The desire to gain by little effort, sometimes dishonestly or by begging or hoarding all sorts of things for the mere love of possession, is prevalent here
The prudence practised by many of us Kashmiris is something that is manifested in the magpie and owl. In their predatory excursions, the two seize upon and bring to their nest anything of an edible nature, which they can carry in their beaks, courtesy the ‘economy of Nature’. This grasping propensity, by virtue of the muscle in men and animals, shows in humans the tendency to profit by the industry of another. It’s exactly what the bird of prey does when it swoops down upon the toiling kingfisher and takes from it by force the fish it has wrested from the waves by the exercise of its strength and talents. The desire to gain by little effort, sometimes dishonestly or by begging or hoarding all sorts of things for the mere love of possession without having any worthwhile design of using them, is what is called the ‘perversion of the economy’.
A typical Kashmiri businessman sets high return-on-investment (ROI) goals. He has little time; he wants to make a quick buck. In his bid to skim the cream off the market, he aims to rake up heaps of gold and money in the shortest possible time. But then the competitors that are waiting in the wings to capture their booty come up with aggressive pricing. It’s not long before the trail-brazing businessman is forced to retreat from the market segment and shut shop. Once that market segment is conquered, the competitors move once again on to aggressive pricing in some other market segment. The ‘ghareeb’ (hapless) Kashmiri businessman is again on the retreat.
Authors on the Kashmiri character conclude that for sheer survival in the (conflict) situation of loot and plunder, economic and political uncertainties, the Kashmiri has learned to be a liar, crafty, selfish, and greedy, out of fear, doubt, and despair. He is incredulous of the existence of good. He is obedient as a puppet when ruled with draconian hands but soon loses his head when empowered. Consequently, he’s grown acquisitive and commercially rapacious with an insatiable and unrestrained desire to gain, obtain, hoard, earn or win money, property, even fame, applause, and power without much consideration for moral values/ethics. As in the bird-of-prey, dishonest businessmen seem to have grown physiognomy of the convex hooked nose with wide nostrils and wide predacious jaws.
Social instincts cannot be completely submerged in the calculus of income and profit-maximisation. In the profit-maximising business, profits are the goal—the objective function. In the empire-building business, profits are the means to the end of a larger empire—a constraint. The goal is market share. A profit-maximising business will devote its higher profits to individual consumption; an empire-building business will devote its higher profits to investing in expanding the empire.
Very rich consumers who own heaps of gold and money may be envied for their standard of living but not respected— and never admired. Consumers, the defining characteristics of our era, are never remembered. The individuals and societies that are remembered were builders. History remembers the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, and the Mayans as the empire builders and not the Kashmiris who have always been consumers and great hoarders. The winners build the best products and enjoy the world’s highest standard of living. As losers, we Kashmiris always get to buy some of those best products—but not as many as the winner.
The universal desire to build, to belong to an empire, to conquer neighborhoods, and to become the world’s leading economic power have all contributed towards the achievement of the Japanese/Chinese goal of market-share-maximisation (strategic conquest) and value-added-maximisation. Governmental influences, forced occupations, misuse of power and authority, the tyrannical rule by outsiders for centuries, killings, floods, famines, etc, and the resultant situations of uncertainty, on the other hand, have all contributed towards the goal of profit- maximisation, and profiteering (our kind of ‘nabba-treth’, windfall strategic conquest) and to a nation of people with hardly any consideration for moral values/ethics.
As happened in several niche products (handicrafts, tourism, fruits, and timber) and services (skilled, semiskilled, and unskilled labour) in the valley, the Kashmiri businessmen have lost to the competitor’s strategy of forcing the ROI below the hurdle rates with their aggressive pricing. We’re not able to protect our niche market on the analogy of Italy and Germany, the world’s largest textile exporters, which keep on operating in market niches in which they experience relatively little competition from low-wage producers. These are niches where design, quality, responsiveness to fashion, and rapid adjustments are important. The Italians developed close collaborations with well-known designers who produced signature collections for ready-made production. We’re poor because we don’t want to do things that will eliminate poverty. Our unemployment rates are astronomical because we don’t want to do things that would eliminate higher unemployment rates.
To become a little economic dragon we require organising ourselves to compete. We also need to exploit the places where market access is relatively easy—a market of first resort’. Historically dynamic societies, stagnant human societies that have become extinct, can be all found. The dynamic living ones are those that have a vision, and built upon that vision and managed to keep the tensions of wealth creation in balance. Advanced economies are honeycombed with millions of social inventors, innovators, organisational risk-takers, dreamers, and practical men and women. It’s only better education, access to more knowledge, the most powerful knowledge tools and skills known to humankind, and an environment free of political and physical uncertainties that shall provide a chance to us Kashmiris to invent better tomorrow. It’s only then that we may be remembered as builders and not as consumers, profiteers, and hoarders.