Sunday, December 10, 2006

Nudges, Banter and Amnesia

When Gandhi was shot, a point was proved. Violence is better, more powerful than non-violence. Did he not say – Hey Ram – his final, poignant realization of this ever-so-apparent truth?

There were many such moments in history. Many things were proved. As if these apparent truths needed any witness or proof. Like, human beings are animals. They do better with violence than non-violence. They thrive in war rather than peace. They are selfish beings. They innovate, because they are greedy. They are thieves and rapists, and only an ever-increasing police force can keep them in control. They are naturally amoral, so they must be taught religion in schools and at the courts to be kept in line.

Did I question any of that? Not a chance. In fact, we are living at the highest stage of civilisation – one of conformance – and this is supposed a last a thousand years. Thousand years – no, probably more – last time we heard of a thousand year civilisation, those guys were a little too rash.

Nowadays, it is much simpler to live. I am not mentioning about electricity, air-travel and Internet shopping. Those are already historical. There are no speed cameras on the road to progress. I am talking about the conformance revolution, when falling in line is the fashion, conventional wisdom is so highly regarded, and there is only one kind of man – economic.

Gone are those bunny-heads who thought economics is an anglo-saxon pollutant on civilisation! Gone and vanished, not to be heard of. A piece of stone is preserved in New York’s Museum of Modern Art to remind our children what we stoned them to death with.

Oh, some questions are still acceptable. Purely academic ones, those who do not challenge the fundamental principles of our great thousand year civilisation. Like, what we used to stone the heretics. Lot of people say, a hammer. A hammer and sickle on Russia – to kill freedom of thought. Another hammer in Mexico killed the heretic who questioned the logic of conformance. Another hammer still broke the Berlin Wall. Ok – hammer accepted – probably it was a hammer, and see how open we are to criticism.

But hands up again. Why do you say economics is at the centre of progress? How do you know GDP growth rates indicate whether a country is better off? Why do you think a musician creates great music looking at the royalty he will earn on his album? Or great innovations can only happen when there is IPR protection? Do you think humanitarian aid is enough for Darfur? Do you think Israel has the right to invade Lebanon whenever they wish to? Do you think Nuclear weapons make the world a safe place? Do you think we have at least 50 years before the earth becomes too hot to handle?

Good question. Next question? And, next? And, next? We are running out of time.

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