Economic inequality and civilisation
Nilratan Halder | Published:
February 11, 2016 22:24:27
October 21, 2017 11:12:31
There are reasons to feel elated over the higher trajectory of growth and the consequent increase in per capita income in the country. Economic performance of this once very poor country, often looked down upon by arrogant politicians in the West, has of late demanded esteem from economists and policy formulators the world over. It has successfully shrugged off its tag of a nation wallowing in poverty, frequently brought to its knees by natural calamities like floods, cyclones, storms and the likes with people suffering from hunger, lack of pure water and sanitation.
Sure enough, the nation has come a long way off from the wretched condition that marked its status for more than a decade following its independence. Had the country not been subjected to the many coups and counter-coups and decades of military rule, perhaps its socio-economic history would have been different. Its violent political history may have adversely affected the socio-economic journey to a large extent or the overall result could be even more spectacular.
Amid the clamour of economic progress, something vital has gone missing. It is the narrowing down of inequality and establishing socio-economic justice for all citizens. Instead, wealth is getting concentrated in a few hands of the more privileged than others. At the bottom rung of society, endemic poverty and deprivation are getting acuter. This national picture, however, has only followed the larger frame of the world's wealth distribution.
On the reckoning of the Oxfam, a charity, only 62 super rich do own as much wealth as does half of the world's population roughly estimated at 3.5 billion. More worrying is the fact that the rate of increased wealth accumulation in fewer hands is going on unabated. In 2010, 388 super rich owned as much as the planet's poorest half. According to the calculation, only one per cent population possesses as much as the rest 99 per cent does.
This issue has been viewed mostly from a materialistic point of view. A few economists have tried to say that the market economy has some weakness that should be addressed in order to correct the system. Few have even tried to paint it as a malaise of the materialistic society where the planet Earth is being overexploited to meet the avarice, comfort and luxury of the few at the cost of the minimum decent living for the multitudes.
Can it be a crisis of civilisation? A crisis that owes to disproportionate consumerism! There is no way to dismiss the argument that human beings are doing injustice to themselves. Increased accumulation of wealth ignores the sufferings or deprivation of others not privileged or equipped enough to claim their share of Nature. It is a fact that this planet has limited resources but still those are enough to sustain the present level of population. The problem is that some are never satiated with what they have and in the process disrupt the order and balance of Nature forgetful of the consequences.
Global warming is thus linked to this consumerism where excessive waste and throw-away culture reigns supreme. Barring a few of the new generation billionaires, the majority indulge in super luxury too and in order to make provision for such fabulous facilities, the Earth has to sacrifice beyond what it can afford. Privilege and luxury are closely linked and both have been taken to their extreme by the rich. It surely is a diseased mentality to keep the maximum number of people starved only to maximise one's dominance and comfort. Colonial powers once did it in a flagrant manner, today's multinationals and the super rich do the same in more subtle ways.
In the process, conscience and spiritual quest in man become a casualty. What is strange is that few feel perturbed about the degradation of the species as a whole -some by way of ignoring their inner voice and others through dehumanisation. To say this civilisation is imperfect is an understatement. When there is enough for everyone, a few simply pillage the lion's share at the deprivation of the majority.
Clearly, if the civilisation has to claim its sustainability, it must get over this narrowness and embrace all in generosity. The approach has to be to ensure collective weal. Climate change is a clear indication that the Earth will no longer tolerate excessive exploitation of its resources in order to provide for luxury of the few. What if the 7.5 billion people also demanded to enjoy luxury and comfort of the same order as their more privileged kinds!
Rational distribution of wealth and scaling down of comfort for the super rich can perhaps enhance the present civilisation's longevity. Or else, it is surely heading for annihilation before time. A violent climate change has the potential to wipe out the population from the surface of the Earth. The warning has been sounded through abnormal weather in many parts of the world and natural calamities unforeseen before. The Paris climate deal has recognised this but not more than in a tacit manner. More needs to be done. In this task, the world's super rich should come forward in order to part with their share of wealth. They may as well renounce the excessively luxurious way of living. That will leave them in good stead and the planet too will feel relieved that it will have time to recuperate.