Yesterday a (girl)friend of mine sent me a link to a YouTube video which was an excerpt of an episode from the BBC’s popular television show Dragons’ Den. For those of you not aware what the show is about, here is some background information from Wikipedia:
“Contestants have what they perceive to be a viable and potentially profitable business idea but lack funding, or are already trading in their business but need additional funds for promotion or expansion. In the show, the contestants have an opportunity to present their business ideas to five wealthy entrepreneurial businesspeople, the "Dragons" of the show’s title. They are required as part of their opening pitch to specify the amount of money they require from the Dragons.”
Having a business degree, my girlfriend really enjoys the show because it is both entertaining and, to her at least, educational in some way. I, too, quite like it. However, I don’t watch the show that much as I don’t really watch the telly and if I do, it is news that I fancy (I personally believe it is a waste of time to watch television). Though, more importantly, I hesitate to watch the Den for more important reasons.
Regarding the aforementioned episode (video) from the Den, watch 3:30 mins onwards and meet Kirsty Henshaw, a “single mother” pitching a “a frozen dessert which is a dairy-free healthy alternative to ice cream.” [http://www.bbc.co.uk/dragonsden/entrepreneurs/kirstyhenshaw.shtml]
Yes, she did secure the investment, despite needing to give up 30% stake in her company (she originally offered a 15% equity). So good news, right? A mom having two and half jobs will fulfill her dream and make a better life for her child. Right? Well, yes and no.
To be perfectly honest, I was at first very happy for her. And rightly so. I am amazed by how strong women (unlike men, and I am not being a sexist) can be. Kirsty is definitely a good example — single mom, a growing business, 2,5 jobs. I mean, does she ever rest? And, more importantly, could I keep up with that? Certainly not. So I was happy that she got the investment and will now be able to expand her business and hopefully make the life the way she wants.
On the other hand, I cannot stop thinking about the fact that there is such an inequality in this world and, more strikingly still, that this inequality and struggle between haves and have-nots is so explicit. Dragons’ Den is a perfect example. On the one side — literally — there are five ultra-rich “businesspeople” who have everything and are willing to give peanuts from their wealth to the “most successful” candidates in exchange for a share (often lion’s) of company’s equity (knowing that they will get their investment back). And, on the other side, there are mostly extremely poor, mostly unprivileged have-nots. These desperate have-nots, when pitching their idea, are always intimidated by “the Dragons”, hoping to get a couple of thousand pounds in exchange for their valuable ideas and inventions.
Now, is that the world we want to live in? In a world where at the one end of the spectrum we have honest and caring people like Kirsty who are working, excuse me, their asses off just to make a little-bit better living and, on the other side, some ultra-rich, greedy millionaires and billionaires who have everything and are still willing to intimidate others and raise some more cash at the expense of those unprivileged poor souls? Is this really fair? And does this have to be like this? Obviously not.
On 18 February 2010 Joseph Andrew Stack made a radical decision, taking his own life by flying a small plane into a seven-story office building in Austin, Texas. Why? He was fed up with this corrupt world where, among other things, unregulated economic system cares for the few at the top who are more than happy to live at the expense of the honest, caring, hard-working people who happen to be the absolute majority in any country.
Stack left a manifesto where he explains his reasons for taking his own life. I am not going through all of it, but the closing two sentences are worth citing:
“The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.
The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.”
Although I am not a Marxist myself and for that reason believe the idea the first sentence expresses is flawed, the “capitalist creed”, on the other hand, describes the current world succinctly. Indeed, we live in a world where these few greedy at the top, including those five from the Dragons’ Den, are feeling more than comfortable to abuse others and test their gullibility in order to satisfy their own greed (which is never satisfied).
I don’t believe most of us — unless we are all suicidal — want a world like this.
To quote my most favorite political thinker, “If we continue to act on the assumption that the only thing that matters is personal greed and personal gain, the commons will be destroyed. Other human values have to be expressed if future generations are going to even be able to survive.” [http://www.chomsky.info/interviews/1988----.htm]
So do the right thing — help making this world a better place.
[ And boycott the Dragons’ Den show ]