Thursday, October 13, 2011

The healthy and tolerant world

(This was something I wrote in July 2003.) 

A news item that caught the eye recently was the proposed tax in New Zealand on rectal emissions of farm animals, creatively labelled the Fart Tax. Apparent such end-of-pipe emissions contribute greenhouse gases and thus to global warming.

On the other end of the globe, at least as we view the earth as flat on our maps, an obesity tax is being proposed. Fat people are a great burden to the economy besides creating a lot of unhappiness around.

Ventilating animals and fat people can now join smokers as communities that are offending civilization today. While we are on a witchhunt, lets tally up some other criminal groups that are creating untold misery to human health and the environment.

The ugly – represent one such group. People with physical disfigurement or are just plain ugly frighten children, create panic in the minds of teenagers and cause considerable economic and psychological damage to society. Economic damage in that ugly people develop psychological problems or indulge in substance abuse or as the ads say on Indian television, families find it harder to marry their darker “ugly” daughters.

In fact, since these are issues that have considerable long term impact on civilization, we must fund some programmes through the United Nations Environmental Programme – lets call the UN PFAF (Programme Against Fat and Flatulence). International studies could be commissioned on consumption of items that create fat and flatulence – chocolate, onions and some such items will definitely be on top of the list.

Given vast differences in consumption baskets of developed and developing countries, obesity is a greater problem in rich countries. We could envisage a global trading mechanisms to reduce obesity or atleast restrict it – the net fat around the world does not increase. Undernourished and starving people in developing countries would overnight become possessors of rights (since they don’t eat much anyway and are thin) they can sell to fat people in the United States, who can then exceed their regulated quotas of food. The income from such sale of rights can be used by the poor for several purposes including food.

The flatulence issue will be more complicated. But we can commission studies by leading scientific institutions to evaluate levels present, key causes and develop a hit list of banned products.  Such studies could also recommend phasing out of farm animals that are gross violators of mandated emission levels.

At least, one more UN secretariat, several regional bodies, large sums of funds to research institutions and civil society organizations, could be the end result of such an effort. International media will, of course, cover such events with great gusto. Its an economic win-win for several organizations.

Apparently, while we are promoting various global institutions that preserve plants, animals, bacteria and disease at the cost of human beings our tolerance of the diversity of human beings and the things they do to live are reducing.

There is a selective weeding of non-conforming social behaviour. Such behaviour is built into a large scale villain with the help of omnipresent media often a willing partner to cover the next big fight.  One Oprah Winfrey show had an audience gasping “NOO!”, while she asked them if they could imagine a world without toilet paper. Another had a shocked audience viewing a photo where she displayed underarm hair while she presented the defence of the one-off case. Clearly promoting toilet paper and shaving women’s underarm hair could potentially be a global priority. Civil society organizations form to propogate the idea and seek legislative action at the national level. Eventually, if these moves are in more affluent nations, there are moves to make an international law.

As a result of these laws, some of the world’s finest minds – economic, political, social and scientific – will spend their time in debating and trying to resolve fairly low priority items compared to starvation, disease and general deprivation that afflict at least 30-40% of the world’s population.

If we take these moves to their logical extreme, we are looking at a human society that will be homogenous - talk, dress, think and behave alike – within some narrow pre-ordained parameters. Does this sound a bit like cloning? Or did some bloke called Adolf  have similar views (wonder what happened to him?). Maybe the anti-cloning groups must rethink their stance.

Back to School - III

Democracy and the Rule of Law

An Iranian American has been arrested for an alleged terrorist plot to whack the Saudi ambassador in the US outsourcing the deal to whom he thought was a member of the Mexican drug cartel. If true, he assumed that the lucrative drug dealing murderous cartel isn’t making enough money on the main business and needed to diversify.  The newspapers report it as an act of war (not the govt).  The government says “terrorist” attack on its soil.  Iran meanwhile says that the US is fed up with “Occupy Wall Street” protests and the sub-prime blowout and is looking to divert attention. It points out in turn, the deaths (assassinations) of its top nuclear scientists over the past few years by the Zionist conspiracy.
An American passport holding Al Qaeda terrorist got whacked in a drone attack in Yemen. The grand debate is whether he should have been read his Miranda warning before being droned.  Osama Bin Laden didn’t hold an American passport, so he has no human rights.  Both haven’t been “tried” in any formal sense.
Closer home three youth belonging to a right wing group physically assault an advocate of the Supreme Court – in his chambers, with the media watching. The spectrum of responses from “responsible” political parties includes “….but he shouldn’t have said that about Kashmir”.
Prasanna, a 12 year old boy in school, is contemplating life. The Indian cricket team has been hammered all summer in England and that’s off the list. IPL and the Champions League are over.  Its holiday season and the exams lurk (let’s just all pretend this is true for the time being).  Following a discussion with friends on Facebook  (forget the under 13 law or whatever, these control-freak adults) and arrives at some conclusions:
1.       Rules are made to support your point of view. Why?
a.       A “hit” in a foreign land can be a blow for global security or a terrorist act.
b.      Rights can be debated if you are on “my team”. To hell with the other guys
c.       To hell with the rules, if I don’t like you, I’ll beat you up. Its called an exercise of democratic rights and see….all those politicians support my point of view. And we can go and beat anyone up in the national capital and Supreme Court as part of this “exercise”.
2.       Don’t get caught
a.       The Saudi “hit” guy got caught. The issue of contemplating murder is not the debate,  but how to call it. You see, a drug cartel hit that kills 10 bystanders is not an act of terror or a school kid going beserk with a rifle in school.
b.      The “youth” in the Supreme Court lawlessness were seen and captured on camera. The issue is classifying this as plain and simple assault or a political statement.
All this went into his school project entitled – “Democracy and the Rule of Law – how it promotes an equitable society”. He flunked.