Just What is Dirty Money?

Just what is meant by ‘dirty money’? It conjures up images of industrial scale money laundering, drug barons and tax haven banks but in fact we handle it every day as that thing called cash, into and out of our wallets and purses.

So just where has our nomadic cash been on its way to us for its short stay before it slips away and onto its next destination?  Just what has it accumulated in its history for us to receive and pass on to the next willing recipient?  Ever stopped to wonder how well travelled your wonga is and the stories it could tell as it wends its way through our lives in the adult version of Pass The Parcel?

I happened to be counting out several hundred pounds worth of cash to make a payment recently.  I felt like a kid playing at bank teller, flicking through notes at a pace, some pristine new, shining with high expectations; more though were dog-eared, floppy, discoloured and had clearly been around the block.  I noticed the smell – not unlike the contents of a suitcase after a long trip – stale, sweaty and slightly leathery.  Except that this money wouldn’t be headed straight for the washing machine to be refreshed after its journey.  I was just going to hand it unlaundered onto somebody else, aroma, grubbiness and all, in a mutually beneficial exchange for something needed – in my case a purchase, in theirs, a sale.

dirty money

I began to reflect on the far-flung places the money might have already been and the nefarious, dubious, arrogant, desperate or relieving usages to which it could have been put. All that human traffic, that human history in just a few notes.  What if there was an imprint, a passport stamp left of each transaction made on every note and that we were the carriers, the launderers, moving it around the energetic money transaction soup we live in?

That smell had to signify something – it was so dense, acrid and thick.  Going way beyond my usual conjurings now, the money began to weigh heavily on me, my nose began to screw up and my fingers felt manky to the touch, leaving me with a sudden urge to wash my hands, to rid myself of the stickiness and the lingering odour of used money and its provenance.

I personally love it when an ATM hands me a full stack of freshly squeezed, brand new notes.  There’s something about the clearness, the as yet untouched purity.  All that open readiness to be claimed and used.  But with each transaction, each pair of hands, is it conceivable that each note becomes sullied and besmirched, impregnated with the unique motivational fingerprint of what lies behind each transaction?

Paper money is only a quantum of energy that means something to us because of the size of the number on it, differentiated only by pictorial representations pertinent to our particular geographical boundary and the value represented by the number.  Because it’s paper (or plastic), it’s tangible and we can feel it, hold it and stash it.  The same applies to coins – we handle them and pass them round. But I began to wonder about contactless payments.  Do we believe that money transacted through this more contemporary medium is somehow cleaner because it’s not been touched by human hands or could there still be some kind of energetic hue that attaches itself to what is essentially just an electronic transfer of energetic quantum between two parties, through computers?

money laundering

What if money could take on the imprint of all the hopes, fears, woes, disappointments and insecurities that we pander to through what it buys and delivers?  For do we not attach our ideals, beliefs and attitudes, our expectations and demands, our needs for recognition and approval, to every one of our purchases in some way or another?  If so, would this not mean that every used note, coin or digital equivalent headed our way could somehow be impressed or impregnated with those previous imprints, coming to us for our very own addition before heading off for the next?

Looked at this way, the value of the money stays the same but the weight of the energetic impress in it continues to rise steadily with each transaction. Not the greatest energetic investment vehicle, would you say?  For on some level, is it possible that all that went before us suddenly becomes ours for that moment of ownership and expenditure, flavouring our purchases with the quality enhoused in that seemingly innocent piece of paper? If so, would this not bring a whole new interpretation to the concept of ‘dirty money’?  Perhaps it’s time we considered the regular use of a money launderette as a true service to humanity….

  • Carmel Reid

    I love this article, Cathy, it is very thought-provoking, and yes, some crumpled up notes definitely do have a smell all of their own, and some do definitely feel ‘dirty’ and sticky. It makes me think about how I may be feeling when I hand money over and if what I am feeling gets passed on. Every fold, every twist tells its own story. And as for digital imprints – that’s another thing altogether!