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Sunday, 3rd December 2023


Arundhati Roy's trenchant critique of trickle down economics in the Financial Times is very timely and a vivid example of how things have gone so badly wrong. When she focuses on the multi-million dollar Ambani home in the heart of Mumbai as an example of excess, she is highlighting the huge paradox of wealth and power - how people who possess it simply do not realise that they are the ones who are possessed. Also the fact that their behaviour sucks the creativity and empowerment of millions is rarely visible to them, but that impact is very real and Roy makes it very vivid.

The very fact that the Financial Times invited Roy to write this piece is an example of the acknowledgement of the changing times we are living in, and how there is such a vacuum of thought leadership among the establishment. Roy is an agnostic, but faith traditions I believe also have a lot to offer in this vaccum, as they have reflected on these issues for hundreds if not thousands of years. For example, a Jain monk/nun does not carry any wealth or possessions, and walks barefoot, and they can be seen doing this in the very heart of Mumbai even today. In fact, I can picture her walking outside the Ambani palace silently, making a statement not through her speeches but simply through her lived conduct. Jainism is a tradition of reverence for all living beings, and compassion is at the very heart of everyday conduct and action. There are nearly 10 million Jains in the world today.

It would have been lovely to see Roy making the contrast between Ambani and a Jain monk/nun, how with nothing, he/she is living a life of creativity, empowerment, and inner contentment and self-fulfilment. This is a philosophical tradition which is thousands of years old, and Jains also happen to be very successful entrepreneurs, but are also the largest donors in the whole of India (50% of all charity comes from the Jains). Responsible capitalism is very much in their hearts and minds - and they rarely make a show of their wealth or status. A Jain monk leaves nature's wealth to itself, and by not taking, he/she does not even need to practice social responsibility or ecological respect - they just happen. This is what society needs to aspire to - how can we do our best to leave nature's wealth to itself?

Article added on 20th January 2012 at 9:07am