Upside Down and Backwards
We can’t talk intelligently about our own money issues and actions without talking about the global canvass upon which these actions are being played out. Without this knowledge and understanding, we can’t be fully conscious in the realm of money or know what right action is. To this end in this article, I am going to look at the world’s money system from as broad a perspective as possible.
Our recent political landscape has grown our awareness of the 1% as brokers of influence, power, and privilege. With this understanding, we begin to see how flawed our money system is and how it has undermined community and contributed to alienation, scarcity consciousness, and competition. As I expose this more deeply you may see how these trends are symptoms of an economic growth model that is meeting its consummate end. We are in urgent need of a more connected, sustainable, and ecological basis for economic exchange.
If you follow global news you may have become aware that our current economic model is a global economy with interconnected economies but no matching political process. You can see the fallout from this in the demise of many small countries, the increase in wars on the planet, the increase in fundamentalism and terrorism. Perhaps looming is the global collapse of the banking system. Because of this lack of economic and political integration we have no way to predict the future. The past is no longer a guide. From my perspective, this indicates the beginning of a major paradigm shift.
We all have different ideas about money and these constitute patterning influences that constrain our experience of reality. For example, we may perceive the world from a prey/predator – victim/tyrant perspective, or dual/non-dual, holographic/ordinary and so on. Whatever our viewpoint, it limits our capacity to embrace other views. If you are on a spiritual path you may reject the reality of people who are not. But if 99.999% of people hold a non-spiritual view or reality how can they all be wrong, when much of reality is formed by consensus?
Hameed Ali of the Ridhwan School for Consciousness Development has said that true freedom is the ability to hold any view depending on the requirement of the situation. Today I want to look at different ways of looking at money and our changing relationship to it.
Conventional View of Money
The bartering of food preceded coinage by centuries. The introduction of coinage gave greater freedom from limited direct exchange and allowed greater extension into the world. The intention originally was to facilitate sharing, but it actually moves us a way from personal engagement and social relationships. It gave us a sense of independence and autonomy but removes us from mutual survival which binds people together and forges community.
Even in the modern world money is worth nothing until it is changed into goods. Its value is based on the economics of society, so it still connects us to the greater whole. From one point of view, globalization has made the world more interdependent and has made us more aware of the illusion of separateness.
Another View of Money
Money is a symbol of our labor but unlike our labor it has the quality of exchangeability. We take our subjective lives – our time and energy – and turn them into a spendable object or commodity. A healthy exchange gains us items that are productive or useful in our lives.
The practice of usury (charging interest) changes the dynamics of monetary exchange by making money an end in itself. In this way, money takes on some of the qualities of personhood and ceases to have objective value. Capital becomes self-serving rather than serving the needs of people, by placing the profit motive above all other concerns. When this happens the interests of people are sacrificed to those of profit, interest, and growth. An example of this is when a company in the US moves a factory to Mexico where high profits are achieved at the expense of the wellbeing of workers who work long hours in poor conditions for low pay.
Money was not originally intended to be an end in itself, but an exchange value for goods and services. By allowing our stock markets to behave like casinos, and banks to invest in unregulated intangible derivatives and not real assets, we have allowed Planet Financial to swallow Planet Real. Now money is more important than creativity and productivity. We no longer value our own tangible products. We are slaves, selling our lives for someone else’s profit. This lifestyle breeds immense alienation, with psychological and spiritual effects.
In this new financially driven society individuals feel exploited, inadequate, and deficient and suffer from an increasing inability to sustain their lives and even the planet.
To quote the Dalia Lama, “People were created to be loved, and things were created to be used. The reason why the world is in chaos is because things are being loved and people are being used.”
Usury was once considered a sin because charging interest to someone who needed to borrow money was seen as taking advantage of their misfortune. In the current global financial system debt is intrinsic to maintaining the structure. In the US individuals can’t charge usurious rates of interest, but banks and credit card companies can. Most Americans maintain an illusion of wealth by living under a mountain of debt. In reality, debt has stripped the wealth of the majority of the American people, blasting a crater under our economy.
Current thinking is that we are competing globally for scarce resources. This sets up fear, competition, and the need to keep producing more and more sellable goods. We measure wealth in GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and ignore health, well-being, education, and happiness.
While there is nothing wrong with growth per se, our current economic system is predicated on debt; on paying interest to get money. This means that more and more people must go into debt to keep the system afloat. Overall the money owed is greater than the money in circulation, which means that the national economy has to exponentially increase debt just to maintain the status quo. In this sense growth is an illusion. The growth model only works when we are able to keep producing more and more product. At this stage on the planet, this is no longer possible. There simply are no more resources to exploit. We have reached the limit of economic growth, the end of our ecology, and we are face to face with the lie that our system is based on everyone being a winner. In fact, there are few winners and many, many losers.
Of course, we have all participate in this toxic system to some degree. We use credit cards to buy stuff that becomes land-fill within a year. Or we buy products that end up in storage – a huge industry that has grown up in the last 30 years. And we pay for the interest on our credit cards with our time, our energy, our life force.
The biggest losers in this system are those left holding the debt with no way to pay it off, no debt relief, no job in sight, no assets to convert. It is time to recognize that the unlimited debt/unlimited growth model at the center of our economy is at the root of our current national crisis.
The impact of this nature of our current money system then is that it makes each of us a constant victim and has us chase a materialistic life instead of a spiritual one. We have made money our God, and the money system has made permanent divisions in our society. It has deeply impacted the way we look at life. Instead of pursuing a life of inner meaning, and recognizing we ARE value, money has turned our lives upside down and backwards. True wealth is recognizing the value of who you are, that you are one, in unity with, with the deepest nature of reality. Instead, money has imposed a value on us. We are our monetary value and our cultural status, and even right to life is falsely based on the amount of money we have.
There is enough money in the world right now for everyone to be prosperous and there are technologies available for limitless resources, giving us all that we need materially. Imagine how that would also contribute to peace, well-being, and comfort for each being on the planet.
If we started to value our spiritual nature and who we are, the pull of the money realities would no longer apply. Instead, fear and competition would be replaced by achieving our unique potential, and in recognizing our own, we would recognize the value and uniqueness of every individual. We would want to work with each other to make the world better, helping and being of service to each other.
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience. There is no greater value than our spiritual true nature. And the highest human experience we can have is service to each other in life.
Right now our economic system is the inverse of sustainable, financially, and environmentally. We are fast approaching the point where this is not just about corruption but about our very freedom and maybe even our survival as human beings. We are far away from the value that every human being deserves an income for freedom and dignity. There seems to be no political drive to change this, so it is up to us. Becoming aware of our illusions and unwise financial and ecological choices brings us closer to ourselves. As we move towards what is uncomfortable in our fiscal world we become more objective about our financial reality. It is when we feel our brokenness that we begin to move toward wholeness. To give up using money as an object relation – a crutch, a symbol of self-worth, a tool for the superego – allows us to discover how truth, beauty, and being can manifest in our lives.
The opportunity of the current economic chaos is for us to right ourselves and to discover the truth that we are valuable.