Playing the Devil’s advocate on the beatification of Social media: Harangue of a cynical questioner

    …And then this new phenomenon. It is quintessentially an European thing. The advent of this technology will be remembered in the annals of world history as the catastrophic swoop on the world’s cohesiveness, even as it is being hailed now as the linchpin of togetherness and companionship. How ironic! All of a sudden, the tool of institutionalization  of soft promiscuity  and grand treason alike, is the new civilizational watershed .

        The western world, which will go to any lengths to champion individual choices, has the possibly the psychological armour to absorb it and therefore  will eventually  manage to master the menace. But what about the Orient? Ill-equipped, and having  experienced none,  or very few of the tribulations and ordeals of emancipation, pillars of tradition are morphing into all-smiles ‘cool’ and ‘understanding’ entities , even as closet Lotharios and nymphomaniacs spawn overnight, and mutate the techno-savvy citizens of the world.

        One wonders now, what is the final frontier? When will that golden moment be ushered in by the high priests of technology, O Lord, when individuals will be conditioned to expect NOTHING from other individuals? When technology will rule supreme, and dehumanization of mankind will have become complete?

         The humanoids of the modern times appear to have the sane voice at this point. All other views appear to be opposition to modern ideas… What is the good word? Oh yes -obscurantism.

         So, here is it. Insidious to some…but a boon to the majority. Never was there a device which so precisely sawed through the human concept of itself. One now better appreciates an astronomical equation one came across once attempting to quantify the average lifetime of a human civilization . It impressed the reader  in small measure at that time  that the formulator of that ingenious equation had factored in the danger from full-scale nuclear war too. It is indeed amazing how prodigious the human mind is  when it comes to inventing weapons of it’s own destruction. It doesn’t take the detonation of nuclear bombs to annihilate life , it take much simpler technology to tear the world asunder.

        Human civilization will be ‘defunct’ much before it becomes dead. Technology  now  has equipped us to pit individual against individual… lines of fissure are everywhere-between civilizations, between states, between cultures. But they are also between individuals, even trying to create a split in the brain itself.

        One wonders, how long before we reach the primeval stages of human race again? One positive offshoot of this disruptive social phenomenon at least, possibly , the unraveling(demystification) of the institutionalization of man-woman relationship. At least some academicians stand to benefit. Especially if you are sociologist , observe keenly; you are witnessing social human evolution in reverse. The essence is this: technology provides the cloistered place as the latest fashionable offering. The shift to the new trend produces a new social conditioning. If you question the popular mores, you are a dinosaur. And the dark appeal of the cloistered place cannot be over-emphasized. It’s breathtaking… all encompassing.

      Suddenly,  sinister individuality has a marvelous three-piece suit and has the face of forbidding authority: we are at the mouth of the cave we left long, long ago in search of light.

 

 

Portraiture of a certain kind of passion

       Passion had a face, and a name too! The name was not important, as it was not an unusual or outstanding appellation, as might be expected to given to passion itself.  As to how  passion came to be assigned such a commonplace moniker is immaterial here, but it was unmistakably passion itself, pure and unbridled.

        As for the face, there were the usual mix of bequest and the elemental. The face had been honed chip by chip with hammer-and-chisel, and it was obvious the sculptor had been in no hurry to complete the task at hand. And the stone which he worked was sourced from exotic and very private quarry, such as one might choose to mark one’s quintessence as a connoisseur. A work of art, which, though it excites the masses into an unprepared hypnotised state and spurs the excitable into spontaneous solicitousness, it is really destined for the poor art critic to  be struck like a bolt of lightning.

        The tresses fell and bobbed and cascaded lyrically, as if swaying to a silent symphony. The countenance was a sharp rebuke to unsolicited admirers and similar creatures, but it was the picture of unmistakable and customised invitation for admittance to the bearer of the passcode. It was a supremely-skilled chiseller, if  ever there had been one. The bounty of curves and the eminently decorous rotundity and globosity were all in place to incite a mad churning of one’s senses, and strange, one’s intellect too! Like any art of lasting value, this too beggared description. But, as the wise remind us, what is in a name?

 

A pregnant man

Pregnant with something

driving me crazy.

No caution, no contraception

Only burning desire.

Now I suffer alone

Yet I am happy

only as much a crazed man can be.

Shall we defile one more metaphor?

 

Many, many have gone over the top

congenital rashness

It’s the sweet curse of the heavens

upon the apes who think they know.

 

Who is the happier?

You , who pride yourself on the word…

or, those you think you left behind ?

Inchoate loneliness, pay no heed…

Now, a full-blown syndrome

an unfamiliar pregnancy.

I am not too, what I purport to be.

     To ‘simulate’, can mean ‘to feign’. Strange, but to ‘dissimulate’ means  pretty much the same thing: to conceal your true feelings.

         “It cannot dissimulate, it conceals nothing; at every moment it seems what it actually is, and thus can be nothing that is not honest.”   –Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm

       Are we dissembling?  For example, If I exhibit joy when you hurt me: I’m dissembling, “putting on an appearance” (of cheerfulness, in this case). The latin root is dissimulare = “to feign”.

    Just the opposite: If  something in your  gesture  or expression belies your true feelings,  your  unintended or involuntary expression is revealing your true feelings: it is giving you away. Sample this: Her moist eyes belied her calm voice.  But  ‘belie‘ is Janus-faced; it can connote exactly the opposite: to conceal facts. Mull this: His placid façade belies his boiling rage.

        If I am thrifty , What I mean is that I am frugal.  But If I am a spendthrift ? Is that a commendation on my lack of wastefulness, sparing nature? Because thrift means being economical, right? There we have a majestic idiosyncrasy again! Behold!- Spendthrift means  a person who spends possessions or money extravagantly or wastefully, a prodigal.

 

“Narrative”: As I see things…

I see this usage of the word “narrative” being freely bandied about, with nary a hint of any abashment  such a connotation ought to be associated with. ( disclaimer: I tend to have an equal  inclination to explore the darker realm of everything ☺)

A particularly interesting  voguish meaning of narrative:

 As per  Dictionary.com:

“a story that connects and explains a carefully selected set of supposedly true events, ex-periences, or the like, intended to support particular viewpoint or thesis.”  So, What I am doing here , is “carefully selecting” ( at cherry-picking, am I? ) facts to fit my story. The uncomfortable facts are simply invisible to me.

How about this one , from Oxford dictionary : “A representation of a particular situation or process in such a way as to reflect or conform to an overarching set of aims or values.” So, this  particular connotation  of the word has got to do something with trying to “make up” a story, isn’t it? As rhyming with “fake up”?

Our  narrative, then, is Our thesis. And there is nothing  inherently sacrosanct, sacramental, sanctified or consecrated about our thesis. You have every liberty to debunk my narrative, if you see the loopholes in my thesis.

Look up “overarching“, and  there pops up a fascinating,  yet ominous connotation: “dominating or embracing all else“.  If you are wondering about the “ominous” part of this innocuous definition, ponder over this usage in : “a politician’s overarching ambition for power.”  Reminds me of another  sentence: “They will brook no interference in their plans.”

About Cherry-picking.

And came across this expression: to cherry-pick.  On the face of it,  the expression looks innocuous enough. But Cherry-picking has a odious connotation :  Suppressing part of the truth to suit your own contention.  For example,  a scribe with an agenda  decides to bring to the fore  only the adverse facts about a  particular country or a particular Political leader,  to cast them in poor light.  You are cherry-picking. Logicians  are acquainted with it as the Fallacy of Exclusion.

One senses  a pejorative tint to the expression in most usages, but interestingly, one fails to sense  anything  disapproving  the way Merriam-Webster defines it  : “to select the best or most desirable”.

One also made this serendipitous discovery, that “to bristle at” and “to bridle at” essentially mean the same thing.  If you reflexively get angry because of something, then you bristle at or bridle at  that  provocation. Let’s delve into the origin of the former:

“With flattened ears, the puppy crouched, growling at the stranger, her mane bristling.”
                                                               – “The Whelps of the Wolf” by George Marsh
 So the ethological origin of the bristling behavior is apparent from the sentence; you must be warned when the hairs on the back of the neck of  an animal stand on their ends.
Same thing as when you raise the hackles up of someone. You are angering that person. If they had been  a canine, you couldn’t have mistaken their neck hairs standing up.

     If you are suddenly angered by some insolent remark, or by a dark allusion, so that very likely you throw up your  head and draw in your chin, you will be described  as bridling at the remark.  The equine origin ought  not be difficult to divine.

Technology as the scapegoat

 

There has been a recent article in the NYT, “WhatsApp, Crowds and Power in India” by Alia Allana (JUNE 21, 2017). In this article,   Ms. Allana posits that the use of the free instant messaging service  by the credulous masses of India is counterproductive – facilitating  malicious rumour-mongering and engendering odious majoritarian propaganda and sectarian discord.

“Power will go to the hands of rascals, rogues, freebooters; all Indian leaders will be of low calibre and men of straw. They will have sweet tongues and silly hearts. They will fight amongst themselves for power and India will be lost in political squabbles. A day would come when even air and water would be taxed in India.”

The foregoing cautionary pronouncement is apocryphally attributed to Winston Churchill, on the issue of granting of independence to India by the British. The great statesman is as much acknowledged for his pugnacity as for his crisp prose, but in all likelihood, attribution of the quote to Mr. Churchill is  only anecdotal. Whatever the provenance of the quote, how far has this apocalyptic view of the future been borne out?

Contrast this with what  Mrs. Muriel Nichol, British Member of Parliament for Bradford North had to say in the course of the  Parliamentary debate  on Grant of Full Independence to India  on the sixth of March, 1947: “…This is India’s problem, and India knows it. It is a problem which she, and she alone, can settle. She will settle it more easily, and more quickly, if she settles it as a free country. There are  many people in this country, and, I am afraid, among hon. Members opposite, who cannot quite rid themselves, if I may say it without offence, of the “White Sahib” mentality. They insist on thinking what they are going to do for India, or what we are going to do for India. They will not understand that India can govern herself. She wants to govern herself; she insists upon governing herself, and quite rightly.”

People of different persuasions have held differing views on whether underdeveloped people deserve to be vested with sociological or technological novelties. On the cusp of a paradigm shift among the comity of nations, the colonial mind was apprehensive how the nascent republics might handle “freedom”.

In deciding Packingham v. North Carolina, on June 19, 2017 the Supreme Court of the United States struck down a North Carolina law that proscribed registered sex offenders from visiting social-networking websites popular with minors. While recognising that  the states did  have an abiding interest in taking measures to protect minors from abuse, Justice Anthony Kennedy observed that the freedom of an individual to access “what for many are the principal sources for knowing current events, checking ads for employment, speaking and listening in the modern public square, and otherwise exploring the vast realms of human thought and knowledge” cannot be wrested away.

The world is no longer what it used to be. The social media, however hydra-headed it may appear, has the far-outweighing distinction of having become the new democratic “modern public square.” India is no exception to this. Technology, such as Whatsapp, is inherently neutral. While it has the potential of causing senseless death and destruction when used as a weapon of mass hysteria as this article by Ms Allana so poignantly depicts, it also can act as a powerful tool of enlightenment in the hands of a zealous teacher.  Gullibility is not an exclusive trait of  an underdeveloped people. While the creation of an informed, educated citizenry remains a immutable goal all across the globe, what all nations must ensure is the presence of an adaptive, robust Justice System, au courant with technological and sociological watersheds.

About Eves and Adams

   With a class of men, even stark nude women will be safe… and it is not as if these men are impotent or less virile than their  brethren with an exaggerated sense of manliness. These are those men, in which cultural evolution has scored over and taken precedence over ethological proclivity.

   It’s because of the populous remnant of the men, that women must not forget chemistry and biology. After all, there is such a thing as a pheromone. Alas, the gift of not being  swayed by the temptation of swerving away from the dictates of custom, tradition or law, is given to only a smaller faction of the masculine world.
Because of historical  and cultural reasons,  women in general and oriental women in particular, need to be circumspect when choosing to adhere to prevalent trends in personal grooming and fashion. This ability to not to be overcome by  the temptation of submitting to current trends in  sartorial fashion too is, unfortunately, given to a small class of women.

   It is tempting to speculate if  the  lecherous trait too has genetic determinants.  Until such time as the nature vs. nurture question in this regard has been finally settled, prudence dictates that women must remember that despite thousands of years of cultural evolution, men do not go around carrying diacritical tags on their foreheads.

“Do not Disturb my circles!”

   “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.“- apocryphally attributed to Friedrich Nietzsche

   It has been variously  interpreted by different people ( there is a scholarly discussion on the provenance of the dictum  here, should you be interested).  Somehow, to me these words eminent good sense;  they sum up the white heat of creation and the idea of human genius itself. Isn’t it decreed  by the heavens that all  true  genius be  terrifyingly bereft of company?

   It’s sad,  but it’s quite natural and couldn’t have been otherwise; all true genius is frightfully ahead of its time.  Alas, the rest of humanity  is not bestowed with the intellectual wherewithal to grasp what  to one very solitary individual is clear daylight! So he bounds stark-naked into the streets from his bath, oblivious to the jeers and taunts and catcalls of his less fortunate brethren. To the  intellectual hoi polloi,  the poor chap can go so far as to appear a fool- I mean: What other creature than a consummate dunderhead, very likely bordering on unmitigated lunacy, can, in the midst of  wartime cannonade, respond thus to a marauding belligerent, “Noli, obsecro, istum disturbare!” ?These famous last words, meaning “Do not, I entreat you, disturb that (sand)!” are attributed to  Archimedes, who was contemplating a mathematical  diagram he had drawn on the sand before him when a roman soldier, his would-be assailant, commanded him to come and meet General Marcellus, the commander of the invading army. Some people also attribute the title of this post as being what he actually exclaimed at the fateful encounter. The tragic event that followed is common knowledge.

    The foregoing encounter between the Roman soldier and the Syracusan savant approaches as close an allegory, if you will, as one can, representing the eternal rarity of transcendence.

   Even to the Greek of his times, Socrates was all Greek. One can enumerate three  major contemporary sources which afford us close glimpses of Socrates’ life : the dialogues of Plato and Xenophon (both pre-eminent habitués of Socrates’ school), and the plays of Aristophanes. Even as Socrates is universally acknowledged today to be one of the Founding Fathers of Western philosophy, a veritable Colosssus of towering genius,  in Aristophanes’ ludicrous parody of a play The Clouds, Socrates  is portrayed as  the quintessential screwball-mountebank-mystic  particularly inclined toward sophistry, whose vocation it is to  teach his students how to hoodwink their debtors.  Incapable  of perceiving the music he was dancing to, the contemporary Greek society charged him with  corrupting the minds of the youth and of  “not believing in the gods of the state“.  He was beyond the ken of  the State of the day, the times. So much so, the State decided to do away with him.

 

 

The idea was first mooted…

   Moot is a  sort of Thing. Startled, are we? I beg yer pardon, Guv’nor, but that’s  true as the Gospels. A Thing was, in the northern Germanic society of olden times, the governing assembly made up of the free people of the community presided over by community leaders. It was the  ancient forerunner of the modern parliaments.The Anglo-Saxon folkmoot  (Old English folcgemōt, “folk meeting”) was about the same, er, thing!

   Not for no reason  does the  Danish Parliament  of the present day call itself  the Folketing, or does the Icelandic one, Althingi ! While we are at it, let’s linger a bit on similar-sounding Husting ( literally House  thing, in Old Norse).  If the Thing used to be a general legislative or judicial assembly of people presided by the clan leaders, the Husting was a more august assembly of the Chieftain and his courtiers. Today, by metonymy,  the word lives in reference to events related to campaigns during elections. When Unpopular politicians suffer  drubbing  at the hustings, poetic justice is said to have been rendered. And then the people wait for the new dispensation to become corrupt too, so that  they too get thrashed at the next hustings. Cycle ad nauseam.

   To come back to moot: How close it sounds to ‘meet’! Today, if you introduce or broach or present an idea or issue before someone, you will be said to have mooted the  idea or issue.

   In the realm of Law schools,  the academic tradition of ‘Moot courts’ arose in the sixteenth century where law students would present their legal arguments on a given set of conjectured circumstances (simulating actual court proceedings) before one or several senior lawyers,  judges or jurists. This academic ‘simulator training’ affords  law students experience in the art of legal  pleading, circumventing the danger of   their gaining  such experience at the risk of inadvertent damage to a real client’s interests. Not much different from medical students being provided with cadavers!