Misguided Middle-Class Attitudes




Around here, money matters are generally kept private. They aren’t really discussed much: who earns what salary, how much people pay for their rent or clothes is considered a personal matter. Naturally, we all have our own relationship with money; a relationship, which, once it becomes even slightly exposed, quickly reveals something about every single one of us.

Whether it’s the individual who disappears to the rest room whenever the check’s been called for, or the person who’s always flaunting their latest acquisition, not realizing they’re revealing something much more private, namely a clear view of their insecurity. As soon as money affairs become public, they often turn into power, or given enough time, into bargaining chips. Primarily, however, money defines a value.

In much of Europe – and currently only too often on public display – an excess of money induces us to take our prosperity for granted. In Switzerland, a prime example of this was the recent public initiative 1:12 aimed at limiting excessive executive salaries; or the vote calling for higher minimum wages. All this at a time when a substantial part of the global economy finds itself in a crisis. But, as is often the case with misguided middle-class delusions, what gets overlooked is just how much hard work, shrewdness and personal commitment was involved in Switzerland securing this level of prosperity. Personally, I’m always relieved when the ballots have been counted and it becomes clear that common sense has again prevailed. Given the current state of affairs in our neighboring countries (I’ll spare you the excessive list of hashtags here) it would be a mistake to lean back and rest on our laurels. Too much is happening that can be misinterpreted by enraged patriot-citizens. Poorly informed, but with strong opinions, indignant burghers are often all too ready to take to the streets and condemn the unfamiliar.

Once upon a time, an increase in prosperity was often associated with a certain degree of sophistication. Money created access to education and cultural events that weren’t available to the less affluent. And while the wider distribution of money is generally a positive trend, it frequently leads to a certain level of over-indulgence that has nothing to do with sophistication at all. And regretfully this appears to be happening across all income brackets. Because when money opens too many doors, the process often leads to a degeneration of its moral and ethical value.

In today’s world, money is unquestionably a potent metric. But one that we should allow ourselves to ignore once in a while. When traveling abroad, this can happen quite unintentionally. After a few days, when mental currency conversion starts becoming tedious, we find ourselves letting go and money loses the significance it has in its normal environment. A liberating experience!

When we think that in some countries – admittedly not in many – quality of life officially comes before prosperity, shouldn’t we be capable of absorbing a bit of that too? In Bhutan people celebrate an attractive alternative to our Western fixation on prosperity and expansion. A cultural model that encourages greater satisfaction and less consumerism, and values internal fulfillment above external wealth. Appealing as this may sound, it must also be noted that Bhutan was the very last nation to have access to television and the Internet, while their mobile phone network only became operational in 2003. It can only be hoped that the people of Bhutan will be wise enough not to lean too far out of their traditional window and into the rest of the world. Because in real life, it’s sometimes quite like in branding, and “those who are the last shall be the first.”


This article also appears in PUNKTMagazin. The Swiss magazine combines economics, investment and lifestyle and is published every two months. Branders CEO René Allemann writes a column for the publication. You'll find more information on PUNKTMagazin here: www.punktmagazin.ch

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René Allemann

René Allemann

Born in Zurich, René Allemann founded the consulting firm Branders in 2005. With 20 employees, the branding agency creates, maintains and manages brands. The Brander journal is published by the Branders Group.

The Brander is a publication of the Branders Group