The era of chimera

Sep 02, 2018, 07:39 IST | Paromita Vohra

It is an era of chimera where perception, or fantasies - negative and positive-take on the form of fact

The era of chimera
Illustration/Ravi Jadhav

Paromita VohraAre facts, facts? This was a discussion which came up in a much circulated interview with filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri on an online news portal. Mr Agnihotri at some point did say facts are not facts, or as he put it "your clothes may be white, but your heart could be black", which is really a comment about perception, not facts. It was a revelatory response. We definitely find ourselves living in times of heightened subjectivity, where our own perceptions, prejudices and emotions take on a centrality and significance, allowing someone like Mr Agnihotri to send out Twitter calls for violence, murder and injustice with a certain relish, as if it were a video game he were in, not life.

It is an era of chimera where perception, or fantasies — negative and positive — take on the form of fact. It is a time and tendency marked by an election that featured holograms. When a university, not yet even built — the Jio Institute — was given the tag of an Institute of Eminence. A time when people hanker for blue ticks, one viral tweet making them feel a claim to significance. When one news story repeatedly plays across numerous platforms and hashtags create a hologram of reality which leaves out dozens of realities, allowing us to live in our self-justifying echo chambers.

It is a tendency that also increasingly shapes our daily reality. A colleague who works in the movies, narrated to me in laughing disbelief, how an actor pointed proudly to his picture in a newspaper — which had been organised and paid for by his PR and publicity firm. "How could he act as if he was proud to be recognised when he knew it has been bought?" And yet, the work of creating an impression on others is hardly complete unless one believes one's own mythology of the self.

Politically, it shows itself when constantly shifting claims about what demonetisation would achieve, met with eagerly rabid defence each time, despite proof of harm, not to mention pointlessness. Socially, it manifests in how we see younger people in the workforce represent themselves — with a marketing smoothness, laying claim to abilities and skills that they haven't quite developed but whose gestures and jargon they can mimic. Often, as these claims start to collapse when they collide with the uncontrollable reality of work, it causes distress, melodrama and meltdowns.

The keenness to believe in other people's fakery is necessary to maintain the illusion that one's fantasies and fakeries are real — similar to the belief that one's own claims to being progressive mean that caste or gender discrimination are dead. The market of blue ticks, funded virality and PR machinery allows these addictive illusions to gain a realist traction. Power and political influence, too, are now traded by mutually maintaining these claims — at many times, the intensity of the past.

Different subjectivities and digital spaces, the tools which accommodate diverse realities and so, loosen the fixities of the offline world, are constantly being subverted into the violence of meaninglessness. How do we liberate ourselves from this world of circular logics? This is a question that requires a radical and creative re-imagining of communication and language, of value and success, the hard work of self-questioning and re-connection with multiple realities that will lead us out of the chakravyuha of digital and political quid pro quo.

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at www.parodevipictures.com

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