Placed on a pedestal throughout the world are the well-educated and the wealthy. At some stage in their life, these folks were assured that they pulsate with tremendous potential for success.
Their craving for success has been shored up by affirmations that the world is their oyster, if only they could knuckle up and apply themselves. They have been psychologically conditioned to believe that unequivocally and steadfastly bound to their elevated sense of importance are their positions, the letters after their names, lardaceous bank accounts and the ever-growing value of their investments.
The seduction of well-crafted and self-serving statements often compels them to bloviate about their success while concomitantly downgrading everyone else to the scum of the earth. Insouciant, their view on success is often deeply suffused with a glorious career path! However, this view flies in the face of common sense because we have seen hoity-toity professionals, especially in the public service undignifiedly tumbling from privileged positions. Occasionally, it gets murky up there, especially when the system throws its own in the throes of a welter, mired in some form of controversy! Half-strangled by the system, the undiscerning ones would unfortunately feel that such temporary but negative phases in their life define their self-worth.
Some professions are even considered more important than others. A few weeks ago, exuding his customary snark and irrepressible joie de vivre spirit, a prominent attorney cracked this harmless joke on his Facebook wall; “In life, aim high. I could have chosen something simpler, like computer science or engineering.” It turned out to be a stinging and unforgivable barb among sensitive netizens with an offbeat sense of humour; most likely non-lawyer professionals. He must have touched a raw nerve as a swirling torrent of unjustified pejoratives hit his wall causing unnecessary online turbulence. This continued even after he made attempt to douse the raging fire by writing, “No profession is better than the other.” This was a clear demonstration of the fact that some people have not yet fully embraced their professions. Unsecure in their career path, they tend to be victims of a phenomenon called déformation professionnelle. Rather than appreciate the diversity of professions which largely contributes to making the globe a continuously developing and self-sustaining part of the universe, they are inclined to lock their minds on a subjective and hubristic ranking of professions, something that is not beneficial to a single soul on earth.
This breeds a few questions; do we believe that one’s profession has anything to do with the level of their intelligence and the dignity they deserve? Is it true that the more educated you are, the more entitled to respect you are? If this view permeates societies, won’t this result in a form of prejudice driven by class distinctions? Without underplaying the importance of compatibility, won’t this unfortunate attitude force its victims to confine their hunting ground for marital partners to like-minded individuals? Doing so driven not only by an inordinate craving for validation from contemporaries but also by a strong desire to acquire more material assets in a bid to lay a stake to importance and relevance in the society. Can such relationships that are built on a shifting sandbed of materialism withstand vicious storms that have pulverised many marriages among the affluent?
Each one of us has to recognise his value. We don’t need to be educated to a high level or to occupy senior public or corporate positions to consider ourselves important. We are all brimming with potential. This binds us to execute any role we occupy with a sense of passion, including roles that are considered menial. Half a year prior to his assassination, with his gripping oratorical histrionics, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a celebrated speech before a group of students where he said, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper…he should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’” These words communicate the dignity of work, including the type of work that many would openly thumb their nose at.
The world can be cruel. If we are not careful, negativity can rule and ruin us. As the environment that does not care one whit about us wantonly, and in quick succession, volleys curveballs at us, we may consider ourselves failures. The very environment accountable for the stranglehold on equity and indeterminable acts of prejudice against us would force us to doubt our capacity to make it in life. Our failure to rise to the level of the privileged would result on the blame for the unenviable lot in our life placed squarely on our lap. If we are not strong-willed, we would begin to condemn ourselves. The truth is, we all tend to work hard. The wealthy and the indigent. With discursive brilliance and a sense of moral apathy, the privileged would conveniently shift the terrain from embedded and active socio-cultural systemic imbalances to an overhyped enclave of excellence, and scream that the difference is, they also work smart! That often remains ‘true’ until they are crushed to the dust by more powerful people. In fact, some ‘successful’ people are a bye-product of chance and fortuity. They often realise, a little too tardy, that they are just as dispensable as the lowest of the low, when they are booted out and replaced the very same day.
Thrown in a bit of a bind, each one of us must take the mental leap of running to himself, not away. Running away from oneself would be akin to following a self-destructive path. It would carry the notion of failing to come to terms with one’s circumstances, condemning oneself to failure, abnegating responsibility and refusing to actively pursue a plan for overturning one’s dire situation. We need to keep the flame of perseverance burning by desisting from wasting time fanning the smouldering embers of passive acceptance of being down and out. Rather than reflect the unfortunate spirit of scant control over our emotions, let’s inwardly resolve to use our challenges as a launching pad for eventually prevailing.
Moments of challenges afford us a chance to introspect, develop ourselves, sedulously embrace a herculean work ethic and recraft our career path with renewed positive energy. We need to deliberately ensure that we do not waste our energy on frequent bouts of self-pity and blaming others for our misfortune. Impelled by the excelling attributes of discernment, balance and positive ambition, we should strive to pull ourselves out of the quagmire of our problems. Like Henry Ford said, “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”
A higher level of intelligence is not the preserve of privileged people. The world, including our part of the world, abounds with many Newtons and Einsteins who will never be discovered because of lack of opportunity and compromised exposure. In his book, The Panda’s Thumb, an American paleontologist and author named Stephen Jay Gould couched this view in these unforgettable words; “I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.” Believe you me, everyone, and I mean, everyone pulsates with potential.