Sunday, January 28, 2007


What is Utopia?

The year is 2142, and the world has changed. The world is, against all odds, undergoing an unprecedented era of prosperity. And this era of prosperity has come as a consequence of true globalisation. In the old, primitive 1900s and early 2000s, globalisation meant the unrestricted flow of capital, with a severely restricted flow of labour. Nations had impervious borders.

But today, anyone can live anywhere. A Sri - Lankan peasant has a fair chance of landing a job in Seattle; as does a Seattle peasant have a chance of landing a job in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan will not have that miserable, lengthy wait for a Visa. He can just pop into a plane and find himself in Seattle - just like he would travel from Colombo to Jaffna in the 2000s. [The ticket, of course, would cost a tad bit more].

The world is no longer a set of little nations. It is a just one large nation. The various (erstwhile) countries are analogous to states in a Federation - they are divided just for administrative ease. Borders are also purely for administrative purposes. Movement is not hindered at all. And since there is absolutely no patriotic nationalism, there are no wars. Just like Ohio is unlikely to wage a war against Florida, or Andhra is unlikely to wage a war against Uttar Pradesh, America is unlikely to wage a war against Iraq. The horrific imperialist reality of war is a relic of a barbaric bygone era dictated not by democracy but by corporate agenda (in the name of democracy).

A brief history of Utopia:

The situation back in the early 2000s was one of major disparity. The difference between the developed world and the developing world was huge. The difference between the rich and the poor in the developing world was even greater. The rich in the developing world led lives more prosperous than those in the developed world: and the poor lived like animals. The people in the developed world ignored the problems in the developing world; taking the the token developments as competitive threats. For instance, commentators such as Thomas Friedman painted blissfully ignorant pictures of India in the west.

Islamic fundamentalism was being waged a propaganda war (and a real war) against by American Fundamentalism. For most of the war, the Americans were not winning against fanatic will of the islamists. Neither were the muslim fundamentalists prevailing against the lean mean killing machines that the Americans used against them. The war pointlessly continued for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, After a lot of innocent bloodshed, the Americans crushed the Fundamentalists.

In the meanwhile, India, China and Latin America were still growing as was a lot of the rest of the world. Though from a per-capita point of view, India and China could not hold a candle to US and Europe, they had a lot more people. Their overall economies were forces to be reckoned with.

And then came the weather. Well, it had always been coming. More typhoons, cyclones and hurricanes each year; shorter winters and longer, murderous summers. Extremely intense monsoons in the sub-continent. That was just the beginning. Then, in a span of 10 years, Europe punged into deep freeze. The polular press was harping about the irony of a global warming induced ice age.The onset of misery was quick. Climate modelers had been caught unawares.

This time coincided with the rise of China and India. Both countries had been devastated by Climate Change too - the whole world had been devastated. The US suffered a huge loss: the east coast and the west coast suffered a pounding. The city by the bay became the city under the bay.

The developed countries were held responsible of continuing with greenhouse gas emissions despite having explicit knowledge of the consequences. In other words, short sighted corporate agendas had let the west down. This resulted in something unprecedented in History. The rich nations were sanctioned by the much poorer nations in the UN. And these sanctions are viewed as a turning point in human history; the triumph of Human beings over corporations.

Wheras the treaties of the old days forced poor countries to open their borders to Capital Investment, the new treaties forced the "rich nations" to open their doors to human beings from everywhere. This was unprecedented in the history of the world. The poor farmer in drought ravaged Darfur had a chance finally, to go and start a business in Houston, Texas. Real globalisation finally happened. Milton Friedman was turning in his grave; yet Adam Smith was smiling.

Of course, the developed world opposed this tooth and nail. Lou Dobbs and O'Rielly were quite vocal about this. But they really had no choice. If India and China booted out American Coporates, and stopped buying weapons from the USA, then an economic depression exceeding in magnitude that of 1929 by a few hundred times would doubtlessly ensue. The US' arm was being twisted. The hunter just got hunted. "Intellectuals" started saying "Our culture will get diluted". But they were brushed aside, much as resistance to British Imperialism in India was brushed aside by the barbaric conquerors in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Setting Global Warming Right

In order to set the world right, the new powers of the world had their work cut out. Human beings are extremely good when it comes to crisis management.

A rather interesting refinement of the European carbon exchange was used to set global warming right. It went something like this: each person was allowed a "carbon quota". Carbon quotas were distributed equally among all human beings. A labourer in Cairo, a slum dweller in Mumbai and a little child in New York City - they all were allowed to pollute a "set" amount. They could "trade" their individual carbon credits, much like money. If you wanted to buy a loaf of bread, you would pay Rs. 10 and 0.0001 carbon credits. If you wanted to buy 5 litres of coal gas (no oil anymore!), you would pay Rs. 400 and 0.01 carbon credits. You were allowed to spend only 1 carbon credit per year. If you overshot your alloted carbon credits, you would have to purchase them from, say, a farmer in South Africa. The price that you would have to pay for this would be market determined. The going rate for a carbon credit right now is $400,000 - or half the annual per capita income of the US. You could purchase even minute fractions of carbon credits.

And the market worked. For the first time in the history of humanity, the market really worked. It did not deceive people into thinking that it was working like in the Thatcher-Reagan era. It really worked. For the poor people sold their carbon credits to the rich and became richer. Resources began to reach the poor people like they never did before: and the rich had a severe disincentive from actually consuming a lot more than they were entitled to.

Utopian Society

Since there is almost no more poverty in the world, it is a much safer place. But prosperity does not stop child molesters. Prosperity does not stop greed, it does not stop crimes of passion. And people don't stop being evil just because they are rich. If that were true, the US would have been a utopian society in the 2000s.

Crimes of need have halted. Crimes of greed have not. The words "stick-em-up" have been consigned to museums of history; yet a large company was in trouble for fudging its accounts last year. And the number of children molested keeps growing every year in the world.

People still believe in religion - but the religions have lost the extremist fringes. Islam realized that there was no point in fighting for its holy land when the whole world welcomed it. Christians and Jews make trips to Israel-Palestine. And Hindus pray everywhere from Pittsburgh to Madurai.

The people of the world go about their daily lives. Their worries are only the usual ones: they are worried about getting food on their family's plate. About retirement and how to deal with heart attacks. They are not worried about being bombed the next day. They live carefree lives.

Until today. Today, SETI will make a discovery of alien life on a planet far away. And what is worse is that the planet will have had picked up radio signals from earth, will have had interpreted them as threats and will have had sent an army to annihilate all intelligent life from Planet Earth. Deja Vu?


b v n said...

Hey...liked this one ! Its impressive the way you connected the dots. I love this soothsaying stuff...just for the heck of it. Nicely done - another nothing to do with machines mechanical engineer :)

P.S : came thru BlogBharti

Rap said...

Thank you for your words of encouragement, bvn. I have been obsessing with sooth-saying so to speak. Hitherto, all my "soothsaying" posts have been pessimistic and sarcastic. This was optimistic and sarcastic, nevertheless.

I (unfortunately for my academics here at Texas A&M) have been listening to a lot of Chomsky of late. That has made prominent the cynical side of me.

I am contemplating a post on Fluid Mechanics shortly. I am arming myself with the literature for that. I need some 4 good hours to compile that post. Hopefully the coming weekend.

b v n said...

there you go...daily before sleep i have a coca cola and two paragraphs of 'Understanding Power - indispensible Chomsky'