How your good deed goes bad
No good deed goes unpunished, they say. I am going to manipulate the sentence, contextualising to the current scheme of things and state. ‘No good deed goes without a punishment.’ Most of you have done a good deed today, or will proceed to do so through the course of the day.
So what would you categorise as a good deed? Helping a blind person cross the street or tossing a few pennies to the beggar, perhaps? What do you get out these good deeds? Do you get a high, do you get off or do you fill yourself with smug satisfaction? Where does the pleasure come from? From which vantage point is it perceived? Do you feel that you shouldering the responsibility of a blind person’s safety, or the conciliatory smile you give away along with your change to the beggar, makes their day, lifts them up from the dungeon which is their existence and gives them a view of the heavenly vista that is your humanity via your good deed? If not, why do you do it? You may say that it is human nature, everybody does it, or atleast thinks about doing it, its moral conditioning yada yada...you may also go ahead and say that your greatness does not lie in your ability or choice to help a person in need, that you are not great at all, that you are just another human being, doing your human thing. It is a question of choice and ability to do the human thing.
So tell me then, what happens when you look for bottled mineral water? You exercise your choice and ability to hydrate yourself with a product of an industry which is running our rivers and the streams dry. The rivers and the streams the poor depend on as their only direct source of water, which are free source and pawned off to corporates with the help of legality which borders on tyranny and breeds oppression. So what would you categorise as a good deed? Is it a good deed when you look for the next plush hangout and shopping experience, aka the Great Indian Shopping Mall, all 50,000 square feet rolled up in granite and air conditioning, which was built on land which used to be somebody’s home, the poor mite who was evicted for reasons which feed on your ability and choice? Do you feel good walking the hallowed corridors, parting with half your paycheck on a watch, cool as a cucumber while the world outside roasts in the emission from the giant air conditioners which help you stay cool as a cucumber? Now tell me something, do you feel satisfied brandishing the watch you spent half your paycheck on, or do you not; if yes, is the satisfaction greater than the one you feel when you gift your conciliation and change to the beggar?
Why do you support such an inhuman Sparta? When did you start thinking that drinking bottled water will guarantee your health? Does it guarantee your health? Were their Bisleris and Aquafinas roaming the market fifteen years ago? Ten? Did you not live then? Was your health worse off? When did start feeling that you need to live in a refrigerator?
Cover yourself up in blankets in the middle of a hot Indian summer because the temperature in your bedroom has been artificially lowered to a cold 18 degrees? When did family picnics in the public parks get replaced with afternoon hangout at the shopping mall? The shopping mall for God’s sake, an embodiment of a trash culture that has its origins in 18th century trash bourgeois Europe? Or did you think it all started with the Mall of America, another embodiment of the bourgeois fancy, trying to catch up with the ‘upper crest,’ who looted and murdered to make their money? You see your choice and ability to choose comes for a price. The very fact that you feel empowered to ‘help’ others ‘less fortunate’ is the bane of your human existence.
The very fact that a blind person would require your help to cross the street is a product of marginalisation, where cities do not plan their street crossings to accommodate the needs of the disabled, because you were demanding for the ped xing and your voice was loud enough for your own safety, not the disabled persons’. The very fact that the beggar begs everyday for a meal (proverbially) is a product of incongruities in our path of progress. If all wo/men are born equal and free, why do you get to drop enough money for a small family’s yearly ration on a watch and why does that small family stay small and low on the totem pole of socio-economics?
I don’t need to tell you all this. You are smart, educated and conscious. Your tinted glasses fell off when you saw the picture of the woman in Kalahandi selling off her only piece of clothing for a fistful of rice. The problem is, the tinted glasses were back on again, the next day you were hot and thirsty and you chose to buy a bottle of mineral water to splash on your neck and quench your thirst. You are human, its a human thing to do, splash your neck with cold water and quench your thirst in the Indian summer heat, just because you are able to do so while the world outside boils in the heat from the exhaust of your car. No good deed goes without punishment you see. The moment you do a good deed, you also punish the recipient of dole, that is your good deed. (IPA)
The author is a PhD scholar at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.