If unity is the binding force of this universe, contrast and contradictions are there to lend the balancing act. On the only planet so far known to have hosted life, the contradictions are at their most outrageous. Or else, how do you explain the rat race among the billionaires for the number one position? Bill Gates held the top spot for many years, before him there was Warren Buffet. Now they have been elbowed out and the competition is between Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk. Bezos was on top for the past few years and now Musk has replaced him. The way the world's richest people are accumulating wealth, it may not be long before one or even a few of them become/s a trillionaire/s. There is a strong possibility of Musk becoming the first trillionaire as early as 2024 with the magic figure of $1,000 billion net worth.
Contrast this with the desperate rush of teeming multitudes for subsidised essentials towards trucks of the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) in the capital of Bangladesh. About 9.2 per cent or 689 million people of the world lived in extreme poverty, meaning they earned less than $1.90 a day before the pandemic. The percentage has certainly marked a steep rise over the past two years. In contrast, the numbers of the rich and superrich have swelled emphatically too.
So here is a world where some people are accumulating fabulous wealth even the kings and emperors of any era in the past could not even think of. At the same time, hunger, malnutrition and miseries stare in the face of a large number of people all across the world. Even the United States of America, home to the largest number of top billionaires, had 34 million poor (10.5 per cent of population) in 2019. However, for the US citizen, the poverty line is set at $35.28 a day or an annual income of $12,880.
Now it is universally accepted that at no point of history did socio-economic advancement reach this pinnacle, thanks to science and technology which have triggered agricultural and industrial production at an unprecedented order. There have been wonderful inventions to make life easy and at the same time to annihilate human civilisation. On this count, in the name of protecting national interests and increasing people's comfort and luxurious lifestyle human need has been taken to the extreme with an artificially created exaggerate level of luxury.
Even then the rich and the superrich have so much money that a tiny fraction of which is not required to lead the luxurious life they do. But then why do they rush after money? Is this a passion or an addiction? Materialistic gains are never satiated no matter if the wealth serves no purpose worth its name. A few of them, however, donate huge amounts for the cause of suffering humanity out of their sense of responsibility for the fellow beings. But is this generosity enough to alleviate the miserable conditions of millions of people leading a sub-human life?
Men like Karl Marx brought about treatises for an alternative socio-politico-economic system of wealth and profit sharing in order to arrest inequality within a bound so that polarised disparities did not upset balance. But it is not easy to check human avarice; and aberrations follow when political power is concentrated in a few hands. Moreover, there are outside forces which tend to continually conspire against the system out of fear lest the radical arrangement appeals to their citizens and becomes a threat to their existence.
Can it be something vital was missing from the socialist system? In democratic system, its proponents have always tried to put man at the centre of all developmental efforts. Ironically, man is conspicuous only by missing from the process. It is the privileged, opportunists, enterprising and otherwise smart who have made the most of the conditions under the system. Consumerism has been promoted beyond all proportions where the backwards and less privileged are either ignored or left in the lurch.
Here is a draconian system that has exploited natural resources either from the surface of the mother Earth or from underground so mindlessly that it has caused grievous harm to the planet. It is exactly at this critical juncture, Rabindranath's philosophy of life and experiment with farmers in Patisar, Shelaidah, Shantiniketan and Sriniketan provide for a viable alternative system.
The poet all through his life maintained that there is an umbilical relationship between man and Nature. At the same time the motto that individual prosperity is meaningless, in fact dangerous, if life does not adds to life. In other words, soulful human connections or relations can give rise to a soaring liberated human spirit. Opportunities for every human being should be created so that the creative energy within has its due share to contribute. No wonder he sent his son to study agriculture in America, set up farmers' cooperative banks and introduced mechanical ploughs for tilling lands in Patisar.
Through tree plantation on a mass scale in Shantineketan and Shriniketan, the poet actually promoted the concept of preserving environment. Unlike the theory of modern development, his was what he asserted though a poem/song, "Biswa sathe joge jethay biharo/ seikhane jog tomar sathe amaro" (in loose translation: where you sojourn in the universe, I get connected to you). Yes, in harmony with Nature man must meet his material needs. No one will be left behind and in an ideal condition of cooperation, all will have the opportunity to make use of the creative energy. Where there is a collective meeting point of human bond and release of creative energy, material constraints can easily be overcome by the resourcefulness of souls. In the context of climate change, no theory and philosophy can be more appropriate.