a.nihil

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

Rihanna, Greta Thunberg and a few other influential global celebrities put out a tweet calling for attention to the farmers protesting against the New Farm Laws passed in India and the entire BJP/RSS/Indian government propaganda machine comes into power play mode, amplifying the government's POV. The government's statement released on the Ministry of External Affairs twitter handle stated that “facts have to ascertained” before making “sensationalist social media comments..especially when restored to by celebrities..is neither accurate nor responsible”.

One starts to wonder, why do the tweets of a private persons trigger the government of a sovereign nation? What is it that the government fears that simple pointing of a fact culminates in a full fledged propaganda campaign that is ironically hash-tagged #IndiaAgainstPropaganda?

The problem is that of image perception. In India it is easy to silence critics of the BJP government with paid trolls and TV journalists. Coordinated smear campaigns and plain old intimidation work, which makes it easier for the government to control the narrative. But with Rihanna's 100+ million twitter followers it is hard enforce control as it would prompt global scrutiny that the Modi government cannot bully or bulldoze over. The BJP government knows that the easiest way to get out of this soup is to play its favorite the nation is under attack card which has proven its potency in the past years. By making simple criticism an issue of National Security, the BJP government invokes both paranoia and patriotism to deflect the attention of its citizens while muzzling its critics.

Whether it is the near coup attempt in the United States or the actual coup in Myanmar, voicing out one's opinion is a matter collective responsibility that goes beyond the allegiance to a State. The BJP government behaves as if there is nothing that it does that warrants criticism. On paper and in propaganda BJP is the best thing that has happened to India, period. Anyone that criticizes any of its policies or political high-handedness is an anti-national, a comic insinuation when it was first used and now a very valid threat. India is not some kind of magical superpower where everything is hunky-dory, the mythos that the BJP sells is ignorant, egoistic dreaming, a political acid trip for the weak.

For now we found a small opening in BJP's self-inflated armor: relentless international criticism. For a government that is lauding itself to be atmanirbhar (self reliant) it definitely is behaving like a narcissistic lover needing a lot of external appreciation. The country is riled up and that the farmers who are protesting against corporatization of Indian agriculture are seen as terrorists, traitors and every other identifier except as farmers. The way to reverse the narrative for now is to put the focus back on them and deny the narcissist the positive attention they demand.

As for Rihanna, Cheers, I'll drink to that

#FarmersAreIndia #BJP #India #propaganda

Preamble

The 26th of January this year marks the 71st year of the Indian Constitution coming into existence, the longest written document of its kind in the world. For most Indians it is when ceremonial Republic Day Parade takes place on Rajpath before the President of India, showcasing the diversity of India's cultural and military heritage. The unfurling of the Indian flag signifies that the nation is already independent, followed by the President's speech to the nation.

All this tradition to mark that India is a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic, assuring its citizens justice, equality and liberty, and endeavours to promote fraternity. Certain of these adjectives are losing meaning in today's New India, where a plutocratic, religious elite want to dominate the cultural and political futures of the country. Consider the word secular, a word that lacks little mention in the BJP's national conscience. In the past seven years, the word has been ridiculed by online trolls as being equivalent to pseudosecular, meaning that the laws of the country are biased towards minorities more than the Hindu majority. The initial occurrences were pushed away as a blip on the radar, now the Hindu mobs are in full force on the television and the internet, leading trails of hate, willing to distort opinions one comment at a time.

The BJP high brass are spiritually guiding the mobs by themselves actively dismantling the constitution that brought them to power. Last year Mr. Modi went to the ground-breaking ceremony of the controversial Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, the leader of a democratic, secular nation sitting in a place that instituted bloody sectarian violence across the country for over three decades now. New laws brought into force also remind the minorities of their place in the country and there is the silent approval from most of the country as it pits Hindus vs. the Rest, giving potent, irrefutable political identity. To oppose against the policies of the BJP is to oppose Hinduism itself.

The word socialist, as safeguarded by the constitution is under fire as well. Though a bit archaic in a country that has embraced free market capitalism with open arms, there is a certain myopia in the country's rich and middle classes of not acknowledging the privileges they possess. The word leftist has taken the form of a slur, any discourse against the conservative elements takes on the polarization popularized by the Republicans in America. For the comfortably rich in India there is no poverty and inequality, there are only lazy people and imbeciles. This denial of the country's vast levels of poverty is further encouraged by the rosy pictures of development that Mr.Modi and his party love to portray. For the average urban voter, India is already on its way to become a superpower, if it isn't already one.

The past years have seen the pluralism of India that were once hailed in its textbooks to movies has waned away. The Hindu-Muslim bhai bhai ethos has almost completely vanished, it is confined to memory, with no-one daring to speak it out. It is important to own the idea of the nation back from the Hindu nationalists, a nation is an imagined entity where one has the virtue of belonging through birth or adoption. Each person is free to attribute the idea of the nation for an entity of their choosing, the nation could be the cuisine, the trees, the mountains or just the love of the home one is born in. It does not need to accumulate the gargantuan threats peddled by the politicians to keep themselves in power.

The Constitution of India that gives the country its democratic backbone is on the verge of total erosion in the next decades putting the lives of over a billion people at the risk of religious anarchy. As mechanisms of protest are being undermined and a complacent educated class are lulled into a comfortable jingoism advocated by the government, it is imperative that the idea of “what it is to be a nation” has to revised and re-owned by public intellectuals, academics, the Opposition and the general citizenry. The momentum that BJP amassed is on the back of the narrative it has managed to control in the past seven years, it is time to not answer the questions it asks but ask questions it has no answers for.

#India #Constitution #democracy #governance

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

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