That’s quite a radical statement from Ben Hammersley here at the Thinkfest 2012 in Goa. Apparently, it isn’t technologically possible to control content on the Internet. Governments want the good things that the Internet brings you, but not the bad stuff. That isn’t really possible.
Any sort of move towards censorship brings out a considerable amount of fury from Internet users. I don’t really see the same sort of fury from repression of other sorts of expression (writing, poetry, even cartoons!), so sometimes I really wonder! But to come back to the argument….
Ben argues that the need to censor or control the Internet is a social, or political problem. For parents worrying about what their teenage son is up to, it is a parenting problem! His argument is that we need to differentiate between a technological issue and a social one, or a political one. When you want to repress the Internet, you end up throwing out the baby with the bathwater and giving up on the benefits as well.
Point taken. But it still doesn’t give us a solution to deal with misuse, fraud, crime…. Also, like many other problems in the country, dealing with the social and political dimensions takes a concerted effort over a long period of time.
Sachin Pilot is arguing that the Internet itself is not run democratically. The compliance rates of requests from the Govt of India to Google and other platforms is much lower than similar requests from other, more powerful nations, like Norway and Germany, who apparently make far more such requests in the first place! Now that is something for us to think about. More democracy is needed and is being demanded by India and other countries. More representatives from Asia, Africa and South America is part of what he is talking about. Impressive. He also talks about the funds India is pumping into providing connectivity to remote places in India as part of an ideology that believes that the Internet can and should and must benefit the masses. Am eager to see that transformation play out over the net decade or so. I think it is a wonderful opportunity for entrepreneurs to tap new markets and for social businesses to make real impact!
So we come back to that social, political problem! Is society mature enough to understand the nuances of being able to sift content? No! But that too, like many other topics we are hearing about, is a facet of our society in transition, a society in flux….permanent flux perhaps! We have to live with it and bring up our children to become responsible citizens and human beings with strong values and strong powers of rational analysis.
The brain is an amazing piece of equipment, isn’t it? I have a particularly overactive one and I am always being told that I think too much. Well, I do. And most times I am perfectly fine with that. So do most of us, whether it is about work or about what to cook for dinner is immaterial. We use our brains constantly and very few of us know how to give this particular organ some rest. Nor do we use it to its full potential.
This was brought home to me recently by someone I met, who described in an incredibly funny way his complete failure to meditate, despite several attempts. I could so relate to that. The first time ever I tried to meditate was when I visited my to-be in-laws in Macau on my way to start grad school in Texas A&M University. My to-be mother-in-law used to teach yoga and I attended her class. At the precise moment that she urged us to blank our mind and focus on our breath, I recall by brain taking off into the wildest journeys, crowding up with visual images and reminders for tasks undone (she is my mother-in-law now and still urges me to meditate). Over several feeble attempts over several years, I reached some sort of understanding of what I was aiming for, but never really got there.
Last year sometime though, when I was learning yoga from a really patient teacher, I discovered a fresh way to blank my brain. Perhaps I was at that stage in life when I recognized the value of destressing, but I really wanted to overcome this meditation challenge. I felt it was getting in the way of learning yoga better. So I used the power of visualization to create abstract forms that I could focus on. So I would start like that and in some time, initially thirty second and then sooner, the forms would give way to a sort of colored blankness before my shut eyes and I could stay like that for a few minutes. Did it really calm me down, make me a more focused person? I don’t know. Perhaps.
For various reasons, I fell out of that yoga routine this summer. Last week, I attended my first class of Pilates, which I have been wanting to try for a very long time. I discovered that Pilates uses the power of visualization too, to very good effect. Terms like ‘tuck your ribs into your back pocket’ and ‘tuck your tailbone into your nose’ help you achieve the right posture that is necessary for your body to benefit from the exercises and strengthen your core.
Essentially, all of this is about the mind-body connection and visualization can be a great tool to get your mind to push your body to do new things. For me, exploring this connection has become a very interesting project. In dance, in music, in whatever I do, I am experimenting with using the power of visualization to achieve my goals. When I cannot get a particular note during my riyaaz, I visualize it in as a point in space (in relation to other notes that I have been able to get right) that I have to travel to directly, speedily and with precision, and I find it is easier to get it right. In kathak, which is a far more directly visual form, I have the mirrors as an aid and a guru whose demonstrations are so good that it is much easier to reach for perfection. It’s an exciting experiment and will really be successful when I learn to understand what sort of visualization can turn a negative thought to a positive one, or chase away a bad feeling.
We all have to work this stuff out for ourselves, I know. Would be great to get some feedback on how all of you have overcome physical and mental challenges! I am sure if we can share these tips, it would make it easier to deal with the increasingly stressful and crowded lives we lead (and even crave for).
The last Open House session at Shikshantar, which is where my kids study, was about ‘autonomy and boundaries’. Many relevant things were revealed and discussed through case vignettes assigned to parent groups as exercises.
It’s clear we live in stressful times. A consumption driven economic philosophy is pushing the world towards a me-myself-mine mindset and each of us wants to succeed within this paradigm, creating a stressed and performance-oriented life. Our kids are at the receiving end of this lifestyle. We fail on two fronts here. We curtail their autonomy by being over instructive. The luxury of negotiation is no longer a part of our lives. It’s simply too tiring and time consuming! We also are unable to clearly set boundaries. On one hand, we expect discipline, but we also give in to demands easily. We end up confusing our kids about right and wrong, what’s ok and what’s not!
In all of this, what’s most critical is that by controlling children’s lives, over protecting them, over monitoring them, we are not letting them develop some of the most critical life skills. Ability to resolve conflict, confront bad situations, just ‘deal with it’ basically. As parents, teachers, coaches, we need to recognize that children must go through their own struggle, on their own. We may help them out if we see they are stuck and seeking help, but a lot of the sorting out needs to be done within themselves, through self-reflection, goal setting, prioritization and other critical skills we all covet and use (or not!) daily.
I had the opportunity to experience a heart wrenching moment this afternoon. Udai and me were in music class. We have individual lessons, one after the other. Each of us sits in on the other’s class. He is starting afresh and has been having a hard time with getting a couple of notes right. These notes, the Sa and Re, are critical. It’s impossible for the teacher to move ahead unless he perfects the essential saptasura. This concept was being drilled into him again and again, in a firm but nice manner. He was just not getting it right! I could sense the struggle, sense the tears welling up. I watched him fight them back, control himself. He snapped himself out of the emotional web, concentrated on instructions and managed to improve his rendition within the half an hour time span of the class.
Through this, much as my heart ached for him, I said not a word. He did not once look to me for help or support. He chose to bond directly with his guru and leave me out of this. I am proud of him for making that choice, for showing the maturity and for taking a challenge on directly and forthrightly.
It’s a small example, but I really do feel my kids benefit hugely from me staying out of their hair! All those of you who have the opportunity to influence a young person, all those who are role models in whatever way, it’s a great adage to hold on to- Let them struggle! It’ll be a lot more helpful than making life unrealistically simple for the little ones, who must grow up one day, soon enough, too soon in fact!