Honesty in relationships is like playing Russian roulette. You never know who gets the fatal bullet, or when.
Such a strange war: Does anyone know if it is over yet?
The most important point that everyone seems to have missed out about this Gulf War II is that, it is truly the first free market war. There are any number of choices for you to pick from and every one seems to be having a fun time, that is if you are not an Iraqi. But hey, we knew that they were going to either rise up in revolt against the invaders or rename their sons with the prefix of GI after deleting the suffix of Saddam. Oh, it did not quite go in either direction right? Did anyone bother asking the Iraqi's? Naah.. Why should we, we all know better what they should be feeling, in fact we are absolutely sure of what they feel.
Breakfast anyone? Bread and butter? Cereal or just plain nothing? Likewise, take your pick. You could have WMDs to Bin Laden to Liberation to oil. Some even offered a mix and match deal or even a buy-one-get-one-free offer, depending on where you bought your favourite brand of reason for going to war from. Do we have conclusive evidence that it is oil? Nopes. Do we have conclusive evidence that it is about WMD, yes but no, but yes, but we should also bring in some liberation. Just in case, you see. In the meantime we shall show you wonderful pictures of Royal Marines rigging up the same buildings they bombed a week back. Please do not forget to say thanks and sign the cheque for your liberation once we put a tag on all of this. But the infidel dogs are still dying at the gates of Baghdad, though they are still 100s of miles away. Damn, don't we miss Mr Sahaf?
Pro-war, anti-war or embedded into the war, everyone agrees that there were just about 200 people at the most when the Saddam statue was toppled in front of the Palestine hotel in Baghdad. The only problem is now we cannot decide if it was staged, or a historic scene (damn, it does not take much to make history these days eh?) as crooned over by the journalists stunned into the moment in history that they were placed in. But obviously, it is very un-historic when the same people you liberated come out in the ten thousands to ask you to basically buzz off, so much so that it does not deserve even 1/10 of the airtime that the 200 odd excited souls got earlier.
Of course, we do have a very sensible explanation to it. It is just the people reveling in their new-found freedom, or as Rumsfeld put it "The freedom to commit crimes". Someone please put that man in white Buick and ask him to go alone to a ghetto in NY and walk out and buy a packet of cigarettes and experience first hand how free it feels to be mugged. While you are at it, please make sure if you can find any connections between him and the General in Vietnam who once famously said "In order to save the village, we had to destroy it".
In fact this war is so funny now that it almost feels like a WIKI. Jump straight in and write it the way you want to. But one thing I know for sure is that, the next time I need to hide something valuable, I will make sure that I keep it with the Iraqis. So, are we gonna find any WMDs? Naah... that ain't that important anymore. What about the regime? They have been killed or are on the run like Osama now (who incidentally is still doing the "you can run but you can never hide" bit comfortably for two years). What about democracy and liberation? Well.. umm.. as soon as possible. So how did the war go? Bloodless (Over 3000 dead cannot amount to much and at least it is not Saddam who is killing you, so say thanks again). So why the bloody hell are we here in the first place? Uhm.. see I cannot comment on issues are developing right now, once the State Department and Pentagon put a fix on the bloodied nose count in Washington, we sure will let you know.
In the meantime, bloggers like me and you can yell our throats sore about how right or wrong this one is. The sad irony of this war put most perfectly by BBC's Special Correspondent Fergal Keane: Without American power, Iraqis would still live in fear of Saddam. With American power, they feel weak and humiliated. Man, it feels great to be not an Iraqi. Thank God for small mercies and may the suits in Pentagon never start a file on a certain Laloo character. Oil in Jhumritalaiyya... Now, that would be some story. Rambo VII - GI In Dhanbad. Gosh, I must stop myself when i can.
Off topic: I am really sorry for not answering the comments. To be honest, have not been feeling like it at all, you know one of those mood swing things. Will pop back on it, when it all swings back. Merci and adios.
Never judge a book by its cover or even by the first few dozen pages. It is a statement well heeled in logic, the magic of the percentage game and above all rooted in the vice of the naive. Pragmatism, it is said, is the need of the hour, but only the naive can ignore ominous portents. It takes a lot to prepare for a drought when all the pragmatics believe only in the rain. All things considered, someone here is delusional and I would rather err of the side of cold cynicism.
What is a challenge worth when there is no prize in the end to make up for the travails? Would a cynic dare enough to be cynical about cynicism in itself? If I am not me and you are not you, then why should we matter in a scheme where disbelieving is the key to survival. Would you disbelieve the disbelief in itself, when that would mean that you believe in the disbelief?
What good is a treasure if it is not used at the most opportune time --today?-- for tomorrow it might just turn to coloured stones. A pragmatic surrenders, a cynic fights to his own dumb death. An idea lives surrogate in gestation for a tomorrow that might not arrive or the idea dies for a tomorrow that might just be stopped. If both are wrong, then where does the ideal state - a state of perfect imbalance- reside? Guess we would never know.
Brick to port!
These are the responses to the comments on the earlier post. Had to do this since the comments window is too narrow to make for easy reading. Thank you.
Rileen: The problem with appearing as a leftist is that, with his kind of experience he should be able to convince people that there is never a just war or a clean war, without appearing to be anything as suffering is universal if shown in a way that makes people feel it too. Here the problem is that the suffering that people go through is not given adequate factual representation, it is always lost in the crowd of emotions. That, in a way makes it easier for most people to disassociate with it, because then you can always say they did not suffer as much as I did and this where the moral and the preemptive clause for this war and all the wars to follow will be based on.
To be very honest, I believe that the leftist line of thought is a spent force. Not because of its intentions, but because of the fact that it never bothered to adapt to a changing world. You go to Kerala and you see that the same leftists are one of the most corrupt and rich of the politicians there. What they have in common is just the rhetoric and this is what the writer gets identified with when he goes overboard on the emotional. What is funny is that the leftist line of thought still interprets every situation that develops, especially economically, very well even today. But the language has not changed, nor has the ideology through time.
Again, why the need for facts? Because the main argument that is thrown back at you regarding all this is that these people might just be setting right the mistakes made in the past. If you counter that with an emotional outburst that uses the word imperialist 50 times in just one paragraph, you are doing the same thing that the chaps who use the word pinko. And you cannot walk away saying you cannot convince people because if they do not approve any war will stop ultimately.
Why is Chomsky hard to read and limited in numbers as far as readership goes? That is because he is not your quintessential leftist. The case he makes is most often too strong to wilt under any kind of bluster or factual dissection. There is hardly any emotion in it and you cannot be ambiguous once you have read it. Of course it is not very palatable and quite bitter compared to the nice and rosy versions that propaganda machines blare out.
There are lots of people who do with pictures what Chomsky can do. You do not even have to check the freelancers for that. This week I had seen a picture in the Reuters photo bank that we get at work which showed the marines looting a palace. As you could have guessed, it never made it to any of the media in the west, while all the nice pictures got plastered all over town.
To add a few points to what TRex has said: One is that as a journalist you are not expected to write "I belive the coalition slaughtered so many people". It needs to be substantiated or attributed to formal figures or numbers from a source that should ideally be credible so that if the figures you were given was wrong they can be pulled up. When Blair said that the two Royal Marines where "executed" no one bothered to ask him where the proof was. It won a huge propaganda point for him and he was not pulled up for it even when their unit's commander said they were killed in action. The media did not pull up so many of these lies and when all you have to make your case is just swathes of text mired in emotion, it makes good for reading but nothing as far as convincing people goes, since shorn of the emotional content the article still says nothing.
It really does not take long exhaustive arguments. The same thing that the chap has said in the article plus facts can be done in a single page than the two pages that the article finally went into. There is a rather curious angle on the WMDs that no one bothers to ask. Which was that Blair had said he was shown convincing evidence about their existence. If that was the case then why is the evidence still not being made public? I do not think they are scared now Saddam will use them. Now, that took just two lines right?
Trex: Convincing the masses. If you think any media is neutral, it is wrong. Everyone has their slants, but it is not quite the same as manipulation which is what politicians often do. Media does educate, otherwise there is really no reason to carry human interest stories in a space where you could easily put in a semi -nude babe and sell some more copies and ads.
The way media views itself: That is a sad scene. it is a pure business now. Earlier it used to be something where profitability was second in line as far as priorities go, now it is first in line, which is why you get TOI and HT peddling more and more entertainment than news and the rest of the crowd is following suit. it is not totally gone yet, there are "patches of resistance" as the yanks would say it, but we are on that part of the circle where things would get real bad soon, before being reborn (hopefully).
Cold factual arguments can alter perceptions, but not all the time, just like spewing rhetoric does not cause people to change all the time. It is like they say "horses for the courses". Ask any yank about Fidel Castro and he would say he is a bloody commie dictator. So how do you convince him there is another side to the story? Lecture him on the virtues of socialism? That would only harden his stance. But, has anyone tired telling him how they have a much better public health system? it is nitpicking, I agree, but at times you need nitpicking as a lot of people get away with a lot of things when they are not questioned and made accountable in the right way.
We talked about the military might, now how do you show an example of it? Just mention figures. Even with the precision weapons the amount of Iraqis killed would roughly end up somewhere near that was killed in 911. But that is never done, to compare the figure with 911 and tell them that when people die in other places due to Americans, they do have an equal right to be pissed, the military might or not.
A majority of Americans think that Saddam and AQ are brothers in arms. Why? Because Bush and Blair keeps mentioning them in the same sentence, and that is why you had such a huge support for the war. Liberation really does not sell a war in the America, but terror does. And no amount of passionate arguments would stand up to he image of the plane crashing into the towers. It sends a chill down my spine when i see it even now. so you can imagine what it would do to them.
The market of the fence sitters and confused and undecided is a pretty large one and open to a kill......: Well said and cannot agree more with it.
Trojan, yes that is the most curious thing, because every time I end up rubbishing every blog including mine as rubbish a genuinely good argument like this takes place that forces me to eat my words. And I do not have a problem when people contribute too, since I do not belive I am right most of the times and it helps me to approach the problem from a different angle to see if it puts the things better across in a better way. To put it simply, I am just only too happy and grateful to have you guys here.
These days, everyday I seem to be wondering how long this miracle will last. I feel so much at peace, even over a mountain of uncertainty and aimlessness. This calm is exquisite and I do not want it to go. Every day I wake up expecting it to go away, strangely, it has not yet. And It is not as if I have hit a jackpot or I have found something or someone to believe in finally. I am just engaging life to the best of my ability, especially since I cannot do much about the things that life decides to throw at me. If it rains I would have to carry an umbrella, the logic is as simple as that. Extend it a bit more and I get if you ain't dead yet, you are very much alive. So, stop pretending to be dead. Even with nothing to do, there is so much to be done.
It is quite amusing to see how much of what we seek is what we manage to miss most in what we have. There is always an element of unknown in what you take quite regularly for granted, take a closer look and a whole new world reveals itself. I have this strange habit of looking at my hand every now and then to see how well do I know it. Yes, I do know that it has five fingers on it, skin bone and some webbing, but I cannot possibly know all the patterns on it by heart. A second look and the whole contraption starts to look alien, maybe even handsome or ugly. I find doing the same with people too. it is amusing to take a look at people whom I take for granted with a different eye and then I realise at times how little I know them or how much of what they are is not actually what they are, but what I think they are. Pretty convenient, right?
Not much has changed though and the greatest miracle is that there is actually no miracle. It is the same old world, the same old people, the same old struggles. What has changed is that I do not expect to find solutions for everything. The old Mister Fixer cannot be quite killed totally, but a subtle change in perception has led to the acceptance of failures. There is only so much one can do. beyond that anything, be it whining, anger or frustration, does not result in anything other than horrible problems with your blood pressure and nothing else. For once I am comfortable with having to do things at terms that are not my own, once in a while and that I will let people down. My micro-miniscule existence on this earth does not have to be a statement, it is just one of the so many odds and ends that is part of this unimaginably huge game, nothing more.
But what I am most thankful for is a whole load of bitterness that seems to have drained away. I just do not have any clue how it happened, since it came after one of the most torrid and confusing periods in my life. I had a choice then to submit, lay down my arms or to run elsewhere as I have always done just because I could not face up to my own shortcomings or to stand up again and rebuild things knowing that I would falter a lot, since my weaknesses vastly outnumber my strengths. Since I had tried the first two, I had to give the last one a chance and to be honest I did not think it would come off. All I wanted to do was to survive and really was driven by blind hope than by reason.
It worked and for reasons that I have not much clue about. But the lesson was that, when something good happens to you do not ask why, just take it, make the best of it and try to keep smiling, because there are millions of others who do not have the same chance you have had. What about the bad ones, especially the Merc SLK that I have not had the fortune to own yet? Well, it is sad that it has not happened. Maybe if I work hard enough for half a decade I might be able to buy one. But my priorities lie elsewhere right now and I have more fun now living on my own and accounting for the miniscule overheads involved in maintaining a puny motorcycle. So the Merc can wait and I am sure it won't kill me for a while yet to not have one.
Funnily enough, I am not a nicer person to know as a result. I do not quite suck up to anyone anymore and that can have a very negative impact on relationships that survive on the lifeline of constant reaffirmation. It has made me a nastier person, but maybe a more wannabe honest one at that and that is quite okay a deal for me since I do believe that if reaffirmation is the only thing that keeps it alive, then it does not have any place being there in the first place. To conclude, I should remember to stop making lousy statements about pausing or not going to write anymore, because I end up doing the exact opposite of that within 24 hours. Cry wolf, cry wolf. And for a person who is very dear to me and feeling pretty lousy since the past two days, I hope that things get sorted out soon for you and you know who you are :)
Gone with the WMD
The camera slowly descends into the Hose Garden and gradually finds its way into the Presidential quarters. The date is somewhere around the time (classified by the Rentagun, CNN will do a special on it with Christiane Amanpour when it is declassified) when operation Freedom Fries was launched and the background score is the song "The Prez sleeps tonight" that goes something like, "In the jungle, the mighty concrete jungle, the Prez sleeps tonight". Screech! The music stops and the editor, rather jarringly, cuts to a shot of Large Tush sitting up in bed, bathed in sweat in his cute pair of lacy Victoria's Secrets and mouth open wide enough to dock the USS Kitty Hawk in just one go.
"What happed Tushie dear?" Asks a concerned Mrs Tush. She has not seen him like this ever since the Stanford days when he would worry about how his parties were threatened by his one and only daddy swearing to cut his allowance down if he did not learn about the nuances of the dance the price graph of Brent crude would perform with each successive act of liberation.
Tushie recovers his composure, the famous pout returns and he stoutly replies: "Nothing honey, it was just a bad dream". (Add a sprinkling of the regulation Texan swagger in good measure here for taste). But only he knew the seriousness of what he saw. He could not recall where it all happened, but for sure there was a huge dragon fly piloted by Scott Bitter and the passengers Bedlam Whosane and Duhsama In Pardon were singing "We will, we will, nuke ya".
What was worse was that the backing vocals were done by Sans Clix, Softly Ran Anne and Jocks Iniraq. Maan, what a nightmare! Not to mention the the fact that they could not sing for nuts, even our pretty lass here, what's her name? The one that ma little gal keeps hummin in between her weekly trips to the probationary authority? Aaah! Chutney Rears, even she can do better! Should ask Dumsfled and Chicks Diney if it would not be a better idea to send her to win the hearts and minds of Eerackky peoples. Well, she got mine at least and I can vouchsafe for Thorny Chair too. Have to say, that boy is a cutie pie, like my mamma is fond of sayin.
TIme: Sometime in the morning, Date: Some day in some year (Both still classified by the Rentagun). Back to the Hose Garden and the media (in bedded, out of bedded and whatever in between) has turned out in full strength to watch THE man pondering over the crucial question of how to deal with Eerackk, while dealing with the even more threatening issue of how to deal with the ticks on his dogs. Is it worth it, to burn a whole dog to kill the ticks? Yup, that is the case, it is worth it and so it came to be that Eerackk would be liberated.
The camera pans to the side now to show us an excited ex-Gen Cooling Towell running towards THE man as he is walking for the chopper that would take him to the Chair Force One. After having consulted all his back issues of GI Joe, Towell had come to the conclusion that they might not find any WMD's there (the full form too is classified by the Rentagun, for they believe it would lead to more proliferation). Visibly bothered, he asks Tush, "What if we do not find any WMDs there sir?
Tushie man stops dead in his tracks (insert drum roll here), turns around, twitches his mouth and says: "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn".
Chair Force one takes off, the shot fades out into the cockpit of a Gee-52, where a pilot releases a desi khattar over Eerackk with a loud guffaw to boot and excited shouts of "Hee Hawww! Ride 'em cowboy".
Vini, vici and fini.
This is one of those moments when I am uncertain of what is it that I feel. The only thing I can be sure of is that there is something amiss, something I can't quite place my finger on, a single word that would complete an otherwise imperfect sentence. There is actually not much wrong, most variables are under control, the flux is within permissible levels and the telemetry does not display any cause for alarm.
Maybe it is just that nothing much is going wrong, the element of boredom associated with the mundane, the thrill of roaring into a city like the marines did today and not finding much to fight against. Maybe it is the anticipation of the of the storm that would come soon after this lull and I am wondering where the invisible red line is, or have I already crossed it? What good is life devoid of a cause worth dying for? I can only wish that steadfastness was something that I could just pick off a store shelf and sensibility was something that came free with it as part of a "buy one, get one free" offer.
As much as there is the appearance of a vibrant sanity that dances on the stage up front, behind the curtains and the shadows there is a soul who only knows to fight. One that is always ready to pick up and point lance, read to charge at a million invisible ghosts, one that looks forward to the day that holds the promise of a noble demise. Towards the edge of the fading arc of light, where the first lines of the shadow joins it, an age-old script is reinterpreted yet again in search of that elusive miracle bathed in the radiant light of purpose.
News Channel Anchor: Now we can cross over live to Blahdad where our correspondent is in Bedlam Whosane's bathroom. Of course, he is not allowed to say where he is. So we will pretend that we do not know. Halter Badgers, describe the scene to us without telling us anything that you are not supposed to say.
Halter Badgers: I am somewhere between the shower and the the bath tub, I cannot reveal the precise location due to operational security reasons. From what I can see, the Hippublican Bards seems to have cleared off in a hurry. There are signs of a struggle everywhere, with fancy soaps and towels strewn all over the floor that could not be nicked by the ones on the run.
The Brigade Commander of the unit I am "inbedded" with tells me that he has been busy all evening sticking chewing gum over the symbols of the regime. According to him, it sent a powerful message that they could chew and stick anywhere they please, at a place and time of their choosing. Back to you now.
I must admit the chilling intro on Slayer's Raining Blood is not a very pleasant way to wake up the neighbourhood, but that is precisely what was blaring from my computer's 'subdued' audio system as I woke up around 6:30 am and went about checking e-mail, the blog and the comments. Surprisingly, I am not suffering from my usual post-alcohol mind-numbing hangovers today. When the Lord giveth, don't ask why, you just taketh and runneth. Padre, we can settle the accounts later. Got to watch one of the best Formula 1 races that I have seen in my little long life yesterday, those who missed it, go watch the re-run now! The Grand Prix bikes have become really lousy now, though I'd love to ride that Ducati 999 before I get my dismissal letter from this world.
Speaking of computers, I was thinking about how I got mixed up with them in the past few days. Unlike most others who fiddle around with them a lot, the first computer that I got to lay my hands on was a 233 MHz Pentium I (a poor ignorant service guy accidentally released the jumpers on the mother board giving me an extra 33 MHz than what it was rated) with 16 MB of EDO RAM. Since I had no former training or interaction with the contraption, my learning curve often took me over innumerable instances of the "New Folder" littering the landscape of the file system and the occasional tryst with deleting the odd DLL file that would make it spew out cryptic warnings, errors and in the worst case scenario, refuse to boot at all.
The curiosity took a 'constructive' turn when I found out about 3D animation and the pleasures of creating things with the luxury of the Z-axis (not to be confused here with the famous axis of evil) by my side. The unpleasant truth was that I could not do 2D animation, since I had a very unsteady hand. If I had to draw a dog I would have to start with an elephant and with some luck it would look like a cow that was mutating into something else. Of course, the cover of intellectual high-handedness helped a lot. Like the time when I made a clay model that was a take from one of the classic Russian books, it was a man with a dog's head smoking a pipe. It impressed everyone with the 'deeper' intellectual meanings, but only I knew that the dog's head was the closest my clay modelling 'talent' would allow me to get to creating a man's head.
The 3D animation career came to a premature end after I created a 90 second movie that had two boxy robots blowing each other to smithereens over a rather tacky looking bridge. The post production was brilliant with four different camera angles seamlessly merged into the plot. I had almost written my acceptance speech for the Oscars that year, but sadly two things intervened. The first was that any professional training in the field required a course fee that was almost a lakh of rupees. Second was that I was introduced to UNIX. Yes, UNIX and not Linux. The institute where I had enrolled to become a 'software developer' had a beautiful 64 bit MIPS processor powered box running AIX. The sheer geekiness of the command line just blew me away, totally obscuring the fact that I could not make head or tail of it. The situation is pretty much unchanged now.
In the process of installing Linux (Red Hat 6.1) at home (never read the freaking *ahem* manual you see), I wiped off my key to the Oscars from the hard disk and ended up going through the install screens almost 25 times in one night before I realised that it was just finishing off the install when I thought it had hung. Thankfully, the aspiring software developer's miserable struggle with the binary numbering system (even the decimal one makes my mug runneth over like the Mississippi in spate), semaphores and trial and error approach to coding in C, came to an end barely 30 days into the course when I cleared the journalism course entrance and interview, due to some conspiracy that is now my life's aim to unravel. The truth is out there somewhere stuck in a traffic jam, you see. Honk, honk!
The first two years of the new millennium were relatively computing dry, since I did not have a computer of my own than the various ramshackle systems that one ended up using at work, till sometime last year when I brought home this baby. True to my polygamous nature, she now runs Windows 98 (just for the boot disk), Windows 2000 Server (My personal favourite) and Red Hat 8 (Can't determine the last time I booted into that one), she is all three seasons in one day (With suitable apologies to Gordon Summer aka Sting).
Somewhere along the way, the Internet happened. It was earth shattering an event for me, only matched in impact and awe by the onset of puberty. Once the realm of pornographic materials from all corners of the earth was examined and studied at great lengths, the sheer volume of information that was out there began to suck me in and of course the world of chat rooms. From IRC to Yahoo to Java applets of all shapes and sizes, I tried them all, making friends with people as strange as a Finnish psychology student in Gothenburg University working in a zoo run by mentally retarded people to freaking out my colleague who did not know it was me who was making life tough for her in the room.
I guess even the best things have to stop at some point or the other. The "Quit when you are ahead" phenomenon in action, I guess. I am at a point where I have to decide if I want to do something serious with technology or continue to waste my time with the casual flirtation. After an honest evaluation I think the answer has to be to get out of it. There is nothing that feels as good as spending time in the real world as I have been discovering of late. I am not dismissing or demeaning the time I have spent online or the friends that I have made in any way, in fact all the good friends I have made (except one) in the past four years have been from the net. But I guess I have tempted fate more than enough and it is as simple as that. But it is only moderation and not termination, so I am going to be around, though a lot lesser. This process cannot be killed that easily, you see. ;-)
Quite interestingly, thinking is not something that has been taking a lot of my in the past few days. Nothing major to note down about either. Basically the attempt has been to make little dents on what is mundane so that it becomes a bit special, something on the lines of making sculptures with discarded things. It is quite amusing if you consider the amount of imagination, bordering on delusion, that one has to put into conjuring up a dish of chicken jaal freezy in such a manner. But it came out quite well, contrary to my expectations and the faith I have in my own ability to cook something that looks and tastes good.
To stay optimistic is quite a struggle these days. You cannot quite escape the war anywhere, resulting in reams of exasperation that cannot be dealt with by any amount of ranting. Actually, it is not just the war, it the way things are progressing, where we are headed - as a community, region, nation or the world as a whole - is quite grim. It is easy to say "look at the brighter side of things" and quite difficult to really believe in it when the light at the end of the tunnel is growing more distant with each passing day. If you look deep into the eyes of people, you can see all of us are scared, of one thing or the other. I guess I might be seeing things, but that is what I feel, that we are becoming more and more of a civilization driven by fear.
It is sort of amazing to hear me of all people talking about optimism, as words like depressive, cynical and pessimist are the ones normally used in conjunction with my nature. I guess the above paragraph sort of justifies it, but it does not quite work out that way. My personal view is not necessarily that tomorrow is going to be all good and beautiful. It goes something like it might be even worse than today, so better live it to the best of your ability and cry when tomorrow comes. Not quite avant grade optimism, but I guess I get by with it.
As I write this, it is almost eight in the morning. Way past the time I should have been home. The day is quite unplanned as usual, the only thing that was planned got cancelled a while back. Guess it is going to be another slow day with the routine brunch, bed and boredom routine.