Why is wealth both an intoxicant and a depressant? Why is affluenza a tragedy of our world today, that affluence is the undoing of the children of the wealthy causing them pain and anguish in what they should ordinarily glorify in? In Yoruba mythology Aje, Ola, and oro symbolise success or prosperity, just as Owo epitomises material wealth. Taken together in many cultures, the worth of a man is measured in the wealth he controls.
Since wealth is a denominator of existential sustainability, man in such culture becomes of least importance or significance, a nonentity if he cannot assure his own material independence, because if Man must survive, he must exist tangibly, qualitatively. He must meet his existential obligations or needs to be accorded dignity and acclaim of success, needs that theorist Abraham Maslow has neatly categorized as basic needs, social needs, esteem needs and self-actualization.
It is the quest or search for the attainment of wealth that man is caught in a flux or dilemma between capacity, endowment, talents and what he achieves in material terms, wealth. Man has unequal endowments. Regardless of capacity or endowment, wealth is the desire of all.
It explains why in Yorubaland we give names and honorifics like Olowolayemo or Ajeboriogbon, Owonifaari or Ajetunmobi, Owonifuja, Ajenifuja or Ajebandele, Ajegunle, or needs Owokoniran, Olowolagba, Owoseeni, Owodunni, Olowookere, Owolabi, Owonikoko, Fowosere, Oladunni, Ololade, Olakunle, Olansile.
It is the fact that we regard wealth as prime or greatest pursuit of life, the attainment of which gives comfort, pleasure, satisfaction and rest. Even then, one is bound to ask: Why is it that when we see in a man every index of achievement or arrival, he is still lacking in fulfilment, still in the race of life, even depressed or unhappy, still hungry to fill a void in life, especially when it is the belief that ojo iku lojo isinmi, rest comes with death?
The answer is to be found in the definition of achievement or the premium or the value a culture or society places on existential acquisitions and material wealth.
For instance in Yoruba parlance, Owo lo n se nnkan gbogbo, that is money solves all problems. So, we are not strange to sayings like eni ti ko lowo lowo ko raye wa, that is he who suffers material impoverishment is not a living soul.
There is virtually no musician of note that as not dedicated generous time to wealth in their composition and even video clips are awash with celebration of wealth with naira shower or rain, mindboggling automobiles and jaw dropping mansions that you cannot but be hallucinating of owning them in the shortest time possible even without going through the grill or drill of hard work. But is there any short cut to wealth, a path that leaves or sour trace or taste?
I have come across a scriptural verse that says money (wealth) is the root of all evils as much as the Quran has described wealth as trial for man. Here lies a paradox of what man desires most because of what it confers on him in life and at the same time being his enemy or trial to him.
Growing up in the 70s, my sisters used to subscribe to a monthly, Joy. Its full or actual title is Sadness and Joy, although sadness is written in smaller typeface while the bold one is Joy. The colourful magazine is dedicated to the celebration of the profanities of life.
It’s not just in Nigeria, such magazines are everywhere in the world reeling or regaling with posh, class and chic like the classique, Hints, Allure and Ovation. Reading them, we get a real feel of what the good life of material success is and there we set our minds to reach. No problem. But we must work to deserve them, if our background or our heritage did not leave them for us. We must rewrite our history. We must change our destiny but only conscientiously, not criminally or corruptivlely. Even if we have the legacy, we must still work hard to sustain or retain them, build on them so that we are not labelled arungun, prodigal child.
This is unfortunately is the gist of affluenza that leads to te rich also crying and asking is it a crime to be rich or be able to afford luxury for one’s sires?
The need to arrive, achieve, succeed, sustain, build or come by wealth unfortunately is the bane of the tranquillity of many. It is the reason for their lack or loss of their peace and destruction of their human essence.
It explains why a normal or sane person becomes hysteric or hallucinates in daytime on anything connected with show of wealth. It is why some otherwise vibrant person lapses into depression when his wealth is long in coming, diminishes in value or suffers some loss. It is why they become some victims of obsessive-compulsive disorder on matters relating to cash or money. For some when they are in search of wealth, they become so abrasive and aggressive, unmindful of the rights or emotion of others. They can do anything including a compromise of their own bodies and souls.
Like wine, wealth intoxicates. And like adrenalin, wealth also boosts performance or increases drive. But it also leads to delirium in the mindlessness of its landmines. Those who are not strong or lack self-confidence without wealth often suffer dejection, or some form of avoidance-withdrawal traits. Without the society excommunicating them, they alienate themselves from the rest of the world, saying I don’t belong there.
An ordinarily sanguine or boisterous person may become phlegmatic, dull and colourless when is wealth is affected, while someone whose mood is ever welcoming may descend into melancholic when is expectations of life of luxury are not met in stormy financial times. What is the cause of suicide of many who woefully ended their lives? It is their appreciation of wealth as the most important value or factor of life and the lack of it means there is no reason to remain alive. Let me end it all they conclude.
Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis sees sex as the motivation for man’s actions and behaviours. He is right to the extent of the findings of is experiments or many people be treated for delirium and other psychological disorders. But the existence or lack of wealth in a man is also a driver or depressant of life. So, wealth is an animator and energizer.
In cultures societies, where wealth is taken as an end, not a means to an end, or were it is taken as a god and so religiously worshipped, there is bound to be crazy competition and there is of cause the tendency for all competitors to be manipulative. This is the tragedy of all capitalist societies. This is the nexus of the prevailing corruption in or system.
This is the reason behind the get rich quick syndrome that turns youngsters to fraudsters, breeds fake clerics and miracle workers as ritual killers, forced well educated men to armed robbery and it explains why some women of noble pedigree turn to prostitution.
Unfortunately, if man is hooked on a philosophy of wealth as the most important or single factor of life or living, man loses superior purpose or essence of humanity as his drive or motivation will be conditioned only by wealth.
The question then is, what other greater or loftier purpose should drive man’s fulfilment, honour, pride, dignity or name? Gold and silver are the synonyms for wealth in the scriptures. Or, in some places, it is described as talents. While maturing, we were counselled that oruko rere san ju wura ati fadaka lo. That is, good name is worthier than old and silver. But also to achieve, we were advised never to bury our talents.
Taken altogether, integrity, skills, knowledge and attitude should be man’s greatest assets or wealth. There is a logic here. Integrity is a complex value that arrays all virtuous principles, conduct or behaviours that a man must possess to be considered worthy while is knowledge, skills, talents and endowments should stand him out for recognition and celebration. These should be the sources of wealth and accomplishment in man, not the mere quantitative worth of material acquisitions. In these man must first find comfort and fulfilment in the belief and consciousness that they will ultimately bring him riches in quantum.
True, many a great wealthy man or woman in history comes by wealth not by undercutting others, not by manipulating the system, not by compromising is personal honour or mortgaging his soul but by discipline, diligence and dedication to duty. So their wealth endures. You could trace the sources of their wealth. For them, there is no scum beneath their wealth. The amazing thing about such great men and women is that they are often the most humble, grateful, benevolent and ready to give all they have for the good of others.
So I come to a realization that those who come to their wealth by clean and honest means are the ones who are free from the paradox of wealth as a prison. They are not slaves of wealth. They are not threatened by fear of its loss or diminution. They spend it freely in righteous and noble causes. They are most at peace with their wealth, not captives or hostages of dollars, dinars and dirhams.
They do not suffer from the delirium of materialism. In fact most of them are very close to God in recognizing Him as the ultimate source of wealth, the enricher or the Rich. They are always mindful that they will account for each dime they acquire in this world, how they come by it and ow it is spent. You hardly find in tem any air al-kibr or ar-riyyau, arrogance, pride or show off. You even find in them the best of Stoics, always unruffled in troubling or stormy times.
Here, I am led to a belief that he is not truly a wealthy man who lacks character, is intellectually impoverished, spiritually and emotionally bankrupt.
This is because in times of material or financial crisis, the depth and quality of the quartet is what gives man clarity and stability to confront challenges. With them he is able gain confidence to recover from adversity or losses, and not sink in depression.
Often, you find such men and women being the true masters of their fate, not slaves of wealth but servants of God who use their wealth to advance the cause of humanity.
For such, wealth does not lead them to evil nor puts them in trial but brings them closer to their maker and humanity, regarding themselves mere custodians or trust bearers.
Let’s pray to be among such men and women of wealth freed from the landmines and corrosion of wealth and the delirium of materialism.
*Abdulwarees, an assistant director of strategic planning and corporate development at Voice of Nigeria is the Director, Media and Strategic Communications, Muslim Public Affairs Centre, MPAC Nigeria