This is the second of two articles published most probably in the Summer of 1999.
Hi, Folks! So, here I am back again. In the last issue I managed to scrape through my stuff through the hawk eyes of our esteemed E-in-C, simply because the venerable lady was not around. I might not get so lucky this time. But, anyway, a promise is a promise and I have to keep it. So, perforce I have to jot down something. Here goes …
At the outset, we in the Ed. Board of Environs are taken aback at the cold response to the first issue of the re-launched environs. We had hoped for a few bangs but merely heard whimpers, many of which did not even make it to the Ed. Board. Just one entry for the quiz and two for the crossword! Not a single Letter to the Editor criticising our stuff. Are we that perfect? We, as authors thrive on criticism. It tells us more about what we thought we had meant when we had said something! Personally. I was expecting our readers to holler and flood our mailing system calling on our E-in-C to desist from publishing the musings of someone whose head definitely is not on his shoulders. But, I manage to get away by inflicting myself on you all. Whew, what an escape! But still, I personally want some criticism. It increases my self esteem—I am an arrogant brat (my favourite comic character happens to be Calvin) and makes me feel famous. After all, how many people knew Salman Rushdie before Satanic Verses was banned in India? Art thrives on controversy. No controversy, No Art! So, I beseech you ladies and gentleman to start up a healthy war on what material ought to be published in this journal.
Talking of war, some little time ago, the country was driven by a mass hysteria over Kargil. As India completes 52 years of her independence, we were again brought to the brink of a catastrophic war. But then, all modern wars are catastrophes. Gone are those days when war were fought for chivalry and valour — when two strong men stood face to face pitting their wits and martial skills with each other. The days when duels were fought for honour are passe. Todays war is a morass of agonising and screaming humanity.
Why then must we fight? Alas, the answer to that question seems to have eluded us for too long now. Probably, war is a way of letting our age-old hunting instincts rear their heads from beneath the veneer of civilization. For Man has always been a predator. I i guess Agent Smith was not too far from the truth in “The Matrix” when he compared the human species with viruses. Ever since Man has inhabited this planet, he has tried to make it better. In the process of bettering it, many a time he has ravaged it and destroyed countless other species. He has trampled on complex and fragile eco-systems and destroyed many of them irreversibly.
Many of our follies are recorded as history, but not as many as should be. Because as most often happens—“History is written by the Victors” and there is a vast difference between who is right and who wins! Many a time we also tend to forget George Santayana — “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.
But, does war have any benefits? Yeah, it seems to benefit many people—the big defence contractors and the arms dealers. The field of electronics as we know it now might not have existed were it not for the tremendous advances made during the Second World War. ENIAC might not have been built had the US Army not wanted to calculate firing tables! For the period of a war, people of a country unite to make it a nation, gang up to fight a common enemy! War is a grim reminder that there is a common adversary to counter. After all, it seems that it is adversity which brings out the best in us. Also, as Thomas Hardy remarked “My argument is that War makes rattling good history; but Peace is poor reading”.
War also lets us revel in the human self. Though an expression of our baser instincts, it lets the qualities of sacrifice, valour and camaraderie shine through—some of those very qualities which civilize us. It lets mere men become supermen, hardens them to face the trials and tribulations of daily life.
So, though war be a dark cloud, it is not without its silver lining. But, is it necessary to kill and maim thousands, heap agony upon so much of humanity just to detect that silver lining? Many a time will come when Man will have to fight. He will have to fight to keep world order intact and preserve the world for future generations. But, at the same time, one has to remember not to glorify war, but rather look upon it for what it is—a ‘necessary evil’ to be avoided like the plague!
To save your world, you asked this man to die;
Would this man, could he see you now, ask why?
— W. H. Auden, “Epitaph for an Unknown Soldier”
On this note, I end these musings. There is lots to say, but the E-in-C is looking over my shoulder and is saying—“Come now, the Full Stop”.
[ The author of this piece prides himself on being a researcher, believing in the saying “To steal from one is plagiarism, to steal from many is research”. The views, or rather the “foot in the mouth” is the author’s. He specifically disclaims that any of this is C-DAC’s view by paraphrasing Brian V. Smith (author of Xfig at LBNL)—I don’t speak for C-DAC; they don’t pay me enough for that.]