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.

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
Ref

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.
Ref
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……

The world in 2021..

Summary of the conversation regarding the world in 2021.

Yesterday, I attended an interesting conversation about the topic “The World in 2021” which was organized by Founding Fuel. The panel consisted of eminent thinkers and intellectuals such as Frank Richter from Zurich, who is the chairman of Horasis, Sundeep Waslekar, President of Strategic Foresight Group, Niranjan Rajadhyaksha, Research Director and Senior Fellow at IDFC Institute,and Prof.G Venkat Raman, IIM Indore. The talk was hosted by the business journalist and editor, Indrajit Gupta. Here is the YouTube video link:

The world in 2021

The conversation highlighted the discussion on the issues which dominated in this year, 2020, and based on the current world scenario, the panel shared their insights about how the world will be shaped in 2021. Frank started the conversation with the impact of Covid-19, and how this pandemic has changed the world, especially considering the ever growing importance of digitization and automation. He also shared his concern about the rise in racial inequality seen in this year. But also the fact that President-elect Biden will soon be in the White House, this will certainly lead to the comeback of multilateralism.

Sundeep Waslekar, however, surprised the viewers by expressing that during 2020, there were three major impacts which dominated this year, and which will impact the coming years as well. In his list, the least severe is Covid-19! Yes, I heard right. The least disastrous is Covid-19 even though it has impacted millions of people and crumbled the economy into recession. According to Sundeep, the second most dangerous event which happened during 2020 was that 2020 was the hottest year in the history of the world. The readers can refer for more info: https://www.carbonbrief.org/state-of-the-climate-2020-on-course-to-be-warmest-year-on-record

So, this has led to an unprecedented rise in global warming. But the good thing is as Trump has lost the election, and President-elect Biden has affirmed to bring back the USA into the Paris Climate Agreement. And Sundeep also stressed the fact that Mr.Biden wants to align the economy to a more energy efficient, renewable source based, and sustainable model. Even Europe and China have decided to make their economies carbon free by 2050 and 2060 respectively. So, in a nutshell, thanks to the defeat of Trump, our Mother Earth is going to be saved from a catastrophic disaster.

According to Sundeep Waslekar, the third and most disastrous event which happened in 2020 is not Covid or global warming, but the race for development and testing of hypersonic missiles. So far, Russia, USA, China and India have successfully tested the hypersonic missiles in this year.

  1. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/01/national-pride-stake-russia-china-united-states-race-build-hypersonic-weapons
  2. https://www.sundayguardianlive.com/news/india-among-nations-hypersonic-missile-tech

Hence, the race for hypersonic missiles which can carry nuclear payloads coupled with the ongoing cold war between USA-China, and USA-Russia ( which is the new cold war continued after the disintegration of Soviet Union) and rising tensions between India-China has created a perfect breeding ground for germinating this into a burning hot war. The panel raised their concerns about the growing escalation of weapons manufacturing, including nuclear warheads, which the new President would have to give due attention to calm down the rising tensions between countries.

The panel answered questions from the audience, and one of the most asked questions was regarding the role of China in 2021. As per Niranjan and Prof. Venkat, China has risen in Asia as an economic and technological power, and who wants to challenge the position of the USA as the world’s only remaining superpower. China has dug its feet too deep into the global supply chains, that it will be impossible for the world to isolate China. The panel illustrated a few examples such as the dominance of China in rare earth elements which are used in smartphones, wind turbines etc. https://qz.com/1924282/how-china-became-dominant-in-rare-earths/ In short, the world may like or hate China, but cannot avoid China.

The panel discussed the upcoming challenges President-elect Biden will have to face as soon as he enters the White House. It will be interesting to see how he leads America in this multi-polar world, where America has retreated from the world leadership during the Trump Presidency. As Sundeep rightly said, that “Donald Trump looked at the world as a place of risk, and not a place of opportunities” That America’s interests were at risk was the psychology behind Trump’s actions to ban immigrants, sell arms, retreat from world organizations etc. “Even though Biden has favored multilateralism, still it is not clear how his worldview is going to be. Is he going to look at the world, especially at China and Russia from cold war’s perspective, or would have a completely new view?” Hence, Sundeep assured the Indian audience who are particularly concerned that Biden will bring up the kashmir issue again, that Biden will certainly look at India from America’s strategic interest, and simply kashmir, H1-B immigration or any human rights issue would not drive his administration’s agenda.

Another topic which was talked about was regarding the RCEP – Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which has been formed among the Asian nations including Australia and N.Z, but dominated by China. For India, this is another organization in the lines of One Belt One Road, CPEC, or AIIB. Prof.Venkat and Niranjan shared their views that even though India looks at China led organizations from the prism of threat to its economic and national concern, but considering the need to revive the economy, India should either think of joining or have a Plan B with US or Europe market collaboration.

Finally, the panel discussed the world economy which lies in doldrums. Even though the world economy will bounce back in 2021, but still it will reach only to the pre-covid level. But the important concern is how the economy will be shaped after this pandemic. Though it is clear that the emphasis on automation and digitization will be preferred, the basic problem lies with the way the economy was functioning. The working class struggled with the low wages, and which led to protests from many parts of the world to increase wages. While on the other side, the CEO’s and BOD’s earned huge profits due to increase in productivity, driven by automation and the internet. But they spent the major chunk of profits in share buyback or giving hefty bonuses to themselves. Hence, profits vs wages will be the main concern in front of many world leaders.

The conversation ended with Frank’s comment that there is hope to rebuild the world based on multilateralism, that nationalistic movements have started to retreat especially with the exit of Trump from the White House, and people can live together again in harmony. While Sundeep concluded his thoughts with a question for the viewers to wonder that the world could not predict about Covid in 2019. So, what will be the next thing/event that might happen in 2021, which will change the world? Let’s hope that whatever happens is positive!

#Worldin2021 #FFMasterclass

Please do watch this conversation on YouTube as the ideas and worldview from eminent intellectuals and scholars are the perfect food for our thoughts!

International Men’s Day!

Why International Men’s Day needs to be accepted by the society!

The day of Nov 19th, is declared as International Men’s Day! Unlike Women’s day, this day is not much known or celebrated either. Even Google ignores this day by not making doodles which it regularly makes for celebrating women’s day. To be honest, I was also not aware of this day until I read a LinkedIn post from a female connection!

International Men's Day 2020 Quotes & Wishes: Check This Year's Theme

The first question which came in my mind is that why is there a need to celebrate Men’s day? Just because the tradition to celebrate women’s day exists? Well, historically, we see that women have undergone generations of inequality, injustice and impartiality as compared to men. That’s why as per https://www.internationalwomensday.com/About ,March 8th is the day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

Men on the other side, has always dominated the world in all spheres of life, be it scientific, political, social or economic. The world has honored and revered men from all backgrounds, religions, culture in all parts of the world, at all times. Infact if we checkout the list of 100 most influential people of all time, we find only two women in the entire list, which are Queen Isabella ( Rank 65), and Queen Elizabeth I ( Rank 94). It is said that behind every successful man, there is women. She could be his mother, or wife, or sister. No man can ever be successful without the women’s support. But unfortunately, the world has always treated men far superior than women, and hence, the list stands as a proof.

Ofcourse, this is no way means that men in the list are not great or influential. What I am trying to convey is that history has always biased between men and women ( maybe because that history is mostly written by men!), and hence, the need to celebrate women’s day garnered the credit to honor the unsung heroines of the world. But then why men’ day needs to be celebrated?

This is because, the world has changed a lot in last few centuries, especially in the last 100 or so years. Due to scientific revolutions and advancement in communication technologies, the world is closer and connected than ever before. Thanks to spread of common education curriculum, democracy & voting rights, trade & commerce across the world, and acceptance of law and order required for a civilization to function, the world is no longer fighting wars to grab lands, resources, or even enslave people ( atleast not like Mongol invaders or British imperialists, though Taliban and few fringe elements do exist in the world) which used to happen before.

All this has led to a more civilized world, which has brought in more equality between men and women. Atleast the law says to treat men and women as equal. Thus, we see more women being educated & working along side men in business, military, politics and even in space! And I think this is one of the greatest achievement in human social history ( however late it might be)

Today we see women’s problems being recognized and accepted openly in most parts of the world. Be it the taboo associated with menstruation, or opposition to abortion, or even cases of domestic violence, sexual exploitation & marital rape. All this is being given attention and justice in today’s world. The society has accepted women’s importance as the other equal half, and this has been the greatest success of celebrating women’s day.

But at the same time, the world is also becoming more aware of the problems of men. Just as history saw women as weak, emotional and inferior for centuries, in the same way, men were always viewed from the prism of masculinity, bravery, machoism, unemotional, and dominant. The fact that men can also be emotional, and face stress or mental issues was never accepted by the world. Men were molded by the society to become stiff, aggressive, to never cry, never give up, never show emotions, stay dominant over women, earn more & be more educated than women. This was the way the world functioned for centuries. Scholars and intellectuals propounded this theory to compare it with evolution, and the way our ancestors lived, where men used to hunt and gather food, while women used to be at home to cook and raise children. ( there are some backward people like Taliban or ISIS who still believe in this theory)

But, as the world has changed enormously in the last few centuries, this concept no longer holds true. Times have changed, and even though men continue to dominate the world in most spheres of life, but the stress, anxiety, and work pressure they have to undergo to perform and stay at the top is excruciating. For example, we see that if a women voluntarily decides not to work & become a housewife, it is easily accepted by the society. But men unfortunately do not have that luxury. Men are never accepted to take gaps in education or work. Infact, going further, men are even not accepted to work under a women ( this might be due to peer pressure or male ego), but this stress to dominate, affects mental health enormously. And to make matter worse, men are not even expected to express their emotions, concerns in front of others ( especially in front of women as this is considered to be inferior and servile for a man’s macho status)

That’s why we see men’s health being severely affected, which results in some severe health issues like cardiac attack, high blood pressure etc. The below statistics shows the severity of this mindset.

Happy International Men's Day! 2019 Theme and All you You Need to Know -  WorthvieW
source

Hence, International Men’s Day is celebrated to show this other side of male personality. Even though physically or through evolution, men are stronger than women, or are more evolved to work in strenuous physical activities such as farming, construction, or fighting wars etc. But that does not mean they are emotional stronger than women as well. Infact, women are better at managing their stress, mental health and work pressure than men. This might be because women express their concerns and issues more easily with other women or even with husband/father. But men are known to never express their concerns or emotions to anyone.

Hence, this day should get more accepted by the world to create awareness about men’s mental health. The emphasis on male machoism, or ego should be discarded. Men should not feel a shame to work under women, and neither should they take stress to stay dominant at the top of the social ladder. In order to make men and women truely equal with each other, it is necessary to accept the fact that after all, men are also humans! Just like a mother, wife or sister plays a vital role in man’s life, so does a father, husband or brother in a woman’s life! The ground needs to be leveled and so Men’s day needs to get the same support as Women’s day!

Need for mindfulness!

History will assess the present as chaotic times. This is because of the ever complex world we are living in. Humans have achieved the highest pinnacle of technological progress in human history, and hence, we are ever surrounded by complex, high-tech machines. On one side it might seem that we are relieved of all the hardwork and sweat, as all the tasks from cooking, transport, calculations, communications, and even intelligence are managed by intelligent machines. We have the best technology at work today.

But on the other side, there has been increase in depression, mental issues, anxiety, unemployment and lack of stable relationships as well. As per WHO, more than 264 million people suffer from depression globally. It is indeed a topic of debate as why are we suffering from high levels of mental and health issues when most of our problems have been solved with the invention of technology. We see that facebook and other social media sites have bridged the gap between the world to easily communicate and share information. But on the other side, we are getting more and more addicted to social media, and even depressed as per Journal of Applied Biobehavioural research.

Adding to this are the incessant bombarding of news reports from mainstream media, news channels, radio, podcasts, youtube channels etc. We live in the information age and its quite in excess. Most of us are unable to get the best relevant data from this ocean of information, and hence, it usually ends up creating confusion and loss of interest. The unceasing tweets from followers, viral videos, and debates have ushered in chaos everywhere.

Adding to this mayhem, is the Covid virus infections. Covid could not have come at a better time when the world is already getting polarized on the grounds of right wing, ultra nationalism vs liberal, pro-globalization order. We see massive BLM rally all over USA due to hightened racial tensions against the Trump supporters rally. Then, we have the Indian-China conflict slowly and steadily rising which might escalate to trigger a full-scale war. The world economy except China has tumbled down, and the fear of long term recession, unemployment and social issues are looming everywhere. I find no perfect word other than “chaotic” to name this!

Hence, when I see this chaos howering everywhere, I find mindfulness or meditation to be a perfect solution to keep our mind calm amidst this pandemonium. Nothing better can make me feel good than meditation nowadays. It is jokingly said during pandemic that if we cannot go outside, then better to go inside ( within us). Yes, indeed. We need to contemplate about our life, our goals, our needs and our future after all this chaos settles down. This pandemic is once in a lifetime event, and hence, it seems that destiny has given an opportunity for us to reflect our life inwards and know the self. The pandemic has already made us aware that our needs are much much less than we usually purchase. As Gandhi used to say, “The world has enough to fulfill everyone’s needs, but not anyone’s greed”. I do agree that this pandemic has proved this right.

When there is no sign of covid vaccine coming in near future, the only way to keep ourselves safe and healthy is by increasing immunity and ofcourse, staying inside and taking all the precautions. Meditation is known to make us strong mentally, and thereby we get the strength to fight against this pandemic. More than health, this pandemic is a test of our mind’s strength. We are more prone to succumb to fear, anxiety, depression, or worst suicide, due to the fear of Covid infections in our family, economic recession and social unrest. So, to keep our mind strong and stress free, we need to spend sometime in mindfulness. We need to meditate everyday for few minutes at least.

I practice Art of Living taught “Sudarshan Kriya Yoga” and it has helped me immensely to keep me mentally strong. Infact, the day I do not do the kriya, I feel nervous, and get angry quickly. Hence, I am glad that I learnt this technique before, and now I can practice it everyday at my home. I will write a separate post about my experience with meditation, and how it works like magic!

I hope this all chaos calms down soon, and let peace delve back into the world.