Gandhians with keyboards

by abhirama

Date 6th Jan, 1980. Young, 20 something artist. Supremely gifted with a mellifluous voice. Has no in roads in the entertainment industry. Zilch sugar daddies who can put this person in touch with the right people in the recording business. How does this artist get a chance to unleash his latent talent on this unsuspecting world? Same situation, forwarded to 6th Jan, 2013.  Record your voice, mix in some music and upload to youtube, soundcloud etc etc and let the world judge you, not some snooty nosed entertainment exec who acts as the gate keeper of all things creative. On a day to day basis, the status quo is getting challenged thanks to internet and the surrounding technologies. Traditional strangleholds are getting breached by young kids with unkempt hair, dreamy eyes and a keyboard who are not part of the elite cabal. Internet and technology are challenging the status quo on a day to day basis and reversing the role of the producer and the consumer, something unprecedented till a couple of years back. Let us take some examples and see the paradigm shift internet/technology has brought on.

India main stream media(MSM) till a few years back was an incestuous coterie whose narrative was hijacked by left liberal agenda. Not to say there was no resistance to this, but it was minuscule with a very limited distribution channel. MSM was a pack of mutually back patting buddies who used to invite each other for columns, talk shows, news anchoring, opinion pieces etc. Outsiders who used to differ in their thoughts from this closed group were not welcome here. Today, things have taken a radical turn, it is no longer possible for this invite only group to keep the commoners at bay, they do not control the keys to this gate any more. If you have an opinion that you want to express open a wordpress account and start blogging. Inseminate your thoughts through twitter.  These days, the agenda for mainstream media is being set by the social media. Until a few years back, MSM could bury inconvenient issues under the carpet and feast on trivialities, but it is no longer possible. Skewed news converge and unofficial party affiliations get challenged on twitter, facebook on a daily basis.  Since the reach of social media is humongous, it is no longer possible for mainstream media to ignore social media’s reach and carry on with their doppelganger acts.

Now let us move over to consumerism. A couple of years ago, if you wanted to take advantage of globalization and indulge in retail therapy you had to be a resident of one of the A-Grade cities. There were so many goods which were available only in shiny big cities that people in smaller towns could only dream of. Today, it is like the geography has shrinked, we can call it reverse continent drift. You want to buy a new pair of Diesel and couple it with a UCB t-shirt and shiny new Nike sneakers, go online and shop. These online marketplaces are more than happy to deliver to even the remotest corners of the country. Are you ok with paying import duties, you can even get things shipped from over seas.  Are you a shy guy and feel awkward buying condoms in the medical shop with hundreds of eyes prying on you? Order online. Many websites even promise discreet delivery to save you from that awkward moment. Want to try a dildo but you are too shy to shout out your sexual liberation to the world, shop on the internet. There is no one around to judge you in this online world. You are free to let your inhibitions loose and experiment.

As per me, the most profound impact of internet has been in the knowledge space. Knowledge is no longer confined inside elite libraries and institutions.  You do not have to spend mega bucks on books and college degrees if your end goal is just to seek knowledge. Almost everything is available free in the annals of www. You have access to quality education from renowned professors at the tip of your fingers. You no longer have to spend mega bucks on encyclopedia. Wikipedia is the new encyclopedia and guess what, it is free. If you are a fitness freak and want to try out one of the health programs but do not have the mega bucks to spend on a personal trainer, surf the net for these programs. Think your shin splints is caused due to your poor running form, log into youtube and watch the hundreds of running videos.  Do not have access to a quality swim coach, see Micheal Phelps in slow motion online and try to mimic him in the pool. You have a health/personal issue and do not know whom to ask, post it in one of the online forums and some good samaritan at the other end of the globe will take pains to help you. Thinking of travelling the world but do not know where to start, wikitravel helps you out. Your local tour operator can no longer con you into expensive shitty tours. He no longer has a monopoly over this.

I can go on and on like this, but let me digress to the title at this point. Where does Gandhiji come into picture in the scheme of things? Gandhiji stood for self sufficiency and decentralization. That was his mantra and this is exactly what internet is doing to the world. It is toppling autocrats from their cushy thrones,  kicking the middle man out and putting power and knowledge into the hands of the common man. Any one who knows to code and has an idea can take on the lethargic behemoth conglomerates of this world and come on top of them. The cost of trying out things has come down to such a minute that it is within everyone’s grasp. You do not need expensive hardware and servers to try out your ideas. Almost everything is available as a service these days, the so called cloud, which has put ideas withing the grasp of anyone who has the will to fight it out. This is just the start and things can only go up from here and I do not see an end for this. We have just tasted the icing on the cake and the cake does not care who bakes it any more, anyone who is hungry irrespective of whether he is from Palo Alto or Madurai has an equal shot at it.