Morally corrupt and living in the Great Gatsby

Published: February 23, 2015
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All of us are a part of a “Great Gatsby” in one way or the other, and at some level, we all contribute to the moral degradation that surrounds us.

“In the long run men inevitably become the victims of their wealth. They adapt their lives and habits to their money, not their money to their lives. It preoccupies their thoughts, creates artificial needs, and draws a curtain between them and the world.” – Herbert Croly

Case 1

His name is Doodh. If you’re wonder why, that’s because he had a dark complexion when he was born and was of very humble beginnings too. His mother thought that the name Doodh would somehow improve his complexion and bring wealth – and it did.

Doodh is rich, and his complexion is lighter than it was at birth, but his heart is dark, almost a dull black. He came into money slowly and gradually, and his methods of dealing with people became corrupt. He became the Great Doodh who would throw big parties almost every weekend, which is mainly why people liked him and that gave Doodh the power to manipulate them. The vicious cycle of materialism and themed parties and the power and manipulation went on and on. Doodh, because of his small mindedness, thought that because of his power to invite and uninvite people at his will made him a demigod. Until one day, when the real God struck his material ways and ended his reign.

You must have come across a Doodh as well; they are the hallmark of every materialistic society.

Case 2

My name is Dilemma. I have acquired so much wealth but not a single friend, mostly because I’m bossy and am used to getting my way. The only opinion that ever matters is mine and I never make an effort in trying to make people comfortable. But what does making them uncomfortable have to do with anything as long as I get my way, right?

I am different from the ‘Great Gatsby’ because he at least was decent at some level, but as for me, well, I’m arrogant, selfish, bossy, and I give expensive gifts which should entitle me to buy their friendship.

Don’t you agree that my friends should bow in front of me at all times?

I keep hearing whispers that bad luck will strike me eventually. It hasn’t happened so far, and I’m banking on bribing fate, it just might just work.

Case 3

I like superficial and materialistic people. Not to forget my rich neighbour and my rich cousin, and everybody else who is rich. Mind you, I am not rich at all but that does not stop me from liking the rich. I love going to extravagant parties of the rich; I am a satellite (the pleaser) with no self-respect – you show me a good time and I’m willing to be bought.

I am one that people call the chamcha, the one who is scared of bossy demigods like Dilemma and Mr Doodh. Yes, I belong to the class of people who contribute to the degradation of society, for it is people like me who can be bought and sold in societies, and give wind to the morally compromised arrogant egoistical maniacs we call the damned Dilemma and the corrupt Doodh.

Do the three aforementioned cases sound almost familiar? If you answered yes and are wondering why, it’s because they mirror the society we live in.

An essay published in Revision World on The Great Gatsby says:

“There are no spiritual values in a place where money reigns: the traditional ideas of God and Religion are dead here.

Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby in the form of a satire, a criticism of society’s foibles through humour. The elements of satire in the book include the depiction of the nouveau riche (newly rich), the sense of vulgarity of the people, the parties intended to draw Daisy over, the grotesque quality of the name ‘Great’ Gatsby in the title.

Satire originated in the Roman times, and similarly criticised the rich thugs with no values, tapped into cultural pessimism, and gave readers a glimpse into chaos. The Great Gatsby is the tale of the irresponsible rich. Originally, the title of the book was “Tnmal-chio”, based on an ancient satire of a man called Trimalchio who dresses up to be rich.”

All of us are a part of a “Great Gatsby” in one way or the other, and at some level, we all contribute to the moral degradation that surrounds us. The immigrants who migrate to the US, or anywhere else in the world, chase the elusive American dream and lose everything valuable in the process. They are blinded by materialism and the bright lights, and hence in chasing the dream, they conform to the rigorous routine all the while losing sight of the beauty and goodness of life. They slowly shift their focus from searching for the comfortable onto the frenzy of the rat race, and thus their personal “Great Gatsby” begins.

As for the people who chose to stay back on the sacred motherland, well truth be told, their rat race and moral degradation is as bad as the ones living abroad. This is because the frenzied search for gold and materialism is not exclusive to a particular place – may it be Rome, Pakistan, the US or anywhere else on the planet – since values, morality and goodness stand for the same thing. Yes, we all live in the Great Gatsby; our accents and names might be different but our moral corruption is all the same.

The next big party you go to is nothing but a Saturday night extravaganza at the great Mr Gatsby’s house. Yes, that’s exactly what it is. You have finally arrived, now rejoice.

Bisma Tirmizi

Bisma Tirmizi

The author lives for the simple pleasures and her musings over a cup of tea almost always find a way to be the written word. She also writes for pakteahouse.net. Her book 'Feast With A Taste Of Amir Khusro', published by Rupa Publications, is available in stores now.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.