Friday, October 21, 2011

The Mango Mentality as applied to the Occupy Wall Street Movement. A theory.

Here's a theory as to why we humans have trouble understanding economics: For most of our time on this planet as a species, the economic system looked nothing like today's. We evolved in a hunter-gatherer economy. This hunter-gatherer economy was radically different than today's yet our attitudes towards work, wealth, and fairness are still based on that model.

 An example: Say you're in a hunter-gather society and you're foraging about for, let's say mangoes. (I have no idea if mangoes even existed then, but you know what I mean. It's a thought experiment and the word "mango" is fun to say. Just roll with it.) Now say that you don't have a mango. You're hungry, but no worries. Mangoes are plentiful. They're everywhere in this thought experiment. If you don't have a mango, it's pretty much your own fault. Go get a mango. You may need to forage a little farther, climb a higher tree, whatever, but it's always perfectly possible for you to get your own darned mango, and thus, it's also perfectly reasonable for others in your tribe to tell you to "get a mango you dirty hippie and stop your whining." There are infinite mangoes to go around, and just shut up and go get a mango. But that was three economies ago. That hunter-gatherer model is long gone. However, we've changed economic systems three times in roughly 20,000 years, a mere hiccup in evolutionary terms, which is why our mentality hasn't changed much. But we need to change the mango mentality. It's long overdue. Because...

 Because now we have MONEY. Money is not mangoes. Mangoes were everywhere, but money is not. The important thing to know about money is this: Money is FINITE. There is only so much of it by design. If money were infinite, it would be worthless. Silly pieces of paper cluttering the house. But we purposely make it rare and the rarer it is the more people want it. For money to have value, it has to be scarce.

 So new thought experiment. Imagine a world with only say, 100 mangoes. Enough to go around, but not an endless supply. Now it isn't just a matter of working hard and finding a mango. Now if you are mangoless, you can't just increase the mango population with effort and toil, now your only choice is to figure out a way to get one of the previously existing mangoes. You need to cajole, entertain, make a deal, steal or physically remove one from someone who already has a mango. Now it becomes a game of mango musical chairs, and when the music stops and you don't have a mango times get desperate indeed. Oh, and one guy has like 60 mangoes and he ain't sharing.

Now is it OK to accuse the mangoless of laziness? If one person is sitting on 60 mangoes, won't share them, won't spend them, won't even LEND them so that you can start a small business (See what I did there?) is it not then appropriate and logical to suggest that the system needs change? If the finite mangoes aren't circulating hard work and true grit aren't going to change that. The only thing that will change anything is a revolution (to be avoided at all costs) a war (to steal someone else's hard earned mangoes) or some other kind of a shake up to get the mangoes moving around again. I have to say I prefer the non-violent shake up of the system. Not talking about giving out free mangoes. Talking about creating ways to earn the mangoes. We can't create more mangoes. It's not allowed. So we have to invent ways to make sure there are existing mangoes available to reward a hard day's work. 

Yet, so many of us are mired in moldy mango mentality. We still base our concepts of fairness and worth on a model of infinite resources even though we now live in a society of purposely finite ones. It's a mentality we've held for a million years that hasn't kept pace with the developments of Agriculture, Industry, and the Information age. This attitude is an impediment to change and it has to change. Our attitudes need to catch up to the last 20,000 years. So let's evolve already. Ditch the mango mentality for a better vision, and stop the name-calling of those who are pointing out the problem.


PS:  Here's a cool link.
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