What a long time it has been!
I still can’t write though. It is taking a herculean effort to continue typing through this crappy attempt. My emotional energy has sapped before it is even noon. I have to muster a self-discipline I don’t have when I have to do something just for myself.
I have been thinking about why I have had such a stubborn writer’s block. I can’t make good paragraphs, so here is the stream of consciousness style of saying nothing while still overthinking:
I feel like — (this is how we’re starting sentences today)— in my head, there is a word limit or a length that is “publishable” content. I generally don’t post just one paragraph of good writing here. I would like to do that more often. Write even if it is just one paragraph. But then again, I want to set up context, and that leads to a longer essay which is then feel like unnecessary and loud and not crisp. So I delete.
Plus, I am bored of the quote – text – quote format. I am distrustful of picking the perfect quote for my piece from the internet because quotes are removed from the context. There is a high chance that the man saying it was a douchebag and I don’t want to relate to a trash men known for quotable quotes like the genocidal maniac Churchill or the racist, casteist Gandhi.
I have also been thinking about my voice. My writing voice is angry, preachy and egoistic enough. I don’t know how to write in any other way. I am bored of myself.
If I do have “this” microphone in my hand, then what am I really saying here? What do I want people to know about me? Why?
I don’t intend this blog to have only good content. I want to allow myself to write about mundane things too. But I find it egoistic to be so loudly pointless.
I still talk to myself a lot. I try out my “humourous” anecdotes on friends. (Aside: The apostrophe only because my humour falls flat with people who don’t adore me, which only means I have to work on my set-up more, and not get too excited about the punchline). I end up venting or discussing issues or even sometimes write it in my diary. So the urge to write it all for the blog dies out.
I like this blog. I don’t want to let go. So much of my clarity I built here. It is so embarrassingly emotional but I love it. It’s nostalgia with mixed emotions. I love that complicated realm. I am now a bit embarrassed of being vulnerable like that.
I also won’t delete this blog because I don’t want to curate my online life to make it seem perfect or presentable. If I opened that door, I would be constantly deleting because I get embarrassed easily. It is a good reminder of what kind of an idiot I have been, or how chirpy oblivious I was.. And it grounds me. When I see other people grow, it’s good to have proof to remember that I have been that kind of wrong, that kind of pathetic, that kind of loud.
At a certain point, I became really invested in being theoretically sound, and make arguments only rationally “with facts and evidences”, not getting emotional about it. But I’ve realised that’s not my writing style. I can’t talk as if this doesn’t matter to me or that the stakes are not high for me when I am writing it. It’s sexist, this demand to not be “irrational”, or equating lack of emotion to rationality.
A bit embarrassed to be emotional. Not really perfectly rational. So what to be?
This blog was also based so much on the identity of a “teenager”. It’s almost become like a character I play when I am writing for this blog. I am wondering what I am at this age. What does this new voice sound like? Have I developed a new voice? I don’t want to sound like a teenager, and the fear is, I still do. That is also what makes me delete my drafts now.
But I have to write if I have to develop a new voice.
Anyway, I have to treat this blog as a status update and not see it as a creative outlet anymore. I am too cautious to be creative at this point of time. Fingers crossed, a regular writing schedule will rekindle… something.
I can’t bring myself to proof-read this for typos, okay?
Is signing off as Tame SheWolf also necessary? I have always been so pleased with myself about that.. Uff!
“When I drive to work, I listen to thuggish rap at a very loud volume, even though the lyrics are degrading to women and offend me to my core. I am mortified by my music choices.”
I have a problem: I devour pop-culture- TV, songs, movies, whatnot. In this post, I shall specifically
talk confess about my twisted consumption of pop music.
I have been embarrassed about it. It is okay if you feel cheated. I have been masquerading as a pseudo-intellectual when my one true love has been pop culture. I used to feel super-conscious of it (until recently). I was mortified at the prospect of somebody discovering my playlist. I remember when I used to sit in my friend’s car who plays pop music brazenly, I used to act all detached to the music while I am secretly really enjoying it. Clearly, it has been a really unhealthy journey.
Now, I realize my own fallibility and am more humble about liking stupid things. I have reflected about this and I think that pop culture helps me fan-girl unabashedly. Fan-girling helps me continue to be idealistic about things and people, despite evidence to the contrary.
Sell me sex, Justin Timberlake. Sell me super-rich lifestyle anytime, Bruno Mars; even if I really don’t understand what ‘uptown funk’ really means, and knowing full well that there can be no ethical consumption under capitalism. See, I am also critical of pop music while I enjoy it! I see Nicki Minaj and Beyonce as feminists who kick ass and make anthems for me to sing. I know for a fact* that John Mayer is a douchebag, and I will not even entertain such an idiot in real life, but I do enjoy his music. I can give you lyric by lyric decoding of the kind of douchebaggery it is, but I shall still sing it. Also, because pop music is easier to sing, and they make it intentionally catchy.
The newest earworm for me is this song.
At this point, this video is reparations for all the times women have been objectified in music videos; and I want a million more videos like this one to calm me down. I don’t relate to the lyrics of ‘trashing a hotel lobby’, but I still sing it. Despite this video “objectifying” men, it is still so diverse and body positive and happy and queer and not even toxically masculine. Womankind is too kind to men, I tell you.
Despicable Me (Not!),
“I’m a great pop culture lover, and I’m not a snob.”
*don’t challenge me on this, I am the pop culture consumer, remember?
PS: I have deactivated my social media so I read and write instead of scrolling through timelines for ∞ hours.
Dalit activists and Ambedkarites had faced a lot of backlash from the Savarna media for their criticisms against the reprinting of Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste with an introduction by Arundhati Roy. The media went as far as to misrepresent them by equating them to right-wing goons. This book, Hatred in the Belly, is a collection of essays, speeches and status updates on social media that arose spontaneously in March after excerpts of Roy’s introduction were published in magazines such as Outlook, Caravan and the newspaper The Hindu. Decoding the response of Arundhati Roy to these criticisms (including an open letter by Dalit Camera) exposes her public image of a casteless, secular activist. Though these events may superficially be seen as dealing with only criticisms against Roy, S Anand, and their politics, it is really symbolic of the larger issue of appropriation of Dalit voices. This book represents a diverse group of people, from students, researchers, Dalit activists, writers, to entrepreneurs, etc. who have chosen to speak up from their social location, expertise, and activism. These writings were initially published in Round Table India, a digital media platform that caters to the Dalit, Bahujan and Adivasi majority of India. Now, as a published book, it has become an affirmation of resistance.
Roy is popularly quoted as saying “There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless’. There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.” It is amusingly unfortunate to now have the same words ring ironically over the elite writer. The event in question that sparked the debate is S Anand’s publication house ‘Navayana’ reprinting Ambedkar’s undelivered, ground-breaking speech titled Annihilation of Caste [AOC] with annotations and an introduction by Arundhati Roy. The introduction spans 180 pages, more than the actual text itself. The first obvious question raised was- Is this intervention to “re-introduce” Ambedkar even necessary? Ambedkar had first published this speech at his personal cost. Today, Dalit publishing houses and Dalits themselves have kept the book alive in their intellectual culture. The book was already available online for free. It is also cheaply available for around Rs. 45 as a hard copy. In contrast, this annotated version had cost Rs. 525 in its initial release. To add to the mockery, a closer look at the bibliography added to Roy’s introduction reveals that out of the 120 references, half of them are by Savarna authors and less than 15 are by Dalits. A similar pattern can be seen for the references and annotations to the text of AOC itself. In one of the essays in the book, writers James Michael and Akshay Pathak rightly call out S Anand and Roy over this issue as “they do not just appropriate a text, they Brahminise it.” (p. 159) Dalit scholarship is, therefore “deliberately silenced”.
A peculiar but interesting point is raised by Telugu poet and activist Joopaka Subhadra, who is also one of the contributors in this book. The most frequently seen pictures of Ambedkar evoke the aura of a calm, highly-educated man, dressed in western suits and adorning black-rimmed spectacles. Subhadra directs our attention to the picture chosen for Anand’s reprinted AOC’s book cover. She notes how this image of Ambedkar evokes helplessness, and she exclaims “You’ll understand what kind of hatred they nurse in their bellies when you look at this picture.” (p. 108)
Not only does the introduction do injustice to the history of the text and fail miserably to engage with the arguments of the text, it also shifts the reading of the text into a false Ambedkar versus Gandhi debate. There is so much to say about the context of the book, and also its contents. The Jat-Pat Todak Mandal (Society for the Abolition of Caste system), an anti-caste organisation based in Lahore, had invited Ambedkar to deliver a presidential address at its annual conference in 1936. After reading his speech beforehand, the organizers had insisted on deleting and diluting the contents of the text. Ambedkar had refused to even “change a comma”, which resulted in the withdrawal of his invitation. In AOC, Ambedkar speaks against not just the Hindu caste system, but he argues that to break the caste system, it was imperative to destroy the religious notions that it was built upon. Roy does not delve into these matters too deeply. Instead, there are many instances of misquoting and misrepresenting Ambedkar to frame her own arguments. She cherry-picks his quotes to portray him as pro-eugenics, concerned with the ‘civilising of Adivasis’ and equates his pro-modernity stance to his support for the current neoliberal state. Her focus shifts towards Gandhi and his legacy, and she projects herself as a sole thinker to have caught Gandhi’s bluff. Again, Roy is riding on the arguments that Dalit activists now, and Ambedkar then, have constantly been making in order to expose Gandhi’s hypocrisy. In one of the essays, PhD student Murali Shanmugavelan breaks down these unsubstantiated claims against Ambedkar, and articulately spots what Roy misses, that Gandhi, unlike Ambedkar, posed “no threat to western hegemony”. (p. 180)
Another presumption that Roy makes is that Gandhi’s shadow loomed over Ambedkar. Gee Imaan Semmalar, transman and self-professed Ambedkarite, shows how the inverse was true, where “Dr. Ambedkar thwarted Gandhi at every step, exposed him for the fraudulent reformer he was, led the biggest religious conversion in the history of the world, and gave even his enemies their constitutional and fundamental rights and much more.” (p. 151) Dalit Camera, a media organization that reports on Dalit and Adivasi issues through articles and videos on YouTube, wrote an open letter to Roy amidst the controversy. It had critiqued her minimal level of engagement with AOC, and clarified the stand of the many activists whose viewpoints had been distorted in the mainstream media which was jumping to her defence. It also enlisted 12 questions from various Dalit activists, asking her about the aim for writing this essay, enquiring about the scope for misreading Ambedkar in her introduction and questioning the ethicality in using Ambedkar as a platform to talk about Gandhi. In his essay, Semmalar also analyses Roy’s response to the questions of Dalit Camera. He points out that the self-proclaimed anti-imperialist crusader very consciously writes for a white audience. As part of her justification, she dilutes arguments against her act of appropriation with an arrogant suggestion that “more knowledgeable people should go ahead and write more introductions and that hers is just one among many” (p. 149). She wilfully overlooks how her cultural capital and social location helped her publish the introduction with so much pomp in the first place. While Roy reduces the valid arguments of Dalits over representation to an oversimplified matter of whether only Banias can write about Gandhi; Semmalar turns the tables on her as he asks why she didn’t make a comparative analysis that demystified Gandhi in an introduction to, say, Gandhi’s own book ‘Hind Swaraj’? (p. 146). Roy’s response to these criticisms are weak, haughty and reek of wilful ignorance. If there is one thing an “ally” is expected to do, it is to listen.
There are real consequences to the intellectual and cultural appropriation. It “others” the marginalized community. It trivializes not only the struggle of the oppressed but also the violence of the oppressor. The same things that Roy has spoken for the first time, and that too half-heartedly has been said many times over and in much better ways by Dalit thinkers. Her appropriation of Ambedkar does nothing to bring to light the Dalit struggle. Contributing editor of the Round Table India platform, Kuffir demonstrates how in central universities dominated by the Savarna faculty, Roy’s introduction will be used as a link to Ambedkar, as “they will segregate the original AOC from that book” (p. 73), which basically challenges nothing and reaffirms the Savarna world-view, even as it projects itself as ‘anti-Gandhi’. This real ramification of appropriation only helps prejudices persist. Joby Mathew, an ICSSR Doctoral fellow, brings to the fore Roy’s previous tryst with appropriation and her obsession with Gandhi. In her keynote address for the 150th birth anniversary of the social reformer Ayyankali, Roy had ‘preferably ignored’ the Dalit icon too. Roy’s agenda to pit Dalit revolutionaries with Gandhi limits the discourse over their legacies, and keeps bringing Gandhi forcefully, unnaturally into focus. Mathew also sees this strategy for its unoriginality, as he adds, “a person like Arundhati criticizes Gandhi by using the foundation created by Ambedkarite movements” (p. 201). Roy has been recycling the same arguments over and over again.
Another contributor in ‘Hatred in the Belly’ is the teacher and founder-editor of Insight Young Voices, Anoop Kumar who recognizes the marketing logic of Navayana for what it is- a messiah complex. With no hesitation, S Anand and Roy both proclaimed that their over-priced repackaging of AOC was not directed towards Dalits, but for the upper castes that are yet to read Ambedkar and the western academia “for whom caste is just some exotic Hindu thing” (p. 88). Kumar expresses his pain and contempt over the hypocrisy of this “generosity” that one is supposed to be grateful for, and silently, uncritically swallow. The messiah status that is also reinforced by her fans and the media nexus as it “…provide(s) you (Roy) so much space on issues they care two hoots about” (p. 114), the same space that “is so cruelly denied to us, is shut forever” (p. 113). It is no surprise that appropriation is often seen as unproblematic and harmless. However, in such instances, one can clearly see how a privileged person can be lauded for saying and doing the same thing that the community has been persecuted for. Roy profits from sensationalizing arguments that Dalit thinkers have been ostracised and silenced for. To accept the republication of AOC as a benevolence granted by the Savarna publishers as a means to give Western exposure to Dalit struggle belittles the very struggle.
This book, Hatred in the belly, delves deeply into the politics of appropriation. It deconstructs the title of Roy’s introduction with its symbolism of the doctor and the saint, beginning the text itself on a comparative note. It argues for readers to engage with the pain of the Dalit experience before talking about caste discrimination. It may very well be an instruction on what not to do if you call yourself an ally. In summary, the book successfully manages to connect various angles to the issue- the history of the Brahminisation of subaltern art and culture, the current realities of Dalit publishing and reading spaces, the critical analysis of Roy’s texts and S Anand’s unthoughtful anti-caste farce, and the very real implications on the lived reality of Dalits due to such appropriation. The diversity of the authors in this compilation is symbolic of the diversity within the struggle. The publication of the book is a victory in itself, and a fitting response to the active silencing that the Dalit activists have had to face by the Savarna elites in the media.
Thought Trigger: Grunthus Grumpus’ article
It was my own misogyny that very early on, I had decided that I am not going to be pretty. I was not an ugly kid, but I still decided that I won’t be pretty. Today, I feel to an utmost certainty that I am not pretty, and even slightly indulging in dressing up makes me feel like a fraud.
I disrespected femininity. I saw it as shallow. I saw it as an act, definitely inauthentic. I also disrespected the kind of guys who fell for that display of femininity. I wanted to be a boy so I could show boys how to be better at it. I wanted to access the power that even young boys possessed- of being the last word in a discussion with friends, of everybody in your family pandering to you, of that automatic respect and partiality that teachers bestow on guys for being rebellious. For a girl, friendship becomes not about wit, but about being agreeable and bubbly; family teaches you to adjust than demand, and teachers shower you with attention for sincerity and not mischievousness. I really felt jealous of guys for the fucking fluke of being born a guy. I was miserable to watch stupid guys reap benefits of a patriarchy.
I ended up being totally played into becoming a “proper girl with brains”. I weaponized “being smart” and “not girly”. I was very uptight and judgemental about a lot of things, all of them rooted in misogyny. On one hand, I rejected girls who were good at using their femininity as a tool, but I saw them being disrespected by their peers for the same. On the other hand, I chose to compete with boys but with an internalised hatred for my gender which made me smaller to them anyway. I dismissed and even patronised guys who were not smart. So, it was like choosing to rebel but still remain within the themes dictated by the system.
My rejection of femininity really affected me as a teen. I, of course, came across as a lesbian, but not even desirable to a lesbian. I was constantly reminded how I could dress better or how I was not feminine enough to be objectively pretty. There were too many failed attempts to pretend to be feminine. My parents also kept pointing out about my unfeminine ways of sitting, sleeping, combing my hair even. Dressing up is still a soul-sucking chore for me. I don’t go to social occasions or a fancy place most of the time, because of how arduous it is for me to dress up and fail at it so conspicuously. I always fall prey to expectations of me. Recently my guy-friends point out my fake laugh, or my dead smile to something that’s not funny, which made me reflect on when the fuck did I fucking pick up this creepy habit? Oh, it was for that crush when I was 15. Kill me.
My successful rejection of prettiness has led me to be the most confident when I present myself in a desexualized way. I get really uncomfortable and angry even if I am reminded that I am a woman. I was uncomfortable with my body perceived under the male gaze (not because I was uncomfortable with my body as a woman.) There is some sense of control I can assert when I interact with people in a desexualized manner. I rid myself of the possibility of a flirtatious interaction where I have to play feminine to succeed. (Not that I have never been part of such conversations, but how demeaning and problematic that short-lived experience is, is brilliantly articulated in the above article. I have this clarity only in hindsight.) I guess, desexualizing is also a preemptive rejection of myself before a dimwit guy reminds me I am not ‘his type’.
The sexualized self of myself has adopted stifling masculine notions of sex. In my teens, I ended up discussing sex with only guys, and I have inherited this shitty competitiveness of men when it comes to sex. Sex has actually become a list of to-dos for me. Have I done that? Have I experienced this? Next time I need to try that. How many times I have done it? This was so detrimental and toxic for me. I was so frustrated to not be able to masturbate as easily as a guy, not reach orgasm as quickly as the guy. Imitating this twisted focus on the sex and not the eroticism to reach the headspace for sex. How many sex-ed videos and columns and books created by women have I watched/read to decode how my own body works and how my own desire manifests itself. Despite that, there is a sense of the male gaze transfixed at the back of my head. There is this struggle when I don’t know if I am playing into it, or this expression of desire and sexiness is mine alone. Even the suspicion that I am catering to men can shut me down.
Because my reality seems like an ironic dorky ugliness in the face of a singular type of beauty, my fantastical desire requires utter narcissism. But I can no more bridge the two in my erotic life. I also can’t bridge my intellectual belief of equality with men and my reality that teaches me to be suspicious of men, and that woman>>> men. These conflicts have no positive effect on my personal life.
There is so much more that she (the writer of the above article) talks about, which I relate to in some way. I get her angst:
“How to deal with the dilemma of hotness as a feminist? Im a journey to be your own person/woman? Either you commit yourself to being ugly as a statement or you think of everything about you as attractive, also as a statement. Desiring in spite of feeling undesirable. Desiring in spite of feeling like your ugliest, most unfuckable self. If there’s one thing I have learned, it is to listen to what my paranoias and fantasies are trying to tell me. Who do I tell myself I have to be in order for me to stop punishing myself? Whose pleasure, whose power? I have been using hetero-romance as a way to wound myself, oscillating between wanting to reject the everything I have been told I should be and feeling rejected because I know I never was “that girl” anyway.”
I don’t like it when people “like” anything I post online when I don’t know the intentions of the person, or I suspect that the person has no filter and “likes” everything. It annoys me no end.
Last year, my blog was as inactive as it is possible to be but I still got around 50 likes or more on my Facebook page. It confounds me! I get so furious to even receive that ‘you’ve got 3 new likes this week’ statistic. I get paranoid about it: Are people with fake profiles using my page to seem authentic? Am I being used in some bigger troll propaganda? Why will a guy who clearly isn’t a reader even be interested in this page? Does Tame SheWolf seem like a pornstar name? Why do they simply ‘like’ and interact with no other posts on the page? What is their agenda?
I hate even random Twitter followers. Any activity that I don’t approve of triggers a string of questions- Why would this teenage girl follow me? Does my content (retweets and complaints) appeal to teenagers? Why does this marketing brand think I will follow back out of politeness? Why would anyone follow me when they have nothing in common with me (not even one tweet) and they don’t even read my blog?
This is not limited to my blog-related social media profiles. I totally get uncomfortable with unnecessary likes on my status updates on my personal Facebook profile. If I’ve posted a feminist rant or just an observational rant, I hate it if someone I know… like, I KNOW… is sexist or does the exact same thing I am ranting against likes my post. I just lose my calm! And it takes everything in me to withhold myself from calling them out. I am not ranting against that person in particular, but I still am so irritated at the cognitive dissonance and the complete lack of reflection. I am screaming in my head: What are you liking this for? Supporting this statement and then going on about your life, as if I didn’t just virtually slap your behaviour?
Then, there’s the other type of people, who disagree with what I say but would not comment just ‘react’ with a laughter emoticon (in response to a solemn post) or an anger emoticon (in response to a funny post). Comment, no? Why should I drag be that person who has to drag them into a disagreement? They want to be heard and not heard at the same time? Like, my god, why don’t they just unfollow me than simmering inside! [What I learnt from these dissonant ‘likes’ was that the reactions to my post are not a reflection on me, but on the post. Basically, it has taught me to disconnect from what happens to a content after I have posted it. But have I really, truly learnt this lesson thoroughly? Nah.]
The other thing that has my metaphorical soul twist and turn inside my very real body is- loyalty. I can’t bear a ‘like’ out of loyalty. It is okay if you agree with me, and you generally agree with me and therefore, you like my status updates. BUT, when I know that that’s not what you really think, and you liked it out of loyalty and kindness, it makes me seethe inside. If someone likes every single one of my post, I chafe against it. Why. Why. WHY. I don’t need this loyalty and unfiltered fanship.
I get uncomfortable because that write-up did not deserve that awesome, kind person’s thumbs up. I don’t know how people accept adoration gracefully, and I, therefore, become suspicious of people who encourage that blind enthusiasm to stroke their egos. Because I know I am a mess. If you adore me, you should know that I am absolutely terribly human. If you ‘like’ something with the awareness that I have been stupid more times than I have been smart, I can accept it. You have to acknowledge that some of my posts are stupid and therefore, not ‘like’ it. I will accept your comment even if it breaks my heart a little, but I can’t accept a mindlessly kind ‘like’. I think, I get so upset because the person’s opinion matters to me, and when I know they don’t really agree and still like it, I feel as if I have forced that ‘like’; as if they can’t disagree with me anymore or express how they truly feel; as if I will be betrayed if not for the show of solidarity; as if I have given rise to this dishonest space between us.
I know I have over-thought this but really, how can anyone just like for the sake of like?
PS: My boyfriend has been banned from interacting with any of my tweets because I am embarrassed by his incessant ‘likes’. It’s as if the only person who talks to me in this void called Twitter is him. That’s even more pathetic than silence. It’s a matter of self-respect.
P.PS: How does social media marketing even sustain itself with these bullshit statistics to measure engagement? Anything else is more efficient than ‘likes’ as a measure.
Even though last year I made a declaration that I would not overthink and not be afraid of making mistakes, I did and was exactly that. I ended up writing only three posts, and all of them were in February last year. I was so afraid.
I had also decided that I was tired of ranting emotionally and had to find an intelligent, argumentative voice. I felt small compared to the writings I had been reading, written by people around my age. I still don’t believe I can achieve that kind of calibre. I still feel the task that I have set for myself will be met with failure and embarrassment, maybe. It makes me hesitant. It also makes me regret very deeply how much time I took to just understand some truly basic stuff, like the reality and ramifications of inequalities. I regret the circumstances that I’ve been born in that have perpetuated ignorance and valued obedience.
I don’t know what to write. This post is equivalent to putting one foot in front of the other. Let’s see where I end up in January 2018.
PS: WordPress’ interface has become so much cooler since the last time I checked. Another motivation!
I don’t know how to say this without sounding an idiot- I can’t read a book without a review. I can’t watch a film unless I have read that it is good.
I can’t watch something just because it is new!
I think the only exception to this is listening to recent podcasts or watching new vlogs. So, I rationalize that by saying: this is just a ten minute video, or I am listening to this podcast while doing a mechanical chore/activity. The vlog-watching is really unproductive, because you can be carried away into a content consumption spree after excusing yourself from work for some ‘break-time’. On the other hand, podcast-listening makes me feel that I am being super-productive as I am getting things (that don’t require as much of my attention) done, and still listening and learning good things.
Anyway, I won’t watch a TV series if people don’t recommend it. I think, TV is commitment! Commitment to download so many files, commitment to invest time on the characters. So, I definitely have to know if it is good. Sometimes, I do end up watching crappy shows because of friends who ‘highly-recommend’ crap. I hate-watch such shows. Hate-watching is venting frustration about the characters, making fun of the dialogues/plot and sending angry messages to the ‘friend’ who recommended it. I have not been able to successfully filter good shows from bad shows.
With respect to movies, I feel I can’t pay for a bad movie. I am not the person who will walk out of a movie because it is bad. I will watch a bad movie till the end. So, I would rather just be assured that it is a good movie and it is worth my time. Again, I was reflecting if there was any movie that I watched the first day-first show. If there was some movie like that, it must have been a “franchise” movie, but I don’t think I indulged in even that unless I have read online reviews by American audiences.
You’re feeling sad for me by now, right?
I have not been able to read a new book, just because it is new. I can’t allow myself that because I feel guilty about not having read the good, old classics or contemporary hits, to indulge in reading the new, unestablished authors. I also feel bad that this kind of thinking, does nothing to encourage new authors and writers. It will also come to bite me when I finally publish something someday. I don’t remember when I read a new author last. Maybe, it was The Hunger Games. But even that I read because it became popular.
PS: Tell me you do it too, and our sins will become commonplace and petty.
So, I have made quite a few observations recently, and my pessimism has found that no one really changes.
Belief: Reading makes you empathetic.
I find nowadays that people who identify themselves as readers, are too proud and vain about reading. They become “grammar Nazis”, getting pissed at people for not knowing what they know. There are so many popular memes making fun of common mistakes, and all the while being patronizing about it. There are also who identify with the hobby of reading so much, they take pride in their identity, and beat themselves up about not being able to read or not being able to control their book-buying/hoarding tendencies. I feel upset at this kind of elitism displayed. I sometimes also find that people are empathetic only to the characters in the fictional world, and in the real world, they switch back to their views. Actually, it could even be with non-fiction readers, really.
Reading has just become a passive activity. No more is reading an active back and forth with the book. It has just become passive consumption of knowledge.
Belief: Travel helps you grow
I never really understood of travel made people grow. I have never had a life changing travel experience because I am stressed while travelling. I stressed about how the bathrooms will be, if I lose anything, if I miss the train/bus/flight. Plus, I find it difficult to just loaf around in any place.
Out of curiosity and being the one completely disconnected to the allure of travel, I have always asked people who identify themselves as “travellers” and romanticize being a nomad- what is it that they gain from travel? They tell me: you get to experience culture of different place, you get to be in the rhythm of that place, and you get to rejuvenate and to reflect.
Fair enough, I say. But then, none of them return home with “experience”. The travel is so limited to being “touristy”. In terms of “change in world-view”, there is a complete lack of empathy or even, awareness to the disparity of wealth one sees in smaller towns/larger cities, the privilege or lack of privilege you have while going to certain places.. Everything is just accepted at face value. Not to be mean, I also think after the travel is over, one just falls back into the same personal rut. I just don’t accept that travel changes everyone.
Since watching vloggers Damon and Jo on YouTube, I am vicariously living the travel experience through them, and again I have realized, like reading, travel has to be an active engagement with local culture, studying the history of the place and not just visiting the touristy places.
Belief: Persisting with people through rational discussions will change their minds
There is so much online discussion going on, about every issue there is. I like to read comments. That’s one of the time-wasting things I enjoy. But sometimes the comments are so ignorant and hateful, I really have to make an effort to stop myself from trolling old uncles or cursing at young people.
When in a discussion, I am open to what the other person if trying to tell me. But then, I have also realized it has become a game now; a game where you win or lose, you convince or you give up. It really frustrates me that views have to be so polarizing. I have tried to argue rationally and tried to argue emotionally, but I have failed both times and many times. Not to say that, I am always right but I feel people are unncessarily staunch. Their beliefs are entangled to their identity. I have accepted that I don’t have answers many times. Once, in one such “discussion”, my “friend” argued that capital punishment was is right, even necessary, as convicted terrorist are a liability to the nation, and gave me some examples in defence, and I didn’t have an argument against that specific point, which I accepted. (I mention this because I am scouting for a good defense for this point.) But I feel disappointed that people don’t have the same sincerity and the debates continues with circular reasoning and bitterness.
Today, I saw John Oliver’s argument for “pro-choice” abortion laws, and there were still people in the comments being self-righteous. I mean, what else do you need? Someone just made a serious topic accessible, funny and informative and you’re still unwilling to even pause and reflect?!
People don’t change.
I am so bummed out.
PS: I couldn’t find any quotes. Everyone famous believes that other people do change.
Thought trigger: Tejas Harad’s post
I have always had a strong “internal” locus of control that means I strongly believe that what I get in life, is because of my actions. If you have a strong “external” locus of control, you believe that other’s action affect you on a much larger scale than your own actions; so if you fail, you would blame fate, or a person, or the system or God, or whatever.
Since I have a strong internal locus of control, my failures are my fault alone and my success is also only mine. So basically, I am what Tejas calls a person with a “stinking sense of entitlement”.
Because of this post, I reflected on my own locus of control and recognized that it not only affected my rationalizations about myself, but also my world-view and my political views etc. And maybe, I never explicitly think of people under poverty as people who “could just work harder and not be poor” but I have to confess that I did agree with motivational crap like “if you are born poor, it is not your fault; but if you die poor, it is.” I am really embarrassed of this stupidity on my part.
Lately, I have come across terms like “social capital” (the network of people your family, your parents or you know and have access to), “cultural capital” (marked by your level of education, your style of speech/appearance, your access to good art) and I recognize my own privilege. I recognize that the world is not a level-playing ground. I am a third-generation English speaker in my family, and I have taught English to six-year olds who are their family’s first. This disparity, which for the most of my childhood I had completely blocked out, is so vivid since my teaching stint.
I guess, Barack Obama was right about misunderstood teenagers being impressed with Ayn Rand (cue: blast from the past). I realize that Ayn Rand appealed to me because of her strong inner locus of control.
However, her idea of what a “self-made man” looked like was completely different from what they really look like in real life. I am so lucky to have already met friends who are unimaginably self-made, and they weren’t anything like Fountainhead’s Howard Roark and Atlas Shrugged’s John Galt. They (my friends) are not heroes that isolate themselves from the world, and are not proud to be “above average” (inside joke). They are not people who don’t have an internal locus of control, and they are not unsympathetic to human shortcomings. They are not blind to systematic oppression based on gender, race, caste, sexual orientation etc.
I completely understand the frustration that Tejas displays in his post at people who are blind to their privilege:
“As if people operate in isolation. As if external factors don’t matter at all. As if capitalism is such a fair system that it rewards people commensurate to their hardwork/ talents/ skills. This false notion which is passed on from one generation to the next and accepted as commonsense by everybody, is insidious. It makes any critique of our unjust system impossible. It pits one person in competition with the other. And it is completely devoid of empathy.”