- This constant of the capitalist economy: the ongoing tendency for “usage value” to decline, creates a new form of deprivation within our more elevated and more complex version of mere survival… which is in no way an enfranchisement from our former poverty, seeing that it demands the participation of the vast majority of men – and women – as salaried workers, in un-ending pursuit of the efforts it specifies: and seeing that everyone knows that they must submit to this or die. And this is the reality of its blackmailing and extortion: the fact that “usage” in its simplest form (eating, sheltering) does not exist, and cannot be thought of – can no longer be thought of – except trapped and imprisoned inside the illusory riches of this more elevated and more complex version of mere survival… And it is the reality of its blackmailing and extortion which is the real, true basis of our overall, ubiquitous acceptance of this illusion: in the consumption of modern consumer goods. A man or woman, physically consuming something real and physical, becomes a consumer of illusions. Consumer goods are this illusion which in practice is taken for ‘reality’… and ‘le spectacle‘ is its generalized, ubiquitous manifestation.
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And in our time, in this Information Age, the spectacle itself – these performances and images – have become the non-physical “consumer goods” that are imbued with this illusion. And everywhere this is a debased, partial modification of ‘the sacred’. Which bars us from contact with the vibration and the energy of the sacred, and of physical reality. But which perpetuates our drive and hunger for that very thing.
And, going back… To a time when probably travelers, with physical goods, were also shamans. And the exchange of the physical goods – with strangers – was just one part of a shamanic exchange. The market, in the churchyard, on the festival day of the patron saint, is the last ubiquitous, society-wide manifestation of this in the English-speaking world. After which it becomes partial – and tendencious. The elevated ‘theatre prices’ of food and beverages – and souvenir programs – that we sell at the performances of plays would be one lingering manifestation of this…
And to find a g e n e r a l i z e d equivalent of this… something that can replace bartering… is always to de-sensitize yourself to the vibration of the real, specific object.
So. There was a time, when the material gold was pretty hard to get. There were only certain known sources. And it had a certain quality to it, different from
the other four metals: it did not rust, it was flexible, and it had that yellow-ish glow, similar to a fairly accessible meditative state. So it was special.
And there’s a place, Lydia, which is mostly mountains… and their city, Sardis, was one of the few sources of gold: and they had naturally occurring electrum – gold mixed with silver, that looks like gold but is harder. So they could stamp two magical images, a bull and a lion – fertility and ferocity – onto nuggets of apparent gold, but these nuggets, magically, were more durable. And they used these to pay soldiers from the surrounding peoples – mercenaries – and mark them as theirs. And using this special, apparent gold from their mountains, they created a mystique – an aura of exceptionalism – in the neighboring high plateau: which in this way became part of the Lydian Empire. And this was the first coinage.
And remember: the nature of geography is such that the traveling shaman, who also brings physical goods, would always come from over the mountains, or from the sea.
And what the Lydians were saying was: “Here’s the immutable. And here’s our state, our country, our identity. And they’ve been coupled together.” Because gold is this very unusual object, back then… especially unusual in comparison with other things: it did not decay.
And so suddenly gold was no longer just this material, it was the state, also, their state. Persia conquered Lydia, and started issuing electrum coinage, and the other nations, in this case Greece, as we understand it, saw this and started stamping symbols on t h e i r gold. And then you have Minoan ingots in the shape of a cow-hide: and right there you have the sense of an abstract, uniform sense of value that is not “usage value”. And, of course, you have something that is a completely different vibration from an actual cow-hide.
So you have an abstract sense of “the state”. And institutions in general. And the abstract sense of “exchange value”.
Which has nothing to do with a group of mountain men, gathered together to defend their mountain village, Sardis. Which is the actual foundation of the Lydian ‘state’.
Whereas Phoenician coinage was generally copper – which was needed for making bronze. You could go to Cornwall – by their sea-trading routes – with a cow-hide of copper and get a cow-hide of tin and you put them together and you’ve got bronze. From which you could make the weaponry which would be held by the group of mountain men, gathered together to defend their mountain village. So the vibrational energy of the copper “cow-hide” is related to the vibrational energy of this village. Which the vibrational energy of electrum is not.
And for many villages at this time, as you moved your cattle around with the seasons, it appears that these were not privately owned cattle: and so the theft of these cattle became a symbolic act, between villages. More than simply “I need cows”. So this was the begin of merging a material that had “usage value” with a symbolic materialism. So roasting and eating a stolen cow became a hugely symbolic act. As did roasting and eating your cow that you had successfully protected against theft.
And, similarly, if they captured your coinage, they’d melt it down and stamp their own symbols on it. And yet they didn’t actually get to eat a cow – which would be so much more satisfying, at a vibrational level. And this evolved into copper coinage and bronze coinage: all these things where now the ‘state’ is the value, not the physical object.
So now we live in this very odd structure, in which symbolic objects things take on huge symbolic wealth and meaning… an iPhone takes on a meaning beyond what it is.
And now we have even gotten to this place where the video that you watch on the iPhone has taken on the transcendent meaning. And it’s not about the physical energy of what you see in the video – the physical energy that you would sense if you were actually there. The transcendent meaning is about the possibility of watching at a distance. And taking a place in a structure of technology. And so it actually assigns a high value to NOT being able to feel the vibration of the thing itself.
And, unlike a physical item of consumer goods, there is no fraction of this that is “usage value”, actually getting to enjoy the vibration of the thing itself. Not an iota. Zip. This vibration is inaccessible through the electronic network.
So this is a hugely unstable situation, which over a few decades, at the most, will surely work itself out. Because we still have people around who will remind us that eating a cow is hugely more satisfying than stamping a symbol into a piece of copper. Or, after the bubble bursts, more satisfying than keying the contract directly into the currency.