“Good and bad luck is but a synonym, in the great majority of instances, for good and bad judgment. The prudent, the considerate, the circumspect, or the industrious, seldom complain of their ill-luck; it is only the grumbler, the idler, and the gambler who protest against the ills of misfortune.” – John Lyman Chatfiled, Day’s Collacon
The growing inequality in developed countries and the rampant inequality already present in developing countries poses a very unique question to us- “Does where you are born or where you live, matter to how you grow up and who you become in life?”
If so, then life essentially becomes a cruel, predetermined, unchangeable game, over which we have no control or influence whatsoever, and there is no use fighting against the odds because, we already are bound by a particular fate.
If not, we have our whole lives ahead of us, undetermined and uncharted, and only we are responsible for our actions, and any deformity inflicted on us by birth is not cause for complain in any way.
Both alternatives are troubling, though to what degree, depends on our individual interpretation.
Some among us are born into well-to-do families. We get to lead a childhood that is free of want and need, we are provided with facilities to cater to our every need. We get quality education and quality health facilities and go to the best schools and colleges and have a comfortable head start in life. The country we are born into may have a strong economy and high potential, with a high Human Development Index and covetous infrastructure.
Others among us are not as fortunate. They may be born with health defects, organ defects or mental disorders. They may be born without limbs, without sight or other deformities. They may be born in extremely poor families or into conflict zones where violence will shape a large part of our lives. They may be born into nations in the midst of a civil war or as refugees or as destitute. There are so many such scenarios.
What we can infer from these various scenarios is that our initial condition is not under our control. We cannot decide on where and how we are to be born. Nature has full power here. What we can decide on is how we can steer our lives from then on.
Take the example of a game of chess. Assume that we begin as usual, with all the players in their original positions, equivalent to their opponents across the board. This is how an official chess game begins. It is also an ideal case – this does not represent life as such. An appreciable analogy will be chess game that has already begun. Consider a chess game where the pawns are placed in a random order and the participants of the game are supposed to begin the game half-way through. Neither of them has any control of the position of the pawns and will have to try their best to win the game even though it is half-done.
Here too the odds are at odds. One player may, by pure chance, find his pawns to be at ideal attacking positions. The other will be at the losing end from the beginning. But if the latter is smart enough, he or she might just be able to pull off the impossible and defeat the opponent even though the opponent had the upper hand initially.
An ideal political State is not one where there is complete economic equality – that would be communism. The ideal political State is where there is complete equality of opportunity. This would be great, but it is not really something you can chose from birth. As Bono once so beautifully crooned, “Where you live should not decide whether you live or whether you die.” So no matter what you situations are, you are always doing better than someone out there who has not been so “lucky”. We all have the power to change our destinies, if only we believe.
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