Whither doomsday scenarios?

Technological advancement placed man in an unenviable situation in which he has the capability to destroy the earth

Khalid Saleem September 20, 2017
The writer is a former ambassador and former assistant secretary general of the OIC

For long one’s date of birth is believed to have a bearing on the character and wellbeing of an individual. Whether you believe in horoscopes or not, the fact remains that these somewhat ghastly harbingers do cast a looming shadow of sorts and that not only on persons of a sensitive temperament. Our neighbours across the border to the east are, of course, firm believers in such astrological marvels. Virtually nothing is permitted to take place without due clearance from a chap who dabbles in this occult science. Even such an otherwise resolute leader like the late Indira Gandhi, one is told, allowed her actions to be swayed by her favourite soothsayers. Many in the West, motivated though by the scientific spirit, still are not fully immune to the influence of those who read into the influence of movement and juxtaposition of the planets.

When those who had something to do with Roman mythology designated Mars as the god of war, they had no way of looking into the future, the Oracle notwithstanding! They could have had no inkling at all about the events of 9/11 or, indeed, the ensuing war on terror. But such is the way of nature in the topsy-turvy world of today. Beset as it is with pestilences such as globalisation and doctrine of pre-emption, they appear to have come into juxtaposition somehow. If the aforementioned does not make sense to the reader, one must hasten to explain that it is not meant to. Whoever thought the New World Order was ever designed to make sense to the common man, anyway?

One craves the indulgence of the reader to recall a stinging news item of several years ago, datelined Phnom Penh, which conveyed the earth-shaking news that soothsayers from the hosts, India and Hong Kong, meeting in a tent outside a temple in the heart of Cambodia’s capital, had declared that a close encounter with Mars would spell disaster — natural or man made — to Earth. Apparently, sometime after the doomsday prediction in question, Mars was to pass closer to Earth than at any time in the past 60,000 years. Skeptics’ shrugs notwithstanding, the soothsayers’ predictions were not entirely off the mark, though.

At this point, the gentle reader may well be tempted to ask as to where all this is leading. Humankind has surrounded itself with the wherewithal of all kinds of explosive matter — not to talk of WMDs — and has, thereby, become disaster prone. The work of the soothsayer has, as a consequence, become somewhat simpler than what it used to be in the days of yore. The world today is like a tinderbox, with flashpoints spread all over. The doomsday merchant merely has to point to the more crises-prone areas. Given the trigger-happy lot that sits at the helm of affairs, chances are that, the soothsayer will hit the jackpot. Prizes these days should be reserved for those who are the harbingers of glad tidings rather than those who predict doom.

Since times immemorial, men of vision, or men who feign to have a vision of sorts, have taken delight in predicting the end of the world. Mercifully, most of them have been proven wrong. But still, the game lingers on. Some have linked these scenarios to astrological phenomena, others to changes linked to a man’s propensity to court disasters. Either way, it is something to be wary of.

Technological advancement has placed man in an unenviable situation in which he has acquired the capability to destroy the earth, several times over. Just why he feels the need to do that, leaves one in a bind. And yet, humankind is out to add newer and more potent means of self-destruction to the already formidable arsenal. The doomsday merchant, to his credit, merely deigns to predict the destruction of earth. It is not for one to sermonise, but to draw the line in the sands of time. To procrastinate may well amount to courting disaster!

Published in The Express Tribune, September 20th, 2017.

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