Thursday, June 12, 2008

Gekko Returns?

In actor-producer Michael Douglas' classic Wall Street released in 1987, the main character Gordon Gekko defined greed thus: "... greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.” In the said movie, this dialogue added strength to the main character and with many such punches coupled with the way of portrayal of the character has earned nomination for Oscars then. But after two decades, when this dialogue is heard now, one may wonder whether it was just a coincidence or a precursor to what was to follow in future. Also one may wonder whether Gordon Gekko was a fictional character or a replication of future society. This doubt is inevitable if the present trend is looked at the background of Gekko's perception about money, love and life.

The present reforms era of economic liberalism, corporate activism and competitive consumerism, emphasizes the power of currency which completely changed social concept and societal outlook. When currency becomes the driving force of the human life, humanism vanishes from the human life.

Competitive consumerism, in its mad rush to reach the consumers, using the media - especially the all powerful visual media - as the bridge between the products and the customers, exceeds all boundaries in its publicity craze, diminishing the long cherished cultural values. For these advertisers love, marriage and life has totally different perception from the one that we have been taught in our primaries. In the world of publicity of competitive consumerism, an husband need not feel shy of exchanging his wife for a tray of ice cream cups. In this shadow world of idiot box, a girl need not feel guilty of changing his lover for a favorite toffee. In this advertisement world all it is needed for a boy to win over a girl’s heart is nothing but a branded inner garment. In this shameless world boys need not feel bothered to engage any number of girl friends all at the same time and same place as long as he keeps sufficient number of candies to offer; youth need not worry about dad’s scolding, if he has an MP3 compatible mobile in his possession; and lovers need not fear to run away from home right in daring vision of the girl’s father if they drive a low cost luxury car. With all these, can we say what is there for us to fear for or feel shy of? Can we tell our generation that a new demarcation of life has been laid for us to follow by these ads? Let us search our soul and mind and be honest in finding an answer.

Corporate activism is another thing which calls for an honest soul search. How many of the corporate employees can honestly tell that they have hundred percent job satisfaction? How many of the corporate employees can proudly claim that they spend sufficient time with their family and children? How many of them can candidly claim they are free of any stress? Is it not a fact that there were reports of some IT professionals committing suicide because of unbearable stress? Don’t we feel sorry for that old age couple who committed suicide as they could not bear the loneliness?

Sports, particularly cricket, is yet another field of corporate venture in recent time. The result of corporate entry into cricket is the recently concluded IPL T20 Cricket matches. For the first time in the annuls of sporting history, cricket players were put on auction like a commodity for this IPL cricket tournament. From the way in which corporate franchises were bidding for the players based on their popularity rather than their actual cricketing worth, it is clearly evident that it was business transactions and had nothing to do with each player’s ability. In his report Arnab Mitra, who has written a study on the IPL says “If broadcasting rights, franchise fees and central sponsorships are combined, there will be a fixed yearly income for BCCI. Plus, there are no cost pressures on the body due to stadium leasing expenses or any hikes in the salaries of players. This will lead to it more than doubling its profits in the very first year. The forecasted profit for BCCI over the next 10 years is a whopping Rs 43 billion!” There are news reports which say, “(1) Over 200 million Indian viewers, 10 million international viewers and 4 million live audience watched IPL; (2) A 10-second ad spot during IPL cost Rs 2 lakh to start with, and went for Rs 10 lakh in the final; (3) IPL will bring in about Rs 12 billion every year in cricket; (4) India's total sports budget last year was Rs 4.9 billion; BCCI will earn Rs 3.5 billion from the first year of IPL, which is more than the Rs 2.3 billion it earned in 2007.” Another news report says that Dhoni had scored 414 runs at an average of 41.40 in 14 innings in IPL and each run that flowed from his blade was worth Rs 1,44,927. According to a news portal report “over four million spectators watched IPL matches in stadiums. On TV too, the TRP (Television Rating Point) of these matches was a mind boggling 8.2 in the first two weeks, 8 at others and was always above 5. That's when saas-bahu soaps like Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi have averaged at 5, and SRK's Paanchvi Paas has seen TRPs of 4.” So, commercially IPL matches were big hit one should admit. But for cricket and sport, is it a boon or bane? While some former cricketers like Wasim Akram have criticized the IPL, analysts expressed fear that it might kill other formats of cricket.

The corporates’ entry into cine field has also stirred controversy as seen in Tamil cinema industry. According to the Tamil Film producers, it was the entry of the corporates in film industry which increased the actors’ remuneration to manifold which in turn increased the cost of film production to an unbearable limit. Though there was denial about this from the film artists’ association, the fact remains that there are accusations from one section of the industry. Nobody can dispute the corporates’ contribution in the country’s economic growth, but still is it not equally essential for its people also grow healthily? Can money alone ensure their health and happiness?

With economic liberalization in operation, now the currency has become the most sought after commodity in our life. Now that it is repeatedly told that there is no alternative(?) to liberalization, people also understand the message in it. If the State can sacrifice all its holdings for the growth of economy, then why not people too follow the example? But what is there for ordinary human to sacrifice except humanism? With currency taking the front seat people also think there is no alternative to earn the most sought after commodity called currency except by sacrificing whatever they have in exchange for money.

Is it not a fact that for Lal Babu of Nagwan village, Rs.7500/- was the consideration amount for killing his sixty years old father Sudeshwar Ram? Was it not money for the IAS aspirant Vipul to pursue his studies that prompted him to kill his fifty five year old mother Kailash Devi of Delhi? Was it not the desire to have a regular monthly income through compassionate ground appointment in Hyderabad Municipal Corporation that took Yadaiah and his wife Renuka to the extreme step of plotting to murder the former’s fifty two year old mother Narsamma? Was it not the same reason of getting an appointment through compassionate grounds in Government services that forced Shankar Oraon of Ranchi to make his father to drink heavily and then beat him to death? For Chandrasekhar of Anantapur, Shyam of Delhi and Suraj of Raipur who have killed their fathers, is it not the same money that prompted them to plot the murders? According to news reports, the killing of the foster son in law of former chief minister of Tamil Nadu was also due to property dispute. If it is proved to be true in the court of law, then it means that this trend has intruded into the elite class too.

These may be a few stray incidents which cannot be generalized. But still it is distressing and difficult to digest. Or is it the return of Gekko? Let us hope it is not and ensure that today’s precedents do not become tomorrow’s practice. After all a healthy economy is for the health of the society and happiness of the people. Should we not make it certain?


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