Guwahati, Friday, January 01, 2010
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Not to hope for things to last for ever, is what the year teaches and even the hour which snatches a nice day away.
— HoRace

Ring out, ring in
This day marks not merely the beginning of yet another year, but also the conclusion of the first decade of the twenty first century. For the older generation, born in the mid 20th century, the 21st had loomed as an evolutionary milestone, when mankind would shed those purely human characteristics that bring discord and horror, and step closer to an envisioned Utopia. Just as George Orwell so misjudged the era wherein Big Brother would take up his observation post, the dreamers of the 20th had got it all wrong, if the commencement of the first decade of the 21st was any indication. The sigh of relief that the culmination of one millennium had not brought about the Armageddon foretold by the prophets of doomsday seems now to have been premature. The Cold War had ended in the 20th itself, so there had been optimism that humanity was slowly elevating itself towards angelic heights and lesser discords would be soon taken care of. But the most terrifying image of the 21st, one which duplicated the horror roused by the sight of Hitler’s concentration camps, was of two commercial planes crashing into New York’s World Trade Centre and the edifice come tumbling down. The Cold War has merely been replaced by war of a different kind, an insidious monstrosity whose touch no spot in the earth was impervious to, one that constantly demanded pagan sacrifice of innocents.

A decade has passed, yet age-old wounds on the scarred body of Mother Earth continue to fester. If Sri Lanka has achieved what might turn out to be a pyrrhic victory, sores such as Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan have not yet healed. The votaries of capitalism, who had grown so smug when Marxist Communism collapsed, had their complacent bubbles pricked as the economic meltdown struck. Flagrant commercialism has denuded Planet Earth of much of its resources, yet we have not been able to attain the level of sanity that would make possible a concerted environmental effort to save it. At the national level not much meaningful change has occurred during the last decade; India has been shining on the elitist few, social disparities are rampant, giving rise to movements such as that of the Maoists which contain potential for imminent disaster. Poised on the threshold of 2010 there seems not much to ring out, even less to ring in! Yet the rays of optimism are attempting to penetrate the clouds; Obama has been sworn in, recession has been contained and opportunities are emerging, if only our leaders, at the global, national and regional levels, would but seize them. The beginning of a new year, let alone a new decade, is no moment for pessimism. So let us wish each other a happy new year even as we ring out pessimism and ring in hope.