When hu­man­ity is on the brink

Harsh gov­ern­ment poli­cies and the mind­set of peo­ple who fol­low a par­tic­u­lar ideal shows the sorry state of hu­man­ity in our coun­try

Mid Day - - COMMENT -

fter a fas­ci­nat­ing and in­fu­ri­at­ing dis­cus­sion with peo­ple about com­pas­sion ver­sus the ‘greater good’ when it comes to the ef­fects of harsh gov­ern­ment poli­cies on an un­sus­pect­ing and hap­less pub­lic, one was left with a ter­ri­ble im­pres­sion of the hu­man­ity of hu­mans. This con­ver­sa­tion was fol­lowed by an­other on the gen­eral lack of phi­lan­thropy amongst In­di­ans in In­dia and the ef­fect was even more de­press­ing.

It takes an amaz­ing mind to jus­tify death and suf­fer­ing all be­cause of the love of one leader or one po­lit­i­cal ideal. It does not mat­ter whether the leader is Adolf Hitler or Pol Pot or Indira Gandhi or Naren­dra Modi. It is the mind­set of the ‘fol­lower’ that is in ques­tion. If some­one says to you that their sick baby died be­cause on Novem­ber 9, 2016, the hospi­tal re­fused to ac­cept the now il­le­gal cash you had saved for treat­ment, what is a ‘nor­mal’ re­ac­tion? Shock, anger, em­pa­thy, sym­pa­thy, pain? Or do you dis­miss the per­son and say that the baby could have died any­way or that peo­ple die all the time? Or even that a few deaths are nor­mal when some ma­jor de­ci­sion is taken? And that later, all will be well be­cause ev­ery­thing takes time?

How many deaths are per­mis­si­ble for a gov­ern­ment de­ci­sion to be worth­while and not dis­as­trous? Is it only lib­er­als who feel that one death is too many? I find it hard to be­lieve that. Or rather, I hope that most peo­ple feel like this. Of course, I am wrong and I know it. The ar­gu­ment about com­pas­sion had sev­eral peo­ple sidestep­ping the is­sue of suf­fer­ing and segue­ing straight into the need for col­lat­eral dam­age for the ‘greater good’, the fact that there is no ev­i­dence that the peo­ple who died in ATM queues died be­cause they were stand­ing in ATM queues, and so on. Fi­nally, as every such dis­cus­sion does, it ends with per­sonal abuse and those who sup­port de­mon­eti­sa­tion and their po­lit­i­cal ideal ei­ther whin­ing about evil lib­er­als or run­ning to some au­thor­i­tar­ian fig­ure for pro­tec­tion from evil com­pas­sion­ate lib­er­als: Mummy, mummy, aunty, aunty, see, they’re be­ing mean to me.

If no good can come of such dis­cus­sions, it is even fright­en­ing to dis­cuss why In­di­ans on the whole, even if com­pas­sion­ate, can­not open their wal­lets to help those less for­tu­nate than them. Re­search into the is­sue shows that most will hap­pily give to re­li­gious or­gan­i­sa­tions. This is re­gard­less of whether the re­li­gious or­gan­i­sa­tion opens a free hospi­tal or just adds more glit­ter to a gold door. If your sins are cov­ered, why bother about the rest?

As no in­dus­tri­al­ists in In­dia signed Bill Gates’s Giv­ing Pledge, we know we aren’t in any top phil­an­thropic cat­e­gory. Yes, there are some wealthy In­di­ans and cor­po­rates who give back to so­ci­ety, from their per­sonal money too, but that’s a mi­nus­cule hand­ful, given the enor­mity of In­dia’s prob­lems. When it comes to giv­ing, the priv­i­leged love giv­ing away old clothes and books, con­trib­ute to­wards the plant­ing of a few saplings and ed­u­cat­ing the girl child.

My sis­ter used to work with HIV-pos­i­tive peo­ple, to build aware­ness about the dis­ease, but af­ter the Bill & Melinda Gates Foun­da­tion pulled out of AIDS re­lief and aware­ness work in In­dia, In­dian com­pa­nies and peo­ple find it hard to con­trib­ute to any­thing that con­cerns sex. There is this clear moral an­gle to char­ity and com­pas­sion, and per­haps a re­li­gious one as well. It there­fore be­comes easy to quan­tify suf­fer­ing. If you suf­fer be­cause Modi de­mol­ished 86 per cent of In­dian cur­rency, that is your own ter­ri­ble luck. If you are HIV­pos­i­tive be­cause your fa­ther in­fected your mother, well, too bad, life is not fair. Here, have a sapling which I picked up for free from a gov­ern­ment nurs­ery.

Yes?

REP­RE­SEN­TA­TION PIC

There is this clear moral an­gle to char­ity and com­pas­sion, and per­haps a re­li­gious one as well.

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