From the Shores of the Lethe
Keeping aside all the big political and civil issues, is there really no need for supervision, and are we really happy munching on "kancha badam" mindlessly? It is not about restricting someone from doing something. It is more about allowing the better ones express themselves in a more dignified and meaningful way and helping them have a platform that is equally rewarding.
Fame, at least in the wake of industrial revolution and immediately after, had as much to do with "production" and "distribution" as with "talent." But the scenario now has changed, with YouTube, Open Telecom Platform (OTP), Netflix (how it annihilated Blockbuster LLC!), TikTok, Instagram (FakeINSTAin is an interesting word) and stuffs. Everyday something or other breaks the record, to be broken tomorrow by something else.
The means of production and distribution have become cheap, easily available and therefore they have changed to such an extent that anyone can easily thrive without a physical space and build an empire, almost magically, out of "ether." No one is saying that is a bad thing, but is that all there is, the rather dull, plainly out-there binary of good and bad?
Think for a moment how many things just a smartphone has replaced. With the fall of the value of the means of representation, value-wise the number of representations has fallen too as much as quantitatively it has increased. Of course, in our right mind we can never talk against the freedom of expression and the availability of platforms. People have the rights to have a space to express.
But no matter how many of us agree that the expressions should be "worthwhile" and with a potent platform, anyone with just anything can be potentially problematic if not outright dangerous, no matter how much we want to, but we cannot speak against the randomized "freedom of expression" that we often half-intelligently associate with "right to expression". I guess this expresses my view more eloquently, reportedly said by Voltaire- "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
I am almost tempted to "express" that the modern ways of "supervision" that borders on digital eavesdropping and even monitoring, has made supervision an Orwellian word. Had we just used that means for all the good purposes and not just for punishment often for crimes not committed, there were a chance that we could at least strike a casual conversation on meaningful supervision that is not superimposed, that is intelligent, inclusive, and besides restricting (by a transparent org that is run by the highest intellects of a country and aided by government) is rewarding as well. But any talk on supervision now will instantly lead one to utter the word- fascism. In the fear of getting that title and for the lack of an intelligent and a trustworthy way, is it sensible that we should never think of "quality check" that maybe could also lead us to providing the necessary where it is truly needed?
Keeping aside all the big political and civil issues, is there really no need for supervision, and are we really happy munching on "kancha badam" mindlessly? It is not about restricting someone from doing something. It is more about allowing the better ones express themselves in a more dignified and meaningful way and helping them have a platform that is equally rewarding. The online platforms pay a lot. What do we do, the saviors of art, culture and humanity? Where artists go unpaid/unrecognized just because "art" is not one of the "professional" requirements, I am afraid there is not much hope.
People finding a platform on their own to express themselves is partially made possible by our disinterest in providing one. With the fast-modernizing world we still have an old soul that is ever ready to criticize change for good and that has created the imbalance in the equilibrium. It is largely our attitude towards others that has created the situation—the attitude that can seldom see beyond the self and help others achieve what they deserve.
The attitude also forces us within ourselves and discourages us from exploring the jurisdiction of our creativity that is not limited to "job descriptions." Doing for others could have been a natural course of action, but instead we have a trophy of a term for this, and that is philanthropy. It is a big word for big people and therefore we are happy being small, self-obsessed "job holders" who curry favors with names who just hold "positions."
With the whole situation coming to an extreme point on the internet, we are seriously in no position or power to purify the "Lethe" that makes us forget stories requiring serious attention. The modern Lethe does more than just make us forget. Its hypnotic power even forces us remember what we do not and need not know. Being consumed in the process of consuming commodities, at the end of the day we feel "okay." That is the power of the daily dose of internet. The fictions there simulate a reality that we feel is ours. We fail to differentiate, categorize, or even recognize the differences in qualities, and then it is all reels, an entertainment-feed that we cannot stop scrolling.
It will be increasingly difficult to single out anyone from the worldwide wave that has become an ever-changing and evolving platform for almost infinite number of "artists/doers" who are striving to go viral. Fame, just like everything else, has started to be evaluated based on number and not quality. No one will be famous anymore per se. I am afraid there will be no more Shakespeare, Rabindranath, Dante, Cervantes, or even our beloved Rowling because every day every single one of them is born, only to die and be forgotten the next day.
There is so many of them, and we are offered so much, and we have consumed so much that our tongue has lost all its tastes and our brain can no longer differentiate art from artifice. With a plethora of eye-pleasing, nerve-wracking, eardrum-blasting contents, it is only natural that our numbed senses will be content with whatever "masala" they can come by. Also, it is only apt for a generation who suffered (and perhaps ushered) Covid that being "viral" will mean more to them than being "meaningful."
Hisham M Nazer is Assistant Professor, Department of English, Varendra University.