a.nihil

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

Life happens in an anomalous interpretation of time where moments of bone-crushing slowness are spliced with the ones where time flies. The average perception lies in between, at times waiting for a year to end and at others wondering where all the years went by.

History tells us that our lifespans are blips on what has happened before us and what is to follow. Though during our lives we are presented with a highly important version of our selves, it does not take too much imagination to debunk this importance. Dead people are forgotten, their memories fade away and all that remains is a name on a gravestone or a mention in a family tree. Our final deaths happen when our identities are lost by all forms of history. With no-one to remember our face or utter our names, we are dead, forever. The greatness that we are programmed to achieve is nothing but a short-term preoccupation against the confusion of existence.

When confronted with the beauty and scale of the things we are surrounded by, the awareness merges with our sense of self that can be termed as a transcendental experience. In this experience we are in the center of the universe, becoming the universe itself. The self is stripped of identifiers only to return a moment later, consuming us till there is nothing left. We try to extricate from this consumptory chaos with a variety of distractions but there is no recourse from the little voice in our head that creates both these urges and the cures.

Living is to endure these contradictions while trying to escape them. Everything outside our own existence is for our pleasure, to complain and to celebrate. The feelings we hold so dear and the emotions that we cherish are the fluctuations of the little voice which we confuse with our whole selves. We think we live in a world and its projections though our real homes are inside our heads. A home which we can never escape.

#freedom #life #boredom

on rules

To live is to have an assembly of atoms react in randomness which when seen through the lens of consciousness manifest as order. The consciousness arises from within the domains of the individual atomic components, meaning the order is hallucinatory while giving a framework of comfort and control. This order helps us take stock of our everyday actions by categorizing them, lending predictability in a void of randomness. Rules by themselves are arbitrary, falling victim to the whims of consciousness and constrained by the randomness of existence.

When interacting with a person or a whole ecosystem of living and non-living things this randomness becomes exponential, neccesiating codes of conduct. Society is a good example of this and within it the the social, familial and work units which are all comprised of their own system of rules to reduce the randomness of interaction. Taking these rules on their face value shields from confronting the chaos of consciousness. But what happens if we follow all rules? We become homogenized with small personal quirks as the only distinguishing element for self identity.

The established rules need a medium of trust, a unit that can be analyzed and measured for an optimal design society. One of the loci of these rules are the moral codes of conduct that govern our social life. These rules are easily disseminated and executed but they lack the ability to be quantified. The quantification is necessary to enforce one of the unspoken rules of human existence, the drive for constant betterment. This where the stricter employ of law comes in tied to every human across the world.

Designed to preserve order, the rule of law constraints each person to set courses and predictable outcomes. Only cool, rational thought becomes accepted at its exalted gates and in return we apply the principles of law to our moral code of conduct as well. There is no deviation from this exactitude, it is the common currency underlying all our transactions. To create any kind of system this notion of order is necessary which is not surprising that our financial system is also built on a foundation of order which is mathematical at its heart, finally, everyone has a quantifiable value.

It only takes a bit of disillusionment to let this nascent order evaporate along with our sense of identity. Living in a false identity, like a fish in a bowl – we accept everything that is given to us without question, fighting tooth and nail for its preservation. Who we are is imaginary. Our faiths, our hopes, our worth are all misguided attempts of creating a caricature of humanity we all relate with, a relation that has connections in its atomicity than the ideals of thought. The blind trust of rules is myopic, perhaps that's the only reality we have to contend ourselves with.

#philosophy #life #thought

Pickpocket

A decade ago purchasing a book involved driving to a bookstore, browsing for the book, placing an order if necessary, making a payment with either cash or a card and driving back. Getting cash meant finding an ATM, withdrawing money and getting back change after payment – a tactile act that gave a tangible value to the book being purchased. Card payments in those days without instant notifications from bank apps lead to mysterious declines for either hitting the spending ceiling or having no funds, a problem cash from the ATM solved in an instant.

Making a bigger purchase often involved more deliberation over financing and transportation which created additional hurdles to the whole act of spending. This left enough leeway to abandon a purchasing idea and resume it at a point of one's choosing. Cash was both a consumption gateway and inhibitor, the safety check against spending money was money itself.

Now, I go on Amazon and make a single click purchase and the book is in my mail the next day. The price on Amazon feel like points in a video game and my bank app deducts my purchase from my balance in a whirr of numbers that make it look like a slot machine. The sensory translation of the purchase into pings and notifications in different apps adds to the satisfaction. The sleight of hand that Amazon pulls is making the value of all things homogeneous, the act of buying a book is no different from that of buying a refrigerator.

Added to this is the rise of modern banking apps that talk about a simplified, seamless transaction experience. The experience part of spending comes with all kinds of enticing UI/UX interfaces that appear to make a transaction cool. The seamlessness of these apps lies in removing the weight of money making the price in an online transaction like a second thought, a formality to look over. This fundamental shift on how we shop and the mode of spending money makes it easier for us to be stripped off of our funds at any moment through the day. The greatest trick the devil ever pulled is convincing the world he did not exist and like that my wallet goes empty.

#capitalism #finance #shopping #internet

For all the chaos COVID-19 managed to wreak, it has not changed much about the way we live. At the start of this year there was a great deal of hope that the world would realign itself to some Utopian ideal but all the virus managed to do is increase the demand for face masks and hand sanitizers. Governments around the world struggled at containing the virus and internal dissatisfaction, usually relenting to the latter at the expense of the former.

The virus is a reminder of the nihilistic virtues of life. For most of us the pandemic is a once-in-a-lifetime event and serves as a measure of our worst collective fears coming true, reminding us of wars we will never see and catastrophes we won't experience. The pessimism came over pretty quickly, amplified by thoughts of others pouring over endless Twitter streams and live feeds from newspapers. The fear of being alone and sick was the underlying tension masked by the talk about the economy, the society and other manufactured subjects.

With the news of an impending effective vaccine, the pandemic gives us a chance to reflect upon the cynicism of human existence altogether. Not for once did we meditate on our lives and how live them, but rather it was a test of the will to live. This survival instinct took over so quick that we forgot to ask ourselves, why are our lives so important? The pandemic proves again that the mythos we construct around our lives has greater appeal than our lives themselves. It is hard to imagine a standalone human without the greater society projecting itself into it. Businesses, schools, the economy.. these are all a consequence of being alive but not the reason to be living.

Our lives are not that important. We know this somewhere in the bottom of our hearts long shielded by visions of humanness handover hundreds of generations. It is a good node to start self-reflecting from. The virus has proved that an external agent cannot tame our arrogance and the onus for this rests upon the inquiry distant from other human chatter. There is no brave new world waiting to happen, just a recycling of the drab one we inhabit.

#COVID19 #society

From radios in mid-ocean transit to the war rooms in Yemen, the whole world awaits the New President. His voice will boom in far corners of the earth, bringing in a new term the whole world will be aspiring for. We see him in the eyes we are trained to see, the new Emir, Raja of Rajahs, the democratic dictator. But we all wish for the same – let the American Dream of wealth, fame and power be for the whole of mankind.

America is our country, we by the virtue of global capital, are all American. The President has overshadowed COVID-19 in a year of little star power. Our eyes and ears have become sore at the idea of what our America had become. Now there is hope from the doomsday news cycle but what America has inspired has spread all over the world. Brazil, India, Turkey amongst other countries grapple with populists of the Trump variety. The tamasha that the sitting American President unveiled is irreversible. The notion of reason has taken a hit, the abstraction of the Constitution

Can this new god dispel the thought crimes of the past regime? Does the new Imperial King inspire the world and help us dream about America again? America has the brand advantage over China and what America does, we can expect the whole world to imitate. Make America Great Again, Mr. Biden. You are the President of America and in extension, the President of the World itself.

#America #democracy #capitalism

raw-roasting-chicken-isolated-on-a-white-background

At the supermarket it lies fresh behind glass walls, pink colored and attractive. Dissected into limbs and flesh: breasts and thighs for display and purchase. The skin is pale and is reminiscent fresh shaved skin, the lips desire to be sinking in the wetness it promises. When the knife cuts it apart, the skin shears into a clitoral softness. My fingers glide in to tenderize with citric massages and hot chilli bath immersions.

It is nothing like a carrot or an aubergine. It is unlike meat: the idea of a cow or an octopus. It is not grotesque and it can hide in plain sight. Between loaves of bread or floating in the endless sunshine beach of a golden curry. A chicken calls us to its pleasures in innocence, we dive mouth long into delicious bites without paying attention. What is chicken, really?

A chicken is a bird, it has emotions and it is alive. It flies in vast cages we built for it, waiting in its habitat of the KFC menu. They are happy to be eaten, a male fantasy almost – of divine flesh waiting to be consumed without a scruple. Chickens are the universal totem of hospitality and kindness, a well cooked chicken is the structural requirement of a great cuisine.

A chicken cannot be imagined outside its fleshiness. Pink, that magnificent fruit of loins cannot be anything alive. There is no conscience in eating a chicken. It is a dead thing, but not an ugly dead thing. Unlike a swished spider or a decapitated man, it is something that inspires through its gruesomeness. One can even say that its gruesomeness makes it inspiring, an anomaly in a life of empathy.

We are not interested in the way a chicken comes to us, packaged in cheap supermarket plastic wraps. I have spent my entire life not knowing what a chicken is, my only affection towards it is its flesh itself. Can this be called an iteration of carnal love? Think about it, by the time the chicken sits in a supermarket refrigerator ready for purchase, it has been raised, slaughtered, transported, stocked and sold by tens of different people. A chicken moves not by itself but through the work of these faceless humans, creating a distance between the act of killing and the act of eating. These layers of transaction helps inanimate the chicken, its life's worth discarded for some money.

The chicken has no friends, it is not worshipped like the cow or haraam like the pig. The universal currency of the animal lies in its consumption itself. There is no curiosity towards the chicken, only hunger. The cost of eating a chicken is the cost we pay for the value of life itself – if we can be universally so detached to a bird to strip its identity completely, it demonstrates a narcissism that one only has to see to believe. What is true for the chicken is true for anything else, from the planet and in an ironic finality to humans ourselves.

I'll leave the train of thought to other thinkers but for now, I will have my fried chicken with hot sauce.

I am human.

#food #life #existence

Nobel-Women

At the time of writing this, four women have been awarded the Nobel Prize in the fields of Chemistry, Literature and Physics. This is an anomaly considering that the previous years there have been far fewer women winning and that the field of Physics has only four Nobel laureates so far. The historic gender disparity in the Nobel Prize winners has been attributed to the low presence of women in the respective fields, a problem perpetuated by the existing norms of patriarchy then and now[1].

The first thing that came across to my mind as these wins are being publicized is that, “Oh there you go, a patch-up operation post the #MeToo movement”. As a cisgender man my initial reaction took me by surprise, as I anticipated that these awards had a lesser meaning because they seemed to be given to women as a reaction to their under representation in the Nobels. I saw the women getting the Nobels as being symbolic and I imagined the work of someone more deserving being ignored. My imagination, conditioned through years of bias, wanted the people to be men.

The recognition of women in their respective fields through the lens of the Nobel prizes emancipates countless women across the world to aspire for similar meritorious recognition. But such a movement needs consistency rather than figurehead prizes handed out because of political backlash. This means that the Nobel Prize Committee should be held accountable for any future gender disparity as it puts the legitimacy of the prizes itself at stake[2].

This consistency can have more conversations built around it with respect to gender identities (the idea of a man's worth being built on external validation) and racial representation, as most of the prizes still go to the white men and women. There is a long way to go in all fields from the arts to the academia for a more universal representation in line with the diversity of the real world, but the first step is always is to recognize the problem. In this context this year's women Nobel Prize winners represent both a victory of academic eminence and gender politics, a victory that should not be forgotten anytime soon.

[1] This chicken and egg problem also exists with the racial disparity in the Nobels. An argument can be made that eminent Universities are situated only in the West, an argument that conveniently ignores Colonialism and other historic oppressions over which current civilizations have been built.

[2] The same goes with the Oscars post the gender and race diversity controversies. Though this year's Oscars weren't that different from the years before, any change that comes up must be consistent and not a one-off response with a handful of prizes given to women and people of color.

#gender #race #equality #colonialism

Why-Work

Canned tomatoes, packaged fish, a bag of chips, a bag of screws, a box of nails. Sitting in a bus, a train, an office space – we the people are the industrial cousins we created. Closer and closer to efficiency: produced, packaged and transported each day to convert invisible parts of ones self into “work” which in turn translates itself into money which we can use to buy things to produce, package and transport ourselves back into its strange, lifeless self for another day and then another.

Why do we work? What meaning does the work we do really have? I think of all the lofty work I could be doing right now but in the longer time frame, would it even matter? Going to work feels like playing a video game, sometimes it also feels like a way paying debt to faceless gods. This has to be the Sisyphusean punishment Camus talks about, endless interaction with shapes, patterns, numbers and egos. Is it for the money? Not everyone can have money can they? Otherwise money loses its value. This scarcity we created out of the nothingness all other species wander about – a scarcity made more profound by the immense self importance we draft in every Constitution.

Work is about working through a network of people – the same network that becomes a society, a people, countries and organizations. Work is rarely a solitary thing, we are rarely (if) ever solitary. When we don't meet then the result is usually hidden labour that toils for us, modern slaves with a uniform and no identity. This is a digression – as work involves levels, a kind of caste system that everyone confirms to. Money means a level-up: the harder you mine, the higher you go. The paths between people, the stories we tell ourselves.

I wanted to say that work is a cynical aspect of life – that the life behind the person who works has no inherent value. It is a derived value, the net value of a person's life. I have a certain point to which I am sold. A homeless man has one and the President/Chancellor has another. I have one and there's a million other onion layers. But life means nothing here too. The best example to this anomaly is the homeless guy, drunk on the church stairwell. There cannot be a more iconic imagery, where even our Gods do not care about our suffering.

I find work as being an essential antidote against pessimism at the heart of our lives: which is to live alone on this strange planet. We have to embed ourselves into ignorance and drama for which we have to build walls to sleep inside. What happens in our mental lives is almost irrelevant. We are not the masters of this planet, that is a very egoistical expectation. And we are collectively carrying the burden of that egoism. This is also at the heart of modern capitalism, while on one end everything is individualized the operations side of it sees people in faceless packs, stripping them of the very individual self that makes them consume in the first place.

#work #capitalism

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

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