“Speed is the form of ecstasy the technical revolution has bestowed on man… When man delegates the faculty of speed to a machine his own body is outside the process, and he gives over to a speed that is non-corporeal, non-material, pure speed, speed itself, ecstasy speed.”— Milan Kundera, Slowness
This Diwali I decided to disambiguate myself for at least a week from the post-modern,technology interpreted world that we dwell in. A task that is herculean by all proportions for a creature of our times to achieve. It is almost as if we as human beings have managed to unlearn how to merely exist in a four dimensional world. Technology has so overwhelmed us corporally, temporally and infinitesimally that at no point in human history did we exist in such a devastatingly five dimensional world as we do today. Somewhere along the timeline we have also pawned our capacity for existential analysis as the thematic progression of human life is in a constant fast-forward motion.
Today vast sections of human society are simply concurrently jumping from one branch to another without pausing to consider the flapping of the wings or the falling leaves or the changing seasons that are unfolding around us. In our vigour to move onwards is the missing detail to digest the reality in contemplation. This is why the human race today is in a mad rush to constantly evolve at a breakneck speed and also constantly ignore the impact of change as merely an adjunct.
Durability is an offensive word now, for change is the only constant that can keep pace with our world. Change itself has been so ferociously overtaken by technology that life often gasps for breath. Contrast that old grandfather’s Murphy radio lasting for three generations and today’s gadgets those last for less than a few weeks until newer better models replace them with contempt. Longevity is a construct of the doomed whereas constant shift is the new order of the day.
A decade ago we hailed the SMS generation of text messaging and a decade later we are celebrating Whatsapping, while in between, the blogging, micro-blogging, Facebooking and Orkuting generations jostled for space and lost out. There is simply no end to this battle of change, for what is today shall cease to exist only by tomorrow. As a generation of human race we are incapable of contemplating a world without technology because it is so all pervasive and so omnipresent in our fifth dimension that a life without is impossible to imagine.
Yet, history, even the very near history just a few decades ago was devoid of such a fifth dimension. Had Twitter been part of Second World War can we even begin to imagine how it would be chronicled by habitual hashtaggers? But then had Twitter been part of Second World War, the very nature of that war would have been so different because, lest we forget, a great deal of energy and resources were spent merely in transmitting and receiving messages during the war through Morse codes and telegraph and what have you.
An alternate world without those three technological disruptions – mobile, internet and satellite TV – is nearly impossible to comprehend for us today despite having grown up in a world devoid of these just a couple of decades ago. Our reality of today is so deeply entwined to these three technological paradigms that we cannot even offer a parallel existential analysis for balance.
Many eons ago somewhere in the recesses of memory lives that evening when Haroun’sammi was serving the most delectable Sheer-Khorma while uncle Iftekar was narrating the story of Jinnah’s betrayal of India, that is when the loud drum beats and the loudspeakers filled with the cries of “Jai Shri Ram!” rung through the air. During that climb to Haroun’s terrace the realization never struck that life would hardly be the same again from then on. Women were performing aartis and men sporting tilakswere beaming with pride while on the road, hundreds of men, women and children in front of the Ram Rathwere joyously celebrating the arrival of a new India. An unforeseen arrow must have left Lal Krishna’s bow and pierced the air around us that night.
That night the tide turned, perhaps irrevocably, as friends turned foes and silence turned into determination; a masjid had to be conquered and a temple had to be rebuilt. Did history take a decisive turn then? Or did it fail to turn at all? It is too early to tell, but what remains undisputable is that precise moment has remained unadulterated without hundreds of TV news channels presenting their own versions of truth and social media trending their own hashtags and counter-hashtags. The reality was there in front of our eyes and we did pause to consider it in its bare essentials. That reality was not drowned in the cacophony (not even of the editorial kind), that reality simply forced us to rethink.
Today’s reality lacks the luxury of a pause, a meaningful pause. Everything is so current that tomorrow never comes in continuum with today, for tomorrow is home to another reality of its own kind. How does one begin to comprehend this shifting reality of today? Opinions and expressions aren’t merely bound by the walls of the drawing rooms, for the fifth dimension has offered us a curved time-space notion where everybody can leave their own impressions on the sands of time for history to record their tears of joy and their tears of sorrow and their quivering eyebrows shall tell a tale of their own.
History no longer belongs to the chronicler, history is now in the realm of the mundane. In liberating history from the chains of the few to rendering her into the arms of everybody, the world has taken a quantum leap of Wikipedia proportions, but the banality remains unquantified and perhaps unquantifiable in its impact on human civilization.
Civilizational delinquencies are being rendered into mere apostles of uncertainty in a world full of unhindered opinions masquerading as the truth of history. In this quagmire of alternate realities nothing is sacrosanct anymore, for every truth has an alternate version of its own, no matter how unreal that alternate truth is. Today a leader can win the greatest democratic mandate and yet be accused of not winning the support of a majority. Today a journalist maybe beheaded by terrorists and yet there could be a justification for the same from a causal perspective. Today truth is a geographically unhinged, ideologically conflicted, constantly metamorphosing,shapeless bird flying haphazardly and disappearing into the evening forever, until a new bird arises at sunrise.
Lest we mistake this newfound metamorphosis to be an attribute only of the new digital elite, we must consider the hitherto impossible socio-political coalitions that have sprung-up almost overnight in the hinterland of India which is as yet the last frontier of a final technological onslaught. These new social coalitions are testimony to a constantly changing truth of the world at a most fundamental level. Thus a Shah could achieve a miracle in UP what a Joshi couldn’t, just two years ago, following exactly the same strategic path, because today’s truth concurred with the former. Longevity of this new truth is as questionable as that cliché borrowed from Axl Rose’s pre-technology era Power Ballad, “Nothing lasts forever… even cold November Rain”.
At some point, this new human race has to pause and wonder at the legacy it is bequeathing to the future generations, but the question is will the future generations be interested in yesterday’s version of the truth?