February 2018
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no, it's not in another castle: my attitude about money


So many people sitting in what is a CASTLE of wealth ignore their privilege and point in another direction -- "oh but that person has a castle twice as large as mine! I'm not wealthy!" No. Other castles are irrelevant. Pay attention and notice that for every castle there are TONS of ramshackle shelters. The fact that yours has a drawbridge with a hole in it and hasn't had a new moat dug in 20 years doesn't make it any less a castle. The fact that you've had to eat food you didn't like or skip eating out doesn't make your safe supply of food any less a gigantic privilege in light of the vast numbers of people that live with food insecurity or flat-out starve (one in EIGHT humans are suffering from chronic undernourishment). I've had many arguments with people about money because I stoutly believe that money is to be used for the best of all, and it is wrong to hoard it.

Sitting on a pile of money so you feel secure (when you're a non-disabled white person) is NOT using it for the best of all. I am incensed by people who could easily support the life of someone they claim to love (who is contributing to the world through art or action), but they choose to keep their money in an account or 'invest it' or spend it on a new house, new car, expensive vacation, or other luxury. I've known several people with wealthy parents who think it is some kind of virtue to refrain from helping their offspring achieve some goal because the offspring 'should' do it the hard way. NO. That is fucking GROSS: exploitative work (which is the majority of jobs which might be available immediately) is NOT something everyone should experience! If it would be no effort to you to give someone the chance to escape (some level of) exploitation, how could you choose not to do it?

I think buying expensive things when a cheap one would do is gross because it is a waste. That extra money could have gone to feed someone, or get someone medication, etc. I am not saying all luxury is bad; some amount of luxury is self-kindness. However, I don't think there is ANY* excuse** for buying a piece of clothing that costs more than a minimum wage worker makes in a month, or half a month for that matter. That's some elitist classist revolting BULLSHIT. (*well, actually, I do think there are some instances where that is okay; if it is a sacred object to the person buying it, there is no price that I could say is too much. But in the vast majority of cases, FUCK THAT. **also sometimes it is necessary to use expensive objects to combat racism or other prejudice. I don't judge people who consciously use status symbols to level the playing field. If you're a white cisgender non-disabled neurotypical person, that ain't you.)

If I was wealthy enough (which I define as making 150% of what I need to survive, while living frugally) I would give the majority of my excess to everyone I knew who spent their time giving, or who needed healing time at home, etc (and if I was still more wealthy I would make it so that their necessities were all covered, and include people I didn't know). I would not be alive today if someone hadn't paid my necessities for the two years that I was agoraphobic while working through childhood sexual abuse. It is not okay that people have to labor for the basic necessities of life; food, shelter, water, health care, education, and internet should be available to everyone. (no, the internet one is not a joke: it is extremely important for access to so many resources) In my ideal world, everyone would get these things and then give to the community in whatever way they could. This is not likely to happen on a grand scale, but if I had the power to make it happen for some people I would, and I'd prioritize the least privileged.

I've recently realized (after expecting to be poor my whole life) that I may have a lucrative skill. I consider it my responsibility as a relatively privileged person to attempt to make money in this way so that I can support others. This may seem counterintuitive, but frankly I feel certain that taking action to help people who are being mangled by the system is better than opting out (which is something that only privileged people can do).

In the meantime, while not yet making 100% of what I need to survive, I give away 11% of everything I earn (not counting things borrowed or gifted) to social/ecological justice organizations and/or friends in need. This is vital to me, because there are so many people working for good, and I am not the best person to do direct action for a number of reasons (I will do it when I can but I can't be counted on). In many cases, me trying to 'help' directly would be a terrible idea: best to give to people who know what their community needs and let them handle it. I can afford this right now because if I were to run out of money and need help, I could count on people to give me food, shelter, etc. In this way I am incredibly privileged. Also, it is essential to me to remember that money is not mine and I cannot truly own anything but my own body and self: giving away from what I earn reminds me that 'earning' is an illusion because owning is an illusion.

In practical immediate terms, this translates to me being careful to communicate clearly and act with financial consideration in my relationships. If I want to go to some event with cost, I want my poorer friend to come, and I can afford to pay for both of us, I would consider it unethical to not sincerely offer to pay their way. Since I usually can't afford to do that, I just ask with up-front info about the cost and am careful to not push. I do not expect anyone to pay for me, but I do expect them to let me know the cost ahead of time and not try (at ALL, EVER) to push me to spend money. If I forget to tell someone about a cost for something and they get stuck in a situation where they feel pressured to pay, I consider it my responsibility to cover that or otherwise help them out of that situation (changing the plan, for instance).

inspired by kmiotutsie's prompt and lj idol's topic.

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Comments
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eternal_ot ══╣╠══
A valid point that you make! couldn't agree more..
belenen ══╣writing╠══
cool ;-)
vanadis_kitsune ══╣╠══
Wow, if only more people thought this way. I feel the same way about money. I have a hard time thinking of it as something of value when it's just a construct. When I was working regularly at one of those slave wage jobs I would always spend all of my money that I didn't need, for my car to get to my job, on my friends and being able to see them. I'd be riding on E more often than not just to make them feel appreciated and help them out, buy them food, etc. When I had an apartment I would let people stay there if they needed it, and sometimes I got taken advantage of because I was too nice about it, they would stay far longer than planned even when they had a place to go, etc.

But after I lost all those things and my life kind of went downhill, barely any of those people stuck around to help me out. I am incredibly thankful for the people I found after that, that did help me get through tough times when I had nowhere to go, no money, no car, no food, etc. It's really life changing to be in those situations and either be dropped by people or have others show kindness.

I have several anxiety disorders and agoraphobia as well these days so I don't leave the house often. I still find time every few months to try to see the few friends who did stick by me, and even now when I get a few dollars I still share it with my other poor friends. I am really lucky that my boyfriend (we helped eachother through really tough times) has been able to find decent work while I am still trying to work out my issues. It's because of him that I can take the time to get healthy and make something of myself instead of just getting suicidal from a dead-end job where I'd only be able to afford means to get to that job and back. I have been working getting a degree online in psychology, so eventually I can help others with it. I'm really thankful for the roof over my head now, and the fact that I actually have access to food. Being starving even for a short time really changes how you react to things like a steady supply of food. It also makes me very aware of people's situations if I am ever in a public place eating with a group, usually I will get something I can share with them even if I only have a few dollars because I know some of my friends can't afford their own food.

The world we live in is not poor-friendly or disorder-friendly, most people just say "why don't you just do it", as if it were that easy. I've never not been poor, but I did know someone who was well-off and they had no idea they were until they moved away from home for the first time. Some of things people with a well-off upbringing say or think are beyond my comprehension sometimes. Like buying new items just because one gets dirty, buying new cars and houses periodically just because they can. Having their parents plan their college courses for them blindly, and buy their clothes, never having to work a job. In the short time I knew this person, some of the things I saw just boggled my mind. He'd get new electronics so often and never even get excited. He'd get whole computers and laptops and he'd just ignore it while I'd be wide-eyed like it was christmas. I never even got stuff like that on christmas. It was pretty eye opening. I didn't really realize how poor I was until I saw things like that.

But yeah, I really hate when it seems like someone is inviting me to go out to something like they have a free ticket and want to take me only to find out later they're just telling me about an event that I can't afford in the first place.
Usually these days I just avoiding asking people for anything, I guess that's part of why my agoraphobia has gotten so bad. I feel like I have no right to ask anyone for help so I just don't try to see most of them since I have no means to do it in the first place. I feel like that'd be like me pushing it on them to do something about it when it should be on me to begin with.


Sorry, I'm kind of ranting now. Your post really made me think about my situation. Hopefully I can get back on my feet sooner rather than later. I have a lot of plans and I can't help anyone the way things are. I really respect the effort you make towards people and I think that if everyone had that sort of pro-active mentality we'd be living in a much better world.
belenen ══╣connate╠══
I feel you so much on this whole comment. I wish more people would consider money this way.
wildrose ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣Ma'at╠══
I very much believe in practicing what I preach -- I couldn't be okay telling anyone to do something I wouldn't be okay doing myself.
sweeny_todd ══╣╠══
I agree. And I disagree.

I think that when people feel secure they give away more. You notice when the canvassers on the streets (and I mean Greenpeace, WWF etc) ask for money, they often approach people who look like students, or look a little more rough around the edges. People doing it tough seem to have more empathy for others.

I also think the problem is bigger than an individual - cheap things don't last, so buying cheap things that you need to replace each year, instead of an expensive thing that lasts for ten costs more in resources.

But yeah... I agree with a lot, and there is a lot of good thinking material here.
rainbowfox9 ══╣╠══
I agree with some of what you say here -- I know that I certainly feel more secure giving away if I have enough that I feel I'm not going to be totally broke. I like having money *so that* I can give some away. I think this may also have to do with people's comfort levels (though that sort of makes me think that some people are used to certain standards of living and aren't willing to give up where they are just to benefit others, but if that's the case, then I'm guilty of that too).

I personally prefer to buy slightly more expensive clothes, because a lot of times the cheaper stuff doesn't last as long, or rips easily, etc. However I do put a great deal of thought into buying the more expensive clothes -- I look at how much I'm likely going to wear it and if it's really worth it. most of the time what I've bought has lasted me several years -- I'm not likely to buy something just for the season and then discard it.

Our world is changing at a phenomenal rate, and even though I find the obsolescence factor in most electronic equipment (and mostly phones/laptops, etc) completely disgusting, we're constantly developing new and better ways to do everything, so much that the market itself is constantly changing.

I do have a friends situation (well, I've mostly cut it off because the emotional demand was getting to be too much) where I have poor friends who do 'try', however there are multiple reasons/background circumstances why they don't pick themselves up. They are neurotypical (though their religious beliefs are different from most around them, which they think gives them reason to rant about others, but others just don't understand and are afraid, which is normal) and non disabled white people.

I have paid for them on more than one occasion and been very generous but it's gotten to the point where they have worn out their welcome and I am not likely to help them again unless they show me that they're not dependent on outside help.
belenen ══╣╠══
rainbowfox9 ══╣╠══
darkestgarden ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣╠══
rainbowfox9 ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣╠══
i_love_freddie ══╣╠══
A very thought-provoking piece. I enjoyed reading it, and definitely agree.
belenen ══╣writing╠══
thanks! glad to inspire thought ;-)
blimeyzawn1 ══╣╠══
This is such an important reminder. I don't have much to add to what you've said except that it's spot on. I HATE money hoarding, especially among people who claim they're committed to social justice as they do nothing while watching people around them suffer.
belenen ══╣feminist╠══
yesssss on the especially among people who make claims to care.
finding_helena ══╣╠══
I'm not sure I agree. Saving for my kids' future (college fund) and for the future for my husband and me (retirement fund) may be "hoarding money", but provisioning ourselves for the future seems smarter than doing nothing and expecting the future to take care of itself. Or offloading the responsibility for college onto the kids and expecting them to take out loans when the time comes. The other things for which I'm "hoarding" money are enough to keep us afloat for a few months in case of a job loss or disability, and saving towards a new car to replace one of ours when it inevitably dies (the older car is 18 years old, and I don't want to borrow money to buy a new one if I can help it). We are certainly not buying boats or ostentatious consumer goods.

We do give to charity, but impoverishing ourselves to share the wealth doesn't seem smart to me.
belenen ══╣distance╠══
I don't consider it to be hoarding to save for a particular purchase: hoarding is when you keep all you have even when you don't need it for any particular reason. I have no idea what you mean by 'impoverishing' yourself but I don't suggest that people willfully enter poverty or give in a way that damages them. Are you suggesting that my plan would be impoverishing myself? If so I very much disagree. Enough money for all the necessities is not poverty.
finding_helena ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣╠══
rainbowfox9 ══╣╠══
This might possibly explain why I would rather buy clothes at full price than buy them on sale. Not that it necessarily goes back to the designer of the clothes (who I'm sure are wealthy, but that can be an assumption) but because I feel like someone is being cheated if I don't pay full price.

I have many, many times given rides to friends for different things (appointments, picking up from grocery store to home if they don't have a car, etc) and paid for meals and bought things for, because it was my philosophy that people who couldn't get out as much as I could were missing out on things (i never forced, just offered, and these were people who wanted to go out), and I felt that if I had the means to help them get out, and I would enjoy their company too, then I would be generous and take them out.

I have been very fortunate that the majority of my friends who I've done this for have been very respectful of my time and have made it very clear that I am under no obligation, and each time was a 'new slate', so just because I'd done it the past few times did not mean they were expecting anything this time, but they wanted to ask just to see if it did work out for me.

I have two friends who have developed a dependency on me, asking in ways that were not respectful and really not expressing that much gratitude for what I did. I have learned to set a boundary, but it's been my thinking that if I supported people, they'd eventually find their own feet. That isn't always the case, and it's been important for me to recognize that I do have a limit.

Anyway, just my two cents.
belenen ══╣analytical╠══
Unfortunately the workers don't get a share of the profits the vast majority of the time -- though there might be some ethical companies that do that, I haven't heard of any. And so many clothing companies have such evil practices that that is one of the reasons I shop at thrift stores - I do not want to give profit to people who use child labor or underpay their workers to gobble up more profit (check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XtYhfcEZ9A skip to 1:00). I don't want to do hours of research into every brand so I just shop in a way that gives them no profit.

I think it's cool that you share with your friends like that. I agree that giving once should not create an expectation for the next time, and I am careful to never assume that someone else is going to pay for me. It's good to set boundaries with people who take from you, because that is very different than giving of your own will.
basric ══╣SMOKING SNIFTER╠══
Its a nice thought but it never has happened and is unlikely to ever happen. Just like war greed is a part of human nature. Some are able to ignore rise above it while others whether people or countries try to take what others have they want. That is why the HAVEs hold tightly to their wealth amassing more and stepping on the have nots

Your essay is well thought out and your views presented with thoughtfulness.
belenen ══╣analytical╠══
As a sociologist, I know too many varieties of human to believe in a human nature. Greed is a function of capitalism, of patriarchy, not inherent to humans. I don't think it is possible for it to be fixed in my lifetime but I don't work to fix things, I work to make them better in whatever way I can.

Thanks, I did put a lot of thought into this.
similiesslip ══╣╠══
I admire that you have thought deeply about how to use money. It seems sometimes that people just blindly follow what they have always done, or what they feel in a moment.

I admire your strong stand and willingness to clearly state what you believe and how you apply it.
belenen ══╣writing╠══
thanks, I appreciate your comment.
baxaphobia ══╣╠══
Fabulous and so so so so true.
belenen ══╣writing╠══
glad you enjoyed <3
alycewilson ══╣╠══
I think it's a human thing to want what one doesn't have. However, I agree with you that people need to appreciate what they do have.
belenen ══╣analytical╠══
I don't think that greed is part of being human -- I think it is a response to the trauma of living in a world that values money above people.
mac_arthur_park ══╣╠══
I feel the same way. Thank you for putting it
into words.
belenen ══╣writing╠══
glad you appreciated it.
penpusher ══╣╠══
Noblesse Oblige is a term many haven't even heard, let alone know the meaning of, so thanks for this. Castle, indeed!
belenen ══╣writing╠══
thanks!
kandigurl ══╣╠══
I agree for the most part, but I have mellowed substantially in my anger toward those who seemingly have "too much money". That much money makes me uncomfortable, but even making less than a thousand a month, I know I have enough money that would make someone less fortunate just as uncomfortable.

The thing I disagree on is helping out a kid financially if you can afford it, and I only disagree partially. I think it depends on the circumstance. I think if you can help the kid out enough so that they stay on their feet and can get through school, do it. But I also feel that there's great value in knowing what minimum wage jobs are like, learning how to budget your money, and understanding the value of a dollar. Working a minimum wage job creates compassion for those who are also working those jobs, compassion that might otherwise not be fostered. (It's pretty obvious when someone HASN'T worked a job like this, and they treat the workers at those jobs like second-rate citizens.)

It's also a tricky line to walk between giving your kid everything and spoiling them. If the kid never has to work for their money, they might grow up expecting life to hand them things. I have a friend who's aunt and close friend give her money every month. She's my age (we're both almost 30), and she works a minimum wage retail job (though she's making about $10/hr), and her house is full of fun little toys and gadgets she buys with her extra money, where I have to be careful what I spend my money on and don't have as many extra things. She's only now, for the first time in her life, having to pay for her own gas.

She's not spoiled, but she doesn't have the same understanding of being financially strapped as I do (and I, in turn, don't have the same understanding of being financially strapped as someone in Africa). There are levels and layers to everything.

Other than that, I'm pretty much on the same page as you. :)
belenen ══╣analytical╠══
Right, I agree with not further spoiling privileged kids, heh -- that's why I specified "giving to the community with art and/or action." Privileged kids don't tend to give much of anything, or even think to create, they just consume. However, I don't feel like they learn much from working minimum wage either. They tend to feel 'above' it and then their privilege opens the doors for them to get a better job when they finish college. Meanwhile they've been a shitty employee who is a drain on their coworkers. That entitlement just doesn't break down so easily. They have to learn to relate to people without privilege and they're not going to do that while they still have all the friends and relatives with privilege. I don't think that working minimum wage is going to teach them anything but more selfishness, as they do all this inner work to distance themselves. If they lost all contact with their privileged family and friends, then they would have to learn to relate in order to get human contact, but I really doubt that anyone is going to do that to teach their kids lessons. Budgeting could be taught anywhere along the way, and should definitely be taught before the kid goes out on their own.

On the other hand, a person who gives back has already learned compassion. A minimum wage job is not going to teach new levels of it. Volunteering might, self-educating likely will, etc.

Working minimum wage is exploited labor (the vast majority of the time). People usually cope by either reminding themselves that they don't really belong there or will be out soon, or by buying into the idea that it is an initiation ritual that will allow them to begin climbing to the top, or by checking out altogether and only being alive outside of work. I don't think most people learn from this: they just try to escape in one way or another, because it's damaging.
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on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.