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Money

a satire

Chris MacMahon (Mann)


The triumph of money

Now that the plans of communists
are drifting back to history’s mists
and temple, church and union strive
to buy a comb of Wall Street’s hive,
the future’s dawned, a happy race
to make the earth a market-place,

which beaming ads from satellites
on cathode minds in graphic bytes
and listing product, bond and share
on screens around a techno-sphere,
networks Namibia with Nepal
within a global shopping mall.

What some once held the root of sin
is now the creed that brings votes in,
and those who said a centrist state
would put more food on every plate
now claim bureaucracy’s a beast
as states rules best that govern least.

Abandoned now the view of Marx
that capital makes humans sharks;
gone too the fiscal cult of Keynes,
an oiled inflation burst his gains;
and spurned that gem of Mao’s art,
that gospel millions knew by heart.

The party that called profit theft
has righted this till nothing’s left;
the managers staff loved to hate
are taught to smile and motivate;
and cadres relish steak and Brie
who demonised the bourgeoisie.


The Monetarist Ideal

They talk World Bank theology
which takes as texts technology,
the marketplace and bottom-line
and honours business in a shrine.
Growth with equity is their dream
and privatising wealth their theme.

How hopeful people are, how blest
when they begin a brand-new quest
to make things better than they are.
God knows they need a beacon star
when jobless millions stew in shacks
or hunt for cash in murderous packs,

when looking back a thousand years
shows that the genes of human tears
despite the techno-gains of science
still flaw the choices of their clients
and better schooling, tax and law
have much developed want and war.

It’s said the great depression past
the dismal science has built at last
a structured economic paradigm
that offers growth for all in time,
reducing rhythmic boom or bust
by making money’s thrift a must.

Economists of course are of a kind:
they theorise then change their mind.
As Lenin’s fiddling demonstrates
and Einstein’s maths substantiates,
both theory and reality’s in flux.
How people use them is the crux.

The use of money’s cheque and bill
depends likewise on choice and will.
It’s said the queue at heaven’s gates
are those who pay accounts and rates
and hell will squirm with bureaucrats
who squandered peoples’ income tax.


Money’s origins

But whether crime extracts its juice
or virtue prompts and guides its use,
the urge for money doesn’t change.
What makes it happen is exchange,
the drive to barter salt for meat
and ploughing ox for pile of peat,

to swap that tusk and cattle-skin
for horse and mirror, gun or gin.
When barter goods do not cohere
the cowrie shell then coins appear
to represent when haggling’s done
the price of tusk compared to gun.

Evolving creatures jump a grade
when they first cogitate and trade.
Repulsive while this notion seems
to people with less selfish dreams,
money’s proof of human sharing.
It serves both villainy and caring.


The nature of money

Mode or measure of transaction,
money’s substance is abstraction
that turns a good’s complexity
to numbered, priced simplicity.
Our forebears hunting in their hills
would goggle at such mental skills.

The left side of the tutored brain
constructs this numerate domain,
this supra-personal trading tier
and meta-national value sphere.
A billion times at least each day
its linking trick comes into play,

in markets selling pigs and yams
and butcheries that dangle hams,
in stock exchanges, shops or bars,
in banks financing firms and cars,
in street bazaars, computer shows
and ceaseless global capital flows.

A voice print-out, till-slip, account
records each deal’s agreed amount.
Its cash is used, transferred by fax
or written down — to help with tax.
What audit trails could ever trace
how money bonds the human race.


Money’s future

Some say the new millennium
will bring a shaky equilibrium,
a Pax America, whose Rome
will put a coke in every home,
where state by state autocracy
gives way to rough democracy,

and rule of law and marketplace
make individual rights their base,
while stateless companies access
the fruits of global consciousness
and interrupted gains are made
in productivity and wider trade.

New digit-brained technology
will grow the mind’s capacity
to analyse and computate
quantify — and complicate.
Financial goods and services,
displayed in virtual premises,

delivered at increasing speeds
and widening consumer needs
will seethe with ingenuity
and money’s own agility.
Minds will link like never before
inside a mental trading store.

In case a local wealth explosion
creates a far-off cash implosion
more supra-statals will arise
to balance trade and stabilise
the global banking engineer
and cowboy capital pioneer.

Conquistador free-marketeers
will help financial buccaneers
defy the weak democracies
from PC-based plutocracies.
Some plan a global money-state
that left-brain laws will regulate.


The limits of money

Off money’s balance sheet remain
the zones of life that shun its reign:
a conscience struggling with belief,
a heart at prayer, a widow’s grief,
the dolphin leaping from the sea,
all things that aren’t commodity.

A culture dwindling to its end,
the value of a spouse or friend,
a brutal corporation’s ethics,
a wiser company’s aesthetics
on money’s index cuts no ice:
it registers not worth but price.

In money’s grasp is power and sex
but love and trust elude its cheques,
and though it tempt with dividends
it’s still to purchase honest friends.
Without its frame-up life’s a mess
but wealth alone craves happiness.

Alas that money’s revolution
can never bring a full solution
to any person’s human needs.
If left to drive the will it leads
to money’s role as instrument
transmuting into management,

a global exoskeleton that forms
a culture’s values and its norms.
To maximise what it deems gain
the left side of the shaping brain
puts what it can of life on sale
then seeks economies of scale

Small wonder that its push for cash
invents such trivia, kitsch and trash,
that value’s forged by media fads
or people clothe themselves in ads,
that markets deem technology
both product and cosmology.

At worst this hollows out the soul
which like a scurrying black hole
discovers time is brief and rushed
and inner feelings deeply crushed.
Life then becomes a private scam
that bleats, ’I shop therefore I am.’


The Midas trap

Money’s classic imperfections,
like those of tax and politicians,
sewage dams and lawyer’s fees
polluting cars and democracies,
all balk at being fully removed
but wait in line to be improved.

If viewed across the aeons of time
since life arose from primal slime
mind and money are novel trends,
a means towards mysterious ends.
As Midas learnt these can’t be gold:
his touch was rich and deathly cold.

Would it not be a Midas gain
to let the left-side of the brain
reduce the world to marketplace
demoting ethics, love and grace?
Would Adam Smith not think it odd
that money’s more revered than God?

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