Of dinosaurs and the dragon!


Khalid Saleem

DESPITE having been declared as extinct ages ago, dinosaurs and dragons continue to haunt this planet as never before. The only difference is that, thanks to the world’s reliance on computer technology, their place has now been usurped by the ‘virtual’ variety. Think Tanks virtually rule the planet today. ‘Virtual’ destruction of the planet as we know it is just the push of a button away. And don’t forget whose hands control the button! It is worth recalling that the United States had singled out India as the ‘chosen one’ when the US-India nuclear agreement was negotiated and concluded. It was made clear at that time what the United States’ expectations of India were. The US made no secret of its intention to detach India from the South Asia equation by catapulting it into an international role.
Looking at it from another and more novel perspective, what the United States and its establishment appeared to be doing was to hark back to the age of dinosaurs. Unleashing of a dinosaur or two in the continent of Asia, they felt, might well be the answer to keeping the dragon at bay. The layman may think that by adopting this logic they may be committing the mistake of ignoring the lessons of history. And this is by no reckoning a wise thing to do, even for a superpower. But, then, the layman does not think like a superpower, not by a long shot!
Having another look at the history of dinosaurs of yore – and their extinction – may not be out of place. The theories on the extinction of dinosaurs, one learns, are being constantly researched. More recent studies appear to have confirmed (?) that both the rise and fall of dinosaurs were the result of asteroid impacts on the Earth. (By the way, the studies are silent on the impact of superpowers, but that is another science!) The first such asteroid impact, some two hundred million years ago, precipitated the climatic and environment changes that brought about the evolution of the giant creatures. The second, sixty-five or so million years ago, triggered changes that led to their mass extinction.
Theories are a bit hazy as to why it was just the dinosaurs that got it in the neck. How did the other species –like the cockroach for instance– make a clean get away? The plausible answer, dear reader, lies not in the stars (nor, indeed, in the asteroids) but rather in the very nature of the dinosaurs themselves. One abiding lesson to be learnt from the demise of the late lamented crop of dinosaurs is that it never pays to grow too big (both in the physical and psychological senses). And if for some reason an entity is obliged to expand, then it would be advisable to ensure that the growth takes place in a balanced and harmonious manner. In the particular case of dinosaurs, one learns from usually reliable sources, their growth was anything but balanced. The development of the brain, for one, failed to keep up with that of the belly. The resulting product turned up to be lopsided in more senses than one.
That said, another no less important aspect relates to the very nature of the creature itself. Given that it happened to be outsized, things would have worked out better if it had been benign rather than aggressive. Taking advantage of one’s size to adopt what can be termed as a threatening posture vis-à-vis neighbours, or even members of your own ilk that are less endowed, can only lead to trouble. In simple words, it never pays to throw one’s weight around. The ‘dinosaur model’ ought to be part and parcel of the study of the history of human civilization. The history of humankind is replete with instances of exploits of ‘dinosaurs’. It is evident for all to see that several empires, fiefdoms and conglomerates – all scourges for their smaller neighbours – have come and gone in accordance with what has come to be accepted as the inexorable law of nature.
It would be of some purport to research and give due importance to the ‘dinosaur model’ in the study of the history of human civilization. Of special interest in this research would be the empires and monster client states that emerged, prospered for a while before collapsing under their own weight in the manner of dinosaurs. Like the dinosaurs of yore, these monstrosities too revelled in vaunting their bloated exteriors to scare those around them. Their smaller neighbours were pushed to the wall due to the odious concept of ‘sphere of influence’ as propounded by these outsized monsters. And yet, each one of the latter collapsed under its own weight. From the dinosaurs of yore to dragons of the Middle Ages is one small step. The tales of fierce fights between knights and dragons of lore makes compulsive reading. The good knights often came up on top but the dragons had their good days too. As a matter of fact, in parts of the folk-lore of that era, there were portraits of some loveable dragons that saved damsels in distress, as against those specimens of their times that specialized in imprisoning them!
The ‘dragon’, unlike the dinosaur, has no history at all to look back at or to take pride in. Both eastern and western mythology makes mention of dragons without, one is afraid, bringing in the ecological factor as in the case of dinosaurs. This is a factor that is amiss in mythology. And yet we see modern lore bringing dragons and dinosaurs face to face! In fact some powers are working overtime to re-create modern-day dinosaurs to keep the perceived dragons at bay. Ancient folklore and modern Think Tanks coming face to face! Look at it in whatever way you like, no good will come out of it. But then international conflicts of interest never had a positive side to them, then or now.
— The writer is a former ambassador and former assistant secretary general of OIC.

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