The writer and self-styled magician Alan Moore has spoken of his belief in the commonality between the practice of art and that of magic, both being “the science of manipulating symbols, words or images, to achieve a change in consciousness”. If this is in fact the case, then what we are presented with in the form of monetary systems is the greatest magical performance in the history of humankind. No other symbol is as powerful or ubiquitous as that of currency, not even the symbols of church or state. People may kill and die for flags and gods, but it is only money which can assert control over the entire human race, only cash that lays claim to the entire adult life of almost every individual on the planet, only capital which can leave most of the inhabitants of our world in abject poverty.
Evolution is a process of increased complexity and novelty, both in physical biological systems and systems of thought. This is as obvious in art, music and science as it is in economics. The underlying, glaring truth though, cannot be ignored. The fact that it is a mere idea - an abstract idea - that has enslaved our vast and swarming society, an abstract idea which forces thousands to leave their homeland, an abstract idea which drives some to despair and suicide, or to murder, an abstract idea which drives some to sell their time, their ideas and their bodies. This truly is an act of magic on a colossal scale, an immense atrophy of consciousness brought about by a manipulated symbol.
None of these ideas are new. The ‘root of all evil’ has been decried throughout the ages, and the evils of the power which it represents were decried before that. Jesus threw the money lenders from the temple. “Where any view of Money exists, Art cannot be carried on, but War only”, Blake declared. “Whether hippie or punk, we shit on the bankers”, read a banner of the German autonomes amidst riots against the IMF and World Bank in 1988. And nowadays we have internet activists, hacking websites of government organisations and multinationals, causing millions worth of damage. Millions of what though? An idea. We know it is only an idea. Most of us know it is a bad idea. Yet still we bow.
Some believe we are fast approaching a pinnacle of crisis, where something will invariably have to give. Indeed, some believe things are already beginning to give, that it’s ‘kicking off everywhere’. Maybe this is the happy apocalypse Mr. Moore hopes for, the “strong enough wave of information [that] could completely overturn and destroy all of... our political structures, philosophical structures, ideological frameworks, economies”, which, he is keen to note, “are actually imaginary things”. One can only hope. Rome, after all, didn’t fall in a day.