Most of us enjoy having money. It is an astonishing tool. More money can equal more food, more fun, and much more status and power. We can even prefer it to love. We know it can positively affect our health. Money brings abundant privileges.
I believe that money comes with significant responsibilities. Where, with whom, and how do we spend, invest, or share?
Schools teach us its mechanics. Religions teach us to give something back. The economic system teaches us to want to have more.
What our dominant education, economic, and religious systems gloss over is that all money ultimately comes from the exploitation of the natural world and of other humans. It may have gone through many filters before it reaches us. But our inherent responsibility to understand who, how, where, why, and how much is enough never goes away.
Our awareness, expertise and wisdom around the exercise of responsibility for our money, beyond how we safeguard it, is significantly underdeveloped.
Our handling of money represents us as citizens, as spiritual beings, and as ancestors to future generations. We can learn to understand who we spend our money with and how they use it.
Have you ever thought about the ‘side effects’ of where every dollar or pound comes from?
My bank is representing me with where they invest my money. I know that the manufacturing of the computer I typed this article on likely helps cause cancer. Breakfast reaches my plate and contributes to the harm of someone else’s children. My dependence on fossil fuels is harming the environment for future generations.
Guilt? Only temporarily useful if at all. Shame? Similar. Willful ignorance? Overwhelmed at the enormity of it all? Or shall we commit to understanding better the impact around our money?
There are many different forms of morality, ethics, and citizenship.
My choice is first about continual inquiry. Increasing our personal consciousness can empower us to make more informed choices. Then I can learn to do better. I can make choices that promote long-term change. Next, I can turn my privilege towards being a force for justice and generational sanity.
Let’s all strive to be models and mentors for reinventing economic behaviour, how opportunity is shared, and true stewardship of the commons.
Most of all, let’s engage in this inquiry.
Joel Solomon is chairman of Renewal Funds, Canada’s largest social venture capital firm. Launching in 2013, Renewal3 and the Instinct Fund now build upon the legacy of aligning money with values established by Renewal2 and Renewal Partners.