June 18, 2020

Money Talks

Despite having more wealth than our ancestors could ever possibly have dreamed of, money has become an unrivalled stressor in our lives. A constant albatross around the necks of the haves as well as the have nots, money is a mistress of harassment and worry that does not discriminate. 

Money can be taboo for a lot of people to talk about as well, and those roots are grounded so far within our identity, it can be really difficult to navigate the nuances of our relationship with money, let along when we try to combine that with someone else. 

According to CNBC, couples are 10 times more likely to break up when one partner feels that the other one is irresponsible with money. Research from Policygenius tells us that this could be as many as 20% of people.

Yet our western linkage of self and wealth is often traced back to the notion of a much less secular time where wealth indicated a divine preference. The divine right of kings in the European royal lines was reinforced by ostentatious demonstrations of wealth and jewels. The royal and noble families were born into privilege because God loved them more than everyone else, who were mostly just farmers who paid taxes straight into the coffers of the already-haves. 

The logic of this truly unfair and ridiculous system of money and he palm greasing between church and state eventually unravelled the ancient families and was a driving force behind the Puritan revolution.

The puritan work ethic grounds the modern capitalism of The United States which is now the well-adopted model of western capitalism, and still, funnily enough, has a link between displays of wealth and ‘God’s favour’. Except the pilgrims weren’t born into wealth, they were opportunists and entrepreneurs. The essence of it is that the harder you work, the more likely you are to be loved by God and therefore have wealth.

Wealth then became a way to demonstrate favour of God – a new class structure connecting our weath to our ‘goodness’, based on what you have or have not. And from there, we started to compare our ‘goodness’ against the ‘goodness’ of others… favours and alignments were sought with those who had wealth…because ‘goodness’, remember. 

Then soon, there came an advantage in pretending to ‘have’ more than we do in order to bask in the glory of that ‘goodness’ and hit all of the side perks. If the Jones’ down the road had more than we did, they had access to more opportunity and were more ‘good’ than us. We can’t have that. No. We must keep up.

And so began the ascent of money and the shame and dishonour of not having it. A fools game of ‘keeping up’ with the Joneses and Kardashians has created financial and familial strain – infectious stress unlike any other. Worse than a fool’s game is the end game. Debt on the demonstration of wealth, without the substance of it has only one endgame…zero. 

Before Covid-19 when we started our great de-hurrying, the levels of personal debt were at an all-time high across the Western Hemisphere. How high? 190%. This means that for every $100 we earned, we were spending $190. Yes, there is some cost of living to that (a whole other article for another time) but the majority of this debt is for display, to show other people our ‘goodness’.

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