Why on earth would a person choose to title a piece of writing with a word so loaded and inexplicable, you may be wondering? It seems utterly self-defeating. LOVE. Frankly, I don’t have a good answer for that. Let’s just say that this strange four letter word will serve well for the theme being presented. We are all connected by some sort of personal understanding of what it means, as we are too in many other ways.
What is Love? The dictionary tells us that it is a strong constant affection. Songwriters often tell us that it’s anguish and longing... or that it is all you need. Many religions tell us it’s beautiful, conditional and you can own it. Our parents might tell us that it’s unconditional and everlasting. Advertising tells us she wears a G-string, sits on a hot red car hood and her name is Devine. Is there any wonder so many of us are confused about it? I read somewhere that the best way to describe love, is to describe what it means to you… and that works for me. Love, as I understand it, is a sudden lasting mysterious feeling of selflessness and consideration where another person comes into perfect focus without judgement or condition. I think I felt it once, and it wasn’t reciprocated… which made me wish I had had become a songwriter at the time. One thing is true: it is the universal thing, that in some form, connects us all. Fortunately, this is not a conversation about intricacies of Love… lucky you.
From our root scratching cave scribbling days, long before we needed to name everything, we have been well aware of this intangible emotion… and its formidable counterpart, FEAR. The two strongest motivators of our real world actions. When that toothy grizzly bear started to gallop, our legs knew just what to do. When that toothless Adonis shared his last juicy root, we knew exactly what it meant. No words required. If I am accessing my evolutionary memory correctly, it seems like a gloriously simpler time indeed. Run, hug, be. Now we have words, drawstring hoodies and iPhones whilst that grizzly bear cowers in the last remaining forests. In evolutionary terms, we have done a lot and rather quickly. Well done us!
Or is it?
It is undeniable that we have made huge strides in keeping those life threatening fear inducing beasts at bay. We used the love feelings to build communities, then civilisations. We thought of ways to organise ourselves and built social structures that encouraged trust and cooperation. We learned to secure food and shelter ourselves. We learned about the natural world and how we could use it better to sustain ourselves. We made a rocket and walked on the moon… but I do wonder if we were ready for it all.
Somewhere along the journey, what we were doing became more important than why we were doing it. It didn’t happen one sunny day beside a meandering stream. It happened many times over thousands of years and each time it happened, it took us a step further away from our integral and external connections. I believe it happened when we started measuring the immeasurable.
One day, there was a dude, sat under a tree. On a patch of grass, on a famous island with a name, delineated by imaginary borders and filled with other people on it that identified with a cultural identity. An apple fell on his head. He looked at the apple and devised a theory about how it fell to the ground. Everyone was enthralled. He became really really famous. All the people that knew words, talked about him. He discovered how to measure a small part of a very big story and everyone thought he was very clever. He was not the first nor the last to be this clever. There were many clever people and they all learned to measure different parts of different stories, not all of them ended up being true. Long before that, people made stories without learning to measure if they were true. In those days, the stories were also thought to be true. Luckily, our dudes story remains true today, so he is still very famous.
Our collective journey of understanding has been a chaotic yet enthralling exploration of truth. However, inside our world view remains a mishmash of true and untrue stories, some of which might never be measured. The accumulated story is the best we have to work with at this time. This mishmash is the typical evolution of all civilisations… and this is true of ourselves as individuals. The problem with theories and stories like this, is that we seldom wish to have them challenged if they are likely to make our other stories untrue too. Our identities are so tied to them that we fear that we may lose our sense of self through new understandings. Some have more fear in this way than others. In order to mitigate these fears, we have learned to collectively agree on certain understandings. We see this in the evolution of cultural belief systems all the way through to our social order systems of law and commerce. These agreements are social contracts of understanding where a certain group of people decide or are conditioned to believe in a set of rules, even if they are untrue.
As I understand it, I came into the world at around 6am on a Thursday morning on a cool spring morning in a hospital in central Johannesburg. I am not certain if I was two weeks early or two weeks late, as per the doctor’s predictions, but that was the day I signed my first contract. I never read the terms and conditions and would have been unfit to do so… and I never actually signed anything. However, that contract was binding.
It bound me to all the contracts that had been written before my arrival and many that would follow. I got a number that identified me as male and white in a country contractually signed up to Apartheid. I was contracted to my parent’s care that would be binding until I was 18 years old. My identification number contractually placed me at a higher social status than the African girl born at the exact same time to a single mother in a round straw-roofed mud hut in the rural grasslands. By many measures, I got good contracts. But, if I had read the terms and conditions with my insights today, I am certain I would not have agreed to them. I would have removed those clauses on racial inequality. I would have removed the clauses on gender inequality. I would have removed the clauses on my predetermined education methods. I would have removed the clauses pertaining to my subsequent enslavement under a financial system. I like to think I might have written a rather pleasant contract, for myself, and for others… but alas, I had that one signed on my behalf.
And when it came time to sign my own contracts, a lot of them weren’t too good either. There were the debt contracts, so many debt contracts. Some bad employment contracts. The phone contract, the internet contract, the infamous iTunes contract, a new citizenship contract that had incalculable other contracts tied to it (some good, some less good)… most of these contracts forced upon me due to the contracts everyone else had agreed to. It got me wondering if everyone else was happy with these agreements.
So I went travelling to see how contracts looked elsewhere. It was then that I realised that there were a lot of people with some really shitty contracts, way worse contracts than my own. Most of them had no idea they had a contract. Some had better terms in their contracts. Supportive community contracts, more time to themselves in their contracts… but much less money in their contracts making it more difficult to get food. I also learned that some people ignored their contracts altogether and the most powerful ones blatantly flouted their contracts whilst enforcing contracts on others. My head was spinning and it took me all the way back to my first contract. Why is everyone’s contract so different to start? Why were some people allowed to enforce contracts and others allowed to create their own? That didn’t seem very fair at all! Not only that, I got a sense that all these contracts were written out of fear. Fear of losing something. Fear of losing someone. Fear of dishonesty. Fear of non-participation. Fear of losing identity.
Then the apple landed on my head. Just like Sir Isaac Newton on the grass, a big piece of an even bigger story finally made some sense. I had not questioned the most obvious and oldest contracts of them all.
Unlike many belief systems that have come before it, money as a concept remains one of most unchallenged faith based systems of all time. Religion has been challenged at length throughout civilisation, sometimes with the most destructive consequences. Kings, nations and institutions have had their share of public questioning and the evidence based scientific method is founded on the consistent challenging of understandings… but strangely, the representative contractual concept of money has remained largely unchallenged. Why is this so?
Perhaps it is because money evolved out of a need for an alternative to trust. First we hunted and gathered, then we domesticated. Scarcity brought about the need for trade. Basic trade evolved into representative trade, particularly useful when trading with unknown individuals or cultures. A representation of trust could be agreed, first in the form of scarce metals. Metals gave way to currencies associated with powerful economic nations, then currency became a tool for power. It lost its role as a substitute for trust. And so, money became ingrained in the human psychology, contradictorily as a substitute for trust and a tool for power allowing groups or individuals control over others. But what is it today:
It is a faith based system (now as fiat currencies) used to reinforce the social contract, in turn reinforcing the belief system. A self-affirming faith system.
Although not its original intension, it is a system based in fear… the exact opposite of what it was intended to resolve in the social context. The fear of scarcity is built into its very foundation, to the point that all people believe that scarcity is inevitable. Furthermore, we believe that our fellow citizens cannot be trusted without its existence. It has been present in all theories of social organisation (socialism, capitalism, communism, fascism) whilst never been questioned. The contract of love, based in fear.
If you feel that you have enough of it, you are happier and abler to experience love. You are aware of those that might want it, but you are not in fear of using it. We could argue that merely being aware of people wanting it, is fear. If you don’t have enough of it, you are in perpetual fear. If you have lots of it, you’re certain someone’s going to take it and the power it provides. Fear.
Consider this. Would it have been as possible to enforce perceived inferiorities onto targeted groups without the power money provided? Would woman have been suppressed as strongly or for as long without the power financial control gave men? Would the current American racial environment have existed without the profit in slavery and the subsequent financial disarmament of a racial group? Would the catholic church have been able to condition such large parts of the world without its wealth? Perhaps, but only for as long as people believed the story. The money contract allowed those and countless other atrocities to be upheld and perpetuated in all other social contracts.
Another dimension of this system to consider is how it has seeped into some of the immeasurable parts of our living experience. Too often it is a consideration in our most intimate emotional experiences, often adding an element of toxicity to them. Contracts of marriage are monetary contracts that present little in evaluating the emotional connection between individuals. Some cultures allow love only on the condition financial compensation. Money regularly becomes a major point of tension after the death of a loved one, when their life should have been celebrated and their loss mourned. A noise that is ever present in the parts of our lives that are most complex and personal.
We could argue that it is not money per se. That it is people and their inherent inability to be fair and honest. “It’s their culture, their upbringing, their values. They are to blame” This may be true, but we could also argue that people are equally fair and honest. Their environment dictates much of their behaviour and forms their perspective. Money intrinsically suppresses pro-social behaviours and reinforces self-serving behaviours. The evidence to date suggests that our immediate social environment has more to do with our behaviour than anything innate. If our environment is fair and fear free, we are fair and fear free. The most universal commonality in our environment today, across cultures and nations, is money.
So what then?
The world is littered with utopian idealists complaining about how everything should or could be. Utopia does not exist, and nor should it.
Growing up with some forms of personal struggle, in my opinion, has provided me with the resolve and sense of self to feel passionately about a number of things in life. I believe that it is from within our struggles that we able to have reference to experience our joys. Without some joys and avenues for hope, trapped in perpetual despair, one might never have the opportunity or perspective to explore their own possibilities. Too many people today are not exposed to their possibilities due to external limitations. Therefore, a careful balance of struggle and fulfilment is ideal. As far as Utopia is concerned, nobody wants a monoculture of uniform drone-people living in the dull soft focus of permanent contentment. What on earth would be the point of living, if not for some opportunity for change and personal development.
However, so much could be improved for more, if not all of us. But, it will require us making a small change to one of our most fundamental base belief systems.
Where is the Love – 5 Things to be done to get back to a trust culture
Very little says it better than the Black Eyed Peas when we get talking about a solution. Money has pitted us against eachother on a daily basis with every increasing competitiveness. Our mental and physical health is being effected and this rabid tussle for power and status is killing everything around us.
1. A Measured Management System.
As money measures little as part of its intrinsic structure, we could imagine a system that measures the truest value possible in a scientific, interactive and fair way.
“What the hell, that’s crazy!” I hear you say. Not really. Imagine all the people of a neighbourhood, a town, a city, a nation, perhaps the world taking a record of available resources both human and natural. Then determining the needs and wants of its population. Skills and resources could be used to manage these needs in a hierarchy of priority being priced according to their need and sustainability. Not only could we have a system that limits the waste it produces, but we could have a system that rewards people for useful and meaningful work. Instead of being competitive to gain, we could be competitive to participate and give.
2. Disconnect to Reconnect
By disconnect, I mean that it is feasible to imagine that the direct transactional nature of money between individuals and groups could be eliminated altogether. I pay no-one and no-one pays me. It is a lot of unnecessary aggravation in the process of managing resources and access. If resources are measured and available to use, an algorithm could be applied where valuable work can be quantified and rewarded as a form of earnings. A person can use these earnings to access goods and services, but the earnings are not transferred between persons or groups. It is either cancelled during consumption or transferred to the item being purchased, registered for exclusive use to one individual, or shared use to a group. When the need for that item has passed, it can be returned for reuse/recycling where the owner will receive a reimbursement of its value less any damage/degradation. As a person’s earnings cannot be transferred between individuals and registration is personal, goods cannot be stolen and then traded. The person with exclusive use of the item is the only one that can be reimbursed. Removing personal financial transactions would help people rebuild the trust that we seem to be losing.
3. Elimination of Debt Slavery
Debt is slavery and one of the deepest causes of stress. Debt in this system could not be possible. As earnings are dependent on value of work (high value = high pay) and base need products such as food and shelter would be very affordable (high need = low cost), all vital consumables would be affordable and it would be luxuries that would be costly. A luxury that holds its value in purpose and relevance (a computer, a boat), would retain its inherent value and could be returned at any time. This would encourage people to use items only for the duration of their need for it, then return it for others to use. This would encourage collaborative consumption where people share more than they feel the need to own. We see this today in large developed cities through car-share enterprises or even the old fashioned library.
4. The Punishment Concept of Taxation
As earnings are never transferred to ‘pay for’ work and services, taxation is not required to fund the needs of a community. If the resources are available to build a road, the road builders will be paid according to the earnings generated by an algorithm. For this reason, the psychological impact and immensely complex legal infrastructures for taxation will no longer exist. Needs and services will be requested by communities and implemented by those that are skilled to carry it out. Budgets and books would never need to be balanced, reducing the concept of scarcity from our consciousness. The only limitations will be those of the natural environment.
5. Striving for Sustainable Equilibrium
The goal of a new system would be to reach a sustainable equilibrium of supply and demand within the limitations of the environment. Those that work in areas where they are providing exactly enough (not too little, not too much) in the most sustainable way would earn the most in this system. The algorithm works to calculate all these factors. Then, as an equilibrium is reached on consumable goods, those goods then become freely available at no cost to the population. This is the genius of the model.
Equilibrium workers = high pay / Consuming equilibrium products = no cost
This means that people have more earnings available for luxury goods and life standards can improve quickly and dramatically provided the environmental impact remains within acceptable levels.
It’s been done… in theory.
LOOK.theotherWay is an organisation working to test these theories and the associated Copiosis Algorithm on a small scale to assess its feasibility. More can be learned about the project at their website where they are looking for specific teams of people, both digitally remote and location specific internationally. They outline their understandings and optimistic philosophy where a number of base needs services will be tested.
This article was written by Darren J, an architectural designer and social theorist working to test new models of social organisation that promotes peace and sustainability with the ultimate goal of realising a Resource Based Economy