Essay No. 88:
Neither A Borrower Nor A Lender Be: There is a rhythm about the words and the manner in which the verb “be” is placed at the end suggests that this is a line of verse. This is true, and this well-known proverb is spoken by an old man called Polonius, in Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, when his son is going away to a foreign country.
It expresses wisdom which has long been proved in the history of mankind, for without being able to say that it is a wrong act, one is rather ashamed to borrow and one does not like, as a rule, to be asked for a loan of money. Why should this be? If one is in temporary difficulty, surely a friend will be only too glad to give some help by a temporary loan, which will be returned, and which will cost him nothing.
On the other hand, if a friend is in trouble, will we not all be glad to lend him a few rupees? Surely the proverb shows the sharp wisdom of the money-making man! In theory, this is true; but in practice, it works out otherwise. It is seldom a true friend in temporary difficulty who wants to borrow, but a slight acquaintance who is improvident and wasteful.
The borrower is too often one who makes a constant practice of borrowing money from everybody who can be induced to lend, and who, as rule, does not return it It happens sometimes that a friend does borrow from us.
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It is the first time that he has done so, and he means to return the loan. But the time comes when it becomes due, and he is not able to repay me money. Without meaning it, he gradually in course of time, is actually ashamed to meet him. Thus, as Shakespeare goes on to say, the lender loses not only his money but also his friend.
There are indeed instances where one friend obliges another with a loan, but there are far more in which a borrower is a person with no great Sense of responsibility or of honesty, who makes no effort to repay, but Indeed tries to borrow more. Thus, except in most exceptional circumstances, it is better to keep the rule stated by the insect of the poem. The Ant and the Cricket, We ants never borrow, we ants never lend.”
The proverb brings home to the reader that he should avoid either being a borrower or a lender. Both the positions are detrimental to maintain human relationship. Where money is involved there the human relationship is bound to suffer. Once an individual borrows money to meet the emergency from any source, he exposes himself to grave financial hazards.
If for one reason or the other, he is unable to pay back the loan, by the promised date, it would embarrass his position in the eyes of the lender. Similarly, poor Third World countries including Pakistan that borrow loans from international financial institutions or from private international sources, weaken their position when they cannot return the loans.
They seek moratorium on the debt, which act further lowers down their credibility at the international level. The tragedy of the time is that their debt compounds cumulatively and a greater proportion of aid they receive, is consumed to retire the debt. They are caught up in a vicious circle which keeps them within its tight grip.
A borrowing country thus comes to lose self-respect and renders itself as an instrument in the hands of lenders to be exploited as and when emergency arises. Pakistan being a borrower, has often to meet the demands of the IMF by the way of withdrawing subsidies, raising the tariff and imposing value-added tax to realize revenues to meet the budget deficit.
These measures have the effect of increasing inflation in the country. The end result is that poor people have to suffer endlessly. A borrower has got no option except to blindly accept the dictation of the lender. It equally applies to a lender. Where money is involved, it can cause conflicts among family members and friends. Hence if we wish human relationship to grow and run smoothly, money must be kept out of it.
The piece of advice that the proverb gives is that one should neither be a borrow nor a lender. One should try to stand on one’s feet independently to minimize one’s dependence on others. Borrowing implies financial dependency, while lending is a sign of helping someone financially. Both the aspects have dark effects, which must be avoided as far as possible in life.