In small Mexican border towns there are street markets set up to sell you anything that you never realized you’ve always absolutely needed. You want a Coach purse that “fell off the back of a truck?” How about a “COUCH” purse for half that price? You want a hand-woven Mexican blanket that was made in a Chinese factory? A Tequila T-shirt with a worm on it that tells the world you’re a tourist who doesn’t know what “Mezcal” is? It’s yours, my friend. Just $30. No? Ok, $15, but that’s it my friend, that’s it. No lower.
When tourists wander into these street markets, vendors are competing for their money. They know they can get it too, because a tourist typically carries around a some disposable income, or “money you can throw away” (I just realized as I’m writing this how foreign and insulting the phrase “disposable income” must be to about 5 billion people on this planet). When you don’t have a clear goal with your money, it’s up for grabs. Did you need a set of 12 Virgin of Guadalupe candles? No, but you have them now, because someone was able to convince your easily distracted ass they were a worthwhile investment.
You can always make more money to buy stupid stuff with, but not everything you have to invest is as renewable a resource as a few extra dollars. Your passion is your real currency, and I’m asking you to spend it wisely.
We live in an outrage vacuum. Our angers are many, but they materialize and disappear like the vapors of a winter breath. The causes of the moment– political, social, economical or otherwise will demand your attention like opportunistic street market vendors working to free you of a $20 bill. They want to hijack your outrage. They want to siphon your passion. They know they can do it too, because we treat our energy and zeal like disposable income– and with no clear goal for our passion, others build empires with bricks formed from our displaced enthusiasms.
As with currency, to maximize the impact of your passion you need to have a clear budget for emotional energy, and an achievable outcome in mind. Some may advise against outrage altogether. They may tell you that living a simpler life free from the burdens of righteous indignation will liberate you from forced participation in a rat-race of principles. I disagree. We were given passion and energy to invest in progress. It’s an innate gift. Those people aren’t non-participants, they’ve just buried what they had to invest in the ground. They’re the equivalent of the 43 year-old minimum-wage career barista who who talks about how he/she could never survive in a cubicle.
Your passion and outrage, if it comes from an educated place, and has a clear outcome in mind, can change the world for the better. Thomas Paine, an incredibly intelligent early-American revolutionary and political activist said that “an army of principles can penetrate where an army of soldiers can not.” If you can cultivate and protect the fire that burns inside you– the one burns hottest and brightest in the presence of injustice, you boys can change hearts, minds and landscapes. However, if you’re not focused, your disposable passions will be carelessly wasted on frivolous pursuits, or used to profit the empty cause of those who depend on hijacking your outrage for their own benefit.
This world is a street market of ideas, some more honorable than others, but all are calling for patrons to keep them in business. My hope for you is that you know the value of your true currency, and can avoid those who tempt you into believing that it is disposable. Invest your outrage, passion and energy constructively.