Eshla : Can we imagine a world not dictated by money?

Can we imagine a world that is not dictated by money? Money makes the world go ’round, that’s what we’re told repeatedly.

Every story I find myself covering, I find the root cause goes back to money. Follow the money trail, I’ve been taught, and the picture will become clearer.

For a company to become more “social,” we must identify ways that it can help the poor, but also make money. A government can become accountable, transparent and efficient, but to do so it will have to forgo bribes and corruption — not possible given the fat wallets that corporate executives and government officials carry.

The traditional philanthropists, who are often so revered, are those who reap loads, and then give loads. They must accrue too much, excess, so much that they feel the need to return it.

Today, the emphasis is on using business for social impact. There are endless conferences, where CEOs, heads of marketing, heads of sustainability discuss how their companies are trying to do some good in the world. Perhaps. But I’m a bit skeptical.

I don’t understand one thing. A company must sell sugar-laden water to make millions, or billions, before feeling the need to address water woes in the developing world? Wouldn’t the more sustainable option be — don’t drink sugary water to begin with and save all that water, plastic and waste?

But wait, then the company wouldn’t exist, right? Because the most sustainable option is not have it to begin with. In business speak, what is the “value added” of that company? While some do have that function, offering a useful service or a quality product to society, more and more companies seem to be offering us unhealthy things to eat.

Yet, the same companies are pursuing new “social” agendas, driving “change” and “innovation” in business. Really?

The most innovative idea might be to scrap certain institutions that plague the environment and our bodies. But, money is stopping us.

Why do we have such rigid divisions between the sectors — the public, the private and the not-for-profit? If the private is destroying our public space, if the not-for-profit is doing the job of the public, and the public is relying on the private to finance itself — then are they really so divided? Wouldn’t it be better to have a world that works in unison, in sync with each other, not in endless competition with each other.

A not-for-profit is told that it’s not contributing to the economy. Why? Because it doesn’t generate money. But, it wouldn’t need to exist if the economy worked properly, if the institutions that were created to service our “needs” truly did so.

And yet, often, it’s the not-for-profits that are truly adding to the economy — they’re the ones helping the disabled, the underprivileged, the disenfranchised, making them not just a part of society, but also the economy.

Essentially, the money trail reveals a very interconnected world — but sometimes not in the best kind of interconnectedness.

For instance, we have recognized as a society that we have some serious health issues. Simply put, we are a bit chubby. And we see that now. The media have told us repeatedly. And yet, barring the work of the third sector and civil society, what changes are we making to build a healthier society?

The White House has a lovely little garden — a nice symbol of a more earthy nation. But the inner workings of the Capitol are a bit more complex than the vegetable patch. That patch is not going to fix the country’s obesity problem. It’s merely a gesture, a model for others to pursue.

But the halls of the Capitol are endless money chains, feeding obesity by fueling segments of our agriculture. That (unhealthy) agriculture is then feeding us — and often with overly processed foods. (Food for thought: Why are wheat berries more expensive than plain, white, enriched, bleached flour? They don’t require any processing.)

Massive distribution networks are corroding our food supply with unnecessary additives, preservatives and processes. The most sustainable (and common sense) option would be to source from local purveyors, farms and food artisans.

But that would end corporate agriculture. It would entail choking the money supply, feeding corporate ag. Is that possible? Because our representatives are connected to these money trails? Would they challenge it if it meant choking their own source of finance?

At one point the money trail used to be shorter, with fewer twists and turns. Buy from the mom-and-pop shop, the small businesses that dotted American towns, and the money would go from the customer to the vendor and perhaps, back into the community.

Today’s money trail is more complex. And even the so-called brilliant economists can’t seem to wrap their heads around it. But that money trail, be it virtual or tangible, is at the core of many social issues (not just political and economic).

The question now is, as a friend put it, “The question of money is a question of ethics. Are we ever going to say, ‘That’s enough money for me. I don’t need more. Rather I need to share it with others’?”

Because, even to do some good in the world today, you need money. It’s not a dirty thing. But can it be sullied. And it is being sullied given the stark inequalities that face our society and the global society. Can we end this? No, probably not. Can we improve it? Absolutely.

17 Responses to “Eshla : Can we imagine a world not dictated by money?”

  1. Sheela Nandini says:

    Good post,Eshla!

    Was actually reading a passage on this in Sri Sri Paramahansa Yogananda’s book last night.About earning a livelihood by honest means etc. And I lay thinking about it and wondered if it’s possible in the present scenario.

    To share all you need is the willingness to. Dene ke liye Dil chahiye…

    Love
    sheela

  2. Anuradha says:

    Whoever has more than what he or she needs, shouldn’t this gift from God be shared with the deprived lot by them…. like prasad from the temple?Why do people not understand these simple ethics?

  3. Sheela Nandini says:

    ” It is easy to be idle or filled with hopelessness and thus desist from striving for financial success in life.It is easy to earn money dishonestly when such opportunity presents itself.But it is wrong thus to excuse oneself from making an effort to sustain himself honorably…

    It is an exceptional man who earns money abundantly,unselfishly,honestly,quickly,just for God and His work and for making others happy.Such activity develops many sterling qualities of character that aid one on the spiritual path as well as the material path.

    Making money honestly and industriously to serve God’s work is the next greatest art after the art of realizing God.”(page 72)

    -“Where There is Light”(Insight and Inspiration for Meeting Life’s Challenges)
    Sri Sri Paramahansa Yogananda

  4. Bhaskar Sen says:

    Nice read! Even the sage Charbak said: ‘Rinong Kritwa Ghritang Pibet’ the loose translation of which is : even one can go to the extent of borrowing money to deavour good food !! Thus is the value of money in our society which is being preached from the helicon days of yore.

  5. abhishek says:

    Money is only good for playing MONOPOLY.

  6. Arjun says:

    Hi,
    I was reading I Have a Dream by Rashmi Bansal which talks about Social Entrepreneurs and your article is an add on.

  7. drbmsharma says:

    First of all your subject and analysis is excellent. i give my views in the most humble manner:
    1. Money is a container. Through this container : Earth ores/water/ biscuits etc. are transported.
    2. The Earth has undergone transformation from day one.
    3. Human beings need earth produced and processed materials.
    4. Resources are scarce. No one talked 20 years ago that water is a scarce resource nor air. Today now we are talking water as a scarce resource and tomorrow air shall be scarce.
    5. Human beings have changed the Quality of Earth Environment knowingly and wickedly.
    6. This is the technology ( not money) which produces drinking water/ aeroplane/ processed foods etc. Money is merely a vehicle. The way medicines cure; but the medicines delivery systems namely hands/mouth/tongue etc. in the same way Money is a delivery resource for inputs/processes/outputs.
    7. for some person Mr. Mukesh Ambani or Bill Gates may be rich; but these two gentlemen are transporters of millions of tonnes of materials/information on the earth among nations/peoples.
    8. Corruption though may look a large problme for few human beings; it is not the problem at all for Universe and Earth. Environment is a problem for Universe and human beings/ earth.
    9. Human beings are capable to create disequilibria which you have listed and now on human beings shall be busy in solving such disequilibria.
    10. If the Total Water and Air decide to leave Earth; then within a second we all shall die. So long this does not happen; Technology and Human Beings shall solve the problems and may create new problems.
    11. Money mostly now is in the electronic media and in the times to come it may disappear.

  8. Harb says:

    All things human will come and go in cycles with humans. These are as good or bad or this and that as each one of us thinks but all for a while, not because of any inherent truth. God or the underlying Reality has nothing to do with these.

  9. Rajesh A says:

    Idealistically, what one requires should be enough to provide three square meals, a roof over the head, and sufficient leftover to manage one’s daily needs.

    But some one needs to earn more to be able to provide the other to sustain, and it is this requirement of the provider that comes into question. What is enough for one, may not suffice for another, as the definition of “Enough” is superlative.

    It does depend on what needs a person has that he feels should be met, which from an individual translate into a corporation. A corporation after all, is a mindset of various individuals that come to gether to achieve a common goal.. Unless that core changes, the world will continue to be dictated the way it is.

  10. JB says:

    Social impact of business: There is an implicit (and explicit) suggestion that non-profits are somehow more “social” (whatever that means) and supportive of poor than business. That’s not true. Business/Capitalism has a far larger positive social impact than non-profits can ever dream of having. Having a job and thereby, the means to earn a livelihood is far better than handouts. And, then non-profits often get their funds from business or from taxpayers who earn their living from capitalism.

    Emotions vs Intelligence: To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, its easier to be sympathetic to the poor than to come up with an intelligent solution in a dispassionate way. The poor don’t need charity but an economic system that gives them a fair shot at removing their poverty. As long as the fair shot is available, all is well in the world. Capitalism is better than anything else in giving the maximum number of people that fair shot. If something else can be devised, it needs to be argued on the basis of economics.

    Crony-ism and government: Crony capitalism is a problem, but the discussion of problems needs to focus on the crony-ism not the capitalism. It needs to focus not on some false notion of business vs non-profits, but on the crony-ism due to corruption at the interface of business and government, at the interface of business and regulators. That corruption is best addressed by transparency, democratic expression, institution building, etc, etc. All fairly humdrum activities that won’t elicit the kind of passion that pitting business against non-profits does. Non-profits have a key role in taking up these issues of transparency, building public opinion and consensus, enforcing checks on institutions and regulators. If you think about it you would realize that more of the problem lie with government and regulators rather than business.

    Health: The author is also writing from the point of the US. Because its mentioned that we are chubby. In India, our urban centers probably have the problem of obesity. But, the majority of the country has malnourishment problems. In India, we have had too little capitalism. Both US and India suffer from crony capitalism, but in India, cronyism is a recent phenomenon due to the transition from socialism to capitalism. The fight against cronyism should not result in a reversion to long-term failed policies of socialism, but should result in a cleaner, fairer capitalism.

    Individual wealth: There is discussion of how much if enough for a human being and sharing wealth, etc. The question should be that of fairness. If a billionaire makes money through fair means, he/she has already had a large positive social impact and has already shared the wealth through his employees, share-holders, tax contribution, etc, etc. Its outright wrong to ask someone who is already ahead on the social impact charts to contribute more. In any case, business riches often get redistributed, but not through charity, through the market, through winners and losers in business. If there is any entity who needs to step up to the plate, it is the government and regulators.

  11. Kartik Mehrotra says:

    @Sheela – +1

  12. Surya Kant Singh says:

    All the haphazardness is because of the very fact that the meter of success, which should have been happiness, is money. We cant talk of both of development and sustainability simultaneously. Its vanished long ago with the antient civilisations. With the advancement in technology, we have entered an era of absolute nothingness. The moment we are able to incorporate the concept of FREE WILL and there will be no struggle for survival, the world will be a better place to live in.

  13. Sheela Nandini says:

    @Kartik-Thank you! 🙂

  14. koizen says:

    No – in material sense
    Yes – in your world

  15. Siddharth says:

    Excellent Theory on Sustainable Development for Perpetual Peace & Happiness..!!

    As we know The Vision of any Human Being is Peace & Happiness.But so called People in your post are not mature enough to know that money can’t buy true happiness the way we know that true and perpetual Happiness lies in sharing whatever excess u have with the people who need it.Seeing other people being happy because of us can result into true happiness inside us.

    If as per your post,these millionaires of this country can understand the above simple philosophy then there can’t be Poverty,Nil death on account of hunger,A Lasting Peace can be established.But in this materialistic world where ppl r used and things r loved our concept of sustainable civilization is not possible.

    Regards,

    Siddharth

  16. Neeta says:

    All of our materials and therefore all of our money comes from the Earth. Have we managed our materials well ? For example we generate so much garbage, the same could be made compost or black gold. But we ignore these processes, which derive on the intelligence of the material. We cut down forests with no thought how this affects wildlife and rains. Why is it surprising that we have material challenges ?

  17. Aimless Arrow says:

    Nice and well written. I am very glad to read it.

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