Some readers may possibly wonder why I keep harping on darker shades of intriguing human behaviours, portraying my own kind incessantly in a rather negative light. They may be intrigued why I deliberately choose to be blind to the good side of humans; after all, don’t many of us work tirelessly and selflessly undertake numerous noble activities on a daily basis to reduce the everyday burden of our mundane activities, ease up our lifestyle and prolong our longevity? Not surprising, therefore, to many readers, I may possibly appear as an alarmist and depressively negative person, one who may be enjoying constantly portraying a rather gloomy, dystopian picture of our human world. Well, within the domain of their individual worlds, their impression about me and my literary works may be justifiable and valid. Apparently, my audacious writings can easily allude a reader into gathering that kind of impression about me, especially if that person does not know me personally. Most people who may know me also know that I have an intrinsically optimistic disposition, one that hopes against impossible till the very end.
As a responsible world citizen and a conscientious author and writer, I don’t intend to put any undue defence of myself and my writings. In my chosen part-time writing career, I have embarked on a relatively hard journey – of saying how I see it – of writing non-fiction that touches sensitive issues; challenges taboos, stigmas and the stereotype; comments audaciously on various aspects of human life and bizarre but irresponsible human behaviours, as I see them.
My writings carry my desperate cries against pressing and existential human and global issues. My words are underpinned by my hope that someone somewhere, having the means and the power to change things for the better, may hear my cries and similar cries of many other people across the world.
My works aim to present a mirror that reflects what we humans have become and how we are behaving at the present, underpinned by a desperate hope that, miraculously, we wake up at some point of time and make the necessary amends when we still have the time to recover from falling into a potential abyss.
I believe any intentional or inadvertent use of sweeteners in my literary works will potentially mask the seriousness of all those numerous worrying world matters that I write about, which have the potential to affect each one of us and defeat the very purpose of my writing efforts.
I am an engineer by profession and not an entertainer or a comedian or a clever court-jester. I am trained to be realistic in my observations and assessments, while ensuring the structures that I help to design and built are fully operational and safe for use by their end-users, not only in the present and but right through their operational life of normally 50 to 150 years. As an engineer, I consider myself accountable to the end-users (of my engineered works) who are not even born yet, long past I am dead and gone. Engineers are expected to be pragmatic. As a rule, engineering works incorporate the necessary checks and balances, and suitable Factors of Safety against catastrophic failures that may occur due to a multitude of factors.
It is the engineer in me that makes me to write what and how I see things. How can I deliberately close my mind to what keeps happening around the world as a result of the irresponsible and callous human behaviours, inactions, derelictions, omissions or oppression, especially if none of us living in any part of the world is immune to their potentially devastating effects.
How can I afford to choose to be senile, or lunatically optimistic, or materially myopic or completely blind to the serious affairs of the world that affect us all? At some point, of course, but certainly not before I have done my bit – through my writings or otherwise – I must humbly accept my inadequacy and practical limitations of my relatively short human existence. No human is God, never has been nor ever shall be. Humans are invariably fallible and gullible. But that does not mean that we stop trying to change things for the better where it matters the most – our existential issues. The Bhagwat Gita lays great emphasis on undertaking timely actions that are essentially selfless and righteous, and never ignore things as silent witnesses.
I accept that my writings may tend to over-exaggerate the reality. For example, when I try to quiz if cockroaches are smarter than humans, by no means, I try to demean the humans; after all, humans are at present the undisputed and unchallenged intellectual rulers on the planet. But such over-exaggerations are necessary, given the unimaginable consequences of our self-destructive actions and deliberate inactions. A comparison between cockroaches and the humans is, therefore, purely metaphorical in terms of our respective behavioural and survival skills, and not necessarily in terms of our anatomical or measurable intelligence.
I accept that the degree of over-exaggerations must be proportionate to the intensity of consequences – direct and indirect – of our irresponsible actions and inactions, derelictions, negligence and omissions – all of which could be deemed as unimaginable in the contexts I write. How can one resist making such comparisons, howsoever, absurd they may seem to be, if most of us seem to be sleepwalking through a range of clear and present existential issues that look straight into our eye every moment of our increasingly selfish existence?
What good is that jingoistic nationalism if our home planet is being pulled by our darker side into a perilous state? What good does that history do to us if it burdens us with anecdotal hair-raising stories of invasions, brutalities and atrocities that alien warriors and imperialist rulers of the bygone times unleashed on our ancestral communities except inhibiting us from moving ahead with the rest of the world at the present, shoulder-to-shoulder as one human race, and keeping us from developing as responsible global citizens?
While the world remains increasingly polarised – politically and ideologically – between ‘us’ and ‘them’, ‘left’ and ‘right’, ‘east’ and ‘west’, authoritativeness seems to be growing on the whole on all sides. Without polarizing it any further, shouldn’t the world open-mindedly review how authoritarianism is scrumptiously changing its democracies. Are we regressing to our past world of kings and imperialistic regimes?
Our hypocritical jingoistic cries of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ typically characterise our regression that not only damages our prospects of real and holistic progress as humans but also our cohabitation and a sustainable peace on our home planet, Earth. As the political divide between ‘left’ and ‘right’ seems to grow blurrier with time, with each side showing clear shades of the other, it would be interesting to see which side is hardening and becoming more authoritative and which side is softening as more libertarian. The results may surprisingly contradict our stereotypical guesses and expectations.
Our audacious sense of entitlement and lack of gratitude could be at the core of our unhappiness. If all other living beings — flora and fauna — struggle through each day of their short existence to survive against not only the harsh processes of Mother Nature but also our irresponsible acts and omissions and trespasses, what makes us humans to believe our life should be any different?
Our insatiable greed and selfishness and, of course, our thankless attitude, in general, characterise our uncaring and insensitive human world. Our increasingly robotic behaviour explains our reckless attitude not only towards one another but also towards our Mother Earth. We humans could be considered akin to an alarmingly sprawling cancer on Earth. We have a proven net negative impact on our home planet, incessantly consuming it and destroying its natural environment. Nonstop, we dig and pump out and burn our natural resources, constantly polluting our environment. We consume the hands that feed us. We have fast been breeding and increasing our numbers, expanding the footprint of our colonies — silently, surreptitiously — just like a cancer. We are adept in exploiting, using, abusing, misusing and cleverly consuming one another, one way or the other.
It is quite bizarre and intriguing that we humans continue to be afraid of their own kind despite globalization and the scientific evidence that we all carry the same 99.9% DNA. Our fear and distrust of one another have made us to design, manufacture, trade, deploy and use all kinds of weapons of mass destruction against our own kind. Or, perhaps, our outwardly fear cleverly masks our internal material greed to benefit monetarily and strategically from the sale and use of those weapons? Whatever the reasons, we are currently armed to teeth with a range of deadly technologies, willing and prepared to destroy our own kind, using the deadly arsenal of our proud weapons. We may claim to be the most intelligent species on Earth but are we wise too?
Living a relatively wealthier but enslaved life is much worse than living a relatively poorer but a more autonomous life. Life (span) is measured only in terms of time, which is finite. The extent and degree of freedom that one enjoys during that time actually defines one’s true wealth. Dignified autonomy defines true happiness. Upholding the intrinsic human dignity marks true human progress. Have we really progressed?
To sum up, therefore, can cockroaches be considered to be smarter than us humans? They survived the 5th Mass Extinction about 66 million years ago that annihilated the mighty dinosaurs who ruled the planet for more than 150 million years? In contrast, we humans have already designed the means and mechanisms of our own extinction within just about 200,000 years of our relatively much shorter human existence.
Bill Koul [10 Oct 2022, Perth, Western Australia]