On International Migrants Day, these three powerful pieces explore different aspects of financial insecurity, from the difficulties of phoning home as an asylum seeker to alternative systems for measuring value.
International Migrants Day is observed on December 18th for the anniversary of the UN General Assembly resolution 45/158 on the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
This International Migrants Day, three Write to Life members reflect upon the role of money in their lives.
Poverty is one of the main issues that asylum seekers and refugees face when migrating to the United Kingdom. Asylum seekers cannot work or study in the country until a decision has been made by the Home Office. Meanwhile, they are expected to live off five pounds a day.
These three powerful pieces explore different aspects of this challenge, from the difficulties of phoning home as an asylum seeker to alternative systems for measuring value.
Imagine, if we were never needed to support one another, what would happen then? Everyone would remain selfish and arrogant; also, after a while, no one would experience the meaning of words such as kindness or love.
“Living as a poor man” Shahab
'I'd like to live as a poor man with lots of money' (Picasso)
We – according to our consciousness of our human existence – are 'the supreme creature' living in this world.
And yet, as we know, our physical bodies still need basic requirements, like food and oxygen, to stay alive.
Assume that the person in front of you is in desperate need of help. They have physical needs – and they also need spiritual nutrition, but the difference between spiritual and physical nutrition is beyond limitless. We can be full of physical nourishment, but what about the spiritual dimension?
Did you ever hear anyone say, ‘I'm full up of kindness’ or ‘I'm too stuffed with dignity, or humility, today’? No. The reason is, we simply don't have any tools for measuring love or kindness. Obviously we cannot say, ‘I'll have one kilogram of kindness today’; or, ‘I had two metres of love yesterday’. Consequently, our ‘supreme human creature’ will never be full of spiritual food: if they were, he or she might achieve human perfection.
So, first of all, we have to understand Picasso’s meaning when he said: “live as a poor man with lots of money”.
In my opinion, Picasso’s point relates to human spiritual nutrition. That is the chief reason we are here, inhabiting this planet: in order to follow our spiritual hunger; to seek a way to be fulfilled.
I would prefer to remain a poor man than to be a needy person: I am all for love and kindness, albeit with lots of support.
Humans remain needy creatures and won’t ever be satisfied with what they are given.
From another aspect this is one of the good facts about humanity: imagine, if we were never needed to support one another, what would happen then? Everyone would remain selfish and arrogant; also, after a while, no one would experience the meaning of words such as kindness or love.
So, as it seems to me, the 'poor people' from Pablo Picasso's viewpoint represent a needy, impoverished human creature who is never satisfied. Money was never his real target.
Money represents a mere tool to reach our higher aims, for we always remain needy creatures.
For myself, I would prefer to remain a poor man than to be a needy person: I am all for love and kindness, albeit with lots of support.
“Pain” by Jade
You talk about pain
I will tell you what pain is:
When I arrived in my new country
Chased away from the country I called home
By people who did not want us.
When I first arrived
I did not have anybody
All my loved ones were killed.
I wasn’t used to anything, even the food.
I went to a phone box to call
My mother in my former country
It was raining cats and dogs.
Before I could say ‘hello’
The machine said, ‘your credit is running low’.
I had to put in coin after coin
Coin after coin
Coin after coin
I always remember that
Coin after coin, standing in the rain.
“Money” by Tania
Leading a good life does not depend upon having much money. I grew up in a country rich in resources: Zimbabwe has good rainfall, there were great herds of dairy cows, minerals, cotton-growing areas; it was known as "the breadbasket of Africa" for its bountiful agricultural produce. Our food was homegrown and healthy. People bartered their crops – tobacco, maize (our staple food), ground nuts, oranges and other citrus fruits, potatoes, cabbages and so many vegetables. Certain foods, especially wild fruits, even provided antibiotics. Most of our basic commodities were also homemade – chairs, tables, even our bricks. We had little money in the wallet, but life was good. It was the best life I’ve ever lived.
So I'd to go back to the way I grew up – depending on the produce of the soil, with little need for cash. We baked our own bread, collected eggs from the hens, ate plenty of fruit. All I'd need now is a small piece of land to grow maize, wheat, rice and plenty of vegetables. I'd keep a few domestic animals – lots of poultry – and of course I'd be bartering! So even though I cannot work or earn enough to live on in the UK, my idea of leading a good life doesn't depend on having much money.
We had little money in the wallet, but life was good. It was the best life I’ve ever lived.
I used to witness my grandparents exchange love gifts – without buying them, or waiting for Valentine’s Day. My grandfather would go into the bush and return with wild fruits, nicely concealed so that we children would not steal them. He would then wash them, put them in a clean bowl and place this in front of my grandmother. My grandfather would also shell ground nuts for my grandmother, so all she had to do was take a handful and scoop them into her mouth. I experienced such pure undiluted love frequently. He’d take a plastic comb and comb her itchy scalp nicely, and we would witness our grandparents squeal with laughter like naughty children.
So, rather than going to the hairdresser to shampoo and style your hair, or buy pricey red roses on Valentine’s Day, I'd willingly swap this life for one of far more human interaction: the folk stories we heard when we sat together after an evening meal; the closeness we felt as a family. I still remember when we ate chicken as a special meal, how my taste buds would salivate. Life in its simplest form, surrounded by my loved ones – how I would love that again.
That simple life, less intense, with no mobile phones but frequent meeting up, brought peace. When my grandfather was busy, my grandma would ask me to comb her hair. She'd tell me stories about her growing up, and we’d laugh and laugh. Money was never needed to keep us entertained.
Money is good in the right hands, heart and mind. But if the money owns you there’s going to be a big problem, but if you own the money you can easily let it go.
Although money is of course important in our world, people now idolise it to the extent that they'll work three jobs just to buy a certain car, live in a certain suburb, join certain clubs, or go to certain schools and universities. The riches bought by money can be stolen or lost, or bring a lot of unhappiness, broken relationships and addictions. Why strive just to have a fat bank account?
Now money buys gadgets for 'easier communication', gadgets like Alexa, but this too has reduced human interaction, despite the fact we were created to love and be loved. The riches I really treasure are the riches I experienced whilst growing up, and still yearn for. We would get together as a community for tasks such as shelling the maize in big round storage huts, everyone sharing and talking together. We'd pick the crops while talking, working rhythmically along the rows – a bit like a line dance! Hearts filled with happiness, peace, wisdom, knowledge, kindness. Most of all I miss being with people and having a good laugh.
Money is good in the right hands, heart and mind. But if the money owns you there’s going to be a big problem, but if you own the money you can easily let it go. In my quest to get more money I lost my three lovely children and to this day I regret the relationship I have with them is not what I had in mind when I gave birth.