Last week my 20 years old nephew was in town and spent the night with us. We went for a walk in the neighborhood, to get toiletries he had forgotten at the night shop and stayed a little longer wandering around. It was still warm outside and I showed him the local cafés and restaurants on the way. He’s the one and only baby I ever held before having mines and despite the fact that he’s now taller than me and has a beard, whenever I get the chance to see him (20 years old have amazingly busy lives) I can’t but remember the chubby cherub cruising around the garden in the early 90s.
He has an artistic temperament and is as lost as one can be when he/she leaves eagerly high school, filled with dreams and hopes, only to find out that the following step is way less glamorous and pure and ideal than imagined.
On our way to the night shop, we passed a tiny pizza restaurant which opened 8 years ago and quickly became a typical Italian success story. Marketing the simple roman concept of pizza al taglio (pizza sold at the counter by its lenght) and employing authentic Italian pizza makers, the founder built an icon of Brussels’ weekends, late nights and quick lunches.
“Look, the guy who invented that (shop) is a genius – I told impulsively my nephew – He made so much money out of that shop”. He looked back at me and said: “And the fact that he became rich makes him a genius?”. There was no sarcasm in his voice, just a pinch of sadness. I tried to make it up, saying (what I actually think) that I was referring to his ability to sell a simple good and make it look cool and desirable but there was no way out of there.
I, the 35 years old aunt, told my 20 years old nephew that becoming rich implies some degree of genius. When did this happen?
I am no revolutionary and have a pretty earthy vision of the importance of money in life but I never realized before how practical I had become with time. Has it to do with age? When did we start thinking of money as a measure of success?
Of course, I am aware that this reflexion doesn’t apply to the U.S. where money talking has been legitimized since forever but in old Europe it wasn’t when I was growing up. I have been brought up with the idea that money and success might be a consequence, a side-effect of geniality but not its main constituent.
A year ago I published a small book and was surprised to see that every time people asked me about that, it wasn’t to know what it was about, or how it took form or the work behind it. No, they always asked about how many copies it sold, and if I could live now out of that. Shock ensued, when I candidly admitted that I had no idea, that the editor only wrote me once a year about figures and that I wasn’t that much worried about following sales daily.
In the same way, when I tell someone I started blogging, they always ask: “How do you make money out of it?.”I don’t”. “What’s the point, then? What are you offering your readers? What do you sell them?”
“Hm…I just share thoughts and chat and find likeminded people across the world?”.
At this point, my interlocutor usually fills his glass of wine and changes the subject.
Am I Alice in the Wonderland or there’s an exaggerated interest on money? When did it become a measure of worth in Old Europe? Or is it just that money is what middle-aged people talk about?