Do you love money and want to control the world? Then you’re not going to like what former Uruguayan President José Alberto “Pepe” Mujica Cordano has to say about the wealthy in politics.
“We invented this thing called representative democracy, where we say the majority is who decides,” President Mujica said in the interview. “So it seems to me that we [heads of state] should live like the majority and not like the minority.”
President Mujica became popular worldwide after the BBC circulated a piece dubbing him the “World’s Poorest President.” The story reported that he donated 90% of his salary to charity during his time as president and, instead of living in a presidential palace, he opted instead to live on his modest farm with his wife and drive his two-door beater of a car.
Now, he’s lashing out at politicians who only care about themselves and their wealthy donors. And he may have a point. Today, the average member of congress has a net worth of a million dollars and corporations give huge amounts of money to Super PACs without having to disclose their donations.
“The red carpet, people who play — those things,” Mujica said, mimicking a person playing a cornet. “All those things are feudal leftovers. And the staff that surrounds the president are like the old court.”
I can hear the cries of “socialist” already, but Mujica denies that he has any problems with rich people. He just doesn’t think they do an especially good job of doing the business of a nation.
“I’m not against people who have money, who like money, who go crazy for money,” Mujica said. “But in politics we have to separate them. We have to run people who love money too much out of politics, they’re a danger in politics… People who love money should dedicate themselves to industry, to commerce, to multiply wealth. But politics is the struggle for the happiness of all.”
When asked why rich people make bad representatives for poor people, Mujica pulled no punches.
“They tend to view the world through their perspective, which is the perspective of money. Even when operating with good intentions, the perspective they have of the world, of life, of their decisions, is informed by wealth. If we live in a world where the majority is supposed to govern, we have to try to root our perspective in that of the majority, not the minority.”
“The tie is a useless rag that constrains your neck,” Mujica said during the interview. “I’m an enemy of consumerism. Because of this hyperconsumerism, we’re forgetting about fundamental things and wasting human strength on frivolities that have little to do with human happiness.”
Today, he continues to live on a farm on the outskirts of Montevideo with his wife, Senator Lucia Topolansky.