Rethinking Electronic Civil Disobedience

In a book published some 30 odd years ago titled ‘How Democracies Perish’ the French political philosopher Jean-François Revel wrote:

Democracy tends to ignore, even deny, threats to its existence because it loathes doing what is necessary to counter them… What we end up with in what is conventionally called Western society is a topsy-turvy situation in which those seeking to destroy democracy appear to be fighting for legitimate aims, while its defenders are pictured as repressive reactionaries.

It is this author’s contention that the recent attempts at hactivism by the now famous WikiLeaks website and the controversy surrounding its owner Julian Assange is precisely such an attack on democracy as Revel predicted. What is even more surprising is the painful accuracy with which these attacks have been misunderstood to be acts of revolution against oppressive regimes.

This is especially true in relatively young and artificially-liberalized democracies such as India where Journalism - partly in order to save its face from the recent embarrassments and partly to divert the common man’s attention from its inherent moral corruption - has canonized Assange and his establishment and portrayed him to be the champion of a new technological media renaissance. But even in older democracies such as Britain, too much has been published in support of the WikiLeaks adventure while its criticism has been relegated to the back seat.

The irrationality and immaturity of the bias in favor of this newfangled mode of activism is revealed when one considers the message being sent by the whole WikiLeaks issue (and its media-hyped celebration) to, for example, organizations with a Jihadi persuasion. It is funny to see, that the liberal tradition in countries which are paranoid about their safety to the extent that they manually frisk high ranking diplomats of major allies are exalting the reformer-cum-revolutionary status of a person they know next to nothing about.

What is also not discussed enough in the news surrounding the whole affair is what the true import of the leaked cables is. Anyone basically acquainted with the geopolitics of the countries indicted or mentioned in the leaked cables would tell you that what is revealed in those cables is what is being talked about in diplomatic circles much more openly albeit in a more formal tone. It hardly takes a genius to figure out for example, that India is indeed a self-appointed candidate for the UNSC seat (and there is nothing wrong with that either) or that NATO countries are planning to protect Poland (that’s is precisely what NATO was created to do).

If then, the argument WikiLeaks is supporting is that Diplomats should always talk in formal, subjectively-desensitized and politically-correct, official language then it is basically tantamount to taking away the free speech of the diplomatic community - which already suffers from the official impediments of an over-neutralized language.

But most importantly of all, it is the response to the WikiLeaks by governments worldwide that has catapulted what should’ve been an easily overlooked nuisance into the ranks of major historical blunders like the Watergate scandal. Instead of having a calm and reasoned debate with members of the civil society and media, the Governments (especially the American govt.) launched themselves into attack mode against Assange and the entire order of underground Hacktivists. The redundancy of the leaks was, it seems, overshadowed by fears of what they might contain as opposed to what they did contain. It should be noted that there is a lot more messier information lying in the secret records of most major powers today and the inability of the Americans to decipher as to exactly what and how much of what was leaked was truly damaging to their repute led to their taking the overtly defensive stance.

But the American attack on Assange and the sudden rehashing of old court case against him in Sweden is as unjustified as the DDoS attacks on major financial websites by the so called “friends of WikiLeaks”. The term “Cyber-Anarchism” may sound like aural manna to the ears of some yet-to-be-disillusioned seeker of an anarchic utopia but for adults who understand the fragility of the cyber-ecosystem, the threat is more real than ever before. This eye-for-an-eye mentality of both parties involved will simply erode the protective fringes of the online-freedom that netizens around the world have carefully preserved for a decade or so.

By no means is this author denouncing activism (cyber or otherwise), [he is] merely stating that alternative versions of electronic civil disobedience exist which don’t threaten the politico-administrative foundations on which societies are built. Versions which demand accountability without resorting to any kind of anarchism and which actually seek accountability for acts of omission and commission. Turning the internet into a shoe-pelting party for the mildly dissatisfied will simply result in the slow and painful death of free-speech on internet. It is human nature to be fascinated with secrets but just because something is secret doesn’t necessarily mean it is important.

L’affaire Assange frequently reminds me of the day when my 4th standard classmate who had just discovered how babies came into this world used his mediocre language skills to spread this newfound and forbidden piece of information. Expectedly, the news started a mutiny of students against their parents. “How could they do something this dirty?” was one question that seemed to sum up the sentiment in the air that day. This analogy tells us, in a predictable way that the internet has reached an adolescent stage where it is particularly prone to bad influences. Any reasonable individual knows that geopolitics, international-strategy and foreign policy isn’t all unicorns and magic storks and any insistence on washing dirty laundry in open would ultimately stink up the institution of democracy.

This is not to say, however that any pragmatic notion of liberalism must come with an in-built system for repressing bad politico-strategic memories nor does it imply that the necessary evils of governing nation-states in a predominantly capitalist world should be ignored. All that is required at this stage is firstly, to infuse the idea of relevance and values within the networked ratio of consciousness of online populations of the world to the consciousness of bureaucracies which sustain them. Secondly, we need to educate people to use the powers of the internet wisely and instead of using it for nitpicking and hair-splitting critiques of governments for the sake of revolution “here and now” they must be taught to use the internet as a moderator of any relevance-to-values imbalance which might creep on our way to truly emancipatory technological solutions.

Lastly, In a world clearly divided between those who think Julian Assange is a villain from a bond movie and those who like to think of him as the “digital Gandhi” it is wise to point out that he is neither. He is perhaps little more than a younger version of himself hacking his way into the pages of human history. Governments around the world must wisen up to his accidental but insightful revelations into society, culture and the evolutionary stage of the internet, he should also be put on an international governmental payroll for investigating further into the nature and modes of cyber-activism and should be a member of every committee investigating ways to prevent and defend societies against cyber-terrorism. Needless to say he should neither be turned into a hero nor a villain and the ridiculous charges against him must be dropped.

The ‘Leak’ in Public Consciousness

The basic criticism of the latest WikiLeaks episode revolves around the notion that making sensitive information a part of public domain knowledge jeopardizes public safety as it can easily be used by non-state players to cause harm to the masses. This criticism, is however incomplete as it fails to address and check the philosophical and psychological grounding over which such immature attempts to democratize information thrive.

To understand the true import of WikiLeaks we must leave aside the fact that apart from the potentially dangerous revelations of WikiLeaks such as a list of “critical infrastructure“ sites around the world, much of the information under the CableGate scanner is unremarkable and deals with basic truisms (e.g. NATO countries plan to protect Poland); forget for a minute also, that most of this information is deliberative in nature - these are not acts of omission or commission that governments are generally expected to be accountable for; forget also the not-so-moot-point that Diplomats too have the freedom of expression and need a measure of informality as a tool to allay the over-neutralization of their language due to occupational hazards.

Now, even from this dumbed-down mode of reasoning, there scarcely is any revelation in the “leaks” that warrants attention of anyone serious about the real issues concerning the world today. The media attention given to WikiLeaks seems to stem from the mere fact that these cables were supposed to be official secrets. Its evident now that the internet has truly come to the rescue of everyone looking for instant gratification of their highly romanticized fantasies of a revolution.

In India, a comparison of “CableGate” with “RadiaGate” also gives us a clearer understanding of the main issue at hand. While RadiaGate exposed the modus-operandi of a morally corrupt media working from the insides of an institutionalized darkness of a gangrenous journalism, WikiLeaks radicalizes the notion of secrecy-in-accountability by undermining the importance of guarding relatively sensitive information from the eyes of a vigilant civil society. The result is that the masses get ever more paranoid in a world where the media cannot be trusted and those independent-whistleblowers and cyber-activists who claim to be the more responsible replacements for traditional media start broadcasting information which can potentially be used against the people themselves, thereby rendering powerless the very masses they proclaim to empower.

The roots of the CableGate spectacle seem to lie in a misunderstanding of the role and significance of the government in keeping secrets from the general public. Accountability in foreign policy of any country should hardly be a matter of concern to anyone without the means for understanding or processing the vast amount of information involved in the making of said policy. Needles to say, there are aspects of this information which, in the wrong hands can cause much damage not only to the country in question but to global order in general.

The advent of the internet and opening up of information, the general trend towards liberalization and the progressive nature of democratic reforms around the world seem to give some people the wrong idea that anyone with enough information can challenge the status-quo. What this heady concoction of information and liberalism seems to withhold from the thusly enlightened fellow is that there are facets of status-quo which must not be challenged for the sake of basic rights of mankind. Also, this has once again pointed towards the need for the internet population of the world to evolve models of self-censorship for the internet so that any “leaked” data may be protected before it reaches the wrong audience.

A clear, dispassionate analysis of the whole WikiLeaks affair shows the dangers of stretching the limits of accountability and transparency to the point of reducing them to the idealized rhetoric of conspiracy theorists. It also shows that secrecy (both at an individual as well as political level) is indispensable. Therefore, all that Julian Assange and his partners must be lauded for is showing us the limits of political activism. Having means to do away with secrecy does not necessarily mean we have to do away with it. Mr. Assange may disagree with me but I do not see his credit-card numbers “leaking” anytime soon.

it only shimmers

This curtain now before my eyes
renders no service and does not exercise
any rights
Or left-of-centers

it only shimmers
with a pristinely dark purple hue
under the melancholy winds from the
Oriental wall-fans

with the hands of two shadows
sprawling above it like a giant bird
as if migrating
to distant shores
beneath the clouds from a fog-machine

elevator music above the velvet clefts travels
across the starry dust particles
dotting the vastness of the projector beam

as they dance to a voice from the darkness
of the wafting cascade
of the drape i gape into
that now is the dark blue ocean parting to reveal a countdown
once was the curtain before my eyes.


Another letter to the Hindu:

The WikiLeaks scandal shows how the cultural logic of late capitalism epitomizes banality and glorifies the redundant in its effort to allay the everyday ennui of modern life and redeem every last drop of sensation even from a scandal of marginal magnitude.

The latest case of leaking of diplomatic cables especially highlights how even the superfluous can be deemed revolutionary given the right packaging. That diplomats are also entitled to their own opinions is a fact as much in support of free-speech as the case made out to be in Julian Assange's latest tweets against amazon.

For most of us, therefore, Assange's megalomania and attempts at social engineering seem to be revealing little in terms of novelty and hold nothing in terms of innovation. All he seems to be telling us is that there are pipes within the concrete walls of our homes through which our feces occasionally flow. Well, we already know that.

(An edited version of this letter was published in The Hindu on Dec. 07, 2010)

Relative Impeccability

The Following is a reply sent to in response to this article.

Ex. Supreme Court Judge V.R. Krishna Iyer expresses great pain ("Submission of Suspicion", Dec. 1) at being "morally molested" by Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati's statement to a bench of supreme court that: "If the criterion [of impeccable integrity] has to be included, then every judicial appointment can be subject to scrutiny. Every judicial appointment will be challenged." But his reaction smacks of that typical preemptive defense that is usually found to have its roots in deep and vulnerable insecurities.

In-fact our entire Judiciary suffers from this "holier-than-thou" attitude that is derisive of the very institutions of equality it proclaims to promote and protect. For the astute reader there is nothing in Vahanvati's statement that warrants such revulsion and scorn as V.R. Krishna Iyer seems to direct at it. All Mr. Vahanvati seems to be saying is that the standards of integrity are relative and that no Judicial appointment is above a morally absolute and Ideal notion of integrity. Jesus Christ said something similar when he proclaimed "let he who is without sin, cast the first stone". The Attorney General is not in his naiveté proclaiming that the integrity of every judicial appointment is already compromised, but he is merely stating that should the standards of integrity be made ideal (as opposed to pragmatic) enough, then even Judiciary can come under suspicion.

It is high time that the Judiciary realizes that in today's world where nothing is absolute, and knowledge abounds and people ask more and more difficult and fundamental questions, its (Judiciary's) supremacy is not be something that will be taken for granted. Judiciary should no longer compare itself to Caeser's wife who was above and beyond suspicion ex-officio, instead judiciary today is much like Lord Rama's wife (Sita) who was not only suspected but also had to prove herself and her purity through a trial-by-fire.

The Hottest Future

The Hottest future is the hell woven into me
By the whips of your industry and its dismal decree.

I have been absconding and bonding with the Kings,
Who are homeless in your domain and queens
who are but concubines or things
like bad omens.

Yet, I am the necessity in your every choice,
I melt in all of your convictions
as you descend into your character - ready to plunge,
in the cacophony of my fictions.

The mongoose in the dream's navel

For the nth time i whispered
"got to get out of this mess"
to myself but yet the blisters
on my soul said "don't digress"
i could see a higher heaven
heaving hereditably
but as soon as i would wake up,
it would shake me up and flee

thusly with my fate were brindled
scratches of the days bygone
as if dipped in brine and spindled
with something made from nylon
i want in on the secret answer -
to cheat the sacred trinity
in this game of i life i want to beat
God, myself and the refree.

Triangles would

Do something.
Lock all doors and then loop through every existing exit,
Then calculate how far you’ve come
From where you started.

You Don’t have to go round in circles,
Even squares would do
      Triangles would do

Open ended role playing games
Would do

Without me

told me to think about
  what i would have done
and i don't think she forgot to add
"without me".


To all disgrace,
How sweet thy sound
That raped a dog like me

I once was inert,
But now I've found

Inertia is the key.

mascara milk

the hunted became the hunter
the dance became an exercise
the story became a news as
i grew torpid, tactually comatose

an immature infant fed on mascara milk
clothed in the latex of language
(a putrid abstraction saddle-stictched to my skull)
cultured in a colorless confusion created by
catacombs of science and gutters of religion

what proofs do you speak of?
dear cyber-statisticians, you reek of
excuses, not to read the books you've never read
excuses, to not let the dead delete the dead.

Concerning my poetry

“Even a nonsense-poem is not nonsense in the same way as the babbling of a child.“
- Ludwig Wittgenstein
And each man hears / as the twilight nears / to the beat of his dying heart,
The Devil drum on the darkened pane: "You did it, but was it Art?"
 - Rudyard Kipling 

Approachability is not a function of obviousness. An approachable work of art may best be described as something close to an “expected surprise”. If this element of surprise is the central tenet of all art, then the key to producing good art (that also sells) lies entirely with artist’s skill to make the subject expect the surprise, and yet not be aware of her own expectations until the surprise actually arrives. This is the basic belief around which most of my poems have been written, it may also be seen as a statement of objective as far as my poetry is concerned.

The meaning of the works that follow lies somewhere within the interstices of their symbolic, real and imaginary interpretations. There is no single viewpoint that is endorsed in favor of the other when it comes to the definition of these poems. This however, does not mean that the my work cannot be enjoyed by an average modern consumer whose attention span has been hammered down by today’s media-rich environment where hip-hop music provides a quicker “release” than lines of structured verse. In fact, in certain senses these works target precisely the uninitiated, potential aficionados whose minds are yet to be cluttered with the filthy and restrictive canons of modern and classical poetry alike.

The idea is that if music has long outgrown its utility as “opium for the masses”, then its high time poetry be recognized as something more than just marijuana for the elite and be considered as a potent cultural force paving down the path for the evolution of language and intellect. An analogy with (hip-hop) music is also  relevant in a strictly imaginary context here: you don’t have to get it to enjoy it and few will argue that although the overall meaning of many of my works might remain debatable and contingent on subjectivity, the flow makes some kind of transcendent sense and so does the meter. Au contraire, if music has not outgrown its use as opium, then that’s all the more reason for new art forms to emerge from forgotten or largely-ignored realms and present themselves as alternatives.

Poetry needn’t just be a mesh of empty rhetoric and the poet’s claims to moral superiority - it may just as well be a mode of communication that is so personal and sincere that it almost touches the boundaries of inter-subjectivity within the rules of language. So that the reader might experience what the poet already has, she must be lured with rhyme, confused with rhetoric and corrupted with reiteration and alliteration , dazzled with exotic motifs such as that of lycanthropes and Ragnarök before finally being subdued with reassurances of surprise.

Surprises will keep on presenting themselves before the reader - no statement needs more reassurance than this one when talking about my collected body of work. In my modest capabilities, I achieve this task of reassurance quite efficaciously and this might be tested by reading a random stanza out of a random poem from anywhere within this blog.

Other recurring motifs throughout these poems are those of twilight, chaos, alchemy, death, recursion, tautologies etc. and these are woven into a network of emotions characteristic of the human condition like love, desire, sorrow and the like. The idea of using presentation as both the medium and the message remains at the heart of this body of work and is its calling card. There is no reason to believe that this kind of poetry is anything more than clever word-play which reeks of a synthetic syntax and a literary sublimation of a literal confusion - but one must keep in mind that it does not claim to be anything other than that anyway. Therein lies its beauty, its meaning, its core character - all of which the reader is forced to relate with for she herself is constituted by similar (if not identical) elements of being.

Finally, that this collection of poems shares a direct aesthetic bond with the music and philosophy I was exposed to while writing it, cannot be emphasized enough. Therefore, these works should communicate to the reader a feeling similar to one generated by a (hypothetical) Britney Spearsian reading of Hegel where seemingly complicated notions like that of the dialectical triad are communicated as an expression of an embarrassingly innermost honesty (“I’m not a girl / Not yet a woman…I'm in between.“). Finding out the answer to whether or not the poet has achieved a clear reflection of this innermost honesty in his verse remains solely an endeavor for the reader and the critic.

Friday Morning

Frustrated, festooned with shards of broken dreams
He emerged out of a mad and moonlit ocean, he was
Soaking in spit and a leeching fatigue, somehow
feagued and fostered by the same remorse

The shooting stars shot glances of pity, poised
in military formations against every undead soldier of fortune -
(Like him) Fed on rations of fear and fucked
till the numbing depths of their torture were
Subsided by the eroding heights of his pain

With the featherbedded twisting under freckled skies
He swallowed a fistful of the feckless night and
Fought with Friday morning all through the weekend

Fake or otherwise, he felt the need to falter
To Fess up to what was false and feeble and bow
Fore’ what was the fateful for only the free -
Are the ones who fuse following with

This twisted tale of love (in 3 parts)

part one: and all that jazz

happy, the saxophone player is smiling at my driver
milly on the clarinet here...

we respire through broken teeth and ears that could only hear
we took a left turn
we took a right turn,
i watched my cigarette burn through her defenses
those delicate defenses
built to be broken by me and me and me alone
or me with a little help from her

part two: how do you say no

steady now, we sneak together to get her to witness the winter
we escape from the smell of the sun on our beds
we took a left turn to a breakfast
looking back, i still want more waffles

part three: beyond the disgust

empty cyclotron, spinning steam and brewing lust
blowing dust in the face of a history of uneven numbers
days, these days are older and darkened by the color of
all mysteries once revealed, now treasured.

space-suits will never become fashion statements,
here, we learn to fly before we walk.

Origami Lion (A tribute to Mayakovsky?)

August Sun,
Crisp yet moist,
yet a thousand cicadas
agenda for tonight

My revolution, still,
on paper, between the sheets,
crisp yet moist
and pregnant with words
arousing hope

Spin me to deliver me, i say
but my origami lion
embraces my savannah skin
and says "five more minutes"

Do As Directed

The only gun that i have shoots diamonds
and my best friend has a scar instead of a smile,
If i'm only high on anticipation, i guess,
it'll come down to antiseptics in a while

I'm guilty by choice & miserable by company,
I lack the technology to turn on my heels,
Though opposable thumbs made me a sucker for her
Yet sometimes, i wish i knew how she feels

Still its no perversion, no trick of the skin, unlike desire
what i feel isn't ripped or torn at the seams,
'tis merely an effort to do as directed, to learn from,
to follow and distill my dreams.

The Blessing's Disguise

The blessing's disguise was a man screaming murder
out on the railway crossing one sharp may noon
Confessing my surprise while i was scheming under
a delusional disregard for the day that came too soon

What Pyrrhic victory lay in his design and what truth he saw
i could not say but i could hear him yell "The King Is Dead",
but for whatever reason he dared not to add "Long Live The King"
behind his wails of despair and dread

What Villainy of the gods had befallen on our heads
i wondered, as i stood in the shadow of that thug,
armed with the reluctance of philosophers i asked him
where it was that the logical grave must be dug

"Two years henceforth", he replied, and fell asleep underneath
the poplar which overheard more than he spoke
it is then that i saw that the fortune i had found
in his truth's hibernation was the death of my joke.

narcissistic cashew

dear cashew,
why so narcissistic?
there are, after all,
no mirrors in my intestines.

bring it on

In a shooting range i'm aiming at the iconoclasts of the silver screen,
as i'm marching forward into the darkness of cinema - our retarded queen,
laughing through its black teeth it
spits out (in a self-righteous style) our as-seen-on-tv maturity,
or perhaps our disgust for the same.

the suffocating zeitgeist's syllepsis should commit suicide in the script itself,
but the
butchery called the
box office can't be
bothered for the
benefits of a few
bastards have evolved into their

i still wants the buffs to bring it on.


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