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The Envious Lot

April 11 , 2020
By Kidist Yidnekachew ( Kidist Yidnekachew has degrees in psychology and journalism and communications. She can be reached at )

To deal with the perpetual water shortage in our neighbourhood, we recently decided to have a 1,000lt tank installed on our residential condo. It seemed like it was the only way we could deal with the issue.

The water tank was to be fitted on a concrete and rebar beam on the top floor, as is the case with almost every condominium complex across the city. The unwritten law of such projects is first come, first serve. Whoever can afford a tank has the right of way.

After the landlord consulted with engineers on how and when it should be installed, construction of additional metal braces was started. About three hours into the construction, however, one of the neighbours from the adjacent corridor returned home from work.

It was at this juncture that the typically quiet neighborhood block began to sound like a busy day in Mercato, one of the largest marketplaces in the world. All kinds of slights and arguments were thrown toward us, the workers and the landlord in absentia.

"We fear for our children,” one of the neighbours screamed. “These poorly constructed condominiums can't hold us, let alone a tank."

Keep in mind that the woman in question has water containers on her doorstep that together weigh at least a hundred litres. She raved for about half an hour before the landlord arrived and he calmed her down.

Up until then, it had seemed that she was genuinely worried about the load the water container would have on the structure of the building.

But then she said, “We too if we wanted can afford a tank. You can’t have a tank if we don't have one,” and all pretence was lifted.

Such strange feelings of ill-will toward people for the mere reason that they have advanced themselves in someway is not new. It is called envy, and we all have it. Arguably, it is more pronounced in our culture than elsewhere.

Why is it that we can never be happy for one another as human beings? Why do we have this "keeping up with the Joneses" mentality etched into our minds? And why must we work hard to impede those who have it better than us in some form or another when it is often clear that we have it better than them in various other ways? Where does this basic psychological need to surpass or at least match others in socioeconomic status come from?

We may not be the best in certain areas. It is also possible to have a healthy need to enhance our comfort and work harder to accomplish that. This, though, should not manifest itself in wishing others ill will or sabotaging them in some way.

It is also important that we realise that those who are close to us may surpass us financially or socially in some way, but there is always something else that we are better than them in. We are all different, and where we excel is varied. As long as we find that and work daily to achieve it, there is not much to be envious about.

Unfortunately, this does not occur to most of us, and we witness such unhelpful behaviour everywhere we go. A week ago, while riding in a minibus taxi, the driver delivered a terrifying example of how some of us have come to deal with the economic schisms that have always existed in our society.

"If the rich think that because they have money they can stock up and hide in their homes … so they can live while I die,” he stated, “I can tell you, I will be spitting and coughing on their doors handles … I will break in and make sure that they are infected."

The vast majority of the people in the taxi seemed to agree that if there was any justice in the world, everyone would be equally negatively impacted.

Of course, not everyone behaves this way. There are people donating materials for basic protection against the virus and others who are offering up their residential property or hotels for use as housing for patients. But it is still shocking that there are some people with such an outlook. Indeed, if there is a theme to history, it is the balance between good and bad, between right and wrong, is always maintained.

PUBLISHED ON Apr 11,2020 [ VOL 21 , NO 1041]

Kidist Yidnekachew has degrees in psychology and journalism and communications. She can be reached at

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