What Is And What Should Never Be

Did anyone out there manage to clock exactly the moment when this happened? Genuine question. By “this” I mean the gentle slide from normality to absurdity that we’ve found ourselves in for the past couple of years, the slide that looks set to continue, like some kind of demented water park where the landing pools are full of spikes and salt.
What was the first moment/Patient zero/D-Day/Whatever we want to call it? Some might argue it was 9/11, the turning point just over a year into the new millennium, that set the tone for what was to come in the form of surveillance, terrorism, paranoia, the transformation of the USA from “that place with the burgers and fat people” to “that place that could reeeeeeally fuck things up if it wanted t- oh wait it already has.”
But it’s not just the USA, it’s also happening in the UK, across Europe, in Russia, in Turkey, and the Middle East hasn’t spent more than a day out of the news cycle because of war, terrorism, refugees, and more often than not, all three together.

As someone who isn’t particularly old, who’s only been kicking about on this planet since 1994, this strikes me as odd. But not in the “Woah, far out man” kind of odd, but that really unsettling kind of odd when something is just a little bit off. Like a creepily lifelike mannequin in a shop, that’s just on the verge of looking too real, or those moments when a door opens itself and for a minute you just can’t figure out how it could have happened scientifically.
That’s the kind of odd feeling I, and I’m sure many others, seem to be getting these days. Things just seem a bit off, not quite real, but as though something artificial is striving so hard to be real that it’s almost breached the barrier where it no longer becomes possible to tell what is fake and what is not. As it’s referred to in the world of CG and computer games, the uncanny valley.
It’s as though at some point between 2001 and now we slipped unconsciously into a parallel universe but nobody noticed. To borrow a little idea from Community, we may well have entered the darkest timeline.

Now I don’t want to get too philosophical or physics-ey about all this, partly because it would just be boring and confusing, and also partly because I don’t actually know all the sciencey and philosophy-ey part of it, and people many orders of magnitude smarter than I am are still debating this stuff. So let’s move on with our science hats safely placed to one side, and let us don our fun speculation hats instead, because this shit is about to devolve into “Ooh but what if” moments faster than you can say “I bet MJ and Tupac and Elvis are still alive on an island somewhere.”

Let’s assume for a second that 9/11 never happened. Big ask, I know, but in your mind just picture that familiar Manhattan skyline we all know thanks to decades of films and television with the twin towers of the World Trade Centre still standing tall and shiny.
How different would the world be?
For starters, the USA wouldn’t have had to retaliate to a non-existent attack, so Afghanistan would probably have been left alone (under the Taliban which, spoilers, the US created, but going that far back would make this blog a bit unwieldy). That means no billions spent on war, and no destabilised Middle East. Fast forward a year or two, the allegations against Iraq of harbouring WMDs were bolstered by claims that they were sheltering Al-Qaeda, leading to the invasion of the country. But wait, that never happened, because Al-Qaeda never made it to the USA. So Saddam or his weird son Uday may still be in power, but Baghdad wouldn’t have been reduced to a smoking pile of rubble, and the coalition of armed forces wouldn’t have spent years and billions and lost lives fighting. As a result? Perhaps no Arab Spring, perhaps slightly fraught but generally good relations with Hussein, Assad, Gaddafi et al., perhaps no ISIS arising from the power vacuum left in Iraq and Syria.
Okay, early days, and only on one side of things, but already history has diverged pretty dramatically. And just consider the knock on social and psychological effects.

Without the “War on Terror” (as it was so dramatically called way back when), the current air of distrust and paranoia between the West and the Middle East may not exist, or not as strongly. The simmering undertones of racism and Islamophobia, when even the most well intentioned and liberal of us can do a double take when we see an asian man with a long beard and a backpack, may have never come about.
This would be the brightest timeline, the timeline when harmony and good will would have expanded. When Europe wouldn’t have turned inwards and started blaming its ills on foreign devils, leading to the rise of the BNP at first, and later its pasty faced UKIP successor, with similar parties like the FN and Pegida across the continent. Obama may still have made it in, but he wouldn’t have been drone bombing villages, and perhaps that money spent on war would have made it to a better cause. Relations with Russia wouldn’t have deteriorated to the point at which we find ourselves on the cusp of a new Cold War, with the looming threat of nuclear weapons, and increasingly fraught and convoluted relations between Moscow, Washington, London, and Pyongyang.

However, as stated before, this is all just speculation. Speculation at its best can allow us to envision brighter possibilities that we can then work towards, and that’s good, because it inspires a desire for a better tomorrow. Speculation for a better yesterday? Well that strikes me as a bit of a fool’s errand. Which is why I’m doing it. Duh.
This notion of timelines and possibilities has stuck in my mind since I read it in a rather fantastic book called Our Mathematical Universe by Max Tegmark, which I urge any amateur science fan to check out. Not all the theories come from Tegmark, but the book explains it rather well, and makes the aching “what could have beens” just that little bit more bearable.
The idea (grossly oversimplified for the sake of brevity) goes thusly; that every time we make a choice, the universe splits, into one where we continue with the choice we made, and another where we made a different choice. If a dice is rolled, it can land on six possible outcomes, and there is a universe somewhere where every possible eventuality of that roll exists. (For further, more tangible explorations of this idea, check out Meanwhile by Jason Shiga). It’s an awesome idea, one that has gone from the fringes of science to the mainstream thanks to comic books and science fiction, but it’s a rather melancholy idea too.

Things could always be worse in other universes sure, but there’s always the lingering thought that they could be better. We have Trump, which means there’s a universe that doesn’t, there’s a universe with Hillary, there’s a universe where Trump is actually a seven foot tall space gecko, there’s one where he’s a maniacal dictator who has already captured France (because easiest country first right? #Agincourt), and one where he spent his life as a kindly old spoon whittler with no interest in real estate, politics, or banging his own daughter.
There’s a universe where the refugee crisis doesn’t exist, where people aren’t being forced to flee their homes because of war and famine, there’s a universe where all illnesses can be cured, and one where religious, ethnic and political divide don’t exist. There may be one where money literally grows on trees, rivers are filled with chocolate, and every man, woman, and child has the face of Ryan Gosling, but that’s besides the point.

The point is, and there is a point, that though this may seem like the darkest timeline, the one where things are as bad as they can possibly be, it’s still ours.
This is the world that we have, and to spend our days bemoaning what could or should have been, upset that Leave and Trump won, feeling sad every time we see refugees on the news, feeling a shiver of fear every time another story about potential nuclear war or a foiled terrorist plot pops up, is a waste of time. Let’s take our fun speculation hats off, and instead don our introspective, “seriously nodding over a fine espresso” hats.
There comes a point when the choices we didn’t make become as important to us as the choices we did make, and that’s baffling, but human. We are almost quantum creatures, existing in one plane, but constantly dreaming and imagining innumerable other possibilities. What if I spoke to that one pretty girl on the train? What if my parents moved to London instead of Yorkshire? What if (and come on we’ve all thought it) this aeroplane I’m on goes down over the sea? What if I choose a blueberry muffin instead of triple chocolate? Well actually that’s pretty obvious, I would be a lunatic.

But perhaps this near constant rumination on different possibilities is just a very important way for us to remind ourselves that although things might not always be at their best, they’re definitely real. Without getting all existential about what “real” means, perceptions and senses and brain images and the universe is a simulation aside, I think it’s safe to say that our day to day lives as we know them are as close to (if not totally completely) real as things get.
In this age of #fakenews and photo-realistic de-aged actors in films, when the boundaries between reality and fiction are becoming increasingly blurred, this state of constant “What if” wondering almost becomes more necessary than ever. We need to remind ourselves that there are things that are real and things that are not, and our minds need to be trained to know the difference. We need to remember that this isn’t some parallel universe we’ve all unconsciously slipped into, it is the only universe we have ever known.

I understand that this blog took a bit of a convoluted journey, but that’s because (as with most things) I sort of just made it up as I went along, and somewhere out of the chaos of thought and typing, I hope, a sort of coherent image formed. It might be a bit much to link diverging timelines and multiverses to a CGI Carrie Fisher (R.I.P. Princess) and polarising elections, but I like to think there’s a common thread running through it all: What is real, and what is not.
Our choices and their consequences are real, our imagined honeymoons with Jessica Alba on a Caribbean island are not. The universe where 9/11 happened and refugees are fleeing for their lives is real, the one in which Woolworth’s pick’n’mix still exists is not. Acceptance is key in order for us to go around with some sense of security, and I like to think at this stage more people have notably become more accepting. The ones of us that aren’t polarised are more pragmatic, more measured in our thoughts, and that is vital for any sort of meaningful discussion and progress. So although the fringes continue to dominate what we see, we can take solace in the knowledge that there are also level heads at work in places that matter, and working for change for the next generation if not the current one.

“It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.”

Philip K. Dick, VALIS 

The Angry Indian (of this universe)

Frac/ture

Hi.

Quick word before we get started; this blog has been dormant for quite a while now because of various happenings, most notably me moving to Maastricht to start a masters (but not abandoning an admiration of alliteration) and all of the required studying and stress and friend making etc. that come with it.

Now with that out of the way, let us proceed.

It took me a long time to settle on a topic for this, quite simply because there is just so much going on in the world right now. The US election is (finally, thank god) over, and yeah the result is a bit shit but let’s just see what happens (on the plus side at least John Oliver can do jokes about something else now). The UK is in a post-Brexit buzz with daily news about something or other, mostly Theresa May being a giant emotionless turd cleverly disguised as a human being and getting parred by every other European leader. All over Europe there’s controversy and intrigue, from a right wing politician on trial for hate speech here in the Netherlands, the increasing popularity of Le Pen in France, and the election of  the mayor in Srebrenica who denies that there was ever a genocide.
On the international stage we have the continued fighting in Syria, which only seems to be getting worse by the day, accusations of human rights abuse in Sudan, a president in the Philippines who admitted to the extrajudicial killing of suspected drug addicts and dealers, a severe lack of basic supplies in Venezuela, a struggle for power in Libya, the list goes on and on.

Any one of those things would be enough for a whole litany of blogs, so forget trying to cram such large topics into a few thousand words. The post-US election debate is, quite frankly, exhausting, and that’s all I’ll say about that. Likewise Brexit is an ongoing process and one I’ve written about before, so no use getting all annoyed about it on here again.
But what underlies all of these things is much more universal, and is also something I can attempt to jovially and semi-pretentiously poke at over a few paragraphs while enjoying the soundtrack to Hell or High Water by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. That thing is, as the title may have given away, the idea of an increasingly fractured world. Let’s begin shall we.

There is a buzzword used by many internet warriors these days, globalisation, or variations thereof. As a student on a course called Globalisation and Law, this naturally causes me some consternation when it pops up on reddit or under a Facebook post. Do these people know what that word means? Do they simply use it as a shield for the notion that “people that are foreign are bad”? Or worse still, that the explosive pace of improved connectivity across the globe over the past couple of centuries is somehow a bad thing.
Surely to any globally minded person, someone who has travelled, who may be from one nation but lives in another, a global citizen shall we say, the idea of a connected world is one of the greatest advances mankind could have made. This is a relatively small planet after all, and it took us a few thousand years to get to the stage at which we could cross seas or travel long distances, to undo all of that would be quite a task and essentially impossible.

But then I thought a bit deeper, and things weren’t quite so clear. Humans are social animals, said it before, will say it again. Without our inherent desire to work together with others we would never have made it to this stage, we would have lived and died in our caves and some other species would have dominated the planet. Probably dolphins.
So naturally over the course of human history we have come together to build villages and towns and cities and civilisations and empires, each more sprawling and encompassing than the last. People travelled and traded and warred, and in the case of Genghis Khan, fucked their way across a continent to ensure that a staggering number of people today could claim some form of genetic link to him (Mad tings).
So it is easy to argue that the process of globalisation is in fact an ancient one, not a recent phenomenon driven by “all dem bludy imigrunts,” and without it the world wouldn’t be the way it is today. The end. Or is it…

It isn’t.

The backlash against an interconnected world is spreading. Some people decry the integration of different cultures as a social experiment gone wrong, others argue (without a trace of irony or historical knowledge) that people should remain isolated and that they were fine before all of this mingling malarkey happened. Seriously guys, the internet is a sad, horrible place sometimes.
But we’re seeing increasingly fractious relations at the highest levels of international relations, namely the UN. There was a hubbub recently after Russia lost their seat on the Human Rights Council, yet Saudi Arabia (yeah, these guys ) retained theirs. The reason wasn’t because everyone in the room had been zapped by some kind of comic book mind control ray, it was because the UN and the Human Rights Council specifically have devolved into bloc voting, with countries voting in favour of their regional neighbours, international allies, or even trading partners. When the paragon of a united and peaceful world established in the wake of the atrocities of the second World War starts to crack after just a few decades there is some genuine cause for concern.
This is nothing new of course, Machiavelli wrote an early version of the realist critique centuries ago, arguing that statesmanship and diplomacy will always take precedence over the concerns of the man on the street. But still, every time a country puts state interests ahead of human rights concerns, such as the UK selling arms to Saudi Arabia or the US arming the Taliban in the 70s to fight the Soviets, there’s a bit of an uproar and everyone acts all surprised and shocked. And then they move on.

There is a paradox in the notion of humans as social animals, because we are also very individual creatures. We work together sure, but we are just as capable of being self sufficient if the situation calls for it. If someone Bear Grylls-ed you and dropped you in a forest somewhere, it’s reasonable to assume that you would make some attempt to find food, water and shelter, instead of walking around helplessly in a circle while trying to figure out where the nearest Costa and Holiday Inn are before collapsing into a sobbing heap. Though for some people I’m not so sure.
The point being that bringing us together can bring co-operation but it can just as easily breed conflict by virtue of our own individual self-importance, as illustrated by the Tower of Babel in the Old Testament. Though actually that’s more down to Old Testament god being a bit of a prick and fucking with people because he’s bored. But forget all that, could there perhaps be some vague grounding to the anti-global crew, the ones who argue that this level of interconnectedness is a step too far?

Thinking about this as an Indian who has grown up in Britain, spent a year in Berlin, and is now studying in the Netherlands, I want to laugh and then get angry and then make some tea. Thinking about it from a detached perspective, perhaps not.
During a visit to the World Trade Organisation in Geneva we were given a lecture about the impact of free trade on developing countries, with many graphs showing the progress made by BRICS over the past twenty years, and of course all of the increases in the quality of living that economic prosperity (mostly) brings.
However the whole time I was sat there I couldn’t help but think of places not too far from home in Yorkshire, the mining and steel communities left in a state of decay when the government pulled their subsidies, when companies took business to countries with cheaper manufacturing costs, workers unable to retrain with their skills rapidly losing relevance as time passed. Is that a necessary cost? The price of progress? What would have happened if China had never opened its market up, if manufacturing had stayed in Europe, how drastically different would the world be?

These are big hypotheticals, and of course we should deal with reality before we ever get to shoulda woulda coulda’s, but they’re things that bear thinking about. As you watch the news you can see relations between countries deteriorating and unsteady new bonds being formed, and it’s understandable that these shifts are mirrored by the increasingly nationalist and individualist sentiment brewing across Western Europe and the USA, and even in Asia in the case of the BJP in India and Duterte in the Philippines. The government of a democratic state should reflect the will of its people, but the opinion and will of its people is in turn informed by the actions of their government and other states. It’s circular, a feedback loop, and one that’s hard to break out of once a pattern is established.
Many people smarter than I am have written many theories and arguments and won Nobel prizes for doing work far more empirical and insightful on the same idea, that history is essentially a cycle, but as the adage goes “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” Centuries before Santayana gave us that wonderful gobbit, religions like Hinduism and Buddhism based their philosophies on circular conceptions of the universe, a constant cycle of birth and death, creation and destruction, the consumption of a tub of Ben and Jerry’s and the horrible guilt that crops up a few hours later while you  reach for the next lot of Chocolate Fudge Brownie without a trace of remorse.

The point of all of this rambling isn’t to say that any one side is right, as Obi-Wan said “Only the Sith deal in absolutes” (and the less said about the absoluteness of that statement and all of the Star Wars fan bickering the better). But we aren’t Sith, oh no, unless we’re Darth Maul who is an absolute badass.
We’re citizens of an undeniably connected world in 2016, a year that has given us such gems as “dat boi,” dabbing, and not one but two superhero face off movies. D r e a m.
As I’m pretty sure I’ve said before, ignorance is a choice nowadays, when so much information is available to us, but it is important to consider all of that information. There is no black or white, the world exists in shades of grey, apart from Essex which seems to exist in a permanent haze of lurid orange spray tan. Closing yourself off to different points of view, no matter what they might be, brings you to the exact same position as the people we all love to make fun of (Hint: the Daily Mail comment section is a goldmine of dumb asses).

Not going to lie, kind of lost track on this one. Oh yeah, fractured stuff, that’s the one. The reason this blog has been so quiet recently is partly because of actual life things happening, but also because I’ve just been content to watch what’s happening. More than any year so far this feels like the year that will yield seismic change, major shifts in power, a reshuffling of the status quo. Check the news on any given day and guaranteed there will be something somewhere in the world that is pretty damn major, whether it impacts you or not, be it political or financial or natural.
As an observer it’s nice to have so many interesting things going on, but as an active participant in the day to day of this planet, it’s hard not to be worried. If things continue as they are, if division continues to grow, discontent and disharmony spread further, it isn’t too hard to foresee a future in which all of the work of the past few millennia is undone.

Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen, or at least perfect some sort of interplanetary travel before then, because fuck hanging around on this rock when the nukes start flying.

 

xoxo, The “Slightly Less Angry But Still A Bit Miffed” Indian.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016

AKA The Year That Couldn’t Stop Giving

2016 just doesn’t know when to stop giving.

2016 is like that relative whose house you go to for dinner, and they won’t stop putting food on your plate even though you barely choked your way through the last pile of mush devoid of any and all seasoning.

2016 is like that moment when you step out of the shower and your foot slips a bit, you know that weird falling feeling you get? It’s that, but permanent. Permanent shower slipping.

2016 is the guy at the Pizza Hut salad bar who uses the same ladle for all of the dressings, but somehow gets some on the croutons as well and makes them soggy.

2016 is your neighbour from first year halls who complained about the noise even though every other flat was also having pres.

2016 is a lego brick to the bare foot of humanity. It’s a coffee table corner meeting a shin, an undone lace, a frozen puddle, a comedy banana peel at the top of a flight of stairs covered with spikes.

2016 is the boulder from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

2016 is a million kicks to the crotch that all strike the sweet spot for maximum pain

2016 is the kind of year to be a public masturbator, a locker room peeping tom, a drunk guy outside Wetherspoons on a rainy night trying to convince his girlfriend that he’s sober.

2016 is single ply toilet roll.

2016 is store brand baked beans.

2016 is a loose thread on a sweater that unravels the whole thing when you thought it was just a bit frayed

2016 is a landmine, left buried, stepped on by an unsuspecting child

2016 is the start of the clock turning backwards

2016 is introverted, insular, indignant, inconceivable, insane

2016 is the year people proved once and for all that they are weak, and afraid, unable to sustain peace, unable to tolerate differences, misinformed, unwilling to think, segregated, isolated, easily instigated, braindead sons of bitches who have and always will put themselves first.

2016, is a mirror.

2016 showed us ourselves at our worst and some happened to like what they saw.

More than we thought.

 

But there’s always next year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extra! Extra! Read All About It.

It’s time to talk about the news.

This post was in part inspired by John Oliver’s recent segment on the gradual demise of print journalism (John Oliver on Journalism (might not be up in the UK yet)), but I want to take things in a slightly different direction.
Oliver talks about how newspapers and journalists are forced to drop more meaningful stories in place of pursuing clicks online, how they have to post a certain number of articles a day, and how they have to tweet a certain number of times, and of course what this all means is that real news is set aside in favour of puff pieces that draw in the braindead denizens of the internet.

I’ve complained about this before, about websites like Complex and the Huffington Post that have eroded the status of old fashioned real journalism, and have created a new generation to whom the very concept of a newspaper is alien.
Of course the news being online is nothing new, it’s 2016 after all, and every newspaper from the big national ones to local heralds have a website. People just don’t buy newspapers anymore, that’s a sad fact, and so they’ve had to focus on ad revenue online (or a paywall in the case of The Times) to keep themselves afloat.

For readers the advantages of websites like those above, not to mention the great internet Satan that is Buzzfeed, are obvious. You get concise stories, you get the basic outline, and you get a comments section so you can debate with equally misinformed people about who’s more wrong. Spoiler alert: it’s everyone. Everyone is wrong.
Add to that Facebook’s trending section, which many people will probably see as a series of headlines about the most important things in the world, only they’re not. They’re just the things that other people on Facebook are talking about, people who have also clicked on things in that sidebar, see the problem?
This dumbing down of what was once a very serious and very noble profession is worrying, especially for people like me who want their news unfiltered and unadulterated. Yes there’s bias in our media, especially in the UK, but the internet is just as susceptible to bending to the will of owners and benefactors.

However there is an even newer phenomenon which is starting to drive me up the wall, and it’s videos. Not videos in general, that would be daft. I’m not a 19th century Parisian to be shocked and awed by the concept of moving pictures, but I am shocked by the rampant popularity of the new breed of short form video “news” that is turning brains into mush and thoughts into a distant memory.
They’re absolutely everywhere, spouted by the aforementioned big hitters and also by smaller pages like AJ+, Attn., Viral Thread, and a whole host of other websites that nobody has ever heard of and have nigh on zero credibility.
They’ve infested my Facebook feed, liked and shared by friends and thousands of others, simple clips that could be from anywhere overlaid with short captions that often come with no citations or sources.

How did we let it slip so far? How did we get to the stage where even an article on a newspaper website is considered too much work by so many? It doesn’t take long to click onto the BBC, or The Guardian, or The Times or even the Daily Mail if you’re so inclined, and find a short to medium length piece about the issues of the day written by a real journalist and backed up by real sources. If you have digital TV there’s a whole raft of news channels, there’s the radio, there’s DAB radio, there’s podcasts from reputable sources, there’s so many options and yet so many people fail to utilise any of them.
Instead we have a generation of people getting their news from social media, news which is influenced not by actual events but by what other people are interested in, and what they are often interested in is not what needs paying attention to. You know what’s trending right now? Tim Curry talking about the remake of Rocky Horror and Pokemon Go. Yeah.
People are interested in celebrity and scandal, in sport and simplified science, and when it comes to serious matters like politics and economics and world affairs they don’t have any interest at all, instead they want the facts dumbed down and a point of view fed to them.

It gets even worse when it comes to social justice causes, the comments under every video turning into a nightmarish echo chamber of like minded young liberals who enforce each others views and fail to see that what they’re being presented with is no different to the hardline stance presented to and promoted by those on the other side.
The recent BLM UK protests (my opinions on which I will reserve) were accompanied by a spate of short videos overlaid with simple captions and accompanied by an endless stream of hashtags, the activist spirit is alive but its application is so far removed from the revolutions of old that it’s glaringly obvious to anyone who looks why things aren’t being taken seriously by a great many and why genuine change isn’t being made.
There are some things that must move on, but there are things which are better the way they were, and the news is one of them.

It’s all too easy to get your news and opinions from the wave of websites that exploit the inherent drawbacks and groupthink of social media, to have everything condensed into a listicle or a video, to nod along and like the comments of those who feel the same, to fall for confirmation bias and think “Yes, I thought the same so it must be right”.
All the while the newspapers that gave us real journalism, that investigate and interview and source, and as John Oliver says in his piece, still provide much of the information for television and internet news, fall by the wayside as we migrate to dumber pastures.
I ask, no, I implore anyone reading this, to stop falling for the short form mentality that has permeated our society and start reading and watching real news again.

It may seem long, it may seem boring, but it’s better to be bored and informed than entertained and patronised. I’d rather spend ten minutes with a cup of tea and a good article than thirty seconds with a video clip and the company of mindless netizens, and
I’d rather pay for a newspaper written by genuine journalists than put money in the pockets of faceless websites with advertisers to please and arbitrary article quotas to fill.
We live in a world of misinformation and misunderstanding, and if things keep going the way they are then that problem is only going to get worse.

Don’t be a moron, read.

xoxo, The “10 Reasons Why You Should Buy A Newspaper” Indian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

War and Peace 2: Electric Boogaloo

If you had any hopes of the world becoming less fucked up in 2016, abandon them now.

In fact if you have any hopes of the world sorting itself out, transforming into some future Star Trek planetary war and religious divide-less utopia for at least the next couple of centuries, put them to bed with a well placed bullet to the head.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or like me at least intentionally avoiding the news for as long as possible, it can’t have escaped your attention that a lot of very bad things have been pretty much constantly happening for quite some time now. One could even argue that they’re getting worse, increasing in frequency and severity, a constantly climbing graph ever since 9/11 almost 15 years ago now. Or rather since the advent of recorded history.

In the past few days alone we’ve had policemen being shot dead in Dallas, car bombs in Baghdad, and just two nights ago the horrific use of a truck to murder innocent people celebrating Bastille Day in Nice. Oh and to top off the shit sundae then there was an incredibly shady attempted coup in Turkey and 200 people died. Perfect. Murder is becoming background noise, a statistic used to score political points and inflame ideologies, the loss of life so commonplace that at a certain point it’s hard not to become numb to the endless headlines that drive home with soul crushing regularity just how incapable we are as a planet to sort our shit out and just coexist.

But that’s a naive sentiment.

The world has never truly been at peace, the one constant of life is conflict, humans just managed to turn it into an art form. We evolved from tribes killing each other for resources to nations strategically attacking other nations for resources, from using slightly pointy sticks to tanks and battleships and fighter jets.
War and killing have been a constant of human life on this planet as long as breathing and breeding and eating have. It bugs me when people treat war and violence as some new phenomenon, something that’s developed over the past couple of centuries, or something that is exclusively waged by rich western nations in order to subjugate the rest of the planet.
Go back to any part of history in any part of the world and I can almost guarantee that you will find at least two groups of people who didn’t get along and express that displeasure through violence. Be it Europe in the Middle Ages, or North America before Columbus, Asia under Genghis Khan or the Shoguns in Japan, people have been fighting and killing and pillaging and oppressing as far back as history goes.

Races have seen themselves as superior to others pretty much as soon as we became different enough to notice, people have enslaved other people for millennia, people have suppressed and abused minorities within their cultures, they’ve segregated based on class and wealth and gender, the rich have used the poor and the poor have risen up against the rich, it’s all been seen and done before.

Of course, arguing that war and injustice are the status quo would be a pretty easy copout. After all, and as I’ve said before, the reason why humans have made it this far is because we’ve risen largely above our base instincts to maim and consume and used our powers of reason and objective thought to co-operate and achieve great things.
However on the other hand, I would argue that accepting inevitability is not the same as acquiescing to it. If an asteroid were heading towards Earth and there was no way to stop it, the inevitable outcome would be the loss of a lot of life if not complete extinction. But accepting this fact doesn’t put you on the side of the asteroid, all it does is show that you have accepted that certain things are beyond your control.
Even in this highly democratised period of time, there are things that are beyond our control, and accepting that is not condoning it. These things may come into our control in time, we may develop a new system of government for example, America may adopt a radical approach to policing and peacekeeping, religious extremists may become fewer in number and easier to contain if not destroy. But at this present moment there are too many plates spinning in too many places for a few not to shatter, too many vested interests, too many self serving individuals, too many entrenched ideologies and prejudices.

In an ideal world, in the post-conflict Gene Roddenberry pristine future, these things won’t exist. We will have set aside our differences, embraced unity, cast aside notions of nationality and religion in order to work towards a greater goal beyond our planet. In science fiction worlds such as those of Star Trek and Mass Effect, this development only happens once contact is made with an extraterrestrial species, and perhaps they’re not too far off the mark.
Perhaps what will eventually bring the world together is the acceptance by every man, woman and child that we are minuscule parts of a mind scramblingly large universe, a speck of a planet in a tiny solar system in one arm of one galaxy in one local group in one meaningless microcosm of the universe. Perhaps what we need is for an extraterrestrial race to arrive and show us objectively just how ridiculous we’ve become, when we kill each other because we think somebody with a different skin pigment is inherently a criminal, or because somebody believes in a different imaginary sky fairy they deserve to be burned alive, that a whole army should have to go and fight another army because someone who speaks a slightly different latin derived language strayed over some imaginary boundary line.
The aliens would be baffled, they would wonder how a world that has such advanced technology and such profound writings and observations of itself could continue to fall victim to its own acknowledged shortcomings.

The aliens would wonder why a small planet, one so connected, could stand to ignore and look away from problems happening a few hours of flight away. And then perhaps they would realise something.

They would realise that we have come to accept an inevitability, we have come to accept that we can’t stop these things from happening, not as mere individuals, not just yet anyway. We can’t stop ourselves from holding prejudices, we can’t stop ourselves from holding on to petty notions of nationality, we can’t stop ourselves from scrambling to claim every drop of every resource for our own at the expense of others, no matter how dire we make their circumstances. Even when we make a stand against something all we do is highlight our differences, it’s an unwinnable fight, we’re too far down the line for things to reset themselves.
Many blogs ago I quoted the great science fiction author Robert A Heinlein, who wrote the following in his book Double Star; “Take sides! Always take sides! You will sometimes be wrong – but the man who refuses to take sides must always be wrong.”
It may be somewhat paradoxical, but that’s the way it seems to be. The only way to bring about an end to conflict is to start a conflict with those who create it, the only way to stop division is to take a side against division and simply create more division. It’s like a fractal pattern, an endless spiral, a self replicating machine that requires no outside input to create. Gandhi famously said that “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” but even then he was a few centuries too late, the world has been blind for quite some time now.

But even though we acknowledge we do not acquiesce, and if there is one silver lining to the endless grey clouds of misery then it is this. People are taking a stand, people are making their voices heard, and though the voices may not always be wholly rational they carry a passion that is sorely necessary. People may not acquiesce to violence but all too often they are ambivalent, apathetic. I’m guilty of this myself, wondering why or how I can even begin to sympathise with every person that falls in the name of whatever cause. Being uncaring may not be the same as actively not caring, but it isn’t too far removed, and one could argue it’s a pretty slippery slope.
Yet for every person like me there now seems to be another who is unwilling to sit there and take it. This person might be protesting against austerity in Westminster, they could be marching for BLM in America, in India there was an uproar following the Delhi rape case, and people went out of their homes and took a stand. The new divisions we are creating could be seen as not divisions between people or ideologies, but divisions in time.
The divide is being created between the past and the future, putting old ideas to rest in order to create new ideas for the next stage of our society.

It’s hard to root out what one perceives to be an outmoded way of thinking, and likewise it is difficult for us to see the other side of an issue. If you argue against somebody by arguing the exact opposite you merely become a reflection of them, stalemate, unable to find a third way.
In the social media activism age the answer seems to be to change the definition of something to suit your own agenda (racism isn’t power + privilege or whatever, it’s racism), or to devalue intellectual debate which could lead to genuine change by reducing everything to a hashtag and one of those goddamn bullshit caption filled clip videos that do nothing but reduce independent thought even further. And it’s painfully ironic to watch people unable to see that they are just becoming the very thing they are fighting against, being so educated yet so unaware. Every person seems to be a micro version of a macro society, aware of their issues but unable to change them, a self-replicating machine. Social activism is necessary, but activism with genuine intellectual insight, rational arguments that aren’t driven by emotion, treatises instead of tweets, plausible solutions instead of utopian fantasies.

There is no answer to this, there is no quick fix, there is no bloodless revolution on its way. The best we can do is hope, and have our say when we can, and in my case churn out poorly structured, rambling, hugely subjective blog posts in the hopes that somebody will read them and agree with even the smallest part. And now, like any smart alec grammar school middle class malcontent, I’m going to quote someone.

Way back in 1971, John Lennon sang the following verse on his immortal song Imagine;

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

Forty five years on, we’re still imagining.

xoxo, The “Out of his Vulcan mind” Indian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brexshit Referendumb.

democracy-comic

Now then, hands up who saw that coming. Put them down, you’re all liars except for me, I called this shit ages ago. Okay that was also a lie. Lieception.

I don’t want to bore you with yet another analysis of what just happened, you’ll get plenty of those on real news sites, or rather shared over and over and over by people on your Facebook until the mere sight of the words “The Guardian” makes you boil with a apoplectic rage. Though some may already feel that way.

This isn’t going to be an in depth political or economic breakdown, nor is it going to pour scorn on either side of the debate, nor am I going to resort to name calling of the leaders of either side.
That being said though, despite the inevitable ascension to power of our new Supreme Overlord BoJo of Etonion V, I am glad to see the back of Cameron, it’s much nicer to look at than the ham faced front. Shut the door on your way out love, you won’t be missed.
This is rather going to be a loosely structured and occasionally sweary overview of what I think are the most interesting parts of what is now officially a Brexit, and thank fuck for that, because Bremain was an awful neologism. Or is it a portmanteau…

So, Britain is leaving the EU. Who would have thunk it? Who would have thought that the same group of people who implored Scotland to remain a part of the union based on an act from 1707 would also turn so quickly on a supranational body they joined in 1972.
Who would have thought that we would have such a ridiculously high turnout, 72%, much higher than the general election (which has a much more instant and real impact on the state of the country) did last year.
Who would have thought that in 2016, with all of our laptops and tablets and phones and social media and news that even shows up in your snapchat, people would still fall for the same old anti-immigration “speaking english in are cuntry” rhetoric, or on the other hand the “everything is perfect with the EU why change it” rainbow sparkle gushing from certain media outlets.
Who would honestly have thought that a decision so crucial to the future of the country, that will have a lasting impact on the nature and structure of our economy, that will overhaul the way we deal with the continent and may well affect Britain’s diplomatic endeavours globally was best left in the hands of a voting public who are apathetic 90% of the time and ignorant for the other 10%.

It would be a bit futile now that it’s all over to say that there should never have been a referendum in the first place, but I’m just going to go ahead and say it anyway. There should never have been a referendum in the first place.
There wasn’t a referendum when we signed up in 1972, there wasn’t a referendum when it came to the Iraq War, there wasn’t a referendum to vote on renewing Trident, there wasn’t a referendum recently when it came to the contracts for junior doctors, a move which will affect the future of the NHS, so why now?
It’s obvious why now. It wasn’t to put the decision in the hands of the people, it was so Cameron could claw back some voters from UKIP, so Boris could make a power play for the leadership despite supporting Turkey’s accession to the EU only a few years ago, it was so Farage (who has been a failure in every genuine political role) could feel important again. We were led astray from the very outset by men who put their own selfish interests above those of an entire country, and like pigs going to an abattoir we were all too content to go along with it, smugly satisfied on both sides that we were right, thinking to ourselves “Yes, the decision is in our hands, and reason will prevail.”

Well look whose reason prevailed.

I voted remain, anyone who knows me will know why, I had a fantastic experience thanks to the EU and Erasmus and I want young people in the future to have that opportunity. That’s my personal reasoning.
There will be people who voted remain for different reasons, they may run a business and like that there are no tariffs on goods traded within the EU, they may like that they can employ workers freely, there are any number of reasons to vote remain.
But if personal reasons to vote remain are good enough then why aren’t personal reasons to leave? Why was everyone who stated they would vote leave shouted down by a chorus of “racist” and “bigot” and other words people plucked from HuffPo?
They may genuinely be concerned about immigration and overpopulation in their area, they may be concerned about the future of an NHS that has been subject to cuts and privatisation at the hands of the Tories, they may disagree with the bureaucracy and lack of transparency of the EU, they may not like the oversight that the ECJ and ECtHR have over domestic law, they may be fishermen and farmers who were hit by the fisheries policy and the CAP way back when and finally have a chance to change that.
Why should their opinion count for any less simply because it doesn’t gel with our own?

It would be simple to argue that it’s all the fault of the Murdoch press, that stupid right wingers have simply gobbled up the turds of misinformation laid by the Mail and the Sun etc. and mindlessly done as they were told. But is that really fair?
Could we not just as easily argue that those of us who voted remain were swayed by the Guardian and the Independent, that we’re just dumb brainless lefties who read a leaflet or saw a video on Facebook and mindlessly did as we were told.
What we need now is less finger pointing, less name calling, more co-operation. Not everyone who disagrees with you is a bigot, not everybody will have voted to leave because they hate immigrants and are racist, not everyone will have based their views off the papers (how many people do you actually think read actual newspapers anyway?)

I know this is The Angry Indian™, but I’m trying to keep this calm and rational. I have long held that democracy only works when your electorate is informed, I said it after the election last year, and I’ll say it again now.
But at the same time what matters at the end of the day is whichever option more people vote for, especially in a referendum with a simple 50% majority. You may disagree with them, but you can’t tell them how to vote. That’s democracy.
You may argue that older people shouldn’t get as much of a say since they will be biased or won’t be around long enough to live through the consequences (that was me yesterday, sorry old people), but they have a vote, that’s democracy.
You may argue that voters under 18 should have been able to participate, to have a say in matters which will shape their futures, but they aren’t eligible by law to vote. That’s idiocy. And also democracy. Keep the pattern going.
What I’m saying is you can’t back democracy when it’s going your way and decry it the second it isn’t, that’s petty, it’s petulant, and whingeing after the fact gets nothing done.

I wrote a while ago about people finding their political feet, about how which side of the line we fall on will vary issue by issue, will change as we get older, as we make more money (or any money), depending on where we live etc. etc. Many people will have found their political feet yesterday, and surely that is some solace. We at least now have a politically engaged public, people willing to go down to their local polling station and have their say, people who aren’t content to just sit and watch the numbers tick over on some overly elaborate BBC News infographic.
We have a younger demographic who are tired of leaving decisions in the hands of the old and conservative, who want to affect social change in order to secure the future they want for themselves and those who come after, and will be able to someday soon.
Likewise we have those who are tired of having to bite their tongues, of being told they’re un-PC, backwards, bigoted, racist, simply for having an opinion. Whatever you may think of either side, these are good developments, and I personally can’t wait until 2020 when we get another say with our newfound enthusiasm.

My Facebook feed today is full of people like me, young, university graduates, liberal, global, intelligent and educated. But we’re also arrogant, we’re dismissive, we’re opinionated, we’re self-righteous, we think that we know best and we fail to acknowledge that not everyone else feels the same way.
I’m guilty of this, probably more than most, but if there’s one thing I’m going to take away from this whole referendum saga it’s this.

We live in a divided world. We live on a planet divided into continents, continents divided into countries, countries divided into regions and cities etc. We live in a society divided along lines of race, religion, gender, age, wealth, education and political thought.
If we are to progress as a nation, as a species, of course we need less division, but that doesn’t mean placing blame. That doesn’t mean we get to decide that our way is the right way, that democracy is only democracy when it reinforces our own views and prejudices. If you’re on either side and you deem the other side less intelligent, less informed, less worthy of a vote, of a voice, then you are denying the essence of democracy.
Everyone has a voice, everyone has a vote, and everyone has the right to do with it what they choose to do with it. Vote leave, vote remain, draw a dick in the box, tear up your ballot paper, you could have done anything, and so could anyone else.

What we need now is for the pointing and blaming to stop. Be disappointed sure, have a day or two to vent your frustrations, but after that it’s time for much more important work. We are in the situation that we are in and wishful thinking isn’t going to change that, action is, be that on your own behalf or for society at large. So instead of writing long winded statuses and blogs (self-referencing, boom), sit down and think about how all of this is going to affect you and make a plan for what you’re going to do about it.
We’re no longer apathetic remember, we’re enthusiastic and energised, we’re intelligent and capable, we had a say on a piece of paper but now we have to have a say IRL.

We have the opportunity, reason and incentive to do what we want to do, so let’s get out there and do it.

The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.

Winston Churchill

 

xoxo, The Angry European.

Just Keep Digging

It’s been a weird couple of days.

This period, I never saw it coming, the nothingness that lies between the end of exams, results and graduation. I thought it would just pass by in a blur of parties and dinners and happiness (I failed to account for how much all of these things cost), but it hasn’t. Instead it’s been a slow, protracted, maudlin trudge through saying goodbye to my friends and realising that I actually have to start thinking about life after university.
It’s been the highs of Gradball followed by the lulls of wasting days watching shit on youtube and eating far more egg custard tarts than is healthy, the joys of seeing old friends tempered by the sad knowledge that I genuinely don’t know when I’ll see them again.

It’s gotten to the stage where I am now; sitting on a sofa in an empty house in Selly Oak, the rain pouring down outside, Godspeed You! Black Emperor playing in the background, sipping a glass of Johnnie Walker Black on the rocks and staring out of the window like I’m in some sort of sad black and white French film.
It fucking sucks.
But, and as with everything that sucks, it is something that is necessary. And so in the grand Angry Indian tradition, in a style honed and gratingly overused over the past few years, let us delve long, deep, hard, and aimlessly into the depths. Onwards.

What does the future hold? What do I want to become? Where do I see myself in five years? What is it that makes me me?
I hate those questions, I hate them. They aren’t just questions, they’re almost philosophical treatises, and they come laden with so much baggage that they’ve inspired countless books and films, fiction and non-fiction, with and without Julia Roberts. I hate them because they are so inextricably linked to all those stories of people travelling abroad to somewhere exotic and “finding themselves,” of a chance encounter that has led to some amazing career that provides a whole instagram feed’s worth of food porn, of those annoyingly chipper blonde girls you meet on a night out who went to Bali for a year and “it like totally” changed their perspective on everything, of those Facebook posts your relatives share with a caption that is almost achingly cliched in its description of the world as some amazing beautiful place that is just waiting to be discovered and wants to give you everything.
That isn’t to say that the world isn’t amazing and beautiful and offers you a lot, it does, every person will find beauty and opportunity in something, so don’t take that previous ramble as some pessimistic diatribe about how nothing has any meaning and everything is pointless (though Morty may beg to differ: Rick and Morty being super on point).

It is however a thought that has been playing on my mind more and more as these post-uni days go by, what is my amazing beautiful opportunity? Where is it? When will I find it? Which school of thought is right, the idea that opportunity will find you when the time is right or the idea that you have to go out and find it?
The answer is obvious of course, to me anyway, you have to go out and find it. Opportunities, as they say, are for the taking, so you have to go out there and take them. I was at an event in London recently, City Law for Ethnic Minorities, and the first speaker of the day was a partner at the host firm who went into full on Jordan Belfort mode, standing in front of a room full of aspiring lawyers and proclaiming without a trace of irony or cynicism that “If there’s an opening for one position, and there are a hundred applicants, say to yourself ‘Why can’t be that one person?'”
At any other point in my life up until now I would have laughed, I would have shaken my head and called him a fucking moron under my breath and pocketed as many free pens as I could. But strangely I didn’t, in fact I found myself almost drawn in by his pseudo-motivational speaker routine. Why can’t I be that person?

Also I only took one free pen.

Realistically of course, and I do consider myself a realist instead of a pessimist (there is some water in a glass guys, stop fighting), there are many factors at play. When it comes time to apply for masters or jobs I am going to be competing with a great many others, and it is up to the people sorting the applications to deem whether my grades are as good as someone else’s, or my work experience, or my letter of motivation, whether the answers I gave to the interviewer made me stand out, all of those things and many more can, and I imagine will, at some point keep me from being that one candidate.
But in my mind, and for me and others like me, this isn’t a question of capability or merit, I believe it stems from something deeper. I think you don’t just have to think of yourself as that one candidate, you have to want it. You have to truly want something in order to push yourself enough to achieve it.
I’ve wanted things in the past, I wanted to be a good guitar player so I pushed myself to drive to my Grade 8 exam the morning after our Year 13 Prom and played my heart out, and it paid off. I wanted to go to a good university, so I worked as hard as a I could at A level, and it paid off. But now? Now it feels a bit different.

If I subscribe to my own theory that you have to truly want something to attain it, then current Srikar is in a bit of a pickle. He doesn’t seem to want anything. Sure there are material things I want, I still want to own a Gibson someday, I want a nice watch, I’d love a fast German car of some sort, I want to keep growing my vinyl collection, but these are all surface level things.
The real issue is what I want to do and achieve long term in order to get to the stage where I can feasibly attain those things, and it’s something that a lot of people in this post-uni phase will surely be thinking about.
What do we truly want? There’s a lot of talk these days about “millennials” (another term I despise) and how they’re destined to be forever bouncing between jobs, always renting and never owning, doomed to ride out the tech bubble until it either bursts or someone fucks up and creates Skynet at which point it won’t really matter what your hopes and dreams are because you gon’ get blasted to shreds by a T-800. Then again I know a fair few people, and statistically speaking there will be quite a lot, who know exactly what they want to do and know exactly how to get there. These are, as I wrote in my New Years resolutions post a couple of years ago (for my long term fans), people I truly admire, with a single minded focus and drive to go after what they want and get it.

Now, as for me and the rest of us who don’t really know what they want to do? Are we forever fated to walk the Earth as layabout millennials? Are we going to pretend like “blogger” or “vlogger” or “social media consultant” are genuine occupations? Have the dreams of being a barrister been slowly replaced by the reality of being a barista? Sorry, I thought of that line at the start and just had to shoehorn it in somewhere. Badum tshhhhhhh.
Or have I been going about this completely the wrong way. Maybe, now isn’t the time to be figuring out what you want and who you are and all the rest, maybe that time comes later. Maybe that time never comes at all, when you truly know yourself and your ambitions, when you can truly claim to be content with all you have and all you’ve achieved.
We humans are creatures of want, the vast majority of us are constantly lusting after someone or something, maybe not to fill some cliched hole in the heart but to provide a temporary respite from the grind of the day to day. In this cycle of constant want can we ever really claim to know what we want and how to get it when what we want is always changing, always being replaced by something else, forever beyond our reach.

Sorry, this is exactly what I feared would happen. As I wrote at the start, I’m sitting in a house in Selly Oak, alone, as it rains outside, listening to Godspeed You! Black Emperor and imagining myself in a sad, black and white French movie.
I know it isn’t exactly The 400 Blows, hell it’s barely Taxi 2, but this is absolutely, unironically, uncynically, unprickishly what I think.

I don’t know who I am right now, I don’t really know what I want, but I can’t wait to find out.

xoxo, The Angry “I Don’t Know If I’m Even Angry or Indian Anymore” Indian