The third installement of the "A Modest Proposal" series, below.
The references to the strife torn locales and the names of the new gods of the globalised order are a little outdated, but it is published as originally written.
I was basking in the morning sun on my lawn when half a dozen sullen looking youngsters stormed in. A tall burly fellow with a week old stubble, grim, sleepless eyes and a distinctly embattled look-threw down a canister, matchbox and other incendiary material at me feet. As if on cue, the others also dropped their pick-axes, crowbars and plain bamboo stick. The man with the sleepless eyes swept ahead and spoke in vengeful tones (a straight take off on Om Puri's encounter with Gandhi in Richard Attenborough's film)
"Here, keep them. You have spoilt the party. All along we thought we were activists for a cause and now you come and knock the bottom out of our belief. From freedom fighters and satyagrahis we are reduced to being mere vandals. Now an eternity of purposelessness, inactivity and sheer boredom lies ahead of us. I have torched no less than twenty public vehicles, bumped off a few cops and decapitated many. But now I will be rendered effete, otiose, unemployed."
Another meek looking fellow screwed up his courage, sidled up to me and said in an accusing tone, “My record has not been as spectacular, a mere .000216 vehicle, but I am also destined to the same fate. A hundred questions were swarming in my mind but the uppermost was the great divergence of their personal tallies of burnt vehicles from the national average of 1.016 vehicles per citizen. I invited them to explain the appalling disparity in their achievements.
The embattled young activist had been in business for quite some time and in fact his youthful looks belied his experience. But still a stroke of sheer luck had helped him improve his tally. A fleet of public transport vehicles was abandoned to be torched - he could not believe his luck - to thwart some proposed inquiry into the purchase of substandard vehicles by the road transport corporation officials. This symbiotic arrangement contributed to the resounding success of the bandh while helping the smooth operators pocket their millions.
The other fellow's measly score in five decimal places still remained unexplained. He was a small towner and his area of operation didn't have a regular public transport system. After all, you can't burn private vehicles for public causes! The last public vehicle that they had burnt was during the 1974-75 agitations. It was still lying near the town hall as a relic of the permanent revolutionary struggle of the town's people. Now they ritually burn it over and over again during every agitation, bandh etc. The townspeople even collect funds and get it painted to look like the real thing. Everyone is allowed to have a crack at it. That is how is average has worked out to .000216 vehicle per person.
There was a rueful look of deprivation in his eyes as only the deprived can have. My heart went out to him and the likes of him. So much crusading zeal, such dedication and not enough buses to burn or public property to destroy! Never had the glaring inequalities of our system or the appalling state of our economy been apparent to me in such concrete terms. But the inequality apart, the immediate problem was that of millions of unemployed and unemployable youth, recently demobbed from the civil disobedience movement. Seething with so much latent energy!
But have no fear! In my scheme of things no problem remains unsolved. Roughly, these youth could be divided into a few broad categories on the basis of their skill and work experience. The likes of my friend - the elite of the corps -were experts at incendiary activities, sabotage and the body contact method of registering their protest. Their commitment to their karmic destiny - vandalism and destruction - was absolutely selfless and purposeless as well. (Nihilism is too philosophical, too abstract a word for such intense activity).
In the present global situation they could be profitably exported to the strife-torn, civil-war ravaged locales of Sarajevo, Serbia, Bosnia, Alma Atta, Tiblis, Kabul, Chad, and Nicaragua. Beirut has traditionally been a good market for some of our boys for making money fighting for this group or that and satisfying their innate destructive impulses. But now the export can be canalized in a planned manner to these new markets. Economic statesmanship demands that we plug in successfully the emergent markets with the abundant supply of the likes of our friends. With such vast reserves we can meet any future demands also. Of course we could charge the consumer countries for the services in hard currency.
I offered this deal to my friend. He was skeptical at first.
"Wouldn't we be overstretching ourselves"
"Far from it. Instead of rickety buses they will have the glass and chromium thing. Instead of crude homemade Molotov cocktails, they could handle sophisticated bombs and pistols, plastic explosives and shoulder launched rockets".
He was already salivating at his mouth. I plied him with the piece-de-resistance. "Since you are committed only to the cause of vandalism, violence and disorder, you can take a perfectly neutral stance striking at both the warring parties courting the minimum danger and maximum surprise."
He was now straining at the leash. Raring to go. I asked him to line up all those ready for export, so that ISO 9000 specification and sundry other papers were got ready. (Economic liberalization makes it easy but still it takes some time!)
But what about the others - the pacifist types - experts at the more sedentary type of struggle - gheraos and dharnas?
"The pity of it is that all these economists are armchair theoreticians. Their sophisticated visual and hearing aids makes them incapable of seeing things right under their noses."
The developed western countries are chockfull of dollars and causes. But while they made their dollars their causes went a-begging. Here we pursued non-existent causes and the deficit in dollars kept mounting. We will make a swap. We are good at pursuing causes. They are good at earning dollars. We will pursue their causes for them they can earn our dollars for us. So we will export all these pacifists to pursue - if need be, revive and reinvent - their causes.
Greenham Commons, Anti-whaling groups, environmental lobbies, anti-nuke demonstrators, feminist leagues, groups supporting children-seeking-divorce-from-their-parents, anti-and-pro-abortion militants, flat-earth society, the association of the admirers of skunk - the list is endless. All these have been active for quite some time without achieving anything very significant, largely because the groups consist of amateur weekend agitators. We could form some kind of an International Brigade, or Resistance from the ranks of these people and send them all over. This way it would work to the advantage of all concerned. The causes will find their activists, and vice versa and the country's forex reserve will soar to greater heights.
The left overs and lay abouts can be crated for export to Japan where the rich and busy Japanese keep hiring strangers to talk sweet nothings to their aged parent in geriatric homes. Good as our boys are at killing time doing nothing, they will mix business with pleasure. The grateful Japanese will compensate us suitably for salving their guilty consciences.
But this still leaves behind the psychophants, the stooges, the bootlickers and PR men. The nation could tighten its belt a little and even they could be dumped at a discount in Washington, Paris, Tokyo in the service of the new Gods: Lewis Preston(the then president of the World Bank), Camadasseus (the then chief of IMF), Calra Hills or Kimamaso Tarumizu( the then chief of the Asian Development Bank) to wash their feet with soda water and unguents in ritual worship and to sing in their praise day and night.
The activists were dazed at this marvellous package. But the meek one still persisted, "Wouldn't this body shopping demean us, in the eyes of the world".
I silenced him with a withering look. "For Camadasseus sake! Dollar is the new god. We must surrender everything in the service of him. That is the only way the poor shall inherit the earth."