Sunday, December 25, 2011

Want Flies With That?

“The boy with fair hair lowered himself down the last few feet of rock and began to pick his way toward the lagoon. Though he had taken off his school sweater and trailed it now from one hand, his gray shirt stuck to him and his hair was plastered to his forehead. All round him the long scar smashed into the jungle was a bath of heat. He was clambering heavily among the creepers and broken trunks when a bird, a vision of red and yellow, flashed upwards with a witch-like cry; and this cry was echoed by another.”

So begins one of the great novels of English literature, “Lord Of The Flies.” I was thinking about the book while walking today alongside a huge graveyard here in Hyderabad. I became engrossed by the similarities in the novel with what I see in India.

India is a very young country demographically, and has been thrust into the global marketplace with very little elder guidance. The older generation is largely ignorant of the high tech world and the business structure and challenges facing modern start-ups. For all intents and purposes, young India may as well be on a deserted island.

The story of “Lord Of The Flies” centers around 4 main characters representing various points on the continuum between civilization and savagery. Allow me the license to redefine civilization as to mean effective and directed organization, and savagery as the chaos of “Me First.” We then have the four main characters:
Ralph is the character representing law and order imposed by society or government.
Jack is his antagonist representing the natural inner savage.
Simon represents order and morality as a better human condition not requiring outside imposition, but rather encouragement of the noble human.
Piggy represents science and its abuse by both sides and its dependence on civilization.

I see then a country filled with these four characters. Driving on the road, leading teams, standing in line, watching a movie, in each a Ralph desiring calm and predictable order, in each a Jack wanting to be first regardless of who it hurts including himself.

The story ends with civilization about to be defeated by Jack hunting and killing Ralph, but a military officer steps in at the last moment to rescue the boys and with them, civilization. The irony that he himself is taking part in his own savage destruction of civilization is completely lost on the officer.

India must end the story another way. India must give the conch back to the Ralphs or the one coming at the end will not be a well meaning officer to bring children back to worried parents, but rather foreign corporations feasting on the carion.