Sunday, April 24, 2011

Orwell's 1984

As I complete a ‘novel’ after a long time, something, far worse than my worst nightmare, has gripped me. I just felt it needed some release. It was one of the best novels describing the worst form of dystopia. Now I’ve read some Utopian novels and felt they were too optimistic, but I now sure wish they are true. Such is the gruesome reality of the George Orwell’s ‘1984’.

In a nightmarish land (hopefully far, far away and then further), an Outer ‘Party’ worker finds himself in a moral dilemma. In a land where thought is crime, he has committed it. In a land where there are only three ever-lasting and all applicable party principles, Winston Smith finds himself hating the Party but obeying it all the same. What follows is a tale of absolute dystopia and as he shall discover – the price of freedom is betrayal...

Quite unlike other ‘novels’ I read, this one is not based on a story – but more on a belief – a commentary on the world state of affairs. No wonder that so many of the terms used in the book are part of our language and more importantly, part of our lives.

The dystopia, while it is scary, is almost true – and that is the more scary part of it. In a world so connected, all our actions can be governed and even controlled – and with every evolution in psychological science, we are moving towards how not just the actions but also the thought can be read and controlled. What is history but a repeated version of someone’s memory! What if all our thoughts could be controlled – all memory will be linked to one version – ‘Party’s version – and all past can/will be altered according to what the party wants. And so will be our present and hence the future...

In a long narration from Goldstein’s book, Orwell describes how the world we live in operates – how governments and societies function – not just the how but also the why and not just the why but also the how the ‘government’ can remain powerful and how the ‘upper class’ can remain so – all at the cost of the ‘Proles’.

And in the end – when ‘thoughtcrime’ is committed, how Winston is subjected to mental reconstruction through pain, humiliation and of course the legendary ‘Room one-oh-one’.

I’ll leave with a few memorable (and scary) lines from the novel:

  • The war is not meant to be won. It is meant to be continuous. The essential act of modern warfare is the destruction of the produce of human labour.

  • It is intolerable to us that an erroneous thought should exist anywhere in the world, however secret and powerless it may be. Even in the instance of death we cannot permit any deviation . . . we make the brain perfect before we blow it out.

  • If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.


  • Who controls the past, controls the future. Who controls the present, controls the past.

  • Your worst enemy, he reflected, was your nervous system...

  • Under the spreading chestnut tree,
    I sold you... You sold me...

  • It was curious to think that the sky was the same for everybody, in Eurasia or Eastasia as well as here. And the people under the sky were also very much the same--everywhere, all over the world, hundreds or thousands of millions of people just like this, people ignorant of one another's existence, held apart by walls of hatred and lies.

And the eternally haunting line - You once asked me, Winston, what was in room 101. I think you know. Everyone does. The thing that is in room 101... is the worst thing in the world.

All in all, a sure MUST READ...

Friday, April 8, 2011

Jail Bharo??? Why not 'Vote Karo'???

There is one person fasting-unto-death to fight corruption in India. There are hundreds supporting him at Jantar Mantar. There are 1000s “sharing” it and 10000s “Liking it”. So is that the way we fight corruption in a democratic country like India?

Fighting corruption is not just a noble idea, but almost a necessity. But how? Ok we know Afzal Guru was sentenced to death. Punishing crime with a suitable punishment is justified right? So I will fast-unto-death till he is hanged...!!! That is childish mentality to say the least.

When I said so, I was told that “this fight is not against a set of corrupt individuals but to bring a change in the system. Any individual is only as good as the system...” Eh?? Really?? Why then do we have leaders who have been credited to have changed the world we live in? Those are the ones we refer to as ‘visionaries’. I’d rather say the opposite; any system is only as good as the person in-charge. And that I can prove by personal and professional examples.

Agreed, the parliament doesn’t want to draft the bill because of vested interests of the parliamentarians involved. No I’m not justifying corruption by saying everyone does it and we can’t do anything about it. I’m just saying, the method to root it out is not by fasting-unto-death. It is through the impeccable execution by the police. We already have many bodies and laws “banning corruption” – the only problem is the execution.

We’ve had institutions like the ‘Lokpal’ in past. Aint CVC a similar body? The fault always is with the constitution of the body. Lokpal is proposed to be constituted by Nobel laureates and Magsaysay Awardees apart from Bharat Ratna awardees and Judges. How, if I may ask, is winning the Nobel, a qualification for prosecution of the corrupt!!! Rajiv Gandhi, a Bharat Ratna Awardee, is eligible for the body despite his alleged role in the country’s largest defence scam – the Bofors.

The biggest perpetrators of corruption are not the politicians but the rich and the famous; I’m sure many are currently on television pretending to be supporting the anti-corruption ‘movement’. If Raja does it, it’s a scam – if Ambani does it, its business acumen...!!! If you do it in Tirupati, its Aastha, if you do it in a government office, its a bribe...!!!

What I believe is that transparency will give the “civil society” far more powers of execution than it feels it currently has. If used correctly, the RTI would negate the necessity of the Lokpal. By creating the Lokpal, we are just deferring our duties to someone we think will do the job (or in other words, shirking). Instead of trying to stop corruption, score a government on parameters and put them to test through the democratic process of election. I’m sure when the voting percentage of India reaches 90%+, there will be no more agitations against corruption. Till then, you can agitate all you want, go on fast-unto-death, light candles and march to India Gate – all you will be doing is increase emission of green house gases without any productive result.

P.S: I’m waiting for the day the Lokpal is charged with favouritism or partisan behaviour or like the CVC, the chief is accused of corruption...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Cobblerist Movement

Modified Feminist Movement Logo
This post is inspired by an old joke and in reply to a chat I had today (yeah, completely unrelated to cricket)...

The world, after decades of strife, was at ease – but an uneasy calm, an eerie silence pervaded all around. American defence budgets had soared to more than 6% of their GDP for the first time. While the majority of budgets for the past 5 years were dedicated to research, for the first time in the decade, manpower costs were hiked – that sure didn’t bode well for the year – was there a war lurking in the background?

The 1984th resolution of the UN Security Council declared that nuclear enrichment by any nation was to be done only under the watch of IAEA. The IAEA, headed by an ex-DefSec, was a 10-member democratic body consisting of 6 US ex-senators, two British ex-PMs, Hamid Karzai and an ageing Jalal Talabani. Pakistan, which had been a largely peaceful nation since the time they contacted Narendra Modi to rebuild their state ridden with turmoil, stated on record that they had no use for nuclear energy and had hence, stopped their civilian nuclear programme. They also refused to buy American technology for the same. Insider sources reported that the budget deficit of the US was to be funded by Pak purchase of advanced enrichment technology for carbon15.

US, under the aegis of IAEA, declared that Pakistan was hiding their nuclear enrichment programme and had potentially been using the same for non-peaceful purposes. They alleged that the enriched C15 was sufficient to manufacture nukes against India. While India remained non-committal, they refused to endorse the US view of the same. However, US was adamant and declared that they would rid the world of all Nukes starting with Pakistan. The democratic IAEA voted unanimously in favour of US aggression.

Brash nation that they are, US declared a unilateral war on Pakistan. The brashness didn’t end there. In a highly publicised press conference, they openly declared that they would obliterate the terrorist network operating in Pakistan and all terrorists, including the cobbler who sat on the parliament house steps would be killed. Suddenly there was outrage in the world. Human Right activists called US a fascist nation for attacking the cobbler. Cobblers from around the world condemned the declaration. Suddenly there were government schemes announced to protect the cobbler. Three nations offered him asylum. The cobbler, ignorant of all that was happening around him, was polishing shoes as usual when the first missile hit the parliament. Afraid, he took up on the offer by the visiting head of state. The ambassador proclaimed victory on humanitarian grounds. The cobbler was airlifted out of Islamabad and taken to an undisclosed location.

Missile after missile kept hitting the Pakistani nation. The cobbler meanwhile was safe in a safehouse 30m underground in an Arab nation. Pakistan was reduced to ashes. 300,000 were presumed dead. Damage estimate touched 10 digits. Meanwhile, human right activists kept shouting slogans against US decision to kill the cobbler. Rights Groups sat on ‘Dharnas’ demanding survival rights of the cobbler. The media covered the complete event in great detail. The cobbler’s parents and family joined in on an indefinite hunger strike. Finally, after 62 days of war, the US accepted it was a folly to think of killing the cobbler. The activists proclaimed victory. The state of Pakistan will forever be known as the state that was sacrificed to save the cobbler.

And India Win the World Cup...