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     Volume 4 Issue 55 | July 22 , 2005 |

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Fool's Paradise

Munize M. Khasru

One of the values inculcated in me from childhood was the importance of reading the daily newspaper in the morning. My grandfather used to cut out columns from different newspapers that intrigued him. My father would (and still does) read the newspaper page by page. We usually had at least two different newspapers at our breakfast table. He would tell my brother and me that reading the paper was important in different ways. It would help increase our general knowledge, improve our language skills, teach us the ways of the world. We could learn about great leaders and good Samaritans. The newspaper also taught us right from wrong. We learnt about evil and corruption and dishonesty. But we learnt that ultimately the people involved would have to account for it. Sooner or later, justice would prevail. Or so we believed.

I don't know if it was the innocence of youth that made us hopeful or is it that retrospect is always rosily tinted? Perhaps a combination. But when I ask my elders about it, they tell me: "No, that was more or less true. Things weren't hunky-dory but somehow we had faith that it would all work out. There was accountability. Nowadays though, the meaning of accountability can no longer be found in the news. "

I still religiously read the newspaper from beginning to end. But, truth be told, most days it is an ordeal. The national news is so dismaying and 'despairing' that one friend told me she has stopped reading it at the breakfast table because she loses her appetite when she sees the headlines. But, I keep at it like a hooked woman watching a bad soap opera who thinks the plot will improve if she watches long enough. I read and am scandalized anew every day. I am full of admiration for the journalists who brave such odds to bring the truth forth. And every day I wait for the concerned authorities to administer justice. The English Literature major that I am, in all the articles I seek:
(1) an introduction,
(2) the body of text and
(3) a conclusion.
Yet every day after reading the news, my checklist shows:
(1) ?
(2) ?
(3) ?

And so I wait. And wait. And wait.I wonder to myself, what will my children learn when they are old enough to read the newspapers. Should I even encourage them to read it? What are the lessons learnt from the papers today?

My son will learn that he need not bother about education or integrity or perseverance. He can be a "metre-man" and become a millionaire.

Or, he can be a policeman and steal money from the very people he's supposed to protect. (Of course, he has to be smart enough to avoid being caught so he shouldn't be absent-minded about leaving his keys or duty sheet or anything incriminating at the crime scene! Perhaps this is where his school days discipline of "always checking your work twice" will come in handy. So, okay, I stand corrected: some education is required.)

My daughter will learn that she should marry wisely. In case she is marrying a politician, she should leave her mind and mouth at the wedding altar because if she should dare to have an opinion that goes against her husband, she may be put behind bars. And she should not harbour any stereotypical ideas of "older men making better husbands" because after some years her husband might become senile and accuse her of stealing a phone.

She will learn that as a career woman what matters most is having the right father-in-law. God forbid, one day if her workplace should come crumbling down and she is held liable for it, she can just hide behind her father-in-law. But he needs to be a "fat cat"-- so fat that the police won't be able to find even her house, let alone her!

Yes, family bonding will be a priority in our children's lives because they will learn that no matter how you make your money, "Daddy" will surely save the day. He will reinvent the wheels of fortune and turn the rainbow colours upside down so even the blackest of black money will look angelic white. And not to worry about deadlines. That's just for normal taxpayers. With the right family contacts, Daddy will extend the deadline for you, any time, every time.

If family is not up to the mark, today's children will learn to make the right friends. Powerful friends. Those who can give all the right deals. Apparently, friends like these are always very understanding because they will secure you the contracts, regardless of your ability to handle them. Isn't that sweet? And if that's not sufficient, these friends are even nice enough to let you park your car at their place! They may take the car for joyrides but that's the least you can do for such a helpful friend, right?!

Children will be well served to learn this 'joyride' phenomenon thoroughly. It seems to be the widely applicable solution to many crises of today. When you're trying to take everyone for a ride, take a joyride in someone else's luxury car.

Fields blow up, the air darkens, rivers bubble yet nothing smoothes the waters quite as well as Lexus' do.

Thus, as a parent, it will be my duty to keep it 'real'. I will 'editorialize' and help my children keep perspective.

We all come into this world naked. And when our time is over, we leave the world in just a piece of white cloth. So, one is left to wonder-- all this lying, plundering, stealing --is it worth it for one piece of cloth?

I will have to convince my children that no matter what they read in the newspaper, one ultimately has to account…even for unaccountability.

Perhaps you can live your whole life without ever having to answer to anyone. That's when you live in your Fool's Paradise. Even if there is no conclusion in the daily newspapers, there will surely be a conclusion in one's life. And when life ends, and you face the Creator, you WILL be held accountable for your deeds.

It won't make headlines but it will be all the news you need to concern yourself with. Period.

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