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

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

A picture of humanity is painted as that of a species moving forward together. It moves forward and it moves together but not at the same times. There is a certain expectation of working with each other for our mutual best interests but the underlying motive of this work is selfishness. There is something to desire as an individual towards working for a collective good — I work to build something because I get something in return, I want more peace in the world because that lines my pocket at the end of the day.

The picture of humanity that we have in our heads, as a species working towards justness while we are confronted with the not so just parts of it in our day-to-day functioning. The cracks are visible from the very top — how our politicians function and businesses dredge their way through the colloquially held ideas of fairness. Not that these entities are heartless but to be a part of the elite there needs to be a certain sense of self which entitles itself more than others. The root of power comes from a solid entity and if it is a person, group or committee ruling a faceless majority their identity should be superhuman to begin with. The learning to counter this power is all around us: when we see students being educated or children taught the foundations of what is theirs, we explicitly lay out the terms of what is desirable to the self first before anything else. This is also not a false view because the survival surrounds around the I.

The problems of poverty, income inequality, climate change, racism, oppression, misinformation can all be talking points but the messaging is loud and clear: if it does not suit our self interest then it does not warrant our attention.

#freedom #society

the utopian ideal

A service is a thing of value carried out because there is a demand for it. A service is an economic transaction, so the party that demands the service should pay for it. What is a government otherwise? A road is built when there is a demand/need for a road being built. There is a need that the populace be secure and healthy, so there is a force that takes care of security and health. There are much more complicated demands relating to scarce resources, trade and foreign affairs which the ordinary person cannot be bothered with – here jumps in the government to the rescue. What should we do in return? Pay for the services provided, in terms of taxes and once in a while do audits if everything is going ahead as promised. One of the vital elements of this transaction is trust, I trust the government that it doing everything as it promised and the government trusts me that I am conforming to my end of the contract.

The Government however is a super-human entity, a reflection of all our tribal selves. This tribal self assembles itself as a mass, averaging out everyone so that it can be an image of the people. This superhuman self of the government is also not directly dependent on the people itself, that would mean a failed state like Libya or Afghanistan has people with lesser average selves than say people in Switzerland or Australia. The foundation on which a government operates also is dependent on other governments and the time at which the said super-human structure was allowed to grow. A country like the United States has around 250 years of existence to its credit whereas Libya and Afghanistan dabbled with dictatorial and Geo-political disadvantages.

Let us for the sake of an argument consider a government in a relatively stable democratic context (even if a country is not democratic, the functions of the government remain the same. If the basic promises are reneged upon popular rebellions are waiting right at the doorstep) and see why the transaction does not appear to be like that of a service but one that is more aligned towards power centrism, elitism, influence and control.

One of the ideas that we believe that there is some form of the world which is perfect and that we should work hard and change things to get there and systems are created to motivate to do better. One such system is religion where a central God ordains people to do things in a certain way. It is essentially a control system for making everyone fall into line. The image of God falls onto the monarch, the dictator, the autocrat and your garden variety 'democratically elected leader. The other system which is more primal is the family. We are born and raised in families or in communities that value the familial system, where the child is constantly course corrected on a system of predetermined values deemed right by the parents and the immediate community.

When we grow up in such a system, it is hard to imagine a system different from it. There will be no radical new system that will eradicate world hunger, stop all wars and make people nicer to each other on a global level. This is an utopian view that is best discarded, the problems that persist today will persist way into the future and into infinity and understanding that is solving half the problem as it sets the expectations right.

Having this parental outlook to how we view authority also explains the suspiciousness that the system has back on us. This is very akin to a parent always having a close eye on their loving (or burdensome) child, to discipline him to go the way of community prescribed righteousness and whatever self-believed sense of truth they seem to possess. Every action is scrutinized to stop the child from falling into the vices though the parents eventually know that the child will always outgrow them. In the eyes of the government, the citizenry are the perpetual children, they will never outgrow them as the State and its machinery are always older and bigger than them. Politicians invoke utopias like priests promising gods all at the same time trying to see what you think and have the complete ownership of you are. The man on the high throne does not have anything to look down to if there are no people to feel small under.

How to break these bonds created through existence? One of the first things to do is to break the parental attachment while the emotional configuring is still at its immaturity. Break free and realize the relationship is essentially selfish and you were created to fulfill the needs of the parent and your obligation in the participation of the relationship is purely involuntary. Once that is established, the circle of dependency established for generations is broken down and it gives a small glimpse of the absurdness of the political systems outside.

This emotional break is not easy to accomplish and perhaps even impossible in the first generation but it is an important tool to raise future children on, where children are seen as propagators of a race and not as the selfish replication of one's own self. Once this relationship dynamic has been established and all the old rules of how humans have lived and interacted are decimated, it starts giving rise to further cycles of cold, rational beings for whom authority is not something that is seen as a given but rather life itself a series of arbitrary decisions to be made. This wholly independent society of humans can then establish detached political systems that do not focus on ownership and control rather focused on problem solving and rational justness. This is again a perfect worldview and this does not exist. This being's rationality will atleast not be tainted by the ideas which are not ours. We can atleast be in peace that our ideas have never worked anyway and the best way to go forward is to purge them.

The idea of a just government or a perfect democracy are not possible with the systems we have in place now or whatever that will replace them in the future. No matter what activists, journalists, thinkers, writers, politicians and army men scream about, the change will never come. Not now and not in two thousand years. What does matter is to extinguish all the millennia of useless thoughts pursued with their obtuse power structure. Eliminating them would mean starting with a clean state and paving the way for a purely transactional being for whom we have nothing but hope.

#society #governments #governing #utopia