Alistair Darling (wadda name, eh?) the chancellor of the last Labour government came out with an absolute gem about 10 days after the election in which the Conservative / Lib Dem coalition took over government. When asked for a response to David Cameron's scathing criticism of our economy, he said "He's just playing the oldest trick in the book... blaming the state of the economy on the previous government"
This is the logic of the people we put in charge??
I don't really feel that our countries are truly run by the people we put in charge. Money controls all... and those in control of the money are the banks and the huge multinational corporations, which are unelected and have no remit or agenda to serve the needs of the people. All politicians are subservient to this end... not because they are evil but because the system is such that it cannot be otherwise.
But money is not wealth. Five hundred billion dollars is just five hundred billion pieces of paper without the energies of the people... ordinary people... who actually make everything work. Money is just a symbolic representation of wealth and, by association, power.
But the actual wealth is the sweat, the energy, the imagination, and the willingness of the people who keep the machine going at ground level... and that is also where the actual power is.
We are not paid in beans, we are paid in paper, which we cannot eat and, in practical terms, isn't even much use for wiping your ass. That's how the power and wealth is redirected from those who generate it. It has only the value that is assigned to it.
There is the story of the Zen Buddhist teacher who gave his pupils this puzzle: "I say a goat is in a cage with no doors. How do you set it free?" All of the pupils began to try to devise ways of freeing a goat from a cage without doors... except one. He simply said: "I say it is free".
We easily forget that we are dealing with 'imaginary' wealth and that's all money is. Look at the Mexican immigrants who are kept in virtual slavery on a number of the plantations that provide much of our food: They are paid a low daily rate and are provided with very basic accommodation and the rent for the accommodation leaves them with only a couple of dollars to buy food. It's deliberately designed so that the workers cannot possibly pay in full for the accommodation, so the owners allow the workers to pay what they can towards rent and owe the rest. The workers cannot leave because they accumulate debts that they can never repay.
Legally, they are not slaves because they are paid... but effectively, they are owned by their employers. What is the bond that keeps a person in forced labour? Money.
This is the extreme but it is a very clear example of how money is used. In a less extreme and less obvious way, we are all bonded to the roles that we play in society by money. The more complicated money becomes, the more effectively it can be used to confine us to a particular lifestyle. Sure, we all have the opportunity to make more money but this is not an opportunity to escape our bondage to it. If anything, it bonds us even tighter into maintaining the status quo.
I once saw a job ad for prison officers. I thought about this and decided that I'd like the opportunity to work with prisoners and that maybe it could prove to be a rewarding job. The pay was about four times the amount I could get elsewhere. I had this vision of myself as The Good 'Screw' who could maybe help prisoners turn their lives around (big ego trip on my part). It was my wife who pointed out that the money would almost guarantee a big change in our lifestyle. What would I do when I am faced with being expected to do things that conflict with my own values? My lifestyle would have 'upgraded' to one that I could not possibly maintain in any other job I would be able to get. To then lose that income would sink me into debts from which I would never be able to recover. If I take the job, I would become a slave to it. I would be forced to adhere to the dictates of my employers regardless of my own convictions. If the pay had been at the same level I could get elsewhere, I would be in a position to tell them to go to hell.
The high rate of pay wasn't to reflect the value of the work, it was to reflect the imperative of a compliant workforce.
I didn't go for the job.
I've thought about this often. Lawyers command huge fees... and this ensures compliance within the legal system. Doctors command huge salaries... and this ensures compliance within the requirements of the pharmaceutical industry. Bankers command huge bonuses... and this ensures compliance within the financial sector. Money is not paid out to reflect the value of the work but to ensure compliance from the Mexican immigrant in the fields to the CEO of Exxon. Money ensures that everyone maintains the status quo.
Presidents and Prime Ministers are all as enslaved to their respective roles as the Mexican fruit-pickers. How do we break free of this?
Remember the goat?
The complexity of politics and finance are deliberately designed to disguise the simple fact that things are the way they are because the minority of people whose interests are served by the status quo say it is so.
However, we have now reached a point at which the status quo can no longer be maintained safely... indeed, it could well be argued that we have gone way past that point. Power corrupts. Of course it does! If I had the power to control people's minds I would exploit it to serve my own interests...... and I'm a nice guy. The problem is not with the people who are in power. The problem is the power they have.
We all live in fear of the financial rug being pulled from under us and this is the lever by which power is wielded. We live in fear of terrorists so it is in the interests of those in power that the fires of terrorism continue to be fed. We live in fear of war and it is in the interests of those in power to ensure that we always have clearly defined enemies.
But it is all just a game. A game that keeps so many in poverty and slavery. A game that entraps us in fear and want. A game that requires so many to sacrifice themselves in wars that serve only to keep the illusions alive.
We have come so far! From a primate struggling for survival in the wilderness to the self-styled masters of our own world. We have the technology to supply all the needs of all the peoples of the world. This is a beautiful world and much of what we have achieved is a magnificent enhancement. But we are also in danger of destroying it. The power to create brings with it the power to destroy... but just because we can, it doesn't mean that we must.
We must acknowledge that we created the society in which we live. It hasn't been imposed on us by some outside force. The mindset that disempowers us is simply that: a mindset. It is a mindset that tells us that if someone in authority orders us to kill or destroy, we must obey. The promised rewards for compliance are as fake as the threatened penalties for failing to comply.
We have something wonderful... and something terrible. It is up to us... not some imaginary them... which way we go. I am not suggesting that we fight because there is nothing and no one to fight. But we have to get up off our knees and simply go in the direction we want our world to take. It is not up to those who want to hang on to the illusion of power. It is up to us who actually have it.
It's time to free that goat.