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P4C Revolution Poem: Gold and Chains

This week, a poem that can be used as a stimulus for questions about economics, human nature and the power of people to effect change. It’s by Alice Walker, author of “The Colour Purple” among many other works. Here’s the poem on her website
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or here’s a video:
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We Alone
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We alone
can devalue gold
by not caring
if it falls or rises
in the marketplace.
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Wherever there is gold
there is a chain, you know,
and if your chain
is gold
so much the worse
for you.
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Feathers, shells,
and sea-shaped stones
are all as rare.
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This could be our revolution:
To love what is plentiful
as much as
what is scarce.
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Themes
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There is something utopian about the poem, and it’s interesting that in the original Utopia, a fantasy by Sir Thomas More, gold was plentiful but also despised as a useless, soft metal only good for paving the roads.
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It also invites thought about the nature of money. My audiobook at the moment is “Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari, who argues that what sets our species apart is its ability to talk about and sustain fictions – narratives and imaginary entities that don’t exist in the physical world. The value of money is one such fiction: if we stop believing in it, its value disappears – as anyone who bought Bitcoins at their height will know.
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There are issues of aesthetics here too – the interconnections between beauty, rarity, culture and value; and of freedom, in the reference to chains.
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Lastly, in the “can” and “could” of the poem, there is an invitation to think about whether we as people do or don’t have the power to change such things. More called his fantasy-land of a non-materialistic people “Utopia”, from the Greek for “no place”, suggesting that human nature would never allow it to happen.
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Questions
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What connects rarity, beauty and value?
Could this be our revolution? What would it look like?
What are our chains?
Could what is plentiful ever be as valued as what is scarce?
Is money fact or fiction?
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Best wishes,
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Jason

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