06 December 2005

Coffee Break Digressions!

"Saama, bhEdha, DhAna, DhaNdaa”

My grandmother always threatened me with this Sanskrit proverb whenever I ended up in trouble. I finally found the courage to ask her what she meant by this proverb. She explained that to solve any problem, you have to go through four steps. Conciliation (Saama), Winning the enemy over through choice gifts (DhAna), Dividing the enemies (bhEdha) and when all of the above tactics doesn’t work, punishing them by military means (DhaNdaa). In other words, she has tried telling me passively not to pick my nose while eating; she gave me gifts to distract me away from my itching nose; she even tried taping a band-aid around my finger so my large finger can’t fiddle with my tiny nostril. Finally, a good spanking and a thigh pinch every time I moved my finger close to my nose solved the problem in 3days.

I wonder how relevant that proverb is in today’s world. The Iraq war went from Saama to Dhandaa in no time. The British ruled the whole world through bhEdha. In a world where everyone seems to be in a hurry to get some place, I wonder, who has the patience to go through all four steps before using violence as the ultimate choice. Being peaceful and fighting passively is frowned upon. Non-violent demonstrations and peace marches are not as fun as a rally in which policemen are belted with stones and five cars are burnt. In a world full of media, it is surprising that there are so few people to actually report the truth. The media blames it on short attention span of viewers. The viewers blame it on the innumerable choices. We have become such an instant-gratification society that if something takes time, it’s probably not worth it.

One of the strangest side effects of this instant-gratifying, short-attention spanned generation has been that if people die with a Big Bang – 9/11,Tsunami, Train Accidents, Fire accidents- then the entire media rallies up behind these events. If people die a slow death as in malnutrition, starvation, drought, water scarcity, Poverty, thousands displaced due to building of a Dam, who cares? Leave it to PBS and other channels that air these documentaries in afternoon when everyone is at work or late midnight when you are in deep slumber. Instant tragedies? You bet the entire media would be there to fill airtime for hours in apparent service to the dead by showing mass graves and victim’s miseries. Nothing is left to imagination as people are incapable of imagining how worse it could get for someone without food, water, shelter and their loved ones being washed away.

While CNN, Fox and other US channels at least post a sticker saying, “the following images would make you vomit and those who have just had 3 burgers do not watch”, I had the Hobson’s choice of watching Sun TV as it was the only channel in my home that was closest to the scene of tragedy. While the rest of the world mourns, Sun TV has special New Year Celebration programs. So what if thousands died in Tamil Nadu? They are anyway showing footage of a dead boy being pulled from a stream with the saddest music possible in background in between their New Year Celebration programs. Isn’t that enough? How about the burger vomiting warning? Well, that’s your problem. Not theirs.

Although I have digressed very far from nose picking to media obsession with instant tragedies, the fact is that we are becoming more fickle and transient in the things we devote our life to. In our hurry to achieve our ends, we have forgotten to take time for those who can’t fend for themselves. The greatest tragedy of our times is the continual neglect of real issues facing the people. We have 3.5 billion in small mass land in India, China and other SE Asian countries and the remaining 3.5 billion spread throughout the rest of world. We have less than 10 countries that control more than 50% of world economy. We have approximately 20 corporations that control most of the businesses in the world. The possibilities of life-altering changes are immense if these countries and corporations decide to do some good on a regular basis.

Does it always have to be a catastrophic tragedy to remind them about their social obligations and the connectedness of us all in this tiny feeble weak planet called Earth?

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