The Real Root Of All Problems (no, it’s not money!)

“If you ever find yourself in the wrong story, leave.” — Mo Willems

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Wars, overfishing, intensive animal farming, cutting down rainforests, smuggling drugs, creating GMOs to multiply crops, human trafficking, poaching… It seems that all our issues have a common denominator: money. As a result, for many years I believed and accepted the statement “money is the root of all evil”. However, recent literature and explorations of the self with a dash of personal development have made me realize that money is an instrument for “evil” to manifest. So, what is this evil I’m talking about? What is the underlying cause of all problems if not money?

I grew up in a western civilization where humans tend to see the skin as the border between the self and the rest of the world. And it makes sense. At school, in physics we learn that our body is a well-defined mass with subject to gravity and our environment is composed of individual things that exert forces on each other. In biology we are told that each species needs to compete in order to keep existing, survival of the fittest, right? In math, we are taught about Descartes’ principle of problem solving, known as “dividing each of the difficulties under examination into as many parts as possible”, and we learnt about using the cartesian coordinate system to position distinct objects within a space. This principle of separation is even embodied in the languages when we learn to differentiate I from you, mine from yours…

The interpretation of the self as separate has shaped our representation of the world as a space composed of a multitude of single entities and independent phenomena that we’d better understand and master to ensure survival and progress. If we act according to these scientific views then we need to protect our self and compete against other living things to influence our environment and make it behave in ways that fit our individual interest. When we see and experience life through these lenses, it’s logical to create borders to protect our lands from “strangers” and use chemicals to make this same land behave the way we want it to behave.

This representation of the rational self and the world has lead to harmful behavior that indirectly but surely puts us in danger. Deep within us, this story of the self feels narrow, incomplete, imperfect; our hearts know that we can all live more fulfilling experiences if we start looking beyond the microcosm of our own existence and re-connect with others and Mother Earth. In fact, our existence can be much richer once we stop ignoring that everything in this planet is intrinsically intertwined.

As scientist Gregory Bateson put it “The source of all our problems today comes from the gap between how we think and how nature works”. At the beginning of the past century, Albert Einstein made a breakthrough discovery with its equation E = mc2, called the mass — energy equivalence which explains that the whole Universe including each of us is made of energy; switching to that point of view, there’s no border between our body and a tree, a bird, a river and to put it into perspective, between us, the moon and the stars. We are all part of a flow of energy, food, water, minerals, radiation and so on, constantly passing in, out and through us, much of which has no respect for the boundary of the skin at all (Some could be frightened when reading this but I see immense beauty in it!). The entities we call rationally ‘’separate” come from a limited and outdated view of the self which is why the philosopher Alan Watts in the 50s called humans “egos in a bag of skin”.

To be fair, we have made major progress in various scientific fields during the past decades. In biology for example, we now talk about the web of life rather than the tree of life, which better represents the vast amount of ties species have with each other at the molecular level. Within the field of network theory, generations of mathematicians, sociologists and physicists worked on the “6 degrees of separation”, finding out that every person in the planet is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other individual in the world: people we consider “strangers” should be better viewed as members of our extended family!

Conventional money has been a tool to perpetuate the delusion of the disconnected self. Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, expounded in his work the importance of maximizing economic rational self-interest and during the industrial revolution our ancestors developed a monetary system that reflected their views of the self within the world at that time. In an age of nationalism, endless growth and colonization, money had to be a tool for the rational self to protect, compete and master. Although it has evolved since, our monetary system is still based on these foundations.

We live now in a tricky time because we still use traditional money that forces us to keep a rational vision of the world while our consciousness tries to push us toward a broader, more connected, vision of self. Unfortunately, in this new perspective, we still don’t have a currency — a common language — to facilitate economic flow with other selves. But as we’ve started to view our lives from a perspective that fits better with how nature works, we’ll inevitably improve the story of our currencies soon too, probably starting by creating solutions to complement the current system. The new economy should be an extension of ecology to facilitate the exchange of goods and services for those who are in need, in a world where humans recognize emotions experienced by other beings as an expansion of their connected self. Jeremy Rifkin explores this topic throughout his idea of “The Empathic Civilization”.

Although we’ve built western culture based on the separate self which inevitably impacts all aspects of life (education, business, governments and so on), a new conscious civilization is emerging, growing and learning to co-create with one another and the environment; this evolution is being lead by influential “post growth” thinkers who empower individuals like you and I to develop projects such as Transition Towns in the UK, Democracy OS in Argentina, Pun Pun in Thailand to mention just a few. The current renaissance of the self and money will gradually lead us to an evolution of education as well as a remodeling of our social structures and political systems.

Ruth and I are in the last stages of finishing a new book about the topic discussed in this article, called “Create Your (R)Evolution”. In addition to educating about the paradigm of the self, this piece of writing’s objective is to involve and help everyone co-create the shared future of our extended family that includes our fellow creatures and the biosphere as our common home. This book will be accessible for free, although we rely on our voluntary payment business model to sustain our projects. In the meantime, I’ll keep blogging regularly about this historical evolution of humanity. And if you wish to get our exclusive news about the book launch, please leave your email address here. Glad to keep you posted.


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