Money, Money, Money…

I recently made post on my Facebook page about this issue of “money, money, money…” after being smacked hard last week with an unexpected property tax burden from 2006. It was due to a glitch in the software program used by the company that prepared my taxes. This was a recently discovered error and the company was able to avoid responsibility, because of a provision in their lengthy legal disclaimer that most of us do not take the time to read. Well, after receiving such a blow, I decided to roll the dice in hopes a favorable solution would land as the clock rapidly tick closer to the deadline of paying this tax debt before it accrued more interest and penalties.

These are the realities that many of us face when we are unemployed and have no disposable income. When you become unemployed or poor, you will discover how some people in your life will turn away from you. For whatever their reason might be, there appears to be one variable that is the underlying reason—“money.” Well, this is the belief in Liberia, because almost everywhere you go there are taxis and buses touting the message “No Money, No Friends” and “No Money, No Respect”.

After receiving my latest financial knock-down, these messages were staring me in my face the very next day and it was like salt being poured on festering wound. It was explained to me a week later why these messages have been displayed, because so many Liberians are frustrated with the fact when they hit hard times that their friends and even respect are difficult to find, and this is why they also display “no friend for a poor man.” So when I see and hear these types of messages, it makes me wonder “when did money devalue humanity?”

Money has become an interesting aspect of life. Somehow humans have been obsessed with their love affair with money that they have come to believe it is the only key to happiness. Yet, does money truly make us happier? This is question that has been continually explored by those in the psychology field. I remember a discussion we had in my general psychology class about the correlation of these two variables of money and happiness. We examined a line graph and it showed how at first the line increased showing money and happiness correlated, but as more wealth was accumulated the line started to decrease showing less happiness.

In 2006, this correlation was studied by Two Princeton University professors, economist Alan B. Krueger and psychologist and Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, who collaborated with colleagues from three other universities. From their research survey “Day Reconstruction Method” which measured the quality of a person’s daily life, they found that when people reached a certain income level their tension and stress increased while their passive leisure activities decreased. So in other words more work and less play.

While working on this post, I had a phone text conversion with a Liberian friend asking me if I ever rested since I shared with him that I was busy writing on a Saturday afternoon. I explained there is no rest for anyone trying to break-free from their current stagnant economic condition. And in this advanced high-tech world, all you can do is “work, work, work…” Interestingly, this conversion reminded me of another discussion, but this one was in my cultural anthropology class. The professor explained how earlier civilizations worked up to four hours a day to ensure the community needs were met such as food supplies, and the remainder of the day was for play and rest. Since hearing this lecture, I often wonder when it was determined that we needed to “kill” ourselves for what is deemed “a good life” while enjoying so little play time. Well, I have not found that answer yet, but it seems with our desire for money and accumulation of wealth we have become slaves to our own need for “more, more, more…”

The reality of life is when money or credit has allowed us to accumulate many material items we become consumed and worried with keeping and protecting them. It is equally interesting how those who have acquired greater wealth also appear to be living behind prison walls since their homes are surrounded by electronically charged fences with video cameras, barred windows, guard dogs and security officers. When I see these types of homes, I shake my head and wonder if the people living there are truly free.

On the other hand, people primarily living in developing nations like Liberia have very little money, and credit is not an option, so they are consumed with their daily food needs, medical care, transportation and other basic life essentials. Often their possessions are not worth worrying about, because they can be sold or traded for food and such. Instead they are left hoping and praying that their current situation will change for something better.

Why have we allowed money to become the center of our lives when we are only temporary custodians of our financial and material wealth? It is fact of life that we cannot take our wealth with us when our life has expired. Therefore, we should not place more value on money over the love of our family and friends. When we remember the important and precious things in life that cannot be bought with money, we then can give greater value to our fellow human beings. This is when our life becomes more enriched by those who love us no matter what our economic condition is.

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