It’s not just about owning the jet. It’s about having the money to give you the freedom to do what you want, to say what you want. The more money people have, the more free they are, if they have the right psyche. Having a jet means you’re not queuing up for an hour in Dublin or London airports. Money is pure and utter freedom. If you want to wear shades inside, which I often do, I don’t care what people say about me.
—Donal Caulfield, Irish property developer, The Irish Times, September 27, 2008.
The crisis we are facing today arises from the fact that there is almost no more social, cultural, natural, and spiritual capital left to convert into money. Centuries, millennia of near-continuous money creation has left us so destitute that we have nothing left to sell. Our forests are damaged beyond repair, our soil depleted and washed into the sea, our fisheries fished out, the rejuvenating capacity of the earth to recycle our waste saturated. Our cultural treasury of songs and stories, images and icons, has been looted and copyrighted. Any clever phrase you can think of is already a trademarked slogan. Our very human relationships and abilities have been taken away from us and sold back, so that we are now dependent on strangers, and therefore on money, for things few humans ever paid for until recently: food, shelter, clothing, entertainment, child care, cooking. Life itself has become a consumer item. Today we sell away the last vestiges of our divine bequeathment: our health, the biosphere and genome, even our own minds. This is the process that is culminating in our age. It is almost complete, especially in America and the “developed” world. In the developing world there still remain people who live substantially in gift cultures, where natural and social wealth is not yet the subject of property. Globalization is the process of stripping away these assets, to feed the money machine’s insatiable, existential need to grow. Yet this stripmining of other lands is running up against its limits too, both because there is almost nothing left to take, and because of growing pockets of effective resistance.
[Picture from Robert Bresson's L'Argent (1980).]