• July 19, 2024

Kobayashi Maru

As the tale goes, once upon a time in a kingdom far, far away there lived two unemployed brothers called Modified and Modied. One day the older brother Modified (let’s call him Mod) said to his younger, hey Mo let’s go search for jobs in a foreign land. They both agreed and one hot dusty day set out to get jobs.

(Okay, will you stop obsessing about the names and concentrate on the story which has a moral?)

So, the two brothers kept travelling in search of work until they reached a rich kingdom. When they entered its capital they found the entire city out on the roads. Mod accosted a resident to learn why and was told that the king had just died without an heir. In a short while Huma, the bird of destiny, was to be released and if it landed on you, you would be chosen as the next king. That is why every citizen was out to try their luck. Hearing this the two brothers also decided to give it a shot.

The elder one vowed to turn the kingdom into an abode of tranquility, virtue, equanimity and honesty if chosen the king. Mo, the younger one, disagreed. He said all of this was against fundamental human nature. The man was a corrupt animal. That was why if chosen he would turn the country into a dump. Corruption would be obligatory, the rich and the powerful would set the agenda and everyone would be under obligation to demand their cut. As soon as he finished the Huma bird was released and it landed right atop his head. As the populace gathered around the newly chosen King Modied, feeling dejected the elder brother Mod wished him luck and left.

Many years passed and the elder brother was seized by the desire to check in on his younger brother to see his progress. When he reached the capital the police wouldn’t let him enter without a hefty sum as a bribe. When he informed that he was the king’s brother the ask was doubled because now the bribe also included the royal cut. He had to pony up and eventually taken to see the king. When the king saw him he lunged to embrace him. But our virtuous Mod threw a filthy look at him and turned his back on him. When King Modied asked him what was wrong he said it like it was. The king was a disgrace and had brought a bad name to his family by ruining a perfectly beautiful kingdom. The king was shocked to hear this. He reminded him that both of them were there when they made their declarations. Had the providence wanted something better for the country it would have chosen Mod but it chose Mo. He was then only fulfilling his pledge. Moral of the story: you can’t escape your fate. My spin on it? Fate is cruel.

Does it sound like fatalism to you? To me, it is a design flaw in the shape of things to come. A flaw left there deliberately by the designer. For those of you who are not acquainted with the term Kobayashi Maru used in the title, in the Star Trek lore, it is a no-win simulation test to evaluate a cadet’s character. The term was introduced in the movie “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” where the genetically engineered Indian tyrant Khan Noonien Singh (I know the name makes little sense but to the ears of the writers at the time it sounded exotic and plausible enough to be included) returns from exile.

Now in the story above I have used many layers of irony. I have even deployed the Urdu style of column writing, which is an irony of ironies in itself, in the vain hope of creating at least one moment of moral victory. But as you can go back and look there is no moral victory in the whole story from start to finish despite my embellishments. You can run, you can hide or plot, but you cannot win or catch a break. The world around you is so broken that it will at least swallow a few generations before getting fixed, if at all. Ever wondered what went wrong and what caused the seemingly endless reservoirs of moral courage and sanity to suddenly dry up around the world. Many attempts were made to answer this but the quest continues.

Former Japanese premier Shinzo Abe was just assassinated using an assortment of pipes duct-taped together to function as a gun which obviously worked. Abe was often accused of populism and hyper-nationalism. He was killed in the name of hypernationalism. Dumb.

In the US someone blew up a part of the Georgia Guidestones and the police brought down the remaining monument which stood there since 1980. Word has it that a bunch of white nationalists built it and a bunch of white nationalists blew it up. Dumb.

In India, Narendra Modi unveiled the official emblem atop the new parliament compound. A 6.5m-tall statue “shows four Asiatic lions mounted back-to-back on a circular disc”. The symbol borrowed from Emperor Asoka’s reign in 250BC is a part of India’s list of national symbols. But upon unveiling keen-eyed observers noticed some differences. In a sharp deviation from the original, they noticed that the lions looked much more ferocious and seemed to be snarling. To these dumdums, Asoka who allegedly killed three hundred thousand including dozens of his own brothers wasn’t belligerent enough. Modi’s obsession with such symbols brought an episode of “The Man in the High Castle” to mind where they bring the Statue of Liberty down and install in its place a Nazi statue. These fascist types surely have a proven track record of perverting beautiful things to reshape them in their own image.

While all of the anecdotes above are disturbing enough the last bit is obviously important. All comparisons of Modi with Hitler aside, there is one critical difference. Hitler, despite his crimes against humanity, will be known as a failed villain of history. Modi and his minions seem in no mood to fail. So note the difference between Hitlerism and Modism. Hitlerism means doing the vile thing so crudely that people notice and take action. Modism does the same more effectively by using all the diplomatic and financial prowess of India’s virtual empire. Charge the majority of a nation of 1.3 billion against its minorities and then watch the spectacle. What are you going to do about it? With apology to Shakespeare’s ghost, let me amend a line of his. These violent thrills have violent ends. Kobayashi Maru. Period.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 16th, 2022.

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