Krish Ashok wrestles with complex matters.
In 1961, as Dwight Eisenhower left the White House, he gave a seminal farewell address about the unholy nexus of big corporations, politics and the business of war. This trifecta of mutually back-scratching entities, he called the Military Industrial Congressional Complex. War is profitable for business so they lobby and fund politicians to sustain wars and military spending. This results in a vicious cycle of fear mongering, identification of axes of evil and such, massive spending on military preparedness and preferential contracts doled out during post-war reconstruction. This symbiotic triangle of mutual back-scratching is a template for several similar setups.
The Politico-Media-Police complex, for instance, refers to the cozy understanding between policy makers, media and the police where politicians and law enforcement provide exclusive stories to the media in exchange for favourable coverage and in turn trade favours between themselves.
The Prison-Industrial complex is a symbiotic triangle with law enforcement, private prisons and businesses as its nodes. The police keep prison population high, for which private prisons get paid more and businesses get low-cost forced labour from these places.
But in my considered opinion, these are trivial complexes on the larger scale of things. There are more devious, insidious, crafty and Machiavellian (Chanakyan for the Indologically inclined) complexes that pervade our society and we continue to ignore them at our own peril.
The Politico-Cinematic-Outrage complex operates with such atrocious impunity that we have essentially stopped thinking and simply continue to throw our hard-earned money at this nefarious triangle like mustachioed mafia dons at mujras. The playbook is as follows: Make run-of-the-mill commercial movie about a slightly controversial subject. Choose subject based on which demographic you want to target from a marketing perspective.
The LTTE works to rouse the Tamil nationalistic fringe. Empathise with Muslims to rouse the Shiv Sena. Homosexuality works to rouse the entire religious establishment and so on.
Once the necessary rogue elements have been roused from their troll caves, politics can step in to “take action” to “maintain law and order” and ban the movie for a short while. The producers then shift into Act 2 of this drama where they come on TV and bemoan the loss of crores to the ban. This tugging at the heartstrings of the populace by millionaires driving Italian sports cars rouses that most fundamental outrage from our deeply buried sense of Schadenfreude — how dare these corrupt politicians mess with those cinema folks who make their money in the most Himalayan spring-water clean way?
We then suspend our Pirate Bay downloads and Techsatish streams and flock to the theatres in solidarity with the artistic creed and pat ourselves on the back for sticking it to the Man.
Another devious complex is the Affluent-Rationcardial Complex. This is in fact so subtle that most people just assume that it’s charity. Rich middle class folks buy subsidised groceries from the Public distribution system and donate it to the lesser fortunate in our society. So the taxes we all pay go into subsidising the touchingly noble gestures of our richer brethren who do the equivalent of pilfering from Peter and donating it to Paul who then defeats the point of the PDS by selling it in the black market.
And what about the Helmeto-Police-Safety-complex that works this way — Raise public safety awareness about cracked craniums and oozing brain fluid first. Then legislate to make helmets mandatory and allow the manufacturers to make a killing. After a while, go easy on enforcement so that people let their helmets turn into Fungal metropolises in dark and dank corners of their homes. And then repeat step 1 again. Now people will be forced to buy new helmets because of the greater biohazard that old, disused, fungus-infested helmets pose.
Or the Vaastu-Architectural Complex that is a cosy arrangement between Vaastu consultants, architects and utterly poor aesthetic taste. Builders need reasons to convince people to do utterly silly and ridiculously pointless modifications to their homes and Vaastu consultants provide them with hideous aplomb. India is a country where you can take something spectacularly ludicrous, wrap it with a veneer of ancient tradition, sprinkle a few Sanskrit verses here and there and turn it into a money-spinning business model. In the words of 50 cent, there’s no bi’ness like the holy bi’ness.
Which brings us to the mother of all nefarious symbiotic triangles. That sinistral and widespread exploitation of that most fundamental need to feel well. I call it the Vitamin B complex. It’s the profane nexus of our desire to avoid going to real doctors, the presumed medical degrees of every elderly person in the family and the pharmacological industry.
Have a seemingly malignant tumour in the lymph nodes? Take some B-complex first. Have a mild headache? Take B-complex. Have a fever? Take Crocin but pop in some B-complex anyway. Feeling peckish? Snack on some B-complex. We collectively consume so much Riboflavin that there is a serious risk of it turning into a whole new life form inside our guts and declaring war on humanity and manifesting as a whole new version of our original problem, the military industrial complex.