Cash Ruins Everything Around Me
Cash rules everything around me
C.R.E.A.M., get the money
Dollar dollar bill, y’all– Wu-Tang Clan, C.R.E.A.M
It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.– Henry Ford
In America, we’re taught that there’s nothing more important than money. From birth, we are bred to honor profit and wealth as our defining reasons for being. We worship at the altar of the almighty dollar. Money is God, your first love, your best friend, your dream, and every goal. We put money over everything: women (*bitches), friends, opps. Our music is dominated by dreams of money. Our churches minister to a God who promises riches and a heaven with streets “paved with gold.”
But it wasn’t always this way for Black people here in the Americas. For 400 years, we were considered property in this country. We were traded and sold and tortured for money. We couldn’t dream of money, let alone hope to make it, spend it, throw it, blow it.
How did we get here? How did money go from being our affliction to our addiction? What changed? How did money become our “everything”?
First, let’s go back to a little history of “the bag”
About 40,000 years ago, before what we consider “money” existed, bartering and trade were the dominant forms of exchange. A brother might be able to trade a basket of vegetables for a shirt and both parties would get something they needed. People traded food, animals, weapons, tools, and favors. Sounds like a pretty good system right? You could fuck around and pay somebody with some salt if you had enough of it.
What’s “Bartering”?: exchange (goods or services) for other goods or services without using money. Remember trading cards? You bartered.
At some point, it was decided that some kind of currency, with an agreed-upon value, was necessary. Shells, livestock, pearls, and many other things were used as currency all over the world. These things could represent wealth and social status. You could pay people with this stuff.
The first metal money dates back to 1000 B.C. China. These coins were made from stamped pieces of valuable metal, such as bronze and copper. Coins were a huge milestone in the history of money because they were one of the first currencies that allowed people to pay by count (number of coins) rather than by weight. The concept spread because it was so efficient. A bag of silver coins was a lot easier to transport than a herd of goats. In about 500 B.C., the first round of coins were created and stamped with gods and emperors for authenticity. In 800 AD, Charlemagne issued the silver penny, which was the standard coin in Western Europe from 794 to 1200 A.D.
The first country to use paper money was China, but it was only used until about 1455. Paper money’s lighter weight allowed for international trade, which created problems like distrust and currency wars but also opportunities like the ability to trade in new places for new goods. Paper is worthless but what it represents separates the rich from the poor and can mean the difference between life and death.
The first banks were started by the Roman Empire around 1800 B.C. These banks offered loans and accepted deposits from individuals, but would later disappear with the collapse of the empire. The first bank in the U.S., the Bank of the United States, was established in 1791.
Our Labor Built That Wealth
Now, let’s get something clear: Black people are responsible for the wealth of the entirety of the western world. There is no Bank of the United States without us.
Over the period of the Atlantic Slave Trade, from approximately 1526 to 1867, some 12.5 million slaves were shipped from Africa, and 10.7 million arrived in the Americas. The Middle Passage was dangerous and horrific for enslaved Africans. The sexes were separated. Men, women, and children were kept naked, packed close together; and the men were chained for long periods. About 12 percent of those who embarked did not survive the voyage.
Slavery, particularly the cotton industry which existed from the end of the 18th century to the beginning of the Civil War, was a thoroughly modern business. Enslaved Black slaves were America’s largest financial asset. We made the United States one of the leading economies of the world with the Southern United States becoming home to some of the world’s richest people. The Mississippi River Valley had more millionaires per capita than any other region.
The economic value of the four million enslaved peoples in the U.S. in 1860 was about $4 billion, an average of $1,000 per person. That was more than what all the banks, railroads, and factories in the U.S. were worth at the time. In today’s dollars, that would come out to as much as $42 trillion.
Our labor built that wealth and that wealth built the factories of the North and Europe, fueled the Industrial Revolution, and quite literally built this nation from a fledgling group of colonies to a global superpower. Our labor and that wealth were then used to destroy, take over, colonize, topple, and pillage countries and people through untold violence that continues to this day.
And here we are. Money is now the motive. People once bought, sold, and enslaved for money are now bought, sold, and enslaved to money.
We get it though. There’s history there.
“Money is power”…or that’s how the story goes. The story told by the motherfuckers that stole all the money… to the people that they stole it from. And who doesn’t want power??? Who doesn’t want the power to move and live and laugh and breathe the way people with money do; to have the homes and cars and lives that people with money do?
But capitalism requires an underclass and guess who that is? Black people and oppressed people all over the world. Our labor and hard work allow the rich to get richer while we stay in poverty. There are entire industries built on our incarceration (the “prison industrial complex”) and there are countless capitalist entities that prey on us in our communities (Payday loans, all those shitty Dollar Stores that exist in food deserts, etc.). Now, of course, some of us slip through the cracks and find some success in the rat race but most of those success stories end closer to the top of the pyramid of exploitation, doing what? You guessed it, exploiting the rest of us while selling us the lie that we might one day “make it out too.” Capitalism isn’t set up for all of us to be “bosses” (sorry Dame Dash). As long as there are a few extremely rich people there will be scores of extremely poor people and those rich folks will literally kill to make sure that they never have to trade places with you.
Money is an illusion.
Money is a collective human invention. People agree on how much it’s worth and thus use it for exchange. Money in itself has no use-value for us humans. An orange, car, shoebox, t-shirt, or house does have use value. Money does not have use value as it’s not the end goal of a participant in the economy. The end goal is always goods and services. Therefore, what we use as money is a social contract to be used in trade and to store value, always based on trust.
Money shouldn’t be the goal. When we adopt their story that money is the goal, we also adopt the story that nothing matters except money.
“If it doesn’t make money, it doesn’t make sense (cents).”
“Money over everything.”
“Cash is King.”
“At least he got his bread.” – Usually uttered after a conversation about a person losing their damn soul, integrity, etc.
But fuck that. Money been the motive behind millions of murdered Africans. How dare we buy into that story?
Plus, money isn’t the only power. It isn’t even the true power.
We shouldn’t just think about the story, and who is telling the story, but why they are telling the story.
Why is it so important that they convince us that money is the only way to power, the only way to feel love, to have joy, to have control of your life, to have purpose? We’ve been convinced that it’s perfectly OK to go to extreme, or even self-destructive lengths, to obtain “the bag.”
Now, nobody is saying that money (in itself) is evil. Just the love of it.
And fuck that, we want the power.
And true power is in people.
We can hear you laughing to yourself. Doubting this version of the story. But, think about it. It’s people that make this country move. All that money is used to control people. So, at the end of the day, people are the most important to our movement: their hearts, their minds, their bodies.
Fuck the slice. We want the pie. Time to aim higher and get what they don’t want us to have: a people’s army stronger than anything in history and more powerful than money.