Last Friday, I was dining with friends at Khan Market in Delhi, when the talk turned to “free will”. Many eons ago, I used to be cock-sure that all my decisions were mine and mine alone, because of my “free will”. I now know there is no such thing…all decisions we make are in the context of nature and nurture and completely influenced by the situation we are in and the people around us. If at all, it is only the Gods who would have any kind of “free will”.
Our ability to make decisions depends on our culture, our friends and the society around us. The more diverse the people around us, the less narrow our thinking and the more likely we will have a wider world-view and tolerate different opinions. And what better era for diversity to thrive in than the one we are currently in!
Someone from just 100 years ago looking at our times would see us as Gods. “We fly across oceans in airplanes, we eat tropical fruit in December, we have machines that sing us songs, clean our house, take pictures of Mars. Much the total accumulated knowledge of our species can fit on a hard drive that fits in our pocket. Even the poorest among us own electronic toys that millionaires and kings would have lusted for a decade ago.” This statement by Tom Streithorist, from the article “Post-scarcity economics” in the Los Angeles Review of Books, reiterates a thought I have always believed in, though he uses this in a different context and then goes onto discuss why stimulation of demand is the best way to get a depressed economy going. But then Mr. Sen and Mr. Bhagwati are already debating this for us, ad nauseum.
And while we could seem like Gods to yester-people, we really aren’t, and yet continue to harbor illusions of entitlement to some degree or the other…even when it comes to nature.
The next day in Delhi, it rained for over 3 hours as if it was Mumbai. Some major arterial roads were soon flooded and a few parts of Delhi came to a standstill. The news channels went berserk claiming a crisis worse than the Uttarakhand floods, continuously blaming the Delhi administration for being useless. Earlier this week, Mumbai too saw serious rains…on Tuesday, one papers had this headline, “Rain Horror in City. Again”.
Seriously! We may think we have free will, entitled like the Gods of old, but we can’t hold our own even for a second against the fury of nature if she decides to get nasty.
I wonder what people want when they blame the administration for the rains and flooding. Shoo away the clouds? Create an umbrella over the city? Push back the high tide?
We are so blind to our own faults. Why does it flood during the rains? Because the drain openings and grills are clogged. Why are they clogged? Because of litter and rubbish. Who litters? We! So again…who is to blame when it floods?
We litter because everyone does and we don’t have the free will to be different from those around us. If we don’t have free will, we are not Gods. And if we are not Gods, we cannot seriously believe we are entitled to anything.
Yes there is quite some stuff that the authorities can do over the year to prevent flooding when it rains. But we need to start taking responsibility as well by not littering! And that perhaps might just about be all that is needed to start reducing flooding!