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The unsuspected role of money in society

rôle insoupçonné de l’argent dans la société

Acquiring a status in modern societies most often means making a fortune, whether it is built on a more or less honorable activity.

Wealth has not always been a central element of respectability. There was a time, in periods when human groups were smaller and did not systematically live in cities, when other values stood out much more.

Respectability was built within family or tribal structures. Later, these values were exported to the cities where they were replaced by merits from the capitalist world.

Money is used to compensate for the lack of virtue

In ancient societies, family and clan solidarity counted above all else. Generosity, courage or benevolence were the pillars of social functioning and they took various forms. Thus, generosity could be materialized by the conveniences to be respected when one had one or more guests at home. This value also took the form of tontine, which allowed one or more members of the family to be financed in their entrepreneurial adventure.

Modernity has changed this situation. Human groups have been scattered over the territories and they no longer see themselves as part of a family group but rather as free and emancipated individuals. This emancipation from the family group pushes them to a race for honors responding to the codes of the consumer society. Enrichment is finally the main motivation to which is added the prestige of the work in question.

In a society where values have been reshuffled like the cards in a poker game, it seems to be easier to show oneself worthy by the money one has accumulated. In a society that places the value of work at the center, this shortcut might seem effective. But wealth is not the systematic result of hard work. Work is necessary, but it must be combined with a strategic vision, which is the only way to consider wealth as a possible path.

As the aforementioned traditional values tend to disappear, it has become easier to flaunt one’s worth by displaying one’s wealth. This attempt at substitution, although it works in companies, which are micro-societies in their own right, still has difficulty passing into “real society”, where family values can remain alive. Indeed, although a large part of our days are occupied with laborious tasks, we remain sensitive beings driven by the notion of the sacred and rejecting the profane when it interferes in spheres where it has no place.

Monetary wealth is still a foreign element in family relationships – at least in the majority of cases -. Although the family home is to some extent the place where capital is accumulated, it remains today a space where human values are cultivated in such a way that they infuse the rest of society.

A family whose members interact solely through the prism of money would have difficulty holding itself together. It could break up with another family offering better financial conditions, like an employee looking for a better offer. The intangible values of the family make it resilient to the onslaught of mercantile society. An individual who is only rich within a family cannot gain the respect he or she seeks. He must combine this quality with courage, generosity and benevolence. In which case, money plays a multiplier effect.

The problem of having an accounting mentality

Money can parasitize the human spirit since it can insinuate an accounting mentality, i.e. introduce the idea of gain and loss between members of the same family. In practical terms, this means doing things for profit: expecting a return on our actions and avoiding investing time in relationships because they do not directly benefit us.

This mentality is problematic because the purpose of a family is not primarily to make a profit but rather to perpetuate a culture and heritage (genetic or capital). So of course, the perpetuation of capital implies a material interest. However, this is contingent on an assimilation of family values and culture. A member who has not sufficiently assimilated the family values and culture could find himself ostracized, which would in fact compromise his eligibility to receive the family capital.

A certain selfless love is what motivates parents towards their children. Thus, an accounting mentality is hardly appropriate in such circumstances.

Having been shaped too much by corporate values sometimes makes us incompatible with embodying family values. The notion of losses and gains being generalized, it seems difficult to want to create a family by incorporating values from the economic sphere.

Having to choose between being good or being successful

The race to fame can be paved with dilemmas and other Cornelian choices in which we are forced to decide between enrichment and the corruption of some of our values. If we are not careful, we end up becoming someone else, or at least someone we do not sincerely respect. It is tempting to accept immoral proposals if they benefit us. As we make these decisions, we can really damage our reputation and self-esteem. Making the moral choice can be painful in the short term but it is often beneficial in the long term, in which case true success takes the form of a trajectory framed by our values.

Benefit from an injustice

We all benefit from one or more injustices and most often they go unnoticed. Because it is difficult to see the harm we cause when it benefits us, we can find ourselves in the camp of the oppressors without realizing it, especially if we don’t make the effort to change things. Thus, a man, whether he likes it or not, benefits from a form of privilege in most societies, especially if they are traditional. Not recognizing this reality is, in my opinion, a sign that we are part of the problem. While it is difficult to really do something for a cause, I think the idea is to put yourself in a situation where you are experiencing the injustice yourself. It could be that if a man travels to a country where people are very different from him, he will probably experience a form of discrimination – which may be partly positive – that will make him more sympathetic to people who experience other injustices.

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