Comment - The cost of money

ONE evening recently, I was feeling exhausted waiting for an 8pm yoga session. "Whoever came up with the idea of money and working hard for a living; I need a word with him!" That made me begin to reflect on money, and how we view our lives and how we live our lives.

It seems from the moment we are born, we are geared towards earning money. At the end of our lives, we are also warned of the fears of not having enough money. It all seems to boil down to money, and I wonder if our forebears who had created currency for trade, ever thought that our lives would be so subsumed by money now in the 21st century.

When one reads the news, one finds that money, and usually the lack thereof, causes so many people to despair. It is not uncommon to read about a parent stealing food for their children. Even people who have plenty of money are still found stealing more, as evinced by the growing number of white collar crime and corruption being reported in the news.

And yet, if one thinks about it, it's not money we really want, but what money can get us, right? We need money to live; for necessities; and maybe one or two luxuries in a month. But at this time and in our nation, it appears that earning a living can be really hard.

And yet, we are encouraged to spend what we actually don't have. We are constantly exposed to credit cards, loans, overdrafts and other forms of credit on a daily basis. Not content with spending all that we already have, we are invited to spend even more, impinging into our future.

Still, people go to work at six in the morning and remain at their work until nine in the evening. Still, people spend hours complaining about their jobs, about their bosses, about the traffic, about their clients, about civil servants, and then end their complaint with, "Well, it's just a job!"

Is life meant to be this hard? Was there not meant to be joy every day of our lives, rather than just on weekends, when we don't work to earn money to pay for the lives that we live?

I am constantly aware that perhaps I am sounding naive or uneducated, and I won't deny it. I had an "E" in Economics for "A" levels and I am not particularly astute with numbers, figures or statistics, although I do try. But there must be some other way, because news and reports about the "breakdown of the banking system" and other forms of "monetary breakdowns" are everywhere.

"Ah, you just go back to barter!" some people quip when I touch on this issue, or "better than living in feudal times." As for the latter, I don't see the difference between feudalism and the great amount of political corruption taking place, as reported by the news. As for the former, I am not sure.

I tried to offer services in exchange for service, and similar forms of exchange. It might not be as good as money, but it works as savings. I don't deny we need money to survive, otherwise how are we to pay for toll, petrol and groceries? However, my offers were rejected. Money was the be-all and end-all.

But money is a social construct, especially after many nations untethered themselves from the gold standard in the 20th century. So the value we put on money is what people tell us. The emotional clinging and desperation we have on money is because of years of conditioning. This is why people might pooh-pooh other economic systems.

In the wake of the Greek economic meltdown from 2010 to 2011, it was reported that many people began to barter goods and services. They just didn't have any money to pay the taxes incurred by the government. Other exchange and gift economies do exist in this world, but just because it isn't lauded by the mass media, people usually just view them as quirks. But just think about it: have we even really tried anything else?

Daniel freelances in writing and fitness training, and has a deep passion for health, fitness, sleep and travel. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com