mer·i·toc·ra·cy /ˌmerəˈtäkrəsē/ noun government or the holding of power by people selected on the basis of their ability.
What makes for a good life? What makes you successful? A steady income; a fulfilling career; a loving family? What is success anyway? I’ve been pondering over these questions for some time now.
Why does your mother always criticize your driving?
She does that all the time. No matter how fast or slow you drive, she’s got something to say. But why?
Fundamentally, the answer to this question might have something in common with the reason why you might be more scared of a snake than you are of a car. Confused? Let me explain.
On January 19th, 2015, I walked into an office to start my first job.
I’ve always felt nervous meeting new people, so this didn’t feel any different. “Suck it up, smile and try to strike up a conversation somehow. Get to know as many people as you can,” I told myself. But, despite my best efforts, I ended up not talking to many people. My introversion prevailed.
It is the Summer of 1971. Phil sits in his office, patiently watching. He sees everything his prisoners do, and everything his guards do to his prisoners. He wonders how hostile and devilishly inhumane things get, yet he watches. He lets the scenes unfold. Because only when he lets his prison run wild would he get closer to what he’s searching for.
This is the setting of the 2015 film, The Stanford Prison Experiment. It’s also a true story.
You wake up. You’ve got some time to gulp down a little food and make yourself presentable, so you do that, half-heartedly. You walk like a zombie to the bus stop. A bus comes along and you squeeze inside it.
Two hours later, you’re at the office.
Your colleagues greet you. The bus ride has drained you out even before your day properly starts, but despite the lack of cheerful energy, you greet them back, just because you want to be nice. Years of practice has helped you perfect the fake laugh, so you throw around a bit of that and start “working” at 8:30.
Who do you want to become when you grow up? We ask our children.
I remember being asked this question in class many years ago. Not surprisingly, there were many aspiring Engineers and Doctors. The talkative types wanted to become Lawyers. Some were liberal enough to want to become artists. There was one guy who wanted to take over his father’s business. And me? My 11-year-old-self answered “paleontologist.” My friends were un-impressed, and the teacher gave me a look that I would best describe as a mixture of pity and concern.
Oh wait, I was wrong. We don’t ask “who do you want to become?” Instead we ask “what is your ambition?” (at least my teachers did.) This is where the problem starts.
I’m scrolling down my Facebook News Feed.
I have 1,566 friends on Facebook (most of whom I should ideally unfriend), so why do I see the same faces everyday? Are the others not as active? Or is there something else at play?
Do you ever wonder the same?
A TEDx talk I listened to in 2015 began like this: “What if I told you, that the world we live in, is something that is constructed for us, not something that is constructed by us.” While the speaker set the stage for a much broader discussion on contemporary society with these opening lines, this concept applies as profusely to something as mundane (or as grandiose) as Facebook, and by extension, the internet. That it is conditioned to reflect the whims, fancies and the subtlest insecurities within us is a fact that escapes the average digital native. In effect, every single thing we do online is a brick laid towards building our own bubbles.
For a long time, the Podcasts app has been sitting silently in the Extras folder on my Home Screen without ever being touched. It’s only been a year since I actually started using it.
I realized that about 3 hours of my time are being wasted every day in the commute to and from work (after 11 months of doing so!). It also occurred to me that the time I had to consume-information-by-reading was growing thin. Listening was the logical choice.
I’ve been hooked since then. At any given time, there are about 12 podcasts I’m actively listening to on iTunes. Some have been there from the start, some others are temporary. Throughout this year, I have tried and cast aside many. I thought I should write about the ones that stayed.