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In Support of Scarcity

October 4, 2016 | By

It’s time to stop being a slave to a barrage of information of all kinds, writes Amitava Nag. Let scarcity rule for a while.

people

In a society where we have abundance of everything – the cacophony of acquaintances posing as friends is deafening.

A film-maker friend called me up the other day and insisted I watch a few short films on YouTube or Vimeo and comment on them – “they have won awards,” he yelled at my lack of enthusiasm. They indeed have bagged something in the mushrooming of film festivals in India or even worldwide. In today’s world of electronic communication it is easy to term any or every festival as an ‘international’ one simply because you will get some foreign films any day. Every one of us is in a monstrous greed to communicate. We have jumped the gun in the process and have expressed without knowing the values of suppress. I have stopped following almost everyone in Facebook so that my ‘Timeline’ is seldom crowded by others’ posts and status changes. In the process I am saved when a friend changes hairstyle or another jumpstarts a new friendship in Hyderabad or when a friend proudly boasts a picture with a ‘langoty’ Hindi film star. Do I gain anything in the process? I do. I am spared from mega information and the mega fantasies of so-called acquaintances in the social space – all these which are mostly of little use to me, they don’t qualify me, they abuse my time, my sensitivities – these information degrade me.

Then there are the messiahs who will jump at every incident riding on half-truth, quarter vision and zero analytical quotients. They will assault me as pariahs endlessly for not continuously reacting to their rants and their will. They will fashion parades, write petitions at the drop of the hat and are fine to miss that silently their heads droop to a bigger misgiving – I lose my soul in the cannon. As students of a famous Kolkata college, we were leftists by design. In one of our regular ‘training of mind’ sessions I was to cover the streets of North Kolkata. I met this diminutive four-year old street dweller who was served a polished pebble along with his rice and lentil. ‘Dada, aloo-dum’ he was boasting as the morning Sun was piping hot through our pseudo-intellectual social farce.

In a society where we have abundance of everything – of wealth as well as poverty, of illiterates on road and the ones who stalk Western minds within universities, the cacophony of acquaintances posing as friends is deafening. It will numb the weak or the slow. Everyone is in a hurry to prove their facile, vacuous persona. We are producing and sharing more than we can consume, we are gorging more than we can digest and then we are smearing our existence with our own muck. Quite stupid! More so when one gets drowned in someone else’s scat.

That is why I care less about how someone else roams around socially. I don’t account for or hold any responsibility of anyone but me – I had the wife of a pint-sized celebrity screaming at me for a friend posting some picture on her own wall that may scandalize the demi-god. I am torn down even further when Soumitra Chatterjee tells his opinion that doesn’t go down well with some and I necessarily don’t even agree with him on some of them. I have written a book on him and so, they expect I have to answer – and I care a damn. It is unfortunate that people have opinions without philosophy, they counter to counter because that is fashionable; to garner knowledge is not.

social

What will happen to a world which will be filled with only one-liners, status messages and twitter flutters?

What will happen to a world which will be filled with only one-liners, status messages and twitter flutters? We still have living people in our backyards who are from a generation that preferred reading over ranting, observing over previewing and silence over Rituparno Ghosh. Their legacy runs into us and drips a drop to the next. In quarter of a century’s time that tree will be gone, the one that offers us a shade to ponder and perch. We are information-obese with no knowledge to survive us and pass on to our next. In the social space, like in advanced organisations we probably need to harness the knowledge patterns from the plethora of information – to provide context within the content. The social platforms do so intrinsically.

Take the case of Facebook. Based on your usage pattern you get similar updates. Your News feed will be dynamically updated with entries of ‘friends’ based on their pattern of update and FB’s native algorithm to define the nature of friendship. You don’t get all updates of all your 1000 friends, FB ‘chooses’ the ones it thinks are the foremost important. A part of this is passed on to the consumer – I can choose who is a ‘close’ friend and who just an ‘acquaintance’. Yet, beyond that as a consumer I don’t have a tool to categorise the attributes of friends further. Over a period of time I found a close one prefers hobnobbing with celebrities more, but she is a good listener of poetry. Another has tastes similar to mine in prose but she is into films that I can’t connect with. There is again someone who has a tremendous eye for taking pictures and an equally opinionated mind designed by her myopic teachers. We need tools by which we will differentiate them based on our knowledge, and the knowledge the social tools provide us about them by churning the information on their habits and their post patterns.

I am a film critic and yet saved from doing the arduous task of reviewing Bengali films every week. I pity them who have to numb their senses or even worse tune them to the noise of the bandwagon. I have the freedom to mute the most intelligent RJ on FM and switch to Sachin Karta. I have the luxury to show my fondness of Sachin Karta who to me is head and shoulders above his illustrious son and to proclaim that Rafi is the best Hindi cinema could get in the last over a century’s circus in the name of cinema. I can also find it trifle easy to say that Ritwik is my favourite and a Ray-moshai can never make films that resonate the way Ghatak’s do. Yet when head takes over the heart, Ray is the ultimate film-maker of Bengal to me. With the same romantic spree I adhere to Shammi Kapoor’s antics more than any of his more exquisite brothers or a magnum father and yet on other days fall for Balraj Sahni and his Garam Hawa.

It’s time to stop being a slave to a barrage of information of all kinds. When I need to buy a box of biscuits do I really need so many options, of so many flavours and brands? Let scarcity rule for a while. It has its advantages. The brouhaha has to settle down like mad dust particles in a Brownian motion waiting to be freed. Let’s use our time to frame our own knowledge, till the social methods realize and hand over theirs to us. Let us be less sure of us. Let there be confusion. Let there be Sun light.

The opinions shared by the writer is his personal opinions and does not reflect the opinion of Learning and Creativity Magazine. The writer is solely responsible for any claims arising out of the contents of this article.

Pics courtesy: Pixabay

Amitava Nag is an independent film critic based in Kolkata and editor of Silhouette. His most recent book on cinema is Satyajit Ray’s Heroes and Heroines published by Rupa. He has also authored the acclaimed Beyond Apu: 20 Favourite film roles of Soumitra Chatterjee published by Harper Collins India. He also writes poetry and short fiction in Bengali and English – observing life in a platter.
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