Thursday, May 7, 2009


No-one knows what money is, which seems odd. We know about strange things like quarks and quasars. But not about money. Everybody claimed wisdom, starting with Economists and ending with academics. Money is 'nothing but numbers', a 'measure', a 'means', a 'liberator', 'money is, what money does'. In fact, money can be anything we believe it to be.

Theories about money are plentiful and can fit any circumstance.They are comforting to us, but fundamentally unreliable. Experience suggests that having confidence and trust in our understanding of money is important for our well being. But our current 'wisdom' oftentimes engenders faith at the expense of the truth.

Say to people, "money is power" and few will disagree. It's our everyday experience of it. It transforms our needs and wants into comfort and satisfaction. That's akin to magic. There is a sense of the sacred about money. It has 'other-worldly' qualities. Money can be also considered as metaphysical; existing outside of our consciousness. like time.

-Money is so involved with what we are as beings, and who we are as people, that it remains a 'fuzzy' idea.
-Money determines the price of everything because it knows the value of nothing.
-Price is to Money as weight is to gravity. They are both mundane measures of profound powers.
-Money is not a limited resource. Its not like coal or oil, wheat or cotton, guns or diamonds; its a force.
-By being able of appropriating all objects desired, money is thus the object of eminent possession. The universality of its property is the omnipotence of its being. It is therefore regarded as omnipotent.

The growth of commerce subverted the power relationships in society. Money is seen as something negative because it corrodes social bonds. When hiring servants became possible, the demand for their services and the desire for money, drove (mainly) young women from their family, to serve others. They stopped working for free, and chose to sell their work to the rich.

Charity is a way to transfer that force to others about whom we feel guilty. sometimes we feel guilty because we feel responsible for their plight, and sometimes we feel guilty just because we have stuff and they don't. But by transferring ownership of the 'money-force' through charity, we make it harder for them to understand their own relationship with money. We cannot bear to see their suffering, their otherness, so we give away our power to make them more like us - except not quite as good. Charity is always more about the giver than the receiver. Charitable exchange sustains social imbalance in a way that commercial exchange does not. Charity is a quicksand that pulls the poor further into poverty with each donation.


Paul said...

Money is a fiction. I disagree entirely with your last statement I'm afraid. The only meaningful thing you can do with money is give it away. All work for money is a form of slavery and if you feel guilty about having power you should be working toward a revolution.

Jason Gusmann said...

as i have endless respect for both of yr very formidable intellects, i want to choose my words wisely as my feelings on the subject fall somewhere between the poles. i admire the depth of feeling and obvious empathy that underlies paul's statments (or i wouldnt have become a social worker), but my personal experience of the reality of 'charity' is far, far closer to mariana's. but paul is right about something else - if we share this feeling, we should be working toward a revolution.

Mariana Soffer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mariana Soffer said...

Paul I belive we have similar opinions indeed:

1."The growth of commerce subverted the power relationships in society,They stopped working for free, and chose to sell their work to the rich" This is a kind of slavery to me, but maybe it is not stated clearly.
2.Charity is used by big companies to pay less taxes, did you know that? So charity is perpetuating the perverted system.
3. If you have lots of money the simplest way to make yourself belive is donate money, but most people do not get involve in the process of helping people, so usually this money ends up being miss-used.
4.You can go and buy food for poor people for a couple of month, but when you end giving it to them, they are right where they started. The key is helping them learn, change their life, and you feed them till they are free to survive by themselves.
5.The thing about revolution is long, but that's my main objective in life, I want to really change things. Too long to discuss how here.

Mariana Soffer said...

Jason: First thank you very much for your compliment.
So you are a social worker, how intresting, I would like to know more about it.
Since you started with the revolution idea, I think that the way I can help to cohange and improve people's life at a higher degree is by using my scientific/infirmatic skills
(maybe I am wrong I can do something else, not sure). I have
several ideas about things to do, but they are just drafts residing in my mind. Since I am doing research I consider I am training myself for that. We should talk about that one of these days, I would love to hear your opinions.

Uncle Tree said...

When does philanthropists become an enabler, Mariana? Some people are wont to take, take, take and that's all they end up knowing. A handout. Welfare is necessary and deserving for many, but not for all. The system does not discriminate, it helps to keep you locked in once you're in.

Charitable contributions go far beyond money. One can serve the common good, and the only thing that it will cost you is your precious time. That's called 'spending your soul', as opposed to 'selling out and losing your soul in the process'. I think Paul said that.

Christianity and Capitalism have yet to come to terms with each other. Jesus wants us to be charitable, never mind the cost. One has to be quite the fanatic to pull that off, or a priest/monk/hermit, whatever. It does seem to most of us as a completely unreasonable way of life. We have families to raise.

Money became extremely real for the 320 people who received their walking papers today. I'm talking about my place of employment. I'm safe for now, being an old-timer.

The severance pay offered could hardly be called charitable. It's a take it, or leave it, affair. If you had under 7 years of employment or so (320 out of 969), in the meeting we had, you suddenly became 'one of them'. 2 weeks notice. Surprise!!! Jobs are scarce, but the tears today were aplenty.

Socialism is a naughty word, so I won't say it out loud. I believe that wealth is limited to what I have, what I want, and what do you have that I can take from you in a 'fair sounding' deal.

Anonymous said...

Money is an illusion. The current economic meltdown world wide proves that we have reached a place in our evolution where we must confront the insanity of this monetary madness we are quickly outgrowing. It is madness you know.

Mariana Soffer said...

valbrusell: I like what you say, it is nonsense, insane, hypocrite, so many proofs, so many activists, and still, nothing, everything is practically the same. Maybe it is related to the human being tendency to self destruction but at a global scale.
But I need help with advices, I do not know what to do regarding to that.

Mariana Soffer said...

My dear uncle:
I think in obsessively about those people that take take and take
why? what for? what is the mental mechanism that produces this?

I do not know why but I consider it much more valuable when people
do charity with their time, body, sacrifice, and other things
that do not involve money.

IT is extremely wise what you say about ..., excuse me let me
put the words cause I like them. "Christianity and Capitalism have yet to come to terms with each other".

Rules about employment are pretty weird in your country, in Argentina
they are mostly pretty awful.

I would put the emphasis in what I want, or desire, I think
that part is not tuned correctly in lots of people

Harry said...

I was thinking that in order to change things, or produce a revolution, we can study in depth how does open source software works/functions, because there is no money involved in the production of the programs, and there is also no selling money.

Mariana Soffer said...

I am sad to inform you that Open source is used to produce money, for example I know a company (no names) that does this open source programs, but then charges people and companies for installing, modifying and giving them support

Harmonie22 said...

I think money in of itself is fine, its the people who are the problem: money has a way of bringing out the worst in people because people measure your worth not by who and what are are but by how much money you have, which is shallow and pathetic really. But I like giving to others when I can. I don't donate to charity but I practice random acts of kindness when I can afford to, to someone it makes a difference to. Not because I want anything in return, but to give back to life. Maybe charity is about the giver, there's a lot of truth in that,perhaps because there is some truth to the phrase "the gift of giving."


Mariana Soffer said...

I am happy to see you harmoniee:
yeah, things are never the problem, is how we use them. What we do with them. But it is easier to blame stuff, than to blame ourselves.

I really liked and agree with what you said, it is wise and generous.

Mayer Spivack said...

I suggest a metaphor to characterize the social impact of people who have psychotic obsessions with money (the sociopaths who operate Ponzi schemes for example). If money is the blood of a society, then mutual trust is the oxygen that keeps the economic body alive. The unimagined depth and extent of mental illness we are all becoming aware of in our society has made us feel like all the oxygen in the civic society has been stolen. These people, and there are more of them than we ever imagined, ‘take up all the oxygen in the room’.

Unfortunately, as we age, we become increasingly aware of just how many mentally ill people we encounter in our daily lives. There are several misfortunes here. The first is that most of us have been so unaware and naïve of this problem for most of our lives, and only late, nearly too late, become aware of it. This is a kind of ignorance that is cured by experience. The second is that these psychotic people are miserable, sufferers, baffled by their condition and helpless without psychotherapy and or medications to stay balanced. The third is that we, society, cannot agree if the mentally ill should be helped or punished or both., These problems harm everyone, leaving us all feeling helpless and in greater stress. Last, the direct and indirect damage done by these combined illnesses create so much stress in the rest of the body economic that many more people become similarly ill. This is a dangerous cycle.

Mariana Soffer said...


I like metaphor of the first paragraph, specially the sensation cause by the idea of people that "take up all the oxygen in the room".

I guess you are right, most people do not pay attention to the mentally-ill, sadly it is not my case since I had a close person with that problem. But I think it is great that you call attention to this fact.
Have you read Foucault's book about the invention of the "madness"
institution? it is pretty interesting cause it give you some insight about the arbitrary
rules we lived by, and about how the concepts we thought existed since ever, where created"
I think you are right mentally-ill people usually live a painful life, is not fun to have these problems at all. And that vicious cycle you mention makes a lot of sense to me, never thought about it.
Extremely interesting reflections Mr Spivak, thanks a lot.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I go diving off the deep end again! And I've been drinking. I just like to add a wee bit of humour when I comment. *wink*

However, I have. I will not lie. I also can not comment on every one else's comments but I'll say my piece (peace?)

But first, I hate jumping back and forth and forth and back between the Post and the Comment Section! Terribly painful for a wee gal with ADD (and I'll get to the mental stuff...?)

Charity: I have worked a lot in this sector and have been privy to studies done as to: "Where Your Money Goes!" It has been astounding! And believe me, once those charities have had the spotlight shone on them, wow have things changed! Nonetheless, other organizations have been fantastic in terms of their contribution distribution and your money goes where it should.

On a personal note, I have been on the recipient end of a "charity" and I do not feel like I have been pulled further into poverty. In fact, I never was in poverty! I just needed help that I could not afford! Therefore (this is/may be off course from the mental illness comment) that is why I needed it and I got it!

I will not go further for privacy reasons but oh, holy hell, was it a nightmare! In fact, I donated all of my "charity dollars" to this organization! Which is funny...but that, again, is a personal story.

Now, excuse me if I am going a bit hither and yon. Welfare, Social services etc... They suck. That is because the government controls them. It is like "Big Business." Bureaucracy. Endless paperwork. I could be wrong as I am not rich and have not come from money, however, I am dealing with the above and it is a Royal Pain in The Ass!

Still, we need it. Or some form of it. For pathetic souls like me. Even if it isn't great, I am in need of whatever I can get and people worse off than me would be in the streets.

OMG, where am I now?

valbrussel. I kind of agree with your "madness," if I've got it right? Indeed, all of this "fuss" about the current "Economic State." It's a roller coaster, as been, always will be. Hello...history?

Okay...time to bring out the big, medium, tiny guns? Just kidding! PA is non-violent!

Mayer Spivack. With all due respect...excuse me? First, "sociopath" is really not within the "Mental Illness" Canon anymore.

I also find the breadth of your leap with "psychopaths" that are so "obsessed" with money now, my, my, what a leap to the "Mentally Ill Population" as a whole.

Or perhaps I missed something.

Because you know I am mentally ill. However, I am not a psychopath obsessed with money. Of that, you can be sure.

I'm going to stop now--being mentally ill. Because I really don't understand quite what you are saying in reference to this Post.

I know there are definite economical factors in treatment but they are more to do with healthcare, not to do with any "concepts" of money! At least from my perspective!


I need a cigarette!

Mayer Spivack said...

Gosh, patientanoymous, lower your cannons for a moment! I surrender! How could a sociopath be anything other than just one more category of mental illness in an over-categorized canon? I have not made the generalization that because one category of mentally ill persons is symptomatic in a particular way, that all mentally ill persons must therefore also have these symptoms. Perhaps I have somehow been unclear. Probably the confusion stems from my own keen awareness of the many high-roller scams and schemes we suddenly face in the international banking and investment and government communities. The only connection here is how badly these Ponzi schemes have damaged the nonprofit charitable funds that once did some good stuff. Incidentally, I am a retired psychotherapist. My training therapist always and frequently reminded his trainees that all of us, everyone, is in some way mentally ill, or will be so, within their lifetime. No stigmas. Mental illnesses are just a group of mostly unrelated human struggles, like the flu, TB, herpes, and other painful afflictions of body or mind. Stay cool. it is a rare person who is completely mentally ill. Most folks have many healthy parts working as well. We are all both ill and well. Let’s hope we can strengthen our well bits.

Mariana Soffer said...

Patient: Good to know that some organizations you worked at make the money go where it has to go, nevertheless that is not the only problem we are referring to when we talk about charity.

It’s great that charity worked for you, and you are right that it did not make you any poorer, and that it helped you. Well I do not know what is the percentage of people that charity worked well with. Maybe it worked on you because you have interests and want to do things, but many people don't.

Sorry to tell you this, but I think you seriously misunderstood Mr Spivak in some of his ideas in his comment, and got obfuscated without proper reasons. But what I disagree with you is about how you dialogue with Spivak here. First I think you are taking what he said personal, which is not at all, he was speaking of things and people in general. I would be more delicate when I disagree with others (specially if they are as polite as he is) and I will always give the other the benefit of the doubt. Remember that we always make mistakes, and have misconceptions, the interesting and difficult part consists in, first accept that we where mistaken and second try to understand them properly.

I admire how you talked about your personal stories, including mental illness, which takes a lot of courage to do. And I think your contributions to the different posts are very valuable. Why? Because? You are a smart person, know lots of facts and lived lots of things.

Mariana Soffer said...

Charity was probably born based on good intention and also worked well for a while, but later on the initial objective became forgotten and also external entities put obstacles for it to work.

Related to the human struggles you talk about, I thought the following:
Many people still do not agree with the fact that a mental-illness such as depression is a sickness in the same way that hepatitis is. It is fundamental to educate people about this fact, including mentally ill ones which can suffer much more due to this common misconception.

I completely agree that we have both ill and healthy parts. I also think we should work on strengthen our good parts but also we need to fight for the healing of our ill parts. Thank you very much for you very lucid reflection.

PD:read my previous comment

Anonymous said...

To the blog owner, Mariana Soffer and Mayer Spivack:

I sincerely apologize if I have offended either of you and any fellow Commenters or Readers of your blog. It was not my intent to do so.

As stated above, I indeed must have misunderstood some fundamental concepts and as such, acted in an unacceptable manner. In fact, I am not very happy at all in which that manner may have now led me to be perceived.

If that perception should be of anything such as a "troll" in nature or something similar, I am even more sorry. I do not engage that type of online behaviour and further, I believe in respect for all in the blogosphere.

If I did not display that respect for anyone here, I deeply apologize and will repeat once again, it was not my intent.


Mariana Soffer said...

My dear patient, I really appreciate your appologies, but please do not worry that much. You are always welcome here to discuss stuff.
Discussions are for exchanging opinions with other people. Many times there are disagreements, and someties there are missunderstandings.
I think that is importortant to learn from mistakes, or at least what you feel is something you shoudn't have done. We all make mistakes, I think I have an average of 6.5 a day.
Take it easy, and take care of yourself.

Mayer Spivack said...

I know of no family that is free from illnesses of some kind. Mental illness is probably the most prevalent of all, and the most puzzling. A great deal of progress is being made as we write to each other. Within the decade or less many illnesses that originate in the brain (the 'mental' illnesses) will have effective relief, not a dumbing numbing down as was true in the 50's until quite recently, but a reversal and elimination of the causes. Revolutionary treatments are on the way.

The brain, if you can knit one in an evening, (actually two people of opposite genders can make one in a few minutes) may be a simple thing but there is a lot of it, and a lot of simplicity can add up to a lot of complexity. There is more to discover in the brain than we have yet discovered. What a wonder!

Please patientanonymous, you have done no harm to anyone. I appreciate your really well written and clear apology, but you caused me no personal pain. This clarity is a great demonstration of your health.

Anonymous said...

I now hold a belief so tightly I will probably never let it go! That belief is that we, mankind, as one would be better off without a monetary system. A year ago I wrote an essay for school explaining how our whole lives are devoted to earning a paycheck; we basically work ourselves to death and do not have much time at all for the things that really matter. The monetary system divides us as people and creates an unnatural imbalance. I am only 21 years old and was fortunate enough to make more money in this past year than both my parents combined, so you could say I am in a pretty good position; basically financially set for years with debt and all that follows as far away from the mind as possible. I would gladly burn every dollar I have just to abolish the monetary system. What are your thoughts on the monetary system in general?

Mariana Soffer said...

Very interesting, I would like to see the esay eventually. I think that money does make us slave, and that it would be great if we could find some other way to handle things, but I have nothing to propose regarding it, besides comunism failed already. By the way I like your story a lot, I like to know a little about the peopele I am exchanging thohghts with.
To go on with my story, well I live in a third world country so things are pretty harsh here, but I can make it now cause I am 36 and I inherited a house of my own when my dad died, therefore I can get by without much money. I used to get payed a lot of money when I was young cause I won the olympics and it was the w2k hype and also the .doc after that so what I did was work for a limited time, lets say 10 months and then trouble arround places like europe for a couple of months. So I was always just with the money I needed. Nowadays I just want to do research which does not pay much money but I do not care.
Thats my story and somehow ideas in general