Saturday, 1 May 2010

The bar. Code.

“Debates, I tell you,” you start. It’s one of those days. Only instead of late nights, it’s in the middle of the day that we’ve gather around to listen. And what better way to pass the time. I say it sans all sarcasm. Or maybe not.

The AC works hard to keep the room at a ‘pleasant’ 20 degree Celsius. The first person to mention climate change or carbon footprint is quickly banished to the common lot outside. A few minutes in the ‘real’ world, with the added heat reflected from the million odd cars parked there, and anyone can be tempted to join cause with the ‘skeptics’. Or at least silently thank human creativity for inventing air conditioning and hope that somewhere it’s working over time to discover clean sources of endless energy. However, getting back to your monologue.

"Why don’t our internet identities carry a bar code like thing?" you continue, "I am sure they can come up with some system whereby whenever we comment, or appear on any social media network, we carry our ‘aura’ with our avatars. The aura will naturally be colored by the education we’ve had, the job we do. In short our credentials.

So if in the course of a discussion we disagree or agree with something, the other participants by simply looking at the colour of our aura can choose to understand or misunderstand us. They can then swiftly typecast us and respond accordingly.

Imagine the time saved by not having to ask the same questions, again and again - what are your credentials for saying so? Are you a scientist, an activist, or whatever ‘ist’ the discussion requires? What’s your education qualification? It’s as if all those who haven’t been to Harvard, Wharton or IIT and IIM. Or for that matter not slogged for PhD’s and doctorates. Or haven't lived, danced and supped with the remote indigenous communities of the world. Or not seen a whale or a chimpanzee for real. All these people can’t express their opinions.

So, your grandmother may have lived in a world without plastic bags, water shortage or the need for food to have labels that display the chemicals in them but sorry what makes her think she can bring something to the discussion? What are her credentials? Ajay, the 15 year old, who comes to clean the million cars parked in the lot may have migrated from the invisible interiors of India but do you really think he can add anything to the debate? Can he even spell development?

On the other hand the NGO that person is working with; it’s bringing ‘civilization’ to indigenous communities. So (hello!) naturally this person’s opinion counts. As does of the person who has read every word ever written about the problem and can Google up links faster than you can open a new tab. Or the person who has been on every committee ever formed in the last 62 years to deal with the problem. Umm, yes the problem still persists but at the moment we are only talking about whose opinions matter. And clearly the odds are stacked in favor of people who can display the right credentials. It’s all about credentials, credentials, credentials. However, only very selective kinds are appreciated."

At this point you pause to sip gently at the lemonade sitting next to your monitor. I see you are logged onto Facebook. I almost smile as I wonder how many more such rants lie ahead.

Suddenly the AC shudders to a halt. Another power cut. General mutterings and some odd abuses fill the room. The windows of this ‘modern ultra-tech’ building don’t even open. We look outside at the slums and the peepul tree with its pink leaves gently fluttering.

We blankly stare at the wide world that lies beyond. We can’t interact with it.


Anonymous said...

woooh... it is sad, funny, real and surreal, all at once.
thanks for the amazing post, it will keep churning in my head for a while.
and I do know someone working very hard on a green a.c., hope it works out soon. :) :)

Anvita Lakhera said...

Thanks. And good luck to your friend.