I recently realised that my interest in money matters has increased exponentially in the past 3 months. Previously, I lived a carefree life, free of any perceptions about money that Iregarded as “morally wrong” and “greedy”. That has changed, and I am not sure if it’s a good or bad thing.
Maybe it’s because I am now having a direct interaction with money at the bank, and with people who own that money, and own tons of it. Now, what was previously a casual desire for future wealth has become a necessity-almost a desperate need. I find myself day dreaming about the company(ies) I”ll own, the money I’ll generate, and how one day, I’ll become one of the distinguished customers who are deeply respected by the bank staff solely because of the size of their bank account. I myself, am guilty of this behavior. It is almost on a subconscious level. When I happen to serve a customer with an impressive account balance, the first thing that pops into my mind is, “Wow, this guy/lady must be reaaaallly hardworking/dedicated/determined/focused.” I immediately admire them, and I do not even know them. I almost feel obliged to try make them like me. Is this the same thing as the “beauty halo effect”, where our first assumption of an attractive person is that they are nice, fun, witty people? Or maybe it’s an instinctual, survival-of-the-fittest thing; that I want to save myself from the discrimination that the financially disadvantaged face? because I have seen this discrimination first hand. If a poor customer is rude, or impatient, or noisy, the teller retaliates with the same, and as soon as they go away, the teller who was serving them makes a snide remark like “Mwangalie, anajifaaanya, na hata hana pesa kwa account ( He’s making such a fuss, and he hardly has any money). If a well-to-do customer exhibits the same behaviour, the teller maintains a polite, respectful stance, and as soon as he/she leaves, shrugs it off with a “Probably ni kwa sababu ako na ma-haraka, mwache tu” (it’s probably because he is in a hurry, don’t be bothered). If a customer with a huge account balance is polite, then we immediately shower compliments about their “humility” and “down-to-earthness”: it is almost as if we expect and are willing to tolerate rudeness from the wealthy, and so a deviation from this norm is a great achievement. A rich person acting normally will be crowned “humble” while no such praises go to a poor person acting in the exact same way.Then again, the standards for modesty are a lot lower for the wealthy than for the poor.
Perhaps, I want to own a lot, so that rich people won’t have the ability to look down on me-after all, we’ll be in the same class, won’t we? I can’t tell you how many times wealthy customers have addressed me in a patronizing or dismissive manner as I serve them. I almost want to shout “You won’t be so smug when I have as much as you do!”,but of course, I don’t, because, I still, albeit reluctantly, admire them. Perhaps, I want to own a lot, because of the nascent feminist in me, who acknowledges, and resents, the fact that many ladies here have the “Princess Syndrome”, and deeply wish that they’ll marry someone who is so ridiculously wealthy, they’ll hardly have to work another day of their lives? That I want to prove that women can be rich off their own hard earned money too? I don’t know.
The truth is, I miss those days when I wasn’t so captivated by money. When I didn’t feel the pinch as my parents spent more money than they should have on luxuries. When I didn’t get overly excited when I saw an upward move in my bank account balance. Things were simpler back then. But may be this is a part of growing up: realizing that, money matters, and I need to have a keen sense of awareness of it.
May be all of this is because I’m reading “Liar’s poker”, a book full of these notions. Take for example, this excerpt;
“…Whenever I was asked for my motives in investment banking, I handed in the correct answers:the challenge, the people, the thrill of the deal…It was several years before I convinced myself that this was remotely plausible…That money wasn’t the binding force was, of course, complete and utter bullshit..I mean, did anyone, even in those innocent days, doubt the importance of money on Wall Street other than the people from Wall Street?”
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