I’m very much a student of human nature. That often leads me to conversations with people on all sorts of things. My story today is motivated by a few things this week. Firstly I had yet another brief conversation with a taxi driver. He took me from home to my local train station. I was on my way into London from where I’m writing this – in a hotel room. I’m working in London this week (as of Monday). London life always brings out the observer in me – and of course it’s my observations of people walking, talking, and working that’s put me in a pensive mood.
This comes out in the course of the 10 minute conversation with my taxi driver, mentioned above. I’ll do my best to recall some of our exact words below – but I will use reported speech in parts.
He’s on time to pick me up at 10:55 AM. My train was departing at 11:15 AM. As usual, most cabbies have a way of sneakily trying to find out where you’re going and what your work is about.
Driver: So you’re heading to Heathrow?
Me: No. Just into London.
Driver: Working there?
Me: Just for a while.
Driver: What do you do?
Me: That’s classified.
Driver: Oh ok.. what sort of work you do? (fair enough, it’s a more general question)
Me: [Chuckling] Well, as I said it’s classified. Which means I can tell you but I’d have to kill you.
Driver: Oh.. [bit of a disappointed chuckle].. I thought you might just say ‘You work for the government or something’.
Me: I can’t even say that, unless you want to die. What about you? Do you just do cabbie work for a living? [I never get into specifics about what work I do, with taxi-drivers – and I’m not going to give reasons which could take quite some time].
Driver: Yeah.. that’s about it. I’m from [some Eastern European Country – which I didn’t catch, and didn’t ask further].
Me: Why do you do it?
Driver: It’s something to do and keeps the bills covered.
Me: You mean you need money?
Driver: [Laughing] Yeah sure I do. Don’t you?
Me: [Chuckling] Of course, everybody’s got to eat innit? So when are you gonna get out of this sort of work?
Driver: I don’t know – but I have plans. The problem is you need big money to make more money.
Me: True. How’s about I give you a deal. I’ll get you set up with £10 Million…. [he interrupts me].
Driver: No.. I don’t need that much. [With some nervous body language]
Me: Hear me a little. You can get £10 Million – no strings, obligations, or catches – but you can only use it to make your first million in about 2 to 5 years, if you work hard at it. You can’t spend the £10 Million on anything. In other words you use it to gain certain skills to set you up properly to make your own money.
Driver: [In a nervous voice now] No.. I’m ok.. I’ve got two degrees and I’m working at my own thing.
[No – I wasn’t interested in his two degrees or to find out more. He’s switched off, and I followed suit. We then spoke about other things – the usual small talk that people like, and feel confortable with.]
Well – the above doesn’t read like it’s 10 minutes of conversation. I’m picking out the main parts of course, in order to spare you a further 500 words. I know that he knows or strongly suspects that I’m out to con him out of his money. In other words, I’ve made an indecent proposal – you can now stop thinking about a certain movie and things sexual. Or can you? Ok.. may be it’s not indecent to make such an offer. Maybe ‘improper’ or ‘shady’ would be better words.
The point is, few people would actually offer anybody a genuine and wholesome deal like I’ve told this guy about. Did I say ‘I was going to give him £10 Million’? No I didn’t. Did I say ‘no strings, obligations or catches’? Yes I did. Did I say he had to stop his preferred line of work? No I didn’t. Was I 100% honest? Of course! But come on – you just don’t just trust some guy who’s cagey about what he does and is setting himself up as a government agent but won’t exactly say so! I get this – totally – to be fair and all that jazz.
So what’s so great about the above? Well, nothing really except that it was a perfectly genuine and proper offer – that would take no skin off my back. I really do like to help people achieve some of their dreams. And tough if you don’t believe that most people dream of financial freedom. In terms of human nature – his response was not unexpected, as I indicated. I know only too well that minor degrees of discomfort or anxiety inhibit people from exploring new things. All I know is that if a stranger made the above proposal to me, I’d say ‘Sure. Leave me a contact number. I’d like to hear more. But if I sense it’s not what you say, I’ll leave it off. I’m not giving you my bank or any other details. Is that ok?’ At least, I would not have closed the door and would have nothing to fear.
Walking the streets of busy London around Bloomsbury, is most interesting. So many fancy buildings. Young and mostly middle aged people around here. Loads of language schools about. What are all these people after – I wondered? Most of them work hard and play hard – after all London is one big playground in Europe – innit? You live faster and die younger – but for sure not everybody believes that. Some of them get scooped up off the streets after being run over by vehicles etc. The young are mostly on their phones, speaking a variety of languages, having a laugh, smoking, drinking etc. The more middle aged and older folk look mainly into the distance – they’ve got lots on their minds. You can just see it in their eyes. I could tell by their looks, which of them are lawyers, especially around the Chancery Lane area. And of course, it’s most easy to tell who’s a bus driver – right?
But why do they all do what they’re doing? – was the question that kept coming back to me. I know it’s simple and basic – look, they’re either preparing to earn a living or actually earning a living. And then I walk through Lincoln’s Inn – and here you hardly see many people. But you do see many high powered Mercedes, Bentleys, Jaguars, Ferraris etc. [No – not all on one day]. Who are these people? Perhaps some of them are big wig multimillionaire clients who have come to see their multimillionaire lawyers, in order to sort out high-powered business stuff. I don’t know. All I know is that Jags and Ferraris etc don’t grow on trees!
So what does it all mean to me?
I’m afraid my views are not likely to be shared by many – and I don’t give a monkeys about that. I don’t care what the ‘herd’ thinks – as long as their thinking has no negative impact on me.
I’ve come to think that nearly all the hustle and bustle of daily living is about earning some advantage – usually in terms of pecuniary advantage of some sort. That quality time in Tenerife or the Maldives, with the family, hardly ever comes at no cost. Somebody always pays – and the vast majority of the time, it’s you that pays. Or that time on Sunday with the kids in the park – that appears to be free – it ain’t really as free as you might believe. You’ve gotta afford that time by some means connected to your earning capacity. Even low life street drunks sipping their strong lager in the squares around London, have performed some activity – legal or illegal – to appropriate their lager and the time they spend.
In a nutshell, my world view is that ‘the humans’ are driven by needs for economic advantage. Did I say money? I did NOT! Did I say ‘economic advantage only’? I did NOT! Money is however, the big part of that economic advantage, even if on the surface there appears to be no money involved.
People do what they’ve been groomed to do by various forces. If you’re a high-powered lawyer sitting in Chambers in Lincoln’s Inn, well you’ve been groomed by parental expectation, your education, friends you keep, your religion, your acquisitions over the years, the person you cohabit with and a host of other things. The rewards that you eventually obtain, reinforce your abilities, and before long you’re loving what you do. Well, of course many don’t love what they do – they do it because they love the things that the job brings. In fact many are groomed into a mindset and lifestyle by the ‘occupation’ itself (from barrister to street drunk).
Are these people free? Do they really have that economic freedom that they so yearn? I don’t think most of them really get there. If they stop treading water they’re in trouble. Then somebody is about to give me a lecture about pensions and investments. Look, it’s all part of the ‘grand plan’ i.e. they take your youth in exchange for that pension or investment or whatever. Is that the name of the game? I’m pretty sure it is – and I’m also pretty sure that many people are quite contented with their lot. I’m not here to tell people to do what they don’t want to do!
Nope – I’m not here either, to make everybody into financial traders. What I am here to say, is that if you do not expose yourself to new opportunities and different ways of achieving your goals, then the ‘system’ is always there to ‘take care of you’. Minor degrees of discomfort and anxiety are what causes most people to look away.
Eventually, there’s your epitaph and obituary – whence nice things will be said about you – how hard and dedicated you were etc – said by those who are… .part of the same ‘system’. The choice is yours of course, whether you remain oblivious to a system designed to create a prison for your mind. Red Pill or Blue pill – now that’s an ‘indecent proposal’ – no?