THERE is no point in arguing any more in the present-day world against the belief, by and large, that money can instil moral values, however, bizarre this may sound. In fact, one needs money even to practise religious rituals in a mundane manner. So, make money first and fast and then repent to wash off the sins and purify the ill-gotten money. Education has become a weapon now to churn out money and attain possession, including buying other humans, as closeted assets. Money has become an instrument for everything else but the inculcation of moral values. Money first and the rest, including education, norms and values, would follow as a corollary — this is today’s tenet. This is the slogan that powers the present generation and the present-day world.
You are respected if you have money because then you are powerful. You can wipe out with impunity a man who wields no power but dares to challenge you. Nobody, therefore, dares to question how money is earned as it is of no consequence because once money is plenty in hand, people will flock around to give legitimacy to the earnings. As they also want to earn money, they will sell themselves readily to those who possess power (read money). Money is bliss although it neither buys undisturbed sleep nor health, neither cerebral nor physical prowess in the real sense. It is, nevertheless, strength to move forward with heinous and treacherous motives, plans and strides if one wants.
Money makes people unequal; the unequal then dream to be equal through the hallowed domain of money. Money is the driving force that erases the past. It is not unnatural, therefore, to see that the families and individuals respected in the past are no more in any socially exalted position. People have to have money and not education that much to bask in today’s blinding glory. In this country, once someone reaches the pinnacle of power and respect, even if these are not due, everything is fair for him. Whatever he says goes unchallenged. ‘Everything is fair in love and war’ and it is squarely so when the war and the love are for money because, then, greed can propel one with gusto — no law or moral issue can then be a barrier.
It should not leave anyone bewildered to see that while Bangladesh has galloped ahead of India and Pakistan in the gross domestic product, none of its universities could lodge themselves in the first 1,000 in the global ranking, according to a survey by the Quaquerelli Simmonds World University Ranking. Three of the Pakistani and eight of the Indian universities are counted among the 1,000 universities globally. So, we have money but cannot buy quality education, improve our moral values and spiritual cleansing that hinge on a real system of education. Our social fabric is clear. We can see with, or without, embarrassment where we stand on moral and social grounds. Money has limited or maimed our capacity to realise this standing and hence, the need for correcting it. Instead, we are boastful of economic strength as if there is nothing called individual, family, social and national values. This is our neoliberal realisation — money sans social, political and legal valuation to uphold. The newly found sense and sensibility are spreading their dark wings incessantly. Greed is a disease that has no ends and we are growing groggy, with no mood to realise this abyss.
Lies, faking, freakishness, moral turpitude, muscle power, unholy plots and clever tricks can push people to high positions in society now without any remorse. The assumption of these hazily illustrious positions by cutting quick corners and by befuddling the law of the land, which may nevertheless be applied to different people differently, can swell one’s ill earned position and it can get a person drunk with an eerie power without any social, political and legal accountability. The people move from strength to strength and nobody can touch or question them. Others are busy keeping their own flimsy positions unwavering and unblemished as well. Evidently, what is being created by our present generation is dismal and frightening for all of us and for future generations as well. Are we not shoved and pushed when we are walking the footpath? Do we not see queues jumped by the feigning new generation youngsters? We have to make way for them, for they do not see anybody else except themselves.
Societies and families are losing shape and contour. Everything is fluid. Money changes hands with great fluidity and at a great speed for capital gains and for individual comfort. Everything, like water, takes the shape of the containers that money creates. Bonding and respectability within families and societies are breaking and loosening, not assuming any formal or informal stable shape to keep families and societies bonded. Egos propelled by money decide the values and mores but in a state of fluidity a money rolls and does not stop engendering itself in its never-ending rolling. Money rolling is not bad but when it is not bound by some rules, it is dangerous. The realm of money breaks its own rules and practices whenever it faces a stumbling block. It is a like a chameleon, which changes colours to suit the surroundings. Its only aim is to catch preys and it will do whatever is necessary to hunt down the adversaries. Any threat to money making must be disposed of fast or bought. Legal avenues must be used as reshaped weapons to give credence to money making.
When the sky is the limit to make money, everyone shouts with full force of their lungs for freedom to make money, without any lines, limits and corners, and beyond the shackles of any regulations. In this milieu, it is not only rich eating the poor but the stronger rich eating the weaker rich, striving for monopoly and then you have what is called anti-monopoly law only to be trampled. Yes, this is what we know as capitalism. This roulette, therefore, aims at one goal — to grasp all the so-called free markets and turn them into restrictive empires, divided only into a few and fewer inasmuch as possible. This has paved the way for clashes of the Goliaths and civilisations, where the the Davids will be silent spectators, to be ruled by Goliath, the winner. Goliath’s strength comes from your and our blood and sweat, which we sell cheaply to the euphoria of the Goliaths. This has to stop.
But first, where did it all start from? It emanated from the family, society, the political ambience and aspirations and from the lacklustre performance of the educational system, which fails to direct students’ imagination towards a nobler avenue and level of reasoned happiness. Instead, every institution now vies for and supports money making as the sole goal of life as it is taken to be the only platform for happiness and comfort in life. We have forgotten that unless there are reigns of morality and sensibility, ruthless and limitless running after money, at the end of the day, will not translate into ending the thirst and contention for blood in the quirky path of meaningless and shapeless happiness. Unfortunately, money has flown too fast into our pockets — faster than we could obtain education and knowledge that could keep us on some leash and give real value to our life.
There are no qualms with money making, but it has to be justified and rationalised. It should be within the confines of mores and values, respect and humility. The toilers should be happy with the return that they get for their toiling — not more, not less. Earnings should be in lieu of a respectable job for people at large. Respectable jobs do not mean that there will be no street sweepers or no night guards. But whoever does whatever, their job should be respected as a decent job and their salaries should afford their children a decent education and socially conforming clothing and homes.
Neither they nor their family should feel embarrassed in any society — high or low. Our education system should be based on these fundamental values. Our teachers should feel proud of being teachers not only in classrooms but also as teachers in society. If our education system has failed to instil this vision inb our students, then just contemplate who should be blamed for this — none but the policy-makers, first, and teachers thereafter.
Lastly, as they say, charity should begin at home. So let us bring those old days back, when young valued and had respect for the elderly. This is not so much for the elderly, but for the youth of today who will go through the same phase of rude awakening someday.
AM Zakir Hussain is a former director, Primary Health Care and Disease Control, former director of IEDCR, DGHS, former regional adviser of SEARO, WHO and former staff consultant, Asian Development Bank, Bangladesh.
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