The Social Farce

I cringe at what I intend to hint to with the blog title as I type it. The world around me is being consumed by this “social media” virus and I stand here in it, but not of it; I stand between shifting paradigms in a knock-off world – a mere mental state of perceptive reality shaped by our subconscious lust of belonging to this cognitive group yet be unique in the hundreds of thousands around us.

My director asked me a few weeks ago: “What do you think is the future of social media?”. I replied with silence; I did not know what the future of social media is, because I believe it is built around a psyche that is adept at being delusional yet can be broken by an odd individual. I believe that that we are ushered into an era where we believe that we are empowered. We believe we have power because we now believe our voices are heard. We believe we can change our world because the rest of the world is now watching. Common folk like you and I and a horde of other people. Our ideas are becoming a by-product of the corner of the massive pool we happen to swim in. And, indeed, we have seen countless examples of this “empowerment”.

But we never stop to ask why we have been empowered, and where is this en masse cognitive process going – and who is driving it. We never stop and wonder that we are being heard in most cases because the recipients are exercising mob-control. We almost never consider that instead of being heard, we are being herded.

When there were little options and little opportunities, people knew what they wanted. People knew the market, each other, their needs, and their desires. Now, people have little knowledge of what they want, and, if they do, they need reassurance from their peers.

Here I am in an era with an infinite amount of options none of which is satisfactory. I am in an era which screams FREEDOM when everyone is a prisoner of their own mind. I am in an era where we juggle between many gadgets and services and our to-do lists get bigger and longer. We need tables and sheets and agendas and Excel and three hundred web-apps to keep track of what we’re doing and keep track of all the other apps we use to keep track of us. Every single aspect of our life has become a target for a service, and then we have services and apps which attempt to consolidate our fragmented lives into one “box”.

Our minds have become so fragmented that we fail to see how broken the system is.

There is a difference between riding the bandwagon and doing things right – though anyone at this point can still theorise at what is right and what is not. Every time I hear “social” I begin to imagine a group of silhouetted individuals in a grey, bland room with flashy rings and teeth and a projector displaying some random infograph (which have become a commodity right now and information unusable within days) plotting their next strategy to brainwash people en masse.

If I were the word “social” I would have killed myself right now.

Against All Odds

Here we are, in this day and age, where we assume we know almost everything about ourselves, our planet, and a fragment of outer space. Yet we have not mastered how we spend our resources. Our money, oil, time, oxygen, brain power, health, happiness – almost every single resource you can think of, we are have become experts in wasting. The more we study, read, and try to conserve, the more we waste.

Suicide rates worldwide range about 10-14 people per 100,000. That’s anywhere between 650,000 to a million people per year. People joke and say that we’re the best swimmers among the 200 million others when our parents copulated. But it’s much more than that. You’re 1:200 million of that specific mating session. Don’t forget the many times your parents have been trying – or not, for that matter. Add another layer of complexity by the odds of your parents existing because of their parents, and so on and so forth, and you’d find that the probability that you – as the person reading this – existing now is staggeringly impossible.

Yet you exist (and, if you’re a bit of a pessimist, so does Justin Bieber).

Want it more complex? Look at the friends you’re close with and the people whose life you touch and allow your life to be touched by them. What are the odds that they – just like you – sprung to life, and, against other odds, crossed paths with you?

People talk about finding purpose in life, a calling; a mission. Some people find it, some people make up something, and some others don’t. Others don’t even bother. Nothing wrong with any of those.

The point I am trying to make here is that everything around us that we come in touch with – right here and today – is against their own odds yet we currently co-exist.

Where we take things from here is not only making a choice on our behalf, but possibly affecting the odds of a billion other things around us, current and future.

Thank You For Your Honesty

On December 26th, 2008, on my dad’s birthday, I did something that was a result of exactly the opposite of everything I believed in. I grew up being taught, in school and at home, that honesty is a virtue. It is a moral code everyone should live by and follow. It is the essence of everything beautiful in life. Just like the innocence of children.

Growing up being honest was not easy, of course, with many of whom I have come in contact with being anything but honest. I persevered and decided to do what I believed was right.

That was until I entered a serious relationship (as serious as a guy in his early 20s could have), when confusion set in and became delusional and thought that maybe a bit of dishonesty might work. It was a sweet relationship that blossomed in spring and withered in winter. It was a perfect cycle with the seasons, really. The rosy infatuation in spring, the carefree summer love, the reflections of autumn and the bitterness of winter, which ended on that December on my dad’s birthday.

Because I was dishonest, not only with her, but with myself, mostly.

I made the conscious decision to return back to what I believed in.

Yes, I do my best to be brutally honest. I do not have to spill my guts out to everyone, but I am honest with myself, or, rather, always putting effort into being honest with myself. I am diplomatic if I have to relay a dislike on a subject matter (if people are involved that is), but I am not an ass kisser, I don’t suck up, I don’t pretend. If I am very nice to you it is because I like you.

Someone I am close friends with asked me to be very honest about certain issues. Fine, very good. When I was honest, I got thanked for being so yet at the same time I was condemned for having been. It was like being told “I want you to be honest but please don’t be honest with me”. I then tried to be “smart” on what to be honest about (which is dishonesty, disguised), and that did not work out either.

Another example: I read somewhere that honesty at work is one of the best virtues employers seek out these days. My experiences so far, bar a few, indicate that they’d like to hear what you memorized off of websites and assure them they were right in their judgement by having you on board. I have had some good experiences where I got thanked for being honest, regardless of the outcome.

It felt odd being thanked for being honesty. In fact, it worried me that I should be thanked for being honest. Was I doing you a favour by being honest? Have I gone out of my way? Or has honesty become so extraordinarily odd that I have to be handed out certificates of appreciation sometime soon?

The past two months have been filled with these instances in almost every aspect of my life. I do not work in PR and so I lack the tongue to twist and turn things around to say in an elaborate “positive” thesis what could be said in a single, straight, and clear sentence.

Alright here is the deal. Personally, I would rather enjoy a clear conscience than build up stacks of bullshit with every person I encounter. I’ve been doing it for a while now and, though it does upset me and some others at some instances, I know I am doing the right thing and I can sleep with a peaceful mind. It is my right to be selfish on this basic matter.

Whoever walks in integrity walks securely – Proverbs 10:9

من يسلك بالاستقامة يسلك بالأمان – الأمثال ١٠:٩

And if you don’t like it, honestly, and with all due respect, go and make room in my life for someone who does. That’s my diplomatic way for “fuck off”.

Money Doesn’t Buy [Much] Happiness

If you’ve been reading my blog since day 1, you came along stretches of time when I was completely and utterly depressed. I blogged a lot about it, most of which I switched to private, eventually, and others gave different categories that I cannot find now.

The latter part of my previous job had me work in a basement under dreadful conditions. It is there where I believe I contacted whatever it is causing me the eyelash infection as well when I have experienced the very lows of what it means to have everything you can buy and not much else.

I used the money to get a car and slowly over the years make my dream apartment. From living in a studio with very basic furniture to a nice big place my friends would often think is for a married couple (I give credit to my sis for her amazing taste in decoration). I bought everything I would want, had the most exquisite dinners, and lived the “Dubai” that is promoted on TV (well I didn’t have a massage yet, so be kind and give me a voucher!).

However my life was miserable. I had very little friends – most of which left to work or live abroad. The ones who remained have their own lifestyles and social bubbles I cannot always accommodate (and, of course, as it is, people don’t adapt to you but expect you to adapt to them). I didn’t particularly like the type of work I was doing and started enrolling in artistic courses to make myself feel better.

Then I distinctly remember one day, me sitting down there and thinking:

“I wish in a couple of years time I am done with this… that I live life as I want to live it… even if it means living on the edge, financially, and barely making ends meet. I want to experience the thrill of that little pay-check that would make me afford something. I want to do all the things I wanted and freelance and be busy all day but LOVE being busy. I want to be in the creative world, live simply, humbly, remove all these materialistic things that don’t make any sense. I want to feel true happiness. I want to smile from the inside, for once.”

Soon after that I was made redundant, went through another wave of depression. I joined twitter. I have made and met so many amazing friends and amazing people. I am juggling jobs and just barely making ends meet. My monetary resources dropped two digits and I will probably have to break my promise to myself and ask my parents for help (I made a promise never to take money from my parents again).

It is very stressful, especially seeing my other friends rising in their companies, going on with their lives. That’s fine. It is my choice. I wanted to be like this. And here I am. Do I regret it? No. Would I go back? Never. Can this be better? It sure is… I am still exploring. An extra income wouldn’t hurt of course. Though I may be living part of my dream I also must consider the reality of things.

I have never, ever, felt so incredibly happy – even when I am very upset, or stressed, and when I feel there are challenges and obstacles… I feel the drive to overcome them. Because I know this is what I asked for and that it makes me happy.

I am 26, still young. I don’t have a career. I probably can’t afford getting married any time soon (sorry mom), heck I don’t know if I can afford next month.

But I am not defining myself by title, money, company position, marital status, car, income, or the probability that I have denial.

I’m Kinan. Period.

Moment

For the first time, in a very long time, if not ever, I decided to “live the moment”. And for a while I have never experienced such ecstasy before… every day was not only a new day, but composed of individual hours all beautiful in their own ways.

The morning hours are beautiful in the cool morning sun, the smell of freshly washed linen hanging to dry; taking out the garbage to clean up the apartment; the relaxing (!) drive to work; and listening to the Quran which has become part of my daily routine, whether or not I pray.

The noon hours beautiful in the message exchanges with my loved ones on twitter and on the phone; the thrill of finally getting a hideous work task done; the gratefulness to the fact that it’s part of my job to use twitter and Facebook and even YouTube; being around amazing colleagues, and looking forward to the time I leave the office. Especially if it wasn’t a particularly “good” day. Then I drive home, far outside the city, leaving all problems and worries behind.

The afternoon and evening hours, filled with books (now digital, even) that fill my soul and creativity – like eating. Oh, eating! The joy of eating is one thing I cannot begin to explain. Even if it is a simple cheese sandwich… pressed on the grill, with a cucumber or a salty tomato on the side. And olives! God’s gift to mankind… and my new infatuation with dates! I can eat them all day, feel the textures with my tongue and let them melt in my mouth… much like how I have a Hershey’s or Galaxy.

And I miss having biscuits and tea with my grandmother. Bless her heart.

The night looms, but I am no night owl. I learned that I do and think terrible things if I don’t sleep before midnight. But that’s when I enjoy writing as I am most honest to myself. And I enjoy the flicker of the candles in the background, and the dim lights, with the shadows of the artificial tree in the apartment dance on the walls. I often see shapes and people and a story being made.

And when it’s time to sleep… oh! The smell of the sheets… the feeling of sinking into the mattress!

This is bliss – enjoying moment to moment.

And last night, I slipped, and thought about the future, my life, what I am doing, how I ended up where I am, and the darkness ahead I never manage to see through, and the shadows I left behind out of fear and disgust.

And became depressed.