Wednesday, June 12, 2024
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Debt and death

I have been thinking really hard about the impact of economic crisis on countries and the people of that country, as individuals but also as a community. I came across a wall art that had a very interesting message, the quote said: until debt tear us apart.

Firstly, the message is one that closely resemble the biblical vows that husband and wife say to each other “until death do us part”. This is the last part of the vow that couples say to each other indicating that they will stay together and will only let death, being a natural and eventual matter, be the only cause to separate them. In the wall art the artist makes a pun, a play on words, on the word “death” and replaces it with “debt”, which when said fast both words can sound quite similar, but if course carry very different meanings.

By replacing “death” with “debt”, the artist is sending the message that debt is becoming as natural and eventual as death. This is quite an accurate description of what is happening in the world, both at the individual and national level. Stories if countries that are heavily indebted are rampant. We have all become familiar with the credit ratings by different companies including Moody’s and S&P. I will be the first to admit that I am quite clueless when it comes to fully grasping what the letters mean other than the general understanding that if it’s a high scoring, the country’s economy aspires confidence. News stories about Chinese debt owed by African countries are making the headlines as we are all beginning to comprehend the possible ramifications.

At an individual level, I saw the direct consequences of a credit crisis as it happened in 2008 in the US. While studying, I saw a few classmates drop out of school because they were being let go from their jobs that were paying for their education. I saw people that I know loose their homes and have their properties foreclosed and entire communities having to move to different states because they could no longer afford to live where they were. I have seen debt end marriages and break families apart.

The trick about debt is that, in the current financial market it is almost impossible to live without debt. You need some sort of credit to be able to buy homes in many developing or developed country. This usually means that you would have to get a credit card, which is a dangerous thing if you do not have the financial literacy and maturity to handle it. On the other hand, country’s need debt to survive, at least in the current capitalist world.

The quote also has a very political meaning in relation to where it was posted, Portugal. Between 2009 and 2016, Portugal went through a very serious economic crisis related to the country’s inability to pay its debt in a currency it cannot print (something many of our countries are currently facing). At that time the European Union required the country to take some austerity measures that angered the population and some politicians. The wall art is alluding to Portugal’s membership to the European Union, stating that they will stay “married” until debt separates them, i.e. Portugal will no longer be a member of the Union.

Debt is a reality to the world today as death is and the message of that wall art is really hit home. If this is something that interest you, I suggest you look into financial inclusion, especially the new trends such as mobile money and credit systems based on that. It seems there’s no getting away from death or debt.  

Contributed by Leyou Tameru


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