When Opinions Are Like________ And Everyone Has One


When Opinions Are Like________ And Everyone Has One

A few years ago, when social media was not yet as ripe as it is today, whenever I finished a book or a movie I liked I couldn’t wait to head to school/college the next day and discuss it with my friends. Sometimes the discussion would be with my area friends and I would head out to their house, call them out, mostly by ringing their door bell and informing their dad/mom whoever happened to open the door that a gang of us friends were waiting in the street for their son and rushing back out to the street before they could stop us and ask us about our marks in the latest exam. And after such hectic efforts to collect a minimum quorum necessary to argue incessantly we would all adjourn to the nearby tea shop or potti kadai (pavement shop) or even the street corner- preferably a brightly lighted on underneath a street lamp –to make out facial expressions when arguing and then finally I would lay out my opinions regarding that book or movie which made me walk all the way up to their homes and then my friends would proceed to offer their candid comments on my taste of movies or books and lay threadbare my other foibles just to pass their time. After such a refreshing talk with alternate viewpoint’s we would all disperse to our respective streets/homes after promising to meet again soon under the same street lamp. And those were simpler times and not that long ago too- and definitely not from the Jurassic or Triassic era if that’s what you are thinking.

Now switch over to the current scenario. Suppose I read a book or saw a movie I liked- say a new author I have recently discovered or a classic film I just happened to download and watch on a boring day. I just have to post that information online on my Facebook and Twitter feed (or instagram a picture while actually doing it) and voila, the opinions fly in even without asking, even before I have finished posting. Friends, strangers, friends turned strangers and strangers turned friends are all actively commenting on my choice of the book/movie, offering me critical analysis of the novelist/director, recommending other unheard works from his/her oeuvre and generally being too helpful in educating me. And that’s just on facebook.

On twitter the situation is even more drastic. Critics and trolls will crawl out of the woodwork where they would have been long in hiding (just following my tweets silently) and treat my posting my opinion on the book/movie as an open invitation to offer their opinion of me, my behavior in my personal life, my opinon of narendra modi and my lifestyle choices. The open forum of twitter where you don’t have the option of “accepting friends” aka facebook makes it even easier to get trolled by anonymous (and some not so anonymous) trolls. The only option would be to either block them (and miss out on all the fun of being called an imperialist/british loving/macaulayputra running dog for preferring English over Hindi as a national language for united India) or in shifting to a protected tweets only mode which is simply like hollering alone in a locked room while the dogs bark outside. Neither of which appeals to my sense of humour. But sadly despite all that vim and vitriol real opinion on real issues never seem to happen on twitter. Everyone seems desperate to show off and impress others with their felicity over the 140-character format. Brevity in words is unfortunately taken to mean paucity of thoughts, original thoughts I mean.

And when all this pseudo-intellectual shit gets heavy on me, I post my opinions on Insta, where people (from world-over) instantly grant me likes and heart me- even if their ‘net connections are so poor that they can’t even see my post which has not yet loaded on their mobile apps and still take the time to comment “good”, “great”, “wonderful”, “fill in any other generic compliment you can think of” just so I would remember and repeat the compliments the next time they post something. An intellectual conversation is never on the cards on insta- unless it’s a post on feminists when you are sure to get more comments than likes as everyone and their aunt have an opinion on feminism.

Anyway the point of this post is that unlike the simpler older times when the discussion was instant (give or take 24 hours) and mostly on topic, the use of social media to solicit opinions on our recent reads/watches mostly leads us off to unexpected areas where we are forced to either update our knowledge after accepting our ignorance of the topic we first posted upon (say on the comparative acting talents of Humphrey Bogart/Grace Kelley/Sidney Poitier) or we are forced to defend our opinions incessantly (like why we like chetan bhagats books despite the man being a mountebank). This ceaseless arguing, for weeks on together (whenever any idiotic stalker goes and likes our old post’s to bring it back up on the TL for further comments and discussions again and again) saps all the thrill and excitement of discovering something new and trying to share it with everyone or at least with our own close circle of like-minded friends. So much so, that nowadays I desist from announcing my excitement at my discoveries online. I prefer to hoard the emotions, gloat over them in private and if filled to overflowing I try to turn down the excitement a notch by writing a blogpost on it, of course with comments disabled for my peace of mind. So, far from social media being a great tool to harness contrary opinions and diverse views, the reality is that it’s the same shit all over again. And this way you don’t even have the pleasure of punching someone in the face when they disagree with you.

So tell me dear readers, do you like to post your opinions on social media when something new excites you? Or do you just want to pick up a phone, call a friend and talk it out with them? Which is your choice of poison?

 

The 20-80 Principle – When Trolls Bray Loudly To Drown Out the Rest…


The 20-80 Principle – When Trolls Bray Loudly To Drown Out the Rest…

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Recently I had a resounding argument with a couple of friends on internet trolls and social media warriors. One of the most intriguing points we discussed was on the vocal 20% idiots who monopolize social media space 24/7 and drown out the rest of the voices and thereby get the undeserved tag of social media influencers. These morons with their disproportionate reach on social media due to their shrill volubility and idiotic arguments are often mistaken for representing the silent majority who prefer to keep their opinions to themselves, partly to avoid being trolled by these idiots and partly because they are too busy with their real lives to spend much time arguing on social media platforms. The first issue we debated in depth was the almost unanimous support to the demonetization debacle by social media warriors and specifically the software groupies.

One of the most oft repeated clichés of these keyboard warriors is that demonetization is a disruptive event and disruptions are good in general. Well as a common man let me tell you that I agree with you that disruptions are good in shaking up moribund societies, but those disruptions are meant to happen over decades and centuries, not in 50 days. Disruption, whole scale disruption in the short scale, happens when a foreign invader, say Timur the Turk, invades our country and builds a pyramid of skulls of our people, or a large scale tsunami wipes out entire coastal communities and changes our very shorelines. Those are the ones which classify as disruptive events in the short term which bring change willy-nilly to society. And they are always called as disasters when viewed with the long term focus of history.

Human lives and human society is not a software product which exceeds its lifetime and needs to be disrupted with a new product. These are lives we are talking about not lines on a computer. The biggest example to me of how our society has failed in regulating engineering colleges mushrooming everywhere resulting in substandard graduates with hollow degrees and no independent thinking capacity is the level of support software engineers have shown to demonetization merely because of the word “digital” added to it. So as I said in the beginning the braying of the idiotic 20% is drowning out the voices of the sane rest. This post too, I anticipate will attract the ire and venom of the vocal minority and time on their hands trolls.

But as history repeatedly shows when the good cease to speak the evil runs rampant. And hence I decided to raise my voice against all these online trolls, to stand up and be counted when it matters. And just to clarify who a troll is? If you speak against me, you are a troll, if you disagree with this post, you are a troll, if you criticize or comment against this post, you are a troll, if you debate any of my contentions or conclusions, you are a troll, if you think I am wasting your time writing this post and making you read this, just think for a moment about our troops standing on the ice cold borders of Pakistan facing terrorists and then tell me whether your time is more important that theirs and whether just reading this post is a bigger sacrifice than our suffering troops on the border. I rest my case.

Trolls- Saving Tamil From People Like Me


Trolls- Saving Tamil One Blogger At A Time. trolls-en

One of the reasons I started blogging was because I used to love reading others blogs and wanted to start writing like them. Over the course of years and many, many blog posts I started developing a voice of my own, what I hope is a unique style (or is it just my ego talking?). Curiously even after six years of blogging in English I have never faced the kind of unique situation I have been facing for my very recent experimentation in writing blog posts in the vernacular language Tamil.

After crossing a personal milestone of over 300 posts on my blog I felt kind of stale and realized I had somehow lost the, shall we say the “oomph” for blogging and was less and less inclined to sit down and pen my thoughts as a long post instead of putting up the shortened version as a tweet or a facebook status. Consequently I thought about whether I could branch out in a completely different sphere in blogging- something beyond just a new genre in English and hence decided the time was ripe to start blogging in Tamil. I downloaded the software which installed Tamil fonts on my word processor and then I just waited for weeks at end to start writing- waiting forlornly for the inspiration to strike and kick start my Tamil blogging.

Now for those not in the know- Tamil is not my mother tongue – that singular honor goes to Telugu- the language Poet Subramanya Bharathi called “Sundara Telugu” and the glue which failed to hold together the warring Telengana and Seemandhra regions of Andhra Pradesh- an abject lesson in the utter stupidity of elevating language as a linchpin for cultural exclusivity – but that is for another post. Anyway to return to my language skills- as a student in Chennai I had to perforce learn to read and write the local language Tamil and as I have passed all my school level Tamil exams successfully- you have to agree with me that I have a working knowledge of Tamil- enough to get by without pretending to linguistic excellence.

And so when I made the recent decision to explore blogging in the context of the vernacular language Tamil, in the process hopefully getting into touch with Tamil writing which I had long lost contact with- I did not really expect the kind of reactions I am now getting for my Tamil blogs, which is just 3 posts old – a satire post on the local auto rickshaw drivers, an incident from a trip to Kerala and a film review. To confess the truth I did have a couple of my earlier English posts (written long ago, long, long ago) attract vicious real-life attention from those I had written about on the blog post. But it was just a passing phase and didn’t do much damage -except to my ego.

Which is why it is such a different (an unlooked for) experience to be trolled continuously for what is just/after-all a mere few hundred words on a personal blog. I am astonished to the extent to which Tamil language lovers have taken the pains to write to me about the deficiencies in my knowledge of Tamil. Comments have ranged the entire spectrum of abuse -from the disgrace I bring to the purity of Tamil language in misspelling words to the insult and indignity I inflict on the ancient Tamil language by my anglicized Tamil writing. Such vitriolic commenting on posts which don’t even cross a hundred page views means that they consider me a public menace and can’t eat or sleep before writing to me. I have saved the choicest of the comments and feedbacks as a separate folder which I am sure will offer me great moments of mirth whenever I am feeling low in future.

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Anyhow the point I am trying to make is that one writer- no matter how atrocious his writing is – is not going to damage a language with a two thousand year old history. Why are the language aficionados so hell-bent on stopping me from learning Tamil by writing it? Do you have to be an expert before you even start writing? Is that practical? I just fail to understand what the overall message is- should those who can’t write well stop writing? Is that the way to preserve the glory of Tamil? Or should we get a certificate in Tamil proficiency from these self appointed guardians before we pick up the courage to start writing in Tamil?

A point to be noted here is that I am not dissing constructive criticism pointing out my deficiencies- of which I am myself well aware and will hopefully get rid off in the near future. But I am merely objecting to pointless abuse which is not helpful in any sense- except may be to give a sense of pride to the commenter on having saved Tamil from someone like me. My Tamil writing is not yet a public menace of such gigantic proportions to deserve so much attention from the guardians of Tamil pride and purity. And instead of demanding that I stop writing in Tamil I hope that those with “real Tamil pride” take a boat to Jaffna to save Tamil pride from even more dangerous enemies to Tamil than yours truly.

The reason I chose to write this reply to the trolls in English rather than in Tamil is not because I agree with them but only because this problem is universal and applies worldwide to every language everywhere. Every single language, including English, has such self-appointed guardians and Grammar Nazis who make it their life mission to prevent anyone else from learning the language by trial and error method. If you listen to them then only those with perfect diction can even speak the language- which is a position to the far side of idiocy.

Language, whatever its other merits is just a tool for communication and hence has to keep evolving with time and use. An ossified language with undisturbed purity is just a dead language- ask Sanskrit -which failed to keep up with times despite its much touted perfect grammar. The reason English thrives worldwide is because it is so accommodating of modern usage despite its Grammar Nazis who are merely fleas on a dogs back. Language cannot be a binder or glue to greatness not even past greatness and to argue otherwise is to close our eyes to reality. Let’s give language it’s just due- as a tool adapted for human use- rather than place it on a pedestal and worship it. Let’s welcome with open hands those who wish to learn it and use it despite their shortcomings in speaking it. And let’s not forget that it’s not just native language speakers who are important for bringing pride to a language- for example- the Italian Veeramamunivar was a stalwart contributor to the growth of Tamil language wasn’t he?

And finally a personal reply to all those trolls who want me to stop writing henceforth in Tamil. Sorry to reject your advice but my mind is made up to continue my learning of Tamil. I may muddle my way through atrocious Tamil writing but hopefully one day I will pick up enough Tamil skills to impress even you. Till then- I hope you wait and show some patience. Be seeing you around. And oh – keep those comments coming; I could do with a good laugh now and then.