Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sharply drawn lines

In his autobiography Last Words, George Carlin revisits the moments precursory to his subsequent magisterial comedic dauntlessness. The first cheek swelling slap came when he was defending Lenny Bruce's jabs at religion, ultimately winning the scorn of his then comrades:

It was the most dramatic evidence I'd had to date that these lines were sharply drawn, the legacy of that Catholic upbringing, that clannish Irish working-class neighborhood ethic was a rigid demarcation. Just because you grew up with a guy and shared A,B,C,D and E with him didn't mean that on F through Z you wouldn't be diametrically opposed to each other.

Those of us who've experienced such a revelation can sympathize when I say that it only gets harder. Especially harder with today's indefatigable libertarian ethos. Question your colleagues' F's,G's and H's and be prepared to  witness our generation's abject refusal to excogitate. My personal experience is littered with arguments I've had with people I had wrongly placed as kin in thought. A summary of the most grotesque notions still championed by my fellow "educated" 24 year olds are:

1) Brahmins are genetically superior in mind. 
2) Dowry is an acceptable tradition.
3) Homeopathy works.
4) The proof for evolution is untenable. 

And if that wasn't enough to curdle your blood, what if I told you that some or all of these views are harbored by atheists and fellow scholars in science? My use of quotes for the word educated is frightfully inadequate. I have made it clear to such voluntary flat-earthers, upon uncontrollable frothing at the mouth, that they reserve the right to fuck off. (These were the same carbon-based life-forms I had matriculated with, competed fiercely in exams with, played sports with and even shared a room with.) Further facets of their cretinism reveal themselves facilely:

5) The humanities aren't important in any sense.
6) Morality comes from religion.
7) There is no joy in science until it morphs into a usable technology.

Challenge these savageries and hope that your friend,(everyone's favorite friend), doesn't turn to you and avuncularly point out that everyone has a right to their opinion. (But of course they have a right to their opinion! If we had rights to others' opinions, I'd first want to make sure that I'd landed in Los Angeles and not Riyadh or Pyongyang!) Note the resolute unwillingness to distinguish between an opinion and its content. You think history is a conspiratorial engagement? Can I tell you why you might be mistaken? No? And why is that? Oh, because you have a right to your opinion! Have they taken their right to actually mean not wrong? Few of these invertebrates go the extra blighted mile to give you a lecture on relativism: Right and wrong are subjective; a generation of halfwits who've been taught never to scratch their heads. They draw themselves an impenetrable perimeter; a force-field of self-righteousness and a proselytizing sphere of influence that wins many a fool. Only the discerning can trace the protracted outline of that bestial domination of dogma in people's thinking.

Flee from this depressing slaughterhouse of intellect only to be greeted by a slightly less lethargic yet  equally ill-informed tribe of pundits. These specimens have freshly baked conspiracy for breakfast,  rabidly nibble on the bones of their political representatives for lunch and zestfully slurp the blood of every duty-bound journalist at dinner to quench the dryness they might have acquired while accidentally thinking between meals. These are the minions of Michael Moore and the puppets of Peter Joseph. They can quote Rand in reply to every question and can tell you exactly who was responsible for the financial crisis. They can turn anything into evidence by playing an apocalyptic background score. Their appetite for empty conjecture is insatiable yet their warehouse of moribund musings never seems to reduce in stock! Barkha Dutt married a muslim and is a congress spokesperson who wants to vanquish Hinduism. Fifty percent of the IPL games are fixed. The Indian Government plotted the recent floods in Pakistan. In fear of being unable to withhold aggravating expletives in the presence of these cerebrovores, I always give my best at sprinting into the horizon.

There are others who invest their idolatory in cult leaders like Subramanian Swamy of Z.I.L.C.H(Zionist Indian Liberating Champions of Hindutva), Chetan Bhagat of W.H.I.N.E (Witless Hinglish Involving Nothing Exceptional)  and Samir Jain of J.I.Z.Z (Journalists of India Asleep). I am ambushed once again by hostile disapproval, but this time sadly, of those closest. Their risible syllogism in such cases is that I can't have an opinion because I don't know what it's like to be a politician, writer, businessman, etc. Despite this statute, if I choose to venture an utterance, it is expected of me to preface my every sentence with the superfluous "In my opinion" or "I feel" or "My limited knowledge tells me". Subconsciously, they feel secure only if I, a mere infinitesimal cog with a benign opinion, declare this fact every single time. They are ready to treat my objections as serious only if I pretend I'm not! I cannot bring my exhausted self to dignify this puerility with sufficient reproach.

A true myth circulates in the inter-webs: if you click every first link on a wikipedia article, you will invariably be led to the entry for Philosophy. The clicks through the imbeciles of my encyclopedia lead me with certainty to the entry for Education, for the lack of thereof. My peers, mainly ardent Anna Hazare supporters, are quick to dismiss the need for education in a discussion of morality. Their argument is as compelling as the case for one more season of Two and a half men. Indeed human beings possess an innate calibration of right and wrong (ignoring the absurd tyrannical tenets of religion), but education provides the much needed fine-tuning. How does one make a morally sound statement that addresses all of humanity without a knowledge of the state of humanity? History, Literature, Science, Philosophy and the Arts are the paraphernalia of those trying to figure out, as my articulate testosterone fueled comrades would say, what the fuck is going on. One would be remiss to forget Socrates' observations on democracy, that its correct functioning is valued only by the professional few. (Today, "Vote Now!" is the loudest injunction to citizens of a democracy, accompanied by a muffled emphasis on public engagement.) Anna Hazare's motives are as commendable as of any supporter of anti-corruption. But a movement of line-dancing hand in malnourished hand  towards the gates of Parliament, fosters the kind of otiosity cancerous to rational discourse and ultimately democracy. Let me avoid transferring to a Gandhi Vs. Ambedkar orbit and simply say that the tune of All you need is love has become quite boring, IN MY OPINION.

All this inveighing has left me with very few people to talk to. I thus qualify for that much coveted title, anti-social. I will also be labeled pedantic for pointing out that anti-social is the word originally reserved for those drones who compulsively whip out their cell-phones at every social gathering and spend time with everyone in the world except those in their presence. But so be it. Or as that other Beatle forlornly wrote, Let it Be.

1 comment:

Nikhil Rajagopalan said...

You also have to add in Hindus to the mix: the kind who proudly thump their chest and proclaim that every device ever invented today, every medicinal herb ever discovered and exploited, every philosophical thought ever conceived by any man or woman has been documented millenia ago by the bearded mystics or recorded in the Vedas or Upanishads. What is a plane but a sky chariot? Ayurveda is the panacea we are looking for. This is a kind of NOMA that is unique to the East. "Education" for most is just a degree or a few letters added to the end of their names. True rationalism doesn't need a degree, just common sense and a requirement to ditch indoctrination at the door.