Sunday, November 04, 2018

Entry Ticket

When I stopped working for money four years ago, I had to dramatically cut my expenses. The reality is working is expensive. In the line of work I was in, I had to live in a Global City (London). Rent is more expensive where everyone else needs to be. There is the cost of commuting and the cost of looking the part - suits, etc. You tend to be time poor - so less home cooked meals from scratch, and more paying other people to do things for you.

An overlooked expense is the 'Entry Ticket' cost of your circle of friends and colleagues. In London, a pint of beer will cost around £4 or £5 minimum. A fairly standard meal with a friend will cost at least £20-30 if you are being frugal. 'Thinking in Rands' was really hard when, as a Soutie, I returned to the UK from South Africa.

I am very conscious of the idea of Conspicuous Consumption. In South Africa, 80% live below the Living Wage level (R3,807), 55% of people live on less than the Upper Bound Poverty Line (R1,138), and 40% live on below the Lower Bound Poverty Line (R758) (africacheck.org). As a Soutie, it is easy to say the "Entry Ticket" in the UK is higher. Those figures in pounds, depending on the exchange rate, are about £200 a month for a living wage, about £60 for the upper bound poverty line, and about £40 for the lower pound.

So it is difficult to meet a friend for dinner in London, and spend less than 40% of people in South Africa live on for a month. South Africa is famous for its inequality. The 'World Champions'. But the World is equally unequal to the most unequal country in the world. We just think, and justify, locally. In a connected world, you can send £40 to someone in South Africa in less time than it takes to drink a £5 pint. And South Africa is not even close to the poorest country in the World.

Even after stopping work, there were various expenses I couldn't cut... and remain connected to my community. The Entry Ticket prices remain. My family is scattered on each side of a big pond. I have friends all over this rock we live on. I don't want to not see them again.

I am thinking aloud. This is not something I have solved. I like the idea of being a 'Half Hearted Fanatic'. There is no point in being a martyr. That is quite selfish in fact. To be the most use to people, you have to look after yourself. You also have fixed expenses you have no choice but to pay without the tough decision of cutting yourself off. Equally, we need to chip away at the poverty in the world. My chosen focus is learning about Universal Basic Income, and Community Wealth Funds. I was able to empower myself by building sufficient Capital to pay myself a Basic Income. Sufficient Capital to free my Labour. This Basic Income allows me to focus on issues that are difficult to communicate, and hard to monetise, but close to my heart.

Money itself is smoke and mirrors. What really matters is the difference between what we create and what we spend. Reinvestment and building. If you earn £10,000 a month and also spend that, you are as far from Financial Security as someone who earns R3,800 a month, and spends that. Perhaps further because reducing your spending has "Entry Ticket" costs. In theory, you can move to a cheaper country. In theory, you can move out of your neighbourhood that has become increasingly expensive to live in. In theory, you could quit your job and go live in an Ashram and teach Yoga. Spend next to nothing completely inconspicuously.

But gaining Financial Security is not a simple case of picking a new life from a menu. It is a tough, social, and emotional journey. It is a communal journey. It is about asking tough questions about how we spend our money. Tough questions about how we spend our time. Tough questions about what we expect of people, and what we offer. I believe the tools are there to solve these challenges. The hardest questions are internal ones. Why if the tools are available do we spend so much time shouting at each other? Why are we trying to burn things down rather than build things up?
I believe the way to end Poverty is directly. If we can figure out how to finance the bare minimum to allow everyone to participate in society. To participate in a connected, interdependent society. This is not a Utopian Ideal. We have a painful history of Imperialism, Slavery, Mercantilism, Nationalism, Feudalism, Fascism, Communism, Laissez-Faire Capitalism, and various other ideological feuds to learn from. We are slowly building institutions, laws, and constitutions that treat people better and make us work as better Custodians. We fail. We learn. We change. We cooperate.

We can look around the world at Best Practices. We can learn from each other. We can get better at listening. The tools are here. The intent is here. We are getting better at communicating. We are getting less prejudice. Our eyes are being opened to the people beyond our horizons we are connected to.

Let's take what we have learnt, and build.


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