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  • Writer's pictureDr. Rakhi Gera Bhandari

The (Innate) Art of Exploitation

If you are wondering why I chose this unusual topic, well, I, myself, am surprised. Perhaps it was the omnipresent COVID-19 virus that provoked my senses on how exploited I feel by a microscopic organism and how much anguish it has caused to humans, the rulers of the planet.

Exploitation is witnessed at every level among the flora and fauna. This is the basis of survival, a natural selection mandate so to say. A leopard exploits the physical weakness of the deer and also exploits its innate speed to catch its prey. Flowers exploit the olfactory senses of the insects and other pollinators in order to reproduce or like the Venus flytrap devour them.

Then why does exploitation have a negative connotation in our world?

To delve into this, lets consider a sport for example, football or tennis, the coaches and players go through video recordings of previous matches to look for lapses and gaps in order to strategize their next game and in turn gaining fame, sponsorship and of course, wealth.

According to the Cambridge dictionary, by definition, exploitation means,

"the act of using someone or something unfairly for your own advantage". So by definition, the above sports are exploiting weaknesses of the opposition in order to gain profits.

Nonetheless there is no physical harm done and there are no rules stopping the others from doing so to gain advantage. Albeit, the exploitation does not cease here.

Unlike animal kingdom, exploitation in human kingdom goes way beyond just survival. Humans have emerged into 'Parasitically Exploitative' beings. From natural resources to human rights humans have found ways to not just exploit but over-exploit. Greed and avarice, an overwhelming desire to have it all, surpasses all other humane emotions.

“Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals. He sets them to work, he gives back to them the bare minimum that will prevent them from starving, and the rest he keeps for himself.”
George Orwell, Animal Farm

History has been a witness to the expansion of human exploitation. From foragers to farmers to modern humans of today, humans have left their ecological footprint and along with their domesticated animals have managed to occupy 96% of the mammal biomass on earth. Leaving only 4% of wild animals.

We live in world where proponents of equality and democracy are

standing shoulder to shoulder and hypocritically supportive of the mighty capitalistic corporations. The capitalist concept arises and thrives from the desire to consume. Increased consumption leading to increased demand and increased growth. And this increased growth comes at a cost, cost of 'over-exploitation'. We do not realize this but we are all told that we are free and equal but all the same exploited in many forms. We are made to feel 'lesser humans' if we do not possess big house, fancy cars, go on exotic trips, etc. etc. Our weak minds are exploited to believe that only if we wear a Gucci or a Versace then we are those to reckon with and hence bolstering the fashion industry. Personal growth is ratified based on economic and material growth.

The truth is, unless consumption is controlled exploitation will continue to exist and take various forms.

At this point, I had an interesting thought, what do you think is common between the COVID-19 virus or simply, any virus and 'Exploitation' ? Well, they both are highly infectious, mutate easily and detect the weaknesses of the host till they succumb.

Yes, the exploitative gene mutates. For example, the stock market thrives on this instinct. A bubble or a scam occurs when the existing deficiencies of the system are identified. It took the fall of Lehman brothers and the infamous real estate bubble of 2001 for the US government to impose stringent financial laws on the banking industry. The exploitative gene in humans will always look for weaknesses, unfortunately its not just survival that drives humans but avarice and that is what makes us most hazardous.

As the famous American economist, John K. Galbraith, once said, "Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism, it's just the opposite." It does not matter which governance system is adopted, its when we realize that an ecosystem exists because of reciprocity that over-exploitation will cease. A balance can only be achieved if we, humans, understand that we all are mutually inter-dependent.

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