slavesincorporated

The Cold Comfort of Conspiracy Theories

In Big Brother, conspiracy theories on March 17, 2020 at 22:53

I used to follow all conspiracy theories when I was in school and early on in college. Everything form alien landings to the pyramids to alien landings on the pyramids. I must have been the biggest X-flies fan at least in India. So much that later I even tolerated all seasons of Californication, just because ‘Mulder’ was in it. Every seeker goes through that phase of wondering if everything fits as neatly as science describes it. But it is important not to get stuck there. Most hot spots have been debunked from the Bermuda triangle to Loch Ness. But authors find new gaps to sell their paperbacks in. Till the Amazon Rain forest is completely stripped and Antarctica melts completely, this industry is going to be raking it in, then speculation will move to the moon.

I have realized such authors and ‘experts’ are not selling inquiry or intrigue. They are selling an escape. Part of why people don’t accept reality is because it involves taking responsibility for how shit your life is or has become. But…if the government is controlling our minds, if the Mayans used DMT or if aliens exist then all bets are off. It debunks society as we know it and I am suddenly absolved of all the bad decisions I have made. That is more important than whether Atlantis ever existed. People would rather chase these Unicorns than suck it up and wrestle their to-do list that has become longer than a life sentence.

Rumors are the primary form of human communication. We can call them stories to make it sound better. But it is still the primate herd behavior complicated by religion and multiplied by technology. Even within scientific communities dogma can take years to overturn. Because stories always sell more than science, even among scientists.

Some people are disappointed that after landing on the moon in the 60s we do not have flying cars yet. Some feel we are actually going backwards in time as a civilization. But in many ways it is a miracle that we are still here. In a world with multiple existential threats and a population that makes decisions entirely on emotions, any scientific progress is a huge triumph. But even if there is another Renaissance of rational thought we will still be unhappy. We will still believe in occult practices, Big Foot and that the moon landing was a hoax. Because reality is never enough. Even if space travel becomes common it will start feeling mundane in a couple of months. The only thing bigger than the universe is the ego and there is no black hole big enough to contain it.

Questioning everything is great. But most goose chases tend towards delusion. Another form of this delusion is believing in past glory, from family trees to Hindu Rashtra. Always believing that things were somehow better and more pure in the past. This is also a deflection of one’s own follies. Perhaps every Yug calls itself KalYug to pardon itself of its hypocrisy. A decent reading of history will tell you that it’s all peaks and troughs and not straight slide upwards or downwards. This also mirrors the nostalgia most people have for their childhood contrasted with the contempt they have for their corrupted adult life. Between ‘Adulting is difficult’ and ‘Stay in touch with your inner child’ most of us never actually grow up. And the comforts of modern life don’t let us.

As a person of science with a certificate to prove it, I always fall for cold hard facts over rosy stories. But the market works otherwise. Conspiracy theories about Coronavirus will reach fantasy proportions but people will not practice social distancing. It is somehow easier to swallow the horror of unbelievably evil governments working in amazingly synchronized fashion to effect genocide than to accept that we are still at the mercy of nature and life is as fragile and precarious as it has ever been. It hurts the entitlement Genesis has instilled in us. The Dictatorship theory is more acceptable because it fits in the more tried and tested Good v’s Evil format. Millions of innocent people may die but eventually ‘we win’.

The world is way more complex than a Nolan movie and life is way more random than a Tarantino flick. Finding wonder in that itself, accepting your fragility is the first step and it’s difficult. Thinking the mystery of creation will reveal itself through an acid trip or a podcast is as foolish as it is arrogant. Self-awareness is a lifelong journey of realizing your insignificance. But once you are on that path, life can seem more wonderful and opportune than any Coronavirus conspiracy.

  • Punit Pania

The Age of Irreverence

In art, Love, true enlightenment on March 15, 2020 at 18:43

When I tweeted, “Looking at all the World War memes I am pretty sure the last trace of humanity will be selfies with Mushroom clouds,” someone replied with a meme precisely matching it within 5 minutes. There is a meme for every conceivable kink and emotion. Yet all the memes put together are not enough to fill the void you feel in your heart.

Rebellion has always been celebrated by pop culture. But the irreverence of today is without rhyme or reason or even without any real rage. Nietzsche declared ‘God is dead’ over a hundred years ago. God may not be dead but He is definitely on life support. And there are no worthy successors. Science has proven to be a cold comfort at best. And commerce an auto-immune disease of pandemic proportions.

The result is corona virus memes and suicide jokes. The kind of dryness reserved for the stand-up stage and Monty Python movies is now part of everyone’s feed. Stand-up works because exaggeration is fun in small installments. Comics may relate to each other but seldom make for good friends. If everyone tends towards brazen Godlessness, it would taste like a sliver of sushi in a spoonful of wasabi.

And one cannot assume humor online comes from a nuanced intellect. Many memes, as layered and niche as they may appear are merely the outcome of aggregation, templates built on other templates evened out by the huge churn of social media. It is deceptive in the same way a school of fish appears to be a big creature. It is still better than political and communal content and Bollywood trash. But none of it can give solace they way art and spirituality can.

Seeing the amount of time being butchered in senseless content consumption and gaming, it seems like a miracle that there are still enough people who actually work. Work without distractions so that planes land, internet keeps working and water keeps running in your taps. And it will keep running as automation takes over more and more work freeing up more and more time for SIM and PUBG.

People can eventually find meaning in anything. But number of subscribers and record scores can’t help you sleep at night. Suicide is believed to kill more people than road accidents in the west. Cultures differ widely but human vulnerability remains the same. The extreme isolation and deathly loneliness people live with in Japan is the eventuality of every society with high technology and low social mobility.

If there was a way to calculate the percentage of pure unbridled happiness in the world, it would definitely be in single digits. And it is advertised precisely because it is so rare, not because it is a common and relatable experience. The products and services that claim to sell you happiness are not even cheap imitations. Individuality has sold enough mass-produced t-shirts to clothe the entire world in capitalism. And algorithms may have progressed enough to read your mind but happiness still comes from community, companionship and compassion, all of which are going extinct.

The vast irreverence we see today towards authority, institutions and tradition is not without reason but it is also without purpose. I would rather go down a longer route than have no direction at all. My boss used to say, “If you cannot respect the person, respect the chair.” We can start by respecting ourselves first. In the long run, time is irreverent to everyone and entropy is agnostic to every thing. In the fraction that we are alive and conscious, irreverence should be the least preferred disposition towards life.

In a world hurtling towards chaos as randomly as it emerged from it, the only antidote is prayer. If not to a higher power than to humility itself. Humility that recognizes each breath as a triumph and each unkind thought as a childish mistake.

May we have the humility to get through each day and the grace to appreciate it.

– Punit Pania

10 Years of Blogging

In art, Artist, freelancing, Blogging, creativity, Motivation, SlavesInc on January 1, 2020 at 14:46

I started this blog in January of 2011 during my first job. As a management graduate in New India I was technically living the middle-class dream. In a city 500 KMs from home and an office 30 minutes of rush hour traffic away from my apartment.

Balancing the intrigue of corporate hierarchy with the late bloom of Indian puberty was a heady mix. I fell back on my familiar coping mechanism; writing. I had started writing way back in college circa 2006 AD. Years of relatively anonymous posting never deterred me. Putting things down on paper was cathartic in itself.

With the same motivation, SlavesInc was born in a new era in my life. Initial feedback was that Slaves is too negative a name for something you are so dedicated to. But that is how I saw and still see jobs: modern day slavery. Art; in the very least, has to be unflinching. All other aspects of life are sugar-coated beyond recognition.

I kept typing away week after week based on experiences which were very personal yet a treatment that was global. And the blog did develop an audience that was across continents and numbers that were not underwhelming by the standards of those times. We even made it to the WordPress homepage a couple of times.

9th September, 2011

Quarters rolled into years and years into a decade. My writing evolved from terse prose to lucid poetry to now an easy conversation. The daily corporate grind is gone and so are the small impetuses to explain idiosyncrasies of cubicular life. But the big questions remain, they always do.

I now write for a living through stand-up. An Olympian dream at the time of starting this blog. The mind is much more at ease but the spirit is still aching to know more and topple over more whys.

But there is no ultimate resting place. The world is inherently unfair and humans are tragically unworthy of justice. A perpetual feedback loop. The artist suffers more because he sees more in every cublice and every street corner.

That he gets to address it by expression in whatever form is the only blessing that keeps him from going insane. Whatever audience she gets for it is a bonus. Everything beyond that is business and vanity.

If you dear reader have even for a moment felt connected to a piece of my writing, know that we have shared something fleetingly beautiful, even by RomCom standards.

Writing saved me and it is the only ideal I am gladly slave to.

Peace.

– Punit Pania