Farce is funny when staged deliberately. It borders on the tragic when it is splashed across the front pages of the nation’s newspapers and is eagerly slurped up by the gullible even in high places.
Just the other day I was taken to task for not high-lighting the successes of Indians and instead focusing on problems that we need to solve to be a real nation of some consequence. I was told to focus on the amazing achievements of Indians across the globe and told about the kid from UP who topped “international exam held by NASA for discovering top scientists”. I would have to get up pretty early in the morning to fully debunk the sheer idiocy of that bit. Do scientists exist in remote unexplored territories that they have to be “discovered” like some exotic new species by enterprising biologists and anthropologists? And why is it that Indians have a fixation with NASA that they have to invoke it whenever they want to impress upon the gullible that someone has any merit? Is it because they have a “rocket scientist” as the president? This is what I call the “Space Cadet Fixation”. Want to indicate that someone has arrived in the world of science and technology? OK, make that person a NASA scientist. Case in point: the movie Swades.
As it happened, someone finally did some homework and figured out that NASA has no record of having conducted any exam in which any UP boy has topped. But that was not soon enough for the gullible in high places. The President of the country met with the boy and his family. I don’t know what transpired in that meeting but I wonder if the matter of the President having ranked 7th in the same fictitious test some years ago ever came up. Perhaps in all the excitement of the moment, that inconvenient fact was lost.
Wait, there’s more. NDTV.com reports:
To help the boy with his studies, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav had announced an award of Rs five lakh. [This is roughly US$ 11,000]
The UP legislative council had also promised the boy a month’s basic salary of its 100 members. [I estimate that to be around US$ 20,000 for the whole lot.]
Feeding frenzy of the gullible with lots of egg on the face to show.
I have noticed a curious fact. The more outrageous the claim of scientific and technological breakthrough made by an Indian, the more shrill is the press in reporting it and more eagerly do the gullible lap it all up. Herbal petrol is one previous case in point. It was reported that some chap in India has made an astonishing invention/discovery which involved dipping some sticks in boiling water and magically the water would turn into petroleum. Absolutely incredible, but to the so-called scientists and engineers of some institutions, it was totally credible.
Why do we do this? Why do we fall so easily for these scams repeatedly? What sort of basic insecurity drives this will to believe in stories that make one feel good but are patently untrue from the get go? Why this need for magical thinking?
When I am insecure or depressed, or am not feeling too well, I am prone to wishful magical thinking. Is collective wishful magical thinking a symptom of collective insecurity and sense of inferiority?