Thursday, April 11, 2019

We are the Elite




I am attending a talk. The speaker asks the audience, ‘how many of you are the first generation educated lot’? More than 70% of the audience’s hands go up. He remarks, ‘I am the first generation too’. The next question is, ‘who are the elites?’ A few answer that it is the politicians. He adds his opinion and then says, ‘we are the elite!’ Should I be happy? A mixture of thoughts run through my mind but it is definitely not happiness. He further adds that we come from farming background, and then, from nothing, we have become the elites – and in no other countries is there such opportunity.

I am grateful for the opportunity I received as a result of the farsighted policies of free education. But a feeling of smirk sinks in me when our farmers, our forefathers who have been farmers, and my parents who have been farmers are called nothing. They might not have had access to western education and formal schooling but in no way were they uneducated. As I write this, I see the face of my father so vividly that if I were an artist, I could draw even the wisdom in his eyes as he talks. True, he never went to school. But for the farmer he was, he had every small skill that his occupation needed. More than that, he was a leader – he had it in him to draw people to him; to look up to him. And no doubt, he was my hero. He still is, though he is no longer with us.

After this talk, I meet one of my distant cousins who grew up in Thimphu. She shares that she recently went to our village and it took her sometime to recognize my eldest brother who is in the village (who sacrificed going to school for his younger siblings). And she remarks, ‘he is the smartest and the most charming of all your siblings’. I agree – I think he got all the aura and intelligence from our father (J). So it is not just education (formal western education) that makes a person a fine man. We can all be leaders no matter where we are. And we can all find out our purpose no matter where we are. Do we have to be second generation educated lot? I know if I were given a choice, I might not readily leave my job to be a farmer, but that is not because I won’t love being a farmer; I think it is more because I wouldn’t be the best farmer.

And a feeling of irony sinks into me as we are called elite because I can see the difference of people who come from the two different backgrounds – the second or third generation educated family, and the farming background. But we should not be belittled because of the fortune we missed in being the second generation educated lot. Because of the difference in wealth, the upbringing and exposure differ. The way we talk, the way we see the world differ quite a lot too (with few exceptions). And in my not-so-wise thought, I can only think of well-established families, the few privileged ones in the country who have had the means and liberty to study at their choice of school abroad as elite. And I have the phobia of mixing with these people. Honestly, I just can’t bring myself to converse with them naturally and normally like I would do with the people like myself. I know that is my problem. This might seem like I accept that they are superior, but I honestly think that except for the bigger ‘soenam’ they accumulated in all their lives past and present, we are all the same, and there should be no hierarchy in our society.

But there are people like me who are so sensitive to the difference – in the way they talk, to the way they interact. Now people in Thimphu seem to be getting segregated into the groups of elites and non-elites from the school their children go to. For example, an acquaintance of mine sends her children to Sersang and she shared with me that her daughter who is aged eight years is already particular about brands and how her mother is dressed when she goes to her school. I am not sure if this is growth. Anyway, while we all talk about equality, I am not sure if the gap is closing. And probably the elitism is expanding. Because of the difference in the proportion of earning and effort for farmers and the upper rung of people in our society (like the last pay commission’s report), I only see this gap widening.



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