Archive for the ‘pscyhological musings’ category

psychology of blogging

October 29, 2012

*** this was written in 2008, posting again with cyber-accusations and criminal actions becoming more frequent.***

Whether Kancha Ilaiah is a fraud or whether saibaba is a god, whether there is brahmanical fanaticism or fanatic anti-brahmanism, there are enough blogs to argue both sides. All these bloggers can argue rather forcefully even if not sensibly. Why is blogging picking up?

Basically the operative element is an anonymous proximity. Even if my photo is seen you  cannot claim to become my friend and try to spend time with me. This safe “use and throw” relationship-of-convenience is the primary attraction of blogs. I can say what I want, and if you decide to register your protest I still have the right and the choice to allow the protest on my page. Those who see my page will be seeing my views and my counters (whenever, and if ever I can logically produce one) and no one will know where and when I am at a loss to explain.

I can still feel I am in a crowd that is talking about things which matter to me. I can protest with dignity or cheapness, be an angel or a devil, talk when I want to and be silent if that is fine for me. I cannot be forced into discussions; ofcourse, I cannot force you into a discussion, except when I dare to spit valueless venom through a personal pathology. These are the conveniences I have noticed and even used in blogs.

The second operative element in blogging is its pseudo-personal space wherein one can become disinhibited. Though your true skin will be seen by others when your blog is posted, you need not hesitate to say whatever you feel like unlike in the real world where you have to observe elementary decency to those who deserve it. Yet, it is only a disinhibited and not an uninhibited behaviour, because deep down you are conscious that your words are going to be seen by someone somewhere.

Masked identity is another courage-boosting element of blogging. You need not talk in your real name.  I know of some people who chose to mask their identity for real and valid reasons, but most of the persons who write in pseudonyms ( and sometimes in anonymity) do so out of fear. Though their words may appear courageous they still have not mustered enough conviction and courage to come out in the open and stand by what they have said.

Why mask identity? Some are like a compassionate medusa, for if their face is seen their critics would turn into stone, stupefied with fear. Some are like clowns who need to have a different identity to make an apparent fool of themselves so that others can have a good laugh. Some are like a silly child hiding behind a table thinking no one can see who and where they are. Whether one decides to disclose her/his identity or not is certainly a private decision that has to be respected and even if not accepted, not discussed.

The problem of wearing a mask is different in a socio-psychological perspective. There are intellectuals who use their intelligence to call themselves idiots, and so too are there idiots who stupidly call themselves intellectuals. Depending on why the mask is worn, and depending on the insightful intellect of the individual, a mask becomes a potent weapon or a poor joke.

It is understandable if masks are worn and identities deliberately disguised in the mushrooming social networking sites. Though these sites can be a forum for healthy and honourable matters, mostly they are used to find a `friend` to flirt. An elderly uncle who tries to wear shorts and T-shirts, ugly dyeing of hair and a false accent in which lies are expressed as values, will never be able to date a young girl with average intelligence. But in the virtual world, the same uncle just has to assume a name, age, occupation and marital status that would bring scraps to his page! But, blogs are not meant for picking up a date. Whether your profile declares you as young or old, spiritual or religious, left or right, no one `falls` for you. Only your views matter. And therefore your identity is never masked or invisible. However sublime your language, however innocent your discussion, your colours will show through the veil.

Blogging has its psychological benefits. Just as how your mind operates in a dramatic performance there are certain mechanisms operating here too. Initially there is identification, then there is the possibility of learning a conflict resolution and finally there is a catharsis. You identify with the character or the cause or the chronicle, you feel you have experienced a similar situation. Then you see the situational conflict resolved in the performance and if you choose to, you may try to use it to answer your personal question. Even if you cannot find a solution to your problem in the performance-narrative it would still be a cathartic relief. You can download feelings from your emotive memory and get the same relief of being happy, sad, angry or disgusted. But are blogs used for this?

Though blogs can be of immense personal psychological comfort, I see some bloggers using it to throw mud (if not spit venom) on ideas that are not consistent with their own values. Blogs are becoming pamphlets thrown on the disinterested by stander. If perchance someone reads and accepts their ideas it is fine, otherwise just some space on space is wasted! However impassionate and objective you may describe yourself, you will tend to lean towards one ideology versus another. If you have not formed your own opinions on matters, these moments would tilt you towards a particular idea if not ideology. The intelligent wearing the mask of an idiot would appeal to your conscience by their pseudo-innocence. You will fall for the game plan. Some vague emotional itch that you have been bearing all along would be scratched and you will not only become comfortable with that anonymous hand, you would start yearning for it.

If we can just be  a little more aware when we imagine that we are awake, we can escape from the dragnet. We would be able to retain our power to choose. We can choose only when we think. And, when we start thinking we cannot be silent. We would start protesting.

This is what had happened to me, and I consequently started  commenting on issues that I felt were concerning me, and the response I got from one blogger was that I have “become jobless”!! Blogging is not a jobless individual’s way of spending time, it is a social obligation to respond to the milieu.

heroes

November 16, 2008

Every child has a hero, and every hero needs a child. It is easier to appear heroic to a child, and the child keeps the hero safe in a corner of its growing mind. You generally do not grow up to worship your childhood hero. You begin to see more. You begin to see through. You may not be vocal, you may not even be conscious, but the hero of your childhood is never the same in adulthood, that is if you grow up.

My hero had the clichéd thousand faces, each one morphing into another, at every phase of my life. I lost my hero not when I grew out of childhood, but when I did not need one. I had a phantom childhood, while my son had an asterix childhood. There wasn’t anything ghostly or ghastly in my childhood just as how there weren’t anything starry in my son’s childhood. These were the comic themes of two generations, the Lee Falk creation and Uderzo’s art.

Being a child in late 1950s and erly 1960s, MGR had to be, by default my hero. As I grew, he was replaced even by Karunanidhi! Over the years my heroes changed. For no logical reason JFK was one, and for logical ones Nehru was another. Vivekananda, Marx, Freud, Bharathi, Kannadasan, Jayakanthan and many others happened to hold the exalted position of a hero in my mind. It all went on till the innate narcissistic nihilistic nature started adoring the mirror! But then this is not an autobiographical thrust on an unsuspecting and uncaring reader. It is a reflection.

Heroes need us. Without applause, nothing is heroic. But, why do we need heroes? I just happened to read Nandini Chandra’s book on AmarChitaKatha, and realized what had happened all along. There were heroes. Were they also `the’ villains? If the heroes are projections of the golden aura of the author, who are the villains? If valor is mind’s indignation at injustice to self or its perceptions then, is anger not a disappointment of the self at the self?

Why do heroes appear on the mindscape?

Stories are always told. Grandmothers learnt from their grandmothers and tell with the hope that their grandkids will learn the same stories. With grandmothers not finding space anymore with grandchildren, comics and storybooks become necessary. This is where we have to watch out. Heroes can be easily created in the minds of children.

A child’s hero is full of admirable qualities, he does not give up easily, he is not seen sleeping or eating, shaving or shouting at his wife, he need not be shown the progress report; he will not be an unavoidable reality like the father of the child. Generally the dad is the first hero, but he shouts at times, even beats at times. Therefore he is easily substituted by the awesome persona of the hero whose fantasy relationship is thoroughly at will and optional. Heroes are picked up from fables. Even cinema-heroes are picked for their astounding valor, skills and charm. And, then what happens?The child tries to emulate the hero.

Imagine the plight of children before the TV boom! If they wanted to emulate the mythic hero narrated by grandmothers, they would have had to paint themselves blue in India. But a child grows up, though at times the nation does not. You know for sure at a certain age that Rama and Krishna were interesting characters. I am sure even Advani knows that his vote-vault ram is not viridian in tint. I am sure he has grown up. But a smart leader grows up quick enough to see to it that his followers do not grow up. Now we have `leaders` who tell stories. These stories create the new myths. New heroes and new values form the new narratives. These narratives become the cultural imprints of a civilization that pretends to be global.

Heroes are fantasies that we can summon at will and pretend to role-play to cheat ourselves out of disappointments and incapacities. If the model mind-toy is of sterner stuff, we can actually gain some strength temporarily.

More on the theme later.

ennui- before and after (1)

October 26, 2008

Ennui sounds nice to hear or say but to experience it is a bizarre bluntness. It would generally be used to call the state in which you are too bored to even say that you are bored. But it is not an indifferent silence, nor is it apathy; it is the slow sinking of a lifeless existence.

Facing emptiness that envelops emptiness, with no fear or anticipation since all feelings have become blunt, calendars, clocks and biological needs just become meaninglessly ritualistic. It is the blind eye seeing itself bleed. It is the poet whose words had vanished long long ago. It is a pain which lingers just a bit too long to be a sensation. It is in a way, a divinity discarded.

Just google it and you will end up thinking it is just boredom. It is not. After a point you do not ‘feel’ bored; in fact, you do not ‘feel’. It is not like the apathy of chronic schizophrenia, it is not the listlessness of severe depression; it is not an illness at all. It is a state of life, a state of mind into which willingly or not one is enmeshed for what appears at the time as eternity.

To define the abstract would be like painting in darkness. But the process of painting must go on in the hope that soon there would be light and forms become visible. So, ennui can be defined for now, as the feeling of emptiness that permeates into inactivity, leaving the body to function while the mind switches to a stand-by mode.

Ennui can be caused by complacency that is believed to be contentment. It is a process in life that may start at any point. It will not only prevent life from moving on, it would also bring about a feeling that life need not be pursued. It is not about suicide, rather it is about emotiocide. Left unnoticed ennui can disrupt one’s life ethos and rupture one’s social fabric.

It is slow and silent in its arrival but sustained and sickening during its presence. It may be a result of one’s satisfaction before the completion of a victory. Success is one’s own level of satisfaction- at having attained a minute’s applause or the posterity’s acclamation. Success generally brings about an adoration- even is masked with envy, from others. But the danger of success lies in its potential to breed ennui.

After tasting success we all would like to let the taste linger for some more time as a memory. We would prefer the world to remember it too. We would start believing that we have arrived. True and total success would lead to a state of mind in which there is peace, calm and purity of satisfaction. But, most often in life, we encounter victories in battles and imagine that we have been crowned after a war. We pause to bask in our own glory and believe that our first step just would end at the pinnacle. We know we have to move, but we may presume that we have overcome the dictates of time. We want time to wait for us till we finish our celebrations. Time however by its wonderful nature moves on. When we have awakened from the short nap after drinking success we find that our army has moved on without us. We would like to catch up but our laziness masks itself as confidence and we pause more. We feel we need rest even when we are not totally exhausted. That would be the time when ennui sneaks into life.

Our mind would lie to us because it knows the truth that truth would be painful. We settle down and start developing the lie. We feel we can take rest. We believe we are taking rest. We do nothing but wait. We wait not in anticipation but in bafflement.

I have often felt that all I need is a pen and a few sheets of paper to write a book. The demands then widen to need a room, an ambience, a nicer table and a better chair, some music in the background, some comforts within reach… and, even if everything in the wish list is provided the mind would come up with reason for inaction- ‘the mood’ hasn’t arrived! This is not depression which can vanish with proper medication. It is the arrogance of affordability.

When we believe that we can afford to just do nothing for the present, we have welcomed ennui. When in the state of ennui, we do not even anticipate. The angst, the anger at incapacity, the melancholy of emptiness and the attentive indifference of blunted emotivity all diffuse into a chaotic smudge on the mind’s canvass over which no image can be painted and under which no image can be seen.

Sometimes just as how it arrives unannounced ennui leaves without trace. By then, it would be too late to begin another campaign. We would have lost our army, our weapons and our grounds.

It need not be a midline shift in ambition and talent that some associate with midlife. It is always the consequence of comfort that one has extended a bit too much in the aftermath of a victory- big or small. When you feel you have done enough, you have invited ennui. So what would be enough to have enough of life?

More on this later.