(noun, etymology Dutch from ‘boedel’: estate, possession, inheritance, stock.). 1. Crowd, pack, lot, as in ‘the whole boodle.’ 2. a. Counterfeit money b. Money acquired or spent illegally or improperly, particularly when used in bribery for political purposes. 3. Slang for money in general.

Bottoms Up: A Toast to Money

Posted on: May. 10, 2011  |  By: Ronnie Kahn  |  Category: General

There is a collective energy that flows in our global world.  Think about how many of us are reflecting on the impact of the killing of Osama Bin Laden (OBL).  Ironically, this came just briefly after many of us, although a smaller majority, had watched the pomp and circumstance of the Royal Wedding.  To some, OBL was a martyr and to many in the West, he was a modern day Hitler.  Talking heads everywhere speak to how his death will affect our world.  Will things change modestly, greatly, or not at all?  His impact was felt not only just upon the West’s emotions of anger, fear, and making ourselves feel safe but also his goal that he wanted all of this to hit our pocket book as well.  After all, it was no symbolic accident that the World Trade Center was targeted.  That means that we can add to our reflection, how will his death impact money?  After all, our runaway budget deficit is in large part a response in bringing about the coming of two wars (perhaps three) and countless other costs related to the military and the intelligence communities.  We paid for most of this by running deficits, meaning the money was just created and then turned into debt obligations.  All of us worry about what these deficits will do and whether they will explode our economy or leave our children to suffer hardships not of their making.

Some of our reflections may boil down to that OBL was a shadowy figure of evil.  It is easy for most of us to compartmentalize evil as ‘we’ versus ‘them.’  While many in the West may feel a sense of justice it also seems that dancing on another’s grave goes over toward the dark side.  Others of us though see a dark side to our own self as well.   A dark side that may stimulate a fight, flight, or ignore response meaning that we may confront or run away from these aspects of our own character.  Similarly, money has a dark side.  It can be responsible for great progress or growth or it can unleash a side of our world where some would sell out to short term gains in order to benefit a small elite while dragging all of us down in the long run.  Sometimes this is called the tragedy of the commons where self-interest eventually ruins all of our interests.

On the political front, with OBL out of the way perhaps we can gain some of our rights back in the way of freedoms such as privacy and legal rights.  On the other hand, some would argue that torture was what brought him down and this is no time to let up being on the offensive so that we may keep making inroads regardless of our rights.

On the other side of the dark side of money though is that perhaps the death of OBL can be seen as an opportunity to reform money and nurse us back to collective health since we can start to refocus on the bigger picture of what we can do when we put our minds and spirits together.  Perhaps, we can see that while there is a threat of terrorism, that the common enemy of what we are doing with money can bring us down just as easily as a terrorist cell.  Perhaps we can also see if we keep making up debt to solve our problems than the attempted cure will be worse than the problem.

When the death was first announced, I heard it that President Obama said that this is what can happen when we put our minds together to do something.  Upon further reflection, is it not time to put that same resolute effort into changing or transforming money?  Many wonder if we have gone too far with money.  Like global warming, have we waited too long to reverse the impact?  Have the government, banking, and financial sector so embedded themselves into money that it is too late to wean them off and steer us back on a healthy course?  This side of money is one of the reasons why wealth has become so concentrated in so few of hands.

All of these are top down solutions to money meaning that in order to change we have to have a change in economic and political institutions.  All of the forces of energy here have been used to sustain a situation where fewer and fewer of us partake in the light side, as opposed to the dark side, of money.  Comparing money to fire prevention, when all the energy is put into fire prevention which than allows huge buildups of forest, than we are vulnerable to the one lightning strike which can cause massive damage.  If there is any way to change the inertia of money it would be a form of controlled burns where each small fire causes the forest as a whole to be protected from giant uncontrolled wildfires.  In other words, if money can be saved it possibly might have to come from bottom up.  This means that we have to have a collectivist and social activist way of dealing with money.  Instead of terrorist cells, we start with money cells that work to reward the values that most of us care about.  Each cell can be local and restore honesty and integrity to their group while being inclusive of other groups getting more and more of us on board.  For example, let’s say we start with a local currency other than the greenback which is accepted for an exchange of real services and products which bypasses the banking, financial, and deficit spending method of money.  This can also work its way up the ladder so that one company can deal directly with another and bypass the financial interest on money system and instead replacing it with trusted vendors.  Perhaps then the political leaders will have the courage to change the dysfunctional way money is working now before it is too late.

In my last blog post (see Unconditional Love and Money blog post of May 3, 2011) I wrote about the fact that there is a social gift nature to money and property as well as the individual market nature of money.  My hope was that in order to advance and evolve money that we can blend the two natures together.  My worry is that if we keep naively focusing on just the common enemy, like terrorism, we will forget that the dark side is contained within our own institutions, groups, and individuals.  My reflection has led me to the conclusion that the power of money can bring us together with vigilance, energy, fairness, trust, and redemption when the institutional side is minimized while the grass roots side, the bottoms up faction, is empowered or we can end up like the Grimm story of “The Jew in the Hawthorn Hedge (see below).”   My worry extends to that there will be no substantial change and that there will be no dialogue around money which the Grimm story personifies (see italic section below).  In this story the dark side prevents the type of change that would move things forward.  An opportunity to build momentum is pushed back and nothing progresses.  This is reprinted from Lewis Hyde’s The Gift (see resource section) in which the book was also mentioned in the Unconditional Love and Money blog post of May 3, 2011:

The Jew in the Hawthorn Hedge

Once upon a time there was an honest and hardworking servant who worked for a rich miser. The servant was always the first one out of bed in the morning and the last one in bed at night. Whenever there was a hard task no one else wanted to tackle, the servant would take it in hand. He never complained; he was always jolly.
The miser kept the servant around by never paying him his wages.  After three years, however, the servant announced that he wanted to see a bit of the world and he asked for his pay. The miser gave him three farthings, one for each year, saying, ‘That’s a bigger and handsomer wage than you would have received from many a master.’ The good servant, who understood little about money, pocketed his capital and went on his way, up hill and down dale, singing and skipping to his heart’s content.
Soon the servant met a little dwarf who asked him for help, saying that he was poor and needy and too old to work. The kindhearted servant took pity on the dwarf and he handed over his three farthings.  Then the dwarf said, ‘Because you’ve been so good to me, I shall rant you three wishes.’ ‘All right,’ said the servant, ‘I’ll wish myself first a blowgun that will hit everything I aim at; secondly, a fiddle which, when I play it, will make everybody dance who hears the sound; and thirdly, if I make a request of anybody, that he may not refuse it.’
The wishes granted, the servant went merrily on his way. Soon he met a Jew who was standing by the road, listening to a bird singing in the top of a tall tree. ‘Miracle of God!’ the Jew cried, ‘to think that such a small creature should have such an awfully powerful voice! If only it were mine!’ Whereupon the servant shot the bird with his newly acquired blowgun. It fell dead into a hawthorn hedge.  ‘You dirty dog,’ said the servant to the Jew, ‘go and fetch your bird!’ ‘Oh my!’ said the Jew. ‘If the gentleman will drop the “dirty,” the “dog” will come on the run! I’m willing to pick up the bird, for after all, you hit it.’ He lay on the ground and began to work his way into the bushes. When he was in the middle of the hawthorns, a spirit of mischief got the better of the good servant: he took up his fiddle and started to play. The Jew began to dance wildly; the thorns tore his coat, combed his goatee and pricked him all over. The Jew begged the servant to stop but he wouldn’t, thinking, ‘You’ve skinned plenty of people; now the hawthorn hedge won’t be any kinder to you.’ Finally the Jew offered to give the servant a whole purse of gold if he’d stop his fiddling. The servant took the gold and went on his way.
When the servant was quite out of sight the Jew began to curse him. ‘You wretched musician, you tavern  fiddler! You rogue, put a penny in your mouth so that you may be worth four farthings!’ When he had thus given vent to his feelings he went into town to find a judge. The judge sent his people after the servant who was brought back to town, tried and condemned to the gallows for highway robbery.  As he mounted the ladder with the hangman, however, the servant asked the judge to grant him one last wish. ‘I beg you let me play my fiddle one last time.’ Of course as soon as he started to play, everyone began to dance, even the town dogs, until all were so tired the judge offered to free him and give him anything if he would only stop playing.
The good servant put down his fiddle and climbed down from the gallows. He stepped up to the Jew who was lying on the ground and gasping for breath. ‘You dirty dog, now confess where you got your money or I’ll begin to play again.’ ‘I stole it, I stole it!’ screamed the Jew, ‘but you earned it honestly.’ The judge had the Jew led to the gallows and hanged as a thief.
This repulsive little story belongs to a group of tales in the Grimms collection in which the imaginative growth of the plot is cut off by some unquestionable collective attitude. It comes from a culture (early 19thcentury Germany) that had not learned to live with the Jew in the hedge any more than Pound ever did.
The servant in the story is ‘softhearted,’ a character at home with gift exchange but not with money. The first thing we should note is that his softheartedness, by itself, is not a weakness or failing: his gift exchange works. It has its own power. He gets his wishes. In a different tale – if, for example, the problem of the story were to find the servant a bride – things would have proceeded with no further ado after the gift exchange with the dwarf.   But the problems in this story are power, greed, and social relations mediated by money. This seems to be a land where people sell their labor in the marketplace. The servant’s soft heart is not enough. He’s a naïf, somebody who just got off the boat. He’s Walt Whitman lifted from a Civil War hospital, 1862, and set down in London, 1914.
At the start of the tale the miser cheats the servant and the servant doesn’t feel the insult. On a conscious level, he has no idea what three years’ labor is worth. He goes singing and skipping down the road, and we are left waiting for the other shoe to drop. Then on his first wish our happy worker calls for a weapon! Clunk. Now we know the insult was felt. It is not yet conscious, but the servant does have a money side to him, one that felt both hurt and unarmed when he was cheated.
The Jew appears. I take the Jew to be the servant’s shadow, a personification of that part of him that felt the blow. The Jew is exactly the man the servant needs to meet, too. Here is someone who knows about money, who could tell him the market value of a year’s work. The Jew makes this clear with his parting insult: ‘Put a penny in your mouth so that you may be worth four farthings.’ The image sums up the problem: our simpleton with his three farthings is a three-quarter wit, so to speak, and needs a Jew to provide him the fourth coin.
Although the Jew shows a touch of greed (‘If only it were mine!’), he first appears as a man who responds spiritually to beauty: he is moved by the song of the bird and he praises the Lord. Also, he appears immediately after the gift exchange, as if he were drawn into the circle of consciousness not only by the servant’s need for him but by his own longing for something – something to do with song and gift.
So we have two men drawn to each other by mutual need. The servant might teach the Jew about the gift, and the Jew could teach him about money. The singing bird is the promise of their possible harmony, something beautiful and higher. For a moment we see the three of them together.
But the servant kills the bird. The touch of anger in him and the touch of greed in the Jew dominate and prevent the union. Then a ‘spirit of mischief ’ comes over the servant and he tortures the Jew. What might have been a simple anger at the start of the story has turned into a bitterness that possesses the servant and sours him for the rest of the tale.
When the robbed Jew goes to find the judge, the imaginative tension of the tale collapses. The judge carries a solidified collective attitude. He seems to know only one law – ‘Thou shalt not steal’ – and applies it first to the servant and then to the Jew, never looking into the particulars of the case.  At the end the Jew is simply murdered, and the problems of the story are left unsolved. The miser is never dealt with (a miser who is not a Jew, by the way); the servant’s meanness and greed (it is he who steals the gold) are not addressed; his naïveté is left intact. Nor does the Jew’s wonder and spiritual longing lead him anywhere. The bird is killed. There is no dialogue,no change. The death at the end of the tale redeems nobody, it is simply brutal. [my italics]
There are three or four ways of dealing with shadow figures. The Christian way has been to say that everything on the dark side is ‘not-God’ and must be avoided or attacked. Another way is to face the shadow, address it and see what it wants. Such a dialogue requires that the ego position be suspended for a moment so that the shadow may actually speak. There is a similar mystic or Buddhist approach in which one disidentifies with both the ego and the shadow. Finally, one could switch allegiance and identify with the shadow itself. In a Black Mass, for example, the priest approaches the dark side not to fight it or debate it but to worship. Many cultures have annual festivals – like the Mardi Gras – during which everyone may put on a mask and act out what is hidden during the rest of the year.
The servant in our story never gets close to the shadow, of course. He doesn’t take the Jew seriously enough to either talk with him or be wary of him. As a result, his own shadow side takes control without his conscious self becoming aware of it. At the end of the story the servant himself has become what one expects will be a sanctimonious miser, bad-mouthing the Jews as he invests his stolen gold. In short, he leaves the tale a possessed simpleton, skipping and singing and killing birds!

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