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Updated: December 28, 2013 18:17 IST
Armchair with a view

This too shall pass

Krish Ashok
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Illustration: Satwik Gade
The Hindu
Illustration: Satwik Gade

The author looks at the year that was.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the year of promising sanity, it was the year of blinding hypocrisy, it was the time of dwindling religious belief, it was the time of horrendous religious fundamentalism, we have everything before us and we have nothing before us. So here’s what 2013 was about.

A former colonist country that spent centuries exploiting and systematically stripping Africa invaded the North African country of Mali, in a strange twist of historical irony, to liberate it from militant Islamism.

The West, that decries the spreading virus of fundamentalism, still used all its technical might to write one of the world’s most sophisticated computer viruses, STUXNET, to seriously damage Iran’s nuclear programme. This year, the country eventually caved in and agreed to limit its ambitions in exchange for lifting of sanctions that go back to a people’s revolution that replaced a tyrannical West-backed Shah who was put in place after the assassination of a democratically elected head of state who wanted to nationalise the country’s oil resources.

Meanwhile, North Korea was busy turning the cognitive dissonance knob to 11. They still use DOS, floppies, fax machines and Dyanora TVs but managed to detonate a nuclear bomb underground. Comically obsolete, yet scarily dangerous.

Speaking of comical obsolescence, Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Argentina became the first head of a major religion in the 21 century to actually make sense in a world that is rapidly running away from religious belief. As faith struggles for relevance and grows stale with mould, he is a breath of fresh air.

While religions are still figuring out if it’s okay for a woman to have control over her reproductive parts and if it’s moral for two consenting same-sex adults to love each other, scientists in the US managed to clone human embryonic stem cells. It is one of the most significant breakthroughs in bio-technology, one that could eventually cure many of our most intractable diseases and increase our lifespan to the point where retiring at 60 will seem ridiculously early.

Folks in Texas were printing guns in 3D this year, while professors in Cornell University were printing ears in 3D with actual living cell-gels, thus promising a future where we can give printed ears to people shot at by other people with printed guns.

Snowden in 2013 revealed what George Orwell in 1949 had already revealed in 1984: that Big Brothers who spy on their citizens will go on to do very bad things. He then asked for asylum in a country with a long history of its own citizens seeking asylum from his country.

At the same time, the world lost a brother with a big heart, Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned for 27 years based on intelligence provided by American spies to an apartheid regime. His death subsequently brought forth a torrent of hypocrisy on social media, with senators who had voted to declare Mandela a terrorist now composing 140-character paeans in his praise.

As one democracy spied on its citizens, the struggling democracy of Egypt deposed a democratically-elected government because it was too religiously inclined.

Typhoons and cyclones hit us hard this year while we were still busy debating the political correctness of ‘climate change’ vs. ‘global warming’. We bemoaned pollution in our cities while driving internal combustion engines powered by subsidised diesel and asking for ‘extra plastic covers’ from retailers.

India sent a probe to Mars and underpaid maids to the US, while China sent a rover to the Moon and underpaid employees to their deaths several floors below sweatshop complexes. The US launched a dysfunctional website to fix a dysfunctional healthcare system and launched functional drones to kill innocent people at wedding functions.

We produced civil engineers who write software code for banks, while churning out whizkids in Newtonian mechanics who migrate to the US to design complex financial derivatives for banks that bring down world economies to the point where outsourcing to India is simply the only way to go. We seem to have that strategy nailed down.  

Our moviemakers are still making films that disobey every law the good Isaac ever wrote down. We then universally pan these movies, criticise them to bits, rant about them eloquently and then fork out Rs. 450 per IMAX ticket to watch them with our families because well… it’s timepass.

nice piece of work.

from:  siddharth jain
Posted on: Dec 30, 2013 at 23:03 IST

"Typhoons and cyclones hit us hard this year while we were still busy
debating the political correctness of ‘climate change’ vs. ‘global
warming’. We bemoaned pollution in our cities while driving internal
combustion engines powered by subsidised diesel and asking for ‘extra
plastic covers’ from retailers"

I enjoy reading your articles Krish. The Hindu rocks!!

from:  Kamina
Posted on: Dec 30, 2013 at 11:56 IST
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