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Tuesday, 31 August 2021 | Vinayshil Gautam


Human effort in history is a strange mix of banality and benevolence

Periodically, the Homo Sapiens pass through a seminal experience that affects the very core of their existence. Millions of years ago, when the wheel was discovered, it was a seminal revolution. Human civilisation and culture depended on the outcome of this experience. All this happened so long ago that there is no record or information on where this revolution began or did it begin parallelly in many parts of the globe at the same or at different points of time.One doesn’t know whether the wheel was one man’s idea or a collective effort. So distant it is in the hoary past that no one has ever thought of even celebrating this break through. Similar is the story of fire - again, a basic revolution. Not much is known about the discovery of fire. The list can be added to. Similar is the issue of discovery of iron or the invention of firearms. Given the brevity of a human life, the active years are less than half of one’s existence. Given the millennia that have passed in human growth, a human lifespan would occupy even less space than a speck on the canvas of time.Imagine the level of insignificance when compared to the evolution of a planet. Notwithstanding this truth, seminal times have been many in human history. They have even varied from region to region and few of them have had global impact concurrently. The last century and the first two decades of the present one have been transformative. August 6, 1945 is etched in glass because of the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima. Along with Nagasaki, both are a grim reminder - if any be needed— that human beings have no limits to what they can wreck on one another. There is no record of any regret having been expressed in words or behaviour to the civilisation-altering, conscious effort at human devastation. If anything, it led to a global race for possession of atom bombs, hydrogen bombs and more. Human civilisation lives today with ‘bomb-mines’ with a magnitude which belies comprehension. There are nobler sides of the human effort too. And if the earth still rotates around its axis, it is because human beings are capable of equally elevating efforts. Many could possibly conclude that human effort in history is a strange mix of banality and benevolence. 

Be that as it may, the present Covid times are a grim reminder that everything that happens is not necessarily within the domain of human comprehension to begin with. The human species has to grow to comprehend this. Here is an experience the logical origin of which is unknown. The parameters of mutation stand very largely unprogrammed, the responses, be it of prevention or the antidote by way of vaccination,etc., have areas of grey. There is no knowing when it will end. Surely, these are seminal times.  It may be an error to believe one thing or another. This virus may never fade away or indeed it may continue in a more transformed manner. The core message is to develop a realistic vision of human competence and capabilities; to have the wisdom and fortitude to recognise one's own divinity but with a modesty of recognition to its reach. Human beings need one another. They need to do the best they can to keep the species evolving and growing. Today, that message to the Homo Sapiens who began their journey with the wheel may be as significant as any revolution this planet has seen. The sooner we wake up to this truth, the better we will cope with the pandemic.

(The writer is a well-known management consultant. The views expressed are personal.)

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