Aakar Patel’s article “The Martyr Who Cleans Your Drains” is brilliant. Sanitation workers are incomparably more likely to die than soldiers. So, why are they not considered martyrs? Why are soldiers seen as heroes? I think the explanation lies in human evolution. People don’t like the idea of doing a task and getting paid for it because they have such poor personal standards. They have all sorts of illusions about themselves. They don’t have the brains or nerve to think on their own. But, if they are paid to do a task, they think there is something demeaning about this. But, the truth is that most human beings do not have the deep specialized knowledge to be truly creative. The most they can do is to take orders, get paid, and say “Thank You” nicely.
But, if they are led covertly into serving ideals that do not challenge the society’s secular religion, like warfare, they are fine. People value covert conniving and the warrior spirit more than they value real skills and co-operation. Soldiers are also high status—martyrs in the uniform. Aakar Patel once pointed out that Gujaratis are more likely to be traders and less likely to be soldiers. The reason is that the mercenary spirit and the spirit of the trading floor are entirely opposed to each other.
A person who reads this article can’t honestly disagree with it. But, they won’t pay much attention to it. Why? It ain’t hard to admit that sanitation workers die more often than soldiers, and that they deserve more respect. But, once you admit this, it would become clear that what soldiers do is no big deal. People are quite willing to die while getting paid to do a task.