The Malta Independent 25 May 2020, Monday

The Tutankhamen syndrome

Marie Benoît Sunday, 5 April 2020, 08:14 Last update: about 3 months ago

Greed, which is destroying our world and our humanity.

We are in danger in our, until now, affluent society, of destroying our humanity as Midas came near to doing. When he was granted one wish by Bacchus, he asked for everything he touched to be turned to gold. However, finding this made his food inedible, he had to ask for his gift to be taken away.

It is not food we are turning into gold, but much else we need in order to nourish our humanity.

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We spend more time working to accumulate possessions and look after them, than we do with those we love, though Corona has managed to turn that around, for a while at least.

We are pushed into working in ways which are often unsatisfying, so we may buy things we have been harassed into believing will satisfy us, make us happy and which we cannot do without. This is the logic of the economic system we have created, or rather, which has been created for us. And yet, man doesn’t really need so very much to live a happy existence. Primitive man has much to teach us if only we would learn the lesson.

We no longer make friends or acquaintances but allies and contacts, who can help us accumulate more wealth, more possessions. But allies, too, even friends, are expedient for nothing will stop us from climbing on their shoulders to take the final step ahead of them.

The body of the young Tutankhamen was sealed with his riches for all those centuries in a dark and airless chamber. All that remained was his decomposed body.

It was the gold and alabaster that kept their substance and form. The glitter told us much about his status but nothing about the man himself.

In giving a false value to wealth and possessions we are gradually forsaking our humanity and losing sight of what is worthwhile, of what life is truly about.

Like Scrooge we suffer from the love of possessing. We buy what we don’t need. We want to possess, not only for our pleasure and entertainment, which is legitimate, but for the love of possessing for its own sake.

Many of us have homes so filled with possessions that there is scarcely room to turn in them.

The enjoyment lies not in the things we possess – we cannot possibly love so many objects at once – but in the act of possessing.

We buy more books than we can read (I admit to being one of the culprits here); more clothes than we can wear; more furniture than we have place for; more CDs than we can possibly ever enjoy; more bric-a-brac than is decent or practical and more gifts for friends and family than they need.

This is the age of the man who has everything and the woman who needs nothing. But we continue to purchase more and to buy objects at prices which we cannot truly morally justify.

There is a part of society which is sated and bored. Its members have had their fill: of food, of drink, of entertainment, of clothing, of sex. Nothing gives them pleasure anymore, for they have too much of it all. Everything has lost its lustre so some turn to drugs for that extra buzz, that relatively new experience.

There are youngsters who cannot survive a weekend unless they are drugged out of oblivion. And drugs don’t come cheap, but even those who don’t have it, somehow manage to find the money, some by thieving.

And yet, there is another side to it all. So much of the world, Malta included, does not eat enough and is without proper shelter. It is only going to get worse with the present pandemic.

There are people who do not know how the sum of money they receive at the end of the month is going to last until the end. They live from hand to mouth and saving for a rainy day is impossible; people who are not sure when their income will cease to come in at all and who have no resources to draw on in an emergency.  There are too many who live with the anguish of the unpaid bill, of the approaching date, the repeated misery of the counting of money to see how far it can reach. The cruel uncertainty that even this may not last because circumstances are difficult, the job is uncertain, retrenchment is coming and nobody knows on whom the axe will fall. The courage needed to live day by day in financial straits must be enormous.

In the meantime we can see all around us many who do not know when to stop as they are consumed by their greed.  They take other people’s possessions and money because they are too solicitous in acquiring even more wealth than they already have. It is obvious but it bears repeating. Our island has been destroyed by the frenzy to build up everywhere. And now, at a time when we need to support each other, it is being said that some are already raising their prices . when they should be lowering them; asking for handouts from the government when their pockets are already full to the brim.  Will there be a black market soon run by the greedy?

The Law Courts are full of lawsuits about money and property and criminal lawyers are kept busy with murders and attempted murders. Few of these are crimes of passion. They are crimes over possessions. A fight over wills, homes, businesses.

But we are caught up in this vicious circle and don’t really know how to get off it.

In the meantime, the gap between those who have too much and the rest continues to widen. Corona is not going to help.

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