Worshiping The Rich
Sadness rings my doorbell almost every day. With each calamity, a new class of people become beggars. The construction workers tossed off job sites during the lockdown. The tourism driver out of work when the airport shut down. The lady weaving rugs that can no longer get supplies. These are people that were not beggars and now they are. They beg to survive.
These are all real people and they’re getting more, not less. Today someone named Duminda came to the door. He was visibly disabled in some way, seemed to be a motorbike accident from what he said. He spoke with an impediment. He asked if we had food.
We have food. We have lots of food. We have eclairs for guests, we have rice, we have chocolate, we have cheese. We have money in the bank and the doorbell also rings with deliveries. So I went and got him some food. Milk is hard to come by these days, I’m sure his daughter hadn’t had any in a while. Some biscuits, rice, string hopper flour, whatever he could carry. I gave him money too. A bit at first and then everything I had. What does it mean? What does anything mean?
As I gave these things that mean little to me, Duminda reached down to worship at my feet. This is a tradition in Sri Lanka. We kneel before monks, our parents, but this felt obscene. I squatted down to the floor also, told him please no, not me. He got up with tears in his eyes, asked for my name again, and my wife’s, so he could bestow pin on me.
Pin is like karmic credit I guess. It’s the idea of merit, which you accrue by doing meritorious deeds. If there’s any justice in this universe that’ll be all I have in the afterlife, the prayers of beggars. At some point, surely, the gods must intercede. Pin is a gift—more than rice, more than flour—and I feel terribly unworthy.
What have I done, besides being born, besides inheriting wealth, in so many ways? I dunno if souls are reborn, but privilege certainly passes on. And for someone like me to stand, someone else must be on their knees. I can reject the worship but he’s not wrong. The world we live in verily worships the rich and merrily punishes the poor. That’s just the way things be.