When my daughter was little she wondered why I thought people who were rich were not happier than we were. I tried to explain that happiness does not come with money, and that not everyone can be rich, there are not enough resources in the world. It was certainly not a convincing argument for a 10-year-old who just longed to buy a porcelain doll or a little more candy but I was simply trying to explain what “solidarity” is and tried to problematize the concept of “success” or “progress”.
During my childhood my parents lived by the motto “Live simply so others simply may live.” You could crassly say that the persons interviewed in Swedish TV this morning concerning the release of Birgitta Forsberg’s book “Swedish billionaires” lives by the motto “I could care less about if others live”. The program director of SVT’s “The morning sofa” started the conversation by declaring: “Their lives are not only a story of success, but also about the trials and failures and – not least – about what can be achieved through hard work, persistence and a little luck”.
At that moment I’m thinking that we understand the word “success” or “progress” (which I think the Swedish word framgång means) differently. According to Wikipedia “progress” is “the idea that the world can become increasingly better in terms of science, technology, modernization, liberty, democracy, quality of life, etc”. Reference is made to the general success, not success at the expense of others. As Gandhi has expressed “there’s enough on this planet for everyone’s needs but not for everyone’s greed”.
In the Morning sofa this morning we meet the author Birgitta Forsberg and billionaire Allad Al Saffar. Turning to us the TV host says: “Now we will learn how to become a billionaire”. From time to time the hosts of the program are critical and questioning but this morning both the hosts and the author seems to turn to the billionaire full of admiration and present him as a role model. He was proudly leaning back in the sofa and smiling with his gold watch visible throughout the conversation. The author notes after some time, however, that the billionaire Allad Al Saffar is not a person she would like to work with.
“If I had to pick up and drop off kids (from kindergarten) and do all that I would never have been able to do what I have done,” admits Al Saffar. “But maybe you gave up something too?” asks the (female) TV host a little questioning. “What do you mean?” answers Allad Al Saffar. With that answer, I realize that he lives in a different world – perhaps because it is difficult to measure the value of social relationships and community with numbers.
When the male TV host at the end of the interview wonders puzzled “There must be a lot of people out there that have lost this race,” I think GOOD, now he will problematizes the lifestyle Al Saffar has chosen and get to the type of questions I would like to ask: how to sleep on nights? But it turns out that what the TV host want to say is that many must have “failed badly,” as he puts it. THERE the conversation could have turned into a conversation about what success/progress means, what kind of progress and for whom.
Today I see with happiness and gratitude how my daughter leads a rich life. A life immersed in community and a life depending on trust, solidarity with a goal to jointly work for the kind of success wikipedia refers to and Pete Seeger describes the song Rainbow Race.
MY RAINBOW RACE
One blue sky above us
One ocean lapping all our shore
One earth so green and round
Who could ask for more
And because I love you
I’ll give it one more try
To show my rainbow race
It’s too soon to die.
1. Some folks want to be like an ostrich,
Bury their heads in the sand.
Some hope that plastic dreams
Can unclench all those greedy hands.
[Some hope to take the easy way:
Poisons, bombs. They think we need ’em.
Don’t you know you can’t kill all the unbelievers?
There’s no shortcut to freedom.]
2. Go tell, go tell all the little children.
Tell all the mothers and fathers too.
Now’s our last chance to learn to share
What’s been given to me and you.
Related article “Because I love you I give it one more chance”