Thursday, September 25, 2008

The idiocy of our ways - Part I of many

The absolute last thing my caffeine addled mind needed to hear on a depressing Thursday morning was a pseudo-scientific tabloid article written by a two-bit Dutch researcher telling me not to use the car or light bulbs.

Now there is a point when a news item becomes less valuable than the paper it is printed on. Thanks to the cries of wolf by paranoid alarmists and attention seeking news channels, Global climate change and health warnings are rapidly becoming a shameful waste of recycled paper and ink.

We have endured two World wars, great economic depressions, millennium bugs, terrorist attacks, revolutions, floods, plagues and assassinations. The Mona Lisa was stolen, the Titanic sunk, the president of the United States of America was shot dead, trains were robbed, atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, volcanoes erupted and tsunamis struck and yet we survived.

Every day we are told about new ways in which we are going to die. We'd die of credit crunch in global markets, we'd be run over by melting glaciers, asteroids falling through the ozone hole. We are told that very soon space travel will be banned because we are littering Neptune's third satellite and polluting the outer rings of the solar system with our nuclear waste. We would also die of nuclear warfare brought upon each other by countries fighting for freedom, total world dominance and advertising space on the moon.

I have played football on muddy playgrounds in pouring rain, gone swimming in rivers, played with stray cats on the road, had motorcycle accidents, not worn a helmet, chewed on tin foil, climbed trees, fallen off walls, eaten sugar and butter, been out in the moonlight, been electrocuted, had contagious tropical diseases and not eaten fruits and green leafy vegetables...yet I don't remember having died.

But if today's edition of TOI were to be believed, if I leave the light bulb on, polar ice shelves would shrivel down, causing the entire north pole to be submerged in water, and Cairo being the northernmost remaining place on earth would be inhabited by refugee polar bears, which would then die of depression when they hear about the state of the global financial markets and rising crude oil prices, and the vanishing Brazilian rainforests would expose the Amazonian Tree Frog to harmful ultraviolet radiation which would burn cloud patterns on its skin, and this would push the dejected environmentalists to commit suicide by talking on cell phones while travelling above the city speed limit in cars without seat belts and sub-standard crumple zones, which would in turn leave the loggerhead sea turtle to fend for itself in a dangerous world fraught with life threatening, hazardous chemicals like coke, fried potatoes and cholesterol, and the lucky ones that escaped the gruesome death caused by eating Asian bird meat and passive smoking would quickly die due to a large black hole produced by a tubelight in a physics lab.

I don't remember a time when the world wasn't heading towards disaster. Every day there is a new evil that will end the world, killing us all. Every day there is something new to panic about. There is danger lurking in every household on every highway in every corner. Every day the same news channels find something new to keep us glued to the screens. If the world indeed was going to end because of a breakaway comet or because of magnetic cloud storms in the sun, just what the bloody hell are we supposed to do about it? Why do news channels keep haranguing about something that we can do nothing about? The world is going to end, so what can we do now? Finish dinner quickly? Lock the doors?

It's about as useful as the announcements made by the captain on a plane.

"We are now cruising at 690 knots at an altitude of 28,000 feet above mean sea level."
("What?! Did you say 690?! Jeez, that’s slow! I know birds that can fly faster than that! Step on it, man! Come on now...chop chop! And I'm gonna take a short nap now, okay? Wake me up when we reach 31,640 feet, will you? There is something rather important I have to do...")

That's not the only amusing thing, though. People who make doomsday predictions seem to do it in all earnest. They seem solemn and serious about it. Which if you think about it, is quite fair because a statement predicting the end of the world is usually not followed by sniggering. It is a statement of impending, inevitable doom. It is not funny or heroic. It is a grave declaration. And as declarations go, it is not open to debate or discussion. And that makes the situation a little tricky because there can be no dignified exit from it. If the world does not end on the said date, there is no way they can worm their way out of the ensuing embarrassment. The only way they can make a graceful exit from the situation is if the world really does end. And that's a shame really, because there would be no one left to appreciate the face-saving act. They never get to say "I told you so" to anyone.

And that makes it the most thankless job in the world.