I don’t like money, actually, but it quiets my nerves. –Joe Louis
Perhaps the most uncynical of the quotations in my last post was the one above, attributed to the late Joe Louis, heavyweight boxing champion 1937-49. I can picture Louis saying those words, first of all because as a boy during the 1940s, I remember him well, and second, because he was born dirt-poor in rural Alabama, a grandson of former slaves, had a childhood speech impediment, and moved to Detroit as a 12 year old after a Ku Klux Klan experience. As an adult, he suffered from financial mismanagement (to put it charitably) by his boxing handlers, which led to years of heavy indebtedness and hounding by the IRS for back taxes. Given this background, one can understand where that quote was coming from.
What may be less easy to understand is the money-motive that economist John Maynard Keynes called “The love of money as a possession — as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life” — which is elaborated upon by psychoanalyst Adam Phillips in “Money Mad,” a chapter in his book GOING SANE. The money for-its-own-sake obsession has long struck me as shallow and superficial, but Phillips goes further (as befits a psychoanlyst), calling it an aberration “in which the bad is made to seem good; in which what was once considered to be most distasteful about people — the callous ruthlessness of their greed, say — begins to be described as morally impressive.”
He continues, ” What one is loving when one loves money begs all the questions: power, prestige, invulnerability, independence, glamour — all these ideals involve asking in turn what each of these represent a desire for. Rather than being a love akin to other loves, a love for money may be a new kind of love [appetite] altogether — a love that destroys the capacity for all the other kinds of love that preceded it.”
“We should not be tempted into believing that there is something natural and normal about the insatiability of our appetites. Human beings can even get pleasure from ruining their own and other people’s appetites. Since money always promises something other than itself — it is only, as we say, worth what it can buy — it seems to protect us from the fear of there being nothing we want. A world in which there is a scarcity of need, a world in which wanting is a futile passion, is more terrifying than a world in which there is a scarcity of resources.”
Since I don’t want this little seminar to come off sounding like a sermon, I will stop here and simply recommend GOING SANE as a thought-stimulating and readably profound book on sanity and madness, including money madness.
Nonetheless, money makes….