DOES the gentle reader recall the amount of prose that appeared in the media regarding the importance of the date 11 – 11 – 11? With minor deviations, it was generally given out that this was an ‘auspicious date’ and that a child born on that date was destined to be exceptional. Then, there were soothsayers in various regions of the world who advocated that transactions entered into on that date were certain to be resounding successes. Needless to add, there were others who expressed reservations.
Date of birth has for long been believed to have a bearing on the character and well-being of an individual. Whether you believe in horoscopes or not, the fact remains that these somewhat ghastly harbingers do cast a looming shadow of sorts and that not only on persons of a sensitive temperament. Our neighbours across the border to the east are, of course, firm believers in such astrological marvels. Virtually nothing is permitted to take place without due clearance from a chap who dabbles in this occult science. Even such an otherwise resolute leader like the late Indira Gandhi, one is told, allowed her actions to be swayed by her favourite soothsayers. Many in the Western World, motivated though it is by the scientific spirit, still are not fully immune to the influence of those who read into the influence of movement and juxtaposition of the planets.
When those who had something to do with Roman mythology designated Mars as the god of war, they had no way of looking into the future, the Oracle notwithstanding! In particular, they could have had no inkling at all about the events of nine/eleven or, indeed, the ensuing War on Terror. But such is the way of nature in the topsy-turvy world of today – beset as it is with pestilences such as globalisation and doctrine of pre-emption- they appear to have come into juxtaposition somehow. If the aforementioned does not make sense to the reader, one must hasten to explain that it is not meant to. Who said that the New World Order was ever designed to make sense to the common man anyway?
This diversion aside, time now to come back to the subject of this piece! One craves the indulgence of the reader to recall a stinging news item of several years ago, datelined Phnom Penh, which conveyed the earth-shaking news that soothsayers from the hosts, India and Hong Kong, meeting in a tent outside a temple in the heart of Cambodia’s capital, had declared that a close encounter with Mars – the red planet – would spell disaster – natural or man-made – to the good Earth. Apparently, sometime after the doomsday prediction in question, Mars was to pass closer to Earth than at any time in the past sixty thousand years. “This is not good,” a Cambodian soothsayer was reported to have averred, “When they come close, it suggests some sort of clash”. He predicted “something” within a matter of 24 hours of this happening. An expert from Hong Kong mercifully appeared to have taken a longer-term view, though he too predicted disaster.
At this point, the gentle reader may well be tempted to ask as to where all this is leading. A clarification of some kind is, therefore, called for. Man has surrounded himself with the wherewithal of all kinds of explosive matter – not to talk of WMDs – and has, thereby, become disaster prone. The work of the soothsayer has, as a consequence, become somewhat simpler than what it used to be in the days of yore. The world today is like a tinderbox, with flashpoints spread all over. The doomsday merchant merely has to point to the more crises-prone areas. Given the trigger-happy lot that sits at the helm of affairs, chances are that, the soothsayer will hit the jackpot. Prizes these days should be reserved for those who are the harbingers of glad tidings rather than those who predict doom.
The choices before the doomsday merchant are legion. From one end of the good Earth to the other, divers phenomena are interspersed any of which can lead only to disasters – man-made all! The only change that one has noticed of late is the propensity of modern astrologers to link-up with the doomsday merchants. One is informed that some astrologers linked the proximity of Mars to the bloodshed and violence in Iraq and elsewhere in Afghanistan and the Middle East. Others pointed the finger at the rash of terror attacks. Still others – more orthodox ones – referred to natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes and floods. One even went so far out as to predict problems connected with snow (over-melting, perhaps?).
Doomsday scenarios have been painted down the ages. Since times immemorial, men of vision, or men who feign to have a vision of sorts, have taken delight in predicting the end of the world. Mercifully, most of them have been proved wrong. But still the game lingers on. Some have linked these scenarios to astrological phenomena, others to changes linked to man’s propensity to court disasters. Either way, it is something to be wary of. Technological advancement has placed man in an unenviable situation in which he has acquired the capability to destroy the good Earth several times over. Just why he feels the need to do that, leaves one’s mind in a boggle. And yet, man is out to add newer and more potent means of self-destruction to the already formidable arsenal. The doomsday merchant, to his credit, merely deigns to predict the destruction of the Earth; it is the armaments’ manufacturer and the merchant who provide the means to make this horror possible. It is not for one to sermonize, but the hour may be at hand to draw the line in the sands of time. To procrastinate may well amount to courting disaster!
— The writer is a former ambassador and former assistant secretary general of OIC.