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THE ALPHA .... AND OMEGA
KHONG TECK KEONG L6B3
Among a pile of documents sat Professor Geonheckt Knogk a la table, pondering deep into another realm, his own realm. Expressionless, his head propped up with his hands, his keen eyes stared into the infinite Kingdom of Thoughts. Yes, this was the very guise of Professor Geonheckt Knogk, the world's most acclaimed scientist, the greatest the world had ever known. His intellectual precincts lay in diversity - and physics, chemistry, biology and anthropology are his main concerns. Retreating from the depths of rumination and scribbling a few sentences, the Professor scurried off into his limousine to attend a Council Convention. The year - 2442 A.D.
Professor Geonheckt Knogk, N.D.P., away from all the eccentricities of science which he indulged in, was the Benevolent President of the Twenty-first Republic of Cmedrocya. Embodying such exceptional qualities, this dynamic leader and intellectual pur sang had purged his beloved motherland of the oppression of his tyrannical predecessors and external aggression. Cmedrocya was a stable polity despite its heteroethnic nature, and today it had been restored to its former magnificence of opulence and strength. Cmedrocya was a nation with unfathomable resources of a comprehensive range of minerals, bountiful harvests from the land and sea, and a cultural and historical heritage unparalleled by any other nation. It had, in its glorious past, wielded so great an influence over the neighbouring countries that it had absorbed some of them. Situated between the Alanic and Pasi Oceans, this salubrious land was today a scene of interplanetary missions.
Cmedrocya was utopian by nature; however, not without shortcomings. Beneath the veneer of progressiveness and prosperity, away from all the façades of sophistication, lay abstruse and highly explosive problems. When Professor Geonheckt Knogk was elected President, he was faced with a most unsurmountable situation. However, he had managed, with the utmost dexterity, to keep the equilibrium favourably, away from the febrile convulsions of an extremely sensitive society. And today's Council Convention was one of a series convened periodically and especially, to review and to discuss the issues, issues that were so incongruous and seemingly absurd for a nation of this nature to be confronted with.
It all started in the old kingdom of Cmedrocya, when.its rulers embarked on annihilation campaigns to weed out from their society, those who were considered unintelligent, lazy and in no way beneficial to the kingdom, not to speak of impeding the progress of the kingdom. Through these campaigns, the population of Cmedrocya was "brain-lifted", and centuries after that diabolical mass persecution, the Cmedrocyans had become, incredibly, the cleverest and most intelligent people in the world. During the Reigns of Annihilation, as the tenebrous period was commonly referred to, geniuses had IQ's in the region of 160. Today, the IQ's of the Cmedrocyans range from 8.0 x 102 to 1.6 x 103. What grandeur had those murderous rulers envisioned but the initiation of the whole nation into a House of Intellect, and a race to lead mankind.
The greatest consequence of their action was the creation of a chasm among a race of superbrains. The social order prevailing was not one that was based on material criteria but upon the capacities of the brain. On the lower rung of this order were the scholars and workers, businessmen and economists, who proliferated on intense erudition. Those who formed the upper class were eccentric theorists, inventors, and men with the most fantastic, unimaginable and totally esoteric ideas. They received minimal education at the High Institutions for Learning, but were innately endowed with these qualities because they belonged to the special FX strain. Professor Geonheckt came from the latter group. From his research on the evolution of the Cmedrocyan Society, he had produced impressive documents on his Related Theories of Paramathics, Trans-psychics and Orthophrenics. Among his general statements, the Professor said that by their designed evolution, Cmedrocyans had lost or lacked in substantial proportions, the primordial instincts or group dynamics.
In his papers, Professor Geonheckt revealed that the microsurgery and micromanipulation of certain chromosomes were fundamental means in producing characteristics desired for a person. However, the implantation of Bissetium into the convolution 25D 35V-6 and artifical convolution with the administration of Acterion to the areas of retarded electrical activition in the cerebral hemispheres were more exacting ways. Injection of Stereotyped RNA-B3 and reducing the synaptic differentials with strychnosonium was a useful method to employ to procure the end. A host of other postulations and solutions, too long and too technical to be entertained here, were also found in his papers.
The greatest problem confronting the Professor was a reinculcation of a sense of group unity. He had shouldered heavily the state responsibilities since he became President, and made virtually all decisions with hardly any objections. If there were any, they were without any true intent. He considered himself a despot, and abhorred the thought. He had pressed for greater representation of the people in the Government, but had met with no success; only the langour of the Chamber Councillors greeted him. With the perspicacity of a leader and intellectual, he saw that this requisite had to be fulfilled as soon as possible in the best interests of the people on earth. Partly infuriated by political stalemate, he had imposed long working hours on the people, given them low wages, and shown disinterest and insolicitude towards them. All had failed. A society that was so unmaterialistic, that felt that it has attained all a human being would desire would not react to the Professor's measures. They considered these merely as vicissitudes of life that were inevitable in such an advanced society. The Professor had now finally decided to resort to more radical means of awakening the Cmedrocyans.
Cmedrocya would see a change in today's session of the Council Convention. Lacerated by chagrin beyond his yielding point, the Professor painfully rose to speak. Disappointed though, his humane nature weighed on his lips. He felt that he must not speak for his speech would rend the air throughout the length and breadth of Cmedrocya, and even the world beyond, and bring undue trouble to his motherland. But the Professor was not a man who would allow his position, or even his life, to hinder the discharge of his good offices. Animated by noble sentiments, he promulgated a decree mobilizing the operations from his Theories. The Speaker of the Chambers, Vulmeliu Stanleo, G.I.O.M., who had been secretly rivalling the Professor since he took the Presidency, found this moment most opportune to manifest his true colours. He objected trenchantly and this was the first active objection in many years. He challenged the Professor, and a long argument ensued. In a heat of passion, Vulmeliu stalked out defiantly. The climax had been reached, and the worst was yet to come.
The people, who still cherished a vague hatred of the annihilation programmes of the past rulers of the Kingdom of Cmedrocya, were moved to different degrees by the Professor's action. Some objected mildly, and even quite accepted the Professor's decrees, since they loved him for his benign offices. They reasoned that the operations sought only to close the chasm in social disparity, and did not resort to extermination or brutality. However, Vulmeliu exploited the situation to further his interests. He spread malicious and derogatory rumours to undermine the Professor's position. Vulmeliu was successful in his means; uneasiness among the people grew and dissention in the Proletariat and Intellectual Amalgamated (PIA), the ruling party, was heightened to an alarmingly dangerous level.
In a coup d'état on the night of October 26th, 2443, Vulmeliu seized control of Cmedrocya. Professor Geonheckt Knogk fled with his closest friends and relatives to the celestial province of Bixiz on Pharygon. However, Vulmeliu did not live long. A continuous attack of hyperencephalotaxis took his life, and Cmedrocya was thrown into an imbroglio. On July 20th, 2444, the Twenty-second Republic of Cmedrocya was formed with a pro-Geonheckt as the Benevolent President. Cmedrocya had awakened. The people now demanded a total representative government, and the Council now consisted of a representative elected from each of the occupations in addition to the appointed members who form the Supreme Command, the sole concern of which is to keep the peace and security of Cmedrocya. As for the operations of the Professor's Theories, they were enforced temporarily until the gap in the social order was considerably reduced.
Professor Geonheckt Knogk, N.D.P., the Benevolent President of the Twenty-first Republic of Cmedrocya now lives to a gracious old age on Pharygon. A venerated man, indeed, a true patriot and intellectual pur sang, he has undoubtedly found his name in the Temple of Fame.
THIS LAND IS MY LAND
The day was dying and the night crept in slowly. The sun, red as fresh new blood, gradually sank behind the dark, green hills as if receding before the moon. A cool breeze blew across the padi fields and ripe golden stalks of padi swayed rhythmically. A supreme benediction of silence was upon the land - a silence broken only by the cry from the insect orchestra and the rustling of the leaves as the slender palms swayed gently in an intermittent breeze.
Lee Meng stepped out of the station and stood for a while, staring blankly at the attap-roofed houses in the small town. It had not changed much, he thought; it was still the same familiar picture which one saw without really seeing. The coffee shop, the grocery and the bakery still stood where they were twelve years ago. They seemed immovable even by the hands of Time. All were the same, except that they had become older and more weather-beaten.
It was the same with Man, Lee Meng thought, as he strolled along the lane leading out of the town, lifting a thin layer of dust into the air. Time and weather had dug their trenches into his brow, and his hands also bore their marks. Twelve years were really a very long time.
The red laterite path wound itself across the rolling countryside. The vegetation around was a symphony of green, and tall slender palms reached up towards the sky. The cry from the insect orchestra and the music from the bullfrogs became more intense as the sun sank slowly, painting the world in various shades of orange, reds and purples.
The narrow path ended abruptly and Lee Meng stopped in his steps. Slowly he bent down and tore away the vegetation that had grown over and obscured his mother's grave. He stared at the weathered tombstone and could still make out the faint Chinese characters on it. As he stared into it, a sequence of the events of yesteryear repeated themselves in his mind. He was lost in the midst of his thoughts….
Twenty-two years ago as a lad of twelve he had stood motionless in that same spot, staring vacantly into the freshly turned earth that was his mother's grave. His mind could not accept the fact that his mother was dead. His arms longed to dig away the red laterite, burst open the coffin and hold the body which lay there. But he knew that it was hopeless.
Suddenly he was alone - his mother was gone, gone forever. Her portrait painted itself in his mind: her thin black hair was gathered into a wispy knot behind her head; her black eyes seemed to have experienced the worst tragedies and they burned with a firm determination to live and overcome any obstacle that lay ahead. But the work and toil was too much for her and the hands of Death overtook her.
It was no use crying, Lee Meng; he had a lot to do to keep himself alive. This land was now his own and he knew that it needed his care. Besides, this was the way his mother would have wanted it to be; he knew that he had to live on and keep the land.
"Don't ever give up this land. Your father had struggled to keep it all his life. With this land, you'll never go hungry," she used to tell him with tears in her eyes, and he would feel uneasy and would not like to hear it at all.
Work on the land was difficult and often unrewarding. For days he would sow the seeds in the hot, blazing sun and he always got a severe backache. Then he waited but sometimes the rains would never come and the seeds would die in the fields. Or the rainy season would come too early and destroy the crops and burst the dams he had built. Those were the bad times when he was heavily in debt.
He used to think of the big cities then. Sometimes he would think of leaving this miserable land and seeking his fortune elsewhere. But he had always managed to hold himself back and drive that thought away from his mind.
But it was of no use. The years were bad for the farmers. That year, the first crop had failed and the drought was the worst they had experienced for years. Early each day, Lee Meng would pick up his changkul and go to the fields and plough into the cracked, thirsty land. He sowed the seeds when the land was ready and prayed for the rains to come. But the rains never fell and the seeds were left to rot.
For days Lee Meng had been watching the trains going by, leaving a smoky trail which drifted aimlessly in the air. He knew that the train was going to the city and he had been thinking seriously. Maybe the city was a better place. Maybe life there was easier. Maybe…
But the city was not a heaven after all. The grass was not greener on the other side although that did not occur to him when he first arrived. But for twelve years he had worked as a labourer there. He still toiled bareback in the hot sun. He still experienced a severe backache if he worked longer. Worse still, he had to face and tolerate the harsh and unruly words of the Chief. Besides, the pay was not good. He began to think of his land.
So he returned.
Night came. Lee Meng looked up and saw the familiar stars and remembered the stories his mother used to tell him. He lay down on the soft ground and felt the warmth of the land. The land smelt good and he drifted into a weary half-sleep.
Dreams came - first, the unwanted ones that had haunted him for years. Something moved in the faint starlight and although he could not see clearly, something deep inside told himthat it was his mother. She was speaking in the same sad and pleading voice. "Don't give up the land," she pleaded, time and again. He opened his eyes and she was gone.
He knew that he belonged here - this was his land, his very life. And as he stood up, he saw dew on every blade of grass, gleaming in the first light of dawn.
THE FUTILITY OF WAR
"An hour of war between the United States and the Soviet Union would cost three hundred million lives," declared the late President Kennedy of the United States. Coupled with this will be the widespread devastation of the two countries. Such is the magnitude of the effects of war between the two countries only. Should a global conflict arise, the calamity and disasters would be multiplied manifold.
In 1910, Norman Angell published The Great Illusion in which he proved that large wars would not pay the empires that waged them - the reasons are all too obvious - economic destruction, loss of lives, devastation and so on. The book was universally applauded and Angell found himself elevated to the status of a hero and saviour, but a few years later the First World War broke upon an astonished world. Even the effects of this war and that of the Second World War have not convinced Man that war is a futile and purposeless pursuit. Today we still see Man fighting Man - from Latin America to Korea.
That war has a legitimate purpose is highly doubtful. The hawks claim that when national security is threatened by border intrusions and aggressions, the country should defend itself. Attacks will be followed by reprisals and counterattacks. And these will lead to the use of more sophisticated weapons which will inflict greater hardships on the people. This erroneous 'eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth' belief led to the bloodbath in Vietnam. According to the reasoning of this belief, the Vietnam war should have ended if maximum or strong pressure was exerted on the aggressors. But, unfortunately, the Vietnam debacle continues with ever-increasing fervour on the part of North Vietnam - the aggressors. In the twinkle of an eye, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were razed to the ground by American atom bombs in the Second World War - an unfortunate and unpleasant sequel to Japan's policy of expansion and aggression. The result was that hundreds of thousands died and many more were injured. Of those that survived, sterility prevailed, for the atomic radiation from the radioactive fallout and debris had destroyed their reproductive capacities. Even those who managed to raise children found, to their dismay, that their children were human vegetables - retarded, deformed or generically defective.
The story does not end there. War also causes widespread destruction and the economy of the warring parties will sink to the lowest echelon. There is cruel and extravagant destruction of people, property, resources and human spirit. Those who wish to justify this monstrosity weakly assert in Malthusian style that wars help to solve the critical population problem by eliminating a lot of people. This view is unfounded and preposterous. Dr. De Castro, author of "The Geometry of Hunger", declares that after or during a major calamity such as wars, famine and poverty, the sexual appetite of the unfortunate people is increased as they have no other channels for their pent-up emotions. Statistics justify Dr. Castro's view and it has been shown that after wars, the birth rate is greater than previously and so, the war dead will be quickly replaced and more people will be added to the country's population as well. These facts therefore negate the so-called 'contribution' that wars make in lowering the population crisis.
In times of war, lawlessness will be the order of the day. Justice will be relative and will be in the favour of the strong and powerful while the weak will be oppressed. All industries in the warring nation may be speeded up to churn out only instruments of war and materials for the war effort. This may be done at the expense of food production. Then, a war-torn nation will surely have to face imminent starvation. The hospitals will be jammed with the sick and the injured so, that the hospital staff will be overworked to the point of collapse. In such squalid conditions, epidemics thrive easily and dreaded diseases, like plague, may terrorise the country. In Biafra, where secessionist leader Ojukwu is paying the price for breaking away from Nigeria, thousands of people, especially children, die from starvation each day. Had it not been for the mercy flights and airlifts of emergency supplies to Biafra from friendly countries, the mortality rate might have increased ten-fold.
The social structure of a warring nation during and after a war will definitely be in turmoil. As enemy soldiers penetrate into the country, the soldiers may be tempted to loot properly and molest women and children. It has been rumoured that Hitler's subordinates had amassed and hidden away huge fortunes during the Second World War. As to the molestation of women, it is and has been a common occurrence. The enemy soldiers, frustrated by the terror they have to live in and having a 'purposeless war' imposed on them, may decide to make the most of their opportunities while they last. So they resort to raping and committing sexual atrocities on innocent women and girls that they lay hands on in the captured areas. This barbarism was exhibited in the Second World War, in the Congo war and even today in Nigeria where even foreign women have been assaulted. Furthermore, the acute shortage of food in a war-torn country can even lead to the people resorting to cannibalism.
The aftermath of a war will be a picture of chaos and poverty. Social problems will inevitably spiral upwards. Left in destitution, the women may be forced to prostitution to support their families. Moreover, inflation, black marketing and profiteering will be common practice when the government embarks on a rehabilitation programme. The majority of the male population of a war-hit country would have been destroyed or incapacitated. According to Kinsey Institute workers in America, the women in the country will then have to seek devious means to satisfy their sexual appetites. This will include lesbianism and nymphomania. This will further aggravate the already acute social problems in such a country as was the case in Germany after the Second World War.
However, the war hawks maintain that it is war that brings out the best in Man's creative capabilities. Man's enormous creative powers are best tapped and unlocked when the need is very pressing. In war, it is essential to prevent the wounds of the injured from turning septic. It was this pressing need that led to the discovery of antitoxins during wartime and its usage today is taken for granted. Moreover, war accelerates the development of science. Had it not been for the Second World War, the potentialities of the atom might never have been realised yet. Now atomic power is harnessed to supply industry's needs as well as a host of other things.
It is also because of war that affected countries have been able to progress so quickly. For example, Japan and West Germany today enjoy widespread economic monopoly and magnificent progress. They have achieved this at the expense of their more affluent counterparts like America and Britain. This is attributed to the fact that rebuilding the economy allowed them greater flexibility to incorporate new and fresh ideas immediately while the established nations had to maintain the status quo and experience the usual dosage of evolution before fresh ideas can be adopted.
But the stakes involved in wars are too high to justify the indirect achievements that they confer. Another feature of wars is that once they end, the expertise gained in the field of weaponry is retained to provide the deterrent to future wars. This idea that obliteration of human lives in the future will be deterred through a balance of terror is preposterous. Today the weapons that compose this balance cost the world 133 billion (U.S.) dollars while three-quarters of the world's population live in the narrow margin between life and death in squalid conditions. In fact, some of the weapons developed for chemical warfare have been stocked up as there has been no opportunity to try them out. This is true in the United States where tanks of poisonous gas and other dangerous gases which have been kept in store are starting to leak dangerously such that they pose a serious threat to human and animal lives. Some of the chemicals are so lethal that they kill within minutes of contact with the skin. However, as this mode of weaponry is outdated by the single touch button weapons, their disposal is inevitable. When disposed of in the sea, they will cause the poisoning of fishes and pollution of the waters. This would cause serious depletion of foodstuffs from the sea to further aggravate the problem of food production. Already, the United States army has disposed of part of its chemical arsenal in the Pacific and Atlantic. All this has been caused by an over-enthusiam to annihilate the opponent, as well as by the false spectre of fear and suspicion.
In effect, wars are purposeless for they are detrimental to progress. War is wrong and the terrorising of civilian populations by unscrupulous methods only shows the depth to which warlike practices can reduce the human mind and heart. All wars should be condemned with heart and soul and not one iota of war is justifiable on any counts. War fanatics should be eliminated for actively courting and inviting the inhumanities of war.
But one important fact stands out. War has remained ever since the dawn of Man, as one of normal intercourse of the nation state. The competitive struggle between individuals was replaced by that between nations; and prescribed an endeavour to devise more efficient means of murder. No single nation was able, however peaceful its intentions, to contract out of this contest. The capacity to kill, if not for offence, might still be necessary for defence. So the arms race continues and will be one with no winning post.
It was the sunny South of the eighteen hundreds. The sky was alive, the birds were alive and the scenery pulsated with the joy of living. Mankind was alive at its worst. Mankind was the white man who lived in a giant whitewashed building that was serene in its uncombed tufts of creepers that clad its sides. The trees stood around it, great umbrella-shaped trees locked in eternal prayer. The musty scene cleared into the hot, blazing cotton fields where the sun beat down with all its ferocity on black glistening backs, backs that were bending with homage to white man, a while man that carried a whip. The negroes were whipped, humiliated and reduced to the lowest grades of humanity. They were the object of the vile humanity of the white man. Nature saw all and remained unmoved. Nature had seen mankind come and go, good mankind, bad mankind, and now, vile mankind.
Sammy straightened his aching back and tried to focus his misty eyes on the distant ridge that stood above the panaroma of the ugly south. He had been a handsome, well-built negro but now he had decayed into a wriggly old man who was too compassionate, too much in his old world. He still remembered the joyous days when he was young and roamed the cotton fields with his gay, boyish heart. But it had changed. Something clouded the land; it had suddenly become hostile. His white friends were friends no longer; their grins were now sneers and their faces masks. He sought out the ridge and caught sight of a cart buckling under its load, slowly worming its way down the steep incline.
A terrific jolt shook him. He saw his son in the cart. It had been a dark stormy night when the white men came and took his three-year old son to the slave market. His eyes turned misty as he remembered. It had been forgotten as had been so many things that he once knew. His son looked different; he had that same broad forehead, but there was something else in him - like a fire that could not be contained. Yes, his son was a rebel. He laughed at that thought. He had been a rebel once - when he thought that he could overcome the white man. But that thought had long been dissolved, melted into the submission that was an old man's.
Sammy's son stood tall in the cart, with his arms folded and his eyes blazing with purpose. He had just come from the North. A certain slave-dealer found him fit for work and took him south. He had stepped into a new land, a land living in a shadow, a shadow that would never pass away and reveal the fear and oppression to the purifying sun. He looked at his race - degraded, torn apart and now working like animals on the parched field. Yes, they were animals. What is man when his pride and dignity are shed off? He would do something about this.
A week passed. Night passed into day and day into night. Sammy was resting in the shed, his exhausted body lying over the rough, dirty floor. The others were resting too, if ever there was rest from the tyranny and humiliation. He looked round for his son. He would be somewhere in that pile of "vegetables" whose only human exhibition now was dreams.
A blood-curdling yell rose above the orchestra of nature. Sammy was jolted back to awareness. His son! Where was his son! Running steps paused at the door. The door flung open. Sammy's son stood there. His eyes blazed like live coals. Blood! There was blood all over him. His arms were outstretched, calling his father. Sammy's son beckoned to him. He would lead his father to the swamp and freedom. He had killed the white man. There was nothing to stop them.
Sammy looked at his son, silhouetted in the doorway. His mouth tried to move, tried to find something to say. He understood. He stood still, not budging.
The sun broke upon the land. The story quickly spread that the white owner had been killed and Sammy's son had been hanged. Sammy never followed him. He could not follow him. He was imprisoned with the time, with the place, with the race. A single rebel cannot move a whole society and Sammy knew it. He had not failed his son; Time and Place did. In another era, where Time and Place were right, Sammy would have followed his son.
A MODERN DEDICATION
Dancing soldiers to the sounds of marching feet in swift rhythm to falling spades and picks of graveyards being dug, silence in Memorial Halls of worship as gods, crying out in vain for prayers to fulfil and getting no answer, for new voices echoing in parade squares; not in prayer in shouts of anger, screams of hate adding to the air and sights of dismay in the new Democratic Communist State. In vales of hidden treasures lie; dark and forbidding the hopes, the loves, the joys and life of people torn to shreds of nothing. gone 'ere are the dreams of older generations bid them auld lange syne. for curtains open for generations anew from bright sunlight and godlyness to, see the heavy, greying, cold face of future, enfolding their lives, laying dust of sins of eons past but for whom the sinless ones should repay yet, all they did was to live in times in aftermaths of deaths of faith and goodness. their sin was to be born just a decade late so stand they now peering into the darkness, shouting: - Hail to the Democratic Communist State - .....and sounds that in running thro' their head telling, that all is lost that ever gained; for those who live in the boundaries of the Democratic Communist State.
THE LAST BREATH
The dying sun was embosomed in the deep bowels of distant hills. Huge wisps of black clouds sailed across the sky; and in a few minutes had mustered to form a long, slender, ugly, grey stretch. Their breaking point had been reached. Unable to control their subdued impatience any longer, they unleased their fury on earth below. Streaks of forked lightning flashed across the sky, sending rumbling peals of thunder, which for a moment or two seemed to rend the air. Heavy rain fell instantly. In a squalid, vermin-infested lane, a hare-lipped hooligan, the scum of society, leaned lazily against the wall of an attap house. His hands were calloused. Together with other rugged features, they unmistakably indicated that he had gone through severe hardships and broken fortunes. A pair of cat-like eyes had gained him overwhelming superiority over others. He could see astonishing distances. Sucking at a cigarette impatiently, he waited in death-like silence to strike at any helpless person. His eyes were showery; his teeth were gnashed tightly. Filled with hate and deceit, his eyes undoubtedly reflected a deeply depressed and discontented mind.
The hooligan's long-cast face drooped solemnly. He looked at the rapid flow of rainwater robbing the already poor soil of its clayey surface. Alley cats, stray dogs and bluebottles scampered in the tide of the advancing thunderstorm. In no time, the once parched, caked-up soil turned into a sodden, muddy stretch of land. Under the steady pounding of rain, large open rubbish bins of the local municipality surrendered an intolerable stench in almost every corner of the lane. Pot holes, muddy and half-filled with cockle-shells, scarred the land.
Night had fallen. A few hours had passed since the hooligan began waiting for his victim. On a few occasions, he nearly lost his temper. He fumed. Venting his anger, he nearly kicked, loose a few of the floorboards of the hut. He crumpled the remaining length of his cigarette against the wooden support of the hut until it was doused. Then lashing into fury, he tore to pieces the remaining cigarette. One could actually see veins popping out beneath his.skin as his blood boiled. He ran his nicotine-stained fingers across his tight-fitting trousers and then in a steadily increasing pitch, blurted, "Damn it, no luck! . . . . Am I not to have any?"
No sooner had he spoken, he was struck dumbfounded by the sight of a middle-aged man with an umbrella, walking down from the far end of the lane. The hooligan's face changed markedly. One could see his veins sinking back beneath the skin. Happiness shone. To the grim-faced, determined, dagger-wielding thug, killing for money was merely his profession. He whipped out a sharp, painted dagger carefully hidden under his shirt. Then he made several thrusts into crevices of a flimsy wooden support with his dagger. Crouching and squeezing himself until he was almost out of sight, the hooligan waited for the right moment to strike.
The man, hurrying down the road, walked uneasily with wide steps. He was returning home after a late cinema show. A piercing sensation struck and chilled his spine. He could sense that danger was near. His heart throbbed; cold sweat ran all over him, making his skin cold and clammy. The vibrant thrill of a thousand insects was enough to make his flesh creep, let alone the desolation, darkness and howl of the cold night wind.
Suddenly dashing out of the hut, the hooligan cut across the path of the man. Dagger in hand, the hooligan manifested malignity. He snarled that he meant violence if the man did not surrender all his valuables and money. Ignoring the threats of the hooligan, the man swiftly brought down his umbrella on the hooligan, knocking him over. By the time the hooligan managed to get up, the man had already gained for himself some good many yards ahead. Specks of mud flew up behind him as he took to flight desperately, hotly pursued by the hooligan. Fate took a hand; the man slipped over a patch of slippery ground. On regaining his footing, he found himself confronted by his enemy's hostile face. He put up a valiant but futile struggle. In an endeavour to display some old hand tactics taught by a friend, an exponent in self-defence, he was stabbed in the stomach. A fatal, decisive blow on the head sent the victim groaning in pain as, he held his hands over his bleeding stomach.
The dastardly hooligan took to his heels with his loot, leaving the dying victim sprawled on the ground. Gathering what he had at the end of his tether, the victim drew feebly his last breath before he sank into an unwakening sleep.
THE WARLORD'S DEATH
Visions of the sad and shameful past, Cause tears of regret to fall long and fast "Oh why, why must I do such things? Those heinous, bestial atrocities?" Dimly he could recall the night of Horror, When deeply influenced by an alcoholic stupor, He saw himself again in his blood-soaked attire, Butchering the citizens in the midst of a fire, He could hear once more the cries of slaughtered men, And the pleadings of the maiden he deflowered. In vain! His heart was as hard as the rock of Gilbraltar, Whence, oh whence comes pity? Like a chagrined beast he had lusted for blood, To quench his heart's great fire. Then . . . . Like the burst of a bomb the thunder roared, And the Lord's thunderbolts like golden eagles soared, He looked up to the Heavens and started to pray, "Help me, dear God, to forget that awful day" Like many fleeing shadows the visions left his mind Smiling he whispered, "Lord thou art kind," . . . . . . and he fell. The monsoonal rain is falling fast, But the warlord has found his peace at last.
DEMOCRACY - ITS WORLDWIDE STATUS
"Oh, Liberty, what crimes are committed in thy name!" This cry heard during the French Revolution is still applicable today. But perhaps what would be a more pertinent cry today would be, "Oh, Democracy, what travesties are perpetrated in thy name!" Throughout the world everyone wants democracy, at least nominally. It is a coveted political status, a powerful fetish. Yet Jefferson or Burke might be in for a great disappointment if they could view some of the systems that today take democracy's name in vain.
Stalin called his tyranny "democratic centralism." The most incurable, bleak and oppressive of the European satellites, East Germany, calls herself the German Democratic Republic. It is interesting to note that all satellites call themselves "people's democracies", a term adopted by the former Indonesian Dictator Soekarno, whose "guided democracy" failed miserably. Malawi's President H. Kamuzu Banda has followed up by stating, "I am a dictator by the will of the people." Southern Rhodesian Premier Ian Smith is doing his best to keep his two hundred and fifty thousand whites in power over the nation's four million blacks in what he insists to be "responsible democracy". The former Pakistani President Ayub Khan called his democracy - "basic democracy".
But any meaningful definition of democracy must encounter certain minimum conditions. The ancient Greeks had some careful ideas about democracy, and none better than Jason's eloquent appeal in Euripide's Medea that,
Thy lasting home not barbary. Thou has seen
Our ordered life, and justice, and the long
Still grasp of law not changing with the strong
In practice, democracy, at the very least requires periodic free elections in which a representative majority of citizen may elect (or dismiss) a government. There should also be one or more organised opposition parties to guarantee genuine choices, freedom from arbitrary arrest or intimidation, a free press, an independent judiciary, mechanisms guaranteeing the rights of minorities and a system to protect or improve the economic well-being of all citizens.
Very few countries will pass the above "test" as democratic. Scarcely more than forty genuinely democratic countries can claim to do so. Nevertheless they embrace about forty percent of the world's 3.2 billion people.
Latin America boasts half a dozen democratic regimes but most of them are existing due to military backing. The stablest are Chile and Costa Rica. In Asia, India can proudly claim to be the world's largest democracy. Its major ruling party for the last two decades, the Congress, has at last come to face stiff opposition from other parties - a very healthy sign indeed. In Africa and the Middle East (with the exception of Israel) democracy has fared less well. The governments that most closely meet the democratic tests are, of course, concentrated in the United States, the British Commonwealth and Western Europe, with some exceptions of course.
The biggest single obstacle to the spread of democracy is that at its core lies a paradox - the tension between freedom and order, between the individual and society. In many parts of the world, Voltaire's cry, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" is incomprehensible. The sense of individual responsibility that the Western ego has developed over the centuries is missing, and what seems in the West a rather commonplace step - voting and the individual decision that precedes it - can seem in Africa and Asia a lonely and unnatural act. Another obstacle is the newly emergent nation's obsession to destroy and eradicate all vestiges of colonialism, including democratic customs. One ready substitute is socialism - or the vague authoritarian forms that many backward countries take to be socialism.
Where, then, lies the hope for democracy? At least in part it lies in economics. Developing countries often argue that what really matters to them is not democracy but modernization. Yet democracy has a strong economic content; it remains, despite Western moves towards collectivism in recent decades, a competitive society. In the long run, the true modernizer is the free, competitive society.
Finally the hope of democracy lies in the contagion of the idea itself. Although democracies like ancient Athens, and Germany have voted themselves into the hands of authoritarians, not a single nation has ever freely voted to turn itself over to Communism. "It is a terrible truth that it costs more strength to maintain freedom than to endure the weight of tyranny," wrote Simon Bolivar. That is probably true today. But times and attitudes have changed tremendously, and it is possible that in a modernizing, prospering world, there ultimately will be more people with more strength to keep their countries safe for democracy.
THE ROLE OF A UNIVERSITY
A University is a seat of wisdom, a light of the world. It is a place where students from various parts of a country or countries meet to communicate and circulate ideas and to learn the art of living - the art of accommodating themselves to any and every set of people and circumstances. Hence, the role of a University should be universal in the sense that it should provide knowledge of every kind.
The role of a University should be the development of the mind. The enlargement of the mind can be acquired only through mental intercourse, not by pouring over a large number of books, or by storing up facts and theories and reproducing them parrot-like at an examination. The true end of a University education is not mere learning but the acquisition of a philosophical outlook which would enable one to view the things around oneself in the proper perspective and to see and to understand them as they are. A University is not only a seat of learning, it is also a preview of a perfect society. Its students should be partaking in advance of social relationships which they should strive to bring into reality. The students of today have realized this need and in the eyes of the politicized students the University had become the surrogate for the ills of society.
Civilization is a heritage to which each generation must make its contributions if it is to last. But before such a contribution can be made, the attributes of the heritage must be known, the nature of its development must be appreciated and its values formulated. A well-organised University can play a great role in this respect. But building a perfect society is an unfinished masterpiece - its process is continuous, weary and always advancing towards the fulfilment. It requires the gift of courage and sacrifice. This is what a University must teach its students - the virtue we practise, what insight we gain, what restraint we place on our intolerance, what sincerity we have in ourselves, what truthfulness and honour we pay our conscience will be the real contribution to building a nearly perfect society. By teaching the University student to discriminate between the qualities of things, to be successful in what he is today and to become what he is capable of becoming, the University paves the way to such a society.
Intellectually honest, enthusiastically persevering individuals endowed with curiosity, keen powers of observation, ingenuity, originality, patience and common sense and the urge to take pains to make the world we live in a better one are what we need for a successful society. If we desire something new, we must be prepared to work for it with patience and perseverance. Scientific research made possible by youths in the university has been truly said to be one of the greatest events in history. "In our century, science is the soul of the prosperity of nations and the living source of all progress . . ." says Pasteur. Therefore, let us make our universities laboratories of genuine scientific research meant to promote the welfare of mankind.
The educational systems in many parts of the world have developed a white collar complex. It has made people look upon all menial jobs as inferior jobs for people. and so the taxi driver or the road repairer or the domestic servant are looked down upon. However, it must be realized that unless the white collar complex is cast aside and the dignity of labour appreciated, not much progress can be made in a country. A University training can help to eradicate the wrong notions in favour of white collar jobs and help to develop broadmindedness among the younger generation.
Most of the Asian universities have lost much of the roles they should play in the proper attainment of broadmindedness and the other qualities mentioned above. Like other universities, they have of course produced eminent men and women in the past and may continue to do so. But these few exceptions cannot absolve them of the charge of suppressing and deadening the fine instincts of young people who are forced to load their minds for examinations and of creating more bookworms incapable of playing their part in a progressive society. It cannot be denied however, that the primary aim of today's students is to get into a university, get a degree and get out. But the role of a university in a student's life should not only be to provide him with a degree but also prepare him for the battle of the future - the battle of life. Whilst making him realize his ambition, it should also not rob him of his compassions. As the situation now lies, the role of any university seems to be the production of an army of technicians, doctors, engineers and the like.
What is, then, the role of a university? It can be summarised - "To cultivate the public mind, to raise the intellectual tone of society, to purify the national taste, to supply true principles to popular enthusiasm and fixed aims to popular aspirations, to give enlargement to the ideas of the age, to facilitate the exercise of political power and to refine the intercourse of private life," (Cardinal Newsman.) - such are the roles of a university.
Last update on 14 June 2000.
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