It is better that I start with some disclaimers:
- I’m not against systematic and merit-based wealth creation by the individuals - of course when done in a legal - and more importantly the right way.
- Although, I have great respect for individuals of clean character, operating in the social and political arena, I’m not necessarily enamored merely by their characters alone. Because, I believe that without an institutionalized mass movement, efforts of such individuals often return limited and short-term results.
My discussion today is mainly centered around the Indian realities. Yet, I see a similar pattern covering much other geography.
To begin with, let me put forth my working definition of an Icon - mainly to set a context to the discussion.
To my mind, an Icon is a person / personality, who enjoys an important place in the hearts, thoughts and lives of a large number of people, because, Icons represent and possess their ideas about ideal characteristics that must be present in a person of that profession / calling / field.
Just to ensure complete clarity, I’m going to take two examples:
Sachin Tendulkar, is undoubtedly the most prominent Icon in India. People admire him for his towering cricketing achievements - and more so, when they are seen in the light of his humility. But is that all? Of course, there are many other things for which he is revered - his proudly wearing of the Indian tri-colour on his helmet, his ways of respecting the elders and so on.
Amitabh Bachchan is admired for his acting prowess for sure. There are many more reasons for his gaining the iconic position. His successful fight with adversity, his versatility and command over any medium through which he interacts with the audience, the family values he showcases et al.
One can go on and on to call out iconic names from David Beckam to Bill Gates, from Amir Khan to M S Dhoni.
And this is where I am amazed to notice an unavoidable co-incidence - which is, every (read "almost all") Icon of present day happens to be living in the absolutely top economic echelon. It virtually leads to an implication that people do not confer ‘Iconship’(if that were a word!) unless their Icons demonstrate success in the form of economic prosperity.
No matter, how harsh or even absurd and far-fetched the above observation of mine may sound, it is a stark reality today. You no longer find extra-ordinary doctors who aren’t phenomenally wealthy. You don’t have the successful politicians who are not stashed with seriously large sums of money. You don’t have big sports personalities (from popular sports), who are not highly rich. And examples are available aplenty from many other spheres as well.
The discussion so far, by any means, is not meant to draw a conclusion that every person who has made it big in his / her own profession is necessarily extra-ordinarily rich. My only simplistic observation is that folks hailed as popular Icons have at least one thing in common - their extra-ordinary financial status!
And this is where I want to add a twist / new dimension to the description of an Icon.
An Icon is a person / personality who enjoys an important place in the hearts, thoughts and lives of a large number of people, because s/he represents and possesses their ideas about ideal characteristics that must be present in a person of that profession / calling / field. And most importantly, people often times either dream of becoming such Icons themselves or look at such Icons as their dream achievers.
That’s why parents would invariably say to their aspiring cricketer children to idolize Sachin. And that’s why a young politician would like to buy a white SUV at the first available opportunity upon entering the political arena. And that’s why most of the aspiring actors want to advance their careers through a Bollywood route than through the stage and they would more likely choose TV serials as ladders than working on acting / staging plays!
I am merely highlighting a truth! Not passing an explicit value judgment. Although, my readers, by now, would surely have sensed my latent concern. Hopefully, many more will share it as well! All in the interest of a purposeful, long-lasting and healthy advancement of human societies!