We’ve become obsessed with a dream which has turned into a nightmare. At one time, people understood economies of scale. It was in a time way before the 7 billionth person populated this very tiny and very crowded planet. And it was before a time when our intelligence acquired so much depth that we were able to create our vital technology at a miraculously miniature size to help fuel our unrelenting growth. Everything got bigger for some: our big debts, our big fleets of transportation, our big cities, our big buildings, our big homes, our big cars, and our big collections of stuff. Then, one day, someone woke up, looked around, and stated, “What in the hell have we been doing, and why are we doing this?!”
We are a world obsessed, but obsessing about all of the wrong things. Our world never sleeps, nor does it even want to because of this obsession. This is the world that inexplicably managed to pass its obsession to each and every one of us, and that obsession is wrapped up in money. The obsession with money permeates our society, though it is not evenly distributed and that imbalance has finally caused us to lose our grips and tumble over the edge into the howling darkness.
Below is a video entitled “How The Banks Won”. It’s a part of the UK documentary series, Dispatches, which has been on the air on Channel 4 since 1987 covering some of the most significant issues affecting the UK and the world. This particular episode shreds apart the rhetoric that our monied interests have spread over the years, especially in the wake of the 2008 global financial meltdown that is still continuing unabated since that catastrophic day:
When did we go from money being the next step up from our bartering system of old to the single biggest obsession of our world today? Since the Industrial Age began in the 18th century, the concept of money as the foundation of creation took on a new significance that made the earliest concepts of money and wealth pale in comparison. It inevitably became the voice of our business conversations with the advent of the global business network. Those who had plenty soon had the loudest voices, and they used it to smother the voices of those who were money’s prisoners. Just look at the Citizens United pronouncement by the US Supreme Court if you’re not convinced of money’s monopoly. Or the pending SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) bill that has the entire world as its opponent with only a group of companies who stand to benefit from this draconian legal tactic that has even the Department of Justice salivating because of its sharp eviscerating teeth.
When conditions became so horrid for the workers that supported the Industrial Revolution and its offshoots, people started to gather together to create “unions” so that they could generate louder voices and actions that pushed back against the new monied elite. The 19th through the 21st centuries were full of strife as the workers stood together in protest against an industry that was running amok, and in many places that war hasn’t even ended yet. We had thought that our successes would never fade, but we were oh so wrong about that, weren’t we?
Image of #OWS protester taken from CNN ireport video
Suddenly, we are standing on our own streets and looking around at the global social strife that has once again returned (although for some it never left) after an extended slumber. It’s as though much of our transformational history never even happened. Why? What happened? How did we let this happen? Well, the answers are now being laid out in front of us and it’s not something that we can look at directly without cringing. We happened. We forgot the lessons of the history of old, and stepped onto the escalator of oblivion. The masses fell asleep with their precious jewels firmly grasped in their tight sweaty palms. What need did we have for lessons in humanity when we had the objects of our desire bought by that ever-present money. And all we had to give in return was the one critical thing that binds us all together: humanity. It’s a vicious circle that won’t be broken because we forgot where we put the blade.
Change is now floating through the air, though it is but a ghost of a machine still in limbo. After all, can we say that we’re all truly on the same page? I’d say that some still have to find the book before they can turn to the right page. And that won’t happen until the entirety of mankind moves in unison towards a new shiny point of consensus. One that has little to do with money being our obsession to one where money is back to being the tool of creation that we originally conceived. Our crumbling concepts of innovation will have to step aside for a new type of innovation where any man, woman, or child can create things from their own dreams and experiences which can’t be co-opted by another who just happens to have a few pieces of gold (or maybe it’s actually just plated gold?) on offer.
1000 euros a month is not much to live off. Often less than the minimum wage. But most artists, and not only the young ones at the early stages of their career, have to do so. Half the fine artists in the UK, half the “professional” authors in Germany, and, I am told, an incredible 97.5% of one of the biggest collecting society’s members in Europe, receive less than that paltry payment of 1000 euros a month for their copyright works… Legally, we want a well-understood and enforceable framework. Morally, we want dignity, recognition and a stimulating environment for creators. Economically, we want financial reward so that artists can benefit from their hard work and be incentivised to create more.
In a nutshell, our global obsession has actually become a battle between legality, morality, and economics. Notice that morality is as close as we get to humanity in the pursuit of money? Can anyone else see what’s wrong with this picture?
Since we’re talking of morality, here’s an excerpt from 1 Timothy 6:10 KJV, “The love of money is the root of all evil”. If one of our own religious institutions warned us of this so long ago, and so many proclaim that they believe in these institutions, then shouldn’t our world look different than this? Or perhaps, many just choose to pay lip service when it comes to their own personal pursuits? When the morality within our social fabric unravels just as easily as legality and economics now have, what do we have left to turn to? Well, that would be our single common thread shared by us all: humanity.
Take this Improv Everywhere mission, Say Something Nice. Doesn’t it just make your day?
It’s time that we remake our world, and leave behind its obsession with money so that we can be obsessed with something much purer: creation. In the act of creation, our actions are distilled to their purest intentions. We can use this purity to rebuild cities that concentrate just as much on what they consume as they do on what they give back. We can reintroduce our humanity into the gears of life that make society turn. We can remake our laws to ensure the most basic of human rights, dignity. We can remake the foundations of how we do business by focusing on respecting the humanity of our clients and our co-creators. We can remember that our economy is nothing but a tool to help us live balanced, inspiring lives that don’t have to be on 24/7. We can relearn the importance that each and every one of us shares in this life that intertwines us all.
But that won’t happen until we all get on the same page and realize that we have a world to remake and an obsession to replace. Money is a tool that was never meant to become the be-all and end-all of existence. At least, that is the new message that is starting to permeate throughout the world. It just took an occupation to wake us up. Now, together, we need to take that message and remake a world where our shared obsession is constructive and not destructive.