Saturday, May 27, 2023

On Monstrous Men Who Create Merciless Machines


I once read a book by Terry Brooks, where the powerful Druid, Walker Boh is trapped by genius machines created by foolish men. Victimized by the soullessness of the true machine, he is pinioned on a sterile table with invasive tubes attached to him, and fed lifelike visions where he is fleeing from repeated attacks by relentless creepers of steel that seek to cut him up and is forced to use magic to defend himself. The machines then siphon away the potent energy expended and use it to power their cells. Poor Walker is helpless to defend himself, and the machines are perfectly content to let him keep at it, without respite, till even his formidable mind, cracks under the ceaseless strain. This is somewhat like the Matrix movies, but scarier.

Sometimes, I am convinced that we are all doomed to suffer the same fate as Walker, except, we choose to be trapped in an alternate reality, expending our vital life force on infinite inanities, so that we don’t have to cope with the evils of a broken world. How else do we explain the unvarying nature of crime and consequences? Of life’s predictable pattern of chasing highs which plunge us into fathomless lows? We are being fed the same stories with only a few variables altered, to trigger us into responding with incoherent rage. We flail at shadowy oppressors with all the ‘weapons’ in our arsenal, believing we are slaying them and making a difference. We keep tilting ferociously at nebulous nothings hoping that something will change.

It was only as recently as 2020, when the molten rage of the public spilled over when Bennix and Jayaraj became victims of custodial torture in TN. Now, we are directing our ire at ASP Balveer Singh, accused of torturing as many as ten suspects, two of whom were minors at the Ambasamudram police station. Apparently, he yanked out teeth using pliers, crushed testicles and used the police baton to devastating effect. Elsewhere, in the hallowed premises of Kalakshetra, a bastion of culture and tradition, founded by the legendary Rukmini Devi Arundale, allegations of sexual harassment have flown thick and fast, not long after the #MeToo movement, promising positive change, ran out of steam. Meanwhile, a video of the Dalai Lama asking a little boy to suck on his tongue has gone viral. In all these cases, there has been condemnation aplenty. But a familiar pattern has emerged with higher ups demonstrating a fierce commitment towards protecting the accused while leaving the victims to deal with the nuclear fallout. The same as always.

Clearly, things will never change if we stick to tried and tested non – solutions for societal ills. Where we allow our deep-seated fear of tackling the powerful, for fear of ruination, rule us to the point where we are happy to kowtow to a system designed to let the strong thrive while the weak are crushed.

Perhaps, it is best to let the machines take charge. The hope is that we can program them to do better than us. While we sink deeper into a morass of merciful oblivion.

My Sunday Column for The New Indian Express

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