THE demise of dinosaurs of yore has remained one of the greatest ecological mysteries of all time. There was a longish period in natural history when these fearsome creatures were the undisputed lords of all they surveyed. They presumably struck terror in the hearts of all the other species that beheld them. And yet, came the day when these awe-inspiring monsters that roamed the wilds at their will just vanished off the face of the good earth without so much as a ‘by your leave’.
There is no shortage of theories in explanation of this major ecological upheaval. For one, there is the generally accepted theory that the crash of a giant meteorite onto the Earth led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Other minor theories exist too, but the how and why still remain largely unexplained like so much else in the ecological past of the planet. If one were a chap like Aesop, though, one would not let go of the opportunity to draw powerful morals out of this ecological upheaval for the general good of all mankind.
One notable lesson that readily comes to mind is that it hardly ever pays in life to be “outsize”. And if, for some reason or the other, a creature cannot help growing beyond a reasonable limit then prudence demands that it be ensured that the growth takes place in a balanced fashion. In the particular case of dinosaurs, for instance, one learns that the growth of these monstrosities was anything but balanced. The development of their brain apparently failed to keep up with that of the rest of the body. As a consequence, the resultant product turned out to be lopsided in more senses than one. Now, by hindsight, every Tom, Dick and Harry can hazard a guess as to what nature would have in store for such an aberration. Ecologists naturally would hardly deign to differ.
The ‘dinosaur model’, thereby, lends itself to another equally weighty moral. This is that, given that a creature happens to start developing in a disorganized manner, it would be in its own better interest to stick to a nature that is benign rather than aggressive. If it so happens that its intentions are anything but honorable and it intends to adopt a threatening posture towards other species or even its own ilk, then the state of affairs can only lead to trouble. In simple language, it would never pay for such a creature to throw its weight around.
The question that now presents itself, begging for an answer, is: are dinosaurs really extinct or have they just made way for other similar entities? Much like the ecological monstrosities of yore, the entities aforementioned too took to presenting bloated and aggressive exteriors to the world around themselves. True to form, they also started throwing their weight around and bullying all those within reach. The odious concept of “sphere of influence” evolved by these outsize monsters as an instrument of policy made life virtually unlivable for such other entities as were condemned to be their neighbours. History does not fail to record that such arrangements never quite worked out to the satisfaction of the outsize monstrosities in question. Much like the dinosaurs of yore, they too in due course collapsed under their own weight in accordance with what can by now be readily accepted as an immutable law of nature.
At the risk of making a somewhat crude attempt at generalization, then, it may be stated that the history of this blessed planet is replete with instances of the emergence of ‘dinosaurs’ of all ilks, breeds and complexions. Several empires, fiefdoms and conglomerates have made their appearance, held sway and went the way of dinosaurs – unheralded and unsung. The trouble with humankind is that it makes little effort to learn from past mistakes. As we all should know by now, those that refuse to learn from the past are condemned to re-live it. “Virtual dinosaurs”, consequently, have continued to spawn and – inevitably – go extinct with a regularity that is sickening to contemplate.
What gives the common man a fit of shivers is the fact that history appears all set to repeat itself. Apparently, there is to be a re-birth of the concept of “empire building”. Were one to be a bit facetious, one would deign to inquire into how long does it normally take for man to forget the lessons of history? From all indications the par period would appear to hover around the half century. At least that is the period that has elapsed since the formal disintegration of the British Empire. It would appear that the powers that be have set sights on the creation of a brand new “empire” and there is little that the small fry can do about it. If it is an empire the powers that be want, an empire they will get.
“Think tanks” in the rarefied atmosphere of Wall Street have long worked overtime to conceptualize the Empire to come. One learns on reliable authority that a brand new imperial concept has been evolved through the upgrading of the existing one, to adapt it to the demands of the twenty-first century. Hoary figures have worked on sensitive maps that have been drawn (and re-drawn) in several high-rise structures, all in the interest of ‘freedom’, ‘democracy’ and ‘our way of life’. One can only hope – and pray – that the powers that be have thought the whole thing through. Given the lessons of recent history, one has grave doubts, though. Things that once appeared rosy have the tendency to go horribly wrong if proper home-work is not done betimes. But that, as they say, is another story!
— The writer is a former ambassador and former assistant secretary general of OIC.