Sunday, 4 August 2013

Of Suave Hoops and Big Ears (For the Motion)

This post has been written FOR the motion:

Religion has done more harm than good to society.


Religions are cool. They have probably earned more revenue than any other franchise – wars and Justin Bieber included – in the history of this rather earthy planet that goes by the rather unimaginative name of Earth. Despite the fact that they have managed to destroy dozens of civilizations and thousands of goats and have still retained their X-factor speaks volumes about how remarkable a concept it is.

Things weren’t really bad in the early days. The Ramapithecus used to stomp around the Sivaliks and converse in grunts:

Young male Ramapithecus: Grunt1 (food).

Adult female Ramapithecus: Grunt2 (ask father).

Young male Ramapithecus: Grunt1 (food).

Adult male Ramapithecus: Grunt3 (get lost).

Basically, things were really simple, especially in the Indian subcontinent. This was in an era when the potter’s wheel was considered smart and trade was regarded as hep, so there were few hassles inside the society. Of course, there must have been squabbles regarding which adult female Ramapithecus owned the most suave tiger-skin, but things like these were usually sorted out over a matter of clubs.

In other words, it was a rather simple world where clubs were the only form of entertainment.

In India it probably began with The Vedas, which is a seriously imposing quartet of books that everyone was supposed to read but almost nobody did. As a result of this strange psychology there arose a group of individuals who decided to take advantage of the situation.

These were the people who had actually read The Vedas or could at least market themselves enough to convince the others that they had. The ignorance of the mass came to their aid: slowly this assortment of people began to gather power: they managed to acquire followers who would listen to every word they said (mind you, whatever they said was in Sanskrit, so it was imposing anyway).

These men were smart. To retain and enhance their power they incorporated two seriously strong devices among the masses: blind faith and fear.

Blind faith is when you simply are in awe with some solid superpower that governs over the Universe. This superpower was supposed to control commonplace events like fire and rain, and freak events like eclipses and earthquakes.

Fear is when the same superpower may suddenly have a bad mood turn against the humans who had refrained from worshipping him. Or maybe it may decide to do it to intimidate them – or even for fun.

As a protection against this double whammy, the ignorant people – who had been making love, inventing useful things and honing useful skills till then – were asked to do something completely worthless for the first time: worship.

How was this worshipping done? You needed to use the smart men of religion as a modem of sorts to convey your messages to the outer world that included the superpower these poor men were made to believe in. Performing good deeds and helping the needy were not enough: you needed to bribe the superpower.

Ponder over this for a while: you were being told that your performances were not good enough to earn you benefits at your workplace, but you needed to bribe the authorities. What was more, the bribing had to done through a handful of touts – people who ironically called themselves ‘religious’ people.

These men continued to acquire all kinds of niceties: this included money, neat gifts ranging from cattle to cabbage, and most importantly – power.

The religious people gained enough power to control even the kings. In those days kings ruled the world: they were emphatic men with crowns on their heads and impressive moustaches. However, like all common men, the kings also believed in the superpowers – and resorted to both bribe and fear the men of religion.

Things were shaping up the same way throughout the world. The Chinese, the Egyptians, and the Mesopotamians had their own pool of superpowers which were significantly different from those worshipped in India.

However, since these people lives thousands of miles away from each other and there was never really a clash between them regarding whose religion was the greatest. It was not that it would have affected the common man to the slightest, but the men of religion would definitely have loved to be involved in a battle of power and inflated egos.

Then, along came a big-eared man called Gautam Buddha. He explained certain things that the men, blinded by religion by now, had utterly forgotten. These were simple things: be nice to people, help each other, resist from being violent, and not succumb to ugly things like greed.

These principles obviously clashed with the intentions of the holy men: they did not dare to do anything to this man (whose simple thoughts had turned immensely popular by now), but his friends were imprisoned and his followers were slaughtered like livestock. The religious men, now aided by the military forces of the king and the blind faith of the commoners, had emerged victorious.

Mindless, atrocious acts were committed in the name of some obscure superpower that no one had actually seen, heard, or felt in person. And it had nothing to do with the size of the ears, either.

This was not a one-off incident. There was another nice, bearded man from Bethlehem who tried to explain others that being pious and simple was actually a rather cool attribute. He ended up being nailed (yes, literally) on a cross.

Then the men of faith did something even more neat; they called men like these (that Buddha guy and this Bethlehem dude, and many others) messiahs. They now had another means to add another convincing intermediate step to the entire process: they used real people.

This was what the three-step algorithm became: you worshipped these men (who had, by now, started to dress in robes of all sort); they would then send the message to the messiahs (who they themselves were responsible for killing); the messiahs would, in turn, transmit the messages to the superpower, to whom they were obviously related.

Funny things began to crop up, meanwhile. As the world progressed (if it can indeed be called that) the religious communities began to meet each other. They were now involved in serious, spine-chilling wars against each other – to prove that one’s religion was superior to another.

What they did not realise that the holy men who had instigated these tussles did not get involved in the bloodbath themselves; they had temporarily retired to the quiet shelter of some medieval resort, allowing them to assortments of non-alcoholic beverages.

Of course, they resorted to being more and more vocal, prompting ‘their’ men to pull of extreme acts of courage – which was to kill, rape, and capture as slaves people who believed in other religions. If you had managed to pull off such deeds you would be hailed as heroes; if you had turned up in the receiving end you would be hailed as martyrs.

In other words, it was a win-win situation anyway.

Fast-forward now to the current era. The men of religion still exist, as do the messiahs (who, despite being human beings, have been elevated to the status of quasi-superpowers – which is something they possibly had never intended to themselves); and of course, the superpowers exist as well.

In addition to this, several strata of minions have cropped up to act as bridges between the common people and the men of religion. In other words, religion had finally managed to convert itself into a franchise.

To make things worse, the people of religion have attained levels of authority they never had before: previously they had been ruling over people who were not equipped with the power of knowledge. Now, they are exercising their control over people who have knowledge, and worse, logical reasoning, in their repertoire.

There are few kings any more; they have been replaced by politicians. Unfortunately, the nexus still remains, and given that the men of religion and the men of power are seldom nice to anyone, people have forgotten the same.

Catalyzed by the two-pronged phalanx of leaders the seeds of mistrust for other religions that were reaped centuries back have now risen to their full pomp. They stand firm and upright, infallible and oblivious to the basic concepts of logic.

The concept of religion – created by a rather nice group of people ages back for the good of mankind with the aim to bind them to a group with peace and harmony in mind – has been brought down crashing to the ground.

As a result we have conveniently managed to forget the main characteristic that used to separate us humans from other creatures: logic. When a religious guru makes a stray comment on how women should be held responsible themselves for the sexual crimes committed against them (or something equally unreasonable) we frown at them – or maybe share the comments on social network: but while clicking that button we perhaps cast a careful glance at our fingers to check whether the ring used to ensure our success with women is still there.

That is precisely what religion has made us do: we have scowled at obnoxious comments and activities but never had the courage to act: what if these men were really speaking the truth? While putting the rings on we have forgotten to ask ourselves whether our lives can really be controlled by cute-looking metallic hoops with a stones cast on them.

The worst bit, perhaps, is the fact that despite having cringed in history classes at the atrocities committed over centuries we are still hoodwinked to take up weapons against people of other religions, overlooking completely the fact that we are simply taking forward the ‘deeds’ done by these esteemed men.

As we’re get sucked into the quagmire of loneliness and insecurity with the passage of time we feel the need to rely more and more on external sources. The chasm between the handful of logical and the ocean of illogical people continues to increase as the hungry vultures keep feeding on our existence, making us succumb to their incessant love for power.

Dark days lie ahead. Very, very dark days.

And it still isn’t about those ears.


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'The Call for Internet Censorship' (Against the Motion)

This post has been written AGAINST the motion : 

The call for internet censorship is completely justified and should be implemented immediately.


It is amazing how a project that was intended for internal usage within a research organisation began to be used later for a defense organisation and slowly emerged as a powerful tool that has well and truly bridged distances. Yes, it is the 'Internet,' the all encompassing network that connects us together.

The rise of the internet is synonymous with the growth of the computer - from huge complicated machines from the ENIAC to the personal computer that seems to shrink with every passing day and now the mobile-phone, which offers the world in our hands.

The very premise of the title 'A call for internet censorship' makes one wonder how can we be sure that the government is already not spying on what I am doing when I am connected to the internet. This is not the blabbering of a paranoid schizophrenic - this is the reality of the affairs that led to the earth-shattering revelations of Edward Snowden and how the National Security Agency spies on unsuspecting people - hand and glove with the giants of technology like Microsoft and Google.

Snowden is a man who is unsure of his future but he is the symbol of truth and rebellion who is now wanted by the USA - I am ashamed that India did not offer him asylum; we cower at the might of BIG BROTHER, the great nation of the United States of America. Russia has offered him asylum for a year! But the future remains uncertain.

With projects like the Aadhar card wherein every citizen of this great land will be reduced to just a sequence of numbers and everything from subsidies related to the purchase of cooking gas cylinders to bank and tax-returns all in the name of an all-in-one identity card - the government of India is hell-bent on learning all about you and this data is not secure!

In such a scenario, it is but natural that we shall be Talibanised and there will be censorship! Look at West Bengal - a professor gets arrested for a cartoon on Mamata Banerjee, the sovereign didi; when all of Maharashtra came to a stand-still for the final rites of the great Bal Thackeray - a tweet and a post on Facebook led to the arrest of two college-going girls and more damage.

Where exactly are we heading to....?

Social Networks offer a power of posting information immediately; if I see a traffic cop asking for a bribe - I can take a photo and post it; any injustice that I notice - the frustration of delayed trains, impolite public servants; every bit of ire can be put up online. I can also use it to share inspirational true stories of a poor orphan overcoming odds to secure a gold medal in high-school; a young girl designing an innovative machine.

The power of the social network is limitless and with great power comes great responsibility! Like every other sphere and medium, a black sheep shall exist on the social networks as well; that does not mean that a watchdog authority examines our posts and censors our posts and pictures!

As and when censorship happens, groups like 'Hackers Anonymous' will wreak vengeance! The government needs to worry about more important things like generating employment, protecting the environment, ensuring the safety of women, tackling poverty and malnutrition; the list is endless.

As civilized adults and responsible citizens censorship if necessary should come from within - not from an external agency. Anything that offends the sensibility of a group or an individual should be posted only if it is absolutely necessary. What may appeal to you might not necessarily find favour with someone else.

An Orwellian and dystopian future is what I see - though I may sound pessimistic, the way we appear to be headed - it seems that all our actions are being monitored in one way or the other and censorship of the internet is something that will happen in the not too distant future.

It is time that the internet-using community of this generation takes up cudgels against the dystopian and Quixotic rulings passed by those in power!

We do not need censorship - we need freedom - forever - in word, deed and action both online and in day-to-day life!


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Semi Final Results

So we have been cruising through the IBL journey beyond the expectations of many people. However, the organizers and judges have been kind enough to appreciate our posts which have been an outcome of extreme hard work and dedication by our team.

Here are the semi final results and we are through to the finals with the second highest score.

Wish us much luck for the final, dear readers.