Long ago when money was not invented, people traded goods and services and that mode of trading was possible through barter system. People exchanged one kind of good to get a different kind of good according to their needs. But with time this barter system proved to be a difficult thing to deal with because it was not possible to determine how many apples or mangoes or bags of rice are sufficient to get one pair of shoes or a haircut from a barber. With time, homo sapiens felt the need of something that will clear the confusion and lay down the value of everything, be it goods or services. This something was money. It revolutionised the entire world and made the wise homo sapiens its slaves.
Money is not coins and banknotes. Money is anything that people are willing to use in order to represent systematically the value of other things for the purpose of exchange. The basic quality of money is that everyone always wants money because one can exchange money for whatever one needs. Money is a universal medium of exchange that enables people to convert almost anything to something else. For humans of today, their day starts with money and ends with money. Even the people in the noblest professions, such as doctors, won’t help you if you don’t have money. Similarly, a lawyer listens keenly to the stories of his clients and then argues for hours to make the judge believe that his client is the hero of the story and the villain is someone else. All this hard work for what? For money, nothing else.
In 1519 when Herman Cortes and his conquistadors invaded Mexico for gold, the natives of Mexico questioned Cortes as to why they had such a passion for this yellow metal. Cortes answered, ‘Because I and my companions suffer from a disease of the heart which can be cured only with gold.’ Today all the humans suffer from the same disease of heart. I was once passing by a shop and there was a lunatic person begging for something that nobody understood. Someone handed him a wrapper of chips, but he threw it away. Another handed him ice creams. He threw away that, too. Finally someone gave him a Rs 10 note and he became happy and placed the note in his pocket. At that time I understood one thing: that this money has a scent which can attract even a lunatic.
Money is not just a material reality but also a psychological construct. It works by converting matter into mind. People are willing to exchange their houses, cars, land for a handful of coloured papers because those coloured papers mean a system of mutual trust where both the parties know what uits value is. Money is the only truly trustworthy system created by humans. It can bridge any cultural gap. It does not discriminate on the basis of religion, gender, race or age.
The only problem with money is that one never gets satisfied with it. Rather, the thirst for earning more and more increases by the day. The person with no money wants the least amount that can provide him food and keep him alive. The person with a good amount of money wants more so that he can enjoy his life in a luxurious way. And then there are people who have almost half of the total money in the world but they still want more in order to be at the top. It’s in this race for money that we all humans are becoming slaves. Money is showing us the way and we all are running after it, no matter what the way is. Ultimately, there comes a stage when every person grows old, gets tired, and dies. And still the race continues after him.
—The writer is an Advocate practising at District Court Complex Kulgam. [email protected]