Monday, March 20, 2017

Miracles

The problem with life is there just are not enough miracles of the right sort. And there are way too many people who will not even allow you to lament about the fact. They will insist on putting in their own opinion about all the miracles that they see in life. Well! What is the freaking advantage of someone else enjoying miracles, anyway, when you do not?

I mean, take all those teeny miracles that I prayed for all through school. First I pray for the very tiny miracle of falling sick on the day of the test, so that I can avoid doodling all over the test note and end up getting whacked by everyone who has a spare minute and the inclination to spend time on the activity. No matter how much I gag, cough and hold my stomach, it does not seem to work. Then, all the way to school, I pray for the slightly larger miracle of the teacher falling sick. One would have thought that THAT would work - considering the number of people who were likely praying for the same thing at the same time - but nope! The last prayer - that somehow my teacher sees some sense in my doodling and passes me - ah, well, even I did not have much hope in that miracle happening. And the adults in my life tell me all about how life is a miracle. MY life certainly did not seem like one to me, let me tell you.

And so it persisted in life. The day you are nursing a headache (Hangover? Quite, but is it really necessary to delve into all those nasty details?) and wishing that the office has a slack day...that is the very day on which all troops are called on parade and asked to work on a war-footing to complete an absolutely urgent project that popped into being the previous night. (How the corporate world loves its military metaphors! Gives you all the high of fighting brave battles without springing a sweat - the clamor if the A/c fails to function has to be heard to be believed.) The one time you make a mini-blooper in your report is the one day your boss is in the mood to dot every 'i' and cross every 't' in your report. The time you want to take off into the mountains for a break is the exact time when your boss has already taken off, leaving you to hold the fort. Praying even for these minor miracles very seldom worked.

And so it went till I quit my job. Nowadays, I hope for the minor miracle of seeing some polite and neutral behavior on Social media...and the net result is that the regular media loses whatever vestiges of politeness and neutrality it retained.

Alas! Miracles never seem to happen...at least not to me.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Mobile mania

I think I will never really get this modern world. True, I never really got the old world either but, at least then, I thought I eventually would. The world these days, though...

Huh? Don't get so dismissive...'Old men and their hankering for the good old days'? If that is what you think this is...

You know, we got so used to things being used for the purpose for which they were made. I mean, like we could use the pencil to scratch our backs, yes, but we sold and bought them mainly on the basis of how they wrote. We would have been surprised if someone brought out a pencil touting how well it serves the purpose of scratching our backs. So...

Yes, you got it. I mean, really, a mobile phone is primarily for talking...oh! All right, you people who are all thumbs can use it for more than that...browsing the Internet, WhatsApp, what-have-you though it seems to me that all you do is the same old gossip using newer and newer ways...but what do I know? But do I see it touted as a communication device?

Not really...it is touted as a camera mainly. They sell it as a camera with a built-in flash, a camera to shoot adventure pics, a camera for taking the clearest pics...

And a very specialized camera...you will not waste its abilities shooting any arbitrary thing that catches your eye...oh, no...you will use it only for one specific purpose...shooting selfies!

Looks to me like the manufacturers are preparing for the day when all other uses of the smartphone fail...there will still be you and the phone, so you CAN shoot selfies still!

I don't know if they have got their ideas right though. Are you guys truly all that obsessed with shooting your own face? Searching endlessly for that one shot which will make your face not look nightmarish?

Or, maybe, they have got you wrong. I mean, these are the guys who also think that the time when you call them up for a service complaint, and are peeved about being put on hold endlessly, is the right time to try and sell you their other services. (Or have you never heard the spiel when on hold)

You really do not get what I am telling, do you? Alas! It is not only that I do not get the modern world...the modern world does not get me, either!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Blank

Ever faced the situation where your mind goes blank? Totally? (There you go again, speaking of that as the permanent state of my mind - IF I have one. Let off on me, will you?) When someone asks you something, you think you ought to know it but you are not even sure that it is on the so-called tip of your tongue? Feels like your hard disk has been corrupted when you do not even have the option of calling for service and take your mind off your problems by listening to inane ads while you are kept on hold.

The first time it happened to me was in an exam. (Where else?) I was used to my mind BEING blank when faced with questions - but those were all when I knew I had no clue about the answer or even what subject the question came from. THIS, though, was a peculiar situation. It was not like your not even raising a query because you knew you did not have the answer. This was like you raise a query and the mind goes into a blank spiral - you know, something like that small bloody blue circle rotating on and on, when you have lost connectivity. It is a very irritating feeling to have your mind do that, most especially when it clicks through with a 'Eureka' and hands you the answer, moments after you have handed over the damn answer sheet and exited the hall.

It, of course, invariably happens to me in interviews. There is something about the expectant or, more often than not, sneering looks of the interviewers that interferes with my data retrieval system. I mean, there really have been times when people have asked, "What's your name?", and my mind is still trying to come up with the right answer, when one of the others loses patience and looks it up in the records before him. Interviewers generally have trick questions, more often than not merely to prove that they know more than the interviewees. They hardly ever had to waste them on me - asking me my name was tricky enough for me. (Well, it really WAS. I mean with this South Indian initial-name combo, it is always tough to remember whether to say C. Suresh, Suresh Chandrasekaran or Chandrasekaran Suresh!)

At long last, I have found one place where it does not happen at all, ever. I mean, of course, on Social media. Here, you can have an opinion almost before an incident even happens. When you can just type in any random thing and put up a status or a comment, you do not even need to bother to TRY data retrieval. So, naturally, there is no question of coming up blank, when you did not go down to search in the first place.

And what a blessing it is. This way, you may never need to even realize that your mind is a blank ALL the time.

No wonder I feel extra-intelligent these days.

Monday, February 20, 2017

False Equivalence

A eight year old boy pushes a girl off a swing in a park and sits on it himself. As is customary, the screaming match is far hotter between the mothers than between the children.

There is always a third person, who comes in to cool down tempers and ends up becoming the main target of the more aggressive party if not both parties. This time, it is the mother of the girl who has been lobbing all the missiles while the mother of the boy was mainly engaged in defensive action. And, so, when the mediator comes in saying,"Please don't fight over it. Boys will be boys", there is an explosion.

"Yes! When he grows up, he will rape girls and people like you will say the same thing."

Ah! Our luckless mediator only meant that, at the age of eight, it is hardly likely that a boy will be offering an arm to escort the girl in, open doors for her and pull chairs for her to sit on. IF he did and IF the girl is intelligent, she will skip a couple of steps away when he crooks his arm for she would know that it is the only way to avoid an elbow in the ribs; jump back if he holds open a door, especially the auto-close ones, since she knows he is doing it only to let it swing back into her face and laugh maniacally; and would know not to try and sit with the boy pulling the chair, for the chair would be pulled much farther away than necessary. In short, when you are saying 'boys will be boys' about children, it only indicates that they tend to be mischievous, even when they are not malicious, and not that they have license to be criminals.

There is this widespread tendency, though, to make statements of false equivalence, like in this case - equating the downplaying of the mischief of a kid to the condoning of criminal acts by men - and silencing others. It is a nasty habit which used to be generally adopted only by bullies who care only about getting their own way without regard to others. The problem, though, is that it is increasingly being adopted in public debates of all issues.

In the recent discussions about the Jallikattu issue, it was argued that it was long-standing tradition. People promptly countered with 'So, would you argue for Sati and Child Marriage as well?" Yes, tradition is not a sufficient argument to retain a practice. But if, say, the Central Government enacts a law banning the wearing of the Mysore Turban, and one argued tradition, would you still be springing Sati and Child Marriage on the opponents of the ban? This is use of false equivalence again - the discussion has to be about whether the Jallikattu is as heinous as Sati as to warrant a ban DESPITE it being a tradition. To automatically ASSUME an equivalence is to leave no room for discussion; to deny any legitimacy to an alternative viewpoint. To illustrate, there is a tradition of ear piercing for children - male and female - and it is not like children jump with joy at having to undergo it. The conditions are met here - pain is caused to someone who cannot give informed consent and it IS a tradition. As bad as Sati/Child Marriage?

Much the same happens when people grumble about the implementation of the demonetization exercise. They are anti-nationalists who spit on the brave sacrifices of our men in uniform. Really? IF something CAN be done better and has not been, you have to be a traitor to your country to point that out? IF it could not have been done better, in your opinion, and I think that it could have been, I have no respect for my country? To equate criticism of the government to a slur on the country is the use of false equivalence too.

Societies change not by diktat but by evolution. When you seek to change deeply ingrained ideas, you need to be listened to with interest if not respect. Overstating your case engenders disbelief in your veracity and thus to a denial of the concepts that you espouse. If someone is renting a floor of his house out, and does not like meat cooked in his house, he may choose to rent it only to vegetarians. Start calling him a racist and you will end up creating one in him.

False equivalence is one of the most dangerous things in liberal speech these days. People may not be able to logically counter the accusations but, make no mistake, they will be aware that you are being unjust in your portrayal of them and THAT will render them deaf to all that you say, reasonable or not. You do not endear yourself to people and cause them to be open to your thoughts, when you start your speech by calling them incorrigible villains. You end up making them feel that they might as well be hung for sheep as for lambs.

But, then, if changing Society for the better is an unimportant by-product and the main intention is to gain personal popularity, false equivalence IS the way to go. When has Reason ever gone Viral? Only diseases spread that way!