It is said that God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Gospel of Matthew 5:5, New Testament).
In a simplistic though fairly prevalent view, the world is often seen to be naturally dominated by those species, groups that are more intelligent and resourceful, powerful, especially ones who are conscious about their dominant status and are ruthless in perpetuating the same. The directions and the dynamics of the world affairs are assumed to be decided by the duel between the extraordinary and the powerful adversaries who, though, share their vaunted ambitions to dominate these proceedings. The meek, by definition, do not figure in these power equations. They are too ordinary, small in stature and low in the scale of their ambitions. Like the grass falling in the path traversed by the horses carrying the marauding armies or under the jackboots of their equally intrepid enemies, many among the meek will be trampled, charred and decimated. But like the grass they will survive being multitudinous, even grow from the ashes, from the unlikely shelter under the boulder and cover the slopes and the ridges, plateaus and the valleys, soak the sun and the rain and continue to thrive long after the gory and destructive competition has stopped. In that sense, the meek may have a greater chance of escaping complete and systematic erasure which their more powerful and assertive brethren are likely to suffer, and therefore have, as a class, a better prospect of survival (though individuals may be mauled) and might inherit the earth after all, however scorched it is rendered by the big players, and grow life out of the waste land.
Apart from the facile imagery conjured up by the biblical quote this seems to have an empirical authenticity for many. Especially those that are religiously inclined implicitly believe in the core idea by mixing it up with the familiar good and evil conundrum. In a more modern context of pacifist activism (like Gandhism or in Tolstoyan thought), this might have been a good slogan to be used as a strategic tool for ‘political’ mobilisation through faith (ultimate triumph of the good, even if weak, over the powerful evil). It is possible that behind this there has been an astute appreciation of the cultural predisposition of a particular milieu, making a virtue of one’s weakness and deriving a political programme out of it.
Empirical evidence (for instance, from the stories upon stories of underdevelopment in the Indian subcontinent) suggests, however, that often what the meek and the docile (and they also mostly happen to be from the subaltern classes) eventually manage to inherit are the losses, the shards of shattered grandiose dreams of a better life and attainment spun and propagated by powerful rulers (including the ‘potential’ rulers) and those, under their command, who try to give a realistic shape to these aspirations. Being weak and not having the ambition and an independent initiative, they latch on to the bandwagon of ‘progress’ to move out of the morass of backwardness because of their implicit trust and touching faith in those who take upon themselves the ‘onerous’ task of driving the chariot. And many a time when the consequences of the historically wrong choices made by the latter become apparent the meek more often than not lack the wherewithal and the reserves to withstand any negative fall out over long periods or get away from them.
Whether or not the meek would ever inherit the earth is hard to tell, their suffering the consequences of the cumulative depredations on the earth and its immediate environment leaving a veritable Waste Land, is guaranteed. The insatiable consumption of the physical resources (the pattern of which is invariably skewed towards the strong and the resourceful !) is likely to make our planet more and more inhospitable for those left living. And not just the physical world, what about the tattered moral fabric, which the human kind would like to wrap around its soul in its advanced state of degeneration? So that the meek could be persuaded over the next millennium (if we do last till then !) that our primeval urges and our capacity for mean deeds, perpetrating utter cruelty and injustice are well under control and not about to display a characteristic runaway behaviour defeating all the civilisational attempts to tame them. One is reminded of the memorable line in a song from a popular Hindi film from the 1950s, Pyaasa (‘the thirst’), where a failed, destituted poet (on suddenly being discovered to be a commercially exploitable prospect and offered a potential celebrity turn in return) expresses his subaltern angst and disgust about the futility of this windfall gain:
‘Yeh Duniya Agar Mil Bhi Jaye, Toh Kya Hai?’
(Even if this world were to be bestowed on me, what of it?)
[Note: This is a modified and extended version of a post published in another blog of mine elsewhere]