Money musing: The power of money remains all pervasive over the millenniums

Wafiur Rahman
Thursday, July 6th, 2017


 

A Bengali adage – Arthoi onarther mool – if translated into English, renders equivalent to saying: ‘money is the root of all evils.’ Does it hold the truth? Probably, if not entirely. But, there is a tug of war in the thought process of civilizations trailing through millenniums as to the good and the bad caused by the possession and use of money. What is money? According to monetary theories, it is a medium of exchange, a common measure of value, a standard of value and a store of value.

 

Through thousands of years, man has wrestled with the method of transacting with each other for the purpose of acquiring goods and services necessary to keep him alive, reproduce and sustain on this planet. The long historical odyssey for acquiring, possessing and consuming things of value conferred man the ability to create an environment where one thing, unrelated and dissimilar to the necessary goods and services, took command over activities of societies and came to be accepted as MONEY holding the power to buy, rent and store.

 

Money offers its owner almost unlimited powers in these modern days to buy, rent and hold whatever s/he wishes to. In the ancient times, you could do similar activities at the strength of money as it was during those times; you could buy a wife at an auction, you could rent a woman for her services, you could buy a human being to do your odd jobs, you could buy a horse, a knife to cut your fruits for consumption.

 

Seemingly, modernity has empowered you further if you have amassed huge money; it provides you with the strength to stretch your life span, it gives you a ticket to visit the moon, you can get a woman naked before you by the charisma of money (Strip shows), you can get some humans fondle your feet by dint of money (massage parlours). You can cause peace in the midst of class struggles, because you offer monetary credits to the poor (microcredit institutions). You can cause havoc greater than bombs and killer diseases, because you are in the pursuit of minting money as everybody does (drug cartels of Colombia, Mexico etc), and money can render female wombs into warehouses for fetuses (stories of empty-stomach Chinese women).

 

Money can provide you prestige, name and fame; on one hand, Mr. Bill Gates and his wife run a charitable foundation for the world’s poor and on the other, he had a short retreat recently in a yacht rented for a paltry US$ 5 million (Taka 400 million) a week. Both the facts make news, boil waters all around the globe, people take out time to talk and wonder about him.

 

The saga of money does not exhaust there; South African photographer, Kavin Carter’s photo of a vulture waiting for a feast a few yards away of a dyeing child in famine-hit Sudan (pictured in March, 1993) continues to remind us of the failure of a country to procure and distribute food for her subjects short of money.

 

Mr. Carter climbed the height of photographic fame getting the Pulitzer Prize for that photograph in 1994. But, money didn’t let him go; from the pinnacle of ascendance, he slipped into the abyss of no-return, no-fame, nothing; he committed suicide in July, 1994. Before killing himself, he wrote a death-note in which he cried for money, the note bemoaned, ‘I am depressed without phone, money for rent, money for child support, money for debts, money!! I am haunted by vivid memories of killings and corpses…………….. of trigger-happy madmen……………….’

 

Explicitly, among the experiences of horrors of execution, death, starvation, atrocities and devilish acts of gangs and governments, severe want of money ate up the soul of Mr. Carter which his psychic spirit failed to repair and forced him to succumb to death.

 

Money appears to be almost all powerful, especially in these days of capitalistic consumerism. If you consider the physical coins, it has two faces: the head and the tail, and if you consider the power of money, it has again two faces: bright and dark. The modern-day money is fiat money; it is a legal tender meaning that the government of a particular country has a backing for it conferring it the purported value and everybody living within the territory of that country must accept the money as a means of payment for all kinds of debts. These characteristics make the existence of money inalienable if a society is to exist and if its members are to hold the social fabric intact.

 

Societies sustain and flourish through first, intra-society and second, inter-society transactions of goods and services. This is possible if there is the existence of money as a legal tender. Therefore, money serves as one crucial element for the birth and sustainability of human societies providing them the basis for collective relationship.

 

All men grow with the aim to earn money, because money offers them the capacity to procure what is needed to meet basic needs of food, healthcare, clothes, shelter and safety. Materials to meet basic needs could be made available by intra and inter-society transactions and money works as the medium for the transactions to take place. You can meet the bright face of money as you move in these areas.

 

The dark face of money involves its quantitative possession by individuals and collective bodies. Money per se is not harmful, because it empowers you to procure the amenities of life, but it converts into a monster as an individual, or a group, aspires and strives for and in the end amass unlimited amounts of money, without transparency and accountability to the society. This generates the risks of deprivation and exploitation of others, in most cases the greater segments of societies through application of force, injustice, corrupt practices, misinformation, lies, and in extreme instances killings and annihilation processes. Human civilization is silent witness to this reality historically.

 

Between sufficiency and surplus of money, a balance needs be struck so that the monster popping up out of the method of earning, possessing and spending surplus money cannot germinate. This is easier said than done; the history of humans has few examples to its credit in this respect. To me, the religions that the mankind has held to its heart for thousands of years can only advance answers to this lone issue which bitters human relationships and infuriates class struggle. Accountability systems devised and applied by man himself appears insufficient to dilute to necessary limits man’s saliva for money and wealth. Because, if the maker and the user remains the same person, the incidence of manipulation for satisfying his/her temptation must persist.

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