Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Intergenerational blindness

I am somebody who gets stressed thinking about money. I'm a bit like the shoemaker in the children's book about the rich man, the shoemaker and the bag of money. Basically, the rich man gives the shoemaker a bag of money in order to get him to stop singing while he works. Apparently the happy singing was annoying to the rich man. The burden the money bag creates stresses the shoemaker out so much that he ends up giving it back. The moral I took from the story was that happiness is worth more than money.

But, anyway, back to me. I have my own small bag of money, so to speak, and it worries me that I'm probably not investing it as wisely or ethically as I could be. So, the other day I met with a financial consultant. Somebody had recommended him as being independent and ethical, which were my two criteria. Alas, it was quickly evident that we had fairly different definitions of "ethical". I explained that I was concerned with the future of the planet and the treatment of people and wanted to invest money in enterprises that were not damaging in those areas. He talked more of "tithing" and being compassionate with people as they sorted out their wills.

I think he may have used the word "idealistic" about a hundred times in our conversation, in relation to me. He cited an example of an ethical enterprise that went belly up as reason to not even try. He was also very concerned about economic growth, and the fact that my generation was likely to live longer than his, and thus would need greater superannuation resources to draw upon. Basically my choices were, as he saw it, to either continue being a naive idealist and waste my money investing in stupid fluffy idealistic notions, ending up as a burden on society....or I could do the sensible thing and sign up with a balanced fund that his company managed for a fee of ~2%pa. Sigh.

Around the same time our esteemed Federal Treasurer released his Inter-generational Report, which predicts the future context for our economy. It too, was full of concern for a projected increase in life expectancy and the burden that our aging population would place on society by 2050. There was no mention of climate change, the growing gap between rich and poor, or increasing worldwide militarism and violence.

I actually think that if the definition of idealism is having one's head in the sand and pursuing a particular ideology regardless of the facts, then our treasurer and his colleagues are the naive idealists. Do they think, as the First Dog on the Moon Cartoon in the Guardian depicts below, that we will be contentedly serving out our retirement in bubbles floating above earth because we ignored climate change, or will those who survived the nuclear winter in their underground bunkers be grateful that we made a good return when we invested in all those armaments?

First Dog on the Moon, in the Guardian
So, I have given up the idea of finding an "independant and ethical" financial advisor. Instead, a friend who is very good at understanding complex concepts cos she's a scientist, and also shares my ethical position, has offered to share with me the findings of her research into the matter. I am now confident that I can invest my little bag of dosh in a fund that is ethical, reliable and which will set me up as not too much of a burden on society when I'm like a million years old. And, if Joe Hockey's prediction is true and I do live to a ridiculous age, I reckon it will be BECAUSE enough of us invested in future oriented enterprises now. I, for one, don't want to destroy the only planet we've got to grow old on.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Abundant Love

I have a friend who stays with me from time to time. We're not lovers, but he once told me that we might as well be. There's fondness, we share secrets and fears and joys. We cook breakfast for each other. He offers me gardening advice and I offer a sanctuary, somewhere safe to stay. We take boat rides together, or hang out at the markets.

I have other close friends too. Some live in Sydney, and we grab dinner or lunch together. Others are from out of town and come to stay from time to time. Some share a passion for justice, others for folk music, and others for camping. Some are good listeners, and others provide fashion advice, or serve amazing Chai. Each person or group strengthens different aspects of who I am, challenges and supports me in different ways.

I have been thinking about what it means to have a number of special people in my life. And I've also been thinking about how there seem to be a lot of people in the circles where I move who describe themselves as polyamorous. For them, intimate relationships are not exclusive. They say that they don't like to make demands of their main partner, or that they enjoy being intimate with lots of different people.

I don't know whether I could ever feel comfortable in a polyamorous relationship. But then I wonder whether my situation is really much different. Perhaps I am "poly-amicable" - somebody with multiple close friendships. Or maybe I'm just the recipient of abundant love. Either way, I'm grateful for all these friendships and couldn't imagine one person who would ever replace all of them.

And I don't think I'm alone in this perspective. Marriage counsellors have warned people in couples about the risks of expecting their partner to fulfil or be involved in every aspect of their life. It's healthy, I think, to maintain friendships outside of a main relationship. I remember the Kahlil Gibran poem which advises new couples to "let there be spaces in your togetherness".

So, this year I will continue to foster the dear friendships in my life, to accept the gift that each person's friendship offers and not to expect any one of them to be everything to me. If I am ever in a committed relationship again, I hope that there is space in that togetherness for all the other beautiful people in my life. If that makes me polyamorous, then, fine, I own it with pride!