gwynnie bird

on money

I've really tried to find a way to avoid writing about this because it brings up lots of things, which is unsurprising. I told myself that if I was going to put affiliate links on my website, that I needed to be clear about why I was doing so (which I do get to below). As someone who is offering both relational access to myself, writings and goodies on my site in exchange for money, I think it only fair that I address it openly and vulnerably.

Maybe what's more important is that I be very clear on something I do not think money to be: I don't see it as a form of energy. In fact, I distinctly recoil when I hear it referred to as such. Before I go on, please know that I am not trying to be THE voice on this, or the RIGHTEST about it. This is my take on stuff, and offered for transparency and pondering. 

Money is a tool of power, filtered into individual lives via socio-political systems which govern how resources are valued and exchanged. Any money going anywhere has moved through the values of the governing body which controls it. By the time it reaches the hands of individuals, it will have already gained momentum or been restricted in movement according to how it is distributed. It never comes free of its context. Because money is what is often exchanged for labor, how we view and value different forms of labor are also a filter for how money comes into a person's life. 

When we equate money with energy, we lose that context. We lose the nuanced understanding that $20 for someone navigating poverty likely represents and shit ton of work and energy and contemplation of where that $20 should go and how it can be maximized for survival,etc. while $20 for someone who has some form of economic safety lacks the same relational dependency for survival as there are other $20s that can be counted on. It presupposes that the same energy was produced to obtain the $20 by anyone who has it to offer. It also upholds overly simplistic and damaging beliefs that individuals cause their own poverty by not working hard enough (expending energy). Calling money energy obliterates the bazillion things that we as humans do that require energy but are not paid, again, we return to what labor is considered worth valuing. If you have ever walked alongside someone navigating a disability hearing, you see exactly how little money is actually a tool of energy, but of power. Because if we see someone whose daily existence requires levels of concentration and energy that exceed a non-disabled person's needs, and we think that money is energy, wouldn't we want to level the playing field? Wouldn't we be heavily investing financially in folks for whom higher demands are placed on their energy reserves? 

So, i get the desire to move away from the complexity of 'money.' Because it is filtered through the unresolved traumatization of white supremacy, capitalism, ableism, patriarchy, etc. There are so many paradoxical reactions both culturally and personally to money, that avoiding it is considered the politest thing to do it seems. I can't speak universally of course (I am indebted to my friends with different cultural values who have shared some variances on the white-bootstraps-individualistic ways of money that I was raised around), but suppressing vulnerable explorations of money and surrounding it with fences built by shame by conflating it with self-worth is cruel. 

I have spent much of my life moving between poverty and lower middle class (my mid thirties during a period of stable employment). I have served folks struggling with poverty in the 15 years I worked with non-profits. I have never met a lazy person. I have never met someone who was not expending energy. I have never met someone in these circumstances who needed to magnetically attract money to them as in order to transform their circumstances. These notions are not benign and are rooted in white-supremacist capitalist forms of power and de-valuation.

From 2015-2017 I offered almost 700 folks donation based or sliding scale herbal consultations. Over 40% of folks were on a fixed income, struggling with poverty and systemic oppression and able to contribute around $20. About 12% of folks I served were not able to contribute financially. No one who was able to offer higher financial contributions put more energy or labor into their consultations that then folks who had less money to offer. Everyone put in energy. 

And, one thing that I discovered is that exchanging units of time for set quantities of money was really hard. I don't think it's talked about enough, but holding intense relational experiences 

So, I have been trying to explore, as a person who has systemic privilege and mobility via whiteness, and struggles with mental and physical health,  and lacks economic security what relational perimeters feel right in the exchange of money between myself and another. One question I asked myself was how I could increase income potential