Dr. Manzur Ejaz
Courtesy: Wichaar, November 11th, 2009
One can detect the difference of behavioural patterns of the rich and powerful in the western and developing world. It is likely that the members (or their spouses) of the highest legislative bodies of the US would be going to stores for grocery shopping and to take care of other chores. Many of them can hardly afford domestic help. Therefore they remain close to the basic realities of their society.
Forty-six of the richest Germans have startled the world by posting an online petition asking their government to raise their taxes to help society out of the economic downturn. Similarly, when President Bush was cutting taxes for the rich Americans Warren Buffet, one of the richest US investors protested and said that he is already paying lower taxes than his secretary. Why do some rich people in western countries, unlike their counterparts in countries like Pakistan, preach higher taxes for themselves?
Most probably the western rich class, or part of it, believes that they are an organic part of society. Probably they feel that if society gets sick, their well being will be jeopardised as well. On the contrary, the rich in countries like Pakistan are used to the impoverishment of the general masses. They do not relate to society as an organic whole and consider themselves a separate category from it. Consequently, when the economic conditions deteriorate and the general public suffers, they remain unconcerned. As a matter of fact they thrive on the impoverishment of the common man.
On the other hand, a large part of the western capitalist class knows that they make money when the consumer is healthy and prosperous and lose when the average person’s pocket is empty. However, the rich in developing countries thrive using state power and not by competing in the market. Therefore one does not hear a lot about economic downturns in Pakistan because the rich find alternative ways to make money.
There are sociological reasons as well. After going through a painful capitalist transition that involved civil ethnic conflicts, two world wars and a religious backlash, western societies have reached a point where they have learnt to respect the individual’s basic human rights. The two world wars destroyed traditional societies’ core values and established a new system that was much more liberal and accommodative. Regions like the subcontinent have not gone through such destruction or the fundamental changes that ensue after such colossal devastation. Therefore they are able to maintain the sociological elements of class and caste even in the new scenario.
One can detect the difference of behavioural patterns of the rich and powerful in the western and developing world. For example, it is much more likely that besides all the layers of the middle class, the members (or their spouses) of the highest legislative bodies of the US would be going to stores for grocery shopping and to take care of other chores. Many of them can hardly afford domestic help. Therefore they remain close to the basic realities of their society.
On the contrary, most of the prosperous middle class or beyond, including the members of the legislative bodies in countries like Pakistan, never go shopping for daily necessities. They have armies of domestic servants who do it for them. As a result, they are never exposed to the miserable conditions that a common citizen goes through in their daily life. They are walled off from the concrete conditions of their society.
On a personal level, even when the western rich classes hire domestic help, if they can afford it, they give a certain respect to the hired hands. Even the president of the US will address the lowest functionary as Mr. or Miss. He or any employer will never negate the basic human rights of the individual. However, in the developing world the subordinates at every step of the economic and social ladder are victims of insulting and rather abusive language.
It is clear that in Pakistan class structures are so strong that every economic group tries to find an exclusive solution to their problems rather than improving the overall conditions of society. The Pakistani rich create educational or health facilities for themselves or seek these services abroad rather than improving the common institutions. The middle class imitates the upper class and does the same to the extent it can stretch its resources.
Sine the rich, prosperous and powerful sections of societies like Pakistan lack civic sense or understanding of society as an organic whole, they do not want to pay any taxes. They have no inkling of improving the general conditions of society that can benefit every individual, including themselves. They narrowly look after their self-interest and are comfortable with their privileged conditions even when the common man’s sufferings multiply.
Probably it will take a big revolution and may be some destructive occurrences to change the basic attitudes in Pakistan. The rich have learnt no lessons from the proliferation of religious extremism, which was generally an outcome of the worsening economic conditions in the country. It simply means that a more devastating course is in the offing.
The writer can be reached at email@example.com