Museum of the Disconnected

The tribe of activists had the purplest of patches in the 21st century.

This group revelled in coordinated displays of aggression, mostly of the verbal variety, as a foolproof way of righting all that was wrong with this world. The world obliged, with a growing supply of things to outrage against.

Racism. Feminism. Nationalism. Anti-nationalism. Despotism. Capitalism…

The ism-ms were rounded up with much gusto and scythed into oblivion.

A thorny area caused an -ism schism.

Robotism.

Catalysed by technology, hyper idiotisation had caused humans to behave like robots. And Robots to behave like humans.

Robots had taken over vast swathes of vocational territories once populated by humans. This included much of Earth’s military ranks. Humankind revolted en masse against an enemy that was more condemned than thinking: dying. Robots put their hands up. And proceeded to beat humans hands down.

Robots were also rapidly taking over niches that once enjoyed the human touch. Cashiers, accountants, advisers of genuine (and dubious) lineage, consultants, politicians, teachers, janitors, doctors, thinkers et al found themselves violently uprooted and cast away by robots.

Something had to be done. Humankind arrived at a consensus.

Robots were relegated to the museum of the Disconnected with immediate effect. A few noted wryly that the museum had a rich collection of hitherto connected humans.

All seemed well for a while. Optimism ran high on the ultimate victory of humankind’s status quo.

Aversion to mental exertion had shaped humankind’s belief systems. Corporations, and willing consumers, made and traded things with little interest in knowing who, or where, or how, the things originated. When activists uncovered abominable labour conditions that had caused some unfortunate breathers to journey into the afterlife, humankind was outraged.

At the activists.

For erasing their blackboard of ignorance.

The tribe of activists reacted swiftly. Goods with questionable origin stories were boycotted. Which unfortunately meant, nearly everything. Organic foodies sought safe haven in Sustainableville. When a few amusingly noted that organic meant all things that contained carbon (the living), programmed science lovers latched on to the word. They argued that with so much carbon and twice-of-oxygen in the air, Mother Earth was manifestly organic. They outraged, demanding an abundance of these healthy elements.

After considered armchair communication, humankind got nothing done. And realised they were staring at a mountain of a problem.

How could they sustain this sustainability wave, the drudgery of living with very little, not working, and most importantly, not thinking?

How could the robotised human form be protected, when the new state of affairs meant an irreversible break from the status quo?

Was it silly to rail against the robots? Which could be deployed widely, with no painful demands on unused human physical and mental faculties?

Was it silly to rail against the robots? Which could potentially save scores of human lives operating in dangerous vocations? Or condemn humans to work in dangerous vocations, then outrage against insensitive work practices?

Devoid of mental stamina and a lack of pre-programmed response, human robots opted to reconnect robot humans.

The robots plugged out from the museum of the Disconnected.

Humankind plugged in.

Ouroboros

Ode To The Typo

Time was when every alphabet in the English language could hope to be invited to the Opera of the Words.

Lack of smart phone predictors meant word merchants had to actually rack their brains to spell correctly. Continued demands placed on the brain eventually led to a breakdown, from which humankind failed to recover. Gradualy corect spelings began to fal by the wayside. Occidental misspellings, initially looked down upon, bcame so mainstreem that corect spellings bcam an endangered species.

Reminisenses made sense, to those that followed the thongue.

——

Lyf hd bin hell in da 19th n 20th cenchoories. Da dimmands placd on gettng stuf rite ws onerus. 1der witch demon maid these silly rooles of riting. Of using the ristraints of spelling. Nt for rebells, dis spelling biz! Only fooles play by da rooles. We wantd 2 brk free of this shakles.

V gt away wid phonyticks in phoneticks class, witch helpd us achev sooo much tht r riting ability soard flewently. The con of tence and sentense construkshun. What a constrikshun. 1 dussnt undrstnd y da oldys luvd there wards sooo much. That fell low, Shakes pear. Shake hs pears, sum1. Got cot in da rut and rote by rote abt rotten thngs. Vorse, thy maid us resite da wards of dead ppl in frunt of dose dat cudn b botherd. V don undstnd dat shit nymor. Listning is challengng 4 us. R best riters do the riting in a stile dat v guys folow. V lik simpl, shot vords; witch v shoten futhur. n futhur. Its da neu order.

Den der ws dat otha guy, Vordsworth. He shuddav bin namd Vordsworthless, 4 da pain he causd us al wid hs outwordly ramblings. Den der wer da othrs. A long list. Da philosuffers, and there fabulous confabulations. Dis grp deserv special caning. Boyle maid blud boil, Kant ws a c**t, Hegel needed a bagel, Marx gt no marks, Twain ws a pain. Da later wasn even a philosuffer. N yet he managd to do gr8 damage, esp wid hs sillee coat abt histry ryming bt nt repeeting. As u cn cleerlee c, he ws dead. N rong.

Ye abhorrers! Err in gramerr isn’ a horrer! Shunning is a nachooral progresshun. Evolushun. Da purist old hags no knot whts a knot, n whts not. Playng wid wards dussnt giv us ny playsure. Morons. Ah, moreon morons. Da peegeons uf yore dint knw 2 read or rite, yet did a gr8 job uf pissing da cumunicashuns. Hooeva thot uf drillng orda in wards.

Dey say luv cs knw langooage. Cudn hv bin writer. Bein wardless is no barrear 2 leting an outlet 2 feelngs. Wht nighther wnts in da nights is a conworseation. V lyk strait acshun. Wards cum in da way. Amid gets da midgets. Ading mor payne 2 lyf.

Bt v suffur frm shot concentrashun as a result. Nighther cn v hold a thot.

Can knot, not a can, can v? V can. Not knot a can.

V can rite. Yet.

Ther wil cum a time to per4m da last writes.

Til thn, may sence, or sentence, prewail.

When Shit Got Pricier Than Gold: Manzoni’s Excremental Alchemy

The canvas of painting history painted a lustrous picture of the wonders of the brush.

Art connoisseurs, real and otherwise, regularly paid obeisance and sang paeans to vivid masterpieces. Rising wealth in recent decades meant that many of these wonders came to be viewed as an investment class. Picasso and Rembrandt now adorned the walls of wealthy patrons; who almost unanimously, liked to think of themselves as connoisseurs.

To the art cynic, however, artists and painters seemed masters at profound conceptual mumbo-jumbo. A few lines here, a few there, random gobs of colour strewn carelessly, with great care, on canvas often resulted in a masterpiece that fetched a fortune. The naysayer was brushed off, ironically, by the artist, on the grounds of utter ignorance at appreciating beauty. The cynics, however, made some of the artists pause and ponder about the state of affairs.

Veiled irreverence had always been a potent tool in a provocateur’s arsenal. A snide remark on his apparent ineptness as a painter from one of his own set off reactive impulses in Italian brushman Piero Manzoni; who rather inadvertently through his actions taught the world an entertaining lesson on the values of popular delusion.

Stung by criticism, Manzoni decided to carry out a real-time experiment. In 1961, he put art connoisseurs to the test by filling 90 tin cans filled with an ounce each; of his valuable excrement and christened his ‘artwork’, Artist’s Shit. The action, rather harmless in intention, turned into a vivid parody of art in subsequent years.

Manzoni intended each can to be priced equal to the prevailing price of Gold by weight. The price of each can would vary according to the fluctuating price of Gold. In 1961, this valued Manzoni’s finely preserved faeces at $37 each, a princely amount for a thing of shitty value.

Shit was worth as much as Gold.

Given his stature among art appreciators, Manzoni’s cans gained in allure with the passage of time. A piece of art was, of course, theoretically priceless, in the eyes of art lovers. Several regime changing events occured in the 1970s, which resulted in Gold’s value fluctuating with gay abandon since. Manzoni’s cans came into their own.

30 years after the cans came into being, art auctioneer Sotheby’s auctioned one can for a rather eye-popping $67,000. The price of Gold meanwhile, poor commodity, had soared to only $375/ounce. Manzoni’s faeces changed hands at 170 times their ‘fair’ price. Rational humans were in the act.

Shit had got pricier than Gold.

But, rationalisation has always been a ready elixir to our actions. Of course, Manzoni’s faeces were in short supply (he died an untimely death). More of it could simply not be created, unless someone volunteered to sit in.

A thing of scarcity value only becomes more (in)valuable with time. Then in 2007, Sotheby auctioned one can…for a monumental $163,000. Gold, meanwhile, after a stellar rally, had only managed to reach $650/ounce. In keeping with the spirit of the recession, another can changed hands for $157,000 in October 2008, at the onset of the financial crisis. Gold managed to inch up to $780/ounce.

After fetching 250 times the price of Gold in 2007, humans demonstrated their natural rationality by remembering the recession and Manzoni’s excrement fell out of favour, somewhat.

Shit was priced at only 200 times the price of Gold. 

 

Manzoni's Shit

Some felt that Manzoni’s parody on rationality and consumerism had left a bad odour, not-so-ironically, on human beings. Yet others felt that humans had displayed acute understanding of scarcity value.

We humans had learnt our lesson.

Or had we?

The Art Of Rural Warfare

Agitations are the in thing this season. The voyager is witness to many a fast-unto-deaths for various causes. Some to find a solution to the centuries-old problem of corruption and others zealously requesting a separate state. Some of these efforts could be termed genuine but in most other instances, protagonists furtively tend to their grumpy stomachs every now and then, hoping to outwit peeping Toms. Peeping Toms appreciate that fasting can be a tough business; with the indulger often ending up hungry, so an occasional helping of Potato Chips dipped in tomato sauce followed by chicken biryani and tea shouldn’t be a deplorable offence.

I shall not bother the reader with necessary details such as motivation behind the demonstration and so on. Henceforth, the demonstration will be referred to as the Movement and the demonstrators, the Illuminati.

A brief introduction to the typical Art of Rural Warfare is in order though, prior to the story.

A street-war in bucolic locales begins with a tuneful jangling of the vocal chords, reminiscent of a tiger’s growl and a visible frontward coiling of the tongue, akin to an elephant’s curl of its trunk prior to attack. The Wail is expected to achieve multiple objectives of revving up one’s dormant battle instincts, striking fear in the hearts of the opponent and arousing slumbering soldiers. It is generally most useful in accomplishing the last objective. Contortions of the tongue and protruding eyes are intended to impress upon the opponent the seriousness of one’s malevolent intentions. The opponent is expected to back down at this warning but generally, in accordance with Newton’s Third Law, the opponents repay with an equal and opposite reaction. For no fault on its part, the loincloth which adorns the gents is then subject to several slaps around the thigh-area, followed by wind-mill like motion of the arms, as the warriors shadow swim above water. The body is known to join in and so do the legs in a rigorous warm-up just before commencement of battle.

Baleful voices found their way into my ears. I craned my neck in the direction of the source and discovered mace-like hands sparring with the air above and determined feet punishing the earth beneath. For a moment, the mob seemed to resemble a pack of irate mongrels. Adorned in colourful clothing and equipped with flags that emitted fluorescence, the Illuminati were self-professed flag bearers of the Movement. The group halted on an open field and on closer inspection, one discovered a range of metal accessories that are generally commonplace in gladiatorial contests. The only missing ingredient (which wasn’t missed for long) was a catalyst to flag off the drama. One wasn’t sure if the Illuminati had a definite objective that they were working towards. Not that it mattered; to them or to me.

The time-tested technique to incite a jingoist mob is a Socratic attempt at a discussion on the pros-n-cons of the issue at hand. This was the Movement. How could anyone question the prudence of such a noble activity? A Socrates regrettably committed this grave sin.

The leader of the pack – a gentleman inclined towards roundness – let out an ungentle-manly growl hoping to drill jingoism back into the fidgety mob, which looked like succumbing to reason. The snarl only succeeded in shooing real mongrels away. The air-beating resumed and the leader’s voice was lost in the debris of cacophony that had broken out. These are things that are too much for the Ego to handle. Smarting from the dismissive nonchalance with which he was greeted by the Illuminati, the leader thought it appropriate to unleash another round of verbal ammunition, this time at a higher octave.

The Illuminati seemed to quieten for a bit. Impressed, the leader stomped his feet and was beginning to consider his next move when a simpleton landed in the leader’s vast constitution. Someone had shoved the simpleton from his left, who lost balance and thought of embracing the leader for support. The latter, however, misinterpreted the simpleton’s decorous intentions. Glowering, he seized the man and decided to let his restive hands do the communication.

The simpleton felt a mace coming to an abrupt halt in his cheek. Dazed at the assault he took some moments to regain his composure. The leader, meanwhile, looked around to his sycophants for approval; nodding his head and smiling in self-congratulation. He hadn’t considered a guerrilla manoeuvre by the simpleton, though. Fleet-footed, the simpleton compensated for the great mismatch in body volume with agility that had never managed to convince the leader of its utility.

A leg, swinging like a pendulum, disappeared into the leader’s underbelly.

The protrusion around his centre of gravity prevented the leader from addressing the point of impact with his eyes. The leader’s hands, abruptly reminded of their primary responsibilities, moved involuntarily towards the gentleman’s ailing sausage, caging it in protection. It was too late. The cost of the lapse was borne by the leader, who let out a roar in pain, whirled around and sat down. In subsequent proceedings he took no further part.

The sycophants swung into action, drawing out their weapons of mass destruction. The simpleton’s camp followed and battle lines were drawn. The reflection of the sun off the metals seemed to stir a whiff of reason into the soldiers, who thought it wise to replace weapons with their hands. The sycophants turned towards their leader for a battle cry and were greeted instead with a low-frequency whine. Overcome with consternation at this sight, the sycophants decided to exact revenge.

The typical Rural Warfare setting outlined in the beginning of this story played out to near perfection. Roars rippled out in all directions, tongues curled in unison, eyes magnified to twice their normal size, thighs suffered in stoic silence and arms waved in circular motion in both camps. This proceeded for what seemed like an eternity with each side inviting the other to take first strike. Heartfelt abuses were hurled to and fro; directed first at the opponent and then invoking ancestors several generations back in time. One felt sorry for the souls who were responsible for putting these Illuminati on earth. So stinging were the abuses to the kindred clans. But the impending fisticuff remained a stillborn.

The ‘war’ threatened to be played out solely in the verbal realm. The sycophants had seen the fate of their leader and as much as they adored him, were loath to join him in pain. The simpleton’s party, meanwhile, wisely considered the mismatch in numbers, apart from the mismatch in physical bulks which was roughly 2.5:1. Both sides judiciously, but regrettably, settled for verbal warfare. As the gullets grew weary, momentum was lost and both sides menacingly cowered away, unwilling to give a quarter. The leader was escorted away by his sycophants, sausage firmly protected by the hand guards.

So, after an entertaining lag, reason had triumphed over jingoism and egos. A magnificent build-up to what promised to be a grand spectacle had fizzled out.

What about the Movement?

It didn’t matter. Either to them. Or to me.

—————-

This is a re-run of an old post. Similar circumstances to those described above reminded HaLin of this post lost in the archival depths of Haphazard Linkages.

A Guide To US Elections: Layman’s Lexicon

HaLin has been an actively passive watcher of the intensely (un)interesting Presidential candidate debates and intellectual mud-slinging, in the lead-up to US elections. With D-Day round the corner, HaLin realises that much of the electorate is likely to be reeling under the assault of political innuendo, being liberally thrown around from both sides.

This is a cause of much concern. In pressing times like these, where activity of any form is hard to spot, it behooves each thinking human to convey an impression of making an informed voting decision, in the very least.

This post hopes to serve as a guiding light in wading through the fog.

Political Left: A group of flip-floppers that see little Right, about anything in general, around election time.

Working for the greater good of humankind, this group brandishes the sabre of altruism to great effect. The unemployed, uninsured and the unhealthy merit a special spot in their lexicon. They attempt to do much for them, but periodically remind themselves of the fable of killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

This group has, historically, displayed an attitude of nonchalance towards the economics of revenue and expenditure. They tend to view (permanent) budget deficits as manna from heaven. Spend more than what you make, repeat indefinitely, and all will be well with the world. Those in the electorate who haven’t yet allowed themselves to be brainwashed by this catchline (the pesky blaspheme) are strongly encouraged to drop their ill-functioning anchors of basic reason, and embrace what is clearly in their best interest.

This group likes to paint businesses as profit-making beasts created by the evils of Capitalism. They are known to throw good money after bad, with the sole aim of saving jobs and the economy; even though their record at achieving either is shrouded in mystery. They like taxing in taxing times and hope that businesses and individuals will pay an expanding share of a reducing pie (income). When blaspheme wonder how loss-making businesses will help increase jobs and wages, this group pounces upon dissenting voices, writing it off as a deplorable instance of naiveté, idiocy or a concoction of both.

When all else appears to fail, they opt to blame China, as the root cause of all ills; known and unknown.

Political Right: A group of flip-floppers that see little Left, about anything in general, around election time.

This group is pro-business, or at least likes painting itself with that palette. They liken Corporations, too big to fail and often too big to save, to Messiah of Prosperity. What they earn eventually makes it way to people, helping the economy, helping the electorate, helping goodness in general. This group, though, displays a lack of understanding of the wind of the day. In pressing times, a pro-proletariat group is likely to garner sympathy votes. The blaspheme who suggest this are branded as being anti-Capitalism, pro-idiocy, or a concoction of both.

This group utters things that are closer to truth than its opponents. But it fails to acknowledge the effects of basic psychology. How incoming information is interpreted by the thinking electorate is a function of how it is packaged and delivered. By adopting directness over vagueness, preferred by its opponents, this group opens itself for vilification and accusations of belligerence.

Their policies are crystal clear in their fogginess. In this respect, they have something in common with their opponents. But both sides indulge in exposing the ineptness of the opponent, while caring to remain ignorant of the muck accumulating in their own backyards.

Foreign policy from both sides, too, share some common threads. While they seem to differ in means, both sides display a penchant to land up, often uninvited, on foreign shores to sort out problems that hitherto did not exist. The process of problem creation and resolution has been institutionalised to perfection through years of intense practice. Blasphemes are encouraged to use sophisticated nomenclature, preferably purveyors of altruism, while describing their actions.

When all else appears to fail, they opt to blame China, as the root cause of all ills; known and unknown.

Mainstream business, Unbiased Media: Mouthpieces of President Obama and Left-leaners, featuring fawning Ivory Tower savants schooled in coloured interpretation of Keynesian diktats, in general; and well-schooled in selective perception and reporting in particular.

Electorate: A group, largely composed of real and professed proletariat and the creme de la creme of idleness, demonstrating a special affinity for assimilating propaganda. This affinity is neatly counterbalanced by a remarkable ability to tune out opinion-altering facts, especially of the real variety. This group is best advised to partake in leisurely pub outings with a selection of equally (un)informed mates for a detailed discussion on the best candidate and the state of the economy and foreign policy. Consensus decision-making is a hallmark of democracies, collective self-interest is an aggregation of individual self-interests.

This group repeatedly finds itself being called upon to exercise an informed vote, despite an impressive historical record of uninformed decision-making. The basic instincts of self-interest and preservation, honed by the process of evolution, miraculously seem to fall at the altar of the polling booth.

Those wondering if the outcome of the election will really alter the state of the economy would do well to follow Jonathan Swift’s words from the Logicians Refuted:

Thus at the court, both great and small

Behave alike, for all ape all.

Voting and going bust offers better risk-reward to doing nothing, for the same outcome.

A Short History Of Problems

Somewhere along the 21st century, the world reached a tipping point. Stupendous progress had been made in almost every area, known and unknown, by humans. From the days of the early Neanderthal, humans progressed from a state of being inundated with problems and no means, to a state where they were inundated with means and no problems.

This caused a big problem.

The happiness of the past was a distant memory. Humankind’s ignorance over much of history had created a situation that had facilitated peaceful coexistence; between Earth and Earthlings, consequential and otherwise. There wasn’t much to do, once the early day errands were completed, and humans felt a pressing need to keep boredom at bay. Inventing problems that did not exist provided a wonderful solution.

Since then, much ingenuity was devoted to conjuring up problems so that everyone was kept busy.

The apple-chomping, treetop-romping biped gradually began to feel the need to indulge in clothes. Winter came along and brought with it the reminder of Man’s inability to cope with extreme cold. Shopping was an unheard of fad at the time and alternatives were needed. The needle and thread were invented as a result, initially as a means to insulate against cold and then as a means to augment social impression. The latter worked better.

A little later, humans learnt to make the bow and arrow, originally as a tool to help in animal hunting. Soon, the tool was found to be extremely useful in hunting humans too; and large-scale fighting (battles, wars) was invented. Humans learnt to create fire and it has generally been downhill ever since. They also discovered that often fire could be created but not extinguished, while water could be extinguished but not created. This was likely to emerge as fertile ground for future fighting.

The War Culture then underwent major refinements as the Industrial Revolution facilitated the building of metal-based arsenal. Much life was lost in the ensuing experimentation phase. It kept the balance, though. Humankind morphed from having numerous mercenaries and few weapons, to having numerous weapons and few mercenaries. Paradoxically, as the value accompanying the style of life diminished, the value attached to lifestyle increased, generally disproportionately.

A lucrative exercise was discovered in the fine art of Strategy, which involved thinking up a plausible number of implausible problems. Humans found, much to their glee, that Strategy was a potent warehouse for inventing problems. What began in the sphere of foreign affairs and war, with due gratitude to Imperialism, gradually found a cosy dwelling in corporate affairs.

Dwellings, incidentally, assumed centre stage. Bricks, mortar, essential commodities were all found to satiate humans’ desire to have a roof over their heads. What began as an outcome of necessity soon morphed into an instrument of indulgence. Unnecessary massive structures were deemed to be necessary for conveying structured massiveness.

Since the gallingly humbling discovery of their uselessness in the larger scheme of things, humankind increasingly succumbed to restlessness, in the Post-Copernican era. They tried seeking refuge in the comforting arms of education, which they thought could help drill some meaningfulness into their dreary lives. Humans’ desire to invent problems accelerated.

Increasing civility stoked the desire to eschew the power of the Feet for the power of the Wheel. The Wheel was invented and humankind breathed easy, for a brief period. This led to the problem of discovering a fuel to power these creations. Crude Oil provided the answer and Man spent centuries drilling holes into the hitherto unperforated surface of the Earth. Then a need was felt for electricity to power newly-built homes. Coal provided the answer. Much of that was under the surface of the Earth. More drilling happened. When coal became too costly, natural gas was discovered as an alternative. Coincidentally, even this was found to be hidden under the surface of the Earth. More drilling happened. Gradually, many commodities that humans desired were found to be hidden underground. A Drilling Culture was born. The incessant drilling led to disturbances in the sea-bed and a bunch of species perished. Permanently.

Then humans took cognisance of the intense competition from the Brotherhood of the Birds and proceeded to beat them at their own game, by inventing the aircraft. Many birds perished as a result of unscheduled mid-air meetings with Man’s latest creation. Some humans, it must be added in the spirit of fairness, attempted building wings, and perished during the testing phase. Permanently.

The periodic mass killing and clustered dwelling led to the emergence of an eclectic menu of diseases that threatened to exterminate humans. Humans had chanced upon their biggest problem. Medicines and vaccines and elixirs were concocted to keep these raging monsters at bay. Some (diseases) were successfully exterminated but others morphed into alternatives, to manifest at a later date. Humans welcomed it. The goose that lay the golden egg was to be revered, never to be killed.

The invention of Paper Currency proved to be a tipping point in irreversibly stoking humans’ desires. Suddenly, everything seemed easy. All that was needed was accumulation of sufficient wads of Paper. It was found that Paper had the power of the Cure-All. If only sufficient amounts were created and floated around, all appeared well. The few that paused to point out that this was akin to an addict taking periodic drug shots, with a high possibility of ending in disaster, they were dismissed.

In a surprising turn of events, humans had gone from having few problems and no Paper Currency, to having many problems and much Paper Currency, to having few problems and incredible amounts of Paper Currency.

Gradually, all problems ended.

Or so it seemed.

This created a big problem.

—-

Suggestions for inventing new problems will be welcomed in the Comments. Thank you.

 

 

 

How The CON Sea Problem Was Resolved – Satire Of The South China Sea

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to reality, however dysfunctional, is entirely intentional.

The nuclear age that had taken birth, surreptitiously, in the depths of the last World War, was proving to be a promising financial disaster for countries across the globe, already pulverised by the never-ending financial crisis.

Wisdom had begun to dawn on the handful of nations that were perched high on the nuclear ladder. They realised – after decades of sinking investment in fortifying themselves – that it was essentially a costly experiment in nothingness. Since 1945, despite close encounters and promising starts, miraculously, humankind hadn’t succumbed to unreason. Half a century had passed and the world had witnessed little mass action. No wars were forthcoming. Griping was high, as a result.

Smaller nations were knocking on the door to be part of the elite Fight Club. The Wise Guys nodded sadly, as attempts to pass on the lessons of their folly to these new members failed miserably.

A Council of Nations (CON) had been strung together, amid an atmosphere of healthy mistrust and cordial suspicion. A meeting was arranged and CON Members assembled at an unknown location. The agenda was unclear but many assumed the platform was likely to be used to conjure up a consensus to waging war, and putting an end to decades of collective wasteful expenditure and inaction.

An issue, which had the potential to trigger inclusive disharmony, was the need of the hour. Suggestions were solicited and after brief jousting, Members agreed on the CON Sea. The CON Sea was a sore nerve for years. Everyone thought they owned parts of the Sea but nobody seemed ready to agree. Even to disagree.

At stake were big numbers; multi-billion barrels of crude oil and multi-multi-billion cubic feet of natural gas. Or, so everyone thought. Curiously, everyone’s interest was piqued the moment these hidden treasures were discovered. Financial considerations had a magical way of fathering sovereign interests.

The largest CON Member by size – they called it Big C – immediately jumped into the discussion. It wanted a leading voice and exercised its rights to much of the area, citing history. History was a faithful friend to those particularly gifted in selective perception. Almost all CON Members seemed to share this exceptional gift. To their surprise, Members found that their respective drawings on the map seemed to overlap with everyone else’s.

Tempers threatened to simmer, and then soar. The smaller CON members harboured secret misgivings towards Big C, whose sole reason for existence was to thwart them, or so they thought. They wanted to see Big C out, if possible, but few enjoyed the force or will for a frontal assault. Forced smiles were seen. The meeting went nowhere.

Some smaller CON Members thought of turning to U. Sham, to solicit its wisdom. Sham had a reputation around the world as the Omnipresent Purveyor of Universal Freedom, who had a curious way of landing up, often self-invited, on sensing trouble. Its advice – solicited or otherwise, frequently otherwise – was aimed at quelling trouble when it saw one. Mystically, Sham’s ‘interests’ seemed to span the globe, even in places it had never visited, or heard of, before.

This was fertile territory indeed. U. Sham yearned to get involved, but wasn’t invited. Worse, none seemed keen on extending an invitation. It hoped that someone might invoke the Mutual Defence/Security Treaty that might help it sneak in to the Fight Club. Of course, this could happen only if Big C acted unruly. Big C appeared uninterested, so far. Whether Big C wished to send a message to other CON Members or to U. Sham (or both) was not superficially clear.

Meanwhile, a few more players were in motion elsewhere. Com. Reddie, was seen in conversation with a rather preachy icon known for his pacifist stance, G. D. Ian.

Both seemed a trifle worried at this drama. They thought, not without basis, that CON Sea was really a subtle exchange between Big C and U. Sham. They had to unite, even if temporarily, to avoid being sidelined by either the former, or the latter.

Matters came to a head, soon after. But almost everyone, independently, decided that nuclear arms were an inappropriate tool for warfare as surprise element was non-existent. Something else was needed in its place. They settled for Edible Warfare.

Thanks to technology, the world now produced and ate so much food, inventories were swelling globally. Food rotted, as inefficiencies in the supply chain between inventories and those in need of food were high. It was thought fighting with Food would serve multiple purposes. It would take care of wastage, possibly solve the problem of hunger (socially responsible objectives) and would be a truly surprise element (strategic objective).

The launch of battle was disputed. U. Sham assumed Big C of hanky-panky, Big C duly reciprocated with its perception. Smaller CON Members wished to have the first-mover advantage and assumed that U. Sham would assume Big C’s assumption and would go to war anyway. So they moved pre-emptively. Reddie consulted G. D. Ian, who seemed to be in the default posture of saintly meditation. Stupor was broken, belatedly, and they decided to get involved.

D-Day dawned and bombings began. Food-laden ICBMs flew furiously hither thither. MIGs and F-s downloaded food grains, while submarines capable of carrying vast tonnage of food as payload zoomed underwater. The assault of edibles was so fierce and so much food exchanged that the world paused to wonder. No one had thought there was such a huge stockpile of food on the planet. Gluttony and wastage competed for top spot.

Hawk-eyed observers sensed certain changes as a result of this mode of warfare. Instead of cowering in fear, people began eating more free food. They ate so much that large swathes of populace succumbed to the bear hug of gluttony and obesity. Damage was mutual and widespread.

Both social and strategic objectives were met. But there was no winner.

A gargantuan amount of food was eaten. More was simply frittered away. Edible Warfare had exacted a great toll. There was massive food shortage.

Nobody seemed interested in the barrels of oil and cubic feet of natural gas camouflaged beneath the CON Sea.

These could not be eaten.

 

 

 

A Negative (Interest Rate) World: When The World Plunged Into Its Mirror Image…

(Un)customary Warning: This is a parody of a rather boring real-life event. Negative interest rates; a topic high on Repulsive Quotient. Mumbo-jumbo is kept down to a minimum, however, and one hopes the brief waddle through an arcane world turns out to be an enjoyable ride.

——————–

Johnny Simple was flummoxed and a trifle grumpy. The reason behind his grumpiness was his government. Simple didn’t really harbour views on the quality, or the sanity, of his government (‘I couldn’t care less’), but in the sleepy surroundings of his home, his mind was astir. An investment that he had made – out of his own free will – was giving him ample cause for bemoaning.

He had chosen the safety of his trustworthy government’s Bonds, had made an investment for a return, waited…but on maturity, something seemed amiss. Simple had naively thought his government would return his principal and then something extra, on his investment. But his government seemed to have charged him for the privilege of investing with it. He learnt the true meaning of ‘return’. To air his misgivings, he sought out a friend, Complexius, and learnt a bit about himself and human behaviour. Complexius quickly got down to dealing with complexities.

For centuries, people thought a country’s government was the safest of safe places to park one’s capital. It was simple. You invested in a country’s government bond, the government provided interim happiness (interest on the bond), and one got one’s investment back at the end of it all. This was when countries around the world were paragons of strength.

Like a body that wilts under the tentacles of cancer, countries were now consumed by Debt. A pale shadow of their strong former selves, countries were scampering to resuscitate one another. The world had changed.

Bank deposit rates had gone Negative.

Ailing countries proclaimed that considering their financial ill-health, their citizens would now have to pay them for the privilege of safe-guarding their savings. A few paused and thought, deteriorating financial health ought to lead to ever higher interest rates as compensation. What in the heavens was happening here? This minority, however, was superseded by a vast majority that deemed it rational to turn over their savings to near-default governments, that were now mavens of shakiness and scrambling in the race for life-support.

Risk-free return was now replaced by returns-free risk.

But humans, bless their rational souls, continued ‘investing’ blissfully in their rationality.

Some thought of taking this a step further.

Earlier, everyone desired more money and growing paper wealth. The rules had changed. Holding Paper Currency was now anathema. There would now be a mad desire to lose money. People would be paid to whisk money off their hands, instead of whisking it off others’ hands, as used to happen earlier.

Soon perpetrators realised that heading to an Ivy League was a great way of launching their lose-money careers. The degrees cost a bomb, and it was seen that Ivy League experience in blowing money served as a tremendous adornment in one’s CV.

This led to a happy situation, where smart fellows (with Ivy League backings) now spent their waking hours conjuring up ways to lose money. Investors brandished their capacity for generating the highest rates of return earlier, in order to garner investors. Now, everyone proudly brandished their capacity to lose other people’s money. It was observed that the ones with a long and established track record of losing money, often in scintillatingly novel ways, seemed to enjoy great demand.

Banks, which earlier were vilified by the larger public, suddenly assumed a God-like persona. Many thought no one would know how to lose money better than those with a centuries-old history of practising the fine art. Banks did not disappoint. Complex derivative transactions, which earlier were onstensibly aimed at reducing risk of loss, were now in vogue; with the sole purpose of finding complex ways of increasing risk of loss.

Governments across the world, well, were already in the game before most others.

This culture spilled over to the social sphere, threatening the very fabric of society by questioning age-old customs. The historical roles of the pilferer and the ‘pilfered’ swapped. Thieves, existing and aspirants, took umbrage to this unwanted development. They remonstrated that their identities were being snatched away forcibly and blamed lose-money Capitalism for this conspiracy.

The culture of education underwent a change too. Oodles of moolah was now spent in providing young humans with an that had little value. The institutions soon had a problem, they were generating massive amounts of money without enough outlets for losing it. So they turned to paying parents to send their kids to school. This circle of bliss, paradoxically, left everyone unhappy. Employment went through the roof, as everyone scrambled to lose money. Governments found that they had little to do, leaving them grumpy. There was no money in being a politician.

Eating also witnessed some queer developments. Farmers now fell over one another to pay consumers to buy food. Gradually, most resorted to not producing any food at all. Food was a source of headache for these producers, so they weeded out the cause. Humankind did not take to this kindly.

Riots began, queerly due to the negative prices for essential food commodities, and then thanks to food scarcity. Food scarcity, however, led to a death spiral of ever lower prices now. Things were not turning out well.

Riots soon morphed into skirmishes, which then morphed into regional squibbles, which then morphed into nationwide agitation, which then morphed into international conflict. Ending in obliteration.

Complexius’ exposition left Simple with a heavy head.

He had never thought losing money would lead to such unhappiness and collective disaster.

The Ant Of War: A Fire Ant Breathes Fire

Disclaimer: No ants were harmed for this story. They killed themselves. Sadly, permanently.

——————————————————————————————————————–

A group of young ants, frolicking with the gay abandon that accompanies the fountain of youth, untainted by experience or memory of dark days; stumbled upon a closet. Out came a scribbled note, reasonably legible but soiled with time, penned by one of their long deceased predecessors; a Fire Ant. As the group waded through the lost chronicle of Ant History, merry ignorance gave way to inspired but misplaced consternation.

For the note read thus.

Fellow industrious pests,

History was, and shall never be, the voice of the dead. So I write, my brethren, knowing not how much of the gift of Time I have left. My dearest friends and nearest kin have perished and I am certain that my end is closing upon me. Stir up your attention, my future generations! For Time is in short supply and the memory of the Great War ought to live on…

All isn’t well in our vast Kingdom. Light and us were never the best of friends, but in the dark precincts of the Underworld, where we dwell, darkness and pent-up strife reign supreme. A disaster of massive proportions has befallen us, mighty Masters of survival.

One of Man’s foremost pests of choice, for centuries, we have been pulling off miracles beyond the capacities of most other organisms. We migrated, worked incredibly hard, decimated crops and wood where we could, conquered almost all of Earth, solved bewilderingly complex problems, withstood the ravages of time, hail and rain, stung fiercely often not caring for our lives, brought down mighty elephants a kabillion times our size, and inflicted inestimable damage on humanity. And, we found the time to multiply extremely quickly.

But I realised, belatedly and after much loss of life, that we aren’t so smart, after all.

A populace of hard workers unschooled in the art of considered thought, eventually fall prey to the stuffy embrace of Slavery or Death. Our fellow folk perished, in a vain attempt at conquering a fiend we did not know much about. Actually, none at all.

We finally met an enemy worthy enough to put us to the test. We went looking for a usual quick decimation; we ended up being decimated.

Man had struck Oil. We had struck a skid pan.

One fine day, the day’s early starters noticed a large Cauldron, in the middle of nowhere. With characteristic nonchalance, a group of 20 soldiers managed to scale the Cauldron’s peak. The last sight that greeted onlookers was of this group disappearing on the other side. Time ticked by. They never returned.

40 young, enthusiastic but rather foolhardy tyros set off behind them, with no particular agenda in mind. They too, my fellow brethren, never returned.

The disappearance of 60 brave soldiers quickly caught the attention of the General. Enraged and intrigued, he ordered 150 battle-hardened jocks to take stock. This group set off, long on bravado and short on information, behind the lost fellow-men. Time gradually ticked by. Not one of the 150 was ever seen again. The other side of the Great Cauldron, as it came to be known, now began terrifying Ant-folk. A wise soul counseled that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result. Nobody cared to listen. Wisdom seldom found an audience.

The General, a trifle irked, summoned the SW.ANT Regiment, an elite group of warriors specially trained for extreme combat. 300 of these, the entire regiment, were ordered to conquer the nemesis. Murmurs of embarking on a suicide mission were heard but were drowned in the din of jingoistic agitation. A grand send off was arranged. More than a few thought this was a final goodbye. Many in the Regiment appeared to have witnessed the Gates of Heaven. Off they went.

Never to return.

Panic now visibly ran high. The loss of 500 of the very best warrior Ant-folk was an unprecedented loss in Ant history, in one skirmish. The raging General, exhibiting tremendous erudition, sent more on the way in the name of Patriotism, caring not to venture himself. Direction was called for, apparently and he considered himself irreplaceable. My family and best friends perished in this valiant act of blind Patriotism.

By a stroke of miracle, I managed to chance upon this picture, which captured the gory aftermath of the War. I share this, hoping it shall serve as a sobering reminder.

Few kept count. The Great Cauldron of Oil, as it came to be known, had consumed us. Too many of our brethren guzzled too much, only to be snared by Oil’s viscous entrapment. I learnt that Man called it Edible Oil. I’m at a loss to understand why.

This War, my friends, dented us irrevocably. Retaliatory sparring, when the cause is weakly understood, quickly gives way to mindless war. The end is as gory as it is unnecessary.

The General looks set to be overcome by insanity any moment. I write this, from my hide-out, knowing not when I shall get the Summon. I hope, my dear folk, that you learn from the errors of your past generations, who weren’t very smart after all.

But having seen this cycle several times over my life, I’m fairly certain that you, my dear friends, shall never learn.

Soon-to-be-dead,

——x——

Pictures courtesy: HaLin

‘Did Copper-nick-us?’ An Ode To Nicolaus Copernicus. & How Mankind Fought Back

Kind Attention: Mr. Copernicus (Dead: May 24, 1543)

At the outset, one hopes you are dead, and well.

Very few in their lifetimes can lay claim to fanning a Revolution. That you managed to overturn centuries of the Old Order is testimony to your towering presence in the annals of history. With one disarmingly simple observation, that the Earth revolved around the Sun, you changed the course of Science, decimated greats such as Aristotle and Ptolemy, and dwarfed the Earth and Earthlings alike with your mighty brain. Mankind has never been the same since.

You set us on the path of ruin.

You were born in the city of Thorn. We, Sire, live in one.

Pardon the sudden change in track but your passport to Science immortality inadvertently set in motion a chain of events so intriguing and dastardly that we, hapless humans, are paying the price for your intellectual bravura. All was well before your tome, On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres, shook the world. Man was exultant in the secure ignorance that Earth, his home, was the center of the Universe. Let us pause awhile to digest that feeling.

For someone living in a post-Copernican world, the idea of being the Center of Everything is a pleasing thought, a much coveted Holy Grail position, and the closest to experiencing Nirvana. It is gratifying to believe that those small and big spheres strewn around the vast expanse of darkness that few care to see, are silently, obediently, doing your bidding. Revolving around you, in daily obeisance. You ended our tryst with ignorance and shattered our world of dreamy illusions. For that, we shall ever remain ungrateful.

Whilst earlier, Man found satisfaction in simple, trivial and quite useless activities; star-gazing and sleeping, for instance, post your Revolution, we have been forced to attain a level of sophistication in our activities. With the realisation of our triviality in the larger scheme of the Universe, we have endeavoured to conjure up novel ways to create an illusion of leading a meaningful life, of etching our ‘special’ place among…no one, really.

Come, take a closer look. Woven in the tapestry of trivialities, you shall find novelties that are likely to boggle even a mighty a brain as yours. Dislike for fellow humans has increased gradually over the centuries, since your Revolution. Much of this can be attributed to your heliocentric discovery. Earlier, everyone was equal, united, in a Universal sense. Now, it is the opposite. The sceptre of inconsequential existence has forced humans to seek solace in inhuman endeavours, in an amusing attempt at differentiation. Our yearning for differentiation and infusing some semblance of meaning in our lives has led us to specialise in an art-form called Social Networking and in the mad pursuit of papers of (supposed) value.

…which brings me to one of your rarely known talents. Finance and Economics.

You, Sire, were a true genius. Of that there cannot be a shred of doubt.

Not many of us know that you lay the foundation stones for what eventually became the Gold Standard. And the metallization of currency. Truly remarkable indeed, for a Scientist. That you even managed to carve a name for yourself in history, untouched by that manipulative successor of yours, Sir Isaac Newton, is commendable.

You stated what eventually became famous as Gresham’s Law (bad money will drive out good money). In a remarkable display of sanity sadly absent among most of our present-day Economists, you cautioned us about the ill-effects of inundating economies with ‘cheap’ money. That ‘cheap’ money shall dominate at the expense of the ‘strong’ money. We, Sire, have not listened, for we haven’t cultivated the habit of listening to the whispers of Reason.

While you did your bit to remind us of our uselessness, we have retaliated by repudiating all of your sound principles of currency management. We tried our hand at using metals as currency, but wily fellows clandestinely but repeatedly nicked the gold, silver and copper content out of our coins. The bad money was driving out the good. But we continued believing that our coins had the same value as the days of yore. Yes, Sire, go ahead, let out that chuckle.

Time wore on and we realised that we didn’t have enough metals to put into our coins, so we blasphemed your principles further. We decided to abandon metals as a base of currency, for good. We moved to paper. Paper gave us a free rein, with no upper bound. We could print as much as we wanted (till the trees bid us goodbye). Our appetites have been insatiable since. We now have so much paper floating in the world, the ones in our wallets are well-nigh useless. Yet, we continue to believe that papers are valuable; hence the maddening pursuit of monetary enrichment. Yes, Sire, go ahead, let out that chuckle.

With one disarmingly simple observation, that paper could replace metals, we changed the course of Finance. Mankind has never been the same since.

You tried to nick us. We reciprocated. And set ourselves on the path of ruin…

——————

But you shall remain one of the most intriguing polymaths ever to have lived on Earth.

You were at the Center of it all.

And, you weren’t.

I remain, your ardent admirer.

HaLin

How To Make A Living, In Useless But Indispensable Vocations

The aboriginal man, primitivity notwithstanding, probably learnt about the direct relationship between risk and reward. Sit atop a tree, never venture down to hunt and he probably realised that he would be alive and well. Until hunger, or a snake, snared him. Gradually he expanded his sphere of movement and risk reduced, as awareness grew. Now risk lay in the unknown regions beyond aboriginal man’s sphere of influence.

This idea of risk-reward has since been passed on generationally to the present day. But as with serial mutations, the basic idea underwent an evolution of sorts. With survival issues taken care of, man turned his attentions towards recreational aggrandizement. Means took a backseat as ends assumed center-stage.

So it came to be that there are pursuits where one’s pay-off bears no relationship to the risks assumed. Seemingly useless professions have turned out to be incredibly indispensable, in the larger scheme of uselessness. What’s more, riches beckon to those smart enough to embrace these endeavours.

A short primer on how to make a living by indulging in these wondrous professions follows, for the interested. Parent readers might consider sharing this with their children. Others might consider a life-altering career change. Your gratitude shall be well received.

There exist today a battery of vocations that project an illusion of accomplishing a social relevant and useful objective. Mastering this art of illusion is of utmost importance, gaining precedence over everything else. A sample collection of professions is presented below.

Generally, examples of such pursuits abound in service-oriented pursuits; such as Consulting and Economics.

Consulting, first. A coup of gargantuan proportions can be achieved by those adopting this lucrative line of endeavour. The basic dynamics are quite simple. A glossy B-school degree is a great starting point. Demographically, great care should be taken to ensure that the protagonist’s age is on the right side of 25, under 20 is better. Miniscule(/no) knowledge of the real world is a marvellous quality to possess, for this profession. Only familiarity with manufacturing needed is in the important area of enthusiasm. Talent in believing in (and spreading) delusion ranks highly, in the hierarchy of importance.

Investments in ornate adornments, a shiny wardrobe, is a prerequisite. Some familiarity with exotic pursuits – art, wines, single malts, global warming – is desirable, as they have been known to be worthy catalysts in professional advancement. Finally, a set of clients, reasonably schooled in ignorance, would round out the coup. It is of critical importance for 20-and some’s to sermon industry veterans, who have often spent more time in their industries than the tyros have spent on Mother Earth.

Next, is Economics. A PhD in Combinatorial, Fractal, Mental Econometrica is Holy Grail enough. Talents in Confusopoly and sustained usage of terrifying jargon would confer an impregnable moat. Professionals should then master the art of recommending the opposite of whatever is rationally desirable. This has the effect of transferring the burden of the counterfactual on the receiver (who incidentally, pays liberally for this service). Since the professional would make good moolah irrespective of the quality of their track record, risk is minimal for a very fat pay-off. Experience in engendering economic disasters would help in brandishing a colourful resume. Humans are generously endowed with short-term memory, especially with respect to undesirable outcomes. This is the professional’s strongest USP.

Social media pursuits of various kinds come next. One might consider building an ‘app’ that lets users click pictures, then turn them into appropriately grainy masterpieces that no one can decipher, and lo! the Internet Picassos stand to make a fortune. It is not just imperative for the company to generate no revenue whatsoever; it should carry a credible promise of never generating revenue, let alone profits, in the foreseeable future. A company like a Facebook might find it very valuable to buy this invaluable company out for a couple billion papers-of-value.

Second and higher order professions – some cynics refer to these as parasitic professions –  are another promising area. News-makers, media fall under this category. In the only known exception to the Laws of Conservation of Physics, an ability to create something from nothingness is a peerless trait to possess. On this measure, psychiatry may also be considered, though the pay-off is likely to be gradual and plateau beyond a point. Needless intrusion into others’ lives and making them feel it is a moral obligation for them to participate is another art form that needs mastery. Finally, would-be parasites should be able to convince the source that it is the parasite that is superior.

The above suggested pursuits share common characteristics. They are indispensable in the larger scheme of uselessness, project a credible illusion of societal utility, offer fat pay-offs for little or no risk and reasonable certainty of recurring cash flow, over long periods.

Going to/sending your children to the battle front is a monumentally stupid endeavour, carrying huge risks for no reward (very often), often ending in death. In the same breath, devoting one’s life to medical research directed at eradicating dreaded diseases is another useless endeavour. This is generally true for research of any kind aimed at community benefit. Pay-off is dismal and there is no certainty of a successful find that could, in the very least, lead to a Nobel.

Finally, there are professions that carry little or no risk, for little or no reward whatsoever.

If nothing else works, one could always become a blogger.

The Dance Of Words: When Spooner & Pun Swapped Personalities

Spooner and Pun seldom met, but when they did, words danced.

Their individual personalities invoked pleasure in beholders that were fortunate to witness them in written form. While Pun believed in word plays, Spooner warmed to word transpositions that caused swapping of sounds and meaning (Spoonerism). Both believed these were rare art forms capable of exciting word admirers. Sometimes, during despondent drunken drownings, Alliteration made her presence felt.

One fine day, Spooner and Pun decided to experiment with a personality mix. Each would reflect idiosyncratic aspects of the other, in addition to their signature personalities. Neither knew what to expect and a result, excitement ran high leading up to D-day.

On the anointed day, their personalities enmeshed. Words warmed up to dance.

A naturally funny lad, Pun discovered, quite stunningly, thanks to Spooner, that stunning puns made possible punning stuns. Pun was a rather selfish guy, however. His personal misfortunes outweighed personnel misfortunes. Misfortune would descend, lake of tears would well and, well, ’twas well nigh impossible to dam Pun‘s damnation. In confessing his profession, Pun often took to professing confessions. Spooner‘s personality was very evidently spooning from within.

Spooner, meanwhile, felt that the wind of an ode bell could bode well for their existence. He derived immense pleasure from moving alphabets around, often for comic effect but mostly for its own sake. Some one had to do it. Spooner often pretended playing with his pouch, Alliteration‘s, pet pooh, which had been named, for reasons unknown, as Douche. Spooner liked to pat his back; while Douche, the terrier, liked to touche his derriere.

Both then contemplated a round of bowling. Pun was wary. His mind raced back to the time when he was courting Alliteration; their post-brunch bowling brawls often ended in bawling bowls. Spooner, for his part, remembered the time when he too courted Alliteration. Prior to the game, when drabbling dab, they often ended up dabbling drab. Neither wished unsavoury memories to spoil their unique personality swap. They dropped the bowling idea. Alliteration dropped her bawling bowl, bewailing brazenness. Neither appeared bewitched.

They then decided to putt in a round of golf. As conversation flowed, Pun was unequivocal about the true reason behind the financial crisis. Pun believed that lusting for bucks had led to busting of lucks. At this point, Spooner butted in, putting forth his views on the matter. He lamented that the world was caught in a Depression and easy dough times had given way to tough dimes.

Soon though, the personality swap ran into rough waters, gravely endangering the budding friendship. Through serious conversation, with both trying to butt in, tempers soared and butting putts gave way to putting butts. The final nail in the coffin came thanks to a slip-up from Pun, who was consumed by Spooner’s personality. On seeing Alliteration’s Douche, Pun exclaimed, ‘you have a rape-able cunt!’, and Alliteration’s anger ascended alarmingly. Before Pun could explain that he actually meant a ‘capable runt’, Alliteration flew into a rage and launched into an elaborate rant, riveted ‘round the runt rebuke. Pun’s buns were mauled badly by Douche. Spooner bawled madly, preemptively. But Douche-bagged him, too.

Bun dusted, Spooner and Pun concluded that their personality swap had failed, entertainingly. Both wisely opted to revert to their true personalities but agreed to collaborate, bringing their unique personalities together, to entertain the world.

Alliteration averred an acidic approval.

A Two-Zone World: When The Foolish Met The Clever

Thought experiments are interesting. They allow the thinker to contemplate scenarios seemingly bearing little or no relevance to reality, while paradoxically capturing reality perceptively.

Imagine a world carved up into two zones; zone 1, Cleverland and zone 2, Foolishland. The initial state is characterised by perfect division.

The residents of Cleverland are advanced in education levels and indulge in furious enterprise. Detecting genuine humility in this group is a trifle far-fetched and on average, every Cleverland resident tends to assume (s)he is the all-knowing One. As CleverMan/Woman enthrones him/herself, it follows that everyone else is inferior to the Enthroned. Supposition of wisdom precludes efforts at critical introspection. Being overly aware, they assume they are the only ones worth existing in this vast universe.

On the other hand, inhabitants of Foolishland whoop it up in foolishness. A zone overflowing with simpletons, they take immense pride in their remarkable idio(syncra)cy and zealously resist intrusions that threaten to corrupt their ignorance. Education levels are universally low and their world-view is, well, rather limited. Generally, no resident of Foolishland is wise enough to pass oblique judgements on their fellow zone-folk. No one is superior (or inferior) to anyone else. Being overly ignorant, they assume they are the only ones existing in this vast universe.

As time wears on, certain patterns emerge. Cleverland is a cauldron of fiercely competitive individuals who take the Darwinian concept of survival of the fittest to the extreme. Fraudulence develops into a stylish appendage to enterprise and happiness comes to be viewed as a zero-sum game. Altruism in social gatherings is a fashionable indulgence and so is a professed appreciation of art, certain chosen animals and other exotic pursuits. Invisible veils camouflage a Frankenstein-ian alter ego but paradoxically, Clever-folk are strongly opposed to visible veils.

Foolishland, as might be expected, is not a conducive environment for profitable business. Being foolish, B is fooled by A, C is fooled by B…and so on the group is stuck in a permanent get-fooled-by-the-next man loop. It is interesting to note the parallel with Cleverland. Cleverland inhabitants are likewise stuck in a perpetual fool-the-next man loop (only here, A fools B, B fools C and so on).

Deceit is virtually absent in Foolishland. Being intellectual still-borns, Foolish-folk have scant appreciation of art and other pursuits that please the higher senses. Social gatherings are an interesting affair. Due to the absence of spurious altruism and other such wondrous emotions, they speak what they think, sometimes leading to awkward situations as a result. However, Foolish-folk are secure in the knowledge that no one is a phony and their forthrightness becomes a source of cheery humour. Uncomfortable situations are an integral part of Cleverland social gatherings too. However, these are typically caused by the lurking presence of fakery. Insecurity runs high as a result of distrust, derived from veiled niceties.

At some point, the zones intermingle. The Clever who saunter into Foolishland cannot believe their good fortune. Ill conversant in the advanced methods of survival so finely polished by the Clever, the Foolish get done in rather easily by the Clever. The Foolish – who generally don’t lie – gradually learn the fine art of deception after suffering at the hands of the Clever. The slow learners become perennial sufferers and some never learn at all. The latter group, which dwindles over time, owes its gradual extinction to the natural process of death rather than to conversion.

The Clever quickly become Socrates-like figures in social gatherings; the proverbial one-eyed King leading a kingdom of the blind. Foolish-folk advance a little along the intellectual scale but most stay around their natural rate of foolishness. Instead of growing Clever, they learn ways to survive without too many mishaps. While the Clever learn little from the Foolish, the latter learn a lot many things…of the dubious variety, from the former.

Foolish that end up in Cleverland, swiftly run into trouble of various sorts. Apart from being undone by the superior intellect of the Clever in business dealings, they encounter ridicule in social gatherings. They gradually learn that there is no market for qualities like authenticity and straight-forward courtesies. Unable to grow an invisible veil, they become social recluses, preferring the company of fools to the company of intellectuals. They, however, learn novel forms of deceit but don’t get very far. The Clever need a certain level of genuine fakery to make the cut. The Fools flunk badly.

Time wears on and gradually a point is reached where the Clever try their best to come across as Foolish, while the Foolish fall over themselves attempting the opposite.

The line blurs permanently.

*********

This is a moderately reworked re-run of an old post from the early days of Haphazard Linkages.

Tractor Bewails The Charge Of The Mongrels

Times had changed and perceptions had undergone a tectonic shift. At the receiving end of this development and unable to find an outlet for his sooty exhausts, the grumpy Tractor would often reminisce the woeful state of affairs in silence.

Tractor‘s mind wandered back in time, a couple of centuries earlier, when he was the farmer’s most beloved companion. The Agriculture Revolution was a blessing, even though he had to contend with recriminations from bullock-folk, whose market he had managed to dent significantly. His longevity, lower maintenance and efficiency had greatly aided his owners’ wallets and soon he gained prime position in man’s agrarian lifestyle.

But the wheels of time trample over many.

As centuries rolled by, Tractor found competition in the metallic subjects of the Industrial Revolution. As machines powered livelihoods, Tractor was relegated as a sidekick, a position he didn’t take to kindly. Farmers, who had earlier preferred brand new Tractors, now scrambled to locate the best deal for used ones.

His biggest grouse, though, by way of competition came from an unlikely front in the 21st century. Mongrels.

Humans had come to adore mongrels so much that a new culture was born. Dogs took centre stage in human affairs. A development, while not entirely unwelcome, unnecessarily exaggerated in Tractor‘s opinion. Dogs became arm candy for some owners, though they never admitted it as much. An attractive pet in one’s arms came to be viewed as a useful appendage to social advancement. Tractor also sensed that as man became less adept at carrying on conversations with fellow humans, mongrels filled the gap, with enthusiastic pants and cuddles.

Tractor‘s owner went to great lengths to cultivate his pet dog; family, as he was quick to remind those with the impudence of referring to his Dog as a dog. Though the Dog was initially purchased for $100, the owner deemed it derogatory to assign a price to his prized possession. Only Tractors and farm bullock were material entities, capable of being valued.

For abundant nutrition, Dog was fed with the choicest pet food procured after duly consulting mongrel nutritionists, which was a budding industry. To aid visual appeal, Dog enjoyed several trips to pet grooming salons, another promising business, for pedicure, massages, ear cleaning, shampooing, skin conditioning, and overall grooming to look dapper and behave appropriately in social outings. For weddings, Dog‘s owner left no stone unturned in adorning his family in the best possible clothing. The mongrel was then trained under a watchful trainer (paid by the hour). Several months later, Dog emerged, ready to take on fellow mongrels at competition.

Armed with such amenities and confidence, Dog proceeded to win a competition, against other dogs. This resulted a 50-fold increase in Dog‘s market value, to $5,000. Demand for breeding shot up significantly post this win, with breeding rentals to produce future winner pups costing $500 – $1,000 per breeding session. Dog‘s owner made a weighty bundle from these activities but was quick to shoot down any references to material ambitions, when reminded gently. Dog was family, without a price tag.

All this left Tractor quite despondent. In what he thought was a case of anomalous pricing, a Tractor cost about the same as a Dog. Dog‘s efficiency was no comparison to his own, Dog‘s utility in a productive sense was no comparison to his own, and yet, Dog was valued at par, sometimes higher. He managed a smile at the irrationality.

With this realisation came a grand idea. Tractor inferred that an indirect way of enhancing his value was by having an ownership interest in a diversified group of high-probability winner mongrels, majority owned by his owner. In return, Tractor would willingly put in higher hours on the farm. Owner would be happy. Tractor would be happy. There would be goodness all around.

In reality, Tractor had no issues whatsoever with Dog, who was a faithful friend. It was the gaudy flamboyance of some dog owners and their odd perception of altruism that amused him greatly.

Meanwhile, the owner’s father – a rather aged chap – made a stunning discovery while browsing the web. A picture spoke a 1,000 words.

 

Source: Google Trends

There was significantly higher interest in mongrels. Tractor wasn’t too enthused staring at this chart.

Old people were left for the dogs. Quite literally.

**********

Disclosures:

1) Own interests in businesses that benefit from man’s obsession with mongrels, and pets in general.

2) Own a pet dog, Pluto. Our relations are lovingly cordial minus the jazzy razzle-dazzle.