One thing our parents inculcated in us, their children, is honesty. They gave us hell—severe physical punishment, that is—at a slight cheating they would discover us doing, as though the act is the worst thing one can ever do.
Money, they would say, comes one’s way as a result of one’s hard work. It should not come through any other means but work. In other words, if one gets to have money even without toiling for it, then he is either a cheat or a thief—two things that they could never allow us to be. To their mind, money is a commodity that is earned through the sweat of one’s brow.
As an obedient son of theirs, I tried to live up to their expectations, in their presence at first, until such time that the urge became a sort of an automatic impulse in my behavioral reflexes. I would try to be honest even if no one is around to notice it, or to spot what I might do in contrast. It became part of my nature though there had been times when the temptation to cheat, when “chances” warrant, are intense.
That makes me quite a man of old. Because if we will trace back the history of honesty, we will see it rather heaped back in time when people were still engrossed in moral preoccupations. That was the time when too much religiosity was still at work, as was the case of the puritans. By adhering to this virtue, I assign myself to the ancients, which is not surprising as our parents themselves belonged to the ancient world—my mother being born in 1923, and my father, in 1901.
But as I observed and watched closely what really transpires in society, I noticed that my parents were wrong in their idea on how money could get to someone’s pockets. It’s not only through hard work like they said it should. There are various means people employ nowadays to grab hold of money other than the idealized hard work. In fact, hard work hardly works nowadays if one has to enrich himself. Other schemes prove to be more effective.
No matter how one perspires now in trying to earn money, the endeavor is almost futile given the prevalent and lingering low salaries and wages, plus the unending unemployment menace. The sweat of one’s brow, then, does not guarantee money’s acquisition. That saying has become obsolete, even ridiculous.
The more effective money-making schemes now don’t have, in their dictionary, the word honesty anymore. To them, honesty does not pay. What works best of late is a shrewd manipulation of people, circumstances, events, time, and existing assets, both in cash or in kind. A money-maker now does not anymore sweat. He just sits in an air-conditioned, comfortable office, signs papers and documents, orders people to do things, enjoy life to the fullest, do what he wants to do, go where he wants to go, and get what he wants to get.
If money is only earned by a toiling man, like my parents said, then why are these so?