Survival of the Shrillest

Sometimes, there is nothing harmonic about the harmonic oscillations of sound.

An automobile makes its presence felt on a peaceful Sunday. The road is rather empty, sans undesirable presence of man or animal. Yet, the intelligent charioteer chooses, wilfully, to disgrace the tranquil air with his mechanical hollering. One whirls around and feels an envelope of disappointment and vexation. The ‘automobile’ is somewhat of an antithesis. It is a motorcycle fitted with a pick-up truck’s mouth organ. Seemingly, this rat-lion found sound power as a desirable way of attracting (un)desirable attention.

To deflect the revolting mind, one retires to the quieter confines of one’s home; switches on the blare-box and is immediately greeted with a series of telecom advertisements. One ad extols the mobile handset’s exceptionally high-decibel speakers, which evidently, impresses a herd of noise connoisseurs. The other ad features a classroom full of sprightly young lads and ladies, frolicking in a desk-pounding, spot-jumping, hand-clapping, back-thumping, front-pumping noise orgy. The louder, the merrier, is the motto of this group. One realizes belatedly that decibels were potent weaponry in displaying camaraderie. Genuineness, it seems, is directly proportional to ascending intensity on the sound scale.

Unable to share the ad’s ode to noise, one takes a walk. The eyes rest on a temptingly elegant park, dangling the carrot of some much-desired quietude. One doesn’t expect the resident stray dogs’ welcome song, though. A pack, one short of a cricket team playing XI, howls menacingly. Disadvantaged by the lack of a common language of communication and an inability to howl competently, one assumes this is the animal’s way of expressing displeasure at the arrival of human company. Sunday stillness apparently isn’t an aspiration confined to the human domain. A few awkward moments later, spent unsuccessfully in conveying to the animal the concept of peaceful co-existence, one is forced to look for quieter pastures. As man heads for the exit, the dogs again exercise their vocal chords in unison; for a victory celebration.

As the day wears on, one is pummelled into submission, thoroughly devoured by sound poisoning. One’s ears can only take so much. Tranquillity is eventually discovered in slumberland…

Noise, and not wealth, will be the new barometer of social standing in the coming time. In this epic battle of the survival of the shrillest, the Quiets are expected to die a quiet death (or at least, spend a bulk of their idle time snoozing). Societal recognition would be a direct function of decibel-ownership. The ‘rich’ would figure highly in ‘dB-500’ rankings. People, as usual, would quickly adapt to this seismic shift. Mobile phones, locomotive horns, overzealous human horns, advertisements, public announcement systems, religious processions, speeches (political and other slightly less dubious variants); would all get progressively louder, stretching the limits of man’s audible tolerance. TV would revel in insensibly exasperating the sensible. The centuries-old man-dog howling dispute would reach a point where dogs would eventually take to howling solely in the ultrasound range, granting relief to humans but creating fresh competition for half-blind bats, already battling in the ultrasound.

A lack of endowment in loudness could become a crippling disadvantage, hampering one’s social and professional progress. The former might be witnessed in social networking sites, where an inability to pictorially convey the appearance of a buoyant life might be the cause of rapid deletions from friend lists. The latter would be linked to the art of convincing others as to one’s significant professional contributions, conveyed through an overwork of one’s vocal chords. The vocal chords, and not the brain, would come to be the most valuable part of the anatomy.

The discerning reader would recognise that the above ‘prognostications’ are a sordid summary of the present.

The future is likely to be worse.