Of Godmen, Godwomen, and Ordinary Individuals

TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 29 Apr 2019

Dr Ravi P Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service

Our society produces some extraordinary personalities whom the social media — Internet, FB, Twitter, Instagram etc., adores, exhibits their photographs, highlights their achievements and virtually treats them as Godmen and Godwomen–Demigods.

It is not that only the present society generates such people who receive all the headlines and prominence; earlier also we had such important people who were rich, powerful and had the opportunities to shape their society into what they felt resembled their own  ideals of goodness or well-being. Such men however did not get the publicity and prominence that the current personalities get for the obvious reason that there was no social media and the radio and the newspapers did not provide the platforms that current personalities enjoy.

Presidents, Prime Ministers, Dictators and occasionally members of Royalty of some countries enjoyed the pelf and prominence that I have referred to above. However, except for occasional despots who were cruel and unjust to some sections of their own society, the powerful men (hardly any women in such a list) generally worked for the betterment of their own people. One may mention various Presidents of USA, Prime Ministers in several countries — in Europe, Asia and India, monarchs of a few kingdoms who governed their people with a view to improve their conditions in several basic areas — nutrition, shelter, healthcare, employment opportunities and often in the field of education, especially science and technology.

Names of some American Presidents — Eisenhower, Kennedy, Bush senior and Junior, Obama come to mind; in Asia we have the examples of Jawaharlal Nehru, in Japan Y Noda, Shinzo Abe, in China, Mao tse Tung. In Europe several prominent leaders such as Churchill, de Gaulle, George Pompidou , Konrad Adenauer, Angela Merkel, Vladimir Putin of Russia are prominent leaders who have worked not only for their own peoples but have tried to build good relationships between different countries and promoted political harmony and economic relationships.

In addition to these people who worked for a better society, there were others who enjoyed respect and recognition. The names of people such as Gandhi, Josip Broz Tito (of Yugoslavia) , Nelson Mandela, Bishop Desmond Tutu (of South Africa), Gamal Abdul Nasser (of Egypt), Martin Luther King Jr (USA) and many more worked strenuously against discrimination and injustice in their countries and for peace and nonviolence. One need not mention the name of Mahatma Gandhi — we are all familiar with this iconic person for working for Non-violence, Peace, Satyagraha and whose 150th anniversary is being celebrated all over the world this year.

In contrast to these historical and legendary personalities,  we have the present lot of sportspersons, fashion designers, ramp walkers, show stoppers, Hollywood and Bollywood actors who hug limelight and controversy for their activities or double edged statements. They dress with their ties and jackets to show off; or more accurately the women appear in various forms of undress. There is a saying in English — the more the merrier which has been modified in the case of these starlets as ‘the less the trendier’. Then unbelievably there are the Me Too Movements accusing their men colleagues of sexual overtures. One should not blame women themselves — it is the society that makes them act in this manner.

Sportspersons— basketball and golf players in USA, soccer stars in Europe, Badminton players in Japan, cricketers in England, Australia, Pakistan and India, film stars all over the world are always on the social media, making momentous statements on their careers and endorsing for fat sums of money, all sorts of consumer items — from ACs, kitchen gadgets, coffee or protein rich soups and anything that sells. In India the two superstars (should I name them? No) endorse everything in the world and also sometimes talk about useful suggestions of building and using toilets in rural areas. Then others endorse the latest SUVs or bikes or are seen basking in various beautiful and heritage tourist centres and urging everyone to enjoy these erotic destinations.

‘Well what is wrong with this type of endorsement?’ some people ask. ‘After all we come to know of the best products and buy accordingly’. Not much, except that the condition of millions of people in developing countries is so abysmal without adequate food, shelter, education and hope etc. Farmers whose finished products are being sold for good prices, themselves are leading precarious lives and several commit suicides to escape from their indebtedness, misery and poverty.

Another aspect that escapes the MNCs and the stars who appear in their ads is the adverse impact on the environment by their promotion of various consumer items — the Winter Collections, the Summer Collections which urge the rich to keep on buying and throwing off their earlier dresses or shoes which they may have used on a few occasions.

Consumerism promotes degradation of the planet as Gandhi had stressed almost a century ago and results in global warming and climate change. Fortunately some people including the 16 year old Greta Thunberg of Sweden had been protesting outside her government offices in March this year to act against the spreading global warming and climate change. Now she sits in protest outside her school every Friday urging people to help in preventing the environmental catastrophe that is round the corner. Her protests did not go waste as her protests inspired tens of thousands of other young people in many countries including India to strike for a healthy and sustainable planet.

The society being what it is–disparities between the rich elite and the impoverished poor, the new liberal economic system that promotes degradation of our planet, the political and religious conflicts that are resulting in crimes and bombings–it is difficult to act sanely and with compassion and justice towards all forms of life. But let us not feel hopeless and dejected. Let us not just adore, admire the modern forms of Godmen and Godwomen.

Let us remember the examples of our great statesmen and women. Let us feel inspired by the example of the young Swedish student Greta.

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Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University. His new book, A Garland of Ideas—Gandhian, Religious, Educational, Environmental was published recently in Delhi. ravipbhatia@gmail.com


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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 29 Apr 2019.

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