(January 30, 2009)
Other commitments bid that this be the last column before I take a two-week hiatus. I plan to resume the series on February 20 (though I reserve the option to send out commentary in the meantime if emerging events call for it). Much has transpired in the world between the last break in October and now. This is perhaps a good introspective winter's time to take what has been said into our contemplations and meditations.
Last fall the economic dispensation of the world changed. Now we are informed in the media daily of the mounting national, and now worldwide, "debt" crisis, the further loss of homes and businesses, and the latest waves of job losses. There have been enough paychecks and other financial resources still in the pipeline to maintain a sense of normalcy through the holiday season, and through the Presidential inauguration. Our attention now turns naturally to the
question, "What will the year ahead bring?" To be sure, the signs are by most reckonings far from positive, but a time of maximum crisis is also a time of greatest opportunity.
I would leave you for now, dear friends, with a note of perspective. In the course of the columns many strong statements have been made. This is not surprising given the vital nature of the subject. I would emphasize, however, (as I have done before) that there are no enemies in the monetary story; only a perverse principle that we, virtually all, have in our own lives and niches become subject to: that is, the idea that life is limited and controlled by money, rather than money being an extension of life. Its effects range from overt thievery, to the most subtle deceptions of the soul. There are none, as far as I know, who have not to some extent at least lived in a glass house on this matter. Who then can cast a stone of judgement? It is altogether fitting then that we move forward with the attitude of removing the beam from our own eye, before attempting to pluck the mote from our brother's or sister's.
Throughout this series of columns I have interjected the American story about money. This is particularly so in the last three installments, where I have drawn out the monetary thread in a manner that reads somewhat like a heroic tale. Indeed, there is heroism in this litany of historical events, but, of course, life is not that simple. There would have been many nuances, contrary weavings and instances of human mendacity along the way, if the truth were fully
My intention is in part to precipitate a new American mythology, which is the story that we tell our children, each other, and the world about who we are and how we got to be this way. I would not, however, that it be a new American jingoism. We as a nation have our unique tale to tell and our contribution to make. Indeed, the case may be made that a new way of doing money is a particular gift that this nation has to offer the world, as part of our "manifest destiny", if you will.
But even in this area, that is not the whole of the story. The evolution of money can be traced back to other times and lands. Some of the thoughts and practices "pioneered" by Americans had significant antecedents of various forms in, for example, ancient China, early classical Greece, the pre-empire Roman Republic and the Islamic civilization of the Middle Ages. The argument over the creation, issuance and control of money in colonial America was in essential ways the coming to a head of a contention that had already taken place in England and France for several centuries, and many of its ideas can be traced from there.
What is more, the American Revolution was not a battle pitting, simplistically, the good guys against the bad. It was, rather, a struggle between heroic people on both sides. This was a soul-wrenching time, and some of the most venerated of our "Founding Fathers" felt rent within by opposing viewpoints, sympathies and loyalties. From a larger perspective, even King George could make a reasoned and passionate argument for his case.
The tenor of these articles might, if one is not fully attentive, be taken to be a screed against bankers and banking. Let me be clear: the enemy is not bankers or banking. In the current monetary crisis is it not true that many banks also are going bankrupt? If I have an attitude regarding the institution of banking, it is not to tear it down, but to see it redeemed for the sake of the People, including the bankers themselves. If we do not engage the financial world constructively, but opt instead for the gratification of comeuppance, we will pull the monetary temple down on our own heads.
In this modern age we are essentially all economic players, and have in our own particular ways and niches contributed to the distressed circumstances that are unfolding in our financial lives at present. Even withdrawing to the woods to live a hermit's life is a profound economic act. Certainly the simple use of a credit card has significant implications, of which we need to become fully conscious if the current "debt" crisis is to be addressed. Let us resolve, then, to take responsibility for our own role in the economic order, and to not blame the other.
In my perception, all the major dilemmas of today converge upon the same question, and that is: "What can we do about money?" Could it be that the outbreak of the present world financial chaos, in conjunction with the belief in new possibilities that seems, for whatever providential reason, to attend the latest change in government in Washington, constitutes a priceless opportunity? I don't know. That question remains for us to answer. I have a feeling, though, that whether we seize upon it in a constructive, as opposed to blame-saying, manner will make all the difference. To be sure, we need to remain discerning and not withhold a critique when it is due, but cynicism holds no power for good. It behooves us always to be mindful of the distinction. There is no reason, in my view, to think that this time of crisis could not be redeemed, and become known to future generations as the year the world finally turned around. I offer this as something to think about, until we reconvene.
Thank you all for your continued interest. I love you, every one.
Looking forward to resuming the conversation,
1904 1st Ave. S, #12
Minneapolis, MN 55403
The complete set of columns from this series is posted at the