Ever see something in the corner of your eye, but when you look staight at it, it vanishes? Or watched a close-up magician and wondered where the card went? You were looking straight at him, he deflected your attention just for a moment and bam - it's gone.
I have that feeling about the whole issue of money at the moment. I don't mean the few quid in my bank account, I mean the big economy issues. I'm sure that, years ago, a story about the huge floods in Australia would have concentrated on people, not the cost of clearing up. I recall scenes of flooding in America some years ago that were all about rescuing stranded people and no mention of money at all.
The fact that nearly two million people are off work sick in the UK (and that's just the ones who have jobs, it doesn't include children or the elderly or the unemployed or the homeless) would have been a humanitarian concern. Yet today it's only a problem because it costs the economy £300 million a day. The only ones that article cares about are the ones working and paying tax. The others don't matter. What happened to the people? When did the economy take precedence?
To hell with people, the money is what matters.
Look at the swivel-eyed ban brigades. Obesity is a health issue, sure. yet are we hearing 'We need to get these people some decent food and get them back to merely overweight because then they'll be able to be more active and live longer'? No. We hear 'Being overweight costs the NHS money. Shun the fat people!'
Smokers, as anyone who has been here before knows, 'must be stopped because they cost the NHS money'. Not for the good of our health. Because we 'cost the NHS money'. The ban brigade don't want to help us. Any of us. They want the money and they think we are in the way.
It never occurs to them that if they never drink, smoke, or put on weight, there's no reason why they would want the NHS because in today's world, those are the only things that cause health problems. Those problems are to be solved by increasing taxes - money will save your soul.
The odd thing is, they won't get the money and they know it. If everyone stopped smoking tomorrow, there would be no tax rebates. Quite the opposite, in fact. They are not protecting 'their' money, they are protecting some nebulous thing called 'economy' but it isn't there to do them any good. In fact, it takes money from them whenever they earn or spend. They fiercly defend something that is harming them by attacking people who are harming nobody but (possibly) themselves. And they call us addicts.
Money should be simple. If you make chairs and I make tables, you might ask me to make you a table but if I already have enough chairs, how will you pay me? You pay me with money, which I then take to the shirt-maker, who doesn't need a table, and swap it for a shirt. It should be that simple.
It's actually become a sleight-of-hand trick that seems impossible to unravel. Taxes pop out at every turn. Banks make money appear from the air and then make it disappear again. There is this overall thing called 'the economy' which doesn't seem to have any tangible existence and changes shape from moment to moment. Every country has a debt. This country owes more money than exists in UK Pounds. Every problem is solved by throwing money at it. All politicians talk about is money. Everything that happens is assigned a cost.
There is this child-like belief that moving money around will somehow make crops grow in a drought-stricken country in Africa and stop snow falling on Scotland. Money can stop the ice melting under a polar bear's feet and make the bamboo grow for the pandas. Money can cool the world or warm the world or keep it as it is. Money can stop wars or start them, money can save people or damn them. Pray to money and all will be well.
You know, I think it just became a tad clearer.
I'm not the only one trying to make sense of it. RFB has found one aspect, and thanks to a tip from Chris in the comments, Charles Stross has another. (I really do have to get around to that blogroll).
That simple idea of a universal tradeable commodity, money, has grown into something vast and complex and difficult to fathom. Most of it isn't even real, it's just a number in a database with no real coin or paper counterpart in the real world, and yet it has tangible effects in the real world. It has transcended reality and become supernatural, and in doing so it has gained supernatural powers. The paper and coin we see is just a small protrusion of money into our reality. Most of it lies elsewhere, beyond our ability to know.
This is going to take a lot of thought but at the moment it looks likely that money has become God.
And we have become money.
Text and speech are, of necessity, linear modes of communication and my thinking on this is nonlinear, which makes it hard to put into words. It's likely to come out in bits and pieces until I find a way to make a coherent whole. I have a feeling though, that if anyone uncovers the illusion around money it will be explosive indeed.
So I leave you with the words of Dark Star's Bomb 20:
'I will have to think on this further'.