- Desolation Row
- Visions of Johanna
- Mr Tambourine Man
- With God On Our Side
- Just Like A Woman
- Masters of War
- Every Grain of Sand
- Shelter From The Storm
- Up To Me
- Tombstone Blues
Sport or football in particular provides an apt microcosm of a bigger challenge that we face. We are increasingly in post national-world but a world governed by rules written by and for national governments. Often, as illustrated in the examples above, sport spells across these artificial borders and falls between their cracks. At other times, it rubs up against the constraints and demands of nationalism.
The case of Mauro Camoranesi is particularly interesting. A truly global Argentina born footballer, who played for the Italian national team, and possessing the middle name “German”, Camoranesi caused a stir in Italy because during the 2006 world cup finals (ironically held in Germany) he did not sing the Italian national anthem and later admitted to not knowing the words. After winning the World Cup in 2006 with Italy, he said “I feel Argentine but I have defended the colours of Italy, which is in my blood, with dignity. That is something nobody can take away.”
From an error of omission to an act of commission then. Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers has been in the news for refusing the stand for the national anthem of America. It turns out that the full song of the Star Spangled Banner has references to slavery, including the line “… no refuge could hide the hireling and the slave”. Right now there is a standoff between the player and his supporters, and the police who are threatening to boycott the 49ers next game.
National anthems are the lyrical flags behind which entire countries are supposed to rally. Yet they are also often anachronisms or have been sanitised over the years with offending bits left out. The UK’s anthem – ‘God Save The Queen’ has edited out the latter 3 verses, the last of which makes a reference to ‘crushing the rebellious Scots’. The original poem of the Italian national anthem has verses referring to the ‘Austrian eagle drinking the blood of Italians’. And many anthems especially of countries born through revolutions, have references to blood, and the sacrifices of war.
Its more of a cruel reality for the team of Independent Olympic Participants. Or as you may know them, the team of refugees – athletes without countries. Notable among them, Yusra Mardini who as you must know saved 20 people by swimming for 3 hours and steering a boat of fellow fleeing refugees from Syria to Germany, along with her sister. If the refugees team at the Olympics won any medals, the Olympic anthem would have played. None of them made it past the heats, but nonetheless they can count themselves as among the early winners of the post national world.
When Lajo and Rani push the boundaries of their relationship beyond friendship and into the no-woman’s-land of sensual exploration, at least for the oppressed women they represent, it marks the point where Parched begins the journey to places you haven’t been before. The scene itself is erotic, healing, nourishing and as Linaa Yadav says later in the directors Q&A at the BFI, it’s every relationship between women. It’s mother-daughter, it’s siblings, friends and lovers. From that point on in the movie, you know that you’re on the edge of a great, soaring expression of self-affirmation.
In very recent times, 600 people died in Quito following the earthquake. 27 were killed in the flyover collapse in Kolkata. 69 people were reported killed in Pakistan following a terror blast in a childrens’ park. And hundreds of people are killed every month in Syria. For differing reasons, some tragedies affect us more. Either because we have a connection with the place or people – the Kolkata flyover collapse saddened me a lot more than the Equador earthquake, or because in some way the tragedy affects us more directly. But in the main, I think we note the number in our heads and move on, having registered the scoreboard of the disaster.
I remember very clearly an incident from the early 1980s when during the Punjab insurgency, a bus was stopped, some passengers pulled out and shot. It was stark. It felt scary, we hadn’t had anything so terrible happen in my living memory. (I was too young to remember the Naxalbari movement and it’s death toll). For me, it brought terrorism home in many ways – perhaps because I’d traveled in buses in Punjab and Himachal on family holidays. And yet, over the next few weeks and months, such incidents became so commonplace – to be repeated in Kashmir, that they too became just numbers.
Some part of this must be a natural defense mechanism – the way our brain protects us, by tuning out the horrors of the individual events, so we don’t become overloaded with grief. But also, thanks to the Internet, we’re now also exposed to every tragedy wherever in the world it occurs. To the toddler who accidentally shoots his mother somewhere in the gun belt of the US to the latest rumblings of the earth’s Pacific rim in Japan. We’re connected by just a couple of clicks to all these disasters. 30 years ago, depending on how far away they were, many disasters would just be column inches in a newspaper, and perhaps a brief few seconds on the television news. Today, we have cameras that linger on every tragedy and every strand of emotion is laid bare for our consumption by hyper-connected news and social media channels. Over time, we’ve been emotionally inoculated against the grief of each event unless they truly impact us personally.
Because, strangely, the opposite is happening to us, in our personal lives. A generation ago, you would start losing touch with school and college friends soon after graduation. And proximity would reshape your social connections. The limited access would mean that you would really know about the big and small events in the lives of a very limited set of people. Today, we’re hyper-connected to about a much larger number of people. On average this is probably an order of magnitude higher, or 10x the number of connections.
One of the side effects of this is that we are now exposed to many more points of both agony and ecstasy. If we have direct access to over a thousand people who roughly form a cohort, then on any given day there will be significant news of some kind about somebody, whether good or bad. A macabre thought crossed my mind recently – as my generation of mid-to-late forty-somethings grows older, we are hitting a distribution curve of life expectancy. And the spooky reality is that every year, an increasing number of people ‘of my age’ will lose their lives, or encounter serious illness. Not to mention everybody we know from the earlier generation.
So it is that every other day we wake up to sad news that comes from lives very close to us – even if we haven’t met them physically for years. I don’t know if there’s a connection between this heightened tax on our personal emotions that is borne out of a larger and always-on social circle; and our increasing numbness to global disasters. Some days, I feel that we have a limited amount of emotional capacity, and that is getting maxed out with more stories of personal grief from those we know, leaving us bereft and unable to feel for the every increasing stories of larger human tragedies – be they the effect of war, disease or natural disasters. Paradoxically, therefore, the Internet is making us simultaneously feel more and feel less.
Now take a step back and think about how today’s terrorism works. An attack on innocent people leads to intense and irreparable loss and damage to the immediate victims and their families. But then the media and the politicians naturally magnify the event and create giant ripples of emotion – fear, loathing and often hatred. Many politicians use these events to practice a divisive diatribe. Which sustains localised discrimination in some communities. Which in turn creates alienation of some individuals for whom joining the extremist movement becomes a response. I’m not suggesting that all terrorism or terrorists are the result of this alienation but even if a small percentage are, that itself creates another symbiotic ecosystem between the terrorist ideology and the reaction of the world.
In a nutshell, the symbiotic nature of Darwinian cooperation and the platformisation that terrorist organisations provide are two of the pillars on which terrorism works today. Both of these are also at play in our worlds of business, and used for progress and growth. We understand how they work. So why are we continuing to fight them using more traditional tools? Remember, the reason the Internet was invented, back in the cold war years, was to create a network that didn’t have a hub. So you couldn’t bomb any one part and bring the network down. Now we’re trying to bomb some other part of the world hoping to bring down what is clearly a similar distributed network.