Monday, September 27, 2021

The great robber - Age

I know what you think I am going to talk about. About how I look at stairs and groan at the thought of climbing them, when I used to run blithely up in the past. (Not that you'll think that if you are young, nowadays. The idea of even the young running DOWN stairs, leave alone running UP, is passe; they groan at the thought as much as the old though, I bet, their knees do not make weird clicking noises as they climb up the stairs). About how the list of tablets I have to eat grows in tandem with the list of foods I am not allowed to eat. About how I used to be listened to with respect while, now, people switch off even before I say the first word of "In the good old days..."

But that is not what I intend pontificating about now. It's more about how Age keeps robbing you in bits and pieces all through your life. Like, the time was when you used to be a rebel out to change the world into a sparkling idealistic paradise. The first step of it all being to rid the world of the tyrannical ideas imposed on you by your parents and elders. Surprise, surprise, you never even realized when it happened but you find that, now, YOU are the tyrant against which the youth are rebelling today. However were you robbed of your rebellious tendencies? Is it just the fact that, as a teen, you saw nothing to lose in changing what was there currently, no responsibility for the well-being of anyone, perhaps excepting yourself and sometimes not even that? And now you find yourself responsible for your children and are afraid of rocking the boat lest they get affected? Or is it that the world has changed a bit, you have changed a bit, and, now, you fit in comfortably with the way the world is and do not want to lose that comfort? Whatever it be, Age has sneakily robbed you of any tendency to rebel. (Not really my issue, you know, since I have stoutly refused to take on the responsibility for anybody else - spouse or children.)

When you first pop into office, freshly equipped with knowledge and concepts from college, you are all agog to change, modernize, improve the functioning of those creaky old sots there who are doing things the hidebound way with sage advice about how that is the way things have always been done there. Not for you these inefficient methods; you want to chuck them all out and make things work more efficiently and effectively. When, then, did you start looking indulgently (or with irritation, depending upon your nature) upon these eager-beaver snot-nosed kids who think they know better than you? Is it just the fact that, when you entered in at the bottom of the ladder, it was not you who had to sell the new-fangled ideas OR carry the can for the teething problems that made you so eager then? Or is it that routine has lulled you into a comfort zone which you do not want to get out of? Whatever it is, Age robs you of the enthusiasm to MAKE changes and leaves you with the dull resentment of having to DEAL with changes. (Again, not really my issue. I just wanted to do enough to ensure that I had a salary to live on. Born old, that's me.)

Which, essentially, is also true of what you think about the rest of the world. You start off in your youth wanting to change the world (of course for the better and you really do not think that what is 'better' for you may not be the same for others). Age robs you of that ambition as well and, without your actually realizing when it happened, you have become the person whose only thought is to ensure that the WORLD does not adversely change the way you wish to live. (Yeah, yeah, you got that right! Not my issue, I always just wanted the world to leave me alone.)

So, exactly why am I whinging about how Age is a robber? Because I just hit the age which used to be the retirement age for employees. And Age has, at last, something to rob me of. (Apart from those creaking knees, exchanging scrumptious food for tablets etc etc)

Up to now, new acquaintances used to ask me, "What ARE you?" and, when I say that I am just relaxing, I used to become the center of attention for the time being thanks to their curiosity about how and why I quit so early. NOW, Age has robbed me of even that minor spotlight that used to briefly shine on me.

Because, now, the question is more likely to be, "What WERE you?"

Monday, September 20, 2021

To lead

"What do you think makes a good leader?"

Oh! Shit! Another of those conversations! You know, the meme type of things which seem very illuminating when you first come across it but is so difficult, if not impossible, to put into practice. You know, somewhat like saying that the easiest way to reduce weight is to say 'No' to food. True but trite because what did that idiot think GOT you to become overweight in the first place if not the inability to do exactly that? Even when you are not exactly feeling starved.

"Buttering up your bosses?"

"I am not talking of getting to positions where the corporate world fondly imagines that you will lead, you moron. I am talking about actually being a leader."

"Know where the crowd is anyway going and walk two steps ahead of it?"

"There you go again," he said in exasperation. "I am not talking of being SEEN as a leader but actually BEING a leader."

There was a difference? I mean, come on, I know people hold these illusions about leaders and academic books prate a lot about leadership qualities and all. But, in reality...isn't every leader a guy who primarily seeks to be SEEN as one?

"You are not too far wrong with your second attempt, though. The main thing is for the leader to be only a couple of steps ahead of the rest. If he goes too far ahead, enough so that he cannot be seen, how do the rest know his way so that they can follow him?"

I stifled a yawn and, in a bid to stifle this Niagara of words, said, "Somewhat like what Arthur Clarke said, huh? When Science is too far ahead of its audience, it is indistinguishable from magic or some such."

"Nonsense! I only meant that what you preach should still be something people can understand even if they cannot think of it themselves. But...hey wait a minute, perhaps you have a point after all. Just like that thing about Science, ideas too far ahead of the rest of the crowd is indistinguishable from madness."

Ah! So I COULD be right, every now and then, even if by mistake.

The chap had taken the bit between his teeth by then. There was no stopping him and I adopted my time honored way of listening to lectures. Closed my eyes and tried not to snore while getting a snooze in.

"You cannot lead people where they do not want to go.  You certainly cannot make them take a U-turn. You know, like trying to get the miser to become an overnight philanthropist and things like that. The trick is to divert them from their own path incrementally so that they see it only as a minor deviation from their own beliefs. And keep doing it till you get them going where you want them to go. Unless, of course, you want to make them change by violent means. Are you listening?"

"Uh! Hmmm! No violence," I said, having just caught the tail-end of his lecture.

"If you want people to follow you, you cannot just charge ahead and expect them to run after you."

"No, No, you cannot. I mean, not everyone is a marathoner," I said.

"Be serious, you idiot."

I was stung. "These leaders who oh so carefully divert people to their path? They exist where? In Narnia?"

He turned pensive, of a sudden.

"No, you are right! And when leaders with the right ideas go too far ahead as to seem like madmen to the populace, you end up getting the wrong sort leading the world."

"What, pray, would count as the wrong sort in your sage opinion?"

"Civilizational values are all about curbing your natural selfishness, curbing your reptile brain's opposition to anyone looking or acting different, for the benefit of Society. Curbs that most people work within but do not necessarily understand or agree with."

"The point of this sociology lecture being?"

"The wrong sort of leaders are the sort who would egg people on to do what their basal instincts dictate. Giving the go-by to the morals that make social equilibrium possible. Then greed is good, mistreating outsiders is patriotic, killing innocent people to make your point is a virtue and so on."

Hmmm! Sort of sounds familiar, does it not?

Monday, September 13, 2021

Most hated speech

"I'll never understand people," shouted a friend as he walked in.

You know, in the sort of company I had been in, had it been I who said it, you could expect a chorus of "At last! He realizes it!" and such other statements complimenting my acumen. Others, though, get away without getting the sarcasm and, even, get sympathy. I'll never understand...oh, forget it.

"Why, what happened?"

"Or, maybe, it is just social media, not people" he said.

Putting two and two together (as you often need to do with most people, since people generally seem to follow some will-o-the-wisp in their own minds with scant regard for how difficult it makes it for the people they are talking to), the chappie seems to have had some problem on social media. Which, by the way, is astonishing only of it does not happen every day.

"Will you get around to saying what the dratted problem is?" 

THAT was more like it. Made me feel all warm and fuzzy to hear that exasperated tone addressed to someone else other than me.

"Logic is dead, I tell you."

By now, all the rest of us were feeling dizzy even without the help of alcohol. This jumping from crag to crag like a billy-goat is something that the great Plum (aka PG Wodehouse for those who have only a distant nodding acquaintance with the man) has had occasion to criticize and, if he had happened to wander in, I would have taken him to my bosom like a brother. (Though, these days, it's best to ask him for permission before doing so. People are so...err...touchy about being touched.)

Seeing one of us reaching for the nearest table-weight while measuring the distance to his head, he added hurriedly, "I mean, there was this thing someone said. I refuted his point logically and he started calling me names. I mean, the dude was cool as a cucumber, making jokes about the other guys who were calling him an idiot, illogical nut and whatnot and me he screams at. How can someone hate logical arguments more than hate speech?"

"What were you discussing?" I bleated, but it got drowned out in a loud shout of laughter.

"Since when did your brain turn to mush, like Suresh's? Of course, he got angry with you. When someone fights your opinions with abuse, it is easy for you to feel superior to them, isn't it? So, of course, you can be cool about it."

"So, you mean...logic is really useless?"

"Oh, not at all! It is very long as it supports the chap's opinion.  It is downright hateful, much more than anything else, if it refutes it."

"I...I cannot believe it."

"Let me ask you. Who do you hate more, the chap who CALLS you a fool or the chap who PROVES you are a fool?"

Put that way, of course...

Monday, September 6, 2021

Opinionated excellence

I must have said this before that I very seldom like having opinions about anything unless I need to have one to decide on a course of action. Like, say, vote for someone or some such. Opinions are things that you form when you have insufficient facts to conclusively prove what is right. Who wants to go through the pain of muddling through a misty dark and come to a conclusion when you have no need to do so? Well, everybody apparently...going by how the world in general acts these days.

Before the advent of Social Media, though, I had assumed that there were the opinionated and there were the non-opinionated. I had no clue how many strata of excellence existed among the opinionated.

You first have the common garden variety of opinionated chaps. The guys who will offer an opinion on any subject first up when there are no contradictory opinions floating around. The meekest of this lot will just remain silent if there exists comments already which contradict his own position till he finds others who support his view expressing themselves. His opinions ARE written in stone but he doesn't want to expose them to the harsh glare of criticism.

The guys one step up WILL offer their opinion even when contradictory views are already expressed. They, of course, do take care to see that inconvenient facts will not pop up to show them up. Which, essentially, means that they rush in where the opinions are primarily emotion-driven and not logic-driven. You know, like 'The Indian Cricket team is the best in the world', 'Amitabh was a better actor than Dilip Kumar' and the likes, where both sides can argue till the cows come home without being able to conclusively prove their point.

Then you get to the elite. They care two hoots about who they are contradicting and what they are contradicting. The hoi polloi version of the opinionated, before contradicting a statement of fact, will at least bother to google for the facts OR check out the person who is stating them but the elite...that is infra dig. They can tell off Stephen Hawking for his lack of knowledge of Physics and teach batting to Sachin Tendulkar. Not for nothing are they the elite among the opinionated.

But there is greater still. The GOATs. People who can MANUFACTURE the facts to underpin their opinions. Now THAT is the pinnacle of being opinionated, to discard and tailor the facts to suit your opinions!

Alas, I can only look on and wonder from the foot of this ladder. What is the point in aspiring to such excellence when I refuse to even form an opinion, leave alone stick to it?