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Materialism or fairness / Adv Ehud Peleg

Within the relationships between businesses and consumers in Israel, there is a shortage of fairness. Business owners often take advantage of the inferiority of consumers in knowledge or economic power, to exploit them and to make profits they do not deserve.

There is a feeling that businesses owners interpret the so Israeli term "I'm not a sucker" in a distorted way, according to which if I do not exploit anyone I can, whenever I can, as much as I can, I am really a sucker, since I could have earned more; and profits are everything: this is how I am measured; this is how I am defined.

Indeed, "maximizing profits" is a basic principle of economic life. You can understand this as a principle of economic survival, effectively and optimally exploiting the resources in a manner ensuring the existence of the business over time, and existence means profit. However, is this materialistic approach supposed to be the most important thing? Will we let it be the sole determining factor in shaping the economic reality in Israel?

When people are concentrated in materialism – in what they have and especially in what they do not have and how they will have more, they happen to forget the true meaning of man, which belongs to the field of morality and values.

This is, if you like, the story of the modern golden calf.

Dealing with materialism positions values and interests of two opposite sides, and often affects the choice of interests while giving up values. This is a slippery slope leading to unfairness.

Materialism and interest - concentrate on "Me", on "What's in it for me", and the test by which success is measured:  how much do I earn (and many times, how much do I earn more than others, at the expense of the others and from another account).

Fairness - deals with "us" and takes into account what is best for all of us. It is based on the values which are the rules of the game, our mutual Code of Ethics. According to fairness, the test for success is to what extent the situation is better for all of us.

Old Hillel said: "What is hateful to you - do not do to your fellow". This is the basis of the principle of fairness - a basic right of the individual in human society. Fairness, just like love and truth, is indivisible. Unlike unilateral relationships of submission, coercion and exploitation in which, like in the jungle, only the strongest wins, fair relationship is equalitarian  - it includes the equal right to fairness: it is either fair to all parties or it is not fair at all.

"Know from where you came, where you are going, and before whom you are destined to give a judgment and accounting" is a well-known saying of the Sages. The human being comes into the world and leaves the world without assets. The meaning of his life is measured through the seal he leaves behind him and through what he leaves within the hearts he has touched. Those impressions are usually created from daily decisions between values and interests, and this is where his true identity is tested, the identity for which he will be accountable some day. Those are the decisions that will also define the identity of the Israeli society.


Materialism, as well as the inherent approach according to "if you do not exploit, you are considered as being exploited", which prevails in commercial life, but not only in this sector, takes us back to the jungle and removes us away from civilized and fair humanity, one in which we want to live and that we should be in accordance to the Declaration of Independence,


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