The Year of the Monkey

I am not a believer in astrology. But when I saw that this year was supposed to be the year of the monkey, according to Chinese zodiac, I couldn’t help but ponder on the astute accuracy of the prediction. The idiotic events that have shaped the course of world history this year are quite staggering and there is no denying that monkey business has been the name of the game.

At first there was the shock that was Brexit. Spoiling the predictions of most political commentators and experts, the British people chose to dissociate themselves from the rest of Europe and chose to opt out of the European union. Never since the Napoleonic continental blockade has England endured such isolation and to do that voluntarily speaks volumes about the incredible depths to which stupidity can plunge a people who choose to ignore their own ignorance, buoyed by fantasies of a long-lost past and irrational fears about immigration generated by deluded oldies who have lost their grip on things in rapidly changing world. This is a modern version of the Charge of the Light Brigade and no Tennysonian elegy will actually bring consolation to those who will bear the economic brunt of this self-engineered meltdown. What is even more alarming is the surge of racist hatred that had gone into this victory for Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and their other droids which has led to an exponential growth in racist crimes and abuse in various parts of England where a large amount of people had been caught up in the propaganda that all the problems faced by a country can actually be blamed on immigrants without ever realising that there were entrenched problems which required a political and economic re-ordering and not the enactment of an ostrich manoeuvre.

Unfortunately and ironically enough this trend was not really an insular one. Instead it travelled across the Atlantic, gaining in both mass and putrescence and ended up in the bewildering and disgusting victory of Donald Trump. That so many millions of Americans, many suffering from severe economic crisis for years, could believe that a real estate tycoon who lives in a world of dangerous delusions and considers molesting women as his right, would emerge as their saviour is something that not only staggers belief but raises serious questions about the nature of democracy itself. If the majority of people in your country are despicables and dullards, what hope is there that they are going to deliver? Even now, when Trump appears to have assembled a multi-billion dollar cabinet with oil honchos in top spots, when the collusion between big money and governments is blatantly obvious, the same people who had voted for him remain callously hopeful. Sure, this is the same America that gave such iconic and sinister characters as Nixon, Regan and the great ‘Dubya’. But even they seem like gentlemen, compared to the highlight reel of sewage that oozes out of Trump’s mouth. Incidentally, and quite predictably, in America too the victory of Trump has not only been celebrated by the inbred bigots of Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists, but has given rise to a whole wave of hatred and crimes against people with black and brown skins who had hoped to fulfil the much-vaunted but utterly baseless American dream through honest hard work in a number of different fields across the country. Lost are the hopes of a syncretic future where colour, creed, sexuality, gender and such other determinants would not play detrimental role in the fulfilment of one’s aspirations. Instead you are invited to enjoy a world marked by walls, lewd locker room banter and groping, greater environmental maladies, inevitable violence, civil and international, and governance by tweets. Let the apprenticeship of dumb and dumber begin!

But let me not stray too far from our shores as that too might render me rather anti-national in my inclinations. And why bother, since there are such public demonstrations of idiocy in these historic regions of ours, almost everyday? The greatest example of such a claim is the public response regarding the recent demonetisation drive. Despite all the suffering that the people across the country are facing, despite the severe economic crisis that is haunting the Indian countryside, the majority remains in support of the governmental decisions and happily stands in the queues outside banks, even though there are no tangible evidences of any possibility of economic improvement, especially since EPF rates have once again been slashed and winter harvest is in shambles. In a land reared on tales of renunciation the government has once again provided the masses an opportunity of attaining mythical glory through self-sacrifice for utterly non-empirical rewards which remain confined to rhetorical tropes. But the spectres of unemployment, starvation or absence of emergency medical assistance due to cash- shortage pale into insignificance in comparison to the virtually orgasmic bliss provided by the sacrificial sweat generated by standing in stagnant and serpentine lines outside ATMs. Just as Yayati had passed on his senility to his son Puru who willingly accepted the curse on behalf of his father, the modern descendants of the great Bharat family have also lapped up the curse of demonetisation as their promised route to heaven. I can almost picture Rakhi in Karan Arjun tearfully mouthing – “Mere Karan-Arjun (read achchhe din) ayenge”.

All such reflections further intensify the scepticism regarding the fate of democracy where there exists such pervasive disconnect between those who know and those who do not. But since those who do not can cast as many votes as those who do, and sometimes much more, what hopes can at all be placed on electoral results? It seems we are back again in the world of the Roman mob and whoever plays Antony wins. But it was also a world where the dogs of war cried havoc and Tiber raged with blood. Are we heading for that too? Isn’t there a Fool who might make a prophecy in his gnomic verse to pierce the stupidity of our dire straits? Perhaps there are – unless they have been jailed or deported that is. The question is, will we heed such prophecies or will the prophet be faced with the fate of Cinna the Poet?

I have a booking for Mars. Wire me the answer when you can.

-Abin Chakraborty

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