It’s 1942 and Frank Capra is about to embark on his most challenging project to date. By this point Capra, one of the most influential American film directors of all time, had all ready conquered Hollywood. He had already won the Academy award for Best Director three times. And he’d produced, what would become, some of the most influential movies of all time. Amongst them: It Happened One Night, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and Mr Smith Goes to Washington. But this was his toughest challenge to date. To persuade the American people to fight and die for their country against the growing fascist tide. To explain to them: Why We Fight.
By most reckonings, the Why We Fight films were a success. But hindsight masks what a difficult task this was. Even though the Japanese had just bombed Pearl Harbor, the US had engaged in a decades long non-interventionist policy. That’s not to mention that the country had only just started taking tentative steps out of the Great Depression, would be siding with their antithesis would-be allies the Soviets, and just 20 years ago bloodily tipped the balance in the “War to end all Wars“.
During WWI it was speeches that mainly served to bolster morale. Whilst some speeches would continue to hold such power, it was film, the growing medium at the time, that would spear the fascist propaganda machine. The first of the films, Prelude to War would win the Academy Award for Best Documentary. And the films would have a long-lasting cultural impact on the US. In particular, that the US were the force of good who had a moral duty to fight the forces of evil (the films are available in the public domain, although do bear in mind that, as propaganda films, they contain many untruths and sometimes even outright racism towards other nations).
Why we write
This past week I’ve been reflecting on my experience so far writing this blog. I’ve been following the FI community for a long time, both through many blogs and podcasts. Some of those writers are what encouraged me to reach to FI. When I left my job just over a year ago, I had planned to do some writing. However, I still wasn’t sure whether I would “do the blogging thing”.
For some time, I had reflected on my “word emissions”. Whilst I’ve never been the most talkative of folks, I’d always aimed to say something if it felt important. But I was feeling I was just another emitter of chatter in a world polluted by noise. Over time, I’d been slowly withdrawing away from commenting online and sharing my own thoughts in the Personal Finance community. That’s not to say I didn’t have things to talk about; rather I had felt drowned out in a sea of noise. I questioned what special insight I had over thousands, millions of others.
I’ll confess that it was Mrs YFG who really encouraged me to start blogging. She thought that I should share my thoughts (and rants) with other people. And that those people would find what I had to say both entertaining and enlightening.
Starting the blog
So I started the blog halfheartedly. I wrote a few pieces, but made no attempt to promote them. A turning point came when I felt compelled to leave a comment on the Monevator website. In fact, it was more so the troll response that I got from another commenter. I was frustrated by their (wrong) personal attacks but I was just going to ignore it. But Mrs YFG told me: you’re right, they’re wrong – you know more about this stuff than 99% of people – why don’t you explain. And so I responded.
It was that response that started a trickle to the blog. And that trickle left many positive comments. These comments encouraged me that, opposite to my gut feel, I wasn’t just “adding more noise”. Feeling more confident I wrote some more, and started to go back to my old habit of writing comments on some of the blogs I followed.
The trickle has turned into a daily flow of readers. Now up to 10,000 total visits. And to all those visitors, the commenters and especially the persons who have linked to and shared my posts, I am immensely grateful.
Learning the Internets
An irony in all this is that Mrs YFG and I have another social media account with the best part of 100,000 followers. 10,000 views is a fraction of what each post gets. Not to mention a single post usually gets more comments than this entire blog has to date. But I tell you this, each comment I’ve got on this blog has felt so valuable. Each a small confirmation that I was right to start writing.
Another slice of irony is that, for a millennial, I am incredibly old-fashioned. Most of my posts originate with the simplicity of pen and paper (including this one). I don’t have Facebook, and have no real clue how to promote posts in social media circles (let alone maximising your SEO, whatever that means). I’m on twitter however, mainly due to the insistence of a good friend of mine (I’m still learning how to use it).
That leads me towards the denouement of this piece. The other night, I was reflecting on my blog journey thus far. The thing I’ve found most valuable was being, once again, tapped back into the Personal Finance community.
One of the things I've enjoyed most about starting my blog is finding out about lots of personal finance writers I didn't know about. There's lots of people writing some great stuff out there!
— Young FI Guy (@YoungFIGuy) April 17, 2018
I’ve enjoyed so much reading the blogs and comments from people I had never seen before. Some of those posts have changed my view on things. But what struck me most was how much excellent content out there and being talked about. In my semi self-imposed absence, the Personal Finance community has grown from being, what used to feel like a couple of strange dudes whispering in the corner of the bar, to being the loud diverse party slap centre in the bar.
The Good Fight
That’s important. Because whilst there’s been a great deal of progress in the Personal Finance space over the past few years there’s still lots of problems. Financial illiteracy is still rife. Much of the Finance industry still engages in opaque practises and deliberate attempts to bamboozle the public, and is being dragged kicking and screaming towards accountability and transparency. And whilst the mainstream media is improving its financial media, much of it falls woefully short and in some cases is downright dangerous to investors.
That’s what conjured up the image of Why We Fight. The fight against fascism replaced by the fight against wage-slavery and poor financial decisions. A collective attempt to unwind the prevailing propaganda in Western society. That spending money will buy you happiness. That a Finance industry that works for its benefit, rather than yours, is fine. That being ignorant of how taxes, pensions and investing works is OK. It’s why we write.
Since starting my blog, I’ve been encouraged, in a way more than ever, that the forces of good in the Personal Finance community will prevail. But I do wonder whether blogs, podcasts and social media is how we will win. What do you think? How can we best bring the fight?
All the best,
Young FI Guy