Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Joys of the Herd

There was a discussion on our departmental group mail yesterday and today, kickstarted by Siddharth Brahma. Concerning Iraq. I read all the posts and got angrier and angrier. Angry because of the ad hominem attacks on Brahma. Because of the "we-are-so-pragmatic" responses showered by everyone.
Yup. It touched a raw nerve. Especially because everyone knew, in their heart of hearts, that Brahma was right. I am sure Brahma did not need me picking up cudgels on his behalf, but, well, solidarity isn't only for Lech Walesa.

I have often been accused of being a passive bystander, an armchair critic who laughs at people's follies and foibles while peacefully reclining away on soft leather. I guess I needed a guy like Brahma to arouse me from my slumber. To be fair, I have had my own reasons for my lack of participation in such debates, primary among them being my belief that every one should be able to find their own guiding lights, evolve their own personal philosophies of life; there's nothing more insulting to one's native intelligence, and more irritating, than a preacher at a pulpit hammering away at your brain.
But there comes a time when you need to intervene, because the steps you take could have an impact on other countless lives.

We are IITians. We pride ourselves on being called the 'cream of the nation' (come on, I'm sure all of you have had the familiar chest-swell when that phrase is uttered). But how many of us have stopped to think beyond our monthly paypackets, or even beyond the Caribbean paradise island that a few of us would like to buy when we get rich and/or lucky?

"Iraq is far away and doesn't affect us. America will never do this to India anyway. "
Wake up and smell the coffee, people. The Neo-cons are in power right now in Washington. And they have a single agenda - to keep reworking their geopolitical strategy so as to continue harvesting benefits out of conflict.
No. They do not want a new American Century, like the one we left behind, pre-Y2K. Neither do They (the inevitable capitalisation!) want peace and democracy to descend to each and every god-forsaken trigger-happy nation in the world.
Profits. Each cleaning-up contract handed out to Haliburton in the glorious "democratic" nation that is Iraq is worth billions of dollars. This is how the contracting occurs:
1. Haliburton gets a transport contract from the Pentagon, worth $30-40 an hour, to transport resources from one place to another.
2. Haliburton sub-contracts off to tiny leech companies who'll arrange the actual transportation.
3. Leech companies sub-sub-contract to "slave-owning" companies (generally from the Gulf or Malaysia), who employ Indian/Pakistani workers in sub-human conditions to do the actual driving. Costs: $3-4 an hour.
4. American GIs are employed to perform guard duties, and to GUARD THE RESOURCES, not the driver.

Of course, we can all guess what the RESOURCES (TM) in Them Amrikan "magic box" convoys are.

Cronyism. Political corruption of the highest order. A massive collusion between the military-industrial complex and the politicians who will give them the war they want oh so eagerly. Life sure is peachy, isn't it?

Costs: minimal. Yes, some 100,000 eye-raqis have died. But those ragtops deserved what they got. We decent cubicle-stuck Hanuman-worshipping gentle geeks will not have bombs on our tails any time soon. Because, of course, we are decent and are permanently stuck to cubicles. And oh yes, could you nuke Pakistan out of existence while you're at it, please pretty please, because those bastards on the other side so need to be slaughtered.

We as a nation are entering a new phase in our relations with the rest of the world - a major policy shift which needs to be evaluated and re-evaluated at each step. As a nation which will soon have the greatest value on Earth in terms of human capital, we need to honestly step back for a minute and ponder the following questions:
1. Do we really need to support a group of people (not the entire American nation) who are hell-bent on destroying entire countries purely on the basis of adding zeroes to their figures of wealth?
2. Is the hatred that we feel for the Other ---- (insert appropriate other here) so deep that we would not think twice before slashing their throats?
3. Are we really no different from animals?

I offer no solutions, no opinions. Life isn't that easy, friends. Sit back and think. Analyze as you will - pragmatically (Bhadra, et al), or with a hopeful dose of idealism (Brahma). The resulting opinion is not what matters. What will matter, and you will realise this later, is that, for maybe the first time in your life, you will have thought rationally about an issue larger than the 70 kilos of protoplasm that constitute you.
Think. And let the horrors of war hit you. Do not be misled by the sight of the almighty greenback. Because if the latter is the Pied Piper of Hamelin, realise what that will make you.


Phippogriff said...

Man you raise some serious issues ..It makes one think....

the_free_soul said...

nice one dude ....lets do phds to begin with

LitmusTest said...

Hey! Just because you are a good writer you needn't brand everything you write. That mail in the group was for the group(exclusive) and you needn't have posted it anywhere else. I mean you r so full of urself that you have to brand everything you write and your opinions on the yahoo groups now finds its way to your blogsite.
But tell you what, that mail deserves every bit of appreciation and its brand value :P.

"but, well, solidarity isn't only for Lech Walesa. " - like we didnt know this about u :P

Great post and a great point of view :-)

Mugger Much said...


I'd like to draw your attention to the first and second paragraphs of my post, in which I state, in as many words, that sometimes it is imperative to speak out to as many people as possible.
That was my intention, and, knowing fully well that many people besides CSE 2001-05/6 knew the participants in the group debate, I thought it was best to share with everyone else whatever insights we had gathered.
Hope that helps.
And, yes, I *am* full of myself :D. Thanks for noticing, and appreciating the post anyway.

Dyan said...

while i haven't read ur dept mails, i must say i agree with you on this. but then again, how necessary is it from a purely existential point for us to care? answer - not really. however, life being more than mere existence requires us to think along the lines of fairness, morality and ethics and that is something that a life in IIT doesn't nurture. pragmatic apathy? yes!
oh well... i shall get off my soapbox now

Dyan said...

i must also add -
u do write well and do manage to marry style with rationality. u r so good i just hope u dun end up one of those spin doctors...

Souvik said...

cud u elaborate a little bit more on the original mail ... being in this industry does make me very very interested in it :)
but an amazing post ... hav u been following the oil politics or is it a freshly fuelled interest??

tomcat said...

firstly, i agree with you yes neocons=bunch of greedy, moronic etc. etc. however consider...
Q. can foreign policy of any country be really "moral"/"altruistic"? can we refuse to deal with the US because the neocons are in power? i don't think so.
In the sphere of FP there is only one god- 'geo-political naked self interest' and i think as indians we have to learn this very important lesson.
A good example could be the whole tibetan question.[You wld kno ;) aka faux pas]. its in indian interst not to support free tibet and support the chinese claim. Reason 1: militarily speaking china is the biggest threat we have and they continue to arm a dangerous neighbour, so we need them as friends. Reason 2: geo-politically its in india's interst to have some sort of option to the US' along with russia we promote SCO. Reason 3: economic - indo-china trade and partnership is booming and can only grow benefitting both. Reason 4: do u really think they would give it up?:)
Coming back to the US- we couldn't have asked for a better deal and my head hangs in shame thinking all the harsh words i thot abt the gr8 man :). Seriously i have a gr8er objection to their bungling eye-raq on security grounds than anything else.
i remember reading an op-ed piece a few weeks back that we (i.e. indians) get all altruistic in foreign affairs and follow self interest in domestic policy, instead of the other way round. eg. nehru - i don't kno if you are aware of this story but india was offered a post in the security council (yes the vey same we are drolling over currenly), but nehru "magnanimously" turned it down and asked it to be given to china instead. various unprintable obscenities come to mind, anyway the moral of the story is "APNE PAIR PE KULHARHI MAT MARO".