In his great short story titled ‘Funes, His Memory‘, Jorge Luis Borges talks about the eponymous protagonist: bed ridden, and completely incapable of forgetting anything. Funes remembers all the stars in the sky, all the books ever written and many other things I have forgotten. He is unable to think, and doesn’t live long. The story has many layers of narrative stacked above one another including Borges’ fascination with various numerical systems, South American daily life and obviously, the nature of reality. However, one message does particularly come forward – all thinking is forgetting. It’s a message that has lived long enough to be echoed by psychologists, sleep scientists and general observers. An overload of information is deadly to our decision making.
This overload is perhaps what is making our news and personal media bubbles so appealing and harmful. If you took 40 days to find a book in the library of Alexandria, and then came to me with a paragraph that confirmed what you claimed and said ”THIS!”, I’d take you for a learned person.
But there is no glory in googling an article that agrees with you and exclaiming with your preferred pronoun. It’s just thickening your bubble.
Things used to be boring in the past, but boring is better than information on Speed. This is perhaps what the daily news suffers from. News is information, mostly non actionable. Rather, news is information presented to us for a desired effect.
So, you’ve got 24*7 news channels that are primarily competing, not for authenticity, but for our sedated addiction and ad revenue. Then there is a more outdated format, that of TV debates. It is anyone’s guess how much gets done when you allow a person seven minutes to speak, with a bunch of tickers and banners demanding your viewers’ distraction.
There is a third, more respectable format of inviting guests over for a conversation. This could have been the tool to save news, but the funding of news channels by corporation ensures that a certain pre-determined stance is assumed before the conversation begins. However, in an age of new media, this will be the format whose ashes will be revivified to facilitate the discussion of complex issues.
We have barely scratched the surface with video as an open medium. Speculations that it is as big a media disruption as the invention of printing press are abundant. A tribe of people dissatisfied with the aforementioned narratives has already loosely assembled in the West with leanings from both sides of the aisle. These men and women, just like pioneers of any other movement, have taken to self publishing with almost zero regulations. Everything goes. Dangerous ideas? Yes. Nascent theories? Hell yes. Unpopular opinions that’ll get you banned from public speaking? Looks delicious.
But then, it’s not just the West that needs an Intellectual Dark Web, which I believe will have diminishing returns in the first world countries. India, however, is a different story. With a billion plus numbers, way too many political agendas and segmentation, the landscape of discussion essentially wants to expand itself to accommodate more voices.
The scope of discourse goes beyond a few Twitter famous personalities who may actually have something to say. Not to mention, with all the cringe on news (two hours dedicated to Astrology, really?), the viewers are more than ready to engage in a deeper conversation about how India might need to function. We see a fractured society because no one has changed the lens yet. For the first time since 1947, urban Indians actually have inclination, income and data packs to engage in a discourse.
A podcast that lasts longer than an hour would by nature strip away the veneer of arrogance or deceit from the guest and reveal what he truly means. In a country like ours, which is pretty split (at least intellectually), uniting forces need to work overtime. Kunal Kamra started doing that with ‘Shut Up Ya Kunal’, where he did a commendable job of engaging with Kanhaiya Kumar as well as BJP’s Youth Wing leader. Were it a little less edited, the whole thing would have been brilliant – but it’s a start. However, from The Wire to Swarajya, we seem to be talking in absolutes, and video content, wherein people can sit down, and hear each other out, would perhaps be a way to make our timelines less cringy.
The beauty of discourse is that you cannot dodge a question, or an issue for too long. You’ll circle around and keep coming back to what is important, rather than the frivolous information and whataboutery aiding facts. It will distill the ideas out of information.
And maybe, unlike Funes, we’ll be able to rise above information, and think.