Tuesday, 12 April 2011

A couple of Mil and I'm out

Michael Moore recently posted a study regarding the distribution of wealth in the US. The study showed that the top 400 richest (actually wealthiest, rich would be an understatement) people in the US are worth as much as the bottom 50% of the population (153 million people). Put in simpler terms, the top 400 have a lot of money, a lot.

The important point here is the not the reprehensible outcomes of the capitalist system implemented in the US, but the rhetoric used when talking about such issues. Like I said earlier, the top 400 have “a lot” of money, and this is exactly the term used – or others that are remarkably similar – by others, including the professionals, when discussing these profligate few.

No one ever uses the terms “too much money”, “more than necessary”, or “money that will not run out even if they lead 50 extravagant lives simultaneously, in each baring 34 children and 98 grand children.” No one ever says that. Why? Is it shameful to admit that these people have more money than several countries combined? Yes it is actually, it is shameful. That’s why no one points it out.

Now, the top 400, according to the study, are worth $1.2 trillion. That’s an average, an average – emphasis is necessary – of $3 billion. Now, I personally know that the likes of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are worth around $50 billion each. This is half the current GDP of the oil-producing region controlled by some fat dude with an incessant frown (including the South; and no I won’t mention the era before the oil because it’s embarrassing).

This, by anyone’s standards, is more money than necessary. I don’t blame them though, because honestly, people like Bill Gates can’t help the success of their business. So technically, even if he doesn’t want any more money, he’ll still receive it. But I will point out that their self-proclaimed altruism is infuriating. If you’re generous, you’d never be this rich. That’s a fact.

My problem is with leaders, dictators to be precise. Let’s say you’re a dictator, you’ve been president for decades, and you run the show. This automatically translates into an unfathomable accumulation of wealth.

So the wealth accumulated is from government funds, which, for a dictator, is his/her funds. But through our eyes it’s more like taking the people’s money, without their consent. Which is fine. Everyone does it.

So you feed off the country’s income, tax payer’s money, foreign aid, the whole shebang. Then, obviously, you adopt the trending nepotistic approach and get your whole family in the loot. By now your whole family, extended family and remote relatives are well off and on a feeding frenzy. Then you keep looting, or taking what’s yours, depending on how you look at it. But why?

Why would you still be abusing the country’s income if you’re probably by now the wealthiest man in it? Why? Let’s say you steal $2 billion – which is a meager amount compared to what current dictators are actually stealing – but you’re still president. This is more enough money for retirement.

Which begs the question, why would you still be in power? There’s no clear explanation to this phenomena, and yes it is a phenomena. I discredit all assumptions that power corrupts and the infamous saying by Abraham Lincoln that “Any man can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character give him power”.

I refuse to accept a psychological explanation for this matter, mainly because I think it’s an easy way out. There has to be another, more nuanced elucidation for this ineradicable hunger for power.

In all honesty, if I were a dictator, as soon as my Swiss bank balance reaches $100 million I’d abscond like my life depended on it.

Do consider this. What if, by accumulating power and wealth, dictators reach a level of unprecedented chauvinism? What if they are downrightly convinced that they are the chosen ones, the only ones capable of running their country, without a shadow of a doubt? It’s not that farfetched. Someone should look into it.


Jabi said...

I think Abraham Lincoln was correct. Give a person power, what he does shows you the character of that person. Will you follow your desires in life or be unselfish and fulfill the needs of those around you?

As a leader of a country, will you use power to make your country a better place for all, or will you use it to fulfill the selfish and uncontrolled desire for possession or money, wealth, or other possessions and denying it to others?

I think the answer to the conundrum your in is related to the way any person treats his desires when he/she have the ability/power to fulfill those desires. Those that use the power they have to fulfill their desires become addicted to it, just like a person gets addicted to drugs; deep down you might now your destroying your life but you can't stop the urge of satisfying your desire of wanting more, yet never needing it in the first place.

Maraki said...

Karl Marx? Is that you?

Moez Ali said...

Jabi, you're missing the point. You already have power, and you're already corrupt. This actually refutes Lincoln's claims even further, because in reality no one seeks power to help those around him. They claim to have the people's well being at heart but they really don't.

It is very rare that a government assumes power by force in order to fulfill its people's needs. Actually rare is an overstatement, it probably never happened. No coup d'etat has ever happened for national well being. It's risky business, and most people risk their own lives for themselves. Even in socio-political uprisings, yes the people are standing together but at the end they make their voices heard because of personal grievances. It looks like a mass altruistic movement but it's really not.

So back to Lincoln's statement. No one runs for president because they want to help people, they simply run because they need the power or because they want it. Hence rendering Lincoln's statement inapplicable, because those who assume power are ALREADY corrupt.

But the point that you're missing is why do they still hang on to their power? 20 years and a couple of billion dollars later, they refuse to abandon their incumbency. They've already been corrupted, a while back. Now, at this stage there's something else.

Moez Ali said...

Maraki, yes it is me, just a bit better looking less the hair..

Jabi said...

maaaaaan i just wrote the longest reply.. all gone!! damn it..

moez.. summary of what i wrote :P

1) Lincoln was probably not assuming that people that are given or get power are already corrupt.

2) personal grievances are what drove uprisings in mena region. But those are the result of a single entity that has oppressed its people, and created those grievances.

- personal became collective grievances when anyone in the society can be subjected to the same injustice and oppression.

- Libya is a good example of the altruism of these movements. The suicide bomber that targeted the security compound in Benghazi which lead to the fall of Benghazi to the rebels was a middle class father of two who couldn't sit by and watch his ppl being killed.

3) They hang on to power because they think its a privilege and not a burden
- They are dillisiounal
- External factors and foreign gov's that would like to keep them in place because they serve their goals.

3ash ish.. :)

Moez Ali said...

Thanks for putting everything in bullet points, I might have abandoned it if it hadn't been that way.

What you're saying is the general perception. It is also a parochial view on the issue of dictators abdicating. This is not a new trend, definitely not one that was born with the Arab revolutions. Its inception was long before this current tumult in the MENA region. All previous dictators dating back to the infamous Louis XVI, and including the modern dictators like Chauchesku. For these guys, external powers don't have much of an influence. There's something else, trust me. Someone will figure it out soon.

Other examples, Idi Amin, Joseph Mobutu, basically I can name all the African leaders after independence, except like 15.