Saturday, May 14, 2011

Dialogue with Owl One: Money

Upon the suggestion of the erudite and linguistically talented Owl  we will be corresponding on set subjects. I will post these rambling diatribes here for posterity.

From: Jimothy
To: Owl
"money is cool I'm only human/but they use it as a tool to make the workers feel excluded/like the shiner the jewel the more exclusive the truth is/bullets don't take bribes stupid they shoot shit"-Aesop[Rock]
First of all as to age it is very true we are probably getting weaker at this point physically, but we can still level up with our intellects for many years to come. Which is why I am very excited about this idea.

I have been thinking about this subject for a couple days and really didn't come up with any meat and potatoes, only that aesop quote. So I feel like I haven't been able to discourse face to face in a long time with you and I want to kind of lay groundwork. Although I feel orthodoxy is the true evil in this world I think that I have found some things which are universal to either the human condition or reality. I feel that Derrida's "Metaphysics of presence" or Lacan's "lack in the big Other" are a universal aspect of humanity. We create illusions of presence, truth, authenticity, etc. We create subordinated and privileged ideas and identities through our discourse.
 One example of this illusion of presence, truth, or authenticity is the (re)production of history. Humans must believe history to be truth in some respect, especially their own memories(Or how they reckon they felt about something in the past. Those are two ideas that I just want you to be aware of and I have a third to continue to bore you off topic: semiotics. Symbolism or specifically the lack of universal meaning in any symbol or system of symbols. Because the meaning of these symbols is recreated through our use of these symbols on and on in to the future. So another Derridean concept that I am finding very helpful in understanding reality is "differance" which is two ideas smashed in to one word.
The first idea is that we can only know something, by what it is not. So it is a model of our consciousness based on negativity essentially, which corresponds to how philosophy treats "the other" (or people outside the self). We perform selves to be "different" than the other and only know our "selves" by performing this difference.
The second part of "differance" is that meaning is never fully grasped, meaning is always deferred in a million different ways. We defer meaning until the end of a word, end of a sentence, end of a paragraph, end of a book, end of a semester, etc. This is one reason I am having so much trouble with my big text is because after locating the idea historically the idea(or the word which signified the idea) began to change.
In conclusion to my long introductory paragraph on methodology I just want to say that I think the best way to determine "meaning" is to
1. Locate the contradictory notion within the text of an idea that relies on a metaphysics of presence.
2. Examine how the idea "became" through a genealogical analysis of history (as we are all always in a process of becoming, never human being only human "becoming")
3. Examine how the word "became" through etymology

2 and 3 can be accomplished with a justifiable amount of certainty through shit tons of research, number 1 is really fucking hard to do. So if these are my established heuristics for accessing ideas and "reality" then let me give it a whirl without any research.

I mean fuck, I can start anywhere and its all interesting shit that I want to think about and write and read. Lemme get a pinner going.

Ok i'm gonna have to do a little research
I"m gonna start with number 2, I think number three is kinda stupid for this subject and number 1 is actually too easy on this subject. I mean money IS number one. It is a piece of paper which is said to be the presence of value even though it cannot be eaten, cannot keep you warm, and cannot cure sickness. It is evidence of the metaphysics of presence because our entire society functions BECAUSE we all continue to believe in money's substitution for value.
THe research I wanted to do is I know there is a specific discipline which studies coinage or the origins of money,I almost ruined the whole point by reading some wikipedia about money but I found it:
ok but no research, fuck numismatics. One book that I loved that I read was Gerda Lerner's "THe Creation of Patriarchy" I"ve probably told you about the ideas it had about sovereignty. I feel like I should start the whole Email over, sorry I'm a rambler, but I think I can focus in now.
I mean money is  a representation of value, thats above, so what is important is the value I guess? I mean I could say what everybody already knows but doesn't care that money literally isn't backed by anything. THat paper money at one point could be exchanged for gold, but is now just kind of an investment in a country...which means a bet on the confidence of people who hold the most of the not backed by anything pieces of paper.
But that was above that was the illusion of presence, but I don't think that this is something that only manifests with what we regard as capitalism, unless we regard capitalism as a system based on property. In which case we can consider virtually all post-agrarian societies capitalist and many agrarian societies capitalist. So then the function of money is to represent or stand in for property we can disregard its specific character(the metaphysics of presence above) for this train of logic and just understand money as one category of things representing value. So money is then interchangeable with labor and property(even cultural capital). So Money is a symptom of property or an inevitable structural aspect of a property based system.
Lerner's book explains the origins of property. So lets start with a theoretical background. If there is such a thing that is positively identified as "property" this therefore means that property is something that was not always positively identified and known as "property". So there was a point in time in which there was not property. Not in any specific place but in every locality in the world. Lerner theorizes that property becomes positively identified because of knowledge of biology. As it became necessary to work fields in order not to starve societies in a transition from these hunter-gatherer societies to agrarian societies needed more people. At the point that woman's reproductive capacity was identified the necessity of owning women became apparent. At this point the woman and child slave became the norm. As that became the norm the slave in general became accepted. We can also see the origins of "war" in this narrative as localities or tribes would raid other localities to obtain their slaves. I find this narrative very convincing and the book does a great genealogy of assyrian law and old testament law. The origins of money, which is property lies in the commodification of other humans. The violence against individuals and the theft of free will that slavery entails is at the very heart of this shit in my wallet, IS my wallet as well. HOLY SHIT its my brain also, nobody else owns it! It is in the assumption my sentence on free will relies upon! I can't even think without recourse to property as a meme!
So is there an alternative? I mean all I'm doing is bitching if I don't have an alternative. I guess democratic socialism is the best I got or maybe thats a glorified fashionable term and I should just say the alternative is: politics. And by that I mean using the power of the state(which is an inevitability) to protect the welfare of the citizens. This can manifest itself as making fun of people who think a market free from government intervention is even a possibility, protesting against stupid wars which just create terrorists, writing a letter to the editor in favor of legislation which makes health care more affordable and sustainable, etc.
Money is reducible to property, I think a society without money is possible in history they're called barter economies, but money is just a symptom of property eliminating money would do absolutely nothing to solve the harms which can be attributed to money. If property had an origin there must be a way to eliminate it, but it seems that property is so far back through these millions of layers of dialectic that it is not possible at this point. In order to make property "good" we would have to come to terms with all these heuristics of presence or of privileging identities that were built on the last new norm(like the transition from female/child slave to slaves of all ages and gender). In fact I think that the way in which to solve for the social harms of property is to deconstruct these bullshits one by one: gender, class, race, sexual orientation, age, nationality, religion, ethnicity, and just about every other category we put people in so we can think easy. The process whereby people realize that the privileged identities in each of these subjects are no more secure than the subordinated identities. This seeking of presence that we look for in masculinity, whiteness, wealth, heterosexuality, americaness or whatever identities are performed in your neck of the woods is the problem. Instead of relying on a presence which we think we know, we should understand that presence can never fully be arrived at, only deferred. But most people in the world don't want to know things, they don't want to know where they came from(not nationality) I mean where humanity came from and our ideas came from. Now i'm the old man and a really arrogant old man, but I don't mean to say I'm any better. TV and identity performance often convince me to act stupid, stupidity is glorified; constructed as a privileged identity of security.

I think one more aspect of property/money is how property became property is quite different from today's property. Property back then was probably the one with the most power owned everything and shared enough to keep the others from banding together to take him out. But the female slave was property, because nobody had the power to say otherwise. Property was clearly overlapped with violence. TOday Property necessarily presupposes a government or state which portends to be an objective arbiter in any property dispute. ok well, i just though of eminient domain, maybe nothing has changed. If eminent domain exists then all land/property is on loan from the government much like the neolithic despotism i was just talking about. Despite this exception my point is that the government is the agent of the violence to repossess something in a dispute, but does not take it for itself. Today one only considers property in reference to the state that protects it, property is something that you can sue for if it is unfairly broken or stolen. The house is only yours as long as the government says so. Money is a good example of the physical manifestation of the bridge between state and property, in fact it has traditionally been a way to cement political support. Issuing a coin was a way to kind of claim to be king I forget where I read this, but it was because assyria or rome or something had coins so others started making it in order to say they were king. Might have been clovis or something. So maybe money is just the symbol a king gives to people that represents that all property belongs to him and shit your life does too because whos gonna arrest him for killing you.
I think i've written too much, sorry for rambling, i'll just end here lol. lookin forward to ur response

From: Owl
To: Jimothy

“The economics of the future is somewhat different. You see, money doesn't exist in the 24th century.”
                -Captain John-Luc Picard
I have never watched this movie, but the quote is apt in its de-contextualized form as a starting point for my argument.  And also, before I begin, it should be said that I had a great start on this typing earlier in the week, when suddenly my broke-ass, third-hand laptop switched off and stayed off.  So, this is a second attempt and might lose some creative flair in its redundancy.
I believe, through this quote, that the writers of Star Trek are revealing a subtle clue about the true identity of the humans aboard the Starship USS Enterprise.  That being that those aboard the future craft who claim the title of H. sapien are anything but human in nature and solely on the basis of this quote and the fact that their society has no need for money, I diagnosis Picard, Riker and the rest inhuman.
I call on my misty and fractional understanding of Nietzsche and his argument for the Will to Power.  As humans, or defined in a more meaningful way, as intelligent creatures, we are, at our core, motivated by a struggle for power.  Power, as your obsession with semiotics should inform you, is not a clearly definable noun and is objective in its application.  But, that is one of the clear benefits of money, in that it contains within it nearly every individual’s idea of power in its universality.  It is also the main reason why money must exist if the human species is also to exist, because if ever money wasn’t needed, if ever people worked, endeavored or even got out of bed for the lofty purposes of self-improvement, personal satisfaction, or communal humanism rather than power, we would no longer be human.
Don’t give me any specific examples of some bull-shit monk who lives day to day on beggar’s scraps and owns no worldly possessions.  This behavior is in conscious rejection of the ubiquitous fact of money.  Given a society made up entirely of these hermetic monks, money would necessarily arise in some form or another.
I have only read the first half of your piece.  I was trying to wait until I’d finished mine before I read any of it, but I was sitting around at work and had a printout in hand and couldn’t help myself.  Before I stopped reading, I saw your three main points of interest/interrogation.  The one regarding history would be interesting to research and would provide more substantial evidence of what I am about to say, or, conversely, prove me completely wrong, but in either case: I believe that money is an intrinsic aspect of humanity.
Furthermore, I do not believe that this is a social evolutionary phenomenon.  To live without money would require a foundational, DNA-based genetic change.  The color of money is cultural.  Which dead guy’s face is printed on the bill, how you carry and save and spend that bill, all this is cultural.  The money is part of humanity.
I am having difficulty making a clear, logical argument for this claim.  In part, like so many other aspects of humanity, money is here and has been for ages, so this fact in itself proves my point.  Did money exists back at the dawn of man?  Maybe not, but this prehistoric being was not the same species as we are today.
Maybe money needed civilization in order to be effective...
Shit.  I’ve lost my flow.  But this has been a good start.  

From: Owl
To: Jimothy
Date: Wed, 11 May 2011 00:53:22 -0400
Subject: Re: Proposal

So, this guy comes in to the ER for detox.  He'd been snorting heroin every night for months, some how decided he should stop, and at the time I spoke with him, he claimed to have been sober for 11 days.  He was in his early 60s and seemed to be more or less with it.  I asked him at some point in our conversation how much the heroin had cost him.  A bag was 50 bucks he told me.  So I asked him what quantity "one bag" would be and he didn't really know the answer.  He could describe it only by how long it would last him and by how much it would fuck him up.  After he'd developed a tolerance, a bag would just be enough to put him out until the morrow.  So, he'd spent five grand on heroin in about 100 nights.  $5,000 to anaesthetize life for 1/3 of a year.  Chew on that...mmmmmmmmmm.
One main issue I found in writing my little tra-la-la on money was the lack of research I had on the subject.  I felt that sending you my preconceived notions, my biases and uneducated, inexperienced hunches was not worth the bits of RAM they'd require.  Of course, that is exactly what I did, because I had nothing fact-based or quantitative to say.  Now, as I write this, I can't see how that should be a problem; a subjective truth about money could be worth writing and reading/  But, no, real knowledge is in things objective, not the mystical esoteric understanding that only the individual can experience.  Anyway, all this conspired to steal my inspiration and I found that writing what measly paragraphs I was able to paste together was very difficult.  Maybe we need a new subject.

But, first...  "lemme get a pinner going"

I agree with your approach in going back to the beginnings to try and find some clues to our question.  But, I disagree with the interpretation.  To look back at a time when, as you reference Lerner mentioning, property "was not", is to look back at a time eons before any history exists.  Now, was this time before or after or during our evolution into human beings...ahem, pardon me, human becomings?  To have language and to be able to manufacture such ideas as property is intrinsic in what we could all agree constitutes a human.  Whether or not this ability to understand precludes the advent of a monetary system, or even the evolution of language, is hard to say.  The latter would be a sort of Adam and Eve hunter/gatherer paradise, where fully developed, communicating human becomings lived in a edenic confines where the natural resources were plentiful enough not to warrant the words "mine" and "yours".  However, in my opinion, this would also demand a perfect 50/50 man to woman ratio, a personal knowledge or naive trust in everyone you met, as well as a number of other similar impossibilities.  By arguing that the moment property became a firm idea or an expressable thought defines also the moment property came into existence is wrong.  So there is no definite line when humans became...there is only just a long line of past events stretching off into infinity, seen darkly if at all.  Property exists in the animal kingdom; property exist where ever these is the struggle to survive.

Now, going back to what I wrote before, or tried to express, I can be sum it up in the following question: Can society, as we know it and understand it to be intrinsically human, ever exist without a form of money?  This question encompasses the past that we have been mucking our way through.  It also demands all that psychological b.s. about human nature, as well as the greater sociological questions about the nature of humankind.  It encompasses the question of what is money and what roll it plays in our lives. It also encompasses the present and future as well.

Hmm...let's leave that and look at one of your sentences I underlined: Money is a good example of the physical manifestation of the bridge between state and property.  This is dope and here's why I think that.  I defined money as physical, which is an extremely important idea.  Taken further, money is physical and yet totally without value in the physical world...kindling and TP are the only possible exceptions.  But it is not the adjective that matters, it is the noun: manifestation.  Money embodies whatever the state is in relation to whatever it is money can buy.  Money can buy property, and its disturbing connection to the state is clear in you example of eminent domain.  But it does not stop at property.  If we see eminent domain as a symptom of the all-powerful state, the meaning of money becomes larger.  And so, I put to you that money is not so much a representation of property.  I would argue that money is the representation of power.

New you want to choose?  If so, let me know what it is.  If not, then we can use my idea which is encoded below:

-Q S A A C Q Q

(add three letters in alphabetical order from each character to decode the topic)
From: Jimothy
To: Owl

I do think your quote needs to be contextualized a bit. This guy Carl G. Hempel says that things can never be fully explained (well he stops short of saying the same thing about the natural sciences unfortunately[but about the social sciences, things can never be fully explained)]. I've already woven myself in to some writing trap trying to fit ideas in there. But there can be "explanatory sketches" that can be "filled out". I so I would like to give a rudimentary sketch of your quote from Picard. Picard's world is different in only ONE way from ours. In the star trek universe they have invented the "warp drive", which is just the name for a source of infinite, renewable, and non-pollution producing energy. That very simply put is the end of money. A post-money world. This is a good provisional context for Picard's quote. Beyond that there are still numerous problems with violence or the show wouldn't be fun.

As to your diagnosis of the denizens of the Enterprise and the star trek universe, I think you may be close if you look to the philosopher you name in the next paragraph. Nietzsche also thought of man as the middle-ground between simian and ubermensch(superman). His invocation of the will to power stems from a critical outlook on institutions. Humans were not being themselves...I'm saying it wrong, but humans were ceding their free will(will to power) to others and to machines(institutions). Nietzsche would most likely diagnose Picard similarly, but differently. "Inhuman" is a cold dehumanizing(lol redundancy) word, Nietzsche would call them Ubermensch I think.

Your statement "money...contains within it nearly every individual’s idea of power in its universality." I think may be a little too strong. If we can imagine a world without money and simple way to get there(energy) this is good evidence that power can exist in a post-money world. I think my argument for a pre-money world falls short. I am thinking about it like this: electricity was not invented it was discovered, same for penicillin, and same for all medicine. These things already existed but eventually were discovered by humans. At one point in time there was not money, we know from history there was a barter system(which is such an expansive term). But even before that there was a time before humans realized the value of things: how to use tools. Well most non-human animals use tools, but they use pieces of their environment. A chimp does not carry around his favorite long grass blade that he likes to lick and stick in the termite mound for a quick snack. These tools cannot be considered akin to property or money for bartering. Although your example of the monkeys who were conditioned with using money to buy food, then stole all the money not realizing they had noone to buy from if they stole from their vendors. Is money becoming too amorphous if we say it has always existed (In the form of value, like valuing the life of your family, valuing game in hunting, or valuing the crop harvest)? I think those left out by the statement "nearly every" are actually quite numerous. Power to the victims of rape is clearly not money, I use the most obvious example, but I think we could say the same about any victim of violence or even perpetrators of violence. Especially people who can enact justified violence(violence they can get away with) like police, soldiers, abusive husbands,priests, etc. their power derives from the threat of violence not from their wealth.

Your sentence: "if ever people worked, endeavored or even got out of bed for the lofty purposes of self-improvement, personal satisfaction, or communal humanism rather than power, we would no longer be human." I think I agree with you and I think Nietzsche would agree with you. You are demarcating a threshold between man and ubermensch. It does not make what you say impossible for humans, it just means the circumstances need to be right and humans need to level up.

Your cynicism of humanity can be coupled with hope for the future. Just because humans cannot reach that point where they can live in a post-money world does not mean that humans can' t level up once the circumstances are right. Although there is no such thing as freedom, sometimes it is very easy to see degrees of unfreedom. I think many places on the globe have managed to get a few degrees closer to the unreachable horizon of freedom. But technology and mass production of human minds has made unfreedom all the more insidious over the years. It is  hard to clearly see without perspective, like looking back at a time long ago or looking at a culture in present day completely different than your own, but using its epistemology as a mirror of your own culture.

"Furthermore, I do not believe that this is a social evolutionary phenomenom.  To live without money would require a foundational, DNA-based genetic change."
I don't necessarily think we need genetic conditioning. I think DNA is given too much credit, soon it will be neuroscience that is given too much credit. The milieu of our culture is certainly what constructs a meaning for money, there is no ingrained meaning for money in our DNA.

What you are doing is exploding the metonym of "money". If money is also "anything people have value in" then of course there will never be a post-money or pre-money world for humans. Which follows our hermeneutic circle right back to semiotics. We need provisional or operational definitions to draw clear lines around "money".

On to your second part!
To spend so much money in order to sleep is so crazy to me. I don't wanna join the idiots and put people in cages who do the shit, but what a useless fucking drug. If you are going to be dealing with these people you should know its a revolving door. You met *, well she would have frequent hospital visits for multiple days. She was a full blown "drink a shitton when you wake up" alcoholic and was just recently charged with felony possession of heroin. I am pretty sure she applies for financial aid to go to the hospital in order to have shelter and get opiates. I think a lot of junkies spend a lot of time in hospitals chasing endorphins after they have killed their ability to feel them.

I would argue that money is the representation of power." I think I would agree that money is ONE representation of power. I think violence is a much more naked manifestation(manifested in a violent act) of power. I think you may be right that humans cannot be free of money, but maybe a new human can be when the circumstances are in his/her favor. I think energy is the only thing to make this possible. Although that seems utopian it is the number one threat to human existence, because of the obvious degradation of the earth and dwindling energy supplies.

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