Image: Richard Mosse, Flower of the Mountain
Wealth is a concept that refers to the enhanced perception of well-being. This experience is often mistaken as the accumulation of things and objects. In the West, the accumulation of valuable resources and material possessions equates to being wealthy.
The individual or nations wealth becomes a quantitative measure of stuff. More of this is less of the same thing for others. Our industrial infrastructure has manufactured an incredible amount of stuff, often useless and intrinsically obsolete, this unending capacity for manufacturing reflects the wealth of modern nations. But how about the wealth of beautiful pristine alpine vegetation, or the wealth put forward by brilliant ideas, or the treasures left by the Michelangelo’s and Mozart's of Europe.
How about the wealth of exchanges that bond mother and child. Wealth can also be defined as an inherent feature in the fabric of reality. With its infinite possibilities for shapes and form, the self organizing universe is nothing but a wealth of options, teaming to become. You could also say that we humans are blessed with wealth, as we are born into this reality with incredible abilities and functionality. We not do anything to acquire this, it is built into the system. The ability to perform simple logical solutions suggest a wealth of measuring tools inherent in our sensory apparatus. The sheer size of the universe and all the stuff in it, implies a bountiful wealth of energy and information spinning and buzzing everywhere. In this sense wealth is equal to abundance.
And how would we measure the wealth of a system, say the wealth of a small community? by the size of its houses or by the relationships between its people, by the size of the lawn mower or by the basket of peppers in back yard gardens, by the local farmers market or by the super size box store outside town, by the giant flat screen TV’s or by the slow food potluck around the fire. Would we measure wealth by the 5 hours of Nintendo a day or by the walk in the chirping meadows with friends at sunset, by the homemade apple pie or by the frozen microwave pizza, by the raw milk, cheese and custards or by the pasteurized long shelved denatured milk? Should we measure wealth by the smiles and laughs of a town square dance or by the mega surveillance TSA pat-downs at super-bowl franchises, by the rosy cheeks of country children or by the hanging pants of teen gang rapers of east New York? Might we measure wealth by acres of small scale organic perennial farming or by miles and miles of parking lots? How do we keep measuring the wealth of a nation, when it ranks 1st in cancer, diabetes, child obesity, heart disease, ADHD, and autism? When it ranks high up there in the poisoning of rivers, oceans and air we breath.
How do we measure the wealth of a nation when most people work in dead end jobs that cant pay their mortgages, credit cards and health costs? How can we measure wealth when an individual prefers a bag of deep fried chips over a nutritious wheat grass shot? Do we measure wealth by having three jobs or by having more time with our children, by a healthy hardwood forest or by highly technified chicken coup concentration camps, by the number of strip malls or by the massive displaced farmer suicides in India? Is wealth what is good for wall street or perhaps wealth measures the unquantifiable gifts of friends and family. Maybe wealth is what’s in it for me rather than what is left for the benefit of all. Do we measure wealth by the GDP to debt ratio or by the fisheries left in the northern deep seas?
Obviously when you measure a nations wealth with some of these indicators you realize that far from wealthy, we currently consist of a collection of very poor and unhealthy nations. Crumbling before our eyes, this system has failed, and it does not generate real wealth for anyone. Perhaps, after all, less is more, specially when the qualitative value of less has much more intrinsic meaning than the quantitative wealth based on things and units of possession. We need the kind of wealth that can be measured as quality of life, quality of our food, quality of our relationships, our waters and habitats, the wealth that comes from partnership with community and mother Earth, with a wealth of information at our fingertips serviced by our technology. We will calculate wealth in acts of kindness, by the celebration of our bodies and gifts in the common wealth of knowledge and beauty. By the celebration of life, art and music and the scent of wild flowers blossoming in the fields of pure potential. How about wealth as the ability to love, when we love we are giving the best of us. This is the kind of wealth that will knit the new fabric of the cosmic human.
To generate real qualitative wealth we need to invest in community building, we must build communities that meet most of their needs locally, interconnected to the global informational village. In a system like this, wealth becomes common to everybody. Plugged into county town jurisdiction and cooperative networks, we can begin to invest in the restoration of soil, water and forest systems. We can invest massively on diverse cultural treasures that honor individual groups and ethnicity. We will invest in a new system of schooling that de-schools dogma out of the classroom and frees learners of grade work. We will invest on local infrastructure that eliminates long distance commuting and restores the characters of town and social architecture. We can invest on sharing the wealth of know how, and advocate peoples efforts in designing perennial agriculture and Earth friendly homes. This is a way of redefining wealth in the laid back but efficient reality of technological permaculture systems. We must invest in developing creativity and free time for all, a wealth of unknown forces will emerge out of this capacity for exploration. The imaginable will emerge from the unknown. This kind of wealth system deals with maximizing the human potential inside the local cooperative system of interconnected villages. Both individuals, towns and corporate size operations are seeing this vision unfold. Conscientious corporations stripped of their unaccountable status, will promote ideas and put their energies into small community cooperative entrepreneurship. Corporations will reform their profit margins and cost benefit schemes, goals and objectives. They will not be quantifying monetized digits on a computer screen but rather measuring the capacity for self-reliance of the people. Those of us who are not unplugged off the grid and self sufficient are behind the curve caught in a dying system. Communities will rediscover their center around a wealth of gifts for each other. Is this not what we ultimately long for? We long to give, giving back to society, giving back to nature, and giving back to ourselves, longing to love unselfishly.
Carlos Cuellar Brown