Violence Tax

As we all rush to file our taxes before the deadline, a well meaning accountant-friend is puzzled by an absence of stock portfolio. 'Why do you not invest in stocks & shares?!' he asks. 'The stock market is fascinating" I reply in my defence, 'It is perhaps the cruelest and consequently the most precise manifestation of what the market does, which is to serve a heady concoction of 'feelings''. He is unmoved. 'You see, when you invest in stocks, don't invest in companies, invest in events.' he declares. 'Events?' I look puzzled now. 'Yes, events. Like invest in stocks when elections arrive. Spot the companies which are associated with the political party most likely to win elections. Invest in them. Or, when floods hit the country. Invest in cement companies, you can make money in a month's time'. I am shocked. I am frozen.

Basically, I am being given advice to help fascists govts come to power, or to make profit from catastrophe that hits millions of people. I suddenly remember P. Sainath's lucid lecture on Crisis Economy, about how the stock market encourages big financial players to make profit out of crisis. To think that ordinary common people have also begun to mimic these attitudes unthinkingly is a whole new revelation. Imagine the scale at which this operates now - millions of small investors putting their money in 'events' that are a direct of consequence of political violence, natural catastrophes, social adversity. This mass-scale habit of investment needs to feed off disturbances, needs its 6.75 percent growth from disasters and distress.

This is the mirror opposite of people voyeuristically holding their phones up to film an act of violence for pleasure. This is the trope that is borne out of disgusting instances like mob lynching, where the lynchers find a tacit consent from society to carry on with violence in their name. I look at my friend, who sits diligently working across spreadsheets putting taxes in order. Tax-on-violence is the new nation's income. I sit across the table, horrified.