Monday, June 13, 2005

Same old debate!

This morning, at the breakfast table, dad and I had the same argument for the umpteenth time. We were discussing Hemant mama's temporary state of literal "joblessness" and dad was advocating that it's irresponsible and very silly to leave a job before taking up a new one. I insisted that it's better to be jobless and look around for more exciting job prospects than be subjected to perpetual mental torture in the form of a job you hate doing!

It's the same pragmatism vs. idealism debate that I've often had with him, and a few times with Rahul and many other people. I can't forget the words of Oscar Wilde when he said, "I don't want to earn a living; I want to live." It applies to each one of us. When we spend 10-12 hours at work and sleep for 8 hours, it leaves us with 4-6 hours to reap the fruits of our working hours in a day. From this perspective, is the "torture" worth it?! Thomas Friedmann very emphatically says that the world is becoming flat and he mocks at the French who are trying hard to retain their 35 hours-work-a-week schedule int he face of a situation where an Indian is willing to put in 35 hours a day. If this is the kind of work culture we are moving towards, is it still unjust to strive for a work profile that gives you a fair amount of satisfaction, if not extreme intellectual stimulation, though I don't see why that can't be our real aim! The term 'middle class mentality' is an oft-used cliche' so I'll use the term 'middle class insecurity' instead. What's in a name?! But, isn't the phenomenon behind this solely responsible for the mad rush in just 2 supposedly "secure" fields, thus starving all the other avenues of growth and employment. It just ends up preventing an individual from evolving into the best he can be, as it, in a way, restricts him and curbs his freedom. The biggest stumbling block for such an evolution is fear, the fear of losing a job, the fear of not having enough money, the fear of not being able to make ends meet. Ofcourse, if our lifestyles were as simple and unpretentious as they can be, this fear wouldn't even arise, but let's leave that point aside for another time. Karl Marx (some survey has put Communist Manifesto and Das Capitol as two of the top 10 most harmful books of all times without people even bothering to read them or remotely understand their essence) had a mighty point when he told the Proletariat to revolt because they, anyways, had nothing to lose but their chains. But, we, the middle class have so much to lose. We "have" families to look after, we "have" job security, we "have" savings! Why are we always seeking to possess everything possible, capture it and be able to say that we own it?! It's also a form of insecurity and fear. Only if we could dare to just be who we are on our own, independent of the tags assigned to us and the things and people we own, we could learn to love ourselves and everyone else truly without the interference of this habit of possessing. And then we'd be able to look at our work objectively, as the end itself andnot as a means to an end.There is an amazing similarity between the ideologies of Karl Marx and Ayn Rand. They both considered achievment in work as a means to self realization. Marx was against a system that places the means of production in the hands of few, so that labour devolves into unsatisfying assembly line work. Rand was against the "ethical" system that tells achievers that they should serve those who don't achieve in order to promote social equality. So, they had divergent theories on how to achieve this goal, but there was a fundamental agreement on the concept of self-realization. An extension of this same concept of self-realization by work is the concept of Nishkama Karma advocated by Lord Krishna in the Bhagwad Gita. It stresses on the need for performing actions in order to fulfill one's duty without deliberating too much about the fruits of those actions, which should really be insignificant.

But, then again, I wake up to the harsh reality that the world does not idealize these concepts anymore and all that really matters is gold, sprinkled here and there with the desire for power. Dr. Ananth said that idealism is the only thing worth living for. Some people realize it sooner or later in their lifetime. Some others are content with the constant running-after-success. The remaining majority are choking with discontent, but will never realize it or try to venture out of their comfort zones. That is life, and the debate goes on.

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