Tuesday, April 1, 2003

A Fable for our Times

A Fable for our Times
By Narendra Luther

Once upon a time, there was a wolf. He felt thirsty and went to the nearby stream to drink water. There he saw at a distance a lamb also drinking water. Suddenly he felt hungry. But he wanted to appear to be reasonable because the local panchayat had promulgated a rule that no one would be killed without due process. So, he went up to the lamb and asked him why he was polluting the water. The lamb replied meekly that he could not be doing so because he was drinking down stream while the wolf was drinking up stream. The wolf then thought of another ruse. He asked him why he had abused him last year. The lamb again replied respectfully that it could not be so because he was not even born then. At this insolence the wolf said, ’Well, if it was not you, then it must have been your mother’. Saying that, he pounced upon the lamb and ate it up in no time.

The wolf then sought the blessings of the Panchayat for his taking the law into his own hands. Some senior members of the Panchayat said what the wolf had done and was doing was not right. The wolf said the members did not know that the world had changed and that it must now listen to the wolf because he knew what was best for the animals. However, when the wolf sensed the mood of the majority of the members, he said that the subject need not be discussed. After all discussion was all talk. And talk was less important than work.

Earlier there used to be a bear and generally, if the wolf exhibited some overbearing trait, the bear would object and warn to him to behave. Lately, however, the bear had become unwell and had begun to depend upon the wolf even for its sustenance. But this time, he sent a message from his bed that he did not like what the wolf had started doing. An old fox and a cheetah whom the wolf had once mauled badly also joined in the protest. They all felt that the old world in which the wolf and the bear had always opposed each other was good for the other animals. But there was no point in moping about it.

We have all read the old nursery rhyme:
‘Mary had a little lamb whose fleece was white as snow
And every where that Mary went the lamb was sire to go.’
Not only that. Whatever Mary asked, the lamb was sure to do. Once Mary decided to fight a burly fellow who had annoyed him. The lamb joined him readily.

The fable and the nursery rhyme have come alive today. It does not require much imagination to identify the wolf and across the Atlantic, our little Mary’s Lamb. I write this on Day 6 of the campaign of the wolf and Mary’s Lamb against the lamb. The result seems to be a foregone conclusion but the tragedy must unfold itself in slow motion.

In one fell blow, the US has virtually sidelined the UN. It has mocked at world opinion. It says that no country should amass weapon of mass destruction. But that dictum does not apply to it. What is the use of being a super power if you are below the law like any other weakling? The sole super cop of the world needs to have weapons to discipline the anti-social elements. In George Bush’s Animal Farm, as in George Orwell’s, ‘All animals are equal. But some are more equal than others’.

No, the US has not merely sidelined the UN. It has buried it, like the League of Nations was. The international ‘social contract’, which first found expression in the League, and was later refined in the UN, has been scrapped. It has taken us back to the ‘state of nature’ where might was right. That was the primordial law of the jungle. That is the only practical basis on which life can be lived under the new order. The US has also thrown out the America dream of liberty, equality and the pursuit of happiness. Earlier it was held to be universal. Now it is only for the Americans. So out goes the UN, which embodied all these values. Time has now come for another world body to emerge from the ashes of the UN -- if it dares.

America, which attaches such importance to public opinion, has decided to experiment how far it can go in flouting it on international scale. There are protests all over the world. But people obviously do not know what is good for them. Mom used to know. Now since she is no longer there, Uncle Sam will tell them what is good for them. A grand coalition has been formed with Mary, its lamb, some foxes, and mice. They will all get their share of the carcass when the hunt is complete. Well that is the promise for now. But when once the hunt is complete, the hunter may want to go ahead to new grounds. After all the world is full of quarries if the hunter has the will and the weapons to go on.

They say America wants oil. Yes, it does. Who does not? But America professes loftier objectives. It wants to rid the world of the terrorists and replace the axis of evil with the axis of virtue so that every one can then pursue the American dream all over the world without having to go to America. A truly noble objective. So much in the interest of all of us. Shouldn’t we be grateful?


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