I thought the world had a conscience

Terrorism and its excesses have made us immune to sufferings, even if it’s the little ones who are targeted

Sanjeev Gupta
Published: 15, Sep 2015

Sanjeev Gupta has lived and worked across the emerging markets of Africa, the Middle East and India over the last 24 years. During his career, he has developed extensive experience in the conceptualisation and execution of innovative and customised solutions for successful business models in emerging economies amidst the challenges of transformation and policy changes and the complexities of managing paradigm shifts. He has been actively involved in the Private Equity & Corporate Advisory sector and has established a strong reputation for strategic business development and implementation of hitherto untried models in new and fast changing markets. He was the CEO of South African financial services giant Sanlam Investment Management`s Emerging Markets Business till December 2010. Sanjeev is currently the Managing Partner of Emerging Opportunities Consulting , a firm he set up to focus on working with fast growing, consumer facing, family owned businesses looking for strategic and financial support . He is a Fellow of the Indian Institute of Chartered Accountants, a Member of the Investment Analysts Society of South Africa and holds an AMP from Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, UK. His hobbies include writing on business and macro-economic trends and playing golf. He enjoys presenting papers and is an active public speaker in various forums.

 

A refugee swims towards the shore after a dinghy carrying Syrian and Afghan refugees deflated some 100m away before reaching the Greek island of Lesbos, September 13, 2015. Of the record total of 432,761 refugees and migrants making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean to Europe so far this year, an estimated 309,000 people had arrived by sea in Greece, the International Organization for Migration (IMO) said on Friday. About half of those crossing the Mediterranean are Syrians fleeing civil war, according to the United Nations refugee agency. (Photo: Alkis Konstantinidis / Reuters)
A refugee swims towards the shore after a dinghy carrying Syrian and Afghan refugees deflated some 100m away before reaching the Greek island of Lesbos, September 13, 2015. Of the record total of 432,761 refugees and migrants making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean to Europe so far this year, an estimated 309,000 people had arrived by sea in Greece, the International Organization for Migration (IMO) said on Friday. About half of those crossing the Mediterranean are Syrians fleeing civil war, according to the United Nations refugee agency. (Photo: Alkis Konstantinidis / Reuters)

And I thought the world had a conscience

I don’t believe I have ever seen a thin person drinking diet coke. A blunt perhaps but not entirely pointless observation.

It tells me that people would rather cure than prevent.

We would rather react than proact. And, of course, we would rather hide than confront.

The Syrian refugee crisis has now literally washed ashore the beaches of Europe. Picture of little boys and girls, some drowned and some drowning, held by their sinking parents with sad eyes has pervaded our living rooms but strangely, yet to haunt us as this terrible deluge surely should.

Perhaps, because terrorism and its many excesses has made us immune to little sufferings anymore, albeit it’s the little ones who are suffering as well.

Perhaps, us as a generation, having grown up with the staple diet of seeing global suffering on TV,from the world’s largest unsolved crisis - the Palestinian one to the strife-ridden ravages in Africa - the recent ones are merely par for the course.

So what if the genesis of the Syrian exodus was a botched up handling of Syria by powers that should have known better.

So what if the miserable proxy war between the post cold war, but still lukewarm adversaries, keep finding new victims.

So what if the much-dreaded warning from Mr Obama about the ‘red line` being crossed came and went with no action and no explanation.

Emma Lazarus made the Statue of Liberty memorable with her now inscribed poem on it:

…….her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hands…….

Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!"” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Surely it’s now time for another rallying call to the world`s leaders?

Perhaps to put up a Statue of Reality this time to go with Madame Liberty lest our approach to global problems is seen in posterity as having been stone deaf to the noise around.

A Statue of Inaction, however, apt it may sound for a statue, is not what we should encourage our future generations to build and remember us for.

There is a disease in this world, has been for a while, which somehow has been confused as a virtue

That is the plague of the 5 Ps: Pontification, Procrastination and Postulation , Perpetrated  by the Powerful.

Without exception, the world`s leaders of today represent all these Ps and then wonder why people are Peeved and Pissed off with them?

Steven Covey did say there are seven habits of effective people.

It’s this level of Presumptive attitude that made me hear on CNN about the Bangkok shrine explosions. A UN official said: “The only way to win the war on terror against ‘them` is not to let them win.” An extremely poignant palliative and a panacea for all evils type of solution, Mr UN.

I did not discover the letter P.

But I will understand if someone who is a P above me decides to take the P out of the English dictionary now.

At least we can then move to the Qs, as in a frank Question to start with.

Can anyone tell me when a master plan to address, without borders and without prejudice, the world`s 2 billion poorest of the poor and almost half of them in strife-ridden regions, will be created and executed?

I see words like bottom of the pyramid and income distributions and poverty indexes feature in all major policy dialogues, corporate strategies and election campaigns. I also see the millions without hope but still condemned to the slavery of hope.

With almost 2 billion people living the life of paupers and destitutes globally,  and out of that roughly a billion are perhaps never going to even dare hope for a better life, I suppose it’s an opportunity lost for big business too.

If the governments of the land won’t do it, the corporate honchos must.

What more of an altruistic reason can there be than to bring them into the customer net and sell them your phones and your pampers, and your apps.

A much-forgotten philosopher and statesman whose prophecies and insights needs reiteration in these troubled times is Gandhi.

One of his greatest insights was to understand that violence was linked to poverty and injustice, which are sometimes now referred to as structural violence. He opposed poverty and injustice because to do so was a condition for peace, a pre-condition for peace.

Noble laureate writer Jose Saramago in some ways is a contemporary interpreter of the views of Mahatma Gandhi on poverty. He wanted the world to take a pause, almost stop it for a while, so that humanity can find a better balance between rich and poor.

“We should be able,” he said, “to find the courage to say that the stage of development we have already reached in the west is good enough for us.” “Let us devote all our energies for half a century to helping the millions of people who have been left behind to catch up.”

Both Gandhi and Saramago would have us show concern for those at the bottom of the pile, the homeless, the asylum seekers, the refugees, the deprived.

How can we even begin to meet the challenge of poverty and injustice in the world at large? Stopping the world would be admittedly Utopian but we do need to recognise the relevance of the problem of the gap between rich and poor to a peaceful society. There are a myriad of ways of bridging the gap if there is a coalition of the willing. But that will require coming out of our narrow identities and accepting difference as merely an expression of the larger community called our common world of which we are all citizens. Differences should not lead to indifference.

But if the Greek debt crisis is anything to go by, where even a regional coalition could not agree easily, what chance does a greater coalition requiring an even greater forbearance and fortitude have. Gandhi had said the world has enough resources to meet the needs of everyone, though not to satisfy everyone’s greed

Saramago had echoed: What kind of world is this that can send machines to Mars and does nothing to stop the killing of a human being?

While we resort to all those Ps to absolve  ourselves from answering the burning question of our times, the little Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi can be happy that he is not alive anymore to see all this. Instead he chose to put his face, even in death, inside the sunny beach sand, as if to stare away from the reality that never had given him a real chance.

Some people still live on though, in those crowded boats and the makeshift refugee camps with the only solace being they are away from the bombs and the terror of the extremists.

I suppose they live because they cannot die, not yet anyway.

But the business of commerce and profits needs these half dead to rise and then buy their goods and services.

The future consumer – almost 20 percent of the world`s population and almost 40 percent of the world`s ‘young people should not be allowed to die before they see the hope of spending and spend their way to heaven and in their wake leave some big businesses very happy.

What more motivation do we need in the corporate world to do something about this human crisis and refugee problem, I wonder.

Big business needs to handle this big problem in a big way .

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