Thursday, 12 November 2009

Count Your Potatoes

So there’s this dude right, his name is Jim Rogers and apparently he’s some kind of Wall Street maverick. In December 2007, his uncanny foresight predicted the current economic crises. He even went as far as claiming that the US was in a recession and that the US Government was lying about it; that was in 2007. In an interview with Fortune Magazine that year, Mr. Rogers stated “You see 29 year old kids making US$10 million or US$20 million a year & you find yourself thinking ‘This is the way the world is. This is normal’. Well I don’t think it’s normal”.

Mr. Rogers is no stranger to the markets and judging from the merits of his Quantum Fund; which he founded together with another bird called George Soros in 1970; which also incidentally grew in value by 4200% whilst their competitors S&P only rose by 47% in the same decade; he’s probably right on the marker. It is perhaps disturbing then, that the same man told The Economic Times in June this year that the US Dollar is doomed and that the UK Pound is even worse off. He mentioned that the UK has been exporting oil for the past 26 years, that within a decade the UK will be importing oil again and that they will have nothing to sell the world once the money dries up. Mr. Rogers foresees stock markets rising to unprecedented heights, but “in worthless currencies”.

So what’s his solution? Farming. Yes you read it right. He said that fund managers should rather go into farming specifically cotton, sugar (aye you Durban-nites are lucky eh?) and silver. In Mr. Rogers’ opinion, the financial community is not the place to be for the next 30 odd years:

“We have many periods in history when financial people were in charge; and we had periods when people who produced real goods were in charge – miners, farmers etc. The world, in my view, is changing – shifting away from financial types to producers of real goods and this is going to last several decades, as it always has. This may sound strange but it always happens this way. Ten years from now it may be that Farmers will be driving Lamborghini’s and the stockbrokers catching Taxis at best”.

Well Mr. Rogers, I’ve always wanted to become a “Farmer” in Colombia…of the coca-tree-and-opium-poppy-kind. They make the most money. But Alkoids, Opiates and Barbiturates aside, judging from the current state that the world is in, he could very well be right. We have this phenomenon of mass consumerism right now. Ok, maybe it’s not a phenomenon, but safe to say that the world has never been this rich and this poor at the same time.

Most people, especially in first world countries, have never had as much as they do today. And with everything from houses, cars, appliances to even kid’s toys, there is the connotation that the more you have the better. It’s just MORE, all the time. The world has become like an overgrown kid weaned on nothing but candy, and after assessing the damage, it’s been determined that this kid has to go on a major diet and eat nothing but Greek salad and Broccoli to survive into adulthood. It’s not pretty and habits are difficult to overcome. The culture of consuming is difficult if not impossible to eradicate. And everything comes with a price innit?

With mass consumerism comes industrialization and mass production on a large magnitude, to cater for demand. And what has industrialisation given us? Ooh let’s see, there’s carbon emissions resulting in Global warming and climate change which has been wrecking havoc throughout the world in the form of tsunami’s, tornados, droughts, rising sea levels etc. And with these we have oh you know the usual famine, death, disease, incomprehensible destruction etc. And then there’s the rudimentary economic crises every few decades, because with industrialization comes all forms of bureaucratic red tape and concepts like Capitalism reign where the rich get richer and want more things, and the poor get poorer trying to keep up.
Then there’s mass production which has introduced a large number of chemicals into our everyday lives, which as it turns out, has introduced a variety of cancers and ailments to our bodies. It’s a vicious perpetual cycle. It’s funny in a way because we’re killing ourselves, quite literally, to look or feel better than the Joneses. Talk about cutting the nose to spite the face.

I often wonder when will it be enough. Granted, we all need money because this bandwidth does not pay for itself. But I'm talking about the colossal waste the world has become accustomed to. At which point will people take a step back and take note, or realize that having more is not necessarily better. You don’t need 10 cars; you can’t drive them all at the same time. Every single room in the house doesn’t need a TV. Having a huge mansion won’t battle your inner demons and remove your insecurities or make you better; it will just get you a huge bill from the municipality every time you shit.

So one day, when you’re drowning because all the Polar Caps have melted and the sea levels have risen enough to make Africa look like the Maldives, or you find that you have a tumour up your arse the size of a cat; you’ll have to ask yourself, that refined and processed supersized McDonalds Quarter Pounder, the 15 TV’s you have in your home, the 7 fuel guzzling cars in your garage, the numerous radio-active mobile phones in your drawer and all the useless unnecessary shit you store in your house that was bought through warped justifications, was it all worth it?

The path to true spiritual enlightenment, as noted by various leaders and visionaries including Aristotle, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and St. Augustine amongst others, is through controlling your desires and moderation. Spiritual enlightenment can only come when we stop wanting…and waste our lives in pursuit of these wants. The soul is bogged down by desire and the more you want, the more nothing is ever enough. Sounds like the Devils’ work to me. But on a grander scale, I can see how it’s necessary to get the world to this state. I mean The Day of Judgment or the Apocalypse won’t come when all is hunky dory now will it? How anti-climatic would that be?

If there was ever an age I would yearn for, it would be a time when the World was poor. There’ve been periods throughout history when most people, bar a few Kings, had nothing. Back then life was about surviving to feed families, not accumulating to feed egos. Dig in the earth, count your potatoes.


  1. There is a certain feeling of kinship with the Earth when you till the soil or work with the land that is completely lost within the construct of an office. You also have a sense of vulnerability because of the variables that enter into a successful crop of anything. Those drawn together make you appreciate what you produce and there is satisfaction that comes when you know that your efforts actually sustain others meaningfully.

  2. Last year, I saw this documentary which goes into the history of hyper-consumerism (if you can call it that) - how it was deliberately introduced into the world, and the effects it's had on the environment and people. They talked about how some famous industrialist (or whatever his title was) outright said that manufacturers need to make things that DON'T last long. i.e. make it so it breaks soon; and the consumer will then have to buy a new one.

    The underlying thing here is greed.

    I think if the powers-that-be found a way to take control of air, they would charge us to breathe...that's how greedy people can become.

    Just look at how they've colonised the food industry:

    Anyway, this was a nice post. The polar icecaps bit reminded me of the Kevin Costner movie "Waterworld".

  3. LL - I think we're so far removed from the earth and reality, we live like robots in the information age. Hope you and your family are well! :)

    dreamlife - I did a post once in my very early days called "The Root of All Evil"...basically, I re-iterate what you said, that money isn't the problem, its greed...and how greed links to every other major sin in the world in some way or form.
    These manufacturers you talka bout remind me of these Anti-virus gigs on the Net, where they create viruses so that you need to buy the remedy. Sad world actually.

  4. Really nice write-up. Reads like a magazine article.

    Feed families, not egos. Nice thought.

  5. mass accumulation of wealth makes no sense to me.

  6. hmmm...perhaps i should consider farming as a new career option, or marry one:)

  7. Arslan - Thanks :)

    Mash - People do it for different reasons, some are terrified of poverty, others just greedy :P

    fathima - LOL! yeah, I was thinking the exact same thing :)