Billions: Where does that leave the masses?

Far from us to hope for any divinity to prevail in the country. But at least some compassionate understanding of the woes of compatriots could be a beginning towards providing them hope

By Dr R Neerunjun Gopee

We had naively imagined that just as Nature, meaning the environment that nourishes and sustains us, had visibly become cleaner and purer during the period of lockdown because of the Covid-19 pandemic, that state of affairs would continue as the new normal once the restrictions were lifted.

Best disinfectant for corruption: Transparency — Cartoon credit –

How foolish we were to entertain such an illusion. Fact is, we didn’t reckon with human nature: modern man, the creature that is the product of the Industrial Revolution, saw himself as being apart from Nature. He felt entitled to exert dominion over Her, and exploit Her to the maximum for his needs and his pleasure. Very soon needs morphed into greed – and then there was no limit to the extent that man would go into such exploitation, including exploiting and manipulating other human beings, situations and institutions to satiate his cravings which grew and grew. Which are, in fact, limitless.

Ever since the lockdown was lifted here daily the news has been about suspected cases of corruption and scandals that are to be reckoned in the billions. This seems to be our new normal, and instead of the sanitization – cleaning up — that we had looked forward to, what we are being served are dirty dishes which get murkier with every new revelation. And as the details are spelt out, the presumed or alleged players involved do not even deign to react by so much as feigning the batting of an eyelid.

Every time a corruption scandal erupts, we tell ourselves that we have reached rock bottom and cannot get any lower – and then comes another one that drags us down further. This downward spiral is, it would seem, endless, and the dark pit it leads into fathomless.

How else, pray, can we explain the blacklisting by the European Union or the reported refusal of the African Development Bank to share its report on the so-called St Louis Gate scandal with ICAC?

It is well known that the country is already heavily indebted, that the prospects for economic growth are dim given that a global recession is in the making, and that the spectre of losing jobs is facing thousands of our workers and cadres. In such a bleak context, the expectation and hope is that the authorities will put in all their energies in leading by example to begin with, and to demonstrate concretely that there is a dedicated and sincere commitment towards finding a clear way out of the impasse.

All efforts in this direction, if any, are drowned under the tsunami of the billions that are alleged to be elsewhere rather than being where they ought to be: in the national treasury, under rigorous oversight and meant for rising the tide that will lift both the yachts and the boats. Alas, the nays – the boat people – are destined to sink, for the tide is unlikely to rise enough to keep everybody afloat.

Many households must be spending sleepless nights in stressing about the job situation, car and house loans that have to be reimbursed, children’s education to be catered for, over and above meeting the routine expenses for feeding the family and paying utility bills. One wonders how many of our decision makers would be losing any sleep at all figuring out how to discharge the responsibility they have assumed of ensuring the livelihood of the masses and fulfil the loud promises made when the latter’s votes were being sought.

It is commonly believed that whenever someone is going astray, s/he will be pulled back by the conscience – that little inner voice that is the voice of sanity and reason. It is also believed that everybody possesses such a conscience. Unfortunately, I have not found this to be the case. There is the perception that many are those who do not have a conscience, and that they couldn’t care less for the suffering of others. This is more pronounced when they find themselves in a position of power from where they can dictate – whichever the political dispensation they find themselves in.

This is the phase through which the country is passing, with the people at their mercy. Because they would be busy doing things more for themselves than for the people, as they had pledged they would do.

In the Bhagavad Gita, we learn that – That mind which grabs, shrinks. The other mind that gives, grows in plenitude. Life at the base level thrives by grabbing, life at the divine level fulfils itself by giving. Man’s height of glory is in the contribution that he makes and not in the wealth that he amasses.

Far from us to hope for any divinity to prevail in the country. But at least some compassionate understanding of the woes of compatriots could be a beginning towards providing them hope and much needed comfort and support. Sadly, in light of the events that are unfolding, one cannot but conclude that the priority is elsewhere and that amassing wealth has become enshrined as a directive principle. The choice has been made for minds that shrink, not minds that expand in mutual plenitude.

* Published in print edition on 26 June 2020

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