If we don’t begin to understand the place money has in our minds, how it is interwoven with the current story of humanity then we will not be able to change the way we think about it and therefore how we use it. Christine Laguarde (head of the IMF) recently said that ‘there is no alternative to the current measures being taken around he world by governments and banks in dealing with the financial crisis we find ourselves in.’ Surely this de facto statement isn’t actually true!
Some economists argue that money has been around for about 5000 years and define it according to its functions as a unit of exchange or unit of account or a store of value. But Charles defines money as something quite different – something which only came into being in the 7th century BCE in Greece. It was in Greece that coins first started having a stamp on them to indicate their value. This stamp or sign or symbol then gave the power. The marks became tokens of social agreements. It is this power of agreement that is the real essence of money. CE goes on to argue that those who want to return to the ‘good old days’ of the gold standard are longing for something that never really existed, except for brief moments in history as an ideal but not a reality. The transformation of money does not involve us going back to a certain standard but from an unconscious to an intentional embodiment of our agreements.
Now that everything has become commodified, we believe that things are equal to the money that can replace them – “you can always buy another one”. This immaterialism has depersonalised the world and removed the sacred. It is no wonder that we live as though if we wrecked the world we could simply buy another.
Money has become an agent of separation. We cannot mix business and friendship. We have tried to put a price on everything even our creativity. We have come to believe that we cannot accomplish our dreams without money and for some of us we believe that if only we had enough money then…….
So much of the way we view the world, and therefore money is underpinned by the philosophy of Ancient Greece, especially Plato. Such thought splits our world into a sacred/secular divide. But Charles challenges the idea that says “Sure, economic reform is a worthy cause, but what is more important is transformation of the human consciousness”. We try to separate out that which is utterly interwoven. Just as we cannot separate out spirit and matter, so we cannot separate out the psyche or our paradigms from how we think about and use money.
Money does not need abolishing, it needs restoring to its proper role. It has become a means of homogeneity/commodification and depersonalisation, a god that is not only our universal aim, but also our universal means. But money can change. We are not its slave. We can separate it out from the story of limitless growth and domination. It can become an agent of reconnection, redistribution and reconciliation. It just needs a bit of reimagining!