Like the majority of people in the world, I watch my bank account dwindle every month as the continuous onslaught of bills and expenses bombard my meager earnings. When it comes to engaging in any sort of leisure activity the first question that pops into my head is never, “How much will I enjoy this?”–rather, I bicker to myself, “How much will this cost me?” This is because the cost of living is the underlying value of life for many of us. We orientate and restrict our movements based on the dollar value attached to our names; to the point that said value becomes more important in shaping our identity than our very names.
Think about it like this: when it comes to potential employers, mortgage brokers, insurance premiums, interest rates, or financial aid distributions, the primary judgement of your character as a worthy human being rests on the fitness of your past financial history. If your financial history has even a speck of a blemish on it (debts, foreclosures, bankruptcy, etc.) your social standing as a person drops, due to the assumption that the essential components of your personal character are deducible from your credit score alone. Rightly or wrongly, your personhood has a cash value attached to it; rendering your humanity anything but priceless to the socioeconomic forces that act on our daily lives.
Do not mistake this for a cliched “Money is the root of all evil!” diatribe. Money or no money, the act of bartering is unavoidable in anything that could be considered a developed society. As is the fact that those who have more to barter with will occupy a higher status above those who do not. I cannot imagine a single manageable system of commerce where this would not emerge as a necessary reality (though I’m willing to accept the possibility that this might be an intellectual flaw on my part, since my lack of imagination is not an absolute metric for reality). However, the emergence of a financial system, in which faceless, personless sets of numbers not only determine the financial worth and economic standing of the individual, but her/his human value in relation to the greater machine operating at the center of the system, sounds somehow needlessly inhuman. It gives the impression that, if we were to step back from the scene–observe it from outside in–people will not appear as the arbiters of currency, but as the currency themselves. Yet, one cannot step back to make a clear observation of this, since we cannot opt out of a monetary system where you serve the role of the capital running the machinery. Currency has no say in its route or destination, it just gets past around with no mind (literary) on the matter.
When examining an economic model (from whatever political angle you fancy–I honestly don’t care) where human value is inseparable from its dollar amount, what happens to the individual whose personal identity is completely defined by the worth that has been assigned to her/his financial standing, when the worth of the currency withers more and more? How does one fix an economy (again, from whichever political angle you prefer) where the currency risked on the market is not just a collection of bills and coins, but people’s very own identities?
I don’t know. But this shit going on now, just doesn’t smell right by any measure.