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)?