Friday, 25 March 2016

Burn After Reading

“The opinions that are held with passion are always those for which no good ground exists; indeed the passion is the measure of the holder’s lack of rational conviction.” – Bertrand Russel
In March, 2013 I started this blog and the very first post was created today three years ago. This blog is three! This makes me feel proud. There’s something about this blog that makes me feel like I can achieve whatever I want. I did not imagine that I would still constantly update the blog three years later at the time I started it, but I have. At that time, I felt I needed something to hold on to; something that would have my name on it and that was it. But it is different now. I fell in love with it. It has become a part of me.
I was thinking about burning. I was thinking about burning because yesterday I saw gruesome photographs of human beings burnt to death. One had his hands up and I imagined that he was pleading with his antagonist to have mercy. I hate to see those kinds of pictures: Pictures of dead people, of a drowned child whose body was washed ashore because the world failed him. Or pictures of burned human beings, their hands stuck mid-air like they are asking God for respite or asking Him to let them into heaven or begging whoever was doing the burning to be human and just… be human for Christ’s sake.
It was a sad sight.
I heard it happened on the 3rd of February and I remember that on the weekend before 3rd February, a house close to where I live got burnt and it was so sad that the house burnt down and left its former occupants shelter-less, now imagine a human being burnt. How heartless do you have to be to pour gas over a living person and burn him to death? How heartless do you have to be and where the hell do you even get the conscience to sleep at night for the rest of your life?
I have heard people say things like ‘some people do not have a conscience,’ but I disagree. We all have a conscience. It is not something that can leave one, I think of it as an organ in one’s body. But the thing about conscience is that even though it makes you feel remorse when you think you have done something wrong, it also makes you feel justified when you feel you have done something right. It is our compass and when a compass has been rigged, it could say North is South and East is West. It is the minds of these evil people that have been taken, not their consciences. I have tried to imagine extremism as a kind of different shade of belief, like, believing in something so much, you are willing to do whatever it takes to sail its idea, but even that seems rational, it is not completely absurd. But what level of extremism drives a person to burn another person to death? Salman Rushdie, in his controversial novel, The Satanic Verses, that almost got him killed, he wrote, from the beginning men used God to justify the unjustifiable. Maybe the real problem is not the passion but the holder of the passion. Maybe there are certain ideas that are too acidic for some people to just comprehend smoothly without thinking of it as a means of hurting people. Maybe some types of people are just better off godless after all.

*Thank you guys so much for the past three years, there is no blog without its readers!

Saturday, 12 March 2016

On Our Way To The Dance

Good morning, Hank. It’s Monday. I spent much of this weekend in New York, Central Park and for some reason I kept thinking of my favourite photograph. So there was this German photographer August Sander who was famous for his massive, never finished series, ‘People of the Twentieth Century’ in which he took pictures of everyone from Bricklayers to Circus Performers to Famous Composers. Along the way he also took my favourite picture, this one, which is sometimes known as Three Farmers on their Way to A Dance, 1914.
There is a lot I like about this picture: I like how the farmers’ heads are cut off by the horizon, I like how their faces are in the sky but their feet are in the mud, and I like what the photograph tells us about class and history, that by 1914 mass production meant that these young farmers could afford suits and fancy hats and canes. For the first time in history, European peasants in the countryside could dress like – or almost like – urban professionals; but then again, they are still walking rather than driving in a car. These are young men on the cusp of what I think of as the contemporary world and I like how they are looking over their shoulders as if the can only briefly pause for the camera before they head off to their futures, to the dance.
It was the middle of 1914 and these three farmers were of course on their way to two dances: the one they knew about and World War One. These men very likely ended up fighting in that war and may well have been among the 17 million people who died in it. And the very same industrial manufacturing innovations that made their clothes affordable created the bullets and machine guns that made World War One so lethal.
The three people in this photograph are living in the middle of history, like, to us, the dance they were walking toward seems inevitable but to see their faces is to know that it wasn’t, that history is choices we collectively make about how to look at the world and how to respond to what we see. These three young farmers walking along a road, a hundred and one years ago remind me that I am also in the middle of history, and that how I imagine the world and the people in it really matters.
Someone once told me that photographs are just light and time. And in this picture, August Sander captured a hell of a light and a hell of a time; I pray we never see the likes of it again.
Hank, I’ll see you tomorrow.

This is a transcript of the most profound vlog I have ever watched. It was made by my favourite writer, John Green who, along with his equally genius brother, own the Youtube account ‘Vlogbrothers’ which currently has well over two million subscribers. I will not dwell too much on Vlogbrothers (do yourself a favour, go on Youtube and subscribe.)
This particular video was made on the Monday after the 2015 Paris attacks and I thought the reason I found it profound at that time was because of that tragedy. Perhaps I was wrong but when I watched it over and over during the week, it still made a lot of sense. Maybe this is because there is always tragedy in the world. I mean, name it: From the crisis in Syria to Agatu in Nigeria. There are disasters everywhere we look. This video talks to these tragedies in a most unprecedented way: that history is choices we collectively make about how to look at the world and how to respond to what we see.
Do you see how the dance the young farmers were walking toward seems inevitable but it actually is not? Do you see how these things are a factor of the decisions we make? Do you see that we are in total control of our future? That what happens next will inevitably be a direct consequence of what we do now? Do you see?

Till next time,, Keep dreaming!