Thoughts

Whale meat tastes like nationalism

whale
[Reuters]

With the world seemingly shifting towards the vegan end of dietary range, either out of choice as in the USA and UK, or by the increasing incidence of diseases like obesity and diabetes as in China, it comes as a surprise that Japan left IWC to resume whale hunting for meat.

Whaling industry prospered in the 17th to 19th century primarily due to the demand for whale oil. With petroleum replacing the need of oil, and the economics of whaling which included procuring costs and its sustenance depending on the dwindling whale populations, whaling industry went for a demise. IWC was conveniently set up in 1946 to provide for the conservation of whales and some regulation on the whaling industry. But there were nations that hunted whales not just for the oil, and there were nations that developed efficient methods which along with lower wages still made whaling economical. These nations, most notably Norway and Japan opposed IWC’s moratorium on whaling.

Whale meat seems to be a food of compulsion rather than of choice. Lack of protein sources in arctic countries like Norway, Iceland and Greenland made whale meat acceptable for consumption. With economic prosperity however, human consumption of whale meat declined. Norway still hunts whales for animal feed on its profitable fur farms. Iceland earns more by preservation of whales than by hunting for meat, whale watching is a lucrative business in tourism.

The demand of whale meat as a source of protein, grew in Japan after World War II when the country was in shambles. With a spectacular revival its economy over the next decade it soon joined the club of rich nations and people forgot the years of penury and the taste of whale meat. The new generation doesn’t even remember to have once eaten the meat, and with reports of poisoning of our oceans and high levels of heavy metals in whale meat, it seems unlikely that it would be back on the menu.

So why did Japan leave IWC? It is a question that puzzles the world, especially given Japan’s overt attempts of creating and maintaining an image of a responsible nation. One explanation, and the most reasonable one, is that it is about politics. There are constituencies that depends on the whaling industry, those which thrived even during the period when Japan was a member of IWC. It didn’t stop the Japanese from hunting whales, but they did it for scientific research, a deep and thorough research that necessitated killing of the whales. With world politics increasingly tilting towards the right, Japan doesn’t seem to be unaffected. The government made a strong political statement of Japanese nationalism by moving from the earlier hypocritical stand of scientific research and openly defying IWC to preserve centuries old tradition.

This article is motivated by my current interest in whales but with no idea about what whale meat tastes like.

Have you ever tried? Would you?

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Social media collectives and collective opinion

Everything that exists on social media can be classified into two categories, personal updates and personal opinions. In both cases the emphasis is on the individual, everything personal is put on display. To the ones who subscribe to the personal updates, riddled or shall we say adorned with pictures of the person in all hues and shades, it may seem as if people are craving being judged. To others who indulge in discussions, be it about events, social issues, religion, history, politics and anything that can be discussed, it may seem like people are not only offering opinions but also judging others, not with facts, evidence or statistics but with the same opinionated thinking that they unscrupulously put on display.

In this post I am going to focus on the latter aspect, about opinions that we all on social media seem to have, or acquire out of compulsion, on each and every topic that exists and even the ones currently coming to existence as the millennials exercise their feeble creative inheritance to engineer new topics and prompts. At the outside it may sound ominous but it is not, at least in the sense that every individual is now enabled to voice the thought without hesitation and in the process mankind may come across ideas that the so-called experts or the authorities, the ones chosen to deliver these ideas would have missed. It is in a way the truest form of democracy, one that goes with an underlying implication of being another name for anarchy.

There are no universal truths anymore, no guiding principles, no consensus or authority that asks for proofs or witnesses. To take the premise even further and being a little harsh, one may say that logic and reason are becoming a thing of the past, the world will indeed become existential like it has been prophesied by the existentialists. These great people however seem to have never truly believed in their philosophy, they were after all the divergent disciples from the school of rational thought. Rational thought would have predicted, from it’s trusted methods like implication or induction, that in such an absurd world nihilism would reign supreme. Instead what we witness is people finding meaning to their lives, and even the utterly clueless standing for something, thus fighting the sense of insignificance that percolates from the world around us.  There are social media groups, and subgroups that cater to a specific variant of a specific idea, say of an utopian society, that one can choose to be a part of and get the satisfaction of doing something good, something worthwhile with one’s time.

It is no surprise then that the insufferable intellectuals and the liberals, who are really the most prolific on the medium hate social media as much as they love it, enumerating the ways in which it is destroying the fabric of humanity, of fairness and of the death of their romantic notions of an intelligible debate. They cringe at the increasing endorsement of the anecdotal content by both the audience and the participants, people who on their part have grown wary of the complicity and the innumerable nexus that rule the unsocial media, expert opinions, editorials and the government dialogue. Beyond the rant however, these skeptics proffer a few good arguments, one being the power conferred to the executive of these sites that could potentially be misused, a great example of this being the Facebook experiment.

The growing rank of Reddit is evidence of the shift in the arena for unhinged discussions, sometimes insipid, and many times insane but still carrying the alternative, the avant-garde thought of the millennials, people who have a say and the energy to shape the democratic world of today. The only problem as I have reiterated before is the rise of extreme individualism and of niche groups, the age old glaring issues that plague the concept of anarchy. The same is the biggest concern of the sites themselves, as they find ways to increase their user base and advertising income. Reddit for instance carried out an experiment(video below) to gauge the cumulative effect of opinions and beliefs of millions of its users and the result was surprisingly contradictory to the general pessimism and unfavorable notions we carry about social media, or mankind in general. The lines between these two are blurring away too fast to our conditioned slow eyes.

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The Left, Right and Center of Indian politics

The concept of left and right wing in politics comes from the French revolution when members of the National Assembly divided into supporters of the king to the president’s right and supporters of the revolution to his left. This distinction in political ideology has been adopted globally since the 20th century. However, application of the distinction varies significantly between nations due too the difference in the political and socio-economic structures.

The political timeline in India has been largely occupied by one dominant party, the Congress. Congress party started with socialist inclinations of Jawaharlal Nehru and shifted more in the direction under his daughter, Indira Gandhi. This tilt was mostly due to the competition that comprised of leftist parties like CPI(Communist Party of India) and socialist parties like Praja Socialist Party led by Jayprakash Narayan that criticized Congress for not being socialist enough. The dominance of left wing politics in the early years seems logical considering India started as a poor post colonial country and riddled with social issues like caste that affected both the Hindi and the Muslim communities. The leftist ideas however failed over time on both of its core aspects, economic and social.

Left advocates looking inward for economical growth, for a greater government control of the market but a fledgling economy needs to let the market evolve unhindered and to be part of the global ecosystem to flourish. The social structure in India is not well suited to leftist ideas of consolidation of the backward and the poor because of the caste system which divides the population into groups that don’t see eye to eye. With the decline of the left, Congress moved the other way introducing market reforms but still toeing the socialist line of doing most for the poor, trying their best to please the different castes and in the process keeping the social fabric intact. With time and with anti incumbency creeping in, the political landscape fractured with many small parties emerging in the arena, each catering to specific castes or regions. This happened around 1989, when even the right wing BJP saw a rise.

Fragmentation led to entropy resulting in unstable governments at the centre and every party trying to make the best of the opportunity. Almost as if they had learnt their lesson, people voted back Congress to power after a hiatus of two years. The Narasimha Rao government brought in rise of the right, both in terms of significant economic reforms and transformation and in terms of a steep growth of BJP as a national party, which later managed to run a non Congress government at the center, the first non Congress government that lasted a full term. The rise of the right however didn’t effect the growth of regional parties which now resorted to align either with the Congress or the BJP when it came to central government politics. These smaller parties were and still are essentially leftist but only so far as to dole out favors for their supporting vote bank. Leftward leanings of these parties rule out association with the rightist BJP, a fact that led to the emergence of UPA, a coalition of parties headed by the Congress that won back to back elections.

This period of ten years from 2004 to 2014 saw a romance and breakup of Congress with the last of the surviving left, and a stream of scams that were conveniently exposed when the left quit the alliance. Media was and still is sympathetic to the left, at least the people who work in the Media are. Fed with the coalition politics and corrupt parties catering to their vote banks, India was aching for an alternative, but not a right wing BJP with a Hindutva agenda. Hindus are inherently religious but in the soft sense, that is; not in an imposing or adhering way but religion to them has been throughout history occupied a personal space. This however doesn’t mean there have been no orthodoxy or militant variations, but these aberrations never appealed to the majority of the community. Even the worst sufferers within the religion, the lower castes, that have been oppressed by the upper throughout history and even now, largely don’t want abolition of their cruel religion but want a better economic status and respect within it. Therefore, even if BJP tried hard to polarize during the UPA years, it didn’t register with the Hindu voter.

Giving up on the old unsuccessful guard, RSS promoted Narendra Modi with mixed credentials of alleged unsurpassed economic growth and alleged persecution of Muslims in his state of Gujarat to the fore. RSS, Narendra Modi, or probably his second hand Amit Shah must have gauged the reluctance in the Hindu majority to overtly side with the right and given the environment of scams crippling UPA, came up with a plan of slow seduction. Modi projected himself as the messiah of progress, of economic development, of make in India, generation of jobs, and in the process wooed the Hindu majority, across regions, prejudices and castes. 2014 saw a resounding victory and the real dawn of the right. It also brought into picture the futility in indulging the Muslim vote, which is what every other party was doing, in the process dividing it to insignificance.

Modi government has delivered in terms of steering clear of scams, the GDP growth has remained in the 7-8% range, and there are many successes of the government in terms of infrastructure development. Economic reforms or growth figures however don’t win elections as is evident from the failure of Congress after Narasimha Rao term and BJP after Vajpayee term. Modi launched a string of socialist schemes, which have had reasonable success thanks to concepts like direct direct transfer to bank accounts. BJP under Modi has therefore not been a pure right wing party, but like Congress of the earlier era, it has struck a balance.

The elections this year saw the right acting like it with Modi bringing in nationalism, and pride to the narrative. The Hindu majority now doesn’t only have an excuse of Modi’s clean and successful governance but also a lack of alternative, to go and vote en masse for BJP almost all over the country. Muslim vote, even if undivided thanks to better awareness and pre-poll alliances made for the sake, has still become irrelevant in the face of a consolidated Hindu vote. If there were doubts about the future of BJP under the leadership of Modi after its first term, they are now comprehensibly addressed.

BJP seems to have taken the place of the proverbial single dominant party that India is comfortable with. Congress started with a left of center stand and BJP is now placed right of center, which wont change into further right as the leftist media is prophesying, because Modi is an astute politician. He must be aware that success lies at being in the center, however you may read it.

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Papers and Paperwalas : the rise of Hindi dailies

A typical day in the life of an Indian begins with a cup of steaming hot tea in one hand and a newspaper in the other. This newspaper has been delivered by one of the hundreds of Paperwalas who go on bikes delivering the paper before the customers wake up. They charge nothing for the effort, the monthly expense is always equal to the cost of each day’s newspaper quite diligently worked out by the collection guy. This easy access and affordability is why newspaper circulation and readership has been seeing an upsurge, bucking the global trend of decline. There are other factors, but the feel of a newspaper in your hand in the morning and reading the news from paper that you might have already read, or most likely watched on TV or internet, remains the foremost reason.

The rise in circulation has been more dramatic in the last few decades as the literacy rates and the economy have been growing at a steady pace, literacy enabling people to read and economy providing both money and time to invest in newspapers. This surge is most remarkable in the so-called Bimaru (translated: diseased, because of high mortality rate, population explosion and lack of amenities including education) states, or in the official language, the EAG (acronym for: empowered action group) states. Six of these are predominately Hindi-speaking, a reason why Hindi language dailies have surpassed the circulation of English over time. As for other regions, there are dailies with high circulation in the southern states but their numbers have been relatively steady because of the already high literacy and prosperity. Thus, even with the high numbers, these non-Hindi regional dailies have witnessed a declining trend in their percentage share just like the English.

Beneath the rise and shine of the Hindi dailies lie a horde of problems, starting with news content. The major news agencies operating in India (PTI, UNI, IANS) have reporters who are well versed with writing in English, thanks to the prevalent language of journalistic education. These agencies have launched their Hindi language units, but they, due to various reasons including quality have not been subscribed well. Most of the regional news in the Hindi belt is collected at the source in Hindi but translated into English by the agency reporters. These reports are then consumed by the Hindi dailies after a translation back to Hindi, a process that naturally diminishes the originality and the authenticity of the material. Advertisements continue to be the real source of income for newspapers and here too the Hindi dailies don’t attract the big spenders who concentrate more on the urban and the English reading consumers assuming higher disposable incomes compared to the Hindi readers. The trends are changing though. Univarta, the Hindi unit of UNI now has more subscribers than its parent agency. With urban population moving to online shopping and getting driven by online ads, newspapers are starting to realize the futility of advertising in English dailies.

What they lack in advertising income, the Hindi dailies try to make up with high circulation numbers. But this comes at a cost, newsprint remains the biggest expenditure of all newspapers, and more so in India because most of the newsprint is imported from USA and Canada. Price of newsprint has been increasing as these countries witness decline in the newspaper consumption making them move away from newsprint production to other paper materials. The reason why newsprint, which is not normal paper, cannot be manufactured in India on a large scale is because the raw material needed is wood pulp from types of pine and fir trees which are not found in the region. One solution is to recycle, which is what most regional dailies resort to but it makes the paper less white and less attractive, especially when adding colored sections. Recycling can only help so much though, newspapers keep stocking imported and expensive newsprint to handle further rise in prices.

Television continues to reach even the rural population making one wonder if TV, which doesn’t require literacy for consumption can do what digital did to newspapers in the west. There is no dearth of Hindi news channels but they flash sensationalized content and have screaming debates making the people, literate or not, question the veracity. Add to that the silent power of the written word, and one can be rest assured that newspapers, at least the regional ones will continue to grow in circulation for the next few decades. Besides the questionable content, News media, both TV and digital in India faces a big challenge in terms of corporate ownership. For instance, a significant portion of media is owned by Mukesh Ambani who runs other businesses and the media acquisition seems to have been done to aide these other interests. This has led to further questions on authenticity making newspapers even more reliable.

However one can never be sure of ownership and vested interests of the owners of newspapers too. An example is the news channel NDTV, which is overtly critical of the current Modi government but which aired the propaganda interview with Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar asking Modi ‘apolitical’ questions like how he eats mangoes. The interview is an attempt to project Modi as a loving, forgiving human being given the hardliner and unrelenting stand of his party. It has been termed as a rerun of the 1994 Akshay starrer Main Khiladi Tu Anari(translated: I am an author, you a blogger), except here one takes a look at pink trousers and easily figures out who the Khiladi is and who the Anari. Many wonder why NDTV, especially the English version takes a softer stand on criticizing Modi and it turns out the ownership has over time changed from the Roys to VPCL, with ties to Reliance.

Journalism, with its reporters, and editors being traditionally and one may say genetically tuned towards the left stands confused in India as of now. Equipped not with the pen is mightier than the sword attitude, the journalist of today walks gingerly with a phone in hand checking often on where to lean, the leftist media now controlled by the right and people tending to believe in the popular, the ones with higher SEO rather than IQ level. In this era of fake news, propaganda, political polarization and a tilt of the population towards the right in India, the only hope lies in the fledgling newspapers, who one would hope, still believe in unbiased reporting thanks to their less glorious and less ambitious owners, but more than the owners the hope lies in our untiring Paperwalas.

Further reading:
Latest newspaper circulation data from Audit Bureau of Circulations

Media ownership in India

Japanese newspapers lead the circulation numbers, event though at the top they continue to decline.

Another article on Japanese newspaper readers going digital.

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Newspaper caterpillars reborn as subscription butterflies, a tale of the west.

Most people are consuming news and information from their personal social media feeds, while the ones that are serious venture out into the internet sites for a particular news item that they have just googled. Consequently, newsprint all over the world, but more prominently in the western world, seems to be on a steep decline. This decline has been going on since a long time thanks to the advancements of technology which have enabled faster dissemination of news and it’s various derivatives. If one goes chronologically, first came the radio, followed by televisions, and then the internet.

Newspapers adjusted well with radio and tv which essentially made news instantaneous, but they came with their own deficiencies. They were constraining streams providing no option to customize, you could at the most change the channel. The advertisements became intrusive and drama that comes with any audio-visual rendition challenged the veracity of the proffered material. Newspapers on the other hand provided choice to the reader. In print, the intonation and the impact of the news rests solely on the consumer and his beliefs or prejudices making it appear more genuine, more reliable. Advertisements in newsprint were, and still are, not just the silent inhabitants of news-space, but in their sub-textual, subliminal presence they have been and still might be more impactful than any intrusive popup on your web page, even if it is page-ranked based on the best algorithm that takes into consideration, your preferences, browser history and probably even hormones that rage in your body.

With faster and broad spectrum broadcasting, the radios and tvs didn’t have motivation for interpretative journalism, news analysis and the debates were mostly unstructured and were driven by the whims and reactions of the participants and the watchers. Newspapers provided this missing piece with their long format interpretations, opinions and editorials. Instead of the profusion of events occurring all over the world, or locally, in every nook and corner of the city, newspapers had to choose the best or the most noteworthy keeping the medium still relevant even when it came to news reporting.

The digital challenge however rendered the ever adapting, or the never have had to adapt beyond their comfort zone newsprint houses, clueless and left them baffled. People not only got what they felt and chose as relevant, but they got it for free. News was no more bundled and didn’t need remotes to surf away from. The whole piece was in one page, with the sidebar ads of course, but still one felt focused on the matter under consideration, and then it could be shared with other people with a click. The circulation of the local papers hit rock bottom while the big houses saw even their trusted, even the elderly readers dwindling away. The future of journalism was now in the hands of Facebook, and then Twitter. Players like BuzzFeed flourished with their digitally funky presentations, and the liberal HuffPost with its commentaries and blogs that gave a fresher, crisper perspective attracted heavy traffic.

So what did the newspapers do?

Some have embraced the new age by offering free news and asking for donations to fund what they are calling true journalism. Others, which is most of the big names, have gone for direct confrontation with the digital news heavyweights by launching their websites. These websites, which keep evolving are governed by algorithms rather than editors, by real-time analytics rather than retrospective boardroom meetings, by listism rather than journalism. But the business model chosen has been of subscription, which at the outset was deservedly mocked at by the gurus and media analysts. In the long run though, it seems to be working while the funky digital media, like everything funky seems to be coming to its end of life too soon, if only because its consumers are attracted to the next best thing, things like Twitter and even Instagram while the ones looking for genuine news didn’t mind paying the annual subscription for enriched content, now searchable, browsable and expandable for in-depth analysis and insights, all with the familiar clicks in the attractive websites of old guard news media houses.

It’s this fickleness and the restlessness of the new world human beings that comes as a boon to new ideas and inventions in the soft spaces of the internet, but they don’t live long thanks to the same qualities. Facebook for example changed its newsfeed algorithms so that more updates from friends and relatives started appearing as compared to professional publishers, taking down a string of these companies that had banked much upon FB for its success. It is ironical that in this digital world that is more connected, more covered and more explored, every new day for new content, what makes news are the tweets by Trumps, Putins and Modis. These tweets are themselves so entertaining and savvy that people don’t miss BuzzFeed, FB feeds, HuffPost to add more color and spice, what they need is the conventional, reliable stalwarts to provide them the background, the motivation and the implications of these tweets.

***


Q&A

Q: Why am I writing this?

A: I asked my paperwala, the guy who delivers the morning newspaper at each door of each flat in my apartment, to stop the deliveries. It is because I no longer get time in the mornings to sit with a newspaper and go through the news. It is mostly done on internet, while I commute, while I work or when I come back from office.

The first post inspired by my decision to say goodbye to newspaper was When the roses turned orange.

But I thought this topic deserved more of my blog-space. I started writing about the situation in India but research got me distracted to articles in NYT, New Yorker, The Guardian and HuffPost. Therefore I start with the tale of the west, east will follow.

Next Q: probably in the comments section

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Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights can be described as a tragic love story along the lines of the great tragedies that have been written on the theme. What sets it apart from other works in this genre; however, is the description of pure depravity, which is propounded through its central character, the ever famous Heathcliff. He seems too unearthly, someone who is conceived only to draw hatred and disgust. There is; however, a meek justification proffered in his defense. He is brought to Wuthering Heights with a handicap of not belonging to the society, a world full of etiquettes, refinement, and conventions that come with civilization, a world which eventually abandons him as an outcast. What follows is an unchecked wrath and contempt that propel him to inflict pain and helplessness on everything he comes across. This unadulterated scorn for humanity and all of its good qualities makes him look illogical, more like an idea instead of a person, something that would look almost ridiculous if placed out of the frame of the story and it’s setting. The ability to transcend logic while writing fiction and yet make it acceptable, as a form of pure thought and imagination is characteristic of poetry. It is the poetic element in Emily Bronte’s writing that impresses you as you start on the journey towards the Wuthering Heights.

‘one may guess the power of the north wind blowing over the edge, by the excessive slant of a few stunted firs at the end of the house; and by a range of gaunt thorns all stretching their limbs one way, as if craving alms of the sun.’ – Chapter I

Poetry comes with its uncertainties, with a requirement for interpretation that is human and individualistic, one that doesn’t get bounded by logic and reasoning. There is no universal truth that is presented, but a bare thought, almost whimsical because it doesn’t come fortified with reason. The omniscient narrators in fiction; however, cannot afford to stray, cannot be seen as manipulative while presenting the story. To compensate for the poetic nature of the theme and the unnatural behavior of the characters, we have not one but two narrators who are themselves part of the story. Mr Lockwood is the primary narrator but his version is derived, or possibly reproduced as it was from the narration of another character in the story, Ellen Dean. She is a narrator who has been a participant in most of the scenes, but throughout the book she seems to be wavering between romanticism, honesty, loyalty and redemption, something that induces doubt on the veracity of her words. These choices; of having layers of narration and adding some dubiousness to it, seem like a conscious decision taken by the author, most likely to make the readers question each event. Maybe it is an invitation to the discerning reader to look beyond the surface of the story as it is perused.

‘but I have undergone sharp discipline, which has taught me wisdom; and then, I have read more than you would fancy, Mr. Lockwood. You could not open a book in this library that I have not looked into, and got something out of also’ – Ellen Dean

The story commences from the childhood of Heathcliff and Catherine when love gradually takes root as the kids go exploring the heaths and the moors away from the eyes of adults and their ways. It is in the conflict between their innocence and the moral and appropriate behavior as professed by the adults, that this love grows offshoots; those which reach beyond the realms where it could have been destroyed. This story can be seen in the light of this conflict. Society adds a lot of constraints and restraints, keeping innocence and individuality in check for its sustenance. It is eternally in opposition to the free, childlike spirit of the individual which has an inherent tendency to oppose any restraint, in the process even going to the extent of appearing irrational. But it is the same children that grow into the convention abiding adults, once they concede defeat to the forces of society and its rules, that is. Even in such a person, the spirit of the kid doesn’t die. It manifests itself in the moments of extreme emotions or extreme abandon when one loses one’s guard. Catherine, when faced with the forces and the lure of society concedes to it, she chooses the worldly beau who is refined, rich and sensitive. Heathcliff, on the other hand is not offered any such option, he is left alone in the heath of his bare existence. He is no different from a child who has been shown the pudding, given a taste of it and then denied any further access to it. So like a child he goes about, for the rest of his life, not just hating the cruel world but wrecking havoc on it. Never graduating to become a conformist, he has no regard for the forces of conscience, pity or a definition of good and bad. He knows he has been wronged, for no apparent transgression on his part and therefore the world he is against is evil. His actions are not only justified since he is acting against the wickedness, but they also make him the righteous one. We see no remorse in the man as his deeds keep ruining the lives of people around him, making him a villain who deserves all the hatred of society, if only because instead of giving a speech for his redemption at the end he offers sarcasm and a sneer.

It’s odd what a savage feeling I have to anything that seems afraid of me! Had I been born where laws are less strict and tastes less dainty, I should treat myself to a slow vivisection of those two, as an evening’s amusement.’ – Heathcliff.

The poetics employed in the book also take us to the domain of romanticism. The gothic background and the delineation of characters conjures up images that elicit strong emotions from the reader. The disconnect between the world outside Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, and the world inside guides the reader to go on the path of fantasy. The flaws in all the characters makes us question the flaws within us. Romanticism makes the world seem fantastic but it comes with a side effect, a consciousness of what is lacking, a question to what is real. These thoughts invariably take a turn towards the cardinal conundrum of existence. Love once stripped down of romanticism can be construed as an undertaking to further one’s existence. Existence of self is the most beautiful and profound concept for the individual, it’s so palpable that everything else starts to seem trivial. However, this solitary nature of its realization forces us to find an extension of our existence beyond the self, as a proof that it’s not an illusion we hold within us. The acknowledgement of our existence, to its very minute details, in another person is more satisfying than life itself, and more liberating than death. We therefore tend to efface our ego when we are truly in love, the loved one becomes the only person that exists in our world. Most of the love stories resist in bringing about a union of the lovers, it’s in death and failure to consummate that this proof of existence, and therefore life, is strengthened. Catherine, in her quavering speech justifying her decision to marry Linton ends up saying that she herself is Heathcliff, there is just no distinction.

I have not broken your heart—you have broken it; and in breaking it, you have broken mine.So much the worse for me that I am strong. Do I want to live? What kind of living will it be when you—oh, God! would you like to live with your soul in the grave?’ – Heathcliff.

The later part of the book seems like an effort to exonerate the author for being too bleak in her outlook towards life. The older generation consisted of Heathcliff, amply described above as the rebel against goodness, Catherine who is just like Heathcliff but betrays her freedom from the norms and switches to the other side, the side of Linton who represents the civilized world. It is in retrospect that we see how the world, with its ultimate intention to survive, embraces the renegades. Linton goes to the extreme in this act, almost losing his respect and identity. This leniency is contradicted by his stern decision in matters of his rebel sister, symbolic of the way how the rational world is unforgiving and shuns the ones who stray. The younger generation is, and is presented to be treading the boundaries between these worlds. Young Cathy maybe saucy but she has a balance in her mental faculties and physical endurance that was lacking in her father or her mother. Young Linton is shown as weak, and almost immoral, for he is the child born from a union of the rational world who erred into the unwilling and disinterested arms of the rebel. Mirrored as the new Heathcliff, a cheerful Hareton contradicts the former’s image in his ignorance and his endeavors to gain favors from the seemingly unkind yet beautiful lady, his sense of righteousness and concern awakening amidst the almost animal identity tells us how life, and reason eventually finds its way.

In spite of all the possible ways you may choose to read and interpret the events and the people of Wuthering Heights, you will still be left enchanted and searching for meaning, searching for a better explanation of the feeling it leaves you with. It’s a feeling of being haunted by the place, by the moors, and the possibility of a love, so violent that it would destroy yourself along with everyone around you. Just like the horror movie actor who finds himself in a haunted house and to your exasperation, walks into the red room defying all logic, you will be drawn to this book again, for another reread.

‘I lingered round them, under that benign sky: watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth. The end.’

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on introspection, humor and belief

Lately I have been reading articles on topics like self-criticism, self-compassion, self-admiration and many such nouns preceded by self. To summarize the content in one line, and thereby hurting the sentiments of the authors, will be a wrong thing to do, more so because I actually love to read them. So, with much self-applause and mild self-deprecation, I will go ahead and do exactly that.

To start with, these articles seem to be talking to people who introspect, who else gets worked up with the self-ish lexicon. The natural tendency of human beings is to be critical of themselves when they communicate with the self, a characteristic that has been attributed to survival and evolution. To take criticism at the face value requires qualities that the intended readers of these posts must clearly lack. The advice offered to these recipients is to chill. But such authors, and in general those who provide unsolicited advice for the greater good, are knowledgeable and wise but lack in their faculties of humor. So, instead of chill, they end up professing avoidance of the adverse to the extent of negating the whole process of examination.

Introspection is an endeavour taken up by people who have the means for doing it, namely – time, which in turn is in supply only when you have the money or rather when you don’t aspire to make more every new day. There are exceptions but let’s go with generalizations, especially the ones that suit me. I would rather go for specifics, say a person who is passionate about his business and constantly thinks of new products or improvements in the existing ones. When he fails, he doesn’t go for self-criticism or resort to self-compassion, he doesn’t allow himself the luxury of a break to indulge in the self. Instead, he meticulously enumerates the mistakes and circumstances that led to failure and moves with much fluidity to the next idea that will make the business grow.

There are however many people in today’s world who indulge in introspection. These are the ones who live in luxury and therefore have ample time, sometimes funded by external agents like past investments, or say parents, and sometimes founded on the internal belief that they can afford the price of the activity. Here, introspection is taken very seriously, so seriously in fact that the repercussions like doubts, criticism and uncertainty start affecting their lives. The effect can swing both ways though, in some it leads to refinement and a drive to achieve more along with a conviction that they are capable of achieving more. The swing other way is detrimental, to the extent of questioning the very existence and a loss of faith. Such people, who swing the way that leads to the depression if not destruction, need to read the authors that have been elegantly summarized at the beginning of this article.

Introspection, like reason, becomes harmful when there is a lack of humor. Like reason, it bears fruit when it is not given a fixed shape, but put through questioning, disdain and taken with a pinch of salt. As soon as we give a self-approval, it takes an ugly form. On the other hand, to not approve is to wade in the untested waters, a laugh sounds and looks beautiful when it comes from a happy person. Solemn people, who read sorrowful poetry, who pray or argue like philosophers should do better to stay away from introspection.

Humor is not about taking something lightly but it is about being open to new perspective, being flexible, and not getting flustered when being humored. It is this combination of detachment and agility that liberates us from debilitating effects of both self-criticism and self-approval. Instead, introspection becomes a constructive exercise to harness the latent abilities that were being put on check due to the self-shielding methods advised as remedy.

Beyond humor comes the idea of believing in yourself. Believing in its pure form is no different than a pure lie, it requires no justification. If you had a justification for what you believe, it transforms into truth. Truth is however a passive concept, it is forced upon the individual by the various agents perpetrating it. One doesn’t believe in a truth, one simply acknowledges it. No wonder people in their dire circumstances, instead of capitulating in the face of the glaring truth, take the refuge of their beliefs and faith. It gives us the innate sense of being active, being able to do something about our problems, of being able to live.

Believing in yourself is no different, when you do so you don’t have to explain your actions or justify your decisions. You just do it because you think it is exactly what you must do. Even though it adds to confidence and happiness, it makes you more gullible, as Nike with its rising revenue figures figured out long back. This gullibility is another harbinger of humor. It is the happy, humorous and the easily gullible people who can reap the benefits of constructive introspection, but being laden with these qualities they laugh at the idea and move on selling new products, writing inane tirades or when truly evolved going back to sleep.

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