Money, money, money: Why living in a rich man’s world is amoral.

This is probably the first and last time you will witness a bible quote from me, however, the ‘good book’ states in 1 Timothy 6:10; ‘For the love of money is the root of all evil’. Now I have no idea who really wrote it, as you have possibly noticed I am not remotely religious, but in all honesty they may have been on to something. Using a more reliable source, namely those great Swedish philosophers ABBA, who sang quite prophetically ‘we are living in a rich man’s world’, were right on the money, excuse the pun. The question is, why do we allow this to happen and on a more basic level is money useful?

This thought occurred to me whilst walking home from the university library in Auckland on route back to my flat. As per usual I was passed by a selection of motor vehicles, some flash and others shall we say functional. When a thought occurred to me; why does all this matter? To be clear this wasn’t an epiphany that would suddenly result in the shedding of my clothes for robes, traipsing off to say Bhutan and giving away the remaining $16.72 of my bank account to the first person I met in the street. However, from a functional, moral, equitable and human perspective; why does all this materiality matter?

From a biological perspective we need food, water and sleep to survive. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs there are other basic activities on the bottom of this pyramid; however, we could all agree that without these 3 listed above we would die sooner rather than later.

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So as we look from the bottom to the top of the pyramid, a significant portion of you may have noticed something vital missing, an object so ingrained in our very being that we fail to function without it; you’ve guessed it money, at no point according to Mr Maslow do we need money. There are lots of lovely humane, psychological, practical, philosophical, moral and collective soul building concepts in there, but no money. Surely if we need it so much, if it is so fundamental to our society that we even measure our nation’s success by it, in the form of gross domestic product (GDP), I like to emphasize the ‘gross’ part of this, it should be there right? How could this be? According to Liza Minnelli ‘money makes the world go round’, she sang about it in Cabaret, so surely it must be true. So why this discrepancy, was Maslow wrong? The answer is yes and no.

A group of you at this point are possibly yelling at the screen as you have probably noticed on the second tier the word employment and you could argue strongly that this involves money. Maslow in his wisdom, however, didn’t state money specifically, but the way society is constructed we just assume that money would be exchanged. The problem, is that we did create money; it’s a man-made concept which did not have to be as important as society now views it. Let me clarify, I am not advocating the abolition of money. However, it is obvious to me that the original intended use of currency has morphed into something quite divisive. We are prepared to do almost anything for the pursuit of money; wars, theft, prostitution, even 40 hours a week plus in a soulless office space, doing a job that is quite frankly pointless, whilst we pretend to our boss to be fully engaged. All our varying degrees of sacrifice are because all the basic things we need in this modern world requires cash; water, food, shelter, maybe not air……not yet anyway.

Back in 350BC Aristotle pondered that every object has two uses; the first being the original use for the object and the second was to use the object in a form of barter or exchange. It certainly makes more practical sense having a few coins in your pocket as opposed to carrying half a dozen goats as currency. So on this basic level there is good logic, that instead of trading goods or services we could use a mutually accepted token in exchange for a desired object. In the navy we generally called them ‘beer tokens’ (although I have heard they have other uses apart from the purchase of the magic liquid), on this level it all works out pretty well. I’ll give you ‘x’ amount of ‘ickies’ and you will provide me with ‘y’ volume of beer, sounds fair, so far so good. dumbcarSadly things rarely remain this simplistic, as we can all attest to. We continue to develop highly complex systems around what was initially a reasonably basic idea. Some of the more opportunist among us use these ‘ickies’ to buy power and influence, to control vast areas of the globe at the expense of others. Or alternatively we make up so-called objects of desire for sale, whilst we arbitrarily decide what is valuable and what is not. Sometimes our logic is founded on scarcity, but quite often it’s based on total bullshit. Then we rank our fellow human beings on how much power, control and bullshit we have accumulated over our lives. Does this sound nuts, or is it just me?

When we broaden this out and project this globally, something has gone seriously awry. There are people who inhabit our planet with multiple homes, cars, private jets and an unending access to luxury items. We idolize them, we honour them and plaster these demigods on the front of magazines such as Forbes. rs_634x1024-140501120839-634_kimye_cm_520112They then sell books back to the proletariat who they have previously exploited, telling them how they became successful (genius). They flaunt their wealth on television and create private universes where they hide from the minions who made them rich. They concoct semi-faux charities, which supposedly benefit the poor, but in reality espouse their narrow ideologies to effect social change, while they receive wonderful tax breaks (yes I’m talking about you Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg) On the flip side we the masses are chastised if we attempt to question the validity or morality of the plutocracy’s endeavours. We are called envious and jealous, or our work ethic is called into question. We are told that they earned it, that they are worth it, that somehow they are a superior human being and we the peasants must suck it up, because apparently that’s how the world works.

 

On the other side of the tracks, in a not so exquisite dusty wasteland are people who literally have nothing; no food, water or shelter, they are essentially in Maslow’s rather uncomfortable basement. It is estimated that 1.3 billion people in the world live in poverty, that half the world’s population live on less than $2.50 (US) per day and we as a species have let this happen. As the 80’s rock truth teller Axl Rose once sung; ‘we feed the rich while we bury the poor’. We push them out of the way, hide them from tourists and yet it is our system that has created this inequality. At what point did we think it was a good idea to value a ‘beer token’ above human life, our own flesh and blood, our fellow brothers and sisters. We must have been absolutely out of our collective minds! We comfort ourselves by saying it’s another country’s problem, or they have other crazy beliefs, or they’re from another part of the globe, as if this makes everything alright. That the increased mileage from our cosy homeland or how many shades they differ from our complexion has any bearing on our decision making regarding how much compassion we should commit to.

We have come to value money, worship the people who have collected the most while they arguably add nothing tangible to society, such as stock market traders; except perhaps a broken economy and shattered dreams of affordable housing. We are saddened and angered by poverty, while we continue to support a system that destroys the people we shed tears for when images are beamed into our living rooms a couple of times a year. We bemoan about beggars in the freezing streets whilst we drive past them in our Mercedes, without ever considering the conditions of the world that have contributed to this situation. This is not a plea for you to empty your bank accounts to Oxfam or UNICEF. However, these worthwhile charities only exist because of the systems and structures we have built around money. These convoluted mechanisms have allowed narcissists and psychopaths complicit with power-hungry politicians to syphon off any last remaining cash from the great unwashed up to the 0.1%. It’s common knowledge now that 1% of the population have as much wealth as the remaining 99%, this fact alone represents a kick in the balls for humanity. The conclusion I draw is not that money as a means of trade is amoral, but the people who have manipulated the system to the detriment of society are.

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Join me on the dark side: Clinton’s cronies just don’t get it.

Looking from the outside in during the Democratic Primaries is fascinating. Hillary Clinton the establishment’s champion, using all the available resources of the ruling elite; generally consisting of lots of shady corporate money and an establishment enmeshed mainstream media to do her bidding for her. Her opponent Bernie Sanders a previously little known Independent Senator from Vermont, who’s running as a Democrat in order to obtain a larger audience to convey his left leaning populist message. Watching Clinton during this time is like watching a cross between a world class gymnast and Neo from the Matrix. She twists, turns and deflects anything she perceives as remotely dangerous almost sub-consciously, whilst dismissively smiling and laughing through serious questioning regarding her suitability as the President of the United States of America. She changes her stance more times than a switch hitter during a baseball season. Shifting position with regularity to accommodate whatever is politically ‘en vogue’ to obtain maximum support from whomever she may be trying to win over at the time. Hillary appears to have no long standing political principles that you could trace throughout her career. Her goal is simple, to be the first woman to enter the Whitehouse as President; how she gets there is inconsequential as long she occupies the Oval Office.

Recently there have been lots of problems and irregularities at varying primaries; notably New York and Arizona. A slew of reports have surfaced with suggestions of voter purges and difficulties accessing polling stations leading to voter suppression. There is also evidence coming to the fore implying that other states such as Illinois have been affected by similar incidences. Whether this has been a planned DNC/Clinton tactic is currently hard to ascertain, but I have my suspicions. It will be interesting to see if these issues occur again in the upcoming primaries now these events are public knowledge. I am hopeful that things will come out in wash and we will find out if these misdemeanors were due to incompetence or something much more systemic and devious. I am, however, realistic, and realise that any kind of satisfactory resolution is extremely unlikely.

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DNC leader – Debbie Wasserman-Schultz

It’s no secret that the DNC, led by Debbie Wasserman-Schultz heavily favours Hillary to become the Democratic Party nominee, after all she was the campaign co-chair for Hillary Clinton back in 2008. Furthermore, Hillary is the establishments choice for the ‘Whitehouse’, a pro Wall Street, pro-fracking, supporter of big business, with such hawkish attitudes towards foreign policy even Donald Rumsfeld would approve. It appears she may have pilfered many ideas straight from Dick Cheney’s ‘neo-con’ playbook of how to expand an empire. It’s also of no surprise that she considers Henry Kissinger a personal mentor, a secretary of state who presided over the some of the most horrendous foreign policy decisions in history, such as the bombing campaign of Cambodia.

With all this in mind regarding Hillary’s character, the DNC’s penchant for continued power and the string pulling invisible plutocrats, it’s shouldn’t come as much of a surprise how out of touch the establishment are. The ruling elite voiced by mainstream media continue to doggedly set the narrative; such as imploring Bernie Sanders to call it a night and encouraging his supporters to come over to the ‘dark side’ of establishment politics. The ’empire’ and their leader Darth Clinton have nothing in common or any interest whatsoever with the average person at a Sanders rally. Ironically though, Sanders supporters are becoming hugely important to the oligarchy, in the sense that these are the very minions the Democratic establishment will have to woo to retain power. A vast percentage of Bernie supporters are young or completely at the other end of the power/money equation and have never witnessed anything but, money driven establishment politics. They’ve seen the decline of decent paying jobs, rising college tuition fees, stagnating healthcare provision, enormous inequality, perpetual global war and have declared that this is not for them. They are not prepared to let a handful of self-entitled, power-hungry maniacs decide the fate of their nation. Bernie has pointed to a political revolution and they want in on it.

The establishment is totally enmeshed in the bi-partisan bubble of politics and outraged with the petulance of the ‘Bernie or Bust’ campaign. They are astounded and confused when Sander’s fans declare that Hillary is no better an option than Trump. To many Trump is rightly a huge problem, but so is Hillary, albeit a very different dilemma. My opinion is although Trump as president would likely end in an unmitigated disaster, we don’t exactly know what he would do. This is partly due to the fact that Donald has no idea what he’s going to do from one minute to the next. Hillary on the other hand is deeply dangerous to the US, therefore the world and she has form to prove it. HRC was happy to oversee the decimation of Libya, turning it into a terrorist paradise. Her rhetoric towards Iran has been nothing short of inflammatory in the past to say the least. She has historically been on the side of escalating conflict, whilst her allegiance to Israel has been unwavering. These are not great qualities if we are hoping for peaceful solutions particularly in the middle east. On the home front, I guess it will be business as usual; inequality will widen, healthcare will continue to be sub-standard (unless you’re rich), the bank will get a pass and the US will continue consuming fossil fuels at an unprecedented rate without a care in the world.

So here is the burning question; why on earth would you vote for Hillary Clinton? As I read comments from Hillary supporters or paid trolls (it’s sometimes hard to know), they appear to be in some hypnotic state of existence. They are mesmerized by politics of the status quo, they clearly can’t see any other alternative, therefore, all comments echo Hillary’s mantra of pragmatism and incremental change. To my mind, this translates as a lack of hope and ambition, which works well for these zombies as Hillary offers neither ambition or hope. She stands for herself, her legacy, her donors and the 0.1% who are doing pretty wHillary_Clinton_Testimony_to_House_Select_Committee_on_Benghaziell thank you. So if you happen to be one of the 0.1%, it makes sense to go all in for Hill, after all you will get a pretty good return on your investment, as for the rest of you, you must be nuts. Your lack of belief in discernible change and the power of people has left you voting against your own interests. It’s ok to be sacred, lots of people struggle with change or the unknown, but what Bernie is offering is no more than common sense ideas. In Europe Bernie would be considered no more than a sensible centrist, the idea of universal healthcare is considered a basic right in most of Europe. It boggles the mind why many Americans balk at this rather tame suggestion. I’m not saying Bernie is the perfect solution, personally on a lot of issues he doesn’t go far enough, however, for an US electorate I think he has pitched it just about right.

Hillary’s ‘yuge’ (as Bernie would say) problem, that’s of course if she doesn’t get indicted beforehand is to convince not only Berners but Independents to get on board the establishment freight train. Currently roughly 25% see themselves as Republicans, about the same again for Democrats, with about 45% declaring themselves as Independents, with the other 5% probably having absolutely no clue what all the fuss is about. ChnVnE9UkAIB4-JUsing rudimentary mathematics, or math as our American cousins like to wrongly say; Hillary appeals to about 52% of Democrats. As Independents generally despise her, I would suggest she would have a severe shortfall in the numbers required to beat Donald Trump come November. On the flip side, using information from the more democratic of Democratic Primaries namely ‘open primaries’, Bernie generally captures approximately 70% of the Independent vote and by all accounts would cling to many of these if he was to oppose ‘The Don’ at the presidential election. When you add Bernie’s Democrat Party supporters to the vast amount of Independents who would choose him, things look decidedly more rosy, not for the Democratic Party but for democracy as a whole.

Bernie has stated on more than one occasion that he will take this campaign all the way to the Democratic Party convention and I agree he absolutely should. There is much more at stake than finding a candidate for the election, this is about the shaping of democracy 10, 20 or 30 years down the line. As the campaign continues an increased amount of people will be exposed to his message and people will start to realise that they can make a difference if enough of the population get involved. The DNC and Hillary supporters are trying to stifle debate, claiming that the Democratic Party needs to unify prior to the election, this is just another example of silencing the electorate. The Democratic Party already have superdelegates to prevent a populist candidate such as Senator Sanders winning the candidacy. Further to this Debbie Wasserman-Schultz has recently stated that she would prefer all primaries to be closed; doesn’t sound hugely democratic to me. The ruling elite have tried every dirty trick in the book to make sure that their cozy little circle of power remains in tight control of the Democratic Party and of the country.

Looking at this realistically, Bernie will probably fall short in his valiant bid to challenge for the presidency. So the question is, now what? Where do these motivated, politically inspired people go? Personally I would love to see a strong third-party in the future, whether that would mean bringing other fringe parties into the fold such as the Greens, is a debate for another day. However, I think it is vital that the ‘real left’ start to develop a strong coherent voice, because judging by Bernie’s support at varying rallies over the last few months it is long overdue. Politics in the US is essentially a selection of slightly differing flavours of right leaning views and there are vast amounts of people who simply do not agree with the ideology. For the election itself, if Bernie sticks to his guns and doesn’t run as a third party candidate, Bernie fans have some choices to make, either; they’ll write Bernie on the ballot paper, vote for the Greens, sell their souls and vote Hillary, hold their collective noses and vote Trump or walk away into a potential political abyss, never to be seen again. One thing I will ask whatever you do after all this is over is get together, regroup and fight for a compassionate party that looks out for all people, regardless of race, religion, nationality and gender. Get organized because this political battle is happening around the world and you will be needed.

Around the world particularly in North America, Europe and Australasia, there are many people who are disenfranchised with the neoliberal ruling elite. They see huge failures in the system, regular corruption, a small group of people out of touch with the masses, making policies that benefits their own kind. This mismanagement has led to an increasing polarization of radical political viewpoints on both the left and the right. In Europe the populist right are extremely angered with supposed rising immigration, perceived terrorist threats and religious issues particularly involving Islam.

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Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP

In the UK a large proportion of the population are concerned about an increasing loss of political autonomy due to the EU, as well as what is viewed as soft immigration laws. To endorse these causes we have seen the rise of the right-wing populist party UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party), in France there is the Front National who are planning to develop an alliance with the right-wing populist organization the Dutch Freedom Party in the Netherlands. In central and eastern Europe, in particular Hungary, Austria, Poland and Slovakia you will find strong prominent right-wing and ultra nationalist parties consistently gaining in popularity. Finally in the US we have witness the rise of Donald Trump, voicing disdain for Mexican immigrants and Muslims entering the country, whilst endorsing far right views. I find the rise in right-wing populism, alongside other more violent racist and xenophobic groups deeply disturbing. In my opinion these parties are inherently dangerous to society, as they seek segregation, encourage tribalism and preach exceptionalism, this at a time when we desperately need each other more than ever before.

As a species we face massive challenges; rising population, which is estimated to reach 8.1 billion by 2025 and of course the potentially catastrophic global effects of climate change. We desperately need each other as fellow human beings to be as cohesive and responsible as we can, to secure the planet for the generations to come. Splitting into tribes based on national, racial or religious affiliations will only serve to fuel more wars, stagnate urgent unified agreements on climate change and drive us to a far less desirable world than the one we now reside. I propose that a collaborative, compassionate, empathic political ideology would lead to a much more stable and socially productive future. These ideals I believe are much more attuned to a left leaning, inclusive, highly democratic bottom up system, where everybody matters equally and nobody gets left behind. I’m sure some people would view this as utopian, but from a practical point of view I would state we have an increased chance of maintaining a successful global society if we work together, than if we retreat to our own corners.