Rarely do I think about money, let alone write about it. Money seems like one of the most trite subjects anyone could write about. Never the less, what began as a lament about money turned into a rant, which then turned into my first (and hopefully last) philosophical examination of my feelings about money, which bared some uneaten fruit… at least by me.
It starts with where I stand financially; I have just enough money to pay for food and a cell phone bill for one year. At some point I will run out of money. I would say the goal of this project involves “Unlocking the Food.” That means no longer paying for food but having the know-how to acquire the food I need with my own two hands, through horticulture, hunting and gathering. Why stop with food? With my sights set on abandoning Civilization, it also means that I unlock shelter and no longer pay rent. Which would also imply unlocking water and heating too. That Civilization uses money as a tool to hold it’s members captive is quite obvious to everyone. But the obvious conclusion, that to “unlock” these necessities we must abandon the money which we must work to get, does not prove so obvious.
I will try and figure out how to live without money. I don’t think “money is the root of all evil” or something, I just fucking hate it. Not because I don’t have it, but because people fear living without it. People don’t know how to live without it. People don’t know what living looks like without it. People feel afraid of losing it. They would rather have money than a community. They would rather live alone and rich, than hungry and surrounded by friends. Why?
The million dollar question I have asks, what replaces money?
Money works as a medium of exchange. Dictionary.com tells us that an exchange means “to give up something for something else; part with for some equivalence; change for another.” Money symbolizing this representation of an exchange. It works as a stored exchange.
What do you need in order to eat in civilization? Money. What do you need to clothe and shelter yourself in civilization? Money. What do you need to entertain yourself in civilization? Money. What do you need to get this money? If you don’t have independent wealth, you need a job to get this money. In order to support yourself, you need money. In civilization, money = support.
What does an exchange look like? Giving someone something for something else. Giving something and getting something in return. A trade. Trade feels like a funny word. It means both an exchange and what you do for your livelihood. What do we do for money but trade our bodies and our services? I chop vegetables for other people to eat, to make my money. I then use the money to pay other people to chop vegetables for me to eat… and why do I buy food at the grocery store? Because I don’t know how to get it for myself. We trade our lives for services we cannot provide for ourselves.
No exchange can happen without people providing a service or a product (which really just means the service of making the product). What does this service represent really, but the actual person who does it. Without that person there, you have no service. The person exchanges their time and their skills. They exchange hours of their life they will never see again. To give something of yourself, for something in return. The exchange happens not for the product, but for the person who made it. An exchange involves people giving support to one another for support they cannot receive by themselves. The product nor the services have any real value. The real value comes from the person who performs product or service.
This describes the essence of the tribal system that Daniel Quinn discusses in his books; Give Support, Get Support. In tribal cultures people relied on each other for the basic necessities of life. Each person contributed their time and in return all of their needs were met. This may reveal why indigenous cultures found wealth in their people, not in the material items they produced. This system may show us why they did not hoard food. Who cares if you go hungry as long as you have family to go hungry with?
Money works a symbolic representation of people, of tribe. We even put pictures of people on our money. In civilization, people do not give you support, money does. That shows why money, although a symbolic representation of people, finds more value than the people themselves. That reveals to us why people of our culture seek money more than they seek actual friendships, and feel more willing to ditch a friendship if it means getting more money; psychologically, money means friendship.
If money foundations your support, then you will do whatever you can to keep that money or get more. People fear living without it so they fight to keep it. I have participated in many tribal ventures that have all failed. I believe they failed because the people could not see the value of people over the money; you can take the human out of civilization, but you can’t take the civilization out of the human. None of these tribal ventures tried to live without money, all of them felt afraid of not making enough. When people feel afraid of not getting enough money they’ll try to control the money. At that point, you have the hierarchical tendencies of civilized people come in and destroy the group.
I don’t mean to say that you can’t have a tribe and participate in the monetary economy. If you look to people for support, or geese or Salal berries, then you will do whatever you can to maintain those relationships and create more. Gypsies use money, but I don’t think they value the money they use more than their band. They do not feel afraid of going hungry together and from what I have read they have no social pressure to become billionaires. I believe we need to abandon the value of money over relationships. What do you replace money with? I think the more appropriate question looks like: What did people have before money? They had Tribe. Money feels like a poor, unfulfilling replacement for real people and real relationships.
In the end, I want to live without money not because I consider myself a “primitivist,” but because I would rather have the tribe. Plus, if we can prove to other people that we can do it, hopefully their fear of not having it will go away and we will have even more friends.
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