When looked at in the clear light of day it is obvious that the billions of people struggling to survive on this overexploited globe are held down forcibly by a few thousand powerful ‘elite’ — waving slogans like ‘hearts and minds’ whenever it suits their nefarious purpose.
Belonging to the 99.9% of people viewed as being basically powerless but in whom, in actuality, all power ultimately resides, I resentfully purloin the term ‘hearts and minds’ as it is the most appropriate one I can think of right now. I hear dissenting voices already: what power, they ask, can possibly be held by the poverty-stricken, largely uneducated millions of poor who do not even have a roof over their heads, let alone regular access to food or, in far too many cases, potable water? In answering this I no doubt lay my neck on the guillotine of arrogant supposition but, I will say: scoff all you like, the power of poverty is something which, once realised and released, has the potential to kick the world into an altogether different orbit.
Holding power over the relatively small number of people comprising the ‘educated’ of the planet actually means very little, if anything at all. Such transient power, being nothing more than artfully applied icing, used to disguise the cracks in an increasingly crumbly cake. Transient powers habitually wage war as they strive for permanency in this world. These wars — primarily waged against those considered to be exploitable and expendable — may wear the standard uniform of blatant aggression, have imperialistic intentions or be quietly fought on the economic front. But the inevitability of the outcome remains the same — the rich get richer and the poor pay the price in blood, sweat and tears.
To illustrate this point I will quote a text message which is currently doing the rounds: A rich man took his son to a village to show him what poverty is. After the trip he asked his son about poverty. The son replied: “We have one dog, they have many. We have a small pool, they have a long river. We have light, they have the stars. We have a small piece of land, they have large fields. We buy food, they grow their own and for others too.” The man was speechless. Then the boy said: “Thanks Dad, for showing me how poor we are.”
The elite, irrespective of colour, caste or creed, have come to depend on a certain standard of life — one which is fast becoming unsustainable as human greed leaps, lemming-like, over an impossibly monstrous cliff. This ‘modern’ lifestyle, fuelled by oil and its derivatives, is heavily dependent on technology and on the power to acquire things of no lasting value. It is characteristic of disorganised rats huddled in airless cages of concrete construction, from which someone higher up the ladder is extorting tremendous profit. Misery rules, although few sufferers, brainwashed as they are, will admit that there is anything amiss and even fewer realise that the causative factor is greed.
Some will venture out into the realms inhabited by those they perceive as being too poor to help themselves out of the quagmire they are seen to be in: a quagmire in which often, though not always, honest to goodness laughter and pure joy is far more visible than in the abodes of their would be benefactors whose lifestyles rarely allow for such basic luxuries as these. No, I am not idealising poverty….merely pointing out that poverty of worldly goods does not equate with the poverty of an educated mind. I myself have been what you would classify as ‘poverty-stricken’ to the point of homelessness in the UK many years ago. I lived for some time in a broken down, falling apart car and, whilst I did envy some campers I saw with a magnificent tent, I did not envy the rich with their ‘luxuries’. Life on the ‘down-side’ has far more advantages than most educated people can conceive of — it naturally has its drawbacks too, the biggest of which are authoritarian, societal and governmental interference. Life in a ‘free’ world of one’s own is not tolerated by those without any real understanding of what it is.
Just this morning, for example, I went to Murree as is my wont every week or two. As I came down the steep steps of the GPO, I was spotted by some Afghan nomad children whose tents I visit when they are here for the summer. The children — at this juncture just three little girls and two slightly older boys — were all smiles and happiness as they linked hands and automatically reached for mine and I, wanting to entertain them, spontaneously broke in to a run down the fairly quiet Mall. As we ran down the middle of the road, more and more children added on until there were 20 or so of them laughing out loud with pure, unadulterated glee and all of us experienced, holding hands as we were, an electrical jolt of exhilarating freedom.
The few people around stared in horror, and one shopkeeper had the audacity to clout one of the older nomad boys around the ear and instruct them all to go back to their encampment before there was “any more trouble”. I explained the situation to him and informed him that the children were with me. His response was noteworthy: “Vermin like these aren’t with anyone. They are just dirty junglies who need locking up along with their parents…if they have any.” His objection was that nomads move from place to place, don’t believe in boundaries or borders, do not pay taxes, do not contribute to the economy and, above all, have a freedom he cannot relate to. His solution being that they should be forced to live like other people, the children put in school and taught to earn a living so that, one presumes, they will have money to spend in shops like his so that he, in turn, can maintain his blindness to a person’s inalienable right to be free.
Nomadic people, along with others such as those residing in remote mountain and rural areas are basically peaceful, self-fulfilled and happy people living in harmony with and respectful of the land. They live ‘outside the box’ and ‘off the page’ and it is they, not the exploitative, warmongering elite with their greed and economic/financial needs, who have the inherent power to survive whatever traumas the world is forced to endure. And, I do assure you, their time will come as, after all, it is written that ‘the meek shall inherit the earth’.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, September 4th, 2011.