Money Can’t Buy Me Love

The topic for today is going to be money. Hands up, who here feels they have enough of it to get by on?

So few of you? That’s… well, that’s not at all surprising, really. Even people who are doing basically alright feel the crunch these days. I remember a guy who once did a lecture for an Amway convention I attended (mostly for kicks), who described this as ‘Broke at a Higher Lifestyle’. I don’t know where the dividing line between economic classes exists these days, but I keep hearing about the supposed middle-to-upper-middle class, and wonder if any of us is really in that bracket any more. It seems to me there must be a few, because there are some really nice houses along Herkimer that I know I can’t afford on my ODSP or using my meager earnings as a freelance graphic designer.

So what is this disparity? It is a cultural difference, or an outlook difference, or upbringing, or even a genetic difference (the least likely, but there are some mitigating factors, so hear me out before you Godwin the conversation)? Is it possible that, quite aside from just basic greed and the system being geared towards greater and greater accumulation of the world’s wealth into fewer and fewer hands, that there might actually be some ‘natural’ predisposition towards making more money than everyone else around you, and how does that affect the rest of us.

First of all, you have to accept the basic tenet that, where there are resources, there is ease of trade. Living in a desert is only going to make a few people rich by legitimate enterprise (whatever your definition of legitimate might be). But if you live in a country rich in natural resources and manufactured goods, why in the world would you be living at or below the poverty line (relative to your nation’s gross national product, which is relevant, no matter how you look at it, because the higher cost of living in an industrialized nation counterbalances the supposed wealth that is available, even if those numbers are inflated due to price gouging and an inequity of international trade)? The answer, to me, is simply, we aren’t all built for accumulating surplus wealth.

Sounds like some sort of Darwinian Economics theory, doesn’t it? It’s not new. the idea has been around for a while. It just seems to not be common knowledge, or at least it isn’t accepted wisdom among certain quarters of the population who still want you to believe with all your might in the ‘rags to riches’ philosophy of the latter-day Horatio Algers of the world. Sure, certain celebrities not only get famous but stinking rich, and sure there is a certain amount of opportunity afforded us in the Western World that isn’t available to people living in mountainous, arid or impassable regions of the Earth, but the point is, some of us are better equipped for the skill of making money from other people. Some are quite good at it without being monstrous. Others, not so much.

Take for example the current CEO of Nestlé, who feels water should be branded and sold by private interests, and not allowed to be consumed for free by indigenous peoples who aren’t part of the commercial world. h/e doesn’t believe in an inalienable human right to water. To him, is’t not a resource; it’s a commodity, plain and simple. The fundamental disconnect here is, he doesn’t quite understand that there is a difference between a commercial commodity, which is something we like to buy and trade, but don’t necessarily ‘need’ like we do, say, clean air and potable drinking water to survive. It’s easy to see how he gets confused. His corporation makes foodstuff. Crap foodstuff, mostly, but foodstuff, which is, at its base, something we need to survive. It’s not that far a leap from food to water on the list of human needs that can be co-opted for commercial purposes. So in that sense, his apathy is understandable, if heinous. He makes his living selling people stuff they absolutely need to survive, so why wouldn’t he see another resource of similar necessity as something he can monetize and make an absolute killing on?

The answer is, most of us realize that food in the Western World has been tainted by these profiteers, and we’re paying for it in ways that sound like the purest science fiction. What we don’t want to face is that it is symptomatic of a larger disconnect between people and profit. And we are complicit in this transformation of our society.

The sacred dollar sign is so very sacred in our culture, and precious few of us have both the wherewithal and the will to resist its siren call. We spend our whole lives learning ways to make these mythical talismans of trade and hope, and with every passing decade and every succeeding generation, the grip becomes more powerful, more intrinsic to our natures. To change now would require a whole new way of thinking and communicating our needs and desires to one another without signalling our earning power and our commitment to earning. We believe, almost psychologically, in the goodness of Capitalism. We all preach the gospel of so-called Free Enterprise, as if this is a thing that has ever truly existed or could exist and work as prophesied in a world full of people who are determined to game the system to get more out of it.

And that brings me back to my main point about people who are better at money earning than the rest of us. I’m not saying ti’s manifest destiny. I believe there is something intrinsically unhealthy about measuring your self-worth by your bank account. But we all do it, to one degree or another, and this is indicative of how our society is trained to perceive itself. This happened, I believe, for the most natural of reasons: success breeds more success. It’s not about ‘deserve’. It’s a simple fact that rich people have more opportunities to make more money than the rest of us. Capitalism rewards avarice. Our society is designed to favour those who like to control the flow of money and power in our world. It’s designed to fail at equality. Our Capitalist -dominated press and media train us to believe that there is something intrinsically (there’s that word again) wrong with sharing the wealth, as if there is something inherently flawed about a socialist economy. Forget the fact that true socialism has never really been implemented on a wide scale in the world. We’ve had Totalitarian Communism of one flavour or another, and we saw what happened when it went head to head with creeping Capitalism. But that doesn’t mean the idea of sharing and spreading the wealth is a fallacy; it means what we all know it means, which is that any system set up to distribute goods will be an imperfect one that is subject to being gamed by clever sods who figure out a way to get more out of it than everyone else.

Greed isn’t something we talk about much, these days. We say it like we say the world “Hitler’ and expect everyone to know that it’s code for The Great Satan, that thing that makes our society impossible to live in, and then we look at our iPhones and our HDTVs and realize that we’re on morally shaky ground. so when the Trumps of the world call us out and tell us Greed is Good, we try not to nod. But in our hearts, we already take it on faith, like the Western World used to almost unilaterally take it on faith that the whole universe is governed by a spirit being in the sky who is constantly judging our worth based on our adherence to a desert code of conduct and our belief in the validity of a rule book that was written millenniums ago, in several volumes by several authors, and gathered together (sporadically) by a political body of theologians that wanted to put an end to violent bloodshed in the streets (and possibly get more money out of its followers in the process). Heresy has been a concept that has dogged human history in one form or another, and the orthodoxy of Free Enterprise is more than capable of punishing us for questioning the tenets of faith of the almighty dollar these days. Woe betide the poor fool who decries the sacred mantra of “Me First’, lest he be labelled a heretic and cast out into the streets to starve or freeze to death at Christmas time.

I’m willing to admit I’m basically a dyed-in-the-wool hippy on this issue; I believe strenuously in a social democracy that rewards ingenuity, but not unfairly so at the expense of society. I’m not dead set against making money. I just think the whole concept of Free Enterprise is a myth, and our almost religious adherence to its pursuit is as fallacious as seeking the Holy Grail or the idea of virgins finding unicorns. It’s a really nice idea on paper, but it’s inoperable in the real world. Relying on one character trait of human society to propel and thus govern a system of unparalleled freedom and self-governance is wrong, and dangerous.

Especially because most of us, as some profiteers are fond of crowing, don’t have what it takes to become a billionaire. The question becomes, what is this ethereal quality, and is what it takes something we should be celebrating, or should we look harder at what we ask of our wealthy people, to determine if, indeed, they deserve our continued fealty and largess.

The trick there is, we have to be willing to look at ourselves and our own lives and really, truly question our own values, because we are, though mostly working-poor-to-getting-by, still a complicit part of this society that rewards people who are more ‘socially aerodynamic’. Remember, it’s not entirely about rich and poor people, who are still just people; it’s about who is more comfortable justifying taking advantage of situations others of us know we wouldn’t feel comfortable in, whether they’re mere work situations, or more ethical issues. Even the least aware of us soon learns whether we are cut out for taking more than we need, when we find we can’t keep it up.

Sometimes, it just a takes a lifetime to figure it out.

In other news, briefly, the City of Hamilton (Ontario, Canada) is facing potential upheaval, as city council and city staff come under fire for numerous minor and major discrepancies and scandals, the latest of which is a report that identifies absenteeism in the city offices as being disproportionately high, indicating a problem with the management and city culture in general.

My take on this is, no system is going to be perfect, but if you allow too many people to slide for too long, it lowers moral for everyone else, and people start forgetting what they’re really supposed to be doing, and just start clocking in and out and collecting a pay check. this can lead to a lot of playing hooky or actually being more susceptible to illness because your tension levels are so high, you stop taking care of yourself.

That said, you’re either part of the solution, or part of the problem, and I think it’s past time for a number of city staff members to question whether they want to continue working in public service if they aren’t up tot he task of helping to build a better, more compassionate government.

Something I wanted to post on Facebook today:

Council exists to deliberate over policy and take cues from their constituents. They are basically the interface between the public and the city bureaucracy. Our problem isn’t that the Councillors aren’t doing they’re job (though some are more diligent and thoughtful than others). The problem is, there area a lot of people working for the COH who basically hate their jobs, and probably their lives, right now. These people aren’t to be targeted for criticism. They need help getting back into the saddle, or getting out of the way. I worked plenty of jobs where I saw people burn out and need to be replaced, until it was finally my turn. It’s not a good feeling, realising you’ve become redundant, but it’s better to face ti and move on than to linger in a job you can’t stand just because you need the pay check. If you’re any kind of professional, you’ll pick up the pieces and move on to something that fits you better, and someone who isn’t burnt out can carry on with the work you aren’t suited to any more.

Well, that was all pretty heavy and political, so let’s close on something a little more amusing: a drummer demonstrating the musicality of playing a relatively simple kit and rhythm to a wide variety of natural reverb situations, thus demonstrating an important component of a drummer’s musicality:
WIKIDRUMMER – Natural reverb

Thanks for reading. Have a good day.


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