The tragedy of our time is that everything revolves around money. At least that is what we have been taught and as if to confirm this, sadly, very little functions in the absence of money.

As children at school we used to sing “it’s love that makes the world go round,” but as adults, we have changed the chorus to “money makes the world go round.”

Consequently, we are constantly being groomed to fit into the world’s financial system. From the time we are born, our minds are taught that money is everything and whatever we do must be for the singular purpose of making money. Anything that does not result in money is a wasted effort. Throughout our lives, we are groomed to think about and make money. From the time we enter this world, every decision our parents and those who care about us make is aimed at positioning us to make money in future. The education we attain and the exposure we get is influenced by how much we could possibly make. We study subjects we are not interested in and engage in actions we are not passionate about for the sake of money. Personally, I know many people who studied medicine and law, not because they wanted to be doctors and lawyers, but because their parents felt they would make more money in those professions, needless to say times have changed and this is not necessarily the case anymore.

Throughout adulthood, we are judged according to the amount of money we earn, the more we have, the more successful we are. Our minds have been conditioned to believe that money is the only measure of success. You may be a talented writer, a gifted painter, a brilliant engineer or a fast runner but without money, the world remains blind to your achievements and you are branded a failure.

Of course with money comes respect. The world’s greatest buffoon becomes a king while madness becomes socially acceptable simply because a person has money. We go out of our way to demonstrate to the next person, how much money we have and spend on all sorts of frivolities to fit in with those in the same income bracket. We invest in gadgets we’ll never use and splurge on what we do not necessarily enjoy, just to prove who we are in line with the money we make.

Not surprisingly, money has become one of those things we believe we cannot do without. True, very little can be achieved without money in this world, but sadly, we have made money our security. The problem, as I see it, is that we humans have put so much faith in money that we only feel secure when we know there is something in our bank accounts and in our pockets, even if we are not even going to use it. The thought of leaving the house without money is unfathomable to say the least. I do not think many of us, particularly urbanites, can imagine what it would be like to spend a week without money – whether in cash or plastic form. We derive a sense of security from knowing that we’ve got something stashed close by for a rainy day.

Not only has money become our source of security, but it is also the very cause of our insecurity. Oftentimes, we cannot handle the discomfort that comes with knowing that we have no money in our pockets, even for one day. When we realize that our account balance has dwindled, we start imagining all sorts of unforeseen emergencies, then we make a plan to ensure that the money is replenished so that we can be “cushioned” against such emergencies and feel comfortable and secure again.

I do not think many of us can wake up in the morning and go about our business without ever worrying about how much is in our wallets.

Recently, I underwent a kind of test. Having thrown all my money into the biggest asset I’ve ever invested in, I was left penniless. In Zimbabwe everything revolves around cash and there are not many credit facilities so purchasing large assets is not easy. So, come pay day, I just moved money from my account to that of the seller and that was it. I was left with no money. Call it unwise, but I had no option. I just managed to buy a few groceries to sustain me and fuel the car for the month but beyond that, I will not have money to eat out, have an occasional glass of wine, spoil myself with a new outfit or go out for some fun with friends – at least not until the next pay cheque comes. So, I will be penniless for a whole month.

Naturally, the realization brought some stress with it. I fret so much that it affected my body almost to the point of sudden menstruation. My hands and feet swelled to the point that I could not comfortably wear closed shoes, a wrist watch or dress rings. On visiting the doctor, I was told I need counseling. Frankly speaking, I do not need counseling. The counselor’s words will not put a dime in my pocket. What I need is one of two things. Its either I get some money to perpetuate my false sense of security, or I simply change my values and stop thinking of money as my sole security. After doing the maths using every formula I could remember and still failing to make my finances balance, I decided on the latter. I will not worry about money but will work with what I have. If the basic necessities of life are food, clothes and shelter, then my needs are adequately taken care of.

As I pondered on this, I realized that having money as security is an urban myth. It occurred to me that it is  possible to have peace of mind even without a cent in one’s pocket. How many people in rural areas live on less than a dollar a day and still manage to survive?How many people in rural areas live on less than a dollar a day and still manage to survive? I have heard of people in rural areas who can live for months without exchanging a single dollar. They grow their own food and barter for most services. Not only that, their lives are less complicated and they are generally healthier and happier than most urban folk.

Having realized this, let me see how I will manage to live without money for a month. Will I die? I think not.

Written by Matilda Moyo
29 September 2010