Money takes up so much of our time. Not only do we spend most of our lives working to generate it, but we also spend most of our days-off worrying about it.
But what actually is money, if nothing more than an illusion?
Well, according to the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of money is ‘a medium of exchange in the form of coins and banknotes.’
This has not always been the definition though, with coins and banknotes being a relatively new concept, at least ‘new’ when you consider that the world is over 4.5 billion years old, and paper currency (bank notes) have only existed for 1215 years.
What about the previous years?
Well, right at the beginning, before coins existed, let alone paper banknotes, money took the form of bartering- the direct exchange/trade of goods or services for mutual advantage. This trade could be for anything; however, cattle was particularly popular for bartering with.
Bartering slowly transitioned to metal money and coins, which came into existence a little over 3000 years ago, in 1000 B.C. Rather than bartering with actual usable objects such as cattle and tools, miniature replicas presented as bronze coins were manufactured in China.
Around 500 years later, in 500 B.C, modern coinage made an appearance, in Turkey. These coins were developed out of lumps of silver and were stamped with images of Gods and Emperors to mark their authenticity, not at all dissimilar to how they look today. They soon expanded from their humble Turkish beginnings into Greece, Peru and later, the Roman empires.
After several years of using coins as the primary source of currency, the first banknote was finally introduced, in 118 B.C. It was made of leather and, much like the bronze/copper coins that were brought into existence 882 years prior to the notes, were first introduced in China. They would soon be replaced with paper notes, which we still have today, alongside coins.
Whilst we do still use banknotes and coins today, we are rapidly moving into a digital world, whereby electronic money is looking likely for our future. This can already be seen today, what with the likes of Apple Pay, Online Banking and Bitcoin available at the tap of a screen. This removes the need for physical currency, and therefore I do not think it will be too long before both banknotes and coins are scrapped in favor of the virtual version.
Alas, money, in some form, will always exist, since society relies on the exchange of money for goods/services, to function. The reason being that if everything were free, there would be no value in anything. Manufacturers would have no incentive to continue producing goods that are worthless, and therefore society would be unable to continue.
You might now be thinking; ‘but why can the rest of the animal kingdom live without money, and we can’t?’ Well, animals in the wild get food by hunting and working hard for it. In contrast, as humans we want everything now. We do not want to work hard to get the things we want/need, we just want the ‘quick fix.’ However, the problem is, that ‘quick fix’ I refer to comes at a cost, since no one will work for free.
Employees work hard, giving up their time and energy to produce what we want, and in return for their time and energy, we give them money, the value of which must be decided. For example, we could go out and hunt for a chicken ourselves which would be free in monetary terms, costing us only our time. If, however, we decided against hunting for a chicken ourselves, we could simply go to the supermarket and pay for one, exchanging money for an already caught chicken ready to be cooked and eaten. The majority of us would choose the latter option every time.
You see, despite money being nothing more than a meaningless concept in theory, as soon as society attaches meaning to it, it creates value, hence why we cannot live without it. It has become an ingrained part of everyday life, and it would be impossible to just abolish it from existence. It would not work.
So, if we cannot ‘get rid’ of money, what can we do?
We must do something, anything, to put a stop to the shameful inequalities that can be seen around the world, all of which relate to money.
Just stop and think for a moment; how is it fair that millions of children in Africa are left to go hungry when there are people living in the West who have far more money than they even know what to do with?
There is so much money that is just sat in the bank accounts of the minority, when it could be improving, if not saving, the lives of the majority.
I am not delusional in believing that we can one day get to a place of total equality in the world, for it would require everything to change, and that is a highly unachievable aim.
What I am hopeful for, however, is that:
- We can take steps to live in a more equal society.
- We can be more giving instead of greedy, striving to help those less fortunate than ourselves.
- We can be more mindful about the way we spend our money, asking ourselves before every purchase; ‘do I really need this or am I just buying it ‘because I can?’
The fact of the matter is this; if you are fortunate enough to have money, you should be wise enough to use it for the greater good. Never forget the value it holds, not just in monetary terms, but in its ability to actually save lives. Remember that next time you go to buy yet another pair of trainers that you don’t really need.
Remember how lucky you are, always.