Monday, June 18, 2018

Elizabeth Holmes and Fraudulent Futurism

For those of you that don't know, Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of Theranos, a biotech company specializing in blood testing technologies, was indicted of wire fraud recently. Her company claimed to be manufacturing small blood testing machines that could take just one drop of blood and run upto a thousand tests, but in reality, it could only run one test and that too not always accurately. What is shocking is that Theranos was valued at 9 billion USD, all for some technology that didn't even exist. In this episode in the Elizabeth Holmes series, I talk about how futuristic design played a part in making the scam possible.

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My reaction to Elizabeth Holmes is equal parts horror and admiration, because seriously, how the hell did she pull this off?
It doesn't matter who we are. There is always going to be some part of the world, or some idea of how the world could or should be, that we will not relate to personally. For example, I have never lived in Central Asia, but I still know that Central Asia exists and some things about what it's like because there of information absorbed by my brain over an extended period of time. I have never seen a rocket with my own eyes, but TV has helped me have an image of it and therefore, I would be able to recognize it the first time I lay eyes on one. Come to think of it, most of what I know is composed of ideas and representations, not first hand experience.

These representations are responsible for how a good portion of the population romanticizes periods in the future, imagining kings and queens draped in finery and decked up in precious jewels while speaking in elegant accents, while the truth in previous centuries was more about widespread disease, random beheadings, wars and despotic rulers, with the average person having a life of hard labour and little to no power, and yes, this was true even in Western Europe which is supposed to be the pinnacle of development today. These representations are responsible for misconceptions we have about communities other than our own, and stereotypes which persist even when there is little interpersonal interaction between groups.

I think at this point you could understand how representations have affected our visions of the future as well.

Take for example the case of smartphones. A smartphone company is visualized by many as a glass-cladd office building with underground chambers lit with neon and scientists in lab coats diligently working in front of computers and fancy laboratory equipment. It is a honour to be working for a company making smartphones. However, in reality, the actual manufacture of smartphones happens in sweatshop-like settings, with underpaid, usually Asian, men and women slogging away performing repetitive tasks, the human beings basically just treated like machines. Now, this isn't to say that smartphones don't do any good, or the basic idea of smartphones is unethical, but it explains why people are able to successfully overlook what happens behind the scenes of a tech company and only focus on the positives. It is similar to the manufacturing of fireworks, which start to seem a lot less celebratory when you find out about the child labour that goes into making them.

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Oh, really, Theranos? Really?

I think part of what made Elizabeth Holmes' scam go on for so long is that she invested in an idea of changing the world that we have accepted in our minds as the path to the future. If you look at the promotional material of Theranos, their facilities appear to be futuristic places with the latest technological innovations, even when we don't really know what the technology does. That's because years of science fiction, movies, television and Silicon Valley powerhouses have taught us to associate certain images with progress and development, and for this, George Orwell and Issac Assimov are just as responsible as Steve Jobs, even though their intentions may have been different.

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Could you believe she's just playing with toys here? There was never any technology in the first place.

What Elizabeth Holmes did, essentially, was invest in creating a set, not at all dissimilar to how maybe a Hollywood production house would build a set for a sci-fi show. Her 'technology' was essentially just props, things that looked like they served a purpose but were beyond the fourth wall and therefore couldn't be checked for their effectiveness.

I think this is an opportunity to re-examine what all we have internalized in terms of imagery. Are we at a point where the looks of something have become this important that even billionaire investors could be fooled by techno-looking packaging? And if this true, are we on our way to regressing as a society, as no matter how much we want to embrace all people for how they look, will we continue to judge their position in life by how they are packaged, whether they wear a grey T-shirt and hoodie and therefore are the smart guys or whether they wear ratty denim cutoff shorts and tank tops and therefore are on the Duck Dynasty side of things? The design aspect of the Elizabeth Holmes scandal opens up an interesting discussion that needs to be addressed in case we want to really move forward in the world, and maybe if we look at the issue carefully, we can figure out how we can not get fooled as consumers and investors in the future

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Compassion and Skam

Last year, I discovered a Norwegian TV show online called Skam. Although nobody I knew had ever seen it, apparently it had reached a height of fame unexpected from a Scandinavian teen drama, and it was easy enough to find episodes on the internet.

I will always be grateful to the fandom that helped me find this show, not because it changed my life, but because it told me that there were more people out there like me and that we can all be understood by the right people.

Let me explain.

For as long as I can remember, I have related to characters in some books and movies and sometimes TV shows, perhaps more than real people, and have an uncanny ability to accept formula. This is because a formulaic storyline often revolves around someone who, at the end of the day, is a good enough person, and they always "do the right thing" in the end, as opposed to a lot of people I met in real life who talked up a big game about what "the right thing" is and how they embodied it but seemed to change their mind way too often about their definition and have low tolerance for people who did not agree with them. Real people's idea of the "right thing" felt inflexible to me, dissimilar to a character arc of starting out one place and ending up reformed and more understanding by the third act, and due to this inflexibility, to me it all felt shallow.

When I started watching Skam, I thought I was just watching another formulaic show about good-looking teenagers in a wealthy neighbourhood with their first world problems, which would be good enough for me but nothing to write home about.

Obviously, I was wrong, because here I am, writing about it.

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It was the first season that got me hooked, about a sixteen-year-old girl called Eva who is insecure about her new boyfriend Jonas. We soon realize that she was dumped by her friends, too, and is now alone. It all feels very typical, but what caught me off guard was the showrunners ability to see Eva's problems from her perspective, therefore lending the show an emotional nuance which only the compassionate can lend. Instead of a Gossip Girl-esque drama, we get to see a young woman grappling through struggles all young women have, and showrunners validating that struggle as something to acknowledge while reminding the audience, through the character of Eva, that it'll get better if you grow up, not just in age but when you learn some lessons.

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The second season, I think, was one of the most cliche of all, about a beautiful girl, Noora, falling in love with the cool boy in school. I will admit this season was more of a guilty pleasure than anything else, because who doesn't like to watch beautiful people falling in love? But it was more than that, because it dealt with the misunderstandings of a new relationship, when two people are absolutely convinced they like each other but don't really know each other that well, finally culminating into a story about sexual abuse. Again, I was struck by the writers' decision to focus less on graphic scenes of violence or over-dramatic storylines, but the internal feelings of the protagonist, and it was worth it to see people not just for their attractiveness but for their depth.

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The third season, probably the most popular in the fandom, was about a boy, Isak, coming to terms with his queerness, only to find out that the boy he loves has problems bigger than he could have comprehended. Isak doesn't start out the most likeable character. He is manipulative, restless, and has no direction. His family life appears to be a mess, with an absent father and an emotionally unstable and very religious (and therefore, unaccepting of homosexuality after he comes out to her) mother (but perhaps that was just to avoid having to pay parent-aged actors). But we see how we can be transformed not for our own sake, as we saw in Eva's storyline, but because we are needed by someone we love. There are so many storylines about breaking free of other people's needs and expectations, and it was refreshing to see a story where someone's strength could be to become a source of strength for another person, because after all, who are we without the people we love? I remember having tears in my eyes when Isak loses hope with everything, and at that moment, his mother sends him a simple text saying that she has loved him since he was born and will love him forever, just as he is, relieving him of all his fears and causing him to go to church for the first time in years. I am not ashamed of crying over this scene given how many parents disown their kids for this very reason. Even though I am not gay, this level of acceptance is something all children want from their parents, and it's representation in the show left me feeling emotional.

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But it was in the fourth season that I finally said, "This is going to be my favourite show for a long, long time." Because that's when we get to Sana, a character who had been recurring throughout the series, but only given a season in the end. I thank the showrunners for giving me this season. Sana, a Muslim girl, struggles to fit into her Western surroundings. Although she appears to have it all figured out, we realize in this season that she's been fighting internal and external battles for years now, feeling insecure about her choices in a world that doesn't completely understand them. She is acutely aware that her family, her life and her faith is different from everyone else's, and maybe she should go the route of sticking to other girls like her, who go to mosque and wear a hijab, but really wants friends of all kinds, including the very Norwegian Eva and Noora.

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But no, it's not a story about a Muslim girl. In fact, it's a story about anybody who has ever battled between ideologies, and chosen to stay on the conservative side of things as a means to guide and discipline oneself, not as a means of judging others. We see a lot of movies about people stuck in small towns yearning for the freedom and perceived progressiveness of bigger places. But what about the opposite? What about the stories of good people who have chosen to follow tradition without judging the choices of others and even wanting to look at the world through other people's eyes without compromising too much with their own worldview? That was confusing even to put down as a question, so I am grateful for the writers of Skam doing it for me.

The best part was that season 4 was about a Muslim girl but eventually ended up being about two things Western teenagers are expected to be dealing with- bullying, and first love. And no, Sana does not get bullied. Instead, fueled by her insecurities she becomes the bully, leading to a downward spiral of guilt and shame. And then, there's a boy, and no, he's not a Norwegian boy, but from a Muslim family just like her, but their story of accepting each other and getting on the same page was more inspiring than a lot of opposites attract Romeo and Juliet stories out there, because differences don't always have to be glaring and easy to put on paper. Sometimes, they're just differences that exist because too people are, well, not the same, and the keys they use to open the door to understanding is the same key that even bigger differences need. Their romance is portrayed as chaste, full of long walks and longer conversations, with a few games of basketball here and there, and instead of the clearly very progressive writers looking down at it as a sign of two people from stuck-up families not knowing any better, they celebrate it as a difference in ideology worthy of being understood, a choice made by people with a certain set of beliefs with no less of a value than the accepted norm Western norm that we are all supposed to be striving towards. And so we see the growth of a character that seemed the most grown-up throughout the series, and realize we all have room for more.

Honestly, I felt as if Season 4 was about me sometimes.

But this brings me to something that sounds cheesy, but I feel I should say anyways because it's important. The showrunners were not teenagers. They were not Muslim and had not been raised in the context that a lot of teenagers in families from more conservative families come from. Yet, they understood Sana in a way that a lot of writers from India and other parts of the Eastern world can't. And I think they were able to do so because they chose to listen.

After coming to the United States, I have witnessed bigotry from the most unexpected places. I have witnessed girls from the Indian subcontinent looking down upon black and latinos, claiming they would never live around these communities as that would compromise with their ability to feel like they live in a first-world country. I have seen Indians who have very little depth of knowledge of deep political issues making fun of minorities, with the superiority of thinking that they're Indians, so they're on a higher plane (going back to the idea that Indians have done better in the US than some other communities). I have witnessed Indians looking down upon their own culture and country, acting like they could never go back because it was unbearable there, as if they came as survivors of civil war and rampant terrorism. And these are my own people! The same ones who cry a river when the president makes a reference to "shithole" countries even though their opinions don't really seem very different from his, just because they might not get H1B visas. In the end, they all excuse their behaviour saying that people, at the end of the day, want to stick to their own people and nobody really cares about other communities. But the truth is, if that was the truth, a show like Skam would never have happened, because writer Julie Andem has proven to everyone that it is possible to see the world through the eyes of somebody who you have very little in common with. Unfortunately, shows like Skam are the minority compared to the myriad of shows that have a bunch of bad Muslims and one good Muslim on the side of the good American people, which is why I think more people should watch it.

I am glad that I got to watch this low-budget show with no stars from an obscure corner of Scandinavia, and if you agree with anything I said in this post, maybe you should watch it, too, and join a very positive fandom that keeps growing everyday. Maybe you could even follow @imanmeskini on Instagram, the actress who played Sana and now does a series where she explains modern-day Islam to people who have questions. Perhaps, once you get over feeling like a cheesy goofball, you can relate to the series' message of love.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Why An Indian Girl Who Chose To Grow Into An Indian Woman

The Indian girl who chose to become an American woman was right about one thing. She did learn how to sit at a big round table and say things in a way that made it seem like she knew what she was talking about, and it is clear that she is perfectly capable of making a convincing argument about pretty much anything.

I knew this to be true the minute she brought about Nirbhaya. Because the Nirbhaya case was a matter of national shame, probably the lowest of our lows, something that shook us to our core. But for me, it was the incident that put the Indians who truly believed in the potential of the country to become a great nation into a defensive corner. I knew that it would be the story that many would look bring up from now on to definitively “prove” about the barbaric inferiority of my country, thereby reinforcing the ideas of being inherently lesser that colonization has deeply cemented in our psyches.

Like the newly minted American woman, I too am at an American university right now. However, I think that’s where the similarities end. Therefore, allow me to present a different perspective on the country I still, quite proudly, call home.

When the Nirbhaya case happened, I had just started with college. I started living in a PG which charged me a meager sum of money for basic living facilities, with three roommates who all came from smaller towns. We were all women, and all rattled by what had happened to a girl similar in age to us, all exposed to pretty much every side of the argument, from the feminist protest and women’s safety marches to the groups that blamed the victim, and the case became something through which we started exploring our own perceptions of ourselves and our womanhood. We had disagreements about what constituted sexual harassment, what could be called rape and what punishment suits the horrific crime. And yes, I will admit that many ignorant comments were made (there was a girl who said, “Look, if you have an expensive laptop, you can’t go around parading it in front of a thief. If you’re a woman, you can’t live with the same liberties as a man. That’s just how it is.”) Fights broke out, with me often losing my temper and yelling when women were accused of being temptresses of some kind, provoking young men to commit actions that they wouldn’t otherwise commit. But at the end of our stay together, as a result of all our controversial conversations, we all grew. We became better people, more understanding of the struggles of other women, broadening our minds and our inquisitiveness, and instead of being disheartened and wondering why we were still having arguments about injustices that are very clearly, well, injustices, I felt like I had been a small part of a small change.

When I left India to pursue graduate studies abroad, it wasn’t because I was running away from something. My grandparents on both sides were refugees, and thankfully, at least in my family, the running away from violence ended with them. My father, hardworking and ambitious as he is, had a good job he was proud of and that led us to living in New Delhi and Mumbai, and for college, I went to Jadavpur Unviersity in Kolkata. My college experience was different from the American woman’s. I went to school with students from all stratas of society, and we all became friends, and I don’t think there will ever be a day when I will not be proud of that, and I had no loans or debt because I basically studied for free. My classmates were curious, overwhelmed with work and expectations, getting drunk and waking up hung over, engaging in philosophical debates even though Hegel wasn’t a part of our syllabus. It was a fun four years, and they made me look forward to the rest of my life, even though I understood that college was a bubble and grown-up life would be different.
By the end of my 23-year stay in my country, I kind of felt like I had seen it all. I wanted to see what education abroad is like. In Europe and Japan, language would be a problem, so America would be my destination of higher education. I wanted to do research here. I like America and I think I am doing well for myself here, but I have a plan to eventually go back to my own country.

The minute I stepped in America, I became Indian with a capital ‘I’. I felt like someone who was a representative of a vast and diverse country, and therefore, felt responsible to be honest as well as dignified in my representation from it, which basically meant that I needed to hold my head up high and pray and work and root for Mangalyaan in the face of constant media coverage of rape and child marriage. Some days, this was such a hard task that I wondered if it would be easier to just get on some Mangalyaan thin and just move to Mars. But fortunately, I am not devoid of hope, not superior to my countrymen who I’m now living 8000 miles away from, and perhaps naively hopeful that there is a miniscule sense of power to bring some positive change in my representation of my country. Some of my fellow Indian graduate students call me stupid, while some have expressed admiration in my views. But my views aren’t for any of those two groups. They are for and my home.

If the Indian girl who chose to become an American woman wants to settle in the US, good for her. It is her choice, and perhaps she doesn’t know this, but many Indians believe in personal choice and freedom, even the ones who never studied abroad. But to say that India failed its women on an international platform, and using our biggest shame, the Nirbhaya case, to justify your personal decisions is, well, low, not to mention, a mockery of people like me who don’t mind putting in the belief and work to make our own country a better place. Feelings aside, her position is damaging to all immigrants. It gives ammunition to white nationalists like Richard Spencer who claim that non-white immigrants are just people who couldn’t do anything in their country and are now just trying to feed off what  “white” countries have already built. The part where she says India is just a place where everybody’s just getting raped every minute is disturbing, because it makes Indian men sound like monsters who do nothing but torture women all day. How is it any different than some very powerful person claiming all Mexicans are drug dealers or all Muslims are terrorists?

Also, how does her position make sense? Should 1.3 billion Indians just move to America? Is that a solution? Last but not the least, it is important to note that there has been a recent surge of NRIs bombarding social media with their views on what is wrong with India from the relative safety of their foreign “first-world” abodes. But their constant criticism is hurting India economically. In the age of globalization, many countries need foreign investment to thrive, and who would want to invest in a country its own people are disparaging of? An example of badly affected industry is tourism. Every month, I meet an American who tells me they could never dream of going to India because of how it’s unsafe for women, and now, they will never see Kashmir, Agra, Kerala or Shantiniketan, which is a shame.

As I type up this article on my computer, passionately banging away on my keyboard after a night of not having slept, I feel a deep shame, this time not for the crime and corruption that I hope we keep fighting against in India, but for the colonial mentality that still plagues my countrymen and seems exacerbated in NRIs. Because, to be honest, I think that’s what the article was about. It wasn’t about the safety (or lack thereof) of women in India at all. It was about the happiness many Indians seem to get simply by being in a foreign country. They may not feel themselves inferior to their new mostly white, mostly wealthy peers but they do feel superior to us backward natives, and the idea of coming back to India is the stuff of nightmares for them. I am hurt and saddened by this, and wish it weren’t true, but how else can I explain someone joining the freaking American army when they seem to have not a single thought to spare for our brave armymen fighting for what is good in our country, or any of the values of the truly patriotic Indian? All this just for a citizenship?

Maybe I believe in too much and hope for too much. But here I am, being me, hoping to bring some small shred of change. And yes, I feel like superior to those who don’t even try.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Flor and Snow

Once upon a time, Prince Flor fell in love with Princess Snow.

One day, they met in his room, with a lotus bed topped with a leafy canopy, sitting quietly in a forest where his powers ensured that the flowers always bloomed and the leaves always changed colour.

“You bring out in me a softness, my dear prince,” said the golden-haired princess with eyes the color of the setting sky. “But most importantly, you love me as I am.”

“And you, my dear princess, bring me strength, inspire in me a power I never had,” replied the blue-skinned prince. He wrapped his lanky arm around his princess.  “But yes, I love that you love me the way I am. Would you please marry me?”

“Yes,” replied the princess. “Promise me we’ll never change, and I’m yours forever.”

As was custom, the two went to the court of the king and queen of love to be married in the presence of all other kings and queens in the land, and their families. There’s had always been a world of precarious balance, and all the rulers needed to approve of all unions to ensure the balance would never disturbed.

The red-haired king and queen of love had the final vote, though, and after all the monarchs had risen in their seats to express their approval. They exchanged a look of concern.  “Are you sure?” asked the queen. “You belong to different world, and this marriage won’t be easy.”

The princess took a long look at her prince and replied, “But we know each other now, and we love each other the way we are. Not to mention, we both deserve someone who will be our companion till the end of time, because look at us! Look at what we’ve made of ourselves!”

The king nodded. “Yes. It appears the two of you will be successful contributors to the natural order.
The king and queen turned to each other, and deliberated in whispers for a few minutes. Then, they finally faced their court and said, “Fine. We bless your union. May you flourish together on your destined path.”

Prince Flor and Princess Snow retreated to their palace on the foothills, somewhere between the icy chill of the higher peaks and the lush greens of the fertile plains. They worked all day, helping their parents oversee the realms below. But things changed one day, when Princess Flor came to their living room and looked out of their window to see their flowers lacking in colour. She found her prince in his study, and asked, “The roses don’t look very red.”

He smiled, but the corners of his mouth wouldn’t rise high enough. “Mankind can be rough on my family.”

“I’ve heard,” said Princess Snow. “But what can I say, you just have to stand strong.”

Prince Flor furrowed his brow. “Believe me, I am trying.”

“If you want, I could freeze half the land.” The princess shrugged.

“That’s not what I want. I want mankind to flourish and appreciate my family’s work.”

“Well, a little bit of chill never hurt anyone.”

Prince Flor didn’t say anything, but a short wall came up between them, growing taller by the day. It wasn’t as if they were changing. They were merely becoming more of who they were.
Prince Flor’s instinct was to always nurture, and he went to dozens of meetings with the prince of humanity to reach a solution to his problems. But both princes were losing, but at the same time didn’t want to punish the lower realm for their hurt. It just wasn’t in their nature.

“You said I brought you strength,” said Princess Snow. Their bedroom was slowly growing colder, a thin sheet of ice spreading through the ceiling. “Sometimes, one nedds the strength to deliever justice. Unfortunately, justice isn’t always sweet for everyone.”

“But I cannot be like you,” replied Prince Flor. “I believe in letting things grow, not thwarting them by force.”

“Well, I believe things need to end in order to begin again. That’s my role. And yes, I use force, but force is necessary.”

Prince Flor got out off their marital bed and started walking away. “I think I’ll sleep on the couch today.”

“You can’t. It’s freezing there. I was lying on it this afternoon and I was angry with you-“

“I’ll bring it back to its natural state,” said Prince Flor. “Because that’s what I do. God! I would love a bit of appreciation around here.”

The strong, icy princess had had enough. The next morning she went to the king and queen of love.

“We need to break up,” she said. “It’s just not working out.”

The queen raised her eyebrows. “You are married. You can’t just break up.”

“But you can reverse the union, annul it!”

“But we won’t. Because there is still love between the two of you. We can feel it in our bones, because that’s what we are good at,” said the kind. He leaned back on his red throne, his face set in lines of determination.

“But we don’t love each other for who we are anymore. We want each other to change. Doesn’t that mean we have failed? Because I know I’m one hell of a woman and I don’t need to tailor myself to the needs of any man.”

The king and queen were speechless for a second and then burst out laughing. The princess through her hands up in the air, exasperated. “Is this a game or something?” she shrieked.

“Young girl, everyone needs to change and that’s how love wins out in the end,” said the queen.

“What?” said the Princess.

The king nodded at his wife. “We don’t mean you need to change your very being. That’s not love. But you must learn to link yourself to your beloved, and feel him in your very heart as if he’s part of you. You don’t have to tailor anything, but you have to be receptive to growth, which in its own way, is change.”

The princess was confused. But she knew she couldn’t change their minds. She went home, unsure of what to do, and found her husband in their garden. Their vegetable patch would soon die off. Princess Snow watched the cabbages growing brown and wrinkled, the spinach in their last stage of life. She looked at Prince Flor. And for the first time, she was defeated. She hadn’t been able to freeze his heart and instead he had melted hers by just standing strong and unmoving, and wasn’t that what she, the heir to all that was chilly and cold, was known for?

She looked up at the sky and lifted her arms in the air, using her powers to freeze the realm in town, channeling her uncle, the king of time, to freeze the heavenly clocks and not just the air. Prince Flor felt the change. He turned around to see his wife working her magic.

“I want to know what you were going through,” said Prince Flor. “I love you as you are, but we will grow together.”

They went to their room and the Prince told her everything. “I just don’t know what to do,” he said. 
“I want mankind to grow, but I’m not sure they will be able to once my family loses its powers. I have given a lot to the earth, but what did I get in return? I have been cut and slashed and burnt, and yes, I can take a hit, but now it’s just too much.”

That was when he held out his arm to her, and she saw the lines on it, skin ripped open and then healing but not all the way, flesh that now threatened to burst open. She held his hand and kissed his palms, and a tear slipped from her eyes.

It started with their bedroom. The frost subsided. Then, time started moving again. Slowly, the upper reaches of the heavenly mountains became warmer. Princess Snow couldn’t stop crying.

Her tears had a way of manifesting themselves in the realm below, as the glaciers began to melt. The cities mankind had so painstakingly built, taking from the gifts bestowed by Prince Flor and his friends, started drowning.

Mankind was taken aback. What had they done? What could be done now? They weren’t sure, but it started by planting a tree.

“What did you do?” said Prince Flor. “I feel…warmer.”

“I don’t know,” said Princess Snow. “I just listened to you, and I couldn’t help it.”
Prince Flor sighed. “Thank you for understanding. I have a feeling everything will be fine now.”

“Indeed,” said the king of love, miles away from the couple but still experiencing their reconnection, still on his throne with a glass of wine. He raised his glass in a toast, and said, “To the power of love.”

His wife nodded once and raised her glass to his. “And to the power of change. May they always coexist for the sake of every realm in the universe.”

Monday, November 27, 2017

Most People Have Jobs

Jordan Peterson is a famous professor of psychology and clinical psychologist. By Western standards, he is a conservative. He is known for advocating traditional gender norms and insisting there are, in fact, only two genders. Although I don't agree with a lot of things he says (no, Mr. Peterson, not all women are attracted to dangerous men, although we do collectively apologize for the phenomenon that is Fifty Shades of Grey), I must say there's something he said in a podcast that caught my attention in a positive way.
He said that before we go on to debate whether the right to have a career should be socially limited by gender, race or class, we must first acknowledge that most people don't have careers. They have jobs. Careers and jobs are very different things. The whole point of something being a job is that you're being paid to do work that you wouldn't do unless you were paid. I write this blog without any financial benefit because it's my interest. I go to architecture school in hopes of securing a job. I'm sure you can find the distinction in your own life as well. Therefore, Peterson argues, this glorification of having "careers" must be stopped as it is selling the wrong idea to people.

Children are taught that a) everybody has something they're good at and b)if you work hard enough, you can achieve anything. These lessons are taught in the context of informing their professional lives. However - and remember we're all either already parents or have a chance of being one some day - are we completely misleading the future generation? Are we feeding them dreams of something that does not exist? Because if you're an adult and you're reading this, how did following your dreams and going after what you want work out for you? I'm guessing not so great, unless you are very lucky. This is not because you didn't try hard enough or because other people are out to get you, it's because all sanity in the world depends on the rigged system in which there will always be more people dying to be actors than to be accountants, accompanied by there always being greater need for accountants than actors. It is economics in its purest forms. There are a lot of bright, talented people out there but unfortunately, there isn't a need for that many of them working professionally, which is why our dreams might not come true unless we are in the top 1% or something. You could be in the top 5%, which would practically make you a genius in your chosen field, and still not be equipped for astounding professional success in your field.

But let's be honest. We all knew this, right? That's why people go for the next best option to actually making a career out of their passion : going after the most socially valued positions. If you sat for the IIT entrance exams, you know what I am talking about. I find it hard to believe that every year, millions of students aged 17-18 all have the dream to become engineers because it is downright ridiculous for so many people to want the same thing. Yet, the two years preceding the exams, at least for me, were about being surrounded by classmates who truly believed that becoming an engineer was their calling in life. I remember thinking that if there truly is an existence of Gods and they are all fighting for supremacy, at least in India, Lord Bishwakarma had clearly won, inspiring more people than any other Hindu God chilling in the five-star abode of heaven. Same goes for top management positions as well, which is even more laughable when all those who were dying to become engineers just four years ago can't think of any valid career option that can be accomplished without going to management school. None of this has anything to do with passion, or dreams or even ability for that matter. It is about vying for positions achievable on limited means that offer the highest amount of social capital and you're doing it out of pure interest. Sure, there are some people who really do love their professions, but I think it's fair to admit that's a minority. 

The thing is that even the privileged 1% who do make their dreams come true aren't necessarily exempt from the frustrations of doing things they don't want to do. What we are not aught in school that most people we see to be financially secure (or rich) are not only the products of high salaries but of the decision to suitably invest those salaries, and trust me, most people don't enjoy the headache of buying and selling shares and property. Secondly, even the super successful aren't exempt. Just look at famous actors Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan. Shah Rukh trained to be an actor with one of the most prestigous theatre companies in the country, and from what I hear, was pretty bad at academics during his time at Jamia. But now, he has to invest in a cricket team to stay rich and act in movies like Happy New Year (in spite of being capable of doing a Chak De India every year) just to keep the connections that would enable him to get better jobs. Even Aamir Khan, with his big words on cinema and society, has to watch Katrina Kaif do an acrobatic striptease in Dhoom 3 from time to time. This is all because even successful people are not bigger than the market they serve, and once again, we are back to simple economics. Perhaps there are people who change the world altogether, but they come maybe around once or twice in a generation, and I don't care how awesome you are, it would be arrogant to think you're one of them without substantial proof.

The truth is that we use our jobs to make ourselves look good, and judge others for their job. But ask any grown-up who has been in the workforce for thirty years or so and they'll tell you that jobs, even the most socially lauded of them, aren't all they're cracked up to be. Calling them "careers" is glorifying them and in spite of claims to the contrary, fueling a society where a people are valued mostly by the work they do and not by who they are, a culture where mere teenagers are pitted against each other to determine who is the "best." Wouldn't we be better off just admitting that jobs are what we do to make money in a legal, non-harming way, so that we have the luxury to pursue the relaxation offered by our passions?

I'll be honest, I have often be accused of having a very bleak outlook of life. However, recently, a close friend of mine asked me how I could stay unchanging and have a general idea of what I want. I was obviously flattered by the question, and here is my answer : I don't consider myself to be good enough to get exactly what I want. That is my starting point in any matter. I started writing stories as a very young child. I put up my own play when I was ten and wrote more than fifty emails selling my book to literary agents worldwide when I was twelve. My play was horrible and I still have the rejection letters from the agents. These experiences had a profound effect on me. Firstly, I realized I wasn't good enough just because I felt I was better than X.Y. and Z, which was disappointing at them time. But the reason I am one of those rare adults who is still doggedly pursuing their childhood dream is because with the disappointment and depression, there was a sense of pride in knowing that while other kids my age were thinking of becoming something someday, I was already producing written works, and I felt that if there was one thing that could one day help me achieve my dream, it would not be my superior literary talent (frankly, I don't even consider myself an avarage literary talent), but the fact that I was I was constantly producing something. And once again, it was production and not intention that put me at an advantage, because, well, that's just how economics works. But this is about more than economics. This is about how I choose to live my life.

Look around you. There are so many people who say they want to become something, but how much of that is transformed into action? This can most notably be observed in the recent phenomenon of a large number of young people wanting to have businesses in tech. How many boys who want to have startups are already looking for investors? Or coding a part of their program? 

Now, I am nowhere implying any sense of superiority. I am, quite evidently, average at best, and if I wasn't, I would have already had my dream so there's no logical reason for me to assume I am better than anyone else. But as I finish this post, I realize that I started writing about one thing and ended up writing about something completely different. This is because words like "dreams" and "jobs" and "careers" have now been so jumbled up that we are constantly trying to figure out what we want, which is the biggest handicap of our generation and what is keeping up from being proactive. We are not clear about who we are and what we want, reluctant to admit that the work we do isn't what we like to do or to confess our true notions of how important our work, on an individual level, really is. It is making us wait too long, hope for a career than may not exist for us, and encouraging in us a false sense of I-can-achieve-whatever-I-want. So perhaps it's time we take a step back and look at our jobs for what they really are, and give people a chance even if they don't have real careers as we define the term.