Citizen(s) Strange in the Multiverse of Realities
Multiverse is real. Just that instead of superheroes, they are inhabited by the countless fragments of our society.
At a crucial juncture in the 2019 superhero flick Avengers: Endgame, The Ancient One, played by Tilda Swinton, reveals to Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner how multiverses work.
Having attained the knowledge of the Time Stone and how the Infinity Stones work, Swinton spells out how what we have hitherto been calling ''the universe'' is nothing of the sort. It is but a small component within a vast assemblage of other universes that together make up a ''multiverse.''
The alternate worlds in this multiverse share a space and fate in common. They look and feel the same and operate under similar conditions, but they differ in their view of reality.
According to comic-book lore, a lot of these multiple universes can have a similar origin story, but they diverge in realities due to major decisions taken by some of their inhabitants.
This theory of the multiverse has, in fact, been around in philosophical circles for centuries. Recently, even Science got to work and tried to find justification for this.
Science’s argument stems from the ''big bang'' theory: according to the standard model, shortly after the universe exploded into existence about 14 billion years ago, it suddenly jumped in size by an enormous factor. This ''inflation'' can best be understood by imagining that the observable universe is, relatively speaking, a tiny blob of space buried deep within a vast labyrinth of interconnected cosmic regions. Under this theory, if you took a God's-eye view of the multiverse, you would see big bangs aplenty generating a tangled melee of universes enveloped in a superstructure of frenetically inflating space. Though individual universes may live and die, the multiverse is forever.
But what if we were looking at wrong disciplines to justify this mystifying theory? What if multiverse(s) do exist - but within our societies itself?
If we just open Twitter or switch on the TV, we’d find multiple realities coexisting in the minds of people. There would be a myriad of realities around the same sets of events based on the consumer or the messenger’s political bent, access, belief system and convenience.
Let’s take today’s India for example. On the 15th of June, 20 Indian soldiers died in a skirmish with the Chinese along the line of actual control (LAC) in the Galwan Valley of Eastern Ladakh. Around this particular incident spun a multiverse of realities. As soon as the news broke, one side erupted in blaming the government for the diplomatic failure leading to this bloodshed, while the other enthusiastically put up unverified claims of how the Indian army killed twice the number of Chinese soldiers.
The Chinese claimed all of Galwan Valley as their territory and the Indian Prime Minister rejuvenated the careers of Twitter warriors by claiming that there was no Chinese incursion.
In two days’ time, Nehru was responsible for the tension along the borders, while an effigy of “Chinese minister Kim Jong Un” was burnt in protest.
Meanwhile all the sides took turns calling the others stupid, ignorant and harmful.
All these people and narratives shared the same space, operated under the same physical and virtual conditions, yet varied differently in terms of what was the “truth”.
In the same physical world, US President Donald Trump is the biggest and most harmful doofus in the world, and also the “most informed person on planet earth”. Such is the ‘vive-conundrum’.
The same set of data which is being used to declare India’s victory against COVID-19, is also the fodder for the opposition to prove the government’s abject failure.
The multiverse is in our minds. You can be living under the same roof or have the same set of friends, but you wouldn’t know if the other person belongs to your reality or your universe.
It’s as if Krees and Skrulls have truly invaded our earth and opened this multiverse in our minds.
The Big Bang of Society
One can argue that this is nothing new, and different people have always had different views and opinions derived from the same set of facts. That would be a fair argument, but a grossly ignorant one.
Jurgen Habermas, noted sociologist, conceptualised the Public Sphere as being “a network for communicating information and points of view, where the streams of communication are, in the process, filtered and synthesised in such a way that they coalesce into bundles of topically specified public opinions”.
But today this public sphere has been shattered into hundreds of small bubbles of belief as the uber-fast and connected social media tools have beheaded the traditional gatekeepers of information flow.
It’s a revolution, alright. Whatsapp is Robespierre and this multiverse of realities is its reign of terror.
Today, there is a world where Nepal’s diplomatic moves are being explained based on an unverified tweet claiming that the “Chinese honey trapped the Nepal PM”. But there is also a world which believes that slowly the entire subcontinent is coming together to teach the ruling party a lesson to satisfy its liberal fantasies.
Not only issues related to politics or national security, even the death of an actor created splits in the multiverse creating new worlds. The same incident was seen as “Bollywood mafia” driving outsiders to suicide by some, while others saw a juicy love triangle behind death. One saw the dead actor’s fingers move, while the other found fodder to attack the commando-comic channels for the day.
The scariest part of this multiverse is that the worlds are so firm and settled in their realities and WhatsApp forwards that they won’t stop attacking another world, causing even physical harm. Ask lynch mob victims.
So perhaps the multiverse is real. Or it is being made real by the powerful to control the minds of the masses. It’s a tragedy that those poor nerds are still trying to find answers in quantum mechanics and Grant Morrisson.
All we need is a good story, be it Marvel, Modi or the multiverse.