As our world falls apart, we have learnt to take comfort from Conspiracy theories.
Dean Koontz did write about Wuhan-400 years ago, didn't he? Have you not watched the South Korean documentary from 2018 which uncannily predicted just this? How could China contain the virus, one that is tearing apart Europe and the United States, so quickly? Maybe this was accidentally released from the laboratory where they were building up this nefarious bio-agent? After all, Trump and Pompeo have said they have seen the evidence!
We live in the age of credulity. We would like to believe what we are fed, without questioning. If something is written in English and published on WhatsApp, it must be true.
Once this crisis is over - and it will be - we will be scarred more by our indulgences in conspiracy theories than this virus itself. That is indeed my case for resistance - I don't want to get into the habit. I would rather keep my brain slightly active and neurons alive and not give in to this wild comfort of conspiracy theories. And, yes, I would not Trump, an obsessive liar (or Pompeo, his master's voice), to be the arbitrator of truth in my world.
So, how do I know the Chinese did not do it intentionally? Honestly, I don't know, but not knowing they did not do it is not equal to knowing they did it. We are in an area where there are many unknowns and we have to live with it. And, in the absence of hard evidence and definitive knowledge, it's best to accept the simpler explanation than complicated ones. In the case of COVID19, that it is a bat-virus that spread from a wet market is the simpler explanation.
Indeed, most people think just the opposite. The unbelievable disruption appears to them a deliberate and man-made conspiracy, rather than a result of our meddling with nature. But then they were not paying attention. They are still in denial and refuse to accept that changing land-use and human intrusion in the animal world can create such problems. Despite clear warnings from the scientists and even Bill Gates on a public forum such as TED, they refuse to see the dangers lurking in the melting Siberian permafrost and burning Amazonian rainforest.
A story does not become believable just because it has been forwarded on WhatsApp and repeated on Facebook. Dean Koontz wrote about a virus that can be transmitted from human to human and has a 100% kill-rate - COVID19 it wasn't - and that made some think he 'knew' about the Virus. But, on the same count, Indians flew around in aeroplanes in sixth century BC, Jules Verne witnessed moon landing in the nineteenth century and Mary Shelly experienced the global pandemic in 1826.
Prescient fiction or imaginative speculations should indeed be appreciated but they don't prove the conspiracy thesis. Besides, one needs to stop and ask why, if South Korean documentary makers knew about the bio-agent, the Western intelligence agencies, whose job it is to track these things, did not know a thing?
The other side of being prescient, of course, is being accused of being mischievous. Poor Bill Gates - his timely warnings about the possibility of Pandemic were only seen as signs of complicity by the American Right. That he was paying attention isn't an acceptable explanation for those who live in an alternative reality.
I also saw many of my Indian friends pointing out the speed, scale and efficacy of China's response as incontrovertible proof that they were ready for the virus. My point is that those surprised by China's response are those who do not know China and haven't been following how they do things for the last thirty years or so. Jim O'Neill was indeed right: We were lucky that this virus originated in China because once the authorities came around to acknowledging it, they were pretty good at dealing with it.
Then there is this final frontier of the Conspiracy theorists: Why did China let the disease spread? That they wanted to wreck the world economy intentionally is as logical as saying that Trump wanted to wreck the American economy on an election year. China has paid an enormous price for this: They stopped a thriving economic zone to a standstill. President Xi's reputation, which looked untouchable only a couple of years earlier, took a serious battering. This is one consideration that pushed some of the intentionalists (bio-agent, intentionally spread) to become accidentalists (bio-agent, accidentally spread) but the simpler explanation - that the virus has an organic origin - still sounded too complex for them.
For all the talk of making China pay for all this shows how dysfunctional our thinking has become. We desperately want to put our blame on an identifiable actor: This is the equivalent of Bush's war on terror. The fact that some threats we face are newly emergent and do not come in convenient shapes, sizes and with identifiable sources are outside our cognitive capabilities. This is not just a naiveté; this is the Achilles heel that our next threat will attack: Our inability to think rationally and scientifically when confronted with new threats. As the wisest man of our age helpfully suggested, we must inject ourselves with disinfectants to live. We wish we could.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
A week into lockdown and things are beginning to change. Mornings are late, afternoons are lazier and evenings never end; meditations are filling out the time for Yoga routines and Netflix profiles are strewn with half-finished movies. This state-mandated, state-funded period of idleness is being likened to being called up to serve, but is nothing like that: Such a comparison is really an affront to the idea of service. Instead, this is just one long streak of panic; of the centre not holding and life not going on as usual. With the usual patterns and rules in suspended animation and business talk - and business - being rendered meaningless, space is opening up for unusual questions: Is Capitalism about to end? Is this the death of globalisation? Does it get uglier from here? My grandfather's generation would have scoffed at us. They saw through wars and pandemics. But, in fairness, we haven't had a life-ending crisis of our own. Notwithstanding the experiences of th
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
The ‘Why’ Question? Adolf Hitler was appointed the German Chancellor by President Von Hindenburg on 30th January 1933. This was an extraordinary turn of events. Previously, President Von Hindenburg consistently refused to appoint Hitler the Chancellor, despite the impressive electoral performance of NSDAP in July 1932, Hitler’s uncompromising demand of the Chancellor’s post and a repeat election in November 1932 which failed to break the deadlock. Explaining his refusal, Hindenburg wrote in a letter on 24th November, “a presidential cabinet led by you would develop necessarily into a party dictatorship with all its consequences for an extraordinary accentuation of the conflicts in the German people.” The question ‘why’ Hitler was appointed Chancellor, despite the President being acutely aware of what might follow, is therefore a significant one. The NSDAP had election successes throughout 1932, and was already the biggest single party in the Reichstag and various Landtags acros
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.