Of Cabbages and Kings

June 10, 2010


India is outraged about the injustice of the recent Bhopal tragedy related judgment this week. I gave up on the Indian news channels years ago but I am pretty certain that if I ever did get round to gritting my teeth and switching the television on, I would see Barkha Dutt and her colleagues all breathless and worked up about how the judiciary has wronged the Bhopal victims. And they should be. The senior management of the company that killed 25,000 people (and the numbers will grow as long as the poison remains in the earth and water in the region) gets a measly 2 years in prison. Chairman Mr. Mahindra seems to have had a successful career and is CEO of a Mahindra company. For an amount which is probably far less than their fortnightly expenditure, they are all out on bail.

The man primarily responsible? Warren Anderson is living it up in his $900,000 home in the Hamptons and is whizzing around in a Cadillac. He does not like being asked about the Bhopal victims.

Just so we’re clear, the primary damage in this case was done over twenty years ago. But both then and now, this case says terrible terrible things about the world. Apart from the corruption or utter foolishness of Indian politicians and the lack of courage shown by the Supreme Court (judge who was later rewarded with a glamourous post-retirement positions) is the utter and complete callousness demonstrated by the people who were, and still are, in a position to do something. Shame on you Mr. Obama. And shame on you, ‘free’ American press.

Someone told me that all this sordid Bhopal stuff isn’t really Obama’s problem, and that he is morally justified in shielding mass murderer Anderson. When educated people start talking about 25,000 deaths in terms of bureaucratic errors, it gets fairly apparent that the education system, the media all other institutions that influence public morality are beginning to putrefy.

Concentration camps were everybody’s problem. Slavery was everybody’s problem. Genocide is everybody’s problem. Terrorism is everybody’s problem. Mass killing of human beings is and has always been everybody’s problem.

This is where I would usually start talking about the UN Charter, human rights treaties, extradition and suchlike. All of that, though it does exist, just builds on an idea. And that idea was best expressed by John Donne:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee

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