(This essay is, to some extent, a follow-up to the previous essay on this blog, “Thinking About the ‘Unthinkable’,” so it might be helpful to read that one first.)
A passage from a very popular book says, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” Now and then, we hear somebody misquote that passage, or accurately quote somebody else who misquoted it, saying, “Money is the root of all evil.” In my not-so-wise, or more-naïve-than-I-am-today, younger years, I would sometimes rush to correct the misquoters and tell them, somewhat self-righteously, “It is not money itself, but the love of money that is the problem. Money is a value-neutral object and can become positive or negative depending on how we use it.” Maybe so or maybe not, but in recent years I am thinking more and more, not. Of course, if there was no money, if we had an economy in which we did not use currency, then nobody could fall in love (or lust) with it. But that is not a complete or seamless argument, and I don’t think that anybody can logically argue that if there was no money there would be no greed, or no evil at all.
What is the point of discussing the idea of a world or an economy without money, especially when most humans today cannot even imagine such a world and consider the use of currency to be one of the most inescapable, inevitable realities in all of existence? The advent of exchange currencies was a result of scarcity caused by societies becoming unsustainable to their homeland bases, losing their economic independence, and therefore being compelled to depend on trade with other societies. There may have been a time when money was a relatively harmless, or neutral inanimate object, void of any intrinsic character (good or evil), but now—in this time like no other before it—things have changed. The problem with money—in our current dire dilemma, as the Earth and all who dwell therein are facing the worst catastrophe in human history—is the power that money has been given to perpetuate the engines of the monstrous machine that has created the catastrophe and continues to push us further away from any possibility of resolution to this crisis. Money itself has become the corporate industrial monster’s ultimate weapon, as well as the shackling chains by which the 1% has the rest of us in bondage, while most of us sit and watch “helplessly” as they ravage and plunder the only planet that we have. It is monetary economic systems (whether you are under the allegedly “socialist” system in China or the capitalist system of the U.S.A, or any other technologically unsustainable mega-nation) which gives these corporations and banks their leverage and their force. It is the very fact that they have us physically and legally in debt to, and psychologically bound to these corrupt, unnatural, arbitrary and unnecessary monetary systems that makes people go to work in toxic, destructive places like the tar sands of Alberta or the Bakken “oil fields” (to those who see nothing else in those beautiful lands in North Dakota), the Monsanto laboratories, or the Fukushima nuclear plant. It is money and the leverage of the monetary systems that makes even the best of the politicians in this world either completely subject to the will of the corporations, or impotent in their attempts to stop them. It is money and the commercial brainwashing of this submissive, unquestioning, unimaginative, stupefied culture that makes us think we’ve “gotta have it,” “can’t live without it,” and therefore must submit to the system even when it orders us to compromise our consciences and participate in activities that we know are wrong, or even deadly. The currency systems, in which all products and us people, too (not just our labor, but also our time, our energy and our health), must be bought and sold for a monetary price, in an extremely competitive market, compel people to lie and deceive, or steal outright, and sometimes even kill. But, more importantly, these monetary systems also alienate us from the true source of all wealth and all life—the natural world—and deceive us into thinking that these human-crafted strange objects we call “money” are the real wealth that we must covet and pursue endlessly, and that there is no other alternative (“That’s just the way it is.”).
Is the continued use of money and the deadly, life-sucking bondage of our current economic systems really inescapable or perpetually locked-in? One thing that most humans do not realize, in part because the pursuit of money is so normalized and unquestioned and in part because very few people talk about or teach this, is that for about 95% of the history of homo sapiens sapiens, we humans lived fairly well, for the most part, without money, or any form of exchange currency. It was normal throughout most of human history* for people all over the world to live in small, sustainable, earth-friendly societies with abundant natural resources and with a deep knowledge of and reciprocal relationship with the natural wealth of the Earth’s living systems or biosphere. As I mentioned in the previous essay, Thinking About the “Unthinkable,” many anthropologists over the last forty or fifty years have confirmed this. Those anthropologists also reported from their field observations of such societies that still exist that the people in those societies worked less hours, had more leisure time, and were happier and healthier than most people in modern industrial technological societies. If we can relearn some of those ancient, life-nurturing and life-sustaining ways and combine them with any clean, sustainable technologies that we have created since those times, we can also re-organize ourselves into small, sustainable societies (or allied networks of such societies), and free ourselves from any need or attachment to monetary systems. That may seem improbable to most people who have known nothing but the current prevailing social constructions, and who have been grossly misinformed about the real life ways and circumstances of small-scale, sustainable indigenous societies (both past and present), and to that I will simply say that there is much to learn about Earthways and our untapped potential, and so much that we don’t know. There are also questions about current human population size and ecosystem carrying capacities, that we probably cannot resolve definitively without actually making the attempt to redirect ourselves toward true sustainability and begin the learning processes. What other choices do we have?
What I am talking about here is actually the ultimate form of “going on strike” and the ultimate boycott. By creating such alternative economic systems, in harmony with Earth’s systems, and getting enough of the human population to join into these systems, we could then effectively disarm the corporate industrial death machine and stop the destruction of our planet. Our independence from the death machine mega-nations, their currencies, and their toxic products which we will no longer need, will remove all of their leverage and simultaneously break the chains that they have had us bound with for so long! If enough of humanity joined us in this revolutionary act of resistance, it would be a permanent, worldwide boycott of the system, and a true declaration of independence: independence from the corporate death machine system, replaced by interdependence, or, reciprocity with all parts of the natural systems of Life. We can and must unite our energies, minds, and abilities and come up with alternative, Earth-based, non-monetary economic ways and technologies, and wean ourselves from the use of toxic machinery and products, in the small window of time that remains, in order to be able to save life on Earth. I would rather do this, and take the matches out of the hands of these corporate arsonists who are burning up our planet, than to continue with futile and inadequate efforts to put out the innumerable individual fires through our acts of protest** and attempts to pass regulatory laws.
I realize that this will seem too daunting, and even impossible to most of us, but as the disappearance of artic ice and permafrost, the release of methane, the frequency of droughts and extreme, unpredictable weather patterns, extinctions of species, rising seas and many other evidences of climate disaster continue to accelerate beyond the rates that scientists predicted just a few years ago, what choices do we have? I know that among the greatest fears that we humans carry are the fear of the unknown and the fear of the loss of what is familiar and what we have prepared for and committed ourselves to—in short, the only way of life that we really know. Consequently, those amongst us who are the most deeply invested in the “success” of the current system, who see their own personal success as deeply intertwined with the perpetuation of the status quo, and in many cases feel that their investment in the system has rewarded them significantly, will have an especially difficult time hearing any of this. And then there is the majority of us, who may not feel significantly rewarded by or fond of the system at all, but have been persuaded to accept the idea that there is no way out—to whom I say, we don’t know what is possible until we all give this revolutionary change our greatest, unified effort. There might be many more people, worldwide, who are ready for this (including those who do not yet realize that they are ready for this!) than we have been led to believe.
Thank you for reading this, and I welcome constructive comments, ideas, and discussion in the comments section below.
*Although many other historians designate the pre-literate or pre-written records period of the 200,000 year existence of homo sapiens sapiens as “prehistoric,” I do not. There are oral traditions, archeological findings, anthropological analysis, and other sources that assist in piecing together a pre-literate historical record.
** We blockaded the “megaloads” of tar sands equipment trucks four times during the winter of 2014 and then the megaloads stopped. But what did they do instead? The oil companies spent 9 billion dollars (pocket change to them) retrofitting their haulers to go on the freeways and avoid us and built manufacturing plants in Alberta to reassemble the larger equipment up there, continuing the devastation of the dirtiest, deadliest industrial project on Earth. In the late Spring of 2015, the beautiful kayak and canoe protesters in the Puget Sound slowed down the Shell Oil drilling platform ship for a little while, but it too, ultimately, proceeded on to its infernal business.