The Principles of Ma’at refer to some precepts that have been espoused by ancient Egyptians for millennia. Their equivalents have existed in other parts of Africa, but what these principles boil down to are the concepts of truth, justice, harmony, balance, order, reciprocity and morals. There are 42 laws of Ma’at that can guide one’s way of life and interactions with others in daily life and business.
One of these laws states that:
“I consume only my fair share.”
What does it mean to consume only one’s fair share? And conversely, what does it mean to consume more than one’s fair share?
Consuming one’s fair share espouses ideas such as compassion for the less fortunate, and consideration for others in how we use public and private services and facilities—whether at home, at work or on the street. The opposite of these would be taking more than we need and depriving others by virtue of consuming more than our fair share. This is the concept of greed. And whether this is done out of fear of future scarcity, or to be able to make future profit, this is an act of selfishness.
The spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) around the world has exposed the act of consuming more than our fair share—taking more than we need. On social media, we see persons lamenting the lack of essential items in supermarkets due to some persons hoarding mounds of toilet paper, hand sanitisers, disinfectant sprays and household cleaning chemicals. This practice can be chalked up to basic capitalism and the main goal being to make a profit. However, such a flawed notion, if allowed to continue, will make us all more susceptible to the virus and extend its life beyond what it could be, had we only taken just what we need so as to ensure that ALL persons get their fair share to stem its spread.
This practice has been around long before COVID-19, but what this virus has brought home to many of us, is how truly unsustainable greed is to our ecosystem. Whereas hoarding land for farming and housing under normal circumstances have been accepted as a way of life, hoarding essential items during a global pandemic has more immediate repercussions for us all vis-a-vis the continued spread of the virus.
But what of the repercussions of hoarding land and forcing the landless to pay exorbitant rents or resort to squatting? What of the criminality that breeds in these desperate situations? The mayhem resulting from poor social structures, abject poverty, and their intricate links with criminality are not secluded to these desperate environments, but result in the spreading of this mayhem to the rest of the population. The mayhem necessitates crime plans and states of emergency (SOEs), but without addressing the root cause: consuming more than our fair share.
Whether it be during the current global pandemic caused by COVID-19 or the regular day-to-day transactions we make, consuming more than our fair share has dire repercussions for us all. COVID-19 makes these repercussions more apparent right now, whilst other instances give us a false sense of security amidst our acts of greed.
May we take collective responsibility for stemming this pandemic, and understand that in all cases, there are consequences to taking more than we need. May we also resolve to consume only our fair share after COVID-19 so that we may all coexist in a just, harmonious environment.