The Truman Show!

A short review on how ‘Trumanized’ the world has become

I recently watched ‘The Truman Show’ movie. Even though it has been more than 2 decades since this movie was released, but after seeing this movie, I can relate the world resembles much like ‘The Truman Show’ more than ever! I would like to express some of my observations about this movie.

First of all, kudos to Jim Carrey and the whole film cast for such a spectacular performance. The acting and its story theme make us glued to the movie throughout. But more than acting or the subject of the movie, I am enamored by the depth this movie has. This movie depicts the life of reality show which happens to be portray reality in an abstract manner. Because, unlike the usual daily soaps or reality shows, this movie actually shows the real world itself. Because, I find not much difference between the world we live in today, and that of the world presented to Truman in his name show! Today, we are surrounded by hundreds of gadgets and devices on which our life is dependent on. Everything is tracked, and surveillance has become the oxygen of this world. Just like the intricate network of 5000 cameras captured every minute details of Truman, so does all the ‘Internet of Things’ does for us. The information we Google, the friends we make on Facebook, the messages we send on WhatsApp, the pictures we like on Instagram, the videos we watch on YouTube, the mail we send on Gmail, the apps we downloaded from AppStore, the online shopping we make on Amazon, the places we travel to on Google Maps, the restaurants we visit on Yelp, the jobs we apply for on LinkedIn, the hotels we stay in, the people we date on Dating Apps, the car we drive, the books we read, or even the credit card we use for purchases…OMG, doesn’t it sound like ‘The Truman Show’?

And the worst part is that we have become used to all this. We have indirectly accepted all this by our own consent. As Christof rightly said in this movie,

We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented. It’s as simple as that.

Christof, the creator of ‘The Truman Show’

Today, we accept the world presented by news media, entertainment movies, TV shows, podcasts, talk shows, internet and social media as being the real one. It is like we have become a part of crowd psychology. The way of eating, shopping, dating, traveling all being inadvertently influenced and standardized. Monopoly is the real law book these days. If all the information networks decided to make a villian out of some person, then there is no way the world can oppose it. That person is bound to get victimized. And ironically, all the media pride themselves on free speech, freedom and liberal values. In reality, it is their imposition of information and opinions on the world which thwarts the freedom of all the people. But unfortunately, we all have become like ‘Truman Burbank’. We simply don’t even know that we are stuck up in a world of ‘seahaven island’ owned by tech billionaires, media moguls, oil barons and business conglomerates which have turned this world into a studio to make us accept the reality as they want us to see.

Image result for truman show studio from space
Image Credits

And this show did one marvelous thing. It predicted the future of the world. After its release in 1998 ( the same year when Google started), most of the today’s giant social media( FB, Insta, Twitter, YT, Uber, Maps, WhatsApp) and government surveillance program( PRISM), all happened in the last 22 years. Even the Iraq invasion was imposed by the Bush administration under the false pretext of Iraq having WMD. And you know, the world accepted it. Because we all were ‘Trumanized’. Had it not been the audacious whistleblowers like Ed Snowden, Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, we would not even have realized about such clandestine programs. Had it not been Chris Wylie, then Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal would never have become known. Because these people refused to accept the world as it was presented to them. After all this is the basis of scientific mindset isn’t it? Not long ago, the Church used to preach ‘The world is flat’, some conservative Hindus used to ban overseas travel under the reasoning of committing sinful acts, or even conservative Muslims used to impose Shariya law and ban women education, compulsion of Hizab etc. But it was this curiosity, scientific mindset and the brave men and women who refused to be a part of this show, and challenged them. We owe our today’s progress of the world to them.

So, finally, as said in the movie by Christof, ‘If he was absolutely determined to discover the truth, there’s no way we could prevent him“. Similarly, we have the freedom to choose our own opinions, our ideas and our thoughts. We have the right to accept and reject what is bombarded at us by the world. There is no need for everything to be standardized or even labeled under some ideology. This world is diverse, and beautiful. Even we humans come in all forms of color, race, languages, tradition, culture and behavior. We don’t need to embrace what the media tells us always. We don’t need to eat a particular burger or a soft drink just because the marketing team desperately tries to convince us. We don’t need to buy a tech gadget just because the media tells its a cool thing! We don’t need to embrace the life of Page 3 models and actors, assuming it be charming. We can and must maintain the freedom to live as per our conscience. Ofcourse, it isn’t that easy to sail upstream. But as said, if we are absolutely determined to not become like Truman, then no technology, no media propaganda, or surveillance can stop us from living a free life. We can live a life which does not allow our opinions to be influenced by what trends in social media. Just like Truman stepped out of his studio exit, so can we exit all the hatred, wrong bias, narrow opinions from our mind.

The law of karma..

The word, ‘Karma’ means a person’s actions in this life, and even in the previous life. I am not quite a believer of the existence of the impact of previous life, even though there is a lot of literature which tries to explain it. But I being a pragmatist and realist, often limit myself to this life itself when it comes to karma. Actually, even though this word is used quite a lot in Hinduism and Buddhism, but recently it has been wide spread in the western countries as well. Many people from corporate world, media & music industry, writers try to use this word, and explain their point of view.

This law of karma is actually the equivalent to the English idiom ‘As you sow, so you reap’. And we all have read this in school. It even relates to the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In plain English, you should treat others the same way as you would like others to treat you. Simple, isnt it? But the question is do we really follow this?

The law of karma is very much universal. I mean no one can simply escape it. Because the evidence backing it is enormous. We all must have experienced this law even in small things, like when we hurt someone, we don’t realize it at that time. But we grasp it immediately when someone else hurts us in the same way. If we cheat in exams, we get caught and suffer the consequence. If we eat wrong food, we fall sick. If we spend too much money in shopping, or even bad vices like drinking, we soon run out of our savings. This law is very much practical.

Even if someone tries to run away from the effects of that karma, they simply cannot. We can see many famous examples in history, and day to day life as well. Some of the Nazis who had committed horrendous atrocities on innocent jews tried to run away from getting jailed or hanged to South America, but years later, many of them like Adolf Eichmann did get caught and were later hanged. Many serial killers, terrorists, rapists who commit horrible acts end up being killed or caught someday or the later. Osama Bin Laden, Pablo Escobar, Ted Bundy all got caught & killed. Even those who committed frauds like Jordan Belfort, Bernie Madoff, Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, Ketan Parekh, Harshad Mehta all got either caught or exposed sooner or later. Karma circles and hits back!

But then I wonder why people still forget this, and act as if they will never get punished for their actions. This is something of a moral question, for which there is no easy answer. But I do think there are two reasons for this. Well, first is the uncertain time delay between action and result. Just like a mango tree does not give mangoes immediately after the sapling is planted, similarly it takes time for the action to fructify. It could be years, or even decades. Meanwhile, the person who committed those acts mistakenly gets convinced that his/her actions won’t hit back, or as if they are immune to it. This usually happens when power corrupts. Somehow, those people who are extremely rich, famous and powerful, start believing that they are above the law.

But even though they might tweak the social laws, but they cannot change the effect of nature’s law of karma. And this is best seen in the recent example of Donald Trump, who had vehemently denied the existence of coronavirus, and profusely refused to wear or endorse wearing masks in public places. But then after few months, he got the virus, and the faith in this law of karma or cosmic justice being done was revitalized. Even his defeat in 2020 election is a proof of his actions for years, for which he had assumed that he would never get suffered. But as we know, even he could not escape the law of karma.

But the second reason I wonder is the bizare uncertainity in nature’s justice. We often see good people getting suffered for no mistakes of their own, and bad people getting away from their outcomes. As mentioned before, the bad people do get suffered, someday or the other, and that cannot be denied. Just, that it takes a lot of time, sometimes. But I have no answer or even any reason for why good and innocent people get suffered. We see innocent girls and women getting raped, people suffering from racism or caste discrimination, Jews had to suffer from anti-semitism and in concentration camps, India and many countries had to suffer from British and other European brutal coloniazation, innocent people dying in civil wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, people getting repressed in dictatorial regimes like N.Korea, people dying from earthquakes, tsunami, forest fires, riots, floods, draughts, famines, and even innocent people dying due to cancer, and now, covid-19! I wonder what was the fault of these people?

Religious preachers point to their karma in previous life. But for a practical mind, it does not convince. After all, who has really seen if we really had a previous life? Were we humans or some other animal creature? And why would it take so much time, almost a new birth, just to suffer the consequences of previous life’s mistakes? Why not just make it suffer in that life itself? Why to drag it till next life? I mean these are weird questions, which might not have any relevant answers. Those who have, might not convince us. This is the similar to the classic clash between free-will vs deterministic life! Sometimes, I relate this to astrology, or numerology, which fraudulently claims about people’s future or even a particular number as a good sign! For those fake and corrupt astrologers, I wonder if they themselves know what their future is going to be? I am pretty sure, most of them would not have a damn idea!

I think the quest for answers for the above questions will remain for quite sometime. But the good thing is we humans have come a long way in understanding this world, and nature as well. Not long before, we were trepidated by events like tsunami, cyclones and earthquakes. Our ancestors blamed it on other humans for doing immoral acts and because of which nature had taught us a lesson. Even a pious man like Gandhi, had blamed the Bihar earthquake in 1934 as a ‘divine chastisement for the great sin’ people there had committed against the untouchables. Seeing this absurd belief in superstition, the Nobel Laureate in Literature, Ravindranath Tagore, could not resist himself in responding to Gandhi with a letter of reprimand against this absurd belief.

So, today, atleast we have come a long way with all the modern technology and advancement in sciences. We atleast do not blame floods or forest fires for the sins committed by few men and women. I wish sciences get advanced even further to throw some light on this karmic aspect of life, which involves questions asked before. Maybe, a better understanding of life, will enable us to get the wisdom to know why some people suffer more than others? Is it their karma, or fate, or something beyond our present human cognizance.

© Abhishek Karadkar and abhiknotes.com, 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Abhishek Karadkar and abhiknotes.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Welcome 2021!

Never before has the world so eagerly awaited for a new year to commence!

Today, while writing this post on Dec 31st, 2020, I am contemplating all the events that have happened in 2020. And there is no denial of the fact that the world got changed in 2020. It looks like after Steve Job’s legendary launch of Iphone in 2007 which changed the world, Covid-19 became the next thing which turned our life upside down. And today, we all are eagerly awaiting for 2021 to usher in. We are sincerely praying that 2021 turns out to be a better year,which will restore peace, happiness and stability back in our life. I do hope the same!

But at the same time, as Gurudev Ravishankar said in his talk today, that this pandemic showed the other side of life. We all crave for good, and happy times. We forget the difficulties and problems in life when everything is stable, and under our control. But this pandemic showed us how things can go out of human control rapidly. This year showed us how important and short life is. It made us realize the simple joys of life such as staying with family, having a stable job, and even going out for a walk. The world saw how difficult it is to live under lockdown. We all usually read or watch movies of the soldiers and freedom fighters who suffered enormous hardships in fighting against the enemy, be it against the Nazis in Europe, or against British rule in India. Only when we all underwent the hardships of living under lockdown, we came to value the importance of true freedom. Until the pandemic occurred, we all had taken the freedom imparted to us lightly, but now we atleast have got a glimpse of life without freedom. That is why, people have even started thinking about the cruelty to deprive poor animals of their freedom by keeping them in zoos and amusement parks for our entertainment!

Having suffered the dark side of life after pandemic, we have started realizing how few things we really need to live a good life. We understood that we can live without eating outside or even buying expensive clothes or gadgets. Because these fancy clothes, makeup or gadgets won’t save our life, but our good health, good food, calm mind and having loved ones staying together will save us. Due to this pandemic having engulfed the whole mother earth, never in history did it happen that we all (humans) became united. Until 2020, we had always biased each other, and made every attempt to separate each others by building either physical walls ( be it Berlin Wall or Trump’s wall), or virtual walls ( made of racism, casteism, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation bias etc). But 2020 made us realize that events like pandemic does not differentiate between us on any artificial grounds. So, in a way, we can also say that 2020 brought humanity together, atleast for fighting against pandemic!

Besides, in 2020, many of us saw how beautiful this earth is! This is because one of the sideeffects of pandemic turned out to be fresh air, with zero air pollution. For ex: This led to viewing of Himalayas from hundreds of miles in India, which was not seen due to high pollution in air for the last several decades. Hence, even though 2020 was a dreaded year for most of us, however this year turned out to be very special for nature observers and climate watchers, due to huge change in climate and nature pattern which had been severely altered for all these years due to human activity.

Himalayas visible from India as nature 'heals' during coronavirus shutdown  - National | Globalnews.ca
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Similarly, due to no traffic and thereby zero sound pollution, it made wild animals curious to sneek in the cities to find out where did 7 billion people disappear? Here are some pictures which captured this once in a century nature’s phenomenon.

A civet cat has been spotted roaming on the streets of Kozhikode in the State of Kerala, India on 27 March, 2020.
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A kangaroo hops through empty streets during the lockdown restrictions in Adelaide, Australia, April 19, 2020. South Australia Police/via REUTERS
Kangaroo running on the streets in Australia
A fox is seen in Downing Street, London, April 29, 2020.  
 REUTERS/Toby Melville
A fox seen walking on the streets in London https://www.reuters.com/news/picture/nature-reclaims-public-spaces-during-loc-idUSRTX7EJ1H

Hence, finally, as I complete this post, 2020 ended and 2021 has begun. Many of us are praying for 2021 to bring happiness and stability in life. Indeed, 2020 was a rough year, which will never be forgotten by my generation. Historians love to find patterns in historic events, and I being a history buff, consider 2020 to be a year which changed our way of living, just like the historic years of 1989 ( when Berlin Wall fell which marked the beginning of the end of communism), or 1945 ( when WW2 was won after the fall of Nazi and Imperial Japanese). As US President elect Joe Biden said in his victory speech, “This is a time to heal in America”. I feel this is a time to heal for the entire world. May 2021 give us enough room for us to heal, come together for humanity, collaborate for just causes, break the barriers of racism, gender bias etc, and work towards achieving global peace. I know this might sound grandiose, but atleast we can start taking one step ahead….

I am ending this post with this realization, that afterall, we did won(successfully survive) in 2020, and have entered a new year, with new hopes and new surprises as well……

Cuba and the Cameraman

How one American journalist visited Cuba for over 40 years, and showed the world the other side of Cuba.

REVIEW] Netflix's captivating documentary, Cuba and the Cameraman
source

Recently I watched a documentary movie named ‘Cuba and the Cameraman’ filmed, written and co-produced by an American journalist Jon Alpert. The film can be watched on Netflix.

I really enjoyed watching the documentary. It shows both the positives and negatives of life in Cuba, and how Cuba transformed through its revolution in 1959 led by Fidel Castro till the death of Fidel Castro in 2016. The movie depicts the lives of common people in Cuba, especially the three farmer brothers, Cristobal, Angel and Gregario. Many people were filmed and asked questions about their life in Cuba. The people came from all spectrums of life. They included farmers like the three Borrego brothers, shopkeepers, factory workers, construction laborers, doctors, teachers and students.

Jon even went ahead to interview the most famous man in Cuba, which is none other than Fidel Castro himself. He shows how he managed to interview him multiple times, inspite of being an American. He was the only journalist who was allowed to accompany Fidel during his visit to New York for the United Nations speech which Fidel was scheduled to give. The movie shows the lighter and humorous side of Fidel, who enjoyed smoking famous Cuban cigars, and happily answered all the questions asked by Jon.

Cuba and the Cameramen
Jon interviewing Fidel

The most interesting part of the documentary is its informal interaction with the Cubans. Unlike other documentaries, which usually has some underlying message or theme for a particular cause, I find this movie to be purely an interaction of an American with the Cubans. It has no political intentions, neither does it try to relate the adversity of Cuba to socialism or advocating America’s capitalism. The movie shows Jon visiting the same people for almost 40 years. It starts from the mid 1970’s till 2016. During this time, Cuba underwent a number of transformations, including being a successful socialist country in mid 1970’s ( though heavily subsidized by Soviet Union) to a struggling economy in early 1990’s when Soviet Union fell apart and Cuba got severely affected, which led to mass shortage of goods. Then the movie shows again the revival of good times for Cuba in the late 2000’s and 2010’s decade, when Cuba started attracting tourists from all over the world to revitalize its economy.

The best part I liked in the movie is when Jon interacts with the Borrego brothers. I simply love the way those three brothers lived their life. They were simple, poor farmers, who toiled hard throughout the day, yet never complained of the troubles, or hardships they faced. They did not have any tractors, or electricity yet managed to carry on their work diligently. Things changed in Cuba to a large extent, but the life of these three brothers did not change much. They never complained even when things got worse in Cuba. They truely believed in the socialist idea, and hence volunteered for the country without any pay or perks. When Jon asked, “What’s the secret to your happiness, Cristobal?” He replied, “We’re always working and walking, exercising. That’s the secret to being healthy and strong”.When Jon met them, the brothers were very old. Yet Cristobal who was 80 years old could beat in an arm wrestle against Jon, who was 40 years old at that time!

Jon Alpert Talks 'Cuba and the Cameraman': "In terms of romantic heroism,  Fidel and his story are pretty astonishing!" | HuffPost

Jon Alpert with the Borrego brothers Huff Post

What I learnt from this documentary and Cubans, is that life is not easy at all. but also life is always changing. Good and bad times are a part of life. As taught to me in the Art of Living course, Opposite values are complementary to each other. Cubans saw some of the worst days in the 1990’s but today, we see they are a booming economy. Even though the economy busted or boomed, leaders like Fidel came and went, but what never changed for people like Borrego brothers is the happiness, or satisfaction about life. They never got depressed or even commit suicide, but they faced the adversity with a smile on their face. Afterall, this is what life is all about!

And finally, I appreciate Jon’s tireless efforts to travel to Cuba for over 40 years, and keep track of the people he met to understand about their life and their problems. I liked his generosity to give an electrolarynx to Cristobal who had lost his voice later. I wish I could make an impact on someone’s life. After all, life is all about caring for others, to build relationships, and this movie indeed has a touch of humanity, benevolence and simplicity.