By Raffique Shah
August 22, 2022
A few weeks ago, my cousin Susheela forwarded to me an interesting piece of Internet trivia that was anything but trivial. The author had given that generations in recorded history had lived through the most exciting period, based on facts cited, that people now in their 60s and 70s, having been born in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, had enjoyed some of the most dramatic developments man has ever experienced.
For example, these generations lived through eight decades, two centuries and two millennia. Ordinarily, someone can live to her 90s or even surpass one hundred, but barely see nine decades, maybe straddle two centuries, but most unlikely—not for the next 900 years anyway—two millennia. We—yes, I was born in 1946—saw the millennium that started way back in the year 1001, when men had travelled no more than a few hundred miles on sea in vessels that probably depended on slaves or prisoners rowing them, and later introduced sails that were powered by the wind and currents in the oceans to take them to strange, foreign lands. Columbus made his first foray westward across the Atlantic Ocean almost 500 years into that millennium.
Before the end of that second millennium, man had travelled to space in rockets and satellites, he had walked on the surface of the moon, virtually taken up residence in space. And we have lived to see multi-billionaire Elon Musk work feverishly to set up a passenger service to outer space.
In our lifetime, we have listened to news and music broadcast via big, cumbersome tube-radios, watched as early television evolved from black and white, grainy images emanating from cabinet-sized sets to sleek-and-small, full-colour digital receptors that are multi-functional. In our time, we have witnessed near-miracles of modern medicine, from life-saving organ transplants to cosmetic surgery that can alter our faces and other features such that our mothers or wives won’t recognise us.
Empires rose and empires fell. We engaged in two world wars. At the beginning of hostilities on each occasion, in 1914 and 1939, we were assured that that was the war to end all wars. Only it turned out to be lies by leaders who lived by lying to the uninformed people who believed them, and we got instead wars without end—cold war, guerilla war, proxy wars, wars that are waged by unseen hands unleashing death and destruction via missiles and sophisticated guiding systems that enable the leaders of the civilised world to sip coffee and nibble on sweets as they witness their handiwork, the blinding flash, the searing heat, the deafening blast that reduce the target zone to rubble, shred bodies to bite-size bits—the targeted Mullah evaporating, quite literally, along with his wife or wives, children, pets, the whole shebang.
And I sing to myself what a wonderful world…
I imagine I ought to be grateful to the powers that be who allowed me this much time on Earth to witness the bloody paradise they have created, blood everywhere. Oh, how can I miss out on my own, my native land celebrating its diamond jubilee? Sixty years of independence from Britain. Look, infidel, look at what you and your brethren and “sistren” have moulded out of this bountiful land, a country rich in resources—oil, natural gas, the only asphalt lake in the world, miles and miles of sugar cane, the finest cocoa beans, excellent weather, creative people and so much more.
We have reduced it to a wasteland whose natural resources have almost been exhausted, our network of roads resemble the surface of the moon, and our pampered progeny, we having structured society such that their expectations are that the State will take care of them from cradle to grave, they have expectations that we must fulfil, now we scream bloody murder when they acquire weapons of destruction and set about demanding with menaces their tonnes of flesh.
The bulk of the younger generations that we have inflicted (I can’t find a more appropriate word) on ourselves have wrecked the fatally-flawed education system we bequeathed them, and embraced trading in “scrap iron and old batteries” as a profession of choice, which, by fair or foul means, enriches many of them to the extent they look down with derision at their one-time companions in school who toiled over textbooks late into nights, and ended up in low-paying, often insecure jobs in the private and public sectors.
As we approach the “diamond anniversary” of this nation’s Independence, belatedly recognising that Britain wanted to get rid of us more than we wanted freedom from colonialism, whatever that process meant, let us not fool ourselves into believing we own and control anything, least of all our security.
Let’s be realistic. Allow the criminals, our real leaders, to fire a ten thousand-illegal-gun salute to mark the occasion. At least this way we face reality even if we don’t salvage pride.