The Financial Express

The unpaid price of excesses pays

The unpaid price of excesses pays

'Money begets money' is an old proverb that we were taught during our school days to understand business of life. And 'word begets word' is its popular Bengali version (Kothay Kotha Bare), which sounds more philosophical than apparently the money-making mantra. Dictions dictate social polarisation leading to conflict or harmony, damage or remedy, war or peace and so on, depending on what people think of and mean.

Our parents advised us to endure pains to shine in life. That is in the Bangladesh of the last quarter of the 20th century. Not fully defined until then, that kind of success later meant personal material gains, the gains that most other youths tried to make.

In fact, the drive for being successful instigated endless competition and we saw its results in the rise in lifestyle diseases. Protagonists of such success advocated ends-means calculation, subconsciously justifying immoral acts. That has resulted in endemic corruption and hypocrisy in public services.

Feeling that they've paid the price in advance for career success, an extended generation of development practitioners and policymakers have become obsessed with the drive for higher growth, regardless of its costs.

Otherwise, why would the finance minister aim, in the proposed budget meant for offsetting coronavirus effects, an 8.0-plus per cent growth? No matter how unattainable it is, this growth target is dismissive of the intrinsic changes the world is witnessing after the Covid-19 has shattered the growth illusion everywhere.

Innumerable people were persuaded to give mandate or made to sacrifice for limitless economic growth but when it collapsed, it is they who have been the victims in the absence of strong welfare coverage. However, when excesses committed at social level are left for next generations, nobody knows how the price would be paid.

Even America didn't know it. Donald Trump, in his inaugural speech in 2017, made most of his focus on 'flush with cash', 'trillions of dollars', 'wealth', 'energies', 'jobs', 'factories', 'workers', 'city' 'companies', 'products', 'roads, and highways and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways' and, not to mention, 'America First' to make it 'great again'.

The means of achieving Trumpian targets was devoid of public welfare orientation. It was an ideology [!] of white supremacy that his teammates like Steve Bannon pursued. Its impact, it's hard to deny, is the treatment of black people by white police officers. Only loss of life of George Floyd in Minnesota sparked protests defining Trump's America. His tweet 'when the looting start, the shooting starts', removed by Twitter for instigating violence, preceded killing of another black man in Georgia.

This situation was, nonetheless, created not in a day or by Donald Trump alone. Racism was there in the law enforcement as in greater society and there was policy indulgence. Someone who, according to The Washington Post, made 18,000 false or misleading claims in 1,170 days, Trump is not injected into the American system from outside.

Some guilty minds elsewhere morally supporting extrajudicial killing or siphoning off public money, have found the occasion to find consolation from protests across America against police excesses and targeting of journalists there. They just fail to recognise what actually is the beauty of America - democratic pluralism and right to protest.

We are familiar with messages of hostilities spread by powerful quarters to suppress meeker voices. 'What goes around, comes around' also proves to be true, as the pandemic makes the more powerful equally vulnerable to the virus infections.

Still, greed and arrogance dominate the scene, let alone beginning the process of reconciliation for correcting past mistakes and enmities whatsoever. Individuals, too, are focused on retaining personal wellbeing, despite impossibility of such selfish gains as the virus outbreak suggests.

Lest we forget the message of Leo Tolstoy's short story 'How much land does a man need?' Pahom enters a deal to acquire as much land as he can walk around in one day, or else the sale is off. In his desperate attempt to reach by the evening the point from where he started in the morning, he dies. The current crisis redefines human needs.



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