18 Feb 2017 16:11 IST

Conduct unbecoming

Pic credit: PTI

How do we explain the world today? What do we hold on to as the seams come rapidly undone?

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity

These lines in the opening stanza of WB Yeats’s poem, The Second Coming, couldn’t more accurately describe our immediate circumstance. This is exactly the point at which we stand today, a point at which “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity”.

Meanwhile, the powerful forces are in a mad race to colonise Mars. India’s Mangalyaan satellite grabbed global attention not only for the success of the mission but for the fact that it cost a tenth of the American Maven orbiter that followed the Indian satellite into space.

On February 15, ISRO made history by successfully launching 104 satellites in the PSLV-C37’s 39 th flight. In all, the satellites weighed 1,378 kg, testifying to the fact that a majority of them were tiny, about the size of tennis balls. Indeed, only three were Indian satellites; the rest belonged mostly to the US, and one each to the Netherlands, Switzerland, Israel, Kazakhstan and the UAE. They piggybacked on the PSLV, which is a good example of working together and, in the process, bringing down costs. Always a good thing.

But I cannot help thinking that every time we shoot a satellite out to orbit in space, it only adds to the traffic up there. Not enough that we’ve clogged up the pores of Planet Earth, and we’re breathing fire and smoke down Mars’ neck, we’re also occupying all the space in between. How can this be good in the long run? I mean, in the distant future that you and I may not inhabit, but our descendants might?

True, the intentions are noble, altruistic even: to gather data that would impact our management of the earth’s resources. So, the better we understand tropical systems, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, sea surface temperatures, forest fires, vegetation and so on, the better we should be able to inure ourselves against the effects of climate change and secure the well-being of our many-billion population by improving food security, infant and maternal healthcare, literacy and education levels, standard of living and so on, and eradicating illness and hunger and poverty…

The reality, though, is that we are unable to mitigate, far less prevent, the effects of, for instance, drought, floods, disease. Judging by the number of reports that are available and the claims that are made, we should have climbed way up the done-deal scale. We all know this isn’t so.

Of course, at one level, the doom-and- gloom dirge misses the numbers for the pessimism. But viewed in light of the overall population, there’s not all that much cause for Bollywood dancing, is there? Take water: 55 per cent of China’s water resources have disappeared over the last 20 years due to industrial use. Take hunger and malnutrition: According to the World Food Programme, one in nine goes to bed on an empty stomach each night. One in three suffers from some form of malnutrition. Take armed conflict: Since World War 2, major wars include the bloody and long-drawn ones in Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Gulf, Kuwait and Iraq, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Sudan… should I go on?

Someone I met who was researching conflicts said that at any point in time, there are at least 50 active conflicts raging all over the world.

Actually, take anything and get the figures off the net. You don’t need to cross-check for reliability to get a hook how the world is doing today. Then, take into consideration the people and the numbers the affected multiply into. That’s when the magnitude of the problem boggles even the imagination.

The question that follows from the space hop, therefore, is: What have we done with all the information the satellites have fed us thus far? Have the benefits of this fund of knowledge reached all those it was supposedly intended to reach? Even without checking the facts, we know the answer is decidedly, no.

The shenanigans of Tamil Nadu’s elected representatives these past days offer little hope that anything will get better — except their own, personal, financial status. The State and its people, meanwhile, will be laid low and remain down, until finally they wither away, twitching, and tweeting their haplessness. We know the dirty tricks department is out there in full form and force, we know nobody cares for the government, or governance… and the people? Frankly, nobody cares for them.

Yet, the elections will come, as eventually they will, and if not x, y or z, then q will be elected and resume the same operations all over again. Unless, of course, the people decide they will make their elected representatives accountable. Or they will repose their faith in ‘none of the above’.

In the final analysis, even if “the centre cannot hold”, the people do have the final say. But the people have to open their mouths, they have to speak up. Only then will they be heard. Speak up, not create chaos and disrupt lives, just act to upset the applecarts of the entitled, the compassionless, the arrogant, the blindsided. It’s quite simple, really, when you think about it.

Does this mean the past always catches up with you?