I understood exactly what she meant. Until I started busking, and learned that people were willing to pay me to do something I loved, money was tainted by the lengths I had to go to in order to get it. Serving endless plates of chips to dickheads who had never been taught any manners, picking daffodills from dawn to wintry dusk in frozen boggy fields for bully-gangers employed by corporate flower farms, cleaning the rooms of my fellow (richer) students at university while I should have been cramming for my finals. Money sucked. Because what I really wanted was time, and money was sucking up all my time.
It wasn’t until I cut out the middle men – banks, job centres, bosses – that I began to see things more clearly. And I saw that I had fallen into a trap. The starving artist trap. I had shot the messenger – money – instead of the message.
Money talks. And what it usually talks about is greed, consumerism, inequality, corrupt politics and environmental desecration in the name of progress. These messages are everywhere. Go shopping, screams the TV. Vote for us! Scream the fracking politicians. But the individuals behind the crass adverts and childish politics also fell into a trap – I’ll call it the fat banker trap – where instead of shooting the messenger, they started stalking him. Which has led us to this desperate situation in which starving artists, having renounced their shares, can only stand by and marvel in helpless horror at ‘…the casual indifference of those willing to sacrifice so much truth, so many people – even the stability of the global climate – for what, in the end, amount to the most trivial, transient baubles of personal wealth, status, comfort and power.’*
No wonder most normal people think money sucks. Only it doesn’t. And we mustn’t.
Money is neutral. Along with being a messenger, money is a facilitator and a resource. It can fund corrupt politicians. It can heighten inequality. It can trumpet propaganda. It can buy plastic shit made in sweatshops by children. It can be hidden in offshore bank accounts (although what the point of that is I’m not entirely sure). Or, it can allow for travel and exploration, leading to a deeper connection with our world. It can be given to people who need it, so they can drink clean water. It can buy land and protect it for future generations. It can be invested in green technologies. It can buy time and talk about truth.
*(David Edwards – The Compassionate Revolution; Radical Politics and Buddhism)