Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bane and Benediction

One of the most fundamentally flawed issue that has beleaguered mankind since the beginning of time is scarcity. The mere mention of scarceness conjures up images of water, food and natural resources shortages that have plagued mankind for thousands of years. It is the bane and benediction of our existence; the reason that drives us to wars and also unimaginable feats of pivotal human achievements for our own progress.
The vision of the world today is mostly due to this legacy concern. Scarcity is manmade to ensure the perpetuity of this uneven playing field (the world). It is why this earth has winners and losers, the empowered and the controlled, chaos and order. But a new kind of scarcity has taken form. It is the root of all scarceness. In popular human culture, it is also known to be the root of all evil. This is about money and all its encompassing forms and questionable manifestations.
The money’s role in present day society has become too dominant and fraudulent. The corrupting nature of today’s monetised transactions is a very real concern. The threat of unequal access to money is extensive, which makes any kind of trades in the modern world today using money inherently unequal. So imbalanced is this landscape that the expansion of anonymous monetary exchange will almost inevitably erode social cohesion.
An elementary example to illustrate this point is do children really develop a love of reading if they are bribed into reading books? What happens when money does not exist? What then motivates the child to read? If by using money to bribe a child; an individual who is yet incapable of self-progression, manages to encourage him to read which ultimately becomes invaluable to his life, is money then still considered evil?
As a world that is primarily democratic, it is very easy to miss the painful fact that the price of freedom has a lot to do with oppressive monetised dominance. We need not look further than the champion nation of freedom for the perfect situational reference. In the United States, congressional hearings are public; an important element of participatory democracy. Companies hire the unemployed as a form of misguided charitable endeavour to line up and obtain free public tickets to the hearings. These are then sold to lobbyists who have a business interest in the hearings but are too busy to stand in line. Fundamentally, in a democratic nation, all citizens should have equal access to the hearings. Is selling access then a perversion of democratic principles?
Taking this from a different angle, human societal interaction just simply cannot accommodate everyone in life. Every single human being is born equal, with equal endowments of time in this case. Therefore, the ethical way would be by allowing people to use their own time queuing up for the tickets. But is a single mother with a high-pressure job as equally endowed with time as a student during summer vacation? Will the society benefit if she, a legal counsel for a corporation, spends her time queuing up? Wouldn’t it now be more proper for the student to auction the seats away to people like her for money? The ethicality of this issue has now become distortionary.
The role of money in society is starting to become more apparent in this scenario. Neither eventualities in this case represent the fundamental distortion in dealing out ethics. It is simply cause and effect. If what we hope to achieve is to increase society’s productive efficiency here (cause), people will then be willing to pay (effect). How much these people are willing to pay will then become an indicator of how much they think they will gain from having access to the hearings. Suddenly, the argument of unethical seats auctioning becomes moot because the lawyer contributes more to society by preparing her case work files than by standing in line.
Now, if what we hope to achieve is to enhance society’s collective solidarity here (cause), we must display a pliable example of how democracy works to the impressionable young by making corporate executives stand in line with the unemployed or jobless students (effect). How much time these people are willing to commit becomes a gauge of how much they think they will learn from attending the hearings. We live in a world today where money and time interchange in worth, medium and distribution.
As a species that is predominantly moral, it is effortless to overlook the beautiful irony that the price of conscience is entwined with veiled monetised illegality. A very real example that is free of political and economic influence to exemplify the unbiased and overarching role of money today is the sale of human organs. Society is brought up in such a way that it frowns upon the imparting or exchange of bodily organs for money. To distort this fact, the kindness of a stranger is celebrated when he donates a kidney to a child. In most instances, the stranger is either a relative or a healthy homeless donor in need of money. In the latter’s case, is selling organs then a travesty of religious moralities?
It is ironically obvious that the issue here is not about the transfer of organs. These people have a choice before imparting with their organs. They are not misinformed about the purpose or value of their kidney nor being tricked or coerced into parting with it. These people are irrevocably giving away something that is a part of them for a price that very few of us are willing to accept. But accept them we do. If not for the perceived value of money in today’s society, or the mere existence of it, who is to say the child would have found the right donor in time to save his life? But also, if not for the intrinsic value or role of money in life, what is to stop the illegal organs exchange in the black market from being so dangerously lucrative?
There is a very good reason why it is seen in this world that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Organs are usually in short supply. The patients who obtain them will have a chance to live while those who do not will simply die. Because of the perceived dominance of money in our society, we ration the organs by price. But when we do this, the society is accepting the fact that the rich should be saved while the poor should be left to die. Could this be a new aphorism where the rich live longer and the poor live shorter? If we accept that, then we become economists instead of moral agents. Without conscience, we are not fully human and no better than animals. What then gives humanity the right to be the guardian of this planet?
When you strip away all that you have been taught about money, the idea of “money” is really just an illusion. The problem with money lies in the perceived discrepancies between use-value and exchange-value. The sale of organs makes society feels uncomfortable because it requires that we give it a value that is separate from its intrinsic worth, is measurable and is influenced by anonymous market drivers.
It has to do with what we perceive as an unequal exchange. The society works in a way where the exchange is considered more equal if the money had been earned from a painfully accumulated savings from many years of hard work as opposed to money earned from gambling or an overpaid job.
Be that as it may, we live in a real world that is materialistic but not unforgiving. Perhaps the challenge for the society here is not in reducing money’s role because money has many virtues in facilitating transactions. A person need not know the origin of the money received to be able to use it. The underlining insight here is that society’s tolerance for monetisation is proportional to the legitimacy accorded to the distribution of money. The central virtue of money then is precisely its anonymity.
As far as legitimacy goes, as long as the society believes it is the hardworking and the deserving who have the money, the more willing they are to tolerate monetary transactions. Society’s tolerance for monetary transactions falls over when it is the dishonest and the crooked who largely holds the money. As we continue our existence on this planet with a new kind of scarcity, the world should work continuously to improve the perceived legitimacy of money’s distribution. After all, greed does not bring prosperity. It is only a temporary illusion that will lead to a definite downfall.

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