GROWING up, we were taught the dignity of labour and the virtues of hard work. However, somewhere down the line things changed for the worse and, today, our society stands plagued with ego. Actually, we should call it inferiority complex.

To stress the point, I would like to share a recent incident which might serve as an eye-opener. I recently called a person for a job interview for the position of ‘helper’. The person was not even matriculate and was in dire need of a job.

After salary negotiations, I started telling him the job description which included some tool cleaning and assistance work. The person kept on listening for a few minutes and then asked me if there was any work which did not include “cleaning job”.

He added that he had never done that “kind of work” and that in his village such work was associated with what in his words was the kammi, the lower social class. He explained that undertaking the job could cause humiliation to his family and he would be the laughing stock among his acquaintances in the village.

I tried to convince him that all jobs had the same level of respect, but all that was in vain. Despite the fact that he was the only bread-earner of his family and was struggling for survival, he refused to take up the position, leaving me astounded.

This episode made me think long and hard, and, in fact, answered a few of the questions that I previously had in my mind, such as the reason behind why we are still part of the list of developing countries. We are rich in natural resources and have a promising youth bulge, but where is the potential of our people being wasted? Why are we behind the developed world?

The episode suggested that the element of ego and a bunch of complexes in our society are the stumbling blocks in the way of our progress and prosperity. We all want a luxurious life, but not at the cost of hard work. We have no finances, but we still want to work on our own terms and conditions. We do not, in fact, cannot, make calculated compromises even when we are in dire straits. Our ego is bigger than even our needs. And, yes, I do happen to know the difference between ego and self-respect.

We will work very hard, but not in our own country, for we have to maintain a social status which carries more value than the financial needs of our families. We may prefer to die of hunger, but we cannot do a job that will make us a so-called kammi. This nation suffers from myriad issues that include financial woes, but people’s ego is bigger than their problems. More often than not, that is the case.

Class segregation in society has been flowing in our blood for decades now. We can overcome such a medieval mindset by giving equal weightage, value and respect to all classes and professions. Teaching ethics in academic institutions and spreading awareness in society can help reduce the negative egoistic factor.

There is no kammi and no work is less respected than the other. We all are struggling to earn a decent, honest livelihood and we all deserve the same respect. It is time we started thinking on these lines which may lead us to prosperity.

Amina
Lahore

Published in Dawn, December 4th, 2021

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