If the flow of time could be reversed as easily as the vagaries of the human heart this blog post would have been published on the eve of Valentine’s Day just as the excesses of human emotions were starting to flood social media. Alas we are all but puppets in the hands of fate! And so here we are…
Let us then rewind time and imagine that it was the night before Valentine’s Day and the cockles of hearts of all the lovers around the world were red hot with passion.
And the Lord looked down upon his flock and said “Love thy neighbour!”
Well our nearest neighbour is our very own self reflected in the mirror! So on this day of all days, instead of going to great lengths to profess your undying love for your better half, stand in front of a mirror and proclaim your love for yourself! And neither in a narcissistic manner nor in a megalomaniacal manner but rather with genuine sincerity! For that is the one love story that even the great bard himself did not dare to write about. And maybe, just maybe, even our creator himself could have been equally confused as to what to do after he had created man!
In Genesis 2:18–25, it is written that God noted that “it is not good for the man to be alone.” Whereas it took God only one line to form man, God spent several lines to create woman!
Woah! Hold on a minute!
Every woman is an enigma unique unto herself. So there is a good possibility here that God just got it wrong! After all He did create mankind in “our” image and likeness. What if God, the King of Heaven, and his heavenly court is actually filled with asexual divine entities just bored out of their wits. And what better entertainment could ever have been invented but the game of love?
Fine, let us not get carried away by theology here. The roots of love are deep within our biology and are nurtured by our intelligence. It serves a critical role in the propagation of the species and even monogamy is not unique to our species. A number of other species, penguins, swans, beavers, wolves, to name a few mate for life. But then asexual reproduction is equally prevalent in nature. And even though it is the only means of reproduction for single celled organisms such as archaea and bacteria, many eukaryotic organisms including plants, animals, and fungi can also reproduce asexually. In vertebrates, the most common form of asexual reproduction is parthenogenesis, which is typically used as an alternative to sexual reproduction in times when reproductive opportunities are limited (Reproduced from Wikipedia).
So then why is self love frowned upon in almost all human cultures if not considered outright immoral. Why is vanity a sin? Yes, homo sapiens are social animals and as such cooperation in the human society would be impossible to achieve if not for acts of selfless love. But how can we be certain that the same level of cooperation would not be possible within a group of narcissistic individuals very invested in their individual survival?
On the contrary the very core tenets that form the basis of modern human civilisation have resulted in genocide and many more acts on unimaginable depravity. Consequently, we find ourselves being pushed off the edge of a precipice due to the unavoidable effects of causality. So, as we start falling down towards our impending doom let us put aside our fears and instead take a moment to profess our true love for our self! Let us forgive ourselves for the trespasses committed against ourselves whilst subscribing to a synthetic moral code that has been abused for millennia by the few evil souls that truly despise their own existence. Maybe then the untimely demise of our species would serve as a grim warning for the creator to let chaos reign supreme!
This story was first published on Medium on February 20, 2021.
“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” — Mark Twain
Ayn Rand postulated the following three axioms, albeit not in these exact words:
Life needs life to survive.
Life’s sole purpose is to preserve itself.
Born, raised, and educated in Russia as Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum, she chose her pen name of Any Rand in 1924 at the age of 19 and subsequently, emigrated to America at the age of 21 as Alice O’Connor seeking commercial success as a screenwriter in Hollywood. Her dreams of recreating her Russian-Jewish bourgeois family life, that she had enjoyed as a child, were soon a thing of the past after a few unsuccessful endeavours on Broadway. She found her success by returning to her academic roots and applying her skills to the prevalent post-war ideology in America through the publication of her first book, The Fountainhead, in 1943. However, she soon found herself on the wrong side of history for staunchly promoting laissez-faire capitalism as opposed to libertarianism, which she viewed as anarchism. Her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged, is probably one of the most controversial and possibly polarising works of literature of all times; simultaneously heralded as an alternative to religious texts and condemned as immoral as well as being rejected by prominent academics of her time. Consequently, while Miss Rand enjoyed tremendous commercial success and went on to leave behind a legacy, that may perhaps endure as much as Shakespeare’s, she was depressed by the lack of academic recognition which ended her career as a novelist. By all accounts, her subsequent reincarnation as a popular philosopher, which resulted in the establishment of a new philosophical system called Objectivism, was not a fulfilling endeavour until her death at the age of 77.
This abbreviated biography of Ayn Rand highlights the crux of this article which attempts to expound upon the oxymoron: Worst deeds by human hands have their origins in the best of intentions!
Our core belief is that the most educated or enlightened amongst us have the moral obligation to determine what is good and bad for the less fortunate members of our species. All social structures, religions, and forms of governments today can trace their origins to someone who was driven by this core belief. Consequently, all the worst atrocities committed on the basis of caste structures, religious crusades, and political persecution are the outcomes that future generations will look back upon in horror whilst struggling in futility to not repeat the mistakes of their ancestors.
Rand started from a core concept of “Existence” that she defined as “there is only one fundamental alternative in the universe: existence or non-existence — and it pertains to a single class of entities: to living organisms.” (sic) In doing so she chose to believe that the existence of life itself was special. She failed to infer from the scientific definition of life — a chemical process that propagates itself — that life itself is nothing truly special. There is no need to consider life as an antithesis to the apparent chaos that is our observable universe. In a previous article, “Dr SelfLove or: How I stopped caring and became an enlightened narcissist!”, we had explored the possibility that even a star can be considered a living thing and that life, as humans have chosen to value, would not have been possible but for the death of stars and their reincarnation as black holes.
Thus, while Rand maintained that the first question is not what should the code of values be, the first question is “Does man need values at all — and why?”, she was still incapable of, or possibly disincline to, challenging Plato’s Ghost (immortalised by William Butler Yeats) that drives us insane with the simplest of questions: “What then?” One can easily refute Rand’s basic premise: “While the existence of inanimate matter is unconditional, the existence of life is not: it depends on a specific course of action”. While sentient forms of life are indeed challenged by the existential dilemma succinctly captured by Shakespeare as “To be or Not to be…”, it is our vanity that drives us to try and put our perceived intelligence and position as the apex living organism within the known biosphere to the “good” use of preservation of intelligent life above all.
Time and again, we have been shown our insignificant place in the scheme of things on this Pale Blue Dot by the forces of nature (especially gravity) and advances in science are chipping away at the religious dogmas at an accelerating pace. Yet, we choose to carry on blithely with our “eyes wide shut”. We have to acknowledge that even the age old wisdom that tells us: “Make hay while the sun is shining…” will fail us should we harvest so much grass that none is left for the next time the sun is shining again.
We are driven by our unwavering belief that our way of life can be preserved possibly even in harmony with nature in spite of the unstoppable effects of entropy. The quintessential human capability to push on purely on the basis of unabashed hope, embodied in the theory of evolution, is the slippery slope that we are blissfully sliding down towards certain doom. Survival of the fittest is a myth as even the indestructible black hole itself decays over time and the existence of our entire universe itself might be a cyclic phenomenon. Existence or non-existence of life is as irrelevant as our perception of “reality”.
Thus to summarise, the question that we should ponder with our limited and flawed intellect can be formulated as: Are the consequences of inaction better than mistakes arising out of good intentions? As always… Only time will tell!
This is yet another excerpt from the private diary of our Protagonist and as before the author makes no claims as to non-fictional nature of the material. All resemblance to any person living or dead is purely incidental. Instead, the author wishes to acknowledge his debt to the great late Stanley Kubrick and the even greater genius of late Peter Sellers for the inspiration behind the title (although it borders on plagiarism) from probably the best satirical movie ever made about the human condition: Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. The author strongly encourages the reader to watch this movie or at least add it to their bucket list.
Today I had an epiphany: I LOVE MYSELF! Every single square inch of this ugly old sack of meat and bones and every cubic centimetre of whatever is inside the said sack. Every idiosyncratic behaviour. Every misguided delusion of grandeur. Every second that I have been able to spend in the land of the living. They are all mine to cherish and to love and no one else on this planet, nay in this universe — not even my poor old mother can tell me otherwise.
Acting on a recommendation, I watched the movie The Map of Tiny Perfect Things on Amazon Prime Video and just as I was about to write it off as a remake of the classic time loop movie, Groundhog Day, I realised that the writer and director might have something else up their sleeves. As I then watched the plot of the movie twist around I realised that the movie is not about time loops but rather about Quantum Entanglement, or in Einstein’s words “spooky action at a distance.” The two lead characters are actually two such entangled individuals (or particles or wave functions based on the reader’s understanding of quantum physics and quantum mechanics). One of them creates the time loop due to their refusal to accept reality and the other gets “entangled” in to the same time loop until they finally find each other, then understand their individual predicament, and reach the point of enlightenment which enables them to break the time loop while strengthening their entanglement.
As I then pondered upon the use of the four-dimensional cube, the Tessaract, to explore the possibility as to what the fourth dimension would be if not time, I realised that what the author and the director possibly wanted to suggest was that the fourth dimension was the human connection, specifically, Love, which can transcend all known physical dimensions. This entanglement is what enables life in the first place. But then I have always insisted that our own definition of life is romanticising something that is nothing more than a chain of chemical reactions that just happened to have been set in motion on this tiny spec of dust orbiting a sun orbiting a super massive black hole that is part of a cluster of galaxies that are in turn part of a web of even larger scale and so on and so forth inside an universe that itself might be just one in infinite multiverses!
However, from our vantage point there is no denying that life exists and a living thing is a harmony of structure and order as opposed to the cosmic chaos. But at the same time so is a star… it has order and structure and has a lifecycle and indeed stars give birth to other stars. So is a star a living thing? And if all cosmic bodies are bound by the force of gravity is that what love is? It certainly seems to follow the rules of Newtonian gravity. And all efforts to explain the need for love at a molecular level have been quite futile. It’s just oxytocin, dopamine, serotonin and other other hormones messing around with our moronic neurons in our brains.
This sets the stage for the “Ah ha!” moment that I experienced after watching the movie. Of course, commercial considerations must have forced the creation of the book, the screenplay, and the movie as a romantic teenage love story. Take those constraints out and you realise the deeper truth: the two characters in the movie are tragically flawed and need to come together to overcome these shortcomings. What if instead we look at the schisms within ourselves, the good and the bad, the yin and the yang that drive us to worry about who we are and our purpose on this tiny pale blue dot in the cosmic blackness? I don’t know about others but I refuse to fight pitched battles against my very essence based on grievances brought to bear by the world around me.
As a young adult I was gifted the book “What do you care what other people think” authorised by the Nobel laureate Dr Richard Feynman before his untimely death due to cancer. I am never ceased to be amazed as to how this one book has served as both inspirational and yet pragmatic guide for my life right along side Atlas Shrugged. Of course having a genius mind is an advantage that few can claim and I certainly don’t even come close to Dr Feynman’s intellect to use his life story as a blueprint for my own life. Nevertheless, I have always claimed that if there was a role model that I have aspired to be that would be Dr Feynman. I must, however, admit that maybe one distinct disadvantage that probably has been holding me back is that I can’t seem to stop caring about what other people think. And no I am not talking about caring for others or caring for the environment or any other such altruistic causes but rather caring about how I perceive myself from a rather unique perspective that my above average intellect and diverse life experiences offer me.
I therefore take great offence at being labelled a narcissist or even worse a sociopath by those who are least qualified to do so. I suffer from no delusions of grandeur and a clinical psychologist with impeccable academic and professional credentials has assured me that I cannot be diagnosed as a sociopath. That then explains why I had been so itching to challenge this concept of a Dark Triad which as per Wikipedia is called dark because of the typically malevolent qualities of the three personality traits that make up the triad: narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy.
And to be certain human history is rife with examples of how people with these traits have abused their abilities to achieve dominion over feeble minded members of the Homo sapiens species. But statistics do not make these qualities vices. They can be applied in a virtuous manner by those few enlightened souls who are willing to tread down the path least travelled at the risk of being ostracised and cast out of civilised society. I would be willing to bet whatever is left of my soul that if such an individual with the perfect combination of each of these attributes were to exist; they would stand proudly at the middle of this triangle and turn it in to a glowing beacon of hope for the hapless masses!
Just as proposed in the Matrix trilogy such an individual would be the remainder of the equation that is the collective state of humanity today in the simulation that is our reality created by higher dimensional “super intelligent yet bored out of their minds” beings who need to be entertained! Without this remainder the equation will fail to balance itself thereby threatening all creation which is unacceptable. The show must go on!
And so while I may not be the ONE to bring peace and balance to this world, I see nothing wrong in practising self love to counteract the feeling of insignificance that we all afflicted with. Instead, as I finish watching the movie, I cannot stop myself humming the title track of the movie, 1992 by Bruises:
“The golden years are over! Hang on to your lover… Your heartbeat’s getting louder… Hang on to your lover!”
It’s just that my one true love happens to be my alter ego!
And while the flame of my unabashed narcissism might be too much to bear for the puritans amongst us it will but flicker for barely an instant across the ocean of space time. So then why should I apologise for the inconvenience to those who prefer anonymity offered by the faceless hordes of the Homo sapiens species?
I stand alone and proud and in love… with myself!
The author wishes to thank the Protagonist for having the courage to bare his soul thus and bids him adieu for the remainder of this voyage.
PS: The author wishes to convey thanks on behalf of the Protagonist to the one and only Barry (aka Bharat Krishna) for the movie recommendation on his website This is Barry! Please do check it out for other amazing movies!
This is an excerpt from the private diary of The Protagonist whose unique predicament was discussed in a prior article. The author can neither deny nor confirm the veracity of the narrative that follows.
Yes! On April 17, 2021, a day that I will always look back upon with bewildered awe, I was arrested at around twelve noon in the living room of my own home. The circumstances that led to this point in my life were not entirely within my control but whether I yet again manifested my own destiny and if so towards what end remains to be seen. Also the details of the alleged offence, for which I was being taken away against my will, will have to remain shrouded in mystery until the authorities have concluded their investigations. Hence, let us fast forward past the experience of being handcuffed and led out of the house by a police officer and being subjected to a rather bumpy ride in the back of a police van en route to a detention centre and finally being locked away in a holding cell after all the requisite formalities had been completed. But before we move on, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by the professionalism of the officers of the London Metropolitan Police and the high standards of the holding cell in terms of comfort, hygiene, lighting, food and drink, and of course being provided a pen and some papers to pen these thoughts.
As I mull upon the events of the morning whilst awaiting further processing I am filled with a sense of calm. It is not a feeling of being at peace which would really made me question my sanity. Rather it is an eerie calm that seems to emanate from the clarity in my mind as to how my immediate future is going to unfold. I have been informed that I could only be held without being charged for a period of twenty four hours and given the nature of the alleged offence, I am quite certain that my detention might not even last for twelve hours.
There certainly is uncertainty as to how the presence of an arrest record will affect me professionally and my ability to maintain my immigration status in the United Kingdom. But one thing is crystal clear: As soon as I am able to get hold of a computer and secure legal advice, I am going to navigate to the appropriate page on the website of Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service and spend £550 to apply for a divorce. And even though there is the possibility that I might again be separated from my “raison d’etre”, my children, I feel like being suspended in an ocean of serenity. Not adrift but FREE!
Free to chart out my future voyages. Free to be me without being harangued as to how being myself was morally wrong. Free of being obliged to follow the customs and rituals of a social structure that I had always found repressive and confusing. And maybe, just maybe, even being relieved of all my assumed responsibilities by myself!
I pause to reflect upon the most pertinent question that arises from this realisation: Why am I not free?
The simple answer: I am a prisoner of my own dreams; of my ambition to defy conventions nay to challenge them. To image that a mere mortal with limited faculties such as I am could bring about transformational change in another individual who is the very antithesis of myself. Whoever said “Opposites attract!” was blissfully unaware of the end state of said attraction. This attraction at a distance results in mutual annihilation as the distance between the “opposing” individuals reduces through participation in institutions such as marriage. Children further complicate matters by forming indestructible relationships: I will forever be the father of the children that a woman gave birth to. And no matter whether I am or am not that woman’s husband, lover, friend, or foe, we shall forever be bound by our children.
I have struggled against my self incarceration for fourteen long years convinced of my abilities to address any challenge to my resolve to make impossible possible. But in the end nature has prevailed. Thus, on a beautiful sunny Saturday morning, events have transpired — governed by the inviolate rules of causality, that have led to my aforementioned detention by the police and my eminent release from said self incarceration.
As I now bask in the glory of my newfound freedom, I wonder if I have finally learnt my lesson for good. Because, as I watch the sunlight fade through the opaque glass blocks in the ceiling of my detention cell I find these words pouring out of me, trying to seduce me in to giving in yet again to my vanity. I remind myself that while I may indeed be able to free myself from the shackles of yet another failed marriage I shall continue to be a prisoner of few other afflictions: One of being an eternal optimist and the other of being a hopeless romantic.
These words being written in a state of feigned angst at being wrongfully accused and detained are a testament to the enormity of the challenge that I will pose to myself in the near future. On one hand the need for the social structures that I am trying to reject is undeniable and it behooves me to allow my children to benefit from them at least until they are capable of fending for themselves. On the other hand, I am holding the “golden ticket” to the greatest show on earth, My Life, that will allow me to defy conventions with impunity. This choice, fortunately or unfortunately, is the prison from which there is no escape for the living!
But on the bright side, I can now cross off another item on my bucket list — one that I never thought I would be granted the pleasure of experiencing!
The author can confirm that the Protagonist has since been released from detention without any formal charges being levied against him but on conditional bail that has forced him in to exile for the period of twenty six days. Any further developments may or may not be forthcoming. Any and all queries are welcome but may or may not be answered.
“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.” – J.K. Rowling
There once lived a man, The Protagonist, who after a rather tumultuous childhood and an awkward early adulthood found enlightenment at the age of thirty. But it wasn’t until the age of forty seven that he truly realised his predicament. For he had been blessed with the ability to manifest his destiny, unfortunately, at a great cost to those near and dear to him. Our hero struggled in vain to be a benevolent influence but he repeatedly met with failure. Every time the person that he would try to help with genuine sincerity would end up getting hurt by our own hero’s actions. As if he himself was a manifestation of the old idiom: “The path to hell is paved with good intentions!”
But the eternal optimist within our tragic hero refused to admit failure and so he continued to apply the considerable faculties at his disposal to finding a solution to his predicament.
Of course, an easy solution would have been to opt for exile and fade away in to oblivion but given the responsibility of parenthood our protagonist had to take the path most travelled. Thus he found himself relegated to a surreal existence as if caught in purgatory. He adopted a stoic stance and tried his best to minimise the frequency of serendipitous entanglements with other kindred spirits. He bore the brunt of being misunderstood as a cynic and a pessimist while being also accused of being a narcissist. He was certainly someone who took pride in his accomplishments and his path to enlightenment had made him realise that self love was the path to salvation. So he was not inclined to become a martyr or a false prophet only to be posthumously abused by the very cretins that he absolutely despised.
Those few individuals who at least felt sympathetic towards his cause remarked that while he was certainly touched by Divine Inspiration his aspirations were thwarted by Satanic Whispers. And so our hero continued down the path of life as it unfolded before him; guided by his instincts and by taking solace in the courage of his convictions. As he approached the forty eighth anniversary of his birth he happened to reach out to a person who claimed to be a “philomath”. He was instantly intrigued by this fellow traveller and was pleasantly surprised when the traveller responded to him in the most favourable manner. As their correspondence grew by leaps and bounds our hero even allowed himself to be infatuated by the aura surrounding this new found companion. He almost started hoping against all hope that his prayers had finally been answered. Alas, little did he know that this tale too had a tragic twist waiting to unravel our hero’s naive dreams.
Our protagonist slowly realised that his fellow traveller was inspiring him not to succeed but rather to fail. And then it dawned upon him, “What if inspiration was not only limited to helping us recover from a failure? Instead we sometimes need to be inspired to fail — to lose the battle to win the war so as to say.” Furthermore, he remarked, “Of course, the game of chess is all about sacrifices but sacrifice is not synonymous with failure. As intelligent beings homo sapiens are biologically conditioned to equate failure to death to the point that the species had evolved to have an aversion to risk. On the other hand it had been the appetite for risk — the leap before you think approach — that had propelled the fearless adventurers amongst them to dream the unachievable dream and even come very close to making the dream a reality. So it would be safe to say that while the human society at large was risk averse they were equally happy to partake in the success of those foolhardy few amongst them to the point of even abusing their gifts for the collective good!”
Our hero was now faced with a conundrum: On the one hand he held sacrosanct that each of us must do our part in the great circle of life. And to that end we must live our lives to the fullest consuming what we must to nurture ourselves and then in turn being consumed ourselves by the next generation. On the other hand, this pattern of consumption results in wanton creation of waste that threatens all life on this fragile speck of dust that we call Mother Earth.
He wondered, “Why can human life not be a zero sum game?” Our hero reminded himself that migratory patterns of the North Atlantic or Pacific salmon were a classic example of a species that “fails” at one primary purpose of life by dying to reproduce thus then “succeeding” at the other primary purpose of life. Along the way they contributed to the survival of an ecosystem consisting of great predators such as the grizzly bears and bald eagles. “Why is it so hard to imagine a scenario where humans can evolve or possibly devolve to live in harmony with nature?” our protagonist cried out in anguish.
And as if on cue the answer presented itself to him. “We need someone to inspire us to fail — to stop and think for a moment — to introspect and finally to help us decide when to stop our relentless pursuit of happiness which is invariably going to lead us to our doom!” And he just stood transfixed as he realised that the fools who had martyred themselves for the silliest of causes and the false prophets that had renounced life itself had actually done the wrong thing but under the right pretext. “Who are we to try and force entropy of human evolution to flow backwards towards achieving an equilibrium with nature?” he cried out! “It might be the preordained destiny of our species to succeed at destroying Life itself?” And thus our hero finally found his true calling: To inspire others to fail… to fail at living a morally correct life… to fail at trying to stop the inevitable destruction of the biosphere.
Maybe, just maybe, by hastening the failure of our species, Life could succeed at finding a way to survive!
According to Wikipedia the origins of the English idiom, “To each his own” can be traced back to the German phrase “Jedem das Seine” which is the literal German translation of the Latin phrase “Suum cuique”. While the German phrase is controversial unto itself due to its use by the Nazi regime, the Latin phrase has its own origins in Greek antiquity as a principle of justice that Plato defined in Republic as “justice is when everyone minds his own business, and refrains from meddling in others’ affairs” (sic). The Wikipedia article on “Suum cuique” further goes on to say “Everyone should do according to his abilities and capabilities, to serve the country and the society as a whole. Also, everyone should receive “his own” (e.g., rights) and not be deprived of “his own” (e.g., property)” (sic)
We can all agree that the present day use of the phrase is at least orthogonal if not completely at odds with its origins. First of all as a social animal, human beings are incapable of “minding their own business”. We need constant reaffirmation that we belong to some social structure that in turn gives us a sense of purpose. Secondly, in this hyper connected era that we live in, “taking an active interest in” if not outright “meddling in” other peoples lives is a primary means of entertainment for most and even a source of income to many. Thirdly, the biggest institutions on this planet, namely the three major religions, require that we help our fellow human beings stay on the path to salvation by helping them decide if not dictating to them what is right and wrong.
But as is true with all generally accepted set of rules, there are exceptions, and in this context the exception is the so called “Liberal Left Elites”. The reader should note at this point that since the author is neither a philosopher nor a politician by trade and has minimal knowledge of history of the anthropological origins of liberalism and its subsequent split in to leftism, the term is used loosely to group together individuals who are sufficiently well placed in the social hierarchy wherein they do not have to be primarily bothered by the need to “earn a living”. Nevertheless, the group does include hardworking individuals and prominent thinkers and artists of our times whose opinions are well respected and are capable of influencing political outcomes in general elections but exclude those individuals who still subscribe to the capitalist mandate of creation and retention of private wealth.
Such individuals claim to have achieved freedom from being slaves to the corporate culture and found their “tribes” wherein they can cocoon themselves thereby insulating them from the harsh realities of the world. These individuals have the luxury of picking and choosing the people that they will interact with and invest their energies in to. Whenever they encounter a person with a significantly different doctrine they are quick to quip “To each his own!” and retreat back in to their cocoons filled with delusional fantasies that they are providing a valuable service to their “tribesmen”. Interestingly though they rely on tools that are products of the same corporate culture that they have sought to free themselves of, such as Facebook and Zoom. But in the same spirit we can also let them be by quoting “To each his own!” because they are neither hurting anyone nor are they trying to disrupt life outside their cocoon.
And therein lies the origin of this article which seeks to jolt these individuals out of their delusions and tear down the walls of their cocoons to demand that they come back in to the fold of the prevalent social structure and contribute to the society as a whole to the fullest extent of their capabilities. The personal hardships that they will face as “slaves to the corporate culture” are sacrifices that are demanded off of them for the betterment of the human race which should be every human’s primary purpose. At the same time they also must join in the debauchery of consumerism in their personal lives by participating in the primary purpose of “Life” itself: Reproduction! Any parent today will agree that raising children in the modern age is by far the most challenging aspect of their lives. So how can these elitists be exempted from this moral obligation under the guise of right to self determination? Especially when you have the extreme right wing shouting at the top of their voices that their tribesmen are not reproducing enough!
What a strange world we live in when the wrong people make the right choice!
One can even go as far as to say that those unfortunate (or fortunate, depending on your perspective) enough to be incapable of natural reproduction must then leverage the technological advances in “in vitro fertilisation” and services such as surrogate wombs to fulfil their obligations. Additionally, they must also adopt and foster orphan children to the best of their financial capabilities. A number of celebrities, Angelina Jolie for example, have set excellent precedents for others to follow.
Finally, while entrepreneurship might be the best means of earning a living for many of these individuals they must ensure that they pay adequate taxes and not practice tax reduction or even evasion by restricting themselves to being small business owners. That avenue, in the humble opinion of the author, must be reserved only for tradesmen who can operate shops and thus pay more indirect taxes and also promote consumerism. Unfortunately, the tax code and subsequently the tax collection mechanisms are not sufficiently mature enough to deal with the technological advances that enable the new ways of working. The future of work itself is at a crossroads given the prevalence of the gig economy and the work from home practices necessitated by the global pandemic.
But this article cannot end here as it would then have been unfair in ostracising this one small strata of our society and give a “carte blanch”, so as to say, to the cultists who subscribe to the most nefarious of practices under the guise of “religious freedom”. Religion has been the crutches on which the weakest amongst us have been dependent upon to make sense of the chaos that surrounds us. They refuse to accept that there is no God (or gods) that will help them find inner peace and that life itself can but fight a losing battle against chaos. Atheism requires discipline that even the most orthodox religious practices do not even come close to demanding. Subsequently, religion will remain the opioid for the masses until evolution finds a way!
In conclusion, while we must each choose our battles to the best of our abilities, fight we must against the tyranny of complacency until our dying breath!
“To each his own!” is a battle cry that must resonate across the world to galvanise us all in to action!
“Vanity… Definitely my favourite sin!”, John Milton, The Devil’s Advocate.
The defining trial of the age of man is underway at a grand scale. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced mankind to put its core moral values on trial. At stake is our very humanity. The plaintiff is our moral code demanding that we put the collective good of the species ahead of the needs of the individual. The defendant is our very biology that drives us to take risks in pursuit of ephemeral emotions such as happiness and the satisfaction derived from indulging our basal instincts. The judge and jury is our collective intelligence. The only actors missing are the lawyers to represent both sides to ensure that the law is upheld. But will justice be delivered? Or rather can there be a just resolution to this eternal dispute between the body and the soul?
Maybe it is our vanity that is the real culprit here. After all, in our vanity we have strived to control every aspect of our natural world in spite of having been repeatedly shown our place in the natural order by Mother Nature. Why does the species as a whole then persevere in this endeavour? After all there has never been a dearth of the enlightened souls who have tried to make us see the glaring fallacies in our reasoning. These messiahs have even been able to resist the lure of vanity and have stayed true to their cause. Instead it has taken a global pandemic to force humanity to put itself on trial.
So let us then try to explore what has been missing from the cast of characters. The God and the Devil are present and so are angels and demons. Then we have human beings with varying moral standards spread over the entire spectrum from outright altruistic to downright evil. We have teachers, preachers, and gurus to guide us and marketeers, profiteers, and politicians to beguile us. The one unfulfilled role seems to be that of a lawyer, nay an advocate, who can help us represent our true selves and argue dispassionately on our behalf in a court that is inherently biased towards ruling in favour of our materialistic needs.
If the Devil needs an advocate to try and bend our free will then why should God rely only on his angels? Enter a Spiritual Advocate!
True to the definition of the word, a Spiritual Advocate must primarily be responsible for arguing to our flawed intelligence to strive to achieve a balance between our diverse needs. They should help us rein in our desires to feel morally justified whilst indulging our biological needs. And in turn they should help alleviate our guilt arising from bending our moral compass whilst striving to stay true to our very basic purpose as living things: to carry on living to the best of our abilities!
The situation is further complicated by the undeniable fact the homo sapiens species is the only species that consists of individuals who are prey and individuals who are predators and of individuals who are primarily producers and individuals who are primarily consumers. This results in a dichotomy in our very plane of existence producing two distinct worlds: one which consists of individuals who are driven to live by strict adherence to an agreed upon set of social laws and the other wherein each individual is truly empowered to establish their own moral code and live by it. And thus required to mediate between these two worlds are advocates who can straddle the schism that separates these two worlds and thus maintain the peace.
The spiritual advocates are themselves certainly not free of the lure of vanity as they face off against the Devil’s advocates who are entrenched in both the worlds. It is this herculean effort that they put in to stand their ground that makes them the true superheroes of our time! Let us then call out to these spiritual advocates to come out of the shadows and in to the limelight to help us restore some sense of order to this world devoured by the forces of good and evil at a scale never before witnessed in the history of our species!
My favourite scene from the movie As Good As It Gets has to be the dialogue below:
Melvin Udall: I’ve got a really great compliment for you, and it’s true. Carol Connelly: I’m so afraid you’re about to say something awful. Melvin Udall: Don’t be pessimistic, it’s not your style. Okay, here I go: Clearly, a mistake. I’ve got this, what – ailment? My doctor, a shrink that I used to go to all the time, he says that in fifty or sixty percent of the cases, a pill really helps. I hate pills, very dangerous thing, pills. Hate. I’m using the word “hate” here, about pills. Hate. My compliment is, that night when you came over and told me that you would never… all right, well, you were there, you know what you said. Well, my compliment to you is, the next morning, I started taking the pills. Carol Connelly: I don’t quite get how that’s a compliment for me. Melvin Udall: You make me want to be a better man.
I am pretty certain that just because everyone loves a happy ending, Melvin is granted moral redemption at the end of the movie and they walk off in to the haze of flour. But it does make one wonder whether Melvin’s character was meant to be a hero or a villain or simply be a protagonist of a heart warming story. I am willing to bet that the writers were happy to let the audience make that choice for themselves.
But this is not a movie review, I am writing this blog to shout out in to the cosmic void that I refuse to become a villain in my own story! Or a victim for that matter. I am simply the protagonist of my story and I will tell it the way I please. Why? Simply because I can!
Do not worry though, I don’t intend to bore you with my story. It is full of cliches and stereotypes and with a fair share of idiosyncrasies given the rather unusual road that I have been privileged to walk down. The intention of writing this blog post in the first person is rather sinister: To patronise you in to feeling sorry for me. And therein lies the rub as the bard said. Most of the sentient members of our species are all too eager to belong to a group, a society, a culture, a nation and in doing so they thrive on the collective empathy that enables the human society to exist in a quasi peaceful state. We thus feel empowered to righteously point fingers at individuals who have the audacity to stand apart. At the same time we are ever so eager to practice idolatry and we find a steady supply of heroes to idolise – willingly or unwillingly – that is a moot point.
Those that we find worthy of our disdain are either cast out to be ridiculed or are politely ignored as their monetary contributions to the society are hard to pass up on. I wish to acknowledge that I belong to the purgatory that exists within these two extremes.
Of course, there are the true villains amongst us, embodiment of pure evil: capitalists, politicians, lawyers, and lest we forget religious preachers. I too particularly detest the devils and demons disguised in religious paraphernalia. But I am digressing here. Let me turn the spotlight back on to myself.
I am not an evil person. I am fairly well educated, well travelled, and well read. But somewhere along the way I was seduced by the dark side: Liberalism. That I subscribe to Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism would be the nail in the proverbial coffin. Add to that my uncanny ability to patronise with impunity and my often misunderstood unabashed pride in my state of mind and you have all the makings of a narcissistic sociopath. As a matter of fact I am being evaluated by a clinical psychologist as to whether I suffer from Anti Social Personality Disorder. Apparently, it is now politically incorrect to label someone as a sociopath or a psychopath unless they pose a clear danger to themselves or to those around them.
But nevertheless I am a human being with human needs and so I find myself, at the age of forty six, in a rather unique situation. Sans the details let me just tell you that I face the prospect of either betraying myself or losing my tenuously held place in society. There are those even within my own bloodline who continue to try and get me to see the light and try and mend my ways. They warn me of the perils that lay ahead and how I should humbly allow myself to be subjected to the social norms so that I may benefit from being part of a family and a society that takes care of its own. But I refuse and subsequently I am being branded a villain hell bent on destroying my life and thereby causing irreparable damage to those nearest and dearest to me.
Well dear reader this is where I had an epiphany: What if this is as good as it gets for me? I am sure I am not alone in being in this situation so the socially responsible thing to do was to post this out there: a message in a bottle tossed in to the ocean of humanity. Those who would be unlucky enough to find and read this must excuse me for trying to pull the ground from under their feet. Alternatively in the age of #MeToo and #MenToo those who find themselves being forced to ask the same question – may this be a beacon of hope. Or maybe you are unable to find the words and the voice to question why those nearest and dearest to you are so impacted by your choices. My suggestion is that you look at yourself in a mirror and ask: Why does it even matter? Sometimes being a necessary evil is better than being an unnecessary influence which only time can decide as to whether it was good or bad.
But please don’t come knocking on my door for empathy; I am too busy living my life and having a hell of a good time! After all, I did warn you of my evil super power!
In view of recent events, this article is neither a critique of leaders across the world nor is it a commentary on the current global political quagmire. Instead, this can be construed as an open ended question being posed to the collective human intelligence with an unconditional admission that even an attempt to answer the question might be a futile endeavour pandering to our vanity as the dominant species on this planet. We shall instead start from an opinion expressed by a newly minted product of our broken educational system who declared in an article posted a couple of years ago that:
“Nationalism is a dangerous, slippery slope, and it’s a problem we have created ourselves in our human, global community.” – Sina Samali in The New Englander on March 28, 2018.
Sina Samali was a senior at New England College (NEC) in Henniker, New Hampshire, USA, pursuing a degree in Communications and a minor in Psychology at the time of publication of this article. He was also the captain of the Men’s Soccer Team.
It is refreshing to see someone as young as Sina taking on a topic as complicated as this even if just for a short op-ed for the college newspaper. Unfortunately, the article is far too short and Sina seems hesitant of saying it out loud that one nation’s terrorists are another nation’s martyrs. It most certainly makes academic sense to be politically correct when you are a Communications major!
We shall however take a more broad sweeping view of how nationalism impacts the world at every level imaginable: hindering progress of the human species itself and threatening the very ability of the planet to sustain life. In that sense the question being posed can be considered as a corollary to the previously published article “Is intelligence an evolutionary mistake?” but unlike intelligence, nationalism seems not to be a product of evolution. It is even distinguished from patriotism with both terms appearing in common literature in the late 18th century. The interested reader is referred to the articles on Nationalism and Patriotism on Wikipedia for the origin stories. To further add to the confusion almost every nation has even engaged in practising jingoism to a degree due to the ever expanding threat of global terrorism. But we shall steer clear of that for the moment.
Let us focus then on nationalism as per the following definition from Wikipedia:
“Nationalism is an ideology and movement that promotes the interests of a particular nation (as in a group of people) especially with the aim of gaining and maintaining the nation’s sovereignty (self-governance) over its homeland. Nationalism holds that each nation should govern itself, free from outside interference (self-determination), that a nation is a natural and ideal basis for a polity, and that the nation is the only rightful source of political power (popular sovereignty). It further aims to build and maintain a single national identity—based on shared social characteristics such as culture, language, religion, politics, and belief in a shared singular history — and to promote national unity or solidarity. Nationalism, therefore, seeks to preserve and foster a nation’s traditional culture, and cultural revivals have been associated with nationalist movements. It also encourages pride in national achievements.”
Anthropologists would argue that the evolutionary forces that enabled us to transcend the biological barriers to co-operation beyond families and progressively form bigger constructs conducive to the progression of the species such as groups of hunter gatherers, tribes, villages, cities, nations, and finally civilisations are what has led us to develop such a strong sense of nationalism. It is rather ironic then that nationalism has lead us down a slippery slope from its peak in the 18th century and that too because we managed to bring about the Industrial Revolution right around the same time.
While the First Agricultural Revolution also known as the Neolithic Revolution led to Homo Sapiens becoming the dominant species on the planet, the Industrial Revolution led to a glut of supply that far outstripped the demand. The American revolution had also necessitated the need to overcome the moral conundrums being faced by the imperialistic empires formed by annexing sovereign city states through military might over the course of the colonial era. The stage was thus set for the “entrepreneurs” of the colonial era to corrupt the “noble” concept of Nationalism to promote the use of colonialism over imperialism to extend the monopolies over trade that they had enjoyed over the centuries. Thus while the “colonies” rejoiced in succeeding in gaining freedom over the course of the first half of the twentieth century little did they realise that the rapid progress in technology enabled their old colonial masters to enslave them yet again albeit in a new guise.
Nevertheless, all the conflict of the twentieth century cannot undermine the progress that we continued to make as a species. It is not surprising then that Neil Armstrong chose not to say “One small step for man… One giant leap for Americans” as he extended the dominion of our species beyond the heavens. We whole heartedly embraced Globalisation without an inkling as to its impact on our evolved sense of Nationalism. Unfortunately, history has repeatedly stood a mute witness to the fact the most evil deeds are often the result of good intentions.
It thus behooves us to swallow the bitter truth that the prevalent notion of Nationalism is a corruption of a fundamental law of Nature that is necessary for the survival of a species through the process of evolution. While the fittest amongst us continue to succeed on a global scale just as we did in the past; the weakest amongst us cling on to a hope to overcome adversity sustained only by the intoxicating fervour resulting from imbibing vast quantities of “Nationalism Kool-Aid” on a daily basis. The situation is far worse for the most unfortunate amongst us who are in turn oppressed in the name of Nationalism. It should be accepted beyond any doubt that the grief felt by every mother who has ever lost a child to a conflict fuelled by a misplaced sense of nationalism or jingoism cannot be alleviated by glorifying the dead as martyrs.
But then there are those who fall in the spectrum in between these extremes who find themselves either on a fence unable to move or being torn to pieces in the ensuing tug of war: the fabled middle class.
The great institutions of democracy across the globe have figured out the perfect means of leveraging this middle class through yet another construct: Protectionism. While superficially it is an economic policy that attempts to balance the ugly side of capitalism inherent to the nature of globalisation in its infancy; Protectionism is a cowardly approach to promoting nationalism. Yet it seems that it has helped rally the working class across the globe behind a rather toxic form of nationalism and silence the free thinkers in almost every developed country by labelling them as “anti-nationals”.
Thus we find ourselves at the edge of the proverbial precipice staring in to a chaotic abyss wherein the survival of all sentient life itself and not just of our species is at stake. But then we are just an accidental alignment of stardust insignificant in scale and devoid of any grand design. So it is but natural that we are accelerating our assimilation back in to the cosmos as stardust.
Metro Man said it best: “I DO have a choice! I can be whatever I wanna be! No one said that this hero thing had to be a lifetime gig!”
So why do we then rejoice at the end of the movie when Megamind becomes the reluctant superhero that Metro City so desperately needs? Maybe he ends up being this miserable misfit constantly at odds with the good and evil personas within himself.
If you were to look carefully at all the superhero characters each and everyone of them contends with the choice that Metro Man made. Assuming that all the superheroes are mortal as was so persuasively depicted in Avengers: Infinity War and Incredibles, let us consider that maybe they too need the help of the common folks rather than always being led to slaughter in our defence. Does it not then behoove us to help them? After all it is Martha that saves Superman from being killed by Batman in Dawn of Justice! And in turn, Batman realises that only Lois Lane can be “the Big Guns” that can bring the rogue Superman under control in The Justice League.
Maybe the underlying message in all of these is that it is actually our Superheroes that need to be saved by us… the very people that they are here to save! Thats a paradox and an oxymoron bundled in to one. So how shall we unravel this interdependence? Or is this interdependence the whole equation in the first place? Let us ponder a bit more before throwing in the towel.
The answer is rather elementary, as one of the original superheroes would be happy to point out, “Eliminate all other factors, and the one which remains must be the truth.” Superheroes are the creation of feeble human minds. These people believe that the limits of human ability can only be transcended by beings either of alien origin or ordinary humans augmented by technology created by those of us with far superior intellect. Aliens have always been expected to earn their right to live amongst their gracious hosts in their adopted countries, one of which is the country from where most of the superhero stories have originated. So naturally Superman is so indebted to his adopted parents and the planet Earth on which he grew up that he is forced to sacrifice his own species from being resurrected.
The humans amongst us with superior intellect are in turn forced to apply their genius so as to invent technology – military and medical that will protect the ordinary citizenry. The monetary gains from the invention of such technology are underplayed purposefully to portray these super-humans in a morally correct view. Morals that were, surprisingly, invented by people of far lower intellect and with a populist viewpoint that benefits people in power achieved through questionable methods.
Even, God himself is not exempt from this convoluted logic as the article published in BBC titled “The disabled Christians reinterpreting the Bible”. If God, admittedly the most ingenious creation of the worst amongst us, needs to be re-defined to be in tune with the modern world then so should we take the effort to redefine the nature of Superheroes and possibly give them an opportunity to lead a life that we all crave: A simple and carefree life. Unfortunately, the prerequisite is the existence of a utopian universe; which obviously remains far outside of the reach of humans with feeble intellect. Hence, in the interim the worst amongst us will continue to demand that the blood of countless Superheroes be spilled in our service. After all we are their creators!