Tuesday, May 30, 2017

life's happening in bursts

May has been crazy. Things didn't move for a long time and now suddenly they're moving so fast I feel disoriented. I'm not complaining though. Like I was telling Sravani, good things are happening so we better cram as many during this wonderful phase. I want it to last longer but I'm reading Vidhaata, on Amma's express recommendation, and I'm not sure how much of good Karma I have left to spend. We'll talk about all that later. I also have to send Rajanna that essay but haven't had the time, or truth be the told the inclination, to write it. So I keep sending him apology mails with promises of submitting it that weekend. That apart, I ain't too pleased with June's column. It clearly reflects a shoddy job. But I keep starting at the brink of deadline and don't get enough time to rewrite. I have to take writing more seriously if I want to call myself even an amateur writer. Boxing has been a dream all last week. I sprained my leg badly yesterday so I'm out of action for a while. So, yeah, very happy right now. Life's this weird thing; The moment you make conclusive assumptions, it finds ways to completely overturn them.

That's about it for now. Should come back soon with a more elaborate update. Till then, I present another tirade against consumerism.

Damn the IPL

I don’t know how many of you watch the Indian Premier League but I watch it everyday and detest myself for doing it. For those of you uninitiated, IPL is a Cricket tournament similar to the NFL but compressed to a duration of about 45 days. It is, what the organizers and sponsors call, Cricketainment. Sportsmen are turned into human billboards, cheerleaders dance at every boundary and wicket, the sponsors buy naming rights to scoring shots (Eg: the commentators announce a six as “That’s a Yes Bank Maximum”) and players are made to chat with the commentators during play. It is rambunctious, repugnant and in the perverse way some people say it, Totally Desi.

I can’t stop watching it everyday with my flatmates. And after every delivery, I mutter profanities at the cheap thrills of it all. My Superego is disgusted but my Id is transfixed. Like any well written sitcom, if you don’t think too much about the conceit, the spectacle is marvelous. The IPL hires some of the smartest minds money can buy and it is their job to ensure I am hypnotized by the performance, not think about the meaning of it all and eventually buy the umpteen products (ranging from Cola and Pizza to Smartphones and SUVs) whose ads I’m bombarded with.

“The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads. That sucks.” -Jeff Hammerbacher

Don’t get me wrong, the prospect of seeing some of the finest athletes play at the pinnacle of their abilities is indeed a great experience. They are the substance on which this glitz exists. But it irks me to see them treated as no better than reality TV stars. And this where Neil Postman makes so much sense again, “The problem with television is not that it provides entertainment. The problem is that it brings down everything to the level of entertainment.” And entertainment is the buzzword of our generation. We act as if we deserve it. So I set out to understand what exactly the word meant-

The action of providing or being provided with amusement or enjoyment.
‘everyone just sits in front of the television for entertainment’ - The Oxford Dictionary

There you go. In an ideal world, entertainment is gratification of the soul. Now it is a constant stimulation of the senses. In a society filled with razzmatazz, rational discourse dies. And people are given the impression they have a say in all this by having them take part in useless polls- “Do you think Gayle’s record of 175 be broken in T20 Cricket?”, “Which is the best snapshot moment of the day?” etc.- and in a turn of wonderful marketing savvy, dedicating the first Ten editions of IPL to us, the audience (‘Das saal aapke naam’ which roughly translates into ‘We owe these ten years to you’ which is totally true and completely false.) This is one part of the story, where the people in control are doing their best to to keep us as passive consumers. And I know there is no underground sect behind it; it’s just neoliberal capitalism pushed to the extreme. What I don’t understand is the normal people’s fascination with this whole circus.

A flatmate religiously supports ‘his’ team in all their matches, gets really excited when they’re winning and turns morose when they lose. He tells me he’s from Bengaluru and so he wants his team to win. I ask him how is this your team. It is owned by a liquor baron who’s currently absconding from the country because of financial scandals, almost all the players in the team are freelance cricketers from across the world who have no fealty for the city and most importantly, how have you contributed in anyway and what prompts you to take so much pride in their success (To be fair, this is how all the mega sport franchises more or less operate). All I achieved after this round of questioning was being called a cynic and an asshole.

“If you are pissing people off, you know you are doing something right” - John Lydon

I wish that the sportsmen and the commentators (usually retired sportspeople) could be a little less manipulative. Vain hopes. The players are busy shooting advertisements and, as an extension, themselves via those trivial chit-chat sessions, and the commentators are complicit in selling even during play with their redundant, misinformed and overexcited narratives. They give you information you can’t do shit with. People argue that sporting avenues like these give the talented a chance to prove their worth and make money. I guess it also takes talent to run a drug cartel, so why are they banned? (And the analogy is made with intent. Television is a drug and just because it is practised en masse doesn’t make it right.) Is making money at any cost the primary motive of the people of any society? I understand that a lot of us live like this. Isn’t it then, more the reason, we want our celebrities to uphold better standards. No, I’m not asking all of them to be politically embroiled like Socrates against the Brazilian Military Regime or Ali against America’s Vietnam War. Maybe they can stop being complete sellouts by not endorsing everything from beer to face wash. Like it or not, our celebrities are our role models because they are the protagonists in our public discourse that does not give much space to writers, filmmakers and other public intellectuals. Should they not be at least a bit accountable for our attention?

You may ask why I have to bitch and moan instead of living under a rock. I would have done that until a few years ago. I can’t do that anymore because I’m beginning to believe it is imperative to stand and fight for the world you believe in instead of retreating to a cave. Not least because these buggers will not let you live in peace even there but also because we have to safeguard the best interests of the next generation. (Full Disclosure: I work for India’s largest e-commerce company. So to pay for my sins, I moonlight as a blogger propagating anti-consumerism and compulsively read Fight Club.) This idea of entertainment is so flawed primarily because it creates the wrong expectation for everyday living. Because we are so used to constant titillation, we are waiting for life to do the same to us and since that can’t happen, our lives feel all the more eventless pushing us to more passive consumption. (A fantastic article that talks about how the Web is increasingly turning into television- https://medium.com/matter/the-web-we-have-to-save-2eb1fe15a426)

“It did what all ads are supposed to do: create an anxiety relievable by purchase.” -David Foster Wallace

It could be argued that we don’t have to buy the stuff they advertise. Though some are strong enough to resist its temptations, it is not true for a lot of us. It’s not just the money though. Like Tim Wu points out, our attention is a more valuable resource that we are forced to spend in this freemium-eqsue model. We are becoming less imaginative and thus more susceptible to unexpected events because of our lifestyles. Imagination is what separates us humans from the rest. By creating a homogenous consumption model, we are filling everyone’s heads with the same images and narratives which lead to identity crises. We need to get out of this quicksand of comfort and listlessness. It is not easy but that’s what will make it so worthwhile.

What we have to reclaim now is not just our freedom but also our identity. We are the stories we tell, the questions we ask, the paths we take and the lessons we learn. And to do that, we have to think our own bloody thoughts.

1 comment:

dheeraj kashyap said...

కూకట్ పల్లి రోడ్ల రద్దీలో
కోయిల కూస్తుందా?
మీ హారన్ల మోత, బండ్ల రోత
నలుగుతుందా తన ప్రాణం అనే భయం మన అదృష్టం . .
కొమ్మల్లో దాని పిలుపు
మనకో ఆశ మెరుపు.
కానీ, ఎన్ని జీవితాలకి మనలో?
ఉగాది లో మామిడి శ్రీమంతాన్ని చూసేది ఎంత మంది మనలో?

సగం బతుకుతున్న జీవితాలు మనవి
అందుకే ఇంత మనశాంతి
అంత అశాంతి,
దిన దిన వాంతి
ప్రతి వాడికి వాడి ముందు వాడి జీవితం ఒక చక్ర వడ్డీ.

సమాధి స్థితి
సహించదు మనకి.
అది ఒక స్మశానపు ప్రతీక మాత్రమే!
పూర్తి ఆనందం
పూర్తి బాధ
ఏది భరించలేం మనం
భలే వాళ్ళం మనం
బాగుపడ్డవాళ్ళం మనం
సగం బతుకుతున్న జీవితాలే సక్సెస్లు
సెక్స్ స్వర్గం కూడా
చప్పుడు చేయని గడిబిడి రొద
ఆగమాగం గందరగోళం.
మనకన్నా రేచు కుక్కలే నయం
గుంట నక్కలం మనం
వాటి ఆత్మిక రూపం
మన జీవన విధానం
ఇంకెక్కడి ఆత్మగౌరవం
దానికి మనం అంటేనే నాసీయా. .
అది వెళ్ళిపోయింది వైరాగ్యం లోకి
తన స్థానం అహంకారానికి అప్పగిస్తూ . .
అదే కదా
మన కాలపు గొప్ప ఆధ్యాత్మిక యుద్ధం!
అహంకారంతో మనం చేసే యుధాన్ని చూసి
నవ్వుకుంటుందేమో ఆత్మగౌవరవం
గీతాబోధ చేసే ముందు
అర్జున శోకం వినిన్
ఒక ప్రహసన్ మన భగవాన్!