What is the bigger picture behind beauty aesthetics across the world?

Outer Beauty

[1] Across many cultures, we see different perceptions of how men and women should look like. These aesthetics have developed throughout time, due to different cultures and etiquettes within our society.

First of all, a quick apology to these who were expecting an article in the recent weeks. I have had trouble finding an interesting enough article to present to you, especially having written quite a lot now. I propose that, in the future, if there are any articles topic you personally like to read, feel free to pop a message below. In this edition, I will be discussing the evolution of how beauty and its aesthetics are perceived across many cultures around the globe in Africa, Asia and Europe. These will be mainly concerning those of females, but also secondarily, within those of men as well. As usual, comments are welcome below.

One fundamental concept we must consider is the word beauty’s true definition. According to Oxford Dictionary, it defines as a combination of qualities – shape, colour, form, aesthetic senses – especially by sight. [2] Over time, the common notion of beauty has altered, affected by self-perception and obsession, culture and society. The quest of beauty is a statement of material wealth, social status and sexual appeal. [3] This is significant, this alters throughout time, because in the ancient times, beauty was recognised through harmony and symmetry of women. Moreover, in the contemporary ages, beauty is far more superficial, in the sense that being thinner is more attractive in the fashion world. [3] As American physicists and authors Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz pointed out, many celebrities are obsessed with cosmetic beauty, meaning we are obsessed with our appearance and weight. [4] On the flip side, Roizen and Oz both stress that there are other forms of beauty – how you feel about yourself and define your own life, rather than a general public affecting your opinion. [5] To elaborate on this point, it is perhaps right to suggest that, apart from the outer beauty, there has one’s self-perception of beauty comes down to mental health to be confident enough of one’s body. [5] Moreover, beauty can be seen as a more spiritual and internal beauty that can be seen through intelligence and personality, but this has been hindered throughout history as of women’s etiquette.

Women
1) Africa and Asia – Long necks
Likewise to the Ndebele tribe in South Africa, the Kayan people, with a population of 40,000 inhabitants within the Burmese and Thai region, use many long neck-rings as a way to expose their beauty. [6] The origin of this habit is anonymous, but it is believed that it would elongate the bearer’s neck. [6] Furthermore, this being a very particular habit is purposely designed to make the females more identifiable, marry within the same tribe, and thus maintaining a strong tribal identity. [6, 7] By doing so, it is believed that the females would keep these neck rings as a way to prevent them from being stolen, a status symbol as it looks like Mother Dragon She and compete in many beauty competitions for attraction. [6, 7]

2) European Women
Within the European culture, there are two main angles to observe women’s beauty – art history and society. On the one hand, we have the development of women in art history, a nude, symmetrical, harmonious, innocent figure that has been cast through mediums found in sculptures and paintings alike. [8] These were amplified throughout the Greco-Roman ages, the Renaissance, the Baroque and early modern paintings. However, throughout time, the notion of beauty had altered. For example, during the ancient and Renaissance times, women were presented in a purist and organic form, showing their attributes rather vividly. Conversely, with early modern paintings, we see women presented more covered up, but the idea of having a curvy and attractive body remained. [8]

If we shift our attention towards Western society, teenagers and adult women have a fetish of being slim and curvy due to popular culture. In my opinion, this is a two way street – we can either head towards a more traditionalist approach or a more superficial one. As a more traditionalist approach, during Mussolini’s time, women were in a much more fascist state, preparing for wars against African tribal and European enemies. As a result, under the inauguration of the Battle of Births policy, women were left to be seen as a more orthodox and plump figure, as they had to be fertile and motherly so that Italy could successfully build up a strong foundation for Italy’s future as an expansionist and aggressive power. [9, 10] Or we can take the more superficial approach, as women are now more aspired by many celebrities and perceptions of beauty. This is increasing the levels of plastic surgery, to achieve a big-breasted, slim and curvy appearance for attraction for the opposite sex. More importantly, people accept these customs as a type of adopted culture and succumb to their ways, rather than adopting a more internal beauty type of approach, which is a shame.

3) Men

Greco-Roman statue showcasing masculinity
[11] A Greco-Roman sculpture, one to showcase the masculinity, elegance and strength in throwing a discus scene.

As with men, they have a less prominent role in beauty, as their etiquette was always believed to be to do with intelligence, the arts, science, diplomats and military officers. However, if we take our attention back to the Greco-Roman times, many important men were deliberately enlarged and carved to be stronger, an almost Herculean figure. This was key, as this showed men able to quell threats of mythical creatures like lions and Minotaurs, as a way to show their brute strength and elegance. As of now, men are more appreciated to be tall and of a well-built stature. They do not have as much of an obsession or even necessity of participating in beauty as women, but cultures and society alters the way they look.

One very apt example would be men from Japan and Korea, who have a habit of being more feminine. Unlike their predecessors who dedicated their lives as samurai warriors and hard-working employees, a new brand of men nicknamed ojo-men or lady-like men, prefer to be herbivore and feminine. [12] With bad faith in the Japanese economy and some men plunging in unemployment, the men resort to a more personal approach and self-achievement, in an Enlightenment sort of way. [12] This is significant, as this is seen as unattractive by the women who want a more masochist and responsible type of partner. However, indeed, with the lack of sexual attraction, this has lowered the expectations and roles for both men and women in the Japanese society. Consequently, they live in a much more comfortable environment both inside and outside of the office domain. [12]

In effect, I have presented to you a few examples of beauty across the world, namely in Africa, Asia and Europe – both in the female and male domains. Depending in which historical age we are focusing on, the level of perception concerning women’s beauty alters through art and society. This is key, as women can be presented as harmonious, elegant and curvy figures, as a purist appreciation to their bodies like men. However, in modern times, as with society, beauty is more superficial, tending towards sexual attraction with a big-breasted and slim body. Certainly, these perceptions of beauty can be changed in the circumstances where women have different etiquettes and cultures, for example as having long-necks or motherly roles.

As for men, they have always been a more dominant figure in research, military and diplomacy, men always had a secondary role in beauty compared to women. It has to be noted that men’s bodies were also presented as a nude, masculine, brute and Herculean figure. These all show the true and ideal soldier and diplomat that the great civilisations found in the Greco-Roman cultures. Indeed, as time progressed to many important battles, men were recorded to be potent and imposing figures for their own countries. Men, like women, have their superficial outlooks to attract sexual attention as well with big pectorals and abdominal muscles. Interestingly enough, these masculine roles have changed as the ojo-men or lady-men in Japan have shown what unemployment, herbivore and a more laid-back approach can do to this type of popular culture and etiquette between men and women. As an ending note, and perhaps most fundamental yet, we must be careful as what we define by the noun beauty – whether we mean 1) a more internal, meaningful or a more external, superficial approach I have been trying to emphasise throughout this aticle. I really hope you enjoyed your read again, and I will return soon enough with another edition of Speaking Seb! Till then! ūüôā

References
[1] http://www.salongeek.com/attachments/news/32308d1365455105-aesthetic-beauty-babtac-responds-review-into-cosmetic-interventions-botox.jpg
[2] http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/beauty
[3] http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/sci_cult/courses/beauty/web5/mjain.html
[4] Roizen and Oz, YOU: Being Beautiful: The Owner’s Manual to Inner and Outer Beauty, (2008, Free Press, New York), Page 1, http://books.google.com.hk/books?id=r4SK0njE15sC&printsec=frontcover&dq=superficial+beauty&hl=en&sa=X&ei=R1khUrXLBM2yiQec6YDYCQ&ved=0CDkQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=superficial%20beauty&f=false, date of access: 31/8/2013
[5] Roizen and Oz, YOU: Being Beautiful: The Owner’s Manual to Inner and Outer Beauty, (2008, Free Press, New York), Pages 2-4, http://books.google.com.hk/books?id=r4SK0njE15sC&printsec=frontcover&dq=superficial+beauty&hl=en&sa=X&ei=R1khUrXLBM2yiQec6YDYCQ&ved=0CDkQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=superficial%20beauty&f=false, date of access: 31/8/2013
[6] http://news.softpedia.com/news/The-Giraffe-Women-of-the-Neck-Rings-37412.shtml
[7] http://www.huaypukeng.com/info_rings.htm
[8] http://www.arthistoryarchive.com/arthistory/european/European-Ideal-Beauty-of-the-Human-Body-in-Art.html
[9] http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/life_in_fascist_italy.htm
[10] http://books.google.com.hk/books?id=lK9fEvB7ruAC&printsec=frontcover&dq=mussolini+and+women&hl=en&sa=X&ei=zlUgUrzULoKRkwXXqoDYAg&ved=0CC4Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=fertile&f=false
[11] http://www.romancoins.info/116-1633_IMG.JPG
[12] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/dec/27/japan-grass-eaters-salaryman-macho

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Why did many ancient civilisations falter?

[1] A map showing the once great and ancient civilisations of the world – amongst them the Meso-American tribes in Central and South America, modern day Egypt, India and China

 

It has been some time since my last post and I do wish this article is worth the wait. In this edition, I will be discussing why the once great and ancient civilisations vanish from the world’s dominance and remembrance. In a world where a lot of things are occurring, amongst them being revolutions and pain-staking political transitions in countries looking into the future, I thought I would look explore the past and answer a question that has popped up in many family discussions.¬†I dedicate this article to my sister, who has posed a very interesting question I wanted to set out and answer.¬†Anyway, I will use a few countries from each region so that we get an overview about the topic itself – the Mayans in Central America, the Egyptians in Africa, Greece in Europe, India in Asia. Constructive comments are appreciated below.

 

1) Central America РMayans 

The Mayan civilisation dominated Central America for 1200 years, with 900 A.D. as their golden age. Their cities glimmered with 2,000 people per square mile, almost the entire size of Los Angeles County. [2] The Mayans’ demise came to a self-inflicted tragedy that came from the aftermath of deforestation. It was believed that the Mayans used an equivalent of 20 trees so that they could accumulate enough fuel to heat up limestone, an essential component to build many structures like temples and monuments. However, 20 trees only equated to 1 square metre of lime plaster. [2] This was significant, as deforestation was detrimental to the over atmosphere, despite its agricultural (forests were cleared to plant maize) and construction properties. This was signfiicant, as according to PhD student Robert Griffin, this increased temperatures to 3 to 5 degrees higher than normal, and 20 to 30 per cent less chance of rainfall. This was also key, as this dramatically increased droughts and therefore famines. As you will see in other civilisations, many of their falterings were down to self-inflicted, man-made reasons. [2]

 

2) Africa 

2.1) Egyptians

One of the main reasons why Egypt is believed to have faltered is due to the demise and result of Pharaoh Pepy II’s long reign. After his 90 years of reign as a monarch, the whole Egyptian administration or Old Kingdom had altered drastically. [3] This was significant, as the administration became increasingly more decentralised, and thus more inclined to overthrow the monarchy. This was because the government had forbid the general public to practise key social and religious rights – namely, practise Islam and Christianity simultaneously. [3]

 

Another major reason why the Old Kingdom had vanished was down to the destruction that the River Nile brought with its flooding, due to climate changes. [3] It must be remembered that the Nile was and still is a source of income, commerce and trade for the Egyptians. Without it, this was significant, as this caused radical famine problems and brought key political institutions at a standstill. Consequently, there were many cases of cannibalism within the community and a less efficient way to control the people. [3]

 

3) Europe РGreece 

Like the Roman Empire, the height of the Greek civilisation eventually took its toll as a superpower. Greece had many city-states that participated in many activities that favoured their own self-existence. Despite having united as one collective force to defeat the common enemy in Persia, greed, corruption and conflict was tragic and saw Greece falter as a civilisation. [4] This can be highlighted through the Peloponnesian War. This was significant, as it has to be noted that with the riches of the empire, Greece was able to accommodate great philosophers, artists, mathematicians to the world. [4] However, with such high achievements, Greece became too arrogant for their own good. This was important, as this meant that a lot of soldiers became mercenaries rather than being protectors of their land as part of their civic duties. Ultimately, they fought against each other, rather than for each other. [4] 

Furthermore, since the death of Alexander the Great as a conqueror, the Greek Empire went down in decline. After the general’s death, the conquered regions were divided amongst Alexander’s generals. This was key, as this meant a lot of background conflict amongst themselves, disputing area for area. [4] Consequently, this ended as a civil war. On the one hand, the Ptolemy dynasty ruled in Alexandria in Egpyt, and on the other hand, the Seleucid dynasty ruled Persia, Mesopotamia and parts of Eurasia. However, with so many incentives to emigrate to these new lands, this prevented Greece from increasing in population and protecting herself properly. [4]¬†

 

4) Asia РIndia 

Let us move eastwards to India as an ancient civilisation. Certainly, you, as the reader, may disagree and contest my decision to have selected India especially when it is currently one of the more successful countries due to their potent textile industry found primarily in the Bengal region, that is still very much flourishing to this date. In the same light, one may also argue that China at one point, did disintegrate as a great civilisation and why it has not been included, having excelled in many arts, including literature, astronomy, inventions and mathematics.

 

However, I do think India gives a fine example of resurrecting a civilisation, despite struggling through various internal and external hiccups throughout the course of history. Personally, I feel it is more complex, and thus more interesting to discuss. For example, under Ashoka and the Mauryan dynasty, India was economically weak as they were conquered by a Greek faction state called Bactria. [5] Despite having been replaced by the Mauryan as the dominant dynasty, the Gupta’s were not as politically apt – in the sense that it was not a centralised governmental administration. This was significant, as this meant local politicians locked horns for their self-interests. [5] This was key, as this meant socially speaking, Hinduism and the caste system were favoured as a religion and form of social policy, favouring the elites particularly in the nobility or Nawabs.

 

This continued to the British, French, Dutch and Portuguese East India Companies, all competing to achieve alliances with the Nawabs, Confederacies and factions in exchange of trade and military training by these foreign powers. [6] This was significant, as this was an example of colonisation and imperialism by many countries Рparticularly through Orientalism and Anglicisation Рwhich transformed the very social, political and economic climate of India, like a pendulum swinging to and fro in favour of traditional and Oriental, or modern and British methods.

 

Effectively, many of the ancient civilisations faltered due to many natural disasters and man-related reasons. In the case of the Mayans, the monumental effort to use as much wood taken from deforestation for construction building, meant that there were not enough trees to prevent any flood and in turn, increased the overall climate of the region and famines. Similarly, we have the Egyptians and the Old Kingdom, who collapsed mainly due to a decentralised government and the aftermath due to floodings from the River Nile, an important financial source for the country.

 

With natural disasters aside, Greece poses a man-related demise to the civilisation. After their golden years as an imperial power under Alexander the Great and their numerous artists, including Plato and Aristotle to name but a few, the generals became greedy amongst themselves for status and prestige, forcing the Peloponnesian War and factions within their ever-diminishing empire. Finally, we have the Indians, who faltered down to their bankruptcy and internal problems due to alteration and colonisation, brought up by the imperial powers and more importantly, through¬†Orientalism¬†and¬†Anglicisation. Perhaps more importantly, these factors can definitely be considered by future leaders in their diplomacy-making, and hopefully be fundamental reminders on how to avoid further wars, conflicts and possible demise of the world. Right, I hope you enjoyed your read, and I shall join you next time on¬†Speaking Seb¬†– till then! Bye for now! ūüôā

 

References 

[1] http://anthro.palomar.edu/political/images/map_of_ancient_civilizations.gif

[2] http://phys.org/news174152911.html

[3] http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/egyptians/apocalypse_egypt_01.shtml

[4] http://www.squidoo.com/fall_ancient_greece

[5] http://www.historyhaven.com/APWH/Decline_of_%20classical_civilizations.htm

[6] http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/empire_seapower/east_india_01.shtml

Why do we have accents?

[1] In every country, we can distinguish people from where they originate judging from their accents. Question is, how do we?

When you enter a country and traverse each of its four corners, you will discover a variation in terms of accents amongst the townspeople. Indeed, this can be through the simple explanation of diversity in geographical location or region, through history as of immigration, integration or assimilation or the modification of the language itself phonetically to suit the local tongue. In order to depict these points, I will use: 1) Old, Medieval and Colonial French, 2) Afrikaans and Dutch. I would like to highlight I am not linguist expert, I will use a historical angle to analyse, so if I make any faults Рcomments are more than welcomed below.

 

But firstly, it is important to grasp the notion of what is a dialect and language. According to Oxford Dictionary, the word dialect where one focuses the language on a specific area or social group. [2] Expanding on that, we have the word language, which despite slight complexities because of its vagueness, can be defined as a system of a communication used by a particular country or community. [3] These definitions are fundamental, because they help us understand the grandeur of the language starts as a nucleus within the word dialect. To explain this further, it is important consider why exactly do we have these accents, as these definitions all conjure each other. Frankly speaking, an accent is defined as pronouncing a language, through various influences. How, where and when we learnt these languages greatly affected the way we say words. This is a ceaseless process that depends on our life experiences: with whom we live with as we constantly migrate throughout history, and the social groups either from a particular community or geographical location. [4] Now that we have comprehended these ideas and definitions, I will continue the analysis through the observation of French and Dutch languages.

 

1) Variations of French

[5] France divided into two main languages – Langue d’O√Įl and Langue d’Oc.¬†

1.1) Old French/Medieval French 

Since the Romans conquered Gaul, France separated itself into two principal languages – Langue d’Oc and Langue d’O√Įl. This separates France into two sections – drawing a line from Bordeaux to Grenoble. With its neighbouring countries, these Romantic languages were sub-divided into three umbrella groups. The¬†Oc¬†as Proven√ßal,¬†O√Įl¬†as in Northern French and¬†Si¬†with Italian. [6]

 

In fact, all these were different ways of saying the word¬†yes. Perhaps because it was one of the quickest ways to differentiate the three apart, no one really knows. With Proven√ßal,¬†Oc¬†refers oui or yes in French as o. [6, 7] We would say this person from Provence speaks the¬†language of yes¬†or¬†lengua d’o¬†from the¬†country of yes¬†or¬†pais d’o. As for O√Įl, this is a word that has evolved through time. The word was initially o-il, the same way as¬†oui, c’est cela¬†or yes, it is. Later, the¬†people from Northern France would pronounce the word as Ou-il, until there became a silent l making it as¬†oui¬†in contemporary French. [6, 7, 8] Now you know when you buy the famous wines, eh!

 

1.2) Colonial French 

Other major derivative of French are African French and Québecois. Within African French, the most significant of them being in countries like Morocco or Congo, there are borrowed words from the Maghreb and African languages and phonetic sounds, where you would hear accentuated words with the heavier r sounds and adopted African words. For example, you would say merci mingi Рa melange of merci or thanks and mingi Рvery much in Lingala, an Congolese tribal language. [9] Conversely, with Québecois French Рwhenever a native French person tries to impersonate a Québecois, the first thing they would tend to say is tabernacle. This type of French originates from the north and north-western areas of France, of which speak Norman and Patois. [9] As of heavy British rule, there are also some borrowings from the English language. Judging from certain words, I feel Québecois French is a lot more old-fashioned. For example, the word abrier means to cover, rather than metropolitan French couvrir. Here we have a general term of abri or shelter, so to cover something is to be sheltered. Or indeed, un char in Québecois French means car, whereas contemporary French means a chariot. Beautiful that. [10, 11]

 

2) Variations of Dutch

2.1) Dutch 

During the mid 5th to 12th centuries, Dutch had developed from many influences across its neighbours. For example, concerning Old Dutch, it branched off from Old Frankish, Old East Low Franconian and Germanic roots – therefore close to German, Flemish and English. [12] As the language developed, it started to use some phonetic sounds like “k”, “v”, “w” and “j” and tended to use compounded words rather than separating them. Dutch then developed with a¬†Wallonian¬†or a French-influenced Brussels Dutch through the medieval and modern times, as of the economic prowess the Brussels immigrants brought with them. [12]

 

2.2) Afrikaans 

Since discovering and settling in the Cape during 1652 primarily by Jan van Riebeeck, the modern Afrikaaner was invented from a blend of many influences. There were three main derivatives of the Afrikaans, the Cape, Orange River and Eastern Border. As you can tell from these names, they were divided in terms of geographical region in South Africa. As the Cape was a colony ideally midway between Europe and the East Indies, there were many influences from other colonial powers like the Portuguese and British languages. [13] In Cape, there were many Malay slaves, thus some Portuguese influences in colloquial language. As for Orange River, there were many native African tribal influences from Griquakwal and Namakwaland. Thirdly, there was the Eastern Border, where many colonists migrated from the Cape towards Natal. Moreover, the retired Dutch and German officers who settled in South Africa became known as the Free Burghers or independent farmers Рhad the biggest influences in the Afrikaans language. [13] There were the French Protestants or Huguenots who also successfully immigrated to South Africa, as a consequence of the religious friction back in France, under the legalisation of the Dutch East India Company (VOC). They helped to alter the pronunciations and spellings of certain words. This was significant, as the authors J. A. Heese and C. Pama in their book Afrikaners, analysed that these nationalities constituted the Afrikaans language in terms of percentage: Dutch (34, 8%), Germans (33, 7%), French (13, 2%), People of colour (7%), British (5, 2%), Unknown origin (3, 5%) and Other Europeans (2, 6%). [14] 


I am not an expert in Dutch nor Afrikaans, but I thought I could use these examples to illustrate how many social groups throughout history can affect a language. Those of you who are Dutch, you can compare Dutch and Afrikaans with these sites. For an outsider, I feel Dutch is a lighter version of German, with a lot of correlation as a whole with English. Anyway, here are the links for Dutch and Afrikaans tutorial Рtell me what you think: 1) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRmkEn7f54U and 2) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ij6uz8ag3jA.

 

Effectively, we cannot have a stagnate accent – they frequently change as we immigrate, as we try to add our own more familiar phonetic sounds and spellings to words to help accommodate the adopted mother tongue. These also depend on the neighbouring countries or geographical location in general – as in the case of French, as there are variations that are similar to Belgium, Italy, Spanish and German, as they are all neighbouring countries. These older versions of the languages do change throughout history, as forms of colonisation and assimilation occur – for example in the case of Dutch and Afrikaans. There were Dutch, German and French independent farmers and religious groups who all left their mark in the language. Moreover, accents change according to social classes as well, where with middle and modern Dutch, you had a lot more Belgians from the Wallonia area, giving the language a French twist phonetically and in vocabulary. Right, that is a wrap from me, and I hope you enjoyed my article. Take care! ūüôā

 

References

[1] http://peterlevitan.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/People-Talking-Profile-Image.jpg

[2] http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/dialect

[3] http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/language

[4] http://linguistlist.org/ask-ling/accent.cfm

[5] http://villageampus83.blog.lemonde.fr/files/2007/10/oc-oil.1192104173.gif

[6] http://www.lexilogos.com/etymologie_oil_oc.htm

[7] http://www.medieval-spell.com/Langue-d-Oc.html

[8] http://www.orbilat.com/Languages/French/French.html

[9] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_French

[10] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quebec_French

[11] http://french.about.com/gi/o.htm?zi=1/XJ&zTi=1&sdn=french&cdn=education&tm=3&f=22&tt=14&bt=3&bts=34&zu=http%3A//www.republiquelibre.org/cousture/EXPRES.HTM

[12] http://www.foreigntranslations.com/languages/dutch-translation/dutch-language-history/

[13] http://www.essortment.com/history-afrikaans-language-south-africa-33507.html

[14] http://www.sahistory.org.za/people-south-africa/afrikaans

What is the bigger picture behind using paper currency?

[1] There has been a huge evolution of the type of commodities or objects we use through time. But is it worth anything?

As I promised on my previous blog, I am writing a politico-historical article to solve a puzzle I have had for a long time – the significance of paper currency. I will discuss the development of currency throughout the ages, from the ancient times to the contemporary ages. Furthermore, I will analyse the valour and usage behind the paper currency, and its relevance in the future as a form of concluding point. Constructive criticism are all but welcome, a token of your help would be greatly appreciated.

 

1) Development of currency 

Throughout history, people exchanged goods or services amongst each other for what they wanted in forms of commodities. For example, the traders used salt, tea, tobacco, spices, cattles and shells. However, a lot of these were not the most feasible ways to trade, as these ingredients or commodities were naturally perishable. [2]

 

1.1) Coins and paper 

Another example of currencies were the coins and paper currency. In circa 1000 BC China, as the Chinese were inspired from their earlier usage of shells, which in Chinese radical terms, correlates to shells or monetary problems. They all had a small square in the middle so that it can be looped together by a string. [3] China was technologically advanced at this time, and is known to have progressed to be the first official country to use paper money as currency, as they used it since circa 960 AD onwards. [2] Moving on the other side of the world, coins were introduced in ancient European civilisations like the Greco-Roman ones, as various kinds of metals were easily available in abundance, because of its re-usability and malleability. [2, 3]

 

3) Is it worth anything? The usage behind it all 

With some currency, we often find a recurring phrase, “Promise to pay the bearer on demand.” I have been taught that in essence, a 10, 20 or 50 dollar note is not worth anything. Ever since, I have been intrigued to discover why and how.

 

In 16th century England, gold-smith bankers started to use receipts for cash, promising to pay the¬†bearer¬†or¬†depositor¬†a certain amount of money. Throughout many wars, namely those of the Seven Years’ War and the First World War, England had to tweak its monetary system. For example, in 1759, during the Seven Years’ War, there were many gold shortages. This was key, as the English bank continued to introduce notes of smaller amounts – ¬£10 pounds to ¬£5 pounds, then to ¬£2 and ¬£1 pounds, ultimately causing the devaluation of the reserve. [4]

 

Eventually, the link with gold was broken, and Britain left the gold standard in 1931. There was a huge problem of hyperinflation and an uncertainty of returning to the gold standard in the two strongest economic powers during that time – the US and UK. At first, the Sterling to gold exchange was a lucrative enterprise. However, after many affected countries felt the full force of the Great Depression of 1929, the problem of convertibility for the British world currency was left to disappear. This was significant, as this marked the period where the authorities legalised the utilisation of paper currency instead. Furthermore, this was fundamental, as this was further emphasised when these countries had high unemployment rates, thereby having inflating their prices. Thus, the devaluation of currency and more competitive edge in the global market. [5] Thus, in summary, the paper currency we use now is not of that much use. Makes more sense now. There you go, learnt something new myself too.

 

4) Is paper currency the most feasible way of spending money?

According to the documentary Zeitgest: Money Segment, paper currency is used in society due to two main reasons Рdebt and interest. The government and federal reserve have money requests through loan demands and reserves. In exchanging this supply and demand amongst them, they draw up values and deposit the large sum of money into a bank account, becoming legal tender or legalised money. This sum of money can vary positively or negatively as a result of inflation, debt and interest. [6] Amplifying this in our society is down to the debt used for the cost of living, where the banks which distribute the money never had the money anyway, it was from the creation of the debt between the federal reserve and government. This is key, because it resembles almost as a black market, as we would not need paper currency if we did not owe debt to one another. [6] Moreover, this is like a running circus, where the elites prevail at the expense of the poor, with loans for employment and trapped in a deeper deadlock of perpetual and financial slavery. In truth, this is a complex, eye-opening and almost frightening expression of what occurs realistically, and I would highly recommend to watch the sixth link down in the references below.

 

In conclusion, throughout history, people found different commodities and ways to trade and pay one another, which developed to coins and paper currency. In its heyday, the paper currency is made out of the gold link and standard, being a suitable way to pay a bearer on demand. Since the after-war years of the First World War, the UK, one of the two most powerful economic powers in the world apart from the US, changed its methods of payment due to the low rate of convertibility.

 

Worse still, as the Zeitgeist documentary suggested, the money we use to buy and loan amongst each other to create employment boils down to a running circus of balancing debt and interest.¬†So then, this triggers the question,¬†should we continue to use paper currency in the future? Many of our liquidation and expenditure has now been globalised and through digitalised format, using credit cards and mobile payments. With an ever-evolving currency strength or weakness in stock markets, isn’t it important to understand how do you draw a line between which currency is more worthy than others? Or perhaps, how do you determine the value of a currency? How is the Euro crumbling, whilst the RMB is a staggering currency on possible brink of world domination? Do we find a dominating currency as the American dollar and Sterling Area once imposed, and replace it with the RMB, or do we abandon this completely and find better ways to solve economic crises we, as a world population, are getting accustomed to seeing? In summary, this is an open-ended thesis, and countless more questions can be asked. But I hope, with the signpost questions I have used as directions, this clarifies something for you to learn, and hopefully, able to judge for yourself. Till next time, and goodbye for now! ūüôā

 

References

[1] http://www.mypapermoneyworld.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Paper-Money-World-3.jpg

[2] http://inventors.about.com/od/mstartinventions/a/money.htm

[3] https://www.hostmerchantservices.com/articles/the-history-of-currency-from-bartering-to-the-credit-card/

[4] http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/banknotes/pages/about/history.aspx

[5] http://www.gold.org/government_affairs/gold_as_a_monetary_asset/role_in_international_monetary_system/why_did_the_gold_standard_break_down/

[6] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67OmYvzr9tY