Money is the primary means by which our current culture expresses value. This means that we tend to think about value in terms of transaction, and ownership. In turn this also means that we ascribe less value to less tangible things, to commons, and to situations where there is no exchange. We don’t tend to pay for the experience of a view and do not get to put it in a bag and take it home. The value of a view is consequently not always considered that important around planning future building.
We are shockingly poor when it comes to valuing air quality. You can’t buy your own little pocket of clean, sweet air. Perhaps if you could we’d think differently. The cost to health and happiness of poor air is hard to measure, so we don’t measure it, but it exists nonetheless. In truth, happiness is something that often doesn’t exist through financial transaction, but we are encouraged to believe that it does. If payment is the only affirmation you get, that can have serious consequences for your sense of self.
Advertising and marketing steals the language of affirmation and tacks it onto products that in truth, we do not love, are not excited about or inspired by. There’s a language inflation around the ludicrous hyperbole attached to products. If you’re professing love for a snack food, and need for a shampoo, what do you have left in terms of words, for the people in your life? Affirmation language should flow from the one who appreciates towards that which is appreciated, but marketing is the shoddy art of telling us how we ought to feel about the thing held up in front of us.
In this transaction culture, there are so many things we don’t want to pay for. Any situation where the seller has less power than the buyer, or the buyer is in a position to steal the seller’s goods, the seller is devalued. Whether its supermarkets refusing to pay what it costs to produce a pint of milk, or taking pirated books online rather than paying the author, the same thing happens, and it is theft. It is the refusal to recognise the true value of something you want, and to put the transaction ahead of what is exchanged.
If we were truly using money as an expression of value, these situations would be unthinkable, but we go after things we want (and therefore value) while telling creators and producers that they should accept not getting paid. Economic power trumps value. If we took affirmation seriously, we just wouldn’t find this acceptable. Once again, affirmation is demonstrably the enemy of power for the sake of power.
If we want things available that have been made for love, or exist for their own sake, like a landscape, we have to move away from an economy that is all about financial transaction. Feed, house and clothe your bard and promise to take care of them when they are old and ill, and it becomes a lot more reasonable to ask them to sing ‘for free’. Value the view for its own sake, value the air, and money ceases to be the primary motive. An economy based on money only values that which it can buy and sell. A culture interested in profit cares far too much about how it can exploit either the buyer or the seller to create the profit margin. A community that sees affirmation as being more than money, but also what money is for, a culture that is interested in value, will not find exploitation, waste or destruction to be tolerable.