Yesterday I was participating on a panel and the bloke beside me was asked why he did what he did and he said ‘to make money’. It made me feel angry.
It was weird, because I don’t usually get angry, but it really annoyed me. He was a nice bloke, and it was an honest answer, but it felt wrong. To be fair, it’s the answer that most successful people would give. In fact I don’t think anyone except me was disturbed by the admission that his motivation was making money because it’s the answer we’ve all been conditioned to give.
We’ve all been told that making money is good. In fact the more money you make, the gooder it gets. We like people with money. We want to be them. They have respect and power. Even if they’re pricks.
Homeless people don’t get away with being pricks. If you’re homeless and you want to engender some kindness from others you have to be really really nice. It must be exhausting, because I reckon if I were homeless I’d be pretty fricking cranky. But, nobody likes an angry homeless person. It’s the downside of having low status.
You don’t see homeless people sitting on panels being asked, ‘How did you get here?’ Although it probably would be a really interesting conversation, and I guess the answer might be, ‘I couldn’t make money’.
We are always impressed by people who get rich. I remember someone asking one of my kids what they wanted to be when they grew up and they said ‘rich’. Like it was an occupation. Something you could go to TAFE for. I wonder if Richard Branson has a Cert 3 in Rich blue-tacked to the leather interior of his private jet?
As kids we played Monopoly, the ultimate game for seeding ruthless corporate greed in children. The only way to win in Monopoly is to be an arsehole. You might start off with a heart full of compassion with one or two houses but once you become a property developer you’re only too happy to bankrupt a family member.
I never won at Monopoly. I never bought Mayfair. I never owned a hotel. I had to scrape together the $60 for Old Kent Road. If people landed, I let them stay. I’ve always been a believer in Squatters’ Rights.
I’ve seen good people turn bad playing Monopoly. Perhaps it’s time we introduced some ethical challenges to diminish the ‘greed trumps all’ mindset of that evil boardgame. Maybe instead of buying a hotel you need to invest in solar panels. Create a gridsharing energy economy. Start a community garden. Reforest Mayfair as a carbon offset. Stop buying train stations and create publicly owned transport. That’s the future.
But change is at the expense of current profits. Money: It’s the reason most people go to work. You wouldn’t get up at 5am and drive into the darkness just for the hell of it. Imagine waking up at 5am to go instigate change. If we are really interested in the ‘future’ money is supposed to buy, then we’ve got to make sure there actually is one. If our planet’s predicament were an Indiana Jones movie, we’re at that point where Harrison Ford is in the cave and it’s filling up with water, and the cave door is coming down and he only has seconds to roll under to escape. The tension is unbearable. There’s nothing in it. There are those of us yelling ‘roll out, roll out’. But he’s just standing there, the stupid dickhead, not doing anything. Probably making money. Pretty soon the opportunity will be gone and he’ll die a hideous death because of his indecision.
That’s us. In the movie Indiana Jones always gets out. But this is not a movie, and sadly our future is more complex than one man rolling out of a cave filling with water. We need to change. It seems some people, particularly business or government, would rather die in a cave full of water than change the way they operate. Making changes for the long term means we will lose money in the short term.
White Australians have never been very good long-term thinkers. Have a look at our roads. The Pacific Highway is testament to what I’d call ‘future denial’. I mean, who needs a dual carriageway to Sydney?
It seems our governments only ever think in terms of their next election. A three-year vision doesn’t qualify as future planning.
So have we reached peak money? Is it time to kill the thrill of making money and replace it with something else?
Could creating change be more rewarding than creating capital? I guess you can’t eat change. But you can’t eat money either. And if we don’t change, we’re rooted. There won’t be any money. Anyway, I’m off to earn some money. I’ll change tomorrow.