Imagine for a moment a world where the currency of choice is apples. It is something that grows freely without a lot of effort from humans. Plant a tree, wait 10-20 years, then harvest. Depending on your level of ambition you can harvest just enough or a lot. But the thing about apples is that they rot. Maybe in a temperature controlled cellar they can last a few years, but hoarding apples eventually becomes an exercise in futility because who would want your old shriveled apples when they can just pick fresh ones from outside? So, in this economy, you are left with three choices: eat the apples, trade the apples, and give away your extras because soon they will become worthless to everyone, including yourself.
Are you with me so far? What do you think would be the guiding principle in such a world? Sharing, of course. Since your apples are no good to you hidden away in a basement left to rot, the most efficient use of them would be to give them away in exchange for status and goodwill in your community. But let’s for a second entertain the idea of a psychopath in this economy. Someone who is only out for himself and derives great pleasure from hoarding and withholding apples from other people. How do you think he would fare in such a society? He would probably be considered more than a little crazy, and he probably wouldn’t have a lot of friends. The very word ‘economy’ actually translates into ‘most efficient and frugal way to accomplish something’. I think it goes without saying that our modern concept of economy is perversely distorted.
Because the only thing that is really different from this imaginary apple economy and our real money economy is that money has no expiration date and it does not grow freely on trees. It is issued by an entity which, because they produce it, they also control it. And because it is ‘hoard-able’, people do just that. They hoard it. Millions of it. Millions of millions, also known as billions. There are individuals on this planet that hoard several millions of millions worth of ‘money’. It is more than anyone can possible spend in a life-time of living in complete decadence, but they hoard it nonetheless. And almost worst of all, they are admired for it. They are ‘accomplished’ human beings. Then there are trillions of money but that’s just too much for any rational human being to process. Yet trillion is perhaps the key word to all this absurdity.
If you ever want to foolproof way to win any argument about the absurdity of money and ‘why things are the way they are’, you should bookmark this article from The Guardian. The report released in January 2014 from Oxfam revealed, finally, in no uncertain terms that the top-hoarding 85 individuals on this planet has a combined wealth of the bottom 50% of the world’s population, some 3,5 billion people. Furthermore, the study revealed that the 1% (the millionaires, the billionaires and the banking entities to rule them all) has a combined wealth of $110 trillion.
Is that really something to celebrate? The first step to changing the world is changing the story you tell yourself. Wealth hoarding is absurd. No matter how much money you have, you are still going to die. Destroying natural resources, that are the foundation of life, and turning them into a fictional number in someone’s bank account so they can become ‘billionaires’ is absurd. Changing the story is crucial. Maybe instead of billionaires we should only put people who make sacrifices for others on magazine covers. That would help change the story of what we consider ‘admirable’.
I realize most of us feel helpless when faced with such daunting facts. But I don’t want you to feel helpless. Change is slow. Change is inevitable. By changing your story you will inevitable change the story of those around you. While we can’t stop buying things with money right this very second, we can stop buying things that perpetuate the current story and wealth worship. There is an enormous freedom that comes with disassociating from the current wealth ideal. For instance, my husband and I used an upside-down cardboard box as a coffee table for two years. It didn’t bother us; it was perfectly functional. For a while I was a little embarrassed when we had people over. They would usually comment on it, but not rudely or in a mean way. I explained honestly that I hadn’t found a table I liked yet and I wasn’t going to spend a lot of money on something I didn’t like just to have it. Eventually, I started to become a little proud of my small rebellion. Look at me, living perfectly fine without a table – take that, society. A month ago I did find a cute little table for $40 with plenty of storage, and I bought it. I spend a few hours putting it together and I felt pretty accomplished. It looks really cute and fit our apartment well. But because I have spent so much time changing my story, to try and see the world for what it really is, I spent most of the time putting it together thinking about the person who had produced it, packed it and shipped it off. $40 seemed awfully cheap for something that was designed, produced with natural and man-made parts, packaged like a puzzle, shipped halfway around the world, handled by multiple people in multiple countries before finally ended up on my doorstep.
This is the global economy. But it’s not very economical.
Very true–the numbers can’t be argued, but also the stories we tell ourselves… What do we truly need? I have had to watch acquaintances complain about being broke eat out every single lunch, and when I suggested bringing food from home reacting like I told them to starve themselves and show the world they had given up. I have been told by employers that certain clothes were necessary to my job, even though no customer would ever see me. Many things are considered necessary without even considering the alternatives. Worse still, when people are confronted with the idea that maybe as a society we need to start weighing what is truly important and what is enough, it seems that those who ask that are somehow forcing our society to give up what they want and need. People are willing to suffer now for the dream that maybe one day they will be a billionaire and won’t have to answer to anyone. It is a bizarre mindset, but common nonetheless. Learning that finding an alternative does not mean giving up is truly a revolution in thought.
Thank you for the thought-provoking and well-written blog. I am looking forward to reading more of you.
Thank you so much for your comment. I think by downsizing and living more sustainable a lot of people will find the time for more autonomy in their life – to make their own decisions regarding how they want to live their life. Global capitalism right now has us enslaved in a very specific way of life. Yes, we can choose between 30 types of breakfast cereals but most people aren’t able to afford to choose meaningful work that enhance their quality of life. So hopefully this decline will eventually bring about a positive and democratic revolution.
Really interesting article! We are definitely on the same wavelength at shrinkthesupplychain.com!
Yes hi, I’m wondering how can I get more apples in my life please? ;) Also, am totally mind-blown by your blog posts :D
An inspiring post. In the same spirit, and with gratitude.
The potatoes are ready now, and they are mighty fine.
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Fantastic post! I love your emphasis on the stories we tell ourselves. Marketers know the emotive power of language and stories so well and we “lighter-walkers-through-life” really need to take a leaf out of their book and challenge the language (as much as the daft acts) of the destructive socio-economic model we live in. You are making a delightful contribution to this challenge!
I’m excited to have found other people using boxes as tables! We’ve got one in the lounge room, and until recently had a matching pair of bedside “tables”. But they were upgraded to two chairs we scavenged from the side of the road! I’m sure our friends think we’re nuts. Great thought provoking post.
I’m amazed by this article. I am in shock and awe by how you use apples instead of money. This just made my night. When I meet people with this kind of mindset, especially so unique and innovating, I have to know more! I’m sorry I got really excited reading this cause it’s ask true definitely sharing. Thank you so much Joey! :-)
I enjoyed this article…it has a lot of good sense in it, but it did remind me of a friend of mine, who used to make tables, but didn’t get enough apples to live on! Thanks for liking my blog, by the way.
I now imagine a world in which your friend never made a table again, although he might have very much liked to do so and might have benefited from at least some apples. In that imagined world, the box makers make out like bandits while recycling operations hunger for more used boxes to move into the stream of commerce.
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We wealthy ones think we need so much. My friend once made a great coffee table out of a packing case, it was perfect. But people used to ask when we were going to paint it!!! I have chosen not to work full-time for many reasons and so live on a limited income- people are surprised to see it can be done. Great post and great writing. Glad I’ve found you.
Absolutely, and I feel the same way! My spending is always relative to my income – when I have more, I spend more – but now I choose to focus on the quality of my life and no amount of spending can compare to being truly present and living an authentic life. I think when more and more people realize that then true sustainability will gain momentum, because just like happiness, money can’t buy a sustainable planet.
Reblogged this on Millionaire's Farm Uganda and commented:
What a fantastic post and article! thanks for sharing! Greetings from Panama, Central America.
Thank you! I’m so happy you found it useful :)
Brilliant post as always. Our man-made “economy” is madness.
It’s interesting. I have heard these sayings:
“money intensifies who a person naturally is. If one is a generous person, he or she will become more so with money.”
“Broke people can’t [monetarily] help those in need.”
I came from poverty and now, the greatest joy for me and my husband is giving-money to causes dear to our hearts like education and backpack buddies at the foodbank, and gas cards to our tiny church’s preacher and the unsuspecting waitress at ihop on holidays.
Before that, we gave what we could-blood to those in need. CPR lessons.
Money itself is not evil. The LOVE and hoarding of it is.
If those who are Billionaires were not and are not philanthopists, it’s truly a tragedy.
Good article. I think your focus on people’s need to change the story they live by is right on. I think many people are still operating under a sort of social darwinian mindset (especially in the U.S), and this is why they make heros of men, and the society they are from, who were able to get the most (stuff and money). So I think focusing on changing that competitive-social darwinian-weak vs. strong story is crucial. Your article actually reminded me of a good book I read not long ago about an alternative to that story, which focuses more on sharing and the interconnectedness of people and the environment. http://bcstudies.com/book-reviews/principle-tsawalk-indigenous-approach-global-crisis
http://regisboff.com/2012/10/17/a-fifty-year-old-pig-joke/ Sorry this is the correct address
Nicely written. I have included something I wrote awhile back, and it occurred to me you and your apples might like it.
Your style is so smooth . I envy that. Regis
Thank you! Oh man, I feel bad for the pig. I don’t think there are enough words to describe the absurdity of man. And we had such potential too.
I really like the comparison to apples!! makes a good point
I will never be able to understand why gold is so special! It’s not like you can eat it, breathe it, or live in it.
Very thought provoking and will make me think about my spending in a different manner. Thanks.
Wow, thank you. I think it is so liberating to be able to separate ‘needs’ and ‘wants’. I have saved so much money that way, and I still think I spend too much!
Another great post! Oh, and btw… millions of millions are trillions, but that is a minor detail :)
Haha, oh no! I can’t keep track of all the millions! Thanks for the heads up. It’s still a ridiculous amount of money! :)
I really enjoyed that.