I think a major problem with our current global economic system is that we have confused money with wealth. This is something that came up in The Handbook of Sustainability Literacy and I think it couldn’t be more true. Allow me to quote:
They have failed to follow the fundamental truth that money is not wealth: money is only a measure of wealth and a means to exchange wealth. Real wealth is good land, pristine forests, clean rivers, healthy animals, vibrant communities, nourishing food and human creativity.
Grounded Economic Awareness,
The Handbook of Sustainability Literacy, 2011
I kind of had to cut myself short there, from copying out the entire chapter. I really recommend reading it for yourself.
Anyway, I think it is important to note that money and wealth do sometimes go hand in hand, just not on every occasion. In my writing and philosophising about alternative economic structures, I do not mean to vilify money at all. It’s silly to say “money is the problem” or even “money is evil!” No, it isn’t. It’s an inanimate invention. There isn’t some greedy “Dollar Deamon” who’s causing all this, unless we’re getting poetic… Any problems to do with money are just down to human error. We simply use it in a ridiculous way.
And as much as it’s true that money can’t buy happiness, it can definitely buy things that make you happy. It’s the middle man. If you gave me £20, I’d be significantly happier than if you didn’t, but that isn’t because I collect £20 notes. I don’t think they’re particularly beautiful, and I have plenty of other paper that’d burn much easier on my fire. It’s obviously the excitement of what I can buy with the money that will make me happy, not the money itself.
As it’s almost the New Year, and as being grateful is a good practise at any time,
I’d like you to think about your wealth. Your true wealth, as mentioned above. Think about everything you have that is valuable to you. If you like you could divide it up into sections, such as relationships, possessions, resources, attributes, etc. Or however you like. Here’s mine.
- I have a home. Although I may be struggling with paying my rent at the moment, the fact remains that I live in the attic room of a really lovely house, with two lovely adult friends. That’s much more than many people have.
- I have caring family. My mum and littlest brother live in the same town as me, so I see them pretty often. My mother is a continual pillar of support for me, and I also know I will be fed whenever I go round there. My mum is also my form of healthcare, as she’s a medical herbalist. My brother is only 2 and adores me. I also have other family who live far away, but will be there for me if I need them.
- I have a boyfriend. This is probably my greatest source of happiness. I feel love is too personal a topic for this blog, but I will just say that he is amazing and suits me perfectly. If everyone in the world were jealous I wouldn’t be surprised.
- I have friends. I’m surrounded by people that are kind, cool, and make me smile and laugh. I feel accepted and loved as I am, without having to try and fit in.
- I have a faith. This is hugely important to me, but also hugely personal so I won’t go into detail here. I’ll just say I’m best described as an eclectic pagan and leave it at that. This has countless times provided me with inner reserves of strength and positivity I didn’t know I had.
- I have good health. This is something you generally don’t appreciate until you don’t have it any more. But I am lucky enough to have a healthy body. I only really get colds and coughs in terms of illness, and I don’t have any allergies.
- I have freedom. People who live in the UK still complain they don’t have enough of this valuable commodity, but compared with other places and times, I think I have it pretty good. I can choose my calling in life, I can choose my religion and lifestyle. I don’t need to marry someone I don’t want to, I don’t have to have babies, I could be gay if I wanted to, and I’ll be able to vote in the next general election.
- The people I live with garden. This means I can have free organic produce that is surplus to their needs. At the moment there’s potatoes, onions, garlic and spinach.
- I have a part-time job. I really need a full time job, but at least I do have a part time one. I go round someone’s house and clean, cook and shop for them. It’s nice to do something that feels worthwhile, and it is payed quite well.
- I have a laptop and internet connection. Without which I wouldn’t be able to write this blog, which I find invaluable. I love communicating my opinions in this way. Also crucial for music, something that really does make me happy.
- I have an education. I’ve got 11 GCSEs and 3 A Levels, and have a place at University. Before secondary school I was home educated, which I think helped me to question things and motivate myself. Learning, and specifically being literate, is a very powerful thing.
- I have enough clothes. I can’t believe I just wrote that. I am an 18 year old girl, and I love the visual expression of dressing, but I do actually have enough. I have enough clothes to keep myself properly dressed without having to do the laundry more than once a week.
- I have a mobile phone. Communication is key.
- I have enough books and DVDs to entertain me. I don’t have that many of either but I have enough.
- I have some sentimental possessions. Such as a toy bunny I’ve had since I was tiny, a scrapbook my friend’s made for me, a picture my step-mum made…
- I have a box of craft stuff. This is great because I’ve recently really got into making cards. Creating something is very therapeutic.
- I know plenty of adults who would look out for me. Friends of my parents who knew me when I was younger, and who I don’t really see, but would help me out in any way they could.
There could be more, but I think that’s enough to be going on with. You see, although I have lack-of-money troubles at the moment that have caused me stress and sleepless nights, I have a huge amount to be grateful for.
In truth, I am incredibly wealthy.
What would you put on your list?