Monday, July 23, 2018

How many second chances do we get?

At this very moment, within a hundred miles of you, a persistent waterfall is gushing down towards your taps. It isn't particularly keen to satisfy your thirst, but it will do so.
At this very moment, on the outskirts of your polluted city, a vegetable is fattening up by robbing nutrients from the elements. It isn't keen to provide nourishment to you and your loved ones, but it will do so.
At this very moment, somewhere in your vicinity, so close that you can almost smell it, a flower is pushing up against the soil, aspiring for sunshine and colour. It isn't keen on adding beauty to your world, but it will do so.

The cow doesn't give us milk. We take it from her, Nature does not exist for our pleasure or gain, but we derive both from her. We have more in common with nature and less in common with money. So when we choose money over nature, are we siding with our neighbours over our family? Is that the true meaning of the phrase Love Thy Neighbour?

Here are a few shocking facts of today:
1) Food aggregators are more important than food producers. The farmer sells to the wholesaler who sells to the retailer who sells to the chef who sells to the food aggregator (Swiggy, Zomato, what have you). We value the player closest to us and damn the one farthest from us. Guess who we can do without? And even when we do value the roots of the supply chain, we infuse the "organic sustainable locally-grown" food with an aura of awe. This was supposed to be natural, not special.

2) When I searched for "natural beauty" on Google, I got a bevy of ads for skincare products and procedures. I had to revise my search string to "beauty of nature." We have usurped the meaning of "natural."

3) The most successful political leaders of today are those who can point out to "us" who the "other" is. They have successfully divided us. Nature binds us together. From the equator to the poles, from Greenwich Meridian to Greenwich Meridian, we are connected together by an intricate network of winds, mountains, water bodies, deserts, forests and glaciers. Again, just to be clear, this equilibrium isn't keen to make our life on the planet pleasant. It just developed thus and it might continue being so if we don't tip it into the abyss of anarchy.

4) We have given up on any economic framework other than capitalism. You could be as spellbound as a citizen of Communistic China or as spellbound as a citizen of Consumeristic California... you have the illusion of political choice, but you no longer have a fig leaf of economic choice. Greed has been declared the most important human emotion and ambition without an economic dimension is now the biggest sign of lunacy. If you want to become a CEO, you can read books that help you. If you want to propagate a sustainable way of living, they will make a documentary on you.

Today, a news article declared how the Arabian Sea spat back tonnes of garbage onto the shores of Mumbai. Those fond of metaphors see a sign of intelligent nature here. Nature is neither intelligent nor dumb. It is merely beautiful and wholesome. Nature doesn't care whether we live or die. If we choose the path of self-aggrandizement and myopia, we will perish. Nature will live on. It will find a new equilibrium, albeit a less inspiring one. But then, intelligent life may not be around to be inspired.

Before we conquer the stars, we must bow down to the earth. Do we have the humility to do so? Or do we need a few million more second chances to acknowledge the humility of choice?

Sunday, March 11, 2018

5 ways in which capitalism is like addiction

Pic Credit: StethNews

At first glance, capitalism seems to be the opposite of addiction. The capitalist is supposed to be enriching himself whereas the addict is clearly robbing himself of vitality. Yet, the two exhibit startling similarities.
It takes all kinds of people to make the world. Neither the addict nor the capitalist is a monolith. Having acknowledged that, let us try and explore the comparison by taking the typical, pure addict and the typical, pure capitalist.

1) Both claim that their behaviour is crucial for their survival

Let us remember that addiction comes in various flavours - one can be addicted to substances, emotions, relationships and activities. It's perhaps reasonably accurate to state that all of us are addicts in one way or another. And we claim to find raison d'ĂȘtre - meaning, purpose, joy and whatnot via our addictions. Nowhere is this more obvious than in work addiction.
Similarly, the capitalist believes that it is this economic model alone makes existence not just viable but also pleasurable. As an added bonus, the capitalist will point to the animal kingdom and misquote Charles Darwin. Survival of the fittest. Civilization cannot deviate from the natural order of things, s/he would say, oblivious of the irony.

2) Short-term matters more than long-term

An addict jouncing for a fix does not care whether s/he will suffer serious health implications. All that matters is the next shot of dopamine. A modern business enterprise is similarly interested only in the next quarterly results, totally mindless of the impact of rampant consumerism on the planet's ecology.
The capitalist and addict are like Nero fiddling on the roof, like the rats following their distinct Pied Pipers to their doom.

3) In a crises, both behave

When the addiction lands the addict in hospital, fear overpowers desire. The addict will follow the doctor's orders, keep a check on cravings and make a sincere attempt to turn over a new leaf. This healthy attitude can quickly dissipate when the danger has passed and the hazard retreats into the horizon.
Exactly the same thing happens when a mammoth business enterprise that has gorged on dollars finds itself in a financial crises. At that time, the capitalist will willingly stop believing that markets must self-regulate. For a brief period, the enterprise will even listen to the government bailing it out. And once the crisis becomes history, so does the changed behaviour.
Perhaps both the capitalist and the addict know deep in their hearts that their transformation is only for the audience.

4) Both tend to inherit behaviour

Neither money nor addiction is inevitable for the next generation. But there is a fair chance that both will be inherited. A second-generation addict becomes numb to the artificial nature of addiction even before experiencing their first fix. Similarly, the second-generation capitalist has grown up believing that there is only this one healthy way to look at the creation of wealth, never mind how artificial the notion of wealth has become in mainstream society.

5) Both rationalize their behaviour

We've already covered this, but let us get into some specific dope, pun intended. The addict will point to people who have not been killed by their addiction, just as the capitalist will point to victors of the model. Both will stoically ignore fatalities. The difference is that there are fewer victims of second-hand addiction than of second-hand capitalism. Disempowered children of addicts die in fewer numbers than disempowered people who lose their resources and livelihood to the march of capitalism.

I leave you with a question. Does addiction create capitalists? Is our dependence on substances, emotions, relationships and activities creating our dependence on money?
Does addiction subsume the capitalistic model? Or does the consumeristic mindset of capitalism foster addictions?
The only thing we can be certain about is that together, addiction and capitalism create one potent monster.