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TOXIC THOUGHT SYNDROME

"Think about it. The whole RRSP thing works on small groups. Some guy figures out that if he invests in just this way, his money grows quicker than the bank rate or the inflation rate and he's happy. He tells a buddy. They tell the whole damn country club. If everyone at the club kept their mouth shut, this would work out well. The whole club could exploit the situation and make off like kings."


11/21/2001

I remember all these college psych courses where the teacher would tell us that Maslow didn't consider money to be a motivator. I remember arguing about that. It was very apparant to me that Maslow was some kind of rich asshole. When you don't have money, it sure as hell is a motivator. Sometimes it's the only motivator.

Guess what I'm finally figuring out, big boy that I am. I was wrong. Money isn't a motivator. The motivators are all things that money can buy, not money itself. Nobody is motivated by the sheer need to own money. They want the things that money can get for them, whether that's a secured retirement or an X Box.

So why are we so hung up on money? I'm glad you asked. You didn't? Well, then just shut up and let me talk here. Jesus.

TV, our source of divine enlightenment, tells us that money is what matters. From a young age I was bombarded by images of things I wanted, things that would help make me understand what it meant to be me in this life. Stretch Armstrong dolls that ripped apart quickly enough, exposing that strange green mass of smelly stuff. Transformers that were only a challenge the first few times, and then found their way to the back of the closet. He-Man. Toy cars. Star wars action figures.

I got a lot of those things. I lived in a middle class home, and while we didn't have that much money because my mom went back to school, my parents had always made it a rule that they would try their best to give us the things we wanted provided that they were reasonable. As we got older, we learned to work for things. When the money was no longer forthcoming, I got a job.

The sad truth is that it wasn't money that bought me those things, it was sacrifice. My parents sacrificed any number of things to make sure that we kids had the things we wanted. When I got a job, it was a sacrifice of my free time as a means to an end. And it's no different today.

There are those who will tell you that they love their jobs. We call those people liars. Nobody loves their job, or at least I've never met anyone that did. We tolerate our jobs. They are a sacrifice we either need to or want to make in exchange for things.

In a capitalist world, that's pretty much how they work it. The notion of money as the means to get the things you want makes sense, so you work as hard as you can for more stuff.

Stuff, by the way, is a great means of controlling the masses. Ever thought about that? We in the West are perhaps the most complacent people going. We don't rock the boat because we can't bear the idea that our creature comforts fall out and sink. Let's face it, we have it good. We know it. What scares us the most is not being able to keep having it so good.

They tell you that the only way to grow as a person is to GO TO SCHOOL. If we don't GO TO SCHOOL, then we won't amount to anything. If we don't know what we want to do, that's okay. There are entire course streams aimed at showing you the options that are available to you. Nobody wakes up in the middle of the night thinking, "I want a degree in Geriatric Psychology." It just doesn't happen.

Our first decision as grown-ups is to go to school, a process that usually winds up with our owing an incredible amount of money to some major lending institution. But the good news is that now that we have graduated, we can go get jobs. Well, maybe not. The economy isn't there to support a career in Geriatric Psychology just today, so you can spend a few months networking while selling coffee at the Starbucks.

Eventually, you get a job and start working. You have this gigantic student loan to pay off, but you're okay with that. You make those payments, and pretty soon the lending institution starts giving you things like overdraft and a credit card. They tell you that your best bet is to use these things every month and pay them off in full so that you can establish a credit history. After all, if you aren't in the computer then you're a communist or something.

Car loans. Mortgages. Revolving lines of credit. Credit cards. Suddenly you're taking holidays to get the hell away from a job you can't afford to quit because you have too many things to pay off. You're stuck working for some company you don't like, doing work you don't feel passionate about, and all the while hating your life. Congratulations, you are now a true grown-up.

Now it's time to start socking money away for that RRSP you've always wanted. You want to retire a millionairre, right? Well guess what? It isn't that easy.

I can't believe the number of people who took a hit on their RRSPs this year due to the economy slipping. They were all stunned. What? That can happen? You mean the stocks I invested in don't have some weird requirement to go up and up forever? Why, that's just not fair.

Guess what, all you RRSP-holding forward thinkers? You're really thinking that you can retire at the age of 65 and live on the money you have socked away? No, you can't. For one thing, people are living much longer, and you're a fool if you think you want to spend 30 years in the house watching Good Morning America. You'll go crazy. But there's a bigger danger to you than just boredom.

Think about it. The whole RRSP thing works on small groups. Some guy figures out that if he invests in just this way, his money grows quicker than the bank rate or the inflation rate and he's happy. He tells a buddy. They tell the whole damn country club. If everyone at the club kept their mouth shut, this would work out well. The whole club could exploit the situation and make off like kings.

These days, though, it's pretty much common knowledge. Everyone has RRSPs. Most jobs actually take your RRSP contribution off of your cheque for you. Save save save. It's imperative. But what happens in the future when those all come due? What happens in 10 years or so when the baby boomers all start to cash their policies in? Suddenly we have millions of people who are millionairres, and that isn't going to make an impact on the overall economy?

It's supply and demand. If everyone has a million dollars, then a million dollars means nothing. Ever see those tables where they track the price of an egg during Germany's reparations? If an egg is worth several billion dollars, then what good is your RRSP?

It's bullshit, people. The whole thing is a parade to make us think that we need to keep on doing what we're doing. We have to have good jobs that we hate, and once we have them we have to keep working just a few more years until we can retire. How many people working at the age of 70 wanted to retire when they were 30?

It's sickening. And you know what? We do it to ourselves by buying into the whole situation. We keep believing that money is what will keep us alive, that money is what will save us during a depression. That is the propaganda program at work. Money doesn't love you. Money doesn't give you a sense of self-esteem. Money doesn't make you feel like you belong. Money's just a tool, and like any tool it can be used to help or to hurt.







ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jim Martin is one of those people who can start a sentence with "The problem with democracy is that jerks like you get to vote" and end it with your wanting to be his friend. He hosts a website and has been published by Images Inscript, House of Pain, Scapegrace, and here at 3am.








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