How can we move towards realising more desirable futures? This and other burning questions regarding society, religion and politics were discussed in 40 events that brought together leading figures from the world of academia, art, and culture in the Humanities Festival that was recently concluded in Vienna. In this article, I would like to pick out one of the lectures I attended, share a few points that were discussed and continue with my own reflections on the subject.
It was a book presentation. Author Martin Schürz spoke on the problem of excessive financial power in the hands of a few. The German title “Überreichtum” could be translated as “Overrichness”.
Schürz is an economist at the Austrian National Bank and an analytical psychologist. His book is the result of 25 years of research. ShaliniRanderia, the Indian Director of the Vienna-based 'Institute for Human Sciences, moderated the presentation and the following discussion.
The term 'overrich' date back to the Greek philosopher Plato, who considered those people 'overrich' who were financially strong yet weak in virtues. Martin Schürz declares he is not bothered by the character of the overrich. Rather, is he concerned about their destructive impact on democracy. To put it in numbers, the top 1% of the Austrian population holds 25% of private capital. Financial power and political power live in close relationship. In Austria, a social welfare state, this creates some kind of a paradox.
The discussion focuses on the instrument of taxing the rich. Property tax and inheritance tax are not well accepted amongst Austrians, neither with the rich nor the middle class. Schürz thinks there should be a general discussion towards defining an upper income limit. Just as we have defined bottom limits below which people are considered 'existentially poor'.
I followed the elaborations and points of discussion with interest. At some point, however, I asked myself whether political measures to equalise the wealth within a population really made a difference with regard to “humanity”.
Given my Indian background, I tend to accept huge variations and enormous diversity amongst members of a society. In India, traditionally, the well-to-do accept social responsibility and dedicate money and facilities towards welfare projects.
A society can develop its own regulative measures when people care. Rather than taxing the overrich and thereby making a political system richer, I could imagine regulations like a compulsory “awareness training programme” for the overrich, similar to the compulsory German learning programme for refugees in Austria.
Spiritual awareness and understanding of our ‘Unity in Diversity’ can bring about well-being and prosperity to all. Essentially, I believe each human has something precious to contribute to humanity and at the same time, some ailment, to heal within. It is on this human basis that financial power can also be seen – both as a potential to serve and as an inner imbalance to heal which is why I suggest programmes to enrich the inner world of individuals rather than to take away their money with no other transformational measures.
The exact composition of the “awareness training programme” needs to be reflected and elaborated. In any case, it would contain all elements of meditation, music and nature in the context of practical social work so as to strengthen our evolution as human beings. As the rich eat with the poor, work with organic farmers and play with orphan children, mutual exchange and understanding can happen. Unconditional love would emerge as a positive feedback. It would be a holistic health programme at the same time, addressing points of conflict and opening blockages of the heart.
So I do agree with Plato that virtue is of importance. If those who seem to have everything lack compassion, wisdom and devotion, they have nothing. Maybe I should be more precise. Overrich who lack compassion, wisdom and devotion would be unable to achieve anything of significance with regard to human evolution.
It is time to stop classifying and to start giving opportunities. Peace and love on Earth come from within and need to grow without. It is time for an evolution towards humanity - where overrich and underprivileged recognise each other as one. Indeed our oneness implies that every individual will feel the result of his or her actions physically - one human system, one human organism, one human body. This is the truth of humanity.
Once we meet in the heart of humanity, once we move with the heartbeat of humanity, we will develop a new alphabet for heart driven dialogue - from human to human. A spirit of equality in the midst of our diversity. A purified heart and mind will share and create prosperity for all. Fear will dissolve into courageous love and individual beauty will blossom amidst all colours and shades of existence.