# Obedience and Conformity

Obedience can be understood as “a compliance with an order, request, or law or submission to another’s authority”, while one of the meanings of conformity is “behaviour in accordance with socially accepted convention“. Obedience to authority forms one of the basis of civilisation. Unless the citizens abide by some rules there will be a complete chaos. In early days, this was done by rulers in form of rules and edicts. Now we have the constitution.

Obedience is essential and must be achieved by cunning…

We usually use obedience and conformity as interchangeable terms or having at least similar connotations. but they are not same. But both are forms of power and control over other humans. Here is how Orwell puts it forth in Nineteen Eighty Four.

“The real power, the power we have to fight for night and day, is not power over things, but over men.” [O’Brien] paused, and for a moment assumed again his air of a schoolmaster questioning a promising pupil:

“How does one man assert his power over another, Winston?”

Winston thought. “By making him suffer,” he said.

“Exactly. By making him suffer. Obedience is not enough. Unless he is suffering, how can you be sure that he is obeying your will and not his own? Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation. Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.”

Stanley Milgram made a distinction between the two and identified four major differences that distinguish the two. This differences tell us about the nature of obedience and conformity. The core of the difference lies in the person who is commanding obedience and the person who is following that in case of conformity usually the person following others is at equal status to them. Where is in the case of obedience there is a hierarchy between the commander and the commanded. This is the first difference: the hierarchy. In a classroom the teacher commands the students to follow certain task or to do some task. This is an example of obedience. When students try to follow each other in terms of the things they do or they dress outside of school or the games that play or the clothes they wear is closer to conformity. The in the first case is the clear distinction and difference in hierarchy in the second case it is not so.

The second major difference is imitation while obedience involves compliance with orders, confirmatory involves imitation and adoption of similar behaviour. If neighbours are beating the plates to make corona go away, so shall I, otherwise we will be seen as socially non-fitting.

The third difference is that in case of obedience the commands are more explicit whereas for conformity is more of an implicit thing. An unspoken rule which everybody around you follows. Conformity is more about following others who are your peers than following explicit commands so in case of confirmative their might be some elbow room to express yourself slightly differently than others. But in case of obedience that is not possible obedience is to the full and no lateral thinking is allowed.

Final difference is the voluntary nature of conformity as opposite to attribution to authority figures. In case of obedience there is no choice but to follow the orders.

Milgram’s experiment on obedience shows how suggestible humans are in presence of authority.

Would you torture another human because someone in authority tells you to?

The experiment is setup as such. The subject let us call them X is called for doing an experiment in the lab. X is then introduced to the experiment. The experiment involves X teaching another participant Y word association using punishment for wrong answers. If Y does not give correct answer, X has to give Y a punishment in the form of an electric shock. X is given a mild shock to make them experience of the punishment, so that X knows what is the type of punishment and how Y would feel when punished. X has a dial which can control the amount of shock delivered to Y. Overseeing all this is a researcher Z in a white lab coat. A person wearing a white lab coat somehow represents authority figure for most. This is why you see doctors/scientists in advertisements wearing white lab coat: because it is a symbol of authority

Now, Y is actually part of the experiment and accomplice of the researcher. X does not know this. The test starts, and Y deliberately chooses to give wrong answers. Now according to the “rules” of the experiment X has to give “punishment” to Y for incorrect answers. The dial for controlling the shock, the “shock generator”, is calibrated with incremental levels of shock, finally going to 450 Volts. (Of course this is make believe, there is no real shock given, but let us keep this secret with us and not tell X.)

With each wrong answer X is supposed to increment the level of shock punishment to Y from the shock generator. Now, X knows that increasing the shock will cause incremental pain to Y. When X hesitates to increase, Z intervenes and tells X authoritatively (remember Z is wearing a white lab coat) that this is the rule: “With each wrong answer punishment must be increased.” This is where the crux of the experiment comes in. It is found that majority of X, under the influence from authority figure Z, obediently inflicts serious punishment to Y. This even when Y cries in agony, asks experiment to stop, but more X continue to punish Y.

This is highly counterintuitive result. How so you would ask?  Consider the following gedankenexperiment. Suppose someone looking authoritative tells you to go and thrash someone. Would you do it? Most probably the answer would be no. Then why are the participants X so willing to inflict the incrementally harsh punishment? Because they start with something that is seemingly innocent – a mild shock. Once that threshold is crossed rest of the punishment becomes easy. And you adjudge yourself being not at fault as you are “just following the orders or rules”. This has large implications for how we as a society, every now and then, fall for authority figures and do things which we think we will not do. Perhaps in such cases, we think that since authority figure is telling us to do something, it must be for greater good and we let not our puny morals or conscience come in the way. Also, since we are obeying authority, it takes off our own personal responsibilities as such. This is a slippery slope and can lead to genocides and living hell for those Y who are at the suffering end. Just because Z is popular and in authority does not make following them blindly a right thing. But then the aspect of conformity sets in. If we don’t follow the current norms we are seen as outcasts in the society and that leads to further pressuring of conformity.

Moral is we should exercise our own set of morals and conscience as much as possible.

Sources

Great Ideas in Psychology by Fathali Moghaddam

Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell

# Orwellian Days

Orwellian Days
To the Editor:
These are Orwellian days when war is peace and a xxx per cent national unemployment is a rising economy. Yet despite this deranged logic, there is more to be concerned about on the national scene, and that is the casual acceptance by the populace of almost every conceivable immoral or unethical practice on the part of the Administration. Whether it be the I.T.T. scandal, the Watergate bugging, the wheat deal or the bombing of civilians, it all seems to be accepted with a shrug. All this is ample evidence that we have died spiritually, and we are ready for totalitarianism. I remember once a high administration official was fired for accepting an overcoat as a gift.
Gordon Fels
Richmond, Oct. 16, 1972

# On cooking or how to deny convenience to people

## 2 Cooking

First of all, let me confess, I love cooking, and I think cooking is an art more than anything else. There are times when I have no mood for cooking but I never fail to appreciate good cooking and efforts that are put into that. But then there are people who
Don’t know [and don’t want to know] how to cook [too proud males
and also too proud females who think it is below dignity to cook [both cases are known to me].
Don’t want to cook [either because of general sloth they have, or
for the fear that they might screw up the food [sometimes I am
myself the first case]]
Don’t want other people known to them to cook, as it makes them feel
guilty, so for them to not feel guilty the other person should not cook. And
these people, in general, don’t like people doing anything they
don’t want to do, because they then feel guilty and they do not
want to feel guilty. [I know a very good case of this particular kind]
Don’t appreciate good food, or good cooking, or at least the
efforts one puts in cooking.
Anyways, the point of telling this was that, when I cook in a small kitchenette given to me, the food usually comes out to be good and in edible form. Once in a while, there is a screwup, but that does not deter me from trying further on. People mostly type 1, 2 and 3, who are out there are envious of this. And I really believe the previous line of what I have written. So envious they became that they hatched a plot to take away my little kitchenette which was my personal space. More than a kitchen, it was a laboratory for testing the taste buds and culinary skills. It was a place that I went to refuge when my spirits were down [no pun intended].
Cooking food gives me enormous relaxation and self-satisfaction, which only a few other activities give to me. I have even had the feeling “This is so much better than sex!!” while cooking on many occasions. The joy that you get when you are mixing the flavours, the spices and the vegetables with the meat and masalas is just amazing and then relishing on the results and finally being appreciated by the people who you care about is just beyond words. I have a very hard time trying to understand, how can someone not like cooking, when they have access to a good kitchen and other resources? I think it has to come from within, it cannot come from without.

## 3 Cigol

But, then, there are people who are unhappy, when I am happy. And they don’t want to be unhappy. So they want to make me unhappy. Then they can be happy. And cooking makes me happy. They know this. So, they don’t want me to cook. Not cooking will make me unhappy. Then, they will be happy.
So they hatch a sinister plan. They form something called as logic. Or to put it, in other words, they invent something they want to call as logic. Whether it is logic or not, I leave it to you to decide. I call it cigol. Now in cigol, since cooking in the kitchen gives me happiness, it has to be taken away from me. This will make me unhappy. Then they will be happy. Since on the second level, all the rooms have the kitchens, I am to be barred from those rooms. The cigol they give is different at different times. At first, they say that there are ACs in those rooms. ACs are available to a very specialized class of people in India. They are for the elites [and incidentally, I am an elite in the office since I have an AC there but in the hotel, it seems, I am not elite enough. The world seems more and more Orwellian as I spend more time here. As Orwell would say “All Elites are equal; some elites are more equal than others.”].
And we commoners have no right to have them in our puny rooms. Well, I said, I don’t want an AC. Since they don’t, believe me, they lock the AC, fearing that I will use it when I am not supposed to. Well, it sounds funny, but they actually have built a small wooden cabinet around the AC switch whose key is with the guards. So only for proper elite persons, the ACs are to be turned on, who are elite enough. And the elites are all visitors for a few days to a maximum of one or two weeks. Now the elites, since they are elites also get something else with the ACs. Namely, the kitchenettes. Whether they want to cook or not, or whether there is anything to cook there or not, does not bother the concerned people. But the elites should get a kitchen along with the ACs, that is the norm. If you ask them why then they say, this is the way things are, can’t you see the simple cigol here. Once cigol enters the picture, everything else becomes irrelevant. Another thing is that perhaps it is a kind of ‘show-off’ for the visiting elites. This is what we give to everybody, even who are visiting us for a short time. So think what we must be giving to our regular staff members.
So the elites get the kitchen sans the cooking instruments, there is not even a water heater in the kitchenette, just in case an enterprising visitor wants to make black tea or coffee, let alone anything else, worth cooking. As per cigol, the kitchenettes become dirty when you cook, so it is better to leave them just like that, as cooking in the kitchen will spoil its beauty. Truly empty kitchens look better than full-fledged ones. To cut the long story short, kitchens are there, and they are not being used, simply because some people don’t want other people to use them [and they themselves don’t want to use them either. The case is more like a dog who cannot eat the grass but doesn’t let the cow eat it too]. And when asked why were they not used, they told us, because nobody ever used them. This is cigol. Then why not give it to us, who want to cook in the kitchen. Again this is not possible. Why? Because it was not done in the past. This is cigol.

## 4 Convenience Denial

I ventured out to change this trend. I started to cook in the kitchen, which they had to finally give to me. It made me happy. Very happy. But unfortunately for me, my happiness was unbearable to some. So they began to complain. In this complaining, they use a superior and totally unbeatable form of cigol, which I call convenience denial. The convenience denial is used so many times and in so many different ways and different places, that I will have to write an entire blog about it. One of the meanings is straightforward, as the words read. It is the denial of convenience to you. If you find anything which is convenient, they will deny that thing to you. If they find anything that gives you happiness, they will deny it to you. But apart from this convenience denial has another meaning, apart from the straightforward one discussed above. There is a pun being intended here.
The other meaning of convenience denial comes in when some of the fundamental rights of ours are denied to us, just for the convenience of the few. When they know something will be convenient to you, they will say, ”Oh. Okay. But you see, it really doesn’t fit in the rules of the Banyan Tree. And we are part of the Banyan Tree. So we are denying this.” On the other hand, when the rules of the Banyan Tree do form a convenience for us, they say “Oh. Okay. But you see, it really does fit in the rules of the Banyan Tree. But we are not the Banyan Tree. So we are denying this.”
The two reasoning’s may sound contradictory at first. They should. Because they are. But this is the pinnacle of cigol. But if you look through cigol, this contradiction is only apparent. It is like an apparition, which vanishes when you look at it with a skeptical eye.
Of course, there is no contradiction. ”We are always right. Only we can interpret the rules and we can deny them as per our whims and fancies [read convenience]. So it really doesn’t matter what the rules are [and what they are not], they are not going to help you in any way. Period.”

## 5 Cylinders

“Cooking gas is a dangerous thing. If left open, it can lead to accidents. It is too dangerous to be used in the hotel. So you cannot use it. There is a rule which says so. Your safety is our first concern”
But again the Orwellian rule applies, that is to say, rules are meant to be broken. If you are elite enough, you can use the cooking gas. Suddenly, the cooking gas is no longer a dangerous thing. Of course, cooking gas is not dangerous. And what about safety you ask, of course cooking gas is a safe thing, but only if you are elite enough. Otherwise, it is as dangerous as it can be.
“Who will be responsible if you accidentally blow up the entire building, you see there are people staying there.”
But then again as cigol rules, these questions are not asked to all, but to unfortunate few, who do want to cook on their own.
“Instead of the cooking gas, we give you a better alternative. Use the hot plate! There is no pollution, no danger of an accident, where the whole building can’t come down. Use the hot plate! Hot Plate ki Jai!
And the microwave too. There is one common kitchen which is set up in the old hotel [by our grace], where people from all the rooms are supposed to come and cook. Does it matter, if you have to walk 200 meters just to boil a cup of water? Of course not! It will give you good exercise.
Only the truly spirited persons will come, those who don’t anyway did not need it.
So as a result only a few will turn up. And this is recorded that a few people use the common kitchen. So there should not be more common kitchens, as the
one that is there is underutilized. This is statistics of nihilism. Of course, the convenience denial is ON in all this in the normal state, if you failed to notice already.
And when we remind them that the Banyan Tree does not make this distinction, the answer we get is this:
“Oh. Okay. But you see, it really does fit in the rules of the Banyan Tree. But we are not the Banyan Tree. So we are denying this.”

## 6 Charges

“Do you have any idea how much electricity bill we are paying for the hotel?”
No. I don’t have any idea. And I don’t want to have any idea about that. Why the efff should I have any idea regarding the electricity bill that you are paying for the hotel? Am I paid for having any idea regarding electricity bill that you are paying for the hotel?
No.
Then why the efff should I bother or worry about it. Anyway, you are not paying that monies from your pocket, are you?
No.
It is the taxpayer’s money, my money being used to do that. But let me ask Are you paid for having any idea regarding electricity bill that you are paying for the hotel?
Yes.
Then isn’t it your efffing job?
Yes.
Okay.
So we will do our job!
How?
By trying to reduce the electricity usage on the campus.
Good. This seems to be a really good effort on your part.
It is! And we will see that you don’t enjoy this either!
What is that supposed to mean?
You see, you use hot plates for cooking.
But it was you who denied the use of cooking gas, so we had to use the hot plates.
You are trying to mix things here. We are talking about hot plates and you are bringing up the issue of cooking gas, which we left in the last section! It is of no relevance here. Period.
No, we don’t. Cigol is strictly under application here. You see we are trying to reduce the electricity bill.
So?
Oh, we found that your usage amounts to 0.1 % of the total bill. This is a huge amount. If we are able to stop this usage, we will have to pay only for 99.9 % of the amount due! See what foresight we have!!
But 0.1 %, is it a huge amount?
Yes, for the hotel it is! But for you it is minuscule. You have so much money to spend. Why not give it back to where it came from?
Does not compute. You talk the exact opposite!
Well, it is cigol, you won’t understand it.
I bet, I won’t.
It is better for you that you shouldn’t. Our workings are mysterious and are strictly based on hierarchy and personal relations.
But aren’t they supposed to be, ahem, transparent and equitable?
What transparency? Everything is as transparent as it should be.
But then why are you not trying to reduce the rest of the electricity usage, the remaining 99.9 % of it?
Well, it is not on our priority list. But your usage is. We have reasons. You see 70 % of the usage is by ACs. And ACs are essential for working, you cannot work in an office if the AC is not ON, can you? And the remaining usage is for the other activities of national importance. Since we cannot stop these, we have to stop something. We are also answerable to people above us.
Hence, you choose us. Because we are soft targets. In spite of knowing the fact that a single AC running a day, will cost you more energy than used for entire months cooking? And if it is so essential to have ACs, why keep them locked from us in the hotel?
What nonsense you are talking about? Those things cannot be compromised. And for the ACs are a must for office work. We work more efficiently in a cooler environment.
Okay. And we can be compromised?
Yes… No, no. I mean it is not that simple.
Then? [Why I am even bothering to ask, this is cigol!]
And what about the highest rates that we are being charged for?
Well, since the hotel pays at that rate, you will also have to pay the same.
But ours is a residential zone and we are being charged at industrial rates? Why?
Because we can charge you at the industrial rates. That’s why. And for all your strengths and powers you cannot do anything about it.
But why us?
Well by choosing you, we will make sure that you pay for the hotel and make a good example of not trying to mess with us.
But you do have the funding, right? And will the payment that we make be enough?
Yes, we have got enormous funding, but when it comes to you, particularly there is a crunch. And of course can you not do this bit to help us? It is of no concern to us whether it really matters in the reduction of energy usage or not, but we want to show that we have taken some steps to lower the usage. And that is sufficient for us. Its efficacy is irrelevant here.
So, you mean to say we are not on the priority list?
You see you are on the priority list but not at a correct position in either of them. You are at the bottom end of the fund’s priority list. And at the top end of the consumption reduction list!
But you see, in the Banyan Tree, they do not charge anybody for any usage, and the number of users is very large there. So why do you charge us?
Oh. Okay. But you see, it really does fit in the rules of the Banyan Tree. But we are not the Banyan Tree. So we are denying this.
Does not compute. [How could I forget Convenience denial?]
It is plain simple cigol.
So you are giving justification, not justice.
But tell me, how is this going to reduce the consumption of electricity. You have yourself set up a common kitchen, if we use the same amount of electricity there, we cannot be charged, and the consumption is not reduced either. So, your original plan does not work.
You are very naive and think in a very limited fashion. You see, we don’t want you to cook. In fact, we don’t want you to do anything. Just be as non-functional as possible. Because we know it gives you happiness. In the common kitchen, since it is far away from most of the people, they won’t come and cook. And even if they cook it is acceptable.
And the same people cooking in their own rooms is not acceptable?
No. It is not.
Why?
See, the idea is that if people cook in their own rooms they will cook more and better food and will be happy. That is something we don’t want. We would want them to eat the canteen food all the time. And anyway how can anyone who is working hard find any time for cooking?
So, you mean to say cooking is a waste of time?
Yes.
But we still want to cook, and that too in our own rooms!
Well if you are so adamant for cooking. And cooking gives you happiness. Then happiness cannot come for free.
???
If you want to use a hot plate in your room, you will have to pay for it.
But you are making us use the hot plate.
This is part of convenience denial. It is a grace on our part that whatever you are getting, is there. If we had it our way you would not get anything that would give you happiness.
But we won’t pay for it.
We are not asking you to pay, we will directly deduct it from your salary.
Without my consent?
Yes. We don’t need your consent for this. We are elite enough to do this kind of stuff.
Are you sure? You are cutting monies from my salary and you are claiming that you can cut it without my consent?
We are not sure. But this is cigol, so it doesn’t matter anyway. At the most, we will have to revoke it some day. But till then we will make sure you pay. And apart from this, you are causing great inconvenience to our elite guests.
How so?
By cooking in the kitchen and by keeping your stuff in the common area.
Well, aren’t these two areas meant for that. Kitchen for cooking and common area for keeping stuff.
Yes, they are indeed. But it does not apply in your case.
How come?
You see, kitchen in meant for cooking, but it does not follow that one must cook there.
Means?
You cannot cook there. And before you ask the next question, I will already give the answer, no, you cannot keep your stuff in the common area.
So what’s the use of building them and not allowing them to be used, even by the people who want to use them?
Maybe it was a mistake to build them in the first place.
But not using them, once they are built, would be another mistake.
Well, this is cigol. You don’t ask the government why they build things which one cannot utilize or use. This is just a continuing legacy of that. We make things that are not accessible to the general public, of course, elites are a different matter.
You mean, they are not made up of ordinary matter? I smell that the dark matter problem in cosmology has a potential solution, in form of the elites of the Indian government.
No. Not that way. You are straying away from the matter. You are charged with not being fair to others?
I am not being fair to whom?
To every one. You see you are effectively having more than your share at this place.
And what about you and the other elites? Are you not having more than your share at this place.
What do you mean?
Well to tell it simply, are you not occupying much more rooms than I am? And that too by doing modifications to the fundamental structure of the construct?
Yes. I am. And there is nothing that anyone can do about it.
And this I guess definitely does not conform to the rules of the Banyan tree. Does it?
Oh. Okay. But you see, it really does not fit in the rules of the
Banyan Tree. But we are not the Banyan Tree. So I can do this. And how can you forget Orwell: “Some are more equal than others.” I am one of those some and I also have the power. And who will dare to speak about this? Will you?
Of course not. Who wants to bell the cat? Then you will occupy space not meant for you, as there is clearly a separate place for you to stay. Even then you mean to say, I being not fair is unfair, but you being unfair is fair?
Yes. Even Mr Orwell will tell you so. And there is a difference between I being unfair and you being unfair. You see rules that apply to you, don’t apply to us. And even if they do apply, we have the ultimate weapon of convenience denial in our repertoire.
But my being unfair, is it even true when there is no one in the next room?
Yes. You are not being fair to other people, who might be sharing this room. And those people who might be sharing this room, are the elites. So when they come to stay here, it becomes imperative for us to make their stay comfortable.
Even at the cost of people who are staying there for a much longer time?
Yes. You see it is like this. The more you stay, the less important you are.
But then by that logic, who will be most unimportant?
Orwell: All are equal, but some are more equal than others.
But does this not fair thing apply even when there is no one who is sharing this room with me.
That is why it becomes even more important if you are not fair to no one who is not sharing your common area, how can you be fair to everyone who is not sharing your common area?
But no one [except me] wants to use the kitchen. Is it my fault?
Yes. It is your fault. You are not confirming to rest of ones like you.
As I had said earlier, but now I am certain, that building these kitchens was a mistake, as no wants to use them.
But I do want to.
Your want is irrelevant. What no one wants is more relevant. And there is not a rule like that in the Banyan Tree.
But…
Oh. Okay. But you see, it really doesn’t fit in the rules of the Banyan Tree. And we are part of the Banyan Tree. So we are denying this.
[I am rendered wordless, speechless and powerless against such cigol and convenience denial, I choose to keep my silence…]
That is it! There are to be no more words. It is final that you will be shifted soon where you will have a hard time cooking and you won’t be happy. I will make sure that a written order is passed in this regard. And then you can’t do anything, but to confirm what we have been saying all along.
Note: Any resemblance to real places and people is not coincidental.
Or is it?
Or is it the other way round?
😉

# Elites And Us

The longer this worldwide disparity and inequality is perpetuated, the more the masses will revolt and the faster we will internally replicate the Israeli model of domestic control – drones overhead, all dissent criminalized, SWAT teams busting through doors, deadly force as an acceptable form of subjugation, food used as a weapon, and constant surveillance.
via Elites Will Make Gazans of Us All | Common Dreams.

Hope that this Orwellian dystopia does not happen.

# Gaza Blitz hailed?

It is important to keep this in mind given the accusations of “disproportionality” being hurled at Israel from all directions. They are hogwash. The Jewish state cannot be faulted — but rather should be hailed — for investing precious human capital and limited financial resources to develop a technological miracle: Iron Dome. By intercepting in the last week upwards of 400 rockets destined for Israeli civilian centres, the anti-missile defence system saved countless Israeli lives. Likewise, it also saved Palestinian lives, which surely would have been lost in the event the IDF was forced to retaliate for a direct hit, say, on Tel Aviv.
This is in stark contrast to Hamas’ practice of concealing weaponry in residential buildings, schools, hospitals and mosques, thereby guaranteeing the unnecessary loss of life despite the precision of Israeli strikes.
via Gaza| National Post

Ah! This piece of writing is as crappy – biased – hogwash – etc. etc. (are these the right words?, am at a loss of what words to put here) as it can get. And it is not language that is at fault, by the very idea. The idea that Israel can do anything it wishes, without fearing any consequences is what is through an through present in this line of thoughts. The state of Israel has become the new “Untouchable”. The writer glorifies the killing and pounding of the Gaza region, with a logic that is truly cigol. What he claims as a mere “hogwash”, is the reality which the state of Israel is desperately trying to hide, and this with full support of the corporate and major media houses.  Maybe the author is trying to make this fact oblivious (and wants us to be also ) that Israel is the occupying force, and they hold superior fire power. To say killings and bombings should ” but rather be hailed” the author is making an ideological analogy to the holocaust. If someone on the other hand with same argument had replaced Jews instead of Gazans, and justified the killings, there would have been a huge  cry over this. If these killings can be justified, no wait, rather hailed now, why are the Israelis so much adamant that people see the faulty logic and the tragedy of the holocaust. I think this is the same only with the Israelis taking up the place of executioners with impeccable cigol to support their actions.
After all as Orwell says:

War is Peace | Freedom is Slavery  | Ignorance is Strength

And this is what is exactly being practiced here.
Oh and will I get a phone call for this?

‘to criticise Israel can create major problems. Journalists spoke to us of the extraordinary number of complaints which they receive. We have presented our findings to many groups of media practitioners. After one such meeting a senior editor from a major BBC news programme told us: “we wait in fear for the phone call from the Israelis”. He then said that the main issues they would face were from how high up had the call come (e.g. a monitoring group, or the Israeli embassy), and then how high up the BBC had the complaint gone (e.g. to the duty editor or the director general).’ (p. 2)
via | medialens

May be not because I am not a journalist, neither is my blog very famous!

# Free Press and Democracy

A free press is an essential part of a democratic system. In a society like ours, with its stark inequalities, only a media free of government and corporate pressures can ensure that the voiceless are heard. What we are seeing currently is not just blatant collusion between the media and big business but also a deliberate obliteration of much of what happens to the millions who live on the margins.
via Economic and Political Weekly

This is what Media Lens has to say about the BBC which is supposed to be in public interest and impartial.

Instead of providing responsible, public-service journalism, the BBC acts as a conduit for government propaganda. It is particularly noxious that the organisation relentlessly channels the state’s supposedly benign intentions abroad. This is the diet of daily bias and distortion we are all fed. When will BBC heads roll for that?

But isn’t this true of the media in India also? Or elsewhere in the world for that matter. Tehelka reports that many of the barons of power also control the local media in newly formed state of Chattisgad. And what is the use of controlling media when they are not used for gains. When the so called free media becomes a part of the political parties we cannot be sure of what they report.

If the Congress has Naveen Jindal, the BJP has Ajay Sancheti. If the Congress has the Lokmat, the BJP has the Hari Bhoomi. Barring coal, in which both the Centre and the states had their hands in the till, in the case of other mineral resources, the real corruption lies in the states.

It is not that people do not use media for their own gain, media is used for spreading ideology, there are many mouthpiece outlets for political parties and others which propagate the ideas. But what is worst is that the masquerade that many media houses put on themselves claiming to be honest and working in public interest, and people at large believe them, being obliviousto the fact that these very media houses are the ones who are power brokers and very much in the filth as corporates and politicians. A recent example of this was the Radia tapes.

The complete blackout of the Niira Radia tapes by the entire broadcast media and most of the major English newspapers paints a truer picture of corruption in the country than the talk shows in the various news channels and the breast-beating in all the newspapers about the 2G, CWG, Adarsh, and other scams.
via|G. Sampath – DNA

It was not until the non-main-stream media began to show up too much, there was some coverage given. But the very fact that the accused are in complete denial of what happened is what is disturbing. We usually held names like Barkha Dutt, Vir Sanghvi well but these tapes just show how much they are in the filth of what they pretend to expose. From then on, I have given up on NDTV as a reliable source, which earlier I thought it was. But then what do you trust?

At the same time, it is worth noting that neither Barkha nor any of the other journalists whose names have come up have denied that those conversations took place. So why not let the reader or TV viewer read or listen to the transcripts and decide whether Dutt and Sanghvi’s conversations with Radia are a part of “normal journalistic duties” or amount to pimping for politicians and business houses? Or perhaps they were doing social service for the Congress? Play the tapes on your show, na, Ms Dutt, instead of tweeting about them? Why not let ‘We, The People’ decide, instead of you deciding for us all?
via|G. Sampath – DNA

The media blackout of particular events is what I find disturbing. What it shows the kind of camaraderie that exists between different media houses and their corporate and political cronies. That basically means that the news, sorry the Breaking News that you see is like a managed play, with directors and writers deciding what people see, hear and think. In Marathi novel (Ithink it was Swami (स्वामी) by Ranjit Desai) I had read a sentence which fits these situations well, it reads:

मी मारल्या सारखे करतो, तु रडल्या सारखे कर.
( I will feign to hit, you feign to cry.)

This creates an illusion about real problems. Most of the News channels that are beamed in India follow this line. Put all the focus on some non-issues, or twist them from certain angles so that why all this happens remains oblivious to the viewers. If our media was after all serious about the issues that they present, they would have seen to it that things are done.
Many a times what I have also found reading reports on various different news services is that they are same. I mean many a times they are word to word same, as if the reports have been written at one place and distributed. I do not have links right now, but will update this post when I do. This again creates a picture that what news we see is heavily filtered, and sometimes flavours are added to create sensationalism. And the icing is that we all think this is genuine, with “Free Press in A Democracy”. Orwell had a foresight about this as well:

Of course, print will continue to be used, and it is interesting to speculate what kinds of reading matter would survive in a rigidly totalitarian society. Newspapers will presumably continue until television technique reaches a higher level, but apart from newspapers it is doubtful even now whether the great mass of people in the industrialized countries feel the need for any kind of literature. They are unwilling, at any rate, to spend anywhere near as much on reading matter as they spend on several other recreations. Probably novels and stories will be completely superseded by film and radio productions. Or perhaps some kind of low grade sensational fiction will survive, produced by a sort of conveyor-belt process that reduces human initiative to the minimum.
via The Prevention of Literature | George Orwell

The only reason I see that India is feudal and corrupt is that the so called Free Press was never able to take up the challenge to the nexus, and ultimately now has become a part of it.

In our age, the idea of intellectual liberty is under attack from two directions. On the one side are its theoretical enemies, the apologists of totalitarianism, and on the other its immediate, practical enemies, monopoly and bureaucracy.
via The Prevention of Literature | George Orwell

Though there are dissidents here and there, this now has become global phenomena, with the Indian media people just following the suit. And if this is the case, what difference does it make whether you are living in a democracy or a totalitarian state?
And Orwell wraps it up thus:

A totalitarian society which succeeded in perpetuating itself would probably set up a schizophrenic system of thought, in which the laws of common sense held good in everyday life and in certain exact sciences, but could be disregarded by the politician, the historian, and the sociologist. Already there are countless people who would think it scandalous to falsify a scientific textbook, but would see nothing wrong in falsifying an historical fact. It is at the point where literature and politics cross that totalitarianism exerts its greatest pressure on the intellectual.
via The Prevention of Literature | George Orwell

“It’s not important how much money has been earned. It’s important how it has been put to use, whether it has been put to good use or not.”
via Indian Express.

Nitin Gadkari , the incumbent BJP president, is in news for all wrong reasons these days. Apart from the allegations that his business interests have shadyness by IAC activist Arvind Kejriwal, he is also making blunders in quoting and is also facing some rebellion from within his own party. But the quote above comes in his (or his acts?) defence from the RSS camp. And it is amusing too, as at times RSS distances itself from the BJP, saying that it is their internal matter, but at other times also gives self-proclaimed clean-chits to BJP members. It is interesting to note how the very concept and meaning of corruption is being twisted by RSS cheif Mohan Bhagwat in the quote above The act itself is set aside as to whether it is good or bad, while the motive with which the result of the act (the black money) will be utilised determines the morality of the act. Now that being the case how do we decide whether the money is “put to good use or not”? This is an entirely subjective view. Something that is good for a person or a community may be bad for others. For example if someone makes a lot of money and invests it in something else to make more money, then for that person the use is definitely good use, but for others it is not. And there is nothing like free money, corruption happens only when money meant for something else goes to the corrupt person. With this cigol even murders may be justified. Trying to justify the act of corruption by making statements like this one, is making classic Orwellian Newspeak. This just makes the point that the BJP is just another Congress, which comes with a remote control too.

# Kafka and Orwell

Two of my favourite authors. Both of them were from almost same era, early part of 20th century. Both of them wrote about bureaucracy, corruption, control, power, and helplessness of individuals in the greater scheme of things. Reading them a dark feeling covers your soul, and all chances of redemption appear bleak. We are, it seems, doomed for life, and only non-existence in to oblivion or death can relieve us of these torments, as it does to many characters of this duo.
The things that are happening now around us, the FUDs and stereotyping of “The Enemy” reminds one much of the situation in Nineteen Eight Four. Maybe the policy makers grew up reading Nineteen Eight Four and found enough material to be implemented in the real world. Or as it happens in The Castle, one can easily identify with the main protagonist whose life is made into an unending sequence of visits to the offices in The Castle. As it happens during visits to most of the government offices.

# Orwell On Books…

In two of his essays Books vs. Cigarretes and Bookshop Memories George Orwell tells us what he thinks about books. Me being a bibliophile could relate to many things he said.
He says out of the 900 odd books he has, around 500 are bought second-hand. While most of mine are second hand.

The idea that the buying, or even the reading, of books is an expensive hobby and beyond the reach of the average person is so  widespread that it deserves some detailed examination.

Even now I know of people who get and give weird reactions to the sight of books, as if they are something ugly and avoidable.

This is because book-giving, book-borrowing and book-stealing more or less even out.

Well may be in the long run it is indeed true. I have lost many books, but there are may be more with me which belong to others, but which I did not steal. But many just ended up being with me.

It is difficult to establish any relationship between the price of books and the value one gets out of them. “Books” includes novels, poetry, text books, works of reference, sociological treatises and much else, and length and price do not correspond to one another, especially if one habitually buys books second-hand. You may spend ten shillings on a poem of 500 lines, and you may spend sixpence on a dictionary which you consult at odd moments over a period of twenty years. There are books that one reads over and over again, books that become part of the furniture of one’s mind and alter one’s whole attitude to life, books that one dips into but never reads through, books that one reads at a single sitting and forgets a week later: and the cost, in terms of money, may be the same in each case. But if one regards reading simply as a recreation, like going to the pictures, then it is possible to make a rough estimate of what it costs.

Here I see an analogy between books and humans (or is it the other way round?). Just as he describes different types of books, some of which we just dip into, some we savour for our lives, some we just refer maybe once in a while, so are our human contacts, some are just hi-bye types, some we share our intimate moments with, some we just meet once in our lives, but they are unforgettable, some we just forget, and others we want to forget. Seen in this way at another level, books are just ideas that are present in them, so are the humans we come in contact with (though at times the physical intimacy is better, (but isn’t physical intimacy also an idea)). Some people we make our heroes, some books give us our philosophy of life. Some people give us sound advice, many books save us from despair. Books are actually people who talk to us, make us experience things we would otherwise not experience, isn’t the same true of people also. But of course there are crap books and there are crap people.

If you concentrated on more serious books, and still bought everything that you read, your expenses would be about the same. The books would cost more but they would take longer to read. In either case you would still possess the books after you had read them, and they would be saleable at about a third of their purchase price. If you bought only second-hand books, your reading expenses would, of course, be much less: perhaps sixpence an hour would be a fair estimate.

I never sold my books, and hopefully will never need to.

And if our book consumption remains as low as it has been, at least let us admit that it is because reading is a less
pastime than going to the dogs, the pictures or the pub, and not  because books, whether bought or borrowed, are too expensive.

And he ends Bookshop Memories thus

But as soon as I went to work in the bookshop I stopped buying books. Seen in the mass, five or ten thousand at a time, books were boring and even slightly sickening. Nowadays I do buy one occasionally, but only if it is a book that I want to read and can’t borrow, and I never buy junk. The sweet smell of decaying paper appeals to me no longer. It is too closely associated in my mind with paranoiac customers and dead bluebottles.

I hope I do not end up doing the same. For now I think I am maybe making a transition from bibliophilia to bibliomania.
For a comprehensive list of Orwell’s works see: http://orwell.ru

# Kabuki

Kabuki is a comic series from artist and writer David Mack. It is about an assassin who struggles with her identity in near future Japan.
Kabuki is one of the 8 eight assassin in the Noh, a secret Government agency which balances the power in Japan’s underworld.
As far as the storyline is concerned one can trace a lot of influences on the art and the characters of the story [at least the ones I am familiar with]. Not to mention the industrial style that we see in Blade Runner.
The first Volume Circle of Blood tell us about the origins of Kabuki. The art form in this Volume is black and white. Some of the other volumes are in color. In this volume there is a strong influence from Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland.Especially in the Issue where Kai is killed by Kabuki the entire setup of the Mad Hatter’s tea party has been taken. When Kai takes Kabuki to visit his collections, the book that she picks up is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
The passage she reads is this :

‘But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ Alice remarked.
‘How do you know I’m mad?’ said Alice.
‘You must be,’ said the Cat, ‘or you wouldn’t have come here.’

And I think I can relate very well to the quote of Kai on books [who has a formidable collection], when he compares the paper books with those that are digital :

But I love the intimacy of books. I love the physical act of turning
the pages and the tactile sensations of fine rice paper contrasting
with an embossed hardcover in my hand.

Influence from Carroll can also be found in other as pack of cards.

We are only faces, yet we are faceless… nothing but a pack of cards
in wonderland.

And in case of Kabuki when she says

I am a reflection, trapped in the world of a little girl.

It seems that David Mack has a fascination for M. C. Escher like I do. There are many influences of Escher in the later Volumes of Kabuki and especially in Metamorphosis. Incidentally metamorphosis is the theme in numerous Escher’s drawings, in which one thing transforms into another. Similarly in all the Metamorphosis issues the theme is of transformation. Also one of the characters is named M. C. Square which I think is a sort of tribute to Escher.
Also there is one quote in Skin Deep # 1 from Escher, which is quoted below.

The crossing of the divide between abstract and concrete,
representations between mute’ and speaking’ figures leads us to the
heart of what fascinated me. – M. C. Escher

In the later Volumes when Kabuki is in the reformation center, one cannot but help to think that there is an influence of Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta and thus indirectly of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four. Somehow I a find myself bumping into Orwell every now and then, is there a deep connection, or is this theory ladenness of data on my part?  Particularly the character of Akemi the way she builds up the morale of Kabuki has very strong resemblance in which ‘V’ builds up Evey’s mental state

If it can be taken from you, it was never you to begin with.
After they take away all they can what remains is you.
Only in these situations, we truly know who we are.

The passing of notes on Origami constructions of different animals also reminds us of the same modus operandi in case of Evey’s build up by the Actress in V for Vendetta.
Though the masks form an integral part of the style of the Kabuki dancers in Japan, the kind of attachment that our lead female Kabuki has with the mask resembles the character of V. Under their masks both have scars on their face, but as one the characters in Kabuki puts it

I think your scars are far deeper than the eyes can see.

Which I think is true in both cases of V and Kabuki. There is a trauma attached to the scar behind the mask, which they cannot forget, they do not want to forget. What they remember is revenge which RGV quoting in Rakhtacharitra [Blood History]  from Gita says:

Revenge is the purest form of emotion.

The masks gives them a new identity, which they can relate to. The masks that they were have become them. They cannot be separated from them. They have become their identity, which they cannot forsake, at any costs.
This post is not complete, will update it when time permits.
* Quotes
** Circle of blood
# 3
One must aim beyond the target. One must aim a long way. Our whole
life, our whole spirit travels with the arrow. And when the arrow has
been fired, it is never the end.
# 4
When in the company of deceptive hearts, be only honest, and your
opponents will fool themselves.
I am a reflection, trapped in the world of a little girl.
# 5
I am invisible, untraceable… like tears in the rain.
But I love the intimacy of books. I love the physical act of turning
the pages and the tactile sensations of fine rice paper contrasting
with an embossed hardcover in my hand.
But then, everybody has their own ghosts, don’t they?
Kai, is life a straight line or a circle?
Both and neither. It’s a spiral like your DNA.
There is no morality in virtual reality. What kind of person will he
grow up to be?
#6
She is going to break your heart into two.
Its true.
Its not hard to realize.
She is going to smile to make you frown,
what a clown.
‘Cause everybody knows
She’s a femme fatale
The things she does to please
she’s just a little tease.
It is time to master duality of your nature you must decide who you
really are.
I play my games, but the hand of fate is much quicker than the lie.
Just as the locusts cloak the sun, my perceptions blinded me.
The warrior unencumbered and willing to go further than his opponent
would always win.
I swallowed the locusts, and with it my fear
Look at the swan skimming the water. Angel wings of ivory feathers, its
eyes veiled in a mask of black. Its beauty rivaled only by its very
own reflection. Ghostly and regal, it seems to glide effortlessly on
the ponds surface, but below the surface… its feed are peddling like
hell…
We are faceless pawns.
Funny thing about pawns. If they make it to the other side, they
become the most powerful player on the board. That is where I am
going. The other side.
I am armed only with the power that my physical presence commands.
I feel the burning of their gaze and it keeps me warm.
A voice in my head tells me the bullet had my name on it.
I tell the voice that they misspelled my name.
# Fear the Reaper
A city whose technology has surpassed its humanity.
If you gaze into eyes of the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.
Sometimes there is no comedy, there is no tragedy only a closing
curtain. Sometimes the curtain falls slowly, sometimes it just falls.
We are only faces, yet we are faceless… nothing but a pack of cards
in wonderland.
I am drifting in the dark halfway between the Sun and the Moon.
#1
Crying and laughter… pain and desire are sisters.
#2
Time always catches up with you.
Never in words had I experienced the chilling satisfaction of words.
#4
Nothing is black and white anymore, it all blurs together.
** Skin Deep
#1
I used to get lost in the shuffle, now I just shuffle along with the
lost.
I think your scars are far deeper than the eyes can see.
The crossing of the divide between abstract and concrete,
representations between mute’ and speaking’ figures leads us to the
heart of what fascinated me. – M C Escher
The transformation takes place within our minds.
The only way to define your own identity is to be completely alone.
I don’t seek to find myself.
I seek to loose myself.
Escape is a burning hope.