As I speak the blossom on our tree at the front is just turning, though other trees are coming out and some have still to flower. The hedge is in its full spring-green and the bluebells are still ringing. All of this is in stark contrast to the world we have made for ourselves: the world we think of as real. I refer of course to the stupid economy.
Why is it that we persist in thinking of money as real? What is money after all? It’s a representation, nothing more. First we had gold. There was some sense in valuing gold, because of its scarcity and its durability: it has qualities that make it worth something. But then we progressed to little bits of paper which stood for amounts of gold. And these bit of paper came to seem precious to us; to have value in themselves. Yet a tenner or a fifty is nothing more than a promissory note: it says ‘I promise to pay bearer on demand the sum of…’ whatever it is. Has anyone tried demanding that sum lately? Have you tried handing over a tenner and saying ‘I demand you pay me the sum of…?’ What would you expect to get in exchange?
But it gets worse. From actual coins and notes we have largely progressed to bits of plastic and figures in a computer. So that what dominates people’s lives nowadays is nothing more than that: a rectangle of plastic and some digits on a screen. The more unreal it becomes, the more we cling to it – and that is the ultimate unreality.
But there’s an underside to this, too; an underside where lots of people live. It used to be called ‘being in the red’, though no-one uses that colour nowadays: far too aggressive. These days all you get is a discreet little minus sign at the beginning of all your figures; or else the inoffensive-looking but doom-laden letters O/D at the bottom of every page.
People who live on the underside do all their calculations upside-down. They are constantly calculating deficits; multiplying minuses and adding subtractions. Two minuses do not make a plus: not in this world. In this world two minuses make you go down and down until you can’t see the surface at all. There are people on the bottom of this sea-bed who haven’t seen daylight for years.
Got to go now as I see the man from Sainsbury’s is here to exchange some goods for some of the digits on my computer screen…