Give Yourself a Gift Next Year: Agency

We think we’re powerless because we don’t have wealth and power over others, but nothing could be further from the truth.

By Charles Hugh Smith



To have agency is to have power over your own life and control of your assets, options and resources. There are a great many things that influence our lives that we do not control, but there are also many things we could influence in our lives but do not.

The conventional view puts great weight on the agency created by money, as an abundance of money enables people to do a number of things that people with little money cannot do: live comfortably in costly locales, buy a larger home, buy a second home, buy a boat, pay for college with cash, pay for expensive medications not covered by insurance, take extended vacations and start enterprises without ceding power to outside investors, to name a few.

Our culture only has eyes for the agency of money, as this narrow band of agency is ceaselessly glorified. Yet what’s striking is how little of importance money can buy. Not only can it not buy love, it cannot buy true friendship, trust, affection, community, emotional intelligence, wisdom, skills, purpose, meaning, health, confidence, creativity, conviction, self-discipline, resilience, self-expression, integrity, authenticity, faith or inner security.

What gift would you want for yourself in 2021? Whatever you identify as the gift you’d want to give yourself, the odds of obtaining it improve if you give yourself the gift of agency first. While money is a resource that can leverage certain kinds of agency, it isn’t the foundation of agency; the foundations of taking control of one’s life are internal.

I wrote an entire book about this process of taking control of one’s life: Resistance, Revolution, Liberation: A Model for Positive Change.

My basic credo of liberation:

“I no longer care if the power centers of our society–the distant, fortified castles of our financial feudal system–are changed by my actions, for I am liberated by the act of resistance. I am no longer complicit in perpetuating fraudulent feudalism and the pathology of concentrated power. I no longer covet signifiers of membership in the Upper Caste that serves the plutocracy. I am liberated from self-destructive consumerist-State financialization and the delusion that debt servitude and obedience to sociopathological Elites serve my self-interests.”

We think we’re powerless because we don’t have wealth and power over others, but nothing could be further from the truth. What we all seek are autonomy, mastery and purpose, and the source of all these are within us.

Money can’t buy personal integrity or authenticity, and in that sense it cannot buy what matters most. To borrow Kierkegaard’s phrase, we cannot use money to acquire ourself. That process cannot be bought at any price, for it is internal, intangible and hidden to all but ourselves.

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