Thursday, March 23, 2017

The hitchicker's guide to authenticity

I got promoted. It was nice seeing her on Saturday, if only for a few minutes. Boxing is still great but I ain't getting much better. The 5 Ether I bought about a month ago for $64 are now trading at $204 (though I know no ways to sell them). I had a great time reading Asamarthuni Jeevayatra and am currently loving every moment spent with Amaravathi Kathalu. I might be going on a bike trip this weekend.

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The madmen anti-manifesto

“Nobody wants to be great, they all want to be rich.” -Pritish Nandy

In his insightful essay about hipsters, and as an extension millennials, William Deresiewicz calls us Generation Sell. And that was the term I’d been searching for when I was trying to explain my angst to people about why we, the millennials, suck.

We don’t have an ideology. No wonder our lives are so unfulfilling. Yes, there are people who are doing work they believe in but two things irk me: 1. Scale- We have made peace with the fact that our contributions, at best, will be infinitesimal. 2. Tone- None of us are angry. Neither the righteous nor of the other kind. At best, we’re irritated.

I’m not saying all rebellion is good but rebellion is a very important part of every society. That mantle has, through the generations, been carried by the youth culture. It is in the very nature of a young person to first question every command, any handed-down thought. The young of every country were responsible for independence, for civil rights fights, for abolition of inhuman systems, for fighting against fascism. This manifested through the books they wrote, the songs they sang, the films they made, the organizations they led. Part of it has been systematically eradicated using technology Soma, the other half by Post-Modernism.

The mainstream culture has taken over the counter-culture. Look at how Apple, the world’s richest and one of the most iconic companies, sells itself. They call themselves the misfits, the artists, the nirvana-seekers. Steve Jobs wanted to transform the world. His company now sells plastic toys to adolescent-adults. Apple once told us they’d help us avoid 1984; They unwittingly created the Brave New World ( For more insight into that analogy, please read Neil Postman’s prescient Amusing Ourselves to Death ).

The inmates were supposed to take over the asylum. Now the guards have infiltrated us so deeply that everyone’s turned into a guard. Keeping others in check, reporting to authorities, castigating and worse, punishing those who don’t fall into line. When a person so willingly upholds the rules, without ever questioning authority or without ever voicing an original opinion, why would anyone need guards.

My generation’s cultural icon is not Buddha or Einstein, Lennon or Camus, Gandhi or Ali. It is not even Jackson Pollock or Cobain, Brando or Hunter Thompson. It is Don Draper. ( What’s worse is that we don’t even care for an icon anymore. We are human brands perpetually polishing our images, addictively selling ourselves on Social Media ). We are obsessed with buying and, to sustain it, selling stuff. No seller asks if he’d buy what he’s selling and no buyer questions his own motives for buying. We all turn into Pavlov’s dogs at the sight of a sale.

Every person is born a slave to existing dogmas and assumptions, methods and superstitions, worldviews and rules. Instead of teaching us why the world runs the way it does, and if that’s the only way it should, schools teach about how to be good players to leverage maximum output ( There are thousands of intelligent, well-intentioned bloggers out there who have been writing about how our education system is a relic of the Industrial Age and needs to be completely revamped ). And mainstream culture wants nothing more than turning us into passive consumers, stupid automatons with no facilities for reason or rebellion.

Good is about playing by the rules perfectly, understanding how the system works, improving your capabilities to rise to the top. But great is about questioning the foundations of the system, about pulling it off its roots to plant something you truly believe in, about not following a religion but creating one annihilating the need for one.

This was not supposed to be a narrative. If anything, this was supposed to be a tirade against everyone who gave us these little boxes and asked us to make sure our narratives do not spill over the edges. This is a voice against the brand-building of human personality. This is a fight against being a statistic on someone’s quarterly report. This is against all those people who wear superhero t-shirts and tap on their smartphones while riding office elevators to work for organizations which call themselves cool while destroying the planet and its people in their greed for money.

We need rebels, freethinkers, madmen. One of whom will write an anti-manifesto which none of the others will follow. And that would be incredible.