Friday, 14 October 2011

Link Ups- The Process of Mental Tagging

What do Kushal’s girl friend and Mayur’s girl friend have in common? They are remembered for their one time boyfriend, and they can’t stop it. They can’t create an alternate identity. Whenever they are remembered, it will be by their association with something else, and usually only one of it. Its not so bad if you are an athlete or a dancer, because then of course you should be remembered primarily for your art if that is what you set out to do. Unless your Tiger Woods.... But the case is much the same with one-hit-wonders or journalists who get stuck in a particular beat- they can't shake it off.

We are currently in a public process of linking up and hand cuffing and indeed it is getting a little violent. This is a mass project of ‘tagging’ people. Arvind Kejriwal’s Wiki page could have been tagged under ‘RTI,’ but due to his association with the Lokpal, he will now always be tagged under ‘anna’ as well if not more often and only.

Prashant Bhushan got beaten up yesterday. It was to do with his remarks on Kashmir.

The men who beat him up, are members of Hindu extremist groups and are now targeting Bhushan’s colleague as well- Anna Hazare. The two were spotted together on several occasions, earlier this year.

But Hazare gained recent prominence due to his views on corruption... not Kasmir..

The guys who beat up Bhushan dont really care about that detail. For them, by the tagging system, Bhushan=Hazare, and now Bhushan/Hazare said something about Kashmir, so if A=B and B=C then A=C!

So they want Hazare to make clear his colleague's remarks on Kashmir and comments going around are hoping for Hazare to give some indication of his own view on the issue as well.

This is a dangerous line for Hazare to walk. Soon, all kinds of people are going to ask him all kinds of questions and their support for the anti-corruption movement will take a back seat to their communal agendas- Just like the Egyptian blogger Mikael Nabil Sanad, on a hunger strike (coincidence!) for being censored. Support for him has broken down after he made public his views on Israel. Hazare should have anticipated that his opinion is going to be sought on everything now that he has propped himself as the moral guardian of the nation. Since he cares for India so much, the hope is that he will always have an opinion, or better still, can pull a ‘fast-one.’

To add, Hazare recently released a video asking people not to vote for the UPA. This, along with his previous comments on Modi and link ups with the BJP, Ramdev and Agnivesh, got him tagged with the ‘Hindu right’ and he was alleged to be a tool by the ‘Opposition’ against the Congress.

News reports however say that the Hazare’s supporters who were beaten up, were shouting anti-BJP AND anti-Congress slogans yesterday.

Then this beat-up happened... True that no one beat up Hazare, but associations are going to be made by the press and the public, and Hazare is soon going to be untagged from ‘BJP’ because BHUSHAN was beaten up.

So now suddenly, Hazare’s political stance is back at being apolitical and/or neutral, and we can once again re-tag him under ‘civil society’ by his own creation of the politician-civil society binary.

In one of the more unlikely link ups, Bhushan’s remarks on Kashmir, have provided fodder for small talk between Arundhati Roy and himself, should they ever meet! She said similar things about Kashmir, only then there was this big furore about sedition.. Bhushan hasnt met that response. I dont know, but I’m guessing its the Anna aura/ tag that helped.

Except that this link up is quite fragile- they both differ terribly in their views on Hazare. Some tags are just bigger than others. This couple wont last and this link up wont go very far.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Apples and Oranges

I’m waiting for the article that decries Jobs as a working class hero.. a middleclass megastar who did nothing for most people but cause excessive drooling.

Yea… waiting for that one.

Well here it is.

I woke up to #SteveJobsLegacy and was stunned- there’s just been too many deaths this year of prominent people with whom I have some connection- Maathai, Tiger, and now "the death of Jobs".. as if we weren't already hearing that one on a daily basis.

Why is Jobs a working class hero?

Its because he gave the middle class an ambition. Apart from being a techie, he was also a keen businessman, and this multifaceted role he played seems to give everyone an aspiration- if you can't invent, then market. If you can’t market, then own the company. And if neither of these high heeled things are possible, then at least own an iPod. Owning an iPod is a huge middleclass ambition, the kind that many people work hard and save up for. This is an ambition worth its weight in part. But whether the Apple itself is really worth its weight in comparison to other open source ideas, is another discussion and quite debatable. The rationalization is that people with money are allowed to aspire to waste it, #LaTomatina style.

So how many people will flock to Gates' death and how many to Jobs'?

Well, as many as there are dollars in their bank accounts. Ironically, their funerals will be captured and shared on the very legacies that these men have left us, and they will live forever.

Jobs' funeral is a simple one to attend. Owners of Apple products can easily drive down/ fly down/ stream it online. Gates' funeral is more tricky- there will be those in corners of Africa and Asia who don't have the money for an air ticket, but who do have a life now, a real living breathing one, not a virtual one, thanks to 'Bill and Melinda'. These survivors, as well as thousands of NGOs and individuals who have received grants from the B&M Foundation, will want to attend it in person, and not just over Facebook- because Gates actually gave. Healthcare, education, poverty alleviation, research and disaster relief, have been some of the things that the Foundation has worked on. In contrast, when Jobs resumed control over Apple in 1997, he cut off all of their philanthropic ventures. He dabbled with a foundation that was to work on food sustainability, something vague like that, but shut it down after a year.

Will we mourn the death of Gates as much as Jobs?

Probably not. I blame Microsoft's marketing- MS has made itself so commonplace that no one regards it with awe anymore. It is easy to download, patch and use. Not that we have too many alternative operating systems going around to choose from- its MS for the non geek, most of us, or Apple if you can afford it, or open source if you have a good geek friend to guide you. But in the case of Apple, we actually do have a number of alternatives. They are not the only ones with mp3s- remember, the iPod is still an mp3, it only provides you with a snazzy interface. And I hear the most wonderful things about the Android from Android users. So instead, note how Apple's work ethics are monopolistic. Most of their products are stubbornly incompatible with other technologies, and this is in an effort to ensure that they remain exclusive, unique… and soon, alone. Which will mean cutting off access to millions. This may be acceptable in today's business practise, but should not be acceptable by consumers, for whom choice should be king. Choicelessness is not a working class dream. So before you eulogize how this man's ideas 'changed the world,' consider HOW he changed it.

What Jobs did right, was innovation in design, or rather innovation by design. White was a hard colour to sell, but they did it and it made them stand out, even in the dark. The slow ebbing glow of the bitten apple on the screen of the Macbook has grown to be as comforting as fairy lights in December. Jobs is more charming than Gates. He's younger, and he created a technology that just looks and feels so good, its almost Megan Fox. Besides, having a life threatening illness makes the wiring in humanity's heart melt (I remember how people waited with bated breath when Jade Goody was going to have her very public death).

Yet Apple's strength lies in their cunning success at creating needs in us and making themselves the sole satisfier. Why, even the musicians who are bitter about not making all the money they could have, because of illegal downloading, because mp3s made it so easy to carry around a 1000 songs… also love their iPods! I won’t be surprised if Gates agrees to let iPhone and Macbook into MS Word’s spell check (‘iPod’ is already in, so I see as I write this).

People are spinning philosophies around Jobs that don't really exist. The only one that can truly be credited to him is the old cliché, "Work hard and achieve success" and "Rags to riches is possible."

What is happening instead, is that people have actually had the audacity (and here I get really upset) to compare the death of Jobs with the death of Lennon. The lady I am referring to said that she felt emptiness and a sensation of loss similar to when Lennon died. Another lady said she lost a "magic sparkle," and "Someone (who) filed me with so much awesomeness! <3" "He helped us realise that less is truly more," says yet another Tweeter. You mean in terms of the minimalistic design? Or you mean the money you spent on the product? "He brought together heart of tech, people, community in ways we didn't know we needed, but couldn't live without," says another person. Dear friend, the internet is bringing people together, Apple is no prerequisite for this, and you can just as well "Come Together" with another brand. Others are charting their lives around their Apples. "I can remember stages of my life based on the different Macs and Apple products I've had since my first Apple. That's #stevejobslegacy" says one. Another mom, serial posting on Jobs said, "I can remember my kids excitement w/each hand me down iPod, iPhone they got as we spoiled ourselves w/new one!" Hurrah for you… lucky you.. Teach your kids to want expensive things, and teach them that only expensive things are good things. And finally, one lady said, "I live for my iPhone and Mac Book…".. At which point I have to end.

When Jobs' supporters talk about changing the world, I believe they are referring to "How touch is better than push" as one person said online, claiming this to be the #SteveJobsLegacy. It’s a very different type of "change" that I usually associate with "the world". The Jobs-change and the Gates-change, are as different as apples from oranges, and I'm inclined to the latter. How did you guess. Here's hoping you remember to shed an extra tear next time.

PS- Just a little note on Lennon, if you didn’t notice I am going to direct you to it- Read the embedded links on ‘Working Class Hero’ and ‘Come Together’, all right?