What we’re really talking about when we talk about budget culture.
Good for you to acknowledge then say what you've been afraid to say. I have found, and keep finding, that once you see something, say a truth, you can't unsee it. Though watching the Matrix again last night I was reminded that some do want to unsee things (the character who betrays Morpheus to the machines) and all those people who are still part of the construct are opportunities for the machines to use them as tools for the matrix. So standing out can be dangerous, uncomfortable, scary. I feel ya.
"All those ways life never seemed to quite add up? Those were capitalism." <-- So jealous that I didn't write this...
But seriously, YES to this whole piece. Have you read Mark Fisher's Capitalist Realism? It meshes perfectly with what you wrote in that examines why it's so hard to imagine any way of living that's NOT capitalism. Highly recommend!
Yes yes yes to all of this. I have had the interesting position of having to teach high school personal finance classes for the past 3 semesters and this post helped me see why it felt like such a bad fit for me - I wasn’t allowed to rant about capitalism while also being forced to teach budgeting. I’m leaving this position thank goodness - the way we are supposed to teach this content just doesn’t fit my moral compass.
Thank you for naming it! And fit sharing Tricia Hersey's brilliant work. Found you on Notes - subscribe!
Oh my goodness, I loved this piece. And then I heard it in your voice on the Make Money Better podcast and loved it even more!
I remember the first time I heard the term "resource hoarding" as a different way to frame "wealth accumulation" as a goal for the winner-take-all beneficiaries of our system. It was a mindshift!
Back in the late 90's I worked for a couple of years at a trust company, and I was helping to distribute funds from charitable giving accounts. While I enjoyed getting to know the nonprofits that were recipients of the funds, I was disturbed that these boards of decision-makers were mostly white men. They had little to no knowledge of how the funds were being used operationally (and it was my job to report on that, based on my analysis of finances and site visits).
Many of them sat on the boards of these charities, and didn't seem to be bothered that they didn't recuse themselves from decisions that were self-serving. While I didn't have words for it then, even though they were not receiving direct financial benefit, they received the benefit of status that these board leaderships conferred in the community.
Working for a trust company, I learned a lot about money and investments, and how wealthy people maintain their wealth. I also learned about the "family legacies" that were passed down, and how it was possible that all these white people owned multiple homes. Meanwhile my parents could never afford the down payment for a home so their resources couldn't accumulate as an asset, but were spent instead.
I left that job after Senator Wellstone's plane went down during that terrible time in 2002. I felt like my eyes were being opened to the way in which I was helping to maintain a system I knew was unjust.
As a small business owner, I've deeply wanted to develop assets and intellectual property that can uplift under-represented and culturally diverse people with different abilities. And while I have worked toward this, I deeply question the systemic barriers that exist for so many. I also appreciate receiving so much financial aid for an excellent education, and support for my pursuits through my family and community that not everyone can access.
Back in my college days, I used "democratic socialist" to describe my political leanings. Then I didn't feel I could explain that position given the negativity so many people associate with that term. And even now, I totally relate to this notion of being viewed as "kooky."
I'm embracing the part of my lineage that views our "property" and assets as something we borrow during our lifetime, and return when we depart. Our reciprocity to our communities and to the land we occupy so often gets missed in the capitalist framework. Even charitable giving gets commodified as a status marker, rather than being seen as a grateful and graceful act from those who have been given so much (and partially earned it through their work).
Maybe we will need to invent new terms to envision and create a system where people can benefit from what they create, but not in ways that hurt our ecosystems, or perpetuate poverty and injustice. Thanks so much for your thoughtful work! Didn't mean to go so long here, but you really got me thinking!!