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Folly Of Human Conceits

Folly Of Human Conceits

“An old mother was killed by her son due to property dispute”, “Fight over a piece of land leads to a murder of a man by his own brother”, “Three sons and one daughter killed their aged parents to get their ancestral properties”, “A landlord illegally took away the land of the SC/ST people”, “Two States fight for the river water”, “The Corporate Companies take away all the natural resources to build their kingdom”, “The developed countries continue to swindle the wealth of the developing countries”, “Growing ecological and environmental degradation are a great threat to the planet earth” – These are some of the news headlines that we read and hear frequently. The human history has seen many Wars and Crusades for capturing land, wealth and properties. The below anecdote will enlighten us about the life on Earth.

A NASA mission was leaving the Solar System when, at the request of Carl Sagan, it was commanded by NASA to turn its camera around and take one last photo of the Earth across a great expanse of space. Sagan’s words spoken and written almost 25 years ago are still relevant today. His brilliant words will bring us to our real senses.

“That’s here, that’s home, that’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being whoever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, and hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam. The Earth is a very small stage in a vast, cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those Generals and Emperors so that in glory and triumph they can become momentary Masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds!”

“Our posturing, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. The Earth is the only world known so far to harbour life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we have ever known.” 

The human society does not seem to have realised the folly of human conceits. Hence today’s world remains deeply unfair. The life and prospects faced by a newborn in a poor country or in a poor household are radically different from those of wealthier children. In all societies, long-standing forms of inequality persist while gaps are opening in new aspects of life. Global challenges call for deep introspection by the people of the nations that have been most privileged to benefit from scientific and economic progress and for re-evaluation of the costs of such progress for those less fortunate. The economic gaps have continued to grow as the very richest amass unprecedented levels of wealth. In this regard, we should consider how progress is linked to exploitation of people and nature and how it contributes to the widening national and global disparities (in health, wealth, and human rights) that now jeopardize human health and survival.

In a complex global economy the space for inclusive policies is squeezed at all political levels. Local communities, social movements, even nation states often experience that decisive changes can no longer be adopted at their level of influence. The policy decisions of the last decades have created structural advantages for global companies and global capital that are hollowing out democratic institutions and seem to leave policy makers, companies and entire nations with no other choice than to improve constantly the terms and conditions for capital at the expenses of ordinary people. This results in a widening wealth gap and an unprecedented accumulation of gigantic fortunes at the very top of our societies that is incompatible with the idea of inclusive democratic communities and states.

Such threats to billions of marginalized people can be addressed only through a long-term perspective acknowledging that the self interest of wealthy and powerful nations will be optimized through the pursuit of policies that foster all human well-being. There is growing consensus that economic growth alone is not enough to reduce poverty if it is not inclusive and if it does not involve the three dimensions of sustainable development– i.e. economic, social and environmental. The Sustainable Development Goal-10 focuses on “Reduce inequality within and among countries.”

The Bhagavad Gita tells us:

“What have you lost that you cry for?

What did you bring that you have lost?

What did you create that was destroyed?

What you have taken has been from here.

What you gave has been given here.

What belongs to you today belonged to someone yesterday and will belong to someone else tomorrow.”

A traveller was passing through a village in search of accumulating more wealth. At the outskirt of the village a Sadhu lived in a small hut. The traveller got into the hut to meet the Sadhu. He found the Sadhu wearing a towel. Another wet towel was hanging on the rope. To his surprise he found only a mud plate and a mud cup and nothing else was seen in the hut. He learnt from Sadhu that he was living there for the past 70 years happily and peacefully. The traveller asked Sadhu, “Why did you not acquire properties?” The Sadhu replied, “Well, I am a traveller and this is my temporary abode”. The traveller felt guilty as he owned plenty of wealth which he never shared with anyone and there was no end for his greed. As a result he never enjoyed peace and happiness. Every human being comes into this world empty-handed and will go from this world empty-handed. This is the TRUTH. If so, why should we lead a greedy life consuming and accumulating as much wealth as possible at the cost of the marginalised communities or depriving someone else? ‘Need’ can be fulfilled but ‘Greed’ can never be fulfilled. It is high time for us to realise that the Earth is only our temporary abode. Let us get rid of the conceits. Learn to respect everyone’s right to enjoy the resources of the Earth, the tiny pale blue dot in the universe.

(Published on 18th November 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 47)