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Opinion Polls: Stop Validating Idiots

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What do journalists do when they run out of material? Conspiracy theories aside, it's not like you can create news. Well, they run public opinion polls which are the most tedious and probably the dumbest thing that the free press inflicts on its captives.

BBC Newsnight, before introducing Noam Chomsky, showed him and its viewers footage from the streets of London, where the British Equivalent of Sarah Palin’s Average Joe-Six-Pack was read to from some of the more creepy pieces of Chomsky’s writing and asked for a reaction, whilst the presenter urged them on with an encouraging smile.

That the presenter had the sheer nerve to take uninformed public opinion to Noam Chomsky as refutation of his work is proof of just how far the termites have spread, and how well and long they’ve dined.

Take, for another example, the BBC Sunday Morning Live Presenter who spoke about a clip from Former UN-USG and current Indian MP Shashi Tharoor’s brilliant speech at the Oxford Union urging Britain to pay reparations to its former colonies.

“He isn’t right though. Tommy has been to Liverpool, a port city which has thrived on Britain’s colonial growth to find out what people there think."

Oh, Tommy has been to Liverpool? How wonderful! It was genuinely painful to watch Shashi Tharoor incredulously shake his head as people in Birkenhead Produce Market who had no knowledge on the subject produced rebuttals to his elegant, biting, well-researched arguments.

This is the mistake the mainstream media is making about modern democracy. The opinions of the public, while important, are negligible during actual decision making on complex subjects.

There's a reason reputation and authority matter in a discussion, and it's the same reason you don’t want the WestBro baptist church anywhere near discussion on Gay Rights or the Klan given an audience about the racial divide. The lack of expert knowledge is not the average citizen’s fault, but the glorification of ignorance will end up killing him.

This is what I think is the mot juste or summa: In a debate, you come up with better arguments, not with a statement of simple majority.

And it is when a newspaper cannot come up with any important material that the Front Page story becomes “82% believe women of a menstrual age should not be allowed to enter [some random place of worship],” with not a hint of incredulity.

This is not news. This is garbage, and that fact should be expressly stated every time a microphone is brought into a supermarket. Try to throw away the idea of intelligent debate, but do it in your name because I will not have it done in mine.

If someone holding a microphone comes up to you on the street, decline. After, of course, telling him, or her, where to stick it instead.

Speak, Memory

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I was rereading(Nabokov tells us this is all the reading there is) 1984 the other day and hit a few passages on the importance of memory. That, coupled with Trump and the Indian right wing, inspired this poem. Thanks, neo-fascists :)

Speak, Memory. Speak for us.
Speak for old men in starched white cuffs,
Who In daylight and dawdling night,
Speak under distant stars and of folded lies.

Speak, Memory. Speak forever or behold,
The writer, the poet—their spirits will hold
leave their mark on your timeswept brow
And tell tales, of those buried below.

Speak, Memory. For you will die,
Time is swift and slow and sly,
Speak for scribes or scribble it yourself,
Speak, do not let your stories die.

Speak, Memory. Let the darkness not hold,
Unravel the folded lie with your faded voice,
Speak for the past, which the tyrant sold,
Tell the truth, let it be known, and rejoice.

The Writer

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The heat was not stifling. No, the heat was stale and the grammar nazi, the anal-retentive editor, the wager of wars against cliché, walked out of the dining room, sat on his chair at his table, took a pen, and began to write. He struck out words, whole passages even while he was writing. He began his war against the enemies of his craft.

From his sacred world of the original, he banished the sky-blue skies and the eyes that resembled the stars. He left untouched the stale heat and the purple lace veins. He blessed, in his own neglecting way, the living. He disposed of the dead. The blank page demanded the living. Words must breathe. Thus, the weaver of words wrote, by crossing out. He created, by destroying.

He built a castle of ochre stone with a moat around it filled with blood-red honey. He planted a tree with blue leaves and vivid magenta bark. The deceiving mistresses who rummaged in handbags, had bee-stung lips framed by arrogant cheekbones and inset determined eyes, died. The black traitors would not stick, not to his pages. They rolled off like water on Colocasia leaves, off the 2-dimensional world of the written, dripping down the edge.

They fell into another world, where there was more than the white and black of the page. They discovered that there were more of them. Large, abandoned masses of clichés and dead phrase. Siblings by nature. Torn scraps of paper, prematurely aborted sentences. Deformed, unwanted, unnecessary fetuses. The unborn world of the unwritten story.

Aksharam, My Favourite Word

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For a recent class project, we were told to write about our favourite word. I turned in a short write-up called: 'Litera Scripta Manet', The Written Word Remains. It all begins with Philip Larkin and his masterful Aubade:

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear—no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.
- Aubade, by Philip Larkin

The intense fear of the nothingness which is sure to succeed death has to the primary drivers behind much of art. As eternal life is tedious, eternal oblivion is terrifying. It is from the realisation that time is limited that the fanatical obsession of artists with their art arises. They burn the candle at both ends and find, as the late Christopher Hitchens said, that it gives a lovely light. Art is an act of rebellion against mortality.

As such, If art is to supersede death, Writing is not just for the present. I think the Malayalam word for 'Alphabet' which is 'Aksharam'(അക്ഷരം) demonstrates this clearly. 'Sharam' means 'to perish, or be destroyed'. 'Aksharam' is 'that which shall never perish' and by extension 'that which shall remain'. Writing is not for the present, but much more significantly, for the future past. Our fear of being forgotten leads us to search for a place in the memories of the future, and cliched as it is, to immortality through our work.

All we can hope for is a place in the future past of memory, and as survivors of history, try to convert an intense fear of death into a fervent love for life.

I Saw the Twin Towers and a Pair of Planes

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I wrote this just after Trump's Inauguration on January 20th. This little verse involves some dystopian elements, like a President that reigns over the judiciary, xenophobia and so on. I'm not really happy with the structure yet, but this was the best I could do. I hope you like it :)

I sit in the solitary cell, Waiting for a citizen — The republic’s first,
To pardon or commute
(by means well known, little used, and of ill-repute)
My long, expensive, prolonged death knell.

I won’t save breath. I started in the land of the free,
the home of the few brave,
I ended up, ass over tip, in a penitentiary,
Saw guilty stars on the first of May.

The Chief Executive, with his pudgy hands, holding in his imagined electorate’s vice-like grip,
Gave me a new verse, wax-sealed, signed
with blue-black ink, under the Dome, in the Avenue:
'There are no grounds. What the people want
is Justice. I will not commute.'

At Midnight, the guillotine falls,
or perhaps the firing-squad… It’s not yet time.
What did I do?
Defaced a flag, spat on a statue, loved—
a woman from an Islamic Land,
What is the difference?
Again, I can’t quite tell.

Maybe they’ll have me drowned in the sea,
a subject of more than just breath.
Why is it better now?
a people’s theocracy? A theocratic republic?
Does the farcical march make a difference?
Or is death by an endless farce
just something they like to watch?

Veterans. Men of another century.
What do old men have to do with me?
Old men gather around,
And croak: ‘We were there. We heard the sound.
We heard the Berlin Wall come down.
And in the intervening days,
We've haven't forgotten much,
We’ve put on a few hundred pounds.’

And old men croak, all day long.
In their last dreams and days,
What do they say?
'I saw the ships in Nagasaki Bay.'
What do they say?
'I saw the Twin Towers and a pair of planes.'