Unlearning in the times of Corona

By Soham Mukherjee

In 2020, or rather, in the times of corona, the question should no longer be whether there should be change or not, but how much and in what way. If your question is still along the lines of should we change ourselves, do we really need to re-examine social conventions, should we elect more responsible leaders, then your education has been wasted. Well, not wasted, you’ve still made money out of it, as has the increasingly profit-oriented education sector. But, be honest, you could have made more money if you had been a dishonest person. You don’t necessarily need education to be dishonest. Dishonesty comes naturally. That is not to say that educated people are not dishonest. Many people have achieved educated status because they were dishonest. It’s simple really. Dishonesty would have been more profitable. Lesser energy wasted, more enjoyment and more money.

Yet, you chose to be educated. I am probably being harsh here. It wasn’t really your choice. It was your parents’. So maybe it’s their fault. But then again, they wanted you to be educated so that you could have a better life. It was a selfish decision. It was always a selfish decision. Education for at least the last 50 years hasn’t been about learning, knowledge and social responsibility. It has very much been about money. And about power, and about staying in power. We, I say we because I can’t surgically remove myself from your faults, may deny this, we may exalt the values of education, but we have completely disregarded the teaching of values.

It is important, significant, THE ONLY OPTION, to be successful. To be better than others, to be above them, to be a WINNER. It wasn’t and isn’t about doing good. It has always been about doing well, and doing well only for ourselves. Some of us choose to go into fields like medicine, teaching, public health and safety, civil administration, engineering, etc. so that we can deceive ourselves into thinking that we are actually doing good for society. But how many of us can really say, honestly, that we are not doing it for the money. We can’t. It would be dishonest.

We are constantly hearing of doctors making ambulance-loads of money, police persons greasing their palms at truck windows, teachers getting comfortable salaries and having to work only 200 days a year and engineers being paid in amounts that make our heads spin. These are obviously misconceptions and superficial judgements. But these are the images of these sectors and, no matter what we tell ourselves or our parents tell our neighbours, the money is a huge attraction whether our actual incomes amount to those fantastical numbers or not. The attraction is inarguable.

Therefore, before you consider, declare, flaunt your gaudy peacock’s tail of degrees as your education, consider this. How much are you being paid and what value is there to your work? Are you doing anything useful? Are you helping even one person through your work? Is your income going towards supporting a luxurious lifestyle or is it supporting those who are socially weak? At the same time, don’t donate out of middle class guilt. Donate, help, support, work because you want a better world.

Now you will say that if you change your views after all this time, your character will change. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sorry, I’m getting all serious now. I’ll try to say something funny quite soon. There’s always time to unlearn your prejudices and try to re-educate yourself about the changing world. You trying to hold on to your old world character is like me trying to hold on to Windows 7 because it’s just more comfortable and user friendly. This comfort just leads to complacency.

So, it may be time to think of an upgrade: a higher version of your character OS in order to build a better society. Don’t worry; you won’t lose your core values. You’ll still love your parents, slightly less than your partner (well, only one of them you can have sex with), you’ll still be a great parent, a great employee or employer if you’re lucky, you’ll still be an honest, educated upright member of society. The only change: you’ll be a more responsible member of society, caring and working for every single other member, irrespective of who they are, what God they believe in, or what the colour of their skin is. You can then sanctimoniously pat yourself on the back and know that you deserved it.

Soham is an amateur writer who loves football more than most things. His first book, a collection of short stories, was published last year. 

We welcome your articles, stories, poems (in বাংলা or English) and art at timesofcorona@gmail.com

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