Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Proper self-actualization - Why Steve Jobs and Dhirubai Ambani are not my role models

Corporate bigwigs and extraordinarily rich people tend to be the prominent role models for most people. It is indeed a sign of a society headed in an unhealthy direction that such people are the most popular role models. We are trained to look up to these people and salivate at their success stories from childhood. This is not to find fault with their lives. They lived their lives in ways that suited them and made money / fame for themselves. As long as their means is sanctioned by the law, one cannot (at least legally) accuse them of any wrongdoing. At best, one can attempt to change the law, if one deems it immoral (I personally believe, there are many such laws that these tremendously successful people employ in their quest for personal glory). The issue here is with regards the adulating millions.

Our adulation of successful people comes from our own perceived inadequacies of our life. Life long training of most of us to go behind success naturally creates celebrities in the society whose life one looks up to. Of course being a popular rich person in the society is not wrong - someone or the other will have to be in that situation. But it needs a particularly insensitive mind to exploit a pathetic, moralless and downright cruel system to make millions for oneself, and that too without any global vision for the betterment of humanity. Without the sweatshops around the world, without supporting violent regimes that allow extraction of crucial raw materials at tremendous human cost (particularly that of the weak and marginalized ones of the world) and without being tremendously unsustainable environmentally, many accomplishments of these businessmen would not have been possible. It is one thing to be a part of these systems without knowledge and/or without choice and another to exploit these systems to the hilt to accomplish what one wants. It is important to see an individuals accomplishments in the global context of how their work has lead to the empowerment of humanity before lavishing praise on them. It is at best silly and at worst donwright cruel towards the workers whose lives were sacrificed for the sake of the success of some of these businessmen.




On the technology front, people like Richard Stallman, founder of Free Software Foundation, Linus Torvalds (initiated the development of Linux OS) and Julian Assange (founder of Wikileaks) are more inspiring role models to me than folks like Steve Jobs. Not that lives of Stallman, Torvalds or Assange are impeccable. I am sure if we dig sufficiently deeply, we may be able to find the darkness in their lives too. But, at least, they had deliberately directed some part of their work towards empowerment of humanity - the right use of technology. Technology used otherwise (for purposes of titillation) only puts new toys into our hands. If Jobs has been less of a hawkish businessman, I would have been happier. All his works were packaged within aggressive capitalism. Nothing too special, in my opinion!

These successful people often give stirring speeches on how to stay hungry and how to go behind what one dreams (which many of us keep repeating all the time). In other words, the relentless quest for self-actualization. Self-actualization is indeed wonderful but it needs to be done correctly. The perfect self-actualization comes about in a life that listens to its inner voice, uses all the skills at its disposal and propels one life using truth and directs the self-actualization by how it adds real value to the world. I do not see this being manifested in the lives of many successful businessmen. Unfortunately capitalism (almost) does not permit this and many evidently highly skilled people end up wasting their talent on its treadmills. Can we as a society awaken to this and set up systems and institutions wherein the fabulous talent of people like Dhirubai Ambani and Steve Jobs are channelized in the right direction? Unless, all of us, as a society, organize to allow the proper flowering of every individuals inner seed, there is bound to be tremendous conflict in our society. Many selfish agents working in the same field trying to maximize ones own benefit is a recipe for disaster. Horrible poverty and nauseating opulence will exist side by side. The strain of this duality cannot last forever. Akin to an overcharged capacitor breaking down without being able to bear the potential difference on its two plates, society will crumble with the weight of this duality.

What, as an individual, are you going to do about it? What would be your unique and creative response to the same?


PS: Death of a loved one is indeed painful to friends and relatives. My support to his mourning near and dear ones. At least his pain from a debilitating cancer has come to an end. RIP Steve Jobs!

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