A priest, businessman and prostitute walk into a bar. (No, this is not a joke) They are soon joined by a politician, student, idler, bureaucrat, philosopher, social activist, farmer, scientist, teacher, housewife, thief, prostitute, beggar, clerk, soldier, sailor, senior citizen…..

The motley crowd had gathered to figure out ways to change the world. They often found themselves crossing swords with each other. Each of them were confused, thwarted and often amused by the ideas, methods & motivations of others. They decided to thrash it out. It may be an unwieldy discussion, but a better world was at the bottom of all hearts. No harm trying.

The bar-owner had made suitable arrangements for the diverse group. It was a momentous occasion. He was still contemplating the right drinks to serve and music to play

People started trickling in.

The priest had never set his foot inside the bar before. He nodded at the bar-owner, looked around and took the seat by the window. Soon others joined with greetings, small talk and murmurs.

The bar-owner looked around & announced all were in. They could start.

The priest, perhaps the oldest man in the room, got up, coughed and spoke.

Priest (holding a glass of water) — We are all here for a noble purpose. We want to change to world. Make it better & great. We have different ideas & methods. We are here to understand each other and reconcile. Our ultimate goal is the same.

Social activist (grabbing the nearest bottle of beer) — I don’t agree. Our ultimate goal is not the same. My goal is to improve society, help the poor, save the environment and so on. But the businessman’s goal is the exact opposite. He just grows his personal profits.

Businessman (looking up from the wine catalogue with a suave smile) — How wrong you are, as always. I provide essential products & services to the society. They enhance the quality of life. Making these goodies requires compromises. Its a trade-off. Do a cost-benefit analysis and you will realise the benefits outweigh the costs. Of course, I make profits for my efforts. Can you live without what I provide?

Farmer (speaking up from the back) — But you pollute the river when making those goodies. The polluted water has wrecked havoc on my harvest. My family is going through tough times. For generations, my family has prided itself on doing God’s own work and providing food on the table for many. Now, my supplies of fresh produce has gone down significantly.

Housewife (sipping her home-made orange juice) — I agree. The fruits & veggies I get in the market these days are not as good as it used to be. I want my family to be healthy and happy. But now I am worried about so many ailments and diseases which seem to have become so common.

Doctor (still wearing his white coat and looking tired) — We are seeing more patients. More modern cures and medicines don’t seem to have reduced the burden of diseases. We are building more hospitals.

Social activist — And you are over charging patients. Poor people are unable to get treatment.

Senior citizen (trying to enter the conversation) — I prefer home care. It is difficult to get good doctors on call. Everybody is indifferent and unfriendly.

Soldier (pointing to his injured leg in a cast) — I was shunted from one hospital to another after the war. Most government hospitals are a joke. Poor infrastructure, over flowing with patients, underpaid doctors, and so on. Private hospitals fleece patients with no conscience.

Sailor — They do it differently in other countries. We should learn from them.

Doctor — Costs are going up. We need to charge more.

Bureaucrat — We are regulating healthcare, trying to bring down costs.

Politician — You guys are too slow. Look at how many people are suffering. When I get elected, I will change all this.

Scientist — We are trying to innovate and discover new cures. We are making breakthroughs. I want to find a cure for cancer. Thats my dream.

Student — Sir, you are my inspiration. I want to become a scientist like you. We need good schools and education to solve the great many challenges we are facing. Only students can change the world.

Teacher — We are grossly understaffed and poorly compensated. How many people really aspire to become a teacher these days? This has become a profession of the last resort. We can contribute a lot to the society. But who listens to us?

Sailor — They do it better in other countries. We should learn from them.

Senior citizen — I offered to teach for free in my neighbourhood school. I never heard back from them. Everybody is indifferent and unfriendly.

Bureaucrat — We are coming out with a new education policy. It will solve all your problems.

Politician — I have heard this repeated for years. The new policy is a sham. When I get elected, I will change all this.

Thief — I took to stealing because I never got a good education. Nobody was willing to employ me. I had no other option. The society forced me to steal. I hope my kids don’t have to do this.

Idler — Now that you get an opportunity, you are justifying your deeds. Your right place is behind the bars.

Thief — I am neither lazy nor privileged like you. You do nothing.

Idler — I just keep myself out of the way, and out of trouble. What’s wrong with that?

Soldier — You demand rights, but conveniently forget your duties. Contribute to the society.

Prostitute — Exactly. I contribute. I provide relief and relaxation. I take pride in my work. I don’t disturb anyone. But the police and government are often all over me, making trouble.

Sailor — Prostitution is a necessary evil. Other countries manage it better. We should learn from them.

Policeman — We just do our job. Crime & prostitution are not good for the society.

Philosopher — The oldest profession cannot be wished away or eradicated. It will stay as long as man lives.

Judge — But it has to be regulated…controlled. We cannot have unbridled vice. Our society will crumble.

Philosopher — Who is to say what is vice and what is not vice?

Judge — Vices, morals, virtues and evils are commonly accepted norms and beliefs. They may change over time. But we need a set of common rules to govern ourselves. We are not animals.

Idler — Thank you, but I can govern myself better. I don’t want anybody or any rule breathing down on my rights to binge drink or meet my prostitute friend. I know what’s good for me. If I make a wrong choice, I am prepared to live with the consequences.

Businessman — We have too many rules and regulations. Conducting a clean and transparent business is almost impossible.

Bureaucrat — We are trying to make it easy to do business. In fact, we have gone up several notches on the global ranks.

Politician — That’s just a gimmick. So many businessmen have approached me for help. When I get elected, I will change all this.

Beggar — You are a bigger thief and liar. I have been deprived of everything and thrown on the roads. We were repeatedly promised support, rehabilitation, & shelter. Nothing has happened. Nobody bothers about us. We are treated worse than animals.

Clerk — We are not far behind. We are the most oppressed lot. Unaffordable healthcare & education, poor roads, rising food prices, low salaries, stubborn bosses, ineffective governance….the list goes on. We are too busy earning our living. We have no time to run from pillar to post to get things done. We just want a fair and well-functioning society. Is that too much to ask for?

Senior citizen — Things were much better in my salad days. Now everybody is indifferent & unfriendly.

Politician — All those things you ask for are in my manifesto. When I get elected, I will change all this.

Businessman (muttering in a low tone) — Please shut up. You promised me many things in the past. Nobody believes you any more.

Sailor — You guys don’t listen to me. We can learn a lot from other countries.

Priest — Well, well, well. Strong views all around. It looks like we need divine intervention.

Atheist (chuckling) — Is He making a special appearance today?

Philosopher — Please don’t rake up that old argument. It has never been resolved. Forget divinity & supernatural powers. Lets focus on the issue. Only reason and logic can help.

Priest — I am willing to set aside my personal beliefs. Everyone seems to have strong and different views. Everyone wants a different world. How do we reconcile this?

Judge — Lets get a quick and crisp view from each on what exactly they want.

Social activist (jumping up) — Allow me to have the first go. I want a free & fair society, friendly to humans, animals and the environment.

Doctor — A disease free world would be good, even though I would then have to find another job.

Businessman — I want a world with simple & fair rules to conduct any business beneficial to society.

Farmer — I just want to be left alone with pristine nature. Its easier working with nature than with humans.

Senior citizen — I want a friendly world. Everybody is so indifferent.

Idler — And I want a world which allows me to do what I like, which is nothing.

Scientist — That’s a stupid view. How will you eat and survive? How long can you just live off your inheritance? You will be bored to death if you do nothing. Anyway, that’s your life. As for me, I want a world which allows me to be infinitely curious, ask all kinds of questions, doggedly pursue the truth, discover wonderful things, and invent solutions to all problems we face.

Businessman — Who is going to fund your curious life? Where will the money come from?

Sailor — In my recent travels, this small country in the south was a revelation. They have an excellent tax and social welfare system. We should learn from them.

Bureaucrat — Stop bragging. We have studied all best practices and have continuously improved our policies. We will soon have the best governance system in the world.

Politician — You guys created elaborate red-tape and complicated procedures. Even if we politicians want to bring about a change, our hands are tied. We get mired in bureaucratic files and processes. When I get elected, I will change all this.

Teacher — I want a simple life, a functioning school and obedient students.

Clerk — Same here. I want a fair & functioning society.

Soldier — I enjoyed my training. But I hate wars. I get nightmares. I want a peaceful world.

Prostitute — I want a world which respects my profession.

Beggar — I want a world which empathises with me. We are human beings too.

Policeman — Our job is tough. We deserve more respect and empathy.

Thief — I want a world which provides for the basic needs of all human beings. I wouldn’t steal then.

Judge — Well, we will see if that happens. A thief is a thief for a reason. We have poor thieves and also rich thieves. Each of us wants a world which seems a little similar to what others want, but these worlds are also vastly different at the same time. They overlap in some parts, but also have opposing characteristics. What then is the ideal world?

Priest — I would prefer a peaceful world, lots of gardens & temples, God-fearing people leading simple & happy lives.

Philosopher — Too idyllic and impractical. Reality is different. We are prone to violence, dissent & argument. Thats our nature. We differ in our opinions. We may agree on some ideas, but universal consensus on all aspects of human life is impossible. In fact, I would prefer a vibrant world with different ideas and opinions. That’s what makes life interesting and exciting.

Housewife — Then we will continue to argue till the cows come home. We should give & take. Live and let live. Can we compromise? Can we all agree on a common way to change the world?

Atheist — That looks impossible. We have very different opinions. Looks like we may need divine intervention after all.

Priest — Am I getting a new convert?

Atheist — Don’t dream about it. If He comes down to help us now, I will think it over.

Priest (smiling) — So be it. All of us are entitled to our opinions. We have our own ideas & methods. We seem to be distrustful of others.

Social activist — I find it difficult to trust the businessman. I guess we will be at loggerheads for a long time to come.

Business — And I find it hard to work with the politicians & bureaucrats. They keep changing the rules, satisfying various constituencies, making compromises and forcing us to be corrupt. Consumers are easier to handle.

Housewife — Thats because we don’t or can’t fight back. You must be ashamed to sell products of dubious quality. They rob our health and happiness.

Philosopher — You can never be completely happy. Our desires & wants keep going up. There is no end to it. We are doomed to be unhappy as long as we are incapable of self-control and discipline.

Idler — Who cares about your esoteric ideas and crazy rules? I just let go and do I what I like to do. The pleasures of leisure. You guys don’t know what you are missing. I am quite happy. Just let me do what I enjoy doing.

Farmer — I hate good-for-nothing people like you. We toil in the sun and soil the entire day. We bring you food. We are at the mercy of harsh nature. And how do you treat us? We are not paid enough. Middle-men hijack our incomes. Bureaucrats make our lives harder. Politicians promise us the world and deliver nothing.

Bureaucrat — We just do our jobs. We don’t make the rules. Ask the politician.

Politician — Politics is about making the right compromises. We cannot satisfy all the needs of all the people. Everyone must be willing to make sacrifices for the overall good of the society. I am fed up of people who don’t understand this simple logic.

Scientist — You are talking sense, for once. Is there a hidden agenda? Science can solve many of our problems. But how many make the effort to understand or give us the audience we deserve?

Teacher — We are often looked down by the society. We work hard to nurture the next generation, but who cares about us? We need an inclusive world

Clerk — Nobody cares about us too. I am fed up. Makes me so angry.

Beggar — Same here.

Prostitute — Same here

Senior citizen — I agree. Everybody is indifferent & unfriendly.

Thief — I don’t think you people will ever help us to reform ourselves and choose an alternative lifestyle.

Student — We are a mess, aren’t we? None of you can be our role models. We will have to create a whole new world from scratch.

Judge — Its funny how people just blame others. Can’t we look at ourselves and see where we fall short? Can’t we reflect and change ourselves? The world will be a much better place then. We won’t need courts & cops.

Policeman — I will then need help in re-skilling and finding another job.

Social activist (laughing) — Don’t jump. We aren’t there yet. Perhaps we won’t get there at all.

Priest — You seem to be a pessimist.

Politician — He is an anarchist.

Businessman — And you are a liar.

Scientist — I am a realist. I am just sharing the realities as science sees it.

Student — I am an optimist. I think we can become better.

Businessman — I am an optimist too. There is always a solution to any problem. There is a cost attached and we must be prepared to pay it.

Philosopher — Humans have always managed to find solutions for daunting challenges throughout history.

Politician — I am a leftist, but tend to lean right on some issues.

Idler — And often you are in the middle, creating a big muddle.

Clerk — All of you talk big. And do nothing. Hypocrites.

Teacher — Hypocrites

Prostitue — Hypocrites

Thief — Hypocrites

Beggar — Hypocrites

Senior citizen — Everybody is so indifferent & unfriendly.

Housewife — I love to talk. But I am tongue-tied now.

……silence……..

Bar-owner — I think I should speak up now. We seem to be going off the agenda.

Priest — Yes, lets get back. How can we change the world together? How can we join hands and make it better?

Philosopher — Why don’t we all agree on just a few ideas, maybe 2 or 3 key principles? Make it simple.

Social activist — Lets agree on zero crime & zero corruption. Everything else will work out fine then, over time.

Idler — Thats too simplistic. Is that even possible?

Politician — I am intrigued. That may just work.

Businessman — Can you work without being corrupt?

Politician — Yes, if all of us agree.

Thief — What will I do?

Policeman — I can lock you up. Or you can find another job.

Thief — Who will employ me?

Priest — You are welcome to work in the temple. The money may not be great. But you will find satisfaction and happiness.

Teacher — Is zero corruption & zero crime possible at all?

Prostitute — What about my work? Is that a crime or a corruption, or both?

Judge — We will rehabilitate you.

Prostitute — Thank you, but I don’t need that. I just want the freedom to pursue the life I like. I may retire at my own will. But I don’t want my profession to be labelled a crime or called corrupt.

Bar owner — Is drinking a crime? Most of us are committing it now.

Scientist — I don’t mind the occasional drink. But i don’t accept prostitution.

Senior citizen — I used to enjoy a quiet evening drink before the doctor & my wife colluded to banish the bottle out of my life. Everybody is indifferent & unfriendly.

Housewife — I think both should go — drinking and prostitution. Both are evils. Crimes that collapse communities and wreck homes.

Student — I don’t know enough about prostitution or drinking. But I don’t like stealing or murder. We should have zero tolerance towards them.

Soldier — What about military expenditure, making and buying weapons, fighting wars? Is that a crime?

Clerk — What exactly is zero corruption?

Bureaucrat — Don’t lie, threaten, or demand money to do your job. Be satisfied with your salary. Lets just do the jobs we have been tasked with and the world will become a better place.

Beggar — That’s a remarkable definition from the high priest of corruption. Utopian.

Farmer — Who doesn’t lie? How many of us can say no to a little extra income, on the side? Who doesn’t grease palms, now & then, to get things done? Can all of us really agree to zero corruption?

……silence…….

Social activist — We can’t agree on zero crime and zero corruption. We are doomed. There is no rosy future. No better world. We can’t even change ourselves. Forget changing the world.

……silence…….

Bar owner — Should we adjourn and meet again tomorrow? I can make better arrangements.

Judge — Thats what we do in the courts. Nothing ever gets done by adjourning.

Priest — There should be a way out. Lets pray

Businessman — I have better things to do. I have a big shipment arriving from China tomorrow.

Housewife — Mind the quality. Don’t dump cheap goods on us.

Senior citizen — I have never stayed up so late. Lets not be indifferent & unfriendly. We need to find a solution.

Atheist (grinning) — Lets wait for divine intervention. Its bound to happen, sooner or later.

Philosopher — I am tired.

Clerk — I am sleepy. Thank God its Friday.

Scientist — Very amateurish ideas and arguments. No wonder we are going nowhere. I will make a thorough study on the subject and share my findings.

Politician — We may all be dead by then.

Doctor — I have seen many scientific studies. They are not always practical.

Beggar — I better go back to my street corner. Somebody else might take it.

Social activist (banging the table) — One last time. How can we change the world together? Its really going to the dogs. We must do something about it. Are we really helpless?

Philosopher — Calm down friend. Why are you in such a hurry? Change will happen.

Social activist — Change will happen? How? When? We are doing nothing about it.

Philosopher — Are you not doing your bit?

Social activist — Yes, but it is not enough. Isn’t that the reason why we are here? To collectively figure out a way to change the world faster and more effectively?

Philosopher — Just do your job till the time we figure out a better way.

Senior citizen (mumbling) — You are being indifferent & unfriendly.

Politician (addressing the philosopher) — But that’s what we have been doing all the while. All of us are doing our jobs. But we are going nowhere.

Philosopher — Are you sure?

Clerk — There is some change. But it is too slow. Too little. Almost imperceptible. We need big bang changes.

Soldier — You want war & revolution?

Housewife (shuddering) — That’s death and destruction.

Philosopher — Lets be content with the little change we see.

Priest — I agree.

Atheist — On this, I side with the priest.

Priest (smiling) — Thanks my friend.

Prostitute — I guess I have to continue struggling.

Beggar — I expected some relief.

Teacher — Me too

Businessman — Everybody struggles. I struggle too.

Judge — That’s life.

Soldier — There is no magic bullet

Politician (clapping) — Well said

Priest — There may be no magic bullet. But I see a silver lining.

Atheist — Ah, there he goes again.

Priest — Lets continue our work, pursue our ideas and constantly tweak our methods.

Doctor — We can learn from each other. After all, nobody is always right or completely wrong.

Beggar (sighing) — So, its back to my corner as usual.

Philosopher — Small drops make an ocean.

Prostitute — You guys talk well.

Farmer — Absolute waste of time. My wife wanted my help at home. I ignored her.

Senior citizen — Aren’t you being indifferent & unfriendly to her?

Policeman — I have to get to my beat.

(everyone gets up to leave)

Sailor (to the bar-owner) — I will have one more drink.

Prostitute (winking at the sailor) — I will stick around. The night is still young.

change

The unexamined life is not worth living