Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Dissipated Energies...

As I touchdown at Paris, the grounded Concorde greets me at the fog enveloped airport.

This faster-than-sound Mach breaking symbol of innovation in flying, has now been stifled. A quiet death. But instead of being given a decent burial, what do we have here? Propped up ignominiously, nose in the sky, it lies bare to all curious gazes in a forlorn corner next to the runways of Charles de Gaulle.

And Charles de Gaulle. A man once reviled and ridiculed by students and workers. Not very far back in memory. A mere 40 years ago in 1968. The year that is seen to be THE year of social revolution in France.

Today the name falls off thousands of tongues carelessly, as the name of a busy airport.
And history books get written anew. He is now seen reverentially....

Huge wall sized photographs celebrate President de Gaulle at the airport terminals. With various 'leaders' of the world. Not just JFK, Nehru, Churchill, but take a look at this... with 'Kroutschchev' - as they spell Khruschev.

Like an alley cat's scratches turning into a pitiful whimper even as it is taken away in the stray-catcher van, the student and worker revolts of 1968 stand forgotten... At the Sorbonne in the Latin Quarter, no one has any memory whatsoever, and no, they did not 'celebrate' this 40th anniversary back in May 2008 either. In fact, all those I asked, were surprised. 'What commemoration?'

In the years I was growing up in India, the word 'Million' was just entering our vocabularies that was struggling to make sense of a 'lakh' (100,000). Later, the M word mutated to the B word, and in recent years, to the T word... Trillions.... A 'googolic' word from the world of astronomy, where the number of zeroes is necessary in the measurement of impossible distances, of time. In the last frontier of space, this is all that is real, that matters.

In the years of my growing up, the newspapers were covering man's landing on the moon. The advent of the space shuttle that was promising a regularity of space missions. And the newspapers today? Finance rules the news and the front pages. In Paris, it was full of stories of the billions made off by Madoff in the US.

And while the finance wizards across the world have siphoned off billions & trillions of dollars in recent years (What in the world did the money get spent on? Holidays? Yachts? Jewelry?), what do we see here? Any plans of man landing on the moon has been totally scrapped in the same time period. Budgetary constraints by NASA cited - the lack of a few hundred billion dollars has necessitated this. Space frontiers have bowed down to corporate greed.

What a wonky world we inhabit...

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