Thursday, 19 April 2012

The Wanton way of Wealth

Good was the age when there was electricity in the skies. The Indian Zeus - Indra showered upon the earthlings mighty thunderbolts from up heaven with his Vajra and rains ensued. The sun god gave plenty of light and energy during the day. The moon calmed down the earth simmering from the blistering heat of the day. Man domesticated beasts to perform his bidding and guard his homes and livestock. He dug out nuggets of gold from his bare hands just like he excavated copper and iron from mother earth's bosom. He gathered berries from the thick dense shrubs and gathered wood spared by the forests. He created the spark of energy from rocks and dry twigs and it gave him warmth during the cold and harsh winters. He danced & sung with his family and friends and his entertainment needs were met. He slept without a splintering headache and looked forward to a new morrow. He sprung yarn out of soil and he extracted color from the sweetest of fruits and juiciest vegetables. He created wonders that would stand the test of time and he studied the stars in the peace of the night. He mastered medicine and surgery and the crafts of engineering and mathematics. He invented money and he was no longer happy. 

Money has been the root cause for all bad things ever to occur on earth. Indian mythology is rife with stories of demonic kings performing severe penances to obtain supernatural strengths that would make the rulers of heaven, earth and the netherworld. The allure of the riches abounding in heaven corrupted the minds of these denizens of the underworld. Like the One Ring corrupted the creature Gollum, money has been corrupting the minds of men ever since its inception. 

The greatest wars of the world were fought for power and power translated into access to money. It has the power to induce a hallucinating effect in the most sane & wise of men and it is a very potent drug for which all of us have a strong fixation for. There is no rehabilitation center that has been set up exclusively to detoxify the afflicted of the money disorder. 

The Olympians fought the Titans for restoration for power to rule the nine worlds. On earth, power was money. Money or wealth was the reason Genghis Khan & Kublai Khan's marauding hordes created rivers of blood from the steppes of Mongolia to the prairies of Eurasia. The Spaniards set sail all across the world looking for treasures and previously undiscovered civilisations. We all know the legend of El Dorado where the Spaniards were in search of a mythical city made entirely of pure solid gold. 

The Mayans, Aztecs, Incans are all known to be civilisations with vastly violent histories always on the battlefields for territory and wealth. 

In Ramayana, one of India's two great epics, the demon king Ravana invades Lanka - The kingdom of Kuber, the Lord of wealth and also his half brother to himself lord over the unlimited source of wealth on earth. In Mahabharata, there is a great war of 18 days between cousins for territory and pride. The Kauravas who ruled over Hastinapur were deeply envious of the mystical city of Indraprastha of their paternal cousins the Pandavas who had erected this heaven on earth with the able guidance of the divine architect Vishwakarma himself. The epic war saw the complete routing of the entire Kaurava clan. 

Money maketh a man a very guile creature. It is the ultimate destination for which man is willing to stretch to any lengths and stoop to any depths. It obscures all images of humanity, righteousness and obliterates the clear distinction between good and evil. Faced with the opportunity of making money, man opts for the most bizarre of life's options. He shreds apart siblings, peeves his parents & destroys his dear ones. Money gives one a high that is unmatched by the most powerful intoxicant available in the market. 

Napoleon Bonaparte
No doubt money built great cities of the world but they were built on the foundations of murder. Money fueled the extravagant lifestyles of psychotic tyrants such as Julius Caesar, Caligula, Napoleon Bonaparte, Kublai Khan so and so forth. It is believed that the French lost an entire generation of men when their diminutive emperor decided to invade the frigid landscapes of Russia in winter. His blindness for power resulted in the slow and cold death of hundreds of thousands of his loyal soldiers. Kublai Khan's two failed expeditions to conquer Japan saw the end of Mongolian invincibility and the death of thousands of his men.

Such is the allure of wealth that men were not contended with ruling over huge swathes of land that they always needed more and more. Kublai Khan ruled over 1/5th of the inhabitants of the world in his time and yet he was hungry for more. Money turns men into meandering monsters who have no real aim or goal in life. 

World War I erupted as a result of Kaiser Willhem II lending support to Austria by marching his armies against Serbia. Tsar Nicholas II ruled Russia formally mobilised his army in support of Serbia. England & France entered the fray to maintain the balance of power in Europe. At the end of this great war, Germany was left in tatters and inflation was so high that people had to carry pounds of money to get grams of bread. Though, over a 100,000 jews fought on the German side and laid down their lives, Kaiser Willhem who was now in exile in the Denmark squarely blamed the Jews for all of Germany's woes. Apparently, the enterprising community of Jews who were mainly businessmen and indulged in money lending and banking, were the scapegoats to his failed plans. 

We all know what followed next. Hitler was elected Dictator of Germany and his minions of Third Reich and SS were part of a devilish Pogrom that slaughtered millions of innocent Jews. 

Money literally controls the world and an unbalance in a country's economy can lead to civil unrest, wide spread looting, soaring inflation that would make life's basic necessities a luxury. This is interestingly portrayed in the German movie "The counterfeiters" where Hitler plans to ruin English and American economies by flooding their markets with counterfeit notes. This was perhaps the beginning of this notorious crime which is a large scale clandestine business supported by many corrupt governments that intend to wage proxy wars in a rival country's markets rather than on the battle fields. 

Money blanks out all rational thinking and incites the sleeping ugly beast in every man. It makes him a hypocrite beyond reform and it renders his basic senses averse to obvious signs of wrong doing. As they say Money makes everything right. Rich and powerful organisations made up of mega business houses operate in the shadows and find it justified to do anything necessary to make more of their commodity - Money. Wealth creation was never an ethical venture and it has become all the more scandalous as we grow old. 

A classic example to this is the case of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) which was liquidated in the last decade due to its inappropriate business dealings and total lack of transparency. Interestingly, major audit firms such as E&Y were also held accountable for having overlooked certain in your face flaws. Most of us would have watched the Clive Owen - Naomi Watts thriller "The International" which is a syndicate that acted as a banker and arms broker for organised crime and corrupt governments. The very first management lesson we come across is that the purpose of any business is to create profits. It also does talk about ethics and laws against cartels, tax evasion, embezzlement of funds, declaring false P&L statements. However, it is a well known and undocumented rule that abound in management circles that ethics do not generate business and certainly does not give you wealth. Though many mega conglomerates proudly discuss their zero tolerance policy for corruption, many transactions of the grey color keep taking place day in and day out. 

To reinforce my argument on the corrupting ways of money, I take reference of last decade's civil strife in Africa's Garden of Eden - Congo. Belgian business houses dealing in diamonds and gems apparently used to buy diamonds from certain groups at rates that were much lower than market price. This money was used by the militia in Congo for ethnic cleansing. This was the blood diamond. After genocides of countless men and women,many a human rights organisations highlighting the matter a Hollywood movie later, the Belgian companies decided to veto out purchase of such blood diamonds. 

These are International cases but we have hundreds of such incidents that occurred on our very own backyard where money bought the justice system. The Bhopal Gas Tragedy of 1984 where the poisonous gas methyl isocyanate was accidentally released in the atmosphere from the Union Carbide factory that killed more than 3000 people and permanently incapacitated tens of thousands of more. The Govt of India agreed upon an out of court settlement with Union Carbide for a sum of just over $400 million. This was the value estimated by lawyers for the thousands of Indian lives lost. Many are still fighting for their lives and countless are yet to get their compensation from the Govt. The perpetrator of this crime of negligence - Warren Anderson, now a disillusioned octogenarian is enjoying freedom and there have been no convictions till date.

There are daily reports of how men with money and influence get away with the most heinous crimes. Or at least they use the buying power of their money to prolong the justice delivery system. Truly, justice delayed is justice denied. 

Money erases many barriers as that of caste, colour, creed and education. A wealthy man is accepted and welcomed by one and all. No one bothers to investigate the source of his possibly ill gotten wealth. But money creates a very solid social barrier between the ones who have it and the ones who don't. 

Communism believes in social equality and doesn't foster accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few. However in today's two biggest communist countries Russian and China, we see hundreds of millionaires and billionaires but many more in acute poverty. The power of money is such that no philosophy of man can remain successful when pitted against it. 

Money is man's most powerful and potent weapon and it all lies in his hands to put it to good use. Without money, many a man's greatest scientific, engineering & medical research and achievements wouldn't have seen the light of the day. Slowly but steadily man has realised his follies and putting honest efforts to make good his many wrong doings. 

Governments are using the motivational power of money to convince heavy industries across the world to reduce their carbon footprint. It is also a instrumental to bring to justice deadly criminals wanted in crimes against humanity. It is most useful in funding the numerous medical research in our fight against the unseen virus and the conspicuously visible danger of religious extremism. Money is required to pool resources to alleviate hunger & poverty and put to stop civil strife in countries. It is required for the quick and effective reconstruction of infrastructure in cities and towns devastated by war and natural calamities. It is required to protect the freedom of expression and fundamental human rights of entire communities of people under a tyrant's rule. 

Over the last 40,000 years since modern day man set foot on the planet, his needs have only been increasing and the resources at his disposal have been ever diminishing. Today man is looking in the direction of space to satisfy his ever expanding bag of wishes. Money is a resource created by man and it is all set to engulf him in its death grip. We have come a very long way to just stop and turn back. The least we can do is to decelerate the rate at which we are proceeding towards our imminent doom.

Realise the inherent empathy within us towards humanity and the earth. Reject the idea of snuffing out one life to brighten up another. Develop an environment of coexistence. Peg the unethical practices of amassing wealth which is gnawing away at the human fabric. Eradicate the evilness wrought in by the concept of capitalism. 

It is neither wealth nor splendor; but tranquility and occupation which give you happiness.

- Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States of America. 

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