An article on the 9th of November, on BBC Radio 4’s ‘You and Yours’ about Mark Boyle, ‘the Moneyless Man’, prompted me to write something about money.
We spend so much time in a relationship with money both individually and collectively, I thought it might be worth examining .
To start with, I think of money as an illusion. The coins and notes you carry around are worthless in themselves but they represent of a line of credit. To understand that you have to remember that when money was first introduced, the coin or note represented an equivalent amount of gold held at a central location called a bank, which determined its value and the money was simply a representation that was easier to carry around. Since Fractional Reserve Banking was introduced, the equivalent of the value of the note in gold is no longer held, which means that money is a line of credit controlled by a few – but credit is an imaginary concept. You cannot show me credit as an object that I could touch, hold or feel. You might be able to show me a spreadsheet or a bank statement that represents credit but you can’t show me credit.*
But when you really examine this, it means that money is based on a belief system that only works because everyone joins in but joining in is a choice which is what Mark Boyle has captured. You might feel your choices are limited because you fear that not joining in will put you in a worse position; but until you have tried reducing your reliance on a system that causes a lot of suffering and misery, you cannot say for sure what the outcomes will be. Once you are trapped into thinking that money is the answer to your problems, you have missed the point of finding sustainability and are sucked into a belief system that seems to make many people very unhappy a lot of the time.
So when Mark Boyle set out to live without money, I was delighted that someone would try it so we could learn from his experience.
He said a couple of things that really captured my attention:
“If we grew our own food, we wouldn’t waste a third of it as we do today. If we made our own tables and chairs, we wouldn’t throw them out the moment we changed the interior decor”
“The degrees of separation between the consumer and the consumed have increased so much that we’re completely unaware of the levels of destruction and suffering embodied in the stuff we buy.”
So why am I straying onto this subject?
What has it got to do with conflict resolution?
In my mediation work, money is so often a part of the dispute; whether it is a contract dispute, a child maintenance issue or an unfair dismissal, somewhere within it will be a price tag as a means of compensation.
Thus money becomes a financial proxy for the unaddressed emotional content that we so rarely examine. The real content becomes sidestepped in a negotiation for an amount of money. If we moved money out of the equation we could really begin to find ways to meet our needs and connect with others in a ways that are creative, collaborative and meaningful.
I can’t imagine being able to fully participate in my society without any money but I am going to think of a way that I can achieve a result without using money. Even if it is just growing some tomatoes on a window ledge and using them in a salad, it would be something I did towards self sustainability because in a world where we are constantly being reminded that the population is growing and the resources are diminishing I wonder how much suffering we will put ourselves through before we start to realise that collaboration and sharing is the sensible way forward.
*A better explanation of this is in a book called ‘Freedom is more than just a seven letter word’ by Veronica, of the Chapman family (You’ll understand why her name is written this way if you read the book)
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