The Moneyless Tribe has debanded, at least until the end of the winter. I’m disappointed. When it was still a possibility, I felt I had a sense of purpose. Something to aim for.
Now that it’s gone for the time being, I feel very adrift. And alone.
Maybe I’m also partly relieved, as I wasn’t sure if I would be ready to embrace a totally moneyless lifestyle. I still have some things to work through on my own. Don’t want to just jump into another lifestyle philosophy unless I know for certain that it’s suited for me. Unless it’s springing from the inner recesses of my being, not just something I’m trying to augment on to myself in order to quench of my existential dread.
Lately, it’s been hard to write blog posts. I’m starting to feel a little like I’m exploiting my life, my spiritual experiences. I constantly agonize over what I should write about and what should be kept private. I also question my motivations. “Why am I doing this? Is it to entertain? Educate? Do I just want attention?”
The truth is, I check my visitor stats a lot. “OOOHH! X number of people visited me to day. And Y number of people found me through Facebook. Guess I’d better keep promoting my posts there.” “What? How come no one came by today? I did a Facebook post, I fucking tweeted about it. Where the hell is everybody?”
And who is this “everybody”? Do I see them as actual people? How can I? They’re just statistics in my mind. Maybe I see the words they write in the comment section, maybe a gravatar image…but ultimately, in my mind, aren’t they simply indicators of how popular I am – like they’re my audience or a fan base?
Jesus, my Facebook page IS a fan page.
The reason this is all bothering me is that I constantly sound off – to myself, anyways – about how disconnected our society is from the natural world and from each other. I was beginning to see how money prevented me from actually forming real relationships with people. As long as I can pay people to do things for me, and vice versa, I don’t need to be real towards them or even like them. I just need to show up with money and I’m good. In contrast, human communities that don’t use money – which seem to be few and far between – measure their wealth by the quality of their relationships, because relationships are how one’s individual needs are met.
From Mark Boyle, author of The Moneyless Manifesto:
I babysat my friend’s kid recently. She was stuck and I was free, so I was happy to look after little Elijah for a few hours. We went to the park, we did some painting, he kicked my ass at a game called animal memory; we had fun. Imagine the difference in experience – for my friend, Elijah and myself – if she had put him in paid childcare instead. She would probably have felt a little guilty, leaving him in the care of strangers, for whom Elijah may have been just another face; she also would have undoubtedly felt a little isolated, not having the support of a community she could depend on. It certainly would have cost her money (which she would have had to work extra hours at her job to pay for, meaning yet more need for paid childcare). Elijah wouldn’t have felt as comfortable, spending his time with people with whom he didn’t have an ongoing, trusting relationship, and he wouldn’t have been able to spend the time outdoors, playing in his neighbourhood. And I wouldn’t have spent my morning remembering that three year olds can teach us much about the beauty of the world. What’s more, by entering into that spirit and understanding of mutual dependency, all three of us got to strengthen our relationships to each other – relationships which reinforce and affirm that spirit. Next time I’m in a jam, those relationships will kick in and let me know that I’ve got a friend who will support me.
The conversion of those relationships into paid services – a process which is encroaching into more and more aspects of our lives – leads to the destruction of communities, just as the translation of our natural wealth into ‘resources’ to be exploited leads to the destruction of our ecosystems. To pay for something, to assign a value to it, is to quantify it. It becomes just another number, its uniqueness and relationships and interdependence with all other things swept aside. It is not a five hundred year old tree, provider of food, shade, shelter and soil structure, but £10,000 worth of wood products; she is not a person needing care, with her own hopes, dreams, desires, sorrows, joys and circumstances, she is a ‘client’, or ‘service user’ – costing the taxpayer £30,000 a year. We do not see things for what they are, we see them for what they’re financially worth. Price tags blind us to real worth. In seeing childcare only in terms of money, we lose a wonderful chance to learn from, support and nourish each other; in seeing a forest only in terms of money, we will eventually lose the ability to live on this planet – and prevent countless others from doing so too.
Charles Eisenstein, in The Ascent of Humanity, sums it up nicely: “We find in our culture a loneliness and hunger for authenticity that may well be unsurpassed in history. We try to ‘build community’, not realising that mere intention is not enough when separation is built into the very social and physical infrastructure of our society. To the extent that this infrastructure is intact in our lives, we will never experience community.”(13) In Sacred Economics he adds that “community is not some add-on to our other needs, not a separate ingredient for happiness along with food, shelter, music, touch, intellectual stimulation, and other forms of physical and spiritual nourishment. Community arises from the meeting of those needs. There is no community possible among a people who do not need each other.”With money, especially in a globalised economy, we certainly do not need each other (emphasis added).
What I’m finding is that I use this blog as a measurement of self-worth. Each visitor is a single unit of currency, and the more people who visit and respond, the better I feel. And since I’m blogging about my life, I’m beginning to frame my life in terms of how it will affect the blog, which seems to be a steady descent into the same abyss that money often creates. If I only see my life in terms of how I can use it to drive traffic to my blog, I’m devaluing my life. And if I see people as nothing more than potential subscribers, I’m devaluing them.
It makes me wonder if I’d still blog if I belonged to a living, vibrant community – one that recognized and respected the delicate web of relationships that make up life on Earth.
Maybe that’s why I talk to the spirits now more than ever before. Maybe that’s why I’ve been turning more towards animism. Trading in these connections…
…for these connections.
So my alienation no longer looks like this…
..but like this.