Money Makes the World Go Around

Whenever we meet a new person, one of the questions that will inevitably get asked is ‘so what do you do?’ We seem to have this incessant need to know what the people around us do for a living and recently I have been wondering why this is.
At first I thought maybe it was a politeness thing. You know, a quick way to get to know someone without asking questions that were too personal or invasive. This reason implicates that we simply use this as a way to get to know somebody; however, it seems that a lot of people, if given the choice, would choose a completely different career path and don’t actually enjoy their current job. Therefore, it hardly seems as though finding out where someone works will provide us with any insight into their soul.
Taking this into account, it seems that asking someone ‘what do you do’ in terms of how they make a living is quite impersonal and doesn’t actually tell us very much about them as a person. So why do we ask? Is it down to something as simple as trying to gather information about a person’s life or is it more than that? Do we ask this question because we have been programmed, without even realising it, to automatically size complete strangers up in order to work out whether they earn more money than we do?
From a young age, the importance of money is drilled into us by almost everyone we meet. We must go to school, sit exams, get good grades, get a degree and get a good job. Our childhood and teenage years are mapped out for us around money and, although, money is vital for our existence, this sends out the message that wealth equates to success. Our society has created a metaphorical ladder of success whereby we differentiate between those at the top and the bottom of this ladder by their yearly income. Our worth as people is determined by our ability to generate money.
These days, it seems that being able to afford that designer handbag or that fancy car is deemed more important than kindness or humility. Spending ridiculously long hours at work is worth more than spending time with your children if it means that next year you can upgrade to that three bathroom, five bedroom house that you don’t actually need. These items may be nice but they aren’t necessary. They simply demonstrate our status. Our ability to afford these things is a direct reflection of how successful we are in a modern world, meaning that not only will that exotic two week vacation to the Caribbean get you a nice tan, but it will also inform the rest of the world about your high ranking status.
In light of this, it is no wonder that so many people spend their lives striving to earn more money. Gone are the days where we could be satisfied with earning enough to cover our basic necessities such as rent and food. Our economy has inflated and so has our desire to earn. I don’t blame people for this, this is what we have been taught. In fact I would be lying if I said that I don’t crave a comfortable existence where I never have to worry about how I will pay next month’s bills. I too like nice things. I too measure how successful someone is by how much they earn.
Don’t get me wrong, I love hard working, driven people who have ambition. I consider myself one of them and am a firm believer that we should work hard to create our own future. I do not begrudge those who are wealthy and successful. Nor do I begrudge those who work hard every single day yet still struggle to make ends meet. All I want to know is why, in a world where each of us is simultaneously controlled yet driven by our finances, has earning money become some form of competition and for a lot of people, their only goal in life?