. It has given a vent to their everyday frustrations and debates between strangers often end up clarifying rather than usurping each other’s stand and meeting a common ground. On the other hand, the ownership of technology makes it difficult to trust it in times of actual social/ human crisis. Since the media and internet are in almost total control of governments and large corporate houses that have a stake in stability of the existing socio-economy, the ideas that are allowed to reach the common citizen and, certainly more dangerously, her own ideas that are disallowed to be spread through censorship may put reasonable doubt against technology .

The recent so-called revolution of Arab Spring are a case in hand. The lack of social institutions in the Arab world gave rise to popular discontent that brought people together through technology that actively supported voicing of concerns. But the way the events unfolded hereafter put major question mark on the people driven nature of the movement. There was little that the people gathered in Tahrir square did. While the camps and crowds did protest for months, the actual game of power struggle and, thereafter, power transfer was played by world powers. In the end, the “social movement” didn’t perhaps deliver what the people actually wanted. It mostly established puppet governments as a temporary solution to satisfy the people and powers that be.

 

Development of democratic institutions will define the stability of societies in times to come. How successfully a government is able to address the aspirations of its people is dependent on how inclusive the people feel inside the boundaries. Technology in that way could be seen as an institution as well- though not controlled by the government. It is a kind of rebel institution where ideologies are introduced to people. It also allows people to voice their opinions and maintain calmness when they lose sense of belonging and associate with like minded groups. Going forward, the control of internet will define its status as a mere communication and knowledge platform versus a potential tool for social revolutions. The odds today are greatly with status-quo.

Timeless History

Which histories are more difficult to write? While the lack of reliable sources plagues our explorations of the ancient pasts, the present is troubled by an overload of information surrounded by a political environment that has embraced the historian just as much as it has the reader. Also lingering is the unsolved questions for which any historian will have to resort to her moral/political judgement. What Nehru writes in his books, in the given political scenario of his time, is markedly different from what the imperial historians or the modern day historians will write of the ancient Indian civilisation.  In historical writings of more recent phases (such as the freedom struggle)- which bear a great weightage on any nation state- the challenge is even greater since the political environment is much charged up, and the rulers define what questions are legitimate.

During my college years, I had practiced the old saying- just learn your lessons from history without glorifying it. While I do largely agree to it, my recent readings of history have made me a little skeptical of lessons learned. Often what is taught as history is some person’s wet dream. Even the ancient past, that looks so far away from us that in our beliefs it could not possible touch us, haunts us through it murky ghosts. The nature of Hindu society, the Hindu-Muslim relations, and the status of Shudra in Varna system being some of the questions that need a modern political solution than the tainted justifications by historians.

The Aryans of early Vedic years were largely a pastoral people and gave little value to dates. Perhaps they knew of the futility of keeping record when men made the same mistakes in every day and age. Perhaps, then, the stories and parables of the ancient kings (even though untrue) are the only useful lessons  we can draw out of our pasts, the rest is just political manifesto.

Family Time

What is it about being about a father that forces you to be a goofy and stupid guy that tells silly old jokes to his kids and forgets household chores and watches comedy shows on TV. Is it that the media enforces it on you? Or that the responsibility of fatherhood brings these traits along? Or maybe guys are just born that way?  With the relative experience of life that I have, I am pretty sure that the last option is not really the answer. I have come across a huge number of guys who would rather die as disciplined punctual bitches than live life easy- in other words, they are really driven.

My guess is that the burden of a family brings out the goofiness in you. After an age, you can’t be goofy around town(though that is certainly not true about my father).  So you see an escape in your family, a helpless audience to your poems and jokes and board-games. The purpose, of course, is to keep them happy- but also to help you connect with yourself. The same goes with motherhood as well. Rumors afloat that women are not the best friends you can have, yet when you see any family- 4 out of 5 times the mother is the secret-keeper of her kids and much more for her husband. Probably parenthood slows you down so you can see yourself for who you really are. Must make you want to run away  🙂

 

PS- This train of thought struck me which watching Rick and Morty, and Family Guy and The Simpsons which I used to watch earlier.

Swimming In A Soup Of Misinformation

Frank pereira is the host of a news show called The Big Picture on RSTV which I have been watching for some years now. He started conducting the show only recently after the sad and untimely demise of Girish Nikam. One of his recent shows drew my attention to the power that news anchors (or anyone conducting any event) command over the direction of a discourse. You watch as a mute spectator, listening to these suited people of respect behind a grandiose desk and some virtual background that gives the appearance as if the discussion is in some boardroom and is indeed a serious one. One of the roles of a conductor, though not mentioned explicitly, is how much time is assigned to which stream of thought. This has lead to a most unethical style of functioning, and is part the infrastructure of the ruling class.

To be sure, the west has been using this trick for all too long. Polish-British sociologist Ralph Miliband argued in 1973 of the role media plays  in forcing people to think in a directed way about their society. The media presents a narrow range of ‘approved’ views and knowledge leading to very few alternative points to be presented. Similar views by Tunstall and Palmer (1991) given in Haralambos which I quote for the lack of better knowledge of the English language:

“… the governments are no longer interested in controlling the activities of media owners. Rather, ‘regulatory favors’ and ‘deregulation’ (the dismantling of state rules aimed at preventing media owners from gaining too much power)   are becoming the norm- newspapers owned by a conglomerate will directly support a government or neglect to criticize government policy , or will even withhold information from the general public, in return for governments failing to enforce media regulations or even abolishing them altogether. “

 

The famous disaster of the media industry- the tragedy of Iraq war is a case that is fresh in mind of every citizen around the world. Almost 14 years since that “err in judgement”(the phrase that the media defends itself with) sadly, we as the onlookers have learned little.

Media bias in the Iraq dossier affair?

To rally support for [the 2003 Iraq] war, the Prime Minister’s office published a dossier of charges against Iraq in September 2002. It claimed, among other things, that Iraq could deploy weapons of mass destruction (WMD)within 45 minutes. Yet with no WMD used by Iraqi forces in the ensuing war and none found, the dossier’s veracity came under suspicion .One of its allegations, which George Bushmade part of his 2003 state-of-the-union address, was discredited by intelligence sources. Then, in June 2003, a BBC journalist accused Alistair Campbell, Tony Blair’s chief spin-doctor, of having ‘sexed up’ the dossier against the wishes of Britain’s security services (in particular,inserting the ’45-minute’ claim).
But the BBC refused to back down,sparking a furious row with the government.This took a tragic turn when a government scientist[Dr David Kelly] who’d been exposed as the mainsource of the BBC’s story committed suicide. An inquiry into his death, which reported in January 2004, cleared the government of’sexing up’ the dossier and largely – but not wholly – vindicated the scientist’s employers, the Defence Ministry Criticism was instead heaped on the BBC,prompting the resignations of its director-general and chairman of governors.A related inquiry into intelligence failures,headed by Lord Butler, in July 2004 cleared the government of any deliberate attempt to mislead Parliament. But it did suggest that Mr Blair was prepared to exaggerate what turned out to be fairly thin evidence to bolster the case for a war. A parliamentary investigation cleared Mr
Campbell of this charge (he resigned in August 2003).
Source: © The Economist Newspaper Limited,
London, 5 April 2005

 

Power today is a feast of vultures, and you are not invited. I end with Edward Murrow’s grim but hopeful words : Goodnight and good luck.

 

A forced laugh

What we set out to contribute to the world depends a lot on what the society in our day and age allows us to do. A realist interpretation of the world forces rationalism to our romantic ideas of change and give the pathway to achieving those dreams – halfway or to completion, depending on the variables of a world in flux.

The individual and society are in a dynamic relationship of mutual learning. Each depends on the other for survival, well-being, growth,  and fulfillment. This dynamism often allows little scope for much divergence from status quo. Any anomaly is quickly addressed and normalcy restored in a hush. Individual heroism and grand changes of ideas are possible only during times of revolution- times which entail the cost of great human sufferings that allow for a rapid change in social norms.

That is not to say that our place in the universe is of mere spectator of this grand show. As rational beings, we play our part given the limitations that each carries. To expect mill worker in today’s India to protest for her rights as in the days of the British rule without paying due considerations to her economic and family conditions would be romaticization of ideas that are away from reality. Great sacrifices need worse times.

Life is like a magic show and you are called upon stage by the magician. She tells you that she will pullout eggs from your mouth and you have agreed. Its not deception and cheating. The audience know what is on stage is not real. You agree to play the part the people wanted you to play.  But when the eggs do come out, you give out a forced laugh, a sense of surprise and astonishment- for the shared happiness.

On Obsessions

Our obsession defines us. The become part of our reality- the rational as well as the unreal, both merged into a moving picture dancing around our eyes with short intervals that allow us to see the outside world…. but the intervals are soon over. We grab some pop-corn and come back, occupy our seats with our neighbors and continue with the show.

Night and day, we get consumed by ideas that perhaps had a very week beginning. But that frail start is long forgotten, what has remained is a grandiose castle of dream with pillars of faith surrounding- supporting this mirage. Dreams are indifferent from consciousness, so much so that when you wake up and think about the dream you just had, you long for some more of that intoxicating slumber. You wish to see what happened next. But then, like a drunkard in search for food, just so that he can keep himself alive and have more of his avarice pandered, you move out of bed and continue with the routine you were taught once when you were young- when you were too young to understand that the society around you was forcing drug down your brain.

But now you have seen the world. Now you know it’s all unreal, and all that moves around in world-  a high does of money, power, habits, lechery, everything- is a drunken dance which will be over when the night’s gone. Hark, you have seen it all, you have been to this party before. And today, you are sober-  you know where this leads. You would rather wake up aware than enjoy a hallucination. Good morning.

Just some cross-words

Apart from defining their history, the etymology of words give the the political and social scenario that surrounds them and are of much use in assigning meanings. In fact, in the short run, the way a society uses a word says a lot about changes taking place and the people guiding that change.

Listening to a YouTube video that used the phrase “global order”  to define current situation internationally brought my attention to how value-biased these words used by the media are. While little has changed globally except for a challenge to the west from the societies that are suffering from its excesses, the “international liberal order” has changed to “global order” in the everyday parlance of the media. Also filled with deceit is the way in which some sovereign country rules are addressed as regimes, as if  the authority they derive is not from the people but some idea of kingship. The speakers know it well- the trickery of their trade- and they also know the naive listeners who are eager to believe anything barked from behind a podium from a person in coat with cool manners.

Two years ago, I trekked alone to the Yelagiri hills that adorns the background of Jolarpettai railway station. That walk into nature had given me some much needed alone time and a chance to contemplate the value of silence along with how much meaning it carries in relation to the words. Like a beautiful piece of music, the silence in our speech speak just as much as the notes. Any listener to a one-sided lecture from his/her TV set must appreciate the risks such music carries. The music may lead to a deep slumber or hallucination of Shangri La and close eyes to the reality that was so obvious if silence was observed.

 

“Speak only if it improves upon the silence”

-M. K. Gandhi.

Eulogy to the fallen martyrs of free speech

The recent disappearance of liberal bloggers in Pakistan has brought concerns of freedom of speech and expression back in the news bureaus of the subcontinent. This follows the spate of attacks on bloggers in Bangladesh in past 2 years and the growing right-wing rhetoric in India. While all this can be blamed on the global upsurge of the right, the new medium of online expression of thoughts has also played its part, especially given the relative inexperience that the South-Asian society has with the digital media and the idea of free speech in general.

The outburst of social media in 21st century has introduced a vast population around the world to the western liberal ideals of post-renaissance Europe which has collided with the firm and deeply held cultural beliefs. The Indian subcontinent, while having a rich, diverse and accommodating synthesis of culture has not been immune to this clash of self-identity. This dilemma of the people of our region has much recent roots that took place during the British rule. The strong sentimental currents running through the population throughout the region thus give a very saddening canvass on which the rights-activists and liberals of our region draw their ideas. The recent disappearance has to be seen in this context.

The reaction of the civil society of all three countries in question has been mixed. While the general trend in Pakistan and Bangladesh has been to evaluate the actions of individuals on the alter of Islam, the Indian way has been to test expressions on the anvil of hyper-nationalism. The participants in debates have their arguments reduced to who qualifies as a true Muslim(or not), or as in the Indian case- who has been an anti-national by expressing his opinion. Even the rationalists are afraid to move the discussion away from this narrow interpretation. the Indian scenario, however, is more of a tide-of-time issue such that the deep history and strong foundation values of the freedoms struggle allow a cushion to writers and critique to prove their current ideas in relation to the founding principles of the nation. Pakistan and Bangladesh, on the other hand, have made the mistake of basing their existence on religion. This setting becomes a very strong barrier to any meaningful interpretation of modern world by the young generation.

While there is a need to be cautious for the liberals in the region, the changing world order give more hope than fears. History, for those who have read it, has shown that killing and suppression have only led to liberation and fearless resistance. The sacrifices of those who spoke their minds will be remembered and cherished by the future generations and the dawn of a free society will be glowing with the ideas of those who died to make it happen.

An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it. Truth stands, even if there be no public support. It is self sustained.

-M.K Gandhi