Monday, October 20, 2014

HvS ON MONEY | Dec. 6–Conscience & Money (1957)

St. Nicholas Day - It strikes me that the whole area of finance has imperceptibly crept outside the boundaries of moral awareness. People tend to think in terms of profit and loss, not in terms of good and evil. Yet nowhere is ethical consideration so necessary.

I was looking at an American television program for children one Saturday morning, and I was struck by the bad quality of the program itself, full of improbable bad guys and improbable good guys, much too exciting and violent. Ten minutes were devoted to a lighting of a dynamite fuse about to blow up a sleeping boy in a cave, before the galloping horse was allowed to come to the rescue. It was interlarded with drooling appeals to children to ask their mommies to buy them succulent lollipops or chocolate bars or ice cream cones.

The thought that came into my mind was: “This is not fair!” I saw the harassed mother, trying to make ends meet and keep her children away from needing to see the the dentist or doctor, besieged by  cries of “Ah mom, give me a lollipop" or "Give me some chocolate.”

I felt it was hitting below the belt to address the modern barrage of advertising to little children, the most suggestible creatures in the world, without the sense to resist. There is a strong mother instinct that wants to make children happy, but should this be exploited for the purpose of financial gain?

Yet many people, when I talk about this, say: “I don’t see what morals have to do with it. It is good business."

If we appeal always to the weaknesses and vices of the public in our advertisements, we are necessarily going to increase these weaknesses and vices. Some Martian visitor to this planet might think that the only thing humans care about is to smell nice, to attract the opposite sex, to rival the neighbors and to eat quantities and varieties of food.

How we use our money determines not only our own lives but those of others too. If we wish for foolish, vulgar or ugly objects, and make others want them, a certain number of people will spend their lives making them. What we ask for, will be supplied. What we make, others will be induced to ask for.

I think we all have a responsibility, whether we like it or not. We will be answerable one day, I believe, for the way in which we spent our money, or caused others to spend it. Perhaps some day the irresponsible use of money will seem as strange and outdated to us as slavery seems now, and we will have learned to restrain our profit-making to what is legitimate and generally beneficial.

No comments:

Post a Comment