January - February 2008
Mad over money

Time for change

AS in barya. That’s what most Pinoys have in their pockets at the start of each year — that is, if there is anything there at all. After that bacchanalia that we call our extended Christmas season, we usually face each coming year with full hearts but empty coffers. It does take a few more days for that reality to sink in, but when it finally does…well, some political observers have said that’s why Edsas 1 and 2 were successful.

Money does make many of us mad, as in angry and insane. The lack of it especially drives us to both conditions (although having a surplus of lucre is not necessarily a guarantee that one would always be in control of one’s faculties). A human invention meant to contribute to societal order (by way of assigning a more definite value to goods or services), it has given rise to conflict and violence, even as it helped nations develop and individuals realize their dreams.

British novelist and journalist James Buchan was even moved to observe some 10 years ago, “As a means, I saw that money was almost absolute: it could realize every fantasy of creation or murder. It could even give life, in the sense that hundreds of millions of people would not be alive today — could not be fed — but for the pattern of world trade made possible by money.”

But he also noted, “(At) this moment of extreme abstraction, it was transforming once again: into an absolute end. Money was valued not for its power to fulfill wishes: rather it was a goal of all wishes. Money was enthroned as the god of our times.”

For the next couple of weeks or so, i Report will focus on the pieces of metal and paper that have been said to make the world go ‘round (and Pinoys to go overseas). We will look at some of the effects of having no money, which is the more familiar situation for many Filipinos, and how some people have tried to address or cope with those effects. There will also be stories on people’s attempts to make money, while an expert or two will try to explain things like why many of us feel so poor even as government officials insist that the economy is improving.

It’s time to admit we are mad over money, in more ways than one.