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#1 2007-03-06 13:57:36

limukala
Member
From: O'ahu
Registered: 2006-05-26

The Pursuit of Wealth

I hope that people still check this section out even though it doesn't get as much action, cause I'd like you guys' input on this.  I wrote an open letter to a few of my friends, but I'd love to hear what y'all think.


I’ve never been comfortable with the idea of the open-ended pursuit of wealth, but never been able to articulate or understand why, so I often assumed it was do to immaturity or an incomplete perspective. Lately I’ve come to the opinion that my original instincts were correct, I just lacked the framework to explain or understand them. I’ve often heard the expression (I’ve almost certainly used it myself) “money is just a form of energy” or something to that effect, and there is obviously nothing wrong with seeking self-empowerment right? While energy can and often is used in negative ways, if you are careful and conscious, you can make sure your manifestation of energy is completely positive.

This line of thinking is seductive because it is almost true. The key is that money is not energy, rather it is symbolic of energy. This isn’t necessarily bad either. The problem is that it is a symbol which only has meaning within a system of domination and power-over, and is completely worthless in any other context. As Stan Goff said, “money is the entitlement to someone else’s labor,” although that definition is a little incomplete in our modern economy, what with the vast infusion of fossil fuel energy. It might be better (but less eloquently) said that money is the entitlement to the exploitation of other people and/or the environment. This is what our entire civilization (actually, all civilization) is based on, the creation of local good at the expense of distant harm. The more advanced the civilization, the more cleverly and distantly that harm is exported, making it all the easier to ignore and/or rationalize it. To deny this is to be completely out of touch with the basis of our economy and the reality of our relationship to the environment and life in the Third World (including, to a lesser extent, our domestic third world). This is not a superficial problem either, it is pervasive and systemic, and as such, cannot possibly be fixed within the system.  Trying to heal our planet by working within the system is a bit like a crack addict thinking to solve his addiction by getting a better pipe (an imperfect analogy, but the best I could think of at the moment).

A quote from Frank Herbert (author of Dune) really crystallized all this for me:

The convoluted wording of legalisms grew up around the necessity to hide from ourselves the violence we intend toward each other. Between depriving a man of one hour from his life and depriving him of his life there exists only a difference in degree. You have done violence to him, consumed his energy. Elaborate euphemisms may conceal your intent to kill, but behind any use of power over another the ultimate assumption remains: “I feed on your energy.”

I can’t say it and clearer (and certainly not any better) than that. This is why movies and books like “The Secret” are especially scary. They are basically unmitigated, careless selfishness packaged as spirituality. It is especially frightening because it is 99% true. But, like the rat poison that is 99% sweet cookie, that other one percent is nasty stuff. The Law of Attraction is undeniable and powerful, but why does the movie focus exclusively on material wealth? Why not manifest a world where money is useless because everyone is so happy to give (i.e. a classic “gift economy,” which was the worldwide standard for the first 2 million years of human history)? Well, one big reason is that the vast majority of luxury goods, in fact the entire luxury lifestyle is predicated upon hordes of slave laborer in the third world and wholesale destruction of the environment. If you aren’t seeking luxury goods, there is absolutely no need for large amounts of money.

Followers of Steve Pavlina and the like will retort “but I say ‘for the good of all and harm none’ when I manifest money” or something like that. The problem is, that is a bit like saying “I’m only going to eat food that didn’t get it’s energy from the sun.” Even if you avoid all plants, every bit of energy you consume came from the sun at some point, however indirect its path to you. When there is an obvious conflict like this, don’t you think your subconscious (which is the pathway to the subtle realms where these effects take place) opts for the stronger desire, especially when you don’t even realize there is a conflict?

For these reasons I can’t see money as anything but a necessary evil (and only necessary in a very limited and temporary sense). I need money to eat and stay sheltered right now, and I need a fairly large amount of money in the mid to near future (to buy a small plot of land), but the purpose of that is to free me from the need for money in the future. It sucks that I even need to do that, but I can’t think of any other way to free myself from imperial bondage without abandoning my responsibilities to my daughter. The key is that there is a finite goal in mind (and a fairly modest one at that). Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of a cancer cell, as someone smart once said. It is precisely this sort of metaphysical cancer which is destroying our home (Earth) as we speak.

Another popular line of thought is that you can use large amounts of money to do good things. For instance building schools in Zimbabwe or buying a huge plot of land to start some kind of eco-plantation. I have problems with this on a couple levels. First of all, it is like making a deal with the devil, and the devil always gets his due. Like any Faustian deal, it is necessarily based on some ego-aggrandizement too, though cleverly disguised and concealed with altruism.

Actually though, the school is very hard to argue with as a good use for lots of money, but I have yet to hear of anyone doing that for whom the amount of money involved is anything but trivial (like Oprah, for instance). The more common idea is something like the eco-plantation, or really any operation with employees, but I’ll stick with the farm cause I’m more comfortable there. If you want more land than you can actually work yourself, ask yourself why. If you need employees to work it for you, you are necessarily stealing from them unless they are partners. Almost nobody thinks of it this way (especially since the “Red” scare) but how can it be anything but? If you think that you are entitled to more simply because you already have more (it’s “my land” so I get a bigger share) than you are an are simply serving to perpetuate the class divisions that have been plaguing humanity since the dawn of agriculture. If you don’t seek this, then why bother with a big chunk of land at all. Why not manifest a good plot for your family, and use to extra energy to help others do the same. If you’re trying to get way more than you need so you can be in a position to supply others, than it seems like you are setting yourself up to be some kind of savior (which usually devolves into “ruler”) rather than a leader. Why hand out fish all day when you can build a community of fishermen?

Besides that, I’m not really comfortable with the concept of property anyway, at least not as it is currently understood. Most traditional cultures had nothing like ownership except for things you made yourself (or someone made and gave to you). How can we “own” something we had no part in creating. I can understand stewardship of the land you and your family work, and the privileges and responsibilities that come with that, but that is different than ownership and conveys a completely different attitude towards the land.  Having more land than that is just feudalism no matter how you paint it.

So it all comes down to this: why should we try to manifest money when we should be manifesting a society where money is obsolete?


seeker of truth

follow no path
all paths lead where

truth is here

E.E. Cummings

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#2 2007-03-06 14:27:01

Lono
Walker of worlds
From: Oklahoma, USA
Registered: 2006-05-03

Re: The Pursuit of Wealth

I understand your frustration, because I feel it too.  However, I'm currently tied to money in the same way everyone else it.

For example, my cat has a recurring urinary tract problem.  This morning he's giving signs that it's coming back.  I know this time it means the surgery I've been trying to avoid, so it also means $$.  I, however, made that $$ in a way that's as easy and untaxing as I can possibly make it.  I work from home, maybe put in 2 to 4 hours a day of actual "work," so it's my way of making it in the world on my own terms.

The problem with creating that society of which you speak that requires no money is that 1) there are too many of us, and 2) there are way too many who would take, but not give.  That's why the so-called idealism of the socialist and communist societies don't work.  People spend more time trying to figure out how they can screw other  people than they do in producing something they love.

In an ideal world, I would grow vegetables and flowers, and the guy down the street would do veterinary work.  Maybe I'd supply him with veggies for three years, and all of a sudden my cat would require care.  It would even out in the end.  But with the mentality of today's society, someone would always feel shorted, or would be looking to short someone. 

So maybe the guy down the street could fix plumbing in houses, but it would be like pulling teeth to get him over to fix my leaky drain.   He would be that one guy who takes and takes, but acts like he's doing you a big favor when it's time to do his share.  Even worse would be the guy at the end of the block who wants to lay around all day and do nothing and feels it's everyone else's responsibility to take care of him.  There would be a lot of entitled folks in today's society who would expect to be taken care of.

As strange as it sounds, I think the sense of entitlement would have to be the first thing to go if we lived in a moneyless society.

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#3 2007-03-06 22:57:04

limukala
Member
From: O'ahu
Registered: 2006-05-26

Re: The Pursuit of Wealth

"there are way too many who would take, but not give"

The funny thing is, that it often the case in many primitive cultures, yet nobody cares because they enjoy what they do.  "I enjoy hunting, he enjoys laying around in the hammock, and he enjoys planting casava, so hey, we're all happy."

"The Continuum Concept" by Jane Liedlow goes into this topic briefly.  She lived with the Yequana in Brazil for years, and one example she gave was a man who was half Indian, who upon meeting his Yequana father decided to abandon his "civilized" life in Caracas and return to the jungle.  At first he did absolutely nothing, but eventually started fishing and hunting a little, but still no work in the gardens.  His family never cared or even hinted at the slightest bit of resentment and fed him continually.  Eventually he decided of his own accord that he wanted to start a garden of his own, and was shocked to realize he wanted to work.  His Yequana father thought it was hilarious that he didn't know he wanted to work (although the translation was probably more like, wanted to "garden" since the Yequana don't even have a word for work in their language, there is nothing to set it apart from other activities).  Of course, this idea breaks down when you get into a complex society with a bunch of comfy elites at the top and thousands of times that many shitty, degrading, tedious and laborious jobs as the bottom. 
I'm not advocating a communist culture, per se.  What I am advocating is a gift economy, and I think we could most definitely take steps to create such within the framework of existing society.  Obviously some degree of money would be necessary just to prevent clashes with greater society (taxes), and to provide things that are temporarily, if not necessary, at least useful enough to justify their acquisition (gas, or better, biodiesel, etc).  I'm of the strong opinion that this civilization is crashing all around us anyway though, and the more framework we can set up for a healthy, truly reciprocal society now, the better our chances of making it through the impending crash. 

Even if it doesn't crash though, what is wrong with creating a micro-community that is based on "how can I enjoy myself and serve the greater good" rather than "how can i get as much as possible for as little as possible" which is the inevitable result of the current structure of our economy.

Now, that idea of not caring about the laziness of others doesn't fly during emergency situations where the entire effort of everybody is needed just to survive (which is what the case will be I'm sure for at least the first several years during and after collapse).  Of course, hard times tend to take care of the inept anyway, as when we flee into the jungle, I don't plan on hauling any deadweight along (won't name names, but one relative in particular stands out here).  When things are going well though, it doesn't take much effort to live (horticulture is the most efficient strategy of living in terms of EROEI), and I wouldn't mind feeding a few daydreamers.  If they can't pull it together when it really needs to happen though, they are SERIOUSLY ill and I guarantee won't even make it 1 month without civilization.

Do you really think a small, tight community will tolerate any freeloaders during the first few, arduous years of set up or the even more arduous years of transition. 

I should also say that I can't see this working on any but the most idealistic level with anything close to our current level of societal complexity (guess I did already, yeah redundancy)




I was geared more towards the pursuit of wealth as an end in itself anyway, not the specific alternative I hinted at.  Any flaws in the argument there?


seeker of truth

follow no path
all paths lead where

truth is here

E.E. Cummings

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#4 2007-03-06 23:38:01

treehugger
Member
Registered: 2006-02-06

Re: The Pursuit of Wealth

"Do you really think a small, tight community will tolerate any freelaoders during the first few, arduous years of set up or the even more arduous years of transitions?"

Probably not. If you have watched any of the "Survivor" tv shows, where people are thrown on a tropical island with no food or water or shelter, there are always the "ones" that everyone else feels arent pulling their share of the work. Heck, take any family household, and there's always someone that the rest feel isnt doing their share of chores.


In man's analysis and understanding of himself, it is as well to know from whence he came as whither he is going.   Edgar Cayce

Beliefs are tools for social conditioning, rather than expressions of inner realization or inner truth.   unknown
Ad Verecundiam

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#5 2007-03-07 02:28:43

Lono
Walker of worlds
From: Oklahoma, USA
Registered: 2006-05-03

Re: The Pursuit of Wealth

You have that SAME freeloading relative?!  Ha ha!  smile  But yeah, you're right-- freeloaders won't be tolerated during crunch times.  I hate to say it, but I think they would just get kicked off one "island" after another until they either learned to pull their weight or starved. 

But regarding the gift economy... we spent all last week moving, and my favorite part was putting out old pieces of furniture with "free" signs on them, and watching them disappear into the night.  The idea that something that no longer fit me was perfect for someone else is nice.  I myself have taken pieces of furniture for free, painted them, and lived with a piece of personal art until it was time for me to give them away.  I also got joy out of picking out NICE things that didn't fit my personal style anymore and giving them to an organization called Animal Aid.  They have a thrift shop that helps to fund their fantastic work. 

So I enjoy giving, and I'm not opposed to receiving when the time is right.

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#6 2007-03-07 03:55:35

starling
Member
Registered: 2006-11-13

Re: The Pursuit of Wealth

Lono wrote:

You have that SAME freeloading relative?!  Ha ha!  smile  But yeah, you're right-- freeloaders won't be tolerated during crunch times.  I hate to say it, but I think they would just get kicked off one "island" after another until they either learned to pull their weight or starved. 

But regarding the gift economy... we spent all last week moving, and my favorite part was putting out old pieces of furniture with "free" signs on them, and watching them disappear into the night.  The idea that something that no longer fit me was perfect for someone else is nice.  I myself have taken pieces of furniture for free, painted them, and lived with a piece of personal art until it was time for me to give them away.  I also got joy out of picking out NICE things that didn't fit my personal style anymore and giving them to an organization called Animal Aid.  They have a thrift shop that helps to fund their fantastic work. 

So I enjoy giving, and I'm not opposed to receiving when the time is right.

So if the things everyone needs are scarce everyone fights and claws and does their best to get as much as they can. When you have more than you need you can afford to be generous, as Lono did with her furniture.

If civilization crashes we all go back to the jungle. The immediate benefits of being a savage are all most people see; the long term benfits of cooperation and kindness never get a chance to manifest.

The futurists are hoping for a time when all the degrading, mind-numbing work is done by machines. That may be our best chance of making savagery obsolete.


We're all butterflies flapping our wings and changing the world.

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#7 2007-03-07 05:52:11

limukala
Member
From: O'ahu
Registered: 2006-05-26

Re: The Pursuit of Wealth

"The futurists are hoping for a time when all the degrading, mind-numbing work is done by machines. That may be our best chance of making savagery obsolete."

Whereas the primitivists point to the vast majority of our history in which there was no "degrading, mind-numbing work" to do because there were no elites to support in a lavish, energy intensive lifestyle.  Either one is fine with me, but I'm putting my money on a return to a primitive lifestyle, as deep in my gut it feels like the ship is already beginning to take on water (and much like the Titanic, there aren't near enough lifeboats, everybody thinks the boat is unsinkable, and nobody will believe the boat is sinking until they're in the water).


seeker of truth

follow no path
all paths lead where

truth is here

E.E. Cummings

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#8 2007-03-07 05:54:26

limukala
Member
From: O'ahu
Registered: 2006-05-26

Re: The Pursuit of Wealth

"If civilization crashes we all go back to the jungle. The immediate benefits of being a savage are all most people see"

Yes and no.  The people with by far the best chance of survival will be those with at least a small community of support (ever try to provide ALL your needs alone?).  Undoubtedly most group will be and will need to be quite savage to outsiders, but strict loner savages, or even most loner savage families will have little to no chance of survival.


seeker of truth

follow no path
all paths lead where

truth is here

E.E. Cummings

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#9 2007-03-07 14:48:32

Lono
Walker of worlds
From: Oklahoma, USA
Registered: 2006-05-03

Re: The Pursuit of Wealth

Starling, I think you're onto something when you say that when there is abundance, there is more sharing, and when there is scarcity, there's hoarding and stinginess.  Native peoples could be generous because there was an abundance of what they valued and needed.  Sweetgrass bundles, items they made with their own hands (they knew they could always make more), etc. 

If we're thrown backward through cataclysm, there will initially be scarcity because there will be too many people and too few resources.  The people who would survive would be those who could live in community and share.  Those who wouldn't would probably go off into small marauding bands.  Most wouldn't survive.

I still don't want that future.  I want one in which people choose to be generous because they realize there is abundance.

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#10 2007-03-07 22:45:09

starling
Member
Registered: 2006-11-13

Re: The Pursuit of Wealth

limukala wrote:

Whereas the primitivists point to the vast majority of our history in which there was no "degrading, mind-numbing work" to do because there were no elites to support in a lavish, energy intensive lifestyle.  Either one is fine with me, but I'm putting my money on a return to a primitive lifestyle, as deep in my gut it feels like the ship is already beginning to take on water (and much like the Titanic, there aren't near enough lifeboats, everybody thinks the boat is unsinkable, and nobody will believe the boat is sinking until they're in the water).

Civilization IS a lavish, energy intensive lifestyle. Our bodies are slightly modified tropical apes and most of us live outside the tropics. Take away extra energy and most everyone dies.

Lono wrote:

Starling, I think you're onto something when you say that when there is abundance, there is more sharing, and when there is scarcity, there's hoarding and stinginess.  Native peoples could be generous because there was an abundance of what they valued and needed.  Sweetgrass bundles, items they made with their own hands (they knew they could always make more), etc. 

If we're thrown backward through cataclysm, there will initially be scarcity because there will be too many people and too few resources.  The people who would survive would be those who could live in community and share.  Those who wouldn't would probably go off into small marauding bands.  Most wouldn't survive.

I still don't want that future.  I want one in which people choose to be generous because they realize there is abundance.

Read the history of the Roman empire; when a civilization collapses the savages band together and conquer what's left (ruining most of it, but they don't care). The virtues of kindness and cooperation are of enormous benefit to everyone... in the long run. They also require a lot of work in the short run. The cooperative bands of farmers and craftsfolk that would get together after a collapse would have to spend most of their time and scarce resources on rebuilding, not preparing for conflict, so when the savages came they would be overrun.

Lono, Limukala, I really, really hope that this is all garbage. Our civilization doesn't have to die. We don't need another Age of Savagery. People can be generous, loving and cooperative... or they can be savages. Most folks really do learn from experience; I'm waiting to see what tomorrow teaches us.


We're all butterflies flapping our wings and changing the world.

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