The Death of Nuance

It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.

Jiddu Krishnamurti

These days I have been going out into the physical world and not complementing it with an online counterpart. I don’t read much content online, don’t see thought posts about mental health, food wars or exhaustive travel hacks, and best of all I don’t consume a waterfall of reels. Safe to say, I feel much better. The thoughts in my mind are less crowded, but I can’t say I feel less weighed down because all that stuff they talk about on social media actually happens in real life. Somedays I walk into a room full of unknown people and social life hits me in the face. Having said that I do recommend dialling down on consuming online content, it is a gift we can give to our minds. I don’t find myself missing Twitter and the shenanigans of its current owner. What I do see, though, is how many people are invested in a wealthy man’s new excursion and I wonder would they still be exactly this much interested in this person if he was a woman? Would they still be as half-in-awe and half-in-horror or whatever they’re feeling about this entire exercise of a billion-dollar-exchange? I assure you the answers to these questions tell us a lot about the people we turn into heroes.

I have seen closely that women’s lives don’t belong to themselves. Women’s lives belong to the patriarchy and to the men around them. How women have to live, behave, talk, eat, and get by day-to-day living has everything to do with what the patriarchy wants for them. It’s no secret that women have to be likeable, accommodating, and compliant to keep society functioning as is. If they are anything but there are many archetypes associated to women that are almost impossible to shake off. Men have value by who they are. Women have value based on who they are in relation to other people. I see this in so many women’s lives and I see this enforced not only by men but also by women who have internalised this misogyny. Actively engaging with more people in person has been more eye-opening than being online. I’ve been in the company of people (both men and women) widely different from each other but the underlying message has always been the same — we’re getting tired of being oppressed by unhealthy powers and that nuance is dead.

I’ve beaten this refrain to death but I’m going to say it again — as monstrous as it was, the pandemic gave us a real chance to re-arrange human societies and create better spaces for all of us. We passed on that chance so some people could have more while others have less. More wealth. More power. More social capital. More influence. More luxury. More validation. We have refused to re-build a world where we can live better, for all of us. We have retired the concept of acceptance, forgiveness, and inclusion by tearing down systemic oppression. So yeah, this that, pish posh, yada yada. It’s hard for me to keep saying the same things over and over. Even I am getting tired of my own shit, you know.

I lost my AirPod charging case last week while getting out of a cab in Bangalore. I tried everything to find it but to no avail and I felt downcast for a very long time and I still do. My phone’s network connectivity in that city was abysmal, I didn’t speak the language of those cab drivers, and most of all, I felt very helpless. I lost a really expensive item in a city so unyielding and unforgiving that I had given up in my mind. Then again, isn’t that how we are told most of life is? Unyielding and unforgiving? I suspect this is because hyper-independence is celebrated in the world we live in. Our expectations of people are that every individual must be able to do fend for themselves alone be it in any sphere of their life. This goes against the human grain of co-operation and working together. Human values that have kept us going for millennia are being eroded by this desperate need to make humans islands of themselves. Moreover, cancel culture has us believing that we can write off people with great ease.

Imagine — we live in a world where people are having to live their lives according to dictates by unhealthy power structures, in a culture that celebrates hyper-independence, and where we can write each other off without a thought. So basically, we are having to spend our days according to someone else while being made to feel all alone and then we are dismissed for making mistakes. Does this seem like a society that could do with a lot of change? I would think so.

I write this down here because I think about all these things and I discuss this with old friends and new over pan-fried chicken and homemade French toast. This is not happening on the Internet. It is happening in physical spaces where the chicken is a little too oily and the French toast, though simple, is reminiscent of home. It is happening in cafes of cities where the network took a running jump and it is happening in luxurious restaurants where we sit facing the sea as it calls out to us. Quitting this life is not an option for so many of us. We plod on despite our society’s failure in maintaining our collective mental health. We had a glorious chance at re-imagination but we traded it for going back to our “old lives” where we sit inside aesthetic echo chambers and give up on other because we are unable to do the hard work that it requires to forge human relationships that will lift all of us up. I am told that there’s nothing I can do about it and that’s accurate. There is nothing I can do about it. I just hope the view from the echo chamber is good and the sunlight peeks in to give warmth. We could all do with a little of it.

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