Round & round in 80 days

That the Earth takes 24 hours to rotate and 365 days to complete one round needs no confirmation. But if the last eighty odd days are any proof conventional wisdom seems to have turned on its head: our good globe is on a tail spin, completing multiple somersaults in a day and several circles in just a few days. The world as we see it today bears little resemblance to the one we lived in in, say, August. The topsy turvy turn of events spans countries, continents, cultures, concepts, commerce and, of course, a common man’s concerns. And everywhere it is the triumph of the opposite though there is no guarantee if it is for the good of humanity; many past unthinkables now parade as the obvious while deemed impossibles are eminent possibilities. Welcome to the dizzying roller-coaster ride!

A Black man in White house is perhaps the least of the surprises as the coming change was writ all over the wall; yet the coinciding of this historical race-reversal with other momentous changes does add to the drama. Let’s leave the possible policy shifts to the pundits and talk of the perceptional shifts that have occurred in people, particularly non-Americans. Does not the super bully that loomed over the world only a couple of months back suddenly appear shrunk and softer? But forget Uncle Sam’s fans, even its sworn enemies seem to think it is less hateable, if not more likeable. And the change in public view is not just owing to its economic woes. The awe of its power is gone, but surely the respect for its democracy has risen. Indeed, the taming of this super cop heralds a world without poles, not at least the familiar old order based on military might.

And it is now a much flatter world too, with the economic might of not just the US, but the entire developed world seeming less formidable. But unfortunately the great leveller has not been egalitarian prosperity but a sudden financial tsunami. The poor have not become rich, only the rich have become poorer. Of course, with paper money and sundry other papers passing off as assets, the bubble was destined to burst. But what was expected to be a slow slide down a slope has suddenly turned into a headlong plunge from a precipice. Overnight, monumental corporations have merged with mud, billions have been burnt to ashes and bluechip scrips have turned scrap. The financial dailies and magazines of August read as if they belong to a different age of daring and dream. Today’s papers are full of end-of-days prophecies!

But then boom and doom are separated by just one letter, a small distance really. But more startling is the leap of faith vis-a-vis economic philosophy. Champions of capitalism who swore by private enterprise and free trade just a few weeks back are now clamouring for bailout from public funds and massive governmental intervention! The queue of beggars in designer suits looks endless and their begging bowls themselves bottomless. Socialists are suddenly smiling in smug satisfaction at this seeming victory of Karl Marx over Adam Smith. I, er, beg to differ. If anything, Marx went with his ‘ism into the grave first and Mr Smith followed much later. Again, the latter stands a better chance of resurrection as the human love for cash is greater than the penchant for sharing it. Enterprise and its Gemini twin, greed, will eventually prevail. But still, what a fall!

Just the other day, sky rocketing prices were killing demand and consumption. Today with confidence having evaporated and cash and credit eloping to god knows where, prices of commodities, particularly foodstuff, are expected to fall. Some indications are already there. Yet, no one is celebrating. Sure, when tomatoes zoomed from Rs 15/kg last year to Rs 60 this July, many households … not tomatoes, felt squeezed. But with the current prices at Rs 30, there is no rush of blood either. Indeed, not just for tomatoes but for products across the board and in countries across the globe, consumption is down. Humanity is not just getting thrifty but thinner too. World over, economic pundits who were hitherto breaking their heads over inflation are now worried over deflation! And stagnation too. And that’s more worrying, for rotten tomatoes stink!

Again who would have predicted the current oil slip? When crude oil turned criminally cruel and touched almost $150 a barrel, it looked as if bullock carts would become fashionable. Suddenly now, you can almost perceive shaken Sheiks knocking on your doors early in the morning, ahead of the milkman, with cans of petrol and a pack of dates thrown in free, not to mention a free air ticket to Dubai, if you win the lucky draw. Okay, that may be a bit over the top for Sheiks are not early risers, but if the barrel does dip to $50, the Gulf may well be staring down a deep financial abyss. And still dirt cheap petrol may not be good news, for where are the cars? Unless our FM’s sterling suggestion to cut the prices of cars and bikes of all things, to boost the economy yields results! But will our PC ever reboot the lives of farmers (not the humble ones) and such other communities who have never seen a boom in the first place for it to go bust? Such unfortunates don’t exist in his scheme of industry captains and power players and neither does the world move, let alone revolve, for them!

World over, the 80-day mess has had a strange impact on politics. Barring the US where the change of guard is a Constitutional necessity, in many countries incumbent politicians have suddenly had a new lease of life while their opponents have fallen silent. The simple reason is that no one wants to inherit or handle the mess! Gordon Brown of UK who was on a countdown in Downing Street just a couple of months back, is now secure. Ask LKA if he would like to take over from MSingh this instant! He would rather start writing another book! Rational TN is an exception: Here J & K are ever ready to replace each other, even if the globe were to stop spinning.

The last few days have also seen a huge shift in the secular than thou media: The word ‘Hindu’ is no longer taboo, provided it comes with an appendage. So, ‘Hindu Terror’ is their latest bugbear now! In their eagerness to balance the religious terror scales prime time pundits and editorial eminences have coined this wonder phrase and are using it liberally. With that, terror stands officially secularised! But in the process, the jihadis who had strived and slogged for decades, nay centuries, to earn the terror titles as a talisman for their religion, have not just been deprived of their divine duties and dues but have also been equated to the wretched infidels with ‘unproven’ credentials. How blasphemous!

Many other things have overturned. The ‘soft’ corner for software professionals in the marriage market has shifted back to bank, (nationalised, not MNC) and government employees. US will likely be replaced either by Papua New Guinea or Haiti as the new land of opportunities. With the world upside down, Indian cricket suddenly finds itself on top with the Aussies truly down under. Incidentally, I would advise readers to erase from their memories all that was wriiten in these columns till date.Those were the works of someone else from a different era … this year!

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Jawahar T R