Money is imaginary to begin with. It consists of something (credit, paper, gold, a number in a computer, etc.) chosen by a society to represent measured units of value for people to exchange goods & services. It is not only a straight replacement for goods & services, but money itself is a commodity. The particulars of how money works makes for good reading.
Money is in one sense, the confidence we have in this society of ours; in our ability to work together, exist together, live together for the betterment of us as individuals and as a group.
Money is trust. Money is a membership in society. Money is a varying measurement on how we feel we are doing as a group. How this plan of working together is going. Money is a report card and an assertion that we all believe in ourselves as a society.
(Posted at The National Gadfly.)
Money makes it possible for people outside our daily transactions, consumptions and interactions with each other – to contribute to each of those parts of our lives. Money makes it possible for someone to make a shoe in one town for us to buy in another without ever seeing or even knowing that shoemaker or town. It’s not just shoes – it’s everything.
Nothing exists in a vacuum. This includes money and vanity.
How many people do you know that are self-sufficient? By that, I mean
- grow their own produce
- raise their own livestock
- make their own clothes
- drive on roads they made themselves in their self-designed & self-built cars?
- Talk on a phone they designed & built via their own telephone network?
To believe in “my money” as something separate from society is a delusion, a trick of vanity and gullibility. Without the efforts of others, the toil of others, the sweat of others, the gifts of others, the lives of others – “my money” does not exist. Period. No exceptions. None.
Pretending that I can earn my money, keep it all and owe society nothing in return is the height of insanity. It is pure gobbledygook. Hogwash. Fairy tale. Delusion. Insanity. Selfishness.
Everything we “own” comes as a result of someone else’s work. Everything. House, car, clothes, .mp3 player. Nobody is off the grid of society. Not even Ted Kaczynski, Christopher McCandless or Sawney Beane could get away from depending on society.
So, what are people really saying when we talk about “my money”? Most of the time, we’re saying “I’ve got mine – fuck you”. Only…we don’t usually have the nerve to just come right out and say that. That would be sociopathic and probably let everyone know that we are out to fuck them over. We might not get as much of “our money” if people knew how selfish we are being. So, we need some rationalizations, some marketing, some sales pitches, some reasons, some excuses to help us.
Luckily, we have people willing to offer us just such a service: religion and the modern “conservative” movement, the “new cons”
When we become “everyone for one’s self”, we dismantle the agreement we made as a society…the investment of faith, effort and thought that we made in constructing this society. What is this? Piracy? We get so removed from the original intention, the original society creation discussions that we forget what this society, this money is made from and made for.
We buy into the belief that our lives are so desperate that we have no choice but to become selfish and brutally so. Are we too easily sold on this idea? Are we just looking for a reason to abdicate ourselves from any responsibility to lean into the giving part of society and not just the taking? Is this why religion finds us such easy prey? Are we looking for a reason to pretend that we have no choice to but to take from society and give nothing in return? Maybe. I can certainly see the case for it. However, that doesn’t let NeoCons (the new cons) nor organized religion off the hook for their foul deeds of turning us against each other for their profit.
The myth of upward mobility.
We’ve all been told the same ideal. Anyone can “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” in a capitalist and democratic society. Anyone can…but who do you know that really has? Look at the CEO’s of the Fortune 1000. How many of them were born in a first generation immigrant family? How many were born to a working class family? How many were born to a poor family? How about the Fortune 5000? How many are white men? Most of us are one paycheck from disaster.
In the USA beginning with the Reagan regime and up through the reign of George Bush the lesser, when all the wealth was being transferred from the middle class into the wealthiest .01% or the population, how many of the people receiving that wealth were middle class working families or “blue collar” families or poor families? The number you’re looking for is zero.
While the wealth of the nation was being amassed in the pockets of the people that already had the most money, the middle class and working poor have been decimated.
- The cost of living skyrocketed.
- Health insurance costs quadrupled and coverage was cut in half.
- Unemployment rose to double-digit numbers.
- One trillion dollars was spent on two wars
- Another trillion dollars was spent on the “defense” industry system of siphoning cash from the country into the pockets of a few men.
- Private prison industries emerge and swell with the scores of people whose only crime is that they got high on pot or cocaine instead of lining the pockets of the alcohol industry.
- Law enforcement industries now exist where fortunes are made by imprisoning our own citizens. The USA, home of “freedom and liberty” has the most people in prison of any nation on earth – both in terms of numbers and percentages. That ain’t freedom. That’s a police state.
- Oil, Insurance, Weapons and Banking industries have reaped enormous, record profits – year after year after year.
The wealth of our nation is being amassed by fewer and fewer people. The great majority of us can’t pay our bills or are in debt up to our eyeballs and in effect – indentured servants. Gone are the days of 30 years, a pension and a gold watch. More and more of us face a retirement of working hourly wage at Walmart as a greeter. We have spent the decades since Ronald Reagan took office in an orgy of delusional piety, jingoist flag waving, corporate sponsored dismantling of the rule of law & middle class and the adoration of naked, selfish greed. All the while, we have celebrated and endorsed the robber land barons as they stripped this country’s government of any protection for the other 99% of this country.
We either sink or swim as a society.
Is the USA really the land of the free? Or are we an uneducated, mob of minimum wage workers, prisoners and xenophobes waving a flag & a cross at the beck and call of corporate raiders and warmongers?
It’s ironic to me that the people who claim to be worried about freeloading poor on welfare (code for brown people) are themselves to the last one of them – taking from society and from the sweat of these very poor while refusing to give back. The sad truth is that we’re all poor. We are all losing our wealth to the top .01%. The only means we have to escape the indentured servitude of our lives is through education and the adoption of reason over religious dogma.
We cling to the delusion of “our money” and the rejection of science for dogma, like a drowning person holding onto a gold brick instead of a life preserver.
Government is not the problem. People who sell you the idea that government is the problem while robbing us blind at every step are not even the problem. When someone tells you to screw your neighbor over and call that god’s will or patriotism is not even the problem. Americans being frightened, stupid and lazy is the problem.
When we choose to invest in each other’s misfortune instead of each other’s success – we are the problem.
The financial mess we live in, the inequity of class, race and gender and the abdication of responsibility employed in the use of guns and neglect in the name of a god – these are things of our doing. These are things we do willingly. We must honestly admit our part in the dissolution of our world and the creation of the ills we suffer from before we can hope to alter our actions.
I’m not suggesting that we do away with money nor pool resources a la Soviet Russia. I am offering that we remember where this money came from and who it belongs to. I ask us all to honor our part of the bargain.
And if you’re going to take from us all, then do me us both a favor. Just be honest. Don’t blame government or people of different races or religions or sexual preferences or anything. Just look me in the eye and say “fuck you”. I won’t like you any more, but the honesty would be a refreshing change.