Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Great Rat Run

We’ve been a little laid back and complacent since World War II but don’t let that deflate the pride we should take in the recent spate of world-changing events we’ve triggered. Amongst others there’s the belated spring cleaning going on in the Arab world, the biggest fans of capitalism are turning against the smart practitioners, the anti-corruption drive is in full swing in India and terrorists are mysteriously dying during military operations instead of in public spaces with a bang. Drinks all around! And juice for our Muslim brothers and sisters.

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Thankfully our conveniently submissive conscience digests it when we, the top 40-60%, directly or indirectly exploit the bottom 60-40% otherwise we’d have spent all our lives protesting for something or the other. The advancement in technology at least allows us to accuse governments and corporations of not even lifting a finger with just a few mouse clicks and keystrokes. A few of us go beyond just that to put a funny one-liner on a placard and hang around during a non-violent protest. The more utilitarian ones who don’t care about appearing in the morning papers won’t much bother about the placard and can be found waiting for the non-violent protest to become violent so that they can go and loot stores. Getting all that stuff that Lindsay Lohan left behind soothes everyone’s wounds enough for the world to go on like earlier until the next tipping point is reached.

Image credits - staff , train
That’s just how we are. Despite all the evolving we’ve been up to if you trim out all the frills and vestigial organs you’ll find that there isn’t all that much to us. We essentially live in a cycle of either trying to make a lot of money soon and howsoever we want to or attaining some of the nobler human devices such as freedoms and rights and we can move mountains and courts to get them. Whatever might be hindering our pursuit must go and so what if we too have previously tried to escape challans, earned good corporate salaries, used credit to enjoy things beyond our means and availed the benefits of Qaddafi’s rule. Even divorces have become a profitable industry, job attrition rates are sky rocketing and landfills are filling up with all sorts of old yet usable stuff just like old age homes. A use and dispose mentality beautifully complements our instant coffee mentality.

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That is probably the main reason as to why even Occupy Wall Street will get to India much after its US release. India is still in the use phase of capitalism, most of us (or our fathers) are earning much more money than we (or they) deserve to, doing things the world can mostly do without. The prices are yet to go up enough for the purchasing power disparity, responsible for that big number on the paycheck, to get burnt up and everything seems all rosy. By the time they do we would have exhausted all our money on unnecessary gadgets, clothes, shoes, bags, cars and alcohol and then the voices will start rising. Our demands would include a government for the people, free health insurance, reservation for everyone in everything, better sex ratios and lower tax rates for the middle class and poor people, two dynamic socio-economic categories which together comprise of us and everyone else who can’t afford all the things we can. 

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And while we Indians are busy in our own bubble, the king of Saudi Arabia has bought out a revolt, American teenagers have started joining abstinence clubs, Iran and North Korea have continued to deliver nuke threats to anyone who dare wag a finger at them, Germany is still on track at owning the whole of Europe which somehow seems unable to wash Greece off its hands despite all the soap, Africans are still a couple of hundred years behind the developed world and have only started discovering the joys of the marine kind of piracy, the Chinese are renting wives, Australia still can’t decide whether it’s a country or a continent and all of humanity is either obese or below the poverty line. Average all this out, normalize to one and imagine seven billion such creatures taking the most important decisions for the whole planet and everything else on it.

Mother Earth image credits
One day our dormant unrest and erroneous judgment will take us to a point beyond repair and the ensuing chain of events will hopefully reset the world again to a more sustainable setting. All sorts of events could be part of this cascade and for all you know it’s begun already. For instance, it isn’t hard to conclude that Steve Jobs’ death could mark the end of innovation in the portable devices field, the last gasp of which might just be wireless braces. Subsequently New York will be reinstated as the bigger apple while on the other side of the globe millions of Chinese will be jobless again. After years of consuming edible food they will have no choice but to go back to eating anything that floats, hops or slithers. In retaliation, pissed marine animals will go around overturning fishing and whaling boats, the other wild animals will go around trampling on jeeps and rabbits and mice and guinea pigs will escape in the night to break all the test tubes of experimental conditioners and moisturizers and other cosmetics save the hare oil. The food chain could become a food cycle. The lack of meat will increase demand for crops but G20’s plan of exhausting the water tables and then falling back on the coffee tables will not quite work out. This will also force a rethink on the plan to counter the increasing amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by making those molecules compete for space with all the noses in the air. Thirsty, breathless and sweaty children will then pour out in protest against our generations’ gluttony of natural resources and no amount of Justin Bieber will pacify them. Meanwhile the malnourished, dehydrated, dying African children will also stop helping people win photography prizes and will instead be found baiting fat tourists who can later be roasted on an open fire while the children dance around singing gibberish songs because they don’t have any homework. The kids from the developed nations will then attack the African children because they want to use the fat from the obese people to power their Wiis and Xboxes. This war will go on till there is enough fat to go around and it should reduce our numbers enough to allow the planet some much needed breathing space. Approximately fourteen billion feet must smell awful together. It's possible.

We’ll be lucky if that’s the sort of gentle, gradual build up we have to climax. A more violent ending could by catalysed by all the radicals and extremists and aliens, earthly and extra-terrestrial, nuclear weapons and natural disasters. This won’t be a restart but more like attaining a meta-equilibrium after which we can again take ever so many years for the frustration to pent up enough for such a cycle to start. Nothing will really change in the bigger picture, the smarter folks will still be working for the betterment of the stupid, the stupid will still be cribbing about not feeling good about themselves and the corporate world will somehow survive and some of the clever ones will even make money out of it.
I’ve often heard passionate oration about the greatness of humanity. Throw in a few shots of the earth against the universe or the oceans and mountains and you have a Youtube hit as well. Such speeches always make me feel like the coach of the World Cup winning Spanish football team. I’m hardly great, I’m not leading a revolution against injustice, I’m not even participating in one, I’m not discovering the cure to AIDS, I didn’t put man on the moon, I didn’t invent the steam engine, I didn't make beautiful works of art, didn’t sail far and wide to explore the planet, I didn’t build great temples and I didn’t invent the wheel nor discover fire. Did you? Probably not. We just share the same gene pool as the guys who did. If you average it out we’re mostly mediocre with the advantage of being ahead on the evolutionary curve and there are so many of us that we don’t really need to be anything more than just a cog in the wheel, a brick in the wall or a rat in the race. The Architect of the Matrix described hope as the quintessential human delusion; simultaneously the source of our greatest strength and our greatest weakness and I suspect we're hoping for something much smaller than what we should be aspiring for.

I'm afraid I must stop here. I have to go to work tomorrow before which I need to send a few emails and prepare a presentation and I really can't afford this luxury. Here's to the health of what would by now be something like the 6.94 billion or something like that.


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  1. Y u no loving all the peoples?

  2. Yea.. Don't be a racist.. Just hate everyone! :D

  3. Sarcastic but intriguing... just loved it..

  4. Great post.
    I agree, there are frankly too many people in the world. Some must go.

    Cannibalism is the only way to achieve sustainability.