If you know someone that says this it is more than likely that they grew up in a well-to-do home and never knew ‘want’. They see their ‘socialist’ views on life as something that sets them above other people, but seldom do these sanctimonious individuals pause to acknowledge how much of a privileged position they are in.
Most people do not have the privilege to follow their hearts. To do so would be selfish and indeed self-indulgent. Money is not evil, it is an enabler, having a little money can be the difference between dying and having a few more breaths on this earth.
I grew up in a poor country and was naturally frequently exposed to poverty and want. Yes, I fully acknowledge that I was raised in a relatively wealthy family but when you come from somewhere as poor as Malawi, that doesn’t mean you’re completely sheltered from the vagaries of misfortune.
Fortunately for me, the things I enjoyed in life steered me towards a career that earns decent money. If for some reason I decided to follow a self-indulgent path that did not earn money, I would at the same time be taking myself off the path that would enable me to one day contribute in real, monetary terms to my family and to my country. Yes, you can contribute in non-monetary terms but I dare you to say that to the mother that hasn't been able to feed her children for two days. When you're poor, money to purchase food and shelter is all that matters. It consumes your every thought and effort.
The needs of my own life are simple and I continually try to temper them. My biggest fantasy for when I have a real amount of money is to build a series of little libraries in Malawi because it is only through study of the written word that people can gain freedom from poverty.
Most people in Malawi and indeed in many poor countries follow the path that makes money because they don’t have the choice. They need and want to help their family. The money they earn frequently goes to help with the school fees of siblings and to purchase medical supplies for any family members that are sick. Most poor countries cannot afford a state funded medical system. Free education if it is available is frequently atrocious, you wouldn’t wish it on an enemy let alone a loved family member.
I know many including Steve Jobs proclaimed that you should follow your heart not money. I agree that this is an ideal position but most lives are less than ideal. Your family are the only people that love you unconditionally. The more selfless amongst us put our families first and ourselves last and in many cases if given the choices:
1) low-income fulfilling career but unable to contribute towards the extended family or
2) high-income less fulfilling career but able to contribute towards the extended family
Most people would choose option two because they have to. So, for those that are fortunate enough to come from a background where they don’t have to make this choice, please stop being so self-righteous and count your lucky stars.
By Heather Katsonga-Woodward
I'm always thinking, debating, considering and revising my views - some of those deliberations will be shared right here.