My seven year old son asked me today: ‘Why do we have to have money in the world?’ He went on to question why people didn’t just exchange the things they had for the things they wanted. Like a farmer giving the food he grows to a doctor who in turn gives the farmer medicine when he is sick.
Astonished and excited at his huge question we then continued an hour long discussion about poverty, footballers’ pay, greed, human nature, the value of certain skills above others, equality of pay, the need for reward and much more. He then clearly stated one of the biggest causes of financial imbalance in our world today.
‘Some people get paid so much more than other people because they are popular.’
Having uttered this mature and insightful observation he then returned to childish simplicity by asking why the Queen did not say that it is against the law to be greedy and anybody who is greedy would be put in prison. Simplistic and unrealistic though this idea is, It would perhaps have done us some good if certain greedy people in the financial sector were not let off so lightly.
If you think of the pay that a person receives as being a reflection of society’s value of that particular skill it is pretty dire to consider what we value most as a nation. A round plastic ball filled with hot air and 11 men running around after it; singers, some of whom lack the ability to sing and include a woman who wears raw meat as clothes and super models who are of abnormal and unhealthy weight and valued predominantly for their looks alone.
These things seem so strange to a child, problems have simple solutions. People should just stop being greedy. People in Brazil should just arrest anybody cutting down the rain forest. We should just use computers to write everything and not use paper any more. Countries should make it illegal to go to war. They should make a law that anyone with lots of money has to give some away to poor people. These are the solutions that my son has for the world and it is hard some times explaining to him why his black and white solutions just wont work.
Yet it would be so amazing if all of us took just half the interest in society, economics, distribution of wealth, politics and the environment. My son often says to me ‘But Mummy, why doesn’t any body do anything?’ and really there are two answers to his question. The first is that most of us are too ignorant to really understand what is going on or how to go about changing it. The second is that we are all quite happy to let things continue as long as nothing too major disrupts our present comfort.
If you’ve got a child that asks difficult questions then I’d love to hear from you.