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Home > 2022 > Goodbye 2021. But Welcome To What? | T J S George

Mainstream, VOL LX No 2, New Delhi, January 1, 2022

Goodbye 2021. But Welcome To What? | T J S George

Tuesday 28 December 2021, by T J S George



Year-end pushes the world into introspection. There is a predictable style in which this is done. The year that is ending is dismissed as a bad one and the new year is welcomed as the harbinger of all things wonderful. To complicate things further, assessment of the year is culture-based. What American culture considers all important may be dismissed as irrelevant by those who follow Indian culture.

Indian Culture? Can there be such a thing when Narendra Modi’s Delhi has nothing in common with Pinarayi Vijayan’s Kerala? For that matter, Basavaraj Bommai’s BJP is very different from Yogi Adityanath’s BJP. India is a bundle of competing cultures. The Almighty deserves thanks for that.

The list of 2021’s achievements as assessed by the USA include the first X-gender US passport and the first black American becoming the country’s secretary of defence. No one is interested in these except certified Americans. But there are some other US scores that are of interest to all — initiatives such as a NASA equipment entering the Sun’s atmosphere and billionaire Jeff Bezos pioneering civilians going into space.

The lay public is yet to get familiar with what may become the biggest cultural challenge of the century — metaverse. This is said to be a fictional concept that has suddenly turned all too real. Combining the real and the virtual worlds, metaverse is defined as "a whole new 3D interactive internet."

Lay columnists and lay readers may need time to reach some kind of working arrangement with 3D interactive internets and such other marvels. But they may not have much time because the magical names of the internet such as Satya Nadella, the lord of Microsoft, and Mark Zuckerberg, the god of Facebook, are full of appreciation for the wizardry of new-wave internet with 3D and more.

Scientists and up-to-date modernists are of course familiar with the possibilities of these new discoveries. Some of these possibilities are difficult to comprehend as far as ordinary folks are concerned. Earlier this year a piece of "virtual real estate" was sold in America for nearly a million dollars. What on earth is "virtual" real estate? Obviously it does not exist as a piece of land that you can see and walk on as you please. It exists only in a "virtual" state. That is a polite way of saying that it exists only in the sphere of imagination.

If real estate exists in an unreal condition, and if there are people ready to pay real money for the unreal, the world has gone bonkers. Either that, or columnists and other lay guys have lost the game. Will a day come when newspaper columns will have to be written in 3D interactive formats, whatever that means.

Will a world ruled by 3D formats be safer to live in than the terrifying worlds controlled by Emperor Caligula of Rome or Louis XIV of France? Caligula was a worshipper of the horses he owned. His favourite horse was given a collar studded with diamonds. Louis XIV was a disgusting guy who built a commode into his throne so that he could attend to Nature’s calls even as he attended to the affairs of the state. The officials surrounding him had to suffer it all in silence.

Was James VI of Scotland any better? This was a man who had "a great aversion to water." Think of a man living without touching water. He must have been stinking like hell, but officials and subjects no doubt pretended that he smelt like a bouquet of roses.

The most eccentric royal in history was King Farouk of Egypt. He would disguise himself as a commoner and go into crowded areas of Cairo picking people’s pockets. That was the occupation he loved more than anything else. He is known to have taken lessons from a professional pickpocket. This could not have been easy for Farouk because he looked like a balloon, and weighed 300 pounds. A point was reached when his corruption and incompetence could no longer be accepted by the people. A group of army leaders known as Free Officers drove him into exile and set up a popular government of Egypt under the leadership of Gamal Abdel Nasser.

It won’t be easy for the "virtual" to settle down as reality in the world of ordinary mortals, It won’t be easy for citizens to accept the virtual and the real as interchangeable elements. But in that game the losers will be the citizens. The present has already been hijacked by the metaverse generation. The future may be hijacked by some new version of supermetaverse. Where will salvation come from?

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