Cash of the Jitters

How do we look at the rich and poor people? Or specifically, why are people worried about a one-off incident in Paris while we have not heard a single voice against the daily killing of hundreds of people, including infants, in and around West Asia? This is not to demean the tragedy in the City of Light but there has been an ugly trend.

Three centuries ago, David Hume wrote that we respect people now and then, not for their personal traits and qualities, but simply for their wealth and power. It stands true today as evident from people using an image overlay of the French flag on their Facebook profile photos. Over our photos, none of us would like to use the transparent flags of Somalia or Syria. (Sidenote: Nearly 500,000 have died in Somalia since 1991, according to Necrometrics. In Syria, the ongoing civil war had claimed almost 191,000 lives between March 2011 and April 2014, according to a UN figure).

The first gut feeling is we have different attitude towards rich and poor people. Don’t you think, in our daily lives, it is easier to ignore a poor yet important person than a rich, unimportant person? Media is making the case more lucid if we take the example of the France attack. Many experts in psychology and human behaviour are of the view that even our social class can determine how we are concerned about others’ feelings. It is a law of nature, and verified by studies that the poor are more empathic than the rich though this does not necessarily mean that the poor has the larger heart all the time. One overdramatic dialogue in some films beats the rest: You don’t need a big wallet to help others; you just need a bigger heart!  

In my hometown, people have high regard for rich people—the exact people who in various global research studies are found to be more greedy and selfish, have a high level of narcissism and are more prone to lying and deception. Even if we backbite about them we cannot simply ignore them. The consensus is that disregarding them will be a sort of foolhardiness or cutting our bridge to getting help in our miserable future. Sometimes, it is only fear that influences us because many of these rich people are connected with the government forces as well as the militants. Well, that’s the trendiest stuff in our violence-riddled and fragmented society. Out here, there’s no place for merit or hard work and it is funny how people say education and hard work pave our way to success.

Apparently money cannot buy happiness but it seems it has a natural ability to pay off for pathetic human behaviours and actions. It is daunting if we think about the fact that our leaders are mostly led by a sole insatiable lust for wealth. For long we have never had a true leader, except pick a couple of names here and there in the town. What is even more worrying is the ever-widening gap between the rich and ‘everybody’. The only consolation is that elsewhere a car rider would drive pass people giving a hoot to the water-filled potholes, while the passers-by on pedal get spattered with muddy water—but this is not possible in the leikai and leirak around the town, owing to the clubs and organisations that also don the role of a vigilante group.

Back again, someone rightly said that being poor is expensive. From this condition everybody seems to be pursuing wealth. Wealth is health now, as we would say because nowadays the wealthy old people look much younger their poor counterparts. It also seems for this same motive that we have become partial to reason, while romanticising and glorifying the rich that we would go to any length to support France but give a rat’s ass to Syria.

Consider another scenario in which you are driving a vehicle in a heavy traffic. How would you react when you are overtaken abruptly if (a) that driver is on a public transport vehicle and (b) that driver is riding a luxury car? There has been no empirical study as such yet we can predict that the response will vary according to whom we ask the question. Still, one thing will be common: We might speak harshly to the public transport vehicle driver, perhaps, yell at him while we might not be able raise a voice, leave alone confront the luxury car driver.

In this context, capitalism is like an ad when it comes to persuading the ‘customers’. It will never show the major defect—the concentrations of wealth—again just like showing only the advantage of a product or a service but never its disadvantages in an ad. Capitalism is the embodiment of greed, selfishness, narcissism, lies and deception. It thrives on inequality and profiteering, judging us on the degree of how much we consume ‘products’ and ‘services’. It is this system of reason without logic that produces the kind of difference in how we see people. Paris is a luxury brand independent of its national leftist legacies; while Damascus and Mogadishu reek of used non-commercial products.  

Conclusion      Several reasons can be attributed to the mass response to the Paris attack—it was barbaric; it happened in one of the most well-known cities; the casualties include 20 nationalities and the list goes on. Yet, in the aftermath of the attack, we have been observing a curious set of human natures up close.  

Image: Wikimedia Commons



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