Tag Archives: happy

Making Money: Where Do You Draw the Line Between Greed and Security?

Money is power. Money is the root of all evil. Disregard females, acquire currency. Only people who don’t have money say it doesn’t buy happiness. You hear these things a lot when people talk about getting money, acquiring dollars, you know the gist.

Money is important, but more than being important, money is neutral. This might seem like common sense to you, but it was mind-blowing to me. It is a medium of exchange for resources. Money can be under-utilized and very very abused. It just depends on who is using it. Our society employs different methods of acquiring currency based on supply and demand of skills and products. It’s the basis for all we talk about like business, capitalism, workforce, econoimcs, etc. Economics and workforce development look at the intricacies of one simple concept: the environment for people to find work. This video from Vice News is fantastic.

The reason it was so mind-blowing is how I’ve grown up. Living in a capitalist society has really affected me in how I think about money. It has really scarred me. The way people interact with each other is competitive and sometimes brutal. There can be quite a bit of unregulated and unequal distributions of wealth.


I was raised in a lower middle class family and my dad was always at work. For several years before she passed away my mom worked full-time as well. We were not poor, but there were times we had to stretch money like it was a slinky toy and post-pone vacations yearly vacations. Throughout my childhood and adolescence I never did learn the value of money. I’m not talking about the price, but the value. That 3 dollars doesn’t just buy you a cup of coffee, it can be used to get 6 or 9 or 12 dollars. It’s a difference that those with money understand more than those without money.

All of my life I hated the game of business and making money. I was raised to believe it destroyed your soul. That if you spend your life in pursuit of money you would take advantage of anyone to make those dollars. And while it has sometimes been true, many times it isn’t. The dollar is neutral for better or worse. The power is backed by us, the people in society that use it. Problems come in when some people don’t understand or care about the use of money. That it represents resources and is the medium for exchange of goods and services.

I heard a great analogy of why those in poverty can be so terrible at managing their dollars if they first get them: imagine you are insanely thirsty, and have been your whole life. Then someone gives you a gallon of water, you’re going to drink it, right? You’re going to drink as much goddamn water as you can handle because you’ve been without it for so long. You’re not thinking about conserving it. You’re on a deficit and you don’t care if you drink it inefficiently. But then you’re out, what now? The problem is, wealthier families have a water tap. Whether they built it themselves or not is irrelevant in this discussion. They’re using it as leverage and as a tool to plan for their future survival.

Based on how much money you have is both your possession of resources and your ability to leverage capital. That becomes a problem when people need some just to survive, not just to play a game of higher-standard-of-living or use-my-capital-in-a-business-venture way. That collection of wealth hurts the distribution of those resources. It harms those who don’t know how to protect their basic livelihoods from it. The worker who lost his job and went hungry. Maybe you think it’s their own fault for not investing an interest in their financial future? Maybe. I am one of those people though, or I was one.

I’ve never really cared about financial security to be honest. My interests in life have been focused on helping others and trying to change the world for the better. This has come in the form of starting organizations, volunteering, mediating, etc. but one form it hasn’t come in is in making money. Sure, I work hard every day and I’ve gotten a paycheck since I was 16 but I wasn’t consumed by it. It was a way to have the means to continue my other work.  During my retail gigs I gave ridiculously great discounts and coupons to customers. I cared more about my employees’ well-being than making the bottom line. I don’t have regrets about this (I’m sure those companies aren’t a big fan) but it helps to show how I disregarded the value of money. I thought social change and money clashed against each other. As time goes on though I’m starting to learn that they are inextricably linked.

If you are looking to make peoples lives better and more productive they need to start with something. Across the spectrum this is a pretty well-established idea. Take a look at what Bernie Sander’s has based his platform on. As much as I hate to say it, even the Koch Brothers are creating education (granted with a large helping of their rugged individualism ideology). Creating educational opportunities and economic incentives is essentially teaching a man/woman to fish rather than dropping off a fish each day at their front door. If they have the knowledge, the tools, and some resources to start that’s really all anyone wants. Everyone wants a decent standard of living with some self respect.

So where do you draw the line between greed and security? That’s a hard question to answer. In fact, I don’t think there really is a line. I think that they are both part of the same human quality of self preservation. The conversation shouldn’t be about how much money should you make, it’s about how you live. It’s about how you are affecting the lives of others. It is making sure that you have enough food on the table and that your neighbor does too. I’m sure that can sound pretty socialist, or liberal, or communist, or however you’d like to go about it. What I mean by that though is that cooperation and group interest wins out over rugged individualism and competition. After all, anger, inequality, and revolution doesn’t happen in a bubble.

Money won’t create success, the freedom to make it will. –Nelson Mandela


Our Modern State of Nature


What do we think of as the state of nature? Have you ever heard of it? Maybe it’s as primal as animals hunting for survival. Maybe it’s the drive to steal or murder. Or maybe when you call 911 and nothing happens.

Thomas Hobbes describes it as so, “the ‘natural condition of mankind’ is what would exist if there were no government, no civilization, no laws, and no common power to restrain human nature. The state of nature is a ‘war of all against all,’ in which human beings constantly seek to destroy each other in an incessant pursuit for power. Life in the state of nature is ‘nasty, brutish and short.'”

This is the basis for Hobbes’ Leviathan. In essence, an authoritarian regime that keeps human nature at bay to create a social contract for the betterment of mankind. I align myself to this view. I’m a Hobbesian at heart, but also a cautious optimist. I believe in the best of people, but prepare for the worst. I usually see that bad behavior as a reaction for self preservation or blow-back from personal suffering. That’s what I see in the world today. I see so much conflict and pain while also seeing a struggle for happiness.

The state of nature is always just at the cusp of our every day lives. In the last year or so I’ve been thinking of this topic almost daily. I think a lot of it has to do with the place I’m at in life coming out of college, entering the real world, etc. It’s been so frustrating to enter a place like Mason with so much understanding, communication, and acceptance and then immediately leave to a maelstrom of hard experiences.

When I came to Virginia I was in the midst of it already. I had a rough time in Oklahoma in just about every area of my life; academically, romantically, family-wise, financially, and politically. I worked hard and was dedicated to success in life. I was used to hardship. That’s all I knew. Community college was no different in that there was no real community. It only involved going to class and homework. But then Mason happened. I found my passion in conflict resolution and a community that was understanding and driven. It was probably the best experience of my life so far and has helped me grow in so many ways. There was a problem though; it wasn’t sustainable. It was a bubble.

No one lies to you that college isn’t the real world. They tell you all the time that you should take advantage of it while it lasts. But you don’t really understand. How could you? You are surrounded by thousands of people who think and act the same way. It IS real. But there’s a price tag each semester called tuition. That’s where it breaks down. You are literally paying for this experience, most of the time in loans for a date down the road. That’s where the difference between college and the real world lies. In college you can make mistakes and think whatever you’d like no matter how ludicrous it is. But outside of college everything has a price, even if it’s not in money. It’s competitive; there are a lot of people. It’s nasty, brutish, and sometimes short.

Herein lies our state of nature. Every day is a struggle for survival. Our whole society is built on the premise that it creates a better chance for our survival. That’s the premise of the Leviathan and the first natural law: self-preservation.

I think that’s where we get lost in it; how to go about self-preservation. Our knowledge has moved beyond massing resources for yourself or the mindset of “what is bad for you is good for me.” It turns out that what is good for you is also good for me. That cooperation and communication creates strength, progress, and productivity. All of those experiences in college weren’t worthless or unnecessary. They are the most valuable thing you have. They show what the world can be. That’s a fight for another day though, knowledge doesn’t change human nature.

My point is that our society is drenched in conflict. Whether it is the Paris attacks or structural violence. If a mother of four gets evicted from her apartment. If a kid has to sling drugs on a corner to eat. When someone gets shot because they had a nice house. When someone gets killed because they didn’t pay a debt. Or look at it even bigger–when a whole group of people are killed because another group thinks they were hurting their chances of survival. You can’t run away from it because it is people who cause it. But that doesn’t mean people are all bad, they do it because they want a decent life with some dignity. There are only so many resources and so many dangers. There’s no one to really blame in this situation.

Again, this isn’t always a bad thing. As you learn in S-CAR, conflict can be a force for good. It causes change, learning, and understanding. The key part is to transform a conflict from a violent, destructive one to something that creates a more positive and flourishing society. It’s a hard job but knowledge gets you there.

The modern state of nature uses our society. It’s a society that can institutionalize repression and discrimination. It’s a society that is made by people and represents the nature of people, both good and bad. The modern state of nature does not just break away to the root of ourselves in violence and pure animal instincts but uses societal tools and technologies for a new type of violence. You will be born in to this world assigned a value and a country. You will have obligations and contracts thrust upon you. All land and resources are owned and leased. Human nature thrives to fulfill its self interest to varying degrees.

This is what I believe. It’s how I feel. It’s how I think. It’s the result of what I see and what I’ve learned. It’s not a fairy tale story or Mad Max. It’s just what it is. There is the good and the bad. It’s a race for survival and happiness. To make purpose out of the time we have on this earth. In my mind we should carve out a space to do what makes us happy while creating a better place for others.

By peace we mean the capacity to transform conflicts with empathy, without violence, and creatively- a never-ending process.” – Johan Galtung


Breaking in to the World After College

It’s been long overdue since I last posted anything on here. Now that things have begun settling down after the past few months I’m going to try to start updating this blog more often. I’m also in process of creating two other blogs: one about conflict resolution and one about news. We’ll see when those get off the ground but for now I’ll be more active on here.

The reason I’ve been so out of contact the last few months has everything to do with graduating back in May. It’s been a rough road to say the least, but at the same time it has been eye opening and exhilarating. I guess I’ll start by giving a short summary of what I’ve been doing, and then how I feel about it in terms of what I like and what I don’t like, for anyone who reads this that might care.

When you get closer to graduating from college you start to panic. Everyone tells you to panic and everyone tells you it’s going to be hard. About a year before graduation I did my best to circumvent this by looking in to every option I could think of that I’d like to do. I applied for the Peace Corps, but didn’t have enough experience. I did an internship, but that didn’t turn in to anything. I started job applications and informational interviews and whatever networking I could. The biggest problem was though that I didn’t know what I wanted to do. When you don’t have a goal you don’t really get a result.

So then I went in to temp work at the end of July/start of August. It was so stressful I can’t go in to words. It wasn’t necessarily the temp work, but I was in a rough situation since I didn’t really have savings since I used most of them in exchange for getting experience at the last job I was at. That meant that I needed to always be working, at least for a few months. That didn’t happen. It took me a little over a month going through the grinder to land an OK gig at a travel company. From there things got exponentially better, I started tutoring with good pay as well. Currently I’m in the process of accepting an offer at the company as a consultant.

Here’s the thing though, I hate the world I’m seeing after college. In many respects it is rough, unforgiving, competitive, conniving, and dreary. I am no stranger to hardship or hard work. I am not a “millennial who is living in a dreamworld.” I have worked a full-time job since I was in high school. I have lived on my own since I was 18 years old. Yet as time has progressed I have been exposed to different people, education, and workplaces that are real and living proof that there is another way to do things. You can have communication, cooperation, and happiness without sacrificing standard of living or livelihood. Yet most people I have met since temping at different companies don’t believe this. And that belief perpetuates the cycle of cruelty and inequality.

This brings me to my second point. While there are many things I see which I don’t like, it has helped me find what I’m passionate about and what I want to pursue as a career and as a person. In many ways it has always been my passion and interest yet now it is much more defined. I want to spread conflict resolution in the most effective ways possible. I want to train groups and organizations. I want to mediate disputes and facilitate dialogue.

I want to be a messenger of transformation.

Or in less figurative and narcissistic language I want to be involved in conflict resolution through training, mediation, facilitation, and outreach. I’m looking into consultancy and other avenues.

That’s only part of it though. I think the most important thing in life is to be happy. Life is too hard and full of grief for anything else. The arguments I have heard against this are to aid to the improvement of society. I think that’s a noble goal and I’ve been driven by that myself. At the same time I’ve become disillusioned to this end. Society is too unpredictable, too competitive, and filled with unintended misery for that to be someones whole purpose for life. I have a lot more thoughts on this but we’ll save that for another time.

Anyways, I am looking to spend my life doing what makes me happy. This includes helping others be happy and spending time with who I love. I’m planning on writing a post soon on how I’m looking to get there. I’m starting that pursuit right now.