being-belongingThis post is my attempt to put down some thoughts that I can revisit at some point later in my journey to decipher where I belong and in the process who I am. I have always thought who I am at any time is most often correlated with where I think I belong. May be that is the problem 🙂 Given that my sense of belonging is of course dependent on the status within the social practices of what I consider my community. Does that make being and belonging ever changing for me? Yes! Change is good? Not sure. In my professional life change is what I strive to bring about and the hope is that it is for the better for all concerned. In personal life this constant need to belong is something I have found very tiring and sometimes futile – partly because my belonging, I have found, is co-dependent on other people accepting my understanding of belonging to/with them, which makes it futile if only I want to belong and they don’t see me belonging there. Perception does make me think that changing is not always good. Though the urge to belong is never ending.

In my quest to belong I am actively participating. This to my mind is my sense of being. It may be to some the same as what I do makes me who I am, but am not convinced that it explains the complexity of being as opposed to just doing to belong. I find it hard to use the two (doing and being) instead of each other but find the nuances of being lost when I just consider doing. My actions are changeable but that does not mean the act of being is as changeable as the acts themselves. My acts I feel are driven more by consciousness and/or circumstances rather than any real change in my being. (I am quite sure by this point I am confusing anyone reading this, but since this is an attempt at writing down the turmoil of being and belonging for me, its OK).

So often however what one thinks of belonging is rather inconsequential when compared to what those who I think I belong with think of my belonging there. This impacts rather profoundly the sense of being and a reorganization of my sense of being. If being is a continuum what is the role of belonging in this continuum?

Image from Dan Hodges blog on

When I read this news the first time, I read it with little discomfort. I realized there is nothing much I can do to change it so it didn’t bother me. Till I read it again this morning when it appeared on my feed. This time I read it while I was reading the recent debate going on between Sen-Bhagwati, here’s a good piece to get updated on whats happened so far. In a nutshell its about two views on India’s economic reform policy from two leading economists. Amartya Sen’s view is more investment in social infrastructure boosts the productivity of a nations people and thereby raises growth, Bhagwati on the other hand views that only a focus on growth can yield enough resources for investing in social sector schemes. Both may disagree on what is more important but it cant be denied that Sen weds his conception of enhancing the poor’s capabilities to the presence and expansion of capitalist markets. Lets leave this thought for a moment, and come back to why the gmail news bothered me today.

I adopted gmail because it was free (well not really, but you know what I mean), new and the invite was a birthday gift in 2004. So I dropped all previous email clients, (yahoo, rediffmail, hotmail) and moved lock stock and barrel to gmail. The adoption came easy, everyone who was internet savvy at the time had a gmail address. I joined in the exclusive category, even offered to forward invites when I was bestowed with them to my select few. This modus operandi can be applied to adoption of other free internet based platforms to meet various social needs, to name a few: facebook, orkut, twitter etc. Disguised as free these are all fruits of capitalism. They are funded by venture capitalists, though they may have been started by young innovators in their dorm rooms initially but they all have very deep pockets behind them that want them to make their pockets deeper. In our society today, capitalism defines every aspect of our social being and that applies profoundly to the internet. In fact this gmail news was a huge reality check of sorts and that bothered me.

I, like many others am interested in social change and social good. I like many others have seen the potential benefits of technology in changing power dynamics for the better. Not naive about it, I have also been aware of the negative implications. But at the same time the crude capitalistic undertones had not become more obvious than now [partly because am slow :)]. But the complete unfazed profit motive of today’s corporates is a matter of both grave concern not just for those online but those offline as well. When Herbert Marcuse wrote in his 1964 book One-Dimensional Man: “The traditional notion of the ‘neutrality’ of technology can no longer be maintained. Technology as such cannot be isolated from the use to which it is put; the technological society is a system of domination which operates already in the concept and construction of techniques.”

As I ranted in my other post, “The effects of a technology are a product of the interaction of its components with other components, where each component has a purpose and is a technology in itself.” the Internet and the companies that provide services on it are shaped by how we as society opt to develop them. When we as a society are driven by our capitalist, profit driven agenda then it is no wonder that the Internet itself becomes a capitalist’s ultimate tool. So whether one agrees with Sen or Bhagwati economic reform policy in either cases seems to lead us to greater presence and expansion of capitalism.

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