By Pradeep Mathur
Sir Winston Churchill, Britain’s war-time Prime Minister, once said: A statesman is one who can convert an adversity into an opportunity. Corona is one such adversity which has hit us hard. Can we convert it into an opportunity?
In India Corona and the lockdown ordered to contain spread of its virus has very severely hit the economy and livelihoods. We need hard and strong measure very urgently to overcome the economic crisis. The big question is will our leaders political, social and religious rise above the petty squabbles and blame game in which they have been involved all these years to think of converting the situation created by Corona into an opportunity for public good. Unfortunately the corona created situation has been used by sharks of business world and unscrupulous elements in medical and healthcare sector to make big money. But since we have to live with Corona we must think of it as an opportunity for meaningful social change.
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Everyone seems to agree that even when the corona infection is contained and we are able to cure this deadly disease with some new found vaccine the life will not be as before. There will be a “new normal” for us which means the way we have been living so far will need to be redefined.
And here lies the opportunity to convert the adversity caused by Corona into an opportunity. Can the “new normal” we will have after Corona can be without the mad rat race in which our traditional society has been needlessly pushed by the market forces? Can we return to the simple good and dignified living standards to which we had been used till the globalized economy swept us off our feet? Can we shun vulgar display of wealth and shun conspicuous consumption that has promoted crime, corruption and dishonesty and brought us on the brink of social disorganisation.
To say this is not to suggest that we go back to the era of kerosene lamp. We have to adapt to the new ways of life and make best use of the things the new technology offers. What all we need to understand is that to progress is not to indulge in the minting money by means fair or foul. Similarly to be an important member of society indulging in wasteful expenditure is not required.
Corona has forced us to stay indoors. Now for more than five months or so people of different professional groups and socio-economic status are living without lavish parties, fabulous dinners, ostentatious social gatherings, busy clubs life and almost regular visits to malls. Women of the middle and upper middle class have also got no chance to flaunt their jewels and costly sarees. Since movement has been severely restricted there has hardly been the need to exchange good running cars with the new and costly models.
No doubt social life is important and the lockdown conditions are unnatural. However, we can ask ourselves was all that needless glamour, show off and wasteful expenditure in which we had been indulging before Corona lockdown was really necessary. Have we really felt very miserable by not indulging in wasteful consumption? Did the excessive spending necessarily gave us a high level of happiness and self satisfaction?
Once a journalist urgently sort an interview with JRD Tata. Tata was exceptionally busy and the only time he could give was in the early morning when he was preparing to go to office. As the journalist reached on appointed time he saw Tata giving himself a shave. They talked and as Tata finished his shaving he took the blade out of the razor, washed and dried it and kept it back in the foil for the next shave.
The journalist could not resist asking JRD as to why he the richest man in India could not throw that blade and use a new one for the next shave.
Tata said: Yes, I am a rich man and can afford a new blade for every shave. But why throw it when it is good enough for two more shaves.
I think our neo- rich business class and well-paid professionals must know that to have money does not entitle them to indulge in wasteful consumption. They must also know that the real pleasure in life does not come from earning and spending money, but from something else.
In our country post- liberalization era has put a lot of money in the hands of many people. But it has destroyed values and culture. It has promoted a rat race which has seriously strained our social fabric, and this is a serious problem before our society.
Though dreadful and agonizing if Corona- enforced home stay has made people realise about the futility of a life style driven by thoughtless consumerism and the rat race it promotes , the calamity of Corona might as well serve as a course corrector for our society.
The author, a veteran journalist and a former Professor at IIMC, New Delhi, is editor of Mediamap, a monthly thought journal on current affairs.He is also Chairman of the School for International Media Studies( SIMS).
(Pradeep Mathur is a renowned writer.)