Friday, December 18, 2015

Flying high ... what about those down below?

We engaged in meaningless chatter which is what family gatherings are essentially about.  The conversation threaded its way to travel and flying.  "So, here's a question for all of you" the professor in me kicked in.  Why not make the family get together also a class discussion, eh!  Hey, they should be thankful that I did not crank up a PowerPoint presentation ;)

"There are more than seven billion people on this planet, right?  What percentage of the people do you think have ever flown?" I asked them.

I am sure the manner in which I asked loaded up the dice.  They figured it had to be way low.  The responses were as low as half-a-percent.  

"Only five percent of the population has been up in a plane" I told them, recalling the data from a post that was less than a month ago.  (And you thought I blog and then forget everything, eh! tsk, tsk, tsk ...)  "In fact, even in the US, a fifth has never been in a plane" I added.

The group seemed to appreciate this.  Damn, I should teach or something.  Oh, wait, that is my day job!

"Given the multiple trips each of us here has made, it means that we all are not only the elite in India, but among the elite on this entire planet.  By this measure alone, we have nothing to complain about.  We ought to be thankful" I continued.

But, complain we all do.

"It seems like the gap between the rich and the poor is rapidly increasing in India" father chipped in.  The professor was happy that the class discussion was being productive.  Students in the non-traditional settings are way more excited about such things than are the traditional students going to college straight out of high school.  The more I teach, the more I seem convinced that college for the vast majority of high school graduates is the wrong choice at the wrong time.  Instead, they need to do something in the real world--learn at the school of hard knocks, as my neighbor often remarks--and should then decide whether they want to attend college.

"Yes, that's what the data also shows" I replied.  "Think about it, do you think that the maid has even been inside a two-tier air-conditioned coach in the trains?"

"I doubt that she has even been in a reserved compartment" replied my sister.

It is so incredibly easy to understand how lucky we are; yet, we conveniently forget that there are hundreds of millions who are relatively way more materially deprived than we are.  We are so quick to resort to "woe is me!"

In an opinion piece on India's wealth inequality, Professor  Asit K. Biswas and Kris Hartley, who is a doctoral candidate, conclude:
India should examine its collective soul to ask whether an economy by and for the obscenely wealthy is just. The inability to establish a political consensus on the extent of redistribution is a convenient excuse for ideological purists to abandon redistributive policies altogether. However, there is a line beyond which inequality is too high, and India is close to – if not already beyond – that line. “Who decides how much inequality is unacceptable?” is no longer an excuse for inaction.
Something is rotten in the country of India.

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