AR speaketh...

The questions, the answers, the thoughts, the ideas and the other crap that make me, well, me.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Taking Stock

Foreword: Apologies for the painful pun. As you already know, it has never been my intention to hurt people, except my neighbours (who don’t qualify as people anyway) but there is something about the world these days that forces you to take notice. I mean, there’s so much going on out there: there’s the economy (all right, there’s not much going on there, I’ll give you that), politics- America just elected its first coloured president, life- there you just lost a second of your remaining life, etc. But let’s cut to the really important part: movies. I watched, with sadness, the latest Bond movie and I’ll be damned if I don’t tell you about it.

I know it became one of the biggest earners this year but, really, a Bond in love? A Bond that does not ask for newer, bigger, meaner gadgets, doesn’t bust his car twice, doesn’t even introduce himself- “Bond, James Bond.” And people LIKE it? WHAT is wrong with the world? Luckily, Tom Cruise wasn’t in it or I wouldn’t have known it from Jerry McGuire. No, that’s not true. I would have cried less in JM.

Between all this, the Mumbai attacks happened. Right in the glamour capital of India- where the biggest and the brightest stars reside. And that has raised interesting questions. Its one thing to write a facetious blog, it is quite another to credit an event involving more than 60 hours of pure terror with “interesting questions”. Allow me to explain. India, to the uninitiated (I have no idea who that is, since the entire world and its mother-in-law has strong feelings about it but in keeping with Holmes’ advice, we never discount the possibility of the improbable), is a country of more disparity than a Benetton ad. Maybachs run on streets that also serve as people’s homes. This time it was the not just the man on the street who bled, but also the man in the rear seat of the Maybach (possibly staining it irredeemably, but that’s another story). Terrorism suddenly shifted from being SEP (someone else’s problem- H2G2) into your own manicured front lawn and that pissed people off. How come these no-good politicians (who grace our page 3 dos, get our illegal farm houses legalized, straighten that pain-in-the-ass customs officer, and/or clear the mess involving that illegal immigrant domestic help- do you know how tough it is these days to get kitchen help?) cannot ensure our security? Off with their heads. I must admit, I loved Suhel Seth’s rant on a news channel. That guy sure can talk. The passion you feel for a situation when you nearly lose your life in it lends you poetic eloquence.

Well, it’s not quite funny. Or maybe it is. Depends on whether you have a dark sense of humour. So what does it mean for “the system”? Nothing, really. There were some candle light vigils by women toting Gucci bags, corporate India’s appeals for private security- which happened to be a “Central government issue”, a rather funny incident involving a chief minister and the father of a brave commando who lost his life in the attacks and oh- a very strong address by the Prime Minister who really should be lending his voice for Mickey Mouse in the next Disney movie. Nothing against the Prime Minister, really- just that he would me much more useful building a statistical model for the way out of this recession than leading a billion semi-literate people with more superstitions than food in their belly. But I digress. We are not here to talk about Economics professors caught in the crossfire of political ambitions. We are here to talk solutions; only, in this case, I don’t have them.

I am a cynic- and if you didn’t know that already, stop smoking that thing you still have from Woodstock. So let me tell you that there is no solution. I would love to be wrong, trust me, but that doesn’t look likely. As I see it, we will soon return to business as usual, salute the indomitable spirit of Mumbai (whatever that means), hold a few meetings chaired by different “political types” in the “honour of the brave men that laid down their lives to save ours” and return to devoting countless hours of parliament time to the newest statue in some godforsaken park. The thing that really saddened me about the attacks was that the MPs among the hostages came out alive. At least we could have had a silver lining to the whole episode. Bullet-proofed Maybachs will continue to run on streets lined with half-fed people, intellectuals will exhort the nation to take voting seriously (and choose between the devil and the deep sea), and the elite from south Bombay (no, that’s not Mumbai) will begin to invite politicians to their farmhouse parties again. All will be well with the world. Till the next attacks happen and we’ll go through the whole drama again. I just hope we reinvent some of the parts so it doesn’t get too boring.

I almost forgot to tell you that I am a romantic too. In fact, I’m as cynically romantic as I am romantically cynical. So I do have a solution. Captain Nemo (if you don’t know who that was, don’t bother) said, “Desperate situations need desperate measures” and I think what we need is a revolution to massively revamp our politics. Democracy, clearly the ideal form of government, presupposes an inherent ability, intellectual and otherwise, among citizens. Evolutionists will tell you, that is not a clever assumption. Hence the Big Brotherly approach of the political class to coach the masses into “democracy readiness” which really means vote for whoever can most sway your passions. By definition, passions are irrational; hence they can only engender irrational results. See exhibit (A), the governments of India- past and present.

Our task reduces, essentially, to education. In fact, that is the one silver bullet that can cure India. Now notice the irony here- education, securely in the government’s plate as a state function, when repaired can serve to dislodge the powers that be. Does it surprise you, then, that our education system continues to be abysmal? This is where we can come in and make a difference. Systemic change is more likely to come about from an effort to educate people and arm them with the ability to think rather than react to impassioned pleas, than lighting candles and holding protest marches. Unless you have pretty girls in short skirts leading them.

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