New Delhi, Oct 28 : This world could be just one large simulated reality, is a metaphysical idea. But after reading former chief of India's external spy agency Research & Analysis Wing (RAW), Vikram Sood's latest page-turner, 'The Ultimate Goal', one is left with the feeling that the geopolitical world too, is like a matrix where most people live without the awareness of its true nature and reality.
The Ultimate Goal, published by HarperCollins, will shake you out of your naivete in believing that watching television news and movies, reading books, memorising general knowledge and consuming content on the Internet, makes you a fully-informed person.
The book takes you through a geopolitical journey that will lift the veil from your eyes, and confirm the long-held suspicion that modern powerful states make you believe what they want you to believe by manufacturing narratives.
But what it does additionally is that it shows you how the biggest secrets of our geopolitical world are hidden in plain sight using the narratives spun by powerful states of the world.
What is a narrative, though? Sood answers this question at length and eloquently defines it as alteration or tweaking of historical facts and ideas for a political agenda.
His 350-page book then dwells into unmasking the process of narrative-building, its main drivers, tools and vehicles used by the superpowers to shape and influence collective thinking for political outcomes favourable to them, at least since the onset of the US-Soviet Cold War. It is a logical second to his first book 'The Unending Game' which had provided a broad overview of the profession of espionage that aids to secure a country's strategic interests.
In The Ultimate Goal, Sood essentially explains how the West, particularly the US, post-WWII, used ingenious ways and means to peddle a favourable narrative about itself to pursue its 'imperialistic' goals around the world, without facing any revolt or defiance. The vehicles it used to build a suitable narrative are the Church, intelligence agencies, news media, television, cinema and the Internet.
The former spy chief, meticulously decodes behind-the-scenes mechanism of how all such institutions are used to weave a credible story to influence political outcomes. It is the narrative-setting, using all these tools to create corresponding ecosystems which then in a self-fulfilling prophecy sustain similar ideas and arguments. It is the US narrative, in the post-WWII era, that made Islamic theocracies or military dictatorships or Communist totalitarian states appear benign.
The book enables us to understand why and how the Indians failed to draw support of the West, for example in Kashmir even as Indians have been the victims of Pakistan's cross-border terrorism. Well, it was New Delhi's failure to counter the anti-India narrative manufactured by powerful players inimical to India! Sood however warns that non-democratic states cannot build credible and long-lasting narratives because it is harder for them to defend or justify their actions at home and abroad as well.
Had this book been written two decades ago, one would have escaped the trap of believing some of the constructed narratives which were not based in reality at all. In India's case, many of the narratives fabricated by the mainstream media, for example, caused extreme self-doubt, self-loathing, suppression of self-esteem and lack of confidence. Its only after the advent of social media, which empowered the common man, some of the false narratives, faced resistance and questioning.
Sood's Ultimate Goal, therefore, will serve as 'The Truman Show' to India's academia, media, cinema, artists, activists and youth, with an insight on how our world is a large set populated by performers for a show controlled by invisible and powerful directors. From that perspective, it is one of the most important books of our times. It divests the geopolitical reality of all the ornaments and brings us face to face with the crude nature of the geopolitical world where nations, communities and civilisations compete for their respective interests.
In the end, the revelations in the book make you question whether political free will exists if the geopolitical future is predetermined by the states and deep states. But more than that, it leaves you with the question whether the human mind will continue to be a Guinea pig.
The former intelligence chief's writing style is cogent and substantive, with one sub-theme seamlessly and effortlessly connecting with other.
Compared to all the books written by former R&AW chiefs, this stands out because of its in-depth analysis, covering a wide-ranging of topics that elucidate how the world has come to be geopolitically, the way it is. Though it is loaded with information and acuity, Sood's ability to provide all of it with a dollop of intrigue, as if it were a suspense thriller, is exceptional.