Before I jump into this alluring subject, let me tempt you with this: read all the way to the end to find out how to make money by wearing a mask.

Now let’s talk about money.

Time is money. Money is power. Money is the root of all evil. Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems. Money. Money. Money. Can’t get enough of that god damned money.

Living in a capitalist society, one that values money over actual human lives by way of for-profit medicine, I have a lot of thoughts on money.

Let’s begin with a hypothetical.

I built a space ship and loaded it with 20,000 people with diverse backgrounds and skills. Me and my 20,000 closest friends leave the Earth, bound for a distant star. We sleep for a thousand years and wake up on a brand new world that is rich in natural resources.

We brought with us incredible technology and in short order, we want for nothing. We have adequate shelter, sustainable food sources, and all the non-sentient robots we could ever need. The needs of humanity on this brand new world are completely met.

That sounds nice, right? An entire population of equals, free to pursue whatever it is that drives them. Art. Science. Exploration. Whatever activity an individual wishes to pursue, they are not constrained by the “day job” or money. The moment we got off the ship, any currency we had from Earth became worthless. We have no money, and we are all equal.

Eventually, Sam the Scientist realizes that he needs help with an experiment. There is a geological phenomena Sam is trying to study, and in order for them to collect the data, they need volunteers to spread out at a particular time of day, observe, and push a button at the right time. The non-sentient automatons won’t work because this task requires intuition and judgment beyond the capabilities of these simple robots. Sam needs 1,000 people, or this experiment will not work.

Sam puts out the call for volunteers, but only 50 people respond. That’s only 5% of what Sam needs. What is Sam to do?

How do you get a large number of people to sacrifice their time and energy for a single cause? How do you compel individuals to work as a team, to accomplish something none of us can do on our own?

How do you make this?

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It took a lot of human hands to build the pyramids, but those hands weren’t free or equal. Humanity has a long and unfortunate history of turning people into property, putting them in chains and forcing them to do the bidding of others.

On the backs of slaves, great and terrible structures have been built. The American economy was built on top of Black lives, and Black lives are still paying the cost to this day.

But this scenario isn’t (directly) about racial inequality. We were talking about a scientist on a distant world trying to get 1,000 people to work with them. Not to build a pyramid or a skyscraper, but just to stand, observe, and push a button at the right time.

How will Sam get the help they require? If this took place on Earth, Sam would use money. They would raise funds and pay people to do the work.

Why? What makes money so compelling that people will sacrifice their time and attention in exchange for it? It doesn’t even have to be a lot. If I told you I would give you $1 and all you had to do was wear a mask every time you went outside, you would do it. A buck isn’t worth that much these days, but it’s an easy dollar, and it’s an activity you should be doing anyway.

Money works because we believe it has value. We have faith that when we have enough money, we can use it to buy all that we need and desire. We believe we can exchange currency for goods and services that are real and tangible. American dollars, by the way, are not real. They are not backed by gold or silver.

Money only has value because the society we live in says it has value, and that value is based entirely on faith.

I don’t know how Sam gets their volunteers. Perhaps some of the 50 that originally responded are charismatic enough to sway more people to the common cause. Perhaps Sam finds something of value to offer the volunteers, like a big party afterwards to celebrate the completion of the experiment.

Or, Sam could lie. Sam could send another announcement to the community, telling them that the stability of their home depends on the successful execution of the experiment. It’s unethical and wrong, but it’s an option on the table.

Money itself is a lie, and its what we trade in every day. It’s what we use to compel people to do things that they wouldn’t normally do on their own. It’s how we get people to continue to show up and perform jobs.

And, of course, I lied to you. I said at the beginning that I would tell you how to make money just by wearing a mask.

Here’s the truth: COVID-19 is out of control in the US, and if you have to be paid in order to wear a mask, you’re a special kind of idiot. The truth is, a simple cloth or paper mask is probably not going to protect you from catching the virus. It will, however, keep you from spreading the virus to the people around you.

There are a lot of people infected and they don’t know it. You may be one of them.

The truth is, the virus doesn’t care about money. It doesn’t care about politics or the economy. It’s invisible, it’s real, and it’s spreading.

We need to remember that lives are real, money is a lie, and we need to prioritize accordingly.

Do your part by wearing a mask, staying home, and staying away from people for their sake as much as yours.