A lot of folks equate money with worth, and even self-worth. Three similar, but very different things.
The rise of Trump has shown that money can’t buy class, and if you think Trump is better than you just because he has money – you have another ‘think’ coming.
Being away from the work world for over a year has given me some perspective on money, jobs, worth, and self-worth. We work so hard, trade our time away – for what? Dollars. To buy what? Houses and TV’s and expensive vacations, and even more expensive educations for jobs – to make what? Dollars.
As I travel countries with different currencies, and paying such different amounts for items that would cost double, triple and even quadruple in the states, I wonder what is the true worth of things?
In Banos, Ecuador I can pay any where from fifty cents to $25 for a meal, but would be hard put to spend $35. In the states, I could easily pay $150 – no problem. I remember a place in Denver where I paid over $1,500 a plate for 5 people.
What’s a dollar really? A piece of paper, some think. Really, a colorful piece of cloth backed by the full faith of the USA. So much so, foreign governments such as Ecuador replaced their currency with the US’s.
But, money, outside of some particular characteristics such as rarity (can’t use shells as currency if you live on a beach), portability (Large stones only go so far!), etc…money is a shared belief that the money is worth something.
Back in 1972, my parents bought their 3 bedroom house with basement for $24,000. Nowadays, it’s worth over $300,000. Over 1,000% inflation. And, was their house improved over 1,000% over the years? No, it’s basically the same house, and perhaps with wear and tear, a little less of the house it once was.
The change did not occur with the house, it occurred with the dollar. Inflation, through “government printing money” – really, through issuing bonds and other debt items, money became worth less and less over time.
I look at Cryptocoins, like Bitcoin, and see it rise from $2,500 in June 2017 to over $8,000 in November 2017 – an over 220% change in 5 months. From June of 2016, Ethereum, another cryptocoin like Bitcoin, went up 2,000%
And what is a bitcoin? Not even made of cloth, nor metal – only 1’s and 0’s on a computer, phosphor on a computer screen.
But Bitcoin is not worth $8,000 because it’s so great, it’s worth that much because the dollar is so crappy. Governments can and do inflate their currencies – because they can. When a country owes a billion dollars, it doesn’t cost much to create a billion dollars out of thin air. They don’t even have to get the printers up and rolling – they can just do this through fiat –
Fiat – a command or act of will that creates something without or as if without further effort
Which leads us to Fiat Money:
fiat money: money (such as paper currency) not convertible into coin or specie of equivalent value.
What can it do? Well, one thing is to default on it’s loan – but that can get messy, lead to war, etc. A better alternative is just to issue more debt to pay off the last one. But say you create a bond (a loan) for a trillion dollars to pay off the trillion dollars in debt. As a sovereign nation with fiat money – sure you can! As long as you are able to get another sovereign nation to buy that debt, you pay your trillion dollar debt , and are flush once again!
All of a sudden you have all this money – to spend, for projects, for – whatever. This enriches everyone, and all of a sudden everyone has money to spend on – whatever. And, more importantly are willing to spend more for things – such as a new car, a new house, etc. Add a little scarcity and there you have it – the perfect storm for inflation.
So a dollar worth a dollar in ’72 is now worth 10 cents, and we wonder where we went wrong?
So, now I’m in Ecuador, and pay $3 for a decent meal of rice, beans, chicken, salad, avocado, which would cost at least 3 times as much in the states, using the same currency as I use in Denver, Colorado.
But isn’t a dollar worth a dollar – anywhere?
Not so much.
I’ve worked for big multimillion dollar corporations, and was sued by one, and fired by the second. The first company I quadrupled their search engine traffic within 2 years, after which they sold the company for over 294 Million dollars – and promptly sued me. They used words like “misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of duty of loyalty, and breach of contract”, but frankly I think they just wanted to sideline me so I wouldn’t work for the competition while they sold the company.
Their fear was that I could do for the competition exactly what I did for them. And they were right: I could.
An interesting outcome of our case is that it potentially helped the cases of victimized ex-spouses. You know, the ones who are sued into the ground for frivolous reasons by their exes? You know, when asshole husbands sue the single-mothers who gave up their work life to focus on their children? Yeah, those.
For the second company, I led a team that met the requirement of inflating their search traffic 6,500% so that the two owners could get their millions of dollars bonus after selling their company to a large Insurance Company. I hear that one of the former owners now owns a condo in Aspen.
How is it that 2 people can enrich themselves off the work of over 100 people? I really don’t care that they took the risks that lead to that payoff. What about the employees that rocketed their “worth” into the stratosphere? Was it really only them? Why didn’t we ALL just get a million dollars each – and call it a day? My fucking team got them their bonus, and while they got their millions, we got our salaries.
Well, that’s capitalism for you.
When I told one of the guys from the Big Insurance Company what they did, that the traffic was purchased from Pakistan, and the other ‘stans, just to meet their traffic obligations and get their bonuses, his eyes boggled.
And now I wander the earth contemplating the immorality of corporations, the worth of things, and self-worth – what we determine what our worth is.
I like that line from Jerry McGuire:
Rod: Tell me what to do, Jerry. You tell me to eat lima beans, I’ll eat lima beans. If you say take the shitty deal, that’s all we can get —
Marcee: “All we can get?”
Rod: Can I SPEAK with my agent here?
Marcee: You know what you’re qonna do, Rodney. You’re gonna reject this shitty contract. You’re gonna play out your existing shitty contract and go be a free agent next year and the hell with Arizona. This is us, and we determine our worth. You’re a fine, proud, surviving, splendid black man.
Rod: Honey, you are just — the shit.
Jerry: If you get injured, you get nothing.
Rod: Won’t happen. I’m strong in my mind.
Jerry: It’s a risk.
Rod: Bet on me, dude. Bet on me like I bet on you.
“We determine our worth”
And, I took a year off from work, only taking on side contracts, like for that marijuana company, where I charged a monthly fee, and only showed up for one hour per week, effectively charging over $1,250/hour, but mostly…doing nothing.
And, as I watched my money drain away, mostly to my mortgage, I thought of what I could do. What could I do to make all those years I suffered during The Lawsuit, that, after owing $100,000 even drew me to thoughts of suicide? What would be the biggest fuck you to the corporations of the world who thought they were worth more than me? Who thought they could sue me “Into the dirt” as one of their lawyers said?
I remember a professor who said during the Vietnam War, that there were 2 ways people protested the war – either through actually protesting – or going to see 2001, A Space Odyssey.
Seems like a funny protest, but the point of seeing this masterful tour-de-force of a film was to reject even the premise the war was based on.
To opt out.
Well, I opted out.
I decided to rent my house, take some of my ill-earned lawsuit money – and hit the road.
I remember how as a SEO guy I had to justify the worth of my projects. But, if you are a visionary, if you know exactly what has to happen in order to create something, justifications are just one more thing that gets in the way of results.
Steve Jobs knew this. Every angry genius motherfucker knew this.
Greatness does not come from consensus. It comes from either a small group, or sometimes just a single person rejecting the mob and setting out on their own. The US, Apple, heck even the Mormons came out of nowhere and established powerful groups that changed the hearts and minds of millions.
And, I just refuse to make another corporation rich. And further: I reject the idea that money = my self worth. That being said, I respect the power that money has, but hope for something better.
I look on Bitcoin hopefully, as a way out of financial corporations that lay waste to our great country. Bailed out on the backs of US citizens – we rose out of the ashes. But I see how our young people graduate with $100,000 backbreaking dollars of debt, when I got out with $15k or something, and wonder why? Was their education any better, or was mine so much worse?
At least with Bitcoin, we can’t inflate it. Bitcoin has no sovereign, owes nothing to no other nation. It has a fixed mathematical supply – 21 million bitcoin will ever exist once fully mined.
I tell my spanish language teacher that I rent my little 2 bedroom, 1-1/2 bath house for $1,600 per month, and watch as her eyes boggle. She tells me the average monthly salary in Ecuador is $350. As a person with the equivalent of a Master’s degree, that’s what she makes.
I don’t tell her I could have rented for $1,800. That I used to make a 6 figure salary.
And then, she proceeds to tell me that her country is billions of dollars in debt – to the Chinese, with the Galapagos Islands, their crown jewel, used as collateral against the loans. Meaning: if they default, the Galapagos Islands, that rare collection of islands filled with sea iguanas, giant tortoises, sea lions and dead dodos – would be part of China.
And I look at this country – so full of natural resources, overflowing with crude, with minerals, with cascades of waterfalls, and wonder how they got to where they are.
And where am I?
I am finally, after 2 years of doing – whatever, am finally unwinding the stress and tensions within my being. I never knew how wound up I was, not just through fighting the lawsuit, but infighting in companies, justifications for my actions, my expertise. Of my past – both with friends and families, and how everything is just – relaxed.
Down to my core, through my muscles and even organs and even the fascia – the interconnecting tissue. Whatever stresses travel has is brief, and in comparison to modern stresses of corporate work and legal hassles – is nothing. less than nothing. It’s what I consider “1st world problems”, “Good problems.”
Meaning: they are hardly problems at all.
Yesterday, my face was painted by a native from the Jungles of Ecuador. Today: I went from a very hot thermal bath, and went and sat for over 2 minutes up to my neck in a very cold one. A week ago: I climbed over 16 thousand feet to the top of a volcano. Three weeks ago I fell off a mountain. A month ago: I ate a guinea pig. Three months ago I visited Machu Picchu.
And I wonder: if money is a shared illusion, why can’t everyone do this? This. This eating, and seeing, and walking and climbing and experiencing – is the birthright of everyone.
We have been duped into getting into debt, and working a job we hate, and for a corporation that does not have our best interests at heart, to service this debt. And we, once a tribe of adventurers, or wanderers, of gypsies, merchants, and buccaneers and ne’er-do-wells are ground down – to what? Making college, or house loan payments for the next 30 years, or hocking the Galapagos.
And for what?
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