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Posts Tagged ‘Memes’

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