Category Archives: middlemen

জন অরণ্য

Dalrymple enjoys a viewing of The Middleman (1976), the third part of Satyajit Ray’s Calcutta trilogy, which among other things dramatises (from 4:09)

the way in which the world is more than ever full of absurd and pointless questioning, the object being the humiliation of the respondent.

An applicant, one of 10,000, for a clerk’s job is asked, ‘What is the weight of the moon?’* The question reveals the desperation of the young man’s situation,

as well as that of all the other applicants and by extension of the whole of society.

The respondent

must take part in this charade,

and his

powerlessness could hardly be made clearer to him.

The question

is not asked for any purpose, other than to let the respondent know that he is a worm.

* The answer to the lunatic question is: zero.

The sport of banker-bashing

Nothing is more tempting, writes Dalrymple,

than to blame the financier, merchant, or banker—in short, the scheming middlemen—for the woes of the world. They are parasites, goes the cry, mere bloodsuckers; they create nothing, but take advantage of everything and everybody. They make profits on the way up as well as on the way down, in abundance and in scarcity, no matter how others suffer in the process.

Such ideas, he points out,

are the stuff of propaganda, both Bolshevik and Nazi. For such propaganda, only the producers of simple tangible goods—the shirtsleeved proletarian in his forge pouring pig iron, say, or the happy flaxen-haired peasant hoeing the land to produce turnips—make a real contribution to wealth, everything else being but a form of hidden confiscation of what the sweat of their brow has produced.

Those who have believed this,

or at any rate acted as if they believed this, have been responsible for a great deal of misery in the world.