Money: the Second Master

Everyone has to think about money at some point. Some may be lucky and have so much money that thinking about it doesn’t worry them too much. Others may have so little that their lives must run a different way, through trade, or sadly out of life. I think the majority of the West are somewhere in the middle, sometimes struggling, sometimes OK.

But what happens when most of your thoughts are about money, bills, what’s coming in, how much is going out, how to make it, how to save it, how much things are worth? I sometimes slip into these frames of mind and it sucks. I get to a point where I think more about that than most things, and easily more than my God.

Sometimes I forget that God tells me He’s got it covered. Sometimes I forget that work isn’t what defines me, and so the lack of it doesn’t make me lesser. Sometimes, despite hating money with my heart, I long for it in my mind.

So what do we do about it? It’s all too easy for people to tell the homeless man to get a job, but how do they think that man can get a job without money for paper CVs, money to pay the bills for heating and water and a home to clean himself so the interviewer doesn’t pass him by, the money to pay whatever transport costs he might have. In this fallen world, money is everywhere and if you don’t have it people tend to start looking down on you. What’s the answer when you need money to make money, and you have nothing?

What do we do about it? How do we change the patterns? How do we get ourselves into a position where money doesn’t matter, especially when bills, debts, and loan sharks are circling so many people.

I’m not sure I have the answer, but I do think this struggle is saying something about the economy in our lives in modern day. I saw an interesting program, Surviving Progress, which suggested that the economy as it is will crash and is likely to crash soon. That this is due to a number of things, but partly the fact that the cancellation of debts went out of fashion with the Romans and this will result in a second Dark Ages. The cancellation of debt was connected to Biblical (although not specifically labelled Jewish) law in which debts were cancelled to allow the recovery and restart of the economy. It made sure that no-one got too rich or too poor, and there was always a chance of starting again.

I’m wondering if in a way a new Dark Ages would be a good thing. This sounds horrible as it would mean heightened war, disease, lack of care for so many, and so many other issues. And yet, our entire civilisation would have to choose between adapting, returning to trade and industry and community, or choose money and die. I wonder if a time in which we swapped potatoes for meat, in which land was not just worth something for money but sustained life, in which people learnt to respect nature, work with it and not destroy it for material gain, might be good for us.

If we could learn the old lessons, evolve a little more before we tried to play God, then maybe it wouldn’t be so easy to treat money as a Master. If we were to finally see, as a collective, that money was really just pieces of paper and pieces of (increasingly worthless) metal, then maybe we would see people as people rather than tools.

This may seem like a pessimistic post, but I do believe that people could turn back, could learn old lessons they’ve forgotten, could look Banks in the face and refuse to play the game of it all.

I find it half-amusing half-scary that economics has a number of rules that don’t fit reality. For example, the belief that every person is rational, and by rational they mean self-serving. Charity doesn’t make sense to economics. That’s because economics is about money. Charity is about people. Maybe we need to get back to a people-focused world. Then we might understand how to live without money as a second Master.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Hate to burst the nostalgic bubble but people in the Dark Ages had money, loads of mints and full-on coinages that Christian kings minted with pictures of the Agnus Dei. The role of the ‘money lender’ in later Medieval ages is interesting, might be interesting to investigate who was doing the lending and the buying?

    The other question I guess is, would greed and jealousy, the real underlying issues with our love of money, be any less if we took away currency, or would it just re-emerge as say, chickens, or worse trade in say, people?

    If we could escape the idealistic way they are viewed perhaps the lifestyles of the Celtic church, engaged in serving communities with their hands, their hearts and their prayers might be closer to the mark?

    Discuss.

    1. EKMCronin says:

      I didn’t think I was describing a nostalgic view of it. In fact I’m pretty sure I did the opposite as I accepted that a lot would be worse (healthcare) etc. I also didn’t want to imply that it’s the physical notes and coins that are the problem because yes I do know that there was coinage. Nor was I suggesting a lack of coinage. Or that I have an idealistic view of the Celtic Church (though I do think there were some good priorities such as the ones you’ve mentioned).

      My point was that if there truly was a Dark Ages civilisation-crumbling time, as suggested in Surviving Progress – the documentary I mentioned, we might be able to learn a few of the lessons again, and progress in a better way, learning from our mistakes as we obviously haven’t this time. The only reason I used the Dark Ages as a particular point in history is due to the documentary linking it to the fall of the Roman Empire (the first to stop the cancellation of debt). Maybe I wasn’t clear but I really wasn’t trying to portray a false view of history, instead suggesting that if suddenly money meant less, because lets say the value of the land and food were more valuable life-sustainer than the money, then we might be better off.

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