Money makes the world go around. It buys privilege and political clout. Those who can pay to advertise, lobby and make themselves heard, get much more voice than those who cannot. In our private lives, economic power often equates with decision making power. The person who pays the bills is the one who ultimately decides. I’ve heard money described by pagans as ‘the movement of energy’ – and you can productively relate to it that way. It works better if you rank it comparably with other exchanges of energy, where time, effort and creativity do not otherwise relate directly to a financial ‘worth’.
In an entirely fair system, money would just be another tool we could use to facilitate exchanges. Nothing wrong with that. Bartering is slow, especially if you want my chickens and I have no use for the lawn mower you are offering in exchange. We’ve deified money. The presence of it in a person’s life is far too often taken as a measure of their worth and importance. This is, on closer inspection, insane and counterproductive.
The following traits and actions will not result in you being rich. Working hard. Acting honourably. Keeping your word. Being fair. Being compassionate. Upholding the law. Treating others with respect. Being mindful of the environment.
On the other hand, ruthlessness, a willingness to use others, profit from them and take advantage, may well make you rich. Disregard for the environment, willingness to break promises, to lie, to bend the laws, especially the tax laws and so forth, will all help you keep your money. I am sure there are plenty of lovely rich people out there, it’s just so much easier to be a rich bastard than a nice person if you want to accumulate worldly goods.
How do people become wealthy? There are of course always stories of rags to riches, through luck or the triumph of ingenuity. Most people who are affluent were born that way. Which country you land in makes a lot of odds. Whether your parents are millionaires, billionaires, is going to have an influence too. If working hard was the key to financial success, teachers would have fortunes and playboys would not. That’s not how it happens. Even if you have a ton of creative energy, the best idea ever, and even some backing, whether or not you find success is as much about luck as anything. There is no sure fire way.
If power is in the hands of the rich, really that comes down to giving control to the people who were inherently fortunate in the first place. Money buys its own opportunities, for learning, commerce, living well. Does it need any extra help? Not really. Do the people with money perceive themselves as just lucky, or do they believe in their hearts that they deserve every penny of it? I’ll bet it’s mostly the latter. Should the power they wield therefore be used to uphold the system that keeps them wealthy? Hell yes.
And what keeps us all running on the treadmill is the belief that we too could get lucky, we could be like them. Win the lottery, sell that novel, be discovered, join the wealthy elite. So we keep the world turning just the way it suits the tiny minority who really benefit from it.
How do you go about being a Druid in this sort of reality? Money is not one of the gods I worship. Honour is integral to my life, I have no place where ‘greed is good’ or it’s all about the bottom line. I’m not going to make a profit by trashing the environment or oppressing the workers. I do believe that hard work, integrity, value and creativity ought to be rewarded, and money isn’t a terrible way of doing that. It’s the power that goes with the money I’m worried about. And how people understand themselves in light of their earning and spending capacity – or absence thereof.
I can’t opt out of the money system. They lock you up if you go very far at all down that route. But if I think of my money as energy, as potential for change, I can deploy it, make it work for my agenda, my world view, my values. Not all the time, because my taxes are going to go on wars whether I like it or not. But sometimes.
There are plenty of places where the money doesn’t matter. In the woods, with my feet on the earth, it doesn’t make a great deal of odds what is in my bank account. I don’t think the gods care whether I have a fortune or not. Why would othey? My being a Druid doesn’t depend on being able to cough up enough cash for designer robes, and an actual sickle made out of gold. There are other places money is equally meaningless, and I shall be contemplating them a lot.