Brave New World, Perilous New world

Given all the calamities that the world is going through, that no amount of ‘divine’ input into human affairs has so far prevented the non-divine forces from having a field day. If anything, on the contrary they appear to be positively thriving!

Those of a certain generation will recall Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, published in 1932, and many are those who must have read it too. It is a science fiction novel describing a future world in which personal identity no longer exists. People are conceived in Hatcheries by in vitro fertilization, and early on the embryos are separated into five groups which will grow up to form five castes in society, with assigned duties that are unalterable until death. And everybody dies by means of an injection at the age of 60, with the population size being fixed at 2 billion and no more. Since there are no relatives, there is no one to cry or to cry for, and this state of affairs is known from the beginning and accepted by everyone.

Depending on one’s world-view, which for most people is based on or conditioned by their religion, one may find that future world described by Huxley as either frightening or to be wished for. After all, if everyone is happy and no one ever need to cry for a loved or a lost one, isn’t that better than having to suffer sadness and sorrow? It would seem, given all the calamities that the world is going through, that no amount of ‘divine’ input into human affairs has so far prevented the non-divine forces from having a field day. If anything, on the contrary they appear to be positively thriving!

Every time there is a natural catastrophe, some people come along to affirm that it is God’s wrath being visited upon those affected. The first thing that people who use their reason – also, presumably, God-given – is to ask: why should a just and loving God do such a daft thing? There is no cogent answer ever given. At best, it is said that it’s God’s mystery, his inscrutable ways. So it is better to confine ourselves to our scientific understanding of what is happening, and act accordingly.

Which is what the authorities of Calgary in Canada, for example, have done, by evacuating around 75,000 people from the centre of the city of Calgary as floodwaters devastated much of Canada’s southern province of Alberta, killing three people. Further, some 1,300 troops have been deployed in the flood zone. 8.7 inches, equal to nearly six months of normal rainfall, had fallen in 36 hours near Canmore, 65 miles west of Calgary. “Now all that water is rushing downstream, and that’s why the situation is so bad in Calgary. This is an unprecedented flooding event.” Environment Canada’s forecasters say the rains won’t let up until Saturday.

Floods as a main destructive element are becoming more frequent and more devastating in front of our very eyes all over the world. Only several weeks ago they affected England and Wales, and more recently Germany and France, in amounts and force that had not been seen for a long time, and causing unprecedented levels of damage. People were having to start from scratch rebuilding their homes and lives.

In India, floods on a scale never seen since 80 years have brought havoc in the state of Uttarakhand. Some witnesses who somehow survived described a wall of water of at least 200 feet high rushing down the mountainside. The authorities are still on the war footing as they attempt to rescue the remaining stranded people in a couple of areas which are unfortunately being rendered inaccessible because of continuing bad weather, what with fresh rainfall and dense fog prevailing. Nevertheless, the Indian Army helicopters have been on the go non-stop, braving the weather to make sorties and airlift people to safety.

As was to be expected, there have been criticisms of several aspects of the approach to the rescue operations, in particular gaps in initial coordination and mobilisation of all the operational forces available, such as the National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF). Its spokesperson said that they had been called in too late, several days later after disaster struck on the 16 June, whereas they are the primary force that ought to have been inducted because of their expertise and experience in mountain rescue operations. In fact the floods in Uttarakhand have affected the hills areas and it does make sense that those who are trained in handling disasters in such situations be called in promptly.

No doubt all these matters will be looked into and analysed meticulously so as to be more prepared for future responses. Miraculously, the temple in the pilgrimage township of Kedarnath, which has been completely raised to the ground and is currently lying under 5-7 feet of mud, has stood the fury of the floods, a lone survivor as it were.

Bottomline is what a blog I read in connection with the recent discovery of an archaeological site in Iraq reminds us of: ‘the only truth about us humans is that we need the four basic elements of our planet in order to survive, to grow, to procreate and to go on with our known daily lives: 1) our Father sun. 2) our Mother earth. 3) our Sister water. 4) our Brother wind. Interesting, this way of giving human agency to the elements!

But there was also another one that read as follows: ‘There has been no god ever, but only highly altered minds of some humans, who started this nonsense about god and goddesses. It is a fable to confuse the minds of people and make them subservient to their fables.’ And an even more interesting one: ‘Every new religion recycles the previous Gods and figures of the previous one. The Egyptians had a god Osiris who was murdered, resurrected, and judged the dead. The Greek religion originally had Bacchae who sacrificed human victims and ate the flesh and drank the blood. This was later symbolized by eating bread and drinking wine.’

But let us come down to the human level again, to an opinion piece in the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, whose title is: ‘Made-to-Order Embryos for Sale — A Brave New World?’ As it suggests, this essay is about volunteers producing embryos which they will put up for sale to infertile couples. Will we have to await God’s wrath falling on humans vying with him to help those he created infertile?! But why did he do so to start with hey?

* Published in print edition on 28 June 2013

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