VIPs and Ordinary Mortals
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 29 Jul 2019
The world is divided into much diversity that is based on economic, social, racial, linguistic cultural factors. This leads to divisions of people that I am terming as VIPs (very important persons) and ordinary persons. The former category consists of people who generally have political power, economic wealth, and may include writers, film makers, actors, musicians, even some sportspersons and a few others that may not fit into a neat category.
In contrast, ordinary mortals fall into two categories— the middle class people living reasonably comfortably and the large impoverished people in several south Asian, Latin American and African countries living in abysmal poverty denied basic human needs and victimised, brutalised and occasionally terrorised.
Presidents, kings, queens, corporate czars, writers such as Jean Paul Sartre, or Nobel Prize winner Rabindra Nath Tagore of India, musicians such as the Beatles or Michael Jackson, painters like Michelangelo, Vincent Van Gogh , Pablo Picasso fall into the category of VIPs. They are not only good in their respective fields, but they have a social position that is readily acknowledged. Sometimes they made a mark in more than one field — Tagore was not only a great poet but his paintings were considered original and remarkable.
I need not mention the names of some important kings (of England or Thailand) or political leaders. The names of some prominent political leaders that come to mind are Dwight Eisenhower, Barack Obama, Winston Churchill, George Pompidou of France, Mao Tse Tung, Jawaharlal Nehru, Gamal Nasser of Egypt who are distinguished political personalities not only in their own countries but internationally. One should not forget Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela who have shaped the politics in India and South Africa respectively. This year we are celebrating the 150th anniversary of Gandhi and the centenary of Mandela. It is remarkable that the photos of these two icons are printed on the currencies — Gandhi on the Indian Rupee and Mandela on the South African Rand.
Peter Sagan distinguished himself in the sport of cycling in events such as Tour de France etc. Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus are world renowned golfers. In cricket, a game that is generally played in the ex British colonies of Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan etc apart from England, some players have received laurels and recognition beyond imagination. The Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar not only has he received recognition in the game itself and his name recently added to the Hall of Fame, but he was awarded India’s highest civilian award the Bharat Ratna and has made millions of dollars and Rupees from the game.
A recent news item flashed that 19-year-old football player Matthijs de Ligt has been signed by the Italian club Juventus for the staggering sum of €75 million. Good for the club and the player himself. But what about the millions of players who want to play the game in any format with any club even without any payment?
In today’s digital world, Steve Jobs of Apple computers and Bill Gates of Microsoft have become international celebrities for their outstanding and original contributions. Fortunately they contribute substantially to charity. Some computer corporations such as Goggle, IBM or TCS are also contributing to digital knowledge and wealth in our world.
One should also not forget some leaders who have committed great sins on humanity during WW II — Adolf Hitler and Francisco Franco in the recent past. Hitler was a demagogue who committed atrocious cruelty against Jews in the Holocaust.
I have focused on celebrities whose every action is publicised and who have become household names. When they are seen at some event or emerging from an airport, their photo is flashed on Instagram or FB which get thousands of likes from those who have smart phones. When a celebrity passes away, a large number of other VIPs send messages of condolences along with their supposed achievements in society. Compare this with that of an ordinary person who has been run over on the road, with nobody to take care of the dead person.
As indicated above, some people were born rich and powerful — kings, princes and children of important political personalities or corporate honchos. Others excelled themselves in different areas — be it sports, music, literature or science and have become VIPs; they have made money and earned a name for themselves. Some of them also contribute to the welfare and uplifting of marginalised people in society.
But an ordinary unlettered poor person living in sub human conditions often in rural areas, how does such a person react to the wide gulf between himself and the affluent powerful persons?
He/she doesn’t understand the intricacies of social and economic paradigms that govern the societies they are part of. But they look at the wealthy people with awe and wonder why they and their families are so poor and deprived of basic needs — food, shelter and work opportunities. If at all they question their deprivation, they perhaps justify it by saying that it is their karma, past actions in their earlier lives which result in the horrible conditions that they are part of in this life.
I often see such helplessness and agony among people in Delhi, the Indian Capital and feel terribly sad at the conditions and haggard looks of such people. They may be working on the streets with their children and sleeping there, or several men driving cycle rickshaws on Delhi roads. The deprivation and humiliation they suffer regularly is written on their faces and is apparent from their dress. Out of sympathy, I sometimes give them some money or food but I know that this type of action on my part is grossly insufficient to meet the genuine needs of tens of thousands of people. I am sure such conditions are visible in other poor regions of the world.
I also sometimes wonder at some of my friends why they have not risen to the rank of acknowledged personalities. They have worked honestly and sincerely not only for themselves but also for the society. Is it because of their karma?
Why do the governments allow such inequalities to persist and why the rich continue to ignore helping genuinely poor people? Some people do give charities and otherwise help but their efforts need to be supplemented. Often, many of the rich transfer their ill gotten moneys to banks in foreign shores hoping that they will not be caught in the illegal transfer of their funds. There are a few Indians — jewelers, airline barons and others living in luxury in foreign lands. Even when they are charged by Indian authorities, it takes years before they are brought back to India and face punishment as per relevant laws, for their misdeeds.
But punishing such economic offenders does not help the conditions of the poor brutalised sections of society. We need not only punishment for such offenders but must have conditions for empowering the unfortunate, hopeless, deprived sections of society. We need more justice, harmony and compassion in society for all.
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. email@example.com
Tags: Elites, Inequality
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 29 Jul 2019.
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