Suicide! Suicide!

Pardon me if I sound a bit like that woman from the French resistance in the side-splittingly funny British comedy series “‘alo, ‘alo” when she enters through the windows at the back of the tavern and says, “Listen to me very carefully. I am going to say this only once.” She of course prefaces all her revelations with that line delivered in a conspiratorial and stern whisper. I am going to do the same. So listen to me very carefully because I am going to say this only once.

Ready? Are you quite sure? Sure you don’t want to take your time and come back later to hear what I have to say?

OK. Here’s what I have to say. “If you refuse to do arithmetic, you are doomed to speak nonsense.”

Not original to me. That was (and still probably is) on John McCarthy’s .sig file many moons ago on the usenet. I have decided that that is going to be my motto. There is not a single problem faced by humanity that is not amenable to some basic arithmetic. It is the failure to do arithmetic, I am persuaded, that leads to every problem we face in the world. Don’t believe me? Well, let’s talk after you have judged for yourself the awesome power of arithmetic.

So what does the title of this post refer to? It is about the farmers’ suicides that some have made their reputations on and some others are in the process of making a killing out of (if you pardon the expression.) Rivers of tears are being shed that would put a whole herd of crocodiles to shame. What are we going to do to help the poor farmers, they cry. We will forgive them their debts. We will leave no avenue unexplored — except of course actually figuring out (figuring implies doing arithmetic) why they are in distress. We will boldly do what is within our power for it is power that we are primarily interested in.

Seriously though, you and I should get down to some arithmetic to really understand why they are committing suicide, and what if anything can be done about it. Next time.

[Next in this series: Suicide! Suicide! — Part 2.]

Author: Atanu Dey


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