Reintegrating the dismal science
There are a number of ways to explain what money is, and what it allows us to do. Sadly, the "origin story" that we were all taught in school is a very misleading morality tale, in which exchange of goods is presented as a wholly separate sphere of life. Supposedly, humans were stuck with a so-called "barter economy" until they invented money. This is a complete fairy tale, and this matters a great deal.
(Note: this post probably won't be interesting to people who haven't read (part of) ASOIAF and watched most of Game of Thrones. Before reading this, please first watch Ellis's video. :) )
Visitors to this blog might wonder as to why I'm posting about this show. Obviously, this whole universe is miles away from the kind of egalitarian solidarity I espouse. But what I find interesting about it was how enthusiastically and uncritically this show was embraced, given how reactionary this universe is, with the partial exception of Daenerys and those she converts to her cause, what with the mass of the population mostly counting for nothing, being trod underfoot by elites who go about their business. The fact that most (re)viewers don't comment on the politics of it all disturbs me, as even Ellis (who -- to her credit -- at least makes the politics a topic of discussion, and has done so in the past with other shows, even if her expressed opinions are very safely liberal) is either unwilling or afraid (for reasons of branding, monetization or sponsoring?) only calls it out the ending for being lame writing (which it was), without pointing out that this is par for the course when it comes to "entertainment".
Up until 2008, I had mostly been ignoring economics as an area of study, as the subject bored me, and I found the mindset too unpleasant. The 2008 financial crisis made me realize that was a mistake, as it made me realize that economic policy couldn't be left to experts. But where to start?
Because I figured I should avoid economics textbooks, I did the next-most responsible thing: I started reading the serious and specialist media, paying particular attention to what the critics I found there had to say. Most of their explanations struck me as unconvincing, though, as they said little about the role played by elite fraud and grifting, even though it was perfectly obvious that the run-up as well as the "rescue" were wildly profitable to the already-rich. And I'd already noticed that the media carefully avoided talking about the blatant grifting that was going on in the context of the invasion and "rebuilding" of Iraq and Afghanistan. So I broadened my search, and encountered Naked Capitalism, and shortly after that David Harvey's work.
One of the main reasons why I created this blog is in order to introduce people to, and explain the personal, cultural and institutional consequences of taking Marshall Rosenberg's Nonviolent Communication (NVC) seriously. I was introduced to NVC a few years ago, shortly after I and my partner went vegan. I've since come to find it invaluable, because of how it's helped me to better understand not just why it is so easy to lose sight of the fact that everyone's needs have equal value, but also how we can overcome this.
In his excellent essay "The Myth of Redemptive Violence", Walter Wink draws our attention to the fact that we are taught from a very early age to accept and embrace the use of violence as a means. This is done by the stories ("fairy tales", "myths", "sagas", tv/movie scripts) we repeat to ourselves and our children, in which conflicts and problems are constantly being fixed by the use of violence, as everything else is shown not to work, to the extent those options are explored at all (as they are mostly treated as pipe dreams). And while most people today blame our casual attitude toward violence on 'modern media', this is something that has been true since long before the age of television. Nevertheless, given that watching television and film is something people do a lot, and given that these media certainly "make violence come alive" by presenting it as fun or exciting, I think it's important to talk about this, as it seems to me that this isn't something we shouldn't be learning to accept, especially not from infancy.