As far back as I can remember, money has been an issue in my life. My childhood passed with money constraints. Buying a sheet of paper worth 5 cents to do my homework, getting on two buses instead of one to get home, thus paying 50 cents more was an issue leading to arguments in the household. We lived a poor life coming from a relatively well-off family. Writing this now, I realize that might be the reason why I believe that the same goes for our world... i.e. We live in abundance, but many people suffer needlessly in spite of it. It's the fear of losing our privileges. I believe I am privileged too and I don't want to lose that just as much as the next person, the next xenophobe, the next patriot. Maybe it's the guilt in me that feels uneasy and nags me that the way the world works today is very unfair. I meet so many people who are after money and do such “disgusting” things for the sake of money that I feel like giving them all they want so that they leave me alone and go off their way. So that I have nothing more to do with such people ever again. After all, what would they do if I didn't have any money, the thing they crave for? And I probably would have done that had I not had a child. A child changes so much in your life. It's difficult to deny.
As I said, I've always been fussing about money. My ex-husband used to ask me “Would you do this if it was 5 cents?” “Would you have done this if you had millions in the bank?” Then he reasoned “If so, it is over money that you are fussing.” It seemed an irrefutable logic at the time. I couldn't answer him. Yet... Deep inside, I felt that it was not about money, it was something else. It was the principle, it was justice. But I couldn't convince him or anybody else, not even myself for that matter (!) as I didn't have any proof or an explanation.
I kept on fussing over money with almost all my dealings with institutions, companies and people. And I kept blaming myself. I kept thinking there was something wrong with me. Why did I spend my days, weeks, months over a two year period to get back the 25 Euros a bank charged me? Did it make any sense? It surely couldn't have been about money. My time is much much more precious than that and thank God I don't need such money or let me say I can afford to lose that money without it making the slightest difference in my life. So what was it about? Even if it was about principle, did it make sense? Spending all that time for the possibility of getting that money back? Well... People are not always the most logical creatures on Earth. We spend our time and energies on many a useless things. Still... Was it only that? Wasn't there any reason behind my behavior at all?
Then I had trouble with people not paying me. People haggling over money... Who needed to pay what etc. My solution was simple. If we had a dispute, the person who believed that s/he didn't need to pay would pay somebody else in need. Donate the money for a cause. Donate it to an orphanage, to a charity. So that s/he could give the money in question feeling to have done good and the other would be fine not feeling swindled. But nobody seemed to agree with me. They just discarded the idea. Well, actually, for some reason I simply couldn't and still cannot understand, this suggestion of mine brought about a strong anti-reaction from people.
We kept fighting over money with my new husband too. He made money; but he spent it on wrong things. He also was careless and let everybody swindle him. It was almost always the big companies. You know how they get money out of your pocket? The phone company... “Ah, Internet is a 4 Euro/day tariff,” they say. I downloaded 3 kb of stuff, 4 Euros. They charged this three times before we realized it.
“The tariff is written differently on my account on your website.”
“It doesn't matter. You came from a professional tariff, it is more convenient this way. That's the default.”
How am I supposed to know the default if it writes something else on my account?! But who can argue with a non-logical non-human entity? You bump on a wall every time you need to deal with the customer service of an institution.
Money kept going like this. My husband just let it go. But I couldn't. The friction sometimes became unbearable. Now... I love my husband dearly. I don't want to fuss, I feel guilty and bad that money can cause trouble in our marriage. And as I said, it's not that I need it now. I can forget about that money very easily. Yet... I cannot.
So after all this, I came to a realization one day. My ex-husband was asking the wrong question. What if the question he asked was different. I asked myself: “Would I fuss if that 25 Euros went to an orphanage?” The answer was “Definitely no.” I went on... “Would I have fussed if twice, if five times, if ten times that money went to an orphanage?” The answer was again “Definitely no.” I went on a bit further... “Would I have fussed if a hundred times that money went to an orphanage?” The answer was still “Definitely no.” And it was an honest and sincere “Definitely No!”
So then I knew... The problem was not money. The problem was where the money went.
Effective Altruism and the Starfish
Where one spends his money gives away a lot about him. In the modern world, we spend carelessly, or let me say the standard white-collar employee who spends a lot of his time at the office making a decent amount of money usually does so. He works so that he can have his whims or impulse-buyings satisfied. He has money, he can spend it without thinking.
There are people who call themselves EA- Effective Altruists, they work to give money. Instead of getting a low-paid charity job, you get a high-paid Wall-Street job, even if it's not so ethical, so that you can donate a lot of money to a charity of your choice. (Haseeb Qureshi is one of them if you wish to read his story.) Of course EA's choices of giving are determined by GiveWell, an organization who has done a lot of research on the impact of dollars spent on charities. Certainly, as prices are very low in under-developed countries, your money goes much further. Would you save a child for 3000 USD or would you give it to pay for the semi-annual fee of a school to educate a youngster? The choice seems obvious. But what if that youngster is your own child? What about giving up your ordinary luxuries and saving a child? Is the only importance to save lives or is it more important to have less in quantity more in quality-lives?
There are no easy, clear-cut answers to any of these questions. Earning-to-give like Effective Altruists, or saving-to-give like me may seem to make sense up to a point. But that point is not so far... I've never liked the starfish story. “Ah, see it made a change for this one...” Yes but, that's not good enough. Unless there is a snowballing effect and there starts an avalanche, we'll just be raking a couple of leaves while a storm is blowing and all the work we've done will soon be wasted. We need an alternate effective solution to altruism!
Herein comes governments!
Governments are the big spenders of money. They collect our money as tax and use it to their heart's desires. If we want to make a radical change in the world, -and we sure need to make a radical change in the world!- we need to change the taxation system; we need to change where the money goes. So I wish my proposal to let us decide where our tax money goes is implemented or better yet, the system of the Aazer platform is implemented. My proposal was for governments to decide the items and make the budget for them where we decided which items to give money to. However, the idea of Aazer, the people deciding the items that are budgeted by the individual provider is the higher goal. In that case, government can be reduced to its basics and we all can live a more decent life.