March 29, 2018

Our celebrities have low intelligence for understanding religion and God; and messages like ‘RIP’ and ‘May God bless his soul’ are an insult to Stephen Hawking and his works – just like they are

Stephen Hawking fabulously said: “Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the Universe. But now science offers a more convincing explanation.” Though he metaphorically referred to God in his book A Brief History of Time, he clarified multiple times later that he was an atheist and that he didn’t believe in the existence of God or afterlife. He believed the human brain to be like a computer and said that just like a broken down computer doesn’t go to Heaven, similarly, a brain that stopped working has no afterlife.
Thus, as I saw thousands of RIP messages on my Facebook page and hundreds of them from celebrities and film stars that the masses look up to and idolize, I couldn’t help but feel sad for Stephen Hawking, the greatest physicist that our generation witnessed. The man who thought up ‘We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star’ has left behind billions of mourners, who don’t seem to even be in the category of advanced breeds of monkeys. How else do you explain saying stuff like “May his soul rest in peace” or “God, bless his soul” or “I pray for his soul”, while paying homage to a man who never believed in afterlife or God.
Many people have asked me what happens when we die. And my answer has always been that about 6 trillion bacteria take over our body; and before they spread a stench, we need to either burn it or bury it. That’s all that happens. There is no soul (there is nothing called a soul or spirit) that escapes the body and goes to the imaginary Disneyland called Heaven where it again takes the shape of a body and starts interacting with all the other souls floating around. It’s a nice fairy tale to console low IQ and unscientific people, but a really shallow conjecture to advocate as intelligent breeds of advanced monkeys.
But then, how do we explain it to masses who are so devoid of basic understanding of science and so swayed by the unquestionable faith on something that has no proof of existence (God), specially when everyone they look up to talks in the same low IQ language – be it the president of USA (not just Trump, who in any case has questionable intelligence, but even most his predecessors, including the so called intelligent Obama) to their favourite film stars?
While globally in sports, we have hardly anyone who doesn’t believe in God (that’s expected, given they are barely 12thpass on an average), in Hollywood, we still have intelligent stars who take a bold stance against religion and God. But in Bollywood, all our stars seem to be either unintelligent with respect to their understanding of the Universe and God or compromised individuals who, despite their intelligence, keep mouthing off meaningless words like “God Bless” and “Pray for you” and “RIP”.
I mean, how meaningless can these words be? Either their vocabulary is bad or they are completely uninvolved while they respond and think it’s a popular and stylish thing to say to foolish masses who they believe will swallow anything unintelligent that they say without asking questions. So every time that they end a speech, they say, “God bless”. Every time they meet fans, they say, “God bless”. Every time some devastation takes place anywhere, they say, “I am praying for the victims.” And every time someone dies, they say, “RIP”.
Let’s now explore what exactly are they trying to say, and what were the options they had. When they say “God bless”, they are basically saying something that I have no idea of or you have no idea of and no one has ever seen, but who we believe has apparently created this Universe that has about 200 billion galaxies (with about 400 billion stars each) about 14 billion years back, who should in his supercomputer press a button of his blessings for you. Yes, sure. That’s all that he is waiting to do, isn’t he? That too, when we believe that God already has a perfect predetermined plan for all of us. But alas, as Stephen Hawking himself put it humorously, “I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.”
Could we do better? Of course, we could. The simplest thing that we could say instead is, “I wish the best for you/you all”. It’s a good wish without any blind belief involved.
What do we do when we say, “I am praying for the victims of the disaster”? They mean that they are basically praying to the same God who created the disaster that there should be less pain in the life of the ones He (tough to write she here, because if God actually existed and were a woman, then she wouldn’t be screwing things up so bad so often) left half-dead, in pain and orphaned. Could there be a bigger joke? In my mind, no!
What could they do? The least they could say is, “My thoughts go out for those who are pain and have been struck with this disaster”. They could even donate, so that the relief work could be more effective. And of course, as they say, two helping hands are far better than two folded hands. So they could even join the relief work like many often do. But the last things anyone wants are their prayers. They are meaningless and least involved.
Finally, what do they mean when they say, “RIP”? Well, they mean (in the case of Sridevi for example), you were just cruelly drowned by God in a tub full of water, leaving behind two little girls without a mother, but now you must get peace as you are with the same God who gave you this cruel death – or, in the case of Stephen Hawking, gave you 55 years of life with ALS syndrome (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, a neurological disease that impacts movement). Sridevi’s death, if anything, should be taken as proof of non-existence of God or him being cruel in case he does exist, just like the painful life of Stephen Hawking proved. I mean, isn’t it time to get more intelligent than that? Especially if we are paying homage to someone like Hawking, who never believed in God?
So, what could they say instead? Well, as simple as, “You will live in our memories”. “You will remembered for your exceptional work”. “We will try to focus on your beautiful deeds than your painful death that has left us all shattered”.
Really, someone needs to take this message to our celebrities and ask them to behave more intelligently in public. Rather than, before every film’s release, going mindlessly to a temple to seek blessings of a stone idol run by a clever marketing manager or to a fake God-man (all God-men are frauds… Have you ever wondered how none can show a video recording of God coming and talking to them, though all claim to have conversations with Gods) and encouraging blind beliefs and unsubstantiated faiths. Or every now and then tweeting about God’s kindness and about fantasy concepts like soul, consciousness and spirits; and then, sending mindless religious wishes on so many occasions that are less of a cultural fun (like, say, Diwali) but more of a harmful tradition, spreading some social evil (like Karva Chauth). Above all, someone specially needs to have a chat with our sports icons. What do you have to say after winning this World Cup? “Well… I thank God for this World Cup. Without him, we wouldn’t have ever won this Cup. I dedicate this to him!!!” Yes, sure. He has no time to feed the millions dying of malnutrition in sub-Saharan Africa, no ability to cure the ALS syndrome of Hawking in 55 years and even no time to save any drowning lady. But he was watching your match with keen interest and making sure you win the Cup. It’s like a style statement, “I thank God”. How about the hundreds of teams, which never win? How about the guys who come second or third? Was the reason they couldn’t win because you were more skilled on the given day or was it because God had decided to punish them despite their team being better?
I only hope and wish that we at least behave like an advanced breed of monkeys – that Stephen Hawking thought of human beings as – in our daily behavior, instead of like Stone Age and unscientific cavemen.
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January 2, 2018

Filthy Abuses: A Key Pillar of Democracy!

Yes, you read it right! This is an article in praise of unparliamentary language. In simple words, in praise of filthy abuses. They normally begin with an ‘F’ in English and ‘B’, ‘C’ or ‘M’ in Hindi. And yes, they are playing a crucial role in the revival of the Congress party’s fortunes.
In 2014, BJP swept to power, and I – as the head of a media house and in individual capacity – believed in Modi’s development promises and backed them wholeheartedly. Of course, instead of development, a wave of nationalism and religious fanaticism took over. So much so that today, there are ministers with the audacity of stating that we must drop the word ‘secular’ from our Constitution and that BJP would change the Constitution of India – while in the name of development, we got some slogans around Swachh Bharat (mind you, no real cleanliness).
This poisonous wave of nationalism and religious polarisation was orchestrated mainly through the social media through a two-pronged strategy. On one hand, there were thousands of posts and videos created to spread hatred; and on the other hand, there were thousands of posts created to lampoon the opposition leader Rahul Gandhi and brand him as a joker (Pappu, if you may). And the nation was caught unawares. There were thousands kept on the payrolls and incentivised, who did this job to precision. This not just propelled BJP to power but also was carried on and on and on post elections, to give an image of invincibility to BJP.
Little did they realize that they were playing with fire. Social media can’t be manipulated for long. It’s the world’s first real prefect market. It’s the world’s greatest equalizer. It’s the world’s greatest democratic force. It is the world’s only forum where all kinds of people are really equal – or at least have a real chance at equality. And by the mid of 2017, the waves started changing. And I wrote about that in my editorial “The jokes are now taking a U-turn” a couple of months back (https://www.dailyindian.com/2017/10/15/the-jokes-are-now-taking-a-u-turn/). Many people didn’t believe it and mocked me, showing me opinion poll results of the Gujarat elections and then the exit poll results. But of course, the reality was what I had written. The jokes are indeed taking a U-turn. The BJP, which said anything less than 150 seats in Gujarat would be a defeat, couldn’t touch 100. And Rahul Gandhi, despite continuing to give bland and ineffective speeches, almost made a joke out of BJP. Had BSP and NCP joined hands, probably today the Congress party would have had a CM sitting in Modi’s Gujarat.
But the question is, if Rahul Gandhi continued to look unconvincing, how did he manage to almost match the BJP in terms of the number of seats in Gujarat, despite Modi’s charisma, brute force and massive financial backing. The answer to a large extent is thanks to the social media and the power of filthy abuses. You must be wondering how. And if so, what’s so praiseworthy!
Well, opinions in a democracy aren’t just made by people like Ravish Kumar or Dhruv Rathee or Vinod Dua, who try to use logic and rationale through their videos, or people like me who write such long posts. They are made by the common man. And the common man doesn’t always understand complicated logic. They understand an abusive rap song much easily. They understand an abusive stand-up comedian much easily. They understand a WhatsApp abusive meme much easily. The interesting thing is, when you prick the masses on social media with your money power and try to force down their throats things that they don’t believe in, they revolt with abuses.
Social media doesn’t like voices being throttled. What happened for about three and a half years on social media was an effort to take it over by force. Not that a large proportion didn’t enjoy it or support it all; but the problem is that those who didn’t enjoy, felt suffocated – such was the brute force of this attempted takeover of the social media. And unlike the mainstream media, which can be bought and no one utters a word, on social media there aren’t just a handful of identifiable players. Social media is about crores of players and often unidentifiable. And when they feel suffocated, they hit back hard. So, fed up of getting all government propaganda messages from all over the social media, the ones who were getting suffocated just rebelled. They started to make their own memes. Pen down their own songs. Make their own shows. And everyone else, who didn’t like this feeling of being suffocated, liked, shared and enjoyed these forwards, giving the movement an exponential growth. That’s social media. Say what you like. But try to make the minority feel suffocated and they will grow exponentially. And they don’t grow by using rational, long posts. They grow by using a major shortcut to rationale. They use abuses and it actually often conveys the rationale more than logical and long explanations. Abuses have an instant heart-to-heart connect. The feeling expressed is easily and instantly understandable. The beauty of abuses is that when you use it once, it might sound dirty. But use it ten times in one line and it actually starts sounding funny. That’s why it’s a pet trick used by stand-up comedians.
To Rahul Gandhi’s advantage, every abuse to Modi and BJP is leading to a vote for him by default. There is virtually no stand-up comedian in the country today who isn’t critical of this frenzy of nationalism, demonetization and religious fanaticism. These guys aren’t fools. They can easily give a long sermon. But instead, they use ten F words in English, a few more B, C & M words in Hindi, while in-between taking Modi’s name, and the audiences come out feeling empowered. Never have I ever witnessed the Prime Minister of a country being abused so freely, as is happening in public forums in India, with pride and with the entire audience rolling in laugher instead of feeling offended and coming out and forwarding those video clips. In the US, of course, this has been a common practice; from Bush to Clinton to Trump (Obama included), all have been subject of and to the biggest, abusive ridicule on TV and comic shows. But in India, it’s a first. All because this is the first time the people of social media were feeling throttled, and they revolted with abuses. Just like the Blacks in America used abusive rap songs as a symbol of rebelliousness.
Leading this revolt have been of course individuals like Akash Bannerjee and groups like AIB (All India Bakchod), EIC (East India Comedy) and ATD (Aisi Taisi Democracy), with faces in the forefront like Varun Grover (an IIT alumnus), satirist Sanjay Rajoura and Rahul Ram (of the most iconic band Indian Ocean). A number of other stand-up comedians with their unending use of abuses mixed with their own message and are empowering people to have courage to revolt. Revolt out loud with abuses. The more the current government is trying to create an atmosphere of fear and fake propaganda, the more are the abuses rolling out empowering the common man and acting as a key pillar of democracy – for nothing gives you the feeling of freedom more than the ability to stand up in public and revolt. Not just revolt, but revolt with a good dosage of abuses thrown in. I have actually heard people humming EIC/ATD songs in tea stalls. Can you stop WhatsApp forwards? Can you stop memes being shared on Facebook? Can you stop dignified and well-spoken people like Ravish Kumar, Dhruv Rathee and Vinod Dua from making videos and forwarding them?
No, you can’t. Because the moment you do, there will be many more like them coming up. And no, this isn’t a big city English language phenomenon. This is happening in regional languages, in small towns and villages. Thousands of people are learning this new non-violent way of showing irreverence, and giving birth to more and more such people. They may not be very sharp in their logic, but they will be scathing in their abuses and would convey their opposition as effectively and more. They will prove that while personally using filthy abuses can be looked down upon as a negative quality, it does have a mega, macro effect of preserving the democratic right of freedom of speech in a non-violent manner. And at this point of time, all this is adding votes for Rahul Gandhi, while he sits and wonders where did all the votes come from.
Before ending this editorial, I must clarify my relationship with the usage of abusive words. It was as a student of class 8th in Delhi Public School (DPS), when I first started using abusive language – and realized that the more you used them, the more popular you got. I think that still didn’t make DPS specially bad (at least not as bad as it has become in my eyes after recently seeing a Tulsi song being enforced on the students on the ‘Great Tulsi Day’). During those days, my father once caught me using abusive language and I got a good thrashing. But the style quotient associated with it made me continue using it… till one fine day in 1989 –after 5 years of using them like nobody’s business, a girl I liked was passing by when some of my friends were using foul language between themselves. I was standing there, she looked at us and I realized how uncomfortable she felt (of course, I felt worse that she must have thought I used similar language too). And that’s the day my relationship with the filthy English and Hindi abuses ended.
For 20 long years, that is. Yes! Till 2009, I had never again used a single, filthy word. Not even once did it slip out of my mouth. Then, in 2009, at the peak of work pressure, one day I realized that about 35 odd people I had trusted the most were actually cheating me left, right and centre, taking advantage of my completely decentralized and infinitely independence-oriented organization structure – and I lost it. I started using some of those words again, and got caught by my father again. This time he was more hurt than angry. But I couldn’t stop. I carried on using foul language for five years, till all of those cheats were away from me. And then on my late brother’s birthday on 28th of March 2014, after my second stint of five years, I stopped again. I know this time it is forever. It is a matter of promise to my father. So no, I don’t use abusive words, but I do realize that the ability to use it against people and institutions that are too revered is one of the key ways of preserving democracy, non-violently.
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