Eating is an agricultural act - Wendell Berry

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

servicing the rich

on an email exchange yesterday, a friend wrote to another (on his way to doing his own entrepreneurial thing with finance+management or something like that) wishing him luck and hoped that 'another' would make it on ET (the economic times - desi) in a couple of years and FT (financial times - videsi) couple of years after that.

reading this made me wonder about some of my closest friends. we grew up in college together and had a whale of a time.

now, many of them are in top financial companies, playing the global markets, moving the indices, shuffling portfolios and such like.
and it struck me that they are making a lot of money by making the richest people on the planet, richer.
and in my own world, i just cannot think of a more wasteful occupation or preoccupation.

in my limited economics, i am convinced that poverty reduction will not happen until the rich give up their riches. this is derived heavily from tolstoy's what then must we do.

as i made the shift to pR, i was telling myself that this is my own pursuit and i should not wonder/worry about how others live their life. that would be just destroy the very essence of our move to the land.

but (you knew there was one, right), these reminders have not had their desired impact and i do keep judging people on what they do and how they live.
of course, we have our own different economic theories. thus using my scales to weigh their actions is flawed. there should be no moral superiority in the life i chose to lead.

writing this here is one way of reminding myself to stay focussed.


Preeti Aghalayam aka kbpm said...

no harm in wondering at what drives people in their (our) choices, i guess! i do wonder too. and sometimes, in wondering and thinking, my own place in the world gets clarified.

csm said...

not sure if many people really get to examine their choices in terms of "their place in the world". especially the choice of occupation.

Jayadeep(JDP) said...

I think that is the way most people are wired - make more money, fame etc. irrespective of the way they make it. And the IITs and IIMs(especially) should never have been the priority of an independent India - they just churn out people for "servicing the rich" IMO.

Vanessa said...

Agree with Jayadeep. Parents, teachers, society play a major role. Why top the class? why get good education? Why engineering? So one day, you can get a good job and mint money. Simple. The consciously developed ones might look back and wonder if it was worth it, only when they have earned all the riches.

csm said...

jdp - at some stage one needs to be able to break out of stranglehold and education is precisely aimed to build conscious thoughtful citizens. if it is clearly not doing that, then should we be closely examining this system and discard is as useless tinsel.

v - hope you are not doing that with shreya :-)

Vanessa said...

:) US education system is surely better in that regard. ('academic excellence' pressure much lighter). Not just for kids, but for parents too. Hope we don't fall in that trap when we return.

Kishore said...

The review of what goes on around you, be it in friends or individuals we may not know is quite reasonable, as long as we do not use that to feign a moral superiority for ourselves. Otherwise, how will we calibrate?

I agree with JDP that the focus of Indian society is totally skewed. I note that topic of conversation between people, particularly the current grandparents generation(60's to 80's) almost invariably veers to "what is your son/daughter doing, i.e Is he/she e manager?, what salary, car and how big a flat ? etc."

It is never about how that individual is living their life. Have they done anything to leave the world a better place than they found it?

I agree that most of us are indeed living a life serving the very rich and being played as puppets. Unfortunately, the greed of these people in positions of power is insatiable and as long as they have "coolies" they will continue to domineer.

Anonymous said...

Money is security, so people think. This guy thinks friends are real security, I tend to agree.

Unknown said...

nice one SKD.. while you reprimand yourself you show the mirror to the rest of us.

You are perfectly right that it is ingrained in our psyche that success = fame and fortune. I guess "being happy" is too abstract and cannot be measured and by the rules of this world - what cannot be measured is not worth monitoring.

I wonder though given that all religious texts emphasise this and so many great thinkers from Tolstoy to Gandhi have written about it and practised it - still why is this "ideal poverty less world" not realised anywhere (except maybe in some scattered communities). Maybe Human Beings are inherently selfish and our nature does not allow us to think of betterment of others unless there is a benefit for us. Hope this view is not too cynical for this forum.

csm said...

v - sure i dont concur with the US education system. that is also in quite a mess.

kishor - yes. 'they' are us.

anon - nice link. great story for us to learn from.

pushpi - thanks.

Carolyn Robbins said...

I liked your 'serving the rich' comment. I wonder if one of the reasons the USA has lost perspective and enthusiasm for the energy programs, is that there are so many people who are occupied with getting a job, keeping a job, and making ends meet. The people who are the wealthiest spend a lot of time worried they won't be able to keep it. That is a prison of it's own. I know, because I work for many of them and they are always concerned and seldom happy. If there is one prayer I make each day, it is that we will cease worrying about what we do and be happy doing it. Even if we want to be rich. Become genuine in doing whatever we do. Stare at the sky more. Then one becomes a person empty of ulterior motives and because they are empty; they are capable of hearing the heartbeat of the world.

Carolyn Robbins said...


because we are empty, we can hear the heartbeat of the world.

csm said...

carolyn - just defining 'rich' in terms of economic merit needs amendment.

Anonymous said...

i sure agree, why should the "poor" use the rich people's definition of wealth, and berate them for not sharing it. "poor" people can have more friends, can be connected to land or nature, have no insecurity of having to guard or increase the wealth, have more control over their lives, plus many positive things. Even in developed countries where the poor are isolated and institutionalized, they do have a lot more control if they are willing to exercise it, but they just drift on the margins of society, aimless and unhappy.

Purvs said...

Anon- Romanticizing poverty is merely an academic exercise that the rich folks indulge in to make themselves either feel better or absolve themselves of any responsibility.

Pushpraj- Why there is no poverty-less world? Maybe because poverty is a relative term. Tomorrow if every single person on this planet owned a 2 bedroom flat and a car then they would be considered "poor" compared to those who own five bedroom mansions and 3 cars... if you catch my drift. I agree with csm that its time to define poverty in more than economic terms.