Sun, 02 Mar 2003

Close encounters with cards can be a good lesson for all

The word `card' is a nondescript common noun, like a "meeting". So, as a stand-alone, it does not signify much. It needs to be fortified by another noun, to convey meaning. I had encounters with many versions of `card', but three stand out.

My first encounter was with my son's school report card. At its foot was the word "goob". I imagined that the teacher had deliberately miss-written `good' to test parental interest.

Lacking a sense of humor and quick to feel furious, I let go at the school-head, berating her school tactics. She remonstrated, "Mr. Edwin, our reports are factual, always. We are against pampering any students with accolades. It would imply that the school thinks that the student has reached his or her peak, and so prove counter-productive. Which infuriated you, is not ours."

I rushed home to get to the bottom of the matter. My son cockily admitted the prank was his. His mom, apparently privy, backed him up saying "You, who never see his reports, left him with no choice". Eating crow again, I backed off, to repent in leisure, the hasty encounter and instant routs on two fronts.

The second one was a seamy encounter. A wedding invitation card, poster-sized and seemed inspired by an over-made-up face of a tart, occasioned it. It was, as usual, the fore-runner of opulence, flaunted by the stinking rich, in the name of weddings.

Itching to get even with my host, I complimented him about the card. However, he missed the sarcasm and went gaga. "Look, the invitation card was more meant for those who could not come for the wedding - to trigger awe through envy, even in them, and make them rue what they would miss out, keeping away from the wedding."

Seeing that I was listless, he went on. "Do you think people go for Mercedes and Rolex watches just to navigate around and know the time of the day? No. They are statements; the nearest substitutes to tell the world about their bank balance, and assorted hoardings. The invitation card is also of the same genre. Let me recollect for you the words of wisdom bequeathed to mankind. `Behind every great fortune, there is a great crime'." Grapes are sour only to those who know how to make money." As if mission accomplished, he said "thanks for coming" and disappeared into the cauldron of festivities.

The third was a victorious encounter with credit card, the master of all cards, in a duty free shop in Changi Airport, Singapore. After making a few purchases, I offered a S$500 bill at the counter. The shop chief looked at me alarmed, as if at a terrorist. Instantly, I realized that in these days of terrorists and terrorism, almost any one going about using cash was a suspect. "Sir, can you please pay by credit card?" the shop implored. I did so. The chief chose to respond with a contemptuous smile. Apparently, his assessment of me had changed. Now to him, I was a country bum, unused to the use of credit cards.

Annoyed, I cleared up the matter. "Mister, I am an active member of the anti-privatization movement in India. We don't use credit cards, unless forced to, because to us, the currency, enthroned and honored as a legal tender, is the most visible symbol of the country's sovereignty. Credit cards, which make currency irrelevant, proclaim that `currency and coinage' of a realm have been privatized - and by implication, part of the sovereignty, hijacked and privatized."

Seeing he was receptive, I cautioned: "Privatization is the looming holocaust of the twenty-first century, out to eliminate the poor, the weak and the down-trodden. So, you better watch out. Otherwise, sooner than you think, if you are robbed, you can't go to a Police Station any more. Instead, you should go to a Corporation, because, by then, through the inexorable process of privatization, and punishment would be in the hands of a Corporation."

To hit the nail on the head, I added: Karl Marx willed dictatorship of the proletariat and predicted the withering away of the State. Now, we are in the throes of the dictatorship of the privateers and the State is on its way to metamorphose into a mere sum total of privatizations."

I could see he was dubious, but was impressed. To him, I was a conscientious objector, for good reasons, and his smirk was gone. His face lighted up, when he said "Come again, Sir, and good luck".

--G.S. Edwin