America, India, Religion, Serious Writing, US Presidential Elections

Bobby Jindal and the ABCD

There is a colloquial term that is used among the people from India and the Indian sub-continent. It is used to describe and/or identify children of Indian immigrants in America. The term is ABCD, and it stands for American Born Confused Desi. (Desi being a generic term for the people from the Indian sub-continent). For the most part, this term is used as a tool for mockery and satire. But from what I have seen, there is a lot of truth to what it stands for. And when I dug deeper into Bobby Jindal, the Louisiana Governor and 2016 President hopeful (!), and what he had to say about where his parents came from and how he identifies himself, this post began to write itself. But as I gave it more thought, this post took a different direction altogether (as is evident from below).

But first with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.

Just so the reader is aware, Bobby Jindal isn’t his birth name. His parents named him Piyush Jindal, but then he changed it to a more ‘American’ sounding name when he was 10 – based on a character from Brady Brunch. He then went on to renounce his religion – Hinduism – in favor of a more accepted American South’s Catholicism. Apparently, the Bible made a big impression on him when he read it under the sheets in his bed as a kid (since he had to hide it from his parents). On the other hand, I would like to know if he even made the effort to read a single Hinduism religious text, and if he did, then what he did or did not like about it. He has publicly made statements to the effect that he wants to be called American, and not Indian-American. (There is some validity to this, but that is a separate discussion in itself). He has a self portrait of a white man in his office. Yes, that is true. And his campaign slogan now appears to be ‘Tanned, Rested and Ready’.

Bobby Jindal’s Self Portrait featuring White Guy

Bobby Jindal Self Portrait featuring even Whiter Guy

Now here is something about an ABCD who was in my circle of friends a couple of years ago:

He told me I reminded him of Rajesh Koothrapalli (the ABCD character from Big Bang Theory) in front of a bunch of white people. (Oh the irony!) He actively distanced himself from where his parents were and about his (clearly forced) visits to India. He once pointed to an Indian origin anchor on TV to me and said, “Hey man! Look on TV. It is one of YOUR people.” He once pointed to other fellow Indian immigrants on the street and remarked they were ‘Akshay’s cousins’.

Apart from the fact that that was the only time anyone has ever made a racist comment to me here in America, it is extremely ironic and disappointing that it came from a guy with the same ethnicity. My first reaction was disbelief and anger. (Needless to say, I no longer have any contact with him). But over time, I have come to understand a far more fundamental issue in play among children born to Indian immigrants in general. It is what eventually manifests itself in racist remarks to one’s own kind, ridiculous campaign slogans, as an active distancing from one’s own community, and the ‘C’ in ABCD. I am not just referring to the simple case of the identity crisis, but more importantly, to how the ABCDs deal with and respond to them.

I cannot even begin to comprehend what children of Indian immigrants have to go through growing up with kids that have zero resemblance to how they look. What kind of bond do they form with the other kids? How do the other kids react when they see a non-white, non-black, non-Asian and non-Hispanic kid in their classroom? Are they curious? Or do they already have pre-conceived opinions and look at him weird? Do the other kids make fun of his/her skin color? How does the kid with Indian parents answer the question, “Where are you from”? And what do the parents tell the kid at home? How do the parents bring him up? Do they bring him up to be an American? Or have they decided that their kid is going to be brought up with what they have understood to be Indian values? How do they find a balancing act? What kind of resources do they have to guide them? Are they even aware of the impact their potential ignorance has on the kid?

Once we begin to find the answers to questions like these, only then can we claim to truly understand how it is to be the child of Indian immigrants. These are hard questions. And the answers to them generally point to a set of circumstances where the kid is the easy subject of ridicule, bullying and casual (if not explicit) racism to the point of being ashamed of his own skin color. It points to a situation where the parents have very little to no idea about what is happening or how to deal with it. It paints a picture where the kid is torn between what he is told at home and what he is expected to be at school. They tell us a story of the parents bringing up the kids in the same way they would if they were in India -and being blissfully unaware of the repercussions. They tell us the story of the brown kid who ultimately learnt that he needed to be an ‘American’ – in style, looks and thought, not just in passport – in order to fit in with the world around him.

And it is at this critical juncture that a lot rests on. More specifically, what does the kid do about all of this? The ultimate destination is clear – be more American so that you are considered part of the world around you instead of being seen as the stranger in a strange land. But the path to get there is less evident. The kid sees two major paths to get there: embrace all the things that America has to offer while remembering your own ethnic identity and heritage, or completely reject and deny your ethnic heritage and identity while going all out to prove to everyone around you that you are an American.

It is not too hard to see which path is more easy for the child to take. An adolescent kid with a natural propensity to rebel, with no real guidance around him, whose main priority is to be accepted among his school friends who are not his own skin color, and who has ‘decided’ to be more ‘American’ has very little to choose from. Rejecting and denying where his parents came from, what his ethnicity is, what his religion is, what he eats, and which languages he speaks is – in the child’s head – the easiest way to ‘become more American’. And thus the kid reaches his destination not by embracing what the American lifestyle and freedom has to offer, but by rejecting who he is, how he looks, and all the values his parents believed in.

Popular portrayal of the ABCD has not particularly helped matters. It has almost always involved showcasing a guy or a girl in their youth, having conservative Indian immigrants for parents, and is struggling to ‘break away’ from their conservative ways to explore the ‘freedom’ that America has to offer. This has pretty much been it. I am unaware of any popular portrayal of the ABCD where there are bigger questions – identity crisis, bullying, casual racism, alienation, lack of counselling – asked of being an American born to Indian immigrants. There is no ‘why’, just a ‘what’.  And that is rather unfortunate.

And so we have a world where American kids born to Indian immigrants feel the need to reject the values taught at home in order to be accepted among friends at school. Over time, this manifests as a deeper hatred and shame towards people of one’s own kind and everything that is associated with them. And this is what leads to brown-skinned people believing they are white, changing their religions, finding Indian food too spicy or refusing to eat anything that doesn’t have beef in it, making racist remarks to people of their own skin color, and actively distancing themselves from anything remotely associated with India and other Indians.

When one looks at Bobby Jindal or my ex-friend through this frame of reference, the perspective changes from mockery and ridicule to one of sympathy and understanding. I may never actually change my opinion about what kind of a person they are now, but I do so with a better understanding of how they got to where they are. Without a shred of doubt, I am extremely glad that neither me nor my parents had to go through this daunting experience. Being born and raised in India until the age of 25, I had my identity and values well set before I made my move here. As I have slowly integrated myself with what America has to offer, I have embraced those aspects that do not conflict with my core values, and did so without forgetting where I came from. But I was able to do so only because I knew who I was and what I stood for before I got here.

I started writing this post sitting on my high horse passing judgment and mockery at a set of people whom I thought were just simply bad. But as I now conclude it, I am glad that I have a better understanding of why they are that way. I will even go to the extent of admitting that I myself may not have turned out any different than them if I was brought up here. So I can only hope that a lot more awareness is spread around on these aspects of growing up as children of Indian immigrants in this country. And at some point, maybe, we will have a generation of children who are indeed proud of where their parents came from and all the good things that India has to offer.

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PS: It would be summarily incorrect to assume or stereotype that all children born to Indian immigrants end up this way. Or that all parents have no clue about how to deal with such situations. The point being made here is that more often than not, the conditions surrounding a kid growing up are conducive to such an outcome.

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Arsenal, Chelsea, Football, Serious Writing

A Perfect Example Demonstrating the Inherent Bias in a Sports Fan

Yesterday I watched with great satisfaction Chelsea getting the better of Arsenal (well, duh!) early in the morning. That pretty much made my day and my weekend. The match was not without incident. Arsene Wenger openly pushed Mourinho in the latter’s technical area following a Gary Cahill tackle on Alexis Sanchez. I am not as interested in why Wenger pushed Mourinho or what exactly transpired there. What drew my attention earlier today is how fans from the two teams reacted to the news that Arsene Wenger wouldn’t be charged by the FA. For this, I looked at the SB Nation blogs for both the teams. (Yes, I follow the Arsenal and Man Utd SB Nation blogs in addition to Chelsea’s).

Wenger pushing Mourinho. But of course, Mourinho is at fault!

If you are not aware, SB Nation is a very well organized website with separate blogs for each sports team across different sports and geographies. The content is generally admirable and there are usually few posts every day on each blog, so this way you will always have something to read about your team. As a fan, this is invaluable as it gives a sense of being part of a fan community from all over the world. You should definitely check it out. But I digress.

So following the FA’s announcement today, We Ain’t Got No History, SB Nation’s Chelsea Blog ran a post that pretty much summed up my feelings. Just the hypocrisy of the FA when it comes to punishing Mourinho (or Pardew for that matter) over other managers is something that never seems to go away. I can possibly write an entire post on that but I won’t. For the most part, WAGNH’s post covers it – with a generous dose of sarcasm and an underlying frustration. Here is a quote from there:

“Point B” was of course on the pitch, where managers aren’t allowed, technically, but let’s not worry too much about technicalities.  It’s not like they matter anyway.

Here’s a thought exercise.  Say we reverse the roles, and it’s Jose Mourinho (or, say, Alan Pardew) who puts both hands on Wenger’s chest and shoves him (however meekly), just how many games do you think he would’ve gotten here?  Three?  Four?  Ten?  Perhaps with a public flogging or two?

Mind you, the Arsenal manager received a fine and a one-match ban for a “sarcastic pat on the back” of the fourth official in 2010.  It’s good to know that the FA considers a light tap on the back a far harsher offense than physically confronting the opposing manager in his own technical area.

The tone and the text is self explanatory. Chelsea fans have seen Mourinho being fined and/or banned for far less by the FA. And watching Wenger go without as much as a warning obviously bothers us. But, whatever. Chelsea still won and Arsene Wenger still hasn’t won the only contest against Mourinho that actually matters – the one on the pitch. I was ready to cease my interest in this incident and get on with my work. But then…..

In comes The Short Fuse! SB Nation’s Arsenal blog. Ah! The Arsenal fans must be extremely relieved that their manager didn’t get any further punishment, right? Perhaps they realized that a manager just going out of his technical area itself constitutes a violation of the game’s rules? Nevermind actually pushing the other manager in the latter’s technical area! Surely they know that a manager is not allowed on the pitch itself? Obviously only the medical team is allowed on the pitch in case of injury, right?

Well, Fuck all that! Here is what The Short Fuse had to say (Bold emphasis added by me):

Both managers have admitted, in their own words, that it was a heated match.  Mourinho stated, accurately, that he’s been guilty of doing “many wrong things in football”, with Wenger confirming in his post-match press conference that Mourinho was guilty yet again in the sport by preventing him from attending to his fallen player, in this case Alexis Sanchez, after being viciously assaulted by Gary Cahill.

After agreeing with Mourinho in that he was wrong, while concluding that Wenger – who’s only got the best interests and concern for his player – was acting in good faith and acted only after being unjustly provoked, the FA made the correct and honest decision today.

I don’t even know where to start. Read the text slowly paying attention to each and every word or phrase. Look at the choice of words used here: ‘fallen player’, ‘viciously assaulted’, ‘Wenger confirming’ that ‘Mourinho was guilty yet again’, ‘being unjustly provoked’?????? Really??

Just to clarify, here is Mourinho’s full quote (You should really read all the quotes here):

But to be fair, I do so many wrong things in football, sometimes you lose emotions but not this time. This time I was just in my technical area and it was not my problem. Story over.

Ah! Nothing makes a quote fit your own narrative more than just picking pieces of it that you like! In addition to the quote manipulation, the choice of words used in the post reeks of complete and unapologetic bias. Apparently Mourinho was at fault because Wenger just confirmed it. Yes, that is all you need. Wenger confirmed that Mourinho was at fault. Case closed. Let’s all go home, eh? And while we are on the way, let’s also give Mourinho a 3 match ban OK?

(On a side note, this is exactly the kind of quotes I expect to hear on Fox News. Complete and unapologetic bias).

Now I can definitely understand the agitated state of mind of the Arsenal fan following yet another loss to Chelsea (and Mourinho). I can also understand the frustration and helplessness of supporting a constantly under achieving team. I can almost feel the outrage in the mind of the guy who wrote that Arsenal post. And it is something I have felt myself many many times over in the past decade or so that I have supported Chelsea. (God knows what all I wanted to do to referee Tom Overbo after the Chelsea – Barcelona semi-final from 2009). So yes I understand the outrage. But to blatantly portray a situation in a favorable light to your fellow fans while painting the other team as evil by twisting quotes and facts (especially like the above) shows something far more fundamental in a sports fan’s psyche. It shows the basic human condition of the need to rationalize by choosing to believe biased points of view.

Sports gives rise to many such situations at an extraordinary frequency – irrespective of whom you support. Add to this all the passion and rivalries that are part of any sport and you have a recipe for extreme mood swings on a weekly basis at the very least! And when the human mind has to cope with these mood swings, it just turns to the ever present tools of rationalization, confirmation bias and subjective validation to make itself feel better. These tools manifest themselves in things such as online arguments, finding fault with the referee, conspiracy theories, declaring that the other team ‘just didn’t deserve to win’, finding a scapegoat, calling for someone’s head, manipulating and presenting quotes and facts that fit our narrative, collective commiseration, etc. The list really is pretty long.

So when we have situations where we are extremely frustrated – like your sports team losing to a hated rival – our minds automatically look for how we can rationalize and justify the loss. Because if we can indeed justify it, then we get a sense of satisfaction from ‘knowing’ that there was something out of our team’s control that cost the result. This does not make us feel happy but it definitely helps in dealing with the pain. (Trust me I have been there many times).

And this is what The Short Fuse has done. The writer has clearly succumbed to the mind’s need to rationalize. His mind is essentially telling him: “Fuck objectivity! I just need to feel good right now!” And THAT, is a celebration of the human condition. The resulting piece only shows to what extent he must have been feeling that outrage and frustration.

The interesting thing about this is that it is not restricted to just sports. The same feelings of outrage, frustration and ultimately rationalization/justification also prevail strongly in all things that we hold sacred. These include topics such as religion, gun control, politics etc. The more passionate you get about something and hold it sacred, the less objective you tend to get in that topic. It is just the way the mind works.

Isn’t it indeed a fascinating world we live in – where we can put sports, religion and gun control in the same box?

ART, Grief, Happiness, Mediocrity, Melancholia, Religion, Sadness, Serious Writing, The things that happen only to ME..., Thoughts

Making the Case Against Happiness: Societal and Religious Expectations

This is the first of what I hope will be a series of posts dealing with society’s incomplete, unfair and misplaced perception of happiness. 

The Happiness Industry is everywhere. It exists because we all want to be happy all the time. From the self help books, to the ‘Lead your life’ seminars, to the daily inspirational quotes, to all the websites and blogs giving you their own unique tips, to the religion sponsored salvation guarantees, to the different schools of thought offering that elusive ‘inner peace’, to the innumerable God Men who claim to know the path to enlightenment, to the beauty products that guarantee your confidence, to the prescription pills promising to alleviate your stress, to the never ending advertisements that promise you happiness in exchange for some of your money. 

The Happiness Industry’s Product is now for sale: EVERYWHERE

IT IS EVERYWHERE.

It is also completely missing the point.

It starts off with parents telling their kids that everyone should be happy in life. That is then upgraded to be a requirement. Subsequently, it becomes an order. Then there is talk of REAL HAPPINESS and that it comes from within. Materialistic objects are then perceived to be providing only temporary pleasure and are apparently never fully satisfying. Then there is the sudden realization that maybe REAL HAPPINESS lies in religion and God. Then there is an alternative school of thought that promises that elusive ‘inner peace’. How about living in the present? Or how about that really charismatic person who apparently performs miracles and who seems to want to help everybody be happy? He can surely make people happy? Perhaps falling in love is the key to fulfillment. Having children and starting a family is maybe what is missing. That promotion should help things get better. No? Then perhaps go back to religion and God. That is always a safe bet, right?

How hard people try….. All the places they look…. All the things they believe in…..

All searching for HAPPINESS. All the time.

I have only one question: WHY?

The answer to that is not a WHY NOT? The answer to the question ‘Why are people always looking to be happy?’ is  that wanting to be happy is simply a consequence of societal and religious expectations. Same as getting an education, getting a job, starting a family, etc. This expectation of being happy is so deeply ingrained in us that it is extremely hard to justify to somebody that being happy should never be considered a necessity. The idea that, as a human being, the objective in life is to  be happy is an extremely fundamental and fixed frame of reference. Everything everybody ever sees is through this frame of reference.

Just one question: WHY?
Just one question: WHY?

A few instances: when we are not feeling good, we are encouraged to talk to people to feel better – nobody says it is OK to feel down; when a friend has lost someone, we tell them everything is going to be OK – nobody reminds them of what a big loss they have just had; when someone is feeling down, we make it our responsibility to make them feel better – we don’t suggest that they try to express it through a form of art; a therapist is always expected to solve other people’s problems so that they feel better; counselling is always encouraged for people to get out of traumatic situations; when we are angry we are told to calm down because being calm makes it easier to be happy – nobody encourages us to listen to heavy metal music in that state of mind.

Ultimately, every state of mind that is not directly linked to being ‘happy’ is always judged to be something inferior – and people are expected to rise above it, whatever it takes. If we are unable to rise above it, we are then considered weak. If we are not considered weak, we are shown a lot of sympathy and/or pity. Being treated with sympathy or being considered weak – fact is that both these are still going to consider us to be inferior and as somebody who needs help. Note that both society and religion has already decided that every individual personally desires to be happy all the time. If there is an exception, then, well, there is apparently something wrong with that person. Right?

And this is where I have a problem. I realize everyone likes being happy – if happy things happened to them. I only question the deeply ingrained dogma of a society to judge a person who is not ‘happy’ as someone inferior to the rest. I also question the even more fundamental idea that everyone in this world should actively strive for happiness all the time and that everything else is a bad idea.

Being a human being is not just about being happy. We have evolved to be able to experience an unbelievable spectrum of emotions. Happiness is only one small part of it. Being happy makes you experience a certain specific sensation or feeling. If the sum total of all the feelings that we have experienced in our life is restricted to this one specific feeling, then can we even claim to have fully lived like a human being?

Happiness is good. But this should never imply the converse – that anything apart from happiness is miserable and unacceptable. And it should never make it acceptable for the society to simply demand and expect people to be happy all the time and consider them inferior if they are not. And so I personally reject all schools of thought that make happiness/salvation/enlightenment as the fundamental objective of a human being during his or her lifetime.

Come to think of it, if everyone from the beginning of time was happy all the time, how do you think our history would read? It would perhaps comprise of one sentence: “And then Mankind lived happily ever after”. That would be such a boring and one dimensional history and I would not want to be any part of it – even if it had made me happy.

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In the next post, I will explore the role of ART in explaining why the societal and religious perception of happiness is incomplete and completely misplaced. 

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Fake News, My sense of Humour, Religion, Satire, Serious Writing, The things that happen only to ME...

Breaking News: Kapil Sibal declares only Religious people have Right to feel Offended

In a bid to reinforce his image as the most clever minister in the ruling government (and as the official spokesperson for the Royal Family of India), Minister of Communications and Information Technology Kapil Sibal today came up with a new proposal which declared that only the religious people of the country have the right to feel offended. In a hurriedly called press conference, the minister read from his statement:

After ‘holding talks’ with the religious ‘heads and authorities’, we have come to a ‘consensus’ that only the religious people of this country will henceforth have the right to feel offended. Religious sentiments are something everyone should respect and nobody should offend. We just decided to take it a step further and draw the line there. So, conversely speaking, one cannot claim to be offended unless they are religious and their religious sentiments are involved.

Kapil Sibal talking to news reporters

Mr. Sibal clarified that he would be tabling this bill in the parliament in the next session and expected it to pass through with absolutely no objection.

We can expect for the first time this session, the opposition NOT to bring the proceedings to a halt. This is such a populist and secular bill that nobody will even dare to raise their voice against it! This will become a law by New Year!

The reporters were buzzing with questions and trying to make themselves heard. One eventually asked, “How is it fair to leave out non-believers and non-religious people out of their right to feel offended? Isn’t this blatant discrimination?”

To this, Mr. Sibal was quick to respond:

Well, I asked this question to all the religious heads and authorities too. And they pointed out that while religious people believe in something, irrespective of which God it is, non-religious people do not believe in anything at all! And so if they don’t believe in anything in the first place, then why would they ever feel offended at all? It seemed to make perfect sense to me. So I just agreed with them!

“But atheists and non-believers do believe in reason and this little thing called common f***ing sense! What are they supposed to do when religious people repeatedly say that the atheists are the most ignorant people on this planet? Not feel offended?”, yelled out one reporter.

Mr. Sibal seemed to consider this question with some weight. After a long pause, he replied enthusiastically,

That is the most intelligent question I have ever been asked! And the answer is in your question itself! Well, if you are a reasonable person with common sense, then only you are capable of understanding that other people – i.e the believers and religious people – need to have their right to freedom of speech and expression, right? And so since you can understand this, you are reasonable enough NOT to get upset about it!

On the other hand, have you ever tried reasoning with a religious person about different viewpoints? I mean, seriously, when has a religious person ever NOT gotten upset or angry or offended over ANYTHING you might have said that was contrary to his beliefs? I am sure that right now, at this moment, all of them want to smash my head to pieces because of what I just said – thus proving my very point!

So you see, the atheists and the non-believers are the only group of people who are even capable of not getting offended when others express different views. So if you are a reasonable person, you will NOT get offended if you are called the most ignorant person on this planet!

Of course, what this means is that you cannot ask the religious people to compromise on this and so it had to be the non-religious people!

There seemed to be a murmur of assent and agreement over what Mr. Sibal had just said. Even Mr. Sibal himself seemed to be in a state of sudden enlightenment trying to come to terms with what he had just said. After a brief pause, a reporter asked him, “So how do you intend to deal with the wide variety of cases that people usually tend to feel offended about?”

Kapil Sibal seemed to already have an answer ready for this:

Well, that is an easy question to answer. You see, the trick is to eventually attribute  whatever is being said to be offensive to religion. Take for example, girls wearing skirts. Many find it ‘morally’ and ‘culturally’ offensive. But then once they say that their moral values and culture is derived from religion, they have a case and can now go ahead and feel legally offended! In fact, all those people claiming to be the ‘moral’ police will now be rechristened as ‘religiously-easily-offended’ police!

And when it comes to more indirect cases of feeling offended, well, just use your brains I suppose! Just find a way to relate whatever offended you to religion and Booyah! You can legally feel offended and pursue the person offending you in court! Of course, the Govt is going to use this ploy to prosecute anyone and everyone who has anything bad to say about the Royal family of India. We will always find a way to make it a religious thing! Have you seen Glenn Beck? Have you seen his ability to relate ANYTHING on this planet to the Nazis? That man has a talent! We will even go the extent of hiring him to exploit this law!

For the last question of the press conference, a journalist from an unknown newspaper stood up to ask, “So what about all the people who claim to be spiritual but NOT religious? Do  they fall under the same category?”

Mr. Sibal appeared to get suddenly excited about the question.

Woah! These people are even more difficult to manage! Not only do they get offended with what is said, they also then double their efforts to force their beliefs upon you! They apparently believe that they have a spiritual obligation to save us all from the ignorant path we have taken! You really do not want to piss off those people for sure! So yes, they do come under this law. Thanks for asking this!

Later in the day Superstar Rajnikanth was asked what he would do if someone offended him. He replied,

Nobody has the balls.

Mediocrity, My sense of Humour, Religion, Satire, Serious Writing, Thoughts

Karma and the Just World Fallacy

The Just World Fallacy (or JWF hereon) is a fairly well known idea among psychology circles, even though outside of it, it hasn’t really created waves. It probably should. It has the power to make you feel horrible about the world.

Consider this:

YOU are walking by a busy street in Bangalore and spot two beggars, who are evidently in need of money and help. One is blind and the other is completely weak and malnourished. Of course you do not know the background or history of either of them. All you see are two beggars on a street begging for money.

Your friend next to you asks you, “Do they deserve to be so miserable?” What are YOUR first thoughts?

Consider another scenario:

YOU are glancing through a magazine not really reading any of the stories in depth, when you happen to see the cover story: “Two of the richest women in the country”. You take a look at both the women in it, acknowledge that they have a lot of money and then just move on to a different story. So you are completely unaware of the backgrounds of either of them.

A person sitting next to you asks you, “Wonder if those women deserve all that money?” What are your first thoughts?

Without knowing the background of each of the beggars, the first place your mind goes to is to think that these beggars had at some point made choices that made them deserve their current plight. And without knowing the history of the two women, the first place your mind goes to is that these two women must have made the right choices at some point that made them deserve all the money that they currently had.

THIS rationalization that you just did is what is called as the Just World Fallacy. The tendency of human beings to attribute good outcomes to good actions and bad outcomes to bad actions lies at the heart of this fallacy. We all do it – all the time. We make judgments on how each person deserved what they got or are going to deserve what they WILL get. We want to believe that making good choices in life will result in good outcomes and that making the bad choices is going to result in bad outcomes.

In other words, we want to believe that this world is ‘just’ and ‘fair’ and that whatever goes around comes around. And that ” …you want to believe hard work and virtue will lead to success, and laziness, evil and manipulation will lead to ruin, so you go ahead and edit the world to match those expectations.”  However, our failure to take into account chance and luck into the outcomes of the choices made is a clear demonstration of our own need for a just and fair world. We like to believe that we are in control of our lives – by making the right choices and by not making any bad choices. We do not like the results of our actions to be dependent upon chance. Hence, we embrace the Just World Fallacy.

Lady Of Justice

As much as this appears obvious, leading you to believe that YOU have never fallen prey to it, the truth is likely to be otherwise. This phenomenon is part of being human. So don’t blame yourself if you find you are guilty of it.

Now lets go back to the beggars and the women. You have already worked it out in your head that the beggars must have done something horribly wrong at some point of time to deserve this and that the women too, must have done something right at some point of time to deserve all that money.

Later, you learn about the beggars’ history and life. This is what you learn:

BEGGAR 1: A man bets all his life savings on a cricket match and loses it – all of it. He is bankrupt, cannot feed his family and is eventually deserted by his wife and kids. He becomes an alcoholic, loses his job and his life in general, becomes miserable. He now makes a living begging on the streets.

BEGGAR 2: Another man loses his parents when he was young in a car accident with a truck whose driver was drunk. This led him to be sent to an orphanage where he was a model boy leading a disciplined life. He then becomes a victim of human trafficking and ends up working as a slave to a wealthy man, occasionally molested  during the time. He then has his eyes taken out and is forced into begging. His ‘owners’  leave him to himself after a few years and he has since made a life out of begging on the streets.

Curious about the 2 women, you then decide to read the entire cover story. This is what you learn:

Woman 1: A middle class couple have a girl baby. They bring her up and give her all the education and love they can. She grows up to be an A-grade student at school, topping her class and getting into the best universities. She works hard and lands a well paying job and has now established a company by herself which is doing tremendously well. She is featured on the cover of a popular magazine as one of the richest women in the country.

Woman 2: Another middle class couple have a girl baby at about the same time. She is given a good education as well but she drops out of school and college as she does not make the grades – possibly due to her constant partying and neglect of her academics. She grows up to be a woman with very loose morals,  becomes an alcoholic and eventually gets into prostitution. She does not make any effort to start a new life and continues to make a living out of prostitution. One day she wins a Jackpot at the lottery and goes gambling. She wins all her hands and overnight becomes one of the richest women in the country. She is also featured on the same magazine cover . She now lives in a big mansion with a lot of servants and with her money safely stashed away.

NOW, what are your thoughts?

There are 4 scenarios here, with each scenario being a combination of the kind of choices one makes, and the eventual outcome. The possibilities are fairly evident: Bad choices/bad outcomes (Beggar 1); good choices/bad outcomes (Beggar 2); good choices/good outcomes (Woman 1); bad choices/good outcomes (Woman 2).

Our Just World Fallacy works perfectly well for Beggar 1 and Woman 1. For they both appear to get what they deserved. After all, the Beggar 1 did make the bad choice of betting all his money –  which is clearly a bad choice. And also that Woman 1 worked her way up the society with hard work, discipline and making the most out of what was given to her. On first thoughts, it appears that this is how the world functions and in fact, should function – the good getting rewarded while the bad getting punished.

Now lets get to the tricky part about the other beggar and the other woman.  Now that you are aware of the choices these two have made previously, do you still think they deserved what they got? Do you still want to believe that chance and luck have no bearing on the outcomes and that it is dependent only upon the choices you made?

Maybe deep down inside you know many times it just boils down to dumb luck and chance. But that knowledge doesn’t make you feel good about the world you live in. After all, how can someone who has made no wrong choice in his life end up on the streets as a blind beggar? Or how can someone who has wasted away their life and indulged in immoral activities become one of the richest women in the country?

So how does one explain this glaring anomaly in what we consider a fair and just world? The known causes and effects are not sufficient to explain, justify or rationalize what happened to these 2 people. But the fallacy is so strong that you WANT to believe in it –  no matter what. This is because you believe this world works under the just and fair laws of the entity we have come to refer to as God. And God always makes it right.

So then, how does God make his laws such that the situation with this seemingly unfortunate beggar and seemingly undeserving woman are justified?

Now, for a moment, let us go back in time – a few thousand years ago, when organized religion was still on the horizon and people were still preaching their God and their religion to their people. Now imagine if, during one of these preaching sessions, someone got up and asked the preacher something along these lines: “I have never committed a single misdeed that you have described in your teachings, but I lost my wife and son last week. My neighbor steals, cheats, kills and harasses people, but he is living perfectly well. How is this fair? My only daughter asks me why she lost her mother when she has been a good girl and did everything she was told? What do I tell her?”

Now if you are the preacher, you know that you have been preaching that this is a just and fair world and that God is always just – rewarding the good and punishing the bad. Then how do you explain to this man that what you have been preaching is still right?

Thousands of years ago, the preacher DID come up with an answer. And it was a masterstroke!

The answer comes in the form of Karmic retribution – or simply Karma.

Now do not underestimate the reach of this Karma. Unlike the straight forward manifestations of the JWF, Karma goes out and beyond to enforce it! Karma takes into account not just  the actions of the individual that they have committed in this life. No Sir! The Gods (or maybe just that charming preacher) have realized that, in order to make anomalies like the above two cases appear completely just and fair, Karma has to take into account the actions of the individual in his previous lives too!

Because you see, by including the activities performed by the individual in his previous life as potential ’causes’, one can explain and justify EVERYTHING that has ever occurred on this planet from the beginning of time and forever and ever!

Show me a man who has had the life much akin to Beggar 2, suffering bad outcomes after bad outcomes for absolutely nothing wrong he may have done in this life – and I will show you a religion which tells you that he is suffering because of something bad he must have committed in his previous lives. (Actually you can just look at Hinduism).

Show me a woman who gets rewarded even after having lived a wrongful and immoral life filled with neglect of responsibility  – and I will tell you that she had done something tremendously good in her previous life for her to deserve that sudden change of fortune!

And Karma doesn’t just stop there!

Show me a man who is getting away with crimes against humanity and is still living a luxurious care free life –  and I will tell you that he WILL SUFFER …. albeit in his NEXT life!

Show me a man who is doing all good deeds in this life but not getting rewarded in any way – and I will tell you that he WILL be REWARDED … albeit in his NEXT life!

The fact that the scriptures say you will go to hell if you do not believe this, coupled with the complete inability to know what EXACTLY the individual did in his/her previous life – gives rise to a tremendous masterstroke!

You now have an explanation for every seeming violation of God’s ‘just and fair’ laws while at the same time, there is no way that non-believers can disprove this – as the burden of proof (of choices in previous lives) is thrown upon the shoulders of the non-believers!

The preacher had told the skeptic: “You prove to me that your actions in the previous lives DO NOT affect your present outcomes and I will take back what I said. I believe that it does because God said so. And I believe in everything God says!”

To which the skeptic said, “Ok preacher. I believe in God now too. Because if I don’t, I might go to hell.”

So you see, the idea of Karma is a masterstroke. There is no way of disproving it for those who do not believe in it. And for those who do, well, there IS NO necessity for proof!

And so the world goes on, with people attributing every seeming violation of a just world law of God to some action the individual must have done in his previous lives. They convince themselves that he/she deserved whatever they got because God is only giving out justice by making them suffer!

Truly, what a sick world we live in….

 

Alcohol, My sense of Humour, Religion, Serious Writing, The things that happen only to ME..., Thoughts, Updates

Updates: Abiding…

“….or how I embraced Dudeism, unwound myself and became happy..”

Yeah. So I have now officially converted my religion to Dudeism. This merits a complete post to itself containing all my fundamental realizations and changes and thats what I aim to do now. Let me first state that I have never found more peace, contentment and happiness in whatever I may have been practicing so far. I have gone through different stages of believing and non-believing in my lifetime. From an ignorant kid ready to believe whatever my parents told me to an outright rebel atheist in high school to a gradual transformation back to belief eventually leading to 3 years of total cult-like worship and practice of ‘authentic spirituality’, saved only by the 80 page John Galt speech in Atlas Shrugged to become a skeptical believer and then finally to completely understand the inherent atheistic nature of this world and man’s own need for a God. Through all this, I never felt that satisfaction or happiness in being at peace with the world even once. I tried in all places, tried to convince myself that I was already happy, performed many diverse activities, looked for meaning in every school of thought I ever came across- but all to no avail.

Now, I just say, “Ah! Fuck it!” and get on with my life.

 

The Dude Abides

As the Dudeism website says:

Life is short and complicated and nobody knows what to do about it. So don’t do anything about it. Just take it easy, man. Stop worrying so much whether you’ll make it into the finals. Kick back with some friends and some oat soda and whether you roll strikes or gutters, do your best to be true to yourself and others – that is to say, abide.

There is more truth in that quote than what appears. There are simply so many schools of thought on this planet and all of them are equally convinced their explanation of the world is the correct one and all others can, NO make that NEED TO, eat shit. Earlier I used to sharply defend whatever I believed in at that time while painstakingly point out the flaws in their line of thinking.

Now, I just say, “Ah! Fuck it!” and get on with my life.

In all seriousness, life is indeed short. It is almost a crime to spend even the smallest amount of time worrying about which God is the authentic one while rendering the other Gods unauthentic by default. And as I learnt it the hard way some time back, you never know if you are going to wake up from your sleep tomorrow. So as it is said in my mother tongue Kannada..

CHILL MAGA….

So what does this mean apart from me deciding not to give a fuck about religion and everything associated with it? For one, I feel different. I spent a lot of time thinking about WHY I was feeling so different. Eventually I realized something very fundamental.

All my life, everytime I met somebody new, the first thing I did was to pass some judgment upon them and/or frame some kind of an opinion. As one of my ex-roomies put it,

Everyone’s a dick until proven otherwise.

Damn! Think of it. Thats pretty much how most of us look at others. Simply put, we look at everyone as a dick until they prove otherwise to us. Thats how fucked up we are. Well at least thats how fucked up I was. And thats really sad. And then the difference I was noticing in myself became evident.

I had simply stopped judging people. Suddenly every single person around me looked as a potential good friend to me. This could never have happened earlier. Earlier, I used to judge people on so many parameters and so easily conclude that one person is worth talking to while another isn’t. These ‘parameters’ used to include things such as taste in music, books, movies, sports, activities, age, views on religion, views on alcohol and drugs, liberal/conservative, food preference, where they studied and their level of ambition..You name it!

Now, I just say, “Hey man! Whats up?!?” and get on with the conversation.

And this has helped me make so many new friends here in a place which has been tried, tested and certified by many Indians to be the “…best place to start and raise families.” Point being I was finding it extremely difficult to make new friends of my age who I can talk freely to and get drunk with. And now I have an awesome group of friends around my age and I still get drunk with people a lot older than me.

The idea of judging is not restricted to just people. Even other things like music, books, movies and the like are not spared of our judgments. There is this issue of ‘taste’ and then there is this issue of ‘elitism’. I just dont get it. I was actually feeling ashamed and embarrassed that I liked some music, book or a movie when it was being considered as too ‘popular’, ‘cheesy’ or that it simply did not qualify for being explored because it was associated with somebody who didn’t make the cut.

Now, I just say, “Ah! Fuck it!” and go ahead to see what the book, music or movie is all about.

There is a word I recently came across. UPTIGHT. Go look it up. Dudeism simply helped me NOT to be that. It is so damn easy to just stay in your comfort zone and not explore whats out there. Again, life is indeed to short. You need to go out, see places and do things. And its not gonna happen if you are just too damn uptight! I was so damn uptight before, not willing to let go of some routines and lines of thinking. Now I realize I have only been imposing rules on myself- with no tangible reward.

For instance, my Saturdays and Sunday mornings were mandatorily filled with Premier League, Serie A and La Liga matches. Then one day I just said, “Ah! Fuck it!” and I found myself in Minneapolis eating an Octopus and feeling the cold air pierce my eyes while I was sliding down a snow slope in a tube at breakneck speed!

And I was like “FUCK YEAH!!”.

Simply put, I was just too damn uptight in my thinking. I needed to stop passing judgments on people and things. I needed to accept and acknowledge whatever I was feeling irrespective of how others viewed it. I feel some way about something? Well…Fuck it! I feel that way about that thing! End of story. I am not going to apologize for who I am and what I feel.

Dudeism has helped me get so damn relaxed and at peace with the world now. I don’t remember the last time I got upset about something. And knowing how I was before, that means I have come a long way.

And I am Happy…..

 

 

 

My sense of Humour, Religion, Satire, Serious Writing, The things that happen only to ME...

How to Build your own Religious Scriptures

This is a fairly simple job. The time involved will essentially depend upon the level of detail you want to put in. Rest of it is quite straightforward. Here I am going to present to you a template upon which you can build your own Religious Scriptures- and authentic ones at that. The primary idea is to generate a religion which can be believed to be authentic. You can create your scriptures based on the template below and compare it with all the other established scriptures and feel smug about how similar yours is.

So here is the template:

1. Date your scriptures sometime in the BC years: This is the first step in the process. Your religious scriptures has to necessarily be old. Older the better. It gives a higher sense of authenticity and validity to the whole thing. Think of it. Look at all the new religions like Scientology and other cults. (It really is a big list!). People do not consider them to be mainstream and treat them as something that is not authentic. The primary reason for this is that their scriptures are not old enough. So date yours to something atleast 1000 years old – so that noone can verify- and you will be safe.

2. God ALWAYS speaks to a few select people: This is the next important part. Your God speaks and sends out his message to the masses through a single person or a select few. The rest of the scriptures will be WHAT your God said to those select people. Your God can never make an appearance to the masses. There are only a few select people in your storyline who can bear witness to God because they had tremendous faith in him. This is important because you can later always claim that your religion followers are not feeling or seeing God because they do not exhibit the faith and belief that those few people in the scriptures did. So this will make them feel more guilty and will compel them to be more religious. WIN!!

3. Creationism Rocks: Screw Evolution! Screw the Big Bang Theory! All Darwinists, Evolutionary scientists and Big Bang Theory propagators need to take a hike! Creationism is THE SHIT! Your God should proclaim that he himself created the entire universe in some number of milliseconds and that he created man at some other time. (Dont bother about the fact that the whole concept of measuring time , let alone the term ‘milliseconds’, was evolved a long time AFTER human civilization had started. Believers will believe whatever you write- just because you are including the statement that God himself said all these things.)  You can also improvise and add stuff like “God created the universe just by blinking”- all these things only add to the awesomeness and invincibility of your God.

4. Rules about certain activities: This is a very critical part of your religious scripture. These are the things that people will look at in times of moral crisis and try to derive comfort from. The more you keep these rules open ended and ambiguous, the more your religion is bound to become popular. People will read the scriptures and go through the process of Subjective Validation to feel good about themselves. As a minimum, you will have to include rules about food, ritualistic activities, sex, peace etc. But more importantly, you should include that people who follow these rules properly will go to heaven and those who do not follow them will burn in hell. (Give detailed descriptions about each of the consequences).

5. Create and solve the mystery of Birth and Death: These are your sureshot attempts at gaining authenticity. Hype the ideas of birth, death and rebirth. Create the mysteries about these things and give some explanation for them which necessarily include your previous lives and/or original home etc. Every religious guy fears that after their death, they might end up suffering for their sins. This is something that has to be exploited by saying that it can be prevented if you follow the above mentioned rules.

6. Miracles and Mythology: Your God is just too damn powerful and invincible. So make him do stuff that is totally impossible for us regular mortals. It can be anything- lift a mountain, bring back the dead, bring rain, create fire etc. The more impossible it appears, the more authenticity you bring to your God. Also, your scriptures must include some mythological stories about people – some who believe and are the good guys and the others who dont believe and are the bad guys- fighting each other and getting the good guys to eventually triumph over the evil ones. The level of detail is up to you but these stories will surely help to put more belief in the followers and at the same time make the scriptures look more authentic simply because the followers will believe that those events actually took place.

7. Denounce Sex: Sex is a big Boo-Boo for all parties involved. The more you restrict sex, the more people will feel that your religion is mainstream and will not brand you as a cult. Pre-marital sex has to necessarily be banned. Even post marriage sex should be looked upon as something that should take place only for getting a child. So if a follower is impotent or cannot have a baby, too bad they will die a virgin! The more you curb sexual activity, the more the men are going to get frustrated and the more they will get passionate about their religion and the more they will spread it! WIN!

8. Women are Inferior: This also serves the same purpose in that it is going to give your religion a more mainstream feel. Restrict the activities and rights of women and you will see people feeling more at home with your religion. Keep the rules for women open ended and ambiguous so that you dont lose out on women followers.

9. Include a Lineage: This is the ultimate authenticity generator. If you can somehow show a lineage stretching all the way back to your God telling that one dude the scriptures, then your religion is fully validated and authentic. You can even include some historical figures in that lineage which will make people believe it even more. The best part about this is that you can show that all the people in the lineage did exist by mentioning their names in the scriptures themselves. The ultimate self referential validation technique!

So there you have it! The perfect template to generate the perfect religious scriptures! So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and start your own “Authentic” Religion!!!