There is a sufficiency in the world for man’s need but not for man’s greed…

There is a sufficiency in the world for man's need but not for man's greed.  - Mahatma Gandhi

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18th century

Nikolai Petrovich Sheremetev (1751-1809)

“With land in excess of 800,000 hectares and more than 200,000 ‘census serfs’ (which meant perhaps a million actual serfs), … the Sheremetevs were, by some considerable distance, the biggest landowning family in the world. In monetary terms, they were just as powerful, and considerably richer than the greatest English lords… . The Sheremetevs spent vast sums of money on their palaces – often much more than they earned, so that by the middle of the nineteenth century they had amassed debts of several million roubles. Extravagant spending was a peculiar weakness of the Russian aristocracy. It derived in part from foolishness, and in part from the habits of a class whose riches had arrived through little effort and at fantastic speed… .”

“Serfs were essential to the Sheremetev palaces… Where skill was lacking, much could be achieved through sheer numbers. At Kuskovo there was a horn band in which, to save time on the training of players, each musician was taught to play just one note… their sole skill lay in playing their note at the appropriate moment….”

“A large part of the Sheremetevs’ budget went on their enormous household staffs. The family retained a huge army in livery. At the Fountain House alone there were 340 servants, enough to place a chamberlain at every door; and in all their houses combined the Sheremetevs employed well in excess of a thousand staff… .”

Entertaining was a costly business, too. The Sheremetev household was itself a minor court. The two main Moscow houses – Ostankino and the Kuskovo estate – were famous for their lavish entertainments, with concerts, operas, fireworks and balls for several thousand guests. There was no limit to the Sheremetevs’ hospitality. At the Fountain House, where the Russian noble custom of opening one’s doors at mealtimes was observed with unstinting generosity, there were often fifty lunch and dinner guests. The writer Ivan Krylov, who dined there frequently, recalled that there was one guest who had eaten there for years without anybody ever knowing who he was. The phrase ‘on the Sheremetev account’ entered into the language meaning ‘free of charge’.”

From ” Natasha’s Dance: A Cultural History of Russia ”
by Orlando Figes.

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21st century

The Russian Oligarchs

A staggering 35 per cent of household wealth in Russia is owned by just 110 people, the highest level of inequality in the world barring a few small Caribbean islands, a report by a major investment bank says…

The fall of communism saw Russia’s most prized assets sold off to businessmen later known as oligarchs. President Vladimir Putin allowed them to keep their wealth in exchange for political loyalty.

As Dennis McCarthy notes in his book ‘An economic history of organized crime’, the conventional approach to Russian organized crime uses the oligarchs as one of its building blocks as many business activities of the oligarchs fall into that gray area, the Russian ‘twilight zone’, which seems to expand the deeper one probes into relations between the Russian state and Russian organized crime.

Image 1: Sheremetev, Nikolay Petrovich, by N. I. Argunov from the Online Collection of Historical Documents
Image 2: from http://www.therussianoligarchs.com/
Image 3: from Tolerance, Values, Virtuous Living and Our Education

ENDS

A Beautiful Woman

From ‘The Rocking Horse Winner’ by DH Lawrence

There was a woman who was beautiful, who started with all the advantages, yet she had no luck.  She married for love, and the love turned to dust.  She had bonny children, yet she felt they had been thrust upon her, and she could not love them. They looked at her coldly, as if they were finding fault with her.   And hurriedly she felt she must cover up some fault in herself. Yet what it was that she must cover up she never knew. Nevertheless, when her children were present, she always felt the centre of her heart go hard. This troubled her, and in her manner she was all the more gentle and anxious for her children, as if she loved them very much.  Only she herself knew that at the centre of her heart was a hard little place that could not feel love, no, not for anybody.  Everybody else said of her: “She is such a good mother. She adores her children.”  Only she herself, and her children themselves, knew it was not so.  They read it in each other’s eyes.

There were a boy and two little girls. They lived in a pleasant house, with a garden, and they had discreet servants, and felt themselves superior to anyone in the neighbourhood.

Although they lived in style, they felt always an anxiety in the house.  There was never enough money.  The mother had a small income, and the father had a small income, but not nearly enough for the social position which they had to keep up.   The father went in to town to some office.  But though he had good prospects, these prospects never materialized. There was always the grinding sense of the shortage of money, though the style was always kept up.

At last the mother said:  “I will see if I can’t make something.” But she did not know where to begin.  She racked her brains, and tried this thing and the other, but could not find anything successful.   The failure made deep lines come into her face.  Her children were growing up, they would have to go to school.  There must be more money, there must be more money. The father, who was always very handsome and expensive in his tastes, seemed as if he never would be able to do anything worth doing.  And the mother, who had a great belief in herself, did not succeed any better, and her tastes were just as expensive.

And so the house came to be haunted by the unspoken phrase: There must be more money !   There must be more money !   The children could hear it at Christmas, when the expensive and splendid toys filled the nursery.  Behind the shining modern rocking-horse, behind the smart doll’s-house, a voice would start whispering:  “There must be more money !   There must be more money !

It came whispering from the springs of the still-swaying rocking-horse, and even the horse, bending his wooden, champing head, heard it. The big doll, sitting so pink and smirking in her new pram, could hear it quite plainly, and seemed to be smirking all the more self-consciously because of it. The foolish puppy, too, that took the place of the teddy-bear, he was looking so extraordinarily foolish for no other reason but that he heard the secret whisper all over the house:  “There must be more money !

By Sou

THE END

* * *

Some boys kiss me, some boys hug me
I think they’re O.K.
If they don’t give me proper credit
I just walk away

They can beg and they can plead
But they can’t see the light, that’s right
‘Cause the boy with the cold hard cash
Is always Mister Right, ’cause we are

[Chorus:]

Living in a material world
And I am a material girl
You know that we are living in a material world
And I am a material girl

Some boys romance, some boys slow dance
That’s all right with me
If they can’t raise my interest then I
Have to let them be

Some boys try and some boys lie but
I don’t let them play
Only boys who save their pennies
Make my rainy day, ’cause they are

[chorus]

Living in a material world (material)
Living in a material world
[repeat]

Boys may come and boys may go
And that’s all right you see
Experience has made me rich
And now they’re after me, ’cause everybody’s

[chorus]

A material, a material, a material, a material world

Living in a material world (material)
Living in a material world