Economics was taught to me in school as a ‘good to know’ subject. As a young student, I have to admit, I didn’t like numbers much. Little did I know that my entire life will orbit around them.
Not too long ago, I came to realise that no matter how hard I work and how frugally I spend, I will never have enough to retire. I was ambitious, gentle Reader, and believed I would do better than my elders at the game of money.
When I was a young girl, I enjoyed eating between meals (I was a chubby child). My father, on one of his visits, offered to take me out when I asked for a snack after lunch. A few steps from my home was a dwelling that belonged to the watchman of my apartment building.
My father and I decided to say hello and started chatting with his family. My father then asked the wife if she has been able to buy her groceries to which she replied in the negative. I never thought that my father could be nosy, and he wasn’t; this was my upcoming lesson, I could tell by the look on his face.
So, he probed further with his favourite question ‘why’. She explained that rice is not as affordable anymore, therefore, she has been able to buy only this week’s ration with her salary. My father then looked at me and asked, “Why do you think rice is more expensive now?” “Inflation!” I answered.
“What does that word mean?” “When we can’t buy a commodity for the same price as we once could.” He digs deeper, “Why?” “Because the commodity is scarce?” “Why is it scarce?” “Because it didn’t rain enough?” “Try again.” “Because there are people who cheat.” “Try again.” “Because some take more than they should.”
He smiled kindly and asked if I still want a snack, I smiled back and suggested a walk in the park instead. That evening I spent a long while thinking about my father’s very unique approach to economics; the branch of knowledge concerned with the production, consumption, and transfer of wealth.
I knew that everyone can’t be rich since rich is relative to others. However, I was certain that commodities are aplenty for all of us. Gandhi once said, “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.”
But what if some of us work harder and get more, is it so wrong to want more? Isn’t meritocracy actually beneficial for humanity? Doesn’t it give way to a better world? Are we capable of excelling without incentive? As you sow, so you reap, right?
After some contemplation, I gave up. I truly believed that if I work hard then I am entitled to a better life, why must I suffer because others don’t want to even try? So I went about my life doing my best and enjoying the rewards. Until life checked me and I learnt one of the most valuable lessons.
So, imagine 7 friends and yourself are about to meet up for movie night and order a pizza on the way. Five of you make it in time for the pizza but three are for XYZ reasons held up. Now, you did come on time, you did make the effort, but does this mean you are entitled to the other three slices that belong to your friends?
That’s how simple this conclusion was to draw. No one and absolutely no one can work so hard as to deserve someone else’s share of this world. The world is like this pizza that everyone has a slice in, no matter what the reasons are for others to not try to get it, we by no means can take their bit. They will get there when they must and claim their piece, in the meanwhile we can only take our share and move on to the next resource we need to claim.
Life became considerably simpler after I looked through the glasses of compassion. I need not work so much since the needs I must pay for are not so large anymore, hence my salary is more than sufficient and my day is just long enough for me to contribute to my society, myself and rest.