Thursday, November 27, 2008

Illusion of Being Wealthy

Most, if not all, of us must be quite sick and tired of life that we really want to be very wealthy - so wealthy that we would rather not be doing anything.

Nowadays, in the present era where the stock market is the only casino in town open to all and sundry to punt, I see well-dressed men and women - or rather well-dressed couples - idling around shopping malls with the downtrodden - one having bought everything and has nothing to buy and the other not buying because no money.

What do we get in a world where everybody is wealthy?

Nothing, because nobody is working.

The streets would be strewn with cash and nobody wants it because each would have more than the other - so much that there is no point keeping physical cash - easier just to register it as a computer number.

The point about the idea of being wealthy is it quite an evil thought - that there is value in being wealthy only because others are poor. Then the poor buggers will have to slog just to keep alive - in order to toil.

The ancient Greeks and Romans were at least honest. Aristotle argued the need for slaves so that noblemen could lead noble lives. The blacks in the US fought for the right to be free. They are no different from the many immigrant workers we get in countries like Malaysia where they worked their full ten hours a day for the lowest pay in the region.

I celebrate work. But to imagine that we could amass durable items of value so that we would entice the poor to labour according to our fancy is to place the weight of our rightful labour on the shoulders of the unfortunate.

In the extreme, when everybody does not work, then those who have money will want to buy the services of the poor. If the poor are uneducated and unable to fend for themselves, then the only thing they will do is to prostitute themselves - in the truest sense of the world. It is not a wonder that it is the oldest profession - born out of the inert desire of people - to propagate the genes. Surprisingly, both parties are happy - although it may not be sustaining given diminishing returns.

The most sustaining model of life, in my mind, is man or woman roaming free in nature - surviving on whatever little can be found. There is nothing wrong with this model - it must have been around for many hundred thousands of years. In the last two or three hundred years, our incomplete understanding of technology has produced "goods" without offsetting them with the "bads." The wealthy of current generations are creating poverty in future generations.

It may be time for the educated and intelligent to be cultivated and wise and share the fruits of their knowledge with the more unfortunate. This can be done by stopping dreaming about being wealthy (because it is an absurd concept) and start taking care of oneself, one's family and one's neighbours.

It is pitiful to see how the powerful holds out to the desolute with promises of wealth which the powerful cannot keep. (Not surprising that lies and broken promises are a by-product of democracy.)

There is wisdom in the people not listening to politicians. There is also wisdom in politicians not listening to industrialists. There is also wisdom in industrialists not listening to scientists and technologists.

But there is wisdom in children listening to their mothers or, if not, their fathers. Then the world could be a richer place.

1 comment:

de minimis said...

The questionable value system is the desire to "show-off". Thorsten Veblen called it "conspicuous consumption".

Has modern society moved very far from the feudal era when the gentry class were the rent-seekers and the others were just peasants?

I suspect not. It's just geography.