Is the love for money eroding our humanity?

Tapiwa Gomo

develop me :Tapiwa Gomo

IT is almost four centuries since the Age of Enlightenment when an intellectual and philosophical movement reshaped the world’s economic and political landscape, setting the foundation of what the world is today. The major drivers of these developments were the scientific and industrial revolutions which together spawned an increase in production and improved standards of life in western economies.

What was vital to emerge out of these developments were genuine desires to improve the standards of life for humanity. Scientific research and mechanisation led to reduced labour and less working hours while increased production meant people earned more for less labour. With increased production, their incomes could pay for more. It also saw the rise of the current forms of governments from traditional, monarchial and religious leadership to establish a new foothold for democracy. With democracy, justice, freedom, equality, rights and empowerment — humanity was re-established with human life being central to everything out of human activity.

Roles and responsibilities were distributed and so was power and the gains from various advancements. Power, in whatever form, was expected to be transparent and accountable to the people. Everything was for the people, about the people and by the people. The growth of economies was not supposed to be limited to profits only but to contribute towards broader public good. Governments collected taxes to provide services and the people earned fair wages which together resulted in improved quality of life in western countries. While there were some flaws, humanity was the biggest winner as it remained at the centre of the thinking. This is how major economies were built.

Along the way in those four centuries a lot occurred — slave trade, colonisation, wars of liberation, various political ideologies, two world wars, plagues and competition for power all converged into various global power dynamics. Nations and individuals are now competing for superiority and power to exploit others. Money has emerged a central organising factor in these power matrices and has now altered how humanity interacts with power.

In fact, money has displaced and replaced humanity to become the central determinant factor in power dynamics. Cases of abuse of COVID-19 resources are all over the world. Democracy has been hijacked by capitals who sponsor candidates likely to serve their profit interests.

Elections are being rigged and politics is one of the most paying jobs even when it is the least productive. Profits are no longer being invested for the betterment of humanity which is why most governments are struggling to meet their national budgets because of massive tax evasions.

New churches are emerging for profit instead of fostering a return to humanity.

Just like power in its democratic conceptualisation, money was supposed to serve the people as a liquid asset by providing a centralized medium of exchange and to help people transact in various markets using generally accepted notes or coins regulated by governments. The value of money was not or is not supposed to be derived from the numbers printed on it but commodities it represents. Money never had its own standalone value, thus had to be attached to some wealth or productive processes elsewhere where it derived its value.

This is no longer the case. There is a growing obsession to hunt and amass huge monetary figures undercutting the wealth generation processes which is why money sits at the centre of everything. At global level those who have more in dollar terms control the world simply because money is now power to decide and to act including control global economies.

For example, the United States of America spends roughly US$1,5 to US$2 billion per day on defence, part of the reason it is considered the most powerful nation in the world. It has used this power to start wars, to command the world to follow its ways, to alter global economies and sometimes to exploit other countries. And yet on the other hand China has the biggest economy by gross domestic product purchasing power parity.

At local level, the love for money has also eroded the essence of humanity — that virtue associated with basic ethics of altruism derived from the human condition. Humanity also symbolises human love and compassion towards each other and realising that we are nothing without each other.

Humanity makes us who we are based on the principle and moral practice of concern for universal happiness of us and others which results in an improved quality of life both materially and spiritually. It is a traditional virtue in every culture and a core aspect of various traditions. The love for money is driving today’s society from selflessness to an insatiable level of selfishness.

As that deepens, societies are harming no one but themselves by denying humanity access to resources needed to create shared happiness. Even those with access to wealth and political power, living in a society of grief and resentment are not guarantee of happiness either simply because they are surrounded by anger and sadness or just isolated.

Because conditions required to create wealth are fast being undercut or completely eliminated, there are limited opportunities for those on the margins.