We care about more than money

A common defence of Capitalism is that at the end of the day, money is all that matters and that all the high-faluting talk about social justice, equality, and rights is secondary before the basic needs that everyone needs to consider - food, money, shelter.

This argument is then used to justify the claim that it is only money that has any kind of redemptive value as far as the human condition is concerned. It is described as the most basic of needs, and therefore by extension, the only thing that matters.

So you find people looking at everything through the lens of money. They say that Reservation for the marginalised will not solve the problem of discrimination, money will. They say that a truly independent woman who is financially independent. They say that the entrepreneur is more virtuous than the social worker because it is he who is solving his employees' money problems.

But the fact of the matter is that the average upper-caste family doesn't choose its children's occupations with money as the sole criterion before them. Sure, there are many who don't have the luxury of picking their line of work and are forced to "choose" a job that pays enough money to buy food. I am not asking about them. Their choice is not really a choice. They cannot choose anything else because they will die if they do.

I am talking about those of us who do get to choose. Those who, after their formal education has ended, are faced with a lot of professional options. These options are more or less lucrative. They all pay comparable amounts of money. In fact, money is often not the deciding factor at all.

Reputation and social capital is.

Money is important to your neighbourhood uncle who keeps saying that the thing that people on the receiving end of dehumanising social discrimination really need is money. But he values social capital more. He will never say this to the marginalised though. He will tell them that they should always aim for money, but he himself will never want his children to go do manual scavenging even if the pay for it was in lakhs. He cares what he looks like. He cares what people think of him. He cares how much respect he and his family is given.

If India's upper-caste middle-class society was honest, dignity and respect would factor in its conversations about society more often. But it isn't, so it doesn't.

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