A short history of dead babies walking.

For dead babies to walk, they have to die first. Perhaps, that is the most difficult part of this short history. In order to write this, some babies had to die. Now, it was not my wish to have them dead. If you are reading the world these days, you probably know - the real reason behind their deaths doesn’t actually matter. Like any responsible historian, I will just gloss over - what’s the point anyway?

Can you bring them back to life? You can’t.

Can you ameliorate suffering of the ones they left behind? You can’t.

Can you even change the social reality that led to their death? You can’t.

If you can’t change anything, what is the point of knowing the truth? So that’s the real problem with us, I am told. If you cannot know the truth, you cannot change anything. Alternatively, if you cannot change anything anyways, what’s the point in knowing the truth?

If truth is hard to find, you cannot change anything. If you don’t want anything changed, make the truth disappear.

So before the babies started dying, we had a paucity of truth in our lives. Husbands lying to their wives, parents cheating their offspring, even students being dishonest with their teachers. This was in contravention with the kind of “ancient values” we took pride in.

But the more we tried to run towards our values, the more we found ourselves away from it. It was almost like running against a superstorm - swimming against the current - we could never return to the glory of our ancestors. It was an inferiority complex, some told us. But we couldn’t care much - our time was running out. It was a very difficult position to be in. We were hunted down by microbes and oil prices alike. And we distrusted our neighbours. We couldn’t even believe that we lived in relative peace just a few years ago. But fragmented memories of that era weren’t even consoling - they were hopelessly corrupted by relentless fear mongering..

In that frenzy, we forgot to keep a tab on the air and water, of course. But we dreamt about annihilating the archenemy and we would sort everything out later. The village well dried up and the cattles died first. It was the time for the stray dogs and cats next. Life was slowly getting wiped out, but still we were locked in our little battles. Some tried to lecture us about fallen civilisations and how the fall starts with the people looking inwards instead of outside. We didn’t heed them either - it was easier to burn the intellectuals when the weather got colder.

Then the sun went away. It wasn’t much of a deal initially. The air was hopelessly polluted. The skies of our ancestors existed only on the internet. Ours was a far cry, floating blobs of thick smoke that we took for a sky. We invented metaphors to cheer ourselves up. Kids were taught about the benefits of a dark sky over a blue one. They breathed in religion anyway, it wasn’t a big deal indoctrinating. Also, we were convinced about the advantages of limiting science only to the “enlightened” lot. This way, we could keep the benefits of modern science without sacrificing our religion. It was a revolution indeed, we did well there - or so we believed.

So we sharpened propaganda to keep the population in line. We had to smother reason amongst the general populace. The spirit of enquiry was good enough, but if it were to breach the beautiful glass ceiling mandated by our civilisation, it is perhaps better kept limited. This worked well for a long time for us of course. But it had a very curious effect on our babies.

It was discovered first by a surgeon who autopsied the first batch of dead babies. They had already lost the will to live. We couldn’t really explain this. We kept this a secret for a long time. But as the babies kept dying, we needed a reason. The wisdom of the learned a few wouldn’t suffice. Everything about dead babies had to be released to the general public. They were stupid enough by then, they couldn’t find out why it was so.

But what bothered us was this - if the babies had lost the will to live, their death meant absolutely nothing. What’s the point of a sumptuous meal when you are already full? If the babies didn’t want to live, death is just another hiccup. Nothing serious. Of course, we were bothered about the dying babies. But if the babies weren’t really suffering, wasn’t it morally abhorrent to just be bothered about evolutionary continuity? This moral dilemma was peculiar to our civilisation. We wanted to aim for the moon, but we could not afford to let go of the past. The trauma of a great break up kept pestering us. We were tethered, yet we coveted great power status. And soon we found out, babies don’t thrive in that society. We had plenty of examples.

There was a great riot in the capital city a few weeks before the great doom. One of the things that happened was the wholesale destruction of the hospitals. Our neighbours distrusted the police, and they were frightened about the hospitals persecuting them. There were rumours of women giving birth in drains, just because they wouldn’t trust our hospitals. So when the great microbe came, they wouldn’t get treatment. Unsurprisingly, we bent like butter when the push came to a shove.

Then there were migrant labourers. We always took them for granted. They were dirt poor but our allies in driving down the labour costs. They sort of kept our own poor in check, for the lower labour charges translated into a better life for us. And most importantly, as long as we lived comfortable lives, we could afford to be charitable.This hypocrisy was acceptable to us, but not to the babies. So they slowly chose to wither away on their own. The flowers in the garden of life, our children, simply lost the will to live. That was because we made this world unlivable for them.

We always knew that the pestilence that consumed our children was just a reason. No scourge was big enough to wipe us off the surface of this earth - we were cocksure. This was a bit more about that - it hit us where it hurt. It took away our babies. The worst part wasn’t losing the babies, it was in knowing that they enjoyed going away. But we refused to change. That’s pretty much when we saw the dead babies walking.

But how do you explain this? We had to wait before we could find out…

[To be Continued…]

Written on March 28, 2020