Tango is not only a fascinating dance but also a fascinating philosophy, culture and lifestyle. The search of tango is the search of humanity, connection, love, unity, harmony and beauty, i.e., an idealism that is not consistent with the dehumanizing reality of the modern world. The world divides us as individuals, but tango unites us as a team, community and people. In tango we are not individualists, feminists, nationalists, liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, etc., but interconnected and interdependent members of the human family. Tango calls us to tear down the walls, to build bridges, and to regain humanity through connection, cooperation, accommodation, reconciliation and compromise. It is a dance that teaches the world to love.




June 18, 2016

Mammonism


In the beginning there is no money. People barter. I fish, you farm and she weaves fabric. I use my fish to trade your wheat and her cloth. As this becomes a common practice, the issue of equivalent trade emerges and the exchange rates of all kinds of products are established. For example, one square foot of cloth equals two pounds of fish or three pounds of wheat - according to the amounts of labor involved in producing these products. But such direct barter is inconvenient. You may want my fish, but I do not want your wheat but her cloth, and she wants your wheat, not my fish. How can we do the transactions? Thus, money as a universal equivalent comes in handy. With money, trade becomes easier.

Initially money is things that people all desire, such as salt, silk and gold. People first convert their products into such goods, then use these goods to exchange for other products. Ten ounces of salt can exchange for one pound of fish or half foot of cloth because the labor involved in producing ten ounces of salt is equivalent to the labor involved in producing one pound of fish or half foot of cloth. Gold eventually becomes the most popular form of money because it has a high value, is easy to carry, and can be conveniently cut into pieces to accurately measure the values of other products.

But people soon discovered that this way of exchange is still cumbersome. Since money is used to measure or represent the value of the product, it doesn't have to be a materiel good. A piece of paper can do the same job and is much easier to use. Thus money changes form from the tangible goods to the bill. People then discovered that even the bill is not necessary. Since the values of all products are expressed in numbers, the exchange can be done numerically without a piece of paper. Thus, money changes form again from the paper bill to the digital figure on a bank card. This digital figure now becomes the life ambition of the modern people.

In the beginning there is no accumulation of wealth because fish and wheat cannot be stored in large number. Trade is only for daily consumption. But with money that is changed. Money can be accumulated indefinitely and passed on to future generations. It can also be used to loan, invest and speculate in order to generate returns. With money I can buy wheat from you and sell to her and buy textiles from her and sell to you for a profit. It is soon discovered that by using short sales one can do trade even without actually possessing the commodities. Thus trade is no longer for daily consumption. It becomes the mere means of accumulating wealth.

Making money through trade is a tricky business. Strictly speaking there is no fair trade, or no profit can be made. One can only gain from someone else's loss. For example, the employer makes money by exploiting the employees whose labors generate more values than the wages they are paid. Wall Street takes advantage of the regulators' ignorance on the dubious formulas they created to make money at the expenses of the ordinary investors and loanees. The insurance company takes advantage of people's sense of security. Since low risky people greatly outnumber high risky people, the insurance company can make money by selling an empty promise. Jealous of the insurance company, the drug company increases the price of their product 5000%, according to a recent report. Hospitals make their money in the same way. I went to a hospital for a skin condition. They first sent me to a family doctor, who sent me to the lab to have the test down, then sent me to a dermatologist. The dermatologist knew immediately it was eczema without seeing the test result. The prescribed cream cost me $15 and the eczema was cured. But the hospital bill is $800, which is mostly paid for by the insurance. The insurance company shifts the cost to the clients by raising the premium and reducing the coverage. Health insurance once covers everything, now you have to buy separate insurances for teeth, eyes, ears and drugs. House insurance once covers everything, now you have to buy separate insurances for fire, flood, tornado and earthquake.

Such practices undermined the fundamental principle in trade. The essence of trade is the exchange of labor. A fair exchange reflects the equivalent amounts of labor involved in producing the products. Since the exchange rates of all products are proportional, the increase in price of one product will trigger a chain reaction of inflation. As a result, houses, cars, food, groceries, clothes, utilities, services, all become more expensive, and the government has to raise taxes just to keep even if nothing else. The victims are the ordinary people. In today's America, 63% of people are unable to pay a $500 surprise bill, but a small number of people benefiting from this system that they have created have accumulated tremendous wealth that reached astronomical figures.

Greed knows no limit and most crimes, caught or not caught, are motivated by money. In a mammonish society education, medicine and science all become the means of making money, and money respects no morality. The winners are those who found ingenious wayss to take advantage of others, legal or illegal. The losers are the ripped-offs. A a result, people lost faith in goodness, fairness, honesty and trust. A man once could feed the whole family, not anymore because the prices become so outrageous that women also have to work in order to maintain the same standard of living. Feminists may call it women's rights and equal opportunity. In fact, it is the enslavement of women. A woman lamented, "More and more women work extremely hard to make money now. The society provides women with less and less security. Security used to mean a commitment, a clasped hand when cross the street. Now it is the money in our pocket and a fully charged cell phone... We all yearn to marry a man, only to find ourselves turned into men."

When a society permits a small number of people to accumulate unlimited wealth, measures success by the possessions, allows the rich to influence the policy making with their money, provides them with legal loopholes and preferential treatments, and sets them as the role models for others to follow, it is bound that people will want to use any possible means to get rich, that inequality between the haves and the have-nots will grow, that the society will become increasingly divided and polarized, that morality will be corrupted, that crimes will increase, that politicians will be more and more shameless, that natural resources will be depleted, and that the environment will be destroyed. Mammonism is the cancer of the modern world, which dehumanizes us and turns us into the slaves of money. When mankind invented money, nobody thought it would lead to the alienation of the humanity. How to awaken mankind from this insanity is one of the most intractable problems facing modern philosophers, economists, social scientists, political scientists and lawmakers.