In case you haven’t noticed (or paid attention to the garbage I write), everything in life is always about money. If you do not believe me, simply notice the news from Ukraine. Russia announced a doubling of pensions for the newly acquired Crimea, while the West has demanded that Ukraine tighten belts if they want credits. Guess which will appeal to simple people...which will lead to an increased war of words...
I have noticed complaints in the media about spending on Socchi. Some seem to be legitimate; some seem to aim at discrediting the head guy in the Kremlin. Of course, this is not different than all complaints about the cost of the Olympic Games or the soccer World Cup competition. Some citizens in Brazil seem to dislike the increase in bus fares, when the government is spending billions on stadiums for games for which few be able to buy tickets. Or cries of foul against “guest” workers in Qatar, toiling away at building stadiums and infrastructure. More people seemed concerned about the heat, in which the millionaire players will have to perform.
My point is actually about money. All individuals, families, groups, companies, states, nations must plan the spending of limited resources (yes, some do have a budget, but many tend to be elastic). It is an economic reality, that I learned early in life (which was confirmed in school), that there is always too little money for all the needs, wants, etc. That means that someone must decide what gets spent and what is neglected. When one is looking in one’s own wallet, there is no one to blame but oneself for spending decisions. With groups, corporations, and nations, there will always be complainers. Someone will not like the spending decisions, because they feel that someone else has received an unfair advantage.
This is what’s behind the complaints about Socchi. Money is being spent on a glamour project, when most parts of the country are suffering from neglect. People put up with shoddy infrastructure and services, while watching money being heaped on prestige objects for foreigners. Someone in government decided that this is the best use of the nation’s money, so the man on the street can only complain and.
I noticed this very disturbing headline:
“4 in 5 in US face near-poverty, no work”
I have noticed decline each time I have visited the United States over the past decades, but did not realize that things had reached such a low point. Poverty is the United States, a country touted as the Land of milk and honey and the dream destination of many unwitting foreigners, is more disturbing than what I observe in Asia. In most countries, people are not fooled into believing what are basically lies. I often wondered how anyone could expect a nation to prosper that turned manufacturing jobs into fast food jobs. Someone must make money to buy all those burgers, tacos, and pizza.
One constantly hears about supremacy and “We’re Number 1”, but it seems that the country leads only in growing income inequality. People are suffering, because too many got rich by moving jobs overseas.
Although someone has noticed, nothing will change...
"Obama Says Income Gap Is Fraying U.S. Social Fabric"
...because Republicans and lobbyists will do everything to thwart him.
After I drafted the above, I watched the movie, The Candidate. This was supposed to be a comedy, but I found too much reality to make my laugh. The parody was based upon sad realities of the American system, making this film a tragedy...
Is there a right way or a wrong way to live your life? Of course not. Any philosopher worth his or her salt (or any other arbitrary measure) will tell you that there is not such thing as right or wrong. A person should choose to do whatever is legal (or not) and pleases him or her with the available resources for food, shelter, and appropriate branded products.
I have the good fortune to do (mostly) whatever I choose. Given more resources, those choices might be different, but I am content with what I have and what I can do. And, greater resources might lead me to make foolish choices. Winning a large sum of money in a lottery would surely screw up my life. Who needs hassles that come with the pressure to spend money? I prefer to have enough to fulfill my needs, with some left over for the occasional extravaganza. Germans call this the Golden Middle: neither fabulously wealthy nor living in a box under a bridge.
I just saw an advertisement on British television for what’s called a “Payday Loan”. That did not surprise me, because I had seen these ads before. What did surprise me was that the small print has become large print. No effort was made to hide the fact that annual interest rates start at 278%. You read that correctly: two hundred and seventy-eight percent.
Anyone susceptible to such an offer must be stupid or desperate or both. Then again, only stupid people must not understand that such “deals” will only lead to more desperation.
And, once again, I realize how fortunate I have been in life to rarely have needed a loan and never one with unreasonable conditions.
I got to thinking about money. No, not having money or not having money. Simple about the principle of money, as invented by humans. No other animal uses currency in the way humans do. So, none are faced with problems that money can cause.
I am certain that whoever came up with the idea of giving value to one object vs. another never envisioned the day when most value would become nothing but imagination and encompassed in numbers on a page. What started as a useful exercise became a game, played with phony numbers. And, I wonder if those early geniuses had ever encountered greed, which has become the driving force in wealth accumulation, of which money is the key measuring tool.
By chance, after writing the above words, I discovered that Non Sequitur had had similar thoughts...
Warning: a bit of cynicism follows...
The Olympic Games used to be about individual and team performance. At some point, professional athletes were permitted to perform (as opposed to compete). Money became the driving force: for the IOC. for federations, and for athletes.
Now, national performance is the non plus ultra. That explains why a guy born in Somalia, who trains in the United States with money from Great Britain, competes in a British uniform. Toffs in London clubs surely deride the color of his skin and ask about where all the good English lads are, but most bask in the glory of hearing God Save the Queen blaring from stadium loudspeakers. Taxpayers do not realize how much playing that tune cost the nation.
Like most aspects of life on this planet, it’s always about the money.
For dinner, we tried what is, reputedly, the best Chinese restaurant in a city chock full of Chinese restaurants. Since it is located in our hotel, the choice was easy. Whatever the cost, we would save on taxi fare (not that taxis are expensive here). Anyways, it was an easy elevator ride.
The first impression was good, because the decor is marvelous. Luxury in Hong Kong is measured in ceiling height, and this place has a high ceiling. The architect and interior designer got everything right. We had a table at floor-to-ceiling windows offering a view of Hong Kong harbor and half of the island skyline.
Service is excellent, as it is at every part of this hotel. Of course, one receives a cold towel upon arrival. Here, we received two more during the meal. That was a first. These supplemented the starched linen napkin.
The waitress was helpful in steering us through the large selection of “interesting” dishes. We followed her recommendation to start with honey glazed pork, which turned out to be about as tough as jello and very tasty. Because here English was not perfect and we are stupid, we ended up with too many dishes. She brought mushrooms and snow peas fried in soy sauce. Next she delivered mango duck and prawns, only one of which we thought we had ordered. Both were excellent, but too much to finish. Of course, fried rice was delivered. To prevent becoming uncomfortable, we stopped eating and pleaded old age to the waitress. She was polite and feigned sympathy.
All in all, it was a pleasant experience. With greater hunger, we would have been able to finish what we ordered and even try more courses.
Because we had spent the last ten days on a ship offering copious wine with each meal, we decided to forego alcohol. Besides, we had just enjoyed free drinks on the club floor.
Anyways, a glance at the wines list can often be entertaining, so flipped it open. The first item was a jeroboam of Crystal for 1900 euros, not unlike other restaurants of this class. I kept going until I reached the Romanee Conti....for 19,800 euros. 19,800 euros! I think that is roughly the cost of my parents’ first house. For a bottle of wine. Which might or might not be good. Despite its reputation. I have enjoyed this wine in the past, compliments of a wealthy friend. I recall it as being tasty, but not worth the price of a house or car. It takes only one person with stupid money...or a need show off...to justify having such wines on a menu. From what I have read great amounts of money are oozing out of China to replace bonus money of investment bankers, who are known to be reckless spenders.
We had water with our meal and jasmine tea at the end...once again proving that we are not stupid.
Germany gives off the impression of being a harmonious land. It usually is, as long as one follows the rules, respects neighbors’ rights, and does not earn more money than others.
Even states bicker, when it comes to something causing jealousy. An airport earns money, and planes make noise; one stays within on state, while the other crosses borders.
Frankfurt airport lies in the state of Hesse. Many approach and departure routes lead planes over neighboring Rhineland Palatinate. Hesse has a Christian Democratic government (conservative); its neighbor to the west has a Social Democratic government (socialist).
Folks in the Rhineland are upset that Hesse earns so much money from Frankfurt airport, while they get only noise. What they mean is that it is unfair for someone to have more of something they want. They do not mention that residents of Hesse suffer from significantly more noise…but the fury is not about sound.
I could not sleep last night. No, I was not worried about the end of time...
Myriad unrelated thoughts raged through my mind, none of which helped me to nod off. At some point, I began to wonder what drives humans to pursue wealth beyond what they need. I think I experienced a eureka moment.
Evolutionary scientists have proven that human life has no meaning. (Sorry, to those of you that have missed this tidbit). Our only purpose is to reproduce. We are born and we die, but in between we must keep busy. To this end, humans have devised all sorts of activities (I won't list or rate these!)
Money serves a special purpose: it gives meaning. It provides a way to measure achievement. Acquiring wealth becomes a purpose in its own right. That is why people will go to any length to get money: work, crime, cheating on taxes, gambling, credit card debt, etc.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.