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I have long been saying that money is not the tits — as in, not the main thing you have to focus on, which turns out to be an amusingly inappropriate metaphor in the context — so i would like to extend a big heartfelt THANK YOU for Sasha Pasulka‘s post called “Hey, Guys, it’s totally Okay if you don’t get rich“. She compares the expectation that men will get those impossible fortunes in their almost-30s to the expectations that women will be airbrush-skinny and beautiful.

Her point is that while our culture is terrible with women at least there is some awareness of the problem, but that the same culture is also unfair to men but in that case no one talks about it at all.

If anything, i think her argument is conservative. It feels like the problem is so great that she actually prefers to tackle it by allusion, when for example she just drops the immense cruelty (and shallowness) of trying to buy friendship or love.

Present gender roles and stereotypes are just not healthy. Self-development as a real person — the sort of development that makes it clear how much you are not your wallet or your liposuction — self-development has always been hard and it will still be hard regardless, but those prejudices are so bad it is almost unbelievable.

Also, the impossible-standard for men is to have too much while for women is to be too thin? So to discuss women’s problems i would address desire and to discuss men’s i would have to mention economy? Even the screwedness of this picture is screwed. This is definitely the kind of situation that could trigger my feminist ranting mode…

That money has an overblown place at our table is old news. But i think it also has an overblown place at women’s.

Every single time i tried to sneak a real sociology or economy concept into a discussion about money my interlocutor became completely deaf. We live with deep layers of misconception about money: it is not what we construe it to be. That men feel inadequate about “not being a success with less than a bazillion dollars” shows that money is not about buying at all, money itself is completely useless (as by definition, actually). What matters is showing that you have loads of it, exactly as a peacock is eager to showcase his excess of feathers. But peacocks tails are expensive-signalling, the kind of display that works because it is actually hard to get, and i can’t help but wondering: Isn’t money also expensive signalling? Is a lot of cash actually a good sexual display exactly because having a lot of cash makes your life worse?

Paul Graham wrote that money has a tendency to become the top idea on someone’s mind. That is, once you start thinking about it, you’ll only think about it. In Siona’s sage words: “once you acquire a marketplace soul, the suk is the whole of existence”. Graham shrugs it off to the assumption that money is hard to get, so thoughts go there because that is an important thing. I believe he is wrong.

I think the connection between thoughts and money is akin to our addiction to sugar. Even though eating as much sugar as we have available today is a terrible thing for our bodies, sugar is a very direct source of energy, of pure calories. Just like sugar, money is a short-cut: The main benefits without most of the nuisance. Our brain locks into is not because it is important, but because brains are made to look for short-cuts on the first place. Just like when we look at a landscape we see the small house on the right, not the grass that is 80% of the picture. It is not that we need money, it is that money is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once you started thinking about it, it actually looks like it is important: Why else would someone actually think about it so much?

So, as i do not believe the illusion of money will go away, i pose the 2 or 3 readers that got so far as this last paragraph: Instead of the “you are a success if you have 1M by 25”, what could we have? What would be a sane role-model for bright young man at the dawn of the 21st century?


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