Saturday, 24 March 2012

Money versus Time

 The less you eat, drink and buy books; the less you go to the theatre, the dance hall, the public house; the less you think, love, theorise, sing, paint, fence, etc., the more you save – the greater becomes your treasure which neither moths nor rust will devour – your capital. The less you are, the less you express your own life, the more you have, i.e., the greater is your alienated life, the greater is the store of your estranged being. Everything which the political economist takes from you in life and in humanity, he replaces for you in money and in wealth; and all the things which you cannot do, your money can do. It can eat and, drink, go to the dance hall and the theatre; it can travel, it can appropriate art, learning, the treasures of the past, political power – all this it can appropriate for you – it can buy all this: it is true endowment. Yet being all this, it wants to do nothing but create itself, buy itself; for everything else is after all its servant, and when I have the master I have the servant and do not need his servant. All passions and all activity must therefore be submerged in avarice. The worker may only have enough for him to want to live, and may only want to live in order to have that.

Karl Marx, «Human requirements and Division of Labour under the rule of private property», Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, Manuscript ΙΙΙ, ΧΙV.

Money. For most people the meaning of life has always been a question of money.
A truth I have never been completely aware of.

I have never understood in full the value of money. I had rather never work. But I have had no money from home, no family properties, nothing. So, since my early youth I was obliged to earn my living as almost everybody in this world of the few rich and the many poor. In doing so I have followed the stream, the mainstream course of things, the society manners.

It was not plain money I was after. I have just wanted to live a decent life with my books, my cinema, my trips here and there. That is all. No excesses of any kind. The world is too vast to see, to read, to enjoy it in a lifetime. And it is almost for free. Spending time for getting more and more money, compared to this enjoyment, is a foolish waste of time.

Free time is what I have valued most in my life. And I have been lucky enough that all my jobs (and there have been many) did not force me to follow a strict 9 to 5 programme. I could never manage that. So whenever a job helped me satisfy the basic needs of my modest life and offered me the opportunity to have control over my free time I was considering myself very happy.
For this same reason, however stupid it may sound to hear this, I have scarcely felt the need of making serious complaints to my boss. I have always done my job as expected without making much fuss about it. I also have been lucky enough in another respect: all bosses understood after a couple of months at the job that I was industrious to the point of being indispensable to them and paid me the most they could afford for the specific occupation. It goes without saying that some bosses tried to get an extra surplus out of my ignorance, of my indiffence to money's value, of my "immaturity" in terms of capitalist political economy.

But it did not bother me. As soon as I understood their indecent behavior towards my work I quitted. 
I was happy enough that I earned my living without being anxious about the things other people cared about. I was happy not to bargain a lot, not to buy a lot, happy that I just had my basic needs fulfilled. Most of all: I was happy enough not to be charmed by the acquired needs of other people. All those needs that money can buy meant nothing to me. Consequently I have never understood why I should buy a house of my own, why I should accumulate money to a bank account, why I should work for extra money, why, in the end, I should sacrifice my dearest, precious Free Time.
My only complaint all these years has been but one: that I have never had a chance, apart from holidays, to get really, practically, fully lazy, to enjoy a long term interval, not having to go to work, let's say, for six continuous months. That is a serious complaint. I must do something about it. Late. Never is too late.