Dr. Asghar Mohajeri tells us about the secrets of a developed human being.
Being a gentleman, whether as a controlling consumption or excess even to show off money and other facilities, is a sign of ignorance and illiteracy. This is a definition which we learn from the interview with Dr. Asghar Mohajeri who is a sociologist and a university professor. It was interesting because I thought being a gentleman has a direct relationship with excessive consumption. An image which disappeared and was replaced with controlled and standard consumption. Frugal use is a sign of a developed human being. This proposition is key to the points made by Dr. Mohajeri. And what is more, consumption in a society gets us distracted too. If you want to know more about consumption and deviations in consumption, then you are welcome to read comments made by Dr. Mohajeri.
-Let us start with this question. In what way does a person living in a healthy society and his patterns of consumption differ from another person and his consumption patterns in an unhealthy society?
You are using the dichotomy ‘healthy vs. unhealthy’ but I, as a sociologist, use the term developed and underdeveloped societies. Let me tell you one point first. The beginning of production and consumption and development in the West was related to a religious background. As you know, the Catholics had problems with the world and even bought and sold the heaven. Luther and the Protestants came forward and said that the heavenly people are chosen from those who produce, work and consume judiciously and…
-So with this explanation, is practical and actual gratitude the same thing or is it right?
Yes, that is precisely so. Like this, the West moved forward with progress and reached development. Basically, a developed human being is one who produces well, works well, has a plan for his own world and also consumes well.
-What an interesting point!
And it gets even more interesting to know that more developed human beings tend to be happier and more hopeful. From the viewpoint of daily life, they have regular and well-planned behaviors and, from the political viewpoint, they are cooperative citizens. And as citizens, they have a positive insight and a strong faith in life. Also from the standpoint of culture, they have a more proper behavior. Such a society enjoys a well-planned model of consumption.
-Do you mean to say that it is a balanced society?
Yes. Now, the underdeveloped or, as you mentioned, the unhealthy communities must attempt to plan their consumption. Of course, consumption cannot be planned and made regular without production and the other sections of the society. Correcting the consumption models is impossible without modifying the behavioral models in other areas. This cannot be done without reforming the structures. Now, consider our won society which has problems concerning consumption deviation aside from our discussion about being developed or underdeveloped.
-What do we mean by deviations in consumption?
It means when a patient goes to see the doctor, he does not think he is a good doctor unless the doctor prescribes too many medicines for him! And all the other areas are just the same. Although we are moving towards an electronic government in official communications, it seems that the offices are not functioning well unless the applicants form a queue!
-What is the solution to this deviation of consumption that you are mentioning?
We must turn to logical behaviors. We are now living in Tehran in 2009 then we should update our traditional behaviors, beliefs and thoughts. This updating is the same as making our behaviors logical. This means in the capital city of a country in 2009 forming a queue and being stuck in traffic congestions for the reason that some people like to use their automobiles to show off are signs of behavioral deviations and are not commensurate with development. This deviation in consumption must be reformed and, in my opinion, the leader has pointed to an important matter.
Your words remind me of a Hadith which is expressed by Imam Ali and he mentions that “We should not give up frugality simply for the reason that we have plenty now and can spend as we wish; but we must observe it as it is a good deed in itself.” Some people in our society begin to spend more money as they become wealthier and suppose that frugality and saving have something to do with being poor or wealthy.
Bravo. This behavior is very typical of an underdeveloped person. The very deed is itself very proper and decent. His honor, Imam Ali, was asked a question: “Is the power of God overwhelming?” and he replied “Yes”. They asked: “Can he make the world as small as an egg?” and he replied that God is omnipotent but there is also Reason. Wise and reasonable behaviors must be pursued and this has nothing to do with being wealthy or not. We must use water with frugality. Imam Ali was not a poor man but when he drank water and half of it remained, he put it aside to use it later. He did not do such a thing because he did not have enough money; rather, he did so for it was a developed behavior. Such a behavior is a sign of being well-developed and as the English say it is a gentlemanly manner. If our country is meant to be well-developed, then we must start from here; this means that the characters, the society and the behaviors must be developed.
-I am a youth of our times or, as you mentioned, I am a youth in 2009. I want to wear classy clothes, use good perfumes, live well, eat well and travel well. But, on the other hand, you are speaking about frugality. Can I add both of these two?
I am saying that if you really want to be gentleman, wear classy clothes, be polite and make social progress, then your behavior must be developed. You must manage and control your consumption. If a person has all of these features, but cannot control and manage his consumption, he is not a gentleman. The main characteristic of a gentleman is the management of the behavioral area and especially the area of consumption. If some individuals are rich and at the same time control and manage these issues, they will have a huge parameter of greatness and of being a gentleman. If somebody gets married and does not spend excessively on his wedding party, he is a gentleman and will have a good future as well. From the social standpoint, such a group is called the middle classes. Compared to them, we also have the upper and the lower classes as well. People who are in the middle social class can manage their behavior and are trusted by the society. However, the other two classes first consider themselves and then the society.
Does an appropriate model of consumption mean that we should all spend equally even though the level of consumption for various individuals can have some differences?
Social justice dictates that anyone should spend as much as he can afford and commensurate with his capacity and abilities.
-Does this mean that your capacity might be high and you might spend more than I might and there is nothing wrong with it?
But there is also an extra point; many of areas have some standards for consumption. Even if an individual has more or less but does not observe these standards, then he is an undeveloped human being.
-How are these standards defined?
For instance, in the area of nutrition, you need to use a certain amount of calories in proportion with your weight and your activities. I cannot say that I earn 10 million tomans a month so I use more calories! The body cannot absorb more calories even if you are rich. I cannot say that I have a salary of 200 thousand tomans and then I use less; your body does not understand this argument and grows weak.
-Well, what should someone who has fewer of these standards do?
It is a duty and obligation of the government to supply the minimum standards of life in some areas. The standards are clear; for instance, it is impossible for someone who is wealthy to have 10 votes. If someone is poor, he must be supported by the government; and one who has too much should not spend too much.
-Where do these standards come from?
They have universal and religious definitions; in our own religious literature, we have something with this notion that if someone goes bankrupt and loses all his possessions, if he has a dwelling and possession worthy of his dignity then he must preserve them. This has been determined by the Holy Preacher. Moreover, as for the universal literature, these standards have been defined under the title of human and citizen rights.
Do you think that observing these standards must be made obligatory or be optional through establishing the culture for it?
In addition to establishing a culture for it, there must be social control and obligations as well. If someone is taking up more space in the street for being wealthy then the police must control the situation. These two do not come in a sequence; rather they are concurrent.
-In your view, how is the consumption style of the youth in our society?
In Iran, today deviation exists in all areas and behavioral models. Of course, the real cause of these deviations must be identified as well in order to come up with a solution for them. Now, our women use cosmetics more than the universal average and there is a reason for this. This is because of the lack of attention and gender inequality that they have suffered. As for the young in our country, the consumption models are higher than the world average. The amount of their pocket money, the duration of their unemployment, and their consumption are above the world average. In addition, the young determine their own models of consumption in an anarchist way because we take from them the opportunity for planning in various areas such as amusement. Our families are the same too. At times, they keep things at home that they may never use even once in their lifetime. Now, one of our challenges is that we do not have an appropriate model of consumption in our houses. The general rule is that according to the social class determination, the houses must have furniture (whether they are 50 m, 60 m, or 100 m). The housing furniture establishes a standard which leads to a moderate and balanced consumption in households. But because this kind of furniture does not exist, anyone who buys a house uses his own taste to design the furniture in it. When the question of competition is posed, the consumption model of these stuffs deviates.
-Look, we journalists and writers have a principle of brevity which means that when there is a word, sentence, or paragraph that does not serve the main aim of the report and the subject, it is redundant and must be omitted. However, if omitting it may be a blow to our main intention, then it is necessary and must remain. This principle leads to the concise and moderate use of the words. Can we define a similar principle for daily consumption?
Yes. When we say that the consumptions have standards, this means that the organizations which we refer to have defined these standards in each area. Medical organizations have determined the amount of calorie and the construction and architecture organizations define the necessary space one needs in life. If we had something and used it up to the standards, we are a developed human being. If we had something but used it more than the standards, we are being ignorant. Perhaps, it can be said that God does not choose the heavenly people among such people.