It seems the most natural thing in the world to think that once a society has reached the levels of wealth that we see in most modern advanced countries and their economies, that the worst deprivations would be easy to banish and that most people would feel secure in the material sense. And yet that is most assuredly not the case, so what is going wrong?
There are two things that wealth can never banish: uncertainty and mutual interdependence. No amount of riches or advanced technologies can remove the basic reliance that we have on each other for our mutual safety and security, and that is most especially true about our future safety and security. The advantage of having wealth is the ability it provides to enhance capacity, capability and resilience to cope with an uncertain future. But if that wealth is not spent in the present to create that resilience, but instead stored away to provide capacity in the future, then when that moment comes it will be found that money cannot buy capability and capacity at that moment — money in the future is useless.
What makes us think that money will be useful in the future? It is what we take for granted, our assumptive reality, that leads us into this trap. We assume that all of the mechanisms that exist today, at the time that we store away our money, will exist at the point when we need to convert that money into whatever the practical requirements of safety are at that time. Those assumptions are weak and easily challenged, and most of us would readily acknowledge those weaknesses if we had the consciousness to ask the question.
The capacity and capabilities that will create safety in the future cannot be conjured in that moment, our security at that time will depend entirely on the resources we invested before then.
We cannot build 1 million new houses at the moment that the cost of housing becomes inaccessible, we cannot create new healthcare resources at the moment that a pandemic arrives, we cannot build a new carbon-free electrical grid at the moment that the temperature exceeds 2°C above safe levels.
Money at those times is useless. At those times safety and security is dependent on capabilities and capacities of the social infrastructure that we have already created before then, and on our mutual aid provided between individuals helping each other.
The rich societies of the world are failing to invest in their infrastructure, to build up their resilience, to create the frameworks and resources that will enable mutual aid to flourish at the time that it is needed. Instead highly unevenly distributed resources are sequestered by those lucky enough to have too much in the hope that that wealth can be converted into safety in their futures. In the meantime, the capacity and capabilities of the society they live in slowly degrades, such that each new generation’s assumptive reality is an even more diminished public estate. Observing the diminished solidarity and mutual capacity of their society, those who can put away money for the future are only more convinced that it is only them who can provide any reliable provision for their safety.
In the very act of what we believe is creating our future security, we are actually destroying it
Our analysis is that the societies with the most developed economies in the world have put away the equivalent of a couple of years of the total production of society to provide for the future safety of less than one in five of the population. However, they have not stopped to ask the question, what can they do with all this money when the time comes? These "savings" have in fact robbed their societies of capacity and capabilities that would be necessary for their money to mean anything at the time that it will be needed. There is enough money in the savings to do everything that would be necessary to prepare for at least the challenges that we know are coming, and to create a social infrastructure that will engender, foster and encourage the mutual aid that will be the final determinant of everybody's safety and security. In the very act of what we believe is creating our future security, we are actually destroying it. Instead of investing now to create the security we so desire, we convert our fear into gold and prostrate ourselves before the golden calf and its cowherds.
Two questions we must ask to shake ourselves from our slumbering, stumbling trip into the very destiny we think we are avoiding, are:
What do we expect to buy at the time that we expect to be able to use that money?
Who do we expect will have it to sell to us?
The honest answers are that we expect to be able to use the money to create what we should have built beforehand and we expect to buy the solidarity in which mutual aid depends. Neither is possible. And we know that already.
To create our future safety, we must invest now in collective resources, in creating the social fabric that is, and always was, the only way to assure future safety.
Image credit: Taylor Simpson on Unsplash
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