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Ethics. What was that again?

Cropped hand of businessman picking up fallen wallet on street

Bank robberies? Subsidies fraud? Financial transaction tax? Money is an endless topic that we could argue about here, laugh and cry, and make up over again. This is an issue we could fill hundreds of pages with. And from many different perspectives: as winners and as losers. We could write about that one night at the casino and the millions that two men got to take home, or about the Inland Revenue which didn’t hesitate in trying to charge income tax from the year 2016 twice over. Or how about the story of all that fake money being printed at a Monchique pig farm for months on end, without anyone noticing? That surely would also find plenty of readers. We could also tell the story of how a woman turned a golden necklace and a wedding ring into 170 euros at the pawnshop. I needed the dough to pay off the loan, otherwise the bank would have taken my car away, she says. She didn’t need the ring anymore, after all she’s no longer with the guy. We could discuss whether we really should divulge the story of that “electronic” bank robbery, blab about the plan that had the bank collapse like a house of cards. And then there was this other woman we met at the supermarket and who told us her story in between the shelves: how the bank where her ex-husband had an account and credit facility to finance the house at the time, impounded her salary after 31 years, only because her ex-husband was failing to keep up the payments… And that she’s now meant to pay 30,000 euros even though the whole thing had long passed the statute of limitations, which she was however unable to frame in legal terms. Pay your debts or not? Every one of us would probably have a few good stories to add, and we could use them to write a book with the title „Money Does Stink”.

It’s this final question that we’d like to ask ourselves, and you, at this point. Money makes the world go round? … This is up to every one of us. Either we belong to the 99% per cent – or indeed to the very few, that one per cent which has the chance to be different and act differently. Maybe this absolute minority will grow, to two, five per cent even? Are we but puppets or do we face the unbearable lightness of being and become honest and strong-willed, only spending what we have and not grabbing what’s not ours but has to remain in place for future generations? This would mean stopping the violence, on both a small and a large scale, war and theft. It would mean to stop going into debt, to forsake greed. It would mean to make money something that it is, a means to an end and nothing else – and to learn to appreciate real values.

On this very point ECO123 has just received the following story sent in by a Lisbon colleague. „The other day, coming back from a hike by train, I spotted a small black wallet on one of the seats. After waving it around to ask whether anyone knew anything about it and nobody said anything, I opened it and found money, a slip of paper with a number – a fiscal number probably – as well as a customer loyalty card issued by a supermarket chain. Instead of handing the wallet in with CP – I don’t really trust the Perdidos & Achados (Lost & Found) – I rang the supermarket from my dumpster diving expedition (see Eco123, no. 29), with one hand in the trash bin, and got them to contact the owner of the loyalty card to pass on my  contact. This would happen “over the next few days”; I must admit I found that a bit weak in this day and age of communications technology, and did say so. In any case I didn’t hear anything for a while. Till today, when Mr Rui V. called me, very happy indeed, and said that people like the Senhora didn’t really exist anymore… Be that as it may, he is out of work, trading a bit in books on the side, and insisted on gifting me two books of my choice and stand me a coffee when me meet and I hand back his wallet. I think we’ll have a lovely chat. Moments like this are worth a mint, aren’t they?


Uwe Heitkamp Kathleen Becker

traduções: Fernando Medronho & Kathleen Becker | fotografias: Dpa

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