a.nihil

the smallest triviality can become the vision that wipes out the world.

Last Saturday I witnessed an animated group of German twenty-somethings talk about privatkrankenversicherung, a conversation that deeply amused and frustrated me. Years ago I met a Indian journalist who said he would be opposed to be insured, because he saw that as a violation of his body's natural right to be sick and removing the element of drama from having a sickness. It was a radical approach towards possessing an insurance, one that can be termed reckless or even stupid. But in India it is not mandatory to be insured and considering the low healthcare costs such a gamble with healthcare can be flirted with.

The case is different in Germany where everyone is supposed to be insured with a choice between public and private insurers. Private insurance is more expensive and out of reach of the average German and public insurance is good until economic sophistication invokes its presence. Economic sophistication (or creep) is a problem we all face with when our spending hits a particular threshold and the boredom associated with those choices becomes apparent. A person spending 85€ on a monthly train ticket would prefer to budget for a car EMI, because that signals sophistication to whichever class he's a member of. Insurance seems like that unchanging monthly expense but to make it more sexy, one has to add more frills and more expense which a private insurance does very well.

The interesting thing in the group dynamic in these twenty-somethings is that they are all being weaned off the parental support, the Kindergeld, which is a monthly allowance until the age of 25 including the expenses of the insurance. The 25th birthday is emblematic of this dependence, the age where the child finally becomes the adult and the relative opulence of the early twenties give way to economic realism.

This economic realism is what I would say is the gateway to the middle-class they wish to embody. Dreams become enshrouded in jobs and the paycheck becomes the final master. The desire for stability in a society geared around stability means that everyone gets a degree and then they work where the degree permits them to be. In comes the conversation about privatkrankenversicherung, whether it should be allowed the by the State or not and if so, where can the free market insurance firms can operate?

The amusing part is that none of the people at that gathering would've been eligible for having private health insurance, considering that no-one was self-employed or making over 62,550€. The whole conversation itself was about coming-of-age, where one finally has the adult conversations that could not have been had before. I find this equating with the idea of powerlessness we embody, but the conversation becomes about the numbers and signaling. This is sad to witness because the apparent power that the people around me were programmed to possess was being impeded by the highly structured society they lived in. Coupled with the necessity to belong, they would soon be induced into the pleasures of rearing a family and keeping up with appearances. This talk about privatkrankenversicherung will not be their last, the more mundane aspects of middle-age will take over, talking about kindergartens and kitchen tops.

During this conversation, the raw power of the Indian journalist along with the freedom he had became more apparent. He would not fit into any mold in the regular society and when he's sick, the disease will not discriminate him at all. He would find a way to live or die but his rejection of insurance was also his rejection of this middle-class stability to life. The cookie cutter nature to existing, the drab monotony of work and living, the search for a meaning between the monthly payments of insurance and phone bills. I wonder how boring it would get over in time at these parties. An entire generation replacing the one before without having anything new to offer. Maybe this is a limitation of existence itself, to succumb to little packets of life and not think of anything grander.

#germany #society #youth #power

hd-aspect-1473288980-es-090716-sept-11-longform-falling

Two hundred years from now the great American history rewriting machine will have erased memories of the proxy fights with Russians in the sovereign nation of Afghanistan. What will be remembered is the horror across the world after the World Trade Center was brought down in an act of sheer terror. The word terror will be emphasized and the perpetrators names will be lost in generalizations. The wars that followed which destabilized an entire region will be an after thought. America won that war at an ideological level, convincing the world of the same. America propagated Islamophobia is internalized across the globe, equating the idea of a terrorist to a Muslim.

A Muslim pogrom will happen somewhere in this century (the Rohingyas? the Uighurs? the Kashmiris?) there will be excuses that the community asked for it. In this whole scenario, America always has and will be the victim. In broad strokes of history, the 3000 people who died in the buildings will be forgotten but the savagery of the actions that brought them down will play in memory.

The perpetrators were brought to justice through military occupation and with shiny, invisible drones that breathed hellfire. The Architect-in-Chief was killed in a clandestine military operation in another sovereign nation. This is all forgiven because we are all America and what is against this Great Nation is against all of us. Hunter S. Thompson was right in saying, “It will be a Religious War, a sort of Christian Jihad, fueled by religious hatred and led by merciless fanatics on both sides. It will be guerilla warfare on a global scale, with no front lines and no identifiable enemy.”

There exists a memorial for the dead at the site of the fallen towers – but who will cry and remember the 31,000 Afghan and the 650,000 Iraqi civilians? The greater instability induced in the regions and the mass migration that followed has induced a death grip on European politics as well, but as far as we are concerned, America is absolved of all guilt. America is our only savior against the twin evils of China and Russia, in this respect we are all American, overwhelmed by the country more than the places we live in.

The real memorial for the thousands of dead, the millions displaced and the future millions that will be killed and displaced is the falling of the Twin Towers itself. It showed a moment of belligerence and exposed the deep arrogance of the American state. That a crude organization could overwhelm the greatest superstate in the history of nations with a handful of planes and some symbolism is a fact that cannot be translated into history.

$ 2 trillion (and counting) of American money went into wars after this event, even as a majority of its citizens crumble without a public safety net. The true victors in this war have been the handful of people who plunged the planes into the buildings on that Tuesday morning. They exposed what we know of America's diabolical power all along, its corruption and violent hunger. They teased America off of its money in a war that will never go anywhere. But I cannot say that, as talking against the politics of this Great Nation, is talking against the interests of the world itself.

11th September 2001 is a memory of the millions that perished because of American political greed. With this being said, God bless America.

#America #politics #power

On-powerlessness

The people on the streets and on public transport appear more as people than blurs, there's a distinct sense of belonging without adherence to a particular cause or reason. I do not have the urge to debate over global topics, which I am removed from anyway because of powerlessness I embody. When I look around this powerlessness is more visible but the cacophony of the media narratives makes us believe that we are more important than we are. – A break from the news

Most of our everyday life we are propelled through with a feeling of power. We are told that our actions have consequences and they hold us in the middle of things: pay your taxes, wear your masks, vote for change, buy local.. for most part we do believe in them and do our best to participate. Societies that do not operate on these levels of consciousness wither into a painful existence while we soldier on, believing that we have the power to change anything and everything in our lives.

But, can we really? While the news amuses us with how much wealth Jeff Bezos has hoarded this year or with some political brouhaha from across the world, we assume in part the bodies of the people we read and think about. The politics of the country we live in is far from us and the globalized American dream has us wondering what step we take in the future can make us the capitalists we love and hate at the same time. The plebeian existence we inhabit is hidden behind the millions of customizations we are granted in the internet age, a power trip that was hitherto unknown to previous generations.

The music we listen to, the books we read and the restaurants we go to are all hidden in the black boxes we possess each moment, hidden from the everyday audience. Behind the scenes they are the access to central servers that pile up money with the very information we hold secret with the people next to us. In these moments we feel powerful that we have access to all the information and products in the world but what we cannot control is the faces and the powers behind the screen. Power now has become abstracted, it is no longer the politician who controls what we want and how we want them but a Silicon Valley billionaire who in his nonchalance is putting a hyper-libertarian world view into action without your permission (you clicked on “I agree” of course).

In a pre-internet era there was a singular flow of information and a chain of command that was local. There was not a constant monitoring of oneself (unless someone lived in East Germany under the aegis of the Stasi) and the villains of ones life could be found in the nearest Capital city. Now that is not the case. If one wants to decry job losses and protest against Uber, where does one go to? And if Uber were to be shut down, what about the market forces that Uber has helped unleash? Sitting on contracted work with no benefits in an economy that promises more “freedom and flexibility” for both consumers and producers alike, what's the political upheaval one is really aiming for?

I am not saying that societal problems did not have a global relation in the earlier generations but with the advent of the internet, our problems have been collectivized into an effective global package. Google is just identifiable as the crucifix around the world. To google is to exist in the 21st century, this is a reality that no-one of us is going to escape anytime soon. The buzzwords of disruption and digitization, are warning signs that the security of being middle-class, is being slowly taken away by a class of extremely rich people who we have learnt to revere. How does one fight for their rights against someone situated in another country altogether?

What has been really disrupted is our lives: one part of it is being drained into the dossiers of mega-corporations and the other we are trying to figure out how to make our presence in the economies we live in. We do not talk about these things because we are all engaged in the same game of capital worship. If we were as honest to each other as we are to layers and layers of internet surveillance, we would see how powerless we are in the global scheme of things. A part of the rebellion against the current iteration of how things are organized would come from this shared powerlessness.

This powerlessness should make us question why power should be concentrated and if that power should be concentrated between a few companies and investors on the planet. Governments do not have the gall [1] or the creativity to fight the new operators of power. If the lowest common denominator in a democracy, the voter, finds their place of helplessness then it is easier for the government to see their relative position. This helplessness will be a bargaining position for the world of the future. As the power becomes powerless, it starts to fight back.

The first step in the process is to come out of the induced stupor of artificial self-worth that our current state of living provides. Communicating our fragility in the market ecosystem instead of trading ego boosts on Instagram would pave the way for a greater social conversation about current state of our power. This can be translated into political will and speak – it is irrelevant if someone is Indian or Tunisian in the current iteration of the market. It's US, China or a handful of developed countries everyone is dependent on and this dependence is only getting stronger by the day. When the political apparatus of countries start to wake up to this stark divide – (hoping that most countries have the interests of its common people at heart) – change can be expected. The hegemonic nature of countries are always in flux, to steer it away from the current establishment requires unity of the powerless and resolve.

[1] As we speak, the Indian government has banned a fresh lot of 118 Chinese apps citing surveillance as a reason. None of the American or other internet companies that operate on the same revenue models find no mention for the same practices. If the government was really so concerned about the well-being of its citizens, it would shut down the internet. This is a sign of the helplessness once the Indian government wakes up from its Doublethink.

#capitalism #democracy #power #internet

Part 1 Part 2

I took a break from reading and watching the news. For the past week I do not know what happened in the world and what dystopias are waiting for us in the shadows. I do not know anything about America, the financial markets, the EU, the Hindu right-wing or about the virus. I do not know the new drama that Twitter wants to diffuse into me or the outrage that Reddit forces me to consider. The pangs of boredom that make me want to consume more of the Guardian and the Washington Post are yet to find a new home, but the media terror of discourse building is suddenly absent.

News media operates like a terror organization, as ideologues who push forward their narrative through capturing attention. The content behind the news does not mean as much as the attention power it generates. Generating content 24/7 is not an easy task but considering the low shelf life of most news, the need to invent is continual.

I consume news for the same reasons I consume alcohol, as a social lubricant, as a means of getting through with the world, as a relaxant and in a corny hope that it makes me wiser. What started as an occasional 9 p.m. news bulletin evolved into reading a newspaper everyday to constantly being surrounded by the news. This leads to a chatter of information and sure, it helps one keep track of the malfeasance of power. But is it really a medium of change? If I did the same with alcohol I would end up with a serious case of alcoholism and a cirrhosis of the liver.

The status-quo heavily benefits the news organization and change orchestrated by it would never be in the interests that are outside its workings. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube operate on a different level, where the conventional news cycle is broken down further. The driving force here is hidden inside an algorithm, not a kooky Australian billionaire. We cannot even decode a person behind a phone screen, what about the machine behind them? These companies operate in secrecy and but whitewash their existence through ideals of openness and connectivity.

What the media organization thrives from is discontent and disconnection. Good news is bad news for a media organization because good news warrants no further discussion. Bad news however creates engagement and engagement creates more revenue. This translates into fraught societies that are connected and fragmented at the same time, one does not need to look further than Facebook or Fox News for the destabilization they have done to the global thinking order in the past decade.

“People who are addicted to Twitter, are like all addicts—on the one hand miserable, and on the other hand very defensive about it and unwilling to blame Twitter.” – Jaron Lanier

Coming down from by bingeing of news, I find more calm for people and my surroundings. The people on the streets and on public transport appear more as people than blurs, there's a distinct sense of belonging without adherence to a particular cause or reason. I do not have the urge to debate over global topics, which I am removed from anyway because of powerlessness I embody. When I look around this powerlessness is more visible but the cacophony of the media narratives makes us believe that we are more important than we are. A deeper look of our collective dissatisfaction and wants, untainted by a mediator or an algorithm is a good place to counter existing narratives and to hope for something new.

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#media #facebook #democracy

Everybody loves a dead soldier

Dead soldiers are a political and emotional capital. People who wore a uniform for the necessity of a salary suddenly become martyrs for the sake of the “mother/fatherland”. They become a mythological cause for a government to hide behind, the veil of perfect excuse. On the 74th Independence Day yesterday, the Prime Minister Modi had this to say:

Those who challenge India’s sovereignty, be it Line of Control or Line of Actual Control, have been given a befitting reply in their own language. What India can do, world has seen it in Ladakh. Respect for India’s sovereignty is supreme for us.

What he does not mention is that the Chinese standoff is far from over. In the sectors where China has encroached upon Indian land, Indians have managed to do little. Though the Chinese side haven't released the number of dead on their side of the border, the Indian government and the Army had to account for the 20 dead soldiers at the Galwan Valley clash. The spin machine in Modi's right-wing, nationalist BJP government has taken advantage of the information opacity to say that the Chinese have been deterred by the Indian show of force. The temptation of using dead soldiers for political mileage is too good to pass in an environment which would otherwise call for more political scrutiny. India is facing the sheer brute force of COVID-19 coupled with a weak economy and increasingly receding democratic apparatus.

In the same speech PM Modi quotes:

“On behalf of the entire nation, I want to thank the efforts of all corona-warriors. All those healthcare workers, doctors and nurses, who have worked tirelessly to serve the nation amid the pandemic. Many have even lost their lives. The nation salutes them.”

What this rhetoric does is that it transforms the administrative shortcomings of the government into the same martyrdom capital a dead soldier provides. This shifts the blame away from the government and instead fools the public into blind veneration. No rational person chooses to die from work. The incentive of being a healthcare worker or a soldier comes from the paychecks they bring and the societal privilege these occupations provide. This is not to mention that most soldiers choose to become one because there's no other form of livelihood that can be guaranteed from the places they come from. They are underpaid and overworked, an occupational privilege they share with the so called “corona warriors”.

What could have been a political disaster for a nationalist party that cannot secure its nation has now become the very strength. The more people that are killed through the pandemic and along the border with China, the more people would be willing to buy the hokey bullshit that Mr. Modi has to peddle. Aided by the media which have fallen for the Hindu propaganda over the past six years, the failings of Modi's government are easily forgiven and forgotten.

This masculine chest thumping is a worrying sign, the only independence the country is celebrating right now is the independence from common sense and empathy. India has devolved into a puppet state where the puppets are the people participating in the democracy. There is very little hope when the spilling of blood is seen as a sign of power than a crisis of morality.

#India #independence #nationalism

Engage

Demand an elaborate, time-consuming comparison / analysis between your position and theirs.

Entangle

Insist that the Liberal put their posts in their own words. That will consume the most time and effort for the Liberal poster.

They will be unable to spread numerous points on numerous blogs if you have them occupied. Allowing a Liberal to post a web link is too quick and efficient for them. Tie them up. We are going for delay of game here.

Demoralize

Dismiss their narrative as rubbish immediately.

Do not even read it. Once the Liberal goes through the trouble to research, gather, collate, compose and write their narrative your job is to discredit it. Make it obvious you tossed their labor-intensive narrative aside like garbage. This will have the effect of demoralizing the Liberal poster.

It will make them unwilling to expend the effort again, and for us, that is a net win.

Attack

Attack the source. Any Liberal website or information source must be marginalized, trivialized and discounted. Discredit Liberal sources of information whenever possible.

Confuse

Challenge the Liberal position with questions, always questions. The questions need not be relevant. The goal is to knock the Liberal poster off their game, and seize control of the narrative.

Once you have control you can direct the narrative to where you want it to go, which is always away from letting the Liberal make their point. Conversely, do not respond to their leading questions. Don't rise to their bait.

Contain

Your job is to prevent the presentation and spread of Liberal viewpoints.

Do anything you must do to prevent a Liberal poster from presenting a well-reasoned argument or starting a civil discussion.

Don't allow a Liberal to present their dogma unchallenged EVER.

Intimidate

Taunt the Liberals. If you find yourself in a debate with a Liberal where you are losing a fact-based argument then call them a name to derail their diatribe. Remember your goal is to prevent a meaningful exchange of views and ideas which may portray Liberalism in a positive light.

Your goal as a conservative blogger is to stop the spread and advance of the Liberal agenda. Play upon any identifiable idiosyncrasies, character flaws, physical traits, names, to their disadvantage. Monitor other posts for vulnerabilities you can exploit. Stay on the offensive with Liberal wimps. Don't let up.

Insult their Movement

Assign as many character and moral flaws to Liberals as you can. You must portray Liberals as weak, vacillating, indecisive, amoral, baby killers, unpatriotic, effete snobs, elitists, Leftists, Commies, sense of entitlement, promiscuous, union lovers, tax raisers, Welfare Queens, Socialists, lazy, sex-obsessed, druggies, moochers, troop hater,.etc. Always use these negative epithets when referring to, or describing Liberals.

Deceive

Identify yourself as a moderate, centrist or independent. It will also cause Liberals to lower their guard a bit, which gives you an effective opening. This may also have the effect of aligning conservative viewpoints with the real moderates we are attempting to reach.

It may serve to influence some moderates over to the Conservative side.

Patriotism

Always claim the high ground of pro-military, low taxes, strong defense, morality and religion. We own those virtues. Learn how to exploit them when debating.

Demean

Always refer to the other side as Liberals, Lefty Liberals, Libbies, Librandus. Never assign them the status of a bona-fide political party. Hang Liberalism around their neck like a burning tire. Make Liberalism appear as a moral turpitude or a character flaw. They are NEVER, NEVER to be referred to with their party affliation. Never assign them respect.

Opportunity

Be alert for ways to insert our catch phrases into your narrative. You will receive your daily list of talking points and topics that we want you to cover. Consistent, persistent repetition and inculcation will drive our talking points home and so will neuro-linguistic programming. Stick with it and our talking points will become truth. If they debunk your talking point, ignore it, and move on as if you didn't hear it.

#propaganda #fascism #media #democracy

Credit: u/BouncyBunnyBuddy

As someone who has never been to America but having seen the country play a major role in how I think through what I watch and read, America has fallen. There was a certain zenith where the belief in the American Dream touched even the remotest corners of the planet, where almost every country wrote its national consciousness in the American model. Ruthless capitalism, selfishness and opulence were the pillars of this model, which was buttressed by the soft power of Hollywood and the internet.

Off late the fall has become even more precipitous with the twin trouble of COVID-19 and the George Floyd protests mixed to the shrill tune of Donald Trump's voice. Viewed from a distance I cannot imagine how this country has come to shape much of the post-war world of the 20th century, for now it's a joke without a punchline. Everything American seems inhuman – the notion that an individual is the center of everything is slowly eroding, we are all in this together as the COVID-19 reminds us everyday. The Neo-liberal wet dream suckers up as governments wake up to realize that people come before corporations, the virus is a wake up call for a society gently lulled into the consumerist humdrum.

Sure, the US still has the firepower to shut its critics and wrestle its way to command its superpower status. But a revered superpower is different from an ageing bully, the American Dream is no longer the incentive but the fear of the American wrath is.

#America #COVID19

The sincerity of of intellectual affirmation has nothing to do with the naturalness of spontaneous emotion. Strangely or not, it seems the soul may be given such surprises merely so that it won't lack pain, so that it will still know disgrace, so that it will have its fair share of grief in life. We are all equal in our capacity for error and suffering. Only those who don't feel don't experience pain; and the highest, most noble and most prudent men are those who experience and suffer precisely what they foresaw and what they disdained. This is what is known as Life – Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

Processing pain from the lens of other peoples' experiences and rules always gives rise to the same set of conclusions. Whether one is grieving, heartbroken, fighting against institutionalized discrimination or the State, war or even simple pettiness, answers can be found distilled from the memories of faceless humans who have contributed to the knowledge bank. Follow this and you shall be done, follow that and you will become a better person. This will help you create a revolution and this is what will help you heal.

The irrationality of being human – thoughts and actions that do not put one in a box of approved puritanical behavior or expected “norms” are the bastion masts of moral and psychological depravity. At least that's what the newspapers and the internet tells us, be normal in the way everyone reading this is normal. All the people I meet have this polished normalness as their veneer, I don't know what they think in their fantasies, I do not who they are when they daydream.

Complete loss – the loss of an ideal, the loss of an altered state of mind, the loss of a crutch one uses to cope with the complexities of the world. Like how alcoholics seek the rock bottom before they find the path to recovery. Though despair takes countless forms, the experience behind the filter is the same. Dependent on a society that has invisible decorum programmed at its heart, our intelligence fools us into believing we're all different. We are different like the forms of despair, but united in sorrow.

On this conveyor belt of pings and pangs, who we are takes a backseat. Being irrational becomes a subdued power, normalized through instruction and taming. Mass produced humans, in a mass produced world. Our feelings erased many generations ago and now left with only ghost shadows. Chattering people, where fractured false selves transact in closed loops of thought and action. To think that we live for anything other than the cheapness of being alive, is foolish.

#capitalism #thought

Greatness. Glory. Us, the people. India, the land of the ancient great. Superpower, $5 trillion economy. A land of beauty, color, mystique, good food and IT coolies that get the job done. India, shining and proud – a collective of people who lead and inspire the world. These are all PR terms that are supposed to evoke pride in who we are, the stamp of a passport on our souls. When this rosy idea of the country is challenged, through accounts of poverty, income inequality, rising authoritarian streaks it becomes a cause to be fought against.

India like most nations today suffers from jingoistic nationalism that is formed on thoughts and ideas that not everyone has access to. Let us examine the term “Migrant Laborers” which in itself is devoid of any moral or meaning. These are the masons, carpenters, pani-puri wallahs and load bearers that camouflage in the brick and concrete dust in countless constructions sites across the country, forming the backbone of the informal Indian economy that is 81% of the total workforce.

The word “laborer” itself serves a negative function in the Indian middle-class discourse – they are still seen as the low caste (regardless that according to the Article 14 of the Indian constitution, discrimination according to caste is illegal), overpopulating and not worthy of an equal status. A poor that brings down the name of the country through their lack of effort. The middle and the political class are far removed from what poverty means, it is “those” people that inhabit the corners of their eyes, almost polluting their line of sight. The millions of middle class Indians living abroad or even working cushy jobs in metro cities are not migrants workers, no. They are Indians. The migrant laborers are Indian but not really, they will be the soldiers for future wars if needed, but people they are not.

Here lies the problem with Modi government's response to the COVID-19 crisis. It was addressed to the middle-classes of India who had enough resources to survive the lockdown but the poor were left with nothing and nowhere to go. There was no aid for those who needed it the most. The rules issued by the Modi government by now seem arbitrary and without any scientific precedent:

From the limited information available in the public domain, it seems that the government was primarily advised by clinicians and academic epidemiologists with limited field training and skills. Policy makers apparently relied overwhelmingly on general administrative bureaucrats. The engagement with expert technocrats in the areas of epidemiology, public health, preventive medicine and social scientists was limited. – Indian Public Health Association, Indian Association of Preventive and Social Medicine & Indian Association of Epidemiologists

Taking into consideration even the survivorship bias and assuming that the government has acted quick, the current spike in cases just when the lockdown is supposed to end and the spate of the migrants still far away from their homes are still critical failures that could have been avoided with scientific consensus and proper planning. We can see the results in the laborers that were hosed with chemicals, left to struggle without food, shelter or security for weeks at an end in cities that they could never call home. Why weren’t the migrants first ferried to the villages when the cases were the lowest?

“If the situation is not handled in these 21 days, the country and your family could go back 21 years… Several families could get devastated for ever… This virus spreads like wildfire… There is no other method or way to escape Coronavirus (except social distancing)… Jaan hai to jahan hai… Carelessness of a few can put the entire country in jeopardy.” Modi, March 24th 2020

Modi in retrospect looked like he was making a political gamble, if the lockdown somehow managed to eliminate the virus from the populace, he would’ve been hailed as a hero furthering his curated god-like image. But that’s not how viruses work, there was sufficient literature evidence by around the third week of March that the virus is here to stay. By the end of May the mask of foolishness and image the government has been hiding behind for two months fall apart. Daily cases are reaching a new peak everyday and by all measures the lockdown can be touted as a failure. The spin from the official mouthpieces of the government focuses on the recovery rate and how the quick action to shut the country off has paid dividends because the hospitals now aren’t full. But who is to believe the statistics that come from governmental agencies? When the government itself is in denial of inadequate testing and community transmission (”it’s a question of semantics”). With an average of 7000+ cases in the last days of Lockdown 4.0 the government is in frantic need of good public posturing. With that burden we are presented with Unlock 1.0 which has the same function as the previous lockdowns, to boost the image of the government and not saving the people.

How can we as Indians harp on our glory and feel united when the disenfranchised have been exposed in such glaring light? The natural chest thumping that the BJP resorts to when provided with a problem is absent from the discourse. The party leadership will ignore the questions about the logic of the lockdown, the situation of migrant workers, inadequate testing because how can they bring themselves to explain that India is for them a land for the few? The Indians the BJP harps about are not walking in the streets with their humble belongings, they don’t have glamour of working in the cold battlefields of Kashmir or Siachen. The laborers have metaphors that those in the higher echelons in Indian society use for denigration and shame.

For a government that always likes to consider itself better off than Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, this is time to look and learn from countries that have handled the crisis better. Germany, South Korea and Taiwan have all handled the crisis with humility. They thought about their children, about their aged, their disadvantaged and their disenfranchised. It is not hard work, after all it is the job the government has been elected to do.

#lockdown #India #COVID19

The world is picking up its pieces, wanting to go back outside into the “new normality”. Restaurants, bars, cinemas and offices waiting to be opened, money wishing to be spent and the magic of box of desire raging for attention. The impact of slashed marketing spends is seen in the stale advertisements from months ago still hanging everywhere, hungry for attention. The newspapers complain that various arms of the economy are suffering, painting pictures of businessmen, poor waiters, cinema workers and sportsmen all in the same stroke. We should be sad for them, yes, but we should also be sad for ourselves for letting an economy of over-consumption take control of our lives.

A survey by the management consultancy McKinsey also revealed that between 20 and 30 percent of the Chinese will continue to be cautious about spending money and want to consume either a little less or, in some cases, even much less. “The lockdown gave consumers a lot of time to think about what is important to them,” says Mark Tanner, managing director of Shanghai-based research and marketing consultancy China Skinny. “As consumers spend more time at home, they also have more time and reasons to sort things they don't think they need.”

With the economy opening up again, familiar messaging is inviting us to reach for our wallets again. The temptation of walking along a high street and checking restaurant menus and the urge to roam around in a mall in the haze of consumption. The lockdown for a privileged few showed that the world around us is built around the heartbeat of desire and surplus. This is not the case for a majority of people who have to live with insecurity always standing behind their economic prospects. When we go back to our earlier consumption habits we bring back a broken system without subjecting it to any scrutiny.

Glorifying supermarket workers as heroes while their replacement computer tills beep in the background is not just hypocritical but myopic. The erosion of employee rights have become profuse in the last years: from your Amazon worker to your pizza delivery person, they live on scraps of generosity an algorithm presents them. Short term contracts, no benefits or social security and no possibility to work from home or even buy a home, this is an underclass that relegates itself into the shadows of a modern Western city. The doctors and the healthcare workers? I'll leave that to your imagination. Our imaginary fears are their daily reality. These groups of workers are still working for money, not for any greater altruism we might fantasize in.

It is hard to see the faces and people behind these words, the ones who make the phone screens, dig and refine the silicon and cobalt below, the people who make the roads and buildings. What we all are untied is by our trips to the supermarket and the things we wish to consume. Our religions are Amazon, Spotify, Instagram and fucking Donald Trump. The marketing propaganda will start to flex its muscle again, before we know it we are crammed in trains and pushed around to workplaces the invisible fear now replaced by the ones we create and tame. Buying has been individualized, we only care about ourselves and perhaps the “environment”. Like all important words, it assumes an invisible mass: democracy, freedom, virus, work. It is a game we play, the act of tossing coins and getting what we want.

While walking back into the shopping streets I ask myself this. What is this? Why is this being told to me? Did I want this before I saw this? Removing the brand labels, proprietary colors and dismantling the words and symbols to see what exists behind the fog of desire. This is an important way to vote for change. The “new normal” should not be another wasted opportunity, we are the ones in power now.

#COVID19 #virus #capitalism

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