With capitalism running our lives, we have forgotten to be humans

Why has the crispiness of paper currency and chinking sound of coins blinded our minds? The answer is absolutely pellucid – capitalism

“Stupid admi”… These words caught my attention in a department store where I was standing at a counter and waiting for my turn. I saw a salesman being abused and insulted by a customer, this being a common sight and, thus, not disturbing at all for most of us. But what I saw next was not so common. I saw that salesman pressing his eyes to hold back his tears. I had heard his voice for the first time when he was apologising to the customer but I knew that there was something strange in it for himself too. His vocal cords were under the influence of his unheard sobs. He went back to the bakery section to deal with other customers but what followed him were others’ eyes and my thoughts.

I kept thinking about the salesman. There were two dimensions to this problem which were together banging against the walls of my skull. Yet it was quite strenuous to identify and segregate individual dynamics of both the perspectives.

He was having a tough day. He had packed different confectionary items for hundreds of customers since morning. He had sat only for a while when a man conferring prestige asked him to pack six chicken patties. This self-conceited customer got busy with his exorbitant smartphone while the salesman erroneously packed six cheese patties instead. The man took the box to the counter where he discovered about the crime. This kindled his wrath which resulted in him spitting one foul word after another. How the salesman would have felt when he saw everyone’s protruding eyeballs focused at him? It must have surely shattered him because he was being insulted in front of the emptors along with his own colleagues who would not leave the store like the former ones.

Was it this big a mistake to be counted as a contemptuous one? Who gave this high muck-a-muck any right to treat this salesman disrespectfully? Who allowed him to pass derogatory remarks about him? Was it his expensive shirt and pant that authorised him to humiliate another human being? Or was it his costly watch? Or his car in which he drove to this mart? Or his spacious and luxurious house in which live his similarly thick-skinned family members for whom he had bought those patties baked and packed by that very mortified man?

Though it is not at all a valid counterargument but, for the sake of this debate, let us assume that the salesman, being a salesman, can be ill-treated and there is no harm in affronting him. Why is he a salesman? Why not at your place? Why not in your car? Why not in your house? Just be in his shoes for a couple of minutes and you will get your answers Mr. Heartless because it would have just taken a simple exchange of fates for you to be standing behind the counter and wearing his uniform. Actually it was not any one of the aforementioned things that made you so inconsiderate; it was all of those. It was unambiguously your money that has vitiated your human soul with its distinctively enchanting scent.

Now what is responsible for all this mess? Why has the crispiness of paper currency and chinking sound of coins blinded our minds? The answer is absolutely pellucid – capitalism. Yes dear readers, this very idea of private property and capital accumulation is the real culprit.

Here an ultrasound shows the first image of a baby and whether it is a boy or a girl and there his/her career counsellors, i.e. family members, pen down the unborn’s fate. He is expected to behave no different from his parents and ancestors. The only questions that haunt his entire life are: Which subject should I opt for? Will I earn good enough after getting this degree? What CGPA should I attain? What should be my starting salary? Where should I see myself in next 15 years? When will I buy my own house? What will my parents think if you do this? What will the society say if I do that? In the midst of all these questions every human forgets to realise a fundamental reality – we are humans. Yes… we are warm-blooded vertebrates in whose temporal regions rest brains with an ability to think and decide. Our decision-making ability and wisdom are the two things that differentiate us from rest of the animals but, unfortunately, we have forgone these very characteristics of ours. We think mechanically, act robotically, and exist without living, all of the aforementioned processes being economically driven as opposed to our innate philanthropic sensitivities.

The idea that promotes addition to the existing wealth of a few and dehorts redistribution of their wealth is the root cause behind the creation of two factions – the oppressors (the proud customer) and the oppressed (the humiliated salesman). It is this very mindset that forces students and fresh graduates to work as waiters and retailers. They, too, have self-respect and dignity. They, too, have feelings. They, too, have human flesh and bones. And they, too, must be treated with respect. What stops us from passing a smile to them? What holds our tongue from greeting them? What prevents our hands to be shaken with theirs? Is the money we give them in the name of ‘tip’ the only gauge to measure our degree of generosity? Have we ever tried to imagine the conditions of delivery boys who bring your pizzas and burgers to your doorsteps despite anything and everything, let it be rain, thunderstorm, a scorching hot day, or a Pak-India cricket match? Have we been rendered so incapable of politeness?

I had already done my grocery shopping. I went to the bakery section, greeted the vistimised salesman with an Assalam-o-Alaikum (may peace be on you) and bought a vegetable roll. This was the only thing I could come up with at that time. This article is another tribute to his respectable services. No one would have up till now but today I thank you for serving us and winning your bread in an honourable manner.

Aminah Suhail Qureshi

Aminah Qureshi is a student of Biotechnology with an interest in current affairs, politics and journalism

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