Money is something that we have none of or not enough of, but never too much of. Others might have too much of it, but not us; we'll take all we can get. It is one of the few things in the world with which great things can be accomplished and on the flip side inspire the most horrific acts imaginable. It is the most divisive commodity known to mankind, yet can unite us in ways like nothing else. Money, it's been said, is the root of all evil, but it's actually the pursuit of it that causes all the problems.
Money, by definition, is something of value and in its earliest form was simply an exchange of things like cattle, sheep, chickens or crops which were difficult to squeeze into a wallet. We gradually adopted more easily transportable currency like sea shells, beads and later, gold, silver, credit cards and food stamps.
Bitcoins, electronically generated currency, is all the rage these days and shouldn't be confused with bits of coins which were divided like pizza slices and literally bitten off; 2 bits, 4 bits, 6 bits, 8 bits a dollar. Remember "Shave and a haircut-2 bits" (which was a quarter)? Well never mind; you might be too young to be reading this column.
Today, currency is rarely seen and there are two primary reasons for this; 1) most monetary transactions are done electronically by magic and 2) nobody has any. Nobody, meaning people like you and me.
So where has all the money gone? Professional athletes, entertainers and politicians have lots of it along with a few muckety mucks in some industry or another, but mostly the high rollers in the tech sector, the folks that do the electronic mystical money magic. Hmmm, what does that tell you?
Money is known by many names; cash, clams, cabbage, lettuce, dough and of course bucks, shekels, simoleons, scratch and moola. There are dozens more slang expressions but most of us identify with "zilch" as in "I've got zilch for money".
Though bartering is making a comeback, chickens, pigs and sheep are no longer acceptable forms of payment; just ask your doctor, dentist or friendly neighborhood banker. "We accept cash, checks and major credit cards. No chickens please. Thanks for your patronage."
Money is really just a useful tool for either acquiring things or making things happen that can only be accomplished with some form of currency that doesn't involve animals or vegetables. Sometimes only large sums will suffice like buying a house or an election. Elections are perennially won by selling out to the highest bidders, throwing obscene amounts of money at campaigns and bartering with the Devil. We are bombarded with all kinds of news about the mid-term elections and how much the campaigns cost; try millions. Now, like most years, we will select our candidates and eventual representation by how much money was spent to get them to D. C. We get daily junk-mail asking us to contribute to some campaign or another with complete disregard for what the candidate stands for or against. "Just send the money!" Democracy has been reduced to the almighty dollar and who out spends whom. Who goes to Washington, Whom stays home.
College and professional sports are fueled by the money they require to field teams that will win at all costs-and those costs are high. Star players suspected, accused or guilty of crimes routinely receive light reprimands and are allowed to continue, even applauded and revered, for leading the team to victory. Winning increases revenue, losing costs money and trust me, big-time sports are all about the money.
Most of us would be hard pressed to think of almost any human endeavor that doesn't require some form of money. The water we drink, the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the shelters we build all require money. Depending on our own personal habits and our "carbon footprint" we are not only taxed for our sins, but we'll soon be taxed for the air we breathe. I know, I know. Just take a deep breath and count to ten.
Whether it's politics, sports or just living a normal life, barter or cash, money does the talking.
It has been said that "Love makes the world go 'round". Maybe, but it won't work at the checkout counter.
Jock Davidson is an Athens resident who writes this column for The DPA. He can be reached at email@example.com