Bullshit. Of course it can. The remark is almost always made by people who have plenty of the stuff. And the reason they have plenty is that they have been driven to amass it in a desperate attempt to compensate for some terrible lack; usually of love. Finding that their financial riches have not bought them happiness, they assume in their egocentric way that they wouldn’t have bought anybody else happiness, and they sententiously say so to the barefoot beggar who is asking them for the price of a gin and tonic with ice and lemon.
I may of course be wrong about this. I doubt it; like Marx, Freud, and my dog (when she barks at passers-by I pop out to see what’s going on, and usually think ‘Well yes if I were a dog I too would bark at you’) I usually turn out to be right about most things. But even if I am wrong this time, one thing is absolutely certain: lack of money can buy you unhappiness.
Greece, or rather the ordinary people of Greece, are currently suffering from a lack of money and it’s ‘buying’ them unhappiness. Especially in the big cities: in little places like this island things aren’t so bad because people know each other and help each other. For most of us here, the worst that happens is that the shelves in the shops are getting emptier and emptier. I don’t know much about economics — I don’t even know what I like — but if I hadn’t known it before, I certainly know now that you need money to make money. For instance, the shop where I buy my cigarettes — and of course, typically for me, I want an old-fashioned make that almost no-one else here smokes — often doesn’t have them. They explained that nowadays wholesalers insist on money up front, and retailers simply don’t have the money up front. So customers go to another better-off shop and get their cigarettes or whatever there. So the first shop doesn’t make any money, its shelves slowly or rapidly empty, and it goes out of business. In this case I solved the problem by giving the shop my own money up front and waiting a few days for my cigarettes. But not everyone can do that: I’m not well off, but I have enough for such essentials as cigarettes and alcohol.
But now the problem is affecting even my dog. (‘My’ here is shorthand for ‘The dog that lives with me’: she is, if anyone’s, God’s dog; you can’t (or shouldn’t) in my view really ‘own’ a living thing.) Ellie (the dog) is used to getting one or two ‘Rub-a-Dubs’ — little things that look like tiny fig rolls but are made of stuff of more interest to dogs — last thing at night, or as a treat when she has done something commendable (such as barking at an ugly passer-by) and I noticed a week ago that supplies were getting low. There is only one shop here, the agricultural suppliers, that sells them, but when I got there I was just in time to see someone making off with a carrier bag full of the very last Rub-a-Dubs. (Incidentally he didn’t, as some might, say ‘Oh look here Simon I don’t really need them all: here, take half’). Takis the owner told me he would order more. There still being enough for Ellie’s immediate needs I waited a week and went back. Still no Rub-a-Dubs. ‘They’re ordered Simon; they should arrive on Friday.’ ‘Why didn’t you order them before the last lot ran out?’ ‘Because they want the money up front.’ ‘So send them the money up front.’ ‘Yes, Simon, but where is it? I had to wait until I’d sold the last lot to get enough money to order more.’
It is shocking and unacceptable that the very dogs of Greece should be made to suffer by the austerity measures. Those responsible, such as Angela Merkel, should at once organize a sort of Berlin Air Lift in reverse, sending aeroplanes to drop caninely openable packets of Rub-a-Dubs around the whole country.