The heart and soul of money is not far from our own in Money and Life. Director Katie Teague’s masterpiece studies money and the economy while guiding viewers on a hero’s journey towards flow and genuine abundance. You can watch it streaming and on DVD beginning May 1.
Money was created to serve us. Over time it’s been manipulated, devalued and deified. We spend our lives working for it, chasing it, wanting it.
By understanding money and participating mindfully in its exchange, we can recover deep parts of ourselves: creativity, happiness and human connection. We can live the lives we were meant to live.
All money exists as debt
Money is simply an agreement to use something (gold, wampum, spices etc.) as a medium of exchange. It lost real value when President Richard Nixon took the U.S. off the gold standard in 1971.
The privately owned Federal Reserve Corporation decides how much money to print. Members meet behind closed doors with no public input or accountability. Large banks receive the cash and multiply it through a process called fractional reserve banking.
Keeping just 10 percent on reserve, banks loan out the rest at interest. They drain more out of circulation than they put in. In this game of musical chairs, there must always be losers.
Rushing towards crisis
Debt-based economics is a pyramid scheme, says Ellen Brown (Web of Debt). The economy must grow fast enough to keep debt growing. “Eventually the whole world is in debt,” she observes.
The system is unstable, filled with boom and bust cycles. We’ve had 96 banking crashes and 187 monetary crises in the last 25 years, notes Stuart Valentine, president of CenterPoint Investment Management.
“We’ve totally forgotten that we’ve invented it, that we made it up,” says Lynne Twist (The Soul of Money).
Circulation is key
“Money took over not as a means, but as a measure of wealth,” says physicist and environmental activist Vandana Shiva (Making Peace with the Earth). “Our lives have become more monetized and commodified,” says philosophy professor Jacob Needleman (Money and the Meaning of Life).
Past societies valued art, pleasure, culture, spirituality and family, notes visionary activist Jean Houston (The Possible Human). Today, money takes center stage as never before. “Money was never meant to be hoarded or amassed,” says Rabbi Steven Leder (More Money Than God). “It was meant to circulate as a way of uplifting the community.”
“Money has become a substitute for kinship, a substitute for a felt sense of reciprocity and interrelatedness,” observes clinical psychologist Aaron Kipnis (Angry Young Men). Ancient coins were forged with symbols of God and nature. When Caesar’s image replaced those symbols, money became associated with the power of the state.
The financial crisis of 2008 presents us with a great opportunity, Shiva believes. We’ve reached the limits of a system that idolizes money while exploiting people and the natural world.
The “financialization” of the economy in the 1990’s intoxicated us with the promise of “easy money.” Binary digits speed through computer networks, distant from goods and services produced by people and nature.
Financial wealth is “nothing but a fiction,” says David Korten (Agenda for a New Economy). Our economy is “turning the living wealth of people, community and nature into financial wealth.”
Measuring real wealth
We created GDP (Gross Domestic Product) after the Depression and World War II to measure well-being. GDP reflects the dollar amount of goods and services produced nationally. “The faster we take useful resources out of the environment, run them through the economy and dispose of them as toxic waste into our air, water and soils, we count that as progress,” Korten notes.
A truer measure of progress is how economic activity improves our quality of life. “The crisis today stems from the fact that there’s almost nothing left to convert into the realm of goods and services,” says Charles Eisenstein (Sacred Economics).
“Planet Finance now is getting bigger than Planet Earth,” says Rebecca Adamson, a Cherokee who advocates nationally for local tribal issues.
Signs of revival
An efficient financial system “should be run like a public utility,” notes futurist and evolutionary economist Hazel Henderson (Ethical Markets). “Any financial system that is using up more than 10% of a country’s GDP is inherently out of control … becoming a cancer on the real economy.”
Adamson buys locally. When shopping outside the community, she looks at corporate behavior and values. Socially responsible investing is now a $3 trillion marketplace, says Valentine.
Forging equitable, sustainable, beautiful
At its most moving, Money and Life shares personal stories. Scott Morris graduated from college with $50K in student loans. His monthly payment equaled his monthly living expenses. He faced a choice: live or pay the debt.
Judy Wicks (Good Morning, Beautiful Business) radically redefined growth when she founded the White Dog Café in Philadelphia. “How is my business going to affect my community, customers, staff and nature,” she asked. “We can grow by raising consciousness … increasing our knowledge … deepening our relationships … being healthier, increasing our well-being, having more fun.”
From heedless growth to inner growth
The Fed shifted emphasis towards capital (finance and banking) and away from labor (working people) in the 1980s, says national journalist William Greider (Come Home, America). Regulation and policy changes propelled corporations to focus on one goal: maximize profits. A robust economy, Greider explains, allows wages to rise and spread prosperity broadly.
A democratic, “trickle up” economy powered by people is emerging, scholars say. To participate, we must ask: What do I care about? What kind of work do I want to do? How do I spend, save and use money?
Thousands of global, local and regional currency systems are being developed. They are designed to work alongside national money, bringing diversity to our “monetary ecology.”
Humanity is coming of age in today’s economic crises, says Eisenstein. “What we’ve done is we’ve created scarcity. The money system creates artificial scarcity where there need be none. For example, there’s nothing more abundant on Earth than water,” he notes. Many factors, including its association with money, have contributed to making water scarce.
Scarcity leads to hoarding. “It’s an addiction,” says John Perkins (Confessions of an Economic Hitman). Sociology professor Juliet Schor (Plenitude) sees the Occupy Movement as a “long awaited response to a period of financial shenanigans. Financial malfeasance and criminal activity captured government, and crashed our economy.”
Walking her talk
Money and Life is a thoughtful, comprehensive film that exposes the myth of lack. Everyone who wants to transform their relationship with money and life should see it. Animation and archival footage infuse this serious subject with light-heartedness.
Trained in depth and developmental psychology, Teague left her counseling practice to make this film. She felt driven to create, to move “from division to rediscovering the undivided,” she told GAIAFIELD Radio.
Embarking on a “divine scavenger hunt beyond trust,” she had no background in finance. “Receive what is given,” was her guidance. Teague trusts that Money and Life “will find the eyes and ears that are waiting for it.”
To learn more and to get involved, visit their website. ★★★★★