Sunday, May 18, 2014

You are not special..

Are you from a country that has some sort of currency? 
Now that you are intrigued by my idiotic question, please allow me the liberty of asking another one. If you are filthy rich in one country, lets say that you are a millionaire in US, living in a house that was featured on "Cribs", and you move to country that doesn't recognize your wealth. Do you instantly become poor? The answer is a resounding yes. Then all this proves is that you were rich only because you and other people around you, attached some value to the pieces of paper with numbers scribbled on them. The whole economy functions only because everyone sees some value in those pieces of paper. If I'm able to convince people that my torn sock has some value, then other people will think I'm rich. I'll be actually rich, when I believe that my torn sock is valuable, or if I exchange it for some belief system that I actually believe in (e.g. hard cash) before the reality catches up.

Let's look at social circles. There isn't much disparity between people within a circle, I.e. you wouldn't find people who are a lot poorer or a lot richer than you in your active circle of friends. Money act as differentiator here because it forces a change in priority, e.g. you wouldn't take a trip to Hawaii with friends if you are short on cash, but would definitely go on local hikes because it hardly costs anything.  Gradually friends turn into acquaintances and are sometimes forgotten. Slowly but steadily, you lose touch with people (Note that there are other reasons why people lose touch, but I'm just trying to point out this particular one). If you have lived a relatively fuller life, you'd accept the fact that people move in and out of our lives, just as we move through their's. Without our knowledge, forces of economics drive people closer to each other and rips us apart. All this, because we believe in a common currency!!

Forget money for a second, and think about culture. Think about it as money. What happens when a white catholic from America meets an upper caste Hindu brahmin from India? How does that interaction go? Let's assume for one second that the American has never heard or know anything about India, and the Indian doesn't know anything about America.. what then? Their interaction would completely depend on the place and environment in which they meet. If they meet at the Indian's house, the Indian would probably find the American less modestly dressed, lacking any knowledge of his religion, his traditions, bordering on blasphemy. The American would see the Indian in the same light if the meeting happened in America, he would find the clothes, food, traditions, deities with multiple hands completely weird. Both of them would find each other less cultured. Assuming both of them to be decent humans, the Indian would encourage the American to go to temples and introduce him to scriptures, on the other hand, the American would do the same if he is religious, if not he'd encourage the Indian to watch some opera or Broadway to get some "culture". If either of them disagree, there would be hostilities thrown around. 

Sadly that is how most of the wars start, because of both parties fail to understand the different point of view because it is so radically different. We got around the money problem by having currency exchanges which arbitrarily pits currencies against each other based on supply and demand and not the purchasing power it facilitates in the region where it is prevalent. I.e. if a 1 USD = 60 INR, and a couch costs 1 USD in USA but 30INR in India, who is richer, the guy with 30INR or the guy with 1USD? Still, these currency exchanges allow retention of economic status all over the globe... because everyone believes in some currency and they are more or less inter changeable.

Should we setup a culture exchanges like currency exchanges then ? If you can distinguish between Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, should you be considered a high priest in Navajo? Would you consider Dr BalmuraliKrishna and Puccini similar? Would you see Baptism and Upnayanam in the same light regardless of your religious inclinations?
Of course that would be absurd. Cultural, economical, sociological inequalities are all absurd because they depend on a belief on an arbitrarily defined concept perpetuated by people. These concepts might be bit alien to people who have not interacted a lot with other cultures and have spent their whole life in a cocoon. 

Attacks on our rigidly held belief system tend to anger us. If the belief system is big enough, it might even start a war. A lack of a belief system, however, evokes nihilism, depression and general sociopathic tendencies. This seems to be a catch 22 situation. A belief system has given us distinct evolutionary advantage, even if has been something which defies logic. However, evolution's only concern is the survival of the species, not it's well being. (A recent study shows that chicken taste good to humans because chickens wouldn't have survived in the wild without human help, so humans started rearing tastier breeds of chickens while ignoring the other breeds). It may very well be the case that a fundamentalist faction exterminates all other races (as has been tried multiple times in the past) on earth.. We might end up becoming a paragraph in a grade school book. We might all be doomed to the same fate as Neanderthals when homo sapiens roamed the earth. Of course, the process won't end there. There'll be fractures in the victor's factions, a power struggle between the sub-factions, and eventual destruction of culture and advancement. 

Humanity is stuck in a feedback loop and is shaped by our own intellect, the limits of which, we cannot comprehend. We need a better approach, and we need to shape our own destiny as a race. What matters to you, doesn't matter to anyone else and vice versa. Why shouldn't we accept the disparity in the belief systems without being combative?

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