As the poor suffer, the rich are playing on
Everything new nothing has changed
The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them, high or lowly,
And ordered their estate.
Lately, I came across this stanza from the poem All Things Bright And Beauteous by C.F. Alexander.
The way the financial conundrum is being addressed in Europe underscores Alexander’s words and imparts two important lessons.
First, Mammon calls the shots. This crisis is the fallout of avarice. Like little Oliver, many wanted more and were indifferent to the plight of others. Never was the aphorism that money is the root to all evil so spot on.
Second, history is merely man’s material evolution. It does not impinge upon his spiritual and moral development. There were many personalities who, through their teachings and exemplary lives, strove to improve mankind’s ethos.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, gave us the ultimate lesson when He forfeited His life on the cross to save us. On a lesser level, there were others: St Francis of Assisi, Henri Dunant, Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King. There were politicians who sought the enhancement of people’s lives. They embraced divergent political philosophies but had one common aim: the welfare of the people. Their message was not so much as love thy neighbour but at least help those in dire straits. Their benchmark was the parable of the Good Samaritan.
Have they succeeded? I am afraid not. None could prevail against man’s anthropologic selfishness. History is nothing but a loop that replays the same situations under new guises.
In the past, crowned heads, nobles and those who leeched on them waged wars, led luxurious lives, built the grandiose palaces for greed and self-gratification. Was it not the serfs, farmers, peasants, workers and the poor folk who footed their bill, both financially and in human terms to satisfy their foibles?
Today, the scenery has altered but the plot is the same. Royalty and nobles have been substituted by bankers, financers, real estate owners and developers, financial speculators, entrepreneurs, entertainers, the professional caste and politicians. In truth, most of these people worked hard for their status and wealth and, by all means, deserve their bounty. On the other hand, are they pitching in to help in the crisis? No, they are not.
Recently, a report about Greece in The Guardian unveiled how egotism has obliterated the conscience of certain people. This country is the worst hit by the crisis. Experts predict its euro days are numbered. Three years on, the Greek oligarchs are by no means feeling the crunch. One had the gall to put on a T-shirt proclaiming: “More is less”. In the last decade, Greek ship owners controlling 15 per cent of the world’s merchant freight have covertly siphoned off €140 million tax-free revenue in offshore companies.
While ordinary Greeks are on the brink of poverty due to cuts, new and higher taxes, their fat cat compatriots have been migrating their mony out of Greece. An estimated €8 billion flowed out of the country’s banking system in May of this year as fear of an exit from the eurozone escalated.
In the past weeks, €2 billion more have been withdrawn, thus bringing the total sum withdrawn to €22 billion since the start of the crisis in 2009.
It is the common practice of wealthy Greeks to send their wives and close friends on “shopping missions” in order to close covert accounts in Switzerland and Cyprus. The super rich have become sly as the artful Dodger in cogitating schemes to disperse and hide their wealth abroad. One popular ploy is buying blue chip real estate in London. “At a time when Greece, more than ever, needs symbolic gestures from its rich citizens, they seem to be doing practically nothing to help their country,” said Theodore Pelagidis, professor of economic analysis at Piraeus University.
Is this not history repeating itself? Why is it always those at the lower end of the food chain that have to bear the brunt and suffer for the irresponsibility and folly of the rich and powerful? Any sense of liability seems to slide off them like water on a duck’s feathers.
Capitalism has mutated into an all-consuming voracious creature. They do not mind as long as their nests remain well feathered.