Homo homini lupus


Remember I said I break into Latin every now and then? Literally, the title means ‘man is a wolf to man’. Or in other words, we are predators after others of our own kind. Doesn’t mean just killing. We prey upon the weak, we steal, we con, we coerce, we extort, we threaten, we cajole, we blackmail, we bully, we gang up and intimidate. And we learn all these wonderful attributes when we are very young. It’s in our nature, our blood, our genes.

In itself, the quote is a mediocre one really. It was made famous just because it came from the quill of the ancient Roman playwright, Titus Maccius Plautus (an old friend of mine), who mentioned it in one of the dialogues of his comedy,’Asinaria’, Latin for ‘It’s all about asses’, I swear. By asses, he might have meant the beasts of burden but I can’t be sure. I never bent over to pick anything up while he was around.

I heard they’ve started a news network that is dedicated solely to the goodness of evil and its continuing frolic through our world. It has one single shareholder. The viewership is mainly folk for whom evil is good. A magazine is also out, it’s front page having the latest in the dastardly. Editorial content is by and large fair and unbiased, but then evil rarely gives a crap about bias.

The magazine has a distinguished panel of contributing columnists from all over the world. The economy is handled by the Reddys and the Maran brothers in the far east and  Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC in the west. Suresh Kalmadi posts updates on his blog on days when he is out of prison. Perspectives on global security issues are jointly provided by Akhtum Pakhtum Ali of the Tehrik-e-Taliban-Pakistan and Kim Kyong-Hui, Kim Jong Un’s aunt.  Don Rumsfeld is hitchhiking through Falluja at the present moment and can’t post right now.

The ‘E-Channel’ (E for evilgelical) has Dick Cheney as the morning news anchor. Dick is always in a conservative suit, with that snarling, sneering stare and the opening words, “Did you bleed today?”  He used to have a co-anchor, Doug McPlenty, who unfortunately is not with the channel anymore. He died of a gunshot wound. Dick shot him by mistake.

Dick is wrapping up the morning’s evil report. The interactive world map behind him shows the  status of the earth with a some regions having a dark, blotched and speckled look. These are the handful of fast diminishing areas where overnight, good had prevailed. Later in the day, there’ll be a panel discussion on how to maintain the tempo and ensure a steady eradication of those blotches. Good is ruining the earth with mush and melodrama, Dick reminds the viewer.

All over the third world, the map has bright sparkles of evil everywhere. Massacres, storms, rapes, famine and drought, they all flicker and dance in an enticing kaleidoscope of colors. Here and there, you see a supernova-like flash of awe inspiring genocide.

Dick had begun the broadcast with the natural evils over the past 24 hours. Quakes, hurricanes, solar flares, tsunamis – outrages that he squarely ties to the guy with the white beard and the booming voice whom he calls a phony. And now he has done a round-up of the latest in death squads, hackings and gang rapes, with an aide continuously wiping away the froth coming out of his mouth.

Today, he finishes his broadcast with a reassuring feel-good story and video update on the mother who set fire to his eight-year-old son. Yesterday it was the woman who dropped her children off at the day-care and went off to Florida with two homeless guys, where someone spotted her in a strip club. E-TV viewers just voted her Mom of the Month

Dick finally signs off with a visual of the anniversary of Chernobyl, a crowning achievement.

There is one depravity that the E-Channel has yet to report on – cannibalism. The Satan is a fastidious being and cannibalism must be still ugh to even him because we don’t get to hear much about humans eating other humans. Maybe a stray story here and there, but Evil is not yet that kind of gourmet. He’ll probably wait for us to top 12 billion and then slip the concept in, somewhere in Africa or Asia first. I heard kosher and halal restaurant chains are planned for the middle of the 22nd century.

Tomorrow, there is a panel discussion scheduled on the following topic: “Is there more evil or less evil now than there was, a century ago?” Every era has had its set of evils and that evil has continuously been changing its priorities, its targets and cast of characters. The 20th and the 21st centuries have witnessed evil as a constantly shifting mosaic. Conventional wars morphed into asymmetric wars.

Check with your cable provider about the E-channel. Its free if you’ve killed someone in the past six months.

Another kind of evil has crept up on us without our being the wiser, riding piggy-back on the watchword of this century- Globalization. Put simply, the buttons on the $5 shirt you just slipped on were sewn in by 12 year old Uma, a malnourished girl in Bangladesh, who lives a precarious life, working twelve hour shifts in the second floor of a steaming, dank, dimly lit building, for 5¢ an hour. Her left index finger is swollen and infected from the constant pricks of the needle that she uses. She has no health plan, no pension plan, no unemployment insurance. All that she has is a shack next to an open sewer and an abusive stepfather who molests her every time he gets her alone.

The evil in the above instance is ‘false flag’. A False Flag is the name given to an espionage operation where the guy who has been recruited to spy on his own people does not know he is being used for espionage by an adversary. Likewise, when I visit Walmart and pick up 2 for $5 T-shirts, I am blissfully unaware of the extent to which I aid in Uma’s misery.

If you get the chance, read a well-researched book titled Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, By Elizabeth L. Cline . The author sort of walks you through the whole history of the garment industry and at the end it becomes clear why things came to the point where 1000+ poor souls perished in a collapsed garment factory in Bangladesh. In an interview to NPR, the author commented that the accident could be a turning point and is optimistic that the large retailers like H&M, Walmart, Costco and Loblaws will look more seriously toward ethical working standards at the workshops of their suppliers in the third world.

Meanwhile this was not an isolated incident in that country. Through the last three decades, there have been many other horrific  accidents in Bangladesh. There was a 120-death event and another 260-casualty event in the past five months alone. Fires, building collapses, toxic contamination, all happening like clockwork in a nation that is buckling under the enormous  garment export workload and has no infrastructure, nothing to support it. The ever increasing death toll statistics keep raising the bar at which an incident is termed a ‘turning point’. Right now the ‘turning point’ is set at 1000+.

It is pretentious to think that you can sit in a luxurious 50th floor office in Toronto, New York or Seattle and dictate terms to a corrupt, bread basket country half-way round the world, that does not allow organized labor unions to operate, employing death squads to torture and kill union leaders. Bangladesh is run not by its politicians but by a coterie of ultra rich businessmen who own the 4000 garment export firms that sell $18 billion worth of garments to the west. These guys own mansions in Toronto that have Lamborghinis parked in their driveways.

As an importer based in Canada, if you try telling the Bangladesh government that it should start creating and monitoring it’s employee welfare and safety procedures, it will be laughable to the point of being ridiculous. Hey, you are dealing with businesses whose workers earn $400 a year, less than what you spend on  coffee during the same period.

Some of us here have been screaming themselves hoarse that we should all boycott garments at Walmart, H&M, Loblaws and all those retail giants. They mean well but this is unrealistic. What might work are strict Canadian laws that prosecute Canadian companies which import from overseas businesses that hold no regard for the welfare of their employees.

I haven’t read Elizabeth Cline’s book myself. You are aware that I read only the reviews. They are way cheaper.



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