Saturday, November 5, 2011

The money

I was attacked by a pit bull when I was 5.  I'm not going to tell the whole story because it's going in the book.  But suffice to say, I spent my entire life knowing that money was coming.  I dreamed about it.  I thought about what to do with it.  I wanted to make sure that I got the absolute maximum usefulness about it.  I preplanned how to pay for college, a house... I had financial planning till I was 30 done by about 12.

Then I married Noah.  And the whole game changed.  The monthly stipend was my money through our marriage.  I never felt bad about buying the random shit I wanted because it was my money any way.  Then I got the $35,000 and I couldn't figure out what to do with it.  I haven't been able to bring myself to just pay off the time share.  It feels like an insult to who I was and what that money meant to me.  That settlement changed my life.  It was a gift from the universe.  I didn't earn it.  It's not like it's proof that I deserve to be where I am financially.

I feel like the only reason I survived was because I benefit from enormous privilege.  I have enormous survivors guilt.  Whenever someone tells me that I should have died I think about all the girls who did.  Did they die because they didn't have the hope at 18 of getting out for sure no take backs?  Did I only have the strength to fight every day because I knew that no one could take my freedom away from me.  I was god damn financially independent with $1200 every month.  That was more than my mother often made throughout my life.  I knew how to be poor.  That was easy.  If I was poor for a reason because I had a goal post in sight of when it was no longer true... that's easier.  If you have no hope of things improving, why should you bother having self restraint when you see something small you want?

This is a big part of my issues with my mother.  She has been robbing Peter to pay Paul for so long that she is incapable of managing money.  Poverty will do that to you.  I don't even think it's her fault.  But I can stand back and look at how she cycles and know it's a bad idea.

At this point in time I have no plans to go make money.  Indefinitely I am dependent on Noah entirely.  Noah makes such an obscene amount of money that I feel staggered by it.  We could survive easily on less than half of it.  And it's going to go up.  All of a sudden my money seems... so small.  Cheapened?  In the scheme of my life all of a sudden $20,000 isn't very much money.  In three years we won't be able to tell a difference in our life because of it being spent.  That's kind of disgusting.

I feel kind of disgusting.  And yet, this is the American Dream, right?  Whenever people express bitterness that everyone can't be in the same position as me I feel kind of bewildered.  I don't think I'm happier at this income than I would be at half this income.  I do more stuff.  I travel.  I fund a very comfortable retirement.  But I'm not happier.  I don't feel this magical I've arrived that I expected to feel.  I feel like a trespasser.  I feel guilty.  I feel like I have done something shameful.

I'll say frankly that a lot of the reason I feel so ashamed is the response of disgust when I say that I want to donate $20,000 people look at me like I just took a shit on the sidewalk.  Yes.  I have that to give.  This is the very last money in the world that is mine and I want to do something with it I can feel proud of.

I feel really guilty when I admit out loud that I keep having the parable, "If you give a man a fish he will eat for a day.  If you teach a man to fish he will eat for a lifetime."  Err, or some phrasing like that.  I think it would be wrong and short sighted of me to give the Occupy movement this money for things like blankets and food.  Local people with very little money to give are supplying those things.  It would improve the quality of the food and I honestly believe that's not something I should be funding.  I am not going to feel like I have made the world a better place because I spent $20,000 on high price snacks for stoners in the park, sorry.

No really.  What the fuck is Occupy Oakland doing?  I want to know what concrete things people want to get started in the community.  What outreach?  What types of demands are being made of the city?  What do people want to have happen?  I can't be one of the people out doing the work in the street and I know that.  That's not something I have to give right now.  I would have another messy nervous breakdown and that's fucking stupid.

But I'm really good at thinking through long-range planning.  And I have a very good idea of how money is most effective.  Ok.  I think I'm ready to write some emails now.  You were right, Noah.  I had to write about it.

I really hope Noah manages to hit the 1% like he thinks he will.  I will make a fucking good philanthropist.  Other people won't agree with me, and that will be ok.  This is the hard part.  That people are going to disagree.  But people disagree with every powerful person.  You have to stick to your guns. I have a vision in my head of what it means to make the world a better place with money.  It doesn't matter if other people agree with the specifics of it.  What matters is that I take action on making the world a better place.  That is what matters from everyone.

If I dilly dally and take too much advice I will never get the satisfaction of really attaining self-actualization.  If I want to take up the most space in the world I can, I can't worry about the fact that other people occasionally have to bend for me.  That has to be ok.  The balance is in finding out how much space I can take up without pushing people too far.  I don't want to shove people away.  But I do want to take up as much room as I can.  When I feel like I can't take as much room as I want to, I feel small inside.  Like I'm stepping on all the dreams I had as a child.

Why the fuck can't I shoot the moon?  I married a rich guy (I swear to fucking god it was on accident) and we are both ambitious people.  Why not?  Why can't I play a whore for a few years to push Noah up the ladder.  That's what builds him up the most from me.  I can do that.  Sure I'll trade sexual favors for performance reviews.  If that makes you smile while you work like mad, why not?  What's the problem?

And our needs are met.  If Noah never got another raise we would be fully on track to have a perfectly stable and comfortable life forever if he can work for another 10 years.  He's 35.  I'm pretty sure that's going to happen.  That means that everything from now on is extra.  We don't need it.  Noah likes to say, "And what do we call things we don't need?  A luxury!"  My entire life is about luxury.  I will be honest and say that I feel kind of embarrassed about the amount of luxury in my life.  But I'm trying to own it and be up front about it.  It's complex.

I don't know how to explain what I feel right now.  Watching the crowds stream into the port felt like a religious experience.  All those people cared so much.  And they pulled that off with very little money.  Actually, now they pulled that off partially with my money.  Because I paid for the buses.  I feel really good about that.  I feel like that is the first victory for this money.

I want this money to make a big impact.  I want it to be part of the big picture, not the stupid small details that will be handled one way or another.  I want to start learning what it means to be a big person.  I'm not there yet and I know it.  But I want it.  And that's how you start.  I don't have much influence with $20,000.  But I have enough.  I can decide which parts of Occupy Oakland I think will have the biggest long-term impact.  I can make a choice about something happening that is for the good of other people.  Yes, the argument can be made that absolutely every single part of the operation is Just As Important.  Whatever.  We disagree.  That's fine.

Now how do I do this without being an obnoxious cunt.  Because it's not my goal to make people pry this money out of my grasping fingers and that's totally how I'm making it sound.  I don't mean to.  Ok, here's an example:

One person spoke about trying to have the actual dirt removed from the public areas and have it replaced with organic soil for growing food.  That's an interesting idea.  It will require working with the city though, because if the city ignores that you did that and comes along and does business as usual next week... err... that was wasted fucking money.  Dead serious.  I'm not interested in funding something that make hippies feel good about themselves for a few weeks.  I don't care if that sounds bitchy.  I want to know what agreements can be reached with the city for continued maintenance.  I want to know how that will be handled going forward.  And then that sounds like the kind of thing I would fucking love to pay for.  That aligns so perfectly with my value system it isn't funny.

More blankets... not so much.

But the movement is just getting started.  Right now they are still focused on short-term logistics and they feel resentful of me having a different timeline.  I get that.  But it's my money and I have to feel good about how it is spent.  When I feel good about how it is spent my response is, "Oh you spent your rent money on those buses?  If you walk with me back to my car I can give you a check for that.  I'm sorry I left my check book in my car.  That was kind of stupid of me."

I don't want to haggle forever.  I want to haggle until I am satisfied.  I want to feel like *I* receive the maximum joy from spending this.  Too much haggling means it isn't fun any more.  I want to haggle just enough.  Ok.  That's awesome.  I think I know what I want to do.  I want to send an email saying that at the next GA I would like someone neutral to say that this crazy lady wants to hear proposals for concrete things Occupy Oakland can start doing in the community in the next couple of weeks with $1,000-$5,000 start up capital on a given idea.  How would the money be spent?  What are the long-term implications of using the money this way?  How would it be maintained after Occupy moves out of the park (if that happens)?  I will accept them via email.  I need to have a form I want filled out.  Hmm.  Ok, what is that going to look like.

What need in the community do you see that you would like to fill:
How many people will be needed to see this through:
How much money do you think you will need?  How will you spend it?  Be specific:
How will this project be able to exist in six months?  A year?  Five years:
Do you believe this project is one that is likely to find funding in other places when I run out of money?  How do you plan to pursue that issue:

And I will decide which ones sound like things I want to fund and which ones are not well thought out.  I won't be the most popular person there, but oh well.  I don't want to be popular.  I want to be effective.


  1. So I read your post about your run-around with trying to donate to Occupy Oakland, and here is the best info I could come up with:

    My father is involved with one of the major Oakland unions and by extension has contact with the Occupy Oakland movement. I spoke to him about donating to the movement, and he said the best way to donate was through their website, - the problem is that you can't earmark funds. However, if you go to Long Haul in Berkeley (click donate on the Occupy Oakland site and there is info about Long Haul), who are coordinating the donations, you might be able to have more say in where your money goes.

    Hope this helps a little.

  2. I think I get it more, now. Part of my response at first, which I didn't quite articulate, was that while most of the small needs are being met, to me it feels really up in the air for how long they will be. Around here, there's the big question of whether the occupation will make it through the winter, and that's a combined matter of things like tents and heaters and the few really committed people not getting too burnt out, whatever that takes. So that's why I think the small things are important...not that somebody gets a better snack, but that they add up to whether this thing continues or not. But, I see what you're saying about ambition, could gamble on whether the whole thing is going to "pay off" or you can do your own thing, and have more control over whether at least your part does. Diversity of tactics! And honestly, I take no issue whatsoever with what you're currently suggesting. It took me a while to really understand my feelings about the other thing, and I think it mostly came down to that different people's efforts might sort of cancel each other out...your money, vs the personal sacrifices (I.e. Jail) that other people made to do what they thought was right, etc.

    I also feel for you, though, because I've been in the position of getting shit for trying to donate valuable stuff in not the exact way that people wanted it, and it sucks. Don't envy you that, sorry.

  3. Thanks for your honesty and generosity. I would love to see this movement explode (in a good way), and your donation is a great incentive to think of the future. I think a lot of folks of privilege have struggled to navigate through the camp and movement because of social and lifestyle differences, but what unites us is greater: wanting a decent life for everyone. Please be proud of your ethics instead of ashamed of privilege you do not control.

  4. Thanks! I do think that I am approaching this in the diversity of tactics sense. I don't understand trying to narrow the focus at this point. Excluding things to do seems silly.

    I'm looking forward to more conversations as the week goes on. I've been presented with several really neat ideas that I'm following up on. This is terribly exciting.