For Erica’s GoFundMe, there are lessons but you can’t tell people how to spend their money

On the face of it, we all think we can determine how people spend their money. That’s understandable, given that we think we know the difference between good and bad – what is morally, spiritually, culturally correct and what is not. But there’s something we are all missing.

We would want to recall how ‘saying no’ to things that don’t align with our goals has become more a movement than just another phrase. How ‘opportunity cost’ is now in our daily conversations. How we own our choices and determine how we should lead our lives. In fact, we say these things to ourselves when we list out our New Year Resolutions and when we want to be reborn. Top of mind: Say no to brunches, say no to intruding in other people’s business, no to borrowing money to friends and families, and no to things that just don’t feel right. We probably forgot.

We can actually decide not to spend money to save anyone; not to spend money to help a young politician contest for an election; not to raise funds to help a family member or a friend in need.

Thing is, you don’t get to tell other people how to spend their money. They might want to spend money on luxurious vacations or acquiring expensive gadgets and accessories. That’s ok.  It makes them happy.  You don’t get to tell people what and when to give.  They don’t get to tell you what to do with your money. Nobody is a jerk about it. And those are the rules of polite society.

But, whenever you open Instagram or Twitter and you see a celebrity donating to a cause, you still find users/fans saying the donations are not enough or are not reaching the corners where it should be going. You also find fans asking celebrities to join a cause or donate money to one – by fire and by force.

Unfortunately, you do it. We all do it, saying “YOUR spending is bad, but mine is good.” And chances are, we’re usually right, considering, again, we think we know the difference between good and bad.

Yet each time we judge others’, we’re less likely to actually look at where our money goes. And just as your friends probably overspend on “ridiculous” things, so do you.

Let’s illustrate what we are talking about.

The most popular counter-argument is that Erica is financially stable enough to stand on her own – even better than the people sending her money.

Introducing those who don’t agree:

…and all the other counter-comments on the ‘Erica gofundme’ trend.

When you judge others for their spending, you automatically assign YOUR values to them without even recognising it. You think spending money on financially assisting Erica to start a business or fund an idea she has is wasteful. We could talk about your own spending too and find discrepancies.

Without doubt, when we judge others’ spending, we do it emotionally, not rationally. Having seen many Nigerians campaigning to raise funds for an Erica cause we hardly understand, do you consciously evaluate his/her income, age, spending patterns, priorities, and debt levels? Of course not. All we have argued is that many Nigerian youth have misplaced priorities.

Wow, I couldn’t imagine spending one naira to help Erica stand higher on her feet.”

When it comes to judging how we throw our monies around, we consistently demonise others’ spending while rationalising our own.

Ironically, if you went back in time and asked yourself how you spent your money and ‘saved those who needed saving’, the younger you would poke fun at the older you and think your modern-day spending would be “ridiculous,” too.

But if someone dared point out your own spending on something — say, a three-bedroom flat for the very single you, you’d have a multitude of reasons to justify it. “the former place had power problems and I need to get a bigger space…”

This is a pattern that has become a culture, borne out of the need to teach people the difference between good and bad.

Yet, on the flip side, as much as we want to support a Big Brother Naija housemate who was sent home for perceived misconduct, it will do us good to remember how we all are – collectively – responsible for a better society.

We will remember how Nigeria has stayed top in the poverty conversation and how government parastatals and policies hardly understand the suffering of Nigerians. We will remember the failed yet expensive health systems, the failed yet expensive education systems, and the ‘do or die’ or ‘it is not for the poor’ political systems.

When we consider these things, at least in our thoughts, let us remember why some other Nigerians will want to tell us how to spend money.

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