Money – Functional Art or “Poopoo Paper”?

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Open the bag of an African money changer in long ago, most ancient times and you would find a striking and interesting assortment of artifacts: from long iron pieces fired in a hot, smoky furnace (iron-rich Liberia’s traditional smelting produced various forms of iron money) to white, shiny cowrie shells washed in the sea; from pieces of woven cotton or raffia fabric to polished leopards’ teeth. Our money was art – sometimes beautiful, always, at least, interesting.

A visual survey of international paper money today shows most countries displaying images of their former national leaders in official attire. Perhaps this stiff trend is a symptom of the globalism epidemic. Even national anthems and national flags follow one formula. Money is used daily by most everyone in society, so these standardized images have a tremendous impact on the minds and spirits of the populace. The dominant global governments are aware of this power and use printed currencies to reinforce their national, i.e. global agenda – internationally.

Various African countries, upon declaring independence, began to design artistic paper money that displayed the beauty and richness of Africa’s cultural heritage. When traveling across the continent, at that time, it was considered a bonus by some, to collect these currencies and keep them as historical treasures. The Republic of Guinea, for example, had images of African heroes and heroines in traditional garb on the money. And in the early 1970s, after the failed Portuguese invasion, the Guinean soldiers were national heroes and gave money freely to the general population. Their generosity inspired the same behavior among the citizens. All over Conakry, money was used with Integrity to help each other and not to exploit.

It is now 2015 – Liberia. Just take a look at our national currency. “Oh no! You say. We can’t bear to see, smell, or touch Liberian currency.” And new bills were printed in 2014, but where are they? We usually see them in the possession of wealthy Lebanese traders or other wealthy/influential people. The rest of us have our health endangered daily with what can be accurately referred to as “poopoo paper”.

Too harsh an indictment? Not when the money is so ragged and worn you can’t recognize the color, image or denomination. Not too harsh when the odor is strong enough to knock you unconscious and the bills must be laid out in the hot sun for fumigation. Not too harsh when you must wash your hands after handling it. Was this unhealthy money a factor in the proliferation of ebola in Liberia? Is it connected to the spread of other sicknesses? How can you feel good about yourself as a Liberian when your guest from another country buys some local products and receives the change in “poopoo paper”?

Even the shabby, faded USD denominations we must use are “poopoo paper”. USD torn and faded bills are refused right along with Liberian battered bills by traders all over Liberia from market women to bankers. You never see these old bills circulated in the US – only here. Why should America send us their decent bills when our own are so disgraceful?

It would uplift our national Integrity and our recovery effort if we rescue our national currency from the toilet. Physical and psychological health will soar when we all can hold, see, and smell the positive significance of our own money and handle it with pride – and Integrity.

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