I was told once that capitalism is natural. Of course, I questioned the validity of this claim. What seems to be natural about it? Is it just an economic system, or is it a culturally manifested state of social normality? Then, I take it further. What is money? Why is money? What is this driving force that has the uncanny ability to rule lives across the globe? This is a hypersensitive part to the sphere of value.
A person works. A person gets paid a “currency” for his work. In turn, he reinvests his earnings by purchasing goods from other workers who, in turn, repeat the cycle; the capitalist system at work, in motion. This is the driving economic force of the world. Some are fortunate enough to enjoy their work; to completely feel a calling to their “job.” Some work three jobs or more and despise all of them. Then comes the question: Were it not for money, would we work? Why do we work?
For one reason or another, whether this be instinct or cultural conditioning, humans feel the need to be compensated for what they produce. Is it such a foreign thought to work or produce because you simply “want to” without being compensated for it? Because you simply feel a purpose for what you do? Must you believe that you will receive in order to give? To many, this concept is completely illogical. Why would I work for nothing? Right?
The volunteer works for nothing more than a cause, or a sense of duty and obligation. The Inca civilization thrived without the use of money. Native Americans traded furs and goods among other tribes before wampum was spread across North America. Other indigenous peoples gave gifts in exchange for goods out of respect. Many communal tribes produced what the tribe required, with no compensation whatsoever. Many more examples exist, but these days are long gone.
Over the centuries, value has been assigned to many items; gold, silver, diamonds, precious metals, minerals and many other things. Any of these items can be used as currency, or considered to be currency, but this exchange has led to inflation, poverty, thievery, slavery, war and atrocity. Albeit, some argue that without currency, anarchy would reign; that a currency allows for control of large populations; that without currency, human greed takes over and people would begin to hoard if everything was free.
These are all viable arguments, and quite possibly true. But have we ever known anything other than the current “values” of the economic system? How are we to say what would happen then?
The desire for objects has always perplexed me. Who was the first to see a piece of gold or a diamond and decide that it was valuable? These things can be useful, but, value is only assigned to objects by human beings. To survive, you need food, water and shelter. These are naturally valuable. You don’t need a gold bar or a pretty rock to survive. These are objects of desire. And when you become dust, these objects of desire will remain.
Though the concepts here are slightly of utopian vision, the possibility exists for humans to exalt from this paradigm. We must remember; the sphere of value is very powerful, and we should be cautious of its margins. In the end, currency may be required for civilization to operate, but currency should not operate the human being.
Perhaps when the children of men can look upon a rainbow and see only its brilliance of color instead of looking for a pot of gold; when we can all look upon a diamond and not see the glimmer in our eyes, but the reflection of spirit and starlight; when a man can look at all other men and call them his brothers and only wish to help them, perhaps then, the world will know peace.