Feb 15, 2010

Top Gun


No, its not about the movie, but about how most defence spendings is wasteful. Millions are spent on acquiring and upgrading weapons of mass destruction, a vast majority of all this is going up in smoke, quite literally.
Someone once quipped: 'Why does the Air Force need expensive new bombers? Have the people we've been bombing over the years been complaining?'
I agree.


Growing up, I lived amongst people from different cultures. I have lived with people from Pakistan and other parts of Asia. My parents were very good friends with a family from Pakistan and Srilanka. I have very fond memories of them. I remember their house used to always be spic and span and the family was a picture of magnanimity. Of all the other Indian friends that I've had, and the many times that we have visited them, I remember this family the fondest. While on one such visit, someone started talking about the political situation between India and Pakistan. I don't remember all the notions put forward, but I remember the father of the family point out a very poignant statement: "Underneath the skin and beneath the color, we are all the same.. we have the same aspirations, same dreams, same fears and same past. We don't want to hate Indians and we are sure you don't want to either. But decades of political upmanship and brinkmanship is profitable to the politicians who run our governments. They are able to put us both fighting each other with their rhetoric. All the enmity allows our leaders to let the other kill us"
This statement has stayed with me, through all the years that I have been in India.
I never knew or heard so much rhetoric about the ongoing strife when I was in the Gulf. But once in India, things were a lot different.
You constantly yet subtly live in fear and loathing.
Micheal Moore sums up the current situation in his movie, Fahrenheit 911. Our leaders, who we elect to lead us into greener and calmer pastures deceive us the first moment they taste power. They tuck the olive branch of peace far from thought and view and engage in very clever rhetoric that is designed to keep us on the edge. All through the day. We are kept in a state of perpetual psychological arousal; fearing the worst, loathing the unknown.
I pride myself on the excellent sense of morality that my parents imbibed in me, whether by accident or on purpose. This makes it a lot more easier for me to not jump to a conclusion and brand a person or a country evil.
All this war talk, is indeed profitable. It profits people who propagate it. Defence spending is at an all time high, I hear. Well, it might as well be. What with China throwing its hatchet into the fight. Three is company, after all. Thankfully, Srilanka and Bangladesh has too much in its plate to even bother.
Newer missiles, Great. Now we can hit even Beijing. Faster and more advanced warplanes, that's splendid. Now, we can show who's boss over our skies faster. Bigger ships, Amazing. Now, we can rule our waters with a iron fist. More poverty. Gosh, I just wish we could not mention this.


And yes, our leaders get to skim over the real issue pretty nicely. After all, how will that help us? How can I get my kickbacks if I spend more money on quality and free education? How can I make sure that I hoard up obscene amounts of money for the next 3 generations if I provide fair and equal employment opportunities to all?
How can I 'farm' my people if they know their constitutional rights like the back of their palms?  
One of my all time favorite Bollywood movie is 'Beta'. I love the movie so much that I have watched it from the opening title to the end credits atleast a couple of dozen times. I love the movie for a lot of reasons and the top reason is the way the protagonist's step mom stifles the freedom and opportunities of the protagonist, by not educating him. While at the same time her own son, studies (and grows up to be a swindler nonetheless). I admire the director for the poignant way he makes us understand education is not what will determine your inner being, but what will let you make a world of decisions in a way that is right. The lack of education didn't ruin the protagonist's character, rather he comes across as a innocent, extremely gentle yet respected and loving. Education allows a person to be informed. Which is exactly what our leaders in many decades of governments don't want us to be. They don't want us to know how to handle crisis intelligently while still being effective. They don't want us to know how much of what is spent is going into their personal fortunes. But all is not lost yet, we have tiny specks of hope, surprisingly, within our own country. Kerala, inspite of all the 'mallu' jokes around, I am proud, being a Keralite myself, to see how Kerala has grown over the years, both economically and otherwise. The stimulus of this growth was when the government decided to launch a localized 'Each one, Teach one' program, which took the State's literacy program to the stratosphere. The momentum has not slowed down and as a result of this, nearly every keralite are very active socially and politically. Nearly everyone spends an hour or 2 scanning the newspapers, gulping down huge chunks of information (besides the obituaries) Nearly every home has a Telephone, TV and a computer connected to the web. Progress took several years but the fruits are there for all to see, nearly all families have atleast one graduate/post graduate and almost 1 in 3 households have a family member who has or is working abroad. True, we have a typical sense of pride, but what is more truer is that you can take a keralite out of Kerala but you cannot take the Kerala out of the keralite. Every political decision taken in the State is debated several times, flipped over and dissected for flaws, and quite frankly, we don't care if the politicians make some money out of all the progress, as long as we get to enjoy the progress. The key word here, being 'Progress'.
Social progress is what we need. Free and quality Education, Health-care, and a fair chance of employment. Is that too much to ask for? I don't think so. We have done it. There are so many nations around the world who has done it. But there is a cost. We must not let our leaders lead us astray. We must grow a backbone and learn to stand up against leaders who promote hatred and so much agony not to mention money.
Give our children education that would enable them to make intelligent, informed decisions. Give our sick, the quality health-care that would enable them to relieve their suffering and pain. Give us the equal footing that we need so that we can earn well enough to educate our child and tend for our sick. Give our society all this and we will take care of progress. This is a cycle. But the spanner in the works, is when our leaders decide to be the Stepmother and choose not to let us grow within.
The movie had a good ending. But real life is vastly different.
I don't see the light at the end of the tunnel. I just hope my candle of hope lasts my journey.

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