Ruskin proves that wealth, in the current economic sense, means only power over people. He wrote this at the end of the 19th century, when there were many poor people and only a few rich ones. It was really unjust at that time. Tensions were high and the powder keg could explode at any time. Dangerous, so many poor people. For the rich.
Today everyone is rich! What luck! Everyone now has power over people through his money. He decides who to buy from. He pushes down the price. He is proud of it. He rates on the internet. Like the emperor in the Collosseum in ancient Rome: thumbs down: The gladiator must die. The entrepreneurs write grovelling emails to the customers so that they, in a merciful mood, give 5-star ratings. Because otherwise the trader will go down in the lists. The customer is flattered and feels good. Once again emperor by his own grace. Once again, he sits in his armchair with his Ipad in slippers and decides between mercy and disgrace. He reads the email and thinks to himself, „Nice kiss on the feet. Appropriate humility. 5 stars. But next time only 4. If the delivery takes three days again. I’ll put it in the comments. Let it be known how generous I am. I would have the right to rate differently. But I am a good and long-suffering ruler. Oh, what good it does me. This being so just and merciful. But I’ll write it in. I don’t want him to think he can always do it to me. I want him to know that.“ That is his power. He proudly tells how, when buying a car, he haggled over the price AND asked for Car floor mats – and got them.
The entrepreneur and the car salesman are sick to their stomachs. But one continues to write obsequious emails and the other continues to smile servilely. No matter how impudent the God-Emperor of Money’s Grace may behave.
Then he has his car. Weighing tons. Obscenely pitch-black. Pitch black all over. At least the snout is pitch black. Endless horsepower behind a merciless rabid or cruel predator face. And then the God-Emperor hits the highway and then it’s on: hunting people. Hating people. The God-Emperor wages his personal wars. He is judge and executor. He is the law – of the strongest. He always acts in the right. That’s the kind of righteous man he is. Just has to have enough horsepower. And enough tons of steel.
Then he arrives. At the office, at the customer, at the authority. And his boss comes, talks of more performance, and he has fear, suppressed anger. And the customer calls and he speaks obsequiously to get the order. And he has to go to the office. And he sits in front of the official, the little god-emperor of his decision-making area, who – wilfully, but always in the right! – does not want to understand what is needed from him. And he is sick to his stomach. So pressed is he, so he must conquer his hatred. And then he buys something again! And then it goes better. Then he is the right again. Thumbs up, thumbs down. Judge. Be merciless. Punish or pardon. Like the emperors in ancient Rome. Back in the distant, distant past when people had to slaughter each other in arenas for the fun of the rich or were torn to pieces by wild beasts.
Ruskin goes on to prove that for someone to be rich in the conventional sense, there must always be poor people. If there were no poor (whom he could buy), then he would have no power over anyone and all – so-called – wealth would be of no use to him. He would have to do everything himself and, with all his possessions, would sit in his field and toil for his survival like everyone else. So there is an interest of the rich in the poor existing, because only then are they rich.
Now everyone is rich. All full. All emperors. Has the ideal state been reached? All rich with no poor?
Unfortunately not. Or fortunately not, because if this were the ideal state, then humanity would have arrived in hell and would be allowed to stew in it until its self-annihilation.
So how does it work here with being rich without being poor? Everyone is rich here and everyone is also poor. But aren’t they all full? Where is the poverty that makes them poor? Or better: Why do people, if they are so rich, play along with the game and at the same time make themselves the dependent lickspittles and/or the delivered ones, boiling in suppressed rage, of the other oh-so-rich? Why? Because the poverty in which they are kept is different from that conventionally considered. It is suggested to them: „You are full and safe. That’s enough and the price is your soulless existence as a high performance struggle and endurance machine in the God-given meritocracy.“ And everyone nods and says „Exactly!“ And it is precisely this hypnotic consensus that keeps people in a poverty, in a hunger that is worse than the hunger of the body, because the one whose stomach growls knows what is going on with him. The hunger of people today is the hunger for their soulfulness, for their life of inner greatness and meaning. For the unfolding of their divine being in love with creation.
Today’s man has this infinitely painful hunger within himself, but – how perfidious – the knowledge of his soulfulness has been conditioned away from him from childhood, it has been stigmatised to him as something unthinkable, ridiculous, so that he, man, must now redefine the cause of this hunger. The diabolical materialism helps him and says: „This hunger is satisfied by more things, more power and more sensual intoxication. Be emperor and gladiator of your neighbour. Judge and be judged. The more wealth you have, the more you may judge your neighbour. The less, the more you must bow to your neighbour. You can hate him and cause him pain or you can hate him because you have to suffer pain from him. Depending.“
So he is lied to and told that his hunger, which is really a hunger for unity, security, love and meaning, is a hunger for power over people, for wealth, that he has a hunger born of fear and that he can only satisfy it with power (read control – by buying others). Man, who has nothing else to believe in, does as he is told and does and does more and more, but the hunger remains. How convenient for the materialism that lies to and enslaves them all.
And when one feels within oneself that something cannot be right, then one has no more words and no mental concept for it. He cannot express it and stammers something out incoherently. Then it’s: „What are you talking about, stupid, half-baked stuff? Are you ungrateful? You are full and safe. You can buy everything. You are rich in prosperity! What more do you want, you fool? Think properly first!“
And he falls silent and continues to live the primitive life as a ravenous and fearful animal that has been hypnotically branded into him as the only one that exists. And desperately seeks meaning in meaninglessness. For he does not know that he is living life as an animal. He does not know what inner soul greatness is in him and that he is entitled to the unfolding of this greatness. As the only thing he is entitled to in life at all….