November 10, 2013

Scratching The Eternal Itch

"So why is critical  thinking discouraged?", one of my colleagues asked me.It is an inevitable turn any discussion on present day society takes after sometime.The immediate answer that I came up with -"it is the doing of the big mncs" seemed kind of lame.When confronted with such a straight forward question (which you will do if you discuss a lot with people outside of this art-blog-melancholia-unrequited love-literature sphere) and unable to end it with such ubiquitous quotes like "The only serious question in life is whether to kill yourself or not"  leave a very bad aftertaste .Things that are accepted no question asked by anybody versed in modern literature and 20th century intellectual history seem so out of place in talking with the conformists/normal cool guys that everything needs a reaccessment.Thats why it is important to do it-to give yourself a reality check sometime.Though it maybe ugly and compel you to come out of your coolness.

So why is critical thinking discouraged? One of the answers that people -so proud to tag themselves as honest and hardworking-give is that modern life is fast and people are under so much duress that they don't have time to think.But they somehow get the time to update their Facebook status 15 times a day and spend hours on Whatsapp. Anybody tagged as philosopher or thinker must have a nightmare nowadays.Its that uncool. But that is just a banner under which runs the deeper thought of whether you are a fake/pretentious.So are all the activists/philosophers trying to save the society actually fake? Nobody can answer that to be honest.Only things that one does naturally-take a shit, make love(have an orgasm), eat when hungry, fall asleep when tired etc are granted approval by everybody and are not fake/ pretentious.Everything that requires decision making  carries a risk of being pretentious.It is good to remember Existentialism here-that we give meaning to our lives by our decisions -there is nothing pretentious-only it becomes pretentious if you believe it to be.Such maxims are good sounding but hard to carry out in  life -I do understand but once you are concious of being free to decide can there be any other way?Camus was far more human-in saying that we all are judge -penitent ..that we all are Sisiphus.One day if hit sufficiently hard one will come to realize the lack of authenticity in their life.Oh that will be a gala day! but every disaster has a management package now a days-nobody goes as far as Sartre to come to terms with it.Its a matter of ambition maybe -you are free to choose (yeah I am Morpheus offering the pills!).

Self reference is a dangerous game.But if I have started playing it so one more thought.Some  argue that all that such ideas are actually manufactured by self important egotists. And a generalization may be done that only alienated people come up with such ideas to usurp the peace of the general people.So without further ado I will just repeat the age old dictum that if everybody thought the same nothing new would have been done.Aslo there is a new tendency that only branded subversive ideas are given importance-like whatever I am saying would be given much more importance if I already had a Penguin published book or I was a graduate of any Ivy league college.But such people are always surrounded by like minded people and have their own society.Its better  to stay in the uncomfortable boundaries.

But its best to stay objective and avoid such vicious circles altogether.

Another idea is that the people are reluctant to think because thinking is a boring process.So they stick to the conventional ideas -popular ideas-and dont want a radical reaccessment.Besides its a priviledge to belong to the majority -you dont have to defend yourself-because the whole of society is there to defend you.Lucky bastards.And yes its true partially.Such conformism and pride in belonging to the majority is one of the biggest ills of society.Historically its been the reason behind some of the most heinous crimes done against the minority.

The society also has a sense of the extravagant experiments of Nationalism and Communism and Religious Fanaticism so that even the parents discourage thinking afraid their kid turns out to be a Kobad Ghandy or a Golwalkar.The middle class is having their best  time ever it seems- the economy being globalised and and foreign investments invited -the people are literally invited to a unabashed shopping spree.That's the basis of such  modern day quotes  like "Nothing is impossible".The thing is such ideas( "its the doing of the mncs") have a very distinct desi flavour to them.The ideas that we get in  anti-globalisation anti-liberalization books fit so well to the heavily urbanised and alienated fragile man of the big city but scarcely does justice to the social-religious form of consumerism that's prevalent in Tier 2 and tier 3 cities in India.Its a tougher job here.There is no guilty conscience and fragility and loneliness(well not that much).Everything is absolved in the care of the family and society.

So it boils down to "its the doing of the mncs".Ok .So how does it serve the mncs if the people think less.For one thing it helps if the whole of middle class just does not  accept that there are millions starving,that the Tribals are  indeed being exploited,  that the middle class man is being led to believe that the saddest thing that happened was that  he could not send his son that convent school it helps if he does FB and mobile phone analysis  6 hours a day but does not get time to read a single sincere news article.It helps them to sell more and more under the banner of  the ever more illusive term "growth".I am not going to go on  citing such examples.Its already an overdone field.Some even fear that propagating such ideas will lead us  back to Nehruvian socialism.Well dont we all want a Ferrari showroom in Kolkata?

The next question is easy -how do the lobbyists do it? By the media of course.The media is under their control.By the millions spent on 'manufacturing consent"

(This is neither a comprehensive essay on the subject nor was meant to be. I will try adding to it)

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