From The Cage – 6th September 2016
We have had quite a few stories about the role of money in the news recently. This week it was the Universal Basic Income in Finland. Last week it was the attempt to eliminate cash in Sweden and the tactical undermining of the US dollar by Russia and China.
The premise of the Cross this morning is that the worship of money has replaced the worship of God. That the death of God has largely occurred because money is the new deity.
One of my day jobs is grilling citizens about their financial position for a well known research company. We ask them everything from their attitude to legalizing marijuana to their marital and parental status, but more than a third of the questions are about finance. What I have learned from that experience is that most people understand that civilization is in trouble. They get climate change, they get environmental damage, they understand that global capitalism is amoral at best and more likely immoral.
They know all this, but they head off to work every day, they borrow money from banks, they dance with debt, and they accept the incarceration and torturing of refugees because they are afraid. They know that the poor are going to suffer most when the shit hits the fan and they don’t want to end up at the bottom of the heap.
The challenge for those of us who want progressive reform, who want to create a fairer world, based on community not corporation, built on purpose and not profit, funded by a steady state economy not the fairy tale of infinite economic growth … the challenge for you and me, dear listener, is that we have to somehow break the cycle of fear, the race to the finish line. They fear the angry, hungry hordes who have been exploited so we can enjoy cars, phones and plane trips while they work for $1 a day making our clothes, our cars, our household appliances. They worry that the injustice will be reversed, that the first will be last and it really is harder for a rich man to enter heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.
That is the madness and the brilliance of the populist politician. That is the fundamental premise of capitalism. The old Monty Python joke “What did the Romans ever do for us,” goes to the heart of the problem. Unless there is a real alternative to the Cage people willingly lock themselves in, hoping they are safer in the Cage than they are in the wild.
This is also the fundamental basis of law, policing and property. The state emerges to protect or expand itself. It alienates people from their natural relationships with the earth, and offers them the bounty of property, regular food and an easier life. And the act of creating boundaries, of creating property requires the policing of those boundaries, the regulation of that property and so policing emerges.
The state evolved from tribalism to kingdom by the creation of agriculture to support a military caste. The evolution of empires required the invention of slavery and then taxation. Instead of simply destroying the neighbours in the quest for plunder, we learned to enslave them instead.
The incorporation of religion into the apparatus of the state, elevates the ruler into the priest caste and places them above the military caste. It is a more effective way to subjugate the population than by violent oppression. Two weeks ago we discussed the rise of Christendom in Europe as a way of taming and thus harnessing the violence of the Norsemen, the Normans who had emerged from Scandinavia in Viking long boats and dominated England, France and Italy. By blessing them and turning their attention to Jerusalem under the banner of the Cross, the Abbots of Europe managed to preserve their wealth and dominance of Continental politics.
The invention of a rule of contract law and double entry book keeping in Venice elevated secular society above the simple machinations of the church and Venice cynically stole a whole French army destined for Jerusalem and shipped them to Constantinople instead to smash the Christian Turks who threatened their trade.
We will come back to that after this message from our deity