The author finds the Internet hard to stay away from.
This past week, I did a small experiment that, depending on one’s perspective, can either be considered a success or a failure. As a matter of fact, all unscientific experiments tend to be like that. They are also quite useful when proving the effectiveness of “Alternative Medicine” like crystal therapy and faith healing, but let’s get back to our experiment. I tried a week of being an atheist and, at the end of it, I had feelings as mixed as a fruit jam.
For starters, it was harder than I expected it to be. I had come to rely on Her for basic directions. I had come to trust her recommendations way too much. The Internet, my personal deity, is a hard goddess to stay away from, even when on a vacation. Google maps gives me directions and when I try asking real human beings for directions, they direct me to use Google maps. I asked someone what were some of the best places for Moroccan food in London, and they looked it up on Yelp.
The Internet is pretty much the closest thing to an all-knowing entity mankind has ever had, and unlike her competitors lounging around in temples, churches and mosques, does actually provide reasonably accurate advice and unlike priests, fathers and imams, broadband connections to my god are largely quite simple to use. My religion did go through a very predictable early period in its evolution when its priests (ISPs) were whimsical, unreliable and unreasonably demanding, but things have improved and continue to get better (and cheaper, unlike trips to Tirupati) every day.
So my experiment was a success because I mostly managed to stay offline and enjoy my vacation through the lens behind my cornea instead of the one in my iPhone. But it was also a failure because not using the Internet to get directions or restaurant recommendations seemed a bit silly.
As soon as I returned to the temple of the only true god, the very first thing that caught my eye was a viral video about an upcoming horror movie called Carrie. What is interesting about that is the fact that it’s a video about a fake supernatural event promoted through memetic transmission that exploits our fear of the unknown, which sounds exactly like all of organised religion when you think about it.
On a related note, the chaps who did groundbreaking work on the “God” particle won the Nobel prize for Physics this year. And because it’s called the Higgs boson and not the Bose higgson, Higgs won the Nobel while Satyendranath Bose will go down in history as being the guy who was mistakenly remembered for making overpriced speakers. A while back, some Indians expressed outrage at how the “H” in Higgs was capitalised while the “b” in boson was not and how this was a grave insult to Indian science. This is particularly ironic because, as Indians, we should clearly know that according to the Manchester United Smriti, the case system must not be ignored. Lower case people must do all the hard labour while the upper case people reap the benefits.
Speaking of hard labour and poverty, Shah Rukh Khan was involved in a bit of brouhaha about plagiarism in a speech he gave at the All India Management Association. Apparently, much like a lot of Bollywood movies, the speech was a pastiche of quotes from other great speeches. Quite embarrassing, when you think about it and I am sure the speechwriter has been excommunicated from my church of the Internet god, but as Indians we must always see the other side. As I explained in a previous column, Indian conflict resolution involves taking two extreme positions and then averaging them out to zero.
So in this case, it can also be argued that in a country that speaks a Germanic language from the North-west of Europe, wears western clothes designed in the U.S. and made in Bangladesh, studies western education in English-medium schools and uses Social Media tools from Silicon valley, this selective bit of outrage over not attributing sources in a speech is a bit funny. It’s Shah Rukh, the successful actor and someone who has a wonderful rags-to-riches story to tell that’s important here, not the fact that he used a sequence of words from someone else to tell it. He is not a copycat. He is an inspired tiger. And so on. It is possible to smoke any argument with the hallucinogenic counter-argument style known in the Tamil language as the wonderful sounding “Edakkumadakku”, which I sincerely believe must be introduced to the Oxford dictionary soon.
And speaking of smoking, Woody Allen has refused to put “Smoking is injurious to health” every time someone smokes in his new movie Blue Jasmine, to comply with the rules of our land. It’s unfair because those annoying anti-smoking messages are the only times in the movie when smokers can take a smoke break and now we have to plagiarise and pirate this movie from the church of my god to watch it.