What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly

V. K. Singh
‘The harder the conflict, the more glorious the truimph’. These words of Thomas Paine written before the American Revolution sought to inspire Americans in their struggle for freedom against Great Britain. They have an evergreen freshness and resonate with the life story of any historical personality like Jesus Christ, Gautam Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. In the contemporary world we have witnessed how dearness adds value be it in the Black Life’s Matter protests or the pandemic.
I wish to cite three examples of contemporary history which best justify Thomas Paine’s dearness-enhances-value argument. Through Mother Theresa, the loneliest, the most wretched and the dying have received compassion without condescension, based on reverence for man. Rosa Parks provided the inspiration for the Montgomery Bus Boycott for her 1955 arrest for refusing to give up her seat on the bus to accommodate white passengers. Malala Yousafzai through her heroic struggle has become a leading spokesperson for girl’s rights to education. The dearness for human dignity, for equal rights and for girl’s education did enhance the value as reflected in the struggle these three personalities endured.
Does dearness alone enhance value? In the material world, bullion has its inherent value. In the spiritual world, the longing for the divine has its inherent value. In the world of cinema, the fan following is varied, diverse and intense based on personal choices. In politics, values or the lack of it are related to ideology. In Machiavellian politics, not dearness but the realist argument reigns supreme. In economics, market forces decide the value of a commodity. In literature, value is added by the quality of narrative or the rhyme and not by the dearness of a topic. In comedy, pun decides all. As regards beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder that value is best adjudicated.
To conclude, while it is true that in most areas of life dearness does add value and make the odds faced worth the while, even perhaps as a consolation, however, life offers far diverse odds to be so generalised. The sentiment of Thomas Paine would work both ways for opposite armies facing each other in battle, as it often happens in war. The Kamikaze pilots were inspired by no less an arguemnet but were on the wrong side of history. The Americans in Vietnam kept adhering to values which finally melted away with time into despair and abandonment. What history teaches us is to go beyond the immediate justifications and examine matters in the context of moral right and wrong for peace to become permanent.
(The author is DG Prisons J&K)