Thursday, December 19, 2013

Money, Again

The holidays make me snarky.  I look around and see people crazed with shopping, obsessed about decorating, travel arrangements, etc., etc. and I cannot wait for the holidays to be over.  I'm not a scrooge.  I just don't believe that Christmas is supposed to be a commercial extravaganza.  I also don't believe in making it solely a religious holiday.  What I would really like to see is a dedicated effort to take the "money" out of Christmas and put more humanity into it.  I know that's not going to happen any time soon....

Two lucky lottery players will share the Mega Millions jackpot this week.  One in California, the other in Georgia.  I hope every time there's a humungous jackpot that someone in real financial need wins.  That's a true Christmas story.  We only know one of the winners so far -- a woman from a nice Atlanta suburb whose photo looks like she's employed and doing just fine.  The frenzy leading up to the announcement of winners reminded me a lot of the frenzy around Christmas.

I don't think anyone would argue with the conclusion that capitalism does not distribute wealth equally.  It's certainly clear in the most capitalistic country on earth.  We have the "haves" and the "have nots" and most in the latter category would dearly love to be in the former.  That's the reason lottery games are so successful.  Maybe in other countries gambling is considered a high-risk way of trying to make money -- not much different from the stock market -- rather than an alternative to working for a living, especially during these recessionary times.  If there's any chance, any chance at all, it's worth buying a ticket, right?

How did the purpose of human life become the acquisition of money?  You don't think that's the case?  Well, think about this: in order to live a comfortable (not affluent) life in America, you need money to pay for shelter, food, clothing, transportation, internet, furnishings, entertainment, Christmas, etc.  In order to get that money, you need a job.  The only reason (only?  really?) to have a job is to earn money so that you can live a comfortable life.  No job, big problems.  Forget making a contribution to society...who has the time?  Gotta get that paycheck. 

The thing I've discovered as an unemployed writer (who's been looking for a job since 2009 but run into discrimination on two levels: age and being self-employed for a long time), a person can live comfortably on far less than American for-profit corporations would want us to believe.  There are two notions to keep in mind: there is what a person needs and there's what a person wants.  Very often these two notions are mutually exclusive.  Don't believe me?  Try this little exercise sometime: take paper and pen, divide the paper in half vertically by drawing a line down the middle of it.  At the top of one column write "Want" and at the top of the other write "Need."  Now list first all the things that you need in order to live.  This list should be simple.  Take a good hard look at it.  Now, do you even want to list all the things you just want?


And you know what?  It's possible to live comfortably with much, much less that we think we need.  Try keeping track of the money you spend daily for one week.  The following week, try cutting out all the daily expenditures that are not necessary.  Are you suffering?

This morning I woke to the news of a major security breach concerning debit/credit cards at Target stores across the country.  This breach affects millions of people who shopped at Target stores between 11/27 and 12/15.  Including me.  Groan.  The thieves got away with the information contained on the magnetic strip on the backs of the cards.  The Secret Service, the agency now investigating this breach, thinks that the thieves will use that info to create their own cards to use to drain the original card owners' accounts and ruin their credit.  Identity theft is no fun. 

Some thieves steal for the adrenalin rush, to do it because they can.  The majority of thieves, I believe, especially identity thieves, steal in order to have money.  Whether or not they need it, they believe they should have more and so they take it.  They don't care about the lives they could be ruining as a result of their actions.  For them, it's easy money.  They want to be one of the "haves."  So instead of competing for territory, food, and/or mates, humans now compete for money any way they can. 

Money.  Can't live with it happily and can't live without it....

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