Money: I’m Confused

Every now and then I get a bit narked at how every little thing comes down to money. It seems that no displeasure is too great to be exchanged for a bit of hard cash, and what a shame that is.

You get people being sacked left right and centre because it might make a penny saving in the dividend for some faceless pension fund.

You get people being overworked so hard the owners of their factory have to put suicide nets, yes suicide nets, outside their windows to stop people jumping out and killing themselves.

You get people missing holidays and time with their families just so some bloke at the ‘top’ can make a bigger effort at winning an account that will make his profits higher and his staff’s morale lower.

You get enormous supermarket chains selling food at such ridiculously low prices that farmers can barely live. And people who can’t see that their cheap milk and apples might have the odd consequence.

All for the almighty dollar.

Well, I guess that’s what you get in a free market, capitalist society where people have to climb over each other just to get the next shekel.

So that disappoints me.

But it doesn’t confuse me.

What confuses me is that we seem simultaneously to live in that society and a society where millions of people are willing to work every hour under the sun for absolutely no financial reward.

Look at what you’re reading. I have no idea how many hours I’ve put into this ridiculous outpouring of ill-conceived and poorly-justified cackbabble, and it has no direct financial reward (or even an indirect one), and yet here I am, typing away for yet another minute when I could be down the bookies or buying cheap milk.

Whenever I see one of those hilarious mashups (one tiny example) on YouTube I marvel at the time someone has taken for what appears to be the sheer satisfaction of producing something other people will like. There are billions of (wo)man hours going into blogs, websites and Tweets for no discernible financial gain and it’s bloomin’ marvelous.

Obviously there are also non-digital examples of everything from volunteer work to flashmobs, demonstrating that many people will work very hard in very many ways for nowt.

And yet, I’ll bet that some of those money-grabbers are also free-workers. In one part of their life they’ll chase down the last penny even if it kills them, and on the other side they’ll chuck their billable hours out of the window all for the transient love of a bunch of anonymous intermongs.

But why? I would guess that it’s one of three reasons:

1. It’s an antidote to all that working for the man. Your day job is so geared towards cash that you like to balance it out with a bit of free stuff, kind of like giving a percentage of your time income to charity.

2. It’s seen as a means to an end. Maybe you can monetise your spare-time noodlings. Maybe one day someone will see your Lego version of Jesus Christ Superstar (will someone please do a Lego version of Jesus Christ Superstar?) and ask you to do something for them that they will pay for. I should just point out that if any of you harbour such dreams, the chances of it happening are unlikely.

3. It’s fun. People have always had hobbies, it’s just that in 2010 they can often be found on a public forum on the Worldwide Web. You like seedlings? Create to share your interest and get in touch with like-minded chaps. You enjoy putting little movies together? Why not shove ’em on YouTube when you’re done and get some love/feedback. if you’re a shitty piano enthusiast you can upload your rubbish to MySpace and see if everyone else thinks you’re tone deaf.

I suppose most people don’t see it as ‘I am a money grubbing arsehole’/’I am an altruistic hippy’, but I still find the balance of attitudes odd. Perhaps the real breadheads don’t indulge in the internet contributions while the hardest working webfolk may not work for Goldman Sachs.

But if we look at it that way, I suppose we might have to live under the evil jackboot of capitalism, but we don’t have to let money rule every part of our lives.

Update: I completely forgot that I wrote a post on Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose last year. I can’t be arsed to find it but there’s no need: commenter Damo has kindly left a link to this excellent piece of animation–

(BY THE WAY; I accidentally put my Damon Collins post under the ‘Bitty Weekend Shit’ one below. This sometimes happens when you start a post one day then finish it a few days later. Anyway, it’s too late to change it now, so have a read if you’re that way inclined.)