The world economy has been driven to an unprecedented crisis never experienced by most living people today. Mainly due to the carte blanche given to Wall Street thousands-of-dollars-suit thieves. These unscrupulous money hungry crooks not content with bringing whole countries to ruins also go after their own colleagues. As Bernard Madoff, a Wall Street investment banker had just done by cheating US$50 billion out of wealthy investors and prestigious banks. Nothing wrong with that but sadly some charities have also found their funds depleted.
Colombia does not stay behind with our home grown con artist David Murcia Guzman. The economies of some god forgotten towns in Colombia have been all but collapsed by pyramid schemes that seek to multiply our money by hundreds of percent.
How can we fall for such schemes? Some might blame the lack of education, but congressmen were among the victims (or this might tell us the kind of politicians we elect). Some might blame the economic need, but many well-off people chose to mortgage their houses in order to make a quick buck. Some might blame the lack of prompt regulation, which to certain extent is a valid reason, but there is always so much the government can do. Others would blame money as being the root of all evil. While others might blame our greed, rooted in our selfishness; they might be partly right.
Richard Dawkins wrote a book titled “the selfish gene”, a book which despite the name does not imply that there is a gene responsible for this reality of human nature. Although, it has conveniently been used to excuse some behaviours. Instead, it refers to how all living organisms’ ultimate purpose is procreation and will do anything to survive and protect those that share most of the organisms own genes. Since we share one hundred percent of our genes with ourselves it is understandable why we behave selfishly.
Money, instead of being the root of all evil, is a tool that helps maximise the chances of getting laid. Therefore, we might be irrationally attached to what money can buy and the value that our selves acquire in the eyes of like-minded people.
As much as I would like to agree with this statement of Homo sapiens being sexually insatiable I tend to believe that we are more rational than that. We have reached the point where money serves to inflate our egos, as an end in itself, instead of being a means to procreate.
Every time we acquire something we get this rush of accomplishment, excitement, omnipotence or whatever you want to call it. Of course soon after this feelings would subside and we would look for another material object to quench our addiction with. We are miserable when we are not able to satisfy these infantile egocentric needs, not knowing that this attachment is the problem in the first place.
The economic system fuels this vicious circle. In Colombia, however, this reality is multiplied due to the social encouragement. In Colombia the law of the least effort is openly endorse. This is all right if that is the way you want to lead your life.
The problem arises when everything is valid in the name of making money (drug trafficking, counterfeiting, smuggling, pyramid schemes, setting up banks, becoming a politician, you name it). This thought pattern has been deeply ingrained in the Colombian psyche. This has led to committing crimes and also led to turning a blind eye to the consequences of certain ways of making money.
Do we care in what conditions our shirts are made? Do we care when we buy an international product how many people in the local industries are left without work? Do we care what cost cutting measures businesses have to make when in order to offer ever cheaper prices? In the case of the pyramids, did we care how these never seen before returns were possible?
This vicious circle of accumulating more and more money without the most minimum scrupulous in order to enlarge our ego has become Colombia’s number one addiction (others find that only by perpetuating in power can they quench their addiction). Paradoxically, however, Colombians remain one of the happiest people on earth. Money seems to be the root of most of our “happiness”.
Author Sebastian Castaneda is Colombian studies psychology and political economy at the University of Hong Kong