Monday, January 26, 2009


Here's how anthropologist Clifford Geertz defined religion:
a system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating concepts of a general order of existence and clothing these concepts with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic.
Colin Renfrew, in his recently published book, Prehistory, quotes Geertz, adding:
Clearly money is just such a system, for not even the most resolute atheist could doubt its existence. . . But what exactly is money? At first sight it seems symbolic. . . . While the nations of the world were still on the gold standard, it could be argued that . . . paper money, the symbol (the dollar bill) represented the thing signified (the gold sovereign). That was so then, but it is no longer the case today: we have left the gold standard. So paper money does not have intrinsic value, nor is it precisely clear what it represents.
Now, over and over again, we hear that the real problem facing us is the need to restore "confidence." But confidence in what? If a Ponzi scheme is a confidence racket, and if, as many are now beginning to realize, our whole financial system for a great many years now, has been little more than a huge Ponzi scheme, then the restoration of confidence can have only one purpose: the perpetuation of the bubble for as long as possible into the future. Which is in fact what the current "experts" seem to be telling us needs to be done -- only this time by the government, operating as a kind of legal surrogate for all the Bernie Madoffs who no longer have the funds to perpetuate their own versions of the scheme. Which returns us to religion, I suppose. Since that too is based on unquestioning faith unto perpetuity.

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