“Money … transforms the real human and natural powers into merely abstract ideas, and hence imperfections, and on the other hand it transforms the real imperfections and imaginings, the powers which only exist in the imagination of the individual into real powers. … It transforms loyalty into vice, vices into virtue, the slave into the master, the master into the slave, ignorance into reason, and reason into ignorance … He who can buy valour is valiant although he be cowardly…. Assume man as man, and his relation to the world as a human one, and you can exchange love only for love, confidence for confidence, etc. If you wish to enjoy art, you must be an artistically trained person; if you wish to have influence on other people, you must be a person who had a really stimulating and furthering influence on other people. Every one of your relationships to man and to nature must be a definite expression of your real, individual life corresponding to the object of your will. If you love without calling forth love, that is, if your love as such does not produce love, if by means of an expression of life as a loving person you do not make of yourself a loved person, then your love is impotent, a misfortune.”
The creation of money and the place it holds in our world today is something that we created and allowed to become the status quo. When I say we, I imply our ancestors of course. Most of us, if not all who are reading this, were born with the value and existence of money already present. Money holds a deeper impact and consequence on humanity than we think it does at a first glance.
Everyone needs money to live and survive, but what this paper object with given value does is render everything abstract. What used to be with barter and means of living from human effort is now obtained through a set hour price on work and absence of work, money (colorful paper with numbers on). I am not an economist, but I am a human, and I see the strings attached, the barriers created, in our human lives and internal growth through this means of acquisition. Humans continue to work for what they need, but it isn’t in a concrete form. We work for hourly wages, so our efforts are not measured by quality, but by pay. With a set price on almost everything, everything becomes a number and is no longer primarily the object (item, thing) as is, but is first and foremost an object of that specific value. I don’t know if this makes sense, consequently I want to give you an example that can possibly shed some clarity on what I’m trying to express.
The paper we work for sets the standard and value of any object, including labor and therefore human effort; it allows us to buy things and maintain a certain position within society. For a better explanation of this concept I want to quote a passage from Erich Fromm’s The Sane Society, also the source of inspiration for this entry and expansion of my thoughts on the subject at hand.
“The process of consumption is as alienated as the process of production. In the first place, we acquire things with money; we are accustomed to this and take it for granted. But actually, this is a most peculiar way of acquiring things. Money represents labor and effort in an abstract form; not necessarily my labor and my effort, since I can have acquired it by inheritance, by fraud, by luck, or any number of ways. But even if I have acquired it by my effort (forgetting for the moment that my effort might not have brought me the money were it not or the fact that I employed men), I have acquired it in a specific way, by a specific kind of effort, corresponding to my skills and capacities, while, in spending, the money is transformed into an abstract form of labor and can be exchanged against anything else. Provided I am in the possession of money, no effort or interest of mine is necessary to acquire something. If I have the money, I can acquire an exquisite painting, even though I may not have any appreciation for art; I can buy the best phonograph, even though I have no musical taste; I can buy a library, although I use it only for the purpose of ostentation. I can buy an education, even though I have no use for it except as an additional social asset. I can even destroy the painting or the books I bought, and aside from a loss of money, I suffer no damage. Mere possession of money gives me the right to acquire and to do with my acquisition whatever I like. The human way of acquiring would be to make an effort qualitatively commensurate with what I acquire. The acquisition of bread and clothing would depend on no other premise than that of being alive; the acquisition of books and paintings, on my effort to understand them and my ability to use them. How this principle could be applied practically is not the point to be discussed here. What matters is that the way we acquire things is separated from the way in which we use them.”
(This passage continues with a quote from Marx, who further explains the alienating function of money in the process of acquisition and consumption described above by Fromm. I will post it as Money 2 so that you don’t have to read it now, but can do so later.)
I think it is important to remember that we are not numbers; we are not a set value of money per hour, and life is so much more than working for paper (whether rich or poor). The example Fromm gives, where he states that we should have bread and clothing just for being alive, and get books from our ability to use them, keeps humanity at the center of life. On the other hand, what we have in place today keeps this mechanism (money system) that we’ve created and become slaves to as the center of it all. Everything revolves around money, not humanity and not life.
As a race (humans) our efforts should move towards remembering us as creators and holding the power to change things. We can decide to remember what living and life mean and to make it so that humans have significance, not paper; or we can continue to live and lead this abstract life that revolves around money. Whether now or in the future humans have an innate need for growth, evolution. Right now, internally, humans are somewhat stuck by the outer forces created, but eventually change will be necessary because our needs as a growing organism will manifest themselves (they already are). We can see the negative effects of our imprisonment from our negative actions. If the circle of life was appropriately balanced (yes, like in the movie The Lion King; where when Mufasa dies and Simba leaves (escapes death) Scar and the hyenas break that equilibrium), our actions would be primarily productive. Our efforts would promote life and growth, not destruction of life and earth. This is not to say there are no productive actions or people pushing for life and growth, but due to the system at hand it is very difficult for their efforts to be the majority.
What is your opinion? What do you think about abstraction and money? Do you feel trapped? Do you feel it is right that your work, effort, and skills are all defined by a price per hour, monthly, yearly; by this piece of paper? Isn’t it true that a person and their qualities are priceless (even this sentence compares us to an amount; another perfect example of quantification by money value)?
In Part 1 of The Best Decisions Ever Made we discussed the difficulties in knowing what that best decision query brings to us. We question our decisions multiple times before and/or after we have made them. This query process doesn’t usually change because something will always come up that we will need to make a decision on, that will bring us to question if we did make the best decision, and how do we know it is the best one. Even when the old decision making queries are resolved, new ones always come up. Exploring decision making theories, characteristics and influences can help you learn what you are confronted with when in the situation of having to decide something; as well as bring you to realize that there is no real best decision or worst decision, but that you can only do your best with what you know at the time of your decisional dilemma.
To start off with our exploration of decision making let us look at decision theory. According to Wikipedia.org this theory falls within various categories such as economics, psychology, and philosophy. The continued Wikipedia.org definition states that decision theory looks at identifying values, uncertainties, and other issues relevant with a decision accompanied by the rationality and desire of best outcome (optimal decision). This alone reiterates what was stated in Part 1 of our discourse, there is no way to know for sure whether or not our decisions are the best ones made. It will always be subjective, based on your analysis, knowledge and conclusions.
If we look at various academic theories on how we attempt to make a decision we find a long list of what can motivate us to make our decision, the influence of our thinking process and finally deciding. Under these three categories we find theories such as the consistency theory, certainty effect, bias blind spot, unconscious thought theory, and filter theory.
The consistency theory we are taking as sample here is from changingminds.org. Their definition states that “when our inner systems (beliefs, attitudes, values, etc.) all support one another and when these are also supported by external evidence, then we have a comfortable state of affairs. The discomfort of cognitive dissonance occurs when things fall out of alignment, which leads us to try to achieve a maximum practical level of consistency in our world.” The conclusions come from works by Festinger and Heider.
The certainty effect theory was introduced in the prospect theory and shows how individuals are more likely to make a decision that gives absolute certainty versus one that gives a reduction of it. I am sure it is common knowledge to us all that we prefer to be sure about something rather than not; in fact, the whole basis of this post lays in this notion: how to know what makes the best decision ever for each of us is equal to the desire of certainty.
The bias blind spot theory states that we are less likely to see our own biases in our decisions, judgements and actions. We tend to state others as more biased than us, while excluding ourselves from falling within bias. When making decisions we are convinced (most of the time) that our thoughts are without judgement, preconceived notions, inclinations and what not. The reasons for this in that we can fully explain ourselves, what we need, and our motives; while we can’t when it comes to others due to the fact that we are not them. Our fallacy however, lies in that negation of fact. No one is really immune to bias and when making a decision we should remember this.
The unconscious thought theory says that our unconscious mind can perform tasks outside of our awareness and that it is better at solving complex tasks, but not as good when it comes to making decisions regarding tasks with fewer variables (“The Unconscious Thought Theory”, Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia.org, July 24, 2011). This theory has opposition by those who believe conscious thought is more reliable than unconscious ones, but what we want to focus on in this case is that it is possible that we make decisions with our unconscious mind. Like the bias blind spot theory, awareness of how we decide something gives us power to steer or be knowledgeable of why we make decisions.
The filter theory explains to us how when we are deciding on something a filter is applied on it based on our social and internal variables, as well as personality traits. The filter theory is a sociological theory that is mostly applied to mate selection, but does expand further depending on interpretation or desired subject of argument. For example in our case we are saying that making the best decision ever can be influenced by our built up filter system.
From this brief list of what can affect how we make decisions we realize there are many factors to keep into account; things we should be aware of for knowing why we choose one path from another. Awareness can ease our preoccupation and/or over thinking on how to make the best decision(s) and why. By having a reason it is easier to accept decisions one has made, instead of continuous question and burden. If you wish to explore these theories further and come to know more of them you can go to changingminds.org. You also find an interesting article on the subject on decisionmaking.org . The Best Decisions Ever Made Part 3 will follow with the exploration of the rational egotism principle, which will bring one solution to our best decision ever made dilemma.
While I work on the continuation of The Best Decisions Ever Made I thought I’d write a post in reference to Christmas.
After Thanksgiving many have already set up their Christmas trees, others are shopping for more ornaments, some have decorated their houses, put up the nativity scenes and the churches too prepare for their celebratory traditions. No need to say there is a good deal of criticism in regards to this holiday and the reason for its existence, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ; as well as for other attributes it has acquired through time such as abundant decorating and gift giving (tainting it to some as a materialistic celebration). Whether Jesus Christ was born or not on December 25th, that the holiday coincides with the winter solstice celebrations and/or that materialistic explosion takes place through decoration and gift giving around this time of year; the Christmas spirit is not lost.
Many holidays have been slightly tainted, maybe they were tainted to begin with, but they all serve the same purpose: love and giving; being kind to others; helping your fellow human; loving your neighbor; getting together with family; showing appreciation and thanking God (for those who believe) for the coming of the Lord; thanking the earth for what it gives us and so on and so forth.
In this spirit I thought I’d share what some of the other places in the world do to prepare for their Christmas; the first thing that came to mind were the folkloristic European Christmas markets. I found numerous posts of these types of markets on Rising Incoming Organizer’s Facebook Page and am linking a couple of them here (for the others you can visit R.I.O.’s FB page:
European Christmas markets – http://www.starwoodhotelpromotions.com/spg/christmasmarkets/
The top 8 Christmas markets in Italy according to Slow Italy – http://slowitaly.yourguidetoitaly.com/2011/11/top-8-christmas-markets-in-italy/
Also, if you are in Italy around the holidays and trying to plan something for New Year’s Eve, I found that Rising Incoming Organizer (an Italian tour operator) has a 3 day New Year’s Eve Holiday Break in Italy. You can download the brochure in English or Italian from their website; it has full details and price.