Monday, September 13, 2010

Money is the root of all evil........!!!

First – I know this is not the actual quote. But I believed the misquote and internalized it. I am not alone. The words people choose indicate they have internalized a similar belief. The phrase I hear the most is ‘filthy rich’. Politicians use language that leads me to believe they understand millions of people have internalized this belief too. When a politician says that she is going to “fight for you the working family that has no voice”, I cringe. I’ve been there and lived working class life. It’s irresponsible to exploit people’s envy and misguided belief that they are powerless and dependent. We are all powerful and independent! Everyone of us! I wish a politician would say this instead – You are powerful; every one of you. Stop looking outside of yourself for money and power. Stop waiting for something or someone to come along by chance and bestow money and power upon you. You already have money and power; it is inside of you. You just need to release it into the world. Don’t look to me to do that. I can’t do it for you. Only you can do it for yourself. – I’d vote for that politician.
To give you an understanding of how I acquired the belief that money was evil, I need to give you some context. I spent my teenage years in Bloomington MN, the largest suburb of the Twin Cities. It was and still is an economically diverse city.
Today I reject most social labels, but for the sake of illustration and history, I will use these generalized social classes:
• Poor
• Working Class
• Middle Class
• Rich
In my formative years, I viewed the world through this social lens. I didn’t understand it at the time. But looking back, I can clearly understand my myopic view.
Poor people lived in welfare projects like this:

 Or apartments like this:

Working class people lived in houses like this:

Middle class people lived in houses like this:

Rich people lived in houses like this:

I know all of this is relative, and we were all rich by worldwide standards. All my ‘poor’ friends had three TVs, cable television, and a fridge full of Mountain Dew and Budweiser. But that’s not my point. My point is the above social construct was embedded in my sub-conscious and I perceived clear boundaries and differences.
I was working class. My family may argue that we were middle class, but based on where and how we lived, I’d say we were working class and I identified with other working class kids. My wife said I could have titled the last post (10 Things I Wish I had Never Believed) – The 10 Great Working Class Lies. But I thought the beliefs transcended basic class constructs. But essentially, she was right.
Many adults and kids in my life used terms like these:
• He’s filthy rich
• That house is a waste of space, can you imagine the heat bill
• He’s got money coming out his ass
• Whadda ya think money grows on trees
• He’s got money to burn
• It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get to heaven (I know… I know… It’s misquoted…chill out)
• How much money does a person need?
• He could use twenty dollar bills for toilet paper
• Republicans are for the rich
• Democrats look out for the workin’ man
• What a bunch of Fat Cats
• F***ing cake-eaters
• There so rich they think their S**t don’t stink
My favorite was, “I wouldn’t say they’re rich, I’d say they’re comfortable.” You could use this one to acknowledge someone was doing well financialy without applying the pejorative term – rich.
I could probably think of a lot more, but I’ll spare you. In working class culture, if you didn’t work hard for your money, people implied something was wrong with you. If you had great wealth, you were either a spoiled brat or a crook. It would have been shameful, embarrassing, and insulting to be called rich. Right now as I write this, I can feel the shame associated with the idea of being rich.
Another thing adults told us – America’s going downhill, you are going to be the first generation that didn’t have it better than your parents. How depressing is that? That’s like saying – you don’t have a chance so don’t be too disappointed when you fail. I heard this repeated at school, on TV, at church, and at home.
Now imagine it’s 1982. Half your friend’s dads are unemployed (national unemployment is at 10% and interest rates are 16%). The country is at the end of the first wave of mass de-industrialization. Your family is pinching every penny, and it’s the first quarter of 8th grade…
Setting – 1980s public school science classroom…
They paired us up in science class alphabetically by last name, so my science partner was Amy Olson. After a month, I noticed that Amy hadn’t worn the same clothes twice. So I asked her, “What’s up Amy? You haven’t worn the same clothes all year. How big’s your wardrobe?”
Amy said, “Oh, I don’t have a wardrobe, I get new clothes everyday.”
In disbelief I said, “What!? You get new clothes everyday? Who the hell buys all your clothes?”
Amy replied, “My mom’s personal shopper.”
I said, “You gotta be freaking kidding me. A personal shopper!? What do you do with your clothes once you’ve worn them once?”
Amy said, “We give ‘em to charity.”
At that point, I hated her with a deep gut felt hatred. I remember the moment in HD and 5.1 surround. I can feel twinges of hate and disgust as I write this and it scares me. I asked the teacher to move me and I never spoke to Amy again. So Amy, if you ever read this, I’m sorry I hated you and I no longer hate you. Please forgive me.
A few years later another kid got a new Porsche 911 for his 16th birthday. Working class students ran keys down the sides of the car in the high school parking lot until he quit driving it to school.
You’re probably thinking – what were kids that rich doing in public school? In Minnesota, twenty-five years ago, most of the local private schools had the reputation for taking the public school rejects. If public school expelled you, you’d land in Catholic School. It’s the opposite today.
This was life for me twenty-five years ago. I can only imagine what it is like for kids today.
Like many of those around me, I suffered from Zero-Sum thinking. The more money one person has the less someone else has. Zero-Sum thinking creates a hostile social environment and a feeling of helplessness. Zero-Sum may be true in a Kleptocracy but it isn’t true in a free-market. In a free-market, your creations grow the economic pie and everyone benefits.
Over the years, this internalized belief has manifested different ways. I found it impossible to be happy for someone else when he succeeded in making money. I always thought he sold-out, did something crooked, or just got lucky. But the worst part was, I believed other peoples successes were at my expense. The belief stopped me from doing anything creative. Why be creative? It might lead to wealth, which is evil. So I sat around miserable, driving a delivery truck, and wondering why the world kept changing and I was still the same.
My awakening was slow. It took years of work to drop the belief. Sometimes I still feel the anger, hate, and insecurity when I see someone else succeed. But today, I usually recognize those feelings, acknowledge them, and consciously tell myself that someone else’s success is an opportunity to share in their joy and learn how they did it.
Today I frequently see the belief manifested in this question:
How much money does a person need anyway?
It’s a fallacious question. In Minnesota, you don’t personally need any money. I could quit my job, leave my family, and stay at the Dorothy Day Center in downtown St. Paul. The charity would feed and clothe me and give me shelter at night. If they didn’t do it, the government would. Since you don’t need any money, what is a better question to ask yourself?
How about this…
What do I want to accomplish with my life and how much money will it take?
Aim, think, and plan for that number, even if it’s a billion dollars.
Believing money was evil led me to act horrible and feel terrible. I believe millions of people still hold this belief today and it binds them in the chains of servitude and criminality. The envy this belief creates results in hatred, anger, crime, and a host of financial and social problems.
By hating the wealthy, I thought I was fighting evil, but I wasn’t – I became evil.

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