Thursday, October 8, 2015

What exactly are you spending? Money? Think again...

The other night I was watching a very interesting video recommended by a friend called Human Extended Version Volume 1. Although this is a very powerful video and had many important messages and questions for us as human beings, there was one line that struck me the hardest.  Near the end of the video there was a man who really got me thinking about life and society in itself.  He was speaking generally about the economy but the human condition in itself.  He ever so thoughtfully posed the question: What exactly is money itself?  A seemingly basic question when you were brought up in a society who never questioned its origin - however I wanted to dive deeper.

He explained that money is not just a device we use to purchase materials, it was not simply a valuable stone, coin, or gold backed piece of paper.  In fact he realized that money was nothing more than a quantity of time.  This takes the idea of money back to the source - work.  When you work you are spending time helping others (bosses, managers, customers), and in compensation for your time they give you something called money that you can exchange with others who share their time to help you.  It seems simple, and not very important as it is just the "middle man" so to speak.  That basically by buying certain products we are giving parts of our lives away to obtain them.

Take for instance if I was working a minimum wage job at around 8 dollars an hour.  When I needed to buy a new shirt which on average from a typical shop is around 20 dollars - that means this shirt is worth around 3.8 hours of my life.  How much did you spend on your closet?  Time is not something you can earn or get back like money, so why do we treat employees as if they are only worth 2 or 3 shirts per day?

Using time to buy products makes me ask why certain people's time is worth much more than others.  If this is how we are to value each other in society how is it that someone who scrubs the floor all day is worth exponentially less than the boss who manages all of the housekeepers?  I do understand that certain positions need more or less experience, education, and skill to obtain and thus should be compensated greater amounts, but how many times more is too much?

When it comes to being socially responsible I want to ensure equality among those who spend their lives working for what seems to be very unequal wages and thus also must unequally spend their lives continually working for the basics instead of the luxuries.  For instance in a relatively moderate company such as a hotel the general manager typically makes over 2 times more than their hourly employees such as front desk workers or bellboys.  If you were to take this to a larger extreme such as a large shopping outlet like JCPenny, the CEO was making more than 1795 times more money than their workers for the same amount of time (David Herris Gershon, retrieved from

Overall, to be socially responsible one must think of what money really represents before deciding what employees deserve to earn.  Of course different jobs require different amounts of compensation but the effects of a wage 1000 times higher than employees can send not only the wrong message to the customers but it undervalues the lives of the employees since to earn this money they are giving up their time.  Awareness is always the start to making changes.

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