There is nothing quite like the smell and feel of American money. It’s soft in your hand because it’s mixed with cotton and natural materials. It can be crisp and sharp or soft and crumpled, almost mushy. The smell is something you can recall in memory, a sour earthy smell, but very real and almost alive. I was four years old when I first had a dollar. My great-grandfather gave it to me for my birthday. It slid out when I opened the card and fell in my lap, light as a feather. Suddenly it felt as though I was a human being, something that was able to handle money – almost an adult.
I learned math as many did – through currency denominations. My teachers would ask me: what does it mean when you have two quarters, two dimes, and a nickel? Well, that was one quarter short of a dollar – seventy five cents. Ten dimes equaled a dollar, five nickels equaled a quarter and a penny was worthless. My parents, encouraging me to be an entrepreneurial child, helped me build a lemonade stand. I stuffed the nickles and dimes away in a cigar box until I could cash them in for the soft green bills that could buy whatever I wanted.
Nostalgia goes hand in hand with cash. We remember the jobs we made cash in. Cash makes a difference. Who can forget when we lost some? I can almost relieve the physical sensation of despair as I sat in the bathroom stall of a restaurant, sobbing into a tissue because a fifty had slipped out of my waitress billfold and set me back eight hours of work. From the fancy thing we covet in our early years, cash becomes a cold reality in adulthood. Without it, food is bland and nights are cold, clothes have holes in them and cars must be pushed to the gas station.
An Israeli told me something so correct: money is the most violent and dangerous religion in the world. Nobody will kill anybody faster than for money. Whole civilizations are laid waste for it. We cling to it and try and please its priest class to escape its wrath, rather, the absence of money is to some the absence of the divine life-giver-comforter-sleep-at-night-provider.
Yet it is a false god, sustained by the fear-mongering of the priest class. It is possible that once, the American dollar meant something. Now it is something we can speculate about. The speculation makes it dangerous. Suddenly, money grows for no reason and it can expand and contract without warning. Lines on a chart will assure the continued existence of the dollar, but if a priest steps out of line and claims it is a lie, the line plummets to the dismay of millions who have that child-like attachment to something that isn’t real past its smell and feel in your hands.
To remake the world, this false god must be brought down. So many sell books on the foolishness of believing in a monotheistic God, or to even believe in the supernatural, and yet nobody is being invited to speak in front of universities about the greatest delusion of all. What is a dollar but a vestige of a society that is untouched by globalization? The dollar is interchangeable and expendable. The priest class is learning this and playing the most fantastic games at the end, telling me my glass of lemonade I’m hawking on the corner is suddenly worth 500 billion dollars and that everyone should rush to invest likewise. I’m pocketing the 5% share they just bought in my business because it seems like a good idea, but what does this say about reality?
It doesn’t matter what I think. I’m not an economist. All I can do is stand by while the priest class shuffles their cards and makes a new game. It used to be that the American dollar bought a day’s work or a pound of meat, but now it is used to buy other, much more ephemeral things. The inbred priest class holed up in Connecticut has started to fancy they live outside of the real world. Keep playing the game with food prices, housing values, war machines… all the things that keep us enthrall and all the most powerful things that can make us kill. Yet when bread riots and desert dust start to clog up the gears, how will they flush the human blood out of the system? It’s time to keep telling each other how much it’s worth, start to make the bubble bigger and yet bigger still lest we see how foolish it really is.