Actualizado: 12 de dic de 2018
In order to talk about a healthy economy, it is first necessary to clarify what our current economy is sick of. It is not sick of capitalism, materialism, inequality, selfishness or avarice. All these are painful symptoms of a deeper illness: she is sick with Separation. In reality our whole culture is sick with Separation. While we confuse the symptom with the real disease our attempts to heal it fail just as conventional medicine aimed at lessening symptoms fails.
“You cannot dismantle the master's house using the master's tools”. You cannot dismantle the system using the same system tools. You can't build peace by using war as a means. You cannot build solidarity by accusing others of lack of solidarity.
So what is this Separation about?
More than an ethical flaw or a defect of our civilization, Separation is a story, a narrative, even an organizational arrangement of our neurons, which implies that we perceive and conceive the whole through the lens of separation. That is, separate. In this story, matter and spirit are separated, the domestic and the wild are separated, the city and nature are separated, and a long list of etcetera.
Fundamentally, the conception of the self is that of a being separated from all other beings and separated from the universe. If all that surrounds me is "otherness", obviously the more you have the less it remains for me. So maybe I want to make sure you don't take my share. If we think there is scarcity, you and I will have to compete sooner or later, and some of us will not be able to meet their needs.
Crucially, our intelligence, our rationality has evolved over millennia by means of Separation. For example, when we want to understand the physiology of an animal, we dissect (note the word dissect) the carcass of the animal, and observe part by part. When we want to understand a particular dish, we display the list of ingredients; perhaps to complete the information we can include the exact recipe for its preparation: a list of separate items, in this case a list of ingredients and procedures. However, is the soup your grandmother used to make for you as a child really replicable through a recipe with a list of ingredients and procedures?
Intelligence based on Separation is the logical, linear intelligence, and corresponds to male intelligence (present in both men and women). Of course there's nothing wrong with it in itself. It has its healthy way of using it; the key is not to ignore that there are essential aspects of the whole that are lost when looked at separately. The problem is that today it is considered the only acceptable form of intelligence. That is, there is an imbalance in the use of our human intelligence.
The feminine intelligence, in contrast, is circular, it is about observing the whole as it is. Science, for example, is especially centered on male intelligence. There is no room for female intelligence in science. Suffices to point out that the fundamental assumption of the conventional scientific method is that the observer (the scientist) and the object under observation are separate. That is to say, that there is an objective reality out there (separate from the observer) that one can, with the right tools, observe impartially. (See the post Human reason).
The current economic system is an exclusive expression of male intelligence, in fact a highly sophisticated expression of this type of intelligence. It is nothing foolish as many accuse, in despair at its devastating consequences. Since economics and money are the number one priority of our civilization, very brilliant minds have been dedicated to solving their questions. But these questions have always been addressed under the prism of separation and the exclusive use of linear logic.
As I said before (and I will repeat many, many times as this is the crux of the matter), you cannot dismantle the system using the tools of the same system. We cannot change our disastrous economic system, clearly directed towards self-destruction, using only logical, linear, masculine intelligence. In trying to do that, all one could do is to recreate essentially the same thing, at best "a little better". The problems we face today as humanity are not solved by a "little better" system. (See post When will we stop the destruction of nature?)
That is why there is no political solution; it is not a left versus right issue. It is not a question of 'wiping out all corrupt politicians and then we will achieve a harmonious life'. This is an absurd conviction deeply rooted in our culture: we must succeed in the battle against "otherness". It is the same as in agriculture: 'when we kill all the weeds, all the pests, when we dominate all the forces of nature, then we will be able to feed the whole population'. In medicine: 'when we have all the vaccines, when we kill all the germs, then we will be healthy'. "When we finish off all the terrorists, all the dictators, then we'll have peace."
Do you realize it? That's never going to happen. That mentality is proper to the conception of the Separated Self. For that matter, even if the day were to magically come when all businessmen and politicians would be honest, supportive and respectful of the environment -listen to me-, even if that day came, our economic and planetary disaster would not end! When we ‘other’ the universe around us, we really ‘other’ a part of ourselves. Any battle with the outside is an aggression perpetrated at oneself.
hat's why we need to talk about sacred economics. An economics that is not built with the tools of the Separation narrative. It is not built with Control, it is not built with linear Logic (although it is also absolutely logical), it is not built by conquering or dominating opposing forces. It is built including. It is built by expanding the self, remembering our true nature.
Growth and Debt in the Current Economic System
Let me briefly explain to you, by way of introduction, the nature of our current economic system (see a complete discussion of money in Understanding money). Each time a central bank prints money, it prints it as debt, that is, at the end of the period it must return increased by the interest rate. All existing money, at this time and at any time, is subject to interest. There is no official currency (that I know of) that escapes this reality.
Economic growth is the increase in monetary economic activity, measured through the PGB (gross geographic product: the monetary value of the final goods and services produced in a period). In short, the only way that existing money can pay its interest rate is by printing more money, which in turn is also issued as debt. The only way in which this process can subsist over time is if the economic growth rate is equal to or higher than the interest rate. If there is not enough economic growth, it means that the debt cannot be paid in full, which means that someone has to go bankrupt, whether they are individuals, institutions or entire countries.
Why are financial crises so common today? Because it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a resource or human activity that can be transformed into monetary activity. An intact forest does not appear in the PGB, it is not an economic activity that helps to solve the debt. If I exploit it, it does now. Any human activity, for example childcare, as long as it is free or reciprocal, does not appear in the PGB. But if it becomes a monetary activity, it now does help pay the debt and the country’s growth.
Economic growth is actually the transformation of our natural, cultural, social and spiritual heritage into commercial monetary activities. When most of our heritage has already been transferred to the commercial sphere, it is becoming more and more difficult, more expensive and more painful to transform into money what should not belong to anyone, and which at the same time belongs to all of us. That is why the financial crisis coexists with the environmental crisis and the crisis of the human soul.
How much more can an economy with exponentially growing debt withstand? How much more can nature withstand the growing pressure to exhaust the little that remains? How much more can each of our hearts withstand the destruction of beauty and growing ugliness and alienation, being forced to "make a living" by sacrificing dreams? Certainly not much more.
Whether it is a right wing or a left-wing government, whether it is a large and rich country or a small and poor one, no one escapes the need to grow economically. As the pressure of debt continues to rise, the smaller ones (individuals, institutions, companies, countries) go bankrupt and the larger ones absorb them, in one way or another. (This is why inequality is endemic in the system). But obviously this cannot go on, even for the most advantaged.
Economy is in its essence the care taking of our home, the Earth ('Eco' means 'home'). That's why we're all a bit economists: we all care about taking care of our house. We all care about how we meet our needs and how we express our talents and the gifts we have to share.
Sacred is that which has two essential attributes:
Unique, and therefore irreplaceable and of infinite value.
Connected and related (not isolated).
For example, an industrial egg bought in a supermarket has absolutely no irreplaceable quality (it is surrounded by thousands of identical eggs). At the same time it is totally anonymous, it has no connection with the land it comes from nor the people who worked with it until it arrived at the supermarket. Apparently it has no special story to tell. A free-range egg, on the other hand, given to me by a neighbor, is clearly the opposite. It has another value in every way.
A sacred economy takes care of our home, the Earth, in such a way that the presence of the sacred in everything we do is enhanced, rather than suppressed. In particular, in the way we meet our needs, as well as in the way we express our individual talents.
Money tends to do just the opposite:
It homogenizes because almost everything can be translated into a price.
It disconnects, depersonalizes, because as long as I pay for something, it doesn't matter who sells it to me or what story it has.
The essential nature of life is the Gift. At the origin of life itself there was the Gift. Our life began as a gift, the existence of the planet is a gift, the light and heat of the Sun are a gift, water is a gift, lemons are a gift from the lemon tree. Our most essential nature, the moment when we feel happiest and when we are most powerful is when we are feeling with our very guts and our whole being the gratitude of being alive. From this gratitude arises the inevitable, unshakable wish to do the most beautiful service to Life, sharing our most precious gift in exchange for what we have received.
If this is the essential nature of life, there is no reason why all our human needs can’t be met, and all our talents expressed, in the spirit of gift. Sacred economics is the economics of the Gift.
A currency transaction is closed: when the object and its price are exchanged, the relationship ends. A gift transaction is open: by generating gratitude, the relationship begins or nurtures itself. As a gift always carries a subtle part of the person giving it away, the object is not easily replaceable. Certainly, giving builds community, integration, union among people. (See post Towards a culture of gift).
An old companion in my life is the anguish at the possibility of scarcity, the fear of running out. I am content to look at it as a pattern that is not my essence, that is not what I know in my heart. I think many of us share it. Just as we share the pain of the destruction of nature, or the anguish of millions of people in the world of having to do something they do not love in order to "make a living" (and for a growing mass not even make it).
In the heart is the confidence that life is already a gift, that there is no need to "earn it". "Do I realize?" I ask myself! That scarcity, that apparent need for money, how real is it? In the heart there is the generosity, enthusiasm and inspiration to do whatever it takes to serve the beauty of life. Faced with the inescapable fact that the financial system is headed to collapse, there is no need to be any kind of hero or fool to trust in life, to stand firmly in our deepest dream.
All wisdom traditions express the same knowledge about the essence of life: everything is connected, we are all one, everything is related, we are all family. It is not a moral principle or a higher standard of merit, it is a reality of the fabric of life! If you are part of my being, then as you receive more I also receive more. I have no way to lose.