Thursday, October 20, 2011

Chris McGinty - Enemy of Debt - Episode Fourteen

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

[I wrote this almost a month ago. Each of these has been running about three weeks slow, because so much happened the first couple of weeks. Last week, Nathan and I were doing convention writing, so this got even further behind. To make matters worse, this was an article of side thoughts, rather than an actual discussion of events. The upside, as far as catching up with this, is that I’m no longer helping Genghis CanIGetaHellYeah, which is a downside as far as what was left of our friendship. I’d written one more post after this. It will take either one or two posts to tell you about why I’m no longer helping him, so if you’re a huge fan of the feature (Hi, Miguel.) then there is still at least a couple of weeks.]

I think I’m going to take a break from discussing Genghis’s situation as a series of events for this week. As of the time I’m writing this there isn’t much going on anyway. Of course, it’s the middle of September, and this won’t be posted until the middle of October.

The reason I want to take a break is to deal with a couple of side items; possibly dealing with Nathan’s finances in 2012, and a comment that was left on a previous episode.

I joked that when I was done with Genghis I was going to take on… well, for the sake of his privacy, we’ll call him Greenly… ok, it’s Nathan. I joked that I was going to take on Nathan’s debt next, then my personal debt to my dad, and then the national debt. Well, Nathan sent me a message today saying that his wife is at least a little receptive to the idea of me doing an “Enemy of Debt” on their finances. I guess we’ll have to wait and see if it happens, but I’m up to the challenge.

In the meantime, I am technically starting mine, yet again. I’ve tried many times to get started on paying down the debt I have. I usually end up having an unexpected expense, usually having to do with a vehicle I own. The problem is that like with many things I try to accomplish, I get sidetracked too easily. It’s easier to make someone else stay the course than it is to make yourself stay the course. This brings me to another discussion.

There was a comment left on one of these episodes, and I wanted to respond to it here. It was anonymous, so who knows, maybe it was Miguel. I doubt it, but it could be. The basic idea behind the comment was that I should either just give Genghis money to help him or leave him to his own devices. What I’m doing, by regulating his smoking, and making him discuss any money he wants to spend is bullshit.

The funny thing is that I basically agree with the statement. The problem is that it’s a statement that I agree with at the most fundamental level, but I also realize on some level that sometimes you have to compromise beliefs. I want you to understand that when I say that, I’m not saying that you have to compromise your strongest held beliefs, or all your beliefs, but that there are beliefs that you have that are simply guidelines to your behaviours rather than full on deciders.

An example I gave recently is the example of war. I don’t believe in war. I don’t believe good truly comes of war. I do understand that when you have a maniac like Adolf Hitler committing genocide with the help of an amassed army that sometimes the further atrocities that are avoided probably outweigh the fundamental belief I hold.

A day to day example is that I don’t use the breakdown lane on freeways as an extra lane to get around traffic… except when I’m on 820 Westbound trying to exit Holiday Lane. Why? Simply because the lane is an exit only lane that people are stopped in, trying to get over. You don’t stop at a green light. If you follow an exit only lane down to the exit, you exit only, but hundreds of cars, every day, don’t exit. I’m reasonably sure that most of them know what they are doing when they enter into an exit only lane with no intention to exit, so I go around via the breakdown lane when normally I would be patient enough to wait.

How does this apply to Genghis? First off, something that Nathan pointed out, Genghis asked me for help. He agreed to my terms. Why did I have terms? Because I tried to help him before, and he did whatever he wanted anyway. I refused to help him unless he let me help him. Fundamentally those were my terms. I won’t help you unless you let me help you, which means that if you feel you can do a better job of fixing your situation, have at it. Otherwise, you do what I say.

Look at it this way. Let’s say you hire a roofer to fix your roof, but you’re a day sleeper. You tell that roofer that you don’t want him getting started on your roof until after 3:00 pm, because you have to sleep. The roofer then says that the request is unreasonable because the job would be inconvenient for him, and would cause the project to take too long to complete.

I’m the roofer and Genghis is the day sleeper. If you take the analogy all the way, this roofer is also doing the work for free, and is the only roofer who will do the job for you. You simply have to provide the materials. Genghis is not paying me or otherwise compensating me for my help. He is providing the materials, which is his paycheck, and I am fixing his roof, also known as his financial situation.

If Genghis then turns around and tells me that he wants me to help him out of his situation, but he wants to spend over $100 on cigarettes each month, $50 on beer each month, $30 on movie rentals each month, and whatever else, he is inconveniencing me because it will take me that much longer to finish the project.

What I’m saying is that I didn’t impose myself on him. If I had, it would be bullshit, but much like a roofer will tell you that you’ll have to hire someone else if you want to sleep undisturbed until 3:00 pm, I had terms for helping out Genghis.

The basic idea behind giving money rather than loaning is because of the potential strain that it could have on a friendship, and it was stated in the comment that “that’s not what friends do.” The truth is that my friendship with Genghis has been strained for a while. He is an addict. He has run out of money three times and landed his wife and children in a hotel. He was arrested for check fraud because of a defaulted payday loan, and then racked up a number of payday loans knowing what could happen. On top of all of this, he was looking at eviction number four, and putting his children into a divorce situation. Why? Cigarettes, beer, movies? General laziness. An unwillingness to humble himself for the good of those he’s responsible for.

The truth is that I believe (and I may be wrong, but I do believe this) that I’m showing true friendship by not telling him to fuck off because he did it to himself. I’ve told him that that’s what will happen if he ever gets himself into this situation again, but that I will teach him. It’s easy to say that that is tough love, and that your refusal to help will by proxy help. After all, once someone reaches rock bottom, they have no choice but to take responsibility for themselves. And that must be true, or we would have a homeless problem in this country.

Let’s say you’re teaching your child how to add and your child is telling you that 2+2=5. Do you let that child believe that’s the case, more or less dooming their ability to do many math problems well into their future, or do you instill the correct answer? It’s tough love you say. My refusal to help them remember the correct answer will force them to learn on their own. At some point, there is nothing you can do if the child refuses to accept your answer, but as long as you are helping that child with their math homework, you will not let them add 2+2 as anything but 4. I will teach Genghis nothing if I give him money with no guidance. He will continue to solve the problem incorrectly.

“Give or do not give, but do not loan and lord over” is a commonly held belief, and like I said, I fundamentally agree with it. There is another commonly held wisdom, which is, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.”

I don’t have money to give to Genghis. I don’t have money to give to anyone. I have time to give to Genghis. I have some amount of wisdom to give to Genghis. I don’t have money to give to Genghis. What would you have me do? Let him get evicted, divorced, moved into a hotel, and shit faced because he doesn’t have a wife to tell him he’s not allowed to buy beer every night. And only then could I try to give him wisdom by what? Talking to him? Gently explaining the virtues of doing the right thing? Maybe I can give him a kidney when one of his fails.

This leaves me with one basic choice. Loan him enough to get him on his feet again and then lord over his life until I get the money back, and try to teach him what he did wrong along the way. I would say that there is also wisdom in the statement, “Give what you can give, nothing more.”

I have no money to give him, but I have time and wisdom. I’m doing what I can with what I have for somebody who I hardly respect anymore, but who is my friend. I’m doing what I can with what I have, and I’m not asking anything in return. If you don’t think that that is what friends do, then I might suggest that you adjust your bullshit meter. It might be going off for another reason.

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