Moneytheism – stairway to havin’

Once upon a time, finding a spiritual teacher used to be hard. More often than not, you’d have to wait for them to find you. (‘When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.’) Now, you can just go to YouTube and find a whole queue of them waiting for your next click. The other day, a flat-earther I know told me they’d found a new one, and though I didn’t ask who, he sounds typical: says you can prove the Earth is flat scientifically, but you can prove it’s a globe too, or some other shape, because there’s more than one reality. Leaving aside what exactly he thinks ‘science’ is, reality then becomes just another product for consumption. Take your pick, and if you’re not satisfied, you can exchange it (see terms and conditions).

Not sayin’ different dimensions don’t coexist (I may have peeked into a few), and even interpenetrate each other, if invisibly. But let’s not confuse a narrative with hard fact. Astral travel, NDEs, psychedelics and meditation can open doors to alternate realities. Yet, mostly, incarnation grounds us (whether well or woefully) on the same, relentlessly dense plane.

Meanwhile, confusion of a narrative with reality continues re the official Covid script, according to which vaccines would stop the spread, protect the vulnerable/aged, reduce hospitalisations and symptoms etc. Now we know (or some of us do and the number is growing) that this is just spin – belief in which hasn’t increased vax safety or effectiveness. And YouTube ‘teachings’ that also interpret ‘science’ loosely often snare lazy minds and fragile egos. Reality on Earth (the one with gravity) is taxing, the journey from first to last breath not a cruise with a money-back guarantee, and death makes as good a teacher as any.

Fear of death, besides being instinctual, comes from the ego. Notice how it subsides when the ego takes a back seat. But our society glorifies ego achievement; makes egocentricity (or confidence vs. honesty) a condition of all but the lowliest employment; views the breakdown of ego as a mental-health crisis requiring urgent medical intervention, possibly for life. If some people – say, suicides – fear death less than some other prospects (like daily rape in jail, or the ravages of terminal illness), it’s mostly because these promise ego death, a form of initiation our society does its best to suppress.

A recent survey rated doctors the most trusted of any profession. (Predictably, estate agents fare far worse; though, in dealing with plenty of both in recent years, I’ve found the reverse.) And scientists rank just behind doctors, those high priests of Science. ‘Trust the science,’ the faithful chanted when Pfizer et al promised salvation. But Medicine is no longer scientific (based on observation, scepticism, testing etc.); somehow it’s become ideological. And though this has only just dawned on some folk (thanks to Covid), a medical priesthood has for some time mediated our relationship with death – or spirit, which gets ignored unless we subscribe to old-style religion (contra the zeitgeist). Medicine is, in effect, our dominant religion – or, more broadly, Science and Technology (even if we identify as Christian, Muslim or other), because that’s where the money is. In fact, an ever more technologised Medicine may soon render doctors redundant. But to return to a question that systems of faith exist to address…

Money, today, is the meaning of life. Even if we don’t care to concede it. Because, unless you grow your own vegies, keep chickens, cows and goats, and/or hunt, fish, forage, bake bread, make pickles etc., money is food. And unless you live in a squat, tent, bus or car, it’s shelter too. Money equals mobility, unless all you seek lies within walking distance. It mediates between us and everything we need (more so for urban dwellers, but increasingly for regional). The word ‘inheritance’ evokes money, even if it can also mean culture, shame, duty, wisdom and genes. Mine includes heirlooms, like The Young Mother by J Bernard Dawson, MD. Published in 1912, it must have belonged to one of my grandmas.

At times, Dawson is good for a laugh: ‘Again I say the cord must not be used as a cable to drag out the afterbirth.’ But I digress. It’s the ads that edify: ‘A complete and perfect food combining in proper proportions just the elements nature prescribes for building bone and sinew, sturdy constitutions, robust and vigorous health.’

Sounds like an ad for breast milk in the days before it contained microplastics, heavy metals, pesticides etc. But it’s not just Horlicks that talks up its formula; the book’s author endorses it: ‘Such a food will prove very useful whenever the tolerance and digestion of cow’s milk is defective.’ Invented in 1873 by the Horlick bros, a pharmacist and a food manufacturer, its market (and sponsorship) had already embraced polar explorers: anyone needing meal replacement. Supposedly, 70 years ago, it was even linked to successful treatment of gastric ulcers and some forms of diabetes – though good luck finding proof despite the rumour’s persistence. Fake news wasn’t invented in the 21st century.

And here’s a comforting claim from the same book for another product: ‘All Milk Sold is produced by Cows owned and cared for by the Laboratories.’ Don’t these ads just ooze benevolence? And back then, they convinced; 110 years ago, folk hadn’t lost their innocence. That took a couple of world wars. Yet, though consumers today wax cynical, doctors, who still whore for industry, apparently still inspire public trust. So when politicians, whose trust rating sucks, need to move a dud Covid booster stockpile (some of which, here in Oz, has already been binned), the job of pushing falls to doctors.

Yes, money has become the meaning of life. And so the traditional begging bowl of the wandering spiritual teacher has been replaced by online platforms like Substack and Patreon with subscriber-only content for the faithful, or Zoom sermons followed by Q&A (all cards & PayPal accepted). Some think a digital one-world currency, a cashless society, means convenience. Others fear loss of freedom to stash their cash and sidestep tax, compounded by frozen assets if they rebel (note the example made of the Canadian trucker blockade). What few seem to ponder, amid concerns re how a wholly (holy?) electronic economy might affect them personally, is what the universal dematerialisation of loot to have and to hold, once worth its weight in gold, means for the human psyche: money not as substance but as logic on which our world runs; money ascending to a subtler realm to fill the vacuum created by the death of God. Money led us away from nature, which we then commodified. Geared to reduce us to cogs in the digital machine, this version of money makes the world go round, but also flattens it out by dint of a global grid sealing us off from spirit. (Flat-earthers, like schizophrenics, can make sense if you credit metaphors.) Money, then, no longer in pockets, wallets, safes, biscuit tins, bank vaults, treasuries, mints or even on paper, but circulating as pure number, sums streaming through the ether.

As for investing faith, aka money, in Medicine, that flat-earther with the YouTube teacher recently had cosmetic surgery. Seems you don’t have to believe in gravity for it to work. As for why anyone might entertain the notion of a flat Earth… The stories folk tell themselves about the photos they post online – which reduce their embodied presence to a 2D image viewable from just one side, fixed in space and time – don’t account for the reality of how they appear in 3D. An attachment to flattering angles is flattening because we live in the round, and shifting your line of vision, figuratively or for real, can cause illusions to break down. Yet, narratives – and the more repetitive, the better – can perpetuate them…

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7 Responses to Moneytheism – stairway to havin’

  1. We invent it all as we go along and sustain it with belief. Harari in ‘Sapiens’, which I often refer to, explores how belief and trust are integral to our use of money…all illusion otherwise (‘The Scent of Money’) and from my notes on the chapter ‘The Capitalist Creed’ = The concept of investment and loans…and credit “Banks are allowed to loan $10 for every dollar they actually possess”…so 90% of $ in our accounts is not coins and notes. Relies on trust in our imaginary future..,belief. Had forgotten I made those notes. As an aside regarding plastic surgery – don’t even have to go through the process anymore. Easier to have the computer re-imagine you, or a photo of you, and it will do the same. A post came through on Linkedin regarding Lensa AI-generated photos, with the comment being made that the resulting image seemed very “Caucayzish” as the image did not represent the Afro background of the person who wrote the post. Made me wonder if the options available for plastic surgery have the same bias.

  2. We invent it all as we go along and sustain it with belief. Harari in ‘Sapiens’, which I often refer to, explores how belief and trust are integral to our use of money…all illusion otherwise (‘The Scent of Money’) and from my notes on the chapter ‘The Capitalist Creed’ = The concept of investment and loans…and credit “Banks are allowed to loan $10 for every dollar they actually possess”…so 90% of $ in our accounts is not coins and notes. Relies on trust in our imaginary future..,belief. Had forgotten I made those notes. As an aside regarding plastic surgery – don’t even have to go through the procedure anymore. Easier to have the computer re-imagine you, or a photo of you, and it will do the same. A post came through on Linkedin regarding Lensa AI-generated photos, with the comment being made that the resulting image seemed very “Caucayzish” as the image did not represent the Afro background of the person who wrote the post. Made me wonder if the options available for plastic surgery have the same bias.

  3. Ok. Did my comment come through twice?…tried to change one word. No idea how to edit. The other day I had no problem…maybe because it was on a post of mine? Sorry.

    • Thanks for your comments, Annette! Repetition seems appropriate, given that the theme concludes the post, dangling like a loose end… 🙂 Would love to know what single word you wanted to change. Sorry – don’t know out how to edit own comments (just editing posts nearly did my head in before I realised I could bypass Block Editor, when WordPress first introduced it). Maybe belief & trust are integral to our use of money, but bank tellers often see folk at their worst; seems belief & trust come more freely to some than to others. And I think the GFC shook a lot of folk up. 😬 Re the makeover, you’ve reminded me of an essay by Jia Tolentino called ‘The Age of Instagram Face’: ‘There was something strange… about the racial aspect of Instagram Face—it was as if the algorithmic tendency to flatten everything into a composite of greatest hits had resulted in a beauty ideal that favored white women capable of manufacturing a look of rootless exoticism… an overly tan skin tone, a South Asian influence with the brows and eye shape, an African-American influence with the lips, a Caucasian influence with the nose, a cheek structure that is predominantly Native American and Middle Eastern.’

  4. Money rules the world…it’s become so much more obvious. One of my biggest discomforts is about how we supposedly vote in a government based on how we as people of the country want to be governed but it turns out that the government we vote in are not the ones with any power at all, they are puppets to the people who have the money. Our vote has become very meaningless as far as any policy goes.
    Money rules the world, our governments, our cultural trends and pretty much everything external…its power has it’s limitations though when it comes to peace and deep joy; that comes from some state that money can’t reach…yet.
    Thank you, as always, for your brilliant perspective and insight into this phenomena we call humanity.

    • I like your point re peace & deep joy! Whether or not these now exist in total independence of money, no doubt they existed before money was invented. Yet try finding peace in the world today w/o enough money to buy time & space… You’d pretty much need to be enlightened. Or live in the bush or by the sea. ☺️

      Another thing we do is to vote in our government based more on economic policy as it affects our personal wealth than on what it could mean for social equality. Though the latter concept makes me cringe since it’s been co-opted by corporate interests. 😬

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