“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven..” — John Milton, Paradise Lost
There is no more a poignant time than today to think about practical solutions to an ever widening abyss called inequality. If history is a grim reminder, the Russian, the French and many other revolutions were aimed at striking a deathly blow to inequality. Yet we stand, at the beginning of the twenty first century, faced with a similar situation. The only question is: what direction are we headed towards?
Complete anarchy is knocking at the gates. Technological unemployment, poverty, illiteracy and global economic slowdown are tearing at the seams of civilized society.
It is very hard to imagine the psychology of miscreants. What compels people to pick up arms? One theory is the lack of two square meals a day. The absence of nutrition can drive the mind to rationalize the most heinous of crimes. There are broadly three types of economic inequality i.e. inequality of income, wealth and consumption. There will always be some level of inequality on the basis of pure merit and hard work. However, concentration of wealth can have very ugly social dimensions. There is a lot of evidence on news channels today.
There has been enough discussion on the causes of inequality. What is needed is concerted planning followed by execution to reduce the gap. A few possible solutions that can be thought of include:
- A change in mindset: There was a time when the news had very limited direct impact on our lives. However, with globalization, that trend is rapidly changing. There is a need to rise above the traditional way of thinking about problems and start thinking of concerted efforts to reduce inequality. An injustice to any fellow human can have a very immediate and direct impact on another unrelated human being,
- Public Private Partnership: On every front, a very healthy public private partnership is vital to ensure success. There can be no laws to bind the hands of private enterprise to serve the society. In fact, there should be economic incentives for private enterprises to reduce inequality. This requires the conceptualization of central and state level schemes that motivate entrepreneurs and private enterprises to develop the truly under-developed areas including providing education i.e. a kind of social dividend. A lot has been done on this front. However, a lot needs to be done. A hybrid corporation that marries the best of public and private enterprise needs to be conceived. Similar to market indices(eg. DJIA, NASDAQ, Nikkei or the BSE Sensex), there could be an index that measures the direction of corporate social responsibility as a barometer of our social orientation. Some of these solutions are hard to implement but what I am encouraging is a healthy debate.
- Education 2.0: There is a need for a complete rethink of education systems worldwide. Educational institutions need to be profit focused to provide a superior educational experience and to provide a truly adaptive, individual focused education. The quality of teachers is equally important in driving the engines of a strong education system. So, the question is: how do you provide quality education that is affordable to the masses? Education should therefore be focused on teaching children how to learn and adapt. Technology is rendering so much of employment obsolete that education should be focused on life skills. Again, there is a need for public private partnership to design a curriculum that teaches relevant skills at an affordable price.
There has been enough debate on the causes of inequality. This article is intended to spur thinking about possible solutions. As long as the heart of anarchy i.e. inequality keeps beating, we cannot rest.