It sounds quite a right when we hear someone say, ‘It is my money, what I earned out of my labour and I‘d use it the way I want. No one can question my right to burn my wealth; I might give it away, might want to be voluptuary with it- live in a palace made of gold and eat off glittery gold plates’.
People who speak thus could be anybody who is seated on mountain of wealth- it could be the Kalayan Jewelers family hosting the Big B, Benny Hinn the evangelist healer (sic), the Ambanis or the most fraudulent of species- politicians in whose case the only knowhow to accumulate wealth is to steal, pilfer, rob the masses and purloin.
However, I feel the statement and thought that it is my money and my right to indulge with it is flawed and obnoxious. How can we say that gilded and opulent living, a life style that is utterly, utterly epicurean and extravagant is morally agreeable? Just because it is one’s own money, one’s own (call it) hard earned wealth- a product of sweat and toil or because it is one’s heirloom one has the inviolable and unquestionable right to be voluptuous with it?
Indeed wealth or the money wealth generates can be used to buy, possess and experience pleasures of the mind, body and most of all gratify vanity. The last mentioned- vanity, is indeed what drives people to indulge, to swank, to swagger. But can one claim that as absolute right?
Now, we need to think about the resources that went into the generation of the wealth that we decide to use to satiate our greed and vanity. Are they exclusively – morally and ethically ours for a price? Do we possess the right to hoard and squander resources that are scarce because one may be sitting on wealth as rich as that in Fort Knox? Can we trivialise the labour of many by placing a price? Can we ear mark the produce of labour and resources that are natural and products that are made, to which there are a million others who have the right to, but not the means.
I had a very animated and hot discussion with a young woman on the topic. It pertained to the picture and the news report of the Kalyan Jewelry family hosting Amitabh Bachan. The dinner was served in dishes plated with gold and resembled the sumptuous feasts that we have seen in Hollywood flicks that tells about medieval period intrigues. I expressed that it was vulgar display of vanity and wealth. My young companion vehemently disagreed and she said, it cannot be bad because what one does with one’s money is one’s prerogative. If I disliked opulence and did not wish to be ostentatious so be it and that I have no right to criticise the other and call it vulgar or vain.
We moved on arguing our sides. The question of opulent weddings came up; the obscene concrete home of the Ambani’s – “The Antilla” overlooking the slums of Mumbai came up; the ecclesiastical vulgar pomp of the evangelist Benny Hinn and the Vatican was thrown across by me as some examples of what should not be the life’s statement. However we just could not agree, but she stressed that she may not display such ostentation but at the same time she could see nothing wrong if someone who is rich indulged.
The vulgarity of ostentation was something which she could not understand and disapprove. Perhaps it takes quite a bit of life to reverse her understanding and honestly feel different to people who are arrogant in their use of wealth.