Seeking Answers to the Diversities and Inequalities in Life

TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 5 Jun 2017

Dr Ravi P Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service

5 Jun 2017 – The world is full of differences or diversities of all types – religious, economic, racial, political, geographic, flora and fauna, professional; individual likes or dislikes, size of people and so on.

Although there are differences of all types — be it among flora or fauna or geographic – from deserts to mountains, in this essay we concentrate on human diversities which lead not only differences of one type or another but also to inequalities.

But are all inequalities detestable and ugly or some of them may be beautiful and desirable?

On a first glance it does appear that inequalities are bad and should be reduced if not eliminated. There are a few billionaires with all the wealth and perks at their disposal and on the other hand millions of people who are poor, deprived, and vulnerable – who do not have enough to eat and lack the basic amenities of life.

Should these differences or inequalities – economic, social or political be avoided or transformed? This issue is sometimes alluded to as egalitarianism and is a topic to be considered and debated by philosophers and religious persons. A tongue and teach remark: even among philosophers, there are many different areas of study and analysis and the various studies and approaches to the broad subject of philosophy add to the beauty and vitality of the subject. So which philosophic discipline is better?

I will try to offer a tentative answer to this complex subject without being too pedantic or rigorous. Why? Because of my own limitation of knowledge and scholarship.

Differences manifest themselves in everyday life and all over the world. Racial differences are visible clearly — the white or European, the black race, the Chinese or Japanese race; India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the mid-eastern races are all different from the above. In India it is not so much the race but caste that is important and leads to all sorts of conflicts and oppression.

Then there is the difference of size of humans – some very tall and some rather dwarfish. It was said that people in Netherlands are the tallest in the world. When I went to that country I really felt small (both physically and emotionally) being just a little over five feet tall.

In terms of taste and inclinations again we see innumerable varieties of people. Some are pedantic who love books and reading. What type of books – detective, historical, religious or scientific etc, one likes to read also vary from person to person.

Some people love music — some sing, others play some instruments. There are countless types of dances – folk, ballet, western ballroom dancing and countless number of Indian dances from Kathak to Bhangra to Kuchipudi dance forms in India. Mayur (peacock) dance is also popular not only in India but also in Thailand. Many countries in South America or Latin America also have various types of dance forms. Even the music instruments vary all over the world — be it piano or harmonium or various type of drums.

Similarly there are innumerable differences in peoples’ tastes, what they like to do or not do. Then there is the question of profession – again countless number of professions to choose from. There are farmers, Army or Navy personnel; people who have small shops or businesses, people who join politics and some of whom become ministers or even presidents in their countries. One can choose to be a scholar or a writer;  a painter or film maker, etc. Can one say that one profession is better than another? It will depend on the context and perspective of people.

Religious faith is another area where there are several religions both small and big. There are also those persons who do not believe in God or those who believe that God does not exist. In fact religion is an area that creates not only differences but also intolerance, lack of harmony and worse, enmity. We see extreme forms of religious violence — from plain distrust, to persecution to killings, to beheadings. Even within a major religious group there may be followers of several sects that are distrustful of each other and commit all forms of violence against one another.

Why should there be so much distrust or enmity towards another person or community of a different religious faith is difficult to discuss in a short essay. But not only religious faith, even different political systems are fertile areas of disagreement, distrust and worse. The democrats and the republicans in USA, the Conservatives or the Labour Party politicians in UK, the Communists and the rightwing parties in India all have serious differences with each other and don’t hesitate to belittle or humiliate each other.

USA is the richest and most powerful nation in the world and behaves with disdain and often with violence towards poor and weak countries. Earlier England with its industrial and naval muscle colonized many countries of the world that were weak economically and politically.  So did Spain and France and Portugal. Rich people often have this attitude of superiority towards the poor and the vulnerable.

This would seem that it is better to be big powerful and rich and not unequal. But considering the question posed earlier: are all inequalities undesirable and need to be transformed or some of them may be beautiful and desirable?

The first example that one can think of are two great men of India: Buddha and Gandhi. Gautam Buddha belonged to a princely family but gave up all of his comforts and sought answers to the questions that plagued the world – poverty, sickness, old age and so on. Sitting below a bodhi tree he received enlightenment and he became Buddha the enlightened one. Today Buddhism has millions of followers.

Similarly, Gandhi gave up his comforts and identity to live among the poor and lived like them, often going without food and wearing just a loincloth. No wonder he was called the Naked Fakir by the British. He started a movement of Satyagraha and peaceful resistance that ultimately helped India and many other countries to free themselves of colonial rule. Eminent statesmen like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Bishop Tutu openly acknowledged being inspired by this man of non violence and truth.

In everyday life one sees the beauty and attraction of small objects – be it a flower or a tiny multicolored butterfly. Looking at a rabbit or a tiny puppy, can one deny the beauty that they possess and attract everyone with their innocence and furry bodies?

It is differences and diversity and often inequalities that make life beautiful and peaceful; they could also lead us to humility and morality. Let us cherish these diversities to live peacefully and harmoniously in this uneven world.

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Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment, an educationist and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University.  ravipbhatia@gmail.com

 

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 5 Jun 2017.

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