Thursday, February 25, 2010

A life after CARGO

In his brilliant book (and the subsequent documentary) Guns, Germs and Steel; Jared Diamond recalls the question asked to him by one of the natives of Papua New Guinea. A person named Yali whom Diamond met on a New Guinean beach. Perplexed by the huge economic inequality between the white Europeans the the local New Guineans, Yali asks Diamond an interesting question, "Why you white man has so much CARGO, and we New Guineans have so little?".

CARGO was Yali's simple way of identifying all material goods that the Europeans possessed and brought with them.

Jared Diamond's answer to that question required many years of research and came out in the form of the masterpiece book "Guns, Germs, and Steel".

The perplexing question that Yali asked was relevant to the gross inequality between nations, races & communities, and particulary the Old World (Much of Europe and Asia) and the New World (Americas, Papua New Guinea, Aborginal Australia, most of Africa, etc.). But the same would apply between we individuals in our daily lives.

When bogged down by the problems of life and seeing many other around us who don't have such problems, most of us ask ourselves the basic question.

"Why is his/her life so easy and my life so tough (or screwed up)?"

The reason could be many; accidents of birth, random events of life, luck, our own abilities and disabilities, etc. But whatever the exact reason be, gross inequality between people remains one of the hard facts of life. And that inequality need not be just on a material or monetary basis.

For the vast majority us, its "a life after CARGO", and the perpetual rat-race to have the CARGO we lack, or lament about the CARGO that we may never have. And perplexed at the ever present inequality, we keep on repeating Yali's question.

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