theascensioncircus

no war will end all wars

On looking at the obvious

Classification makes things more manageable. We classify everything. From sub-atomic particles to the expressions that people make. We think we know the meaning and though process behind these expressions, but we are reading them using the classifications our mind has priorly formed. We could be completely wrong in our readings. We do not let the possibility of inaccuracy bother us. This is important because this is how we operate. We define boundaries and then we get to work running around to find things to put within those boundaries. Soon this thing that was just an idea, a mental structure to make information manageable, becomes just one of a million boundaries  that have popped up,building their own layers of the first boundary. So we think that our classifications and boundaries have value, because they have discovered fractality. The ability to replicate itself its own image. Thus classifications acquire the status of religions and become worshipped thus. Having dulled down your questions on these walls, we forget the inaccuracy. We meddle with these boundaries, but in the end they only manage to shift themselves to another set of boundaries, probably with broader boarders. We are still taking the easy way out. We are not considering our outliers. We know they are there. Why not look at them
We forget that this system is running on partial information, but it runs as if it believed it had absolute knowledge. The system believes it has mastered perfect representation. You, stuck within your myriad boundaries, cannot even bother to read expressions right. You would be right. The system can even manufacture outliers at this point. The system is absolute. And you have no questions.

 

Mybe we shouldnt teach, because we close the mind through education, filling in the gaps as we go. In how it closes the mind to other possibilities, how does the fanatic RSS teachings or the fanatic KKK teachings differ from what is taught at any university .We are all propagating partial truth and partial understandings. Half-truth is the language of the system. In doing so, we are also closing the mind to other possibilities. Remember that in spite of all that they claim to know, they can recreate nothing. Reductionism has not done its job. Perhaps we should ask the Shaman . Untaught, what does he know?

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The puppet speaks

 

Our honourable prime minister addressed the parliament, earlier today, and told us that his government is in no way responsible for the worst devaluation in the history of the Indian rupee. In addition, he assured us that they would not roll back on the deregulation or FDI-in-all-sectors pet projects.  When read in conjunction with the recent call to the people of the country to sell the government their gold (with extra emphasis on certain states), all of this is playing right into the lap of the emerging conspiracy theorist.

The earlier hasty no-holds-barred implementation of the aadhaar project and the obedient compliance with the American NSA’s snooping activity, had all raised red flags. For those unaware of the scenario (if you haven’t realized by now that commercial media isn’t about truth-telling, it may already be too late for you), you should know that the Aadhaar project has neither legal or policy framework nor civil liberty safeguards, or indeed even parliamentary approval. (Have you noticed the amount of advertising done for this project?) When news of NSA’s snooping came out, our minister told us it was perfectly within America’s rights and as if that wasn’t enough, announced the rolling out of our own cyber snooper (NCCC) almost the very next day.

First, a brief history lesson seems to be in order. The modern currency systems, during their inception, validated their worthless paper money by promising that a central reserve held reserves of equal amounts of gold and any holder of the paper money could ask the central reserve bank at any point, for the reimbursement of their gold. Thus paper money was symbolic of the gold held in reserve. A fiat currency is a currency that does not have gold backing its full value. Once the rule of paper money had been established in the minds of the people, central banks slowly reduced the percentage of gold backing it. Today, most currencies of the world have less than 5% of their value backed by gold – the rupee included. This fake currency is called a fiat currency. The rest of the value of the Indian rupee is currently, theoretically held in foreign capital reserves. For ease of explanation, one may assume that as the value of the dollar goes down, about 70% of the value of the Indian rupee goes down directly.

This is the story of the dollar. The American Federal bank, contrary to popular belief, is a private bank or a consortium of private banks. They print the dollar. What regulates them you ask? Honour. This is not a joke. Also, this is pretty much what deregulation means. The system simply assumes that large enough corporations will honourably self-regulate and that they won’t use their power and monopoly to swindle innocent bystanders (like they didn’t during the Wall Street crash). During the 2008 stock market crisis, the federal bank printed 26 trillion dollars out of thin air and distributed it among the private banks than own and operate it, without the approval or knowledge of its people or congress. “The four largest recipients, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and Bank of America, received more than a trillion dollars each”, says congressman Alan Grayson who unearthed the information. When this story came out, the press did not have a field day with it. Instead they acted in quiet coordination to ignore it. Why, you ask? The part about media-control is still the area of conspiracy theories and I’ll get back to you on this when more proof surfaces, but a quick web-search should give you decent answers. As to what deregulation in effect does to a country, Iceland is a great case study.

By now, most big players in other parts of the world have realized that the dollar is unregulated worthless paper, and are quietly phasing the dollar out of their transactions. It looks like a fully-gold-backed Yen might be coming up. Remember the rumours that resurfaced after Gaddafi’s death that he too had been eliminated for his efforts to bring back the gold-standard? From Rome to England, fiat currencies have a history of eventually failing. When they fail, all hell breaks loose and you go vegetable shopping with a truck full of paper money. Here is the twist. When everything goes to the dogs, gold increases in value exponentially, because this seems to be the one currency the world can always fall back on.

The rest, I admit, is pure stipulation. When our government uses the current opportunity to introduce measures that further facilitate FDI, vested foreign interests have a brilliant opportunity to exploit the weak rupee, thus hastening the vicious cycle. Also in recent history gold collected by certain governments, seems to finally find their way to the same vaults. Either way, it would be prudent to remember to not trust their reasons.

A preoccupation with selective recounting of the truth

What now, must be done, that a new year is upon us and the furor created by a Delhi-bus-night has been effectively replaced by the confusion surrounding a possible beheading? Out of the December noise that had the undertones of a democratic uprising, selectively fanned on by the popular media of the country, came a muddle of voices that explored our situation morally, ethnographically, sexually, psychologically; and we learnt so much, from the reactions and the way reactions were formed and the channels that sang some tunes the loudest.

It is indeed true that most media ran with the story and gave it the kind of ring that made her a national concern – the kind of ring reserved for stories that make it to the national prime time news. It is possible to read into the socioeconomic factors that gave the story its reach, or delve into an ailing society’s obsession with violence. As the nation’s honorable prime minister, honorably shifted blame to the uncouth migrants in the capital, more reports sprang up around the country, of incredible violence against female humans because the media were now reporting these cases more prominently. Disturbingly, the shrillest voices in the huddle were simplistic cries for death penalty and chemical castration, ringing through social networks and tabloid media. I will not repeat here, sane arguments against the death penalty.

Amongst the chatter of violent retribution and inane comments by politicians, the voices of the Hindu, Kafila.org and Sunitha Krishnan have taken the path of empathy and reason. They have rightly pointed to the patriarchal system that has perfected the position of the weaker gender through centuries of reinforcement. Politicians were suddenly unmasked as their twisted philosophies rang up holes, juxtaposed with the starkness of the Indian woman’s everyday reality. Sheila Dikshit’s nasty remarks will indelibly serve as a land mark of the psychographics of the politicians of our times.

What must be done? The women’s reservation Bill, would be a fit starting point, as has been opined. Remember that this can only be a long overdue first step. This is a country where women face the attacks of an unkind society, every living day, throughout their lives – from their homes, the workplace, the park, the movie theatre, the train, the pub, the footpath, the moving bus. It is a matter of tremendous shame that the women of this country are too scared of their men folk to even ask for the full share of what they deserve. They deserve the chance to live, work, learn and travel in this country, at any time of the day, pursuing occupations of their choosing. This should include providing necessary travel, accommodation, sanitation, health and feeding facilities allowing women to lead their personal lives comfortably, anywhere in the country at any time.

All of us have been guilty of feeding the patriarchic structure by not speaking up against these structures as we encounter them in everyday life. Our women’s movements have been guilty of not doing enough, not asking for enough, and often, for tacitly agreeing with the controlling concept of the well-behaved woman. The woman we are to be primarily concerned about is the woman who silently accepts violence as she accepts her helplessness, at home and on the street, and passes down this picture of the world to her daughter. As Kimberlé Crenshaw points out through her intersectionality theory, you could be a drug addict on the street or a working professional, and still you have it worse if you are a woman. Across the spectrum, the woman has it tougher. However, the truth is that we are still playing into the hands of the patriarchal system by containing this uprising within the limited scope of Women’s Equality and Rights.

Indeed, a larger question must now be examined, in the light of our media readily shifting attention to the border, thus effectively scaling down the scope of any voices of dissent, as the more audible voices within the Indian borders are herded against a common enemy – the demon across the border. It does not matter that Barkha Dutt herself has admitted to the beheading of Pakistani soldiers by Indian soldiers (Himal magazine , June, 2001). Prime time news has characteristically, conspicuously stayed away from neutral discussions and fueled fury against the ‘enemy’, silencing, in the process, a popular uprising that could have been.

It all comes down to our systems of thought that accept different standards for different people. Borders among people – religious, cultural, regional- that are furnished to the general public, as the reasons for double standards in how people are treated, are incredibly handy tools for governments to distract or rally public opinion. The truth is that this system of double standards is so essential to the continuation of our regimes. As long as we surrender to the propaganda of war or scarcity or initiatory force, trusting sheep on a Machiavellian playground, we will be forced to bicker and blindly grasp for unavailable answers. This is a nation whose laws require that an FIR be filed for a road accident only if the deceased was on a vehicle. Our current nation state tells us clearly that unless you are within a preferred set of borders, if you are poor, or an Adivasi, or a Manipuri, or a woman, or a non-member, you have no effective rights and your life is worthless. We absolutely have to keep up the exposure of the misery hidden within the system (I say keep up, entirely on account of our brilliant online journalism initiatives).

We go around in circles as we try to find substantial solutions. The answer is not tough; it’s simply tougher to face. Unless every one of those walls is broken, none of us is really free. A complete reevaluation of our systems of ethics is in order, excluding no one and with no concept of the other. There is no alternative. This December revolt will be written off as the gangbangism of a generation of apathetic youngsters, unless we, the more advantaged among the armies of uncertain, are prepared today, journalist, man and woman, to fight every battle for every disadvantaged individual with the same vigor.

Let’s  not repeat the folly of depending on the media to fan on a movement or issue, but work to make meaningful discussions and information sharing possible, undeterred by the drama and kerfuffle that waxes futile on our TV screens. We don’t have to move on till we are satisfied that a solution has been reached. For if we give up now, if we refuse to prop each other up in our hour of need, what does it mean other than that we will fight only when directly threatened? That the media controls our responses? Or worse still, that we simply don’t care; we enjoy our primetime gore till we are distracted by the next gruesome tale?

The path ahead will not be easy. Our own elected democratic government will stop our trains and buses, and beat us and water us, and call us terrorists and Maoists. We have to remember to react when they shut down Delhi, Mumbai or Idinthakarai as a matter of course. They won’t like us standing up for the rights of the mentally unstable, the migrant and the gay prostitute; and hand in hand with Irom Sharmila and Soni Sori. The system doesn’t like change. Nature does not allow for a maladaptive system to survive. The question is quite simple. Have we had enough yet?

Recruiting the trigger-happy

Navy day, in India, was celebrated with all major Indian media streams covering the proud occasion (anniversary of the successful destruction of Pakistani assets and personnel on the day in 1972) and discussions ranged from the rapid modernization of equipment to the navy’s humanitarian efforts. More children toured warships and had their young minds influenced by the air of pomp and righteousness in an experience that was dubbed “educational and motivational” by the Times of India.

Ten days prior, on 24th November seven ads for recruitment into the Indian Navy littered the Hindu. It is not this space grab by a Government agency, putting commercial ventures to shame with amazing gross spend figures for a single day’s paper, that prompts this discussion. The ad on page 7 (regional) showed an image of soldiers firing machine guns, with the legend, “your video game”. It is possible to dismiss the ad as the immature effort of a jumpy copywriter, but the message it sends seems distressing enough to warrant closer examination.  Video games, especially first person assault themed, are known for their violent premises of gore, and many studies have linked prolonged exposure to such games to a disconnect from reality. In simpler terms, the more blood you spill, the better you are at the game. Primary pleasure factors of such games are, more often than not, the increasingly graphic depictions of blood and spattering bodies as they get shot down by the player. Did the Hindu, with its reputation of closely censoring its ads, have a blind spot for ads by the Armed Forces?

An ad that calls on a generation of youngsters to engage in violence to satisfy their bloodlust, is disturbing enough. Yet, a larger question beckons. Is reality any different? What are young recruits into any branch of any armed forces, anywhere in the world, but mindless mercenaries? What is the difference between a young mujahideen and a navy recruit, apart from the themes of indoctrination? The argument that a difference exists, falls sharply on the terrain of the recruits’ subjective knowledge of the larger context. The truth is that no such knowledge exists, if simply because armed forces (state or non-state) are highly secretive organizations by design.

It all comes down to question of trusting those in power, with your lives and the lives of others. The good soldier does not ask questions of the people who pay him his uniform-washing allowance. He trusts that the people he kills across a line drawn by unknown entities for unknown reasons, is his enemy. The pretext that the dominant group (government, army chief, tribal leader) always does what is in the best interests of the subjects they hold sway over, is not worth considering. Trust is a realpolitikally weak sentiment, ineffective like the gentlemen’s agreement in the Roman Republic that policed the gap between ambitus (electoral bribery) and harmless benignitas (generosity) of the candidates during elections.

Unimaginative cinema has for decades, fed the viewer with vague concepts like patriotism and glory in death, persuading the gullible to join up and die for reasons beyond their paygrade. It is important that censoring and monitoring bodies of all media reevaluate their considerations and take steps to ensure that subtle forms of propaganda are not unleashed by influential bodies(including government bodies) to manipulate yet another generation of confused individuals fed a system of invalid ethics.

The Indian forces, of course seem quite comfortable with civilian massacres and have repeatedly proven themselves beyond petty matters such a human rights, from Gawakadal to Jaffna . We have seen the war to end all wars and the International bodies working (supposedly) to end wars. We have heard enough diatribes about how the price of ending world hunger is around $195 billion a year, while the U.S military budget alone for 2012 hovers around $1.4 trillion. Any effective voice of dissent, short of a revolution, must rise from within the system.

The Vigilante Collective

With the advent of the internet, a fundamental change was brought about in the functioning of our media systems – a shift from dissemination to communication. For the first time, there was a media platform where the user could provide real-time feedback and thus take part in the surfacing dialogue. With the mushrooming of interactive text and video forums and the hacker-grown file sharing networks, information was set free.

Case studies for media censorship


North Korea does not allow its public to use the world wide web, as an extension of its juche ideology of self-reliance, which translates into a huge blind spot for information outside the control of the hereditary dictatorship. N.Korea has a monitored private internet – Kwangmyong- that allows the discourse more often than sharing of information that the government deems suitable. Entertainment and information is widely shared illegally, mainly through portable recordable devices, in the face of a hefty fine – a silent rebellion.
The great firewall in China tries to ensure widespread censorship of political speech and information on the internet as part of the pervasive media-control system that aims to silence criticism against the government establishment.
Reporters without borders consistently ranks both countries at the very bottom of the press freedom index – N. Korea ranks 178 and China ranks 174 out of 179 for the 2011-2012 year. Amnesty international and human rights watch refer to citizens of both nations as some of the world’s most brutalized people.
In the UAE, excessive filtering of ‘obscene’ content denies valuable medical information to students and forces inhabitants to pay excessively for telephony by blocking Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP).
The allied West follows
The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) are United States bills that seek to expand the provisions of the current laws governing copyright of material shared and distributed online. Opponents of the legislature argue that the proposed legislation aims to bring about absolute control over free speech and sharing of information, making it simply another version of China’s monitored internet. The proposed bills will allow law enforcement to block access to entire domains in the name of infringing content posted by individual users. SOPA does indeed seem to be legislation to override the provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, thus significantly widening the scope of possible censorship.
In January 2012, the European Union and its member states signed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), resulting in widespread protests across Europe.
In 2003, the government of India created the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN) aimed to issue blocking orders of websites. On February 7, 2011, the government released proposed administrative regulations to further add to the literature of hosts’ obligations to perform “due diligence”. A particularly short period was set for comments on the rules – the end of February. The government response to criticism was a press release asserting: “these due diligence practices are the best practices followed internationally by well-known mega corporations operating on the Internet.”
The rules came into force in April, requiring intermediaries to adopt terms of service that prohibit users from hosting, displaying, publishing, sending or sharing any forbidden content, not limited to obscene or infringing content, but also extending to any material that threatens national “unity” or “integrity,” “public order,” or that is “grossly offensive or menacing in nature,” “disparaging,” or “otherwise unlawful in any manner whatever.” – a broad standard that fails to set clear limits on what kinds of content may be taken down and has since then, invited abuse.
On January 18, 2012, Wikipedia, Reddit, and thousands of other smaller websites coordinated a service blackout, to raise awareness about the direness of the issue. Wikipedia went dark for 24 hours while Google blacked out its logo. Petition drives, boycotts, rallies and signature collection were widely reported, while grassroots level social media activism went into overdrive.

The people


Amidst the furore, a novel form of protest has risen. Anonymous, a hackers’ collective has taken matters to another level, and generated popular support for the movement on the ground. Anonymous has gained attention by issuing spectacular warning messages to the perpetrators of these laws – the mega corporations and their puppets, who according to them, are trying to control dissent on the internet. Interviews with anonymous members have seen them advocating a ‘free internet’ concept where government or corporate censorship is dead. Apart from protests on the ground (where members wear Guy Fawkes masks originally designed by David Lloyd for the V for vendetta comics and later used in the movie), their modus operandi seems to be distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.
What makes anonymous a concept that needs discussion, is its decentralised model that allows anyone with an issue to share, to use the label – “you are anonymous if you want to be”. They make no bones about flouting laws they do not believe in, acting as an anarchic multi-centred cyber vigilante.
Anonymous famously reacted to corporations opposing Wikileaks through DDOS attacks on Visa, MasterCard and PayPal , among others. Legal attacks by American agencies on file sharing sites – the pirate bay and Megaupload – too attracted the irk of anonymous, with websites, including those owned by the United States Department of Justice, the FBI, Universal Music Group, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Broadcast Music, Inc. being disabled. The next pet cause for anonymous internationally, seems to be SOPA.
The Indian Congress Committee and Supreme Court websites, along with websites associated with Reliance Big cinemas were reportedly taken down by DDOS attacks as part of Anonymous’ #OpIndia hacktivism campaign. This was in response to Indian Internet service providers blocking video and file sharing websites such as Vimeo, torrentz.eu, Daily Motion, Pastebin and The Pirate Bay. The ISPs were rebelling against state proposal for a UN Committee for Internet Related Policies (CIRP) that seeks to give India’s ruling party discretion to censor all online content.

In a country where dominant parties rush to control the syllabus of universities, removing disparate literature every year, the pertinent question may not be about the scope of cyber vigilantes breaking the law. With the recent upsurge of government activity to control the internet, amidst greater media buying in India by American corporations and rumours of the longest running fiat currency in the world kicking the bucket, a significantly nastier question comes up. What are they so scared we will find out?