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Root of All Evil!
by Dr. Rajinder Puri Bookmark and Share

Many decades ago as a  young school kid I used to hear the Andrew Sisters sing, “Money is the root of all evil, I won’t contaminate myself with it, take it away, take it away, take it away!” Now I recall that song with a new awareness. Are the words of the lyric exaggerated? Consider what money is doing to society. It has led a vast bulk of those people who have the opportunity, to become corrupt. Politicians are corrupt, judges are corrupt, journalists are corrupt, and officials are corrupt. No class or segment seems to have escaped the taint of corruption. Why? Because of money!

Is not money the cause of decline in all institutions? Today in India government has become business, business has become crime, journalism has become industry and judiciary has become government.

The desire for money is natural. People have a right to comfort. Money brings comfort. The first impulse for money is based upon need. But then people think beyond comfort and pander to desires. They make more money to satisfy desires. They even resort to improper methods of making money. Need becomes greed. Some people then become addicted to the making of money. They are neither fulfilling a need nor a desire. Making money becomes an end in itself. They get a kick from each financial killing much as a drug addict gets a kick from an injection. Greed becomes a disease. How do the vast number of very corrupt and extraordinarily rich people who have billions stashed away in black money in India or abroad ever spend the money they have acquired? When will they ever have the time to spend it as their lives ebb away through stress and strain? It makes one wonder. 

Is not money the cause of decline in all institutions? Today in India government has become business, business has become crime, journalism has become industry and judiciary has become government. The distortion among all institutions is palpable and painful to watch. Sport has become vulgar entertainment. It has also become corrupt. One can understand young sports persons lured by money. They have their future to think about. But that holds good up to a point. They get sponsorships and ad contracts that take good care of their future needs. But do they ever stop? I recall Vijay Merchant, Vijay Hazare and Mushtaq Ali who played for a pittance if for any expenses at all. But they were Gods worshipped by millions as they strode the sporting arena. Today’s players may or may not have superior techniques. But some times they appear to be performing monkeys on TV ads to promote this or that product. And to top it all some go in for match fixing to enter the world of sleazy corruption. They may be enormously rich. They may be enormously talented. But are they happier than the sporting Gods of yesterday?

That brings one to the question. How should progress of society be measured? Should it be in terms of only material welfare or also of spiritual fulfillment? Does mere economic growth make society happy? If not, should not the pursuit of happiness be the major goal of policy making? It should, but happiness depends upon how people think. Only a Nanak, a Buddha, a Jesus or a Mohammed can convert the thinking of an entire society. Nevertheless as we witness a stressful, hate-full, violent society erupt in daily crime, corruption and road rage violence we should pause and think. Is it not time to address very basic assumptions and redefine progress and the ways of achieving it? Is it not time to reappraise basic values that should inform a society and strive to realize these? True, governments cannot conjure a saint or a prophet who may influence how people think and act. But governments do have today the technological means to assess real progress not in terms of just material growth but also of spiritual growth. And governments have the means to devise policies aimed at achieving it. But that requires first of all the vision to usher such change. Has any government thought on these lines?

As a matter of fact one government has.  As early as in 1972 Bhutan’s King Jigme Singye Wangchuck coined the term “Gross National Happiness" as against the Gross National Product to realize Buddhist spiritual values. That concept evolved into a serious study under the present Bhutan government. Scholars from Canada and British Columbia conducted studies related to the concept. As Mr. Pavan Verma, India's ambassador to Bhutan said: “There are limits to the satisfaction economic growth by itself provides… Gross National Happiness looks at the quality of life, how much leisure time you have, what's happening in your community, and how integrated you feel with your culture." 

Scientific surveys can determine the compelling needs that create happiness among people. Family life, neighbourhood activities, healthy entertainment, participatory community life, happiness arising from common national purpose that bonds people together into common endeavor, security, and indeed various facets of everyday life that promotes happiness. Governments can consciously create facilities and environment that facilitate achievement of these goals. Let governments by all means continue with current efforts to maximize economic growth. But should not such growth be tempered by devising a kind of planning that also promotes societal happiness? The crumbling institutions, stressful people, violent crime and irrational greed that have swept across the nation suggest the need for a fundamental reappraisal of what constitutes progress and what means should be adopted to achieve it. This may appear unrealistic and romantic. But India’s rapidly escalating political and social crisis makes such reappraisal urgent.   

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Comments on this Article

Comment Long before money is present, the mind desires goods or services which, it feels, will make it happy. Money is merely the means for getting those things. But both the things and happiness are all transitory . Therefore, the idle, unfocussed mind is the source of these problems. The 4 purusharthas are dharma, artha, kama and moksha. The rivers of artha and kama MUST flow between the banks of dharma and moksha for harmony. That is the eternal way; that is Sanatana Dharma.

05/21/2012 00:53 AM

Comment This excerpt from my novel, 'Jewel-less Crown' is contextual.
“You know the role money played in the downfall of our family,” he began as they went back into their room. “While I served the sentence, I thought long and hard about it and realized that it’s the character of money to corrupt the ardent, tease the vacillating and curse the indifferent. That way, there seems to be no escape for man from money. You’re damned if you have it and accursed for the lack of it.”
“Money is best in its moderation, isn't it?,” she said as though to convert him to her point of view.
“Make money the measure and you are in for trouble dear,” he said taking her into his arms. “for that would keep you in its grip forever.”
“What to do then?” she asked seemingly puzzled.
“One should try to demystify money to see what really it is worth,” he continued. “After all, the accumulated millions with a miser add up to zero, and likewise, the moolah with a spendthrift comes to naught in the end. So, money has no value of its own, in spite of the awe in which man holds it. As for the power of wealth, it’s only in the mind of the haves and the have-nots alike.”

BS Murthy
05/20/2012 01:22 AM

Comment They say when a journalist turns philosopher, either he is so dismayed that he does not know what to say or he is so happy as to have stumbled across the solution he has been searching for. I hope it is the latter part.

I don’t believe you are unrealistic or romantic about what you are stating (I do not imply that you are not romantic in other endeavors of your life).

Any person with even the slightest introspective ability figures out soon that the purpose of life is to be happy. Comforts are nice to have but happiness is innate and necessary. They are not mutually exclusive.

As a nation, as we gained independence and exposure to the world, we found ourselves drastically lagging behind the western world in the race for comfort. Our own culture in the past, in part, despised comfort as an evil that inhibits the pursuit of happiness. Caught between these two conflicts we have gone blindly after the pursuit of comforts to the degree that even the West is startled at our uninhibited pursuit of wealth at all costs (of human values). The spiritual East is in the race to beat the material West. Over the past few decades our cultural pendulum has swung from one end to the other; from despising comforts as impediment in pursuit of happiness to embracing it as the only facilitator leading to happiness. We have fused one with the other and our value system from the grass roots has become clouded, hence the spread of corruption in all segments of the society. The more power you have simply facilitates your ability to acquire more comfort. There is no correlation between your need and your greed. The two have merged.

Until this fundamental problem is solved, success will keep eluding us. The solution has to come from both ends. The long-term solution has to evolve from the bottom to remove the cloud cover from our value system through proper education of our young minds (both at home and in schools). The short-term solution has to come through systemic reforms – starting with our government.

As usual, I enjoy reading your articles.

05/18/2012 19:54 PM

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