There are people who have money and people who are rich. — Coco Chanel


W
hy do people need to have more and more and more money?” Peaches asked from the back seat.

She had been actively listening to a radio commercial that I had been actively ignoring. I wasn’t sure which one. Maybe the ubiquitous spots for the Rich Dad, Poor Dad campaign? But then she lowered her voice to better imitate the voice actor she’d just heard.

“Does your job not pay you enough money?” she asked herself in her pseudo-baritone. (She’s a pretty solid mimic, but this is one of The Three’s little-known talents and it doesn’t come from me.) “Then change your job!”

It’s so much a part of our culture that I’ve stopped noticing but my 7-year-old is right: we talk about money an awful lot. I can’t remember if it was like this way before our Great and Persistent Recession. I like to think that our collective focus on improving our unsatisfactory financial straits springs from our a communal fear of slipping further from the security that so many of us believed ourselves to be enjoying in the ‘90s and the glory days of the house-flipping, early aughts.

I suspect this to be wishful thinking on my part, though. The tenor of the talk may have changed, made more shrill by the losses suffered we suffered in our 401Ks and real estate investments over the last decade, but I think money may have always been our favorite topic of conversation in this country.

So with money on my mind, I was walked through a Whole Foods later that day, only to be confronted with copies of the book Conscious Capitalism on a store end cap. Co-authored by the company’s “co-CEO,” John Mackey, the book purports to forward an agenda “designed to support the elevation of humanity” by focusing on the “whole business ecosystem,” suppliers and retailers as well as consumers. This from the same guy who took to the internet under an assumed name to trash the reputation of competing chain of grocery stores he was in the process of acquiring. Sullied somewhat by his online trolling, the asking price for those stores might end up…lowered a touch when it came time to make his bid for them.

Gross.

It’s fine for us to talk about money. There are financial realities that children need to understand and everyone should have an opportunity to improve their station in life if at all possible. I just don’t want it to be all that we talk about.

Teaching our children that the one with the most money wins—whether we’re aware that we’re doing it or not—deprives our community of doctors and teachers, funneling minds that might otherwise have found satisfaction in careers of public service and forward-looking research into the more lucrative field of, say, finance or lobbyist.

Again, gross.

I’m glad Peaches heard what I don’t anymore. Because she mentioned it, I was permitted to address it. It makes me wonder what else I’m missing in the cultural noise around us. I’ll have to listen harder.