The Problem with Wealth

“All money is essentially about trust, and once this trust is shaken there are repercussions.”  Can you guess who said it?

You won’t, in all probability.  That’s from an article written by Jayati Ghosh in the latest issue of the Frontline [June 15, 2012].  Ms Ghosh was writing about the imminent economic crisis that Europe and India will go through soon if they are not already going through it.  One wouldn’t expect such wisdom from a journalistic periodical.  Of course, Ms Ghosh is not a journalist by profession.

Money is simply a means, a tool, to be used for some objective.  But the problem today is that money has become the objective, the only objective of human existence.

Can any human being be happy possessing a lot of money?

Imagine Robinson Crusoe on his island possessing a lot of money.  Imagine him getting billions of dollars from his sunken ship or from anywhere.  Would that money be of any use to him on the uninhabited island where he lived?

Money is simply a means, not an end.  Money is meant to bring us certain necessities of life.  The purpose of life is not amassing wealth.  Wealth is just a tool for enhancing the quality of life.

Have we made wealth the end (the sole purpose) of life?

That’s what ‘liberalisation’ and ‘globalisation’ and all those –ations did.

Another article by C P Chandrasekhar in the same issue of the Frontline says, “… private expansion was clearly driven by measures of ‘liberalisation’ that relaxed constraints on the expansion of large capital.”

Large capitalists won in the system called globalisation/liberalisation/privatisation…  The creators of the winning system win.  Like the Brahmins won in India once upon a time.  The Marxists won in Kerala once upon a time.  The Hindutva vadis won in some parts of India in the recent past.

Who will win in the end?

Perhaps, no one.

But who will be happy and contented in the short life that we have on this planet?  It won’t be the richest.  Just as it wasn’t those who wielded religious hegemony in the pre-scientific days.  Just as it wasn’t the socialists in the heyday of socialism before the US-manufactured liberalisation subsumed it.

Robinson Crusoe would have longed for a mate on his island.  A friend, at least.  When he did get one he was indeed happier than earlier.

What if Crusoe’s number of friends increased on the island?   And each one of them tried to played out his selfish interests?  Crusoe would have made a system in order to control the people, to bring them under his control.

What if Crusoe didn’t have the urge to keep everything under his control?  What if he was interested in creating a community of people who would live in harmony together, loving one another, helping one another…?  [Given the fact that Crusoe was an Englishman this is an idle conjecture.]

What if we could create a system which gives prominence to caring and sharing instead of amassing wealth (which anyway turns out to be useless even for the posterity as the posterity is only spoilt by too much of financial security)?

Can’t we change the system?

Why not?


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6 Responses to The Problem with Wealth

  1. Raghuram Ekambaram says:

    To try to answer the question in the last line, we have to disabuse ourselves of the notion of “survival of the fittest”, first and foremost. We must recognize that the so-called “competition” in the biological world does not undergird similar notions in the social world. Even in the biological world, there is “cooperation” but in the neo-liberal, selfish economic paradigm, there is no such thing like cooperation in the economic world. It is “competition”, exclusively.

    This is where “memes” come into play and the meaning of “selfish gene” as propounded by Richard Dawkins comes to the fore. But, it is not easy to make people, even of the educated kind, to start thinking along these lines. Then, whence the opportunity to discard misunderstood propositions? This is why, we cannot change the system.


    • matheikal says:

      Yes, Raghuram, this is exactly the problem. Cooperation has attained a totally different meaning today. It is ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch your back.’ And all this back-scratching has created a system of goons and gangs of political power combined with business money.

      That’s the system. That’s where the ordinary people have to live and work. When they feel helpless in that system, they resort to violent methods….

  2. On a related note – the historian R.S. Sharma comments in one of his texts that one of the key reasons the Indus Valley Civilization flourished was because of the barter system and the reason of it’s demise was the advent of formal currency. Are we heading towards another collapse or have we already collapsed?

    • matheikal says:

      Currency is not the problem, Sid. I think the problem is the attitudinal change, civilisational change.

      One thing is sure, we are heading towards another major collapse. Even Narendra Modi won’t be able to save us from that collapse. He will only sell more lands to the business class that claims to bring more employment, more opportunities. These are temporary employments and temporary opportunities. Businessmen were classed among thieves in the ancient Greek civilisation or almost similar to them. They were not considered as citizens. Modi’s friends are businessmen.

      I mention Modi simply because he is going to be our next PM. He claims to have taken Gujarat to heights of prosperity. But how? Will it last? Will India be safe in his hands?

      We need real visionaries, not businessmen.

  3. i agree with u what u told about trust.
    Not only money, everything in this world -politics, relationship, economy, liberalisation etc- revolves around trust.
    But people think, it is all money that matters.

    You wrote the creators are winning. And tell me what have the Brahmins created. If they had created anything other than the lies that they had churned out, people would have trusted them. Included, the Marxists, they pretended they have created something, but by the time, they were exposed by the people they lost it.

    So why are the common people the majority not able to realize these lies in good time? Is it not the major cause of failure.

    That is the injustices are flourishing on the publics ignorance. And we pay for that on and on.

    Can we not see now that the creators of the ideas of liberalization and glottalization were all lairs. 🙂

    • matheikal says:

      Thanks for the detailed response. I don’t think I can disagree with you on any of the points raised by you including your questioning of my example. When i said, they created I meant the creation of the systems. The systems turned out to be lies, as you say.

      The social constructionist theory says that all discourse and hence all “truth” is created by the dominant cultures in a society. The Brahimins, the Marxists, etc happened to be the leading discourse makers at some time or the other just as globalisation-makers are the leading discourse makers today. And the discourse is right only for one section of the society. It’s high time that the others questioned that discourse.

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