A dreadful question I know, but one that comes up regularly in discussions about work/life balance and, more importantly, money/happiness debates.
The question is at the heart of where you prioritise: family and community or work and wealth.
It came up again during the last few weeks of scandal in the City, and the conversation went something like this.
Isn’t it strange how people seem happier the poorer they are?
If you look at any area where people are poor, they have a real sense of community.
They all look out for each other and there’s lots of support amongst the community.
On the other hand, the more professional or wealthy you become, the more you become selfish.
You lose that sense of community and you just become very insular.
It’s probably to do with selfishness, in that you become motivated by money rather than happiness.
You seek more wealth by dominating and hoarding, pursuing self-interest and focusing purely on what you have rather than what is around you.
When you lose that money focus, you focus upon what is around you: your family, friends, neighbours and community.
This is why the work-life balance is so hard to manage.
You work to earn money. The more you work, the more money you have but the less life you live.
You cannot nurture friends, family and community if all you do is work.
And then the real question is: who’s going to be at your funeral?
You know when you cop it that the only ones who will come to your funeral will be your friends, family and community.
Work colleagues, if they are still around, will be too busy working and hoarding to bother.
The conversation went on a lot longer than this – yes, you guessed it, it’s summertime philosophy over bottles of wine – but it struck me that there may be something in this, as it brings me back to one of my favourite financial philosophers: Bernard Lietaer.
Bernard has been expounding the idea of community currencies for years, along with other leading thinkers in this space such as Magrit Kennedy.
The idea of a community currency is that it focuses upon nurturing the long-term sustainability of the community or, in a global context, this planet earth.
You can read all about it in previous blog entries:
- Community Currencies, a thing of the future
- The Long Now of Finance
- Can we confidently create ways of investing for the long-term?
The reason why this is important today is that we talk about social networks, but these are not networks. They are communities.
And the term community has a very particular meaning as it is derived from two Latin words: cum which means together, and munus which means gift.
So a community provides gifts to each other in order to ensure stability and happiness.
A community looks after the weak and ill through the gift of caring from the strong and healthy.
This is why the word community today is defined in various ways, but here’s the Wikipedia view:
The term community describes a group of interacting people, living in some proximity (i.e., in space, time, or relationship). Community usually refers to a social unit larger than a household that shares common values and has social cohesion.
In human communities, intent, belief, resources, preferences, needs, risks, and a number of other conditions may be present and common, affecting the identity of the participants and their degree of cohesiveness.
Since the advent of the Internet, the concept of community has less geographical limitation, as people can now gather virtually in an online community and share common interests regardless of physical location. Prior to the internet, virtual communities (like social or academic organizations) were far more limited by the constraints of available communication and transportation technologies.
The word "community" is derived from the Old French communité which is derived from the Latin communitas (cum, "with/together" + munus, "gift"), a broad term for fellowship or organised society. Some examples of community service is to help in church, tutoring, hospitals, etc.
In other words, by focusing upon others in the community rather than yourself, you become an integral part of the network recognised for the value you are giving, rather than the value you are taking out of it.
Back to the City and this whole debate about bonuses, governance, insider trading, fraud, rate fixing and more and you can now see where this is all coming from.
If a bank is to behave in the future, they need to recognise their role in the community (not society or the economy) and think about who’s going to come to their funeral (bearing in mind they have a 'living will').