New Delhi: Of all the theories of the universe, the one that comes closest to the truth is that the world we inhabit is a lopsided place. Reason and order are not intrinsic to its functioning.
Raj Liberhan, director, India Habitat Centre
In fact, quite the contrary. Real life is stranger than fiction. A Rs.fat chance’ and a Rs.slim chance’ mean the same thing and although Rs.but’ and Rs.butt’ mean different things, they sound practically the same. And life’s best prizes do not go to the most deserving; they go to those who can inherit them.
All these prizes which are coveted by most of us, irrespective of whether they count for anything in the present world or the next, seem already fixed. Good conduct includes a lot of suffering as well and can guarantee a better life in the next world, but that too is all predicated on hope, as there is no one living who has seen the next world. In any case nobody knows for sure, where we go from here. Is there another world, different, better, more interesting or it all ends as Rs.dust thou art and to dust, thou returns’? Henry David Thoreau, hints at the classic finality by saying, ‘in the long run, we are all dead’.
Much of our life is spent in pursuing what you want out of it, and the rest in coming to terms with what we did not get. In fact, coming to terms with what we get is the harder part and that is the principal cause of our discontent. Yes, indeed living with what we get is truly the essence of all life. Ironically, nobody ever worried about what they really want to give to the world and yet those who did were the ones who changed the world.
The number of people who want to change the world is roughly equal to the number of its inhabitants. Everyone wants to do it. Equally true, is that nobody has so far succeeded in doing it. It is always there enticing, challenging, inviting, and fetching, indeed so much, that no one wants to voluntarily relinquish it. Not even those who think it is unkind and harsh to them. Though Voltaire’s “ liberte’, egalite and fraternite “ have roused passions everywhere to counter oppression of the rulers; inequality is a fundamental feature of this world. Men and women are unequal, rich and poor are unequal, well, come to think of it, no two persons are equal. It is the ultimate truth and the ultimate irony.
Liberty is just as illusory. Born free, but that’s about it. Some are captives of their own image, while others find comfort in compliance of norms. The environmental envelope is stilted by an ever echoed demand for conformity, be it in the place of work or in social spaces too.
Interestingly, ‘fraternity’ has evolved and developed with a passion not seen for liberty and ‘egalite’in its contemporary avatar which has emerged as Rs.networking’, the single most important social skill on which many individual glories and organizational commercial conquests have been raised.
Networking is fraternizing with a purpose. Where there is no proximate purpose to be served, fraternal feelings are remote. And so formidable has been the impact of this skill that it is now an essential curriculum for all eager and earnest entrepreneurs and professionals. It is, however, the politicians who must take the credit for elevating it to an art and in our country, it is now they who practise this with élan to make possible the impossible.
In such an uneven global context, my countrymen we are pledged to plough our furrows. In vain do we seek a Rs.level playing field’. Nary a person or an industry or a religion or a caste that does not aspire for one and once we acquire one, we are persuaded by the leaders that equality is a few steps away only.
It’s a different matter that ‘ a few steps away’ translated into real time is about a million years. ‘ Equal pay for equal work ‘ said the communists, ‘equal opportunities for all’ say the socialists, ‘ equal rights for women’ comes the cry from the feminists, ‘equal status for the backwards’, say the forward bloc and so the game goes on.
We need to pay some attention to an oil billionaire, who said that if we divided the wealth of this world equally amongst its inhabitants, in five years time it will be back to the current differential holding as some would have gambled and lost, some would invest and double, some would mismanage and some would gift it away. Perhaps, we have a rationale for global inequality.
In the middle of all such conundrums, the world keeps going around. In all these years, it was Gallileo who got it right. The earth is round. There are so many mirages creating equality as the only desirable aspiration that we forget being unique is better than being equal. Of all the human endeavours, the one that gives him distinction is pursuit of uniqueness and not of equality.
Raj Liberhan is Director of the India Habitat Centre at New Delhi. Send your reactions to firstname.lastname@example.org