Monday, December 6, 2021

Making people laugh

You know how much I have lamented the fact that people seem disinclined to laughing, going by how little they care for humor books. (Mine? Yeah, sure, of course that is why I am lamenting. When is the last that YOU lamented about something that did not affect you directly? There!) I mean, there is hardly any argument that a humorist to beat PG Wodehouse was never born but let us have you tell me about all the literary awards that he won. The indisputable GOAT (Ah, how this thing has changed. Greatest of ALL times? In my day, if I made a goat of someone...leave it!) in this genre and...

Anyway, that's not what I intend talking about now. I mean, yeah, I do wish that people cared a bit more about those who make them laugh but I can hardly say that any way of making people laugh is welcome and utterly harmless. I mean, there was a time when making fun of 'challenged' people was not a thing and, if you hark back to the movies of those times, nine out of ten movies 'made people laugh' by making fun of the aurally challenged or people who stuttered or people who were keratin-challenged. (Yeah, why should I not find a politically correct way of referring to people like me whose scalp is exposed to the elements?) Well, they were all making people laugh but the question is whether opposing their 'fun' is bad.

What was that? All ways of making people laugh are not necessarily good? Especially if you are laughing AT other people? Well, go back to your favorite jokes and list out the jokes that are NOT making fun of other people. From where I stand, those are the ONLY sort of jokes that make people laugh. I mean, I sit around trying to write what is called 'dry humor' and the most I can evoke is a smile that seems more like a grimace. If only I found it comfortable to make fun of other people instead of making fun of circumstances and the ironies of life...The problem with making fun of people is that you can make all people laugh, perhaps, with the exception of the chap who is being made fun of. Except, of course, the joke is seen as being complimentary to him by that person. Like the ones about the vocabulary of Tharoor or the all-powerful nature of Rajinikant...

And when it comes to making fun of groups of people...how about that? Nice way to make people laugh? All those Sardarji jokes, jokes about women...you are really taken by that sense of humor, right? If you are not, you must be in a minority OR a Sardar OR a Woman as the case may be. Trawl for the most popular jokes and what do you find? Exactly!

You know, the funniest thing in the world is other people's beliefs. Beliefs, by definition, are things that are not facts. You do not just believe that if you jump off a building, you will fall down; you KNOW it. Now, yes, there are beliefs which are outright disproved by facts and making fun of someone who continues to hold to that belief is probably a favor to the world. Taking him seriously is to validate an incorrect belief. There are those, though, which have not been conclusively disproved. So, why not make fun of those?

Yeah, why not? I mean, what with this being politically incorrect and that being hurtful and all, it is rather tough to find what you CAN joke about. So, I was rather glad to find that there were some people, at least, who thought that even the icons of other people's faiths - gods, more often than not - should not be above humor. I had always thought of my own god as someone who would have a wonderful sense of humor and can take a joke on himself. The problem is that followers of icons tend to be humorless when it comes to the icons they follow. THAT was proved to me when I made a harmless joke about the coiffure of one of the atheistic icons and found that a staunch supporter of 'making people laugh' jumping on me with spiked boots. Ye Gods!

I lament about it to another person and he tells me 'punching down' is in bad taste. Hmmm! By punching down, I thought he meant that that the more powerful should not misuse their power to make fun of the less powerful. Somewhat like a boss making fun of your English, the entire crowd laughing and you having to act as though you find it funny. But, 'punching down' is a strange beast. If a crowd of those who belong to historically under-privileged classes gang up to make fun of a lone member of the historically privileged class, it is 'punching up' and, therefore, not bullying. Me, I am myopic and can only see that in THOSE specific circumstances, THAT person is the one who is powerless. What is true in societal terms is not the same in individual terms. And, thus, when I make fun of someone else for his beliefs, I may perhaps BE punching down. Simply because HE may not have the privilege of the education that I have had.

That essentially leaves me with very little choices to make people laugh. I mean, I find MOST of the options to make people laugh are either odious to others or to me. So, the only safe subject to make fun of seems to be...me!

That shall probably always be the case. A joke is funny only as long as YOU are not the butt of it. Alas! Humor, like beauty, lies in the eye of the beholder!

Monday, November 29, 2021

The route to success?

A friend had shared a piece with me which talked about how reading classics was needed to acquire a patina of sophistication - especially knowing Greek and Latin to read the then classics in their original language. Also that the sophistication was required to move in the circles of the high and mighty, thereby leading to your own success. Oh, yes, the piece WAS talking about practically prehistoric times when there was this quaint idea that how cultured you are depended on what you knew and how you behaved.

As we all know, it is a stupid definition of culture. Culture is all about the car you own, the locality you live in and the way you dress. As for what you KNOW, all that matters is that what you know enables you to earn the money needed to own that car, live in that locality, buy those dresses etc etc. And, when we talk about behavior, it is not these namby-pamby ideas about how courteously you treat people, especially those less well-off than you, or how considerate you are of others and such. It is about knowing to use the right forks, knowing what wine to drink with what food, knowing what music to appreciate and what to ridicule, things like that. (Music you LIKE? Like really? Don't you know that, if you are to be seen as cultured, you are not ALLOWED to like or dislike anything unless it checks with 'cultured behavior'?)

One thing has not changed, though. I mean if, say, Mukesh Ambani chooses to lick his plate clean, do you really think that HE will be called uncultured? Or that the definition of culture will change to look down upon people who do NOT lick their plates clean? And have people giving etiquette lessons on the proper way to lick a plate clean? (Alright, that's an exaggeration. But, yeah, think of him wearing pajama-kurtas as the normal wear, driving an Alto, living in Bandra...will any of that make mango people call him uncultured?) After all, the whole PURPOSE of appearing cultured is to curry favor with the 'high and mighty', is it not? So, yes, there are the people who 'jahan kade hote hain, vahinse line shuru hota hai' - or, in English, the queue starts from wherever they stand; and there are those who then have to stand behind them to form that queue. Thus it was even in those prehistoric times when people read classics to get ahead in life (according to that piece). The 'high and mighty' had scant idea of the classics, it is just that they liked being SEEN as appreciating them. So, those who sought to curry favor HAD to read what those who were already 'successful' only paid lip service to.

The most heartening thing in this whole thing is that you have ONE standard route to success, spanning generations and geographical boundaries. Particularly pleasing to us guys who have immense respect for those who can say, 'Jaanta nahin ki main koun hoon' which, for the 'Hindi is not even my second language' guys means 'You do not know who I am'. Which, inevitably, leads to subsequent sentences, not about WHO he is but WHO his parents, siblings, uncles, friends or neighbors are.

And so, you ask? Well, the point is simple. Success is ALL about who you KNOW. Curry favor how you will, what you are aiming at is knowing people whose names you can throw around in order to ascend a social ladder. All you need to do is pick whose favor you want and how to curry favor with them. Voila!

What?? Easier said than done? Now, come on, whoever said success comes easy? And you, who spend good money on all those books on success, pay up for training which teaches you to succeed and never once think to tell THEM that it is 'easier said than done' will complain about that when I am giving it for free?

You just don't know who I am!

Monday, November 22, 2021

Crucified by the truth?

By now you must be wondering why I persist in calling people 'friends' when the only reason they come to me at all seems to be to pull me down. It is not exactly masochism, it's just that it is easier to type 'friends' than 'acquaintances', even with spellcheck helping you with the spelling. (You have guessed that this post is again about a friend who has popped in of a purpose to point out another of my idiocies? I never realized that people, with IQs qualifying them for Mensa, land up on my blog.)

You know, the truth can pretty much be crucifying if you are me. I mean, there are such a lot of things that a man is supposed to be, which I am not, so it is a rare truth that actually ends up not being detrimental to what little reputation I have managed to cling on to. But you know what burns me up? When people actually LIE using the truth and I am unable to refute it.

You think that the Truth is the Truth and the Lie is a Lie and the twain will never meet? Or, in other words, it is impossible to lie using the truth? Just shows how little you know about abilities of the friends that I have.

Take this one for example.

"From the time he joined my section, we have had nothing but problems."

Yup, your Mensa IQ must have told you that the 'he' there is me. AND what does that statement tell you? Especially when I cannot deny that I did join the section on day x and from day x+1 there had been a spate of problems? That I was RESPONSIBLE for those problems, right? Wrong! The problems related to work done BEFORE I ever knew that this was the section that would have the honor of being graced by my presence. I can say THAT and refute the implied accusation, right? Yeah, right, and end up being labeled a jinx for ever, instead of merely as an incompetent idiot. Did my dear friend say the truth or used the truth to lie and imply that I was responsible for the problems? Depends on whether you get the jitters if a cat crosses your path or not.

Or consider this one.

"Well, this is the guy who adds up 2 and 2 and gets 5." Of course in the days when people actually knew how to do addition instead of leaving it all to computers. AND, yes, the 'guy' there is you know who.

Truth? Yup it did happen ONCE. OKAY! Once! In about a 100 odd statements with some twenty computations each in the period we knew each other. So, truth, really? But does it say anything of the fact that I made an error ONCE in 2000 computations? Nope. So, what is it you get from that statement? That I am a mathematical nincompoop. You still believe that the truth cannot be used to establish a lie? Why do you think that courts have people swearing that they will tell the 'Truth, the WHOLE truth, and NOTHING but the truth' but for the fact the people are quite capable of telling partial truths and mixing truths and lies in order to establish a lie by way of implication?

What's worse is that he said to my subordinate. And I cannot even vent about it to any other friend without that chappie getting on my case with 'If it was the truth how does it matter where he said it?' I mean, in the days when body shaming was still considered humorous, did anyone ever make fun of the height of a short guy to another short guy? Exactly! By the very fact that he made that joke with that chap, he indirectly indicates that he thought that guy as the Ramanujam of mathematicians compared to me. (That implicit comparison with the other guy does not exist if the other guy merely happens to overhear it.) And I am supposed to see it as the same as if he had just told it to me alone? Especially when that other chap mucks up his computations three times out of ten? What if he had said it to my clients, would it still not matter who the truth was told to? Really!

You know these logical fallacies that I keep going on about? 'Post Hoc ergo propter hoc' is the fallacy which he depends on people to make when he said that thing in the first example. 'After I came in, problems occurred, SO problems occurred BECAUSE of me'. The second is the common one of generalizing. You have seen worse uses of the latter. Like "He cannot even speak good English" which seeks to establish that lack of knowledge of 'good English' somehow makes the person bad at everything. AND it DOES establish that in the minds of a lot of people. Truth can lie because people are prone to logical fallacies. Which is how it is popularly used by rhetoricians, politicians being the best known of them. The problem, though, is that there ARE those who are themselves prone to logical fallacies and genuinely believe the conclusions that arise out of faulty logic and quite innocently indulge in what is a rhetorician's tool to manipulate the gullible.

When you do it too often, though, YOU get generalized as well. If people see what you say as a lie, even if they are unable to see exactly WHY it is a lie, YOU get the reputation of being undependable. And THAT gets generalized, so even the truths that you say will be taken for lies. No matter how innocent and well-meaning your intent, no matter that you did not even realize that you WERE lying by implication on a few things, or because you genuinely believed them to be true.

Well, unfortunately, my friend does it only to me. It is easier by far to say something is factually incorrect rather than establish that the implication is incorrect. So...

"What? Actually, the problems started from the time YOU joined. My misfortune is that I joined six months later in the same section."

"No way! It's actually YOU who did that and I had to tell you that 2 and 2 add up to 4. It took me half an hour to convince you!"

Well, if the chap WILL be clever and lie by implication and I am not as clever, the only thing to do is to give the lie to his facts!

Monday, November 15, 2021

Purpose

This purpose of life idea, as you all know by now, has always defeated me. I mean, like, from a very young age, I have been screamed at for not having any ambition. And ambition, as far as I understand, is to set and work towards a goal. And how the heck do you even set a goal without purpose? It's not like you can say eating idlis is your goal without making a purpose out of it - like saying I want to get into the Guinness Book for eating the most idlis at one sitting. (Though I have seriously felt that something must be wrong in the wiring of the brains of people who actually want to record these things, it's an opinion that seems to be more unpopular than otherwise.)

When the world was young (well, younger than now drat it. Asking me for the exact birth date of the world!), people had all sorts of questions in their minds. How do I know I exist, what is life, what is its purpose yada, yada. I mean, there are those who are content to chew the cud and there are those who HAVE to know why you chew the cud, where is the cud coming from and so on and so on. The rest of those questions is the reason why you have to suffer through subjects like Physics at school.

This 'purpose' thing, though. THERE was the root of philosophy (Though philosophy, originally, was what they called this inquiry into ALL those questions. There is a reason why you get a PhD - Doctor of PHILOSOPHY - in all subjects). AND, dare I say, Religion! So, you had a whole array of possible purposes - from heading towards Heaven or Hell to achieving oneness with the Creator and so on. Those were the days when you were up close and personal with natural forces AND were at their mercy. So, the ideas of 'purpose' tended to be as vast as the universe both in space and in time. The infinite and the eternal figured in the ideas. (Even these Heavens and Hells had infinite pleasures or agonies for an eternity, see.)

But, then, after we shut out the world by enclosing ourselves, Philosophy tended to shut out the rest of the universe and concentrate on humanity alone. In other words,  it tended to restrict itself to sociology. As in, what is the best Society to have - democratic, autocratic, capitalistic, communistic, whatever. So, the purpose of human life is to create an ideal Society and the purpose of an ideal Society is to foster human life. So, by perfect circular reasoning, we had found the Purpose! 

Why do we live? To create an ideal society. Why do we want an ideal Society? So that we can live. QED!

Anyway, that's for people who love to only talk about things with no intention of doing anything OR for people who are not content with managing their own lives and want to manage everyone's life. For the rest of us mango people, though...

"You need to have a purpose in life. What do you want to become - a doctor, engineer...what?"

Now THAT was what I was faced with. It was always what I wanted to BECOME when all I wanted them to do was to let me BE. (I have said that before? So? I mean, you are the guys who troll people for contradicting what they said before and you have a beef even when I say exactly what I said before? There's no pleasing some people, really!)

But Society has progressed a long way since the time when I was at school. All those ancient philosophers will be extremely gratified to know that humanity has at last found a universally acceptable answer to the purpose of life. The purpose of life is to...

...get the maximum Likes on Social media!