Blackspot

Burning Money

Destroy that which you worship.

Last week a video began circulating around the web that shows several people wearing balaclavas walking calmly into a corner store in Greece. With a lookout man stationed at the door, the camera follows half the group through the aisles as groceries are stuffed into backpacks. Our attention is then directed to the front where the remainder of the group is smashing open the cash machines. Grabbing handfuls of money, the gang makes an orderly exit amid the shrill call of the lookout's whistle.

If we were to pause the video at this point, one could dismiss their actions as the work of petty criminals. And the video would hold no more importance than the surveillance clips of thieves sticking up gas station attendants. Perhaps a few of us would show some sympathy and meekly excuse their actions by pointing out that no one was harmed or threatened and that since they only stole food and money, they must be poor and hungry. In any case, we would be justified in shrugging our shoulders in indifference to another symptom of the latent violence of our society. Resuming the tape, however, melts all this away as petty criminals become bold revolutionaries.

Now outside the store, the camera turns to watch as a gloved hand holds the bundle of cash that was expropriated moments ago. The group stops and cheers as the money is set on fire. As the lucre bursts into flames and is dropped on the pavement, the film ends abruptly. It is this final act, the desecration and destruction of money, that is a shocking political act worthy of emulation.

Money is sacred in our capitalist society. And despite a lifetime of passing it around, very few of us have ever thought to destroy the lucre in our hands. We spend our lives working to earn it, and when we are feeling generous we donate it or if we are feeling frugal we save it. But we never flush it down the toilet or burn it or do anything else that would take it out of circulation. And even the thought of doing so can provoke anxiety.

To break the allegiance of the people to idolatry, Moses destroyed the golden calf, Jesus chased away the money lenders and Muhammad smashed the 360 false gods in the Kaaba. Today the paper bills we pass among us have become our idols and Mammon our god. To smash consumerism, we must do more than simply circulate our money to "green" or local businesses. We must also liberate ourselves from the religion of capital and the belief that money is sacred and can solve all problems.

Here is a revolutionary practice everyone should try: Take a bill from your wallet, think of all the things you could buy and then calmly set it on fire. Smell the burning paper, pay attention to your emotions and meditate on where money goes when it is destroyed.


Micah White is a Contributing Editor at Adbusters. He lives in Berkeley, CA and is writing a book about the future of activism. www.micahmwhite.com or micah (at) adbusters.org

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102 comments on the article “Burning Money”

Displaying 1 - 10 of 102

Page 1 of 11

Anonymous

People can burn their own money if they want, but I fail to see how these gents are justified taking money from others to burn.
Where does money go when burned? Well the value transfers to the money that is still in existence, at least until the government prints a new batch (which is also a wrong, in my opinion).

Meditate on where the food and other items come from and how/why they came to be in that store. And then think on what your alternatives are as a city dweller when that store disappears. Also, think of how, even in an ideal lifestyle, people will trade one thing for another without money. Trade their labor for food, trade their meat for vegetables, trade their hand-made goods for other hand-made goods (e.g. a chair for a plow). There is a good reason money has been invented in different societies going back thousands of years.
It's one thing to live an ant-consumerist lifestyle yourself, which is completely voluntary on your part, vs forcing others to adopt the same lifestyle by destroying the infrastructure of society.

Anonymous

People can burn their own money if they want, but I fail to see how these gents are justified taking money from others to burn.
Where does money go when burned? Well the value transfers to the money that is still in existence, at least until the government prints a new batch (which is also a wrong, in my opinion).

Meditate on where the food and other items come from and how/why they came to be in that store. And then think on what your alternatives are as a city dweller when that store disappears. Also, think of how, even in an ideal lifestyle, people will trade one thing for another without money. Trade their labor for food, trade their meat for vegetables, trade their hand-made goods for other hand-made goods (e.g. a chair for a plow). There is a good reason money has been invented in different societies going back thousands of years.
It's one thing to live an ant-consumerist lifestyle yourself, which is completely voluntary on your part, vs forcing others to adopt the same lifestyle by destroying the infrastructure of society.

Anonymous

Basically, you are a capitalist who believes that we are not justified in forcing change on a society that is like a train running off the cliff. Well, I don't agree. I think we need to stop the train before it kills us all, and if that means creating a ruckus or doing things that sensitive capitalists don't understand, that is OK.

Anonymous

Basically, you are a capitalist who believes that we are not justified in forcing change on a society that is like a train running off the cliff. Well, I don't agree. I think we need to stop the train before it kills us all, and if that means creating a ruckus or doing things that sensitive capitalists don't understand, that is OK.

Anonymous

I agree with the above poster.

Money may be the golden calf of modern society, but unlike a "false god", it provides tangible benefit for everyone participating in society. Removing money from circulation affects everyone, even if they're just "your bills".

An ideal society would not function on a capitalist system, but we are not yet in an ideal society. If we are to get there, we will need to create another system of exchange before we can free ourselves of the one currently in place.

Anonymous

I agree with the above poster.

Money may be the golden calf of modern society, but unlike a "false god", it provides tangible benefit for everyone participating in society. Removing money from circulation affects everyone, even if they're just "your bills".

An ideal society would not function on a capitalist system, but we are not yet in an ideal society. If we are to get there, we will need to create another system of exchange before we can free ourselves of the one currently in place.

Anonymous

Why are you so scared to burn money? I'm tired of hearing about how if we just buy the right stuff, everything will be fine. Personally, I'm going to burn a dollar bill and see how I feel.

Anonymous

Why are you so scared to burn money? I'm tired of hearing about how if we just buy the right stuff, everything will be fine. Personally, I'm going to burn a dollar bill and see how I feel.

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