October 10, 2006

The Red Monkey

Once upon a time, in a small village in Dystopia, there were two cats, Tom and Jerry. Good friends, they did their foraging around the village together. It was a rather poor village, and the two cats barely survived on a mouse or two that they caught on their lucky days. One day, after several dry rounds, Tom and Jerry finally found a pie. They were both very hungry, and their friendship not withstanding, couldn't agree upon a fair division of the pie. When in conflict, whom else could they turn to but the Red Monkey?

The Red Monkey agreed to craft a division that would be super fair. Before Tom and Jerry could say, "Thanks", Red jumped through a few trees and returned with a scale. Slicing the pie into two, he placed one piece on the right and the other on the left side of the scale. "Oops, the right has a bit more," he exclaimed to the dismay of Jerry. "Not to worry, Jerry," he said, taking a bite from the right, "I'll ensure equity and fairness." "The left now has more", complained Tom. Red took a bite off the left, in the interest of equality and justice, of course. "You have tilted the scale to the right again", wailed Jerry, "Take another bite off Tom's." Red responded, "Certainly, I may be accused of many things, but not bias and causing inequity", and took another bite from the right. As the two cats watched in silence, the enitire pie soon vanished into the sky, or to be correct, into Red's mouth.

"Well, look at the bright side," said the Red Monkey as he perched himself on a branch high and away from the cats, "We have ensured equality and justice, haven't we?"

Many of you would have heard one or more variants of this story, originally from the Indian classic, Panchatantra. Regular readers of my blog would have discerned the new wrinkle in this old story. In the post-9/11 world, nation states and organized religions are increasingly moving onto the slippery slopes of dystopia, ostensibly to save the gods from the humans, the humans from the gods, or the humans from the other humans. Most of you will be familiar with the Doomsday Clock. It measures the time to midnight when the entire world will be destroyed by a nuclear holocaust. Perhaps, we need a doomsday clock to measure the time to dystopia, when the entire world will come under a theocratic or totalitarian regime - the Gilead from The Handmaid's Tale or the Oceania from Nineteen Eighty-Four.

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