Is Money the Most Important Thing in Life?
"The Only Thing People Are Interested
in Today Is Earning More Money."
Once upon a time there lived a beautiful young woman
and a handsome young man . They were very poor, but a's they were deeply
in love, they wanted to get married. The young people's parents shook
their heads. "You can' t get married yet," they said. "Wait
till you get a good job with good prospects."So the young. people
waited until they found good jobs with good prospects and they were able
to get married. They were still poor,of course. They didn't have a house
to live in or any furniture, but that didn't matter. The young man had a
good job with good prospects, so large arganizations lent him the money he
needed to buy a house, some furniture, all the latest electrical
appliances and a car. The couple lived happily ever after paying off debts
for the rest of their lives. And so.ends another modern romantic fable.
We live in a materialistic society and are trained from
our earliest years to be acquisitive. Our possessions, "mine"and
"yours", are clearly labelled from early childhood. When we grow
old enough to earn a living, it does not surprise us to discover that
success is measured in terms of the money you earn. We spend the whole of
our lives keepig up with our neigbbours, the Joneses. If we buy a new
television set, Jones is bound to buy a bigger and better one. If we buy a
new car, we Can be sure that Jones will go one better and get two new
cars: one for his wife and one for himself . The most amusing thing about
this game is that the Joneses and all the neighbours who are struggling
frantically to keep up with them are spending borrowed money kindly
provided, at a suitable rate of interest, of course, by friendly banks,
insurance companies, etc.
It is not only in affluent societies that people are
obsessed with the idea of making more money. Consumer goods are desirable
everywhere and modern industry deliberately sets out to create new
markets. Gone are the days when industrial goods were made to last
forever. The wheels of industry must be kept turning. "Built-in
obsolescence" provides the means: goods are made to be discarded.Cars
get tinnier and tinnier. You no sooner acquire this year's model than you
are thinking about its replacement.
This materialistic outlook has seriously influenced
education. Fewer and fewer young people these days acquire knowledge only
for its own sake . Every course of studies must lead somewhere: i. e. to a
bigger wage packet. The demand for skilled personnel far exceeds the
supply and big eompanies compete with each other to recruit students
before they have completed their studies. Tempting salaries and
"fringe benefits" are offered to them. Recruiting tactics of
this kind have led to the "brain drain",the process by which
highly skilled people offer their services to the highest bidder. The
wealthier nations deprive their poorer neighbours of their most able
citizens. While Mammon is worshipped as never before, the rich get richer
and the poor, poorer.
II . Read
Read the following passages. Underline the
important viewpoints while reading.
1. Wealth Led to Disaster
In all American history, there is no story stranger
than that of John A. Sutter. We have read about the early history of San
Francisco. When the independence of California was declared in 1846, San
Francisco was a small town of some 800 inhabitants. Then, in 1848, gold
was discovered on land not far away. This land was owned by John A.
there was a vast movement of people, not only from the United States but
from other parts of the world, toward San Francisco and.the gold fields.
This was the famous Gold Rush of 1849. San Francisco grew to three times
its size in just a few weeks. Within a year it had a population of over
25,000 people. Previously a quiet, pleasant town, San Francisco was
changed almost overnight into a rough and crowded city, full of all kinds
of adventurers and other strange characters. The same factors that
operated to change San Francisce also changed the life of John A. Sutter
in an equatly extreme form.
John A. Sutter was a citizen of Switzerland. He had
come, penniless, in the spirit of adventure to the United States. He lived
and worked for a time in Pennsylvania and finally settled in California in
1839, when still a young man of thirty-six. He obtained the rights from
the Mexican government to a large track of land in the present area of
Sacramento, some seventy miles north of San Francisco on the Sacramento
River. Here Sutter established his own private colony. This colony he
named New Helvetia. Sutter was an intelligent, well-educated man. He built
a fort, inside which he established a large trading post.
great numbers of fruit trees along the banks of the Sacramento River, as
well as hundreds of acres of wheat. He became a very rich man by providing
most of the ships that .came to the harbour of San Francisco with supplies
both for their own use a.nd for export. Sutter had thousands of cattle and
horses on his many acres. Five hundred men, mostly Mexica.ns and Indians.,
worked regulaily for him. He wrote wrote to his wife and three sons, whom
he had left in Switzerland, asking them to come and live with him and
enjoy his great success.
Then in 1848, gold was discovered on Sutter's land:-He
was building a saw mill, some distance from his fort. Here, in a stream
leading from the mill, one of Sutter's workmen found some pieces of gold.
At first, Sutter tried to keep the news quiet. He had dreams of becoming
even richer than he already was, perhaps the richest man in the whole
world. But, within a few weeks, the news about the gold leaked out. Men
descended upon Sutter's land from all directions.
Soon they were
coming from all over the United States and even from more distant places.
These people moved into the area like a great herd of animals. They killed
all of Sutter's cattle, stole his farm produce and tools, and tore down
his buildings to obtain wood to build homes for themselves. The city of
Sacramento sprang up where Sutter's fort stood. On the site of his saw
mill grew up the present city of Coloma.
Far from becoming the richest man in the world, as he
had dreamed, Sutter was reduced to poverty. He finally moved away from the
area to a distant part of his land. Here his family arrived to live with
him. He began to farm and, with his sons, planted more fruit trees and new
fields of wheat. Again he was fairly successful. In 1855 Sutter brought a
suit in the Californian courts against the l, 700 settlers, who now
occupied the lands he had previously owned. He demanded $ 25 million from
the state for the roads, canals, and .bridges that he himsel'f had built
but which the state had .taken over. He also asked for a percentage of all
the gold mined an his property.
was decided by the Californian courts in Sutter' s favour. Briefly, Sutter
was agai.n a rich and important man. His dream of a private empire, with
himself as king and ruler, returned. But then the storm broke again. When
the judge's decision was made public, 1.0, 000 people, w,ho were now
established in the area and thought they might lose their homes, descended
upon the court. They burned the courthouse and tried to hang the judge.
They destroyed more of Sutter's property. Later, Sutter's home was set on
fire and burned to the g.round. Sutter' s oldest son killed himself; his
second son was murdered.
Sutter was never able to recover from these last and
final blows. He went back east and, in the courts of Washington, again
brought a suit to recover what he claimed had been stolen from him, He
spent the last fifteen years of his life in this sad manner. Tirelessly,
he went from senator to congressman, from one government office to
another. Friends tried to heip him, ahd he received various honpurs in
recognition of his early work in C.alifornia. But delay followed delay,
hoth in Congress and in the government courts. The "General" as
he came to be called, died alone in a small Washington hotel room, a
broken and bitter man.
2. What Did Qi Gong Do with His Money?
Everyone knows how important money is in the world
today. But what did Qi Gong do with his hard-earned one and a half million
Mr Qi Gong, aged 79, is a well-known calligrapher in
China. He became famous the hard way. Born in a poor family, he did not
have much schooling until his talent attracted the attention of Professor
Chen Yuan, the president of Furen University. For years Professor Chen
took him under his personal care and taught him'literature and
calligraphy. Professor Chen thought highly of Qi Gong and helped him to
find jobs of teaching at several institutions.
Years of hard work made Qi Gong an excellent teacher
and outstanding calligrapher and painter.
In memory of his teacher Professor Chen Yuan, Qi Gong
decided in 1991 to set up a foundation to give awards to both teachers and
students who excel in their work. Qi Gong worked day after day at his desk
and produced more than 100 works of calligraphy, which he sold for 1, 630,
000 yuan. All this money went into the foundation which was namled after
his teacher. He did not leave a penny for himself!
What do you think money means to Qi Gong?
3. Pop Stars I,ive Like the Royalty
Pop stars today enjoy a style of living which was once
the prerogative only of Royalty. Wherever they go, people turn out in
their thousands to greet them. The crowds go wild trying to catch a brief
glimpse of,their smiling, colourfully-dressed idols. The stars are
transported in their chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royces, private helicopters or
executive aeroplanes. They are surrounded by a permanent entourage of
managers, press-agents and bodyguards.
them appear regularly in the press and all their comings and goings are
reported, for, like Royalty, pop stars are news. If they enjoy many of the
privileges of Royalty, they certainly share many of the inconveniences as
weil. It is dangerous for them to make unscheduled appearances in public.
T hey must be constantly shielded from the adoring crowds which idolise
them. Tbey are no longer private individuals, but public property. The
rewards they receive for this sacrifice cannot be calculated; for their
rates of pay are astronomical.
And why not? Society has always rewarded its top
entertainers lavishly. The great days of Hollywood have become legendary:
famous stars enjoyed fame, wealth and adulation on an unprecedented scale.
By today's standards, the excesses of Hollywood do not seem quite so
spectacular. A single gramophone record nowadays may earn much more in
royalties than the films of the past ever did. The competition for the
title "Top of the Pops" is fierce, but the rewards are truly
4. "Pop Stars Certainly Earn Their Money"
It is only right that the stars should be paid in this
way. Don't the top men in industry earn enormous salaries for the services
they perform to their companies and their countries'? Pop stars. earn vast
sums in foreign currency-often more than large industrial concerns-and the
taxman can only be grateful for their massive annual contributions to the
exchequer. So who would begrudge them their rewards?
It's all very well for people in humdrum jobs to moan
about the successes and rewards of others. People who make envious remarks
should remember that the most famous stars represent only the tip of the
iceberg. For every famous star, there are hundreds of others struggling to
earn. a living. A man working in a steady job and looking forward to a
pension at the end of it has no right to expect very high rewards.
He has chosen
security and peace of mind, so there will always be a limit to what he can
earn. But a man who attempts to become a star is taking enormous risks. He
knows at the outset that only a handful of competitors ever get to the
very top. He knows that years of concentrated effort may be rewarded with
complete failure. But he knows, too, that tlte rewards for success are
very high.indeed: they are the recompense for the huge risks involved and
if he achieves them, he has certainly earned them. That's the essence of
5. Decent Beggars in Shanghai
It was getting dark when the plane landed at Hongqiao
Airport in Shanghai. A woman stepped out into a driving rain.
"Madam, you must be from Beijing," a voice
behind her said.
Taking luggage from the woman' s hand, the man said,
"The weather in the south is unpleasant, and it rains all the time.
The rainy season is coming." He accompanied her out of the airport.
The woman thought she was lucky to meet such a
warm-hearted. young man. At the bus stop, she thanked him. "It's
very. kind of you. I would be drenched through without your help."
She said quite a lot to express her gratitude.
However, to her surprise, the man stood there smiling
and showing no intention of leaving. Glancing around, the woman noticed
some passengers getting off the same plane with her were tipping the
peopte who helped them. She got the hint, took out a five-yuan note and
gave it to the man. Saying "Thanks a lot", he went away.
The young man is just one of the estimated 500
"decent beggars", a name Shanghai residents have given these
people. Often times, they will appear in groups in the railway station,
airport, hospitals, scenic spots. Most of them are fashionably dressed,
behave decently, and speak in a gentle way. They carefully observe their
"customers", and from their expression, they try to figure out
what their "customers" are thinking about. They will show
sympathy for a patient sent to the hospital, with tears in their eyes. Tey
will flatter the "customer" until he or she is deeply moved and
gives them money in gratitude.
On May 1, a family went to a park. Just as they
entered, a young couple with smiles on their faces came up. The man talked
"Look1 What a pleasant dayl It is very nice for
the whole family to spend the holiday in the park," he said.
The woman added, "We Shanghai people are often
kept indoors by the rain. It is too bad for children in particular. On
this fine day, it is quite good for your health to walk in the open."
Then they began to flatter the.children, saying they
were so beautiful and would be promising in the future. They predicated
that the parents would enjoy a very happy life with wealthy and devoted
sons and daughters. They did not stop talking until the mother gave them a
10yuan note. The mother did not feel sorry for giving the money. She said
that she had bought good fortune with the money. Some people say it is
this psychology that the "decent beggars" cater to in making
6. Nobel Prizes
Once a year, at a special ceremony a few dist.inguished
people are awarded Nobel Prizes. The founder of these prizes was Alfred
Bernhard Nobel (1833-1896), a Swedish scientist.
Nobel discovered the explosive called dynamite. This
was much safer to use than earlier explosives. He made a large fortune
from this and other di.scoveries and inventions. However, it saddened him
that his explosives were so widely used for warfare.
Nobel left mosi of his money. to establish five prizes.
They are warded for services to physics, chemistry, physiology or
medicine, literature, and peace. It is considered a very great honour to
win one of these prizes.