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Where Children of a Lesser God thrive…

Where Children of a Lesser God thrive…

I believe that there is, at least, a loose correlation between quality of life in a country and its population

By Nazarul Islam  

Nearly twenty years ago, a fellow American and a College friend from Australia—who happened to be on a research scholarship in the US, invited me to a class he was teaching. The topic had something exciting to do with India. And, the visiting scholar wanted my presence in his class, as a portrayal of a real Indian—who could answer questions from students, relevant to India and Indians.

Happily I had agreed. Whether you are from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh, you look and sound and respond with same gestures, rhetoric and everyday clichés. Even the English accent is more or less common. Perhaps, I do not remember most of the questions asked, nor how I had managed to answer these. However, one question has since, repeatedly haunted me.

I will paraphrase the question, for my readers: “Do you think there is less value attached to life in India because the population is so huge?” Honestly the question put me, as my friend HQ would say ‘at my wit’s end’. There, I was put on the spot and did not want to present a negative image of the country.

I had then managed to give a somewhat evasive answer —something to the effect that population density in India is probably no different from what one sees in cities like New York and peoples’ lives are probably viewed in the same way. However, inside me, I knew that I couldn’t provide an honest answer.

I believe, the truth is that human life in India or the neighboring countries does not indeed carry as much worth as it does in a country like US and the overwhelming population is one of the contributing factors. I have thought about this question many, many times. I believe that there is, at least, a loose correlation between quality of life in a country and its population.

If one looks at the list of the “happiest countries” in the world, the top ten entries seem to always include the four Scandinavian countries, Switzerland, Austria and Iceland, all with population in the 5 to 10 million range.

China and India remain as the most populous countries with populations of 1.5 and 1.4 billion respectively and they are also not so desirable places to live, in spite of recent developments and technological advancements. Perhaps population has to remain below a critical mass in order for life of every citizen to be addressed seriously and effectively.

It has somehow made sense to me. When there are less people, there exist fewer issues and/or conflicts between them and therefore, it is more than likely that people would care more about each other. The Value of life is automatically higher because any loss of life has an impact on some aspect of society.

Again…When there are a billion plus people in a country, nothing stops in its business—if someone dies; because there are plenty of people available to replace the deceased. This could be an individual, a community or a region, in a vast country. There is apathy towards the misery or misfortune of other people.  Everyone has a mindset that with all the people available someone else would help and therefore would result in a common response:  “I need not get involved”.

Today, the US seems pretty much to be undergoing a period of transition. When I first visited this country in 1994, it seemed that every individual life in the country does matter. Every killing and every accident in America drew attention and investigations followed by fair trial, if appropriate, ensued. In the popular media, the TV—there was even daily reporting of lives of soldiers lost in the Vietnam War and every effort was made to bring the bodies back to their homeland.

Even as recently as 2001, Americans had responded vigorously to the loss of 3,000 plus lives in the 9/11 disaster by going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq and spending billions of dollars, to bring the responsible elements to book.

However, in recent decades, mass shootings, homelessness, illegal immigration across the southern border, use of excessive force by police and other such developments have diluted the intensity of that concern for human life. At the same time, population of the country has been increasing and has perhaps crossed that critical mass. The good news is that people still seem to come together to help others in difficulty, both financially as well as emotionally.

To be continued…


About the Author

Nazarul IslamThe Bengal-born writer Nazarul Islam is a senior educationist based in USA. He writes for Sindh Courier and the newspapers of Bangladesh, India and America. He is author of a recently published book ‘Chasing Hope’ – a compilation of his 119 articles.