Introduction

If you've just stumbled onto this blog, please forgive the appearance; it's still under construction. If I've used one of your photos (found on Google) in a lecture and you don't approve, please write a comment and I'll remove it.

The purpose of this blog is to explain the basics of art and culture to English language learners in secondary school in Slovakia. This is not for profit. If you look to your right, you'll see a long list of topics that I plan to cover. This is a large project that will most likely take years to complete, covering some topics I know little about (like dance), so I will be borrowing heavily from other experts, with their permission, giving credit wherever possible. Please be patient, and, of course, all advice is greatly appreciated.

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Cultural Significance of Gold

    Gold has long been treasured for its beauty and permanence. Any item made of gold will look just as beautiful in a thousand years as the day it was made, because it doesn't oxidise.

    Gold is also extremely rare. All the gold in the world could be made into one block, 21.3m cubed.

Gold and Economics

    Gold is considered an economic "canary in the mine." Any time the price of gold goes up, people assume one of three things: economic crisis, a war has started, or it's the beginning of hyperinflation.

    America houses its gold in Fort Knox. But, the companies that control it are banks. The tallest skyscraper in any given city is usually a bank. In Toronto, the Royal Bank building even baked gold leaf into the windows (worth $3.5 million).

    Gold is big business today. It's the most profitable commodity traded in the stock market. People earn billions of dollars a day from it, by manipulating the system. For every 100 ounces (oz.) of gold traded, there may be less than 1 oz. of actual gold.

    This is also true for silver, and there are some unscrupulous companies that sell these commodities to unsuspecting buyers-victims. They promise to keep the gold safe, and charge people expensive storage fees for gold they don't even have.

    Any trader can disrupt the price of these commodities. Here's how you do it:

1.      Wait till most world stock exchanges have closed for the day.

2.      In New York, sell 45,000 commodities contracts very quickly - about 400 contracts per second. Do this anonymously via the Internet.

3.      The price of the commodity will drop, and many other investors will feel they have to sell their contracts too. It creates a panic.

4.      Buy up all their cheap contracts. The process of your rapid buying brings the price of the commodity back up.

5.      Now you have all of it, and it's worth a fortune. You've just earned about $3 billion in one day.

6.      Now, hide it as best you can, because what you did was illegal. :)

    National depositories of gold also have secrets. In 2000 the Bank of England secretly leased a large quantity of gold to private bullion banks. They then sold the gold to refineries in Switzerland who turned it all into jewellery. Legally, the Bank of England still owns it, but if this news had been made public at the time, it could have caused an economic crisis.

    It appears that America has done the same thing, and doesn't have nearly as much gold in reserve as it claims. The last full audit of Fort Knox was in 1954. Meanwhile, when Germany asked to see its gold (which it keeps in America) in 2012, they were refused for "security reasons." Now, they want it back, and it could trigger another crisis.

Gold and Religion

    Gold plays a part in the major religions of the world. There are several golden temples in the world. One is the Hindu temple of Amritsar. Then there's Kashi Vishwanath, Lakshmi Narayani in Vellore, and then there's the Golden Temple in Kyoto.

    One of the earliest stories about gold from the bible describes Moses coming down from Mount Sinai with the ten commandments, only to find his people worshipping a false idol––a golden calf.

    Some quote Jesus as giving us the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." But, just as many say this instead, "He who has the gold rules."

Gold and War

    So, gold has been a strategic target for all the biggest empires and armies of the world. Caesar, Napoleon, and Hitler all sought gold. When Hitler invaded Austria and Czechoslovakia, gold was the first thing he seized.

    Poland managed to hide its gold in France. When Hitler took Paris, he found their bank vaults empty. The bankers had hidden all this gold in 51 different hidden locations around France. After the occupation, they had to sneak as much gold as possible out of Europe to Canada and the US.

    A company named Odyssey Marine searches shipwrecks for lost gold, many coming from ships sunk by German submarines.

    Some of the gold found by these treasure hunters has been claimed by national governments. In 2007 Odyssey Marine found 600,000 gold coins (worth $500 million) off the coast of Portugal. Both Spain and Peru claimed the gold.

    Spain said it came from a Spanish ship that was sunk by the British in 1804. But Peru said it originally came from their country, produced by the millions of native Incans whom Spain enslaved and killed.

    This legal battle was settled in a US court. They ruled that Peru had no right to the gold because they were a Spanish colony at the time. They then agreed to hand the gold over to Spain in exchange for one painting (a Pisarro worth $20 million) that an influential American, Claude Cassirer, claimed belonged to him.

    Odyssey Marine had to give up all the coins, losing $4 million in costs. The coins are now in a Spanish museum.

    A far larger legal battle involved the survivors of the Nazi Holocaust, whose families had billions worth of gold deposited in Swiss banks. These banks refused to recognize any of these accounts without impossible documents, like death certificates, which the Nazis never gave, for all the millions of Jews they had killed.
    Meanwhile, these same banks had accepted even more gold from Nazi Germany, Toten Gold (meaning Death Gold), which it stole from the Jews, including jewellery and thousands of pulled teeth. Hitler's dentist even used Toten Gold for his dental work.

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