Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Limitations of Money as Energy

The funny thing about things not happening overnight is they don't - only suddenly they appear to! The collapse of the Berlin Wall, the end of World War II, the destruction of the World Trade Center, the fall of the Soviet Union - all were experiences that took years in the making, but were observed by most as "overnight sensations."

The disappearance of money as our energy of exchange may happen the same way. We've been wrestling with money's inequities and limitations for thousands of years, struggling through recessions and booms and deflation and inflation, imperialism and human exploitation, land wars and power/resource grabs - all in service to the need to control the continued flow of money and profitability.

What hasn't changed is that money, by design, is a win/lose game at its core. It's worth is relative, not fixed. That means we CAN'T all ever have as much of it as we need, or it loses its value and power. Prices would just go up to absorb the extra money in the economy and siphon it off to the wealthy few at the top, so we'll continually need more of it than we have, no matter how much of it we put into circulation.

Right now the US owes 12 trillion dollars to the rest of the world. One trillion dollars laid end to end would stretch from Earth to the sun. Do you get that picture? :)

Unfortunately, what I'm saying is that we've agreed to exchange an energy source that must be deliberately kept scarce (money) for our work product (our labor and creativity) to build our modern society. Is it any wonder then, that we'll never have enough? The problems we're now experiencing with money are a reflection of the same struggle we're having with fossil fuels. We have too high a need for continued energy output, but not enough fuel to keep the system going. (I suspect our thinking will eventually shift and we'll solve both those challenges around the same time.)

With seven billion of us here on Earth we have an unimaginable amount of physical labor at our disposal, along with an infinite amount of talent, passion, ingenuity and creativity. Still we fret that we can't provide enough for all of us, and wonder aloud if we need to depopulate in order to survive. Why? Could it be we're choking off our own capacities at every turn by limiting education and personal progress to those who can afford to pay for it, so that someone else can profit off their acquisition of knowledge and self-empowerment?

We hinder our own ability to thrive at every turn by assigning no value to a person's work unless it's in service to a profit-making machine in the form of a job, despite how very much real work remains to be done to promote humanity's cause. We impoverish ourselves too, by funneling the primary fuel that runs our economy (money) into the hands of a very few. We then allow them to hoard it and spend it mainly on themselves, so they can live far better and more comfortably than most of the rest of us. We nod our heads when they promise to allow it to "trickle down" to us, and wait for the soothing rain that never comes.

We are self-destructing piecemeal by allowing our REAL energy - our own labor and creativity - to be used to subvert our genuine needs and values in exchange for the fake energy that is money. We can't eat money, wear it, live in it, drink it or mate with it. We can only pawn it off on someone else in exchange for what we actually need to survive - so long as the other person still clings to the delusion that money is real and possesses tangible value.

Meanwhile, we've been unwittingly destroying our surroundings, killing our fellow species and reducing our own ability to survive over the long-term to support the short-term profit making engines of business enterprise. None of which is pointed in any clear direction that serves as a vision for human destiny or promotes our evolution as a species. The direction of our economy today mainly points toward continuing to preserve and protect the continuation of business itself, while entertaining us (or stressing us into Prozac) in the short run so we don't notice what's happening around around us. We've also been encouraged to divide into groups and fight over concepts and beliefs, which distracts us into missing the reality of our planet's deterioration. We're now slashing our spending on all the stuff that has the potential to ensure a brighter future for us all - things like schools, scientific research, health care, parks, infrastructure and social services - because we fear we "can't afford" to do the things we need to thrive as a species.

These days I observe all the chaos, wars, banking collapses, moral failures, job losses, global contractions and business distress with bemusement, tinged with sadness. I trust that one day we'll wake up and a majority of us will have completely lost all faith in money as a form of energy exchange - seemingly overnight!

What happens after that will depend on what we're doing now to raise our own awareness of our interdependence on each other and on the magic, mystery and wonder that is life itself.

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