Here’s an interesting question — is our culture’s fanatical worship and relentless pursuit of money destroying us? Could there any truth to the saying that ‘money is the root of all evil’?
The sad fact is that, yes, our worship of money — which is to say, human greed — is causing immense harm to both us and the planet on which we live.
Greed is destroying the planet, quite literally. Unbridled capitalism and consumerism have been adopted as a model of success not only by first world countries such as the USA but also by developing nations such as India, Brazil and China, who seek to emulate the affluent Western model.
We’re using the planet’s finite resources at a ridiculously reckless rate (increasing by about 30% per year), causing irreparable environmental damage. Meanwhile, a number of the richest Western governments have sidelined environmental issues (or denied the problems exist at all) in order to focus on the economy and, you guessed it, money.
But experts have warned that we can’t continue on our current trajectory without facing unimaginable disaster.
A report from the Worldwatch Institute has warned that only a large-scale transformation of our greed-based cultural patterns across the world can prevent “the collapse of human civilisation”.
A stark warning, but is anyone actually listening?
The Sociopaths At the Top
A frightening number of people have become so hardened that they cease caring who or what they have to trample on in their pursuit of avarice. People are actually willing to KILL in order to make money, and they frequently do.
A few years ago I read about a British guy who was jailed for selling fake bomb-detectors to people in countries like Iraq. This man, a self-styled ‘entrepreneur’, knew that these ‘bomb detectors’ were useless. It was obvious that many people would lose their lives using his devices. But he didn’t care because he was making millions from the sales.
On a larger scale, we have mega-corporations which now virtually run our government courtesy of the millions they spend on lobbying. Corporations enjoy the status of ‘personhood’. In other words, they have the legal and constitutional rights of human beings.
So, the question is, if corporations are seen by the law as people, then what kind of people are they?
“If corporations are indeed ‘persons,’,” David Niose writes in Psychology Today, “their mental condition can accurately be described as pathological.”
Time and again, psychologists have demonstrated that corporations are inherently sociopathic and, at worst, psychopathic.
They exist only to make money. With no moral concern, they are driven to do whatever is necessary to increase profits and amass wealth, regardless of how this affects other people or the planet.
It seems that no corporation is immune to this dehumanising effect. The bigger they get, the more ruthless they often become as they attempt to consolidate and expand their power. They don’t mind who they have to exploit, ruin or even kill. As for the planet’s environments and ecosystem? Take a look for yourself.
People that behave in such a way are considered pathologically ill and are dangerous. And so it is with corporations, yet these corporations are not held to account as a person would be. They’re ‘too big to fail’. They rule the world.
When money becomes more important than human life, we have a problem of disastrous proportions.
The Curse of Greed
The capitalist system has been in place for generations now. Karl Marx predicted its imminent downfall way back in the 19th century, but he didn’t account for it’s extraordinary sticking power.
Essentially, capitalist-consumerism keeps itself in place by perpetrating the same act of psychological warfare that many religions have done before it: convincing us that what we currently are and what we currently have is not enough.
We are conditioned from a young age to believe that we aren’t inherently whole or complete — and that we can’t be happy, successful or desirable unless we acquire and accumulate more and more ‘things’. People rarely stop to question this and so helplessly fall for the deep-rooted lies that keep the system in place.
Perhaps capitalism can work when there are checks and balances in place. The problem is, the way our economies run is according to a notion of perpetual growth.
As economist Kenneth Boulding said back in the 1970’s:
“Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.”
When contaminated by greed and the notion that we can always have more and more, the very basis of our economic system becomes a danger to us all.
“Growth for the sake of growth,” says Edward Abbey, “is the ideology of the cancer cell.”
How on Earth, literally, is infinite growth possible on a finite planet?
The very basis of our economic system is based on a logical fallacy; an impossibility, and one that might lead to our own extinction.
There’s a natural balance inherent in life.
When we lose touch with that, suffering is inevitable. Some believe that capitalism began spiralling out of control after the post-war boom when consumerism gradually became deeply etched into the human psyche.
Whatever the reason, somewhere along the line we ceased being citizens. Instead, we became mindless consumers.
Consumerism Does Not Make Us Happier
Ten years ago, when the economic crisis hit, I optimistically hoped that it might present us with an opportunity to realise that there’s more to life than consumer goods, fancy cars and huge TVs.
Studies have shown that as long as our basic needs are met and we have a certain level of wealth, we’re as happy as we’ll ever be. From that point, accumulating more wealth, more consumer goods, bigger houses and more expensive gadgets actually does nothing to make us happier.
So long as our basic needs are met, money does not make us happy. In fact, it can just as often make us miserable. The more we acquire, the more we have to lose and this can cause a great deal of stress, in addition to the stress caused by accumulating it in the first place.
We actually need very little to live on. The problem occurs when, as my teacher James Swartz says, we believe that our luxuries are necessities.
We’re no longer happy with just the basics because we’ve been conditioned to believe that we always need more, more and more. And then even more.
We become like cancer cells — ravenously consuming, with little regard to the totality.
So long as we have our luxuries we don’t really seem to care that our overconsumption of resources and the astounding waste our society generates is killing the planet, keeping others in dire poverty, decimating wildlife and, as the Worldwatch Institute warned, setting us on course for the complete collapse of human civilisation.
It’s also making us miserable. When everything is driven by greed, people are no longer treated with respect and integrity. They are treated as disposable resources.
Work-related stress is skyrocketing. People are being overworked and underpaid as companies take savage measures to cut expenses and maximise profits.
I now fear the economic downturn has brought out the worst in government, corporations and employers.
Our worship of money is destroying us. It’s distorting the human spirit and creating misery on a grand scale.
I don’t think that’s an unwarranted or needlessly dramatic statement.
The evidence is there, plain to see.
Money Is Not Real!
The most tragic thing is that money isn’t even REAL…we just collectively pretend that it is.
How can I make such a bold claim, you might ask?
Just take your American dollar or British pound to Austria, China or Zimbabwe and see how far you’ll get with it. There it’s just a useless slip of paper because it has NO inherent value of its own.
The slips of paper and the coins in your wallet are currency, not money. There’s a difference.
Currency can be printed or minted, but money can’t.
Because money is just a concept.
The idea of money was created as a representation of the value of goods, labour and services. It was designed to allow for the easy exchange of goods and services.
Currency is a symbolic representation of the concept of money. It makes society function more easily because in our incredibly complex culture barter would be unfeasible.
Our society uses fiat money, something that originated in 11th century China.
Fiat is the currency declared by a government to be legal tender, even though it has no intrinsic value. Historically, currency was backed by gold and silver reserves, but fiat currency is unrelated to the amount of gold or silver it ought to represent.
Sound like a bit of a scam? That’s because it is. Fiat currency is one of the biggest scams in human history.
Banks create money out of nothing — because it essentially is nothing.
Let’s say you want to take out a loan. You make an appointment to go see your banker. Once there, you get asked a number of questions and have some background checks. Then, if the bank decides to loan you the money, the banker will press a few keys on his or her computer and that money is ‘miraculously’ conjured out of thin air! It’s then transferred to your account and you can use this magical money to purchase stuff like the good little consumer you’ve been conditioned to be.
The problem is, you now have to not only repay this magical (and imaginary) sum of money, but also the very real interest it accrues.
Money is not wealth. It is debt.
Now, if a regular Joe gets a printing press and starts printing bank notes and lending them to people, expecting them to repay him with interest, he’s deemed a criminal and will be locked up.
Yet when a bank does this, it’s considered legal, even though there’s very little difference.
Because money is created out of thin air and has no gold or silver reserve to back it up, it’s clearly unreal. Yes, it’s represented by currency, by banknotes and coins, but those in themselves only have value because we all pretend they do.
Money is a total invention. It’s make-believe. Yet we’re all enslaved in a system based on this lie — a system that’s causing untold misery and destruction and which is inherently unsustainable by its very nature.
The world recession was caused by the criminal greed of the banking system. We all accept this system as legitimate because that’s what we’ve always been told and assumed to be true. Just as we’ve always assumed that money is real and not just the abstract fantasy that it is.
The fiat monetary system is essentially a Ponzi scheme, which is ironically illegal in many countries because it’s an out-and-out scam. Fiat money is based on debt and rooted on the assumption of continual, endless growth — which is clearly unsustainable in a finite world with finite resources.
If all the debt created by the issue of fiat currency was paid, there would be no currency at all. So new money is continually created, producing ever greater debt and inflation. This debt is paid off by taxes and through continual devaluation of the currency. It’s the people that suffer for this — first the working class, then the middle class — while those at the top of the pyramid are literally laughing all the way to the bank.
But they won’t be laughing forever because the system is destined to collapse.
It’s already happening.
Governments are desperately trying to paper over the cracks, but no one is yet willing to revolutionise the system. At the moment, our leaders are basically trying to rearrange the deck-chairs as the Titanic sinks.
I actually don’t want to think about what could happen when the global monetary system eventually collapses and all the ‘money’ we think we possess suddenly becomes as valuable as toilet paper (in fact, less so).
I’m not one for conspiracy theories or doomsday obsessions. But the very fabric of our society has become so dependent on the illusion of money that when the scam collapses, it has the potential to be devastating beyond imagination.
We need to change the system now.
When the Occupy movement sprung up a few years back, I had a glimmer of hope. Yes, it was easy for cynics to jeer and, yes, it lacked direction and a cohesive agenda, but it was a start. I don’t even know what happened to it.
Most people are still too blindly obedient to the system to be able to question it. It’s just seen as the way things are. But we simply must question and challenge it. We need to preempt the catastrophe of a global monetary collapse. If we don’t, we’ll be left picking up the pieces — and it will not be pretty…
Is It Time For a Resource Based Economy?
Back in 2011, I watched a documentary called ‘Zeitgeist: Moving Forward’. The third in a series of films by Peter Joseph, it confirmed a lot of what I already knew to be true, but also managed to change my outlook on life in a big way.
It actually gave me a lot of hope for the future.
The first half of the film is a fascinating and captivating exploration of human nature. It moves onto human pathology and explores in detail just how damaged and damaging our modern consumer society has become — not only in the way it is stripping the planet to bits but also destroying the human spirit.
As the late, great Jacque Fresco bluntly states after a lengthy prologue:
This all might sound pretty depressing and some of it truly is. We are one messed up species, make no mistake. But it also offers a pretty amazing and convincing solution: the adoption of a resource-based economy.
It’s a term coined by the Jacque Fresco, an American designer, architect, futurist and philosopher who founded the Venus Project. The project aims to make the resource-based economy a workable reality.
The resource-based economy is a holistic socio-economic system in which all goods and services are allocated freely as needed without the use of money, debt, credit, barter or servitude.
The second half of the film explores Jacque Fresco’s vision, showing in great detail how a resource-based economy would work.
It’s absolutely fascinating — futuristic, visionary, inspiring, thought-provoking.
In spite of the insane way we are depleting resources, the planet still has enough resources to support us all. The problem is the way those resources are controlled and allocated and the gross inequalities that have arisen.
The resource-based economy, as devised by Fresco (although he was by no means the only pioneer in this field) is a high-technology society in which success is determined not by money or power but by the utilisation and fulfilment of one’s individual talents and abilities.
What about greed and criminality? Well, those are actually byproducts of our current society which emphasises scarcity and a dog-eat-dog culture in which everyone is out for themselves. These dysfunctions are not an innate part of human nature. They are a distortion of it, brought about by living in a profoundly sick society.
Fresco’s proposals include redesigning cities to be energy-efficient, clean and powered by renewable energy with far less waste. There would be greater emphasis on education and teaching children how to relate to each other and the world in a more meaningful way.
The philosophy behind this system is remarkably aligned with the principles of the Tao Te Ching. It’s all about balance, harmony with nature, efficiency and equality.
Yes, the concept might seem highly idealistic and utopian. It may seem unworkable when you consider just how contrary it is to our current greed-based, money-worshipping culture.
But it truly is an inspired vision…and everything that was ever created began as a vision.
Fresco’s designs and illustrations alone are worth checking out! For more information, visit The Venus Project website.
It’s Time to Move Forward
I recommend everyone watch the Zeitgeist film.
It’s a massive wake-up call.
Even if you disagree with the proposals, it will change the way you look at the world, human nature and human potential. While the film makes it abundantly clear that we must change NOW (and it’s almost impossible to disagree with its analysis of the current state of society and economy), it gave me an enormous amount of hope — hope that we can and will change and that there are viable alternatives to the way we’re living.
When a species reaches an immense crisis point it doesn’t have to just roll over and die. Because that’s precisely the moment when evolutionary breakthroughs are possible. It’s the moments of crisis that make or break us.
I believe that if we can just wake up and start caring long enough, we are more than capable of rising to the challenge. The power and potential of the human spirit is immeasurably vast. We aren’t just specs of cosmic dust. We are the universe made manifest; the universe growing conscious of itself. It’s time to reclaim our power.
Let me know what you think of the film and feel free to share. It’s now received over 24.5 million on youtube which is very encouraging.
Hope is such a small word, but it’s one that’s filled with wondrous potential.