Money talks if you choose to listen

Tuesday, November 30, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:04 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 12, 2008

We’ve heard the saying that the golden rule means that he who has the gold rules. Lots of us, who have fought against accepting this idea for most of our lives, have finally had to cave in. It’s true; money talks.

But now that we have come to the understanding that things really are that way, we need to define how this philosophy works in our lives by examining what money can and cannot buy.

Can money buy peace of mind? Money can oil the tracks by which peace can travel. It can pay off debts, which is one of the greatest roadblocks in the path. It may not cure health problems, but it can certainly provide as much comfort as possible to alleviate the distress.

Can money buy love? Money can enable one to hire people to accommodate one’s desires. Because affairs of the heart sometimes have a short life span because of financial stresses, perhaps adjusting is needed to a new way of thinking about what is wanted in relationships. What’s more important: emotional safety or financial security?

The importance money has in our daily existence sometimes requires examining the role it plays in determining the success or failure of our life plan. I have some young friends who sincerely thought their greatest chance at happiness was to attempt to acquire a million dollars before turning 25. They settled down, planned and worked hard to achieve that goal.

By the time they reached their mid-20s, they had fallen somewhat short of their goal, but they were satisfied enough with their progress to agree to stay the course. Their friends, on the other hand, had opted to marry and start families and were also successful in their goals. All of the parties say they are happy with their choices, but the couple who chose marriage has endured challenge after challenge brought on by job and money concerns. As the polarization of our society continues, I find it necessary to speak in more culturally specific language even on general subjects. In our divided society, I see more evidence that this new surge of divisiveness is striking at increasingly deeper levels, forcing us to re-examine the racial, sexual and ethnic progress of the past few decades.

So, when I speak of my experiences of growing into adulthood in the world I knew, I realize it is not necessarily common to the experiences of those who grew up in another kind of world. But for a long time, it wasn’t necessary to say so. Happiness in my world was not contingent upon having a good investment plan, health-insurance coverage and an outstanding stock portfolio. It had to do with having warm relationships with friends and family, a job that provided a living wage and a caring community with an opportunity to learn and grow.

Now, the mere task of keeping a roof over the family domain often requires the heads of the household to hold down two or three jobs in some communities. In others, it requires the heads of corporations to keep the workforce trimmed down so the bottom line remains strong and they can earn obscene bonuses. Obsessing about money at one level or another has become a full-time occupation for many.

In this money-driven environment, it’s difficult to foresee who will be the future leaders. We have already reached the point where health is being sacrificed on the altar of money; even though we can afford medicine, we can no longer trust government agencies or the health-care industry to provide us with safe drugs.

I really have no confidence in a future where billionaires call all the shots. Whatever family values will remain after they have marketed pornography, war and human suffering won’t provide a sufficient basis on which to sustain a humane civilization. It will present itself as no more than a technically advanced state of barbarism where people will be taught to eat their young before the young eat them.

On the other hand, there are millions of people who say fervently that our country is on the right track for global domination. This gives me no sense of comfort. Perhaps this is because I never entertained a desire for superiority over others.

I’m not sure that, in the end, having the most money will provide us with the kind of safety and security we want for our future generations. But that will be a decision the majority will make and the rest of us will either live with or perish.

Time will tell.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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