Some years ago, a friend told me a parable of the devil and the religious scholars. A major interfaith congregation was being held in the Big Apple (i.e., New York). Prominent scholars from different religions engaged in a spirited discussion on the nature of good and evil and how the devil is the cause of all the ills of this world. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a seven feet tall guy with long golden hair and black horns appears in the midst of these scholars. It immediately brings the heated discussion to an abrupt halt. The devil tells them that he just gatecrashed to remind them that his sole mistake was to disobey God only once, for which he has to pay dearly till eternity. He never led anyone astray, especially not humans; he merely shows them a different path. As he finishes his homily, the room gets filled with the most sumptuous banquet, beautiful looking people, and 24-carat gold bars. Half an hour later, the whole building where the congregation was taking place is swarmed by NYPD cops trying to break off the brawl and mayhem taking place between the theologians. The year 2020has been one of the worst years in living memory, and a lot of people have labeled it as a curse from God and a punishment for humanity’s sins. Regardless of what one may or may not believe, the fact is that we do have the seeds of our destruction. One may call it karma or the law of cause and effect. 2021 started with a bang, with most of us watching images of the US Capitol building being stormed by rioters on our television screens, something that would have been unimaginable a few years ago. It is perhaps not farfetched when I say the reason dystopian television programs like A Handmaid’s Tale and other such programs have done well in terms of viewership isthey seem frighteningly close to what we are experiencing right now. George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, written in the 1940s and 1930s, are closer to reality than they ever were. The oxford dictionary defines dystopia as an imagined state or society in which there is great suffering or injustice, or everything is extremely bad or unpleasant. While wehave not reached such a state yet, it is time for serious pause and reflection. In many ways, we do live in a dystopian world where it is hard to differentiate truth from falsehood and right from wrong. The plethora of social media, irresponsible media coverage and technology is partly to blame. We do live in a dystopian world where it is hard to differentiate truth from falsehood and right from wrong. The plethora of social media, irresponsible media coverage and technology is partly to blame More importantly, it is crucial as to what we take away as lessons learned from this pandemic, which brought the world to its knees literally. While the development of covid 19 vaccination is a cause for cautioned celebration, we must focus on correcting and resetting humanity’s course with more responsible governments and world leaders. The rise of populist leaders across the globe in recent years is a testimony to the fact that there is something amiss in the way democracy and capitalism have evolved in the past decades – continuously falling short of peoples’ aspirations and well-being. We need to relearn and teach the fundamental values of what it means to be human and humane. Issues like climate change, poverty, arms control, universal basic income, improving healthcare and education for all, provision of justice, revamping our educational systems and student debt, equal opportunities for all, and many other such issues need a rethink at the highest levels to avoid the state of dystopia becoming a reality in the coming decades. There may not be any devil around to blame then. It is also somewhat sad when we admire people like Jeff Bozos and the likes as rock stars (though they all have their mark on the world and are important in terms of their respective contributions), whereas the real rock stars are people like Sir David Attenborough, Greta Thunberg and the scientists that developed the Covid 19 vaccines. The world needs to pay more attention and accord greater respect to teachers, doctors, healthcare workers, and scientists amongst other such professions. All of humanity would do well to focus on two things and two things alone — these should always be kept in mind and used as a barometer for any human undertakings. First and foremost, protection and preservation of the planet Earth and secondly protection and preservation of all life on Earth (and not just humans). Even if we have to slow down our so-called progress, it will do us good in the long term and for our future generations. The world needs both Faith and Science – that is the right kind. Faith in all that is good and humane and trust in science. We need to recognize and remember that for now, planet Earth is the promised land and there are no other heavens to be found yet. I think the great 13th-century poet Rumi summed it well in his following verses: You don’t live on the Earth, you are passing through. The Earth turns to Gold, in the hands of the wise. The writer is a senior international banker with degrees in economics and political science from University of Pennsylvania and Brown University.