“He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature”. Socrates
President Mujica could be living in a luxury home that the Uruguayan state provides for its leaders and living a privileged life of wealth that many of us can only dream of. Instead Jose Mujica chooses to live on a tumbledown old farm where the only source of water is an outside well and give away 90% of his salary (equivalent to $12,000 (£7,500) to charity.
By donating this amount to good causes he lives on the average Uruguayan income of $775, £485 per month.
“I’ve lived like this most of my life,” he says.
Mujica spend 14 years in jail after spending the 1960s and 1970s as part of the Uruguayan guerrilla Tupamaros, a leftist armed group inspired by the Cuban revolution.
Most of his detention was spent in isolation, until he was freed in 1985 when Uruguay returned to democracy.
Those harsh conditions helped define Mujica.
“I’m called ‘the poorest president’, but I don’t feel poor. Poor people are those who only work to try to keep an expensive lifestyle, and always want more and more,” he says.
“This is a matter of freedom. If you don’t have many possessions then you don’t need to work all your life like a slave to sustain them, and therefore you have more time for yourself,” he says.
“I may appear to be an eccentric old man… But this is a free choice.”
The Uruguayan leader made a similar point when he addressed the Rio+20 summit in June this year: “We’ve been talking all afternoon about sustainable development. To get the masses out of poverty. But what are we thinking? Do we want the model of development and consumption of the rich countries? I ask you now: what would happen to this planet if Indians would have the same proportion of cars per household than Germans? How much oxygen would we have left”?
“Does this planet have enough resources so seven or eight billion can have the same level of consumption and waste that today is seen in rich societies? It is this level of hyper-consumption that is harming our planet.”
Mujica accuses most world leaders of having a “blind obsession to achieve growth with consumption, as if the contrary would mean the end of the world”.
Like many leaders not all of his policies are welcomed and supported but I think we could all learn an awful lot from this selfless and inspirational man.