Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Roots of the Global Economy by NancyWH

Money, and capitalism, are in and of themselves soulless, neither good nor evil. Like all tools, they come alive in the hands of their master.

The ways by which you may get money almost without exception lead downward. To have done anything by which you earned money merely is to have been truly idle or worse. Henry David Thoreau, Life without Principle

I agree. I much prefer to work at some task that satisfies my mind and spirit, and need not think about it feeding my body, unless I am uncommonly hungry. Yet even that great Transcendental anti-materialist, Thoreau, had to admit the native wisdom of woodcutter Alex Therien’s reasoning for the utility of cash:

When I asked him if he could do without money, he showed the convenience of money in such a way as to suggest and coincide with the most philosophical accounts of the origin of this institution, and the very derivation of the word pecunia. If an ox were his property, and he wished to get needles and thread at the store, he thought it would be inconvenient and impossible soon to go on mortgaging some portion of the creature each time to that amount. Walden

For more discussion about the utility of having an economy, vs. the valuing of money over people, please follow me below

Many civilizations have come and gone through recorded history. For our purposes, we will start in 410 CE. Rome fell to the Visigoths, and much they had created was lost for centuries. The “Dark Ages” that followed, from approximately from 500-1500 A.D, encompassed the taking of Jerusalem by Caliph Umar the Great, around 640. This made Jerusalem part of the Arab Caliphate.

In 1095, Pope Urban II, egged on by Emperor Alexius I of Byzantine, the former eastern half of the Old Roman Empire, called for the first Crusade to push back the encroaching Turks. In just 4 years, Jerusalem was in Christian hands again. And in 1119, the Knights Templar was formed, to “protect” Christian pilgrims in Holy Land.

A member of the Knights Templar was a mix of monk, and soldier. Most came from the village Troye in France. In Jerusalem, they built their Temple where the Al-Aqsa Mosque now sits. The ancient Temple of Solomon itself sat on the far southern side of the Mount, and underneath were many artifacts, from Jewish history, and from the early Christians. These were the new “must have” status symbol du jour, holy relics, more valuable than cash or jewels. The relics believed to be the most connected to the New Testament were the most valuable. And all that was required was a Knights Templar’s signature, a sort of “Good Housekeeping Seal” of approval, to prove their authenticity. With such a valuable monopoly, the Knights Templar amassed wealth rivaling that of most European monarchs.

Why? Well, for one thing, to buy a place in heaven, without all the bother of earning it. Indeed, French King Louis IX was canonized partially on the strength of his commitment to the principles of St. Francis, such as building Hospitals, and even caring for the sick himself. But he ensured his spot in heaven by the purchases of Christ’s Crown of Thorns, and a piece of the True Cross, from the Knights Templar finds. He built a special Reliquary to hold them, and made Paris the Jerusalem of Europe. All European Royalty bought relics and donated to order, in a sort of religious “Keeping up with the Joneses” frenzy.

So, by hunting for and selling off Holy Relics, under guise of escorting and guarding pilgrims to Holy Land, the Knights amassed great wealth. And, like any multinational corporation, they built great Temples, palaces, castles, and churches all over Europe. They also stepped in as the bankers of the East and Europe. A traveler could deposited money in one temple, and obtain a note. This then could be used like a check, to withdraw cash at another Temple, and is the model for our modern alternate means of moving our money around today. Of course, Knights charged a fee for this service, while themselves being exempt from paying the taxes that other citizens were expected to pay to the Roman Catholic Church. And the monetary monopoly was born. {more}

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