Ready: Three more for the road
They say life is absurd and you have to give it meaning. One has to have at least one reason to hang on with life. I, however, had to work out three to bend the absurdity my way and kick start the journey.
I have been playing with numbers for years now. I have to my credit voluminous works based on statistics of all varieties – from election results to literacy ratios to pharmaceutical prices. You must have heard the saying that the sweets-maker looses the desire to eat sweets. But my weariness with secondary source data is probably more than that.
Numbers are an abstract representation of realities. They are not the reality themselves. While I know a lot of numbers, can I assume I know the reality? I doubt it and even though I sometimes think I do, I would prefer to check it out. I have been standing on one side of the divide between reality and the representation of reality for far too long. I see reality through numbers, why not try a reverse view?
Let me try saying it in other words. Democracy works through elections and elections breathe numbers. Numbers add, numbers multiply but besides their arithmetical properties, do they signify something else too? Maybe one vote is one dream or one act of defiance or one expression of greed or just another lifeless chore. What is it?
That’s my quest.
The media mirrors society. But it also creates mirages. From within the world that we live in, the media picks and chooses and arranges its own world and then shows it to us. It believes, and makes us believe, that it is the world, the reality. I acknowledge that nothing could be real in the absolute sense. But I have problems with the media’s selectiveness with reality and with the way it prefers to represent its selection.
The problem, I suppose emanates from the other side of the media’s reality. Information is a commodity. It is produced by the information industry that is determined by two things, the profile of its primary consumers and its desire to earn profits. That’s plain talk. A more favorable narrative will be much more wordy and dotted with terms like education, social change if not khidmat and ibadat.
But whatever the jargon, commodities are for consumers who foot the bill, directly or indirectly. Are there non-consumers of information as well, people living below the information-poverty line? How is the life there?
That’s my curiosity.
I have a 25-year-old relationship with journalism. I say ‘old’ and not ‘long’ as I have been in and out. It hasn’t been a love-hate tie but a blow hot and cold one. The media attracts me but when I am in, its the absurdity that starts haunting me. Its inch-deep-and-mile-wide character is what troubles me most. I can’t live of its sheen. The sky’s reflection on its surface that hides its shallowness perturbs me. I long for some depth.
You may call it flirting but I know that once committed I am quite faithful, besides being diligent and hard working. But the desire to be in a more intense relationship is very strong too. So I fall for other options, howsoever less lucrative and dull those may look. But whatever other things I have done, have always had an overlap with the media, at times it came naturally and at others it was conspired by the journalist within me.
I moved in with the media again around a year ago and as a precautionary measure against a relapse, I decided to go an extra mile this time. Well, actually a few thousand extra miles and a promised attempt to go deeper than an inch.
April 15, 2013