“The best books are those that tell you what you know already”
George Orwell 1984
I can’t shake it. That niggling feeling I get every time I use the “Contactless” paypoints. Contact. less. We are becoming further removed from our money. It all feels very Orwellian. The quote plays again in my head.
“Do you know about this?”
A random conversation strikes up with a fellow commuter as she hands me a leaflet stating that cash will no longer be accepted on buses. My fellow commuter is called Amanda, she is a debt councillor and is concerned about the effect a “cashless” society will have on her clients. Cash. Less. society. A society without any money.
“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”
George Orwell 1984
Is the answer to why I feel so uneasy about a cashless society hidden in plain sight? Contactless, Cashless, it feels like we are definitely losing something. Did it start in 1971 with the loss of the Gold Standard? Is the move to a cashless society a bid to prolong the life of our Fiat currency? After all, if we get rid of the promissory notes, will the government have to keep it promises? Or am I just being pessimistic… In our digital age do we need a “currency” to match? A digital currency, where billions can be created at the mere touch of a button. But who’s finger will be on the trigger?
Or is the drive towards a cashless society driven by a much simpler motive? The sights of South London speed past our window as Amanda shares her fears. In hushed tones, we discuss the desire for retailers to further remove consumers away from the reality of their purchases. Studies as far back as the 1970s show that cards are not seen as “real money” and that consumers have a tendency to spend more when using plastic rather than cash. The popularity of our “flexible friend” has probably had a significant part to play in helping nearly nine million people across the UK into serious debt problems.
The bus slows and abruptly stops outside of a betting shop and a Cash Converters, Amanda bids me farewell and disappears under her umbrella. As the bus pulls away, our conversation replays in my mind; debt, cash, currency, money, profit, greed, retail, shops, shoes.. I press the buzzer. The weather outside is dismal, but I look up and feel a warm glow from a beautiful window display.
“Have you seen these? They’re on special offer £131”
A tap on the machine and they’re mine.