526. Preponderance of the small (IX)
Do materials have their own will? Gold lay in the Andes, gold was dug out by the Incas. The gold had its own will, a will to escape the folds of the earth. The Incas answered and filled their halls with gold. The gold was not satisfied: it called to men across the ocean, the white men—the men from ancient Amerindian legend; and those men answered. “Carry me away,” willed the gold; and, once again, men obeyed. The gold was carried to Spain—if the English privateers failed to snaffle it en route. Yet the gold was not content in Spain; it willed Venetian merchants to carry it to the East—to Mughal emperors and Chinese courts; and so it moved.
Yet gold is restless, all that South American gold now lay in Indian treasure houses perfumed with spice—the very spice that Western merchants used Inca-gilt coin to acquire. The gold sat in the treasure houses and drew the English to India. The English fought the Indians and then Clive carried the gold away to London. This time the gold did not rest: the gold transmuted itself into industry—it financed steam engines and railway tracks. Whereas the gold had only rested with the Incas, the Spanish, and the Indians—save occasional circulations—now it increased itself, it became a force multiplier. It became industry, it bootstrapped the Industrial Revolution—for certain technological jumps await either a perfected technique or a density of capital.
Those nasty Englishmen took away the Indian gold, and now the Indians are poor! So cry various people, various English people even. Ho-ho. And if the Mughal emperors had such delicate sensibilities perhaps they should have returned that gold to Spain—it being “ill-gotten” by conquest. Nay, perhaps they should have returned that gold to the earth—for the Incas won it with bloody slavery. It is true the English stole the gold, took it as booty—as was their right—but they did not let it sit idle like the Incas, the Spanish, and the Indians: they turned it into industry—and industry repaid India a million, million times over in cheap goods that all that hoarded Mughal gold could never provide. In this way, war and plunder can improve our technology and wealth—so long as the plunder is set out into the world and not hidden in treasuries.
So there is no guilt in this regard, the English did the Indians a favour when they relived them of the burden of gold; and, indeed, perhaps the gold demanded transmutation—perhaps the gold had a plan all along. It sat in the dark earth and thought: “I would like to get out from this earth and into the world, into the world to first be passed between blood-sodden conquistador hands; then to cross the palms of greasy merchants; then to rest on the chests of princesses, and then to sink into cool Mughal treasuries—and then finally, finally to be set free to build factories and steam engines and telegraph wires.”
Gold had ambitions, you see—oil has ambitions, too; and certain men act as conduits for these ambitions. So feel no guilt as regards the Indians; they are richer and freer because the English plundered them—gold comes to men who will use it well, gold likes to circulate; gold likes to move to the next level. The Indians should fall to their knees and thank the British: “Thank you, oh Conquerors! Thank you, men who freed the gold to do its work.”
Men always want to put gold back into the earth, into the vault; yet it is clear it wants to circulate—to transmute into higher states. It is the regressive people—who call themselves progressives—who say there should be no war, no plunder; they celebrate stasis, they celebrate Mother Earth. Yet gold has its will, and those men who are receptive are drawn to it—draw it up to glitter in the sunlight.