Thursday, November 18, 2010

Apparent Unequal Endowments

Every person, even those with the least scintilla of empathy, will at some point in time or the other contemplate on the brutality of inequality. Inequalities I am talking of are those such as the wide (and still widening) chasm between the rich and the poor, the intelligent and the dull, the powerful and the oppressed, the ruler and the ruled. It has and still continues to weigh heavily on those with a sharp conscience. Keeping aside the humanitarian aspect of it, I am tempted to ask the smugly rich the following question: “Compared to whom, may I ask, is your richness evident/manifest?”

We need someone who is doing a lot worse than us to hold us in better stead. The conception of richness has with it, by necessity of logic, the conception of poverty. Imagine a situation where all of us could afford a Rolex or a Mercedes. The product would lose its sheen – there would be nobody rich or poor. These differences are badly necessary to have our conceptions of the dual entities – rich and poor, intelligent and dud etc.  The apparent duality is the obverse and reverse of the same coin. What one needs to understand is that his/her well being (in a relative sense) is as much the result of his efforts as it is due to the lack of any efforts from the worse-off. The rich owe their riches as much to themselves as they do to the poor. Despite our conventional wisdom that ‘A person is the creator of his/her own destiny’ (the context of which, I believe is to own up to our faults and not lay blame on outside factors), the dual existences of rich-poor, dull-intelligent, winning side - losing side are dependent on each other. The winner doesn’t exist with-out the loser and the latter without the former.  The 10 pointer should also owe his grade to the mediocre performance of others and not have an air of conceit over his intellectual gift. It is these relative existences which hold the unequal social fabric of our society. To have one of the constituents of the 'dual' pair, and not the other is impossible.

What I am trying to say in the above paragraphs is that rich, poor; good, bad etc are not separate and independent entities but mutually co-existent pairs. I regret having to discuss the utility of such an understanding, but in today’s world everything is qualified by its utility, including relationships. It’s a very sorry state of affairs that knowledge, which is the highest end, needs utility for its pursuit. I have seen it during my B.Tech days. My friends and juniors ask for a course where the grading is lenient, when they have an option. The learning that the course offers seems to be the last on their priority list. Still, understanding the mutual requirement of the poor, the rich can castoff their smugness and empathize with the former. The next time you find your friend struggling with a basic concept, stop scoffing and try to help him out.