Can you blame us — humans, for being obsessed with money? We are delicate creatures and money buys us the food, shelter, clothes, all absolutely essential to our survival. Without these, no question we would die. Beyond survival, money often buys us social status, prestige, power which on top of basic survival, usually ensure for thriving better and often having more choices and freedom in life than had we been poor.
But, and this is a big but, does that mean that our entire being, existence and purpose in life should be guided solely by this primitive survival instinct? Surely survival should be a major goal, but what kind and means to survival? At an era when agriculture is so advanced, when we have some welfare safety-net in place, can humanity take a breath and say — we know we can feed ourselves, there are other things, more complex things, more essential to our long term survival than our bank balances. Other things like, how does our accumulating income worsen our environment, the air we breathe, the trees we cut, the climate we change, the cancerous toxins we put around in the environment and actually, most of all — the sustainability of the social system we contribute to — the social system in which our children will live. Is it one where we prioritize education, innovation, talent, human resources efficiency, or do those come after our priority for a big check which will get us that big material thing?
Much is talked about the human condition. Arguably there might even not be one if we just understand why we crave money so badly — it used to ensure our survival and to an undeniable degree it still does. The argument that I am trying to make here is that there are more complex and more essential things to the human survival and simply prioritizing money accumulation is a short-sighted survival technique whose time has passed.
The stands we all more or less take on money, inevitably are based on our life experiences and background. Personally, just living in New York City has made me think a great deal about this topic. Although it might not be hard to see why, let me explain. As the unofficial capital of the world New York is open to cutting edge ideas, from business to art, while at the same time the mere demand for living space has been so harsh, especially on these very groundbreakers like artists, writers and entrepreneurs, before they brake the ground, if ever, and even after that. The safe middle, walking the walked road is the most financially sustainable way of short-term living, but not the most sustainable way for human progress. So I have been faced with these living choices, and I (as most of us!) see people who make them, trying to decide — what way of life is more right? Of course, right for whom, and right for when. Appropriate might be a better word. This seem as a fairly complex question. But cracked down, from the perspective of history and time, we have learned that humans do need to prioritize progress, social, economic, cultural — you name it, fueled by individual’s liberties on all levels — progress is what has helped humanity survive better. When that is clear, then I can say that the pursuit of solely, or mostly money often stands on the way of progress. This can be a political statement or with political implications, but my foremost concern is what implications this has on everyday social life, human life — in New York where my child and I live and in the world.
And progress is multidimensional — it takes into account the effects our priorities and everyday decisions have on our city, state, planet. It also takes into account what effect our priorities and decisions in life have on the social infrastructure, system that our children and grandchildren will be part of i.e. do our decisions prioritize and promote self-sustainability and improvement? Or, are our decisions shortsightedly looking for a slice of a pie without consideration how and if that pie can be made again, or how it can be increased or improved. Am I asking for too much? Is this too idealistic? I think when one looks at the resources, scientific, urban, financial, and foremost human of say NYC in specific, I do not think this is unrealistic.
This is the first year, for instance, the new mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio announced a free pre-K programs for toddlers in the city. To me that sounds like an idealistic dream come true, and why not. That is a decision which in practice will put mostly young women, mothers in their prime years of creativity, at work, or in school. What a gain for the present and the future of those children, society and humanity! This is one progressive example out of many and my argument is that not only the poor but entire society, as a whole, gains so much when the pursuit for money is not our only or primary decision making principle. We are complex, sophisticated beings and it is time we have sophisticated social measures rather than mere income as a development measure. I look forward to businesses and individuals using democratically-evolving decision making guides, or standards, named for instance “Of benefit To Humanity”, and the future of our children.
By Evangelina Cifliganec