Little India: Overseas Indian, NRI, Asian Indian, Indian American

Thank God For Ignorance

If you are reading this article, consider yourself lucky. You are 1 in 5 of the world’s population who know English. Outside a handful of non-English speaking developed countries, that is quite an advantage.

But you don’t just happen to be reading this simply because you know English. You are likely one of 13 people in the world who is college educated. That is double lucky.

But, hey, that isn’t luck. I worked damn hard on my college education. Perhaps you did; I just kind of coasted.

But count yourself lucky because you got the chance. It was available in your geographical corner of the world. Your parents could afford it. That is simply not an option for the overwhelming majority of the world’s population.

Speaking of parents. Count yourself lucky there too. You knew that already? No, not in that way. They are wonderful people no doubt, and they have been even more wonderful to you. Most parents, whatever their station in life, are.

No, I mean lucky in how you won out in what Warren Buffet, one of the world’s richest people, has described as the ovarian lottery just by virtue of where and to whom you were born. In his case as a white male in the United States rather than as a woman in Bangladesh.

More than 95 percent of the people in the world weren’t as lucky. They are condemned to their stations in life no matter how hard they work or creative they might be.

It wasn’t all roses all the way for you either, you say? You were orphaned or your parents struggled. You worked god-damn hard.

Perhaps you did.

But count yourself lucky nonetheless. There are countless others with deeper pain, harder struggles, greater effort who never had a chance, simply because they were in the wrong place. The ovarian lottery privileged, or condemned, them, depending upon the accident of their birth, with the genius and the work ethic too.

We construct mythologies to make sense of the world and our place in it. Divine power, often bludgeoned with force, rationalized theocracies and monarchies for centuries. Democratic capitalism is the all-consuming defensive mythology of our times, alloyed with the instruments of manufacturing, manipulation and control.

Our laws, and social, political and economic systems are all predicated on assumptions and mythologies that reward a few and penalize most others. Education and entrepreneurship are only the newest talismans to justify privilege and inequity. Somehow the facility with financial worksheets in a sparkling, air conditioned, all-glass office is a million times worthier than the work village women in South Asia or Africa are condemned to perform, cleaning open-air latrines, without the benefit of even a fabric mask, for pennies a day.

But rules, and the iniquitous outcomes they foster, are unavoidable for social order and human progress, you say.

Maybe. Let’s allow you that.

But in the game of life into which all of us are wittingly or unwittingly thrust, a few train in better gyms, with better coaches, in better conditions, on better turf, occasionally with better talent and a roomful of pretenders and cheats.

As for the rules, they are just that, rules. Not divine commandments, if you are religious, nor immutable principles of a human-neutral science, if you are not.

Isn’t it more complicated than that? Of course.

Thank god for that complexity. It is what permits, even rewards, us to remain ignorant.

Imagine, if everyone knew, or worse yet, able to play the game.