The reality of wealth

Anh Nguyen

Writing from a global perspective

Dr. Laura Martin


Does wealth mean that we are rich solely with materialistic possessions, or can we be even richer without them? Can the human race live more civilized when we’re still living under a developing economy with low-quality healthcare, infrastructure or education? My view: yes, we can.

Our perception of wealth has always been tied with the amount of prosperity we have, the amount of possessions we own. We are lying to ourselves by thinking that we’re rich. We continue to believe that we’re living well, better than other nations even, because we think we have these fantastic services and wonderful products to make our lives meaningful. We call it barbaric when a slave is tortured by being over-worked and abused, and we call it civilized when a worker today is trapped and tied with witty contracts that force them to work enthusiastically, efficiently yet exhaustedly to pay off their endless debts. The truth is, however, we’re being manipulated by wealth and our perception of it. The reality of wealth is ruthless in comparison to how glamorous it sounds. You see artificial beauty on the surface, but lying underneath is the worn-out face of a person who is forced to work to keep make ends meat.

We are trapped in the endless journey of seeking disillusioned prosperity that exhausts our daily happiness and real joy of life. The more I unveil the real face of wealth, the more I see how ugly it is and has always been.

The first truth about America’s prosperity is that the nation is rich, not the individual. Think about the way we are taxed. The ruthless truth of wealth is unveiled when you discover you are paying more tax than Warren Buffet. While you and I pay 30% of our $60 000 of annual income, he only pays 17.7% out of his 46 million. As ironic as it is, it’s the middle class who face such a tax disparity; those who can never be rich are taxed and obviously the one who collects your taxes is rich. Excluding 5% of the super-wealthy people, the remaining 95% are definitely suffering to pay their daily bills, home mortgage, car debts and so on.

It feels like we have a prosperous living standard because of our big houses, our cars, and tons of services from already-cooked curry to the talkable iPhone 4s’, but which of them is completely owned by us? Taxing is just one of thousands of ways that prove how we are paying less while having more or paying more while having nothing to pay for we buy everything mostly on credit or accumulate debts.

            The second ruthless factor is that not only the United States but other amazingly powerful countries such as the United Arab Emirates and China face the same dilemma. The article written in 2009 titled ”The dark side of Dubai” introduced me the idea of modern slavery. You’re lured, like a mouse with a giant piece of cheese in front of your eyes, to an invisible trap. Soon, the trap or the witty contract soon ties you to the life of debts and forces you to work util death to pay it off. And if you think you can pay it off, then you’re not living in the real world. Dubai is like an amazing Iceland amidst the desert with its blazing sun. The heat is burning it up; its beauty is being melted; the truth is seeping out: modern slaves are building all of the shiny sky scrappers, jabbing into the sky day-by-day. Foreign workers are manipulated and they can’t leave Dubai since their passports are taken right at the moment they arrive at the airport. Working conditions are worst under the exhausting deadly heat and water is even salty or sandy. They are trained not to look up, not to speak up and not to get angry. The sad truth is that debts and dictatorship are ruling Dubai. “Most companies are owned by the government, so they oppose human rights laws because it will reduce their profit margins. It’s in their interests that the workers are slaves” (Hari, 2009).  Everything is fake in Dubai, or wealth is only the beautiful side of a monster. It kills you, not to make you die but still alive enough for it to re-digest and labor over and over again.

            Don’t think it’s the Muslim world with its dictatorship that allows such an issue to exist. As I mentioned about our taxing disparity, we truly experienced how centralized our income, wealth and power in our dear democratic country is – when only 1% of the population earns 80% of the nation’s wealth. Sadly, the world seems to follow the dead track of cosmopolitanism, excluding and violating human rights to establish a whole new area of modern slave. The Western world, the Muslim world and the Asian world all live by this doctrine. The world’s largest exporting engine, the notorious China, has been known for its rapid economic growth as well as its horrible ways of treating  its workers.

“Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk… More troubling, the groups say, is some suppliers’ disregard for workers’ health. Two years ago, 137 workers at an Apple supplier in eastern China were injured after they were ordered to use a poisonous chemical to clean iPhone screens. Within seven months last year, two explosions at iPad factories, including in Chengdu, killed four people and injured 77.” (Duhigg & Barboza, 2012) Even worse, this seems to be a trademark for China. News about children and women who are being maltreated in sweat shops are everywhere in the media and it happens every day, every hours, every minute, but that is just the way it is for the cheap labor country which always outsource products for Western and European industries. Slavery becomes universal, everywhere, every time. How ruthless the truth is…

            Another simple yet painful truth is that money is not the real sources of happiness and motivation but rather a source of despair if taken to the extreme. Money and rewards don’t increase motivation to work, in fact they do the opposite. Wealth can even destroy our mere joy of accomplishing our job enthusiastically. The Hawthorne Studies showed that it’s not the working conditions or higher salary that increases a worker’s efficiency, but the strong friendly helpful relationship among their co-workers. Don’t get me wrong about the horrible working conditions mentioned above to go against this study. The way we manipulate people is both destroying the friendly working environment and people’s genuine relationships, and the build-up of a boss-slave bond emerges instead. Unfortunately, this world is now turning more to the direction of money rule and everything is materialistic-oriented and our mere joy to live is diminishing every day.

Simply yet clear enough, wealth doesn’t make people happy. It forces them to yearn for it no matter what, like a dark hole with no chance of escaping. We still have go to work and pay taxes anyway; we have to work until death to pay off our debts anyway; we just can’t escape from being led by our financial situation. Therefore, let’s face the truth, face your prosperous world and indulge your life with healthy real joys coming from your friends, from your family, from your lovers, from unforgettable memories and inspiring stories to make you more beautiful than the life you’re living in.


Works Cited

Duhigg, C., & Barboza, D. (2012, 1 25). The New York Times. Retrieved 2 10, 2012, from In China,

Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad:

Hari, J. (2009, 4 7). The Indepenedent. Retrieved 2 10, 2012, from The dark side of Dubai:



Olivia, Peace & The Olive Tree |

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