Money Vs. Rewilding

Rarely do I think about money, let alone write about it. Money seems like one of the most trite subjects anyone could write about. Never the less, what began as a lament about money turned into a rant, which then turned into my first (and hopefully last) philosophical examination of my feelings about money, which bared some uneaten fruit… at least by me.

It starts with where I stand financially; I have just enough money to pay for food and a cell phone bill for one year. At some point I will run out of money. I would say the goal of this project involves “Unlocking the Food.” That means no longer paying for food but having the know-how to acquire the food I need with my own two hands, through horticulture, hunting and gathering. Why stop with food? With my sights set on abandoning Civilization, it also means that I unlock shelter and no longer pay rent. Which would also imply unlocking water and heating too. That Civilization uses money as a tool to hold it’s members captive is quite obvious to everyone. But the obvious conclusion, that to “unlock” these necessities we must abandon the money which we must work to get, does not prove so obvious.

I will try and figure out how to live without money. I don’t think “money is the root of all evil” or something, I just fucking hate it. Not because I don’t have it, but because people fear living without it. People don’t know how to live without it. People don’t know what living looks like without it. People feel afraid of losing it. They would rather have money than a community. They would rather live alone and rich, than hungry and surrounded by friends. Why?

The million dollar question I have asks, what replaces money?

Money works as a medium of exchange. Dictionary.com tells us that an exchange means “to give up something for something else; part with for some equivalence; change for another.” Money symbolizing this representation of an exchange. It works as a stored exchange.

What do you need in order to eat in civilization? Money. What do you need to clothe and shelter yourself in civilization? Money. What do you need to entertain yourself in civilization? Money. What do you need to get this money? If you don’t have independent wealth, you need a job to get this money. In order to support yourself, you need money. In civilization, money = support.

What does an exchange look like? Giving someone something for something else. Giving something and getting something in return. A trade. Trade feels like a funny word. It means both an exchange and what you do for your livelihood. What do we do for money but trade our bodies and our services? I chop vegetables for other people to eat, to make my money. I then use the money to pay other people to chop vegetables for me to eat… and why do I buy food at the grocery store? Because I don’t know how to get it for myself. We trade our lives for services we cannot provide for ourselves.

No exchange can happen without people providing a service or a product (which really just means the service of making the product). What does this service represent really, but the actual person who does it. Without that person there, you have no service. The person exchanges their time and their skills. They exchange hours of their life they will never see again. To give something of yourself, for something in return. The exchange happens not for the product, but for the person who made it. An exchange involves people giving support to one another for support they cannot receive by themselves. The product nor the services have any real value. The real value comes from the person who performs product or service.

This describes the essence of the tribal system that Daniel Quinn discusses in his books; Give Support, Get Support. In tribal cultures people relied on each other for the basic necessities of life. Each person contributed their time and in return all of their needs were met. This may reveal why indigenous cultures found wealth in their people, not in the material items they produced. This system may show us why they did not hoard food. Who cares if you go hungry as long as you have family to go hungry with?

Money works a symbolic representation of people, of tribe. We even put pictures of people on our money. In civilization, people do not give you support, money does. That shows why money, although a symbolic representation of people, finds more value than the people themselves. That reveals to us why people of our culture seek money more than they seek actual friendships, and feel more willing to ditch a friendship if it means getting more money; psychologically, money means friendship.

If money foundations your support, then you will do whatever you can to keep that money or get more. People fear living without it so they fight to keep it. I have participated in many tribal ventures that have all failed. I believe they failed because the people could not see the value of people over the money; you can take the human out of civilization, but you can’t take the civilization out of the human. None of these tribal ventures tried to live without money, all of them felt afraid of not making enough. When people feel afraid of not getting enough money they’ll try to control the money. At that point, you have the hierarchical tendencies of civilized people come in and destroy the group.

I don’t mean to say that you can’t have a tribe and participate in the monetary economy. If you look to people for support, or geese or Salal berries, then you will do whatever you can to maintain those relationships and create more. Gypsies use money, but I don’t think they value the money they use more than their band. They do not feel afraid of going hungry together and from what I have read they have no social pressure to become billionaires. I believe we need to abandon the value of money over relationships. What do you replace money with? I think the more appropriate question looks like: What did people have before money? They had Tribe. Money feels like a poor, unfulfilling replacement for real people and real relationships.

In the end, I want to live without money not because I consider myself a “primitivist,” but because I would rather have the tribe. Plus, if we can prove to other people that we can do it, hopefully their fear of not having it will go away and we will have even more friends.

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8 Comments on “Money Vs. Rewilding

  1. I was listening to the advanced bird language tapes yesterday and this thing about money reminded me of when he talks about how listening to the birds would help you to be a great hunter and in hunter gatherer societies the way to earn prestige was to be a great hunter so you could support your family and the widows and elderly and others in need. We don’t do that with money. We don’t really share it with the less fortunate in our society, except for a dime or two, or for a billionaire the equivalent of a dime to them. It is my impression that indians took care of less fortunate families in even if it was because their male provider was just downright lazy. They didn’t try to punish the laziness out of him by letting him and his family go hungry while telling him to “get a job” as we do in the civilized world.

    p.s. i know you don’t know how to work this shit and neither do i since your blog is the first that has ever interested me, but it would be awesome if somehow i could sign in and it would highlight the posts and especially the commentsts that i haven’t read. Right now i’m checking them all for new comments and that takes awhile.

  2. “Money is a poor, unfulfilling replacement for real people.”

    Right on! And what really fucking pisses me off, more than anything to do with money, is that I don’t have those real people in my life — indeed that in this world where money is in everything, I struggle even to have a relationship with my parents and friends that isn’t based on the model of a fucking economic transaction. If money were only a medium of exchange and not a symbol for how we think of the world that invades all of our relationships and thought-processes, I wouldn’t have near the problem with it. But it isn’t just a medium of exchange, it’s way way more than that.

    So for me talking about living without money is almost exactly what you’re saying, I’m expressing that I’d rather have a tribe. And I’m also saying “goddammit dad I’m not a fucking investment”. I don’t want my relationships to have economic metaphors anymore. I’m tired of seeing the world as a zero-sum transaction.
    —-

    I have enough savings to last about a year as well, maybe a little less or a little more depending on what I decide to do. [I’m interested in studying a specific form of martial art and unfortunately that costs money. Money buys us access to people. Ugh.]

    I’m hoping to build a local gift noneconomy (network? I like that framing — a gift network, not a gift economy.) Give support, get support, a tribe is a group of people each doing what makes them come alive, all that good stuff.

    This is so cool. Too bad we’re on different ends of the continent. But I suppose that could be seen as a gift as well. We need this everywhere.
    – Devin

  3. eloquently put, my friend. they call it “currency” because it is supposed to be “current”. yeah, we’ll see for how long. count me in. no pun intended. okay okay, pun intended. oxo

  4. I’m not gonna lie.

    I want a bucket brimming with C-notes. As much as I despise the soulless greed and idiocy that keeps this empty transfer of so called power the focal point of our society, I think it’s a good thing to have. Makes a lot of things more comfortable safe and easy – such as travel and medicinal care. Riches are no subsitute for doing what you love, a cushy bank account doesn’t compare to kinship, but money may not disappear until the human race disappears. Until then – it has benefits.

    One more thing, this ones directed at the Pennyscout. In some tribal communities prestiege is/was based on trivial things, such as how many pigs one owns or how many spouses one lives with. And they also sometimes ate each other. It’s the indigenous state of mind that fascinates me – direct relationship with the land as opposed to living in opposition to the land. the rest is just details.

  5. I sometimes see those whose wish to transcend or free themselves from civilization as animals in a cage. We know we are captive and we know that things will be better when we are free. Our trouble is that we can’t get out of the cage. Sure, maybe once in a while an animal will escape, but they are generally captured again or they get hit by a car in the parking lot. Maybe once in a great while an animal escapes and is never heard from again (stories are told about this one). But I don’t think there are ever cases where the animal escapes and comes back later for his comrades.

    Unless someone opens the cage it will not happen. I’m turning this over in my head a lot lately. The rules are such that you are not allowed to drop out (http://thefrankblackblog.blogspot.com/2006/12/tune-in-turn-on.html).

    So if you are a dolphin in a tank and want to live in the ocean, you are not going anywhere unless your owner says you can. This is especially true if your tank is in Nebraska. If you want a place to live, you need money for rent or rely on the kindness of others. If the property is anywhere in civilization it means taxes are owed. Even if you live in a tax-free spot (religious exemption, etc.) there needs to be upkeep. That means you need to be in a place where resources are available and you are capable of using them to maintain your home. Then the question arises, is this lifestyle just for a lucky few who can hide underneath the radar and out of sight of the powers that be? Is this our lot in life, to be fugitives? Unless things change on a fundamental level, that is what you will likely be: a fugitive or a guest of someone else who is actually in the system (which makes you in the system). So far, all my thoughts point to a compromise arrangement.

    It is discouraging. I look forward to hearing your thoughts as you unwind this and pray you come up with ideas that can be used. No matter how I look at it, the answers are not pretty.

  6. Hey Frank Black —

    I’m enthused about the idea of being a fugitive, and also I’m completely willing to “compromise” and be a part of “the system”. The way I see it, there’s only one “system” and that’s the entire universe. I don’t have a problem compromising with the universe, as there are always going to be constraints. The point for me is to learn where the limits are so I can be as flexible and adaptable as I can be within those limits — and maybe push those limits a little bit further outward. I don’t get discouraged at all at the idea of being in civilization, because that’s where I am now and I’m really not all that unhappy — although I am definitely unsatisfied and restless. I’m doing my best to “defy gravity” and stay as far away as I can from despair. For me this means not giving over my power to some distant, nameless, ominous “powers-that-be”, but rather keeping my focus on the power-that’s-me. This way I am the goddamn powers-that-be.

    Let us not focus on problems, but focus on possibilities instead. I see no insurmountable barriers in front of me. Certainly some things I am trying to do are going to be tricky, but I have to wonder — if it was easy would I even be doing this at all? I think one of my predominant frustrations with “civilization” is that I appear to be required to be bored to death. Fuck that, let’s have some fun and see what happens. It’s way too late and things are way too bad for pessimism.

    – Devin

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