Having just revisited the three seasons of Deadwood, it crossed my mind again that it’s difficult to determine which of many, many arbitrary certainties is A Lie Agreed Upon. I’ve concluded that the first of these is the value of gold because rumors of the discovery of that rare and precious metal motivate dozens, then hundreds, then thousands of people to leave wherever in the world they were, reorganing their life-priorities, to convene in an inhospitable place on the planet where all of the civil safeties and conveniences available to people in 1876 are profoundly undeveloped or simply don’t exist.
Gold is a heavy metal. It’s chemically inert. It’s yellow and maleable. It’s so rare (according to Wikipedia) that all of the gold that’s ever been taken from the Earth would make a cube 60.4m tall. Picture the length of a football field, squared. Then cover that field with a pyramid of pure gold that sinks directly into the earth because of its tremendous weight, like a volcano in reverse. Now picture the ring of a few billion people surrounding the square crater (where all the gold in the world went) — each one gnashing, rending, ranting and lamenting the individual loss. Then what happens? Lemminging?
The intrinsic properties of gold don’t just naturally make my mouth water, but I certainly see that it’s possible to find significant utility in a material that can be worked into an infinity of shapes, is very chemically stable (even when mixed with other materials) tends to remain shiny, yellow and heavy despite environmental variability over time: Coin, currency, physical symbol of wealth, guarantee; a fundamental lie agreed upon. Hey, it could have been Bay leaves.
Gold, more than most other physical materials, remains constant.
It’s psychological counterpart?…seems like that would have to be…fixation…gold fever…a hunger for the color YELLOW. Odd that that word applies, especially in the old west, to precious metal and worthless men.
“String her up! She’s the coward Custer trusted.” and other sentences that don’t reverberate through the well-worn pages of history, except with their absurdity.
Although I think there’s value in this line of reasoning, I’ve got several hundred pounds of obsolete telephone equipment to sell today. More-or-less unfortunately, that too is a constant.