The greatest myth and truth of our times is money. The romantic belief that money can solve most, if not all, our problems. The market faith in values that can be measured, negotiated and contracted at the right price.
What money can’t buy is worth-less. It has no value. If you can’t buy something or someone it might not even exist! Take love. True love can’t be bought. It’s a gift. The love of a mother, a friend, a lover.
Love is a mystery the market does not understand but naively attempts to harness with desire. But love is not a slave to desire like eros. Which explains why sex sells because love can only be given.
What’s ‘free’ has no value. But in the market economy, nothing comes for free. Not even gifts. Everything has been commoditised. From Christmas, to Easter, Valentines, Mothers, Fathers and birth days.
Money converts love into a contract. Something we buy and sell replacing love’s gift. A romantic myth which is manufactured and sold in the market. We buy friends with Facebook likes. We negotiate real life relationships with barter and compromise. We sell our true self, and post our ‘best’ self, to buy a date on Tinder.
If you can’t fix something with money, it’s use-less. It is unseen by the market and therefore becomes obscene; offensive because it has no meaning, no sign by which we can assign it value.
Who believes this? Who sold us this ‘truth’? It’s the religion of the baby boomers. We didn’t always believe in money. We once believed in peace, love and revolution.
But the sixties counter revolution of love was doomed to sell its collective soul to the Devil at the cross roads of love and desire. Our greatest prophets told us this would happen.
The best things in life are free But you can keep them for the birds and bees Now give me money That’s what I want
My generation who preached “give peace a chance” and “all you need is love” lost faith in the revolution when we lost all our heroes to drugs, guns and the establishment. We fell in love, birthed our own children then grew up. This is what John Lennon told Rolling Stone in 1971.
“The dream is over. It’s just the same, only I’m thirty, and a lot of people have got long hair. That’s what it is, man, nothing happened except that we grew up, we did our thing— just like they were telling us.”1
We still wanted to change the world, but love wasn’t enough. Love and people power wasn’t going to stop the war. We needed something more. Something to pay the bills.
You’re loving gives me a thrill But you’re loving don’t pay the bills Now give me money That’s what I want2
My generation was doing all this while I was still learning to talk and walk in the Sixties. Then those who sold out and joined the establishment, those esteemed wizards who dare to call their wizardry “science,” churning random numbers into narratives about generations and demographics, claimed they had found gold.
The alchemy of these wizards is the alchemy of the market. Turning demographics into markets and products. Manufacturing desire, differentiating the masses, designing our life styles and raiding our wallets so we can discover our identity in brands that tell us who we are.
And somewhere in this soul factory of production and desire we lost our hearts and what it meant to love and be free. We stopped believing in love. And that’s why the revolution stopped.
Technically I’m a boomer but I think and act more like a Gen X. (The wizards later adjusted their formulas to allow for demographic overlaps.) This might explain why I’m prone to irony and cynicism.
I helped form a new wave rock band in the 80s called Anti-X. X was big back then with Uncanny X Men, XTC and INXS. My creedal doctrines are post modern. I didn’t believe in X. Nor did the wizards or Douglas Copeland – who wasn’t really a wizard but wrote the novel Generation X.
But we all believed in money.
Copeland had the dubious pleasure of being caught up in the wizards alchemy. But he was a novelist, an artist not a marketer. And this is an important distinction. The overlap between art and the market. Creation and money. Production and desire.
Gilles Deleuze3 calls production the immanent principle of desire. A creative power. For Deleuze, desire precedes being (Heidegger and the existentialists). And it precedes lack (Freud and psychoanalysis). All production springs from desire.4 Not just for capitalism but also culture and religion. Not a desire to possess but to create.
Desire is the gospel according to Deleuze that has the potential to free us but it is antithetical to the desire for God and the gift of creativity posited in Christ (Makoto Fujimanta, Art And Faith: A Theology of Making). All desire outside of God is a chasing after idols. On this reading, Deleuze is anti-Christ and so too is the market to the extent that it is driven by perverse desire.
The Mad Men of Madison Avenue were the alchemists of capitalism. The genius of advertising executive Don Draper in the HBO Mad Men series (2007 – 2015) was that he didn’t believe. The whole point of the soul factory of production is to create desire. You don’t need to believe, you just need to want.
The paradox of Draper was that he didn’t believe. He could be forgiven for being too old to understand the Beatles in episode 8, Last Lazarus, of season 5. But he seemed just as lost in California with the hippies and hyped Hollywood crowd where he managed to lose his second wife, Megan Draper, to her acting career.
I thought at first that Draper had somehow fallen into a crack between the 1950s ‘establishment’ and the Sixties anti establishment rebellion. But no. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to settle down or rebel. He was just lost. Why? Because he had unchained himself from the sun (Nietzsche). God.
After Generation X Copeland wrote Life After God, the story of a generation lost. (See my blog post The End of Apocalypse: The Matrix, Zizek and life After God.)
Augustine wrote in his Confessions that our hearts find no peace until they rest in God.5 The heart is always searching. If it doesn’t find God, it invents idols. Idols of desire. It is desire that is polluted, not money.
The truth of money is desire. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.6
We read this text and believe it sanctifies us from money. We preach that money isn’t the root of all evil. It’s the love of money that is. So long as we don’t love money we’re OK. As long as we use money wisely we’re good stewards. And if we give our money to God we’ll be blessed (by this we mean getting more money).
But that’s not how money works. As a utility, money is soulless. It has no power in itself. What fuels money with power and gives it soul is desire. Our desires. Desires come from the heart. Our hearts pulse with all sorts of desire like our lungs pump oxygen.
Without desire we have no souls. Without desire we are Frankenstein monsters that have had our hearts ripped out for Frankenstein’s experiment to power his own creation.
When we say ‘the love of money’ we are really talking about the desire that money facilitates. But we can’t eliminate desire – not unless we rip out our hearts. Augustine said our hearts are restless until we find God. Our hearts are always searching, on the move, breathing in and out desires.
Desiring is how God made us. The real problem is what we desire. Our desire was created as part of who we are to worship God. When we are not desiring God, then we will by default desire other things which then become idols because they are God substitutes.
Our blind spot is we overestimate the purity of our heart’s intentions. Instead of letting God deal with our hearts we administer our own self help and believe everything is alright. (See my previous blog post Peace, Love & The Beatles. Part I – Whatever happened to the Revolution? on the delusion of thinking everything’s alright.)
So the real problem with money is our desires – what we desire – which is what the Apostle Paul is saying when writing to Timothy.6 When we assume that our desires are pure and money is neutral, that’s when we come unstuck.
It’s what and how we desire that we need to be on guard against, not the money itself. Money doesn’t fuel desire. Desire fuels money. But money can’t buy us love.
Our prophets told us this too.
I’ll buy you a diamond ring, my friend If it makes you feel all right I’ll get you anything my friend If it makes you feel all right ‘Cause I don’t care too much for money For money can’t buy me love I’ll give you all I’ve got to give If you say you love me too I may not have a lot to give But what I’ve got I’ll give to you I don’t care too much for money For money can’t buy me love… Can’t buy me love, oh Everybody tells me so Can’t buy me love, oh No, no, no, no7
The trouble is, our prophets didn’t listen to their own hearts… and we didn’t listen either.
- John Lennon interview, Rolling Stone, February 1971
- Money (That’s What I Want), With The Beatles, 1963, written by Berry Gordy & Janie Bradford
- Deleuze is a philosopher. One of those French post modern theorists that get all the bad press.
- Daniel M. Bell Jr, The Economy of Desire: Christianity and Capitalism in a Postmodern World, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids 2012, p44
- Saint Augustine, Confessions, trans. P.S. Pine, Penguin, 1961, Book 1:1 p21
- 1 Timothy 6:10
- Can’t Buy Me Love, A Hard Day’s Night, 1964, written by John Lennon & Paul McCartney
This post is the second in a two part series on the Sixties and The Beatles. See my previous blog post Peace, Love & The Beatles. Part I – Whatever happened to the Revolution? to catch up on the first part.)
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