Being Invictus

I have a copy of William Henry’s “Invictus” pinned to my board on my office workstation. As a kid, my dad would often cite this poem, asking me to learn it by heart. Being his pet, I could go da da da on it, reciting it without a second thought. But somewhere between growing up, with no battles to be fought and no demons to be tamed, the poem lost its place to Taylor Swift’s and Avril’s songs. It surfaced years later when a YouTube clip recited it out to me in Morgan Freeman’s deep baritone. I had all grown up by then, and having lost dad to an accident and having witnessed my fair share of real and manifested personal battles, the poem made much sense to me now.

The way I was raised, saying no to a difficult situation or running away from it was never an option. Being a girl was not an excuse for getting any privileges or special considerations either. My parents constantly nudged me to take actions, try, make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. Sure, the peer pressure was always there, but not having a social media interface breathing down my neck and not seeking constant validations through it did work to my advantage. However, over the course of growing up, I did get addicted to the social media entrancement, where the constant urge to click pictures and posting them online and checking the number of likes and shares received, almost became second nature. Parents had somehow lost touch of keeping a tab on my activities, and with the new found financial independence, life seemed to be fun and amply validated. But somewhere, the menace of it all was catching up. Unknown fears of being accepted, of catching up to the expectations of friends and strangers alike, of knowing all the content clutter that the internet threw around from the latest memes to the latest trolls, started to dictate the way of life. The vastness of it all was enthralling since the intrusion was invisible, and day after day, it felt as if life was merely being spent in a very cosmetic way. Was I having the fun that I wanted to have, or was I merely following the herd mentality? Did I really want to go to the parties that I went to, did I really want to be clicked and tagged in pictures, did I really want to boast about the burger I was having downtown or indicate to anyone where I was heading to next?

The Social Media menace, the availability of instant content at one’s fingertips and the lack of privacy that the world is being pushed into is indeed a cause of concern. It does have its advantages, wherein it enables a more transparent, collaborative and global outlook, but the way it affects the young minds by victimizing and convincing them to join extremists groups is really alarming. With youngsters joining ISIS or getting brainwashed into becoming Fidayeens or being churned into right-wing extremism propagandists, we know that the issue at hand is real, and requires national and global level measures for its curtailment.

But even for the lesser delinquents like me, who are addicted to their screens and are trained keyboard warriors to issues around the world – we need to get back to the old rules where overindulgence led to cell phone confiscations, parental locks etc. The reward and reprimand mechanism will now, however, have to be self-regulated, since adulting is all about just that. Though William Ernest Henley had written it almost a century ago, the poem still rings true – we are the captains of our fate and the masters of our soul. As long as we self-regulate our own actions and take ownership of the time we spend here, we will be in control of the consequences of our actions. Letting the society, or the social media, or some random third party influence our thoughts and actions beyond the call of moral duty and ethical behavior would thus be kept in check. Being Invictus in today’s time hence calls for a lot of self-regulation, and a methodical and intended stepping back into the real world from the virtual one!

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