Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bad to worse. Then better, maybe.

“We are headed for a Malthusian crisis,” he said, with professorial confidence. “Plankton levels are dropping. Bees are dying. There are tortilla riots in Mexico, the highest wheat prices in 30-odd years.” He paused. “The question we have to answer is: How do we kill four of the world’s six billion people in the most just way possible?”

In early 2007, 75000 Mexicans rioted over the sharp rise in the price of tortillas, staple diet of the poor. This was not front-page news. http:// Yet a sharp-witted troll in the US blithely cited the civil disturbance as one of the noteworthy symptoms of the coming global crisis. Trolls are member of a growing Internet subculture which is marked by a fluid morality and a disdain for pretty much everyone else online. If the reading of the situation by the troll sounds like loony tunes, please remember that it is the opinion of someone who lurks in the underbelly of the Internet and hardly ever comes in touch with normal folks. Come to think of it, there is more than an iota of truth in what he said although his final solution may sound extreme. Take a country like Incredible India of the Economic Miracle fame. Its citizenry is blessed with more mobile phones than access to toilets, more cars than roads to run them on, more electrical appliances than electricity to power them. Iniquity, inequality, corruption, make-believe ‘garibi hatao’ programs, child abuse, delayed and/or miscarried justice, hell holes doubling as prisons, orphanages, hospitals… such is the proletarian lot. Is the Malthusian crisis is at the root of it all? Even if it is, there may be a more humane alternative to the troll’s prescription of decimating the numbers of the lesser god’s progeny. How about asking old Karl Marx’s ‘opiate of the masses’ to ride to the rescue? Renunciation is a virtue in the Hindu scheme of things. So it may just do the trick. This way, the powers that be are also spared the worry of the likelihood of a bloody rebel. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World had soma, a tranquilizer without after effects. Should Brave New India not emulate the shining example?