Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Being Rich and Poor

Upright Opinion
Being Rich and Poor
By Saeed Qureshi
September 14, 2010
I was reading an interesting column posted at Yahoo news under the caption, “Rags to Riches: Self-Made CEOs Who Started with nothing.” Among these fabulously rich persons there are some self- made CEOs who were previously homeless. One of them when he was homeless even a penny was precious for him. Now with over 10 billion in his kitty, he can buy any material comfort under the sun. Even that desire must have reached a saturation point. With a mountain load of money the only drive that remains with him is to swell the wealth further.
Beyond a certain point, wealth loses charm for the gubernatorial wealthy people. From that point, the only penchant remains to enhance the volume of their opulence. It is a situation of wealth fatigue or disenchantment except an unflinching urge to add more wealth.
Wealth or money in simple terms is a great vehicle and instrument to make the best out of this limited and ephemeral life. The poverty simply is a curse that deprives a man even of the easy attainment of basic needs or comforts that are essential to lead a normal life. The disparity and disequilibrium in possession of wealth or means of buying in the society are so glaringly poles apart that one feels aghast at the yawning gap between the haves and have nots or the poorest and the wealthiest in the society.
This should be the dream for a person like me living on a paltry monthly income of $ 1000 to own personal jet aircrafts, or fly in first class, reside in palatial mansions, own the costliest cars, rub shoulders with top aristocracy and elite classes, oblige politicians with hefty donations and lord over a huge network of business and an army of subordinates.
For a poor person to come home at dusk with some basic food items to feed his children besides himself and his wife is a tall order. He has to jump out of his rickety bed the next morning, set off for his work that is as monotonous, and as dull as ditchwater. This insipid yet forced routine continues for decades until he retires and starts a new phase of life with wrinkles on his face, aging frame of body and aimlessly brooding and waiting for the monthly stipend check to come. So in essence, the life pattern remains the same except the passage of time that has sapped his energies and freshness of youth and he is gradually drifting to his end.
There are many billionaires who were born in extremely poor families and had to go through very harsh, humiliating and trying conditions for survival. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, Howard Schultz, John Paul Dejoria, Li Ka-Shing, Lloyd Blankfein, Roman Abramovich, Sheldon Adelson, Slide pollajax, Ursula Burns, are some of the names of the persons who are known as self-made billionaire CEOs and who started with nothing.
For instance Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, grew up in a cramped two-bedroom apartment in New York City, saw his father lose his delivery job after breaking his ankle. Lloyd Blankfein, the head of one of Wall Street's most profitable firms, Goldman Sachs, is a Brooklyn native, who learned the value of a dollar "three cents at a time carrying trays of soda at Yankee Stadium."
The CEO of the multi billion-dollar software empire, Oracle, Larry Ellison the sixth wealthiest person in the world at the outset ended up going from one odd job to another, with just enough to survive on fast food and buy gas. Li Ka-Shing the wealthiest self-made billionaire in Asia with a net worth of $21 billion, was forced to quit school after his father died of tuberculosis, eventually finding work in a plastics factory where he worked 16 hours a day.
Take John Paul Dejoria, the co-founder and CEO of John Paul Mitchell Systems, for example. Dejoria twice found himself homeless. Dejoria finally pulled himself out of homelessness only to have his products land in almost every top hair salon in the world.
All these people were paupers to begin with. However, with a mix of innovative mind, unwavering determination, and good luck, they finally became billionaires. There are innumerable stories of such persons who in their early life were starving, were homeless, or possessed very meager means of sustenance. However, today they not only roll in money but also are increasing their wealth by leaps and bounds.
But these are the stories of few individuals. The countless millions on the planet sleep hungry or without a proper meal. The luxuries of life as enjoyed by others with abundant or modest means are far away from these wretched or scum of the earth. Clean water, cool air and cozy and private environ of a home are simply unachievable fantasies for them. Such is the paradoxical cleavage of inequality of wealth among the human being.
I have seen even in America, otherwise, an unsurpassingly affluent country, human scavengers waiting outside the restaurants and eateries for the surplus of waste food to be thrown into the dumpster. They pick it up and eat without ever thinking these could be contaminated or would pose health hazard to them. This practice of finding wasted and discarded food for filling the furnace of belly is common phenomena all over the world.
If you have to see its fullest view, then go to any third world country, where food and jobs are scarce and hunger and starvation are rampant. This saddening spectacle is seen even in rich societies despite the fact that there are countless food banks and emergency food centers that cater to the helpless hungry human beings. In every city of America, there are agencies that distribute food to the hungry and indigents round the year.
There have been innumerable famines in the known history of humankind. These famines ravaged and killed millions of human beings. To survive desperately, hungry people ate the dead animals, stubs, and stock of the plants, the reptiles, and even the dead humans. The French Revolution took place because of hunger and high cost of bread and food. During one of the Pharaohs times the enslaved people ransacked the palace, forced the king to run away and the stocks of the grains were looted. Such is the power and compulsion of hunger.
In the Indian sub-continent alone 60 million people had died due to 15 famines from 1770- 1944. African continent has always remained in the grip of famines from ancient to the present times. However, even in such sullen societies the wealthy and rich people still survived and enjoyed life while the common people died because of starvation. The extravagant lifestyle of French nobility before the French revolution in comparison to the impoverished and downtrodden people offers the glimpse of that contrast.
(The writer is a Dallas-based freelance journalist writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan and the United States)
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