“The world is ending” has been resounding since time immemorial. Every generation lives on believing that the world as it is will end before their time on earth ends. But this belief begs the question, is the world ever “as it is,” isn’t the world ever-changing? Aren’t things which seem at rest to the naked eyes always on the move? Is it not change if we humans don’t perceive it?
To think that the world will not be the same after they are gone, to believe that one particular generation is torch-bearer to something the subsequent generation will neither recognize nor value is egocentric and this tendency isn’t the privy of one particular generation. All generations have felt and feel threatened by their successors. Each predecessor society had uttered with a heavy heart that the children are up to no good. And so the wheel of time has moved on, unabatedly, uniformly.
Despite these disaffected deep sighs, the time has effected its malevolent looking shenanigans. There’s almost always something sinister going on behind the facade of mundane quotidian life which is invisible to the naked eyes of the uninitiated.
Some change is coercive. These fundamentally change the status quo prevalent in societies and cultures within a blink of an eye and these changes mark the high and low ends of the flow of time. Events like the economic liberalization of 1991, Pokharan, Subprime Crisis of 2008, 26/11 terror attacks, etc. remain etched in collective memories for a long time. But much else is going on between these extreme events. These unremarkable footprints slowly but steadily traverse the same milestones ever so unobtrusively, and these journeys – unworthy of making headlines, in the end, create the heavy divides between two different generations.
Time works its magic eventually and one-act looking at which one’s very soul would’ve rebelled earlier, becomes innately natural over some time. There are examples galore of such momentous changes that have occurred already which didn’t make any waves, like the movement against the institution of Sati or Dahej. Some movements with the same DNA are still in the process of evolving into beautiful majestic results, like the LGBTQ Movement or Woman Empowerment movement.
Some in our society can’t bear to hear of these fundamental issues that drag us down but maybe a decade or so later, these will be the topics of normal dinner conversations. Then lesbian couples will walk the street without fearing those glares and women will feel true male friendship instead of the patronizing male machismo that is served to them today.
The past three months have been all Corona for the whole world. ‘The world as we know it is coming to an end’ is resounding again. The old world is crying foul of the globe-trotter millennial generation. But rebellious transformations the likes of which have happened in the last 20-25 years have happened before, albeit in other forms. But, the response which these all have garnered has always been similar. The call for protectionism is getting stronger. But, will globalization recede? I don’t think so.
This pandemic is truly disrupting the whole status quo. Wherever one may choose to look- newspapers, televisions, markets, roads, hospitals, malls, airport lounges, and hotel corridors, it truly resembles a dystopia. Technology has come to the aid of governments everywhere in tackling this pandemic. Surveillance has helped in other respects too, like battling hunger, malnutrition, climate change, illiteracy, etc.
But, times like these call for drastic measures and so the state of virtual emergency has been declared and governments everywhere are using ICT to track citizens’ every move. It is obvious to believe that these drastic measures will fade once we have dealt with the present crisis.
But all that human experience teaches us is that abrupt change comes in the times of great crisis as short term measures. It comes in the name of empowering the nation for the citizens but it sticks around empowering the state against the citizens. The American surveillance state which came in the wake of 9/11 is an apt example of this.
But this surveillance state is an inevitable happenstance, given the rate of growth in digital technologies, their exponentially increasing reach among the masses and the slow-paced rate of legislation to curve their invasive reach into people’s lives so far. We all already live in the world of pervasive corporate surveillance. But this present crisis will provide governments around the globe with the excuse to appropriate for themselves these corporate tools of mass surveillance.
It would have eventually happened but tragedies like the current one may just accelerate their rate of approach. Once we’ve dealt with this unfortunate pandemic at our hands, then we will begin the slow and surreptitious work of time. This here is that remarkable, headline-making event but soon after the steady, unobtrusive manoeuvre in stealth will begin. This manoeuvre in stealth must become visible on the public radar lest we endanger creating another big divide between two different generations.
From a society that worships its privacy and individual space to one that is happily letting the government sit in its bedroom is not that big a leap. All it needs is a regime ready to pounce on citizens’ right while the latter snores smilingly.
Don’t sleep. Be vigilant, for they will come promising good times and unseen benefits for all.