Jose Mujica is the president of Uruguay. He is 77 years old and some say he is the poorest president in the world. He has shunned the luxurious house the state provides for its leaders and he lives on a dilapidated farm. He works the land himself and, in partnership with his wife, he grows flowers. Mujica has lived this way for most of his life.
In North America, we would be healthier and happier if we took more time off and spent it with family and friends, reduced our commuting time, even if it meant living in a smaller house, and if we bought basic functional items instead of frivolous luxury goods. We spend almost everything we have (and often more) on items for our present consumption. We pay inflated prices for designer names, and trends indicate we are moving toward larger houses, longer commutes, and fewer vacations.
Many of our corporations suffer from predatory capitalism. We are so consumed with greed that we participate in reckless and dishonest behaviour to accumulate more wealth and we believe this is okay. This was clearly evident in the behaviour that led to the global economic and financial crisis of 2008. In the U.S., mortgage brokers convinced people to buy houses they couldn’t afford on the assumption that housing prices would go up forever. Then, with the help of investment bankers, they handed over the risk of default to unaware institutions and investors. This scheme enriched the brokers and bankers for a while. It was so obscure that no one could understand what was really going on, and when the market crashed it cost American taxpayers billions of dollars. Faced with a historic market collapse, the U.S. government rescued the banks, because allowing the large financial institutions to fail would have had dire consequences for the global economy.
Life would be far more simple if we chose to live it like Mujica. He may be the poorest president in the world but he doesn’t feel poor. “Poor people,” he says “are those who work to keep an expensive lifestyle.”
“If you don’t have many possessions then you don’t need to work all your life like a slave to sustain them, and therefore you have more time for yourself,” he says.
“I may appear to be an eccentric old man…But this is a free choice.”
It's definitely something to think about.
Debbie L. Kasman
Author Lotus of the Heart: Reshaping the Human and Collective Soul