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From Murderous Domination to Fairness to the Gift: Part II

posted Jun 1, 2014, 9:28 AM by Jesse Dow   [ updated Jun 1, 2014, 9:40 AM ]
(Scroll down to read part I)

 Part II: Hey, No Fair!

Okay, so yes, in the last week or so, I have come to love money. Crazy right?

Now when I say 'I love money,' I don't mean it in the sense of 'Gimme gimme gimme!' I mean it more in the sense of 'I love my children,' or 'I love Gandhi.'

Crazy as it might sound, right now, when I think of money, I am filled with love and gratitude. To give a little bit of a background, I have spent my entire professional career in service to, and as a champion for the poor. I bet you can guess how much that pays.

So Full Disclosure: I have historically despised money to the marrow of my bones. I might have told another story, if you'd asked me-- something more enlightened about how money is a natural part of the world, and everything that is natural is beautiful (gag!). But, at my core, I believed money to be evil!

To give a background, I am no more than maybe two degrees separated from every undocumented Spanish speaking immigrant in Boulder County, where I live and work. I thrive in that community, and I spend as much time there as I can.

And I'll tell you what it's like for them. They have never even asked themselves the question 'What would my life be like if I didn't have to work myself to exhaustion six days a week for minimum wage at McDonalds?' Why not? Because they are the lucky ones. They left families behind in absolute abject, mind-numbing, starvation riddled poverty, and for those who got out, it's not 'I have to work for minimum wage,' it's, 'I get to work for minimum wage.'

The global economy is driving the car. It has opened the passenger door, and shoved the faces of the poor against the passing pavement with it's boot heel. You bet I hated money! Any human who knows and loves the profoundly poor invariably faces, somewhere in her soul, a deep and abiding hatred of money. And that's not even to mention what money has done to all of the beautiful non-human beings of our world-- our beloved brothers and sisters. It has ripped the heads off mountains, brought every living ecosystem to the brink of death. It has filled the air with tar and the oceans with plastic. It has killed countless fish, birds, trees, everything and everybody. The destruction that has been done to life in the name of money is saturated with one grief stricken horror story after another.

So now I turn around and say that I love money? In the matter of maybe a week, I have gone from one extreme to another? What gives?!

Here's why I say that. Here's why, when I now think of money, I breathe a deep sigh of gratitude and relief: It has to do with the shift that has happened to the human story over the last couple thousand years. We have gone from a story of Murderous Domination to something completely new.

Have you ever bought or sold a used car? There's sort of a typical tradition associated with the process. The buyer kicks the tires, looks under the hood-- generally tries to find everything that's wrong with the car. The seller assures the buyer that he religiously changed the oil every three months, just bought new tires, and had the clutch rebuilt. It's as good as new! This is the trade mentality. The buyer tries to get the car for as little money as possible. The seller tries to get as much money for the car as possible. Their interests are at odds, but if the trade is ideal, it will be fair.

That is the new story. The Story of Fairness. We went from kill and take to trade.

And there is actually a tool that was used to accomplish this incredible feat-- to defeat Odysseus and implement a new power structure. The tool was simple, it was easy to understand, and it was mind bogglingly effective. The tool was money.

Obviously money had not successfully achieved its ideal-- the world is wildly unfair. But it did completely and irrevocably alter our most basic fundamental story.

Previous to this latest cascade of insights, I had seen the ideal of fair trade as a barrier to our transformation. And, honestly, I haven't really changed my opinion. I still do see the story of fairness as a barrier to our transformation, but I also now see it as the necessary platform from which to launch ourselves. And far more importantly, I see it as the product of an earlier transformation. We have done this before.

So here's the story of fairness as told in the language of modern mythology:

Once upon a time, a super long time ago, there was a really short guy with an incredibly big heart who saved the world. His name was Frodo Baggins.

(Isn't that a wonderful beginning?)

He was faced with the almost impossible task of destroying The One Ring of Power. This ring gave anybody who possessed it the power to dominate not only all the other rings of power, but pretty much everybody and everything in the world. And you know what? That little guy, who nobody had ever even heard of, stood up, and he shouted, 'HEY, THAT'S JUST NOT FAIR!' And he and his lover Samwise Gamgee ventured forth on an impossible journey, which required them both to transform completely. You see, the ring filled them up with an irresistible passionate need to possess it-- to possess the power to destroy and dominate everything, and in order to destroy the Ring, they had to let it go. They had to give up the desire to destroy and control. And they did it, and they destroyed the ring and Everything Became Fair, and they lived happily ever after, yay!

Or if you prefer, how about this one:

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there was a slightly less short, but still short guy with an incredibly big heart who saved the galaxy. His name was Luke Skywalker. He was faced with the almost impossible task of destroying The Dark Side of the Force. And you know what? That little guy, who nobody had ever even heard of, stood up, and he shouted, 'HEY, THAT'S JUST NOT FAIR!' And he and his lover, Princess Lea ventured forth on an impossible journey, which required them both to transform completely. You see, The Dark Side of The Force filled them up with an irresistible passionate need to possess it-- to possess the power to destroy and dominate everything, and in order to destroy the Ring-- I mean the Dark Side of the Force, they had to let it go. And they did it, and they destroyed the Dark Side of the Force and Everything Became Fair, and they lived happily ever after, yay!

So you could say that the Story of Fairness came into being as a direct response to the Story of Murderous Domination. It was the obvious, natural replacement story. And it has been incredibly successful! Global human violence has been dropping precipitously for a long time (I remember hearing that on NPR). As much as you may hate money, you have to admit that if you had lived in northern China in the 12th century, you would have hated Genghis Khan a whole lot more (if you were still alive, which is unlikely).

Now don't get confused. Just because money hasn't achieved it's ideal of fairness, or fair trade, doesn't mean that that's not its purpose. A dollar is a dollar is a dollar is a dollar. It has the same value everywhere. Think back to all those arguments about how the free market would regulate itself: Supply and demand, competition, prices stay low, product value stays high, blah blah blah... Remember that load of horsesh*t that nobody believes anymore? At least not anybody who is actually thinking? Truth be told, there is an undeniable reality behind it. Money certainly hasn't made anything fair, but it's profoundly curbed the wholesale slaughter that preceded it. War is a totally different thing than it used to be. Now, instead of someone killing everyone and taking everything, we have counterinsurgency and tactical strikes, where we kill a targeted number of innocent civilians and steal their money! Yay, so much better!

Yet if you really examine it, it is so much better! Imagine what it would be like if the US Military decided to use all the force at its disposal to kill anybody if it could get them more power (or who looked at their girl the wrong way). If the human story had not transformed, we would most certainly all be dead.

So, is that it? What if it turns out that money and the story of fairness is actually a beautiful gift that we gave ourselves-- an ideal for which countless people have died fighting? What if it turns out that money actually saved us from annihilation? Does that mean that we should stick with it? Continue on the path toward ever greater fairness? We've made it this far. Doesn't it seem reasonable to think that we could make it the rest of the way? Or does the story of fairness have integrated limitations? Might it be that we need a whole new story?

Tune in next week for our third and final installment! Where those questions and many more will be answered with magnificent flourishnesseses of deft skill and insight!


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