Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Descent into Chaos - Losing the War on Terror

I went out today to pick up a 35 rupee (44 cent) notebook and a couple of pens at the bookstore, but I must confess my bibliomania kicked in and I left with a 1500 rupee bill instead of a 150 rupee bill. Journalist Ahmed Rashid's latest book, Descent into Chaos, was staring right at me on the new arrivals shelf. There was only one copy, and I had to have it.

It fits right into what I've been reading lately, Enemy Aliens:Double Standards and Constitutional Freedoms in the War on Terrorism by David Cole, Rageh Omaar's The Real Story of the Battle for Iraq, and The Age of Kali by Willian Dalrymple.

Dalyrmple's collection of essays on travels in India and Pakistan may seem the odd one out in this group, but as the underlying theme of The Age of Kali is the Hindu belief that we are currently in "an epoch of strife, corruption, darkness, and disintegration." There are four great epochs in Hindu cosmology, based on four throws of dice in the traditional Indian dice game. Hindus believe that the first epoch of the four is the best, or the Age of Perfection, and that each age gets progressively worse until we reach the Age of Kali. According to the Vishnu Purana from the seventh century:

"The kings of Kali Yug will be addicted to corruption and will seize the property of their subjects, but will, for the most part be of limited power, rising and falling rapidly. Then property and wealth alone will confer rank; falsehood will be the only means of success in litigation. Corruption will be the universal means of subsistence. At the end, unable to support their avaricious kings, the people of the Kali Age will take refuge in the chasms between mountains, they will ragged garments, and they will have too many children. Thus in the Kali Age shall strife and decay constantly proceed, until the human race approaches annilihation."

After the completion of the Kali Age, a new age will begin, starting from the Age of Perfection again. I truly recommend Dalrymple's accounts for anyone who wants to enjoy a good read and feel your spine tingle as you about the daily blood sacrifices given to appease the goddess Kali.

I'm sure I'll enjoy Descent into Chaos, although it may not make a movie script as well as Charlie Wilson's War did. Everything I'm reading seems to lend support to the Hindu belief that we are, indeed, in the last age.

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