God is dead; Long Live God
( January 2007 )
"Money makes the world go round"
"The love of money is the root of all evil"
I got a phone call from a credit card company asking me why I hadn't paid this month's bill.
Dead simple. I was too busy with more important things and forgot.
The clown on the end of the phone was stunned. This did not figure in its world view. How could anything be more important than taking care of my finances? Surely that should be my priority. Now, I've been on the planet almost 60 years. One thing I don't need is some patronising clown with an O-level who spends eight hours a day with its backside superglued to an office chair talking down its nose at me and telling me what I should or shouldn't prioritise in my life.
The whole tone and attitude reminded me very heavily of the way priests used to talk to sinners. And that hit my muse button.
"Bless me father for I have sinned, I was late in paying my bill this month."
"Tell me child, did you have deliberate intent to defraud or was it just a lapse?"
"It was just a lapse, Father, I did not intend to defraud."
"Very well, child - remedy the lapse immediately and pay a penalty surcharge of 20 pounds. Go forth and sin no more."
"Thank you, Father."
Most people would vigorously deny it, of course, but the worship and service of Money is now the dominant Western religion. And accountants, debt collectors, financial advisors, stockbrokers, television politics show hosts and newsreaders are the spiritual leaders - if you like, the Priests or Shamans - of this religion.
One of the marks of the True Believer in any religion is that they do not have any ability to perceive the possibility of a universe in which their God is not the supreme ruler and in which their view of the Universe does not have total hegemony. It dominates their psyche to such an extent that any other point of view is not just utterly beyond their comprehension, it is self-evident that any other point of view is heresy and therefore intrinsically evil. The non-believer is a challenge to the very foundations of their entire concept of existence. Hence throughout history each dominant religion has found itself in the position of having to employ large numbers of enforcers to bully the unbeliever into either conforming or being stoned, burned or crucified as a heretic. The reassuring fact of history is that each successive attempt by each successive dominant religion has eventually ended in failure.
Modern Western societies are in such a position regarding money. Money is the omniscient, omnipotent arbiter of all things, the obsession which provides the complete framework for most lives. It is so fundamental to most people's existence that even passing a whimsical thought as to whether any other framework might be possible would be regarded as a bizarre - and to many, a thoroughly unpleasant - eccentricity.
But few would ever be prepared to admit it to themselves. Anyone will tell you, money is simply a means to an end, right? There are more important things in life, right?
Well, they might think that. Or, more accurately, they like to think that they think that. Measure their words against their deeds.
Just for amusement, try starting a discussion with a devout Christian or Muslim about any random subject and see how long it takes before the conversation moves to the Biblical or Q'ranic view of the matter. That is quite natural and proper; their beliefs are the foundation of all their views on all matters. As they should be. If they aren't then they couldn't really be called devout believers. Their beliefs provide the point of reference for all things. And their use of their point of reference reveals what their true beliefs are, regardless of what else they might tell you.
Now try starting a discussion with almost anybody in any Western country about any random subject and see how long it takes before the discussion becomes about money.
Football? "I see Willie Bloggs is looking for a transfer - how much do you think he's worth?"
Painting? "I'm sure you'd get a really good price for that."
Popular music? "Sony have just signed up the Raving Nutters for z-trillion dollars advance."
Scottish politics? "But could an independent Scotland really stand on its own financially?"
Housing? "I got this great deal on a remortgage."
As any competent artist or shrink will tell you, regardless of what people think they're talking about, they are actually always talking about themselves. To the one capable of listening properly, what they are really telling you is the underlying set of beliefs that informs their views on the subject under discussion. Regardless of what they might say they believe, what they do and how they live speak louder about what they really do believe. And regardless of what they might say they believe, the way most people live and behave shrieks deafeningly that in the unchallenged depths of their souls the core belief according to which they live their lives is that the Supreme Being governing all things is Money.
Have a nice year.