Saturday, May 14, 2011

The musical bucks game

Raw, genuine humans
OK, so you are born and, biologically, you are a big headed ape with a evolutionary history of hunter-gatherer 99.99% or more. Sure, you are somewhat smart but elephants and some dolphins are too: Neanderthals were too and they went extinct anyhow. I mean not that smart that you can normally outsmart the game itself, just a two or three times smarter than chimps and that's about it. 

But that would be all right if you lived a plentiful natural life, as happened in about 95% of the history of humankind (understood as H. sapiens). In those times most people had almost full control of their rustic lives while at the same time living in supportive communities. Of course, life always has issues but otherwise it was fine: it was as it was meant to be. 

I'll skip the transition(s). Today we are born the same but we are asked a lot more. Sure, some stuff is easier because of technology (notably plumbing, heating and washing machines), but there is a big caveat: you are not anymore in control, someone else is. 

Someone who controls the distribution of a code: money. Money can be (more or less) golden coins as in old times, can be printed paper as it was dominant till recently or it can be just encrypted numbers in a computer network. I have described money as a chaotic and terribly unfair rationing card. It is nothing else... in essence. 

But in consequence it is much more: it is a bait that you are trained to follow. 

Once Monopoly had a more honest name (source)
Since early childhood you are directed by parents and all society to follow the trail of money, to desire it, to make what you can to get it. And for good reason (in a sense) because, in this society, with money you survive and without money you have many problems or even die.

This is absolutely not in the hunter-gatherer's handbook to life, in our genes. But we are intelligent animals, with flexible, plastic brains that can learn. So we do learn, better or worse. 

Intelligence as such does not help because it is intelligent people who see easier through the fallacy of the value of money, as they do with any other social referential belief (religion, etc.) On the other hand, if you manage to conciliate your intelligence with the social fetish of money, then you can really thrive because you have the best of both worlds. But it's easier to accept things just because "everybody believes it" if you are not too smart, that's clear (and in fact there is a negative correlation between IQ and religious faith, for instance). 

I personally suspect that's the reason why our brains are on average smaller than in the Upper Paleolithic: because living in large societies like those created by civilization is not the best environment to boost brains but rather to boost credulity and conformity. 

In any case, for most people at least, by means of this "magical" fetish known as money, control of their own lives is lost. (True, I know that in early civilizations this may have happened without money as well, but I said I'd skip the transitions). 

You are born and trained better or worse to a game for lab-rats known as "follow the buck, gather the buck, spend the buck".  In the end we are here just rats (or apes or whatever animal you wish to compare with) trained by more or less perfected Pavlovian methods into playing a complex and dramatic game that could well be known as Gladiator Monopoly. 

A game in which we are forced to bet our lives and a game that is not anymore even the old good martial stuff of kill each other with swords and spears but a sublimation (Freud would say) of such bloody game into one of musical chairs

But who loses his/her chair dies as well.

Not for being civilized (hypocritical, sophisticated, indirect, twisted) the game is less bloody: it is similarly deadly. 

But not even a honorable death is allowed anymore. Since Christians and such abolished the legitimacy of suicide, it has become a dirty affair. But maybe worse than the Christian damnation imposed on this exit to the troubles of life, it is the stigma of being a death of losers. 

And this issue of losers and winners is clearly a Capitalist thing. You are supposed to play the musical bucks game, you have little choice but to bet your life in it... but you are not even acknowledged the right to lose graciously. 


Because it is your life and not your death what the game and the (always temporary) winners of the game want. They do not want your ritual sacrifice, they want your whole life (with emphasis in the productive and reproductive aspects of it, leisure and joy are not in their interest) and, once they get it or at least while they believe they can get it, you are not allowed to exit. 

Not fair and not sportsmanly. But while you are thrown into the cage-labyrinth, forced to fight your way in the musical buck game, impeded generally from a honorable exit in form of dignified suicide and forced to work as slave in the real life equivalent of a hamster wheel... you are still able to rebel. 

You, possibly in coalition with many others, can indeed decide that, as you know what the game is about (conscience of exploitation and alienation), you do not want to play it anymore. Because the whole Earth has been appropriated as "board" for this sadistic game involving also minors (disciplinary and propagandistic training, and even direct exploitation, begins in early childhood: total child abuse, sexual or of other kinds) you may need to concede while you organize and plan ahead how to tear down the system and how to organize a new and better system (realistically returning to Paleolithic conditions is not possible)... but you are trapped: you have no dignified exit other than rebellion. 

Because submission is not dignified at all. It is admittedly an option (the main option you are being trained for since the beginning) but neither an exit nor much less dignified.

It depends on you, you choose. It is a vital kind of choice and it is a choice that may decide the future of the wholes species and planet. I already made mine long ago. 

But first one needs to become aware, that's why I write this kind of stuff: to make you think, to make myself think as well - because if we stop thinking we lose, not the game (the game cannot be won) but our dignity as free and intelligent animals.


  1. Money has more than one definition.

    But I would not call it a mirage.

    One extremely important function of money is that it is the stuff that the government (the people with the most guns) will accept as payment for taxes. Since you need this money to pay taxes, you will trade things for it.

    The very small holding farmers of inland North Carolina understood this and the lack of currency (because of new British regulations) was one of the major factors in the Regulation Rebellion in Norht Carolina.

  2. IMO that's overrated: the government does not tax you (mostly?) if you don't have a monetary income (income tax) or have no monetary expenses (indirect taxes). The state just inserts itself in the Capitalist (or proto-Capitalist earlier) economy as "protection racket": you must pay and you get protection (?) from that.

    Money is a convention but can be granted on real stuff (even if of conventional value too, as all merchandises) or on socio-political organization (the state). Only the state can guarantee paper-money with enough force, including forcing you by law to accept it as means of payment.

    And then it taxes you too.

    I don't say that money has no value: it obviously has it. What I say is that such value is obviously of mere conventional and political nature and therefore could be replaced by something else easily (assumed socio-political determination). For example (historical real cases) a rationing card or coupons, or other merchandises (minerals like salt or silver, livestock, drugs like cigarettes...)

    And what I'm trying to explain here is how society (embodied in the state particularly) forces us to play in certain way in this circus of money. And trains us to do so.

    And if you do not want to play and feel alienated when playing this game (happens very often), then you become a rebel and potentially a revolutionary.

  3. Good post, Maju. Right on the money. ;-)


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