What do ethics mean in face of hunger? What does right or wrong mean if that act were to feed your hungry children?
Yesterday I was watching this Hindi serial which revolves around the life of a young girl from a poor family who gets sold. The scene where the parents have to make the decision in face of utter poverty was very moving. I felt the clutch of fear in my stomach at the plight of the parents and the girl. The dalal’s dialogue ‘the hunger in the stomach makes all wrong seem right.. as the hunger escalates the boundaries become fuzzier and fuzzier’ somehow was very striking. And I felt, yes, when one is backed up against a wall, or cornered or just plain hungry, everything seems right and everything becomes justifiable – even selling off one’s own daughter.
It set a whole lot of thoughts on issues which I took, until then, with a pinch of salt. Ensconced in my comfortable life with assured food (along with little treats), it was easy for me to talk about ‘right’ action. What did I know about the feelings of insecurity, worry or sense of deprivation that people in insecure conditions feel? What are the kinds of deprivation that people feel which are not visible on the outside? What creates the clutch of fear that makes everything seem right?
My thoughts jumped to the builder of my building who had sold off the public spaces and to the monstrously rich person who bought these public spaces knowing it was illegal. What sense of ‘poverty’ does a rich man feel to keep wanting to accumulate through whatever means? Do they feel a bigger sense of deprivation?
But I am digressing.
Poverty I realized is a state of mind. There is poverty of money (among the poor), poverty of rights (among the dis-empowered), poverty of kindness (among the ill-treated), poverty of ethics, poverty of feeling good, poverty of trust and security and so on. All of us, in some way of the other suffer from some poverty or the other. And no matter what kind of poverty, it brings within us the same feelings of fear. A fear of inability to survive or be able to get through. A fear that seems basic, biological and almost impossible to surmount.
Poverty, I see, goes hand in hand with deprivation. We are poor in the area where we have faced maximum deprivation – whether it be money, food, sex, comforts, love, recognition, sense of pride or belonging, community, etc. Poverty and deprivation generate a hunger. A bottomless pit of a hunger that no amount of inputs can satiate. And it is this hunger for which we can make umpteen compromises. It is this hunger which makes all wrongs right.
Everything in Life and in the world seems to stem from this sense of poverty and hunger. Whether it be Bush or the guy who sold off his daughter.
With this thought, I concluded, that a moral judgment on any action of any person seems impossible, irrelevant and superfluous.