Bits and Pieces

Tuesday, March 25, 2003  

Of missed classes and murky politics.
It was one of those nights when I was up and ready for a full 4 to 5 hours of preparation for a class, keeping in mind a long overdue workload. And as again (as ever), there were other interesting things happening around me, a programme on Discovery’s Science Channel played into my mind this time.

Yes, it’s about technology, but about one that is as astonishing as intriguing. Throughout the presentation I was kept spellbound by the marvels that science and technology can come up with. Not wanting to become too descriptive of my excitement, let me get into the subject right away. This is about one of America’s security structures. During the peak of Cold war era, America carved a fortress within a mountain, stuffed it with the then-latest gadgets to monitor earth’s periphery for flying objects. All this talk is about the Cheyenne Mountain Complex (CMC), on Rocky Mountains, Colorado, a breathtaking engineering achievement that has been constructed inside the Cheyenne Mountain, close to Colorado Springs.

Here are some interesting facts about the site:
. The construction was started in 1961 and the complex became operational in 1966, crossing many a technological hurdle.
. It can monitor anything from 200 to 22500 miles up into the Heavens.
. In case of a nuclear blast or anything of that nature, it can support itself for 30 days.
. Critical electronic equipment shielded from Electro Magnetic Pulse of a blast.
. A Million and a half gallons of drinking water and four and a half million gallons of water for industrial purposes are stored.
. In 91 of its missions (till the last count, that is), NASA used CMC’s services and maneuvered 7 times to avoid collisions.
. Had come to advanced state of alert only once, during The Yom Kippur War (when Arab nations went on the offensive against Israel).


Call it the result of man’s instinct for survival but what sense does it make if he were not to see a tomorrow? Yup I am all done with the astonishment part, now onto the intriguing half. It doesn’t require the senses of a political analyst to understand the fury that a nuclear arsenal could unleash. In a time when friends of today become foes of tomorrow, there is very little justification in holding onto “weapons of mass destruction” whatever may the cause be. It’s the seventh day of Gulf War II and as one finds it difficult to foresee a quick end to this modern day perception of ‘Good over Evil’, the number of anti-war protesters taking to the streets of the cities of the Western World is on the increase. Apparently “the leaders” have failed to learn a lesson or two from the conflicts of Middle East. Bloodshed of this kind warrants drastic consequences; so says history and common sense. The above rhetoric in no way implies endorsement of Iraq’s, nay Saddam’s, actions. We are talking about a leader who enjoyed the luxury of palaces when nearly 60% of his countrymen were (and are) totally dependant on food handouts.

Any thought on this war prompts an immediate question on a nation’s psyche, any nation’s, for that matter. CMC (the billion dollar burglar alarm) is a case of a nation’s most advanced sense of security, which may sound valid as long as the tax payers are not worried about it. The world, by and large, has become unipolar and 'war on terrorism' gets the maximum billing unlike the cold war era. So in order that structures like CMC do not become mere crafty ornaments (could it stop 9/11 from happening?), a lot depends on the decision-makers of this nation.

Talking about a nation’s psyche, I would like to quote Dr.A.P.J. Abdul Kalam (from his book, Ignited Minds),
“A man is said to pass through different stages in his lifetime. Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, in his book Manifest Your Destiny, makes an interesting categorization of them as athlete stage, warrior stage, statesperson stage and spirit stage. It occurred to me that nations too make a similar transition and in extending this analogy to them I have termed the last two stages big brother and self-realization stages respectively. The stages do not follow in sequence necessarily; they can be coexistent, with one aspect dominant.
In the first, athlete stage, a nation fresh from an independence struggle, or some other transition, embarks on an energetic pursuit of performance and achievement. This has happened to Japan, Singapore and Malaysia.
When a nation leaves this stage behind, it generally enters the warrior stage. Proud of its achievements, it finds ways to demonstrate its superiority over others, perhaps through conquest. Ego is the driving force. During this stage people are busy with goals and achievements in competition with others and this, as Dyer points out for the individual, generates anxiety. Convincing others of its superiority becomes the theme.
In the next, big brother stage, the ego has been tamed somewhat and with its newfound maturity awareness shifts to what is important to other nations and societies. In the big brother stage the nation is still an achiever but it is not so obsessed with proving its strength. The idea is to help others become better. The erstwhile Soviet Union by its developmental role in some countries had adopted this role. As with the individual, so too with the nation, the transition from the warrior stage to the big brother stage is a rewarding but difficult exercise.
There is one stage even higher than this big brother stage. In this, a nation recognizes its truest essence. It comes out of the wisdom that the earth is no single nation’s inheritance but of all, and its people are aware of the responsibility of the individual towards his fellow human beings. This can be called the realization stage…”

Has this simplified the puzzle? Well…may be! Coming from India, I have had a fair bit of an idea about the red herring stuff that politicians come up with, but having seen Hollywood’s production values I should have been a little bit forewarned about the scale of similar tactics here. Phew!

This piece of discourse started of with a look into a modern marvel, in retrospect however, it is rather amusing to note that a smile is visible from 60 to 80 feet, just about the distance from where you can throw a stone or a spear! Has technology deprived us of a truce?

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If a pixel were to see and interpret things as I do, and should it express, with a dose of my thoughts and afterthoughts; the flavor of such a talk should be close to one that you find on this page. And yes, cricket being my favorite sport, dont be surprised to find one too many related terms. Pad up is one such!

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