I was set off to write this blog by a friend’s link to Transition Network’s Peak money and economicresilience: event report (Published on April 27, 2012 by Ben Brangwyn) that she put up on Facebook this morning.
I disagree with Tony Greenham when he says “money was just a way of people recording debts”, it wasn’t and shouldn’t be; it’s a means of exchange.
In bartering terms I might have exchanged two cows for a year’s vegetables; but you might not want two cows, you might already have several of your own. I that case I could give you a note that says (like Bank of England notes) I promise to pay the bearer the sum of XXX – something you might want, or a way of you calling on me for help when you needed it. I don’t like calling this sort of exchange “debt”, it gives it all the wrong sort of connotations, especially with our current autocratic, blaming, fascist government. Using the word “exchange” gives a much better understanding of the concept.
Money became a problem when it ceased to be a means of exchange and became a commodity that everyone wanted to hoard.
How to get to everyone using money as an exchange rather than a commodity is what boggles the brain! How do you change people’s thinking? How do you change all the class and cultural stratification that underlies our whole society from one of “I’ve got more than you so I look down on you” to “I only need to have what I want and that doesn’t have to be the same as you.”? The latter concept completely wrecks the whole advertising industry for a start! How much money is that? How many jobs go down the drain? There, you see? The first questions, born of fear, that come to mind are based in the “money is a commodity and I must have as much as possible” thinking!
How do you change that?
Well, for a start, try imagining changing your own thinking out of that mode. You say you don’t think like that? I don’t believe you; the threads of it are insidious and permeate into every single one of us 7 billion people who inhabit Planet Earth. Some of us don’t have the concept as strongly as others, some of us are attempting to “live off the grid”, but it’s not easy. The rest of the world really is against us and that isn’t paranoia!
If you go against the flow the first reaction you usually produce in other people is fear: for most people, if someone is not like you then they threaten your basic principles, the things you live by. Very few people are actually strong enough to say (and mean it), “I don’t do it like that but that’s OK”.
Very few people are content that other folk may dislike them; most people still have the childish attitude that everyone must love them … and, in order to help bring this about, they desperately try to love everyone – a complete waste of time, energy, love and goodness. The likelihood that everyone will love you, all of the time, is less than finding hen’s teeth; ditto the likelihood that you will love everyone. Life isn’t supposed to be like that. Without the challenge of being disagreed with, getting it wrong, treading on people’s toes (by accident), seeing people live quite differently to you, there is no opportunity to change and grow. Without these things we just stagnate – as, indeed, many of us do!
All this is very relevant to economics. We are stuck in a rut, a growth-rut, which is killing us. It comes about because we want money, want to own more and more of it, because we’ve swallowed shibboleths like improve your life, get more out of life, do better, and believe this all will come if we have more money and buy more things. Modern economists, and politicians, and newsmen, all tell us we all need to spend more to get the economy out of the recession … eh ??? We got into debt by spend-spend-spend so we get out of debt by spend-spend-spend ??? My head just boiled! If that is what university degrees and alphabet soup after your name do for you then the human race is definitely lost!
Joy and pleasure don’t come from owning masses of things, from shop til you drop; those are forms of addiction. Most of the population of 1st world countries are complete money addicts and many of the 2ndand 3rd world countries are running as fast as they can to catch up. This is dire and dreadful – and is what is killing our planet. We have our heads firmly stuck in the sand with our arses stuck up in the air ready for kicking … and boy will we get kicked, we already are but it will get worse.
As long as we try to stay the same, refuse to completely re-think how we work on exchanging goods and services we are lost. So far, I think James Lovelock is the only person who has grasped this nettle; he is consequently in very bad odour with most of the world because he has upset the “norm-applecart” and said, loudly, that the emperor has no clothes. Until the rest of us get this there is no hope and the only use for conferences from Transition or Green or anyone else is to use the methane gas from the farting to fuel power stations and keep the lights on!
I am soooooo looking forward to change but I’m not holding my breath !!!