In short supply

... amongst us, is the common sense to see the effects of continuing eco-degradation and do something about it

By Gaurav Raina
Published: Monday 31 March 1997

BACK in the '60s and '70s, an advertisement for a muscle- enhancing process called the Charles Atlas system featured regularly in the US media. The most frequent was in comic form with the following story line: Mac, a skinny young man, tries desperately to attract the attention of beauties at the beach, only to have sand kicked into his eyes by the prancing (and preening) muscle-bound local bully who, but of course, has all the adulation of the ladies! This incenses Mac so much that he resolves to tackle the situation 'muscle-on'. He works out for months and sprouts muscles a wee bit larger than the bewitching bully, pushes the latter out of the way and has the untrammelled attention of the beauties! What has this got to do with the end of science in today's world? Hang on to your baseball caps (oops sorry, Gandhi topis) while one tries to explain.

James Redfield, another not so young and balding man from the land of baseball and 'Baywatchers' recently wrote a runaway bestseller and, while it is still running away, one believes he is already working on the sequel to the sequel and trying to decide which film director and crew is competent (sorry, spiritual) enough to handle the film rights. You guessed it; the bestseller in question is none other than The Celestine Prophecy, An Adventure. While the prophetic part is brief and vague, and the adventure part typical of a B-grade Hollywood movie and as boring, there is, believe it or not, an insight part too! One of these is about Western history.

Not so surprisingly (coming as it does from the land where handguns are as easy to buy as smack and crack) this insight reads much like the Charles Atlas copywriters plot; Western man (or more specifically European man as America had not been discovered then) was getting fed up during the first 400 years of the last millennium of being burnt at stakes and clapped in irons and questioned at inquisitions by the big bad bullying Church. So the gang of Gallileos and Copernicuses and who have you rallied round and came up with the scientific method and gave this whole effort and its products nice big names like 'Enlightenment' and 'Renaissance' and 'Positivism' and 'Marxism' and 'Jingoism' and whichever ism you like - until finally we have environmentalism!

Any way, to get back to the prophet (whoops, prophecy), Western man (and now Eastern man and Northern man and Southern man) to avoid burning at the stake made such a mess of things that the whole planet has turned into a stake! And while yoga and reiki and alternative medicine are fast becoming multi-billion dollar industries, will we ever get down to doing what the father of the nation was trying to say when a handgun found him? Instead of turning his life into many grossing films and printing him on the paper that gets you anything except extinct animals and trees and extinct (even in our great India) peace of mind, may be we should have listened. Had we done so and not deemed it in this era of individualism, an insult, we might have become 'men' from mere Macs.

Or, in other words, if we can see further than our stake in the stake (here we go again, sorry planet) may be we will stake our steaks on that (hopefully) not so extinct phenomenon called common sense.

Gaurav Raina is a freelance media professional based in New Delhi

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