Friday, July 06, 2007

Essay: Hypocrisy, Schizophrenia and the Wired World

Schizophrenia, Hypocrisy and the Wired World

The wired world is floating on a web of falsehood. At call centers, they aren’t called their real names, but depersonalized “Lisa” and “Sue” who, one finds, are actually “Lakshmi” and “Shanti.” That’s unfair, that’s untruthful, that’s cheating. It seems the corporates are out to cheat and grab in the guise of improving productivity. The work they insource (my own term!), is usually grunge duties that would cost a lot to get done in their own back office. But that’s the way the world is being run, and it seems the purveyors of appeasement can't do a thing about it. And, believe me it is schizophrenic: the way identities are westernized; the way youth are trained to talk and behave in an alien manner, and persuaded into thinking that being westernized is better than being what they really are, i.e., desis.

I am a networker, and like networking. I posted something online and a miscreant came and posted negative feedback under cover of an assumed name – which according to the sultans of the web is acceptable, and an agreeable practice. He attacked me (my person) and writing (even my thought process) from behind a mask of an assumed internet identity. I read the post again recently and became somewhat upset. I don’t know why he can’t cast away anonymity and show his real name, and, of course, give his honest view, as a law-abiding, committed person should. I think people such as him are ashamed of themselves, the way they are. Well, the better alternative would have been to make truce with his own identity and go ahead with his life, instead of opting for the schizophrenia and hypocrisy of his double existence.

Recently a girl from Sierra Leone asked me to add her on a chat messenger. I did. The request is quite exigent. I don’t know who this person is; her profile page is blank, but I am lenient in such matters. It turned out that her late father, who was owner of a big gold mine, had left some gold dust in some bank and she wanted me to help her by transferring it in my name. Imagine! What the heck? Why should she want me of all the people, an Indian, so many seas and continents away, to do that? Maybe, because Indians are known to be such greedy suckers. See the absurdity of her request?

There is this cartoon that illustrates the hypocrisy that prevails on the net. It shows a shady looking man with an unshaven chin, bleary eyes, bald head, wearing a vest and pajamas typing on the computer “I am a blond bombshell, attractive, having voluptuous figure and horny as hell,” and on the other side there is the hag of a woman (with whom he is chatting), typing and grinning toothlessly, “I am a macho guy with bulging biceps, six-pack abs and looks like George Clooney.” That shows how hypocritical we have become, we denizens of the networked world.

The web is a web of falsehood as our online lives have also turned out to be. There are thousands of emails I receive from Alex, Joan, Linda who for all I know could be someone in China or Philippines who have names like “Han Li Chin” and “Sung Fu Fok.” They all have offers for plans to be millionaires overnight and also, pssst, sell cheap Viagra and Cialis.

And there are these lengthy emails from Ishmael Abidi from Congo who has been left a big fortune of million dollars by his wife who is a Congolese warlord’s stepdaughter's sister. He only needs $ 1000 from me to transfer the millions in my name. Hypocrite! Can I believe him? I click and send the offending mail to my “Trash” box without much thought. Sorry, Ishmael, I am no sucker for your offer of millions.

Come to think of it, none other than the doyen of the consumer movement in India was deluded by such an offer and gave his own and his organization’s money away to get his hands on the millions. Alas! If only they were true, and not falsehoods.

With the Internet the baser instincts of man seem to have magnified, no, multiplied. The Internet is flooded with sites that offer every debauchery known to man. From weird sex to cheap Viagra and Cialis, everything is available for your credit card number and name. And there are these greedy expatriate Indians who set up sweatshops in technology parks thinking they can be the next best thing to Infosys. It’s easy to spot them. The first thing they do is upload a website that says they offer everything in outsourcing from call centers (customer relationship management, or, CRM, according to them), supply chain management (Or, SCM) to medical transcription and even online secretarial services. The more the better. The more the hypocrisy the better it is!

And, then they go about promoting themselves. The idea is to give the appearance of size, “we are big” and all that. What they forget is to pay their programmers and content writers what they pay for babysitting their children back in the US. I know because when it comes to paying for the quality of programming and content on their websites they would say, “Well, take $ 500, or, leave it.” As for buying genuine software, they aren’t bothered. They know the stupid authorities in India will never catch them.

You can find thousands of websites of such companies cluttering the web with lousy stolen content, and bad programming. If the poor writer suggests that they write genuine content, his idea, and even his content is swatted down. And, yes, to impress they even put white papers on their sites. What white papers? They haven’t even begun operations and what white papers can they write? They have stolen these too! Shows their total bankruptcy of ideas. Also shows Indians everywhere are the same, unethical, immoral and compromised. It seems the anonymity of the net offers us the chance (not the choice) to be hypocritical and split personalities.

Whatever we knew as fair, equitable and moral aren’t anymore. The Internet, the wired and the connected world have seen to that. Today the shift has been towards how much you own, how much you can get paid for some skill that you have, and bargain hard to get the most you can. If you have none, such as the poor uneducated farmer, who has none of the skills of the wired world, then it’s better that you kill yourself as many are doing.

Is there hope? Is there a way out of this schizoid existence? I don’t know. I am in no position to answer that question.

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