This is not new. This has been happening to different peoples, in different ways, in different places, throughout time, all over the world.
I feel angry when people talk about economically successful people being intelligent. Example: “Arrey, Jeff Besos is rich because he is a smart guy who worked hard to earn his money”. First of all, for many people, being “intelligent” is not enough to become economically successful (neither is working hard). Second, what is this “intelligence”? Of what use is this “intelligence”? To me, this “intelligence”, which is so valued by our society, is fundamentally a set of skills that schools and parents have been taught to value (over other skills) by sheer promise of economic reward. For example, “study hard and practice these skills and you will be successful (economically)”. This kind of “intelligence” includes a certain set of skills that, if cultivated assiduously, is touted to help bring us economic reward. For some people (depending on skin color and economic status), this even works.
I feel like unfettered capitalism has allowed us to use this “intelligence” to search for water on Mars, while actively denying food and water to those who are starving here on our planet. I am very grateful to have the Internet and I’m sure my old cook in India, Indira Akka was very grateful for her mobile phone. I cannot deny the benefits of capitalism. But while capitalism drove the market’s need for “intelligent” people with the right skills, as well as the insane number of niche (and mostly plastic) products available to occupy our increasingly confused minds, we have become blind to its consequences. The rich have kept on getting richer, the poor have kept on becoming poorer and the darling middle class folks are being thinly spread on the slice of bread. Those who can keep up with the rigors of academics and qualify for society’s definition of “intelligence”, are allowed to bask in the glorious wake of the rich (and by bask, I mean work their asses off until they hit a midlife crises and then continue to work their assess off). The fate of those who cannot keep up with academic rigors depends on other factors like the color of their skin and the benevolence of the people they happen to be around.
What if things were just slightly different? What if suddenly, by a wave of a magic wand, the most valued skill, the most prized mark of intelligence was empathy? What if not just our society, but our economy, valued empathy above all other skills? What if all the best scores and ivy league certificates were deemed worthless unless they were accompanied by consistent evidence of empathy? What if making millions of products available to people at one click and lower prices was rejected because it meant inhuman working conditions and emitting 44.4 million metric tons of CO2, which was the ultimate deal breaker?
I’m allowed to dream. And I will. I don’t understand market forces and I know I don’t have the knowledge and expertise to even really understand the situation in detail, let alone find a solution. But I do know we have enough collective intelligence on this planet to figure this out.
As I process my feelings and reactions and those of others in society, I am struck by the sheer diversity of viewpoints. I see people viewing the same scenario through different lenses that color their views uniquely. When one color BEHOLDS another color, we have empathy. And I think empathy is the first step towards harnessing our will power to change.