It is often said “Money is the root of all evil”. That is not the truth. The truth is “Lack of money is the root of all evil”.
This is a very intense theme, the essence of which is portrayed over and over in mainstream media and fiction. In the world of make-believe, we see how often fictional characters succumb to the life of crime due to the riches they wish to accumulate. While lust for money is a repeated theme on the silver screen and in literature, it is always shown to make the characters lose their humanity as they turn to felony.”Narcos” is a Netflix original drama series, based on the infamous Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. Escobar became a multi-billionaire during the 1980s based on production and smuggling of cocaine in the United States. The show, which first came out in 2015, follows two American Drug Enforcement Agents, Agent Steve Murphy and Agent Javier Peña, both of whom worked the Escobar cartel case for years. The show follows the DEA’s hunt for Escobar and their efforts to shut down his cartel once and for all. Their pursuit formed the basis of the Netflix series Narcos.
“The Big Short” is the cinematic portrayal of Michael Lewis’s nonfiction bestseller book by the same name. The film is accurate in its trajectory of historical events. It revolves around the 2007-2009 global economic recession. A huge contributor to the recession was the American subprime mortgage crisis. The film came out in December 2015 and received widespread critical and financial acclaim. One of the main reason of its success was its bare portrayal of the characters’ greed and thirst for money.
All the main characters in the movie are financial analysts who are excellent at their jobs. In fact, they are so good, that they predict the disastrous event before it happened. They predicted that they will be able to make a lot of money if the price of mortgage related products decreased, which was bound to happen if their customers defaulted in mortgage payments. Both these dramatic representations of real life events follow the same theme, greed for money. Crime, and especially organized crime, stems from a toxic amalgamation of two things; ambition and greed. When ambition and greed are combined with poverty, most victims of this combination turn to a life of crime.
While Escobar originated from a simple village life of poverty, the Wall Street financial analysts were middle class men who dreamed of better things. In both cases, the characters wanted a better life for themselves and their families. But they did not choose the path of hardships and virtue, rather they took the easy way out. They turned to a life of treachery, deceit and corruption. They violated the law on multiple charges, all for the sake of answering to their greed. In both cases, because of their felonies, they became millionaires (billionaire in Escobar’s case).
In both storylines we see criminal behavior fueled by money hungry individuals. Their love for money made them lose all control over their morals and virtues. While the Wall Street wolves may have only lied, shammed and stolen money from their clients, Escobar was responsible for the murder of more than one thousand people. The cruelty and malice may be on different levels but the root cause remains the same. For Escobar, money symbolized power.
Money led to Escobar to unleash his reign of terror. He used money to buy out people, law enforcement agencies and even mercenaries. We see this in one of the first episodes when he is pulled over by the police. Money gave him the power to acquire a seat in the Colombian parliament.
He had the power to remove anyone who crossed his path. It gave him an invisibility that helped him smuggle drugs across the border right from under the custom officers’ noses. For the Wall Street analysts, money symbolized luxury. The aspiration of becoming millionaires at someone else’s expense made these analysts believe that they can live in the lap of luxury just like Wall Street’s richest executives. Their ambitions led them to heartlessly steal from their clients. As a society, we understand that money brings with it power and social status. As humans, we tend to aspire and yearn for things that we don’t have.
But it is up to us to choose the path leading to our aspirations and yearnings. The life of crime has that temporary thrill and exhilaration, but once the crime comes to light, it is all downhill from there for the delinquent.