Money is an important aspect of our society that lubricates the wheels of commerce. Looking at the history of barter and the gold standard, fiat currency is clearly better. In this sense money is undeniably a good thing. But our culture revolves around the accumulation of money, so how important should we view it in the whole scheme of life and why?Well, in Aikido we seek an ultimate sort of happiness not only for ourselves, but all beings. In that process we also need to produce a more temporal sense of happiness. For temporal happiness we need peace of mind, good health, wholesome friends and then money – in that order. Peace of mind is key. If you had lots of money, no peace of mind, no friends and poor health, chances are you would not be very happy. But the person with peace of mind who is poor, with few friends and poor health would at least have a fighting chance to find some moments of happiness. In fact, with peace of mind they might improve their health with lower stress and also find some decent friends. But the person with only money and no peace would be less likely to work their way out of their problems. Even in the west we say you can’t buy happiness, or friends and good health for that matter either.Despite the tertiary importance of money in producing happiness, in the west it takes on a central role in our lives. If our GDP growth rates stagnate, we panic. But look at the people starving in Africa. They don’t even know what a GDP growth rate is!? They just want enough food to make it through another day. This huge divergence between the wealthy and poor, not only among countries but within them as well, is a serious problem on a global level This gap should inform our views on money. Let’s take a closer look.
The poor countries have problems with low levels of education, population explosion (related to poorly educated women), and the elite often take the majority of the country’s assets. Then should they ever climb out of their abject poverty (think China & India), their new found wealth would place the world’s natural resources under unbearable stress.
In the western world, we enjoy high standards of living (although the rift between wealthy and poor has reached alarming levels) and better education. At the same time we absorb a disproportionate share of the world’s natural resources to support our lifestyle. Again, we spend our time worrying about the rate at which our GDP grows while a large portion of mankind worries about starving.
Low levels of education and dire circumstances in the poor countries act as contributing factors to terrorism in the west. We should not be surprised, as historically the result of a wide rift between rich and poor is typically political instability, of which terrorism is a form. Should everyone in China and India start driving a car, we will quickly find our lifestyles called into serious question as well. Our myopic concerns about individual nation’s GDP growth need to take a back seat to more pressing matters. In the west we cannot divorce ourselves from the poverty of the remainder of the world.
We tend to bring money into the center of our lives as we view it as having some sort of lock on the ability to produce happiness. As we have seen above, nothing could be further from the truth. We need to look at money as a practical tool; the view that it can do more only serves to distort our reaction to the world around us. We need to look at the status of the human race and spend our time figuring out real solutions to population explosion, starvation, resource allocation and low levels of education, all symptoms of the gulf between rich and poor. Then our energies and resources will be properly balanced and therefore allocated in the most moral fashion. Next topic is power…