It’s 2010. One of those years which establish a presence in our lives long before they appear on the page of the wall calendar. The world was quite overwhelmed on the eve of 1984, and deeply grateful because it had not spiralled into an Orwellian dystopia. We weren’t so lucky in India, if you recall. By the end of the year, the politics of pogroms was here to stay. The year 1984 turned out to be a dystopia that simply refuses to go away.
The turn of the century was made momentous in advance by 2001, Arthur C. Clarke’s cult book, followed by Stanley Kubrick’s iconic film. And then there was the sequel 2010 which was released, curiously enough, in 1984. Happy hunting, all you readers who seek patterns and conspiracies in numbers. Lesser mortals were staggered by the sheer weightiness of the number — Christ, the calendar was two millennia old! The book also alerted us quite early to the possibility of encountering 2010 in the flesh. We have had a quarter of a century to prepare, but we still have no idea how to pronounce the number. Half the world goes ‘two thousand ten’ and the other half is rooting for ‘twenty ten’.
Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four was culturally prescient. Its Newspeak is now a reality, sort of. SMS argot may not sport the soul-destroying Boolean exactitude of ‘doubleplusungood’ (Newspeak for ‘really, truly dreadful’), but it has produced an elemental language for elementary communications. The popularity of Big Brother shows our admiration for surveillance by an omniscient authority figure, which is suspected to be the origin of religion.
And political correctness has made thoughtcrime real. While civilising human relations, it has also constrained human thought by defining the unthinkable.
But the civilising effect of political correctness, which springs from an insistence on justice and equality, could make 2010 a landmark year in India. We are finally on the case of S.P.S. Rathore, after letting him criminally manipulate the State machinery for almost two decades to justify child molestation and what amounts to murder. And now, the CBI has been cleared to charge Sajjan Kumar in the 1984 riots cases.
The movie 2010 had a little-known subtitle: The Year We Make Contact. Well, it looks like we’re grappling with the alien within. We would, of course, like to pretend that people like the former director general of Haryana Police and the Congress strongman of Outer Delhi are aberrations which don’t belong in our culture. We are feeling vindicated because Rathore may now be impaled like a beetle in an entomologist’s cabinet.
But the embarrassing truth is that they completely belong in our society, which values power and the impunity it brings over notions like decency and probity. This climate of opinion is changing and they could become endangered species soon but so far, they are glorious examples of biodiversity. Good God, I see that the United Nations has proclaimed 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity. That’s the trouble with political correctness. It ends up supporting everything and everybody. Have a happy 2010!
Pratik Kanjilal is publisher of The Little Magazine
The views expressed by the author are personal