Freedom From Money

Entry by: Freya

6th April 2017
Pecuniary drivels

It is naïve to think that erasing a monetary exchange would make the world a better place. Humans by nature are selfish beings, our culture built on reciprocation. I scratch your back while you scratch mine. With no currency, there is always barter. My milk for your eggs. Money simply makes it easier for us to sell our talents rather than prostitute our cows or chickens. They say money doesn’t buy love but how many billionaires remain single? They marry other rich people and double their assets. They could divorce once a year if they wished yet they rarely do. On average, they have a couple or maybe three long-term romantic partnerships but that’s not that different to the rest of the populace, is that? Money does not stand in the way of love. It is us, the poor 99% that like to delude ourselves that it’s either love or money. The rich know how to marry the two.

As far back as my memory reaches, I understood that money matters. How? My parents’ sole reason for disagreements was pecuniary: my mother spent too much, my father earned too little. Their divorce had been on the cards well before they even considered tying a knot. Everyone but them knew that the one who obsesses about growing his fortune and a compulsive spender could not form a happy union. Attitudes towards everyday economy predict matrimonial happiness better than any personality trait. It is much more likely for an introvert and an extrovert to grow old together than a scrooge and a profligate finding eternal bliss as a couple.

Money is powerful not just because it gives us access to the objects and services others can’t afford but because it can destroy our ideals. It can end marriage for example, a union sanctioned by tradition and religion, and so deeply ingrained in our culture that millions of people around the world are prepared to flood the streets to protest gay marriage though whether gay couples marry or not has no bearing on the way of life or personal well-being of the straight majority. It’s the matter of principle, they say. Yet, money doesn’t care about principles. Divorce next to death of a partner crowns the list of the most stressful life events. It takes years to recover emotionally from a divorce. A study after study shows that most divorces are due to money problems; often it’s not the lack of money which causes the demise of marriage, it’s how people relate to it. Vide my parents.

I live far from my country of birth. It’s the money that allows me to hug my mother and siblings once a year. It’s the money which took me away from them in the first place; I couldn’t find a job where I grew up. The money I spend on the gifts for my family when I can’t visit them dissolves my guilt. I like my job but wouldn’t do it on a voluntary basis. When the occupational stress becomes almost unbearable, it’s the thought of my salary paying the rent and the car loan that settles me. Money is why I tolerate incompetent co-workers and agree to be exposed to tight deadlines. I can eat my avocado on toast, own a new Murakami’s book – though it isn’t as good as the last. My employer is generous enough to offer me a four-week annual leave on full pay, the only time in my life when I taste something akin to freedom and when I can forget about my daily slavery. My whole life is about earning and spending, worrying in between that I am not saving enough so that I can renounce my oppression in my seventies.

I trade my brain for the money. Somebody pays for my creative thinking and problem solving skills. You could say I have it easy. I don’t toil in a mine or collect garbage. Still, I would love to take a break longer than four weeks – these are never undisturbed, I check my emails daily and respond to those who I do not dare to disappoint by asking them to wait. I’ve been studying and working for nearly forty years and I’m exhausted. A year out of work, a year of freedom from worrying about money would set me for further twenty years, I’m sure.

I sometimes dream I win a lotto. I’ve run countless scenarios of this in my head. First, I quit my job – that’s a common element to all the scenarios, then I buy presents for all my family – a new flat with a generous bathtub and a little Toyota for my mum, an apartment for my sister so that she doesn’t have to live in our family home any longer. In one of the scenarios, I pay her salary to the end of her life so that she can travel to various archaeological digs and do what she loves not having to spend another sleepless night contemplating her poor job prospects. I renovate my parents-in-law’s pre-war house whose elevation remembers a Nazi shoot-out. I help my brother-in-law grow his business. I then buy a big enough car for my girlfriend so that she could finally fit her countless children and is no longer reliant on her good-for-nothing Peter Pan husband. After that, I open a foundation and invest in research nobody wants to fund: rare diseases. I make various investments as I go around distributing my money – I buy something for myself as well. A flat in Vienna, not far from the Belvedere. I want to be able to see Egon Schiele every other day. His painting, The Family, is the only one which has ever made me cry. Café Mozart is not far. I will have a slice of layer cake every day with my morning earl grey. This will give me the mental crispness to choose whether my money will help in finding the cure for mucopolysaccharidosis or porphyria that week. I will sponsor young scientists and offer them long-term contracts. The poor things now struggle on one-year appointments which are often not renewed. I will offer them security.

The problem with my dream lotto win is that it leaves me quite blue. The chance that it will ever happen is minuscule – one in eight million last time I checked. It doesn’t help that I rarely remember to buy a ticket. If I’m lucky I will keep my job till I’m old and, if my health permits, I will have five years of happy retirement before I die. The savings won’t last much longer anyway. You are never free from money as long as you live. If you want to relinquish your dependency on it, you only have one option. Most of us however prefer to continue our earthy existence, however imperfect it might be, and so we’re stuck with the pecunia.