Heidi Trautmann

Heidi Trautmann Column 29 - Let’s talk about culture and… money money money



Money makes the world go round…world go round….Liza Minelli in Cabaret, an ear worm, but it is a fact: Money is the oil that lubricates the motor, sets everything in motion, without money we cannot survive.

Money is the pass to freedom, a dream most of us fall victim to; for money many sell their souls and the proverbial grandmother. Money is the key to a kingdom with unbelievable riches.

There are about 180 currencies worldwide. A currency is part of the national identity: if you want to come to my country you must use our money; the coins and the paper money carry the pictures of famous persons or buildings the people are proud of. Here lies hidden one of the problems that makes people of European member states moan for their lost identity, although in the beginning they were most eager to join.

I vividly remember our wandering years, either by sailing boat or camper, by plane or public transport around the world, when I used to have different purses with coins and some bank notes of the countries we have planned to go ashore or to cross. I did that in order to avoid, on the very first day of arrival,  the tiring process of finding a bank to exchange either traveler cheques or exchange dollars which was recommended to travel with because often your own currency was not accepted. How delightful the experience for us sailors when within Europe there were no more entrance formalities for the boat, which used to be very lengthy, and we could step on land and enjoy a drink or a coffee just opposite in one of the restaurants.

The term Money is derived, they say, from a Roman goddess Juno Moneta, but the actual use of the commodity money goes back hundred thousands of years, when the currency could be anything that held a value, such as conches, shells, salt, beads, a ‘sheffel’ of barley, precious metals, even peppercorns I heard; on old pictures you can still see natives carrying their ‘money’ on strings around the neck as recorded by the explorers.

There were banks as early as 200 years BC in Mesopotamia, institutions that recorded your debits and credits and slips of paper signed by this bank were accepted as legal payment. The term bank came from banco = table; a table the money lender or exchanger was usually sitting at in the centre of a city; the same applies to ‘Trapeza’ the Greek word for bank; in Europe banks began to open in the 13th century especially in Florence, Italy and the Banco Medici became one of the most influential banks in those days, as we know from our history lessons.

In the last few years the banks have played a very poor role worldwide, have invested our money unwisely, have played with it and lost; they have lured the small savers with high interest rates and easy loans; with this precious money ruthless ‘megalomaniacs’ have played risky games; the money came too easy and the bankers became reckless adventurers. BUT, we the small savers have also joined this game, changed the banks when they offered higher interest rates, didn’t we? We were so easily convinced by promises to make our luck; it is in the end a game of lottery, and we cannot simply put the blame on the banks, we with our greedy hope to make money have supported the risky system.  It has led us worldwide to the rim of existence. 

The other day I came across a movement, a sort of online barter market where you can offer your abilities and talents in exchange for something you need doing; for example:

Looking for someone to lay terrace tiles…

Offering to make felt slippers …

Offering to look after your house; I am retired and am writing a book and need a quiet place.

I also offer introduction into Zen meditation …..

Great, isn’t it?  There are other interesting services offered such as offering your grandma’s chest against a TV set…

It is nothing new, in the old days many did it in times of trouble. The definition in a dictionary explains barter as follows: ‘Barter usually replaces money as the method of exchange in times of monetary crisis, such as when the currency may be either unstable or simply unavailable for conducting commerce.’

Are we still hesitating? What do you offer? I offer a painting for regular garden maintenance.

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